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Shinigami (死神, "death god(s)"; Viz "Soul Reaper(s)") are guardians of the souls who are going through the circle of transmigration. Namely, they are "balancers." They exterminate Hollows who do evil in the World of the Living; they 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 Omnitsukido. Sometimes, a potential Shinigami is born among the residents of the Rukongai, and in some rare cases from Seireitei.
Shinigami receive salaries, like workers in the Human World and also earn bounties for defeating Hollows.
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 Unohana Retsu Unohana, being over 1,000 years old and Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto being at least 2,100 years old.
- Enhanced Durability: While Shinigami can be injured and "die" 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: 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.