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Disaster. Despair. Feeling hopeless and powerless to change the outcome. These are many of the most important aspects in a good survival anime. In making the viewer really feel the fear that characters experience, the two are connected. However, the most important part of any survival anime is not one of these listed above. In fact, it is in showing how the characters are able to adapt and continue in the face of all impossible odds.
Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of this type of anime.
10. Devil Survivor 2 The Animation
- Episodes: 13
- Air Date: Apr. 2013 – June 2013
Yes, Devil Survivor 2 The Animation is based off of a video game, but that doesn’t change its compelling story and execution. When a group called the Septentriones begins to invade Japan, some heroes decide to step up and defend their country. They sign a deal with the devil, turning them into the Thirteen Devil Messengers. The group sets out to drive back the Septentriones, who appear once a day. However, there is a catch – the Septentriones must be defeated before seven days are up.
This anime is a classic example of the type of fight-to-survive anime that usually make up this list. However, it is placed on the lower end because it includes many cliché plot points. And being a videogame adaptation, it has very little depth beyond what is included in the game. Yet, this does not diminish this adaptation too much – the fight sequences are still exciting, and the basic theme of the video game continues on strongly throughout the animation. It is a shorter anime, and a good introduction to what you can expect from the video game. The despair of being caught in a hopeless fight still comes across well, and the survival aspect is particularly enticing when you pair it with the original gameplay aspect.
- Episodes: 22
- Air Date: Jul. 2010 – Dec. 2010
Shiki, an adaptation of a horror novel, is the story of how two young men must try to solve the mystery behind a sudden epidemic turning the small town of Sotoba into a nest of vampires. After the abrupt demise of young Megumi Shimizu, antisocial Natsuno Yuuki must overcome his own pain in order to help in the greater danger occurring in Sotoba. Meanwhile, Toshio Ozaki, a young doctor, starts to doubt the disease that killed Megumi is as simple as it seems. While this anime may seem like a simple story of vampires vs. humanity, the lines begin to blur between good and evil – what is the meaning of a monster?
Shiki is one of the better survival anime out there. It shows a deeper side to the genre, giving the viewer more questions to ponder than just, “Will the characters make it out alive?” And while it does have some of the qualities needed for survival anime, its air of mystery and psychological thinking outweighs some of the hopeless feelings one might get from a different anime in the genre. But if you are a fan of vampires or mystery, Shiki is a must-watch!
8. Owari no Seraph (Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Apr. 2015 – June 2015
While Owari no Seraph is a relatively new anime, it still packs quite an emotional punch! When an unknown virus suddenly starts killing off everyone above the age of 13, vampires seize their chance to enslave humanity. Yuuchirou and Mikaela Hyakuya are among the survivors taken to the vampires’ encampment, along with the other children from their orphanage. When the makeshift family tries to escape, Yuuchirou alone makes it out alive. Hell-bent on avenging his loss, Yuuchirou joins in humanity’s fight and enrolls in the Japanese Imperial Demon Army. Yuuchirou starts to make friends and earns his own demon weapon, but everything is not as it seems. What will Yuuchirou and his friends discover as they defend their freedom?
The second anime about vampires on our list, Owari no Seraph is more than just an epic shounen. Each episode takes you deeper into the mystery of the virus’ spread until you find yourself asking who the real monsters are (similar to Shiki). The difference in Owari no Seraph is the powerless emotions the characters experience. Not only do Yuuchirou and his friends have to deal with an unusual virus, but they must also struggle against the vampires, the demons contained in their weapons, and the angelic race out to destroy humanity. With so much the group has to face off against, it’s a wonder they are able to survive at all!
7. Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku (Magical Girl Raising Project)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Oct. 2016 – Dec. 2016
A twisted magical girl anime, Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku tells the story of Koyuki Himekawa, a girl who plays a social role-playing game called the Magical Girl Raising Project. When Koyuki is selected by the admins to become a real-life magical girl, she is thrilled to transform into her in-game character, Snow White. The admins eventually decide to cut down on the number of magical girls they’ve selected, and the girls are told that those with the least amount of rewards will lose their powers. But when something mysterious happens to the first loser, Koyuki and her friends begin to discover that this game they’re playing is more serious and deadly than they’d ever imagined. Is being a magical girl even worth it?
The Magical Girl Raising Project quickly transforms into a sort of death game for the participants. Sure, this anime has all the makings of a good magical girl anime – but it also includes much of the despair and helplessness in a good survival anime as well! One flaw of this anime is that it contains a lot of characters, and not a lot of episodes. The impact of each character’s loss is diminished because there are so many at first. However, the later episodes really start to pick up as fewer girls are available to play this “death game.”
6. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru (Yuki Yuna is a Hero)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Oct. 2014 – Dec. 2014
We know what you’re thinking – another magical girl anime makes the list for top survival anime? Just hear us out on this one. Yuuna Yuuki wants badly to be a hero, so much so that she spends each day after school helping other people out! She and her best friend Mimori Tougou, along with Fuu and Itsuki Inubozaki, make up the Hero Club. One day, the club members discover that an app on their phones is calling them to actually become heroes and defend their world from monstrosities known as Vertexes. To battle the Vertexes, they must become magical girls! But will the Hero Club be able to keep fighting when they discover the truth behind their powers?
This anime grows on you over time. From the beginning, it seems like a simple series focused on some magical girls who also have school activities, but it quickly gets much darker than that. Yuuna and her friends must struggle through their battles with the Vertexes as they slowly lose pieces of themselves, and this adds a level of despair to their situation. As you watch, the girls lose all hope – they feel they cannot change their situation in any way, and that they truly have no choice but to continue. Viewers grow to care about each character in turn, wanting them to survive through the horror they must go through. Basically, we can’t say much more without giving away the whole series – just go watch it for yourself!
5. Gakkougurashi! (School-Live!)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Jul. 2015 – Sep. 2015
This anime follows a group of girls who are all part of the same club at Megurigaoka Private School, called the School Living Club. Carefree Yuki Takeya is the most enthusiastic of the club members, who include club president Yuuri Wakasa, athlete Kurumi Ebisuzawa, the serious Miki Naoki, supervisor Megumi Sakura and the club dog Taroumaru. The club spends their days in the school doing anything to ignore the reality of the world around them. The truth? The members of the School Living Club have barricaded themselves inside the school to protect themselves from the outside world. The other girls struggle to not only survive the danger, but also to keep up false appearances for Yuki, who is living in her own carefree world.
Gakkougurashi! is one of the most surprising anime, where almost every episode shows its audience a surface level plot, all while disguising the real situation underneath. While the characters continue to hide the truth from Yuki, they also hide the truth from the viewer. Survival for these girls means the ability to continue their pretense – protecting themselves both physically and mentally. They are feeling so powerless in their situation that they must pretend to be a part of something else to get by. The drama of their situation is thrilling, and the characters really come to grow on you by the end of the series.
4. Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Apr. 2016 – Jul. 2016
The undead are rising, in horrific forms known as Kabane. Zombie-like in nature, the only way to destroy these Kabane is to strike them through their steel-covered hearts. A servicer for the trains which connect human civilizations, Ikoma is eager to fight these monsters, as he has been perfecting a weapon to better end the Kabane for years. However, his chance will come sooner than he expects, when the safe fortress that is his home falls under attack!
While the series takes a similar approach to many other zombie-apocalypse tropes, it has its own flair in the steampunk elements strewn throughout. On the other hand, the more cliché elements still have a strong effect on its despairing feeling. The Kabane are familiar as horrific monsters in many of their qualities, and their steel-caged hearts represent an added challenge for humanity to overcome. If there is any way that Ikoma and his comrades can win the war against the Kabane, it is impossible to see, as more and more problems continue to plague their travels.
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Jan. 2012 – Mar. 2012
Class 3-3 at Yomiyama North Middle School has been shrouded in mystery since 1972, when a popular student named Misaki died during the school term. Flash forward 26 years later – transfer student Kouichi Sakakibara joins class 3-3 and is concerned by the dreary atmosphere hovering over his classmates. But no one will tell him anything! To make matters worse, there seems to be a girl in the class that only he acknowledges. Mei Misaki wears an eyepatch and doesn’t say much, but Kouichi is determined to learn the truth about her, and about the unfortunate curse on class 3-3.
Another is a perfect example of the typical horror anime, and is very well done, keeping the audience in suspense throughout the episodes. Kouichi’s determination in discovering the truth is the same response viewers have as they watch the series. Not only that, but Another is also a great survival anime. No one is safe from the curse on class 3-3! It’s almost best not to get attached to characters, as many of them will not make it through the school year. And as the students are fighting off a supernatural curse, it heightens the feeling of danger and helplessness – an intangible curse is not easy to fight.
2. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Air Date: Apr. 2013 – Sep. 2013
Shingeki no Kyojin is all about survival, as mankind is forced to live behind walls to avoid facing the giant Titans, large humanoids whose whole purpose seems to be eating people. But when a Colossal Titan breaks a hole in the wall, chaos ensues! Young Eren Yeager is forced to flee as he watches his mother being eaten by a Titan. From that moment on, Eren vows to kill every last Titan. Together with his friends Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert, Eren joins the military and enlists in the Survey Corps, where he can put his anger to good use on the front lines against the Titans.
