With Halloween right around the corner, spooky season is officially upon us. Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and spirits start to fill the surroundings, lending a vibe that enhances the effects of horror in media. Horror anime is a niche subgenre of the popular medium with plenty of scares and screams.
Whether it be horror anime movies or series, there is an abundance available on Netflix. It may be hard to suspend disbelief in this medium, as there is a distinguishable line between drawings and real life. Psychological horror anime is a popular genre branch, given that they make you doubt yourself with relevant societal questions.
This genre of shows is abundant, ranking even among the top-rated shows available. Here is Japan Nakama’s top 10 horror anime!
1. Berserk (1997)
The journey of the most iconic giant-sword-wielding hero, Guts, quickly takes the cake as the best horror anime of the bunch. We are referring to Berserk 1997, not the laughable Berserk 2016, an adaptation that puts the series to shame with its poor animation, art, and soundtrack.
Characterized as a berserker – a warrior who fights in a frenzy – Guts is a travelling mercenary known as the Black Swordsman. He encounters characters such as the lovely little fairy, Puck, the ambivalent tsundere swordswoman, Casca, and charismatic Griffith. Cursed with the Berserk symbol, he goes into fits of bloodlust and rage as he takes down his foes in glorious fight scenes with the demons he is contracted to fight.
The Berserk Manga is also arguably the greatest manga of all time, with its art being insanely detailed up to the most minor things you wouldn’t notice unless you took a moment to scan. Its best panels are available with a quick google search; you will not be surprised it is rated so highly, as Keitaro Miura put his heart and soul into this masterpiece of a story
2. Perfect Blue
What makes Perfect Blue incredible is its relevance to the current times. Released in 1988, it discusses the horrors Mima, a pop idol, has to face as she deals with stalkers that threaten her online identity. The Perfect Blue anime is the cream of the crop regarding psychological horrors – it’ll make you question exactly what is real or not, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.
Satoshi Kon possibly predicted this day and age where the Metaverse and online personas are such a massive deal. Videos and online articles with the main talking point of “Perfect Blue Explained” are abundant, showing how much people are affected by the narrative. There are also rumours that the famous 2010 American psychological horror film, Black Swan, was based on this story, giving it even more credibility.
3. Parasyte: The Maxim
The horror anime Parasyte: The Maxim is the perfect gateway for western horror fans to get into the medium. Although it has a very vanilla premise that is executed to perfection. Aliens infiltrate the earth – and humanity – burrowing into their brains and taking control of them. Shinichi is a victim of this, although the alien, Migi, can only go as far as his arm.
This story can be consumed through the Parasyte live-action film and the Parasyte manga. It is an easily digestible story that has plenty of cliffhangers that will keep you wanting to come back for more. It does just enough to be above average in all aspects and is a great anime to put on and watch, especially during these times
Not to be confused with Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, Mononoke is a psychedelic trip filled with spirits that will legitimately disturb you. Its visuals make it unique from the other shows in this list, with its stunning visual imagery, colour pops, and ominous soundtrack. Based on feudal Japan, its style is reminiscent of art you would see from traditional Japanese scrolls, lifted straight into a spooky horror show.
The Mononoke Anime revolves around the main character known as the Medicine Seller, who travels around old Japan to slay spirits called “Mononoke”. His journey is filled with many roadblocks and vengeful spirits that will surely be part of your next nightmare. Uniquely, a manga of one of its famous story arcs was published shortly after it aired on TV. Its popularity then leaked into the streets of Tokyo, where cosplayers dress up as their favourite characters from this absolute banger of a horror anime.
Dorohedoro has the same psychedelic and trippy feel as Mononoke, except set on what seems to be Halloween in Shibuya. Its characters, Kaiman, Nikaido, Shin, Noi, and Ebisu, all look like a group of friends ready to trick-or-treat with their unique ensembles and quirky personalities. A talking upright crocodile, a Streetfighter character, a creepy mismatch killing duo, and a girl straight from a Tim Burton movie highlight how wacky and bizarre its main cast looks.
