Don't Fear the Reaper
Mercedes Colomar: You're not the nurse?
For centuries, humanity has feared death, and understandably so, all things considered. Therefore, when personifying it, the result was often pretty terrifying. However, there has also been a very different attitude used at times, with various writers and artists creating a personification of Death who is not only not scary, but friendly, compassionate and otherwise the sort of person you'd want to find waiting for you at a difficult time like that.
This sort of Death won't glare at you with Glowing Eyelights of Undeath from underneath a Black Cloak while carrying a scythe; she will dress as a Perky Goth or take on A Form You Are Comfortable With. She won't challenge you to chess, but will instead be your best pal (before you die, even!) if you give her half a chance. Friendliness notwithstanding, picking fights with Death is still something the challenger will regret.
Sometimes this overlaps with Beleaguered Bureaucrat, when she is friendly but nonetheless has a long list of people to get through today and doesn't have time to deal with every decedent's requests.
The Trope Namer is the eponymous song by Blue Öyster Cult, which is a song about how true love can last even after death, and not, as some seem to think, about anyone committing suicide. Nor about more cowbell. Nor about fighting extragalactic machine-gods.
See also Psychopomp and The Grim Reaper. Compare with Everybody Hates Hades, when authors do almost the complete opposite with death-related deities. Distant cousin to The Devil Is a Loser. Compare Not Afraid to Die and We All Die Someday, which is about not fearing death itself rather than its personification.
- This advert for Grolsch beer features the Grim Reaper taking a brief break from work. He appears to be quite fun guy to hang out with.
Anime and Manga
- Yu Yu Hakusho has Botan who plays death in the first few episodes. She wears a pink robe and is a Genki Girl. Yusuke even does Lampshade Hanging.
- Meroko and Takuto from Full Moon o Sagashite.
- Bleach: This trope is in force for the most part. The shinigami are just like humans: they can be friendly, moody, supportive, scary, hostile depending on situation or individual personality type. However, shinigami aren't enemies of humanity even if their focus on the big picture can make them seem aloof at times. Their role is to guide the dead to Soul Society, cleanse hollows of post-death sin so they too can be guided to Soul Society and also to maintain the balance of souls across different worlds. In other words, shinigami are portrayed the same way humans are portrayed: as individuals with their own personalities, worries, fears, foibles, strengths and weaknesses.
- Shinigami-sama/Lord Death from Soul Eater willingly embraces this trope. Back in his day he used to look like a textbook skull-and-black-cloak (read: very intimidating) Grim Reaper, but when he founded the Shibusen Academy he took on a more friendly appearance and goofy speech patterns, so as to not frighten his students. His son Death the Kid is also hardly a threatening image of death, being a teenage boy with Super OCD. However, don't try to do whatever you like with human lives. They don't like that one bit.
- The idea is alluded to in Cowboy Bebop, where the Magical Native American says "Do not fear death. Death is always by our side. When we show fear it jumps at us faster than light, but if we do not show fear, it casts its eye upon us gently, and guides us into infinity."
- Momo in Ballad of a Shinigami is a sweet White-Haired Pretty Girl who not only makes your death painless, she helps the people you are leaving behind by comforting them.
- In Kamichu!, Death is a rather friendly, if somewhat eccentric goddess, who even once had an affair with Poverty.
- An episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX deals with the spirit of the pharaoh Abidos, challenging Judai. After losing, he passes on, satisfied that he finally found an opponent who would duel him seriously. Judai refuses his offer to go with him to the afterlife, but promises to meet him again after 100 years. The episode ends with the crew discussing death and the afterlife. Needless to say, this didn't go well with the translators.
- In the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka herself is seen appearing before magical girls whose soul gems are about to be corrupted and taking the gems with her, enabling them to die peacefully and go to the afterlife without becoming witches.
- Death in Gregory Horror Show is the only character shown to be completely friendly to the trapped guests, speaking kindly and offering to help where he can.
- Hugo Simberg, a Finnish symbolist painter, liked this theme. He made several iterations of The Garden of Death, possibly his most famous work. He even went so far as to publicly explain his own interpretation of the scene.
