Need some dark anime to make your weekend just a bit more depressing? Not getting that dosage of absolute existentialist horror? This list of beautiful pieces of storytelling will definitely challenge your sanity.
Top 30 Dark Anime
MAL Rating: 8.49
In a world invaded by parasitic aliens, Shinichi Izumi is struck down with one such parasite. However, unlike the others, who were instantly taken over, the parasyte failed to take over his brain, and resorted to his right hand instead. Calling him Migi, Shinichi is forced to live in an uncomfortable symbiotic relation ship with him. In an effort to stay alive from all the other parasites, they team up to defend themselves.
With an engaging premise, constant cliffhangers, and an overarching dark theme, Parasyte makes for a great binge. Keeping the viewer on the edge of his seat and constantly delivering is a skill, and this anime seems to have struck the right chord. Complimented by top class animations, it makes for an amazing watch especially with friends.
MAL Rating: 7.71
A cursed classroom, where everyone is fated to a terrible death. To cope for this, everyone ignored the existence of a girl in that class. However, with the introduction of a transfer student, things started to go wrong with this batch of students too, as it did with previous ones.
With incredibly gory deaths, this anime is not for the fainthearted. An incredibly thematic anime, with a slightly dull ending, it is a pretty interesting show about the selfish aspect of humans. With everyone worried about their own lives, and ready to kill to stay afloat, it makes for a great weekend watch for anime with a dark theme.
MAL Rating: 8.07
When hearing about the premise, most others will put it off as yet another isekai anime. However, it is the only isekai anime, which has managed to stick around amongst it’s competitors of the year. Suzuki Satoru, an shut in, wanted to enjoy the last moments of the game Yggdrasil. And as the game servers were about to shut down, it dawned on him that he was never kicked out. And so his journey began as Momonga, the great overlord, with insane powers, and the vague ambition to rule the world.
What makes overlord so special as an anime is it’s great cast of side characters. With every new person introduced, we see a fresh set of traits, intentions, and motivations for their own goals. From the adventurers to the politicians to the monsters, each and every character introduced is very well fleshed out, and contributes greatly to the plot. With more focus on comedy, but having some surprisingly dark themes, overlord is a good recommendation for anyone looking for a lighter anime in this genre.
MAL Rating: 8.49
The world of ghouls, vampires and such has always been treated with fear, however, this anime takes that to the next level. The creatures of the night, which haunt humanity, are out there. Against them is the mercenary association, Hellsing. Their best weapon? The classy vampire Alucard, who is pitted against these forces of evil, resulting in a complete bloodbath of an anime.
Hellsing makes for an amazing watch for an OVA, as very few such good ones exist. Making complete use of their license to add gore, and complimenting with stunning animations, Hellsing is capable of giving eyegasms.
MAL Rating: 7.44
Naegi got accepted in the reputed Hope’s Peak Academy, however, things turned out to be a lot more different than what he expected. A cuddly bear of death gives the class a simple condition: kill anyone, and manage to shift the blame. If you are successful, you get to leave, while everyone else is killed. If you fail, you are tortured and killed in the worst way possible.
With no hope of escape, and rising tensions, murders occur. Now it is upto the rest of the class to correctly identify who the killer is. Originally adapted from the hit game, Danganronpa tackles investigative themes with gruesome murders expertly. A must watch for those who haven’t played the game.
MAL Rating: 7.85
Yoma are beings which live off of human flesh. They also posses the skill to appear human like, and trick their prey. To combat them, and save humans, Claymores were created. Raki, a young boy, feels indebted to the claymore known as Clare. She had saved him from a yoma after it consumed his entire family. And so with nowhere else to go, the duo set off, with Clare working for the guild of claymores, and Raki sticking with her. However, things eventually take a turn for the worse, as friends slowly turn, and what seemed set in stone was no longer so.
Claymore is a dark anime crafted around the themes of familial love, hunger for power and deception. Subsequently, with madhouse animating it, Claymore offers great joy to any onlooker, who came for the action and medieval horror, and will leave with the excitement for a season 2.
MAL Rating: 8.18
VON. The word remains sprayed on the infiltrated nuclear facility, as the stolen nuclear core is whisked away on a jet ski. The top grade security could do absolutely nothing against the impeccable planning of the terrorists. Consequently, the Japanese government hushes it up, until after 6 months.
