Anime isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when recommending good horror entertainment. Yet, despite its perception as a cheery medium, this Japanese art form has its fair share of terrifying shows to offer. From mind-bending psychological trips to old-fashioned graphic displays of violence, the following are some of the best horror anime one can binge-watch just in time for Halloween.
Be warned that some of the entries below do contain light spoilers.
Best Horror Anime – Parasyte
Parasyte details the invasion of tiny alien beings who take over human bodies without anyone ever noticing. Once inside a host, these monsters are able to control the consciousness of a person and can even mutate body parts in a variety of horrifying ways. In one instance early on, a husband transforms his face into a gaping mouth filled with teeth and devours his wife’s head in one bite. Protagonist Shinichi Izumi is also an unfortunate victim of this parasite invasion, though manages to restrict his visitor to his forearm. Together, the pair must work together in order to survive and fight against other parasites who wish to do the people they love harm.
Best Horror Anime – Paranoia Agent
Paranoia Agent explores mass hysteria in the face of a series of haphazard assaults orchestrated by a young rollerblading man simply known as Lil’ Slugger. Made for those that prefer a slow, meaningful build-up with their scares, each episode is viewed from the perspective of another one of the assailant’s victims. Themes like workplace anxiety, sexual repression, and even group suicides are prominently featured here, allowing for a depressing meditation on our world today.
Best Horror Anime – Another
Another is the perfect horror anime to watch for those who aren’t familiar with the medium’s usual tropes. Presented very much like a Japanese version of the Final Destination movie franchise, transfer student Koichi Sakakibara must find out why each of his classmates keeps dying unexpectedly via a string of seemingly random accidents. Another is filled to the brim with gore in nearly every episode. As sickening as this may sound, part of the appeal of the show lies in guessing how each one of Koichi’s peers will die next. Each death is imaginative and beautifully rendered in slow motion, perhaps evoking the sadists that lurk deep inside all of us.
Best Horror Anime – Hell Girl
In the world of Hell Girl, there exists a website called Hotline to Hell that can only be visited by internet users at midnight. Once accessed, people are able to find a blank box and a lonely line that reads “I will exact your vengeance” against a simple black backdrop. Anyone whose name is typed into the box will be condemned to spend an eternity in hell immediately – so long as the person who wrote the name is willing to follow close behind.
Enma Ai, otherwise known as the Hell Girl, overseas each one of these so-called contracts and makes sure that each is enacted without a hitch. Though there’s hardly any blood to be found in this anime, its horrors lie in revealing how cruel and unforgiving humanity can be. Some people will never refuse to let go of a grudge, even if it literally kills them.
Best Horror Anime – School Live!
A cursory glance at School Live! may lead you to believe its a cutesy moe show filled with bright colors and high-pitch voices. The ending of the anime’s first episode, however, completely destroys this perception, thrusting viewers in an apocalyptic world that sees each elementary school student come to terms with living in a macabre new reality. As members of the School Living Club, Yuki and her friends must struggle with endless amounts of grief and hardship. The characters even go so far as to erase bits of the past in order to give themselves the mental fortitude to keep their lives intact. Keep a friendly pet nearby for this one.
Best Horror Anime – Monster
Monster presents viewers with a moral dilemma from the get-go, asking Japanese surgeon Kenzou Tenma to choose between saving the life of a mayor or that of a child. Kenzou must live with his choice for the rest of the show from that point on. He gradually becomes involved with a former patient called Johan Liebert, the likes of which evolves to be more manipulative and dangerous. The surgeon’s decisions come back to haunt him time and time again through Johan’s provocations, proving that humanity’s greatest fears lie within ourselves and that there are very few people we can trust in this world. Though Monster isn’t the most visceral horror anime out there, it refuses to stop messing with your head.
Best Horror Anime – Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is worth seeing for its catchy introductory song “Duvet” alone, though horror fans should definitely stick around long after Jasmine Rodgers’ beautiful melody is over. This thought-provoking show reflects upon the nature of existence in the digital age and explores what separates real-life from make-believe in the modern world.
Protagonist Lain is an average Japanese schoolgirl who loves spending time in a virtual reality form of the internet called the Wired. When a deceased classmate starts sending emails to his former peers from beyond the grave, Lain is somehow caught up in an intense ghost story that argues the potential for happiness outside the confines of our typical everyday lives. Its deep philosophical and theological questions will haunt you for days after the final credits begin to roll.
Best Horror Anime – Higurashi When They Cry
Higurashi When They Cry twists the concept of harem anime in a horrific manner, essentially wringing any trace of male fantasy and replacing it with blood, torture, and mutilation. Following a young man named Keiichi Maebara who lives in a small town called Hinamizawa, a string of events begins to occur that leaves the protagonist more than a little concerned. Though he has fun his newfound friends at school, he begins to think that they’re hiding something from him. Some may even have murderous tendencies, though he’s not entirely sure. Viewers eventually discover that nothing in this small town is ever what it seems.
The horror anime shows on this list may last you several Halloweens to come, though there’s always an excuse to stay up late one night and scare oneself silly before drifting off to sleep. Whether gore, psychological horror, or thoughtful meditations on humanity are your thing, anime will always be there to appeal to your darker side.