10 Anime Series All Horror Fans Need To Watch –
You think Hannibal Lecter is twisted? How about Norman Bates from Psycho? Think again, they’ve got nothing on some anime creations.
Anime isn’t just big-eyed girls, screaming musclemen and fan-service: it’s a medium, filled with many genres for many different audiences. There’s dark crime series, supernatural stories, aliens, coming of age stories, medieval fantasies, magic, technologically advanced dystopias… Many even have a combination of several of those elements and more besides. There’s something for everyone, and hundreds of launch-points for new fans.
And if you enjoy a good psychological horror but have never actually watched anime before, there are plenty of excellent and entertaining series to watch that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat and cater to your tastes. They will satisfy the exact same tastes as good intellectual horrors, leaving the same marks and returning to you late at night. You want scares? You got ’em.
Many of the characters in these series are as complex and disturbing as the greatest horror movie icons and exhibit the same moral grey areas to make you feel conflicted and confused.
10. Hell Girl
Giving a whole new meaning to those creepy Internet urban legends, Hell Girl first premiered in 2005, and centres around a website known as the Hell Correspondence. The site can only be accessed at midnight by those who are aware of the urban legend and nurse a powerful grudge.
They enter the name of the one they want sent to hell and they’re soon contacted by Ai Enma, the Hell Girl. She gives them a straw doll, and if they pull the red thread the person whose name they entered will be sent to Hell, with the caveat being that the person who entered the name will also be sent to Hell when they die.
Each episode focuses on the life of someone who contacts Hell Girl, from a high school girl being relentlessly stalked and kidnapped to a girl whose dog is killed because she might have accidentally stumbled upon a paranoid neighbor’s dark secret. The individual stories are stressful to watch, yet they remain crucially relatable.
Officially classified as horror fiction, Hell Girl possesses all the elements of horror: it’s creepy, it’s supernatural and there’s a compelling mystery behind it all. And on top of that, there’s also a complex psychological element integrated into the horror.
9. Death Note
Imagine if you can kill someone by simply writing their name. Would you do it?
Death Note premiered in 2006, and centres on top student Light Yagami, who finds a notebook on the ground called a Death Note, and takes it home. After experimenting to see if it works, he starts killing criminals all over the world in the name of justice and soon meets the one who dropped the Death Note: a shinigami named Ryuk.
Light soon enters into psychological warfare with world famous detective L, and a race to unmask each other’s names and faces unfolds.
The idea of shinigami and notebooks of death are frightening to think about, but it’s the psychological tension between Light and L that becomes almost unbearable. It’s a battle of wit and intellect. You don’t know who to root for, and their ability to manipulate people is unnerving on all levels. It’s a constant game of cheetah and lion that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.
8. Deadman Wonderland
Produced in 2011, Deadman Wonderland takes place in 2023 Japan. Ten years prior to the start of the plot, a massive earthquake known as the Red Hole struck Tokyo, reducing most of the city to ruin. In the present, a middle school student named Ganta Igarashi witnesses the horrific slaughter of his classmates by a blood wielding individual in armor.
Framed and sent to Deadman Wonderland – a private prison doubling as a public theme park where the inmates act as the entertainment – Ganta soon discovers a unique ability. This blood manipulation ability and his desire for vengeance soon lead him to the heart of Deadman Wonderland: Carnival Corpse.
Terrorized by a sadistic promoter and befriended by a mysterious albino girl, Ganta must endure brutal physical and psychological torture to discover the truth about the Red Man.
Most of the main and supporting characters are eccentrics and deviants; their way of thinking is considered unbalanced, even psychotic, by standards of normalcy. You’ll constantly feel off balance. The promoter himself repeatedly uses people for his own entertainment and enjoys rigging events. He’s a sadistic and mentally unstable, but also intelligent, character that’ll put you on edge as you watch him play with his beloved toys.
If you love vampires, you’ll love this series.
Produced in 2010, Shiki centers on the small village of Sotoba. Surrounded by mountains and massive fir trees, the secluded village is home to a relatively tight-knit community. However, their quiet tranquility is disrupted by the arrival of strange new neighbours during the night and the beginning of a series of mysterious deaths.
As the death toll rises, the village doctor, a priest and a teenager discover the terrifying truth.
From the beginning, the atmosphere isn’t peaceful and there’s an overwhelming sense of foreboding beneath the surface of gossiping old ladies and amusing teenage encounters, especially after the first major death. As the series progresses, several characters go through dark or troubling psychological changes that lead to unpredictable or irrational behavior.
This behavior is made worse by the fact that the Shiki (aka the vampires) are one step ahead for most of the series, and more than one enjoys playing with their victims. Plus, this series raises an uncomfortable question towards the end: who are the real monsters?
6. Parasyte -The Maxim-
Parasyte was produced in 2014, and the story centers on seventeen year old Shinichi Izumi, whose hand is taken over by a sentient alien parasite when it failed to take over his brain. The two form a symbiotic relationship, with Shinichi naming him Migi, and they fend off other parasites (who eat humans) as Shinichi is ultimately drawn into tragedy and forced to evaluate his own humanity.
