Monstrous, inhuman creatures who inhabit the land of the dead, the Shinigami are Gods of Death who all own their own copy of the titular Death Note. The series starts when one Shinigami in particular gets bored with lazing around all day and decides to take a visit down to Earth.
Warning! Unmarked spoilers ahead!
- All There in the Manual: Any information on Shinigami that do not appear in the series or the movies comes from How To Read.
- Alternative Number System: The lifespan humans can see with Shinigami Eyes only appears in a number system recognisable to Shinigami and just looks like random numbers to a human.
- Blue and Orange Morality: Of course Shinigami have no problems killing humans or with humans dying. Shinigami take human lifespans for themselves. Why should they care about the human world beyond it being their food source? In fact if a Shinigami does care about a human, that means they "failed as a Shinigami", and that is punishable by death.
- Bottomless Magazines: Their Death Notes can't run out of pages.
- By the Eyes of the Blind: A Shinigami on Earth can only be seen or heard by humans who have touched his/her particular Death Note.
- Cute Monster Girl: Averted: all of the female Shinigami are just as grotesque in appearance as the males.
- Deadly Upgrade: Any Shinigami on Earth can offer a human the Shinigami Eyes, at the price of half of the human's lifespan.
- Deal with the Devil: Any deal made by a human with a Shinigami is going to end badly for the human every time. Is the death god offering you a Death Note to play with? You can be sure that the death god will write your name in his own notebook and steal your remaining years once he gets bored with you. Is he offering you Shinigami eyes so that you can use your death note without needing to find out your victims' names? Say goodbye to half your remaining lifespan. And the very worst part: using a Death Note even once will bar you from heaven or hell when you do eventually die and is a guaranteed one way ticket to Cessation of Existence. Hell, just finding a Death Note and giving it up without ever using it may well earn you an immediate death by the Shinigami just because you're boring for not playing his game. If you encounter a Death God at all, your only chance of not dying young is to be so impossibly beautiful that the Shinigami falls in love with you. At the very least, Shinigami are honest and up front about the price of what they offer.
- Death Is a Loser: While powerful and unable to be harmed by human means, most Shinigami are lazy and bored beings that only try to extend their lives and do nothing with the lifespans they've taken, some even dying because they forgot to do so. Ryuk is one of the few to be proactive, and they consider him strange for it.
- Death's Hourglass: Shinigami eyes allow them to see their victims' lifespans, though it's displayed in a mathematical formula only Shinigami can compute.
- G-Rated Drug: Ryuk mentions that Apples to Shinigami are like cigarettes and alcohol to humans.
- Humanoid Abomination: The majority of these gods of death are human-shaped.
- Intangibility: Although a Shinigami on Earth can temporarily become solid to manipulate objects.
- Jerkass Gods: While they're called gods, they're little more than immortal supernatural parasites who are for the most part infinitely selfish, and kill humans indiscriminately to feed on their lifespans to keep themselves perpetually alive. They don't answer prayers, they don't do anything positive for humans at all, and they only use their powers to advance themselves. In fact if they do anything to help a human, they are severely punished for going against their nature. They don't even do anything worthwhile with their infinite lives, they just play games among themselves and idly observe humanity. Whether or not they exist as a cosmic balancing force to keep humanity from growing out of control is never suggested or considered.
- Namedar: Shinigami eyes see humans' real names.
- O.C. Stand-in: Most of the Shinigami who don't go down to Earth.
- Overarching Villain: They are by far the most recurring villains in the entire franchise. While they have a bizarre morality, they are a race of extra-dimensional beings who survive by killing humans to extend their own lives. They are gods of death who are the reason why the Kiras are rampant in the Death Note universe, the last of them being C-Kira from the Death Note One-Shot Special; why the notebooks titled Death Note exists, and why Light Yagami is, well... Kira. Their influence is so powerful that even Beyond Birthday, the Big Bad of the prequel novel Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Case, owns the eyes of these creatures.
- Pass the Popcorn: The Shinigami have taken an interest in the show Ryuk started with Light.
- Perpetual-Motion Monster: Among them, there isn't a necessity for eating or sleeping. They can be killed through other means, though.
- Punch-Clock Villain: It really is only their duty to take humans' lives, and they only truly qualify as "evil" insofar as the occasional decision to kill a human earlier than intended - and doing so to save another is an offense for which death is punishment.
- It's unclear if death is a punishment or it's simply what happens.
- Random Power Ranking: All of the known Shinigami are ranked from 1 to 13 (with the exception of the Shinigami King who doesn't have a rank). This could be subverted in that Ryuk is two levels below Rem, yet is shown to be more cunning and manipulative than her, not to mention he ends up outliving her.