- la catrina from posada, better explained at the mythology folder
- The classic modern example is the Perky Goth version of Death from The Sandman, although she can actually appear more horrifying to those whose life was asking for a shocking exit.
- The French Comic Le Collège Invisible has a quite similar incarnation of Death, possibly inspired by her.
- Brazilian comic Penadinho (known in English as Bug-a-booo) has Dona Morte/Lady McDeath, a clumsy Grim Reaper who is always forced to run after her "next clients". Her creator states (link's in Portuguese) that the character is an attempt of making death less scary than most people treat it, and tries to portray her as just someone doing her job, never an assassin.
- What about Marvel's Death? She seems like a nice girl, if a little dead inside. Wade Wilson, prior to becoming Deadpool, even fell in love with her, & one of the reason's he can't die is because one of her jealous suitors made him immortal so he'd stay away from her, which is another reason why Deadpool is so freaking Bat Shit Crazy.
- Amazingly, she's been shown to reciprocate his feelings—but they can only meet during the few seconds after he dies and before his mutant power/immortal curse can call him back to life. Death as a star-crossed lover?
- Death has also appeared as a low-key but friendly construction worker, to Jean Grey.
- In another X-Men related example, New Mutant Dani Moonstar once tried to fight off an incarnation of Death from taking one of her (non-mutant) friends. She eventually allowed Death to do her job, after she explained why her 'gift' was not to be feared by those who were suffering.
- Although Cernunnos, the Elder God of Death from Joseph Michael Linsner's Dawn series can definitely take terrifying form if he so chooses (if, for example, he needs to curb-stomp a group of angels and demons who've decided to trespass on Earth with their bickering), the one time we see him welcoming a soul to the afterlife, he takes a much more attractive form and greets her...very warmly.
- Invoked in one installment of the Mega Crossover storyline on the (currently defunct) Anime Add-Venture called No Tendo -- when members of Stargate Command see a painting of Hotaru "Sailor Saturn" Tomoe in the midst of wreaking destruction yet somehow appearing gentle and beckoning, they name it "Don't Fear the Reaper".
- Love and Death parodies The Seventh Seal in its depiction of Death, who first visits a young Boris and then dances with an adult Boris at the end.
- In The Last Action Hero, Death actually is the Death from The Seventh Seal, and he seems as intimidating as he was there. However, when he realizes his mark is Slater - a fictional character - Death simply smirks and says, "I don't do fiction", turns around and leaves.
- The movie Death Takes a Holiday (from 1934, starring Frederick March and Evelyn Venable), sees Death become progressively nicer during his stint in human form. It was remade in 1971, and again in 1998 as Meet Joe Black.
- In Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, the Grim Reaper appears as someone with kind of a bad attitude - but turns out to become a useful ally. In fact, he later on joins the Wyld Stallyns. The Trope Namer is even quoted, when the Grim Reaper finally agrees to help Bill and Ted out.
Bill: Hey Ted - don't fear the Reaper. *triumphant air guitaring*
- Will Turner becomes a maritime grim reaper in Pirates of the Caribbean. He's much more reasonable than Davy Jones, who had to be killed for Will to take his place.
- He is not Death. He is a Psychopomp.
- Bob Fosse's All That Jazz features a sweet and welcoming angel of death having a possibly lifelong relationship with the main character.
- In Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, the land of the dead is a fun, colorful place full of corpses and skeletons who are perfectly friendly and laid back, if a little "off". This makes a refreshing contrast to the dull, stifling land of the living.
- In The Lady and the Reaper, Death is a "No Respect" Guy Determinator willing to go well above and beyond the call of duty to deliver an old lady's soul to meet her husband in the afterlife.
- While Death from the Discworld series is still probably not the kind of person (or Anthropomorphic Personification) you'd like to meet in a dark alleyway, what with him still being the classic cowled skeleton and all, he's arguably the closest thing the Discworld has to a responsible, benevolent deity. (The actual gods tend to be self-interested jerks running on Greek Mythology rules.) He stated that he has to care in order to do his job, although it's an extremely lonely one - people are still rarely, except under certain unfortunate circumstances, pleased to see him. Interestingly, despite him being a skeleton, there have been a fair few fans (some imminently due to be "collected") who've written to Terry Pratchett saying that they hope that he wasn't too far off the mark. Pratchett also says that these letters usually cause him to spend some time staring at the wall. His family motto is "Non Timetis Messor" - Latin for "Don't fear the Reaper"- not to mention he's very fond of cats (it's suggested that cruelty to cats is one of the very few things that can make Death genuinely angry, and he also has adopted rather a large number of his own, which by all indications he takes quite good care of).
