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The Most Twisted Dark Anime Series

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The darkest anime series have some of the greatest character arcs and mind-blowing storylines that make fans want more after every episode. While there are plenty of dark horror anime fans can choose from, there are also surprisingly dark psychological shows that are truly binge-worthy anime series one can finish in a single day or weekend.

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These shows can give fans cruel but smart anime characters whose twisted and brilliant ideas made their series unforgettable experiences. They can be gory and messed up, but some of them are capable of being terrifying and mind-bending without blood or violence. While these anime shows can scare viewers and make them think about uncomfortable issues, some of them appreciate that there are creators willing to make stories that confront the harsher side of life. Like these great examples.

Updated March 2, 2024, by David Heath: Anime has had a reputation for being darker than Western cartoons since Akira. It’s not always the case, as there are plenty of anime that make the Loony Toons look like Breaking Bad. But there have been plenty of classic anime series that made their name by featuring sex, nudity, gore, violence, and other grisly deeds.

Other dark stories caught on thanks to their storytelling, where their heavy themes on human nature, morality and more were enough to chill viewers’ spines. Still others managed to combine that and the extreme content to be truly harsh experiences. Either way, they made the original anime on this list hard to get through for the squeamish, and now they’re even more tricky. This list has been updated with some new additions, alongside some format tweaks for ease of reading.

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22 Corpse Party: Tortured Souls

MyAnimeList Score: 6.43

Sachiko in Corpse Party Tortured Souls

Japanese Title

Kōpusu Pātī: Tortured Souls – Bōgyaku Sareta Tamashii no Jukyō (The Curse of Violent Spirits)

Studio

Asread

Where To Stream

Crunchyroll, HULU

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls is a divisive show, as those who liked it tended to love it, while those who didn’t absolutely hated it. While it’s based on the Corpse Party series of horror games, the franchise has received various manga and anime adaptations. Each comes with their own differences, with some things being better in the original source material.

Nevertheless, Tortured Souls still follows Corpse Party‘s premise. It follows a group of high school friends who perform a charm that should help them become better friends. Instead, though, it transports them into the spooky Heavenly Host Elementary School. There they are attacked by the murderous ghosts of the school’s students, who each died gruesome deaths, and are happy to share that experience with the living.

21 Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales Of The Macabre

MyAnimeList Score: 6.61

Characteres in Junji Ito Maniac Japanese Tales Of The Macabre

Japanese Title

Itō Junji: Maniakku (Junji Ito: Maniac)

Studio

Studio Deen

Where To Stream

Netflix

Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre brings to life some of the most twisted and terrifying stories created by the acclaimed horror manga artist. Anime fans can get to know twenty macabre masterpieces while enjoying a hauntingly beautiful art style that makes the experience both mesmerizing and spine-tingling.

This horror anime is not just for Ito fans, but for all horror anime lovers who love macabre and unsettling stories that delve into the human psyche. Each episode explores new bone-chilling narratives, dark worlds, and monstrous characters and creatures that make these stories not only entertaining but also unforgettable. Like his notoriously strange ‘Hanging Balloons’ tale, where balloon creatures resembling people hunt down their lookalikes.

20 Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

MyAnimeList Score: 7.00

doll in Yamishibai Japanese Ghost Stories

Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories

Release Date
July 14, 2013

Seasons
11

Studio
ILCA

Number of Episodes
130

Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories is perfect for those fans who love Japanese myths and all kinds of terrifying urban legends. The show follows an old man who wears a spooky yellow mask and appears at a playground to tell scary stories to the kids using his kamishibai, a form of traditional Japanese paper theater. They used to be commonplace in Japan before the rise of comics and cinema.

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From psychological masterpieces to gore fests, these horror anime will send chills down the spines of even the most hardcore fans.

This creepy anime is perfect for viewers who prefer short, classic horror stories, as it plays out like a Japanese take on Tales from the Crypt. Where each short is related to either ancient folklore, or to relatively modern horror figures like Hasshaku-sama, the inspiration behind Resident Evil 8‘s Lady Dimitrescu. Either way, it provides bite-sized chunks of horror that each have a twist in their tails.

