Top 10 Dark Anime [Updated Best Recommendations]

Introduction:

Is there anything better than sitting down to watch a truly dark anime? Dark anime are what keep this industry moving, especially for the growing pool of watchers who happen to be adults. These shows tackle themes and present worlds that are generally more appealing to the mature audience. They dig into the nitty gritty and rarely ever look away from the worst aspects of human nature. Such an unwavering eye tends to lead to heart-pounding narratives that explore entire range of human emotion and capability. As this is an updated list, be sure to check out the original below. It too has a pretty awesome line up, as each show will take you into a dark and destructive world. Without further ado, let’s get into the top ten dark anime.

10. Texhnolyze

  • Episodes: 22
  • Aired: Apr. 2003 – Sep. 2003

Texhnolyze takes us into a dark and uncaring setting as we explore the underground city of Lux, and the three factions that are fighting for control over it. There’s the Salvation Union, which hopes to disrupt the current power that utilizes the black market. There’s the Racan, which is basically a disorganized group of individuals who use their power for personal gain. Then there’s Organo, which is essentially like the mafia, and it is the group we focus as two of the main characters work within it.

This dark anime spotlights how intimately humanity is tied to its cities and the advancement of technology, and the danger of such an attachment. Despite the fact that the city is in disrepair and tons of people live in poverty, people are unwilling to let it go. People cling to it and are willing to brutally fight for control of it, even as it continues to deteriorate. If this city is a representation of the world as a whole, then there really is no hope for a happy ending.


9. Another

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Jan. 2012 – Mar. 2012

Another puts you into Class 3-3 of Yomiyama North, as Kouichi Sakakibara transfers into the class. Immediately, things seem off because not only is the class rather quiet and cold, but there’s also a student wearing an eye patch, Mei, that no one seems to notice but Kouichi. Realizing just how strange this classroom is, Kei and Mei try to figure out what is plaguing the students.

This dark anime is the anime equivalent of Final Destination, and as such features a massive list of ways to die. Umbrella points impaling bodies and heads cracking open on cement are just a couple of the ways that people die in this show. The best thing about Another is that knowing that people are going to die, does not really help you. In fact, it just keeps you on pins and needles as you wait for the hammer to drop. Oh, and it gets plus points for making many viewers basically afraid to leave their rooms.


8. Deadman Wonderland

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Apr. 2011 – Jul. 2011

Deadman Wonderland brings us to a city that has built an insane jail system that is known as Deadman’s Wonderland. In this complex, inmates are basically required to accumulate candy in order to survive and are also required to partake in deadly events in order to entertain the masses. Fun fact, the masses think the deaths are faked and that such events are simply publicity stunts. Oh, and that’s just the stuff that happens on the legal level. There’s an underground fighting system to this jail system and it’s in that setting that most of the series takes place.

The violence and amount of visually disturbing events is nonstop in this show. This tone is set from the very beginning when the main character’s classroom gets blown up and then he gets framed for the tragedy through a rather explicit fake video. However, this show pushes the boundary and can be considered one of the top ten dark anime, due to the mentalities of its characters. All of the characters exhibit an unstable mindset, with some simply having always been a little off, some being traumatized, and some delving into obsession with their passions. With each character, we explore new depravities and see just how rigged the system can be.


7. Death Parade

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Jan. 2015 – Mar. 2015

Death Parade is a dark anime that brings us to the afterlife as we enter Quindecim, where the host Decim decides the fate of the recently deceased through parlor games. Though it’s uncertain how Decim judges most of the competitions, one person shall be reincarnated while the other will enter into the void and no longer exist.

Death Parade is a unique anime that tests the psychology of its characters. Each episode brings in people who are presented with a cruel and unforgiving situation. It literally forces people to play a game for their lives against people they love or people who are complete strangers. Just imagine the emotional and mental state you would be in if you had to play a game of darts to decide if you or your spouse will be reincarnated. You really can’t win in such a situation and it is this type of situation that Death Parade constantly puts you in.

However, what allows this show to go above and beyond is how it plays with the viewers. Not only do we have to endure suspenseful episodes, but we have to question exactly how Decim is judging the characters and if he is a trustworthy character. The show puts this aspect under the spotlight towards the end.


