One of the most important things to keep in mind about anime is that it is a medium, not a genre. Live shows like Naruto, creepy space westerns like Cowboy Bebop, and street stories like Michiko in Hatchin all fit into the anime but combine them in the same genre is not possinle. In other words, there is a lot going on in anime … including some pretty horrible and scary stuff.
Dive into artistic horror anime like Pokémon and Magical Girls. And yes, while alive, it can be very, deeply uncomfortable. But with that knowledge, the genre can still seem intimidating. Which adaptations are the best? Is anime more about psychological horror or boisterous gore festivals? What should the insightful observer prioritize, and what is not worth their time? From malicious ghost stories to portraits of people who have lost humanity, these are the scariest anime you can watch.
Go Nagai’s groundbreaking Devilman manga has been adapted more than once, but 2018’s Devilman Crybaby might just be the scariest adaptation of all. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, this version of the story is closer to the manga than others and incorporates the characteristic character of Yuasa, resulting in a story that is as emotional as it is terrifying.
Akira and Ryo, friends since childhood, are the central characters of the series, and the latter convinces the former to assume the title of Devilman to fight an ancient race of demons. However, not everything is what it seems from Akira’s transformation to Ryo’s true goals and what surprises Devilman rookies and die-hard fans alike.
Here death, disfigurement, violence, and all the other belt tools of any horror story are used. The penultimate episode of the series, “Go to Hell, Mortals”, is an absolute parade of grotesques in which beloved characters are mutilated, murdered, and reduced to desecrated body parts. But the true nightmare of Devilman Crybaby is the rift that opens between Akira and Ryo, despite their careful planning, best intentions, and literally divine power.
This is not just a horror story about the inhumanity of man towards man, but about the destruction of love itself through selfishness and cruelty. Devilman Crybaby may involve angels and demons, but in essence, it is a nightmare story about our own human weaknesses. There is no horror story truer and therefore scarier than this one.
Horror is generally not considered a beautiful genre, at least by the conventional definition of the term. But Mononoke is a beautiful series on everyone’s lips … and in a way, at the same time, it’s a deeply terrifying horror game. It consists of 12 episodes and tells the story of an anonymous drug dealer who travels through feudal Japan in search of the ghosts of the title. However, these Mononoke are not easily killed. The drug trafficker must understand the form he accepted, the reasons, and the truth of his situation before he can send it.
The result is an anime with unusual psychological depth. Human nature is the source of everything that lurks at night in Mononoke, and so the line between good and evil is deeply blurred. The visuals in the series, reminiscent of 2D scraps of paper, reinforce this horizontal horror approach.
No place seems “normal”, letting the terror seep in with a strange subtlety. Everything from ukiyoe woodcuts to Art Nouveau is built in the Mononoke style and you can’t help but marvel at its aesthetic evolution as a gruesome scene unfolds. But that’s the point of the anime. Beauty and horror are no different. And this is where the soul of Mononoke resides, both decadent and macabre and much better.
No Longer Human
No Longer Human began in 1948 as a novel by legendary author Osamu Dazai. Told through notebooks left behind by the story’s protagonist, Oba Yozo, it’s a heart-wrenching tale about a man’s continued inability to connect with others, and it’s a story that has the power to be difficult to adapt.
However, this was achieved in 2009 when Aoi Bungaku, a 12-chapter anime series with adaptations of acclaimed Japanese literature, dedicated the first four episodes of its series to the animation of No Longer Human.
Although Aoi Bungaku takes liberties with his source material in terms of timeline, point of view, and certain character details, the central idea remains intact. For whatever reason, Yozo feels completely detached from anything that really makes you human. Watching him try to connect, fail, retreat, and attack is a truly heartbreaking portrait of brokenness made all the more terrifying by his identification. His life may not be like the viewer’s life, but like the original novel, almost everyone in Yozo can see a little of themselves.
Those moments where you laugh to keep the peace, you do something just because everyone else is doing it, or you feel nothing when you know that you are meant to be moved, that’s what makes me no longer display human powers. through the inhumanity of Yozo. He is much more human at that than he realizes, and that is the terrible thing.