- There's an entire book in the series, Reaper Man, devoted to Death discovering how vital kindness in his job is.
- Death has also been replaced temporarily by his apprentice Mort and Mort's daughter (Death's "granddaughter") Susan Sto Helit. One is a knobby-kneed adolescent male who gradually starts taking on Death's traits while the other is a young woman.
- Death and Susan are also two of the only things standing between humanity and the auditors. And boy have they done a good job there...
- The book The Book Thief is narrated by Death, who is amusing, non-linear and
rathervery compassionate towards humans (he specifically states he's haunted by them, especially "the ones who are left behind"), particularly the other main characters. Given that it's a book about World War II, the "amusing" part takes a sharp turn. The death camp scenes, unsurprisingly, are particularly bad.
- Thanatos (aka Zane) from Incarnations of Immortality will take time to talk to his clients and give whatever comfort he can (if they need it). He's also managed to prevent a few deaths he thought unfair or unnecessary. At least one other character comments that he has an unusually caring approach to his Office.
- While Harry Potter never encounters Death, according to the Deathly Hallows, Harry's ancestor - the one who received Death's invisibility cloak - befriended him, and when it was time for him to die, he sought Death out and they walked away together.
- Later on in Deathly Hallows, Harry dies briefly, and his guide into the afterlife, should he choose not to go back, is Dumbledore. Really, death gets a pretty good rap in this series.
- It all has to do with the Author Tract about how to deal with death, stemming from the Creator Breakdown when Rowling's mother died. If one doesn't accept their own mortality ( i.e. the first Peverell brother, Voldemort), or gain acceptance of their loved ones' passing ( the second brother, Snape), then Death will be a grueling bastard. But if one accepts Death's visit as an inevitability ( the third brother, Harry), then he will greet you like an old friend.
- Eragon's allegorical "poem" in Eldest ends this way.
- TG From The Dead Detective series is a totally happin' dude.
- The Spanish novel La Dama del Alba (The Lady of the Dawn) is about Death visiting a family (that has been mourning the death of one of its members for years) in the form of a woman. She notes how she envies mortals for their capacity to love.
- The "Death as a gentleman" concept is Older Than They Think: the Emily Dickinson poem, Because I could not stop for Death describes Death as a kind, polite suitor, much like his Discworldian counterpart.
- American Gods has Jacquel and Ibis, who are the Egyptian gods Anubis and Thoth, currently living as undertakers in Illinois. Both are very humane people who treat the dead with respect and bring some comfort to their surviving family members.
- Even if they do, *ahem*, sample the product.
- In His Dark Materials, each person has their own personal Death who follows them around and eventually leads them to the underworld when they die. These Deaths are quite amiable, to the point that most hide from their owners because the people don't want to see them.
- In addition, the witches believe in a death goddess who arrives, "smiling and kindly", when it's your time to go.
- In the second novel of the Last Herald-Mage trilogy, Vanyel meets the "Shadow-Lover"—one of the Valdemaran interpretations of Death.
- In Tais Teng's anthology Glass Spears, the opposite trope is lampshaded. In reality, Death is a kind, elegant aristocrat with a cloak in "a flowing caleidoscope of constantly shifting colors and patterns that made all people long for the calm, the final change."
- Although there is no reaper in The Old Kingdom, the River of Death - especially the Ninth Gate - is a fairly benign, or neutral place. And Sabriel's father insists that she understand: "Everyone and everything has a time to die."
- In the Tortall Universe, the kindest and most forgiving of the gods is the Black God of Death. Notable in that he's one of a handful of deities that actually gives a shit about humans. The rest use them for power in their own quarrels.
- The Lady on the Grey of The Graveyard Book. She even dances with Bod during the Danse Macabre, promises to let him ride her big horse in the future ("Everyone does") and tells the dead to take good care of him.
