There have been countless interpretations of the grim reaper or some equivalent personification of death across all of pop culture; it's a concept we love to explore, the idea of death taking shape and facing people in their final moments, and it's one that has taken many forms. In anime, personifications of death are usually unconventional, and even when they fit some aspects of the Grim Reaper or Shinigami (death gods), there still tends to be some curveball thrown into their background, design, abilities or overall character. A lot of the time, these anime death personifications are some kind of powerful warrior, a Shonen-anime fighter-type who's ability to reap souls is dependent on their battle ability. Of course, this isn't always the case, but the fact still stands, death in anime is often personified as someone or something with great power, which is why we decided to rank some of the strongest personifications of death in anime.
For this list, we tried to keep the entries limited to well-known anime and characters, so there may be multiple characters from the same anime, particularly Bleach and Soul Eater, which focus on souls and death. As for how we are ranking these reapers, we're looking at the scale of their abilities first, then the power and skills and lastly, we'll be taking into consideration the strength of the enemies that the reaper has beat. Additionally, the weapons of choice for each reaper will play a factor in how they are ranked, especially with the Soul Eater characters. With the setup out of the way, check out our ranking below.
16/16 GRELL SUTCLIFF
Starting us off is one of the few non-battle-focused entries in the whole list, Grell Sutcliff. Grell is a very eccentric, very flamboyantly violent grim reaper who conspired with Jack the Ripper, who turns out to be Angelina Dalles (the aunt of the series' main protagonist), to collect the souls of her victims.
Though the power of Grim Reapers in the world of Black Butler are rather limited, Grell's bloodthirsty, ruthless nature makes them a danger to all who encounter them, especially when armed with their death scythe chainsaw. However, at the end of the day, Grell is not on the same battle level as the other entries on this list in terms of skill or power.
15/16 RINNE ROKUDŌ
Next up is Rinne Rokudō, the part human, part Shinigami protagonist of Kyōkai no Rinne who more or less lives a normal life outside of his death god duties. Rinne might not be much of a fighter, but if we are looking at the scope and number of his abilities, he's got a lot more going for him than Grell does.
On top of being able to exorcise souls and allow them to pass on, as most shinigami/grim reapers can do, Rinne also has the power of flight, great scythe-fighting ability, a cloak that turns him invisible to normal humans and the power to use money in a powerful wind attack, which is as effective as it is cool-sounding.
14/16 BLACK STAR
Starting off the Soul Eater characters is none other than Black Star, a narcissistic, but still incredibly powerful and capable ninja meister from Death Weapon Meister Academy. Black Star is joined in his missions to reap evil souls by Tsubaki, his partner that is capable of turning into multiple types of ninja weapons.
Together, these two are a powerful force, reaping evil souls with great skill, stealth, and precision. Though they are still students throughout the Soul Eater anime they can still be considered incarnations of death in terms of their job as a meister/weapon duo, and a pretty strong one at that.
13/16 MAKA ALBARN
As skilled as Black Star is, both on his own and while wielding Tsubaki, they can't beat a full-fledged death weapon/meister combo like Soul Eater Evans and Maka Albarn. In order for a weapon to become a death weapon, it has to consume 99 evil souls and one witch soul, a goal that Soul and Maka are able to accomplish. This makes them one of the few students at the academy to have done so.
As a death weapon, Soul is worthy of being used by Lord Death himself, thus he and Maka are some of the strongest fighters in the world of Soul Eater. Add to this Soul and Maka's various special attacks, like the demon-hunter, and there's no denying how strong the duo is.
12/16 ANGEL/KANADE TACHIBANA
Perhaps she might not be as well-known as the other personifications of death on this list, but Kanade Tachibana, also known as "Angel," of Angel Beats! is actually one of the more interesting and more powerful characters in our ranking.
In the world of Angel Beats!, the afterlife is a school with Kanade as its student council president, and as such she helps the students deal with their post-death issues. Though not explicitly stated, Kanade is more or less the Shinigami of this world, thus we can rank her amongst the other grim reapers. Among themm we put her at number 12, since she is virtually indestructible and has a wide variety of offensive and defensive capabilities.
11/16 DEATH THE KID
Next up is another Soul Eater character, the son of death himself, Death the Kid, a young meister who's nearly as powerful as his father. Kid wields two death weapons, sisters Liz and Patty Thompson who can turn into supernatural pistols.
Together with his death weapons, Kid is a force to be reckoned with, just as strong, if not stronger than Maka Albarn and capable of unlocking more his full Shinigami powers as time goes on, eventually taking over the role of Death when Lord Death is defeated in the manga. With all his skills and Death powers taken into consideration, we rank Death the Kid at number 10 in our ranking.
This entry isn't technically a character, it's a summoning technique, a very powerful one at that. The Shinigami is a spiritual entity from Naruto that can be used to seal away other spirits, an ability that was used by the Fourth Hokage to seal the nine-tailed fox demon within Naruto.