Misa's Shinigami, who is highly protective of her, bringing Gelus's Death Note to her after his death and generally watching out for her. Rem forces Light to enact a Memory Gambit to save Misa when she gets caught, and haunts Higuchi while this is being done. Misa surprises her by coming to be interviewed at Yotsuba for an advertising gig as part of L's plan to local the Yotsuba Kira, and Rem takes the opportunity to reveal herself to Misa and tell her what's going on. Later, Rem follows the Death Note back to Taskforce Headquarters when L captures Higuchi and Light regains ownership of the Note. There, Light tricks her into killing L and Watari in order to save Misa; and although she realizes what he has done, she goes along with it, choosing willingly to die to keep Misa safe.
- Accent Adaptation: The anime dub gives her a vaguely Caribbean accent.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: She is portrayed as a much more beautiful character◊ in the musical adaptation, to the point of her looking almost like a goddess.
- Affably Evil: As long as Misa's safety isn't in danger, she doesn't seem terribly threatening toward people. Although, the only humans she's interacted with have somehow been a potential cause of harm to Misa...
- Beast and Beauty: The Beast to Misa's Beauty. Misa is the first and only human Rem regards highly and she's willing to disregard shinigami law for her sake. Tragically subverted in that Misa doesn't appear to care that much about her and lets Light manipulate her as he pleases.
- Creepy Monotone: Her voice in the anime.
- Dark Is Not Evil: While amoral herself, she genuinely cares about Misa and is disgusted by Higuchi. Word of God states that she's "a good person."
- The Dulcinea Effect: She sees Misa once and develops feelings for her so intense that she journeys to the human realm to give her Gelus's notebook.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Due to Blue and Orange Morality that comes with being a shinigami, she exhibits few qualms with Misa murdering people, as well as murder being committed for her sake. That said, she does gently rebuke Misa for not using the notebook properly and suggests that she use it more for herself and not gratuitously. She also has a great distaste for the way the Yotsuba group use the Death Note; in particular, she's repulsed by Higuchi's greedy and obsessive nature.
- Facial Markings: Rem has purple markings across her face.
- Female Monster Surprise: Light mistakes Rem for a male, though she identifies as female.
- Gender Flip: She is portrayed as a male Shinigami in the live action films.
- Hellish Pupils: Rem's pupils are thin reptilian slits, giving her face a very serpentine feature.
- Heroic Sacrifice: She ends up killing herself so Misa won't be found out as the Second Kira.
- Horrible Judge of Character: "Now that I think about it, Light may be as pure as you, Misa."
- Humans Are Bastards: In her opinion, "humans are such ugly creatures."
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: See Love Martyr, Mama Bear and Unwitting Pawn.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: As Light notes, she is firmly on Misa's side and will take action on her behalf.
- Love Epiphany: In The Musical, she finally realizes she understands love, and is in fact in love with Misa, right after Misa gives up her memories of Rem and the Death Note. It's heartbreaking, but she gets one hell of a song out of it, titled "When Love Comes."
- Love Martyr: Rem cares deeply for Misa and is even willing to die for her. Misa doesn't care.
- Mama Bear: She is very protective of Misa. Considering that Misa had recently lost her mother (she tells Light that her parents were murdered a year ago) around the time Rem showed up, it's not too inconceivable that Rem took up that role for her. Although Rem obeys Misa and follows her lead, she is also shown treating Misa as a daughter, up to and including willingly sacrificing herself for Misa's safety.
- Meaningful Name: "Res", in Latin, is a feminine noun meaning 'thing,' like a tool to be used. An accusative is when something is happening to it. The accusative for Res? Rem.
- So she's "the thing that things happen to".
- Also R.E.M. is the state when the mind is dreaming, which goes along well with Rem's idealized notions of love and sacrifice.
- It may also be derived from the Christian and Islamic angel Remiel, whose name means Compassion of God.
- Moral Myopia: She is extremely protective of Misa, but she never says a word about the people Misa kills. Justified in that she is a god of death who herself must kill to stay alive and that she comes to view most humans as "such ugly creatures."
- More Than Mind Control: "You want Misa to be happy, right?"
- My Master, Right or Wrong: She's on Misa's side, no matter what.
- She's a Man in Japan: Inverted. Confusingly, the film adaptation gave her a male voice while the anime gave her a female one; she also has a female voice in the TV drama. The manga bounces a little on this, with Light using male pronouns for her from time to time. Rem herself says in the English manga, "I'm female" and Ryuk refers to her as one.
- Also, the Latin noun "res" from which her name may be derived is a feminine noun. Which can refer to both masculine and feminine things.
