Finding a good horror anime can prove difficult as the anime horror genre is not very clear-cut. However, there is something for everyone, including horror fans and anime fans. Therefore, we have compiled a list of horror anime that adapts some of the best horror manga and spans zombie anime to crimes in feudal Japan. Whether it is short stories told through an anthology series, psychological horror series with some hardcore action scenes, this list will have it all. However, this list is not for the faint of heart and will contain some genuinely bone-chilling anime that are certainly worth watching.
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To ensure there is something for everyone, this list of the best horror anime of all time will include both tv shows and animated horror films. However, the horror films will be separated from the anime series, so there is no confusion (as many lists tend to lump them all together). But the main focus of the list will be the anime. Therefore, this list will exclude anime such as Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man. While they contain horror elements, they are not clear-cut horror. So, without further ado, here are the best horror anime series of all time and the best horror anime films of all time.
Disclaimer: Check a trigger warning website before watching any of these anime series, as they may contain graphic scenes of violence and animal cruelty. There are a large number of anime series where characters are subjected to unfathomable horrors. So please ensure that none of the content will be unsettling or harmful to you before watching. Good luck!
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The Best Horror Anime Series
15. Corpse Party: Tortured Souls
This survival horror anime mini-series may not be the best out there, but it certainly is a must-see for all anime and horror lovers out there. Based on the video game Corpse Party, it follows the tragic events that occurred on the grounds of Heavenly Host Elementary School. In fact, the events were so scarring that the entire school had to be demolished. In its place, Kisaragi Academy was built, a new high school wherein our main characters perform an innocent charm ritual. Their goal is to unite their friend group forever, but instead, they are transported to an alternate, nightmarish dimension wherein Heavenly Host Elementary still stands. From here, the group need to work for their survival once the evil is unleashed and find a way back to the real world. This anime contains some truly bothersome sequences that will stay with you for a long despite not having the best plot at times.
14. Highschool of the Dead
Based on Daisuke Satō’s manga of the same name, this anime had the potential to be one of the best zombie series out there. However, it is ruined by the unnecessary amount of fan service and the over-sexualisation of its female characters. Nevertheless, if this is something you can get past (or enjoy since this was surely targeted at male audiences), then it is worth a watch. Set in modern Japan, the plot follows a group of high school students and their school nurse as a deadly pandemic strikes worldwide. Known only as the ‘Outbreak’, it sees the group trying to navigate their way through the city to find a safe zone. Outside of zombies, the group also has to deal with the societal collapse caused by the apocalypse and people losing their moral sense of right and wrong.
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13. Deadman Wonderland
This anime is only this low on the list because it, unfortunately, was cancelled after ending on a cliffhanger. The reason is that the anime adaptation strayed from the source material. However, the first season is still worth watching as it delivers on the horror elements while still giving us a great plot. It follows the main character, Ganta Igarashi, who is sent to a private prison after he awakens his psychic powers and is falsely accused of destroying his entire middle school classroom with everyone still in it. But Ganta has bigger issues to worry about in this mysterious, perverted prison that enjoys creatively torturing its prisoners. With some unique character designs, the anime really sucks you in. It really is a pity it was cancelled.
12. Elfen Lied
With one of the most unsettling opening sequences, the show really does not disappoint. Despite toning down slightly as the story progresses, the horror kicks in full force when you least expect it. Bred by the government to have superhuman abilities, Lucy, a beautiful teenage mutant (known as a Diclonius), manages to escape the facility she is being kept. However, she loses her memories and befriends Kouta and his cousin Youta who take her in and give her a place to live. They end up getting dragged into the dangerous world Lucy comes from, having to watch the multiple attempts made to recapture her by the government’s Special Assault Team. The anime is brutal in nature, and the opening soundtrack is haunting.
