Everyone loves detective anime. They can keep you guessing, immerse you, and even teach things along the way. There’s a huge amount of variety within the genre, too.
So, whether it’s about a murder mystery, a police force cracking down on terrorism; a supernatural curse; or even a comedy spoof, we’ve got 21 for you to choose from!
- Best Detective Anime
- 21. Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace
- 20. Box of Spirits and Goblins
- 19. Persona 4 the Animation
- 18. Ghost Stories
- 17. Detective Conan: Case Closed
- 16. Bungo Stray Dogs
- 15. Darker Than Black
- 14. Black Butler
- 13. Danganronpa
- 12. Terror in Resonance
- 11. Erased
- 10. Hyouka
- 9. ID – Invaded
- 8. Umineko When They Cry
- 7. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
- 6. Paranoia Agent
- 5. Higurashi When They Cry
- 4. Psycho-Pass
- 3. The Garden of Sinners
- 2. Monster
- 1. Death Note
Best Detective Anime
21. Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace
RampoKitan is a very weird anime. It’s got amazing production design – from the soundtrack to art style – but unfortunately lacks in character writing and narrative progression.
It was created as a commemoration of Edogawa Ranpo (Japan’s Arthur Conan Doyle equivalent) 50th anniversary of his death, touching on many aspects of his works throughout the episodic runtime.
It follows Kobayashi (a schoolboy framed for murder) and a genius detective by the name of Akechi as they go about clearing the former’s name.
It features a huge cast of characters, some very gory imagery, and a killer opening and ending – it’s just a shame that its ambitions run short by the climax.
20. Box of Spirits and Goblins
After a series of peculiar crimes shake Musashino and Mitaka’s towns, the crime fiction writer TatsumiSekiguchi and news magazine editor Morihiko Toriguchi decides to investigate.
Unfortunately, they’re digging into something with far darker undercurrents than they were expecting.
Meanwhile, the two schoolgirls Kanako and Yorika, are about to leave for a holiday together when Kanako is struck by a train. Shortly after, Morihiko finds two severed legs and a severed arm in a box.
It’s a crazy descent into the uncanny valley, keeping the viewer constantly engaged and questioning.
The production quality isn’t amazing, but it’s serviceable and gets the point across with the occasional moment of pure beauty.
19. Persona 4 the Animation
Yu Narukami is the new boy in the town of Inaba.
While juggling his social links and familial bonds alongside his classwork and personal life, he is dragged into a creepy television and gifted the ability of a ‘Persona’ – a metaphorical personification of a person, performing much like a JoJo Stand blended with a Pokémon.
Shortly after, a weird series of murders begin plaguing Inaba, and Yu (alongside a close group of gradual friends) must fight through the real world and Shadow world to solve the mystery of the serial killer and protect those they love.
The absolute best way to experience Persona 4 is through the game, Persona 4 Golden.
However, if you don’t have the time or simply want to go back to the world of Inaba, the series is serviceable at getting across the main plot points.
18. Ghost Stories
Ghost Stories isn’t just an awful mystery show. It’s a dreadful anime. It’s irredeemably awful in nearly every way, telling a simple Scooby-Doo!-esque story of a group of friends solving crimes. It was aimed at kids and nobody like it.
So, when tasked with bringing it over to the west with a dubbed version, the producers barely cared and gave the voice cast complete control.
What resulted is a chaotic black comedy brimming with jokes and irreverence, made for adults with everything else retained.
It’s a golden gem of an anime, palatable only due to an effective ‘fandub.’
17. Detective Conan: Case Closed
Under the pseudonym of Conan Edogawa, Shinichi Kudou investigates cases from the Mouri estate.
After being afflicted by an experimental drug, the man’s body was transformed into that of a seven-year-old boy.
He now needs to tackle these difficult mysteries whilst figuring out a way to recover his old form.
It’s a classic anime from the 90s that managed to stay consistently entertaining despite its lengthy runtime.
If you want an anime with nearly unlimited potential, then look no further!
16. Bungo Stray Dogs
Set across three eclectic seasons, Bungou Stray Dogs follows Astushi Nakima, a homeless orphan suspected for being behind a recent plague of spiritual tiger appearances.
He rescues an eccentric man named Osamu Dazai from drowning, indebting him to the boy.
Nakima discovers he’s investigating the very tiger that had bothered him recently, and they decide to join together to solve the mystery.
It’s a wonderfully unique detective mystery with a host of brilliant characters and plot twists. Definitely don’t miss out on this one!
15. Darker Than Black
People in the anime community often call Hei, the protagonist of Darker Then Black, ‘Anime Batman’ – and that comparison is warranted except Hei murders.
For money and in the name of justice. He’s incredibly agile and strong, capable of tactical combat that moves the series from episode to episode.
Nonetheless, the show’s true undercurrent is its mystery that gradually unwraps over the course of two seasons.
It’s an anime of a simpler time, and while it has its flaws, it’s definitely aged well.
14. Black Butler
Ciel Phantomhive is an aristocratic youth indebted to the Queen of London, forced to deal with various aspects of its criminal underbelly discreetly.
In this, he is accompanied by Sebestian Michaelis – a well-mannered perfect butler who is actually a demon latched to Ciel through a Faustian arrangement.
The first two seconds aren’t amazing, leaning into aspects of the series aside from the detective mystery to the series’ detriment, but Book of Circus, Murder, and Atlantic are all great watches!
Hope’s Peak Academy is a school designed to enhance the learning of the most talented students out there.
Makoto Nagai, a seemingly ordinary student who wins a scholarship, turns up for his first day and is promptly rendered unconscious.
He wakes up to discover he and the rest of the student body have been trapped in a deathmatch.
It’s an adaptation of the Danganronpa visual novels, and while it’s better to start there, the anime is always a good way to see if the series is for you.
12. Terror in Resonance
This is a very peculiar work of Shinichiro Watanabe’s, leaving many of his distinct motifs behind in favor of a more traditionally blockbuster approach.
There’s tons of emotion and tragedy in this anime, rife with explosions and somber artistic directions.
Though it’s flawed in many respects, primarily with its characters, it nonetheless tells a unique story unseen in the medium.
Some of the moments are breathtaking, and you’ll constantly be left guessing motives and backstories all the way to the end.
After he is incorrectly presumed to be a murderer, Fujinuma Satorou runs away only to be sent back in time to high school.
However, he retains the cognition and memories of his future self and discovers he will be able to change the events of the future.
With this ability, he decides to investigate the murder of a classmate from when he was younger, only to discover he’s far more connected to the case than he’d initially assumed.
This is one of A1-Pictures best-produced anime from beginning to end, with a cinematic flair and intense soundtrack driving home a constantly engaging experience.
HoutarouOreki wants a simple and quiet life. He’s a lazy student who, through sheer happenstance, ends up joining the Classics Club and becomes embroiled in its nearly five-decade mystery.
Alongside the other club members, Oreki comes to realize more about the curious past of the clubroom, learns more about himself, and comes to recognize the inherent necessity of human connection and communication.
It’s one of Kyoto Animation’s most gorgeous projects, with the animation and production value they’ve become known for.
It’s emotionally riveting, stylish, and consistently entertaining. Check this one out if you want something a bit lighter that still contains plenty of investigations and plot twists.
9. ID – Invaded
Akihito Narihisago is a former detective with amazing latent investigative abilities.
Unfortunately, he’s also a criminal imprisoned for murder. