10 Darkest Anime of All Time, According to Reddit

10 Darkest Anime of All Time, According to Reddit

Many shounen anime are understandably big crowd-pleasers when it comes to the genre in general, thanks to being light-hearted and colorfully action-packed, but seinen series like this year’s Golden Kamuy and even the shounen fight Attack on Titan Season 4 shows how compelling darker anime can be.

Creating an excellent dark anime can be its own challenge, as it cannot afford to be dark for dark’s sake. However, many Redditors have cited some of the best dark anime they’ve ever seen. More expected anime like Berserkand Neon Genesis Evangelionwas noted, but there are also some more subversive ones that Made in the Abyss.


Made In Abyss (2017-)

Stream on Amazon Prime Video

The main characters Reg and Riko, respectively from Made in Abyss.

On the more unexpected side, at least based on the show’s art direction, Made in the Abyss is one of the most popular ongoing dark anime. It recently concluded its long-awaited second season to similar acclaim to its predecessor. Redditor shilunliu cited it as a top recommendation, saying “don’t be fooled by the chibi characters, not a kids show.”

Made in the Abyss follows Riko, a young girl who wants to become an elite diver like her mother, who went missing and explores the depths of the titular Abyss. She meets and befriends the robot boy Reg along the way, and despite the lovable character designs, delves into increasingly darker emotional and psychological elements the further they go to uncover the secrets of the abyss.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–1996)

Stream on Netflix

Shinji carries Rei with an Evangelion in the background in anime key art.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most iconic series available, mecha or otherwise, and is also a notoriously depressing anime to boot. In another recommendation thread, Redditor napoleonfanboy said “The latter half of Neon Genesis Evangelion and The End of Evangelion fit that bill,” regarding particularly dark anime series.

Evangelion is noted for being somewhat of a deconstruction of the typical mecha anime subgenre, as it serves as a deeply psychological and thematic exploration of the pitfalls of various mental illnesses. It also doesn’t hold back on the socio-political commentary, with the story focusing on groups of children who are essentially drawn into a war by a shadowy paramilitary organization to fight off an alien invasion.

Devilman Crybaby (2018)

Stream on Netflix

devilman crybaby poster

A dark fantasy series with a demonic theme, the Netflix anime adaptation of Go Nagai’s Devil man (the text cry baby) received a solid critical reception while being seen as famously bleak. Redditor Sujallamichhaneakasl spoke highly of the show’s impact, saying “To call that show dark would be an understatement. The artstyle is unique, animation is fluid and the whole ordeal really messes you up.”

Devilman Crybaby centers around two friends who seek to discover the devils hidden in the world. But in a chaotic mix-up, the soft-spoken Akira Fudou bonds with a devil to save Ryou Asuka. Using devils as a vehicle, Cry baby delves into themes such as intense existentialism, bigotry and coming of age as a male youth.

Monster (2004-2005)

Buy to stream on Amazon Prime Video

The shadowy silhouette of Johan Liebert and Kenzo Tenma in Monster key art.

One of the best seinen anime according to MyAnimeList, mangaka Naoki Urasawa’s Pattern is a thoroughly engrossing crime thriller. Redditor pRophecysama chimed in on a comment threat recommending it as one of the darker anime ever released, going so far as to say “I honestly would wait monster [because] when you see it, everything else seems s***** in comparison.”

Like other dark, more mature-leaning anime and manga, Pattern holds little back in entering the most disturbing corners of philosophy and psychology. Following Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese former doctor living in Germany, finds his life spiraling out of control after the young boy he sacrificed his job to save resurfaces years later as an elusive and cultish serial killer.

Black Lagoon (2006)

Stream on Hulu

Black Lagoon anime key art with Revy and Rock standing back to back.

Black Lagoon is a solid choice for fans who want a combination of bombastic, gory action as well as grim social commentary. Redditor Vainglory1 thought it was a remarkably dark anime, saying “It’s not completely dark, but there’s definitely some immoral evil and some dark parts here and there.” Black Lagoon begins with a mid-20s Japanese mercenary who inadvertently becomes a pawn in a nuclear arms deal involving his corrupt employers.

