Horror is one of those genres that get under your skin. Either you are a gorehound who loves everything horror related and collect figures of monsters like other people collect stamps, or you really hate the creepy feeling of being scared but still watch between your fingers when a friend recommends a really good spooky story.
Fortunately, there's always a new one every season; movies, novels, and anime series that are about everything that bumps in the night. Of course, as with every other genre, quantity doesn't always equal quality, so we have to choose which ones are the ones worth watching.
So, as a new year begins, we want to take a look at last year’s horror anime series and pick up the very best of them all.
10. Mo Ri Shu Guang (Dawn of the World)
- Episodes: 20
- Aired: May 2018 – September 2018
Zombies have become a staple of horror. Ever since the original Night of the Living Dead gave us the non-voodoun version of these ghouls that rise from the grave and eat human flesh, there’s not a year where we get some sort of zombie apocalypse in our entertainment. Mo Ri Shu Guang, or Dawn of the World, was the zombie horror story of 2018, and although it passed under the radar for many people, as it is based on a Manwha and not on a Japanese property, it still managed to bring a couple of new things to the horror buffet.
The series begins with more action elements than horror, following a trend that has been plaguing the zombies for a while, but once we get Lin Yan and the survivor group somewhat established, the horror begins. As the story starts in medias res, with the zombie plague having destroyed most of humanity and our survivors already jaded and ready to shoot anyone who shows a bite, it relies a lot on flashbacks to show how we got to this point and it’s in those flashbacks where the horror atmosphere gets the chance to really shine. In order to avoid spoilers, that’s all we’ll tell you so you can enjoy it fully.
- Episodes: 2
- Aired: April 2018 – May 2018
Once you meet Tomie, you’re doomed. If you are male and catch her attention, you’ll become obsessed with her, love her, and do whatever she says until the day that obsession leads you to try to kill her. If you are female and she decides you’re her rival, she will use all those obsessed with her to make your life a living hell. But if you think her death will be the end of everyone’s problems, you’re sorely mistaken: Tomie can’t die, she will just regenerate from whichever parts you hack her into and return to her old tricks. Because she has an obsession too: she lives to be adored and envied.
Tomie was one of Junji Ito's first manga, and it soon became one of his most known stories in Japan. However, it wasn't adapted into an anime until last year despite having some very popular movies made about the story of the girl who just won't die. The anime wasn't particularly well received, as the quality of the animation wasn't that good, but it is still a good story that will make you a bit nervous around all dark-haired girls for a while.
8. Yami Shibai 6 (Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories 6)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2018 – September 2018
Anthologies are an amazingly successful format for horror: Longer stories can have problems maintaining the suspense and tension, while short ones can give the viewers a punch and make them feel true fear for a moment. Perhaps that’s the reason why Yami Shibai, the anthology of horror that also draws inspiration from the mobile paper storytellers known as Kamishibai, has had six very good seasons so far. Each episode tells a new horror tale, and thus, it is quite friendly for new viewers.
Every episode has a different style of character design and animation, giving them the look of short movies. This could be a problem for some, as there’s no real continuity, but it’s one of the reasons why the series has managed to keep being renewed. Because the stories are mostly based on traditional Japanese ghost stories, don’t expect a happy ending to them; but let’s be honest, that is one of the things we love about horror.
7. Itou Junji: Collection (The Junji Ito Collection)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2018 – March 2018
When it comes to manga, Junji Ito is the master of horror. For the last 20 years, he has been giving readers heart attacks with his short stories and creating new phobias you didn't know it was possible to have with his longer ones. From Uzumaki, which makes us fear the concept of a spiral, to Hellstar Remina where the world ends in a horrible way, Ito knows what buttons to press in the audience. However, it wasn't until very recently that his stories made the jump to animation, and the Junji Ito Collection manages to get some of the creepiest of his short stories to life.
If we were only talking about how effective the plot of the series is, The Junji Ito Collection would be a lot higher on the list. There’s a reason why Ito’s name has become synonymous with horror, and it’s because there’s always that little twist that chills your blood. However, the anime series didn’t manage to capture the complete atmosphere of the manga, so it falls a bit lower on our list. Still, if you are a diehard fan of horror, it’s a series that you shouldn’t miss.
6. Mahou Shoujo Site (Magical Girl Site)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2018 – June 2018
Magical Girls are usually considered the very opposite of horror. After all, what can be scary about a group of young girls who fight against enemies with the power of love? If you actually see their series, you will find a lot of scary stuff, but it’s unusual to see a mahou shoujo horror series. Mahou Shoujo Site is one of those rare gems: it starts with a terrible situation and it never lets down. The very first girl we meet is Aja Asagiri, who wants to kill herself due to her unfortunate situation: she’s bullied at school, her father beats her, and her brother has been sexually abusing her. So when a mysterious website under the name Magical Girl Site offers her magical powers to get revenge, she accepts and soon she ends up as the owner of a magic gun.
While Aja soon finds out that revenge is not as sweet as she expected, she’s not the only girl who has been recruited by the site. They have to work to stop an apocalyptic event named “The Tempest”, but as they all were recruited due to their suffering, would any of them really be interested in saving humanity? Make no mistake, Mahou Shoujo Site starts dark and stays dark, to the point of being uncomfortable. But then again, no one said that a horror story would make you feel good, right?
