Shinigami (Death Note)
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In the manga and anime series Death Note, Shinigami (死神?, literally "death god") are the race of extra-dimensional beings who survive by killing humans to extend their own lives. Shinigami in this series are not responsible for every death that occurs; people will eventually die regardless of whether or not the Shinigami pay attention to them, but a Shinigami can end their lives sooner than intended for their own benefit.
- 1 Creation and conception
- 2 Overview
- 3 Recurring Shinigami
- 4 Minor Shinigami
- 5 References
Creation and conception
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Takeshi Obata, the artist for Death Note, said that he had "a lot of fun" during the creation of the Shinigami. He also felt that the process was "very difficult" since he started "with nothing." He cited the difficulty in his creation of Ryuk as an example. Obata said that at first Shinigami appeared like "beasts" and that with later Shinigami such as Sidoh he designed them to look like crustaceans and insects because "it was easier." Obata said that he felt difficulty in basing characters on animal designs and keeping "the same feeling of the series." Obata said that he considered basing Shinigami on wizards but decided against the idea; he says that the rags on some Shinigami serves as a remnant of that concept. Obata added that Shinigami have no physical differences separating males and females; he says that he knew about the genders as he drew the characters and that the sole differences consisted of details added "subconsciously."
Obata said that he used "no real design motif" for the Shinigami Realm, and that he never settled on any concrete appearance; Obata described the Realm as changing appearance in each instance in Death Note, with it sometimes appearing as a dry field and sometimes appearing as a room "full of cookies." Obata says that he likes to think of the Shinigami Realm as "an abandoned building with chunks of chocolate sitting around." Obata said that he thought of the realm as being "inside something" and having a "claustrophobic feeling." Obata added that he would like to develop the Shinigami Realm further if it was used as the setting for a story.
Tsugumi Ohba, the author, said that when he first inserted the numbers representing Light Yagami's lifespan (as visible with the Shinigami Eyes) he created a "complicated math equation" that could determine Light's lifespan in human terms; he added that he forgot the equation. Obata created subsequent lifespan numbers.
Shinigami vary widely in appearance, and their bodies are built in ways that would seem impossible by human standards. Like humans, Shinigami also can die, of sorts by extending the life of a human they care about (by saving them from certain death): the purpose of a Shinigami is to end life, not give it, and hence saving a human is contrary to their nature. Shinigami who die in this manner are reduced to dust. Their Death Note is left behind, however if it is left behind in the human world, only humans who touch the notebook can see the shinigami.
The main thing all Shinigami have in common is the Death Note. This supernatural notebook allows them to end the lives of humans before their times, adding the human's remaining lifespans to their own (e.g. a man who would have lived sixty years, but is killed by a Shinigami at forty years of age would add twenty years to that Shinigami's lifespan). In this manner, a Shinigami can extend their lives indefinitely, and cannot be killed through "mortal means" (being shot, stabbed, etc.). To assist in this, their eyes allow them to see the names and remaining lifespans of humans by seeing the faces of their victims. For the Death Note to work, the Shinigami must be thinking of the person's face as they write it in. Any cause of death can be written down; if none is written, the human will simply die of a heart attack after 40 seconds, although it cannot kill someone under 780 days old, or over 124 years old, or with less than 12 minutes to live. A human using the Death Note will not receive the same benefits as a Shinigami; while humans can kill people, they cannot increase their lifespans by doing so. A Shinigami cannot hand a Death Note directly to a child under six or give the guidebook of Death Notes to humans.
According to Ryuk, life in the Shinigami realm is incredibly dull; Shinigami pass the time by gambling with years of their lives, and using the Death Note is considered workaholism, and they only do it once in a while to increase their lifespan so they do not slack off entirely.
They are intangible in the human world, unless they will it differently. Their notebook cannot be touched unless they will it.
