One of interesting concepts in the popular manga and anime series Death Note is the idea of death gods as living breeding entities with their own personality and variations in appearances.
While Shinigami are generally inspired by the European character of the Grim Reaper, in Death Note they acquire very specific attributes and even a strict society, being demon-like characters who live in the Shinigami Realm. To increase their life-span, the Shinigami write the names of humans in their Death Notes, thus killing the human and extending their own life by the amount of time the human had left to live. However, because the Shinigami realm is incredibly dull, this act is usually laughed at, and thus done in privacy. Shinigami cannot be killed by physical methods, such as stabbing or shooting, and must follow a strict set of rules if they want to live without punishment.
Shinigami vary widely in appearance, and their bodies are built in ways that would seem impossible by humans standards. Like humans, Shinigami also have varying personality traits and levels of intelligence. They all have retractable wings on their backs. Shinigami are, for the most part, invincible. No human weapon can kill them, as they are only solid when they choose to be, and they are immune to the powers of the Death Note. Only a few things are actually capable of killing a Shinigami. Should they disobey the rules of their realm, a form of execution exists. Failing to write names in the Death Note (or losing it, though they can receive another) would also result in eventual death. Finally, Shinigami can commit a form of suicide by purposefully using the Death Note to extend the life of a human they care about: 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, and their remaining lifespan is given to the human they saved.
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 time, adding the human's remaining lifespan to their own (e.g. a man would have lived to sixty and is killed at thirty would add thirty years to the Shinigami's lifespan). In this manner, a Shinigami can extend their life indefinitely. To assist in this, a Shinigami's eyes allow them to see the name and remaining lifespan of a human simply by seeing their face. It should be noted that a human using the Death Note will not receive the same benefits as a Shinigami; while they certainly can kill people, they cannot increase their lifespan by doing so.
The Shinigami Realm is a desolate wasteland. Pools littered about the surface allow them to view the human world in order to take human lives, but this is viewed as something workaholics do, so it is done in secret. Shinigami usually pass the time by gambling with the only thing they have to trade: years of their life.
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 or the Death Note is willingly given back; should the human give the notebook to another human, the same would apply to the new owner. 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 lifespan; however, a human with the Eyes can only see the lifespans of non-Death Note owners, 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 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. The films and anime state that a human who uses the Death Note cannot go to heaven or hell, and instead is condemned to Mu ("nothingness"). In the manga, this is described as the fate of all humans regardless of their actions during life.
†Strong Life Forms Who Rarely Die†
Their numbers are dwarfed by that of the humans but their ability to survive is incredible. As long as they do a minimum of work, they can live forever!
Shinigami write human names into notebooks and continue living by taking people's remaining lifespans. So the question is: did they exsist before humans?
Unless they get into some kind of trouble, Shinigami will never die.
Sleep is for the lazy. Shinigami are capable of falling asleep but they have no need for it. To them, it's just evidence of laziness.
Food is nothing more than a luxury item to a Shinigami. Since they don't get nutrients from food, some Shinigami never bother to eat. The only things Ryuk puts in his mouth are his favorite food, apples.
The Shinigami realm is apparently somewhere above the human world, but it cannot be seen by merely looking up. The Shinigami realm has various colonies. It is very dry and desolate place. There appear to be varying landscapes, through none of them have anything that look like buildings.
Names and lifespans are instantly visible along with super vision, Shinigami eyes grant the ability to see a person's name and lifespan when looking at them. This allows Shinigami to see people's name even remotely.
Flying is a normal activity for Shinigami. When they travel about in the human world they usually do so by flying. They are capable of walking, but maybe they don't do it as much because it's more tiring?
♦Armonia Jastin Beyondllemason♦
Shinigami Rank: 2
An important member of the Shinigami realm, he knows the rules well. The Shinigami King places great trust in him, and because of this he is often asked for advice by many of the inhabitants of the Shinigami realm. He is sometimes seen smoking.
Shinigami Rank: 3
Likes: Metal accessories
Dislikes: Bright places
A Shinigami with no interest in the human world. She's comfortable in the Shinigami realm, where she enjoys gambling. She has an Asian appearance and is known for having a goofy laugh. Her rank is just below Jastin's.
Shinigami Rank: 10 Alternate Dellidublly Fanart
Likes: Gambling, naps
A humanoid Shinigami who wears a mask that appears to be made of bone. Because he carries a large sickle, he's pretty close to what many humans think a god of death looks like. He spends every day gambling with Gook.
Shinigami Rank: 9
A Shinigami who keeps it simple by wearing no accessories. Because of her size, her tail and her spotted body, she is well known in the Shinigami realm.
Shinigami Rank: 7
Likes: Gambling, naps
A friend of Ryuk's who watches as he heads to the human world. Gook also gets along with Dellidublly. The two are often seen gambling but...supposedly he's not very good.
Shinigami Rank: 5
Likes: Soft Things
A Shinigami known for the hook on his left hand and his feather headdress. When he hears that Ryuk has possessed a human, he shows interest in what kind of person it is. He may seem boorish, but maybe he's just a pretty curious Shinigami?
Known for the numerous eyes along the sides of his head. Perhaps this is a rare type of Shinigami?
Stitches on her head, sharp teeth...She appears to be very violent.
Known for the eyes that cover her body. Supposedly only the Shinigami King is more powerful than she.