6. Drifters

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Oct. 2016 – Dec. 2016

Drifters brings us into a fantasy world full of elves, dwarves, humans, orcs, goblins, dragons, etc. Though there are two general forces at play (good vs. evil), the side for humanity has been dissected into factions over the years due to oppression and discrimination, while the monster forces have been uniting. Such circumstances, as well as what the future will be like, are because of the influence of historical figures that have been brought into the fray by overseer like characters. Those fighting for the good side are Drifters, while those fighting for the monsters are Enders.

If you like dark anime, then you need to check out Drifters. First off, the show is quite gory. Limbs being cut off are the lightest of brutalities in this show. However, where the show really thrives is showing just how dastardly any type of war campaign is, even when you are fighting the good fight. This is most poignantly shown with Nobunaga’s strategies that rely on crippling enemy food supply, inducing fear, and a bunch of other cruel methods.


5. Psycho-Pass

  • Episodes: 22
  • Aired: Oct. 2012 – Mar. 2013

Psycho-Pass takes us to a futuristic Japan that has been able to form a type of utopia through the creation of the Sibyl System. This system basically controls every aspect of society as it monitors the mental health of every single citizen as well as decides what route everyone in society should take. It's through the eyes of a single unit from the Public Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division that we explore the ins and outs of this supposed utopia.

Psycho-Pass is a dark anime for a couple reasons. The first is that the show doesn’t have any problem showing gore. In the very first episode a person gets blown up in graphic fashion. Such visuals are pretty consistent throughout both seasons and the movie. The second aspect is that we get to intimately explore an authoritarian world that ostracizes anyone with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness. Having such a focus on mental states adds a lot of layers to the show, as it forces us to question if the means justify the ends and if it is the majority that should always take precedent in a society.


4. Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl)

  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: Oct. 2005 – Apr. 2005

Have you been wronged? Would you sell your soul to get revenge on that person who has wronged you? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should go to the Hell Correspondence webpage. If you type that person’s name into the webpage, then that person will be ferried to hell post haste. The catch is that when you die, you will also go to hell no matter what.

Hell Girl is a dark anime at every single turn that you take. We are consistently introduced to victims of some sort of abuse and the episodes actually delve quite deeply into the psychological, emotional, and physical pain that they have to endure. These moments are quite impactful and show just how far even the most minor of offenses can go. However, the show truly shows off its intensity when Ai and her team are ferrying these wrongdoers to hell. Such moments display some terrifying scenes and visuals as humans get toyed with in hellish mazes.


3. Shinsekai Yori (From the New World)

  • Episodes: 25
  • Aired: Sep. 2012 – Mar. 2013

Shinsekai Yori is a dark anime that brings us into a world where supernatural powers have developed in a small percentage of the population. With such powers coming into existence, war ensues for years until those with supernatural powers created their own community. It is through the eyes of Saki Watanabe and her friends, after they awaken to their powers, that we navigate the supposed utopia that the supernatural beings have created.

Shinsekai Yori is an amazing dark anime that will constantly keep you on your feet. The initial rural environment and youthful age of the main cast are extremely deceptive. If you never heard anything about the show and happened upon it, then you probably got your mind blown when things started taking a turn for the worst. No one can be trusted and it is really difficult trying to figure out what will happen next. Oh, and the characters are constantly faced with not only physical danger but also potential mental trauma.


2. Hellsing

  • Episodes: 10
  • Aired: Feb. 2006 – Dec. 2012

We got Nazi vampires invading Britain and Britain’s only hope of surviving depends on using the most monstrous of beings to decimate the threat. That being is the original vampire, Alucard, who is more than happy to flex his muscles in the face of the oncoming threat.

Nazi vampires. Does anything else need to be said to make it clear that this is one dark anime? It’s like the creator sat down and was just brainstorming how to make terrifying things even worse. The question is which came first: the Nazi or the vampire? What’s depressing is that these Nazi vampires are mainly fodder to the overwhelming strength and madness of Alucard, and that’s where the true terror of the show lies.

Obviously, there is a difference between the aggressor and the reactor, but the show does its best to blur the line between Alucard, really any of the good guys, and the enemies. Direct parallels are drawn between Alucard and the main antagonist, and that forces us to question what is good. The show’s direction suggests that when it comes to war, the answer is nothing is good. That’s dark, and the creators constantly drive that home by even showing the faults and hatred between the allied forces of the Hellsing Organization and the Vatican.


