Shinigami (死神, death god(s); Viz "Soul Reaper(s)") are guardians of the souls who are going through the circle of transmigration. In ancient times, they were known as Balancers (調整者 (バランサー), Baransā; Japanese for "Regulators"). They purify Hollows who do evil in the World of the Living and ensure the safe crossing of souls - the Pluses who have lost their way after death - by giving them a soul burial. Shinigami are the opposite of the Quincy.
Shinigami are unearthly beings living in a world ruled by a different logic than the World of the Living. They possess high Reiryoku and a body of Reishi. They are invisible to those without spiritual powers.
When Souls with exceptional spiritual energy train their bodies, they reach the level of Shinigami. The most talented of them become affiliated with various organizations like the Gotei 13 and the Onmitsukidō. The majority of potential Shinigami are born among the residents of the Seireitei, but in some rare cases are born in the Rukongai.
All Shinigami have vents at their wrists which release their Reiatsu. If they are blocked off, the Shinigami in question would be incinerated by their own Reiatsu from the inside out. If a Shinigami's Saketsu (鎖結, Chain Binding; Viz "Chain") and Hakusui (魄睡, Soul Sleep) are pierced, their spiritual powers are sealed up and they most likely can never regain their lost powers again.
Shinigami have a number of supernatural abilities:
- Longevity: Shinigami do not visibly age at the same rate as Humans and tend to maintain a youthful appearance for centuries. Shinigami can live for much longer than Humans, with some Shinigami, such as Retsu Unohana, being over 1,000 years old and Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto being at least 2,100 years old.
- Enhanced Durability: While Shinigami can be injured and killed like regular Humans, it takes considerably greater injuries to kill a Shinigami than it would to kill Humans. Decapitation is the only guaranteed method of killing a Shinigami.
- Reiryoku: Shinigami naturally possess high levels of Spiritual Power, which varies greatly in magnitude with the strength of a Shinigami. The more power a Shinigami has, the sharper their movements will be. A consequence of having Spiritual Power is that unlike powerless spirits, Shinigami need to eat.
- Zanpakutō: A Shinigami weapon, its shape is typically similar to a Japanese katana. Low ranking officers are issued an Asauchi sword, but high-ranking officers arm themselves with unique swords generated from their own souls. A Zanpakutō is a physical manifestation of this force concentrated into a blade. All Shinigami have a Zanpakutō, but not all of them carry one with them. Its shape differs depending on its owner.
Most Shinigami appear like average Humans. There are, however, a few Shinigami who are less Human-like in appearance. For example, there are much greater variations in body-sizes between Shinigami than between Humans, with small childlike Shinigami such as the 109 cm tall Yachiru Kusajishi and giant Shinigami such as Sajin Komamura, who is 288 cm tall. Variations do not just occur in size but in overall appearance, too, the most notable example being Captain Komamura, who is an anthropomorphic wolf.
Shihakushō (死覇装, Garment of Dead Souls): The black kimono worn by Shinigami. It is customary to wear a white undergarment underneath. Some wear bright colored scarves with it or shorten the sleeves. They commonly carry their Zanpakutō, which is in most cases tied to their obi sash.
World of the Living
- Konsō (魂葬, Soul Burial): the process by which a Shinigami sends wandering Pluses in the Human World to Soul Society if they are good in life or Hell if their life was full of evil acts (such as murders, theft, etc.). Konsō is performed by using the hilt of the Shinigami's Zanpakutō, tapping the soul on their forehead and transporting them to the afterlife.
- Hollow Cleansing: When a Shinigami slays a Hollow with their Zanpakutō, they cleanse their sins. Once this takes place, a Hollow will return to its former state as a Plus and is led into Soul Society. This is called sublimation. Souls that live in Soul Society are reborn again into the Human World. Not all Hollows are sent to the Soul Society. Since Zanpakutō are only capable of cleansing sins committed after becoming a Hollow, Hollows that committed serious crimes when they were still Human are sent to Hell when they are slain.
- Soul Governance: Shinigami are responsible for governing the flow of spirits between the Human World and Soul Society. This is commonly carried out by balancing the total number of souls by moving and managing them in the Human world. All of the soul-related jobs are under their authority.
Shinōreijutsuin (真央霊術院, Spiritual Arts Academy): An educational organization with a 2,000-year-old history, founded by Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto. It was once called the Shinigami Academy. It changed to Spiritual Arts Academy when it developed into an institute for the next generation of the Kidō Corps and Onmitsukidō as well the Gotei 13. In the Rukongai, it is still referred to as the Shinigami Academy. The Shinigami Academy is one of two groups that is not under the jurisdiction of the Central 46 Chambers.
Zankensoki (「斬」「拳」「走」「鬼」, Cut-Fist-Run-Spirit): Basic Shinigami fighting techniques. Zan refers to sword fighting techniques. Ken refers to unarmed fighting techniques. So refers to moving techniques. Ki refers to Kidō.
To aid in their missions, particularly when said missions involve more than simply dispatching a Hollow, Shinigami have a number of unique items to assist them in their duties.
- Gigai: The temporary bodies that Shinigami use in the World of the Living. They were created by the Shinigami Research and Development Institute.
- Jigokuchō: The butterflies that Shinigami use to lead them to the World of the Living. They are also used as messengers in Soul Society.
- Spiritual Limiter: All Shinigami captains and lieutenants have their spiritual energy reduced by about 80% when they enter the Human World by use of a spiritual limit, represented by a seal called the Gentei Reīn (限定霊印, Soul-Limiting Symbol; Viz "Spirit Restriction Seal"), which resembles the symbol unique to their Division, in order not to cause unnecessarily high damage while there. In extreme cases, where their full power is needed, they can request a limit release. The command to release the seal is Gentei Kaijo (限定解除, Limiter Release; Viz "Restriction Removal").
