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“Because I was bored, that's why.”
Ryuk (リューク, Ryūku) is a Shinigami who indirectly gives Light Yagami a Death Note after becoming bored with the Shinigami Realm. In an effort to amuse himself, he steals a second Death Note and drops it into the Human World for someone to find. This Death Note is discovered by Light, who uses it in an attempt to cleanse the world of evil and injustice, satisfying Ryuk's need for entertainment.
Ryuk has a fairly humanoid appearance. He is extremely slim and has light-gray skin, almost blue-ish in color, with spiky black hair; thin, blue-gray lips; and sharp, pointed teeth. His limbs are abnormally long, and he wears rings on his fingers. He has large, round yellow eyes with bright red irises and retractable feather-like wings on his back that enable him to fly.
Ryuk is different from most Shinigami in that he does not want to simply pass time away in the Shinigami Realm but find something to relieve his boredom, and he is unaffected by the mocking he receives from other Shinigami for it.
Ryuk regards Light as "interesting," specifically due to his experiments and the loopholes he discovers regarding the Death Note's rules and instructions, occasionally discovering abilities of the notebook even Ryuk did not know existed. Though he finds Light interesting, he does not care whether Light lives or dies and does not actively assist him. At times, he withholds important information from Light and only assists him when he has something to gain from it. As his only purpose in dropping the notebook was because he was bored, most of his actions are primarily motivated by wanting to see something interesting, as he sees Light's use of the Death Note and the way humans react to it as truly entertaining. Ryuk is intelligent, but Light's ability to understand his desires easily makes him able to be manipulated.
Ryuk has a great fondness for apples, stating the addiction to be an equivalent of cigarettes and alcohol for humans. Shinigami apples are withered and taste like sand, as he shows Misa at one point, which is why he prefers apples from the human world. He suffers certain symptoms of withdrawal if he goes too long without eating them, involving twisting himself up like a pretzel and doing handstands. He also states that he is shy around girls, revealed when Misa regains her memories and hugs Ryuk in excitement.
Ryuk is fond of video games, first shown in the omake eight-panel comic series, where he asks Light for a Silver Game Boy Advance SP for Christmas. On another occasion, Ryuk asks Light if he wants to play Mario Golf (changed to "video games" in the anime), but receives no answer, since Light's bedroom is bugged with microphones and rigged with cameras.
Ryuk deliberately writes the instructions inside the front cover of the Death Note (in English, which he assumed to be the most popular language in the Human World) so people would understand its purpose. The Death Note is discovered by Light, and Ryuk follows him around for much of the series to see how Light uses it.
As Ryuk explains when he first meets Light, he will take Light's life when his time comes. In the manga, Ryuk does this during the final confrontation between the Japanese Task Force and the SPK after Light is shot several times by Matsuda. Light desperately begs Ryuk to write the names of the investigation team and SPK members in the Death Note. Ryuk appears to write them down, but he reveals he simply wrote Light's name instead. He had expected Light might have thought of some way out of his situation, but seeing as he is desperate enough to go to Ryuk for help, Ryuk decides it is all over for him. Ryuk returns to the Shinigami Realm after killing Light.
In the anime, Light escapes the Yellowbox Warehouse while Mikami's suicide distracts everyone else. With his wounds too severe for him to escape very far, Ryuk, who is watching him from above, decides that following Light around during a prison sentence waiting for his death is not worth his time and thus writes Light's name in his Death Note, giving Light the final words, "It's been interesting." Light dies with an apparition of L standing over him, mirroring Light standing over L at his death.
In other media
Relight anime films
The Relight films are a condensed version of the anime series. The premise of the films is that Ryuk tells the story to a fellow Shinigami.
Sometime after Light's death and Ryuk's return to the Shinigami Realm, Ryuk becomes popular among other Shinigami due to his time spent in the Human World with Light. Eventually, Ryuk's story catches the attention of an unnamed Shinigami, who visits Ryuk to hear it.
Live-action film series
- Main articles: Death Note, Death Note: The Last Name, L: Change the WorLd, and Death Note: Light Up the NEW World
In the film series, Ryuk is very similar to his canon self. The second film ends in much the same manner as the manga, except Ryuk pretends to be more cooperative by laughing together with Light over the fact that the Task Force can't shoot through his incorporeal form. Ryuk informs Light that humans who have used the Death Note are unable to enter either Heaven or Hell and shows Light his name written in the notebook. Light yells at Ryuk and jumps through him, trying in vain to stop his death, before dying in his father's arms. After Light's death, Ryuk asks L if he will to use the Death Note, and when L says that he won't, Ryuk calls L boring and flies away. He is last seen several months later, laughing and circling around Tokyo Tower.
