While our sphere of influence grows by the day, there are more than a few misconceptions the uninitiated harbor about anime. One of the most prevalent being the proper place for extreme themes like violence beyond the edge of your typical Western animation.
This is understandable to an extent. The typical art style features vibrant colors and cutesy, minimalist depictions of the human form, traits that older Western audiences have come to associate with light-themed, child-friendly toons or absurd comedy. When said expectations run against certain darker titles, it can be like squeezing a teddy bear full of needles. This is the intended sensation. The logic behind each anime’s opening squall of gore may differ, but they all represent an integral piece of their identity as a story.
Join us for a brief dive into three of the most violent anime available, and we’ll provide some insight into the purpose behind their casualties.
3. Goblin Slayer
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2018 – December 2018
Goblin Slayer explores the depths of a generic fantasy world. One that you’ll find familiar if you have any passing knowledge of traditional tabletop rpgs or novels. Perhaps to emphasize this, characters are referred to by title rather than name (ie: Spearman and Priestess). You aren’t likely to allow this story to fade into the back of your memory, however.
You needn’t look for further proof than the minor outrage that followed Goblin Slayer’s initial release; accusations were made of needless sensationalism, oftentimes by people who only watched clips of the most visceral encounters of the green kind.
Beyond scenes of murder and defilement that can easily be taken out of context, Goblin Slayer’s portrayal of combat gives the anime an almost realistic tone. Violence may be profitable, but it is also messy, horrifying, and dangerous. The little creatures our titular protagonist hunts to the point of obsession are quick-breeding, cunning savages that inflict true harm upon the vulnerable and careless. After a visit to an infested cave, you can truly appreciate the devastation even weak monsters would wreak upon any world. The author of the original light novel, Kumo Kagyu, understood this rather well and uses unflinching detail to make the world of Goblin Slayer feel alive.
2. Elfen Lied
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2004 – October 2004
Elfen Lied features the dawn of a human subspecies called Diclonius who possess the ability to manifest “vectors”, arm-like protrusions of telekinetic force that can be utilized to deadly effect. Alongside their supernatural ability comes an unfortunate inclination towards homicide that isn’t at all alleviated by a history of internment and maltreatment by normal humans.
The premise makes for several scenes sure to satisfy sci-fi action fans, but also presents a degree of separation between us and the Diclonius as a race. We can’t relate to them completely, and vice versa, this small fact provides the lion’s share of Elfen Lied’s drama. Yes, the Diclonius suffer greatly throughout Elfen Lied’s runtime, but they are also an undisputed threat to humanity. Even if they were treated as gently as possible and every effort at coexistence was made, parents would still worry about their kids being deskmates with a girl that could paint the entire room scarlet on a particularly bad day.
For every scene that makes us want a better life for characters like Lucy and Nana, we’re treated with countless human corpses, innocent or not, that creates just the right kind of strain for a story that asks you to question your morals.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2012 – March 2012
Kouichi Sakakibara suffers one of the most ill-fated school transfers when he’s placed in Yomiyama North’s class 3-3. Due to a poorly understood phenomenon, merely existing there meant inviting disaster ever since the death of a student more than two decades ago. This is a truth Kouichi discovers far too late to escape a race against what feels like fate itself as he desperately tries to uncover a reason behind the series of strange deaths across the town and, if possible, put a stop to them.
Where Elfen Lied and Goblin Slayer’s violent nature makes for solid worldbuilding and narrative depth, Another’s bout of countryside butchery is meant to be as absurd as possible to amp up the horror factor, this holds true for the audience as much as the characters themselves. The most memorable aspect of Another is the fear and paranoia that worms its way into the rapidly dwindling cast as the situation comes to a head.
If you have any open-minded friends or family members who don’t believe that our little shows can be just as deep, dark and well executed as the live-action titles from across the pond, feel free to introduce them to one of the titles above. Or, if you have any thoughts about violent anime that you’d like to share, be sure to do so below.