- "The Reapers' Game is an inspection to screen Players who want resurrection. I died in an accident."
The Reapers' Game (死神のゲーム Shinigami no Gēmu) is the main focus of The World Ends with You series. They are a one-week competition in which those who have died may participate. The Players must solve daily missions assigned to them by Reapers or they will be erased from existence in a process known as "erasure".
They occur in a parallel alternate dimension known as the Underground (UG). The purpose of the Game is to determine who is worthy enough to be rewarded in the afterlife, or to be given a second chance at life, and to hopefully improve that individual through their experiences in the Game. However, the explicit goal of the Game is to locate exceptional individuals; Players of superior Imagination are elevated to the Higher Plane and made into Reapers or Angels to aid in the oversight of their region.
It seems that each potential participant is approached shortly after their passing and is given the choice by a Reaper to consent to play the Game. Games usually take place weeks apart, but sometimes games can be held two times in a row, and it seems in some rare instances, even three times as is the case in The World Ends with You. Rules have changed across games.
Every contestant is called a Player and is given a Player Pin as a sign of their entry. The Player Pin lets the holder read the mind of any person not carrying a Player Pin or Reapers, an ability called scanning.
To enter the Game, every Player must give up to the Conductor whatever is dearest to them in order to participate. This entry fee can be physical, such as mementos or people, or more psychological or immaterial such as one's appearance, dreams, or memories. These deeply personal Entry Fees take away what Players value most and force them to examine those values. Players are also provided with pins that allow them to use psychs, which can be used depending on the Imagination the player has, or the player's true intentions.
At the beginning of a Game, each player must forge a Pact with another player to have a chance of defeating creatures known as Noise and to be able to use psychs. If their partner is erased, a Player has seven minutes to form another Pact or be erased as well. Players must then survive seven days or be erased. Missions are orders given by the Reapers to players on a day-to-day basis, but they can be issued over a longer period (a six day mission, for example), or not be issued at all (in the case of Sho Minamimoto).
After a large amount of Shibuya Reapers being Erased and Shinjuku being Inverted, the Shinjuku Reapers arrived in Shibuya. Their leader, Shiba, climbed to Game Master within a year of coming to Shibuya and began changing the rules of Shibuya's Game. Instead of a Player Pin, Players hold a Reaper Pin; this lets them Scan and also brings out their psychic powers. Rather than working in pairs, Players can make teams up to as much as four or more. There does not appear to be an Entry Fee in this version of the Reaper's Game.
Rules and management
All of the Game's staff are Reapers, with the exception of the Producer, who acts as an observer. The Game is run by the Composer. The Composer of the Game determines all the rules which allow the Underground to exist. As such, the Composer controls the entire Underground's existence and composition. The Conductor works underneath the Composer, ensuring that the Game's course follows the rules. He is advised and served by high-rank Reaper officers.
In cases of extreme danger to the UG (such as a Reaper defecting to the Players, the presence of Taboo Noise, and potentially others), the Conductor (or the Composer) may place the UG under Emergency Call. The Game Master is not bound by this requirement. Reapers are also freed from restrictions and are allowed to attack Players without provocation.
The Game is watched by the Angels of the Higher Plane. The Producer, one of the Angels, is chosen to interact with the Composer so that he can create and give requested items to the Composer. He may interact freely with any participant of the Game, be they Reaper or Player, as long as his role as the Producer is kept secret. One key rule governing the Producer's conduct is that he may not act to change the outcome of the Game by aiding the Players or Reapers directly. He is free to issue advice and explanations and to provide helpful items (like Harmonizer Pins), but he may not intervene in combat. The Producer also may not challenge a Player directly to combat.
One of the officers is chosen to be the Game Master for the week, whose duty is to both set the missions and ensure that as many Players as possible are erased to cull the player pool. Harriers work under the GM to erase Players by summoning Noise, while Support Reapers set up obstacles and provide resources for the Game.
