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Animation is far from the ideal medium for horror fiction. The same techniques of simplification and abstraction that make it so easy for us to project onto and identify with the characters in our favorite cartoons also create a disconnect between us and them and the things that happen to said characters rarely feel as raw as a result. None of that means that disturbing or horrific scenes in animation can never reach the heights of those in live-action, it just means that they tend to have to be a bit more creative in getting there. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the most graphic, the most troubling, and the most disturbing moments from anime’s past.
10. Goblin Rape from Goblin Slayer
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2018 – December 2018
Oh yeah, this isn't your dad's fantasy show. It's got edge and mass goblin rape/murder, but most importantly, edge. In the never-ending sea of fantasy light novel adaptations, it can be pretty hard to make your own standout, which we can only assume to be what motivated Goblin Slayer to start its story by having this event happen to a bunch of characters we know nothing about. At least it achieved that goal since it would be pretty hard to find that sort of thing as early as an anime's opening, aside from hentai. Goblin Slayer's first episode sets out to shock, and even though the scene's attempts to be titillating while also keeping the most unsavory parts offscreen somewhat undermine it, we can't say it doesn't succeed.
9. The Molestation Scene from Genocyber
- Episodes: 5
- Aired: March 1994 – July 1994
Speaking of anime that mistreat children early on, the first episode of Genocyber spends much of its time focusing on a mute feral child with secret powers that can cause the apocalypse who befriends a young homeless boy. They have some admittedly sweet scenes together, bonding quickly despite the lack of verbal communication, but the teenage thugs that have been extorting the boy for money throughout the episode are a lot less endearing.
These guys don’t really contribute much to the narrative, but after Genocyber has decided we’ve had enough lighthearted antics between the kids, it shows the thugs’ boss telling his underlings about their victim’s new acquaintance. And with no further explanation, we hard cut to the teens finding the duo on a random street somehow. As for what they’re there for, we quickly find that out as two of the bullies force the boy aside so that the remaining one can rape the girl. While that’s going on, the other two yank the kid’s pants down and start forcibly feeling at his genitals.
And if you’re rightfully wondering what the point of having this double sexual assault on two children in this story is, it's just so that we won't feel bad for these rapists when a completely different superpowered child pops in and turns them into puddles of blood and viscera. The only thing more disturbing than having child rape in your story is having pointless child rape.
8. Fingernail Torture from Mezzo Forte
- Episodes: 2
- Aired: May 2000 – June 2001
Fingernail torture is uncomfortable—anyone who’s seen Kaiji can tell you that—but can it be truly disturbing? Mezzo Forte both asks and answers that question over the course of a scene where the villain’s cronies are interrogating Kenichi, one of our protagonists. Like all good heroes, he doesn’t talk just because he got caught, but the mooks have a secret weapon: a flathead screwdriver.
It’s kind of a difficult thing to explain in words, but it’s even more difficult to watch. They wedge the screwdriver under his nail, pushing down on it so as to force the nail off his finger while his screams of torment get louder and louder as the screwdriver goes farther and farther in. The sides of his nail start detaching little by little as it gradually loses its color before flying off with a frightening snap and a trail of blood. The visuals aren't what really make this scene disturbing though, that honor goes to the audio. Whether it's because of the actor's chilling vocal work or the teeth-gritting sound effects, Mezzo Forte makes sure that you won’t be able to remove this scene from your memory no matter how many hardware tools you use.
7. Fingernail Torture from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 – September 2006
Does anime just hate nails or something? We're already featuring two nail torture scenes, name-dropped a third one earlier and we’re not even at the halfway point. Anyway, this scene is lacking some of the things that gave Mezzo Forte’s similar sequence, since it can’t really be as graphic considering it needs to appeal to broadcast regulations and its sound effects aren't as gritty. What it does have, though, is setup.