When two masked men appear on TV and foretell of a terrorist attack, it shakes all of Japan. Nine and Twelve, the prodigal teenagers, pose as “The Sphinx” over the internet, giving clues about terror attacks they have planned. As a result, the police have to solve the riddles, and act quickly to save lives. Detective Shibazaki is swept into all this, as he starts investigating behind the attacks, and the events that thread it all. A tale about terrorism, lies, deception, and a lot of dark thematic moments, this is a must watch anime for fast paced mind game enthusiasts.
MAL Rating: 8.24
There is a special rule for two humans who happen to die at the exact same time: they get sent to Quendecim. In a bar of judgment, Decim the arbiter pits the two against each other in a game. With the stakes being rebirth and oblivion.
As the two clash against each other, emotions leak, and memories slowly resurface, leading them to remember everything. Decim is privy to all this, and the fate of the two lie in his hands. In this intense battle of emotions, we see the scarce seen dark side of humans, through the anime. An absolute classic, Death Parade is a must watch for more insight onto humans as a whole. It really does bring to the table some very uncomfortable themes, and it does so in absolute style.
MAL Rating: 7.76
An anime characterized by the excessive amounts of gore, akame ga kill is the story of Tatsumi, and his struggle to fight corruption. He hates what the government in the capital has become, and wishes to tear it down with the help of the Night Raid. These are a group of assassins, who aim to overthrow the Prime Minister Honest. The fight to acquire the coveted imperial arms ensues, as the side with more firepower will emerge victorious.
With the legendary Taku Iwasaki composing the soundtrack, and White Fox animating it, one can expect intense fight sequences. This results in bloodcurdling, dark and incredible battles, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. The dark overtones in this anime make for some pretty good moments. While the anime is great, I would personally recommend the manga for this one too.
MAL Rating: 8.48
An incredibly popular anime, Attack on Titan is the story of 15 foot Titans, who have invaded the last bastion of humanity. This was all that had remained after Titans came into this world. The worst part is the Titans eat humans, not for survival, but for entertainment. Eren Jeager, the protagonist, who loses his mother to a titan, vows to take revenge by annihilating every Titan alive. And after his training, as he goes out to protect mankind, and fight the Titans for the first time, things instantly go awry.
A thrilling anime, filled to the brim with plot twists and deaths, Attack on Titan is a modern classic. The viewer is absolutely compelled to instantly consume the next episode as layers after layers of secrets and mysteries are unveiled. From politics and dark character relationships, to fight sequences and flying with the 3-D maneuver gear, this anime leaves no stone unturned in enthralling everyone who gives this one a try.
MAL Rating: 7.97
Tokyo Ghoul has become one of the select number of anime which manages to catch the attention of those outside this genre of entertainment. Tokyo has become the feeding ground of the creatures known as ghouls, who eat human flesh to survive. Unbeknown to Kaneki Ken, the girl he has taken a liking to, Rize Kamishiro, is a ghoul. As a result, when he goes to drop her to her home, she baits him to a deserted place to eat him. And through sheer luck, construction items fall onto Rize, and kills her.
After the hospital releases Kaneki, he realizes he is no longer normal. Rize’s organs were used to save him. And so begins his journey of finding his place in both worlds, as he realizes not everything is as it seems in the world of ghouls. A story of gore, mental torture, insane character depth and dark existentialist horror, this anime is a must watch for every otaku.
MAL Rating: 7.68
If you have been keeping a close eye on 2018 anime, this one needs no introduction. With a first episode so controversial, it had to re-label the entire anime to a more mature rating, Goblin Slayer isn’t for everyone to stomach. An anime which shows the reality of adventuring, and what it would really entail, Goblin Slayer is one dark blood-fest. Featuring a protagonist, who specializes in killing only goblins, the show portrays a more somber adventuring reality.
Truly, the gore and violence in this one may want to make the more casual watcher give this a wide berth. Conversely, the more serious otaku might be able to appreciate the brutality with which the themes are tackled with this one. With no beating around the bush, Goblin Slayer is an incredibly darker version of a medieval society with magic.
MAL Rating: 8.45
A future, where cyborgs are not just a reality, but the norm. This is the future in which Daisuke Aramaki and Motoko Kusanagi live. As a result of this, they are faced with new problems. Section 9, a powerful independent crime fighting unit has been set up by the goverment, of which these 2 are a part. However, “The Laughing Man”, an A level hacker, throws their team into complete disarray.
