Horror is a very popular genre because everyone knows what fear feels like. That cold feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are not sure of your surroundings or when you are alone and hear a strange noise in the dark has been felt by most of us, and it’s fun to feel it when you are in the safety of your home or the movie theater with your friends. However, it’s not as easy to create, as making different people feel the same fear can be challenging, and it’s very common to believe that gore or shocking scenes are enough to create true horror.
Horror anime is also very popular because Japanese horror can be very different from the kind of stories we're used to in the West. From their original myths to urban legends, to amazing new stories, horror anime brings us new scary images and reasons to fear even the most common things and 2019 was not the exception, giving us great series that we will count down in this list.
5. Yami Shibai 7 (Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories 7)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2019 – September 2019
Deep in the forest, or down by the park, if you are playing outside when the day is over and night begins, you may find an old man who still carries an old kamishibai, a paper theater that was widely used in Japan by storytellers before manga, radio, and finally, TV took all their listeners. This old man has no name and seems to be quite friendly but the stories he tells will create nightmares. His tales are based on frightening Japanese urban legends, and he will narrate them to any audience he gets, even if it's only you, the viewer.
As in previous seasons, Yami Shibai consists of 13 short horror stories, each done with a slightly different animation style, based on different Japanese myths but updated for the modern era. It’s hard for an anthology series to maintain quality for many seasons, but Yami Shibai has managed it for seven years, giving us a nice, scary taste of what kind of urban legends exist in Japan and how that affects their culture. Definitely a must-watch for horror and Japan fans.
4. Boogiepop wa Warawanai (Boogiepop and Others)
- Episodes: 18
- Aired: January 2019 – March 2019
If you study at Shinyo Academy, you have probably heard about Boogiepop, the mysterious shinigami who seeks out beautiful girls and kills them before their beauty begins to fade with age. It comes at night and is rumored to be behind many disappearances that have been written off by the authorities as runaways. But the truth behind the legend is far more complicated: Boogiepop is not a demon, but a guardian tasked with destroying the true cause behind the disappearances. A guardian who should be sleeping within a very common schoolgirl named Touka Miyashita.
Boogiepop wa warawanai is a new chapter in the Boogiepop franchise, that began as a set of light novels lasting 22 volumes. From the very beginning, Boogiepop is hard to classify since is both a mystery and a horror series, but given its scary atmosphere, the real fears of losing loved ones and not ever knowing what happened to them, and the existential terrors that having a second personality you know nothing about can bring, it is easy to see why it's always listed as horror at the end. And if you enjoy some driving questions and riddles with your fear, this is the 2019 horror series you should not miss.
3. Koutetsujou no Kanaberi Movie 3: Unato Kessen (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: The Unato Battle)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: May 2019
Life in the armored Hayajiro, under constant attack of the Kabane, is not easy, but the survivors have managed to keep on going forward despite the attempts of the noblemen at Kongokaku. Ikoma and Mumei still defend the train’s inhabitants as the Kabaneri who share the Kabane curse but remain mostly human. However, as the train reaches Unato, they have to face new dangerous types of Kabane. One in particular can hurt Kabaneri with just one hit and suddenly, the chances of the remaining humans are diminished drastically.
Koutetsujou no Kabaneri has a great mix of elements in its favor: Steampunk aesthetic, zombies, the character designs by legendary Haruhiko Mikimoto and some incredible music by Hiroyuki Sawano. While the original tv series stumbled a bit at the ending, this movie, which is a direct sequel to it, manages to pick up the pace quite well and keep up the horror that is to live in a small enclosed space, with the constant threat of disease and monsters coming to destroy you and your loved ones.
2. Shingeki no Kyojin 3 Part 2 (Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2)
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: April 2019 – July 2019
Eren and the Survey Corps have decided that the last remaining humans need to have hope for the future and thus embark on a mission to retake Wall Maria and survive. This means going back to Shinganshina, where most of them spent their childhood and lost their families, but they are ready to do so to fight for the future. However, once the Corps reach Shinganshina, stress starts getting to them as conflicts start among themselves. Levi and Eren are divided and there seems to be no real strategic reason to retake the city besides the hope it could bring. And then, the enemy finally makes their move.
Shingeki no Kyojin, or Attack on Titan as it's better known, is still one of the harsher, most gruesome anime that is airing in Japan. As the story advances, we have lost many beloved characters, seen betrayal and devastation, and still, Eren and his friends won’t give up hope that they can reach the ocean and live freely. There are a few moments of calm within each episode, but the horror comes not necessarily from the man-eating Titans—which are quite terrifying on their own—but from the secrets that Eren and company start discovering which show the darker parts of the human soul.
1. Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2019 – March 2019
What do you do when you find out your whole life is a lie? That the siblings you have seen being adopted into happy families where in fact murdered by monsters as soon as they were out of your sight, and the doting mother you have known since you can remember only considers you cattle, taking care of you for her own prestige and survival and not because she feels any kindness towards you. Some people would fall into despair, but Emma is not ready to give up. She is not only determined to escape the orphanage that has been her home but also save the lives of every one of her siblings, no matter what it takes.
Yakusoku no Neverland took everyone by surprise thanks to the apparently simple plot of a group of orphans trying to escape the place where they’re being raised to be eaten by monsters before they turn thirteen years old. But as the episodes advanced and we saw that there was a huge chess game being played between “Mama” Isabella and Emma where every choice had to be made knowing that the enemy could be three or four steps behind, created an amazingly chilling atmosphere that didn’t need jump scares to be terrifying. Thanks to that, Yakusoku no Neverland was the best horror series of the year and we can’t wait for the second season in 2020.
The hardest part of writing horror is that everyone has different fears. Someone may absolutely hate heights while others think they're cool while freezing upon seeing a spider or a different bug. Because of this, finding the perfect balance to make everyone feel chills up their spine while watching is something we should celebrate and we believe the five series we showcased today fit that bill.
Considering that, please let us know what is your favorite horror series of the year and what was the moment that scared you the most! We really want to know in the comments below!