- Richard the reaper from Silicon Wolfpack has a major sense of humor, and is reasonably sympathetic toward those he meets in his line of work.
- While Namo Mandos is the god of death in JRR Tolkien's verse, he is benevolent and one of the local Council of Angels. The Silmarillion actually drops the Anvilicious Aesop that death is a fate that's intended by God for humans, it's all natural and you should not fear it.
- The Many-Faced God of Braavos in A Song of Ice and Fire is a death god spoken of in very positive terms. One of his worshipers makes a comment (slightly paraphrased) that every person has a dark angel beside them, and when the suffering of life becomes too great, that angel will give them the "gift" of death.
- In "The Glass of Supreme Moments", Death is portrayed as a beautiful woman—and the protagonist's True Love.
- Obligatory Dresden Files example: in Ghost Story, when Father Forthill's life is in jeopardy, Dresden has a conversation with an angel of death waiting nearby. Dresden assumes he'll need to battle the angel to prevent his friend's death, but the angel assures him that (a) she is there only to guard the soul, should it be released from the body, on its way to a final reward, and (b) it was Forthill's choice to enter the conflict, the angel had no part in it (indeed, they don't have free will as humans do). And (c) she would utterly stomp Harry if he raised a finger against her.
- In Cerberon, Edu, the goddess of death, is described as loving and merciful in her duty to provide rest and comfort after death. She's in charge of keeping the dead from bothering the living, but doesn't seem very proactive in this regard, considering all the zombies, ghouls, vampires and ghosts hanging around, although she does promptly respond to her priests' calls to take them away.
- The Twilight Zone TOS episode "Nothing in the Dark". A woman frightened of dying allows a wounded police officer (played by a young Robert Redford) into her apartment. When she realizes that he's Death come to claim her, he tries to convince her that she shouldn't fear death.
- Mother, give me your hand... You see. No shock. No engulfment. No tearing asunder. What you feared would come like an explosion is like a whisper. What you thought was the end is the beginning. - Death, assuring the old woman that her journey has just begun.
- "Am I really that frightening? Before you knew who I was, you sat with me. Talked with me."
- Actually, with one or two exceptions, death (and, less frequently, the Devil or similar beings) is regularly portrayed as a very polite man- often a businessman. Which, when you think about it, is probably a good thing since his job is to "welcome" people into death, not to make them run away from it.
- But the "don't fear the reaper" trope is really only appropriate for Death, not Satan, who, unlike neutral Death, is the incarnation of Evil and is to be feared regardless. Also, when it's Satan, the encounter tends to develop into a Deal with the Devil or a confrontation with evil. Usually.
- In the 2003 revival, the episode A Night In Mercy, Death is a kind man who doesn't like his job at all and admires a doctor for having the power to give life. Death decides to give up his job, and the doctor quickly finds out how vital it is when incurable burn patients are unable to die and are thus left in agony. When the doctor dies at the end of the episode, Death admits that he's tempted to let him go back to life, but both of them agree that it's just the way things go.
- Touched By an Angel has Andrew, who's a cheerful, friendly, and insanely attractive 30-ish man. His predecessor Adam (not that Adam... probably) was also a pretty nice guy.
- Played with in Dead Like Me: the reapers are all former semi-normal people, and are often quite friendly and reassuring, but are also likely to steal from the newly dead and basically behave like people in a customer service job they're not being paid to do.
- Tessa, one of the Reapers from Supernatural. Admittedly, some of the other Reapers we see range from creepy to outright scary, but Tessa appears to spirits as a gorgeous/hot, compassionate, and genuinely sweet servant of Death, and Sam and Dean even willingly save her from meeting a grisly fate in season four. Though during her role there, she's a bit more snippy than in her first appearance, mostly dismissing the bros when they try to help a dead young boy who has yet to pass on. The reason being, for the latter, was that she was supposed to take Dean, until he was brought back to life by Azazel, thanks to his dad making a deal.
