Welcome, foolish mortals, to a list so extensively scary you won’t be able to sleep tonight. We’re sure some of you fancy yourselves horror aficionados, but don’t watch these shows unprepared. For those of you that are merely curious or get scared easily, our list is ranked from least scary (but still scary) to scariest (WHO MADE THESE??), so you can work your way up!
Horror has a way of both repelling and ensnaring its viewers. We want to escape the upsetting imagery before us yet we’re afraid to look away, lest our imaginations take over and we can know no peace. There’s a physical rush one gets when viewing scary things, and the danger stemming from a 2D plane allows us to indulge in these powerful emotions while being assured at least a partial release from the terror after the movie/show is over. One more note before we get right to it! This article is HAUNTED and once you’ve started reading you can’t stop or every monster, villain, and ghost from this list will come out and get you. Enjoy!
10. Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl)
- Episodes: 26
- Air Date: Oct. 2005 – April 2006
When the clock strikes 12 am, there is a website called Hell Correspondence that becomes available to those with conviction to damn someone to hell. Whether your grudge stems from fear, anger, or jealousy, your desire to punish someone for all eternity will be answered if you only provide the desired victim’s name and use your own soul as payment. To send someone to hell immediately, regardless of their own crimes, is enough to mark your soul for the underworld. Enma Ai is the exactor of your will and will take away the person robbing you of happiness. Just enjoy the time you have left on Earth without them, for Ai will be back for you when it’s your time.
Jigoku Shoujo lets you know from the very title some supernatural stuff is going down. Enma Ai is a classic long, dark-haired pale Japanese ghost, and the sight of her already calls some creepy imagery to mind. Jigoku Shoujo deals with some VERY dark and sad topics, and some merciless and depraved individuals. Everyone’s descent to hell is different, but will involve some sort of mirroring of their crimes as punishment. While some of the episodes are very violent or shocking, it sits at number 10 on our list simply because it feels so good seeing these awful people being sent to hell for their heinous actions.
9. Kakurenbo (Kakurenbo: Hide and Seek)
- Movie: 1
- Air Date: Sept. 2004
There is a city devoid of people, inhabited only by demons. Sometimes, children enter to play a most dangerous game of hide and seek. No one knows what happens if you win, but if you lose, you are never seen again. Though the reasons of others are unclear, one boy will risk this deadly game to find out the truth of what happened to his sister who disappeared behind the city’s gates one night, never to return. As the lights flicker mysteriously, Hikora and his loyal friend will brave the demons who snatch children up in the night in their search for answers.
Kakurenbo, for how long it keeps you confused and in the dark, is very atmospheric and does a good job of keeping you on the edge of your seat. The demons have a strange yet scary appearance and when you add that to their tremendous power and desire to hunt, you find yourself very worried for the children they’re after. Seeing the huge size and destructive power of the demons reinforces how small and helpless the children are. Kakurenbo is only 25 minutes long but it’s good if you want to watch something short but sufficiently scary!
- Episodes: 22
- Air Date: July 2010 – Dec. 2010
Sotoba is a quiet, rural town where nothing happens. That is until an unknown disease appears to sweep through, leaving some villagers pale and lethargic until they eventually die. Some of the teenagers in the town try to step up and warn the citizens that something much more sinister than an epidemic is afoot, and the town doctor tries alone to discover the true connection between the recent deaths and the arrival of a mysterious family that just preceded the tragedy.
Shiki is similar to Jigoku Shoujo in how it examines humanity and makes us question what we consider to be right and wrong. It’s a rather sad story, but that doesn’t mean the creators didn’t work hard to keep you terrified. While some stories have a clear message of ‘the REAL monsters are humans!’ Shiki’s narrative dictates that what is considered bad can be placed on a spectrum of self-interest and loyalty to a group rather than simply good versus evil. The Shiki tend to look only a little creepy most of the time, but with startling appearances, and faces twisted in longing for blood in a town where no one is safe, you definitely feel the fear.
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Jan. 2012 – March 2012
In class 3-3 there is a legend. In order to appease the spirit of a former student who died many years ago and avoid disaster, the class must choose one student to pretend doesn’t exist. Everyone knows ignoring that rule will lead to tragedy. When Kouichi transfers into this class, he dismisses the warnings as superstition and engages with the chosen victim, Mei, anyway. He will soon learn, though, that his actions have consequences and as more ‘accidents’ occur, he and Mei will either have to face the power of the curse or the panic of the students they’re putting in danger.
Another is a great choice if you want to be scared because you never know where the danger is going to come from. Is the curse even real? What makes people so sure something bad will happen? Mei is incredibly creepy and quiet but easy to feel sorry for when she becomes the scapegoat for the class. There are many times when things see calm and all of a sudden everything is thrust into chaos when danger rears its ugly head. You can’t trust anyone’s perception, not even your own, which earns this anime a place on our list.
6. Supernatural the Animation
- Episodes: 22
- Air Date: Feb. 2011 – April 2011
Brothers Sam and Dean have come together to carry on the family business while looking for their missing father. This wouldn’t be so terrible if the family business wasn’t hunting, and it’s not wild game they’re after. Sam and Dean follow leads of possible supernatural activity, and using their extensive knowledge find a way to destroy the threat. Monsters don’t take too kindly to their kind being targeted, so the brothers are in constant danger. While trying to save the lives of innocent people, Sam must also come to terms with a mystery from his past no one saw coming, and an omen for something far bigger than he or his family anticipated.
