Forget everything you thought you knew; it turns out that The Grim Reaper is actually a pretty nice guy. Sure; his job involves collecting the souls of the deceased, but he's also happily married, with a son, and enjoys spending quality time with his family. His son, the titular star of the series, is the same—but a great deal more naive.
Together with a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who look about as bizarre as himself, Death Jr. goes on various misadventures (some of which he or Pandora Boxley arguably caused to escalate in the first place), with a good dose of humor and violence along the way.
Originally an action game by Backbone Entertainment released for the Playstation Portable, Death Jr. was intended to branch out into its own massive, media-branching franchise, with the first adaptation being a graphic novel written by Gary Whitta, and illustrated by Ted Naifeh. While the video game recieved mixed reviews (the general consensus is that it delivers in the action department, but doesn't really take advantage of its universe to convey an interesting plot), the graphic novel was very well-reviewed, boggling to those people who barely even knew the game exists. Both the game and graphic novels recieved sequels, many an arguable improvement from their predecessors, although they didn't come close to pushing the series into the mass-franchise the creators had hoped. Perhaps out of realization that the PSP wasn't a big success, the series abandoned its original exclusive deals with Sony, and began to appear on Nintendo platforms. Unfortunately, when Backbone Entertainment was bought by Namco soon afterward, it seemed to force the franchise into limbo, but hopefully not forever.
Games in the Death Jr. series:
- Death Jr. — The first game and the beginning of the series. Released for the PSP.
- Death Jr. II: Root of Evil — The sequel. made Pandora a playable character. Originally for the PSP; later ported to the Wii with improved graphics and motion controls.
- Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom — Released for the DS.
Books in the Death Jr. series:
- Death Jr. Volume One — The first book, in which Death Jr. inadvertently screws up the laws of life and death.
- Death Jr. Volume Two — In this book, Death Jr. is tempted by the evil Bureaucracy; the long-lost fifth horseman of the apocalypse, into screwing his father over; together they must set things right again.
- Pandora: A Death Jr. Manga — Predictably, this is A Day in the Limelight for Pandora, in which she must save Death Jr. from an evil Clingy Jealous Girl.
- Death Jr. and the Cryogenic Storm — The proposed third book in the series, which unfortunately was put on hold indefinitely after Backbone was bought-out.
Tropes found in the Death Jr. include:
- Action Girl: Pandora becomes one in Root of Evil.
- All Myths Are True: Though some of them have been tampered with in rather amusing ways.
- All the Worlds Are a Stage: In the first game, at least.
- Badass in Distress: Death is overpowered and imprisoned by Furi in Root of Evil.
- Black Comedy:
- Not the only type in the series, but a bit of an issue in Volume One, with a rather macabre Running Gag about DJ's cat dying.
- The Seep ought to be mentioned too, for the sake of being a pickled fetus, though technically he isn't dead. (He is quite a comedian, though!)
- Camera Screw: The camera isn't the most cooperative mechanic, mostly as a result of being on a system without a second analogue stick. This was a reoccurring criticism for both the first game and Root of Evil.
- Crapsack World: Debatable. Though it's dark, it's not without fun, and not without morals.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Death, Death Jr, and their friends... although the Seep is still a Jerkass.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Seep. Sometimes moves out of the "Deadpan" territory, though.
- Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: The opening cutscene of Root of Evil features the Grim Reaper himself ordering fast food. Then there are his interactions with his family where he acts like a normal husband and father.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Furi manages to defeat Death at the start of Root of Evil.
- Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: DJ's mom somehow did. And had a son with him.
- Don't Fear the Reaper: Unless you died, of course.
- Emo Teen: Stigmartha is rather dour, but it's pretty understandable considering she bleeds from her hands whenever she gets nervous.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: None of the gang seem to like The Seep very much, and he tends to be a jerk to all of them.
- The Grim Reaper: He plays a big role here, and has a wife and a son.
- Guns Akimbo: DJ's primary means of attack aside from the scythe.
- I Know Mortal Kombat: Pandora claims to have learned martial arts from playing Street Fighter. As such, she's given names to her moves and frequently calls them out.
- Inexplicably Awesome: There is no explanation as to how Dead Guppy possesses a soul to steal, but he does.
- Lighter and Softer: While Root of Evil isn't without its macabre moments, it's significantly less grim in tone compared to the first game, what with the first game featuring a full-blown demon invasion. The environments are notably more colorful and stylized, and the blood and gore of the first game is completely absent. Science Fair of Doom lightens the tone even further along with making things Denser and Wackier.
- Meaningful Name: Pandora Boxley is named after the legend of Pandora's Box. Stigmartha is a pun of "stigmata." Smith and Weston are named after a firearms manufacturer, as they're inventors who handle DJ's weapon upgrades.
- Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: DJ accidentally putting the world in jeopardy is the basis of practically every storyline. It's why his father grounds him frequently.
- Perky Goth: Pandora qualifies; Stigmartha... not so much.
- Puppy Love: DJ has an obvious crush on Pandora. It's revealed in the end of Root of Evil that she reciprocates.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Death Jr. and his friends.
- Sequel Difficulty Drop: Root of Evil is much more forgiving than the first game, replacing the lives with a fairly forgiving checkpoint system among other quality of life improvements. The Wii port makes things even easier by featuring motion-controlled aiming.
- Sinister Scythe: DJ knows his way around a scythe, a skill he learned from his dad.
- Suddenly Voiced: Zigzagged with DJ. He has voice grunts in the first game but only ever actually "speaks" through text. In Root of Evil, he's given full lines and talks rather frequently.
- They Killed Kenny Again: Pandora has died and recovered twice in the series.
- TV Genius: Smith speaks with a stereotypical posh accent and is of course a genius. His twin Weston, while also a genius, averts this trope by carrying himself in a much more laid back and casual manner. He also has a typical American accent.
- Twin Telepathy: Literally sharing a brain helps Smith and Weston in this respect.
- You Are Grounded: Happens a fair amount to DJ—perhaps unsurprisingly, as his actions have a tendency to put the world at jeopardy.