This isn’t a small interrogation scene, it’s a massive punishment forced by a cult onto a cute anime girl where she has to tear three of her own fingernails out in a shack filled with bladed tools and weapons while a large crowd of friends and loved ones stand by and do nothing other than imply that they will all ostracize her if she doesn’t. The show makes it pretty clear that it has no intention of making this even remotely easy on the viewer, bathing in its oppressive atmosphere as it focuses on every slow, gruesome de-nailing, stopping between each pull for a long-drawn-out fit of tortured screaming. The moral of the story is that if you’re ever wondering what could be more painful to watch than removing a nail, try three.
6. The Magician Scene from Chika Gentou Gekiga: Shoujo Tsubaki (Midori)
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: 1992
A lot of otaku associate effective anime visuals with smooth animation and bountiful sakuga, but with the right combination of imagination, know-how, and creativity, a smart anime director can get a lot out of the medium with very little. Enter Hiroshi Harada, a decently successful animator and storyboard artist, though not one likely to be recognized by anyone and yet also one of the current industry’s most dedicated artists.
Aside from the soundtrack and voice lines, Shojou Tsubaki was made entirely by Harada himself over the course of 5 presumably-grueling years and that dedication shows best in the scene where the vertically-challenged magician Wonder Masamitsu uses his powers to lash out at an unappreciative audience. The ensuing chaos combines elements of psychedelia, body-horror and all other things awesome and trippy. Everyone in the crowd undergoes horrific otherworldly transformations into ungodly distortions of the human form. Their bodies mangle and contort in impossible ways, grow extra limbs and faces or simply explode into mounds of misshapen organs. Their faces morph into unnatural expressions occupying a middle-ground between joy and agony and Harada’s animation does justice to each horror all throughout.
5. The Eclipse from Kenpuu Denki Berserk (Berserk)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 1997 – April 1998
Casual observers and die-hard fans alike all know that Berserk does some fucked up shit to its cast and many people’s most disturbing memories undoubtedly come from this infamous scene. This part of the story doesn’t sound so bad on paper: Griffith—one of our deuteragonists for most of the plot thus far—has reached what is by far his lowest point and makes a Faustian bargain with the almighty god hand group, sacrificing the lives of his entire army to gain godly powers, but like with so many other memorable anime scenes, it stands out in its execution
The eclipse sequence continues Berserk’s penchant for taking heavy inspiration from the greats of fantasy and especially horror and it learned from the best. It mixes the cosmic dread of Bosch, the surrealism of Escher, the lonely paranoia of H.R. Giger and mixes it with smaller elements co-opted from other geniuses like Zelazny, Dick, and Herbert only to then pile a heap of graphic violence on top of it.
Like the rest of the story, it makes its direction very clear and wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but that does nothing to make it any less upsetting. The story is already disturbing at the best of times, but this is where it becomes simply… berserk.
4. Goosh, Goosh from Tokyo Tribe 2
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: November 2006 – February 2007
An anime focused on street gangs sounds promising. We’ve been treated to many great stories about yakuza, underground gambling rings and other types of organized crime, but the concept of an anime focused on young disadvantaged street thugs contains largely untapped potential that brings an ocean of possibilities to mind.
Violent, unlubricated gay butt-rape that causes the victim to scream loudly in pain before dying in a large pool of blood which originated from his own violated anus was probably not one of those possibilities for you, but obviously the same cannot be said about veteran anime director Tatsuo Satou. He and studio Madhouse must have thought this was just what their urban gangster story needed because they dedicate almost a full minute exclusively to the series of events described above with no censorship of any kind aside from just animating the actual penetration in silhouette. Hell, they didn’t even do that for the scene’s money shot… and it aired on television.
The real kicker is that this is yet another completely pointless sexual assault scene. No part of the plot is advanced by this, nothing is learned about the characters other than that the rapist is a rapist and the victim isn’t even a named character. It’s nothing but a bunch of bloody, rapey, jizz-soaked filler and it’ll make viewers long for the innocence of Deliverance.