1. Berserk

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Jul. 2016 – Sep. 2016

Berserk has been following the ghastly and horrid life of Guts for some time. The series in the 90s covered his time with the Band of the Hawk and how Griffith betrayed Guts and humanity overall. The more current season follows Guts, now bitter and with a new sword, as he chases down Griffith for revenge.

Is there any dark anime quite like Berserk? EVERYONE in the show is basically living in complete squalor. If they’re not, then they probably have some extreme personal issues, looking at you Farnese, or they’re demons who have control of a town. This show really doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to making you feel like there’s no hope in the world. Between the gore, betrayal, and always painful backstories; there is little light for the characters in Berserk, and this statement is the most true for its main character Guts. He basically has gone through hell and back and continues to struggle forward when most people would have happily accepted death.


Final Thoughts:

There you have it, people, the top ten dark anime. These shows are the best of the genre as they display the worst of human nature in various ways. Some focus on physical violence, some focus on psychological horrors, and a few combine the two wonderfully. Now be sure to check out the list below, as there are no repeats and that list is also epic. Oh and be sure to give a shout out to your favorite dark anime!

Yoko Dev

Writer

Author: Yoko Dev

Hello, my anime peers. I’m from the states, but have taken an indefinite leave to travel while freelancing. Outside of a deep admiration for anime that started long ago, I love to read, write, and play video games. The main issue of traveling so far has been not having a console.

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Top 5 Anime by Yoko Dev


Original Article Below

What defines an anime as dark? Here at Honeys Anime we think it’s a brutal and realistic representation of history, a sense of hopelessness felt by the protagonists, a bleak and desolate aesthetic or even the visual recognition of abusive relationships and fetishism.

We have compiled a list of our top 10 darkest anime series or films. We’ve considered the thematic concepts, art direction, characters and emotions. The following anime have abrasive art styles, non traditional, twisted, broken characters and stories that will make you question the true meaning until you reach the final desolate act.

10. Shigurui: Death Frenzy

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Jul 2007 - Oct 2007

Shigurui is a historically relevant Edo period drama where Lord Tokugawa Tadanaga holds a fighting tournament. In the past, matches were fought with wooden swords. This time, real swords will be used. One-armed Fujiki Gennosuke and blind Irako Seigen will fight each other in this match. Both are disciples of Iwamoto Kogan, who is known as Japan's greatest swordsman. Each of them are determined to prove himself the successor of Iwamoto's school. What follows is a visually striking animation the provides insight into life in Edo period Japan.

Shigurui is worthy of a place on our list of darkest anime for its frank and brutal representation of life in historic Japan. The animation is beautiful, echoing traditional Japanese tapestry paintings while encapsulating the stark realities of life for people outside of the samurai classes in feudal Japan. The darkness of this anime doesn’t come from an archetypal ‘evil’ antagonist or from a psychologically disturbing phenomenon. It is instead a brutal reminder of how far society has come that we now longer live in an era in which a lower born person would have their head removed from their shoulders for forgetting to bow at the correct angle to their shogunate lord.


9. Dangan Ronpa: The Animation

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: Jul 2013 - Sep 2013

Despair. This single word perfect is at the epicentre of this 2013 anime adaptation of the equally excellent PSP/VITA visual novel series. Makoto Naegi is an average student with extraordinary luck when he is invited to join the prestigious Hopes Peak Academy, home to the brightest group of ‘ultimate’ talents in the country. However after awakening with no memories, Makoto and 15 other classmates each with a unique personality and ultimate talent are confronted by the deceptively evil teddy bear MonoKuma. What unfolds from here is a game of despair, where the only way to escape being trapped in the school forever is to kill one of your classmates and escape being caught by the rest of the group. If this isn’t enough motivation to kill, then MonoKuma is more than happy to provide Makoto and the others with ample motive.

While the animation and voice acting may be relatively bright and far from groundbreaking, the overall theme and story is a dark and frank examination of how far individuals will go when back into a corner. The first murder that occurs will leave viewers shocked, even more so witnessing the execution of the culprit. The terror and despair felt by the characters is tangible, yet the reasons for murders taking place often hit very close to home. These aren’t bad people, they simply believe they have no other options. This sense of hopelessness is what gives DanganRonpa: The Animation a spot on our Top 10 Dark Anime.