19 Deadman Wonderland

MyAnimeList Score: 7.14

Shiro in Deadman Wonderland

Deadman Wonderland

Release Date
April 17, 2011

Seasons
1

Studio
Manglobe

Creator
Kadokawa Shoten

Number of Episodes
12

Deadman Wonderland certainly gets off to a start. Set in a dystopian future, Ganta and his class go on a field trip to an amusement park-cum-prison called ‘Deadman Wonderland’. But when all his classmates are killed by a mystery man in red, Ganta is framed for the crime and imprisoned in the ‘park’. Soon, he discovers that this place is not like any other prison, as the convicts are forced to participate in deadly games for the amusement of the public.

While most people preferred the manga, the anime is still a thrilling show. It keeps its viewers engaged from beginning to end. While it’s notorious for its graphic violence and intense action sequences, it offers more than that. The story goes into the reasons behind the violence, as well as corruption, and the dehumanization of prisoners. They’re not performing in bloodsports in real life, but there are places worldwide using the law to exploit them in other ways.

18 Another

MyAnimeList Score: 7.47

Mei in Another

Another

Release Date
January 10, 2012

Seasons
1

Studio
P.A. Works

Creator
Yukito Ayatsuji

Number of Episodes
12

Another follows a young boy named Koichi who transfers into the mysterious Yomiyama Middle School. He soon meets Mei, and the two become good friends. While everything starts out well, things soon turn really dark and gory when students get mysteriously and violently murdered. Koichi finds himself in the middle of a dark mystery and has to uncover his school’s haunting secrets to survive.

This terrifying story is a tragic psychological horror anime with supernatural elements and a storyline that’s filled with mind-blowing twists and turns. As while Koichi and co need to uncover the school’s mysteries to survive, doing so will come at a high price, and some of his friends aren’t who they seem to be.

17 Elfen Lied

MyAnimeList Score: 7.47

Lucy in Elfen Lied

Elfen Lied

Release Date
July 25, 2004

Seasons
1

Studio
Arms

Creator
Lynn Okamoto

Number of Episodes
13

Streaming Service(s)
Amazon Prime Video

While Elfen Lied has mostly bright visuals and cute characters, it’s not a show for the faint of heart. It’s easily one of the darkest sci-fi anime around, with gore, nudity, and a lot of violent deaths. That’s on top of cheery themes like domestic abuse, mental illness, discrimination, forbidden love, and the value of humanity, as the anime’s story follows a race of mutants called Diclonii.

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They look and act like other people, but have invisible arms that can eviscerate living beings without breaking a sweat. The government was keeping one Diclonus, Lucy, for experimentation. The result gave her a split personality: one consisting of an innocent, friendly girl who gets looked after by Kouta. The other a brutal figure willing to murder all of humanity to avenge her suffering.

16 Black Butler

MyAnimeList Score: 7.66

Ciel and Sebastian from Black Butler

Black Butler

Release Date
October 2, 2008

Studio
A-1 Pictures

Creator
Yana Toboso

Black Butler is one of the best gothic anime series for adult viewers who love darkly sophisticated humor and anime stories that don’t shy away from some of the most taboo subjects. Namely, how a young boy called Ciel sells his soul to the demon Sebastian in return for vengeance on the people who ruined his life.

On the outside, they look like a child prodigy and his faithful butler, but Sebastian is just looking forward to the day he can snack on Ciel’s soul. Just as Ciel is waiting to give his nemesis their just desserts as they investigate some of the bloodiest crimes in Victorian London. Though as grisly as it gets, things get complicated as Ciel and Sebastian get to know each other. There’s more to the show than animosity and gore.

15 Paranoia Agent

MyAnimeList Score: 7.67

Lil' Slugger in Paranoia Agent

Japanese Title

Mōsō Dairinin (Delusion/Paranoia Agent)

Studio

Madhouse

Where To Stream

Funimation

Given the show was directed by the legendary Satoshi Kon, the man behind Perfect Blue and Paprika, it’s no surprise Paranoia Agent is a dark, mind-bending psychological anime about anime that gives its viewers plenty of unforgettable surreal and disturbing moments. It revolves around a series of attacks carried out in Musashino City by a kid in a cap wearing rollerskates and armed with a baseball bat.

