The great thing about Japanese anime is that it isn’t afraid to explore mature themes. While animated programs from the US such as South Park and Family Guy tend to push the envelope in context to political correctness for the sake of humor, Japanese animation goes all over the place in every definition you can think of. Anime can have war, romance, sports, and hentai. For today’s topic, we’ll be covering anime that portray serial killers, mostly through psychological thriller and yandere titles. So who are some of the sickest serial killers in anime that make Norman Bates look like Barney? Read our list to find out!
10. Light Yagami from Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Air Dates: October 4, 2006 – June 27, 2007
While Light initially uses the Death Note to rid the world of criminals, he crossed a line he can never come back from when he was willing to kill those who opposed him morally. This initially started when Raye Penber, an FBI agent, correctly suspects him of being Kira. Light uses him to get the names of other FBI agents on the case and kills him and the rest of the unit that are investigating him showing that his killing through the Death Note isn’t exclusive to criminals, but to law enforcement. Shortly after, he kills Naomi, Raye’s fiancée in a rather disturbing manner (thanks to the Death Note), and his cold attitude towards the timing and admitting to being Kira demonstrated the beginning of his megalomaniac mentality, which has made him a true killer.
Though he doesn’t directly kill L, his rival, Light can be very manipulative in his means of pursuing his goals by allowing others to use the Death Note in his place, and even went as far as getting Rem, a Shinigami, to kill L. When it came to Misa and Mikami, they sacrificed their own life spans so they could also get Shinigami eyes so they could see the names and natural life spans of an individual in order to show loyalty to Light and his radical crusade.
9. Yakumo Oomori from Tokyo Ghoul
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 4, 2014 – September 29, 2014
Yakumo Oomori is known by two other names, Yamori and Jason of the 13th Ward. After being tortured during his arrest by a sadistic interrogator, he ends up adapting his habits. As an S-ranked ghoul, Yakumo is pretty much a powerful as his American horror counterpart, Jason Vorhees, and even dons something similar to his iconic hockey mask. What makes him a frightening killer isn’t just his powers or that he can kill someone with a machete, he’s the type that gives a slow and painful death to innocents simply because he wants to. What makes him most twisted is his mentality of this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you when he carries his out dastardly deeds. So if you find yourself in the 13th Ward, try to avoid crossing his path.
8. Gaku Yashiro from Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 8, 2016 – March 25, 2016
What if your 5th grade teacher was a serial killer? Then be thankful it wasn’t Yashiro-sensei from Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi. In his youth, he was a popular teacher who was willing to support his students, but deep down inside, he was a sadistic killer who almost killed our main character, Satoru. Gaku’s childhood habits of drowning his hamsters shows classic symptoms of what he would eventually become. Gaku was killing as far back as he could remember by luring girls into his home where his older brother would assault them, but one day he accidentally killed one of them. After that, Gaku killed his brother and made it look like a suicide. As he grew older, he used his position to kidnap and murder children out of his own twisted desires. However, he plans all of his kills in the very textbook law definition of the first degree. If in the event they’re found, he does what he can to make the victims look like they committed suicide.
7. Shogo Makishima from Psycho-Pass
- Episodes: 22
- Air Dates: October 12, 2012 – March 22, 2013
Psycho-Pass is pretty much the Minority Report of anime. The future Japanese police force has a system that can predict crimes from happening through people’s emotions such as malice, and they can act upon them. While we can agree that such a system can never constitutionally never happen in the US, Shogo Makishima, the main villain, wants to do away with it. Due to how his casual attitude towards killing doesn’t trigger the system, he can avoid detection. Not only does he kill without mercy like a member of Cobra Kai, he feels what he’s doing is a pure mission to cleanse the world, which is what makes him a terrifying killer. He is very knowledgeable on literature, philosophy, martial arts (especially with blades), for a crazy combination of brawn, brawn, and culture, which makes him a different class of killer. Like some people on this list, while he doesn’t exactly commit some murders first hand, he has a great sense of charisma and can be persuasive and manipulative with his followers.
6. Stain from Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
- Episodes: 61+
- Air Dates: April 3, 2016 - Ongoing
While a majority of his kills were off screen, Stain is probably one of the deadliest villains in the world of My Hero Academia. While he is a villain, his motivations are different compared to the other main villains such as Tomura Shigaraki, who just wants to ruin All Might. Stain is disgusted with the present world of heroes who do their work for profit. While he does kill a lot of heroes, compared to villains and most people on this list, he does have his morals. He won’t kill innocent people and shows respect to Izuku for demonstrating himself as what he thinks a true hero is. While he isn’t on 100% the side of the villains, he is willing to work with villains for his own benefit.
5. Hazuki Shino from Chaos;Head
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: October 9, 2008 – December 25, 2008
Taking place in Tokyo’s trendy district of Shibuya, numerous murders are taking place and they are referred to as the New Generation Madness. And it turns out that one of the people behind these gruesome murders is Hazuki Shino, an unassuming nurse. What makes her very twisted is the method of some of her kills. Her most notorious kill is towards a doctor that would make Hannibal Lecter proud. What she also does is so gruesome and disturbing, we want to refrain from what she did when she got pregnant. So if you want to know, watch the series or play the original game to find out.
