What Makes up a Suspense Anime? [Definition, Meaning]

Suspense anime has been around for a very long time and has proven time and time again to be an effective storytelling method. From its thin slices of plot sandwiched between dialogue, to the few months where your heart is going to burst out of your chest due to it beating so hard, suspense anime has a habit of keeping the viewer on their toes, but that is in a good way. If anything, suspense anime excellently balances the infuriating with the satisfying leading to a story that is widely enjoyed. If you are brand new to anime or just looking to get a good basis in suspense anime, we got you. Note: we will be skipping over Death Note in this introduction as for many people, this is an introductory anime that they have already seen. If by some twist of fate, you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and stop reading this article right now, watch Death Note, and then come back. For now, we charge onwards!

Dialogue-Plot-Dialogue Sandwich

Suspense anime was made popular because for the most part, it moves at a snail’s pace, until heat is applied. Once there is heat or some sort of impetus, the story charges full-throttle towards more information. Suspense anime like Death Note, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry), Paprika, and more are so well-liked because you get so much more information than you bargained for. Most people don’t realize that a good suspense story takes setting up and it requires you to know a lot less than you should. This leads to you endlessly speculating about who did it or what the cause is while the characters talk about hypothetical situations 13454, 13455, and 13456. While it can be maddening because the viewer wants to know what happens next, the plot is usually hidden in these massive conversations in very thin slices. Skipping ahead will leave you in the dark when a revelation is revealed for the cast, but you have no idea what is going on. One thing is for sure, if you feel that something sinister is creeping in the background, there is a good chance it is and to miss it would be terrible. Thus, we watch.

Death Parade

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: January 2015 - March 2015

Decim runs a bar simply known as Quindecim. There, Decim greets people who have reached purgatory. They usually have no clue as to why they are here, but they know it must be for some reason. Oddly, most guests take their fate rather well... until Decim reveals a game. You see, he is an arbiter of the afterlife and needs to see how these customers will react when put into situations that mean either being sent to oblivion or being reincarnated. So he offers a game like cards, darts, bowling, arcade games, and more. This leads to people expressing themselves in ways that even the viewer would not expect, but it’s a matter of time before someone cracks and breaks the rules. Everything is running smoothly until a young woman with black hair arrives by herself one day. People are supposed to arrive in pairs, but she is alone. Perturbed and unable to judge her, Decim allows her to stay. Suddenly his unwavering determination is swayed. What secrets does she hold?

Starting off our list of introductory shows is a somber number. Death Note is a mini suspense anime in each episode because the viewer sits there and questions who will crack first and why. With resolution coming in each episode, it feels satisfying, but at the same time, is quite sobering when they realize that one of the characters is about to be sent to Hell to be destroyed. It should seem simple, but it’s not. With its compelling characters, interesting story, and of course, fantastic art, Death Parade has become a favorite of many an anime fan and for very good reason.

Death Parade PV:

T-T-T-Time Slip!

A new form of storytelling that anime is beginning to abuse is time slipping. This involves the main character being sent back to a set point in time, or a checkpoint that has been reached in the story, where they must figure out how to clear that point that they were either killed at, lost their way, or made a mistake. To say that this is heart-wrenching is not even close as time slipping is never clear or fair as to why it continues to happen. Sometimes it can be explained eventually, for example, in order to prevent a tragedy, but hint: it never goes well on the first try. Anime has really put this into full effect as of late, and rather than tell a new story like in Higurashi no Naku koro ni (When They Cry), the series pushes the protagonist through unbearably tough situations with the viewer just waiting to see what happens next.

Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-)

  • Episodes: 25
  • Aired: April 2016 - September 2016

Subaru Natsuki is a lame, shut-in of a high schooler who happens to step out to eat some food one night. When he steps outside of the combini, he has a slight out of body experience and is suddenly transported to another world where all sorts of beings and demi-humans exist. He is jumped by some things, but helped out by a silver-haired girl named Satella. He thanks her and she leaves saying she has to get her insignia back. He starts to look as well to help her get it back. After getting some information, Subaru relays it to her, and the two take off for the meeting place. When a deadly threat steps out of the shadows though, they lost their lives. Till Subaru wakes up the next morning in the same place as yesterday? In fact, he goes through the same incident again where he meets Satella. History begins to repeat itself over again and again until Subaru decides that he needs to get out of this cycle of days and hell and find out what lies beyond not getting murdered soon after meeting Satella. His life in another world begins now.

If you really want to get sucked into what a suspense anime is, watch Re:Zero. Just when you think something is starting to make sense, fate twists everything that Subaru thinks is going his way and he meets a cruel fate again ad infinitum. The suspense factor kicks in as not only do we get best girl Rem and her fate, but we also have something that barely manages to move forward every few episodes. In fact, it’s almost as if Re:Zero is made up of mini arcs. Each time he clears an arc and makes it forward somewhere, it goes for a bit before resetting him to the checkpoint. The show is also excellent at evoking emotion due to how brutally harsh it is to the viewer. The breadcrumbs from story arc to story arc will keep you bound in suspense. Catch the PV below and get hooked.

Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Sekaitsu PV


  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: April 2011 - September 2011

Rintarou Okabe is not playing with a full deck of cards. He works as a mad scientist in Akihabara researching futuristic gadgets along with his fellow labmates Mayuri and Daru. Eventually though, through a massive amount of dumb luck, Rintarou actually manages to make something work. Dubbing it the phone microwave, Rintarou learns he is able to send messages back to the past. However, when things start happening rapidly, Rintarou finds himself at a roadblock. He has now altered history so many times, that a tragic fate becomes unavoidable. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot avoid the cruel fate awaiting him. He tries and tries, until he attempts to start undoing what he has done, but can he make his way through the madness and confusion to get people who do not know what he is talking about in this world, align with him?

There are rough shows like Re:Zero, and then there is Steins;Gate. Steins;Gate is beyond brutal and cruel to both the cast and the viewer leaving you not only in suspense while watching, but also dashing your hopes not once, not twice, but repeatedly. Every single instance of new information or a step forward comes at a painful price for our characters, and if you thought plot progression was slow in other shows, Steins;Gate moves at a snail’s pace at some points. Don’t worry as you will be mashing the next button at the speed of light after you become invested. You do get attached to the characters easily, but that can make things even harder. Know that nothing comes for free if you watch Steins;Gate.

Steins;Gate PV

Final Thoughts

These are just some examples that really drive home what it means to pull your hair out in frustration as you watch each episode of a show combing for more details. Of course, these are not all the thriller shows out there. There are other greats like Mirai Nikki, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Zankyou no Terror, Monster, Shiki, Paranoia Agent, Kara no Kyoukai, and more. Of course, we could go on and on, but the shows here really do embody the essentials that needs to be seen if you want to know more about suspense anime or are new to anime overall. If you have seen all of the above mentioned shows, do you have more shows that you’d recommend for our readers? If so, be sure to let us know down below. Till next time!

STEINSGATE-Wallpaper-500x500 What Makes up a Suspense Anime? [Definition, Meaning]


Author: Nagareboshi

American by birth; international by choice. I am trying to bring attention to one of my favorite causes; me. I translate by day and write by night. Aspiring polyglot. My dream would be to be the personal translator for Amuro Namie. Other than that, my hobbies include languages, weightlifting, sleeping, karaoke, GOOD coffee and music. When I’m not doing any of the above, I am most likely laughing hysterically at Willam Belli videos or EV farming. I ain’t gunna Rupologize for it neither. Waifu are Shirai Kuroko & Euaerin.

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