Some of the best stories ever told have been in anime (Japanese cartoons). They come in all sorts of genres, including comedy, drama, and thrillers. These cartoons are popular all over the world for their incredible art style and in-depth stories that they offer. Whether you are looking for a playful or serious story – and one that is as fantastical or realistic as you want it to be – there is likely an anime out there for you. A lot of anime fans would find it hard to choose a single favorite anime. They have so much variety between them that one may be a person’s favorite in one category, whereas another is their favorite in a different category. This makes it pretty hard to determine which anime is the best objectively. Plus, it is a very personal decision, making it subjective by nature.
One of the more interesting genres appreciated by anime connoisseurs is the horror anime genre. The fact that it is drawn art makes it very easy to introduce some disturbing, fantastical, and implausible themes without stretching a budget or running into similar issues. There is a huge variety of horror anime out there today – it even has a few subgenres of its own. If you are looking for a new show to watch, you might want to consider an anime. Horror fans will appreciate watching a few of these Japanese cartoons. Whether you have seen an anime before or not, you might want to check out the following list of the Top Twenty Horror Anime Series of All-Time.
The anime Monster is based on a manga series that was drawn and written by an artist called Naoki Urasawa. The manga was originally published in 1994 and ran until 2001 (the anime aired starting in 2004). Monster follows a Japanese surgeon called Kenzō Tenma who lives and practices in Germany. He ends up getting involved with a former patient called Johan Liebert. Slowly, he is revealed to be crazy and dangerous. The anime adaptation of Monster received some excellent reviews. A lot of critics praised the depth and sophistication of the plot. They also made sure to note that the anime followed the manga nearly page-for-page and word-for-word. In addition, the English dub of the anime was considered one of the very best ever created.
Like a lot of other anime shows, Black Butler was based on a manga series. The original series was created by Yana Toboso, a talented writer and illustrator. It first debuted in 2006 in print, with the anime adaptation first airing two years later. Black Butler follows a young boy named Ciel Phantomhive as he solves crimes in London and sells his soul to a demon named Sebastian Michaelis. Black Butler is one of the most popular series in Japan and is well-known across the world. The manga sold millions of copies, and the anime adaptations brought in millions of viewers. There has even been a film created that is based on this story. Plus, a Nintendo DS game called Kuroshitsuji Phantom & Ghost came out in 2009 that is heavily based upon the Black Butler story.
Berserk is a unique anime that also started off as a manga. It was created by Kentaro Miura and came out quite some time ago in 1989. It is set in a dark fantasy world that was inspired by a Medieval European setting. The main characters are Guts and Griffith, mercenaries who have to deal with some pervading themes of good, evil, and the inherent nature of humanity. The series is noted for its violence and the graphic depictions of it. When the anime version of Berserk released in 1997, it stayed mostly true to the original manga. While some of the more violent scenes had to be toned down for broadcast television, all of the changes were made with the express permission of Miura. Another version of Berserk began in 2016, serving as a redux of the older anime series. It has been well-received all across the world and throughout the anime community.
Highschool of the Dead
Nearly every great anime was originally created as a manga. Highschool of the Dead (also called Apocalyptic Academy Highschool of the Dead) was a series drawn by Shōji Satō and written by Daisuke Satō. It started in 2006, with the anime adaptation coming 4 years later. However, Daisuke Satō passed away in 2017, leaving the series unfinished. Highschool of the Dead focuses on a group of students who are caught up in the middle of a bloody zombie apocalypse. The anime was quite popular in Japan and all over the world. It was praised for its thematic material – particularly how it deals with straight horror themes rather than trying to send a higher message. Many anime shows out there today fall prey to such mindsets.
This particular anime started off as a Japanese mystery horror novel. It was written by Yukiti Ayatsuji and was published back in 2009. It was adapted to manga form in 2010 and was produced as an anime two years later. Another focuses on the sudden death of a popular student named Misaki and the chain of deadly events that it caused to begin. Her death in 1972 ended up marking the beginning of a series of gruesome and horrifying ends to others’ lives. Another is a great anime that has an awesome and dark art style. It stays true to the older works but still manages to carve out its own place in the anime world. Another adaptation of Another worth mentioning is a live-action film that was created in 2012. This film was pretty successful and marked a solid entry into the franchise.
This awesome anime was originally created by Sake Esuno. Future Diary first came out in 2006 and was adapted for the screen in 2011. The plot essentially boils down to a depiction of a deadly battle royale. However, the twist is that every combatant has a diary that has entries from the future (which they can use to their advantage). Future Diary is a great horror anime due to its avant-garde approach to some dark and twisted themes. The anime adaption of Future Diary is just one of the many works that the original manga has inspired. For example, a visual novel was produced exclusively for the Playstation Portable (and was released in Japan only). Future Diary was even brought to the small screen with a live-action remake that began to air in 2012 and ran for eleven episodes. All-in-all, this is a great horror anime to add to your viewing list.