Harrier class reapers may not attack players directly or assign official missions. However, if ordered to by the Conductor (or potentially the Composer, although they rarely interact with Reapers), Harriers may attack special targets themselves. Harriers may also act to defend themselves; if a Player attacks them, then they may freely engage.
Players are only able to stay awake for a certain amount of time each day. If a mission is completed by any group of Players, all Players that survived move onto the next day. However, Players can be erased by Noise or by failing the mission.
Typically, the Game Master does not engage in the game directly until the seventh day (although they may act as they wish within the confines of the rules; some constantly taunt Players like Sho Minamimoto, others remain in the shadows like Mitsuki Konishi). The Game Master is responsible for assigning missions and is largely free to choose any missions they desire. All missions may be completed by any Player; all Players alive at the completion of the mission will benefit from this and advance to the next day. If no Player successfully completes a Day's mission, all are Erased. On the seventh day, the mission is always to defeat the Game Master.
The Composer is the sole determinant of a Player's fate; he bases his decision on how the Player performed during the week. The Reapers score Players on various attributes (missions accomplished, Noise defeated, and among others), and these scores are a measure of the Player's performance. After seven days, the remaining Players must defeat the Game Master. After winning, Players may be presented with multiple options:
- Weak players are erased even if they win. Some may simply throw away life and choose to be erased on their own will.
- If a Player has done or participated in any illegal activities in the Game, they will be erased. Special exceptions may give them penalties, such as requiring them to play again, with no more chances to play anymore.
- Players may become a Reaper. Most are recruited under Support class, but rare cases (Beat) can be recruited immediately into Harrier.
- The Composer sets a pre-selected number of Players who may come back to life. The highest-scoring Players are able to choose this. While considered unusual, the Angels don't consider it to be a loss. The Player's art and music will find its way into their culture and increase the overall Imagination of the population. The Players aren't exactly reincarnated as the people of the UG are not dead, but simply tuned into a different Soul code.
- Those players who completed the game but have not earned the right to be revived (due to the preselected number) may be allowed to play the Game again. Entry Fees are refunded to the survivors, but each Game requires one Entry Fee. This may or not be the same as the Player's original Entry Fee: it will always be the Player's most precious thing, but what that thing is may have changed over the course of the Game due to the Player's experiences.
- The absolute best of the Players are given the honor of ascending into the Higher Plane. Reapers may also ascend to the rank of Angel, although exactly how they are chosen remains a secret.
Although rare, Players who have been Erased may be restored to life, such as Rhyme. In these cases, the losing Player forfeits their Entry Fee.
In NEO: The World Ends With You, players play in teams with an apparently unlimited number of members. The Game Master remains the same every week, and the Conductor does not participate in the game. A Mission is set every day, which usually takes the form of a race to defeat a particular Noise or obtain something. Teams of players race to complete the mission; in some cases only one team can win, and in others it is possible for several teams to complete the goal for less points each time. A team that does not complete the mission scores no points, but is not immediately erased.
Players or teams of players are permitted to fight each other, but not to erase each other. Support Reapers fulfill the same role as they previously did, but Harrier Reapers no longer directly summon Noise to attack players (although Support Reapers may do so); rather, each team is supervised and refereed, and sometimes guided, by a Harrier Reaper.
On the final day, rather than fighting the Game Master, teams are given the option of challenging the team in first place to take that place from them. If they take this option and lose, however, they lose all their points which will move them into last place or joint last place. At the end of the day, the team in first place is invited to choose a prize by the Game Master (the Composer does not manage this) and the team or teams in last place are erased.
- Although not directly stated, there is evidence that Reapers' Games are meant for youth only, similar to Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. The Game may be meant for youth having another chance because they were not able to live their life to a decent length. Nagi is mentioned to be of college age, while Sota Honjo and Nao are mentioned to be in their late teens in The Animation. So far, there is no evidence of any Players above the age of around 30 participating in Reapers' Games.
- Strangely, the people who run the Game are also apparently quite young. Kitaniji's age is 26, Higashizawa is 20, while Minamimoto, Yashiro and Kariya are all teenagers, so the Reapers' Game could be interpreted as a youth versus youth situation.