As this series progresses, the desperation of the characters becomes more and more apparent. Eren and his squad-mates appear to be optimistic about their chances when they first join the Survey Corps, but as they lose more people and discover unnerving things about themselves and the world around them, they start to lose hope. Although this anime was already included in the previous list for top survival anime, we felt it should be included again. Shingeki no Kyojin is really one of the best anime out there, particularly in the survival genre. And with the recent release of the second season, people all around the world are being reminded of how interesting this show really is!
1. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
- Episodes: 11
- Air Date: Jul. 2009 – Sep. 2009
Mirai Onozawa, a middle school student who is unhappy with her life, brings her younger brother Yuuki to Odaiba during summer vacation. Yuuki is fascinated with robots and wants to go visit the robot exhibit there, so Mirai reluctantly takes him. But when a massive earthquake rocks the city, the two kids are trapped in Odaiba, uncertain about how or when they will be able to get home. Luckily, they meet Mari Kusakabe, a kind woman who decides to help Mirai and Yuuki. Together, they will try to find a way home as the disaster continues to paralyze the vast city.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is not your typical survival anime. The characters don’t have to fight any monstrous beings or compete against one another to survive a challenge. This series has much more reality to it, and that makes it frightening. Mirai and Yuuki are both quite young, and they struggle to make it back home through the devastated Tokyo landscape. The story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once – a masterfully done anime. That is why we ranked Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 at the number one spot on our list! It connects deeply with its audience, because they recognize that this survival situation is one that could be very real, and very scary, at any time.
Of course, there are many anime in the survival genre. These included on our list are only a few – but we believe these few to be among the best. Their ability to make us feel the characters’ despair, anguish and loss of hope is what makes them able to connect with us. And perhaps it even teaches us something about how we can survive our own problems!
What did you think of our list? Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments section below!
Japan already proved with movie legend Battle Royale its capability of creating memorable survival stories. Anime of this genre depict scenarios in which characters strive to survive. It doesn't matter whether it's other characters, monsters or the environment itself - something is out to kill our heroes.
Let's all appreciate our relatively safe lives for a second while we go through this list of Top 10 Survival Anime.
10. Log Horizon
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2013 - March 2014
Let us start slowly, with a show that’s not as disturbing or bloody as some of the following recommendations of this list. Log Horizon is targeted towards all those people that wish they could live inside their favorite video games. Hero Shiroe and his friends are transferred into the world of Elder Tale, a highly popular online multiplayer game. Now they have to face new challenges as they try to find their spot in the new world they were thrown into.
Log Horizon is a show that delivers what it promises, not more and not less than that. It’s fun to watch and easy to enjoy in the evening when you want to unwind. The story itself does have action scenes but its focus lies more on the dialogues and interaction between the different characters. Log Horizon is certainly worth a try.
9. Sword Art Online
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: July 2012 – December 2012
If you liked the idea of Log Horizon, chances are you will also enjoy Sword Art Online. It’s set in the near future where people are able to control personal avatars in an online universe with their brain waves. But our hero Kirigaya Kazuto, as well as other players, soon realize that they are unable to log off. Their only chance is to fight for their survival.
Some of you might think that the story is basically the same as Log Horizon, and I cannot deny that the plots resemble each other. Still, they both have their special charm and can be enjoyed for individual reasons. Sword Art Online has good character design and a great soundtrack, and personally, I really enjoyed the action scenes.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2013 - September 2013
Danganronpa is the first show of this list set in a high school. But it isn’t a normal high school. In order to graduate the students have to kill one of their classmates. If the killer gets away with it he’s promised a life of success and the other students are exterminated. If not, he himself will be murdered. Who’s able to survive this cruel game in order to graduate?
Danganronpa is one of those shows that combine a dark and cruel concept with cute characters. Head of the school is a teddy bear called Monokuma, that surveys every step the students make inside school grounds. It’s a really interesting show that will catch hold of you and won’t let go until the last episode. The main strength is the fact that it doesn’t only have an attention-grabbing storyline, but other mysteries as well that are slowly unraveled as the story progresses.
It’s worth a watch, so give Danganronpa a try if you haven’t already.
7. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2009 – September 2009
With Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, we’re slowly starting to get to the darker and psychologically touching shows. This show revolves around the Mafia situated in America and how a Japanese tourist gets dragged into their world of assassination, death and cold murder. Given the code name Zwei, he has to fight in order to survive the new life that was forced onto him.