Dorohedoro’s manga is also extremely popular, being among the highest-rated on top manga review sites. It’s a fun ride with a darkly comedic and fantastical adventure vibe that doesn’t need to be taken seriously. Not the scariest show on this list, but Dorohedoro season two seems to be on the cards, as there is a big market for the goofy and bizarre characters that fill the magical world known as the Hole.
6. Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul is one of the more polarizing anime on this list. It was adapted from a wildly successful manga and has a massive fanbase. The problem is whether it be mainline Tokyo Ghoul, the live-action Tokyo Ghoul S, or the highly disappointing offshoot Tokyo Ghoul Re, nothing has lived up to the footsteps of the Tokyo Ghoul manga.
Tokyo Ghoul’s characters are what makes the original story remarkable. Ken Kaneki, Uta, and Touka’s character development are engaging, attention-grabbing, and just downright awesome throughout the series. The concept of having the main character turn into somewhat of an antihero is a concept executed as well as it can. Mangaka Sui Ishida’s story was not done any justice, as they crammed 60-chapters of the beloved Tokyo Ghoul manga into 12 short episodes.
7. Elfen Lied
Elfen Lied is a classic that is so influential that it inspired the character El from Stranger Things. Lucy, just like El, is a girl who is taken captive and tortured in an inhumane program run by the government. Elfen Lied’s manga is also a must-read that adds context and background to the show’s short 12 episodes and characters.
What makes it so scary is that it is a gorefest, an actual bloody mess from top to bottom. It is infamous for being one of the most brutal manga series to get through; it is not for the faint of heart and requires a solid stomach. Its story also tests the limits of human compassion as unsuspecting characters are exposed to the atrocities of the world. It’s opening, Lilium, is also one of the most popular themes in anime, juxtaposing the craziness in the anime with a beautiful, poetic ballad.
Mieruko-chan is the newest horror anime on this list, released only in the Fall of 2021. This show has elements that appeal to many anime fans in equal parts slice-of-life, horror, and heartwarming beats. The way it adapts panels from the ghosts in its manga is legitimately terrifying, though, as the spirits stand out from the very bubbly characters’ designs of the main characters.
It also has many elements from traditional horror films, such as jump scares and fake shocks that act as red herrings to what will happen. To add it all up, an intriguing subplot of gods that aid the characters in their encounters with the ghosts sets up the possibility of a Mieruko-Chan Season 2. As icing on the cake, Mieruko Chan is available on Netflix, making it easily accessible to a wide range of audiences looking for some cuteness with a side of terrifying moments.
9. High School of the Dead
An ode to the more.. cultured anime fan, High School of the Dead is a unique entry on this list, for better or for worse. Its horror element is a vanilla zombie apocalypse that threatens all of the high school students’ lives. Its unique flavour appeals to the more hardcore Anime fan who is more attuned to elements that are on the more advanced side of Japanese culture.
Some people wonder if High School of the Dead is classified as hentai. It has the ecchi tag, making it more suited to mature audiences. One look at its cover and specific manga panels, and you will see how its characters are drawn with chock-full of generous features. High School of the Dead Season 2 has not yet been confirmed today. Still, with its popularity in niche anime circles, much material is available on the world wide web to appreciate the influential anime in all its glory.
Higurashi is the most complexly written anime on this list, as it is a murder mystery with loopy time travel elements. This list highlights the original Higurashi When They Cry as opposed to Higurashi Gou and Higurashi Sotsu, which are the remakes released in the past two years. Set in a small rural town that starts with cheerful scenes of high school students horsing around in uni, the show tells a tale of students who are suddenly forced to participate in a mystery involving multiple killings during a summer festival.
The original, known by its hardcore fanbase as Higurashi No Naku Kori Ni, is a thrilling story with grotesque torture-porn elements that may be hard to get through. This show will not adjust for you, as it features multiple death scenarios for its early teenage characters. Higurashi’s Rena also makes for a very memorable protagonist and one of the more popular Yandere characters in anime (for those that don’t know what that is, imagine your crazy ex-girlfriend).
Did your favourite horror anime make this list? Weebs, cuddle up with a dakimakura of your favourite waifu to protect you, as these shows are sure to freak the living hell out of you. Worst case, if things go wrong, don’t worry and pray you get transported to another world as the main protagonist of your very own power fantasy.