Straying away from the traditional horror fare is Parasyte, an older anime series based on a manga created by Hitoshi Iwaaki. It was originally published in 1988 and quickly became quite popular among horror, science fiction, and anime fans alike. The television adaptation first came out in 2014 and was styled Parasyte -the maxim-. This story focuses on the exploits of a 17-year-old high school student who becomes a host to some worm-like creatures with drills for heads. He and his new Parasytes have to fight other, similar creatures. Parasyte is a great franchise that has spawned several successful entries – including a live-action film – alongside the popular anime series.
Attack on Titan
One of the most famous anime series out there is Attack on Titan. It was created as a manga by Hajime Isayama and is one of the most popular and incredible franchises in existence. It is set in a dystopic world where all humans are relegated to living within enormous walls, meant to defend against Titans. These Titans are creatures that eat human flesh – presumably without any reason whatsoever. The anime series of Attack on Titan ended up getting to a bit of a rough start and was rescheduled and postponed a few times. However, the end result was that the anime ended up being one of the best ever created. Other Attack on Titan entries include live-action films, several songs, some novels, other mangas, and even video games. This series is popular all over the world – and not just among anime fans.
The first entry on our list that was not originally created as a manga is Paranoia Agent. The series came out in 2004 and explores some themes that are not often explored in anime series. Paranoia Agent focuses on the exploits of a serial assailant – a supposed child called Lil’ Slugger — and how it affected the people in Tokyo. This series explores some surreal themes and generally stands apart from other anime shows that are out there today. This David Lynch-like series has been received quite well, particularly those who are fans of psychological thrillers like Paranoia Agent is. It has a bit of a slow buildup but eventually becomes very dark and twisted. This anime is an excellent and horrifying show that is suitable for anyone’s viewing list.
Shiki is a story that was originally written by Fuyumi Ono, a Japanese novelist. It first came out in two parts in 1998 and was adapted to a manga by Ryu Fujisaki by 2007. After the manga came out, Shiki started to grow in popularity very quickly and eventually even ended up being adapted to an anime series in 2010. The series focuses on a small town called Sotoba that is plagued by vampire-like creatures called shiki who kill off a lot of the town’s citizens. The Shiki anime consists of 24 episodes that follow the manga fairly closely. It was also the debut regular voice role of Gackt, a Japanese musician, songwriter – and clearly voice actor – who is incredibly popular across their country and among their people. Shiki is a solid choice for any horror fan – especially those who are into vampires and other creatures.
Elfen Lied—which means “Elves’ Song” or “song of the elves” in German – is one of the very best horror anime television series that has ever been created. Similarly to most of the other shows on this list, it started off as a manga that was created by Lynn Okamoto in 2002. The anime version came out in 2004. Elfen Lied is about the interactions of a dangerous race of mutants called the Diclonii with typical humans. This show deals with some heavy themes, including revenge, identity, prejudice, regret, and social alienation. It consists of just 13 episodes but was one of the bestselling releases from ADV Films (the American release agent). Interestingly, the show started airing before the manga was finished. This led to drastically different plots between the two – making them both their own unique entry into the genre.
This series began as a several novels by Fuyumi Ono. The first iteration of Ghost Hunt was published in 1989 with the last novel published in 1994. The story was left incomplete at the end (an artistic decision). First, it was adapted as a radio drama in 1997. It also became an anime in 2006. Ghost Hunt is about a high school freshman who decides to hunt the paranormal, subsequently becoming involved with a psychic research facility and its manager. Ghost Hunt has been a novel, a manga, a radio series, a live action film, and an anime. Each has been incredibly well-received. The anime, for example, is often considered to be well-paced, intense, and occasionally horrifying. It is, overall, a fun show to watch if you are into paranormal mysteries with a good dose of horror.
The original Deadman Wonderland was a 2008 manga series that was illustrated by Kazuma Kondou with the story created by Jinsei Kataoka. It was instantly appreciated by manga fans as one of the better horror serials out there. In 2011, the anime adaptation of the show aired. Deadman Wonderland follows the story of Ganta Igarashi, a student who is sent to prison after his entire classroom is massacred by a mysterious evil being. This series has been recognized worldwide as one of the best horror anime series. Though it had a short run and never reached a solid conclusion, it still remains at the forefront of any series in this genre. Deadman Wonderland has even been referenced by the popular videogame Lollipop Chainsaw, which included a costume that was meant to be the same as Shiro’s – a popular character in the anime.