All Shinigami must possess at least one Death Note, a necessity to extend their lives. Should they manage to come across a second, it can be loaned to a human. The Shinigami must accompany the human until they die, the Death Note is willingly given back or the book is destroyed; should the human give the notebook to another human, the same would apply to the new owner; when said human gives away the Death Note, any and all memories regarding the Death Note are erased. Shinigami can explain the purpose of the Death Note to the human, but this is done at their discretion. They can also offer Shinigami Eyes to the human at the cost of half the human's remaining lifespan; however, while a human with the Eyes can also see the name and lifespan of most humans, they cannot see the lifespan of any Death Note owner, themselves included. Likewise, Shinigami cannot see lifespans of other Shinigami. In addition, Shinigami are forbidden from telling the Death Note owner their remaining lifespan, both because it would cause confusion and because a human aware of their fate might react unpredictably (in a negative way). While in the human world, Shinigami are invisible and inaudible to everyone except the owner of their Death Note and anyone else who has touched it. Other unrelated Death Note users can only see their specific Shinigami. At the beginning of the series, it is stated that humans who have used the Death Note are unable to go to Heaven or Hell upon their death, instead they go to Mu ("Nothingness"). However, it is eventually revealed that there is no afterlife and everyone stops existing when they die. Shinigami may be male or female. Shinigami cannot and are not permitted to have sexual relations with humans; they cannot have sexual intercourse with each other, nor can they reproduce. In addition, humans cannot easily tell which Shinigami are male and which are female. Death Note 13: How to Read adds that Shinigami may have emotions "relating to the opposite [gender]." For instance Ryuk feels shy and embarrassed when Misa Amane hugs him.
Though Shinigami possess senses of taste similar to those of humans, they do not require food or nutrients to live, and many choose not to. In addition Shinigami do not need to sleep and will not die from a lack of sleep; Shinigami view sleeping as "evidence of laziness."
Shinigami also seem to age, as seen in Death Note Relight: Vision of a God. Ryuk looks much older than he did in the regular anime.
The Shinigami have a language; each Shinigami has his or her own written language, with some opting for letters and some opting for pictures. Takeshi Obata, artist of the series, said that he assumes that all Shinigami can understand the languages of one another.
If a Shinigami breaks the laws that govern them, the Shinigami will face one of nine punishment levels. The severity is least at Level Eight and most at Level One; in addition an "Extreme Level" exists. The Shinigami will die if a level below Level Three is applied to him or her.
Shinigami may not kill a human in any manner outside of using a Death Note; killing a human without using a Death Note merits "Extreme Level" punishment.
Shinigami have rankings, with the King of Death as having the highest ranking. 13: How to Read states that the rankings do not "seem to affect" the Shinigami's "day-to-day activities" "very much."
Ohba said that a human with Shinigami Eyes will always see names and lifespans of other people, although just as Shinigami can't see each other's lifespans, Shinigami Eyes will not display the lifespan of a human in possession of a Death Note. The most significant rule with regard to humans is that to obtain the eyes, a person must halve their own remaining lifespan in a trade with a Shinigami. The only exception to this rule is Beyond Birthday, who was somehow born with Shinigami Eyes. In addition, as per the rules, the human owner of the Shinigami eyes gains 3.6 (20/10) vision, regardless of their original sight. Ohba described the rule as "very close to being a stupid rule". In order to see a name and lifespan with the shinigami eyes, at least half the face must be seen. If the person is deceased, their name will not appear in a photograph or video footage, and mere drawings of the human do not work, no matter how good they are. No genetic test can tell the difference between human and shinigami eyes and not even shinigami can tell the difference.
Ryuk (リューク Ryūku?) is the main Shinigami of the Death Note series. He is 6'6" according to Death Note volume 1. Bored with the activities (or lack thereof) of the Shinigami realm, Ryuk obtains a second Death Note by tricking the Shinigami king and drops it in the human realm for someone to find, hoping to amuse himself. He deliberately writes the instructions on the front page (in English, which he assumed was the most popular language in the human realm) so people would understand its purpose. The Death Note is discovered by Light Yagami, and Ryuk follows him around for much of the series to see how Light uses it. Ryuk has a fairly humanoid appearance. His skin is gray, or a purplish color, his unusually wide mouth resembles a Glasgow smile, his limbs are abnormally long, and he has bulging yellow eyes with black irises (red in the anime); in the films, he is represented by CGI. He is voiced by Shidō Nakamura in the Japanese anime and live-action adaptations, while Brian Drummond voices him in the English dub. The manga shows that Ryuk is quite fond of eating apples.
