Psychological anime are great at exploring the depths of the human psyche and portraying intricate mind games, but many of them also dip their toes into surrealism. The first time such a mind-bending scene shows up, it can be a wake-up call for viewers as to how strange an anime intends to be going forward. In that spirit, let’s take a look at some of the most bizarre scenes from psychological anime!
5. Legoshi Attacks Haru - BEASTARS (Episode 1)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2019 – December 2019
In a world where carnivores curb their violent instincts to live alongside herbivores, there’s always an unspoken threat that one of them could snap and devour an unsuspecting herbivore in the dead of night. The first scene of Beastars actually takes place in the aftermath of one of these incidents, but we aren’t shown what goes through a carnivore’s mind when they “lose it” until the mild-mannered wolf Legoshi almost devours a rabbit named Haru who he’s developed a crush on. Her scent enters his brain, his eyes turn red, and he loses all sense of reality as his desire to kill her takes hold. Luckily he stops himself just in time, but it haunts him nonetheless.
4. The Elric Brothers Meet the Truth - Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Episode 2)
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: April 2009 – July 2010
Fullmetal Alchemist is a pretty straightforward action-adventure most of the time, but things get a little weird when complicated alchemy concepts come into play. When the Elric brothers try to resurrect their dead mother, they encounter a mysterious being known as The Truth. It takes away parts of their bodies and drags them into a stone door with a mass of black arms, showing them film strips of the truth of life with references to Hermetic magic and Jewish mythology floating around them. It’s traumatizing, but vitally important for the brothers to regain their bodies one day.
3. The First Witch’s Labyrinth - Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) (Episode 1)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 – April 2011
Madoka Magica doesn’t completely show its hand until episode 3, when an unexpected death establishes that this anime is a dark deconstruction of the magical girl genre, but even its first two episodes are surreal in their own right. When Madoka and Sayaka accidentally wander into a witch’s labyrinth for the first time, they’re greeted with photorealistic paper cutout imagery of butterflies and cotton balls that jerkily dance about as mystical runes scroll by in the background. Homura manages to save them, but this terrifying experience is a harbinger of the struggles to come...
2. Akira Becomes Devilman - Devilman: Crybaby (Episode 1)
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: January 2018
Any Masaaki Yuasa-directed anime is bound to be trippy just because of the deranged animation, but the Sabbath scene from Devilman: Crybaby is truly a masterpiece of surrealist horror. When the hedonistic party turns violent and demons start emerging from the attendees, shy little Akira tries to resist being possessed by a demon himself. He runs away from the gaping maw that threatens to envelop him, but it swallows him whole and he is reborn as a monstrous entity that tears the other creatures limb from limb and saves the remaining partygoers. He has become... Devilman!
1. The Completion of Instrumentality - Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (Final Episode)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 1997
Perhaps the most famous (infamous?) surreal scene in the genre is the finale of End of Evangelion, where everyone on Earth dissolves into orange liquid and becomes part of a massive hivemind. Director Hideaki Anno was going through an emotional breakdown at the time and had stopped taking his medication, so this nihilistic ending to one of the most influential anime ever made comes from a real place of anguish. Paranoia Agent and several other shows have done similar “everyone turns into goo and dies” endings, but the completion of Instrumentality from End of Evangelion will always be the most memorable.
We also love Sister Krone’s intimidation scenes from The Promised Neverland and the insanity that is the Bob Epic Team segments from Pop Team Epic, but what are your favorite surreal scenes in psychological anime? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!