11. Hellsing: Ultimate
This dark and unique horror mini-series sees Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing as the head of the Hellsing Organisation. When a war-crazed SS-Major attempts to start an eternal conflict with his nightmarish vampire army, Integra unleashes her ultimate weapon: the ancient vampire Alucard. From here, he sires Seras Victoria, and the organisation tries their best to protect England. With some of the best animation you will ever see, and a scary take on the fabled Dracula, this anime is worth a watch. If you want action and endless horror, then this is perfect for you. However, it is probably best to watch the dub for the full immersive experience if you are a sub-watcher.
10. Devilman Crybaby
Oh, where to start with this absolute gem…First, the anime has a unique animation style similar to that of Mob Psycho 100 and might take some getting used to. However, the animation style certainly adds to the horror elements presented in the show. Second, the anime gets very, very graphic, so be warned. Now that we have established that, the story is set in a world where demons have reawakened because humanity is in turmoil. Because of this, a mysterious Ryo leads his best friend (and our main character), Akira Fudo, to a club where he combines with a demon. Despite being a sensitive, soft person, Akira now must take the lead in a degenerate conflict against demons to protect humanity. With an amazing OP and a shocking ending, nothing can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster this show will bring.
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9. Tokyo Ghoul
While this anime’s first two seasons were top-tier, unfortunately, it has been bumped down to the number-nine spot. This is because the last few seasons did not do the manga justice and ruined the anime for many anime-only and manga fans. However, the one thing this anime absolutely dominates in is its attempts at horror. The story is set in modern Tokyo, following college student Ken Kaneki, a shy young man who loves to read. He frequents a Cafe with his best friend, Hide, and develops a crush on one of the regulars there. After going on a date with her, he ends up in hospital and wakes to find he is now part Ghoul, a carnivorous humanoid creature that can only feed on human flesh. From here, he gets sucked into a dark world. With one of the most recognisable OPs of all time, this anime surely would take the top spot if it got a better remake.
8. The Promised Neverland
Kids and horror always go well together but never end well for all parties involved. That is precisely the case with this heart-lurching anime that will have your heart in your stomach. The narrative begins with our main characters, Emma, Norman and Rey, living in a large orphanage in bliss alongside their house mother, Isabelle. They are incredibly gifted and some of the most intelligent children in the orphanage. Regularly, children find new adoptive families to live with and leave the orphanage. Until one day, the main gang grows suspicious when they discover one of the children left behind one of their most prized possessions. The undiluted horror this anime brings is insane, as no matter how you look at it, the situation is hopeless. With a great opening and only two seasons, the show is worth a watch.
7. Parasyte: The Maxim
Does the thought of something taking over your body and controlling your actions scare you? Well, then, this anime is perfect for you. The story follows Shinichi Izumi, a 17-year-old high school student who is infected by a parasitic alien. The alien tries to make its way to his head but fails to do so when he notices it and manages to fend it off. Instead, it becomes part of his body by inhabiting an arm. The two now need to learn to co-exist with each other as they combat the threat of other stronger and more aggressive Parasytes wanting to consume them. As the creatures only consume human flesh, you are in for some sleepless nights with the displays you are about to witness. This certainly deserves its spot at seventh place on this list, as it even explores the concept of human nature.
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As one of the older anime on this list, the animation really adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the series. Set in the remote village of Sotoba in Japan, it follows various characters as mysterious disappearances begin to plague its already decreasing population. These strange events begin to unfold as a mysterious family moves into the abandoned Kanemasa mansion that stands atop a hill near the village. Outside of the insanely creepy scenes that the anime bombards you with and well-timed jump scares, the story is well-written. It explores what happens when helpless humans are to do when forced into a corner, fearing for their lives. Also, there is just something very strange about the way all the characters’ eyes are animated that makes it difficult to find any of them trustworthy. Maybe this is just a matter of preference, but this aspect enhances the scare factor tenfold.