Rem (レム Remu?) is the Shinigami who gives Misa her Death Note. Like Ryuk, Rem possesses two Death Notes; however, Rem did not get hers through trickery. The Shinigami Gelus, who had fallen in love with Misa, intentionally killed someone who was going to murder Misa. Since he had knowingly used his Death Note to extend a human life (a violation of Shinigami law), he was reduced to ash, leaving only his Death Note. Touched by this act, Rem delivered Gelus's Death Note to Misa, since it was her life he saved. Her appearance is quite skeletal, with long, spinal cord-like arms and bone-like skin. Rem is voiced by Kimiko Saitō in the Japanese anime and Colleen Wheeler in the English dub. While Ryuk takes amusement in everything in the human world, Rem is almost the exact opposite. She views most humans with contempt, seeing Shinigami as the more evolved race. Also, while Ryuk is ambivalent to Light's success or failure, Rem actively assists Misa, having inherited Gelus's love for her. She is even willing to sacrifice her life to defend Misa, as evidenced by her threat to kill Light should Misa die before her time. For Misa's sake, however, she still assists Light in his schemes, although she despises the human she gave the Death Note to. Death Note 13: How to Read said Rem "supposedly" experiences difficulty while writing the Japanese language. Also stated in Death Note 13: How to Read, Rem is female, contrary to some beliefs, supported by the fact that in manga, chapter 47, page 15, panel 3, she states that she is, in fact, female when she says to Misa her love for her is different.
Light manages to force Rem to work for him by presenting a situation in which harm would come to Misa otherwise. As such, she dies when she writes L's name. In the second movie, Rem declares her love for Misa and her spite for Light moments before her death. While her Death Note is left behind in the manga and anime, she burns it in the film out of spite.
Obata said that Rem is his favorite Shinigami since she is a Shinigami and "a good person." He says that he believes Light may have hidden Rem's Death Note as it is never tested before being burnt.
Conception and design of Rem
Obata said that he decided to create a design contrasting with Ryuk's design, using a white body with "rounder" lines. He says that he used fashion collections to create his motif. He described her resulting appearance as if she wore a "really bizarre suit." Obata said that Medusa inspired the design of Rem's head.
Gelus (ジェラス Jerasu?) appears in a flashback when Rem explains how to kill a Shinigami. He is a small, doll-like Shinigami who appears to be patched together out of mismatched fabric. He only has one eye, despite having two eye sockets.
In the flashback, Rem recalls Gelus watching over a younger Misa Amane in the human world, which he spends most of his time doing. Knowing that it was Misa's final day, he watches with her, interested in how she will die. Having fallen in love with Misa, Gelus uses his Death Note to kill Misa's destined murderer, a crazed stalker, against Rem's protests. Gelus is reduced to a pile of "something that was not sand nor dust," as punishment for extending a human life, leaving behind only his Death Note. His remaining years are added to Misa's lifespan. Rem delivers his Death Note to Misa because it was she whom he saved. In the film, she simply drops it and it lands near Misa. He is voiced by Kenichi Matsuyama (who played L in the films) in the Japanese version and Michael Dobson in the English dub.
Conception and development of Gelus
Obata said that Gelus appeared to be "a really beautiful" Shinigami in the thumbnails but decided to use his concept instead; Obata designed Gelus with a patchwork body since Gelus is a "really pitiful character." Obata added the trait of Gelus having difficulty writing names into the Death Note. Obata said that he believed that readers could relate to him and sympathize with him more if he looked "pathetic" instead of "beautiful."
Obata said that at first he placed "detailed patterns" on Gelus's Death Note. When deciding that the patterns looked "too pretty" Obata covered the patterns with black, leaving the white portions visible. The text of the notebook is in a "Shinigami language."
Sidoh (シドウ Shidō?) is the Shinigami whose Death Note was stolen by Ryuk. By the time he realizes this, however, the note has already changed hands several times, ending up in the hands of Mello's gang (more specifically, Mello's subordinate, Jack Neylon whose real name is Kal Snyder). After repeatedly hounding Ryuk for its return, he tracks down the gang to get it back. He discovers his notebook is in Los Angeles, California and upon arrival takes the notebook out of Mello's hands (making it look as if it just floated in mid-air) and touches it to the notebook's current owner, Kal Snyder (a.k.a. Jack Neylon). After Snyder freaks out, he gets Mello and the others to touch the notebook. To regain his Note, Sidoh agrees to help Mello's gang against Near's SPK and the Kira investigation team. Snyder is forced to make the eye trade with Sidoh, who exposes the fake 13 day rule. He wears heavy clothing, obscuring most of his features, and his head is wrapped in bandages. He is voiced by Kazuki Yao in the Japanese anime and Sam Vincent in the English dub.