3. The Bomb from Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen)
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: July 1983
For obvious reasons, no footage has been captured of the citizens of Hiroshima as they were hit by the Little Boy atomic bomb, meaning it’s been up to survivors like Keiji Nakazawa to tell us what it was like. He was living in Hiroshima at age 6 when the bomb was dropped and later penned Hadashi no Gen, a story about a boy who lived through the same tragic event as his creator.
The resulting anime adaptation opens on an over two-minute-long montage of the immediate atrocities at the hands of the nuke. A collage of scorched flesh and melting eyeballs where men, women, children and even pets become impaled on flying debris only to be sent careening through the air themselves. Those whose bodies are spared from being mangled beyond recognition are left alone to face crumbling buildings and rampant fires. Countless people die and none of it is painless. Needless to say, the fact that this bomb and the innumerable lives it devastated were all real only makes this all the more distressing. We may only be seeing pictures on a screen, but we all know it’s far from mere fiction. The last thing anyone should be when watching civilians being pulverized by an atom bomb is comfortable and Hadashi no Gen knows to remind us of that.
2. The Ending from Devilman Crybaby
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: January 2018
Go Nagai has always pushed the envelope with his manga, having been a pioneer of the mecha and magical girl genre and arguably the singlehanded creator of the ecchi genre. But we’re not talking about any of that today, because any search for the disturbing in his body of work will eventually have to lead to Devilman. This manga was all about violence and gore, introducing a horde of demons who commit escalatingly upsetting atrocities only to be punished in even more gruesome ways by the titular anti-hero.
No adaptation of this story has fully succeeded in doing justice to all of its many graphic acts of ultra-violence, but Masaaki Yuasa’s 2018 anime is undoubtedly the one that comes the closest. Not only is it the only one to cover all the major plot beats from start to finish, but it marries exaggerated and distorted character designs with strikingly realistic movements that make every frame deliberately unsettling while also adding its own uniquely transgressive elements, like Devilman raping one of his enemies as he’s killing her solely for the sake of being able to nut while on the job.
The ending has a lot of twists and turns that would be spoiled if we did our usual play-by-play, but through Nagai’s increasingly outlandish ideas and Yuasa’s progressively more unnerving visuals, the finale turns the existential anxiety present throughout the entire series into an existential heart attack. The misanthropic horror and obscene violence that set the stage for the suitably apocalyptic conclusion will trouble even the most jaded viewers on a physical, mental and emotional level, making this easily Nagai’s second most disturbing adaptation.
1. Everything from Violence Jack
- Episodes: 3
- Aired: June 1986 – November 1990
And if you were wondering what his first would be, look no further than this infamous OVA series. The plot holds little importance here, it’s basically Devilman meets Fist of the North Star featuring every possible transgression known to man. That last part is not only where the point of having it at the top of this list comes in, it also describes almost every action taken in this story. Any extreme act of violent depravity you can imagine can be found here and if you skip to any random point in the series’ almost two and a half hour collective runtime you’ll be almost sure to catch an eyeful of it.
To demonstrate, we set Google’s random number generator to pick 5 separate numbers between 1 and 8640 (roughly the number of seconds it takes to reach the end) to randomly select some timecodes for us to skip to. We even left you the codes so that you can watch along and be just as disturbed as we were. We ended up with: A man being torn into various pieces by a chainsaw while his girlfriend is forced to watch and later raped (5782 or Violence Jack: Hell’s Wind 6:33); a female sex slave trader showing a large room full of kidnapped women being raped to two recently captured victims before taking said victims to her own room to rape them herself (4305 or Violence Jack: Harlem Bomber 16:19); the eponymous hero standing among the haphazardly strewn corpses of the villains he just finished dismembering and disemboweling as well as the women they were raping (2673 or Violence jack: Evil Town 44:33); one of the previously mentioned recently captured victims ratting out her friend to her rapists as she tries to escape (4710 or Violence Jack: Harlem Bomber 23:04) and a group of women arriving at a meeting between a group of businessman-rapists and a group of biker-rapists to let the titular Jack know they can’t be trusted by telling of the time the businessman-rapists rendered all the women unconscious with anaesthesia to live up to their moniker (1159 or Violence Jack: Evil Town 19:19).
What’s truly shocking is not that we randomly got these atrocious acts of senseless murder and sexual violence every time, but that we were actually spared the worst ones, like the woman who gets her nipples hard by slaughtering children with a shank or the other woman who is raped to death with a long wooden pole. From start to finish, there truly is no anime with nearly as pessimistic a view of humanity as Violence Jack.
Do you think we missed any important disturbing anime scenes? Did the entries on our list shake you to your core? Whatever the case, leave a comment to let us know your thoughts and meanwhile stay posted to Honey’s Anime where we’ll have plenty more anime content to come… after we’ve taken a few cold showers.
People are crazy, just take a quick look at the news (for example the recent story from Tokyo train station) and you will get an idea of the insane things we’re capable of doing. This is probably also the reason why the arts often explore dark and grotesque themes, and anime is certainly no exception. Sometimes, however, it steps over a line, be it violence, sex, gore or horror, and such moments seem to be overrepresented in manga and anime.
Today we’re taking a look at just this – the moments where a given scene burns itself into your mind in the same way that they used to mark cattle in the old days. These are ten scenes that can’t be unseen – viewer discretion is, naturally, advised.
10. The End of Evangelion
- Episodes: 1 (Movie)
- Aired: July 1997
The first pick was a controversial movie when it came out. While some viewers branded it as a classic, others saw it as an attempt at satisfying stupid fans that couldn’t understand the cryptic finale of the TV series. The Evangelion franchise has a lot of disturbing moments for sure, not in the blood-and-guts-in-your-face sense, but due to the fact that it records the gradual mental deterioration of it’s main characters.
In one scene from The End of Evangelion, everyone’s favorite angsty teenager Shinji tries to wake up Asuka, who is in a coma, inadvertently exposing her bare breast. The camera then zooms around the room, reveling a locked door, and, as Shinji’s moaning become more and more intense, we see his hand covered in a white, sticky substance – basically leaving it up to the imagination, of the imagination of the viewer, what f***** up shit has just gone down. There is more to this scene than meets the eye, though, and it should not be interpreted as lewd fanservice.
9. Pupa - "Onii-Chan"
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2014 – March 2014
Even though it was named by many as a definitive contender for the "Worst Anime of the Year", this horror flick does manage to shock, but probably not (or maybe just exactly) in the way it intended. We have a sister and a brother that gets infected with some virus that turns them into monsters, and in order to prevent her sister from turning into a monster, big brother, Utsutsu, must let little sister, Yume, feed on his flesh. Or something like that.
We do, of course, get the privilege of observing this ritual, which couldn’t possibly be packed with more good old incest innuendo as the sister cries "Onii-chann!" and devours his flesh. The happy piano music that starts playing at one point does NOT make it any less creepy. Nor does the Teddy bear.
8. Hellsing Ultimate - "Just some nice, cosy necrophilia"
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: February 2006 – December 2012
Even for a bad-ass policewoman turned vampire, having to relive her worst childhood trauma can be a little too much to handle. This wasn’t the first, and certainly not the last shocker that Hellsing Ultimate offered us, but there is something about the sheer brutality and nastiness of this rape scene that sticks with you through the whole series.
As a kid, Seras Victoria not only had to witness her father’s brutal murder, but also her mother’s rape – after she’d been put to death. Yeah, that’s pretty much the dictionary definition of necrophilia, if you wondered.