In the spin-off midquel L: Change the WorLd, Ryuk encourages L to use the Death Note, trying to tempt him by reminding him that Light used it to become a god. When L asks if Light died like a god, Ryuk struggles to answer, and L proceeds to burn both notebooks, sending Ryuk back to the Shinigami Realm.
Ryuk is briefly seen in the third episode of the miniseries Death Note: New Generation. He apparently delivers a notebook directly to Kira-worshiper Yuki Shien, who begins acting as a new Kira. The episode ends with Ryuk laughing and saying, "Interesting."
Ryuk will be returning in the upcoming film Death Note: Light Up the NEW World.
Ryuk is voiced by American actor Willem Dafoe in an American film adaptation of Death Note.
Manga pilot chapter
In the Death Note manga pilot chapter, Ryuk is the master of two Death Notes that he dropped into the human world; Taro Kagami picks up the first one, and Ryuk talks to Taro. The other is picked up by Taro's classmate, Miura. The police burn Miura's book, not knowing of the existence of the first book. At the end of the chapter, Ryuk follows an older Taro. Death Note 13: How to Read describes the Ryuk of the pilot chapter as "really lazy" and "incompetent."
Death Note 13: How to Read describes Ryuk in the Death Note yonkoma as, of the characters, one who "may" be the character most resembling the equivalent character in the Death Note series.
Ryuk is introduced in the Shinigami Realm, and he goes to Rem complaining that he is bored. Rem is looking down at the humans, and the two of them mock humanity. Ryuk then drops his Death Note into the human world, which is subsequently picked up by Light Yagami.
Ryuk visits Light after he has begun using the Death Note, celebrating the creation of Kira, which he finds interesting. Ryuk stays by Light's side, such as attending Misa's live performance and seeing Rem again when Misa and Light meet up. When it seems that Rem is getting attached to Misa, Ryuk reminds her not to break the Shinigami rule about helping humans. When Misa first meets L and realizes the name she sees doesn't match what he gave her, Ryuk tells her that she isn't supposed to know that so she doesn't make it obvious.
After Light thinks he's won by defeating L, Ryuk picks up the Death Note, bites his finger to draw blood, and begins to write. Light asks him whose name he's writing, and when Ryuk says it's Light's name, Light panics and desperately tries to get Ryuk to stop. Ryuk is unmoved, having grown bored of the human world, and Light dies of a heart attack. Ryuk rolls Light's dead body over, pulls an apple out of Light's jacket, and takes a bite.
Ryuk performs the following songs in the musical:
- They're Only Human is a song Ryuk and Rem sing about humanity.
- Kira is a solo song Ryuk sings when he first meets Light.
- A Cruel Dream Reprise is a song Ryuk and Rem sing as Rem becomes more emotionally attached to Misa.
Ryuk is portrayed by various actors for the different musical productions:
|Eric Anderson||2014 closed New York reading workshop|
|2014 New York studio demo recordings|
|Kotaro Yoshida (吉田鋼太郎, Koutarou Yoshida)||2015 Japanese production|
|Kang Hong Seok (강홍석) (aka Kang Hong Suk)||2015 Korean production|
|2017 Korean production|
|Kazutaka Ishii (石井一孝, Ishii Kazutaka)||2017 Japanese production|
Ryuk appears alongside Light as a non-playable story character for the crossover video game Jump Force.
Tsugumi Ohba said that he always mentioned Apples in the thumbnails because he wished to use "the dying message that Shinigami only eat Apples." Therefore, he simply needed Ryuk to hold Apples and that "there's no other reason." Ohba also said that he specifically chose Apples because the red "goes well" with Ryuk's black body and that the apples "fit well" with Ryuk's "big" mouth. When Takeshi Obata informed Ohba that Apples held religious and psychological significance and that a person could "read a lot" into their inclusion and its symbolism. When he assumed that was the reason why Ohba included the apples, Ohba said that he did not "think about that at all" and that he merely believes that "apples are cool… that's it. (laughs)" Ohba added that he felt including aspects that could become later plot points was beneficial, and the apples were used as a point when Light asked Ryuk to search for the cameras in exchange for apples.