Sidoh shares Mello's great liking for chocolate, similar to Ryuk's liking of apples. Sidoh is fairly timid; Mello frightens Sidoh, despite the fact that Mello is a human. Death Note 13: How to Read describes Sidoh as unintelligent and forgetful, rarely remembering the names of other Shinigami. After Light regains the Death Note from Mello, he returns it to Sidoh to keep him from interfering.
Obata described Sidoh as "very funny," citing the time when Sidoh becomes the first Shinigami to distribute flyers. Obata said he wished that Sidoh appeared more often in the story.
Conception and development of Sidoh
Tsugumi Ohba, writer for Death Note, said that he used Sidoh as another Shinigami appearing in the human world because he liked Sidoh's appearance; Ohba described Daril Ghiroza as a "candidate" and that he wanted a "pretty pathetic" character.
Obata said that when he discovered that another Shinigami would appear on Earth, he filed through designs and nominated Sidoh and Daril Ghiroza. Obata said that he believed that Ghiroza would be chosen and prepared for that decision; instead Ohba selected Sidoh. Obata said that he based Sidoh's design on the appearance of a bird with his mouth being based on a beak of a canary. Obata described Sidoh's foldable arms as more "insect-like."
Armonia Justin Beyondormason
Armonia Justin Beyondormason (アラモニア＝ジャスティン＝ビヨンドルメーソン Aramonia-Jasutin-Biyondorumēson?), otherwise known as Justin the Jewel Skeleton, is a briefly featured Shinigami who informs Sidoh that his Death Note was stolen by the Shinigami Ryuk and gives him the rules for different situations. As his names suggests, Justin's appearance is that of a skeleton adorned with all manner of jewellery. He is voiced by Hideyuki Umezu in the Japanese anime and Michael Dobson in the English dub.
As described in 13: How to Read, Justin is the right-hand man of the Shinigami King and sits on a throne. Highly intelligent, Justin knows everything there is to know about the Death Note, and Shinigami often go to him in trouble. Obata describes him as "conceited." Justin provides Sidoh with several scrolls describing the various rules that Shinigami have for interacting with humans, which Sidoh uses to guide his interactions with Mello in the human world. The scrolls are not mentioned in the anime.
Calikarcha (カリカーチャ Karikācha?) is considered strange-looking even by Shinigami standards, having eight eyes lined up two rows on each side of his head. He has a penchant for blueberries but dislikes sunlight.
Obata described her as "more of an Orthodox-looking Shinigami." Obata said that since Obata designed her at the same time as his design work for Sidoh for use as a new main character he gave her some contrast with Sidoh's design. Obata said that he based Ghiroza on Ryuk's design and tried to make her appear "higher-ranked." Obata said that when he discovered that another Shinigami would appear on Earth, he filed through designs and nominated Sidoh and Daril Ghiroza. Obata said that he believed that Ghiroza would be chosen and prepared for that decision; instead Ohba selected Sidoh. Obata said that the reason why Sidoh was chosen is that Ghiroza attained a high Shinigami rank and therefore would not fit the role of a Shinigami being "pushed around" by a human being. Obata said that he was glad that Ghiroza was not selected since her design included many details that he felt would have caused "real trouble" if he tried to draw her in every chapter.
Deridovely (デリダブリー Deridaburī?) is a Shinigami who spends his time gambling. He is humanoid in appearance, but wears a bone mask over his face. He carries a scythe, making him thematically similar to the classical depiction of the Grim Reaper. He usually gambles with Gukku. His Japanese voice actor is Tetsuo Goto and his English voice actor is David Pettitt.
Obata said that he based Deridovely on a "gross-looking transparent insect." Obata believes that the bandages aid the design.
Gukku (グック?) is a very lazy Shinigami whose most prominent feature is his animal mask. Like Deridovely, he enjoys gambling. Despite gambling with Deridovely much of the time, he is a poor gambler. He is voiced by Takeharu Onishi in the Japanese version and by Lee Tockar in English.
Obata said that, as Gukku appears in the first chapter, he wanted for Gukku to "look like a monster to keep it simple." Obata decided to use a cattle skull in the design as he felt that using a "regular skull would be boring."
Kinddara Guivelostain (キンダラ・ギベロスタイン Kindara Giberosutain?) is a female Shinigami with a fierce appearance, having a huge fissure jutting from her head and sharp teeth. She enjoys violence but hates excessive thinking. She does not appear in the actual Death Note story; she appears on the spine of Volume 12.
