Dark Anime is more than just blood, guts and monsters, so let’s take a look at some of the best dark anime out there. From psychological thrillers to dystopian societies with subtle, twisted elements that give these shows a morbid, bleak or downright twisted atmosphere.
MAL Rated 8.75 Ranked #33 | Aired Apr. 7, 2004 – Sep. 28, 2005 | Produced by Madhouse
Monster follows the perspective of up-and-coming surgeon Kenzo Tenma as he hunts down the “ghost” responsible for inexplicable murders. This anime follows a stark, true characterization of an intelligent psychopath in Post WWII Germany. With the suspenseful edge of the best type of suspense thriller, Monster is a must-list when discussing dark anime. The plot line is deep, unfolds in a well-paced, and for the first-time watcher, has a shocking turn of events.
MAL Rated 7.96 Ranked #566 | Aired Oct. 11, 2009 – Dec. 27, 2009 | Produced by Madhouse
Animated after the classic literature novel by Osamu Dazai, Ningen Shikkaku is one of several stories in the Aoi Bungaku Series. This brief animation follows the crumbling life of an alienated high school student through adulthood, and eventually his death. He is an individual ridden with depression and a bit of narcissism and finds it difficult, if not impossible, to relate to other humans at all. He thinks he is a failure at being human, hence the title, ‘No Longer Human’. Ningen Shikkaku tells his tale in a most despairing manner, and leaves a crawling, off-kilter feeling at the end. It’s tragic, with themes of alcohol abuse and mental illness, and unnerving with the life it breathes into the little humanoid monsters which personify the main character’s fears and self-image. If that’s not dark, I don’t know what is!
MAL Rated 8.75 Ranked #32 | Aired Oct. 4, 2006 – Jun. 27, 2007 | Produced by Madhouse
Like Monster, Death Note has become iconic in the anime world, and is another must-list for dark anime. Following the murderous rampage of self-proclaimed God, Kira, a manhunt begins led by the detective L. It is a high-stakes battle of cunning and intelligence with all of humanity as the prize. Add in a drizzle of supernatural elements with the incorporation of shinigami, and it’s an enjoyable show that leaves the watcher in suspense… and no small amount of frustration.
MAL Rated 7.95 Ranked #596 | Aired August 25, 2000 | Produced by Madhouse
What would this list be without vampires? Specifically, Vampire Hunter D. This anime comes in only two versions, a film based on the first novel of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series, was created in 1986. The second film was an adaptation from another novel in his series and released in 2000. Both follow the adventures of D, a half-vampire, half-human hunter as he hunts for his father and wipes out any of the “Nobility” along the way. The world in which he lives is a post-Apocalyptic nightmare heavily influenced by science fiction. Humans are just beginning to pull themselves out of the clutches of the nearly extinct vampires (Nobility). The color scheme as well as storyline are dark in this show.
MAL Rated 8.64 Ranked #53 | Aired Feb. 10, 2006 – Dec. 26, 2012 | Produced by Madhouse, Satelight
Vampires, vampires, vampires and none of them more badass or iconic than Alucard. An OP King of Vampires modeled after Dracula and Vlad Tsepes who works for an organization battling rabid vampires, ghouls, and… what more? Nazi Zombies. Hellsing is flippant with its violence, and rife with explosions and action. There’s nothing subtly dark about this anime, and really, that works just fine.
MAL Rated 8.30 Ranked #215 | Aired Jul. 11, 2014 – Sep. 26, 2014 | Produced by MAPPA
Terrorism is a hot topic in the world today, and nothing puts that into perspective quite like fiction. Zankyou no Terror is a dark anime that brings up topics of nature vs. nurture through the eyes of its “protagonists” fighting for individual identity and recognition in a world hell-bent on burying its mistakes. They do this through fear, terrorism and chaos. There are no “good guys and bad guys”, and it does a good job of skewing right and wrong in the face of justice. Definitely fits the bill for the thriller genre with content that makes it relatable for adult viewers, despite the main characters being adolescents.
MAL Rated 7.83 Ranked #769 | Aired Oct. 5, 2004 – Apr. 5, 2006 | Produced by Studio Deen
An eye for an eye takes on new meaning in Jigoku Shoujo, where you can curse someone to Hell but are also sentenced to Hell yourself. The anime explores the many reasons why a person would give up their soul to curse another, be they a tormentor or bitter enemy. It shows the dark side of human nature, as it discusses a different sort of immoral action in each episode.