Ghost in the shell paints a very vivid image of what the future is going to be like. With cybernetics advancing at the rate that it is, it won’t be long before the cat and mouse game in this anime happens in real life. Fans of a cyberpunk setting will love this anime for it’s aesthetic, plot and deep philosophical musings.
MAL Rating: 7.97
As the last proper civilization on Earth, the citizens of Romodo try and work on mankind’s recovery. Life outside their safe domes can not exist. To assist in their recovery as a species, humans make use of machines called AutoReivs. These machines help on a regular basis and work as assistants. However, recently, a virus has caught on these robots, giving them self awareness. The protagonist, Re-l Meyer, is sent to investigate this. She was about spiral into a series of events which would make her come face to face with humanity’s worst sins.
Written and directed with excruciatingly painful detail and thoughtfulness, this psychological masterpiece results in a mind boggling experience. With a lot of ambiguity, hidden messages and dark themes, fans of existentialism will simply love this anime.
MAL Rating: 8.55
Following the breakout of psychic powers, and the subsequent breakdown of society, peace was achieved by isolating those with powers from those without. With a separate set of laws and rules, a new world was created. Saki Watanabe finds herself joining this world after her powers materialized. Ready to join her friends, she became a part of the Sage Academy. But as they start uncovering buried secrets and the actual darkness of society outside their bubble, the group realize not all is as it seems.
With a cutesy art style to contrast the dark themes it tackles, Shinsekai Yori is one of the few dystopian anime with no cyberpunk setting. The philosophy in this anime is delivered in a subtle fashion. A classic must watch.
MAL Rating: 7.81
Having imaginary friends is something a lot of us did as kids. Never however have they spoken back, let alone enlist us into a battle royale. To become the next God. Each of the 12 people taking part in this are given a dairy, where they are given critical information about the others. Armed with the dairies from God himself, Yukiteru Amano must fight to stay alive. Amongst all this chaos, he manages to make an unlikely ally, one who is the absolute definition of crazy.
Most of all people who have heard of this one, have most likely heard about it through Yuno Gasai. One of the most popular Yandere characters in all of anime, this show’s gore and dark themes are characterized mostly through her. The protagonist’s being a bit more timid and psychologically disturbed (think Shinji), is heavily contrasted by her presence. The music and the animations are top class, giving a lot of potency to the violent brawls that so well describe this dark anime.
MAL Rating: 7.71
The government captured and experimented on Lucy, a Diclonius, . Being gifted with horns and psychic powers, the facility didn’t bother with humanity when operating on her. As a result, when she broke loose, she left a trail of bloodshed behind her. Furthermore, she injured herself during this escape, leaving her with a cracked skull, and a split personality disorder. And so now, she lives under the care of teenagers Kouta and Yuka. Consequently, they slowly get involved in the dark world of politics, government power, secrecy and lies.
Having stunning backdrops and brilliant camera work, Elfen Lied captures the essence of a dark thematic anime pretty well. This show is a bit of a hit or miss with many, so do approach with caution. Fair warning to those who can’t take nudity and gore very well either.
MAL Rating: 7.88
The mafia holds a reputation which can instill fear even in the rich and powerful. Angelo Lagusa saw his entire family get brutally murdered by the mafia, and somehow escaped himself by the skin of his teeth. Shell-shocked and completely hollow, he disappears, only to surface again after 7 long years. He receives a letter, which gets him to return to his home town, Lawless. And so, adopting a new identity of Avilio Bruno, he decides to infiltrate the Vanetti family mafia, to avenge his family.
Having learned and perfected special skills to deceive, manipulate and extort information, Avilio sets off on the hunt to destroy each and every member of the mafia. A plot weaved with care and love, 91 days is sure to get the adrenaline rushing for all fans of dark thrillers. With mind warping psychology and detailed character development, this anime is bound to get your dark drama gears turning.
MAL Rating: 8.37
The absolute hype beast of 2016, Re: Zero one of the more recognized isekai LN adaptations amongst this generation of anime. Natsuki Subaru is randomly sent over to a new isekai world, with bright flashy colors, and boisterous crowds. However, all is not as it seems, as Subaru finds to his absolute horror. Every time he is killed in this world, he is reset back to a previous moment in time. And only he remembers of what had happened.
Re:Zero brings fresh perspective to the table when talking about time mechanics, as Subaru has to suffer over and over again to be able to get to the next checkpoint. Death is as painful as it would seem, except he has to go through it repeatedly. The interesting manner in which he makes each death meaningful, and yet suffers and loses his sanity because of it, is what draws people in. As a result, it is critically acclaimed as one of the best dark isekai anime out there.