- Death himself, the boss of the Reapers, has also appeared now. Death is a Cosmic Entity who is as old as the universe and about the same age as God. He runs on Blue and Orange Morality and has seen the death of entire galaxies and will eventually reap God! Hence, he is extremely pissed off that he is bound to one tiny planet circling around a barely newborn sun in a young galaxy that usually wouldn't even be a blip on his radar, due to "a spoilt brat having a tantrum" (a.k.a Lucifer). Dean has a little problem swallowing his pizza after being told this. Just a gentle reminder that, no matter how much of an Eldritch Abomination Lucifer may seem, there is Always a Bigger Fish. A much bigger fish. This Death is also given a very human trait, one he shares with Dean: he really likes cheap but tasty food such as pizza, bacon dogs, and fried pickles.
- In a later episode Dean wants Death's help to restore Sam's soul and Death gives him a test where Dean has to do Death's duties for a day. Dean fails the test but attempts to fix his mistake as much as he can. Death is impressed that Dean was able to understand how serious and important Death's job actually is and gives Sam his soul back.
- Death is a recurring character in the older BBC series Mulberry, which is appropriate given that the titular character Mulberry is his own son, tasked with cheering up a dour old woman before Death comes to call on business. He spends a good deal of his appearances arguing with Mulberry about how his job isn't a bad thing and how he'd like it if Mulberry would stop asking for extensions on the time he's got.
- After years of begging for Death, Al Bundy gets his wish. Good news: Death offers Al a way out. Bad news: Death can assume any appearance, so naturally it chose Peggy.
- Weirdly enough, there is an NCIS episode that implicitly features the angel of death. She appears as a little girl, and mostly just appears to be dropping in to check on her next cases.
- A Rowan Atkinson sketch titled "The Devil's Welcome" plays with this hilariously.
The Devil: Now, you're all here for..... Eternity! Ooh, which I hardly need tell you is a heck of a long time, so you'll all get to know each other pretty well by the end.
- Subverted in an episode of Mysterious Ways. Declan starts worrying that his teaching assistant, a not at all scary looking young woman, is the Angel of Death and she has come for him. Throughout the course of the episode, and in dealing with his own potential illness, it is revealed that she is actually the Angel of Comfort (the same one who visited him when his dad died.)
- The Franz Schubert song Der Tod und das Mädchen Death And The Maiden (1817), set to a poem by Matthias Claudius, has Death say to the maiden of the title, "Give me thy hand, thou young and tender form. I am a friend, and come not to punish. Be of good cheer! I am not savage. You will sleep softly in my arms." Yeah, it's Older Than Radio.
- Another song on the same theme, Death on Hennepin by Boiled in Lead, takes a more stern tack but ultimately the Reaper in this song is also present to ease the deceased's passing, not harm her or frighten her.
- And then there's the Trope Namer, Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) the Reaper", as quoted above, so it's also on the radio.
- Machinae Supremacy. I tell you, I Know The Reaper.
- The Demons and Wizards song "The Fiddler on the Green" presents Death as a sympathetic character who takes a young boy too early by accident. He ends up taking someone else (who is implied to have volunteered) so the boy won't have to be lonely in the afterlife.
- Voltaire's Feathery Wings, which turns the Angel of Death into The Woobie.
- The Angel of Death (who looks like the standard Grim Reaper, only with a halo, and no scythe in evidence) in "I've Got Some Falling to Do" by Lemon Demon. He's kind of a goof. He even does a dance!
- Pop Will Eat Itself have a song called Menofearthereaper about this.
- Pagan rock band Inkubus Sukkubus has "Death and the Virgin" as a bonus track on their album Strewwlpeter. You can listen to it here.
- Ariya has a song about one. If you thought the humans are exasperating enough for the humans...
Mythology and Religion
- In Voodoo, there's Maman Brigitte, the Hatian goddess of love and death. To quote God Checker:
"She is so chatty and full of jokes that it's fun when she escorts you to the Underworld."
- Furthermore, there is Baron Samedi, Papa Guede and the whole rest of the Guede family, which tends to be a bunch of people who really enjoy … for a lack of a better word, living. Papa Guede himself sits down and listens to you entire life story.
- In Mexico, the character of La Catrina its an important part of its folklore. She is nice, loves to sing, dance and get fun with the mortals, especially certain days like Día de Muertos. And if you are Mexican, she will appear at the day of your death.
