The world of light novels is a vast one. There are obviously great romance stories, light hearted takes, and cute stories that will make you smile. However, equally the world of light novels has works that are horror filled and have tragic elements that will leave you shocked. While you may be shocked, you’ll keep reading because you want to know what happens next. If you wanted to know some of the best light novels that have this dark theme, you’re going to want to read our list of Top 10 Dark Light Novels.
Now you may be asking, what constitutes a dark themed light novel? Essentially for a story to be considered dark—at least in our minds here at Honey’s Anime—it has to be horrific in not just a creepy theme but also in a way that makes your eyes go wide in surprise. That moment when you’re left speechless but you can’t stop reading and need to continue on. The horror theme does this well but these works aren’t just pure horror and use other genres to drive home a dark theme. We know you’re going to love this list and find some of these works to be utterly dark in every sense of the word. If you feel confident, continue reading for the list of dark light novels to begin.
10. All You Need Is Kill
- Authors: Abe, Yoshitoshi- Sakurazaka, Hiroshi
- Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Military
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: Dec, 2004
The end of humanity seems imminent. The alien race known as the Mimics have begun to attack and humanity is losing the war. Humanity decides to create a new army by the name of the United Defense Force in hopes to fight back against the Mimic menace. Keiji Kiriya has just joined and on his first day, he is killed by a Mimic. Instead of dying, Keiji somehow is brought back to a few hours before the invasion and any time he dies, this ends up happening again. Keiji’s apparent curse may be the power needed to fight back against the Mimics and save the world from the alien army.
All You Need Is Kill begins our list of dark light novels by using some interesting themes. The idea of having to relive the same event over and over upon death—while not unused in other works—is genuinely scary. Add in an alien threat that seem focused on killing all of mankind and you have a genuinely scary sci-fi story. While All You Need Is Kill is relatively short for a light novel series—only one volume—the story is genuinely well written and filled with cool set pieces that will leave you gripping the book in sweet anticipation for what awaits on the next page. All You Need Is Kill will be a great dark sci-fi story that we give a full thumbs up in terms of quality.
- Authors: Itou, Noizi- Ayatsuji, Yukito
- Genre: Mystery, Horror, Thriller
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Oct, 2009
Have you heard of the rumor of Class 3-3? They say there was a student named Misaki that died from some horrible accident. Every other year, apparently the class has a weird curse that an extra seat appears and thus signifies a student that shouldn’t be there. The rumor states that people will die. Well apparently this year is the other year. Thus that means an extra seat is about to appear and once more death is going to befall the class.
Another is honestly one of those stories that when you read it, you’re left terrified. The horror theme alone is enough to get you creeped out but the fact that students, faculty and families dying from horrible means really hits that dark theme home. While Another is only 2 volumes long—though only 1 in America—this story will leave an impact on you that won’t go away quickly. If you’re ready to witness the newest class 3-3 and see the fate of students like the main character Kouichi Sakakibara, then you’ll want to read Another as soon as you can. You’ll probably think twice if a school rumor is real or not from here on out…
- Authors: Kodaka, Kazutaka- Komatsuzaki, Rui
- Genre: Mystery, Psychological, Drama
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Sep, 2011- Oct, 2011
Danganronpa/Zero takes place before the horrible Hope’s Peak Academy incident and follows Ryouko Otonashi. While she is a lucky student to be able to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, her biggest flaw comes in the form of her memory. Being a chronic amnesiac, Ryouko relies on her friend Yasuke Matsuda to hopefully find some means of curing her disease. However, the two friends will find their fate sealed when a strange girl appears before them and will begin a series of horrible events. Get ready to read a tale unspoken of that begins the world of Danganronpa in many ways.