Obata said that, since the final volume release pended, he wanted to create a new Shinigami to appear in the volume.
Midora (ミードラ Mīdora?) is a large, slug-like Shinigami with stubby limbs. Unlike most Shinigami, she does not wear any clothing or decorative elements on her body. She enjoys moist weather but loathes dry seasons. Her enormous size gives her a dominating presence. While she is a background character in the main series, a one-shot chapter set three years after Kira's death focuses on her. In the chapter, Ryuk's actions have made apples a commodity among the Shinigami. Midora uses this to bribe the Shinigami King into giving her a second Death Note, which she gives to a human in an attempt to replicate Ryuk's experience with Light. When this "Cheap Kira" is brushed off by Near as "boring", he kills himself. Midora tells Ryuk about this, and he relates Light's claim that someone must have strong spiritual strength and conviction to use the Death Note; Midora simply picked a weakling. She admits that Ryuk is better at judging such things, then gives the extra Death Note to him.
Midora appears to have the same feeling toward bananas, as seen in one panel of the one-shot when she is in the new Kira's room, she is eating a banana while lying amongst an enormous pile of banana peels.
Obata said that he liked Midora's design as she appears "more like a salamander" and has a "vastly different" design when compared to other Shinigami. Obata said that her skin feels moist like amphibian skin; due to this Obata said that he worries "if she can survive in the heat of the Shinigami realm. [laughs]"
Nu (ヌ?) is a Shinigami whose body is covered from head to toe with eyes. Nu is "supposedly" the second most-powerful Shinigami, with only the King of Death's powers eclipsing hers. She is very intelligent and likes the feeling of others' regret, but she dislikes sound. Obata described Nu as like "a giant rock covered in eyes that sticks out of the ground." Although she has never appeared in any actual episodes in the anime, Nu is shown very briefly in the second opening sequence, along with Ryuk, Rem, Gelus, Sidoh and Gukku
Obata said that Shinigami like Nu exist and are "rare."
Zellogi (ゼルオギー Zeruogī?) wears a Native American headdress and has a hook in place of his left hand. He takes an interest in Ryuk's activities in the human world, and humans in particular after learning that Ryuk's Death Note is in a human's possession. Despite his feeble appearance, he has a highly inquisitive nature. His interests are in furry items and he dislikes moist temperature. He is voiced by Kibou Tokumei in the original and by John Novak in the dub.
Obata said that he used a Native American motif for Zellogi. Obata said that after covering his eyes and adding feathers "the rest just came naturally. [laughs]"
King of Death
The King of Death, also known as the Shinigami King (死神大王 Shinigami Daiō?), is the ruler of the Shinigami. An unseen character in the main series, the Shinigami King governs the Shinigami and controls distribution of the Death Notes. It is not made clear if he creates them or just has a certain supply, as he is unwilling to replace lost ones. He appears to at least write the rules for the Death Notes, but whether or not he enforces them himself is unclear. The Shinigami King is regarded as a sort of father figure by lesser Shinigami, and is said to be almost immortal. Chapter 109 depicts the King as a large mass suspended in the air with chains. He has a skull for a head, which is surrounded by a larger, skull-like formation. He has four tentacle-like arms, each with only three fingers on the hands, which hang from his body.
One of the eyecatch rules given in the series states that extra Death Notes found by Shinigami are generally expected to be returned to the King, though this clearly is not something Shinigami are forced to abide by. Likewise, lost notebooks must also be reported to him. Little information is given about the character itself, aside from Rem's assertion that the King is not easy to trick, which Ryuk successfully did. In contrast, he is quite easily bribed, as Midora was able to trade thirteen apples for a second Death Note after getting them from the human world.
Obata said that he felt too afraid to design the King of Death; he said that he considered placing the King of Death on a book spine but felt that the spine would not have enough space to depict the King of Death. The King of Death is included as a figure with the Japanese release of the final volume of the DVD series, and appears in the one-shot set three years after the manga's finale.
Originally appearing in the third chapter of the manga, this shinigami was featured in the director's cut OVA, Death Note Re-Light: Visions of a God. Like Ryuk, he is bored with the shinigami realm, and convinces Ryuk to tell him the story of Light Yagami and the death note. Inspired by the tale, he heads off for the human world, in search of a similar cure for his own boredom.
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- Death Note manga; 13: How to Read, Page 51-52
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- Ohba, Tsugumi; Obata, Takeshi. Death Note 1. Viz Media. p. 82.