Hell Girl – also known as Jigoku Shōjo: Girl from Hell – is a popular anime that didn’t come from a manga. In fact, it was created right off the bat as an anime series from Studio Deen and Aniplex. It first aired in 2005 and quickly became very popular in Japan. The series focuses on a girl called Ai Enma who drags people to Hell on request – but requires that the person requesting it also gives their soul to eternal damnation. As far as horror goes, Hell Girl is a solid choice. Due to the anime’s popularity, it inspired a few spin-offs as well. Most notably, a manga was created as a close adaptation that also expanded on the world of the show. In addition, it has been made into a live-action series that spanned twelve episodes. Also important to note is the video game series that was featured on Nintendo DS and Playstation 2.
This series is another one that was not based on a manga or novel but was rather an original creation that was intended for television from the start. However, it did feature the talents of a manga artist group called CLAMP. Blood-C is actually a sequel series (the original was called Blood+) but vastly improves upon the older version of this tale. The show follows the story of a girl named Saya Kisaragi who is secretly a formidable warrior who destroys monsters that feed on human blood called Elder Bairns. Blood-C, like many other anime series, was turned into a movie called Blood-C: The Last Dark. It also spawned a prequel that features live actors called Asura Girl: Blood-C Another Story. However, the most unusual adaptation that this anime received was one for the stage. It was called Blood-C: The Last Mind and was set between the events of the anime and the first film. Blood-C and its spinoffs are certainly worth watching – and the anime series even won “Best Animation” at the 2013 Reaper Awards (an annual awards show from Dread Central and Home Media Magazine).
Higurashi When They Cry
This series (known only as When They Cry in North America) was first created as a sound novel series. It was an interactive novel that had its first iteration released in 2002 for PC. It also became a few video games, a manga, some live-action films, several novels, and an anime. The anime rendition of Higurashi When They Cry was released in 2006. This anime focuses on a group of young friends. They all live in a rural village called Hinamizawa and they must try to figure out the story behind a series of strange events. The show is set in 1983. There are murders, “demonic possessions”, and plenty of creepy dialogue. Overall, Higurashi When They Cry is a perfect anime series to check out. You should also play through some of the interactive novels to get the full experience.
Another great anime horror series is Soul Eater. The show started off as a manga series both written and illustrated by the talented Atsushi Ōkubo. It was made into an anime in 2008 and ran for quite some time – about 51 episodes. Soul Eater is about three teams at a school called the Death Weapon Meister Academy. The teams all attempt to collect souls from 99 evil humans and one from a witch in order to create a “death scythe” to be used by their headmaster (a literal personification of death called Shinigami). After the Soul Eater anime series came out, the widespread popularity of the franchise led to it inspiring several spin-offs as well. For example, a Wii game called Soul Eater: Monotone Princess was developed by Square Enix and was released in 2008. Two more games were produced as well, meant for the Nintendo DS and the Playstation 2/Playstation Portable respectively. This series is quite popular and famous. In fact, it was even listed in a Top 10 list in the Los Angeles Times.
Tokyo Ghoul is among the darkest series ever produced. It first began as a manga series in 2011 that was created by Sui Ishida. However, the intent for Tokyo Ghoul to become an anime was present from the start. Thus, the 2014 release of the anime series came as no surprise to those who had been following the manga. It also had a follow-up series released in 2015. This anime focuses on terrifying creatures called ghouls. In the context of the show, they are creatures that look like normal people but are only able to survive by consuming the flesh of humans. They even hold jobs, live in houses, and tend to try to keep their true nature covered up. They are also incredibly strong – which is necessary due to them being hunted by several government organizations. Tokyo Ghoul also became a live action film and a few video games.
The Hellsing franchise began as a manga that was created by Kouta Hirano. It first came out in 1997 and ran for over ten years in manga form. It shortly became an anime series (and several sequels and spin-offs were also created). The best Hellsing entry by far is the Hellsing Ultimate original animation that was created and released in 2006. Hellsing Ultimate deals with a terrifying world in which vampires and humans are constantly at odds. There are supernatural forces aplenty, of course. Plus, the main antagonists are literally Nazis (if that tells you anything). The series takes place in a dark version of London and features some of the best horror scenes ever included in an anime.
One of the most well-known, popular, and terrifying franchises is Death Note. It started off, like many other anime series, as a manga. It was originally created by Takeshi Obata (illustrator) and Tsugumi Ohba (author). Death Note focuses on the interactions between a high school student and a demonic force called Ryuk who gives him a book that allows him to kill anyone, as long as he knows their face and their name. The manga of Death Note came out in 2003, with the anime first releasing in 2006 (right after the manga concluded). It has also been adapted for the big screen on five different occasions – four live-action films were created in Japan, and one was released on Netflix in America. Death Note is a hugely successful horror anime – and a must-watch for anyone who is interested in the genre. It is widely considered to be one of the best anime series in the genre of all time.