Anime as a storytelling medium can definitely tell dark stories quite well. The use of animation to portray sensitive topics can be expertly intertwined with a gripping plot.
If you’re in the mood to watch anime with a bit of a darker tone than usual, you’re looking at the right list here. We’ve come up with anime titles that deal with dark stories.
Warning! A lot of these shows can be really disturbing, so tread carefully!
- Best Dark Anime
- 35. Angel’s Egg
- 34. Metropolis
- 33. Mirai Nikki
- 32. Le Portrait de Petit Cossette
- 31. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)
- 30. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
- 29. Gunslinger Girl
- 28. Zankyou no Terror
- 27. Shiki
- 26. The Promised Neverland
- 25. Hell Girl
- 24. Tokyo Ghoul
- 23. Ghost in the Shell
- 22. School Days
- 21. Devilman: Crybaby
- 20. Goblin Slayer
- 19. Elfen Lied
- 18. Made In Abyss
- 17. Majo no Tabitabi
- 16. Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne
- 15. Redo of Healer
- 14. Happy Sugar Life
- 13. Gakkougurashi!
- 12. Perfect Blue
- 11. Red Garden
- 10. Texhnolyze
- 9. Now and Then, Here and There
- 8. Aoi Bungaku
- 7. Kino’s Journey
- 6. Petshop of Horrors
- 5. Berserk
- 4. Grave of the Fireflies
- 3. Midori Shoujo Tsubaki
- 2. Erased
- 1. Monster
Best Dark Anime
35. Angel’s Egg
In this desolate land full of ruins, goddess statues, and army tanks, a young girl finds an egg while scavenging for food.
She eventually meets a man carrying a cross, and the two take off to explore this bleak world they live in.
Angel’s Egg or Tenshi no Tamago is filled with surreal and seemingly Christian imagery. It is dark but also delicate with its portrayal.
As an original video animation or OVA back in 1985, it only has one episode but was released in the US with added live-action footage.
A boy and his uncle investigate a scientist but end up meeting a young girl with no memory. The boy desperately protects her, but they end up uncovering the dark secrets lurking beneath the city.
This 2001 animated movie has class warfare and robots as its background.
Despite its futuristic setting, with humans and robots living together, it feels bleak and hopeless at times, and violence is a problem that keeps popping up in this great city called Metropolis.
33. Mirai Nikki
A timid middle school student uses his phone as his handy digital journal. As his on-the-go diary, he writes things about his day and uses it to converse with his imaginary friends.
Imagine his surprise when his phone journal becomes a “future diary“! It starts listing events that are going to happen that day.
To top it off, a classmate of his has the same “diary,” and they now have to participate in a deathly match with 10 other people. Can the diary help them outmaneuver the rest of the participants?
Watch out for blood, death, and violence in Mirai Nikki.
32. Le Portrait de Petit Cossette
An art student who works at an antique shop gets drawn into a mysterious vision of a young lady in Venetian glass.
He thought the images he was seeing were fleeting and not real, but one night he heard her voice, and she revealed herself to him.
Le Portrait de Petit Cossette is haunting and beautiful and mixes excellent visual art with a dark and supernatural story.
It only has three episodes, so you can immediately get to the bottom of the mystery. Who is Cossette, why is she in a glass, and why is the student drawn to her?
31. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry)
A seemingly peaceful village might actually not be that idyllic.
Numerous killings and disappearances have occurred in the past few years, but they’re all hushed up just so the residents can continue to celebrate their village’s annual festival.
Newcomer Keiichi moves to Hinamizawa, oblivious to everything. He quickly befriends a bunch of kids around his age, and he adjusts to his new countryside life.
However, when he slowly uncovers the mysteries of his new home, his new friends are somewhat tightlipped about it.
Higurashi is known for violent and disturbing imagery, as well as blood and torture. Brace yourself when you enter Hinamizawa.
30. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Young girls are granted wishes in exchange for becoming a magical girl.
With its colorful palette, cute outfits, and a story seemingly centered on magical adventures, you might be confused why this show is included in this list.
The reality of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica is actually quite surprising. It is often called a deconstruction of the magical girl genre.
I won’t spoil you anymore on what’s to come, but know that you should be ready for any suffering that awaits you from this show.