The Danganronpa series has a big place in our hearts here at Honey’s Anime. Each game has always infused a dark element by having murder and lots of cleverly implemented psychological themes to make the stories really hit you hard. That’s why we fully recommend reading Danganronpa/Zero. This prequel of sorts will blow you away with clever writing—thanks to author Kodaka Kazutaka—and really be a treat for those who love the Danganronpa franchise. Fan or not, Danganronpa/Zero will be a dark light novel you’ll enjoy fully.
7. Kamisu Reina Series
- Authors: Mikage, Eiji
- Genre: Drama, Supernatural, Psychological
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Dec, 2005- Jan, 2006
Reina Kamisu seems like so many different things. She’s a member of the track and field team and she also is the savior of world. There are some that will tell you Reina is horrible. Others will say she’s amazing and beautiful. Who or what is Reina really and what are her goals in this world?
Often a light novel can be pretty simple in theory. You have your villains and heroes and you know who is aligned with who. However, author Mikage Eiji made the Kamisu Reina Series one of those dark light novels that keeps you guessing. While we here at Honey’s Anime won’t spoil the dark nature in this story we will say be prepared for some of the revelations within the story. Our only complaint about the Kamisu Reina Series is that once it ends, you’ll be wanting so much more.
6. Tokyo Ghoul
- Authors: Ishida, Sui- Towada, Shin
- Genre: Action, Mystery, Drama, Horror, Supernatural, Psychological
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: Jul, 2013- Dec, 2014
Ken Kaneki just wanted to fall in love with a beautiful girl he’s been eyeing for some time. The fact that this girl loves to read and seems to enjoy the same literature as Ken seems like fate. However, Ken’s dream girl turns out to be a ghoul, the rumored beings that devour humans. Somehow Ken survived but in return his body has begun to undergo a change. Now Ken Kaneki’s life is about to change from normal college student to something that is neither ghoul nor human.
If you’re an avid fan of the Tokyo Ghoul manga, you know what to expect with the light novels. What’s really enjoyable is that the light novel focus more on side stories unseen in the novels including some of the more popular characters from the Tokyo Ghoul series. With dark themes such as what it means to be human and how far you are willing to go for self-preservation, Tokyo Ghoul will be a dark light novel series you want to add to your library. Even if you’re new to the Tokyo Ghoul series, you’ll find the dark light novels easy to get into.
5. Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume
- Authors: Suzumoto, Yuuichi- Key- Komatsu, E-ji
- Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: N/A
Based on the visual novel and anime series, Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume aims to tell stories unseen in the other mediums. Separated into several stories we get to witness the beginning of the war that would change all of humanity as well as witness the events prior. Fans of the visual novel and anime will be glad to learn more about Yumemi and some of her events taken before the war. If you were looking for more lore about the Planetarian world then you’ll want to pick up Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume. Witness events before the fall of everyday normal life.
Here at Honey’s Anime, we genuinely like Planetarian’s anime OVA series. The story was beautifully crafted and contained a lot of touching but dark themes. The same can be said of this short but very gripping dark light novel. Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume explores the best and worst moments of a world affected by a horrible war and what is described by author Suzumoto Yuuichi will leave you at times stunned. Get ready for a slew of emotions to hit you in Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume.
- Authors: Kataoka, Tomo- Ikuta, Takanon- GotoP
- Genre: Drama
- Volumes: 1
- Published Date: Jul, 2008
Based off a visual novel, Narcissu follows an unnamed twenty year old male. Shortly after celebrating his twentieth our main character is admitted to the hospital. It is here that he learns he has lung carcinoma and will die eventually. Here our protagonist meets an older girl who also is destined to die from an illness. Not wanting to die in the confines of the hospital the two souls escape and drive on a trip together to seek out a narcissus field on an island in the south.
Narcissu is an interesting tale as you already know the fate of the main characters. You know both will die soon but you don’t know when and that brings a dark tone of living life on borrowed time. However, this story despite the dark nature will grip you with the realization that life is precious. Author Kataoka Tomo really makes you feel as if you’re with these two people and riding alongside with them as they live day by day with their fates sealed. If you’re looking for a dark light novel that has a shining message of how to live life, Narcissu will be a story that you’ll want to pick up and read.
3. Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
- Authors: Nagatsuki Tappei- OOTSUKA Shinichirou
- Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Seinen
- Volumes: 12
- Published Date: 2012- Present
One day Subaru found himself in an odd situation. As he was leaving the convenience store near his place he suddenly finds himself in some odd city square. What’s odder is the people around Subaru weren’t all people but a mixture of beast-like people. Subaru has found himself transported to a fantasy world where he will soon learn that while life here may seem pleasant in some ways, a dark event will soon befall Subaru. Subaru will learn that death isn’t the worst thing fate has in store for him.
Author Nagatsuki Tappei crafted easily one of the darkest dark light novels in the form of Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu or better known as Re: Zero. At times Re: Zero is deceiving as it seems like a typical fantasy adventure story. However, when Subaru begins to meet dark threats Re: Zero begins to fall into a dark story that will hook you and never let go. Our list of Top 10 Dark Light Novels wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t have Re: Zero. Once you enter the dark world of Re: Zero you won’t be able to leave but honestly you won’t want to.
2. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni- Dai 1-wa: Onikakushi-hen
- Authors: Ryukishi07- Tomohi
- Genre: Mystery, Drama, Horror
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Aug, 2007- Sept, 2007
Maebara Keiichi has just moved with his family to the small rural village of Hinamizawa. Here Keiichi may be new but quickly befriends several different students and even joins a club with them. It seems that Hinamizawa is nothing but a beautifully quiet town just hidden away from the world. However, Keiichi will soon learn that this tranquil scenic village hides a deadly secret. Every year, someone will die and someone will disappear from Hinamizawa. To make matters worse, Keiichi feels as if maybe one of his friends is the culprit…
Higurashi is an already very popular anime, visual novel and manga series for it’s creepy horror elements and themes of mystery. Thankfully the light novel adaptation Higurashi no Naku Koro ni-Dai 1-wa: Onikakushi-hen recaptures the dark story we love and makes in a light novel form. Who can you trust, what can you trust? These questions will plague your mind—especially if you’re new to the series—as you dive further into this 2 volume story. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of the Higurashi series, you’ll definitely want to check out Higurashi no Naku Koro ni-Dai 1-wa: Onikakushi-hen. Can you guess what is really going on in the rural village of Hinamizawa?
1. Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka?
- Authors: Kareno, Akira- ue
- Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi
- Volumes: 5
- Published Date: Nov, 2014- Apr, 2016
It has now been over 500 years since humanity became extinct thanks to the Beasts. The races that survived looked up to the sky and began crafting homes away from the hellish land below. However, despite this the survivors still need to fight back against the beasts to keep their homes safe and thus they use Leprechauns—small girls who can wield magical swords—to defend their home. Enter a young man who supposedly died but was frozen for 500 years and now has reawakened in the current time. Willem Kmetsch—the now last human—will soon be tasked with taking care of these Leprechauns and learn the sad fate they all share.
We end our Top 10 Dark Light Novel list with the long title novel called Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka Isogashii desu ka Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka or shortened to SukaSuka. This dark light novel will fill you with a tragic romance story filled with sacrifice and joy in equal measure. Just as you think a happy moment awaits something throws the story off and you get a twisted event and a reality check. SukaSuka will make you cry, we here at Honey’s Anime shed a few tears with the anime and the light novel. If you’re looking for a dark fantasy story filled with romance and tragedy, than you’ll without a doubt want to pick up SukaSuka.
Have we piqued your interest? We know that dark light novels are pretty hard to resist. That element of surprise and utter shock is something we love and we know we’re not alone here at Honey’s Anime. Now then folks, if you felt we missed a title we would love to know. Comment down below letting us know some other dark light novels that we may have overlooked and be sure to come back to Honey’s Anime for more recommendation lists to help expand your light novel reading list.