Horror anime holds a special place in my heart, right alongside iconic horror films. It’s a genre I cherish, whether I’m watching it on screen or engrossed in the pages of one of my favorite horror manga. In the realm of horror anime, you’ll find everything from eerie psychological narratives to gripping supernatural tales and more, so it’s a genre that truly has something for everyone.
While all of the series on this list might not fit the conventional definition of horror, each brings its own unique flavor of fear and intrigue, challenging our understanding of what “scary” or “unsettling” truly means. This list includes a range of horror, from the overtly terrifying to the subtly chilling. Whether you’re on the hunt for an adrenaline-pumping scare or a series that offers a quieter, more nuanced kind of unease, there’s something here for you.
That said, here are some top horror anime picks you shouldn’t miss.
Perfect Blue, directed by the legendary Satoshi Kon, who brought us incredible releases like Paprika and Paranoia Agent, is an unparalleled psychological thriller. The story follows Mima’s transition from a beloved pop star to an actress, a move not all her fans appreciate. As she embarks on her new journey, the lines between reality and delusion blur, with her past haunting her every move and her associates being mysteriously murdered. There’s peril around every turn in Perfect Blue and it’s one of the most out-there in the best way possible series you can watch.
The terror isn’t just psychological either; it’s visceral and intense, making Perfect Blue not just one of the best horror movies of all time, but also an unforgettable experience. It’s extremely graphic, so it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but if this doesn’t bother you, it’s one of the most unforgettable anime movies you’ll ever watch. Labeling anything a “masterpiece” isn’t something I do lightly, but this film genuinely earns that title. If you are looking for a deep, thought-provoking yet horrifying watch, Perfect Blue is one you don’t want to miss.
Parasyte: The Maxim
Parasyte: The Maxim delves deep into the world of body horror with its chilling alien designs and gruesome transformations, which are of the most vividly unsettling I’ve encountered in anime and some of the best designs you’ll ever witness in a sci-fi horror series. These aliens, burrowing through human heads, strike a haunting chord, particularly because they retain a distorted human semblance. When brought to life in the anime, their transformations are even more nightmarish, and they are a testament to Madhouse’s incredible animation.
The story of Parasyte centers on Shinichi Izumi, an ordinary high schooler, whose life takes a drastic turn when an alien Parasite occupies his body. Remarkably, Shinichi confines the invader to his hand, resulting in a bizarre coexistence with Migi, the murderous alien entity. Meanwhile, countless others haven’t been as fortunate. Infested fully by these Parasites, they become monstrous hosts, who, with their morphing capabilities, camouflage seamlessly among humans, transforming at will into grotesque entities.
Parasyte is one of my favorite horror anime adaptations of all time, and this is saying a lot, given just how amazing the manga, which can be collected in the singles as well as the Parasyte Full Color Collections released by Kodansha, already is.
Mononoke is a supernatural anime unlike any other with its striking visuals, bold color palette, and unique take on Japanese folklore. It follows a Medicine Seller as he travels across Feudal Japan, but he’s not just any Medicine Seller, he’s on a mission to rid the world of malevolent spirits, also known as Mononoke. Mononoke are born out of strong human emotions, so our MC has to uncover details about them, such as their Form, Truth, and Reason, so he can banish them for good.
Mononoke is episodic, but this works in its favor. You never get a chance to be bored with this series, because you are constantly being introduced to new stories as well as interesting new mononoke cases. Despite being a quick watch at only 12 episodes, the stories contained within Mononoke are fleshed out in a compelling and concise way. The animation by Toei Animation (Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion, Slam Dunk) is beautiful and the style, which is inspired by ukiyo-e woodblock prints, is truly one of a kind. If you enjoy avant-garde anime with an atypical style or enjoy anime with supernatural or subtle horror themes, Mononoke is one you’ll want to check out.
Hellsing Ultimate, spanning just 10 episodes, adapts Kohta Hirano’s manga brilliantly. While there was an anime in 2001, the 2006 OVA truly brings the manga to life, and I can confidently say it’s the best way to experience Hellsing on-screen. It is an action-packed, violent series that gets into the thick of things fast, and the anime adaptation hit it out of the park in this regard. Seeing everything in action, especially the fights, is yet another added bonus.
Kohta Hirano’s Hellsing isn’t just another vampire story. Set in a world with monsters and intriguing human dynamics, it follows the vampire Alucard and the Hellsing organization in their intense battles against monstrous foes. The series’ fast pace, unique art style, and the presence of an overpowered antihero like Alucard make Hellsing a thrilling watch. If you’re into high-action and gore, this series is essential.
No anime has quite captured the unparalleled genius of Kentaro Miura’s Berserk, which is hailed by many, including myself, as the best manga of all time. However, the 1997 Berserk anime is still a commendable effort and a must-watch. Berserk is a dark fantasy that has horror themes, but its scenes, as well as gore and the horrifying, brutal world in which it is set, make it an essential watch for horror fans.
Berserk delves deep into themes of human nature, sacrifice, personal struggle, destiny, and much more. It’s set in a brutal world that’s plagued by war and our main character Guts is quite literally born into it. He joins a mercenary group called the Band of the Hawk that’s led by Griffith, a charismatic leader. This is the arc where things really take off in the story. But this is of course a dark fantasy, so something happens later on that changes everything for Guts and the story develops in a way that continuously keeps you invested.