- The Smart Gal: Though she is frequently tricked by Light and L she is the smartest of the Shinigami who get any screen time and knows the Rules of the Death Note much better than say Ryuk or Shidoh as Light notes when asking Ryuk to clarify some of the rules in the second arc:
- Spared by the Adaptation: She doesn't die in the TV drama, as Mikami is the one to kill L instead.
- Supernatural Gold Eyes: She's a Shinigami and she has golden eyes.
- Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Dying for love is so tragic and beautiful...
- Token Good Teammate: To Team Kira.
- Unwitting Pawn: Light manipulates her into saving Misa (thus ensuring her own death) by killing L and Watari. Double Subverted in that she figures out exactly what it is Light wants her to do, how he's getting her to do it, and what will happen if she does, yet she does it anyway out of her love for Misa.
- What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: This is a trait unique to the musical version of Rem. At the start, she expresses confusion and even disdain for "this thing [humans] call love." After her experiences with Misa, she realizes that she finally gets it.
- Woman in White: In contrast to Misa and possibly Ryuk.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Combined with Mystical White Hair. She's got like anime style purple-white hair and is a magical Death God.
A lazy, whiny shinigami and the original owner of Light's first Death Note (before it was "liberated" by Ryuk). Causes trouble for Light's plans when he comes to retrieve his notebook.
- Adaptational Heroism: Sort of. Arma, his counterpart for Death Note: Light Up the New World is a heroic figure, acting as a foil to Ryuk and Shien's alliance.
- Adapted Out: Of the first two live-action films, though he does appear in Light up the New World, albeit not as the real thing, and does appear as the real thing in the novelization.
- Affably Evil: He may be a Shinigami, with a bizarre appearance typical by their standards, but he's actually a bit of a goofball in terms of personality and is rather forgetful.
- Butt-Monkey: A lot doesn't go right for Sidoh. Ryuk stealing his Death Note was just the beginning.
- Death by Adaptation: His film counterpart Arma dies. However, it is implied that his original self will die anyway for violating the laws of the gods of death.
- Death Is a Loser: Considered a loser among the Shinigami, being a goofball almost running out of life because he lost his notebook.
- The Ditz: He is even dumber than Ryuk (who is considered pretty dumb among the Shinigami).
- Even Evil Has Standards: "What's with this [Mello] guy? He's human but he's scary..."
- The Slacker: Like many Shinigami he was really slacking off writing down names so he needed to find his notebook soon or he was going to die.
- Spell My Name with an "S": English media writes and pronounces the character's name as Sidoh, an error which is present even in the Japanese, as it's the spelling used in Volume 9 of the tankobon - but in Japanese How to Read 13, largely considered canonical, the character's name is spelled Shidoh, which is likely the intended name.
- Stalker Without a Crush: In "Father", he briefly follows Ryuk around, trying to get his notebook back.
- This Is Gonna Suck: In as many words, when realizing his notebook is missing in the human world.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: In the end, he gets a Death Note so he can go on living.
- Subverted perhaps because when he returns to his realm, he will have to face the deadly consequences of killing humans WITHOUT a Death Note.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Mello introduces him to chocolate bars.
The original owner of Misa's notebook, who sacrificed himself to save Misa.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He has the grotesque appearance common to all the shinigami, but his one and only scene has him willingly dying to save Misa's life.
- The Dulcinea Effect: He sacrificed his life to save a girl he had never even met in person.
- Heroic Sacrifice: For Misa.
- Love Martyr: He literally gave his life for Misa, who didn't even know he'd done it, or even who Gelus was. When she learns of it later, she doesn't seem to care about his sacrifice.
- Meaningful Name: "Jealous." In the manga, he's even spelled "Jealous".
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: So, Gelus, you saved a young girl from being murdered by a deranged stalker? Bravo! Oh, but you'll die for this heroic act since it's literally against your species' nature to save a human's life.
- Remake Cameo: His Japanese voice actor previously played L in the live action adaptation.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Even though it's against the rules for a shinigami to extend someone's life, he uses his notebook to save Misa from a demented stalker who would have killed her.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Japanese media spells his name as Jealous, English calls it "Gelus." The latter appears to be preferred by the fans, especially since many of the Japanese romaji spellings are truly bizarre.
- Stalker with a Crush: He was deeply in love with Misa and watched her constantly from the shinigami realm, despite never having even spoken to her, to the point of willingly and knowingly giving his life to save hers. Ironically, he did this by stopping a human stalker from murdering her. That said, it's pretty clear Gelus was harmless, and would never have hurt Misa.
- 13 Is Unlucky: The Rank 13 Shinigami. He has no friends and dies in his first appearance.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: He shows up for about three minutes in the anime, if that, so really, all we know about him is he loved Misa. His death is still heartbreaking, though.
This jeweled skeleton is the Shinigami Realms adviser, who knows the rules well.