29. Gunslinger Girl
Sick girls are given a second chance in life by modifying their bodies with cybernetic upgrades.
They become trained assassins for the Italian government, doing the dirty work for politicians and people in power. Unfortunately, these girls are not treated well despite their sacrifice.
28. Zankyou no Terror
A terrorist attack shakes Japan, and while the government and police fail to do anything, an internet video surfaces months later to start a trail that leads to two teenagers with a bomb.
Unfortunately, no one knows who these teenagers are, and it seems like they’re people whose existence is shrouded in mystery.
An anime about terrorism that also deals with other heavy subjects is pretty rare, so consider Zankyou no Terror for your next binge-watch night.
The quiet town of Sotoba is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone.
However, the peacefulness gets shattered when a young girl, Megumi, mysteriously dies all of a sudden due to an undisclosed disease.
After her death, more unexplained deaths keep happening in town.
The town’s doctor, together with an apathetic teenager and two of Megumi’s friends, try to figure out what’s happening.
Their investigation leads them to the Kanemasa family and their mansion. Expect dark mystery, supernatural, and horror when you enter the town in Shiki!
26. The Promised Neverland
The orphans at Grace Field House have everything they could ask for.
They always have gourmet food, clean clothes, a place they can learn, comfortable beds, and a loving caretaker called “mama.”
They get the nasty truth about their reality when they find out that they are actually raised like cattle for demons to eat!
If that’s not dark enough, watch as secrets slowly unfold in Grace Field House.
25. Hell Girl
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and in Hell Girl, it’s a dish you absolutely need to eat too.
A mysterious website shows up at midnight where you can type your grudge, and a girl from hell will show up to take the target of your ire to hell. However, your soul goes to hell too.
Watching the lengths some people would go just for revenge and witnessing the events that led to such vengeful actions is dark and disturbing.
You root for them, mourn for them, and you definitely feel sorry for them.
24. Tokyo Ghoul
As the title says, Tokyo has ghouls, and they’re definitely not the nice kind. They’re flesh-eating ghouls, and our protagonist, Kaneki, gets into a deadly struggle with them.
Luckily, he survives, but a part of his humanity got replaced by ghoul parts, and he’s turned into some sort of human-ghoul hybrid!
This show is full of action and psychological scenes with gore and blood, so it best be prepared before starting.
23. Ghost in the Shell
Cybernetics will become common in the distant tech-filled future, and people will replace or upgrade their bodies with robotic parts.
A person called Puppet Master, with their almost entirely robotic body has been taking people and stripping them of their memories.
It is up to Major Motoko Kusanagi to trace this criminal’s trail and get to the bottom of this cybernetic mystery.
Throughout the case, she ponders about philosophical questions regarding life and technology while she handles threats, corruption, and terrorism-related to the case and her city.
22. School Days
Shy Makoto has a crush on the beautiful Kotonoha. He snaps a photo of her and makes it his secret phone wallpaper in hopes it will be his good luck charm.
His classmate, Sekai, spots the image and finds out about his crush. To help him, she offers to befriend Kotonoha for him.
What starts out as a show about romantic high school hijinks ends up in the most surprising way, which cements its popularity among anime fans.
A meme, Nice Boat, spawned from it when the TV channel airing the last episode replaced it with clips of boats to not air the violent episode.
It’s a disturbing psychological anime that might make you emotional and angry, so proceed with caution!
21. Devilman: Crybaby
Akira Fudou has always been too nice and emotional, so when his friend asked for his help regarding some demons, he immediately offered a helping hand.
Unfortunately, they stumble upon a terrible scene of these devils, and his friend gets attacked. To save him, Akira fuses with a demon to gain powers and fight.
Oddly, Akira can keep the demon at bay and control it, thus making him a devilman. He’s got demon powers now but is still a crybaby at heart.
With a show filled with shocking and grotesque imagery, I won’t blame you for crying!
20. Goblin Slayer
Monsters wreak havoc everywhere, but adventurers would rather focus on certain monsters than deal with lowly goblins.
An inexperienced priestess responds to a goblin problem from a village whose women kept being kidnapped by goblins. Unfortunately, things go south for her.
