The King has a large, globe-like body mass which is suspended in the air with chains. He has a skull for a head, which is recessed within a larger, outer skull-like formation. He has four arms which hang from his body, each with only three claws on each of his "hands."
He is regarded as a sort of father figure by all "lesser" Shinigami, and is said to be almost immortal. Many Shinigami refer to him as the "Old Man," and Death Note 13: How to Read says that he "must be very old" because of this.
One of the eyecatch rules given in the series states that extra Death Notes found by Shinigami are generally expected to be returned to the Shinigami King, though this is clearly a rule that Shinigami are not forced to obey. Likewise, lost notebooks must also be reported to the King. Very little information is given about the character itself, aside from Rem's assertion that the King is not easy to trick, an achievement which Ryuk accomplished successfully. On the other hand, he is quite easily bribed, as Midora was able to trade thirteen apples for a second Death Note.
Though he is only referred to in the third-person and is never seen in the main series, the Shinigami King rules and governs all Shinigami. He also controls all "distribution" of each and every Death Note given to all Shinigami upon their "creation." It is unknown from the manga whether or not he creates Death Notes or just has a certain supply of them, as he is unwilling to replace lost ones. It is also not known whether the Shinigami King actually enforces all the various rules of the Shinigami Realm.
Takeshi Obata once stated that he felt too afraid to design the Shinigami King; he said that he did, however, consider placing the Shinigami King on the book spine for Volume 12. He decided against it, as he felt that the spine would not have enough space to depict him.
- The last volume (volume 13) of the limited-edition anime DVDs included a figurine of the Shinigami King, but this currently only applies to the Japanese version, and volume 9 of the Australian DVD release.