|“||We Grim Reapers were once human too and all. Humans who have committed suicide become 'Grim Reapers' as punishment. We're worked to the bone until the day we're forgiven, a captive audience to the deaths of man. For us, who've committed suicide, to have to bear witness to their earthly regrets and lust for life day in and day out is a depressing state of affairs indeed.||”|
A Grim Reaper (死神, Shinigami) is a neutral supernatural being, whose primary duty is to review and collect souls.
Grim Reapers must remain neutral between God and humans; they are strictly forbidden from to intervening in or influencing human affairs. Grim Reapers receive a soul retrieval list of those scheduled to die from their higher-ups. The list contains substantial information on the human, including the person's name, parents, birth date, death date, cause of death, and any additional notes. Their principal job is to check each dying soul's kaleidoscope of memories—its Cinematic Record—one by one, to determine whether they deserve to die or not. For the human who receives the judgment, "this human should die," the Grim Reapers use their Death Scythes to sever his or her memories and souls from his or her bodies, resulting in the human's death. Afterward, they would promptly stamp "Completed" on the individual's file on the list. The human can be removed from the list only when they are judged to have been one "who has potential to be beneficial for this world"—notwithstanding, the number of humans who have that sort of value is few to none, according to William T. Spears. The Grim Reapers fundamentally work to confirm that the rare possibility of a "valuable" human is not the case each time, and they must do so as indifferently and level-headedly as they can.
If a Grim Reaper makes a mistake or breaks a rule during their mission, they must return to headquarters and submit a written apology and report. The details of their punishment are unknown, though if the crime is severe, they may be suspended for some time. On the other hand, if a Grim Reaper quits or retires, they would no longer have their soul retrieval list, and their Death Scythe would be confiscated, unconditionally.
Grim Reapers typically intend to eliminate anything that gets in their way. They and demons have a long-standing and mutual distaste for one another. They consider demons vulgar and a nuisance; demons disrupt their structured, meticulous work of reaping souls, due to their tendency to devour souls indiscriminately and in great quantities.
Grim Reapers are similar to humans in strength and hearing. Unlike demons, Grim Reapers require sleep. They also need to eat. All Grim Reapers have chartreuse phosphorescent eyes, and wear glasses because they are extremely nearsighted. Grim Reapers without their glasses are normally presumed to be "deserters." Moreover, all Grim Reapers dress in black.
- Enhanced agility: Grim Reapers are considerably more agile than humans; it is as though they are "defying gravity."
- Enhanced endurance: Grim Reapers are appreciably tough, for they are able to endure attacks that could have killed a human.
- Soul review and collection: By using their Death Scythes, Grim Reapers can review a dying soul's memories, via its Cinematic Record, and retrieve the soul, once the formal assessment is finished.
Grim Reaper Dispatch
The community of Grim Reapers is referred to as the Grim Reaper Dispatch. The organization is divided into administrative departments or districts; each section is charged with a specific duty. The Management Division is responsible for overseeing the dispatch members, and ensuring that their conduct is proper and acceptable. They will apprehend whichever Grim Reaper violated their ordinances. The Retrieval Division consists of members dispatched into the field to retrieve souls. The Personnel Division sends out reinforcements to the field, when necessary. The Administrative Division controls the use of Death Scythes; Grim Reapers must obtain permission to use their Death Scythes, and to modify them. There is also a division that deals with forensics.
There are different branches of the Grim Reaper Dispatch, separated by geographical regions. According to William, the London District, or the British Branch, is "perpetually understaffed." Occasionally, the branches cooperate by sharing information or important documents, as did the British Branch with the German Branch during the events at Wolfsschlucht.
Identified Grim Reapers
- Management Division
- Retrieval Division
- Personnel Division
- Administrative Division
- Forensics Division
- Killing those not on the list of the dead is prohibited.
- Using a Death Scythe without submitting an application for said use is prohibited.
- Interfering with life and death in the human world is prohibited.
- Even though only male Grim Reapers have appeared so far in the series, female ones also exist.
Out of Universe
- Grim Reapers possess things that belong outside of the Victorian era. For example, Ronald Knox uses a wristwatch, although at the time, pocket watches were the norm. Furthermore, numerous custom Death Scythes resemble gas and electric gardening tools from the modern era.
- Grim Reapers have chartreuse phosphorescent eyes in references to onibi, a mysterious light born from the corpses of humans and animals in Japanese folklore. A possible scientific explanation for those lights is that they are the illumination of the phosphorus from decaying corpses.
- In the first season of the anime, Grim Reapers are not immune to human ailments, such as hunger and exhaustion. However, they are able to sleep without breathing.
- In the first season, Grim Reapers possess a unique and powerful item called the Death Bookmark, that when placed into the book, is able to stop the events of someone's Cinematic Record.