As a result, he becomes cynical about his life in Japan, and joins the titular mercenaries to start over. Where the series gets particularly dark is in its morally ambiguous cast’s incredibly nihilistic worldview, as well as the commentary on how the world’s governments and the criminal underworld often go hand in hand in setting the status quo.

Steins Gate (2011)

Stream on Hulu

Steins;Gate key art featuring Okabe and Kurisu.

While certainly not as over-the-top as mecha anime, Stein’s Street is another critically acclaimed sci-fi series that subverts the elements of the subgenre. Redditor ChaseCid vouched for it, noting that it is “Not entirely dark, but has significant dark themes present and moments that are enhanced by the lighter tones around other parts of the anime.”

Stein’s Street is on the darker side more unconventional, as its early acts almost lull the audience into a false sense of security with grounded, slice-of-life storytelling. But that’s before they unravel into a deeply conspiratorial story with real life-or-death implications as the characters stumble upon the secrets of time travel.

Berserk (1997–1998)

Stream on Netflix (December 2022)

Berserk anime key art with Guts armored and swinging his sword.

Often hailed by longtime fans of the medium as the greatest seinen manga ever written and illustrated, the late Kentaro Miura’s Berserk is one of the most captivating fantasy series to watch or read. It hasn’t had the best of luck when it comes to consistent (and high-quality) TV anime adaptations, but the original 1997 series is still fondly watched.

Naturally, many fans like Redditor StarWarsNerd57 included it in their dark anime recommendation list. Berserk can be merciless in how punishing it portrays its Game of Thrones and The Witcher-like world and how cruelly it treats its protagonist, but if fans choose to read on, it fully reaps the themes of inspiring human resilience and healing it has always sown. And that’s without sacrificing the atmosphere and world-building of a dark fantasy story.

Vinland Saga (2019-)

Stream on Netflix

Vinland Saga anime key art with Thorfinn in the background and the supporting cast in front.

It doesn’t go to the same bleak depths as the likes of Berserkbut Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga has all the nuances and engaging, character-driven storytelling that fans want from a darker anime. Redditor Cynique_Noir also gave it a shout out in a thread of suggestions, with much of what makes Wit Studio’s anime adaptation such a poignant watch that comes from the emotional backstories of the cast.

This sweeping Viking-themed epic follows young Thorfinn’s bloody quest for revenge against the man who killed him. Vinland Saga becomes thoroughly introspective from the characters’ side, with Thorfinn’s supporting role providing equally interesting motivations.

Psycho Pass (2012-)

Stream on Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime Video

The main cast of Psycho-Pass lined up in key art.

While Ghost in the shell is understandably regarded as the most influential cyberpunk anime, Psycho-Pass is an admirably modern entry in the subgenre. Redditor Cynique_Noir put it on his list of recommendations, and at least for the first season, it’s one of the most impressive modern anime originals.

Psycho-Pass takes place in a techno-dystopian future where the Japanese government monitors its citizens’ propensity to be criminals, and if they fail this test, they are dealt with by enforcers, even lethally. As one might expect from such a premise, Psycho-Pass‘ darkness stems from its Minority Report and Blade Runner-similar narrative influences.

Kaji: Ultimate Survivor (2007–2008)

Stream on Crunchyroll

A bloody Kaiji holds up a card in Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor.

One might not normally think that an anime series that revolves around gambling can be particularly dark, but Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor achieves just that. Redditor majora24 commented on the series’ merits, mentioning how “it has a lot of mind games” that help make it so consistently tense.

Focusing on the depressing protagonist, Kaiji is pressured by loan sharks to settle a debt a colleague charged him with. As a result, Kaiji joins a cruel underground gambling tournament where competitors essentially play for their lives. The intense games of strategy and ruthless backstabbing do Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor an exhausting watch in the best of ways.NEXT: 10 Best Animated Shows Influenced by Anime

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