- Death is also revered in Mexico in the form of Santa Muerte ("Saint Death"), who is worshiped as an unrecognized saint. While still taking the form of a grinning skull, she is revered as a patron of the downtrodden and those forsaken by society at large. She is also worshiped by criminals as the one saint who will never forsake them.
- Some scholars of The Bible take "Angel of Death" to be an allegory for Jesus.
- The Undertaker, at least since his 2004 return to his "undead" gimmick. He's still depicted as intensely scary and having supernatural powers, but he usually battles against villains - most famously at the 2007 Royal Rumble, when he arrived as the 30th entrant to save Shawn Michaels, Edge, Randy Orton, and Montel Vontavious Porter from The Great Khali.
- Gods of death in many Dungeons & Dragons settings are evil. Not so in the Forgotten Realms, where Kelemvor is the poster boy for this trope and canonically Lawful Neutral. He and his worshipers work to comfort the living and ensure that the dead rest in peace.
- Also in this category is the Mulhorandi god Osiris, who is a god of the dead that is Lawful Good.
- The Sims series has a light tune of the Grim Reaper, he listens to pleads for life, and he gives a chance for the Sims to win back their loved ones, and even if they failed at his little game, he might bring them back as zombies anyway. He also gives discounts on children's resurrections. He enjoys watching TVs and if he arrived at a party, he might party with the residents, even though he always spoils the mood with his arrival. Oh that silly Reaper.
- If a sim dies of old age at the end of a fulfilling life and is in Platinum Aspiration, the Reaper shows up in a flower lei, accompanied by hula girls, to send your sim on an eternal vacation to Tropical Paradise Heaven. Their tombstone after this is white marble with gold trim.
- One of the plot hooks in Strangetown is the product of an affair between the local black widow and the friendly guy who kept coming for her husbands...
- Mara, one of the gods from the Roguelike Incursion, puts a big emphasis on fulfillment and resolution; she is surprisingly free with resurrections for her worshipers. Unusually for this trope, she is also the goddess of The Undead and doesn't view them as abominations.
- Maximo has Grim, the Grim Reaper, who is a all around pleasant guy and a wise-ass, plus one of the protagonist's allies. Why? As he himself explains it, "If there's no more dead, I'm out of a job!" Still, the second game shows that it's not just a job for him, he feels paternal to the souls he guards and hates to see them trapped or used for evil. In fact, in the second game he even directly helps Maximo this time by stepping into combat directly temporarily.
Grim: "Aww, how can you not trust this face?"
- In Soul Nomad and The World Eaters, the Master of Death of the protagonist's homeworld, Vigilance, was a just and compassionate being. Since Reincarnation only occurs while there is a Master of Death to keep the souls flowing into the afterlife, it also means his duty is simply an integral part in keeping the world alive. His own reincarnation, Gig, is not an example of this trope.
- Touhou, of course, sticks its thumb in this pie, as well. Not-so-grim reaper Komachi is often portrayed as a Bottle Fairy whenever she isn't napping for days on end. She basically just wants to "go at her own pace", which happens to be lethargic, even by a (non-flying) turtle's standards, and is notably bright and cheery any time it involves anything besides the drudgery of actually doing her job. Fanon aside, it seems her sloth actually comes from trying to do her job too well and spending too much time with each soul rather than working efficiently and heartlessly to meet her quota like she's supposed to. She also takes breaks to give advice to the living.
- Komachi's boss Eiki, who judges the dead, is often portrayed equally comically by the fandom, as a workaholic who spends much of her time stressing out about Komachi's (lack of) work habits, and her own days off committing laughably minor misdeeds.
- Krypta, the Goddess of Death in Majesty, is apparently quite compassionate and egalitarian. One of the character vignettes has a priestess of Krypta teaming up with a Paladin of Dauros to destroy some monsters who had been killing pointlessly.
- Death of Death Jr. is portrayed as a family man who, in the comics, is happily married to a human woman and is a father who, while stern, is generally willing to show his son aspects of his job. As he once says in a comic book offshoot, "Son, there are two things you can always count on: taxes, and your old man."