MAL Rated 8.11 Ranked #404 | Aired Jul. 4, 2014 – Sep. 19, 2014 | Produced by Studio Pierrot
Blood, guts, and monsters – Tokyo Ghoul is a classic story with a dark new twist. In modern day Japan, ghouls are a humanoid species which feed on humans and are, of course, hunted by special agents known as Doves. This anime explores loss, bigotry, prejudice, literal racism, questionable philosophy and morals. It begs the question of what makes a murderer, if one must kill to survive? It throws the irony of human standards for murdering another human vs. killing an animal into almost stark relief. Although it lacks any intense psychological twists, it’s a fresh addition to the horror genre.
MAL Rated 8.34 Ranked #186 | Aired Nov. 18, 1995 | Produced by Production I.G., Production Reed
Cyborgs, cyber-terrorists and an ever-fading line between humanity and artificial intelligence. Ghost in the Shell is a big package of secret warfare, mystery, thriller and a lean toward dystopian society. Be it the movies or the anime series, it’s well worth the watch.
MAL Rated 7.41 Ranked #1832 | Aired Jul. 2, 2006 – Feb. 23, 2007 | Produced by Production I.G.
A set of twins are tangled in a plot that spans countries, from France to Russia. Le Chevalier D’eon is a historical fiction mixed with paranormal and horror elements. Add a twist of religious mythology and it makes for a pretty interesting ride. The story is very involved in the small details, and requires a familiarity with Christianity to grasp many of its references. D’eon is the story’s protagonist, chasing after the clues left by his murdered twin sister.
MAL Rated 8.01 Ranked #493 | Aired Oct. 4, 2006 – Mar. 28, 2007 | Produced by J.C.Staff
If you’ve ever read those Most Haunted Places or Old Ghost Stories books, Ghost Hunt will be a nostalgic sight. It follows in the same vein as those books, featuring Mai, a high school girl who becomes involved in Paranormal Investigation. Haunted houses, haunted objects, spirits and demons – Ghost Hunt explores a bit of them all. It’s not so heavy on plot, as the anime cut production after a first season and left much that is revealed in the manga unaddressed. While perhaps not as dark as other anime in this list, it does make mention of serious topic ssuch as the tension between Japan and China.
MAL Rated 8.06 Ranked #447 | Aired Feb. 25, 2006 – Aug. 12, 2006 | Produced by Manglobe
A post-Apocalyptic society of what remains of the human race exist in sealed communities. Ergo Proxy addresses some pretty stark realities for our present age, especially with it’s plot built on the foundation of an ecological disaster and string of chemical explosions. This anime has a sci-fi edge that veers hard into the realm of space and technology rather than the typical ghosts and monsters. Given humanity and their world’s precarious position, it’s really no wonder Ergo Proxy is counted among the best dark anime.
MAL Rated 8.55 Ranked #84 | Aired Sep. 29, 2012 – Mar. 23, 2013 | Produced by A-1 Pictures
The world is peaceful, perfect, and ruled by humans possessing “cursed powers” or “God powers” of telekinesis. However, not everything is so perfectly sunny as it appears to be, as our five protagonists discover. They are soon wrapped up in a dangerous journey into the history of their dystopian utopia and the lies they have been fed. As is iconic with dark anime, the facade of a perfect society covers the rotting core and the world of Shinsekai Yori rests on the verge of an Apocalypse.
MAL Rated 8.40 Ranked #153 | Aired Jan. 10, 2015 – Mar. 28. 2015 | Produced by Madhouse
Death Parade is almost like watching a game show, where the people actually do die. It had a promising start, and had something interestingly new for the genre to explore with the “bar” functioning as an almost Purgatory for unpleasant deaths. However, this originally dark anime takes a turn for the typical, veering into an awkwardly forming romance between two of the main characters. The story still holds onto its flippantly morbid “death games” despite this.
MAL Rated 8.55 Ranked #83 | Aired Oct. 12, 2012 – Mar. 22, 2013 | Produced by Production I.G
Psycho-Pass takes the frightening concept of a “Smart City” and applies it to criminal justice. Technology that can scan a person and know they have a predisposition to criminal behavior and stick them in a database, a hive mind. Even the very thought of that sort of overwhelming trespass of personal privacy is horrifying. Imagine now, that an individual has a high propensity for criminal behavior but never acts upon it… it begs the question of how many personal freedoms are trampled upon in this world’s attempt to minutely control illegal activity. With the surge of police brutality reports in 2015, this dark anime could speak to even more personal levels of real time horrors. After all, what could already abusive authority figures do with what is essentially a “get out of jail free” card for them?
MAL Rated 7.80 Ranked #830 | Aired Apr. 17, 2003 – Sep. 25, 2003 | Produced by Madhouse
Turf war, human experimentation and human brutality – who wouldn’t get chills imaging living in the world of Texhnolyze? Dropping the protagonist, half-dead into the underbelly of a rotting city known as Lux, this anime doesn’t pull the punches and boasts a gritty, unforgiving setting and story line. No rainbows and sunny weddings for this one.