The press reporting his incidents call him ‘Li’l Slugger’, and the series follows everyone who his bat has touched in some way. While there are some violent deaths, it never really gets gory. The series is more about how urban legends and social phenomena occur, and how they affect people. Even in his lightest works, like Tokyo Godfathers, Kon never shied away from the uglier sides of society. So, it’s no surprise things can get very ugly when people get possessed by paranoia.

14 Blue Literature

MyAnimeList Score: 7.68

Darkest Anime- Blue Literature

Japanese Title

Aoi Bungaku (Blue Literature)

Studio

Madhouse

Where to Stream

DVD Only

Despite being hard to find, Blue Literature is worth tracking down, since it’s a unique series. The show features episodic adaptations of classic Japanese novels, like The Spider’s Thread and Hell Screen by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (the writer behind Rashomon), Kokoro by Natsume Soseki, and No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai. The latter of these was adapted into a manga by Junji Ito and Furuya Usamaru.

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For the anime, they were adapted with designs by Death Note‘s Takeshi Obata (for No Longer Human and Kokoro), Bleach‘s Tite Kubo (Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees, The Spider’s Thread, Hell Screen), and Prince of Tennis‘ Takeshi Konomi (Run, Melos!). They’re not fluffy shōnen stories either. Instead, they run the gamut from existentialism and the nature of good and evil, to depictions of hell both literal and figurative.

13 Texhnolyze

MyAnimeList Score: 7.76

Texhnolyze anime Ichise

Texhnolyze

Release Date
April 16, 2003

Seasons
1

Studio
Madhouse

Number of Episodes
22

Some existential stories aim for happy endings, or at least a neutral one. But there’s nothing happy in Texhnolyze. It starts off simple enough, as the prizefighter Ichise falls afoul of the criminal organizations that run the underground city of Lux. He receives a prosthetic limb through ‘texhnolyzation,’ but this is just the start of his troubles as the city is attacked by a mysterious visitor called Kazuho.

As Lux succumbs to his attacks and will, Ichise and his companions try to find help. They even go as far as going back to the surface world, but the people there have long given up their hold on life. The anime shows humanity’s fall not as some cataclysmic horror, but as a slow, painful whimper where nothing can be done. Even when the villains fall, the damage is done. Sometimes, all someone needs to feel dark is not gore or horror, but something that makes them abandon all hope.

12 Tokyo Ghoul

MyAnimeList Score: 7.79

Ken in Tokyo-Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul

Release Date
July 4, 2014

Seasons
2

Studio
Pierrot

Creator
Sui Ishida

Number of Episodes
24

Tokyo Ghoul is one of the most popular examples of splatterpunk horror anime. It follows the story of a young boy called Ken who, due to a horrifying Ghoul attack, was left at death’s door. He may have preferred death as, while his life was saved, the process made him half-ghoul. As a result, Ken’s life immediately became one filled with pain and violence, which his morals and mental strength were constantly tested.

For example, he’s enough of a Ghoul to be targeted by government agents, but human enough for the Ghouls to dissect him to figure out his strengths and weaknesses. While trying to hide and move around both, he now has to eat human flesh to survive as regular food won’t do the job anymore. It gives Ken a tragic side to his story that goes beyond the horror and blood in the action scenes.

11 Dark Gathering

MyAnimeList Score: 7.84

Keitaro and Yayoi in Dark Gathering

Dark Gathering

Release Date
July 10, 2023

Seasons
1

Studio
OLM

Creator
Kenichi Kondo

Number of Episodes
25

Streaming Service(s)
HIDIVE

Dark Gathering is one of the newer dark anime series, making it debut back in 2023, with scary and dangerous anime ghosts and a heartbreaking story. Keitarou is terrified of ghosts but has to deal with them because he naturally attracts them. Thanks to his unusual talents, he turned into a recluse for years. Just when he is ready to step back into society as a tutor, he meets a girl named Yayoi.

