In the spirit of the spooky season, I thought I would go over some of the best (and favorite) horror anime series out there.
Horror in anime is something the medium excels in. Japanese Horror as a genre is legendary just for how weird and freaky it is. It doesn’t rely on jump scares to scare people, but rather an overwhelming sense of dread that you can’t escape.
5. Devilman Crybaby
Starting off with the least scary on this list is Netflix’s Devilman Crybaby. It was one of the first original anime series on Netflix and it blew everyone away. I first saw this on vacation and watched the whole thing from beginning to end in one sitting; it’s amazing.
It’s a reimagining of the original Devilman from 1972 with Akira Fudo fusing with a demon to become the titular Devilman. This series doesn’t pull any punches with graphic and violent scenes as it explores concepts of war, sexuality, and mankind’s place in the world. It has a ton of openly LGBT characters and is very faithful to the original manga.
I highly recommend everyone watch this.
4. Higurashi: When They Cry
Higurashi: When They Cry is the premiere horror anime series. It’s such a classic. It’s got everything: violent scenes, hair-raising horror, and memorable scenes. The series focuses on a group of students who live in a small village in the mountains of Japan and the strange events that happened in 1983.
Some weird things occur in Hinamizawa village as people suddenly lose their minds and brutally murder each other. The so-called “Oyashiro Curse” could afflict anyone at any time. It’s up to the gang to solve the curse and avoid getting killed themselves.
I recommend the 2006 version over the 2020 remake. The older series is a lot more creepy and unsettling.
3. Parasyte: The Maxim
Parasyte: The Maxim is a great body horror story. Body horror is all about showing grotesque and disturbing violations of the human body like zombies and their rotting flesh or horrifying alien parasites that take over human bodies. The story centers around Shinichi Izumi who wakes up one morning to discover his right arm has been taken over by one of these aliens.
From here, the alien-possessed people start to hunt each other for supremacy and to devour each other. In between scenes of heads erupting into tentacles and maws, the show explores questions of humanity, love, and morality.
It’s a great watch. Also, a fun fact: Parasyte is banned in China for how gory it is.
2. Shadow Star
Also known as Narutaru, Shadow Star looks like a Pokemon ripoff as it revolves around a young girl named Shiina befriending this weird star-shaped alien that she calls Hoshimaru. It starts innocent enough as the audience is introduced to these other friendly-looking creatures, but it soon goes balls to the wall crazy.
Shadow Star is not for the faint of heart; it’s a freaky show. The anime shifts to focus on dark themes like abuse and sexual assault. Most people can point to several scenes that freaked them out the most like the infamous Test Tube scene. Shadow Star can be a little slow, but that just adds to the unsettling feeling.
1. Shoujo Tsubaki
The scariest and freakiest anime of all time has to go to Shoujo Tsubaki, also known as The Camellia Girl. This short movie is pretty short at under an hour, but it’s packed with scenes of body horror and what is known as ero-guro.
Ero-guro is a horror sub-genre based on eroticism and sexual corruption, so imagine scenes of body disfigurement. The movie is about a young orphan girl who is kidnapped and sold to a circus of freaks and an abusive boss. Shoujo Tsubaki is one of the most controversial anime to have been released and was actually banned in Japan at one point. It never saw a home release when it first came out. Since then, Shoujo Tsubaki is a lot more spread out and can be found on YouTube.
Just like Shadow Star, I want to give a word of caution before watching Shoujo Tsubaki. It does not pull any punches.