MAL Rated 8.35 Ranked #179 | Aired Oct. 7, 1997 – Mar. 31, 1998 | Produced by Oriental Light and Magic
Political intrigue meshes with ambitious protagonists and the threat of evil in the form of demons to create the violent world of Berserk. It features all the standard makings of a dark anime; demons, magic, supernatural interference, impossible odds and the fight for a new world order.
MAL Rated 7.04 Ranked #3088 | Aired Apr. 11, 2004 – Dec. 22, 2004 | Produced by Studio Hibari
The trapped spirit of a murdered girl meets art student Eiri Kurahashi and progressively tells him the story of how she became caged. It is a short story of betrayal and the supernatural.
MAL Rated 7.78 Ranked #877 | Aired Jul. 8, 2011 – Sep. 16, 2011 | Produced by Bones
A utopia inhabited by “genetically superior” humans, brainwashed into believing their society is perfection and any who do not conform are “lesser”. It’s a story angle that calls to mind Equilibrium and A Clockwork Orange, but is quick to disillusion its main protagonist. Largely known for its subtext and the questionable relationship between Nezumi and Shion, it has far more to offer than any anomalous relationships.
MAL Rated 7.57 Ranked #1323 | Aired Oct. 14, 2011 – Dec. 23, 2011 | Produced by Bones
Shinjurou Yuuki and his inhuman associate, Inga pursue great mysteries in Un-Go. They are not exactly “good guys”, and not exactly supported by the “good guys”. However, they seek the truth – whether that truth becomes public knowledge or not, is irrelevant. This anime goes beyond the realm of simply implicating criminals and addresses the very nature of the soul. Un-Go describes the soul as a human’s scream, individual to each and intensified by every lie they tell themselves and others. The implications of Un-Go’s souls are rather dark in and of themselves, but when one considers there are deities who feed on these very souls walking the earth? Well, there’s little more unnerving than losing one’s self to another’s appetite.
MAL Rated 7.65 Ranked #1092 | Aired Oct. 2, 2008 – Mar. 16, 2009 | Produced by Madhouse, Tatsunoko Production
Dystopian themes and cyborgs just work so well together. Casshern Sins is a re-introduction of an old hero, with a dark twist. After the death of Luna, the world is crumbling, decaying. Humans are nonexistent and robots have lost their hope for a future. It seems the very earth itself is dying away, and there’s little hope of a recovery. The anime beautifully displays the loss of empathy born from desperation to just live, and the insanity to believe anything (no matter how ridiculous) could provide hope for another day.
MAL Rated 7.24 Ranked #2398 | Aired Oct. 4, 2006 – Mar. 14, 2007 | Produced by Gonzo
Sometimes death isn’t so permanent. Red Garden introduces a normal enough world, and a group of female heroes thrown (quite unwillingly) into a supernatural war between a mysterious organization and berserking humans who want nothing more than to kill. Red Garden poses the idea that death is not so very permanent as people believe, and indeed, is quite fickle when the right people get their hands on a corpse. Gory and dark, the anime is a bit flippant with the “value of a human life” and can be an unnerving watch.
MAL Rated 8.17 Ranked #334 | Aired Feb. 28, 1998 | Produced by Madhouse
Obsessive fixations and psychotic tendencies, who wouldn’t want that combination in a fan? Perfect Blue, Satoshi Kon’s dark masterpiece, explores what happens when a fan’s love becomes a bit… extreme.
MAL Rated 7.63 Ranked #1153 | Aired May 26, 2001 | Produced by Madhouse
In the great city of Metropolis, severe community structures and prejudice dominate a world where humans and robots live together. Unrest and violence increase with each new day. Metropolis presents a most extreme dystopian society with an almost hopeless atmosphere. It has all the things that make society (and people) ugly, and what’s darker than real human nature?
MAL Rated 6.51 Ranked #4946 | Aired May 2, 1992 | Produced by Hiroshi Harada
The mother of all twisted anime. Midori: Shoujo Tsubaki is not a watch for the faint of heart or stomach. The anime is a brutal, bleak look into the life of an orphaned young girl. It covers any number of offensive, sensitive topics and is packaged with an extreme rape and animal cruelty warning. From the atmosphere to the art to the apathetic portrayal of events, this is a movie that is unsettling and nauseating. Much of the imagery is very far-fetched, almost “psychedelic” in nature, which leaves the viewer all the more disoriented when watching. If you want a gruesome watch, or to completely horrify yourself or others, pick up this and take a peak – it’ll be an unforgettable experience.