Horror is one of the most popular genres in film and television, taking audiences by surprise and drawing on their worst fears. We have seen plenty of horror anime take the anime world by storm as well, including Another, Tokyo Ghoul and Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu, just to name a few. Yet, compared to other genres in anime, such as comedy or shounen, horror is vastly underrepresented. Horror can be done well in anime, but we only see one or two horror anime each season. Why is that so? With this question burning in our minds, we set out to try to explain horror’s disparity from other anime genres.
Focus On A Different Type of Horror
There are many reasons why horror is less represented in anime, but one of the main ones is how differently horror can translate into a 2D setting versus live action. Horror can vary from jump scares to gore and blood to psychologically-based fears. Jump scares are an easier method for horror, as it is simple to add in something unexpected at an odd moment. Gore is also relatively easy, though it often crosses the line into too much – quite a few horror anime include some level of gore, but few are recognized for it explicitly unless they overdo it, as in Elfen Lied or specific moments in Psycho Pass. Psychological horror is the best option for creators, as it can leave a lasting impression with viewers based on their fears. However, this type of horror is more time-consuming and difficult to do well, as it requires time and planning to truly get inside the audience’s heads.
Risk Of Failure Deters Studios
If a horror anime is done well, it can be great publicity for the studio that brought it out for that season! For example, Studio Deen brought forth the Ito Junji: Collection anime for the beginning of this year and they did a great job of capturing true horror in all its forms, creating an enjoyably terrifying experience for everyone. However, while people were initially excited about the release of Satsuriku no Tenshi recently, the anime has proved to be a bit of a disappointment for many. When studios only get to pick so many anime to work on each season, many of them will opt for a safer bet for audiences, like isekai, romantic comedies, or ecchi. The targeted audience in Japan also plays a factor, meaning much of the anime we get is released for teenagers – hence why we get the options we do! Of course, luck plays a factor as well in an anime’s success. But if a studio knows they can release something that will definitely do well, rather than try out a horror anime, they will usually pick the less risky option…
The Audience Has To Pay Attention
In the world of horror, especially psychological horror, the audience needs to pay attention to the small details of a story in order to understand the fear behind it. Ultimately, many people are too busy to devote this kind of time to something that they watch, often preferring something mindless or funny like comedy to allow them space to not think. This is another reason that studios are afraid to take on horror anime – if people are not willing to pay close attention to what they watch, the horror will be nonexistent and the show will do poorly. And even with jump scares or gore, people can miss the true terror of horror if they are not paying attention!
Fine Line Between Suspense And Gore
Of course, a big deterrent for horror anime is the line between the right amount of suspense or fear, and too much gore. Gore certainly isn’t a bad thing in anime, but it does struggle with being too graphic while trying to push boundaries. And anime with too much gore, like Corpse Party or Elfen Lied, can deter some viewers who can’t stomach the blood and guts displayed. 2D animation struggles with this problem in particular, since live action tends to have a clearer line for what is the right amount of blood, and what is too much, with their ratings system. While anime also has a rating system, when it comes to horror, many shows will tend toward more gore to connect the fear viscerally with the audience. After all, live action is easier for horror in that we are more easily able to place ourselves in the characters’ shoes, something that anime can struggle with.
The question of why we don’t see more horror anime each season is a tricky one. With a combination of many different aspects, including a studio’s fear of failure, the difficulty in creating a meaningful experience and the struggle of balancing the gore in the show, several things play a factor. Yet we also know that horror anime can be some of the best and most memorable for an audience. It seems that in some cases, it is worth the risk!
Why do you think we don’t see as many horror anime being released as other genres? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! And for more great content, stay tuned to Honey’s Anime!