So you’re looking for a more twisted anime. Either you love the genre and you continuously search for new recommendations or you are simply emotionally in need for a darker themed anime to fit your mood, no matter, we’ve got your back!
Violence, gore, dark atmosphere. Not quite horror, but getting there. Some can be deceptively dark, with just the right hint of darkness if you dwell on them long enough you start to see the hidden meanings. Even some well known Shonen series such as Boruto are announced to go a bit darker than expected in order to gain more audience.
Join us in discovering some of the known and less known anime that are dark to the bone, that will make you shiver from the inside out, that will twist a knife in your gut – metaphorically speaking, of course.
Underrated Psychological Anime
Now and Then, Here and There
Genre: post-apocalyptic, sci-fi
Original run: 1999-2000
No. of episodes: 13
Surprisingly, this is not an adaptation of any previous medium and at the glance it might seem like a generic “boy meets girl” kind of anime. However, this one will drain you psychologically and just when you think you’re starting to feel better, it hits you again, not holding back.
The message of the story is simple and you don’t have to dwell on it for long. There’s no hidden meaning with this anime, no symbolism – war destroys everyone. Shu encounters a blue haired girl in a ruined industrial park, both admiring the sunset. It has a Shounen feel to it, right? As soon as he learns his name they are transported to an alien, desert world. In this world water is the greatest treasure and there’s a war for its possession.
Genre: cyberpunk, psychological thriller, surrealism
Original run: 2003
No. of episodes: 22
Well, there’s no other way to say this, but if you like this anime then you enjoy being beaten up and spit out, courtesy of Hiroshi Hamasaki’s vision. This 22-part anime will strain your unsuspecting anime loving stomach.
The story takes place in a city deep underground. In this harsh environment, we follow Ichise, who is not explicitly wordy, but blessed with an even more fiery nature, trying to make a living by participating in brutal martial arts matches. Limb mutilation is an everyday occurrence in the city and that is still not the darkest part of the series. The future of the city is at stake, and the viewer has a front row seat to the gang war that is about to take on.
Made in Abyss
Genre: adventure, dark fantasy, sci-fi
Original run: 2017
No. of episodes: 13+3 anime films
Studio: Kinema Citrus
You might have heard whispers of this anime but thought to yourself: “Nah, happy children on an adventure. How is that dark?”. And yes, most of the series is cheerful and optimistic. The series gets progressively darker the lower in the Abyss you go and with every episode you notice the dark elements lurking in the background.
The sweet art style of the show doesn’t really help portray the pain and suffering the characters go through, making this anime even eerier. The ambivalent duality of this piece results in a creepy and painfully sad mood. It is easy to see that childhood innocence and naivety face the dangers lurking in the depths, the deadly attacks, as children relic hunters go deeper in the Abyss. Thus, all injuries and tragedies are multiplied as they happen to such young individuals.
The Flowers of Evil
Genre: coming of age, psychological drama, suspense
Original run: 2013
No. of episodes: 13
The story and the dark, tense atmosphere are the real centerpoints of the series. Basically everyday characters and situations are slowly moving in an increasingly darker, sicker direction.
The anime paints a very realistic picture of the characters, Takao’s intelligent but immature and weak personality is as believable as the naive, average Nanako, or the truly antisocial, rebellious, deliberately provocative Nakamura. The boy is in love with Nanako and acts on his impulse and steals her gym clothes – Nakamura sees this. The series is a great illustration of Nakuga’s antisocial behavior as Kasuga gradually sinks toward deterioration.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Genre: dark fantasy, psychological thriller, magical girl
Original run: 2011
No. of episodes: 12
Anime in which pretty girls turn into magical girls to shred evil. It’s no horror, but the atmosphere of the anime is unsettling and depressing.
In the first two parts, it feels like something is wrong. The city, Mitakihara, shows a more technologically advanced world from us, yet somehow everything is too regular and too extinct. An ominous scene from the third episode is considered by some to be the biggest twist in anime history.
PMMM put the magical girl genre on a new footing – they hung the base genre upside down, gutted it, set it on fire and merged it with Sailor Moon.
Darker than Black
Genre: mystery, sci-fi, supernatural thriller
Original run: 2007
No. of episodes: 25
A wall called Hell’s Gate appeared in Tokyo 10 years ago. At the same time, the stars disappeared from the sky and the contractors appeared. Hei is one of the most powerful of the psychic agents and he’s trying to unlock the mysteries of Hell’s Gate.
The plot is rich in twists and surprises, it’s dynamic and free of unnecessary idling. This work, even though it is dark, mixes humor, drama and action very well. It has a deep meaning – what are we, humans, capable of doing with our humanity and without it.
Prominent names are attached to the creation of this anime, that is one more reason to give it a go and watch it.
Happy Sugar Life
Genre: psychological horror, psychological thriller, yuri
Original run: 2018
No. of episodes: 12
A truly disturbing anime, not for the faint hearted. Sounding absolutely like a happy slice of life kind of anime, we assure you, it’s not. While it’s not horror, the psychological elements makes it hard to swallow.
Satou is in love. At least she experiences a feeling that she doesn’t know what is. She loves a little girl named Shio. If the apparent age difference weren’t confusing enough, it should be added that Shio’s brother is looking for her. Satou is no stranger to murder and smaller crimes and the plot follows on that thought.
Original run: 2015
No. of episodes: 12
Another amazing anime from Madhouse. According to the story, if more people died at the same time, they would end up in a bar where they would have to play a game that would literally have their lives at stake. He who wins can be reborn, and the loser goes to Hell. The contestants don’t have memory of their lives, however, as the events progress, their memories of the past will gradually emerge until the moment of victory, so the mood of the games will also change dynamically in this regard.
This is an intense series as we get to know every new character in a new episode. However, what hits us more is the fact that the story tells us that humans have a free will even after death. Redemption is possible for every soul.