MAL Rating: 8.66
Death Note has become the face of anime for those outside this medium, as a great place to start. We see through the eyes of the genius Light Yagami, who hates the amount of criminal activity in the world. He detests how it all passes unnoticed. Ryuk, a god of death, throws down a book with the power to kill into the human world. When in class, Light happens to see this book fall. Armed with this power, and his ambition and intellect, he sets out killing any criminal he lays his eyes on. Concerned by this unexplained deaths, the UN employs L, the world’s best detective, to track down “Kira”.
Watching Kira and L outsmart each other is simply mind blowing. Both make use of incredibly ingenious tactics to get information from the other. In this cat and mouse game of data attrition, the one who slips up is instantly destroyed. A fascinating watch about mind games, this is a great first anime to enter this genre of entertainment.
MAL Rating: 8.55
“Innocent until proven guilty.”
This doesn’t seem to exist in this dystopian setting of psycho pass. Having too high a crime coefficient, as judged by Sibyl system, means instant detention. Consequently, the law enforcers have tremendous power. Enter Akane Tsunemori, a woman with true ideals of justice. She quickly realizes the system may not be as flawless as it appears. And so, questioning the meaning of justice, legality, and the Psycho-Pass system, Akane fights against everything she has known.
Tackling concepts of mental state and crime mentality, psycho pass is a reasonably accurate vision of a possible future. With the dystopian city filled with corruption and a broken law system, it peaks anyone’s curiosity. An engaging dark premise complimented by stunning visual art, it makes for a great anime.
MAL Rating: 9.13
An all time classic, Steins; Gate is the story of Okabe Rintaro, the “mad scientist”, who only pretends to be one. Until he hooked up a phone to a microwave, and accidentally found out how to send messages to the past. Subsequently, the time line changes, and only Okabe remembers events of the previous timeline. As he keeps using this machine for himself and his friends, he worries about the unwanted consequences it might bring.
And unwanted consequences it did bring.
Any anime fans interested in mature dark themes combined with good sci-fi will enjoy Steins; Gate, as we watch Okabe struggle to undo all his changes to save the life of a loved one. Complex discussions regarding time and its alternate streams ensues, as he is forced to live and relive deaths of his near and dear, thanks to his tampering with a fundamental dimension of life. A great combination of characters and plot, Steins; Gate is a must add to the watch list of every anime fan.
MAL Rating: 8.01
Getting messages as an introvert is awkward enough, but when it is from a dead classmate who committed suicide, things get a whole new level of disturbing. The technophobe introvert, Lain Iwakura, on opening the mail, gets sent to the Wired. Similar to the internet, the Wired is a virtual world of networks, where Lain encounters “Men in Black” and mysterious riddles. With the distiction of the real world and the wired slowly blurring, Lain is thrown headfirst into a perilous exploit, where her concepts of reality, consciousness and self awareness will be challenged.
Critically acclaimed and having won several excellence prizes in Japanese literary competitions, Serial Experiments Lain is a unique piece of entertainment that completely transcends its genre, and presents itself as a work of art. People who enjoy deeper reflections on the human conscious will love this series. (Small note, the anime is decently convoluted, so if you prefer more straight forward shows, best skip this one.)
MAL Rating: 8.37
As common folk, we have many faces and personalities who we love and cheer for as fans. From the point of view of the people under constant spotlight, things are a lot different. Things get out of hand for the idol Mima Kirigoe, when a rabid fan resists her change to an actress. Adding to the stress given by the demands of her new job, she is forced to take uncomfortable roles. Furthermore, the fan turned stalker starts releasing her private information on the web.
The whole affair slowly brings Mimi’s mental sanity to an all time low, as she struggles with coping up with what is real, and what is happening in her nightmares. As days blur into weeks and months, with her career slowly slipping from her grasp, her stalker making life a living hell, and an unknown third element laying waste to her new work life, this anime movie is one dark psychological roller-coaster. Watching her struggle against all odds in her new position is absolutely mind-bending.
MAL Rating: 8.35
Any hardcore manga fan has for sure heard of Berserk, if not read it. The story of Guts, and his gruesome escapades has caught the eye of many in this dark themed genre. The very origins of the black swordsman gets shivers on the bravest man’s spine, having been born from the corpse of his mother. He lives for the battlefield. And so, when his fate collided with the Band of the Hawk, he decided to join it. Adventuring with them, and quickly climbing ranks, he comes to realize that everything is not as binary as he initially thought.