7. Another - "Teacher’s Suicide"
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2012 – March 2012
Just one of those normal high school days we all surely had: Teacher comes in, looks up at the tired half-asleep students, then proceeds to pull out a knife and stick it into his own throat, blood splattering all over the shocked students. I personally really hated those days. (Well actually I’m lying, I didn’t go to a haunted high school like the one in Another)
6. Akira - "Tetsuo’s Transformation"
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: June 1988
Akira is the greatest anime movie of all time, there’s no doubt about it – it is one of those rare masterpieces where stunning visuals are combined with great plot and characters. Central to the story is the relationship between the leader of a delinquent motorcycle gang, Kaneda, and his friend Tetsuo, who suffers from a serious case of inferiority-complex.
You’ve probably seen this so no reason to go into details, but the last standoff between the two former friends is one of the most iconic scenes in all of anime: Tetsuo’s body starts to transform as he descends into madness – the visuals match the emotional buildup perfectly. The result is a scene that is disturbing both in the physical, visual sense, but also psychologically.
5. Kyoushoku Soukou Guyver (Guyver: Out of Control) - "First Instance of Tentacle Rape"
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: December 1986
This scene isn’t all that unsettling, you might object. But, the point I want to make here is that the disturbing thing is not so much the scene itself, but the fact that it managed to spawn a whole industry centered around girls getting raped by various octopus-esque monsters – by now it’s become such a parody that people seem to forget how insane this actually is.
4. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry) - "Rika’s Suicide"
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 – September 2006
In this, "A quiet little town where everything is not as might appear" story, we get served some stomach-turning torture scenes. The one where Shion Sonozaki drives Rika into suicide is certainly the worst – that laughter and the facial expression is seriously one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever heard or seen in an anime.
3. Tokyo Tribe 2 - "Goosh Goosh"
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: November 2006 – February 2007
"Goosh Goosh." Sounds innocent right? Like the sound of a cute baby playing around, before it has learned how to speak? Well, guess what, it’s not – it’s probably one of the most painful scenes you’ll ever see in an anime. The worst (or best) thing about this one is the audio: it doesn’t really show you that much, but the disgusting sound effects will give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on. You’ll find "Goosh Goosh" in the link below, so go and check it out yourself. I dare you.
2. Elfen Lied - "Poor little doggy"
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2004 – October 2004
In a series’ where the protagonist is basically a disturbed, deranged psychopath, it is very interesting that the people you’ll end up feeling the most resentment towards are a gang of elementary school students.
I am personally a cat person, but seeing those kids beat that dog to death broke my heart – this is also an example of a scene where you’re disgusted not only by the brutal visuals, but also by the sheer wickedness of those evil, evil kids. What’s almost more disturbing than the scene itself, is the fact that you’ll find yourself thinking "they deserved it," as Lucy’s invisible arms rip through them in a unprecedented bloodbath of a scene.
1. Boku no Pico - "Any given scene"
- Episodes: 1 (Boku no Pico)
- Aired: September 2006 (Boco no Pico)
I have to be honest with you, I haven’t really watched this movie, except for some clips here and there. I do, however, believe I have enough empirical evidence to say that Boku no Pico represents some of the most disturbing anime you’ll find out there (at least on the mainstream, legal market).
Firstly, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that it features gay themes, just to get that cleared out. We could’ve just as easily chosen Kodomo no Jikan, which is a "straight" series in terms of sexual orientation, but as Boku no Pico is more graphic, it feels like a better pick for my number one.
Of course, art can handle controversial or even disgusting themes, but still be worth watching. Just think of the source material for series like Kodomo no Jikan – the great author Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita is often named one of the greatest novels of all time. The problem here, however, is that these two anime series represents everything that’s wrong with Japan’s anime industry: it’s often explicitly sexual fixation on underage persons, cynically exploited and disguised as innocent cartoon.
Whether you call it moe, lolicon or whatever, it will, for most normal people, just be an euphemism for – yes, I know, if you’re a fan you would never want to admit this – pedophilia. And that’s probably as disturbing as it gets, at least for this author.
There should be something in here for everyone: let’s see, we have incest, necrophilia, tentacles, gore and pedophilia. Enjoy your sandwich, and, if you’re not too mentally scarred to stay away from anime forever, please stay tuned for more articles!