Ballad of a Shinigami (also known as Shinigami no Ballad and Momo, Girl God of Death) is a six-episode anime series based on a light novel by K-Ske Hasegawa. The anime was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and was produced by Group TAC and Ginga-ya. The series aired on Japanese television from March 3-April 7, 2006. As of this writing, Maiden Japan holds the North American distribution license for Ballad of a Shinigami.
The series primarily focuses on a young-looking girl named Momo, who is a shinigami (a death god) who leads the souls of the deceased to the other side. She has long white hair, wears all white, carries a large black scythe, and her ID card to prove her identity as a shinigami. Unlike other shinigami, Momo tries to ease the suffering of people, whether they are alive or dead. One thing that she does is to convey messages from the dead to the living. Momo also cries a lot and says that she cries for the dead because they no longer can.
Momo has a familiar, which is a talking black cat named Daniel. Daniel wears a bell around his neck, and he has bat-like wings. Sometimes, the living can hear Daniel’s bell when he and Momo are nearby.
Each episode of Ballad of a Shinigami focuses on a character who has had someone close to them die before the start of the episode, or someone close to them dies during the episode. In the first episode, a character has to deal with the death of a friend. In the next episode, another character thinks he’s going to die after Momo tells him that he will soon. In the third episode, the main character wants to find a treasure left behind by his recently deceased grandfather. In the fourth episode, a middle school girl tries to keep her family going after her mother passes away. In the fifth episode, the main character is afraid that a ghost rumored to haunt an elementary school is the ghost of her recently deceased sister. And in the final episode, a girl tries to commit suicide and thinks she has died. In every case, Momo and Daniel play some kind of role in helping these people deal with their problems.
For the most part, the stories don’t have anything to connect them together… but there is one exception. In the fifth episode, we see the main character from the first episode reappear and interact with the main character of that episode. I wasn’t expecting to see any of the previous characters return, so this truly caught me off-guard. But I liked that unexpected twist, though.
In a lot of ways, Ballad of a Shinigami is a lot like Kino’s Journey when it comes to its storytelling structure. Outside of the first and fifth episodes, the remain four can be shown in any order and not mess up the timeline, since there isn’t an overarching story for this series. In both series, the main character is important, but isn’t necessarily the main focus of the story. Even though Momo isn’t the focus of the stories, she’s still a well-developed character in her own right. She isn’t simply just a no-personality observer who only pops up near the end of each episode.
When it comes to the animation, it looks good, but it does also look a little dated. This definitely doesn’t look current, and you can tell by looking at it that it was made around the mid-2000’s. That’s not a bad thing, though. Like I said, the animation does look good for its time period.
One other thing that stands out about this series is its opening theme song. It has a more “ethereal” sound to it musically, which works well for Ballad of a Shinigami. It should also be noted that the lyrics are all in English, and that the words of the song are a perfect fit for this series.
Overall, I enjoyed Ballad of a Shinigami. If you like character-driven stories that include elements of the supernatural, then you’ll probably enjoy this series.