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The Best Horror Anime of All Time

Why do I get the feeling that I’ve written this article before?

But have I? Have I really written this article before? It’s impossible. I’m sure of it. My bosses would never tell me to write the same article twice. Surely there must be some benign explanation? Surely no one is trying to gaslight me into losing my sanity? Surely I’ve filled my eyes with all the most horrible animation there is and I don’t have to watch anymore. That simply must be the case! Because if it isn’t I think I’ll just go mad.

WAIT. I REMEMBER! I have written this article before! I had just begun my tenure with The Mary Sue! I was bright-eyed and full of hope then! I thought the internet was full of love and light! I was so sure that everyone would love my opinions on things!

And then … they came.

Their voices … I can still hear their voices now. They whispered horrible things to me. Things to make me doubt my own sanity. They said that bloody and brutal Elfen Lied was only a “7/10 series.” They said that the terrifying Junji Ito collection “did not translate well to the big screen.” They said that I was missing anime that I hadn’t heard of. These voices came from the darkest abyss. A black gulf of terror where reason gives way to gibbering madness. The Place That Is Not To Named. The Forbidden Place. The Place Of Hopelessness and Despair. I speak, of course … of the comments section.

I have looked into the mouth of horror and seen the dark gods that dwell within. And they tell me that I have sinned against them and that I must appease them! Even at the cost of my own mind! VERY WELL, YOU BLACKEST OF DIVINITIES. I SHALL MAKE WITH YOU A DARK PACT. I SHALL TRY AGAIN TO NAME THE BEST HORROR ANIME SERIES OF ALL TIME. AND IF I SHOULD FAIL, MY IMMORTAL SOUL SHALL BE YOURS FOREVERMORE.

But if I succeed … I shall comment “lol told you so bitch” on your internet content for the rest of my darkened days.


(PA Works)

Another is a cornucopia of horrors, and one that the dark gods originally spoke of to me on the very blackest of nights. It concerns a sickly young boy named Kouichi Sakakibara who, after spending time in the hospital, transfers to a new school. But what awaits him there? Could it be a harem of horny coeds who are each vying for his undeserving main character affections? Far worse. He encounters a beautiful girl with an eyepatch and strange sort of aura, one that inexplicably draws him to her. His classmates, however, pay no attention to the girl. As Kouichi begins to get closer to the girl, who introduces herself as Mei, his classmates begin to warn him not to try to understand things that aren’t really there.

Soon Kouichi learns that Mei herself may not be one of these things. Yet why can he see her? And what dark secrets does she hold? As he begins to uncover the mysteries, a series of horrifying tragedies begin to befall the students of his class. Some students believe that the class is cursed due to some terrible event that occurred in the shadowy past. Kouichi must team up with Mei and the rest of the class in order to unearth the long buried secret, but doing so may indeed take a toll on his very life!

Higurashi (When They Cry)

A character in Higurashi When They Cry swings a weapon.
(Studio Deen)

Another show full of murder, mystery, and creepy children! Yes, the dark gods whispered of Higurashi to me as well, and sure enough it is a box of horrors that even Pandora herself would fear to open! The series centers on a group of deceptively adorable children who live in a small, rural village. Every year for the past four years, on the night of the Cotton Drifting Festival, two terrible tragedies occur in this village. One of the residents of the town is always found brutally murdered, while another resident disappears without a trace. The murders are said to be the work of the town’s patron god, Oyashiro, and the yearly happening is referred to as “Oyashiro-sama’s curse.”

The events of the the series take place during the fifth Cotton Drifting Festival, as the children of the village attempt to shed light on the dark reason for why the tragedy takes place. The series is unique in that it does not take a terrifying tone all the time, but rather often depicts the world in cheerful, rural beauty. When horrible things happen to these adorable little characters (and they often do), the series is able to seamlessly swing into a carnival of grotesque and horrible imagery. It is worth a watch, but your sanity might not be able to handle it. MINE CERTAINLY COULDN’T. AHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAH!!!!

Paranoia Agent

Shonen Bat stands with a baseball bat in front of a crowd in the cover art for "Paranoia Agent"

Yes, the dark gods spoke of this series as well! Paranoia Agent is a horror series created by Satoshi Kon, known for his terrifying film Perfect Blue, about a young pop idol who believes herself to be losing her mind! How one can relate! HEE HEE! This little series concerns a killer child (I’m sensing a theme here!) known as “Shonen Bat,” or “Li’l Slugger” to English-speaking audiences. Shonen Bat’s modus operandi is simple: he stalks people who are alone. Then he rides up to them on a pair of golden inline skates. Then he strikes them with a bent baseball bat! HAHA HOME RUN! If I only he would appear to ME and put an end to my MADNESS once and for ALL!!!

At first, the two police detectives assigned to the Shonen Bat case believe that the boy’s first victim is lying. After all, how could a juvenile be capable of such horrors? But after a second and third victim appear and claim to have seen the same child, the detectives begin to search for the little slugger in earnest. As the attacks continue and the police are left confounded, the people of Tokyo begin to grow more and more paranoid. Perhaps they will uncover the dark truth about Shonen Bat, or perhaps paranoia will get them first! WHO KNOWS!