4. Satou Matsuzaka from Happy Sugar Life
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 14, 2018 - ongoing
I’m pretty sure we’re aware of the famous lyrics “I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that” by Meatloaf. Whatever “that” is, it seems that Satou Matsuzaka is willing to go to certain extremes to prove her love for Shio, her roommate. While Satou seems like an innocent and cute school girl, her dependent feelings for Shio drives her to become homicidal. Even prior to meeting Shio, she already demonstrated mental instability by being sexually hyperactive with men. And due to her dependency on Shio, her condition goes to new extremes. As for why she has a twisted view of love, that’s mostly due to her aunt’s bad influence. So if anyone violates her perverted view of love, she’ll cut them a new one and leave them to rot. To put her in a nutshell, expect a yandere version of Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction.
3. Yuno Gasai from Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
- Episodes: 26
- Air Dates: October 9, 2011 – April 15, 2012
Imagine yourself as a vulnerable 14-year-old schoolboy and starting to notice girls. The good news is, there’s a girl that likes you, and she’s cute and is an academic overachiever. The bad news, she’s willing to kill for you without prejudice, and that girl happens to be Yuno Gasai, the ultimate yandere. So who were her first victims? Her own abusive parents. She locked them in a cage and had them starve to death, and now keeps their corpses just like Norman Bates from Psycho.
While her motivations are relatively pure compared to some characters on this list, her intentions have blinded her. While she doesn’t kill Yuki’s mother, she actually went as far to threaten her if she did anything to him. During the battle for the Mirai Nikki, the kid gloves come off and she’ll do anything to win even if it means killing through either self-defense or premeditation.
2. Kira Yoshikage from JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
- Episodes: 113+
- Air Dates: October 2, 2012 - Ongoing
While Dio and the Pillar Men, the two proceeding villains were hell bent on world domination and eliminated everyone who dared opposed them, Kira was pretty much the opposite. He simply wants his own idea of a quiet life but admits he just has an urge to kill. He has his own home and works a 9-5 job. The fact that he could be anyone is what makes him more frightening. Even before he was given a stand, Kira was already killing innocent young ladies to satisfy his insane fetish for hands. While he is crazy, he is clever and does everything possible to come across as unassuming and tries to stick to his usual routine. This also extends when he disguises himself as another man by going as far as trying to mimic his own handwriting!
Back to his fetish for hands, it stems from his admiration of the hands for the Mona Lisa. Every time Kira murders a woman, he uses their severed hands as a “companion,” and he converses and has meals with them. When they finally decompose, he kills again and takes their hand. While he does try to stay relatively calm and in the shadows, when he’s pushed to his edge, Kira is willing to do everything necessary to win. To put Kira in a nutshell, like our other Kira, what makes him twisted is that believe that whatever it is that he’s doing, he believes it’s the right thing!
1. Johan Liebert from Monster
- Episodes: 74
- Air Dates: April 7, 2004 – September 28, 2005
Imagine yourself as a highly respected brain surgeon and you’re stuck with two patients who need immediate surgery and you can only save one. Your choices are the mayor who is suffering from a hemorrhage, and the other is a little boy with a bullet in his head. Everyone is pressuring you to operate on the mayor but instead, you choose to save the boy as the mayor dies. Forget about losing your career and your fiancee, what if 10 years from now, that boy becomes a sociopathic killer? Unfortunately, that’s what happens here in Monster with Johan.
Johan kills simply because (to quote Alfred from The Dark Knight) he wants to see the world burn. While he doesn’t directly kill some of his victims, he is shown to be very manipulative and can get others to do his dirty work, or drive his victims crazy enough to kill themselves! If you meet him under normal conditions, you’d think he’s a really nice guy. However, he’s a cold and calculating killer. Whatever he does first hand, he dots his i’s and crosses his t’s. As the series explores his background, it makes a very strong case for a nature vs. nurture debate as to why he is the way he is, and it may apply to other real life serial killers as well. Was Johan always meant to be a killer due to how he grew up? Or did he always have the free will to stop himself? Can we really exempt him due to his tragic childhood? If he has to face justice for his crimes, how does the system handle him?
Just like in famous thrillers such as Silence of the Lambs, anime is full of series that can feature such characters. While some of them can be monsters in the literal sense of the word, monsters who prey on innocent exist throughout history and in real life. We’ve had Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, the Zodiac Killer and so on. Some of them have twisted motivations, while there are others who just do it for the thrill of it. In a crazy way, a good number of anime series have captured some of these qualities with their killers. Some were abused by their parents and/or the system, and there are those that do it because they feel they are on a righteous mission. Either way, killing people is always wrong and while some of the anime here does a great job of addressing the issues of accountability, in the end, can we really tell who is and isn’t a killer?