5. Made in Abyss
Again, children and horror go well together. And that is the perfect description for the nightmare that is awaiting you with this cutesy seeming anime. The story follows a little orphan girl named Riko and her robotic friend, Reg, as they begin an adventure into the mysterious abyss at the centre of their village. Filled with weird monsters and secrets, each level comes with its consequences. And the deeper you go, the more your chances of ever resurfacing decline. In an attempt to find her mother, the two plan to go to the lowest and most dangerous level of the abyss in a hopeless mission to uncover why she was left with a message. This anime is not for the faint of heart as it depicts graphic scenes, especially towards children. And it does not hold back on any of its darker themes. So, take this as a warning. With a haunting soundtrack and a deceivingly welcoming animation style, be prepared for the worst with this one.
This is yet another anime series that throws implications around like it is fun to give people nightmares. It follows the story of Koichi Sakakibara, who transfers to Class 3-3 of Yomiyama North Middle School in the spring of 1998. Unbeknownst to him, two decades prior, a popular classmate of the class at the time, Misaki, passed away partway through the year. Devasted by her passing, the class kept her desk in the classroom and continued as if she were still alive to honour her passing. But then she appeared in their class photo at the end of the school year, and the class learnt the hard way that they were cursed. Very confused by the strange vibe in the classroom, Koichi becomes infatuated with a mysterious girl in the class that everyone seems to be ignoring named Misaki. Watch this only if you have a strong enough stomach to handle what they are going to show you.
3. Hell Girl
When the clock strikes midnight, you can access Hell Girl’s website and send her to exact punishment on someone who has wronged you. She will then take their soul to Hell. But the price you have to pay? Your soul will also end up in Hell once you pass. This anthology series follows Hell Girl, or Ai Enma, as she goes to various people and exacts their revenge for them. Of course, some of the stories involve some truly disturbing and disgusting acts of humanity. Be warned, this anime doesn’t beat around the bush, and can be extreme at several points. If you want true horror, then there is none more evil than what humanity can cook up. This is arguably one of the best horror anime out there and deserves to be in the top three of this list. Prepare yourself to go in, as you might not be the same when you come out on the other side.
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2. Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre
Having recently released on Netflix, this anime deserves the number two spot on this list. However, anything by Junji Ito is inherently scary. But so far, this anthology series takes the cake. It features an array of stories, each about a different character who goes through their own set of horrors. As to be expected from the creator, there is some bothersome imagery and deeper meaning. The series adapts a good number of his short stories into 20-30-minute-long episodes. In fact, the first tale in the anthology is called “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings” and sees a lot of bothersome scenes of things being vomited up. In total, there are twelve episodes, with one or two tales being told in each. After watching these, one really has to wonder what Junji Ito thinks about at night when he cannot fall asleep. Does he sleep with the lights off? Or on?
1. Higurashi: When They Cry
There would not be a list without including the insanity that is this show. Despite being a mature anime aimed at adults, the main characters are just a group of school kids. A group of friends residing in the rural village of Hinamizawa begin to realise that they are somehow linked to the mysterious events that occur on the night of Watanagashi, the Cotton Drifting festival, every four years. Explaining the plot any further than this would be a huge spoiler. Just keep in mind that the first dozen episodes will have you feeling incredibly lost but incredibly sick at the same time. However, trust the process as things are explained as the narrative progresses. In fact, it could be argued that audiences’ experiences are heightened by the confusion as the show throws some disturbing imagery and scenes at you episode after episode. It deserves the number-one spot as the best horror anime ever. Good luck with this one!
The Best Anime Horror Films
Here are the titles of some of the best anime horror films. They will not be listed in any particular order but will undoubtedly satisfy your urge for horror. However, some of these may be highly disturbing and are banned in some countries. They contain depictions of extreme graphic content that might not be to your liking. Again, please be sure to check a trigger warning website to tell you whether to watch any of these films. That way, you will be prepared for what you are about to walk into. Good luck!
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- Perfect Blue (1997)
- Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
- Chika Gentō Gekiga: Shōjo Tsubaki (1992)
- Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
- Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack (2012)
- Paprika (2006)
- Bio Hunter (1995)
- Cat Soup (2001)
- Kite (1998)
- Seoul Station (2016)
- King of Thorn (2010)
- Wicked City (1987)
What is your favourite horror anime series and movie?