Related: The 10 Best Dark Fantasy Anime, Ranked on We Got This Covered



Finally! A series about a killer adult! Oh, how delicious! Monster is a charming little tale about a Japanese man named Kenzou Tenma, who enjoys a career as a renowned brain surgeon in Germany. Dr. Tenma has it all: A successful career! A beautiful wife! A ingenious mind! Yet one day, he makes a little mistake. One could even say a fatal mistake. OH, YES INDEED! One day at work, he decides to use his talents to save a little boy who was shot in the head instead of saving the mayor! As a result, he loses his job and his fiance. And how does the little boy repay him? By growing up to become the most prolific serial killer the world has ever seen. OH, THE IRONY! AHAHAHA!

To make matters even more interesting, all of the doctors who replaced Dr. Tenma are found horribly murdered, and Dr. Tenma is the chief suspect. You know what they say: “no good deed goes unpunished!” To clear his name, Dr. Tenma must find the culprit for these murders and bring him to justice, and we know who that is, don’t we? It looks like the good doctor will have his work cut out for him trying to catch Mr. Johan Liebert, who is widely regarded as the most evil villain in anime history. I would surely love to meet him someday! He could tell me horrors that I never even DREAMED OF!

Berserk (1997)

Guts hoisting a massive sword over his back in "Berserk"
(OLM inc)

In this world, there are two types of horror: “ooooo hehe spooky!” horror and “omgpleasemakeitstopicanttakeit” horror. Berserkthe 1997 version, to be clear—belongs in the latter category. Set in a brutal fantasy version of medieval Europe, the story centers on a young mercenary and former sex slave (yes, this series is that dark) named Guts. After years spent fending for himself serving in the endless wars that plague the land, he is soon recruited by a charismatic young mercenary band leader named Griffith. The two strike up sort of a partnership, making money and engaging in more than a few war crimes … and then the demons show up … and Guts finds out the hard way where Griffith’s true loyalties lie.

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls

A terrified high schooler is stalked boy a ghostly child in "Corpse Party: Tortured Souls"

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls manages to pack a lifetime’s worth of trauma into four short episodes! The series is based on a video game of the same name, and concerns a group of high school students who decide to perform a magical ritual in order to stay “friends forever.” Why one would need a ritual for that, I’ll never know. The ritual backfires and the students are instead transported to an abandoned elementary school. And when I say “abandoned” I mean “abandoned by the living.” The restless, bloodthirsty spirits of the murdered elementary school students who call the place home don’t intend on leaving anytime soon.


The vampiric Megumi stares unsettlingly into the camera in "Shiki"

Have you ever felt stuck? Like no one in your small town understands you? Like you know that if you had the chance you could shake off the country bumpkin dust from your shoulders and make a name for yourself in the big city? You may just relate to Shiki‘s Megumi Shimizu … until she got turned into a horrifying vampire corpse demon. Poor Megumi’s rural Japanese village has become infested with vampire-like creatures called “shiki” who need to drink blood in order to survive. And this isn’t even the WORST thing that happens to the unfortunate Megumi. Fans of the series know about the run-in she has with the wheels of a tractor. It isn’t pretty.

Devilman Crybaby

The Devilman stretching his claws against a red background in "Devilman Crybaby"
(Science SARU)

While the 10-episode Devilman: Crybaby was divisive when it first hit the scene, it is now regarded as a contemporary anime classic. The story revolves around childhood best friends Ryo and Akira, who one day get the bright idea to attend a satanic drug-orgy organized by local teenagers. Thanks to the teenagers’ debauchery, they become possessed by demons, and after a horrific death-by-sex montage that still keeps me up at night, the young Akira is transformed into a half-human, half-demon creature known as a “devilman.” So what does he do with his new devilman abilities? He decides to stop the demonic hordes from destroying the planet … with mixed results.


The medicine seller smirks calmly in a hotel while two confused patrons look on in "Mononoke"
(Toei Animation)

Mononoke is one of the most visually stunning anime in existence. Just look at those colors! This series is not as blood-curdling as some of the others on this list, and instead trades gruesome horror for unsettling, dreamlike atmosphere. The plot centers on a mysterious man known as the Medicine Seller, who travels throughout Japan exorcising mononoke—monsters from Japanese folklore.

Boogiepop Phantom

A character stands in front of a giant clockface wearing a mystical hat and cloak in the anime 'Boogiepop Phantom'

Don’t let the cute little name of this series fool you—it’s a real killer. Boogiepop Phantom focuses on a group of characters recounting their personal experience of a murder spree that happened five years earlier. The culprit? Everyone knows that it simply must be a mysterious person known as Boogiepop! Boogiepop is said to kill people at “their most beautiful point,” before they grow old and ugly! But perhaps there’s more to dear old Boogiepop than meets the eye! Perhaps Boogiepop isn’t the villain after all, but a dark creature that is trying to defend humanity against even darker threats.

Boogiepop Phantom is a series that capitalizes on the real life horror that stems from the urban legends of Japan. Just google the “slit mouth woman” and you’ll see what I mean! Oh, or perhaps google “eight feet tall” and experience a larger-than-afterlife ghost! But be careful now or you might go as mad as me!

(featured image: Madhouse)

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Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.