- Nyx, the ultimate foe in Persona 3, is the Anthropomorphic Personification of Death itself, but is portrayed as an unknowable entity beyond good or evil. It doesn't bear any malice towards anyone, it just is. However, its earthly persona (appropriately named Nyx Avatar) is affable, friendly, compassionate, and—though invincible and relentless-- sympathizes with the protagonists and their plight, fighting them only to take them to their absolute limits to see how strongly they cling to life. In the end, Nyx acknowledges the Main Character's selfless sacrifice and personal fulfillment, allowing itself to be defeated and stopping The End of the World as We Know It that it was about to bring. And then, Nyx Avatar has nothing but kind words and inscrutable wisdom to congratulate the Main Character and his/her friends with.
- Red Dead Redemption The "I Know You" stranger mission features an unnamed man in an black suit and top hat who questions and tests John's morality. John finally demands his name at the end - the man ignores him, and walks away. John fires three bullets at near point blank range, which don't hit the man, who walks off and vanishes. The spot on the hill overlooking the homestead which the man called beautiful is where John is buried after he is gunned down in the final mission.
- Also of note during their final encounter John says, "Damn you!", to the mysterious man and he responds casually, "Many have.", before walking off. Death is something that many people do damn (hate) all their lives, or this could be a subtle reference to the man being God as many people take His name in vain (God damn).
- Manny Calavera of Grim Fandango and the page quote is a charming salesman; it just happens that he sells travel packages to carry dead souls safely through the afterlife. His job and that of his fellow Reapers is simply to ensure people get what they deserve. Most of them aren't scary at all. In fact, when an earlier Reaper, Salvador, learned that good people were being denied their "sweet hereafters" and being forced to linger in the Land of the Dead, he quit his job, denying himself his 'benefits', and started a revolution.
- "The Mistress" in Vega Strike apparently is a part of the in-'Verse folklore. Looks great in the gameover screen [dead link], anyway.
- Death in the Neverwinter Nights 2 mod saga Dark Waters is portrayed as a long-suffering hard-working bureaucrat who decides he's just not going to process your character because he's busy, thus excusing your deaths in-game. This is played for laughs.
- On the other the hand, the actual Reaper of Hordes of the Underdark is benign as well, and merely opens many doors for you to take once you reach his realm, provided you have the means of paying him to be resurrected... This is later used against you once it is revealed that his true name was discovered by the Big Bad Mephistopheles. Said archdevil used him until the perfect moment so that the hero would be trapped in Cania (read: Hell) and so that the Reaper would not be able to help them escape.
- Similarly to the Dark Waters example, Death in Adventure Quest always tells you he has filled his quota of souls for the day, and sends you back saying you owe him one. For whatever reason, he never calls in the favor. Again, played for laughs.
- In Manual Samuel, Death is a pretty hip fellow (even if the Narrator thinks he's acting like a "douchebag") who offers the eponymous protagonist a deal: he'll let Samuel live if Samuel can survive a day where all of his bodily functions have to be triggered manually. Meaning Samuel (through the player) has to consciously make himself breathe, blink, and so on. While this at first seems sadistic, the Reaper sticks around to give Samuel advice and pointers, much like an Exposition Fairy would.
- In Deadpool video game, Marvel's female version of Death appears frequently to help and guide the anti-hero protagonist, which makes perfect sense if you're a fan of the comics, where Deadpool is madly in love with her.
- Conker's Bad Fur Day; in this game, the Reaper (who's name is "Gregg", don't laugh) is a grouchy, grumpy fellow, but he's quick to ally himself with the protagonist, giving him a shotgun for killing cat-zombies and advice on how to use it; he hates undead and cats with a passion.
- Gashapon Shop has the Grim Reaper's angsty nephew, who, on his first day, goes for his target's nephew to to slightly similar names. He later cracks a few jokes and aids the heroes, but he doesn't show up often.
- Gunnerkrigg Court has many Psychopomps, a lot of whom Antimony Carver has befriended during her childhood in a hospital - at first she didn't connect their visits with death f patients, but later helped a "stuck" spirit. In fact, she counts too, after she acted as the reaper for her own mother - and the Realm of the Dead (under whose "jurisdiction" are spirits who don't move on yet, such as "haunting" ghosts like Mort) officially recognises her as a Guide.
