When most people think of anime, they imagine vibrant worlds filled with larger-than-life characters and funny, romantic or fantastical storylines. However, anime is a genre of many shades, and some of those shades are decidedly dark. This article aims to pull back the curtain on anime’s darker side, exploring series that delve into the complexities of human nature, morality, and the unsettling corners of the mind. From psychological thrillers to tales steeped in real-world issues, we’ll uncover the most haunting dark anime series that are not for the faint of heart.
Why Watch: A chilling mystery with unexpected twists and high stakes.
Another is a must-watch dark anime if you’re into psychological horror and mysteries. Set in Yomiyama Middle School, the series follows new kid Kōichi Sakakibara as he gets entangled in a deadly curse affecting his class. Alongside the enigmatic Mei Misaki, he tries to unravel the dark secrets behind a series of gruesome deaths. The show is a rollercoaster of suspense, eerie moments, and shocking twists that’ll keep you hooked till the end.
11. Devilman Crybaby
Why Watch: A raw, emotional dive into human nature and morality.
Devilman Crybaby is a 2018 Netflix anime that modernizes Go Nagai’s original 1970s manga. It’s a dark, emotional rollercoaster that explores human nature and morality. The story follows Akira Fudo, who becomes Devilman to fight an ancient race of demons. Themes of bigotry, sexuality, and identity are deeply woven into the narrative. The series has been praised for its animation and faithfulness to the original manga.
10. Tokyo Ghoul
Why Watch: Explore the blurred lines between humanity and monstrosity.
Tokyo Ghoul takes place in an alternate Tokyo where humans and flesh-eating ghouls coexist. The story revolves around Ken Kaneki, a college student who becomes a half-ghoul after a near-fatal encounter. The series delves into his struggle to fit into both human and ghoul societies, all while grappling with his own identity and morality. It’s a psychological rollercoaster that challenges the definitions of what it means to be human or a monster.
9. Elfen Lied
Why Watch: A deep dive into human morality, laced with psychological thrills and graphic violence.
Elfen Lied is a dark fantasy anime that dives deep into themes of human morality, discrimination, and revenge. It follows Lucy, a mutant known as a Diclonius, who seeks vengeance against humanity for rejecting her. The series is famous for its graphic violence and emotional depth. It originally aired in 2004 and was adapted from a manga series by Lynn Okamoto. If you’re into psychological thrillers with a touch of horror, this anime is a must-watch.
8. Death Parade
Why Watch: A eerie look at life, death, and the morality in between.
Death Parade is a captivating dark anime that takes you into the afterlife, where souls play Death Games to determine their fate — reincarnation or eternal void. The show digs deep into moral questions and human emotions, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat. It’s a psychological thriller that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking.
7. The Promised Neverland
Why Watch: A gripping tale of survival, deception, and the quest for freedom.
|Original Title||Yakusoku no Nebārando|
|No. Episodes||24 (2 Seasons)|
|Where to Watch||MAL, Disney+,Hotstar, Crunchyroll|
The Promised Neverland is a dark fantasy thriller that takes you inside Grace Field House, an orphanage that’s not what it seems. The kids there discover they’re being raised as food for demons. Led by Emma, Norman, and Ray, the children plot a daring escape. The series explores deep moral questions and societal issues, making it a gripping watch.
6. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Why Watch: It’s a deep dive into the complexities and moral dilemmas of being a magical girl, far from the usual upbeat tales.
|Original Title||Mahō Shōjo Madoka Magika|
|Where to Watch||MAL, Netflix, Crunchyroll, Hulu|
Puella Magi Madoka Magica takes a dark spin on the magical girl genre. It follows Madoka and her friends, who gain magical powers to fight “witches,” only to discover the grim reality and emotional toll of their new roles. The series is lauded for its complex themes, visuals, and soundtrack. It’s not just a commercial hit but also a critical darling, spawning spin-offs and a sequel film slated for 2024.
5. Made In Abyss
Why Watch: Dive into a mysterious world that tests human limits.
Made in Abyss is an award-winning anime about an orphan girl, Riko, and her half-robot friend, Reg. They venture into the Abyss, a dangerous and mysterious chasm, in search of Riko’s lost mother. The deeper they go, the more perilous it gets due to a condition known as “the Curse of the Abyss.” The series is a dark adventure that explores human endurance and ethical dilemmas.
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Why Watch: Dive into complex human emotions and existential questions.
|Original Title||Shinseiki Evangerion|
|Where to Watch||MAL, Netflix, Amazon Prime|
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a mecha anime that goes beyond battles and robots. Aired from 1995 to 1996, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world and follows teenager Shinji Ikari, who pilots a giant mecha to fight mysterious beings called “Angels.” Directed by Hideaki Anno, the series delves deep into psychological and moral complexities, challenging conventional anime tropes. It’s famous for its abstract ending, which sparked both acclaim and controversy.
Why Watch: A dark, complex tale of survival, ambition, and betrayal.
|Original Title||Kenpuu Denki Berserk|
|Where to Watch||MAL|
Berserk is a dark fantasy anime that aired in 1997, based on Kentaro Miura’s manga. It follows Guts, a lone mercenary, who joins the Band of the Hawk led by Griffith. The series explores deep themes like ambition, loyalty, and the psychological toll of pursuing one’s dreams. Things take a dark, supernatural turn when Griffith acquires a demonic relic, leading to catastrophic events for the entire group. The anime is lauded for its complex characters, compelling storytelling, and mature themes. It’s not for the faint of heart but offers a deep dive into the human psyche and morality.
2. Death Note
Why Watch: Explores deep psychological and moral questions, making it a must-watch for those who love thought-provoking content.
One of the most famous anime of all time, Death Note accurately depicts the beauty behind dark anime. The series revolves around a high school genius named Light Yagami who finds a mysterious notebook. This Death Note has the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it. Light, under the alias “Kira,” uses it to eliminate criminals, aiming to create a crime-free world. However, his actions catch the attention of law enforcement agencies worldwide, leading to a high-stakes intellectual battle with an enigmatic detective known as “L.”
1. Attack On Titan
Why Watch: Unveils human struggle against monstrous Titans, wrapped in mystery and action.
|Original Title||Shingeki no Kyojin|
|No. Episodes||98 (4 Seasons)|
|Where to Watch||MAL, Disney+, Hulu|
Attack on Titan is a dark fantasy anime that’s been a hit since its 2013 debut. It’s set in a world where humanity lives behind massive walls to protect themselves from Titans, huge humanoid monsters. The story follows Eren Yeager and his friends, who join an elite military group to fight these Titans after their hometown is destroyed. The series is lauded for its deep storytelling, action scenes, and complex characters.
As we wrap up this exploration into the darkest corners of the anime world, it’s clear that the genre offers far more than just whimsical tales and colorful characters. So, if you’re looking to elevate your anime experience from mere entertainment to something more profound, the series highlighted in this article is an excellent place to start.