I recommend this show for everyone that enjoys stories set in an urban environment of modern days. And even though the action scenes are great, especially for fans of guns and shootings, Phantom focuses more on the relationship between the two main leads, Ein and Zwei. This show has a great fanbase so check it out if you want to find out what the hype is all about.
6. Highschool of the Dead
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2010 - September 2010
For those of you that enjoy stories set in a high school environment, we present Highschool of the Dead. Chances are you have at least heard of this widely popular show. The story revolves around a group of high school students trying to survive in a universe where the outbreak of a new plague has turned the majority of the population into zombies.
Good Zombie anime are hard to find these days, so Highschool of the Dead is definitely a must-watch. It features a bunch of different characters that all manage the apocalypse differently. It’s a show aimed for a wide base of audience, so it’s likely that you will enjoy it no matter what you’re into. We have a lot of blood, a lot of fights and a lot of fanservice.
Check it out if you’re a fan of the living dead.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2012 - December 2012
Next up is a show whose name pretty much sums up what happens throughout the episodes. Ryouta Sakamoto is a pro at the hit video game Btooom. What he didn’t expect is he himself becoming a part of the game. One day he finds himself alone on an island equipped with some food and lots of bombs. His goal is to find the other players on the island and to eliminate them before they can kill him.
The special charm of Btooom! comes from the fact that the first episodes are already really dark. The anime shows blood, death and rape without disguising it. Its main strength though are the fights themselves. Ryouta has the abilities and skills he acquired from the video game but now he has to use them in real life. It’s not a straightforward killing spree where all contestants blow each other up, but a game that requires tactics and planning. This show managed to keep me on my toes until the last episodes.
4. Attack on Titan
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
Is anyone surprised that I included Attack on Titan on this list? Probably not.
Just imagine yourself living in a world where giant Titans are out to eat you alive. Attack on Titan might be the cruelest Survival anime that also really tries to make you feel the desperation and terror of its characters.
What’s so special about the show in my eyes is the fact that you cannot predict who’s going to die or get wounded next. Eren and his friends trained the better part of their lives to kill any Titan approaching them, but sometimes life isn’t fair. That’s what Attack on Titan teaches its viewers. It’s also the first show that made me really fear for the main characters lives, so it definitely deserves a spot on this list.
3. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2007 - April 2008
Kaiji is one of my personal favorites even though it might not be as popular as other shows on this list. It shows the struggles of gambling addict Itou Kaiji who participates in a rather unique game. He gets the chance to fight other players in an adjusted game of Rock Paper Scissors in order to win enough money to get rid of all his debts. Can he win one last game that might turn his life around?
This one goes out to all those viewers that like survival anime but don’t necessarily want to see too much blood or gore in general. Suspense is created through Kaiji’s struggles and his constant attempt to find new techniques that could guarantee his victory. Don’t be put off by the rather unique character design – after some episodes you will learn to appreciate the thin faces and long noses.
A special recommendation for fans of shows like Death Note or No Game, No Life.
2. Deadman Wonderland
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2011 - July 2011
Deadman Wonderland portrays the worst case scenario of being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit. High school student Ganta Igarashi is trialed for brutally murdering his classmates and thus being sent to Deadman Wonderland – the first privately owned prison set in a dystopian future. What he didn’t expect was that Deadman Wonderland is in fact an amusement park where inmates compete in bloody games for the entertainment of the masses.
If you’re looking for great action scenes and are not afraid of seeing blood then Deadman Wonderland is a strong recommendation. The design as well as the development of the main characters is really unique and great to watch. Even though the show itself doesn’t have too many episodes and the ending came way too fast it still stayed in my mind for a couple of days after.
A great show if you want a good anime that you can finish in one weekend.
1. Mirai Nikki
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2011 - April 2012
Mirai Nikki might be the most popular Survival anime out there. Not only that but it also created the infamous character of Gasai Yuno, one of the most psychotic girls found in anime.
The story starts with Amano Yukiteru’s common phone diary turning into a Future Diary that’s able to predict upcoming events. But he’s not the only one – he’s one of twelve contestants that try to kill each other in order to get the chance to turn into a god. If I had to describe the anime to someone who hasn’t watched it I would call it the anime equivalent of Battle Royale. So if you’re a fan of the famous movie you will most likely also enjoy Mirai Nikki.
It’s not only the main idea that’s intriguing but its further development as well that makes Mirai Nikki so special. Check it out if you’re ready for a psychological thriller that will keep you entertained for a long time.
Survival anime are a unique genre since they are a combination of action, drama and sometimes even horror elements. Watching these heroes on their struggle for survival will quicken your heartbeat and make you sweat.
Which one is your favorite? Comment down below and let us know.