Most parasites you come across in the show aren’t as intelligent as Migi, so it comes as an uncomfortable surprise when a parasite who takes over the body of a school teacher comes along. She’s incredibly intelligent and thinks like a scientist rather than relying on instinct like other parasites.
The only reason she leaves Shinichi alone at first is because he wasn’t worth studying, so her attitude will chill you to the bone when you explore her character. Plus, Shinichi’s own psychological change is pretty twisted.
5. Tokyo Ghoul
This show isn’t for the squeamish.
Adapted from the 2011 manga series, Tokyo Ghoul takes place in an alternate universe where Ghouls, who look like humans themselves, blend into society while feeding on the human populace to survive. They’re feared by the general population and hunted by investigators from the Commission of Counter Ghoul (CCG).
The story focuses on Ken Kaneki, an ordinary human who has an unfortunate encounter with a female Ghoul known as Binge Eater. Barely escaping with his life, he recovers only to discover he’s become a half-Ghoul through an organ transplant.
Kaneki’s personality experiences dramatic and unstable changes throughout the series. He goes from a kind and quiet bookworm to a brutal, merciless fighter who suffers from bouts of insanity due to cannibalizing other Ghouls to gain more power. In one fight in particular, he completely loses it and starts talking to himself. It’s disturbing to watch…but it’s also terrifying and exciting at the same time.
4. Elfen Lied
Released in 2004, Elfen Lied follows the story of Lucy, a Diclonius who escapes a laboratory facility. Diclonius are a mutated species similar to humans, except they possess small horn-like protrusions and have powerful telekinetic abilities.
As she was close to escaping, she was injured, fell into the ocean and washed up on a beach where she was found by cousins Kouta and Yuka. Due to her injuries, she develops an alter ego named Nyu and she’s soon hunted by the researchers she escaped from.
Technically, the tale is meant to be one of love and atonement (between Lucy and Kouta). However, the sheer brutality and unsettling events often overshadow these happier themes, similar to Tokyo Ghoul and Deadman Wonderland. Lucy shows no remorse for the lives she takes, slaughtering a defenseless assistant during her escape and needlessly torturing a fellow Diclonius who’s weaker than her.
Additionally, other characters in the story have tragic or disturbing backgrounds, such as a homeless girl who ran away because her stepfather abused her.
This series premiered in 2012, and takes place in the small town of Yomiyama. 26 years before the start of the series, a popular student of class three at Yomiyama North Middle School suddenly passed away, and their classmates behaved as if they were still alive. Creepily, when the class took their graduation photo, the deceased student appeared in the photo.
In the present, Kouichi Sakakibara, a middle-schooler, moves to Yomiyama to live with his aunt and grandparents when his father goes to India. Kouichi joins class three of Yomiyama North Middle School, and all seems normal until he realizes no one sees one of the students in the class, a quiet girl named Mei Misaki.
As Kouichi delves deeper into Mei Misaki’s existence and Yomiyama’s past, he soon discovers a calamity and must work with the other students to fight a curse.
The curse affecting class three is disturbing in itself since it leads to astonishingly gruesome deaths, but it also makes the characters paranoid and unpredictable. Students of class three are rarely happy because they’re afraid they’re next. You don’t even know who’s next. This constant tension, combined with the disquieting background music, makes Another stressful to watch but well worth it.
2. The Future Diary
The Future Diary, produced in 2011, centers around Yukiteru Amano, a middle schooler whose only interest is his diary and some imaginary friends…who turn out not to be so imaginary.
The god of time and space is close to kicking the bucket, and what better way to choose a successor than to create a last man standing death game? Faced with a life or death struggle, Yuki must also handle Yuno Gasai, a fellow classmate and contender whose obsession with him goes into violently disturbing territory.
There’s one primary reason this show is amazing psychological horror: Yuno Gasai. She’s an iconic yandere, and is in love with Yuki to the point where she’s willing to kidnap him and hold him hostage just to keep others away from him. Yes, there are very dark reasons for Yuno’s obsessive and mentally unstable behavior, but she’s incredibly unpredictable.
Yuno will put you through an emotional rollercoaster as you switch between despising her, feeling sorry for her, or feeling horrified at her behavior.
1. Psycho Pass
Psycho Pass premiered in 2012, and takes place in a futuristic Japan where a person’s likelihood of committing a crime is measured through their personality, known as a Psycho Pass.
The story centers around Akane Tsunemori, a new inspector for the Public Safety Bureau, and Shinya Kogami, an enforcer (a latent criminal used to capture other latent criminals) as they and their team investigate a series of seemingly unrelated gruesome murders.
The nature of the murders are graphic and brutal in of themselves (dismemberment, strangulation, and plastination), but the criminals behind the murders are twisted in their own right, as if they’re missing something. They’re shockingly unsettling. However, even more unsettling is the mastermind they eventually confront in the first season.
Charismatic and intelligent, he can control almost anyone he pleases, and he has no qualms about causing suffering or being cruel. The characters in this series will leave you feeling unbalanced and disturbed.