The first episode of Shinigami-kun (死神くん) had a compelling storyline, but the rules of the Shinigami world were a bit suspect, we didn’t learn much about the main character himself, and I was dubious about the entertainment value of spending an entire season watching people say their last farewells before dying. Then there was the teaser for this episode, which showed a man discovering Shinigami-kun (Ohno Satoshi)’s notebook. Now here, it seems, we might have some chance at a bit of fun.

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I have to say that the notebook itself is another dubious part of the Shinigami world, since the way we see it record deaths is a bit . . . sparse. It must only be recording deaths in a small part of Tokyo, considering the deaths are around twenty-three minutes apart and all Japanese. Even if the notebook covered then entire Tokyo metropolitan area, I think the deaths would be two to three minutes apart.

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Anyway, with this man (Hayashi Kento) discovering that the notebook records those who are about to die and the manner of their death, and Shinigami-kun desperately searching for it, what’s going to happen when they inevitably meet? Let’s find out.

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The next day, we see the man (whose name we still don’t know) take notice of a little boy named Kenta being bullied. Apparently, they already know each other, and he gives Kenta some water to drink as they reflect on how little they want to go to school and to work.

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Next, we see the man being berated, manhandled, and forced to apologize to the entire department by his boss (Jinbo Satoshi). On the flip side, it sounds like his job performance isn’t very good and he’s asking his boss to protect him from getting fired, so it’s not clear that he doesn’t deserve the rough treatment he’s getting.

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We do find out that his name is Shima, and somehow he thinks the Shinigami notebook might be just the thing he needs to get the contracts to retain his job. But what does he do?

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Seeing the name Murata Mamoru in the notebook, he visits the man who is destined to die of a stroke, and . . . tried to sell him life insurance, saying that he’d get Murata past the physicals. You know . . . if he keeps doing this, he’ll totally ruin the insurance company. They sort of need to take in premiums before a person dies.

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The office staff (except for his boss) congratulate him in getting three contracts in a day, but that’s without knowing that he’s substantially increased the risk to the company.

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His boss challenges him to get a new contract tomorrow, wondering if he can keep it up. Knowing what people are going to die of gives him an advantage, though, as we saw through his encounter with Murata.

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Shima’s next target, Yamamoto Daisuke, is currently being visited by Shinigami-kun, who delivers the three day warning per Shinigami rules (strange as those rules are).

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In fact, Yamamoto Daisuke is little boy Kenta’s father, and that makes this particular attempt difficult for Shima.

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He finally understands the background for Kenta’s woes and consoles the kid.

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And it’s there that Shinigami-kun and Shima meet. Shinigami-kun is flustered when he realizes that Shima can see him, and can’t figure out why.

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I sympathize with his supervisor (Kiritani Mirei), who points out that he’s being an idiot, not realizing that Shima could see him because Shima has the notebook. In fact, she showed up because she had done an investigation and had already pinpointed Shima as the person with the notebook.

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I mentioned that we didn’t really find out much about Shinigami-kun in the first episode, and one of the lingering questions was how clever and devious he was. I even though it possible for him to have left his notebook behind deliberately. Well, after this scene, I’m pretty sure he’s not all that clever, and certainly not devious enough to have planned for a human to find his notebook.

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In fact, Shinigami-kun doesn’t know what life insurance is.

He’s not the only one, as Shima’s ill-conceived tactics have borne their inevitable fruit – the three people he signed up yesterday died. That resulted in a payout of 230 million yen (around $2.3 million) with virtually no premium collected. It wouldn’t take long for a company to collapse with daily losses like that (which would then jeopardize the life insurance contracts of everyone else).

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Shima clearly doesn’t understand the business he’s in and, besides that, he probably shouldn’t be working for this guy.

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So, after being called less than a dog by his boss, what’s he going to do with that Shinigami notebook? Is he going to do what we think he’s going to do (you know, write his boss’ name in)?

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Well yes, yes he will. As tempted as I am to save that as a spoiler, there’s no way to do so – there’s no point to the remainder of the episode without him taking that extra step.

Shima sees Kenta and wants to talk with the boy (who probably reminds Shima of himself at that age), but Shinigami-kun interrupts.

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Shinigami-kun confronts Shima about the notebook and the way Shima has been using it.

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But here’s a curiosity: they say that Shima can see Shinigami-kun because he has the notebook, but when Shinigami-kun reclaims the notebook, Shima can still see him. Once again, this series doesn’t seem willing to play by the rules it sets down.

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Now, does it all end there now that Shinigami-kun has his notebook back? Of course not. His supervisor discovers the little addition Shima made.

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She tells Shinigami-kun that only the person who made the addition can negate it . . .

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. . . so Shinigami-kun has to meet Shima again, but this time he has to deal with something much more difficult than just snatching his notebook back.

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He has to deal with the all the years of Shima’s accumulated resentment.

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Will Shinigami-kun be able to save Shima, Shima’s boss, and the order of the universe (such as it is, considering how badly the rules are kept)?

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You’ll have to watch to find out – the rest of this episode is definitely all spoiler.

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This was an excellent story, though, and had a very poignant ending. In fact, it’s rare for the second episode of a series to be this good for practical reasons, and it was certainly a huge improvement on the first episode. We now have a firm picture of the naive but warmhearted personality of Shinigami-kun.

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The Shinigami realm and its rules, however, remain a bit flimsy.

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The most interesting aspect of this episode was the characterization of Shima and Shima’s boss. At times, they both seemed downright distasteful and even evil, and at other times completely sympathetic. Certainly, no one could argue that either one was a two-dimensional character – they were both very complicated – and that was brilliant. It was especially noteworthy because both characters exist just within this episode.

I think that’s going to be the strength of this series going forward – the human characters.

The pace of the episode was a bit slow at times (especially the start and where Shima and Shinigami-kun are getting to be ‘friends’), but on the whole faster than episode one. I don’t think it was much of a problem.

There’s one issue with the plot: it was still completely episodic, and we still don’t have an overarching plot. Now, it turns out the writers once again addressed my plot concern in the setup for the next episode – it sure sounds like we’re going to be introduced to a new, longer-lasting development in the narrative. We’ll have to wait until the next episode to find out, though.

I’m not going to expect episode three to be as good as this one – that would be difficult for reasons that mostly have to do with the end of this episode, so you’ll have to watch to understand. All I want is for it to develop a conflict that will persist through more than one episode.