8.Mousou Dairanin (Paranoia Agent)

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: Feb 2004 – May 2004

From the mind of Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers) comes what initially seems as a simple premise but will later have all the hallmarks of his twisted, mind warping style. An elementary school kid dubbed with the title "shounen bat" or "lil slugger" has been going around attacking people with his bent, golden bat. Now, two detectives are investigating so they can stop this kid from making any more attacks, but they will find out soon enough... that this case is much more than they expected.

As fans of Satoshi’s previous work will expect the initial detective ‘whodunnit’ story quickly diverges into the type of disturbing and psychologically dark anime that deserves to make our top 10 dark anime list. The animation is unique and has a rough dynamic along with a dark and earthy colour palette. The story involves more twists and turns than a rollercoaster, it will never let you feel comfortable in the knowledge that you know what will happen next. An excellent selection from one of the masters of twisted psychological anime.


7. Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil)

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: Apr 2013 - Jun 2013

Kasuga Takao is a boy who loves reading books, particularly Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. A girl at his school, Saeki Nanako, is his muse and his Venus, and he admires her from a distance. One day, he forgets his copy of Les Fleurs du Mal, in the classroom, he finds not only his book, but Saeki's gym uniform. On a mad impulse, he steals it. Now everyone knows "some pervert" stole Saeki's uniform, and Kasuga is dying with shame and guilt. Furthermore, the weird, creepy, and friendless girl of the class, Nakamura, saw him take the uniform. Instead of revealing it was him, she recognizes his kindred deviant spirit and uses her knowledge to take control of his life. What follows is a black drama that is genuinely uncomfortable and disturbing to watch.

Aku no Hana fully deserves a place on this list of dark anime, the whole show is a lesson in abusive control bordering on fetishism. The art style, which has drawn criticism from some corners of internet fandom, is a jarringly authentic portrayal of real high school students. The character models are often plain or ugly, not the usual, bikini figurine selling moe trope common among most modern anime. This is actually a bold change from the original manga release which helps to elevate this series above its source material. Kasuga’s inability to actively think and decide for himself and Nakamura’s abusive treatment of him make this a deep dark examination of personality. There are many scenes in which the protagonist is subjected to humiliation which is difficult to watch, however his character arc will come full circle by the excellent final episode for some hope of redemption.


6. Serial Experiments Lain

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: Jul 1998 to Sep 1998

Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda, the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide. When the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain's life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings.

A conceptually ambitious dark anime series, that examines the role of technology in society as well as the perception of reality. Very ahead of its time in 1998, with a uniquely jarring art style and brooding mystery filled atmosphere. This anime is able to make us truly question conventions of life we hold as truth and effectively deals with delicate issues like depression and suicide. With excellent characterization that is the main driving force behind the story, Serial Experiments Lain is a modern contemporary classic.


5. Ergo Proxy

  • Episodes: 23
  • Aired: Feb 2006 – August 2006

After the explosion of the methane hydrate layer, the remaining members of mankind are forced to live in isolated domed cities scattered across the arid and inhospitable planet. They live in a controlled society and are assisted in daily life by autonomous robots called AutoReivs. In one of these cities, Romdo, Inspector Re-l Mayer, granddaughter of the regent, leads an investigation concerning AutoReivs that have gone mad after being infected by the Cogito virus. In the process, she comes in contact with a monster called Proxy. Elsewhere in the city, immigrant Vincent Law is on the run after being framed for involvement in several Cogito cases. Together, along with the adorable child-AutoReiv Pino, they set out on a journey to the dome city Mosk in order to unravel the mystery of the Proxies.

Ergo Proxy is a superb piece of post apocalyptic fiction and social commentary fusing a dark and mysterious aesthetic and story with a well developed and likable cast that deviate from typical anime archetypes. The story in particular can be difficult to decipher immediately, it requires you to pay attention and also to think for yourself and question your own beliefs. This mystery will last throughout the series with slight moments of clarity at the end of each episode that culminates in an excellent finale. If you like your sci-fi grounded, dark and gritty then Ergo Proxy is a must watch.


4. Perfect Blue

  • Episodes: 1 Film
  • Aired: Feb 28, 1998

Mima Kirigoe, a member of a pop-idol group called "CHAM!", decides to quit singing to pursue a career as an actress. Some of her fans are displeased with this decision though, particularly a stalker named Me-Mania. As Mima progresses into her new career, those close to her are violently murdered one by one, and Mima begins to lose the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.