- Gem-Encrusted: His body appears to be made of gold, or gold plated, and covered in small gemstones.
- Gold Makes Everything Shiny: His body is either gold or gold plated.
- Nothing but Skulls: He sits on a throne of skulls.
- Special Person, Normal Name/Odd Name Out: His middle name 'Justin' stands out as one of the most normal names in the series.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Ohba and Shueisha prefer it being spelled out as "Armonia Jastin Beyondllemason".
- Throne Made of X: He sits on a throne of skulls.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He's afraid of crows.
A high-ranking female Shinigami.
- Puny Earthlings: She has no interest in the human realm.
- She's a Man in Japan: Inverted.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Her name was originally spelled out in English as "Dalill Guillortha" in the Japanese version of How To Read 13.
- Scary Impractical Armor: She likes metal accessories
- Un-Evil Laugh: She is said to have a goofy laugh.
- Weakened by the Light: Downplayed. She dislikes bright places.
Another denizen of the Shinigami realm.
- Fish People: He has webbed feet.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: He spends all his time gambling with Gukku.
- Mummy: He's wrapped in bandages.
A female Shinigami with a spotted body that kind of looks like Jabba the Hutt. She likes humidity and dislikes dryness.
An antelope-headed Shinigami. A friend of Ryuk's that watches his exploits in the human world. He likes gambling but he's not very good at it.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: He spends all his time gambling with Deridoveley.
A minor Shinigami character that expresses interest in the human world and what Ryuk is doing.
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Looks to have a giant eye embedded in his chest.
- Fur and Loathing: He wears fur hides. How to Read 13 says he likes "soft things."
- The Grotesque: Even compared to other Shinigami.
- Spell My Name with an "S": His name is spelled as "Zerhogie" in the Japanese edition of How To Read 13.
Another Shinigami mentioned in How To Read 13.
- Humanoid Alien: Hes vaguely insectoid in appearance with boar-like tusks.
A female Shinigami. Shes very violent and not very smart.
- Body Horror: She appears to be stitched together.
The highest ranking Shinigami that resembles a stick covered with eyes. Only the King is more powerful than she is. She likes repentance and dislikes sound.
Tropes associated with Nu:
"The Old Man," The King of the Shinigami Realm, the one who issues the Shinigami their marching orders, and the highest ranked Shinigami of them all.
- Comically Small Bribe: During the main story, he refuses to give out new Death Notes to Shinigami after seeing what Ryuk does. In the bonus chapter 109, however, he changes his mind and will give anyone a new Note for the price of... two apples from Earth.
- Dimension Lord: He rules the Shinigami realm.
- Evil Old Folks: In the novelization of Light Up the New World, he talks in a style distinctive of old people. Ryuk often refers to him as "The Old Man" rather than his actual title.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Although never seen in person, he casts a shadow over the world of Death Note, having created the MacGuffins in the first place. Indeed, he was the one who gave Ryuk another notebook that allowed him to kick off the entire story to begin with.
- Skull for a Head: Within another, much larger skull.
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The artist of the series even admitted he initially didn't want to design the King because he was too nervous.
An unnamed Shinigami who appeared in the movie Relight: Visions of a God, where he was searching the Shinigami Realm for Ryuk. He is violent and impetuous, making demands of the other Shinigami. He is very interested in the human world and bored with the Shinigami realm. He bribes Ryuk with apples to hear his story of the time he spent in the human world but leaves before he finishes it. Physically the Shinigami is a skeleton with spiky brown hair and wears a tattered suit, a red tie headband and a grey bookbag, and he walks with a limp. This and the dialogue at the end of the movie strongly hints that he is a Reincarnation of Light Yagami.
- Actually, I Am Him: Averted; while he is implied to be Light from the story Ryuk tells, he never flat-out says so at all, and the only hint we are given comes from Ryuk.
- The Bad Guy Wins: If he really is Light, nothing would be able to stop Kira if he decided to try again (now that he's a literal god).
- Cast as a Mask: To make the special's (supposed) Twist Ending more surprising and jarring, he and Light are voiced by different actors.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Trope picture.
- Here We Go Again!: The Shinigami heads down to the human world to alleviate his boredom for a while.
- I Never Told You My Name: One of the biggest pieces of evidence supporting the idea that this Shinigami is actually Light is that he somehow knows of Ryuk's taste for apples without anyone having told him.
- Preemptive "Shut Up": When searching for Ryuk the other Shinigami try to give him the runaround. "Shut up and answer my question!"
- Wham Line: Said to him by Ryuk, possibly revealing his true identity:Ryuk: Wouldn't you agree, Light?
- Subverted, as the director clarified Ryuk was talking about Light in passing.