Luckily, an unknown armored adventurer appears and saves her from her predicament. He is on a goblin-annihilating mission, and the priestess is more than eager to help him with this quest.
This summary might sound a bit merry, but do take note that Goblin Slayer is not your typical rainbows-and-sunshine fantasy land.
It has an R-17+ rating due to some violence and profanity.
19. Elfen Lied
College students and cousins Kouta and Yuka stumble upon a wounded girl who seemed harmless and spoke like a child.
They don’t know that she’s an escapee from a human experiment facility and has telekinetic superpowers.
This show is known as a classic among anime fans when it comes to anime with disturbing, bloody, and gore-y imagery.
It eventually became one of the Duffel Brothers’ inspirations for Stranger Things and the character Eleven.
18. Made In Abyss
Made in Abyss starts out as a show about an eager explorer, Riko, and her amnesiac robot friend, Reg.
Together, they explore the mysteries of the abyss, learn more about her parents’ history, and find out about his forgotten past.
Unfortunately, as they go further down the hole, they encounter more dangers, tragic characters, and suffering.
Some characters get tortured, while others never recover from their unfortunate predicament.
17. Majo no Tabitabi
Elaina wants to be like her witch idol. She wants to become a full-fledged witch and travel the world to see the good and bad of things.
She finally makes this dream come true and excitedly starts her journey, hoping she can leave a mark in the world just like her idol.
Majo no Tabitabi might seem like an inspiring adventure series of a witch in a bleak world, but it takes you by surprise when it shows the depressing and morbid aspects of the world Elaina is in.
16. Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne
Together with her friend Mimi and their dog, Rin lives a seemingly normal life as a private investigator.
What people don’t know is she’s actually immortal because of a tree known as Yggdrasil.
A mysterious person calls her, an assassin is after her, and her past catches up to her – it seems like her immortal life is actually in danger.
Immortality, sex, violence, angels, and yuri – Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is definitely for mature audiences and those who can stomach torture scenes.
The anime has its dark and scary moments but is regarded by some people as a unique anime experience.
15. Redo of Healer
Wronged by others and forced to endure years of abuse and torture, a hero specializing in healing magic cast the strongest healing spell of all – “heal” time and rewind it.
He was able to go back to before he was abused but still retained his memories of his hellish time. Now he’s eager to dish back the abuse and hurt the ones who tortured him.
Just to warn you, this series already had online controversies even before it started airing due to its disturbing content.
It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, and even for dark anime fans, it can be a little too much. Tread carefully when watching this show.
14. Happy Sugar Life
Happy Sugar Life is anything but happy or sugary. A high schooler, Satou, meets a young girl and decides to live a secret life with her.
The girl, Shio, doesn’t leave their apartment and seems oblivious to this heinous arrangement. Other characters join the story, and they all have equally disturbing arcs.
Although the show is far from sweet, there is some sort of realization you can get as a viewer hidden among the series’ disturbing aspects.
If the “fake sugar” in this show becomes too much, you are free to take a break or stop.
Yuki is part of the School Living Club, a school club whose only activity is essentially staying in school.
As odd as this sounds, carefree Yuki enjoys it with her friends, fellow club members, and supervising teacher.
But the reality isn’t what it seems. There is a dark and depressing reason as to why they have to stay in school, and Yuki’s friends have to protect her from the dangers that lurk outside their school.
The show deals with the characters’ mental health as they traverse their not-so-cheery school life.
12. Perfect Blue
Mima is an idol wanting to expand her career and become an actress.
When she finally makes that leap, she is met with an increased workload from her acting debut, stress from an obsessed fan, and problems from a website impersonating her.
This all piles up on poor Mima and affects her perception of reality.
This disturbing and scary tale of the human mind is the directorial debut of renowned animator Satoshi Kon.
11. Red Garden
Four girls wake up and find out that they are given a second chance at life.
They don’t know how they died or what links them, but all they know now is that they have to fight supernatural beings.
Set in New York, Red Garden takes you for a ride with its murder mystery, spooky supernatural elements, and heartbreaking drama.
Crime groups have taken over the underground world of Texhnolyze, and people live in fear because of them.
The only thing that brings salvation to this place is “raffia,” a substance used in cybernetic operations.