Because of this ability to steal souls and spirits, it's not hard to see why this summon is known as a Shinigami, as it acts similar to a grim reaper. As for how its power ranks, we think it definitely makes the top 10, and it would rank a bit higher were it not for the fact that it's a temporary being that has to be summoned and not an ever-present reaper.
9/16 GENRYŪSAI SHIGEKUNI YAMAMOTO
Next up is the head of all soul reapers in the Soul Society of Bleach, captain commander Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto. Yamamoto is a fire-powered soul reaper who sought to bring order to Soul Society by forming the 13 Gotei, leading them himself with his centuries of experience and massive power.
From the battles that he's fought, it's easy to see how Yamamoto earned his position, his power easily outranking all those beneath his command. He is a deadly swordsman made even stronger with the use of his fire powers, all of which make him a capable warrior and an effective soul reaper. Even at his advanced age, Yamamoto's power makes our top 10.
8/16 RORY MERCURY
Gate is an anime about, well, a gate, one that opens up between Japan and a fantasy world full of magic, elves, dragons, and even gods. On such example of the latter is Rory Mercury, a demigoddess who is on her way to becoming a full-fledged god upon her 1,000th birthday.
Though she isn't explicitly stated to be the living incarnation of death, Rory is also known as Rory the Reaper, due in part to the massive ax-like scythe she carries around and also because she tends to slay evil humans with great pleasure. Both of the elements make Rory something of a grim reaper, one that is immensely powerful thanks to her immortality, fast healing, and massive strength and speed.
One of the first demon gods to exist in the world of Soul Eater was Asura, a Kishin made from a fragment of Death, and one that almost rivals the power of the grim reaper himself. Even crazier, Asura was once a meister who consumed his weapon to gain its abilities.
The only god that is able to defeat Asura is Lord Death himself, which should say a lot about how strong he is. In fact, Asura was so dangerous that Death had to seal him in a prison of his own skin to prevent him from using his death god and madness-spreading powers again.
6/16 SOSUKE AIZEN
Next up is Sosuke Aizen, arguably one of the strongest souls to come out of the soul society. Aizen was revealed to be the true villain of Bleach, showing his great power as the story continued to unfold. On top of his soul reaper powers of perfect hypnosis, Aizen also eventually gained greater powers through the use of a substance capable of blurring the line between soul reapers and hallows.
As if all that wasn't enough, Aizen is also a genius, one capable of manipulation and crazy planning that prevented anyone from knowing his true intentions for a large portion of his soul reaper career. The only person who was able to defeat Aizen was Ichigo, which goes to show how strong he was.
5/16 LORD DEATH
We've talked about Lord Death in every other Soul Eater entry on this list, now it's finally time to take a look at the grim reaper himself. Death in Soul Eater is somewhat similar to how most people think of the grim reaper, just a bit goofier and kid-friendly-looking.
As for his power, when measuring the strength of a meister in Soul Eater, one must look at the size of their soul, and for Lord Death, his soul is so large that it encompasses the entirety of Death City. This shows just how strong Death is, as it is the biggest soul shown in the entire series.
4/16 LIGHT YAGAMI
We couldn't do a grim reaper list without including the most famous one in all of anime, Light Yagami, the protagonist of Death Note. After coming across a mysterious notebook that allows him to take out anyone by writing their name in it, Light decides to become something of a shinigami, killing criminals and those he's deemed evil under the name Kira.
Though he is by no means a fighter, Light is incredibly brilliant, avoiding being caught by the authorities for quite some time during his "career." Additionally, when you take into consideration the ability of the Death Note, its range and how easy it is to learn a person's name, it puts Light's reaper abilities above most of the others on this list.
While Light/Kira was a, shall we say "effective" death god, he was still human, unlike Ryuk, an actual shinigami that more-or-less aided Light in his pursuits. Ryuk's powers are much greater than Light, which is why we ranked him above, as his shinigami abilities allow him to use a death note more effectively.
One ability that Light never obtained was Ryuk's shinigami eyes, which let him know the names of anyone just from looking at them, a power that comes in handy when reaping souls. Basically, Ryuk has the powers of a death note, but no limits stopping how many he can end or at what range.
Though a Death Note is a powerful tool, one with a wide range and little limitations, we're not sure it can be used against someone who is already capable of switching between life and death like Ichigo when he goes from human to Soul Reaper. Additionally, Ichigo is also the strongest fighter in all of Bleach, beating Aizen in the end.
Ichigo's strength comes from a combination of intense training, since he was given multiple Soul Reaper crash courses, his heritage, since he was born from a Soul Reaper and a Quincy, and his brief time as a hallow, which gave him access to the powers of a corrupted soul.
Our final entry is none other than Lord Beerus of Dragon Ball Super, a god of destruction who we can consider to be a personification of death, since he is the opposite of the Supreme Kai, a god of creation and life. Beerus' job is to balance out life in the universe by destroying mortals that should not exist, which sounds a lot like a grim reaper to us.
In terms of power, Beerus is still considered to be the second strongest person in his universe, with the first being his teacher/attendant, Whis. Beerus is capable of destroying a planet without breaking a sweat and has defeated Goku's strongest forms, which is why he's our number one strongest personification of death in all of anime.