A harrowing psychological mystery that blurs the lines between the real world and the darker side of the human mind, perfect blue is certainly not a film to be viewed by our younger readers. This classic adaptation of a Japanese novel ticks all the boxes for what we consider dark or disturbing in any form of media, let alone in anime. Be forewarned there is sexual violence, graphic murder and an art style that rarely deviates from the darker side of the colour palette. This is all wrapped around a phenomenal story whose twists and turns will leave you stunned and hugging your nearest loved one/pillow.


3.Corpse Party: Tortured Souls

  • Episodes: 4 (OVA)
  • Aired: Jul 24, 2013

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls is a 4 piece OVA owing its name to the Visual Novel series on PSP and also a short form manga. The story is set in Heavenly Host Elementary School, an elementary school that was torn down following the murders and disappearances of several of its staff and students. By the start of the story, another school called Kisaragi Academy has been built over the elementary school site. One night, a group of students from Kisaragi are telling ghost stories when a sudden earthquake transports them to another dimension where Heavenly Host Elementary still exists and is haunted by the ghosts of the school's murdered children.

Murdered children in the description alone effectively conveys why this is consider one of our top 10 dark series. It is a shocking, isolating mystery horror that will draw viewers into feeling the same sense of entrapment and despair as Kisaragi and her friends. Drawing upon classic elements of Japanese horror and superstition, Corpse Party uses jarring examples of human brutality to bring realism to the supernatural mystery. We guarantee you will not be the same after finishing its short, 4 episode story arc.


2. Higurashi no naku koro ni (When they Cry)

  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: Apr 2006 - Sep 2006

After moving into the quiet town of Hinamizawa, Maebara Keiichi spends his days blissfully in school often playing games with his local friends. However, appearances can be deceiving. One fateful day, Keiichi stumbles upon news of a murder that had occurred in Hinamizawa. From this point on, horrific events unfold in front of Keiichi, as he soon learns his close friends may not be all that they seem. Based on the amateur mystery game by 07th Expansion, the story is told in a series of different scenarios.

Higurashi is a compelling murder mystery that lulls viewers into a false sense of security with it’s typical romanitc comedy high school moe trope female casts. The true horror and shock is derived from the stark contrast of its character style, voice acting and setting, with the brutal acts of murder that effects likable multiple protagonists. Watching Higurashi is like observing a terrible experiment in human behaviour and the darkness that exists in unlikely places. Viewers will feel compelled to see the mystery through the end in the hope of being able to save these victims and prevent this picturesque town from fully descending into darkness.


1. Monster

  • Episodes: 74
  • Aired: Apr 2004 - Sep 2005

Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a renowned young brain surgeon of Japanese descent working in Europe. Highly lauded by his peers as one of the great young minds that will revolutionize the field, he is blessed with a beautiful fiancé and is on the cusp of a high promotion in the hospital he works at. However, all of that is about to change with one critical decision that Dr. Tenma faces one night; whether to save the life of a young child or that of the town's mayor. Despite being pressured by his superiors to perform surgery on the mayor, his morals force him to perform the surgery on the young child, saving his life and forfeiting the mayor's. All of a sudden, Dr. Tenma's world is turned upside down by his decision leading to the loss of everything he previously had.

The only long form series that will make this list, which is a testament to the quality of writing found throughout Monster. While most series would struggle to maintain darker themes over this length of time, Monster manages to eschew conventions and deliver a stark and realistic examination of morality and the value of human life. Dr. Tenma tries his best to try and fix the desperately broken world around him and the main antagonist Johan Liebhert will likely top many most evil characters in anime lists. The animation is grounded in the real world with a dour colour palette and non traditional anime design for the character models which all combines to makes Monster one of the dark pieces of fiction we have ever seen.


There we have it, our list of the top 10 darkest anime films and series to watch during Halloween and the dark winter months. Do you agree or disagree? What would you have included and omitted? Please leave a comment and tell us what you think!

Tom Christie

Writer

Author: Tom Christie

Otaku for all things anime, gaming, fitness and punk rock culture living in Tokyo but originally from London, England. Favourite hobbies include playing PS Vita on crowded trains, having anime debates in izakayas and getting tattooed in painful locations!

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