As long as the mining of raffia continues and gangs get their fill, there is some sort of peace in the city of Lux.
But this peace gets interrupted by a mysterious person. Other people join the fray, and it all leads to gang wars and fights that threaten the fragile balance of Lux.
Unlike other shows listed here, Texhnolyze is dark without being edgy. It is, however, slow with its pace, but its art style gives an atmospheric beauty to its story.
9. Now and Then, Here and There
Shuu is a normal boy with a normal life. He enjoys hanging out with his friends, wants to get good at kendo and defeat his rival, has a crush, and wants to help people.
All in all, Shuu is a nice boy with a peaceful life.
But this all changes when Shuu gets warped to a dystopian world after meeting a mysterious blue-haired girl.
In his eagerness to help her, he gets transported to a desert world where enemies want to get her. Shuu endures torture and punishment just to help this mysterious sad-looking girl.
8. Aoi Bungaku
Multiple renowned literary series are adapted into this 12-episode anime.
You get a unique peek inside the minds of the protagonists of popular works – works such as Osamu Dazai’s Ningen Shikkaku and Natsume Souseki’s Kokoro.
The show is broken into different arcs that cover different books. You see an in-depth analysis of each work, with stunning animation and a complex treatment to its adaptation.
If you’re looking for a different kind of psychological anime, give Aoi Bungaku a try!
7. Kino’s Journey
Kino and a talking motorcycle traverse through different lands and countries, meeting different kinds of people and experiencing varied moral dilemmas and situations.
Kino and Hermes, the motorcycle, believe that it is not up to them to pass judgment, and they should just be observers.
As you go with them through this journey, you also begin to question the morality of things.
6. Petshop of Horrors
An anthology of scary, heartbreaking, and disturbing stories awaits you in Petshop of Horrors.
The episodes focus on different sets of characters with stories separate from each other.
What links all of them is Count D, the mysterious owner of the pet shop, and Leon Orcot, a detective investigating the pet shop.
Count D insists he is doing nothing wrong and is simply helping people achieve their innermost dreams and their hearts’ wishes.
The show has four episodes and aired in 1999. Come on in and enjoy this wonderful pet shop.
Berserk’s brutal fantasy world is crawling with demons, and Guts, the protagonist, is branded to be hunted by them until his dying breath.
He’s eager to defy this fate and sets out to find the man responsible for such a curse. This man, however, was once his friend.
Anime fans know Berserk to be a violent, gruesome, and brutal story, with abuse and torture in its chapters. However, with Guts at the heart of the story, it still gives readers hope.
4. Grave of the Fireflies
Due to World War II, two kids become orphans and end up homeless.
They go through the tragic reality of war but try their best to survive and come out of it alive and together. Unfortunately, life can be quite difficult, especially for children.
Known by a lot of anime fans to be a movie you only watch once, the story of Grave of the Fireflies is depressing, painful, and bleak.
Make sure you’re ready when deciding to finally watch this Ghibli movie.
3. Midori Shoujo Tsubaki
A young girl shows the audience the dark and twisted reality of her circus life.
In this funfair freak show, the story features colorful characters whose lives are far from being fun, especially with their treatment of Midori.
This anime film is an adaptation of Suehiro Maruo’s ero guro manga. This genre involves body horror, eroticism, and the grotesque aspect of the story.
Be warned, this film is disturbing and depressing!
Satoru Fujinuma can inexplicably rewind time. He calls this power “Revival” and has helped him save a lot of people in danger.
But one night, the danger occurs right in his own place, involving someone dear to him. The tragic scene triggers his Revival, and he goes back in time – back when he was a kid in 1988!
Now he has to solve a case that happened in his childhood, which involved the death of his classmate, to change what occurs in his future.
Erased can be too real at times, so ready yourself – just in case its dark aspects can be a bit triggering.
In Monster, we follow Dr. Kenzou Tenma, an excellent neurosurgeon with a great life ahead of him.
However, his conscience and convictions push him to go against his peers, which leads to a downward spiral in his life.
And although he somewhat recovers from it, he can’t take back what he did, and his well-intentioned actions come back to haunt him.
Filled with abuse, violence, drugs, and other disturbing subjects, Monster rears its terrifying head at you and brings you along on its terrifying and macabre journey.