The Lines of Sanzu (ザ ライン オブ サンズ, Za Rain obu Sanzu) is a special trait exclusive to the Reaper which can be represented by the three white lines on the head around the individual, white breaks in the hair, or white halos surrounding the head.
In Japanese Buddhism, the Sanzu River is the River of Three Crossings and the way to the afterlife. It is the Japanese equivalent of the River Styx. A person's soul crosses from the land of the living to the land of the dead by crossing one of three ways, depending on the weight of their sins, or karma: the good cross a bridge, the neither good nor bad cross through a shallows, and the bad cross through deep waters where vicious snakes swim.
The Lines of Sanzu ordinarily appear as either three lines in the hair, as seen by Death the Kid, or the white break in the hair as exemplified by Asura, who was later revealed to be a Reaper himself. According to Mosquito, the Lines of Sanzu connecting are dependent on the age of a Reaper. A child Reaper's lines are incomplete whereas those of a fully mature Reaper are either having two lines connected (like Asura) or three connected. As the child gets older, they are able to connect more of the lines. By the time they've connected the second lines, they're considered their own, independent Shinigami.
However, the Lines of Sanzu connecting has a profound effect on the parent Reaper if their child is to be their heir. Whenever Death the Kid connects a Line, this causes pain to Death himself and even causes cracks to his mask. Within these lines also holds a wavelength of the parent that may be forfeited after the connection of the second line. When the heir has connected all the Lines of Sanzu, the parent Reaper is killed as a result. According to Excalibur, this is due to the fact that the world does not need an excessive amount of Reapers.
As the child Reaper connects their lines, they unlock more of their hidden potential and even some of their parent's techniques and abilities. When connecting all three of the Lines of Sanzu, a True Reaper is able to call upon the power of the previous god's Madness Wavelength which, according to Death the Kid, can eclipse all human emotions and leave only the mechanical cycle of life and death. In the anime, Kid temporarily connected all three of the Lines of Sanzu, gaining significant power that ends up destroying Asura while in his giant form with the Ultimate Death Cannon.
However, not all Reapers are tied down to their Lines of Sanzu, such as Asura. While born of the same fragment, he is not a heir to Death and can co-exist, despite being a mature Reaper of his own. He even possesses white breaks around his head revolving around twice, indicating his status as a full Reaper but not of being an heir. He possesses his own abilities instead of Death's.
Each of the Reapers present in the series all seem to have abilities concerning the usage of some sort of divine power that originates from the Lines of Sanzu. However, in addition to the ability to manipulate some sort of energy, the Lines of Sanzu can even power their Meister-related capabilities such as transforming their Demon Weapon into more powerful weapons or provide them with more destructive attacks. The Reapers also tend to share similar or exact attacks (and themes for some) while possessing their own unique techniques, abilities, etc.
The connection of at least one Line of Sanzu also helps to heal damage to a Reaper, such as reattaching a severed limb with no discernible damage to muscles or nerves. This ability may require the possession of a demon tool such as BREW.
List of abilities and techniques
- In both endings of the anime and the manga, when Kid activates all three Lines of Sanzu, it leaves multiple cracks in Shinigami's mask when Kid battles Asura. However in the anime, Death does not die after Kid activates all three Lines of Sanzu.
- Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 53
- Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 108
- Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 110
- Soul Eater Volume 9: Yen Press English translation, page 200
- Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 81
- Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 113
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- (Yen Press) Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 110 — Kid: Oh...OHHH! I can feel it within me...an incredible Madness of Order...an intense Madness so strong that it could even eclipse all human emotions and leave only a mechanical cycle of life and death!!
- Soul Eater Anime: Episode 50
- Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 103
- Soul Eater Manga: Chapter 53