♦King Of Death♦
The leader of the Shinigami realm. He must be very old because the Shinigami refer to him as "Old Man." He seems to be in charge of keeping track of Death Notes, but little else about him is known. Maybe he's too incredible for humans to comprehend?
Shinigami Rank: 13
Likes: Misa Amane
A small and clumsy Shinigami whose body is held together by sewn-on patches. He doesn't have many friends; Rem is the one who notices that he's interested in a human girl. Jealous saves Misa's life, but he could not predict how that would lead to his own death...
A quiet and kind heart. Jealous has a rare and perhaps improper personality trait for a Shinigami: he cares deeply for humans.
Wheather or not he knows of the rule against helping humans, Jealous wants to protect Misa. He is able to successfully lengthen Misa's lifespan, but.....In a desperate attempt to save Misa, he does something without thinking.
Jealous' name is commonly misspelled "Gelus," which is what Jealous' name was romanized to until Death Note: How to Read 13 revealed the official spelling.
Shinigami Rank: 8
The Death Note that Light initially uses is actually Shidoh's. Shidoh is not very bright; in fact, he can barely remember the names of his fellow Shinigami. What appears to be tattered cloth around his shoulders are really his wings.
Shidoh possesses a certain charm that makes him hard to hate. He is unfortunately, cowardly and afraid of one particular human. Sometimes it's hard to believe he's really a Shinigmai....
Shidou must have been very lazy in filling out his Death Note, because his lifespan is nearing its end! He rushes down to the human world to get his notebook back from Ryuk as quickly as possible.
Sidoh's name is written in English as "Shidoh" in Death Note: How to Read 13, but written "Sidoh" in both the tankōbon character introductions page and within the translated English manga.
Shinigami Rank: 4
Dislikes: Light Yagami
A clever creature who always keeps her composure. When it comes to Misa, however Rem sometimes lets her emotions get the best of her. Always going after those who could harm Misa, these kind of actions show the warmth buried deep inside Rem.
Like Ryuk, Rem possesses two Death Notes; however, Rem did not get hers through trickery. The Shinigami Jealous, who had fallen in love with Misa, sacrificed himself to kill her destined murderer. In doing so he was reduced to dust, leaving only his Death Note. Touched by this act, Rem delivered his 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. In the manga and anime, Rem tells Misa that she is actually a female Shinigami. In the second live-action film, this is not mentioned, leaving it ambiguous. She is also given a more masculine voice. Rem is voiced by Kimiko Saitō in the Japanese anime and Colleen Wheeler in the English dub. In the film, she is voiced by Shinnosuke Ikehata.
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 Jealous' 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.
Light manages to trick Rem into killing L 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.
Go to Ryuk's Bio for more information on Ryuk and the Deathnote Rules
The Radical Shinigami that hates boredom
Ryuk (・・・・・[・N, Ryūku?) is the main Shinigami of the series. Bored with the activities (or lack thereof) of the Shinigami realm, Ryuk obtains a second Death Note 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 to be the most popular language in the human realm) so people would understand its purpose. The Death Note is discovered by Light, and Ryuk follows him around for much of the series to see how Light uses it. For a Shinigami, Ryuk has a fairly humanoid appearance. Though his skin is pale and his limbs are abnormally long and he has yellow eyes with red irises and no pupils, he otherwise looks ordinary. He is voiced by Shidō Nakamura in the Japanese anime and Brian Drummond in the English dub.
Ryuk is characterized by his constant amusement by, and apathy in regards to, Light's problems. He enjoys seeing Light overcome the various challenges put to him, and often waits until the worst possible moment to inform him of a certain aspect of the Death Note just to get a laugh. He is occasionally helpful if it serves his own interests, such as obtaining apples or furthering his own amusement, but for the most part will jokingly taunt Light about what his next move will be.
Ryuk has a great fondness for apples, comparing them to cigarettes and alcohol for Shinigami (Shinigami apples are withered and taste like sand, as he shows Misa at one point), and will go through a type of withdrawal if he goes for too long without eating them. His withdrawal symptoms involve twisting himself up like a pretzel and doing headstands. He also states that he is shy around girls. In addition to apples, Ryuk is fond of video games, first shown in the omake eight-panel comic series, where he asks for a Silver Game Boy Advance SP, originally published in Weekly Shonen Jump Volume 4-5 (double issue) in 2005. On another occasion, Ryuk asks Light if he wants to play Mario Golf (changed to "video games" in the anime), but receives no answer since Light's bedroom is bugged with cameras.
As Ryuk explains when he first meets Light, he will take Light's life when his time comes. In the manga, Ryuk does this after Light is shot several times by Matsuda. He desperately begs Ryuk to write the names of the investigation team and the SPK members in the Death Note, but Ryuk just writes Light's name instead. In the anime, Light does not ask for Ryuk's help and manages to escape the warehouse thanks to Mikami's gruesome suicide distracting everyone. However, his wounds are too severe for him to escape very far, and Ryuk, who is watching him from atop a pole, writes Light's name in his Death Note. Light dies peacefully, with an apparition of L standing over him. The film ends in much the same way as the manga, except Ryuk's silence leads Light to believe that he is willing to help. When Light learns differently, Light yells at Ryuk and jumps through him, trying in vain to stop his death before dying in his father's arms. Ryuk offers L the Death Note, but when L refuses, Ryuk moans about L being "boring".
Ryuk makes a guest appearance in the Death Note parody episode of Gin Tama, commenting on how silly humans are (Gin and his friends fighting over the beef in a hotpot).