Supernatural is a very scary but fun show. Following the brothers along their trip around the United States and hearing their banter helps distract you between moments of mortal danger. The monsters range from your standard vampires and ghosts to lesser known monsters and even demons, which means there’s something new to fear every episode and you can’t get bored. Some of the creatures are straight up terrifying and there are a lot of times they come seemingly out of nowhere. The comedic appeal makes it a tad less scary, but if you’re looking to be surprised, this is an anime to check out.
5. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry)
- Episodes: 26
- Air Date: April 2006 – Sept. 2006
Maebara Keiichi quickly adjusts to his simple life after moving to the town of Hinamizawa and makes friends easily with four cute girls. Life seems peaceful and fun and he’s able to enjoy every day. Once the town’s annual festival starts to roll around, Keiichi finds his friends and others in the town acting weird at times. Strange disappearances and mysterious circumstances surround the festival and Keiichi doesn’t know how to find the answers. Every time the truth seems within reach, it’s as if nothing ever happened.
Higurashi is a very eerie show that gives you very little information on exactly what you should be scared of. It is almost infuriatingly vague and the horror seems to stem from multiple sources. It ranges from ominous signs that lead to nothing to full on maniacal slaughtering. Yet you won’t always see it coming. What you think is sacred and untouchable is often mutilated in front of you. Many times it appears the danger is passed and the problem solved, only for something horrific to happen a little later. Perhaps the worst is that the cast is so likable, you’re just hoping against hope the characters you love don’t come to harm.
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: Oct. 2015 – Dec. 2015
Banba Sousuke is a researcher who begins looking into accounts of horrible monsters that are attacking people all over. They’re found everywhere from the ocean to sewers to school grounds, it seems impossible to avoid them. Banba believes he can uncover the secret of the cryptids and get rid of them for good, but they seem to constantly be evolving. A scientist takes particular interest in Banba’s findings, but his motives are unknown. Unfortunately for Banba, the closer he gets to the truth, the more danger he puts himself in.
Kagewani is a short series with only approximately 4 minute long episodes. For such a short time, the show does a good job of introducing characters that may only be there to die and making you feel for them. It’s impossible to know how the episodes will end, and many people end up being the victims of the Kagewani. With new twists every episode and an overarching feeling of helplessness, Kagewani makes it to number 4 on our list with its constant scares.
3. Corpse Party: Tortured Souls - Bougyakusareta Tamashii no Jukyou (Corpse Party: Tortured Souls)
- Episodes: 4
- Air Date: July 2013
Have you heard of Sachiko Ever After? If you take a paper doll and you and your friends each rip a piece off and repeat ‘Sachiko, we beg of you’ once per person, you’ll all be friends forever!...
So it was said on a paranormal blog. However, when school friends and their caring teacher try the ritual together in honor of one student’s last day, they set in motion their own final days. In another twisted dimension where no soul knows peace, people are brought to this place and viciously murdered by the ghosts of the former Heavenly Host Elementary, or even other people who have gone mad in their pain and fear. Separated from each other and constantly attacked by vengeful spirits, these friends will search for a way out or die trying.
Originally a very successful horror game, Corpse Party is a terrifying and gruesome anime. There are so many factors that make it terrifying for the viewer, such as violent ghosts that can’t be fought, characters seemingly normal or friendly turning on each other, and body mutilation. The level of violence is staggering and disgusting and if you are easily made sick by such things, definitely look out for that. The spirits are often terrifying and many times things come out very suddenly. Playing on your fears of being trapped, helpless, and alone, Corpse Party makes it high up on our list.
2. Yami Shibai (Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories)
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: July 2013 – Sept. 2013
At dusk, the yellow-masked storyteller will gather children around his kamishibai (paper-scrolling device) to recount tales of horror. Instead of weaving long tales explaining how things came to be, he recounts one terrifying legend taking place over the course of a day or week. Things we can’t explain are all around us, and there are many, many reasons to be afraid.
Yami Shibai doesn’t contain any real explanation for how the spirits or monsters come to be, instead choosing the format of ‘one day this person came across a horrifying thing, maybe they died or maybe they got away’. What it lacks in fleshed-out backgrounds it makes up for in atmosphere. The music, dark tones, and pacing of the story create a tense environment for the viewer. Many of the creatures are hiding just out of sight or barely visible in the background, getting steadily closer to their helpless victims. Yami Shibai features hauntings, possessions, man-eating monsters and more!
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: Oct. 2015 – Dec. 2015
In a world where everyone is tied to technology, we’ve become dependent on our screens. Either for work or social purposes, our technology connects us to others. However, sometimes what we end up connected to things better left alone. Vengeful, violent spirits are just on the other side of your screen, waiting until you're pulled in and vulnerable like moths to the flame.
Kowabon is extremely scary and well-done to the point where you can see the ghosts slowly approaching their victims but you can't help the feeling of dread washing over you even without jump-scares. The creepy static, chilling music and scary imagery all lend to the terrifying atmosphere. Kowabon makes it to the very top of our list because you can’t rationalize being safe. Avoid rituals involving ghosts, stay away from quiet villages, but you can never escape the endless stream of screens, all potential portals to death.
Anime usually gives us both big and flat chested girls, laughs and drama, but there are times when it can be bone-chilling. With the freedom of differing art styles, slight nuances can be used to further push the viewer into the terrifying world of the show. One theme that seems to prevail is a sense of helplessness. Anywhere you try to go, something will be there waiting for you. Good job making it through this list and avoiding that, though! At the end of this sentence, the curse will be lifted and you can go on to live a normal, safe life… probably.