While anime is perhaps primarily known for its action series such as Naruto or One Piece, many subgenres have a wide range of shows to offer and have dedicated fan bases. Horror anime is a particularly beloved subgenre, showcasing a wide variety of horror styles and tropes for fans to choose from. Whether you’re looking for thought-provoking, twisted psychological horror, gore and guts, or grotesque body horror, there will be at least one show that will suit the viewer’s needs. In preparation for the upcoming Netflix show, Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre, will be released on January 19, 2023, here are the best horror anime for viewers to immerse themselves in before its release.
While not all exceptional horror anime can be covered in a list limited to 10, the series and films hopefully provide a diverse selection to choose from, both in terms of genre, length and year of release. Horror anime is an expansive subgenre and hosts countless series and movies, and these 10 are just a few of them. There are many hidden gems out there, and new series come out every year. While the ‘best’ horror anime is subjective, these are definitely stories that have captivated millions and had a positive impact on the anime community as a whole.
Attack on Titan
Since its release in 2013, Attack on Titan has taken the entire anime community by storm. Set in a walled city in an apocalyptic world, viewers follow a series of characters who must survive and slay titans, or giant, mindless human creatures that have an appetite for human flesh. Attack on Titan appeals to lovers of action anime, as there are many characters who display unparalleled fighting skills and intricately animated fight scenes. Horror fans will be just as pleased, however, as it’s the sheer brutality of the show that ultimately stands out. Whether its people are eaten alive, human acts of depravity, or just pure bloody violence, Attack on Titan offers a more than adequate amount of horror to the viewers.
Released in 2014, Tokyo Ghoul is a web of urban fantasy, action and brutal, bloody horror. Set in an alternate Japan, humans live among ‘ghouls’, individuals who must eat human flesh to survive and possess terrifying abilities that threaten the balance of the world. The show follows Ken Kaneki, a young human teenager who gets into an accident and is saved by a transplant as a last resort. However, Kaneki wakes up changed, as his new organs belonged to a ghoul. As the first half-human, half-ghoul to exist, Kaneki must come to terms with both parts of his identity and what this means for the world he lives in. With violence, morally gray characters and copious amounts of blood. Tokyo Ghoul is a great introduction to horror anime.
The Promised Neverland
Increased popularity immediately when it was released in 2019, The Promised Neverland is a shocking psychological horror with moments that last far beyond screen time. The series takes place in an orphanage and follows three young characters as they begin to suspect that children are not being adopted and that something sinister is happening. Low on action, but high on suspense, this is a horror series for viewers who can handle a slower but thoroughly terrifying show. With characters that are easy to root for and twists that are compelling, The Promised Neverland provides an extremely effective horror experience.
Parasite from 2014 is the most famous and beloved body horror anime. The series is as gross and nauseating as the title suggests: parasitic aliens take over human bodies, merge with them in disgusting ways and cause metamorphoses reminiscent of cosmic or viral images. Most of these parasites remain unknown to humans as they hide under the skin of their chosen host. The show’s main character, Shinichi Izumi, is the first human to retain his consciousness when a parasite tries to invade him but fails, eventually becoming stuck in only his right hand. While the series showcases extreme body horror, it also makes viewers think about humanity’s existence in various thought-provoking methods of storytelling. Whether a viewer wants to be thoroughly repulsed or experience a darker story with multiple layers of meaning, Parasite will not disappoint.
Another is a harrowing, psychological feat of an anime, leaving viewers thinking about the series for days after they finish watching it. Released in 2012, Another is an unsettling, tense anime that moves slowly at times, but has enough moments of brutal, shocking depravity that it more than makes up for its slow burn. It’s one of those shows that viewers should go into knowing as little as they can, to preserve that priceless first experience. Following a high school student who becomes embroiled in a series of murders at his new school and the strange girl who seems to be the key to their case, Another steers viewers in one direction but pulls the rug out from under them. For horror fans who love a disorienting, macabre story, Another will definitely be their cup of tea.
Hailed as the holy grail of horror anime, the film Perfect blue from 1997 is a dizzying descent into absolute madness. Following idol Mima Kirigoe as she leaves her pop group to start an acting career, the film depicts the pressures of stardom and the suffocating weight it places on a person’s mental health. Mima first begins to suffer from a stalker, but more extreme and horrifying events occur, which destroy her sanity. Inspiring future films such as Black swan and Requiem for a DreamPerfect blue has some of the most iconic, thought-provoking images that burn into the memory. The film is considered a classic among anime fans, predating most other horror anime and heavily influencing everything that came after it. Perfect blue is both a staple horror and anime film, as it is loved by both communities respectively.
Angels of Death
A mixture of both psychological horror and ruthless gore, Angels of Death from 2018 is a bizarre series that only gets more manic as it progresses. Follows young Rachel Gardner who wakes up trapped in a basement with no memories, Angels of Death takes no conventional horror routes. Along with the only other living soul she comes across, an angry killer, Rachel must find a way out of the building she’s trapped in. With each floor containing a new, uniquely terrifying horror, Rachel must face these trials as her past resurfaces again. . Twisted and creepy, Angels of Death constantly raises the bar, and just when viewers think the show has reached its limit, it pushes itself further.
For horror fans looking to commit to a shorter series, Corpse Party is a four-episode miniseries from 2013 that has as much punch as a full-length anime. Centered around a group of students who have gathered to say goodbye to a friend who is preparing to move schools, Corpse Party is a paranormal horror that showcases ghosts, alternate dimensions and rituals gone wrong. Corpse Party, Although very traditional in its horror style, it still brings fresh excitement and offers a concise story with strong central themes.
The Elf Lied
For viewers seeking science fiction horror, The Elf Lied from 2004 is both a classic anime and a particularly violent series as a whole. Right from episode one, viewers are left reeling over scenes of graphic depravity and slaughter. The Elf Lied tells the story of Lucy, a genetically engineered human with supernatural abilities who escapes from the facility she is being held at. After being hit in the head while fleeing, Lucy loses her memory. When she is taken in by unassuming civilians, she begins to alternate between docile and bloodthirsty personalities. The show oscillates between moments of calm and moments of merciless death as Lucy’s fractured psyche becomes more unstable. Horror fans seeking shocking horror or a distinct sci-fi atmosphere should give it a try The Elf Lied.
mixes mystery with supernatural horror, Shiki from 2010 is an eerie slow burn series for most of its duration. Shiki is a tale of small towns, mysterious illnesses, people who disappear and characters who will do anything to get what they want. Definitely not a show for the impatient, Shiki relies heavily on its build-up in cultivating sophisticated characters, creeping horror and an atmosphere thick with tension. All of this leads to an explosive final episode where displays of gore, supernatural phenomena and human depravity grab viewers by the throat and suck the air out of their lungs.