While the manga is the best way to experience Berserk, if anime is your preference, the 1997 adaptation, is the one I recommend most. Even though it’s not as good as the manga, it’s still well worth the watch and is one of the best you can experience.
Dorohedoro is an exhilarating ride that’s filled with grit, gore, and unapologetic rawness and it’s a captivating experience from start to finish. The series follows Caiman, a man with a lizard head and a lost past. He, along with his friend Nikaido—the owner of the restaurant, Hungry Bug—embarks on a quest to find the sorcerer who did this to him and exact revenge. Their journey, initially taking place in the enigmatic locale called the Hole, later expands into the Sorcerer’s World, which adds layers of complexity to the story and introduces us to a whole new world and set of interesting characters.
What strikes me most about Dorohedoro is its extraordinary ability to pull the audience into its universe, which is mirrored in the manga as well. While I don’t think the CGI was done as flawlessly as in anime series like Beastars, the backgrounds were some of the best I’ve seen in anime and they perfectly suited Dorohedoro‘s unique art style. They made the characters’ surroundings stand out, and this made the environments come fully to life. World-building is one of Dorohedoro’s biggest strong suits and
I’m a massive fan of the manga by Q Hayashida, one of the best horror manga to ever be released, so I was anxious to see how well they’d adapt the series. The final product far surpassed my expectations and I couldn’t be happier with how they brought Dorohedoro to life on screen.
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, a comedy-horror anime adapted from the manga by Haro Aso (Alice in Borderland) and Kotaro Takata (Hallelujah Overdrive!), sets itself apart in a world brimming with zombie apocalypse stories. What sets it apart isn’t just the impeccable adaptation and visually stunning animation that’s bursting with color, but also its unique approach to the zombie genre. Instead of the typical survival story, it follows Akira, a 24-year-old office worker trapped in a soul-sucking job. The onset of a zombie apocalypse becomes his unexpected salvation.
This isn’t just one of the best horror anime because of its fresh take. It’s how the story unfolds, painting Akira’s desire to seize life amidst the undead, that resonated with me most. This unique perspective, combined with a harmonious blend of comedy and horror, makes the series a must-watch. While I love a good gorefest, there has to be more to the story, and Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead has that and so much more.
From the New World
From the New World, which is adapted from the light novel of the same name, is one of the most unexpected and horrifying sci-fi series you can watch on this list. It’s set in a utopian society, where all is not quite as it seems. It follows a group of kids that have psychic powers and the mysterious community that they grew up in. They begin to question their situation, uncovering the dark secrets that plague their seemingly perfect world.
Set in a distant future that is reminiscent of the past, it’s clear that something is off in From the New World and it’s this mystery, and the ever-evolving web of secrets, that make it one of the best. But, it’s also the kids in this story and their development—From the New World is a coming-of-age story of sorts as well—that kept me so heavily invested in this series over the course of its 25 episodes. It’s beautifully animated thanks to A-1 Pictures, who animated 86 and Space Brothers to name a few. If you enjoy series like The Promised Neverland or Psycho-Pass, I highly recommend giving From the New World a shot.
Higurashi: When They Cry & Higurashi: When They Cry Kai
Higurashi: When They Cry (2006) and its sequel Higurashi: When They Cry Kai are essential on any horror anime watchlist. Set in the quaint village of Hinamizawa, Higurashi When They Cry initially paints a picture of camaraderie among friends, only to delve into deep, unsettling secrets that turn their world upside down.
While the story begins with a slice-of-life vibe, it takes unanticipated, dark turns, weaving in psychological and supernatural elements along the way. What gripped me about Higurashi When They Cry is its captivating plot that’s filled with twists and revelations. The seemingly peaceful start with Keiichi’s arrival to Hinamizawa soon morphs into a mysterious narrative that keeps you on the edge of your seat over the course of the episodes and it only gets more interesting as the series, especially its sequel, Higurashi: When They Cry Kai, unfold.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
At first glance, Puella Magi Madoka Magica seemed like just another magical girl anime that would be heartwarming and adorable to watch. But as I dived deeper into its episodes, the curtain that is its deceivingly cheerful exterior rose to reveal a horrifyingly haunting narrative. Madoka Kaname’s life takes a dark turn when she encounters Homura Akemi, a cryptic transfer student, and Kyubey, a creature that offers her a chance to become a magical girl, promising any wish in exchange. But as the layers peeled back, it became evident that this power came at a dire cost. This is an anime where everything isn’t as it seems.
Visually, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of the most unique and stunning anime I’ve ever watched. Studio SHAFT, paired with the brilliance of Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero) and Akiyuki Shimbou (Bakemonogatari), crafted a world that seamlessly transitioned from serene to eerie. Watching this series is a truly memorable experience, an unsettling journey that masterfully blurs the lines between innocence and horror, and it’s unlike anything you’ll ever watch.
As of now, these are my personal top picks for horror anime. As more emerge that pique my interest, I’ll be sure to update this post.
Many of these series were adapted from manga, but a lot of horror manga have yet to receive an anime adaptation. Definitely check out my top horror manga recommendations for more incredible series you don’t want to miss.