Nothing is better than a good mystery. It keeps the reader or viewer or listener ready, alert, and on the edge of their seat. In fact, it can easily be argued that within all anime across the board, there is some glint of mystery to the story, and it is just a matter of the reader unpacking what they have been told and piecing things together. Some anime are great at telling mysteries where you don’t realize what the end game or who the criminal was, until the end. Others though, rather than dropping bread crumbs, will leave you with full loaves of bread on the path that missing the hints makes you the odd individual out. Regardless though, you came here in search of a good story and we plan to explore it. This is an introduction to the mystery genre in the scope of anime. If you are new, this list has some of the essential mystery anime that you need to watch. Note that these are some of them, just not all of the essential ones. Let’s go!
Do a Double Take and Scratch Your Head
One of the facets that mystery anime can do is flaunt the key information in front of you for hours before you realize what you needed was there all along. That, and telling an interesting enough story will go a long way for most viewers. It’s not necessarily about the overarching story itself, but the little parts that end up, more of then than not, being the key to the whole thing. Sometimes, especially when you are watching anime seasonally where episodes come out week by week, you might even get a kick out of rewatching an episode just to see if there is something that you missed. The first anime on our list is one such anime. Wrapped in so much mystery, sometimes even the conclusion can be confusing.
Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider (The Perfect Insider)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Oct 2015 - Dec 2015
Shiki Magata is a genius programmer who lives away, secluded on an island. You see, she’s there because she committed a crime very long ago. The government recognized her skills and gave her an option, prison, or working, developing technology, in an isolated existence. She took the latter. When Souhei and his student Moe arrive to try to meet with her though, something happens. The power goes out, and one by one, people start to be murdered here on the island including the programmer herself? But how can that be? She couldn’t have possibly done it to herself, so who is the culprit who got into a locked room and killed her?? Nothing is as it seems and nothing can be taken at face value as Shiki’s past comes to light and they try to sort out these meaningless murders.
The funny thing about Subete ga F ni Naru is that you constantly are saying to yourself, “Wait what? How did that happen?” a lot. Subete ga F ni Naru does an excellent job of telling a tale that is compelling, thrilling, confusing, and awe inspiring all at the same time. Somehow people are being killed and while some anime will show you the murder, Subete ga F ni Naru hides it away. You have no idea who is doing what at all ever. It never makes sense until the very end in a very long exposition. The great thing that makes this such a great mystery anime, is the thriller aspect that has been successfully added to the story. No one knows what is going on, but they are on lockdown and everyone is connected to these murders that keep happening. Be prepared to lose some sleep if you start this anime later in the evening!
Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider PV:
Mystery, Now With More Murder!
It’s not rocket science to know that mystery anime usually involves some kind of horror or murder or something that will suspend and push the story forward. Who cares about some rando dying? No one terribly, but what if that someone murdered was someone you knew or had recently met with? Suddenly your interest is piqued. That intrigue drives the story forward and makes people interested in the story at hand. Who did it? Was it messy? Did they leave any clues? Why are you still doing those four puzzles from last christmas and trying to connect them.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 2006 - Sept 2006
Keiichi Maebara has just moved into the sleepy village of Hinamizawa with his family. He’s not expecting much from his new countryside life, and thankfully, the new friends he makes at school aren’t either. Rather, they just want to spend their days with him having fun. Keiichi soon makes close friends with Rena, Satoko, Mion, and Rika. Everything seems to be going well for him as they get closer and closer to an annual festival that reveres the god Oyashiro-sama. Then he learns that there was a string of murders that have plagued the village as of recent. When he inquires his friends, they all one by one either skirt by the issue or eerily warn him not to dig any further into it. Suddenly, Keiichi is driven to learn more, but as he does, he learns that he has run afoul of the incident himself and suddenly he is the mark… or is he the killer? He wakes up after a very intense night of crime to a new story starting? What is going on?
Higurashi is made for people who not only love to think about puzzles but also love the thrill that comes with them when lives hang in the balance. From the intense chase scenes to the twists and turns that makes your mind hurt as you realize that everything you thought was logical is no longer relevant in this timeline, Higurashi is, dare we say, the perfect mystery anime. It simply resets itself when the puzzle gets completed to a certain extent meaning that you never really can finish the puzzle before a new one is set in you. Not to mention, too, the villain changes a few times throwing you off. One thing to note is that Higurashi will not give you resolution in the first season. That’s right, you have to keep watching into the second season and beyond for even more information and tips that will help bring all facets of the story into the light.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni PV:
Plot Plot Plot Plot Plot!
The crucial backbone to a good mystery anime that you can really sink your teeth into, is a good plot. While some anime try to do it in a 12 episode run–Spoiler: most fail to do so–a good two cours run of 22-26 episodes seems to be the sweet spot for a good mystery anime. Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider is naturally, the exception to this, but that is because of how well it was done. It can be done, just not necessarily always is done. However yes, a good mystery anime needs time to build plot, create a world that you are somewhat to fully invested in, and of course, a gaggle of characters to make it interesting while moving the story along at the same time.
Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha (Darker than Black)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2007 - Sept 2007
Ten years ago, something called Heaven’s Gate appeared in South America while something else called Hell’s Gate opened in–you guessed it–Japan. Somehow our laws of physics and existence do not apply within them. At the same time, these beings called “contractors” appear. They have powers that they have received in exchange for their own humanity. In Japan, Misaki Kirihara is having problems with a mysterious contractor named Hei. Hei is known for taking missions that would seemingly jeopardize the existence of contractors, but in reality, he is working hard to reveal a deep plot that threatens them all. Society is at a breaking point, but what will they find?
If ogres are like onions, then Darker than Black is also like an onion. If you really want a good mystery coupled with a thriller, then look no further. Plots to do harm are something that make an excellent story and it’s clear that Bones knew what it was doing with DtB. Not only are there these mysterious gates and contractors, but there is a plot that would bring ruin coupled with political jostling and what justice would look like when it’s extremely brittle.
With that, this brings our intro to mystery anime to a close. This list was intended for newcomers to anime and the genre itself, but there are so many more excellent mystery anime out there. If you want more, then look to Durarara!!, Baccano!, Boku dake ga Inai Machi, Another, Hyouka, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, and if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, there is always Detective Conan. If you have something positive to contribute or have another show that you think newbies to anime need to jump into if they claim to be mystery anime fane, then be sure to leave a comment down below. Thanks so much for reading this introductory article. Till next time!