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She has the same supernatural affinity as Keitarou and is pursuing one of the most dangerous ghosts to take revenge. This supernatural psychological horror anime also has a beautiful art style and great character designs, which helps viewers feel immersed in its world even more. Overall, it takes anime fans on an unforgettable ride with Keitarou and Yayoi on their adventures to hunt down terrifying ghosts.

10 The Saga Of Tanya The Evil

MyAnimeList Score: 7.96

Tanya Degurechaff in Saga Of Tanya The Evil

Saga of Tanya the Evil

Release Date
January 6, 2017

Seasons
1

Studio
NUT

Creator
Carlo Zen

Number of Episodes
12

The Saga of Tanya The Evil is another dark anime that’s a great choice for anime lovers who enjoy stories with unique settings and well-developed characters. For example, it features one of the most intriguing isekai anime villains, and explores difficult topics about the consequences of war and the morality of using power to achieve one’s goals.

After challenging ‘Being X’, who may or may not be God, a salaryman is reborn as an orphan, Tanya, in an alternate version of Europe where World War 1 lasted longer and used magic. If she dies before her time, or dies without believing in ‘Being X’, they’ll be sent to hell for their sins. It was supposed to teach her about humility and faith, but instead drove her to join the Mage Corps to avoid an early grave, and make the German Empire the strongest force on Earth.

9 Terror in Resonance

MyAnimeList Score: 8.09

Darkest Anime- Terror in Resonance

Terror in Resonance

Release Date
July 11, 2014

Seasons
1

Studio
MAPPA

Number of Episodes
11

Shinichiro Watanabe’s work, like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, aren’t exactly cuddly and cozy, being about bounty hunters and vengeful samurai respectively. Terror in Resonance goes that extra mile further. It’s a psychological drama that shows how traumatized children can be turned into radical terrorists, or at least resort to extreme measures to carry out their goals.

The Japanese authorities are brought to a standstill when they learn that a nuclear facility was attacked by terrorists. It only gets worse when those responsible reveal themselves six months later in an online video. Calling themselves ‘Sphinx’, they challenge the police to solve a cryptic riddle, or they’ll destroy Tokyo with the prototype atomic bomb they stole. It turns out to be part of their plan to expose the Rising Peace Academy, an organization that tortured them since they were kids in a bid to create child prodigies to use as weapons.

8 Erased

MyAnimeList Score: 8.30

Satoru in Erased

Erased

Release Date
January 8, 2016

Seasons
1

Studio
A-1 Pictures

Creator
Kei Sanbe

Number of Episodes
12

Erased is a dark mystery anime that follows Satoru, a young man with a mostly ordinary life except for one important thing. Satoru keeps experiencing a phenomenon called Revival. During these periods, he gets sent back to the past, where he tries to prevent a series of horrible events. When he’s accused of committing a murder in the past, he gets sent back to 1988 where he has to save the victim from the real culprit.

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With a lack of claret, its darkness comes in its revelations, as Satoru learns there’s not just one death he has to avert. There’s a series of killings going on, and there’s only so much he can do to change the past. Despite its heartbreaking storyline, it’s one of the few dark animes with a hopeful theme that motivates its viewers to reach out and ask for help when things get dark, even if they feel completely isolated.

7 Puella Magi Madoka Magica

MyAnimeList Score: 8.36

Darkest Anime- Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Release Date
January 7, 2011

Seasons
1

Studio
Shaft

Number of Episodes
12

Magical girl shows are usually quite straightforward. A group of cute girls are brought together by a cutesy figure, usually an animal or something else adorable. They’re given superpowers to help protect the Earth from aliens, witches, or some other supernatural or paranormal threat. Puella Magi Madoka Magica turns that premise on its head by making it a cover story for something more nefarious.