- Denreishinki: A vital tool for any Shinigami stationed in the Real World, this variation on a cell phone functions both as a regular phone and as a communication line with the Soul Society. It receives information about the time and exact location of a Hollow's emergence via GPS. A Shinigami's kills are also recorded in the phone and can be used as currency (according to the bounty placed on each Hollow).
- Zajiku (座軸, Set Axis; Viz "Target Axis"): Similar in function to a Denreishinki, this scroll-like object lists a Shinigami's targets and instructions for their mission.
- Gokon Tekkō: A glove which has a skull symbol on it, which can be used to force the soul out of a body. Kisuke Urahara also has a skull symbol on the end of his cane, which can be used in the same manner.
- Artificial Souls: Souls designed by Shinigami scientists to separate a Shinigami's spirit from a Gigai, should they be inhabiting one, or to evict stubborn spirits from their corpses if necessary. It is commonly called Soul Candy, as the Shinigami Women's Association complained that the name "Artificial Soul" was not cute and had it changed.
- Modified Souls: Artificial souls designed to enhance regular Human physiology, making them capable of battling Hollows equally. The Mod-Souls are condensed into tiny, candy-like orbs and placed into corpses to achieve their function as soldiers to combat Hollows. The Mod-Souls were exterminated after the experiment was halted due to ethical reasons since they were intended to be used to reanimate Human corpses to use as weapons against the Hollows. But there are still a small amount left; namely Kon, Ririn, Kurōdo, and Noba.
- Kikanshinki (記換神機, Account-Replacing Spirit Device; Viz "Celestial Text Messenger"): A memory substitution device used on humans who have seen Shinigami or Hollows. Also called Kiokuchikan (記憶置換, Memory Replacement). When used, a bird's head pops from the top of the device and produces a puff of smoke. The Human it is used on is knocked unconscious and wakes up a while later with a new memory. However, the new memory that the Human acquires is random and often based on the limits of what they will believe. For example, Ichigo's family merely believed they slept through a truck crashing into their house when it was used on them. Conversely, Orihime Inoue, who has a much more active imagination, believed that her house was attacked by a yakuza gunman.
A Substitute Shinigami (死神代行, Shinigami Daikō) is a human who became Shinigami by obtaining another Shinigami's power, or by going through a much harder and riskier process to transform him/herself into one. Obtaining another Shinigami's power is done by thrusting his/her Zanpakutō into the person's chest who wants to obtain the power. However, the percentage of success is low. In the case of success, the person normally obtains around half of the Shinigami's power, and only temporarily at that. The transferral of a Shinigami's powers to a Human is forbidden by the Soul Society
In the case of the individual borrowing the power being a Human, several difficulties arise, illustrated by the example of Ichigo. In order to be able to fight as a Shinigami, he has to leave his body and get into soul state, which can only be by use of a Gokon Tekkō or Soul Candy. In the former case, his body needs to be taken care of until he finishes his job and re-enters it.
If a Substitute Shinigami appears, Soul Society gives that Shinigami a special badge which they use to monitor and restrict the Substitute. However, the Substitute is told that it is a license which is given to Substitutes that prove beneficial to Soul Society to allow them to do their work and identify them as a Substitute. The badge alerts the user if Hollows are nearby via an alarm sound which can only be heard by the owner and the item itself is only visible to other spiritually aware beings. The Badge can also allow the soul to leave the body.
- Bleach Official Character Book SOULS, page 29
- Bleach manga; Chapter 492, page 9
- Bleach Official Bootleg KaraBuri+. page 140
- Bleach manga; Chapter 535, page 13
- Bleach Official Character Book 2 MASKED; page 68
- Bleach Official Character Book Souls, page 97
- Bleach manga; Colorful Bleach 4 Omake
- Weekly Shonen Jump; interview, year 2004, issue 42
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- Bleach manga; Chapter 140, page 16
- Bleach manga; Chapters 55-56
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- Bleach manga; Chapter 59, page 15
- Bleach manga; Chapter 129, page 1
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- Bleach Official Character Book 2 MASKED; page 68
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- Bleach manga; Chapter 209, pages 12-15
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- Bleach manga; Chapter 10, page 20. It was altered to a gun-toting sumo wrestler in anime Episode 3
- Bleach manga Chapter 1, page 43
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- Bleach manga; Chapter 34, page 15
- Bleach manga; Chapter 11, pages 5-7
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- Bleach manga; Chapter 474, pages 8-13
- Bleach manga; Chapter 183, pages 11-12
- Bleach manga; Chapter 184, page 9
|Combat||Zanjutsu • Hohō • Kidō • Hakuda|
|Abilities||Zanpakutō • Reiryoku • Reiatsu • Reiraku • Konsō • Shunkō|
|Government||Soul King • Central 46|
|Nobility||Kuchiki Clan • Shihōin Clan • Noble Houses • Kasumiōji Clan • Ise Clan • Tsunayashiro Clan • Formerly: Shiba Clan • Ryōdoji Family • Dark Ones|
|Military||Gotei 13 • Onmitsukidō • Kidō Corps • Royal Guard • Gatekeepers|
|Institutions||Seireitei Communication • Shinigami Research and Development Institute • Shin'ō Academy|
|Recreational||Shinigami Women's Association • Shinigami Men's Association • Tea Ceremony Club • Ikebana Club • Calligraphy Club|
|Locations||Soul Society • Seireitei • Central 46 Compound • Nest of Maggots • Sōkyoku Hill • Gin Tonbo • Kuchiki Manor • Central Great Underground Prison|
|Items||Jigokuchō • Gigai • Reigai • Gikon • Modified Soul • Denreishinki • Ōken • Gokon Tekkō|