Shinigami in Touhou
In the Touhou Project, shinigami might occupy different roles, and their duties include recording lifespans of the living, acting as a guide to souls unfamiliar with Hell, recording the proceedings of the Yama's court, and ferrying the souls of the deceased to the Yama so that they can be judged.
Due to a lie spread by the shinigami, most people believe their life is over at the sight of a shinigami, a reputation bolstered by the large scythe the shinigami carry with them. The belief goes that a few are actually charged with taking the souls of the expired, and that these shinigami may be fought with just as any other creature, allowing stronger beings to continually prolong their lifespan (celestials are notorious for this, disguising their victory as guaranteed immortality). In truth, normal humans would just die naturally, and only people who exceedingly extend their lives are attacked, and this isn't done by shinigami but by kishin chiefs, a class of powerful oni residing in Hell, such as Suiki.
Gensokyo's only known shinigami, Komachi Onozuka, ferries souls to Higan by crossing the Sanzu River, a river in Japanese Buddhism analogous to the Greek River Styx. That means bringing souls to the Yama (or Enma) Eiki Shiki, Yamaxanadu. While Komachi is a ferry guide of the Sanzu, not all shinigami occupy this position, as stated above.
Shinigami can apparently see the life span of the living (and are presumably unable to see the immortal as they have no life span). Komachi offers the eyes of the shinigami in exchange for half their life span. This is likely a reference to another well known series and is possibly just a joke made by Komachi.
According to Komachi, they are also capable of inflicting a powerful fear effect in normal humans, by using a mental attack against "an open crack in their hearts". Apparently, this allows them to subdue most possible human opponents before the fight even starts, so being simply strong wouldn't be enough to delay one's inevitable demise. Hermits and celestials seem to be immune to this effect, probably due to their altered state of mind, hence they stand a chance in a clash against a Reaper. However, as said before, shinigami aren't actually charged with the duty of ending the life of living beings, so this might as well be a lie.
Characters under this Bestiary
Books and articles
- Wikipedia entry on Shinigami