Halloween is upon us -- and the obligation has arrived to gorge oneself on as many spooky scary series as possible.
Anime is no stranger to the horror genre and, whether you like gore, psychological thrillers, or zombies, there's definitely a show for you.
Here, we'll be covering 6 scary anime series (in no particular order) that send chills down our spine. Some may fall comfortably into the horror genre whereas others may require a little more abstract thinking. Nevertheless, you'll definitely want to keep the lights on while watching them!
After witnessing a homeless man fall onto the train tracks of a local subway station, Kei is surprised to see his classmate, Kaito, leap to the homeless man's rescue. After being pressured into helping, the pair save that homeless man but, unfortunately, lose their lives in a grizzly train crash moments after. However, things take a turn as the two wake up in a room surrounded by several other people and one ominous black sphere in the center. The people are informed that they must defeat aliens in order to score points. When reaching a certain threshold, they are able to ask for a single wish.
Gantz expertly mixes fantasy horror with slice-of-life teenage angst. Kei Kurono is a wildly realistic interpretation of the introverted and jaded lifestyle and wants nothing more than to forsake the game and return to the life he once knew.
Gantz is a thrilling ride where no character is safe, and this only gets better upon reading the manga. Kei Kurono as a character receives a wealth of development in the later sections of the manga. He upgrades from utterly loathed into somewhat pitiable. Take a look at Gantz if you are interested in a less traditional style of horror.
2. Highschool of the Dead
In this classic series, we follow a group of high school students (and a colorful cast of supporting characters) who are thrust one day into a rabid zombie apocalypse.
While Highschool of the Dead does have moments of comedy (and, yes, fan service), it of course also features an army of zombies lying in wait to eat the protagonists' brains. Over the course of the series, we see the group pushed to their limits as they not only defend against the zombie invasion but begin to bicker amongst themselves. There's so many tense and surprising moments littered throughout the show that those who fear the reanimated corpse trope will be forced to hide behind the sofa while it all plays out!
3. Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul has got to be one of the most influential anime in recent memory.
We follow Kaneki Ken, a shy teenager who one day finds himself on a date with a beautiful woman. The pair enjoy their time with each other and make their way home afterward. There, the woman reveals her true nature: she's a ghoul, a carnivorous vampire-like creature who feasts on human flesh.
However, before she can tuck into Kaneki, the two are involved in a freak construction accident. The woman passes away and Kaneki only survives thanks to an organ transplant. Now, as a half-human, half-ghoul, Kaneki must navigate two sets of worlds in which he is a stranger to both.
Tokyo Ghoul is a delightful lesson in effective character development. Kaneki starts his journey as timid and frightened by the world of the ghouls but soon develops into an incredibly powerful force among the ghoul community. Thanks to his peer, Touka, who assists Ken through the ghoulish world he has come to know, Kaneki slowly grows into the white-haired edgelord we all know and love. Tokyo Ghoul's scares come mostly from body horror, but there are elements of subtlety threaded throughout.
4. Elfen Lied
Lucy, a special breed of human referred to as Diclonius, finds herself abducted by the government and scientifically experimented on. All the time she spent being tortured, however, fostered a long-lasting hatred within.
Eventually, an opportunity to escape arises and Lucy swiftly makes her move. From then onwards it is a veritable killing spree, as Lucy exacts painful revenge on all her captors. Unfortunately, Lucy suffers a head injury during her escape and this gives her a secondary personality.
Two young college students happen upon this new incarnation of Lucy and take her in. Her limited speech and harmless demeanor paint her as someone in need of protection. This act will change the students' lives forever as they become entrenched in government conspiracies and the dormant murderer that Lucy truly is.
Elfen Lied is a traditional gore-fest at heart, but it's also a show that takes great care in developing the motives of its characters.
5. Japan Sinks
Japan Sinks is a terrifyingly real horror anime based on the catastrophic earthquakes that have rocked Japan over the years.
The earthquake depicted in this show takes place after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with protagonists Ayumu and Gou Mutou attempting to flee a sinking Japan with their family. As the archipelago crumbles around them, this family's will to survive is tested in one of the most realistic, saddening, and chilling horror anime series you'll ever encounter.
What makes this series so heart-wrenching is the realistic implications that it draws. Unfortunately, as history tells us time and again, arthquakes are a regular occurrence in Japan -- and large ones can lead to cataclysmic consequences.
Sure, a ghost invasion is scary and the bloody gore is sickening; but we can at least sleep easy knowing no such thing could ever occur in our reality. An earthquake, on the other hand, could be ravaging some distant part of the world at this very instant -- and you'd never know it.
Japan Sinks is a chilling reminder of the threat of natural disasters that mankind must live with on a daliy basis. Horror is always scarier when it is based on real-world events, after all.
6. Junji Ito Collection
When it comes to horror, Japanese animation and manga are some of the best at expressing fear. And when it comes to drawing and writing Japanese horror, none do it better than the ever-popular Junji Ito.
Junji Ito's manga works have become infamous for their bleak, depressing, and traumatizing stories over the years. Each story's art style perfectly foreshadows the ominous climax that awaits.
Two of Ito's most famous stories are The Enigma of Amigara Fault and Long Dream.
The Enigma of Amigara Fault sees a group of people seemingly called to weird human-shaped outlines in a wall. Those who travel inside their designated hole never return from their godforsaken destination.
Long Dream tells the story of a man whose dreams at night last for weeks, months, or even years at a time -- and yet he always wakes up the next day in the real world, the same man as he was before.
This animated collection covers several stories from Ito's manga catalogue, mainly adopted from the horror anthology Horror World of Junji Ito. Included in the package are the aforementioned Long Dream, as well as succubus tale Tomie and the voodoo-esque thriller Souichi's Convenient Curse.
We recommend everyone to delve into the world of Junji Ito. Just be warned that you may not be the same person after watching his work…
The art of Japanese horror
Japanese horror stories have a lot to offer fans of the genre, whether it be in the form of grizzly slashers or unnerving abstract tales.
Japan seems to like to go above and beyond with its attention to detail in creating horror work. Indeed, some of the images created by these artists are so haunting that it boggles the mind that someone could be so imaginative. Moreover, many series like to move away from traditional jumpscares and either lean into the gore or develop truly thought-provoking stories that will keep us awake at night both scared and intrigued.
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Thanks for reading!