Kyubey promises Madoka and her friend Sayaka he’ll grant any wish they desire if they become magical girls and protect Earth from witches. But their magical powers are actually powered by their souls that will drain them over time. Meanwhile, the witches are failed magical girls who transformed when overcome by negative emotions. It’s a sham with dire consequences that could affect the universe as a whole, let alone Earth.

6 The Promised Neverland

MyAnimeList Score: 8.50

Emma in The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland

Release Date
January 10, 2019

Seasons
2

Studio
CloverWorks

Creator
Kaiu Shirai

Number of Episodes
23

The Promised Neverland, or at least its first season, is one of the best anime series around, with some of the strongest anime children of all time. The show eschews blood and gore to build its dark atmosphere with suspense, combining its lovable characters with elements of mystery to put them in heartbreaking situations. It starts with Emma, Ray, and Norman, who all live in an orphanage with their friends.

Their lives are mostly happy until they find out that their home is actually a farm where they’re being raised as demon food. Left with no choice, they leave the people they thought they could trust, and try to save other orphans from their impending doom. These kids are not physically strong but mentally tough since, despite their young age, they’re brave enough and work hard enough to escape their impending doom.

5 Chainsaw Man

MyAnimeList: 8.52

Denji in Chainsaw Man

Chainsaw Man

Release Date
October 12, 2022

Seasons
1

Studio
MAPPA

Creator
Tatsuki Fujimoto

Number of Episodes
12

Chainsaw Man is known for its intense action, gore, and horror elements that make the anime unforgettable. However, this dark anime also has meaningful stories, since it delves into some pretty heavy themes, including death, sacrifice, and existentialism. It follows a young man named Denji, who merges with a chainsaw demon to become a powerful demon hunter.

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To pay back his father’s old debts and adjust to his new powers, he embarks on a dangerous journey into the violent world of demon hunting. Chainsaw Man also has stunning animation, as well as well-developed characters who’ll make viewers pause for thought one moment, then make them laugh the next. For example, Denji is a hormonal teen, but he also has emotional needs that aren’t being met. Behind the sex jokes is someone being manipulated by his elders, particularly the shapely but evil Makima.

4 Attack On Titan

MyAnimeList Score: 8.54

Smiling Titan in Attack on Titan

Attack On Titan

Release Date
April 7, 2013

Seasons
4

Studio
Wit Studio, MAPPA

Creator
Hajime Isayama

Number of Episodes
94

For a show about cannibalism, experimentation, corruption, murder, and more, Attack On Titan has become surprisingly popular. Usually, dark themes can be a turn-off for wider audiences. Instead, AOT became one of the biggest names in anime, with its protagonist Eren Yeager and his friends, particularly Mikasa Ackerman, becoming iconic leads in their own right.

The story followed the aforementioned Eren, who vowed to kill every man-eating Titan to avenge his mother’s death, only for things to get more complicated along the way. His deadly journey is filled with epic fights, heart-breaking deaths, and some of the most shocking anime plot twists ever. On top of that, it dealt with all kinds of social, emotional, and even political issues that deeply resonated with millions of viewers all over the world.

3 Berserk

MyAnimeList Score: 8.58

Berserk Anime 1997 Key Visual featuring Guts and Griffith

Berserk

Release Date
October 8, 1997

Seasons
1

Studio
OLM Team Iguchi

Creator
Kentaro Miura

Number of Episodes
25

Streaming Service(s)
YouTube

Berserk is one of the most disturbing anime for adults, with epic heroes, gods, and ruthless anime villains. Its heartbreaking and dark story is filled with violence, bloody battles, and torture and is set in a brutal fantasy world. Based on the original manga’s ‘Golden Age’ arc, the series follows Guts’ journey with the Band of the Hawk, his friendship with Griffith, and burgeoning love for Casca before it all comes to a horrifying end.

Berserk‘s story takes viewers on a journey that is as emotionally challenging as it is thrilling. At the same time, it introduces them to a unique story that explores the darker side of humanity. The only downside is that it was a one-off. Once the credits of the last episode run by, there’s only the ‘Golden Age’ movies that recover its ground, or the 2016 series, which doesn’t hit the emotional high of the 1997 series.

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