Obata said that he encountered difficulty in creating Ryuk. He said that his original idea of Ryuk consisted of Ryuk looking like a "young man similar to Light" with black hair and wings. Obata said that he had the idea of Shinigami looking like "attractive rock stars." Obata felt that if Ryuk appeared to be more attractive than Light he would "appear to be the main character" and "things wouldn't work as well." Obata said that he decided to erase the previous design and use the final design when his editor told him that Ryuk did not have to appear to be human. Obata said that he liked the "monster-like" appearance and added that, with his face, "you can never really tell what he is thinking." Obata said that he encountered difficulty while drawing Ryuk in the pilot chapter since he did not "have a good handle" on the "bone structure of his face." Obata said that during serialization he became "so used" to the underlying structure that he could visualize it. Obata describes Ryuk's face as appearing different between the pilot chapter and the actual Death Note series. In Death Note 13: How to Read Obata thought of an idea involving Ryuk's face being a mask, and under the mask would be an "attractive" face.
When designing Ryuk's Death Note, Obata thought about the appearance of Ryuk's handwriting. Ryuk wrote the words "Death Note" on the cover of his own notebook, and when he took possession of Sidoh's book he wrote the same words on the front cover.
Conception of Ryuk in the films
Shūsuke Kaneko, director of the films, said that he chose to create Ryuk with computer graphics as it would make the aspect of Ryuk only appearing to people who have touched the Death Note "believable" and that the audience could "tell instinctually" that Ryuk is a shinigami with "no real presence." Kaneko added that if a human actor represented Ryuk, the appearance would have been "too realistic," the actor may have impacted Ryuk's "presence," and the audience may have "doubted he was a death god, if only for a second." Kaneko ordered the graphics team to design the graphics as if it was an actor "inside a rubber suit."
Tom S. Pepirium of IGN said that "Brian Drummond IS Ryuk." Pepirium described Drummond's voice as "excellent" and that this makes it "hilarious" to watch "Ryuk and his never-ending grin giggle at the events he put into motion."
Kitty Sensei of OtakuZone had her opinions of the film portrayal of Ryuk published in The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. In it, Kitty Sensei said that Ryuk "looks a little artificial in the beginning," but she eventually became used to the portrayal and loved "Ryuk's gleeful chuckles and fish-faced grins."
The sfist describes Ryuk as the sole "(potential) cheeseball factor" of the first film and that he may be "difficult to get used to." The article stated that Ryuk "adds" to the film if the viewers "let go enough to accept Ryuk's presence."
- Ryuk was one of the Death Note characters that were made into Nendoroid figures. Light, L, Misa, and Ryuk were the only characters made into the primary Nendoroid figures, but they were also made into Nendoroid petites.
- “Humans are interesting!”
- “As a rule they say humans haunted by a Shinigami have nothing but misfortune.” (Misfortune)
- “Hey, all it did was go around in a full circle.” (Inside)
- “Well see, it's rather complicated at the moment.” (Kidnapping)
- “Shinigami trust Shinigami before they trust humans.” (Verification)
- “I can understand them, because they can exchange that money for tons of apples.” (Clean-Up)
- “You're using the word 'destiny' for a woman again, Light. You always use a one patterned approach for women.” (Tomorrow)
- (To Near) “Nice to meet you, too. My name is Ryuk.” (Declaration)
- “Apples in the human world are worth the trip. What's the best way to describe these…juicy.”
- “The name I'm writing in the Death Note is yours, Light.” (Curtain)
- “The desperate are always the most interesting!” (Death Note 13: How to Read, p 208)
- “You have lost, Light. Didn't I say in the beginning… when you die, the one who'll write your name down in a notebook will be me. That is… the deal between the Shinigami… and the first human to get their hands on the note in the human world. Once you enter the prison, I don't know when you'll die. It's annoying to wait… Your life is already over. You'll die here. Well, it was good while it lasted… We killed some boredom, didn't we? We did some various and interesting things…” (Episode 37)
- “I'm afraid that the trust of me will be the fate of you.”
- “Let's just say this: you will feel the fear and pain known only to humans who've used the notebook. And when it's your time to die, it will fall on me to write your name in my death note. Be warned any human who's used a Death Note can neither go to heaven nor hell for eternity. That's all. *laughs*”
- “I didn't choose you. Don't you see this is all just an accident? You actually thought you were chosen because you're so smart or something? Don't be so vain. It just happen to fall around here and you just happen to pick it up, and that's all there is to it.”
- “Look at how many people you've killed in only five days, most are reluctant to write this much.”
- “I was the whole thing, Taro. That was some pretty smart thinking. Hyuk hyuk hyuk. So how was it… the Land of the Dead?” (Pilot chapter)
- “Light was gonna use that thing to make himself god of the New World. Doesn't that interest you?” (L: Change the WorLd)
- How Death Note And Willem Dafoe Brought Ryuk To Life, Cinema Blend, July 18, 2017.
- originally published in Weekly Shonen Jump Volume 4-5 (double issue) in 2005