- The title character from the webcomic Jack probably counts. Sure, he's ass-ugly, he's mean, he WILL hunt you down viciously if you try to run away from him, he's one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and in life, he was an evil dictator who wiped out all of humanity. But he also genuinely cares about the souls he guides to the afterlife (to the point that he gets mad when reasonably decent people get condemned to Hell), and even denizens of Hell.
- Finder's Keepers features a Gaiman-inspired Perky Goth Death, the youngest of the nine Powers That Be, the highest authorities beyond The Veil. She does have rather nasty skeleton-and-cowl enforcers. She seems to have a soft spot for Card, though.
- Death from Slightly Damned, though initially intimidating, is actually very friendly. Although, now that THAT Death has been revealed to be the angel Darius, the adoptive father the boy he is hugging. the real Death appears to be much less pleasant.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Death, while still retaining the black clothing (albeit a suit) and skeletal appearance, is a mostly-polite British waiter who guides you to your table in Purgatory, which is a restaurant.
- Death from Death and The Maiden is a generally genial guy with a crush on a human girl.
- Death from F@nboy$ is...well, he's something else.
- Dee, from the Spanish webcomic CROWLEY, usually looks like a cheerful little girl and is quite friendly and kind, and a friend of the main character. Unless you piss her off, then she can be downright terrifying.
- Death in Problem Sleuth is a nice enough guy, willing to let you drink tea and play games for your life. He's also pretty ineffectual at his job, as most of the characters who end up in the afterlife escape through the door.
- Don't forget the deaths from Irregular Webcomic, who are just trying to meet quota so they don't get demoted or fired. One can't help feel sorry for Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs, who can't even manage to harvest people from the Montana Jones storylines...even though half the time they're set on hydrogen zepplins manned by trigger-happy Nazis.
- Death in Muertitos takes the form of a vaguely humanoid mass of black, inky substance with a single eye. While somewhat creepy, he's a reasonable enough guy, and popular enough to have once had his own children's cartoon.
- The scrapyard robot in Freefall is pretty nice for a robot built to take apart other robots (and who carries a scythe). He even allows them to buy themselves as scrap so they don't need to be disassembled (not to mention exist without an owner).
- While the other "The Last Trick-or-Treaters" strips by R.K. Milholland of Something*Positive fame are frightening, this one starring the Grim Reaper and an unfortunate trick-or-treater is oddly touching.
- Eerie Cuties has a Reaper student, who runs around with a scythe, but apparently objects against extinctions.
- Its spin-off Dangerously Chloe has as a recurring character Alchemy — a well-meaning, but rather clueless (if not as much as some angels) "working" Reaper. And if you thought demonic physiology is weird and occasionally inconvenient...
- Sure, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy's Grim can seem like a scary guy when he's actually REAPING someone, but every other time, he's not such a bad guy (and a total pushover for the show's true Sociopathic Hero, Mandy).
- Grim's an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain a decent portion of the time.
- Death in Family Guy is portrayed as an average person, although still keeping the robed skeleton motif. Several episodes have revolved around Peter dealing with Death, and he's often a lot more down-to-earth than most people on the show.
- In Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, the Grim Reaper is a bit of a goofball, but every mortal fears him for the obvious reasons. This annoys him when Frankenstein gives him no respect at all as he's immortal and has nothing to fear.
- Not sure about the book, but in the movie adaption of The Halloween Tree, Mr. Moundshroud (heavily implied to be the manifestation of Death), while not the most friendly individual, he also bears no real malice to the children; it's just business to him.
- The mother of Mortys here is pretty nice. Too bad that her son doesn't understand the importance of close and personal.
- Zigzagged in The Hollow. Death - and his three allies War, Famine, and Pestilence - are reasonable types, and Death becomes rather friendly after they promise to heal his sick horse, even willing to share his cinnamon scones and mint iced tea. But, he makes it quite clear he will kill them if they don't manage to keep that promise.
- DXT format
- Except Sloth. But Sloth is merely the ground of Hell, so it's disqualified.