5. Terra Formars: Earth-hen
- Episodes: 2
- Aired: August 2018 – November 2018
Earth’s attempt to terraform Mars had unexpected results: Sure, Mars’ atmosphere is now more suitable for life, but it also has giant mutant cockroaches who want to destroy mankind. The only way to defeat them is to undergo a process that will give humans powers: they transform into insect-like creatures themselves. With the cockroaches, now know as Terra Formars, ready to attack Earth, it’s a race against time to save mankind.
The original series of Terra Formars was premiered in 2014, first as an OVA and then as a TV series that only covered part of the plot ending in a bit of a cliffhanger. But for those fans of body horror and terrible situations where anyone can die, 2018 brought even more of the story, covering the part of the plot where things get even more dire as the Earth population finds out not just that the Terra Formars exist, but also that some of them are already on our planet and working with some governments to destroy us all.
- Episodes: 20
- Aired: September 2018 – September 2018
From the day that organ transplants were made successfully, mankind has had one problem: there is a big demand for vital organs and very little supply. Even when people volunteer to donate their organs, they’re not always compatible with the people who need them, which makes a match quite valuable. This is why there’s a black market for human parts, not always acquired from volunteers. Tamaki Suzuhara, a high school girl, is part of one of those illegal organ traffic groups, and an especially vicious one that chooses their victims by judging their morality.
Gift±, or Gift plus-minus as it's called for simplicity's sake, is a very smart thriller that includes some harrowing gore scenes. As our main character works as an organ thief, it's hard to empathize with her at times. She may have good reasons, but in the end, she is acting as judge, jury, and executioner of those who cross her path. Even she agrees that she may be losing her own moral center, and that is one of the reasons why this story is so effective; given her reasons, many would do the same thing as her.
3. Happy Sugar Life
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2018 – September 2018
Love is a wondrous thing, but it can also be incredibly dangerous when it becomes an obsession. Satou Matsuka is a perfect example of it: she used to be quite easy, sleeping with every boy who asked her, but when she finds a lost girl named Shio Kobe, she feels a connection she had never felt before and thus decides that she will take care of Shio forever. In order to ensure this happy life with Shio, Satou kidnaps the girl and decides to keep her locked in her house to make sure she never leaves. Because that is what true love means, right?
Despite the cute anime style and the adorable title, Happy Sugar Life is a rollercoaster ride of psychological horror. Satou is determined to do anything it takes to keep Shio at her side, and that doesn’t stop at murder. But to make things worse, Satou’s story is not the only one that we follow. Her classmates have their own horrible pasts and stories, which include rape and abuse from many sources. The series is a grim reminder that you may think someone is nice, but you never know their true face and this is why the whole plot becomes high octane paranoia fuel.
2. Tokyo Ghoul: Re
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2018 - June 2018
The tenuous balance between Ghouls and humans has been broken since the Commission of Counter Ghoul, or CCG, raided Ainteku, the small café where Ghouls could feed without hunting or risking discovery while cohabitating with humans that were safe in there. The CCG has become quite ruthless in their hunt for ghouls, and in response, ghouls are now organizing against humans. While some of the previous employees of Ainteku still want to live in peace, there’s a new terrorist organization called Aogiri Tree who wants nothing more than to destroy the CCG and any humans who pose a threat to their continued survival.
As a continuation of an already good horror story, Tokyo Ghoul: Re managed to fulfill the expectations of the viewers. Although we miss some of the characters of the previous seasons, the stakes for survival are now higher. There are more human-ghoul hybrids and the new characters are more sadistic than ever. Not only that, but the survivors of the original series have become either jaded or, in the worst-case scenario, insane. This makes for a thrilling series full of nightmare fuel, perfect for gorehounds.
1. Devilman: Crybaby
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: January 2018
Akira Fudo has always been a very kind young man who listens to his friends and is always ready to help them no matter what. This is his undoing when he agrees to help his friend Ryo Asuka in a fight against terrible demons. See, demons can’t come to our world without possessing human hosts, and if a host’s will is strong enough, they can become fused into “devilmen”. So now, Akira is fused to Amon, a very powerful demon, and because of that, all of his friends and loved ones are targets of the rest of Satan’s hordes.
Based on the manga of the same name by Go Nagai, Devilman Crybaby is a punch in the gut that becomes hard to binge even for the strongest stomachs. The story is full of different kinds of horror; from physical, as all the demon transformations and kills are quite graphic, to psychological, as we are also witnesses to how Akira and Ryo’s sanity starts to slip due to all the terrible things they experience. It was also a very hard act to follow as it was the first horror series of the year, and as you can see here, it was the best.
Horror can be a very subjective genre; what terrifies someone may make another laugh. We all have different phobias that authors love to exploit and a lot of real-life situations lend themselves perfectly to inspire gruesome and terrifying scenarios. And of course, once the story is over, we have the relief that it’s only fiction and we can rest assured that no matter what we face, it’s not as terrible as what we just saw.
But we want to know what scares you the most. Which 2018 horror anime series was your favorite? Do you agree with our placement, or suggest a different ranking for them? Let us know in the comments because we love to hear your opinion.