Exploring some of the darkest, most grueling themes out there, Kentaro Miura’s masterpiece has left it’s mark in this industry as one of the most critically acclaimed works out there. It is fair to point out that the manga for this one is the best there is. With great artwork, and decent animations for it’s era, the anime isn’t half bad, but I would recommend the manga for this one too.
MAL Rating: 8.02
Most notable for its horrific gore and powerful dark undertones, Higurashi is an anime about the reserved village of Hinamizawa. Except it stands upon layers and layers of dark secrets. Keiichi Maebara, the protagonist, notices the subtle hints, and traces the disappearances and murders down to the annual festival. But as his friends refuse to fork over information, and he slowly starts descending into madness seeing ordinary folk turn into butchers seemingly in a blink of a moment, the layers of mystery slowly unravel, showing the true dark depths of this anime.
Watching this anime may make some feel a bit sick about themselves, as the viewer takes the role of a cold hearted scientist. Always observing, always looking for reason within the madness, and stomaching the deaths and bloodshed calmly, while devouring every episode. However, this anime will grab any viewer’s attention, casual or hardcore. A simple premise, executed with brilliancy.
MAL Rating: 8.43
Here we have an anime about magical girls, with special powers, and cute costumes, fighting evil witches. A talking cat even grants them a wish before they receive their powers. There can be nothing wrong with this one right?
From unexpected deaths and betrayals, to an existentialist nightmare and the complete stripping away of sanity for each and every character, madoka magica completely destroys each and every convention of a magical girl’s show. As the LSD fueled animations of the witch battles get more bizarre, so do the themes in this anime. With time travel, alternate realities and a different alien species trying to restore the entropy of the universe, anyone interested in seeing raw dark emotions and intricate character development with a superb plot will simply adore this anime
MAL Rating: 8.70
“We make our own worst monsters. We don’t know when we’ve made them, or how, but it is always us.”
The talented Dr. Kenzou is told to shift to the town mayor from a small boy to operate on. Having been placed in a similar position before, and sacrificing the life of a poor laborer, he refuses.Hence, the town mayor dies. This in turn results in him losing his social standing for a while. However with the sudden mysterious death of the hospital director and two other doctors, the case against him is dropped. Consequently, he goes on to become the director himself.
Several years later, he sees one of his own patients murdered in front of his eyes, by the very boy he saved all those years ago. Johan Liebert was the mastermind behind the serial killings of the past. And so Dr. Kenzou sets off, to find the boy, and fix the mistakes of his past. With laser focus on character interactions, deep psychological messages and compelling subplots, this anime is the darling of anime critics. A must watch for veterans of anime.
MAL Rating: 8.73
The story of a regular orphanage, managed by a caring loving woman named Isabella. A fun house, surrounded by a lush field and a huge forest beyond. The kids are told never to go to the leaving gate and to stay away from the forest fence. Days filled with boundless joy and laughter, what could possibly go wrong?
(minor spoiler ahead)
Until two of the eldest kids, Emma and Norman, find out the “foster parents” are monsters. And the monsters’ food is the children on the plant orphanage.
With the intense mind games it offers, it’s a must watch for anyone interested in psychological thrillers. Will Emma, Norman and Ray out maneuver Isabella? Or will the cunning, sly “mama” of the house destroy their hope of escaping? The underlying dark tones with acute psychological warfare makes this anime one day binge worthy.
MAL Rating: 8.33
Any avid anime fan has for sure come across the behemoth of 1995, Neon Genesis Evangelion. A mecha show about kids piloting robots to fight aliens makes for a pretty decent watch. However, this particular show, doesn’t focus on robots as much as it does on traumatized mind of Ikari Shinji. A boy with parental issues and low self esteem is suddenly given the controls to protect mankind. As he slowly grows in character, he begins questioning the reason for his actions and the source for his motivation.
To any fan of the existentialist theme (such as myself), Neon Genesis Evangelion is a visual, aural, and psychological delight. It is filled with questions about the complex realities of living in a society. Seeing the growth and subsequent decline of each character and watching as they question the meaning of consciousness, reality, emotions and other such extreme topics is thoroughly captivating. With a dark overhead plot of political tension, backstabbing and intense character interactions, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a must watch. It is a true representation of how deep and dark, anime in this medium can get.
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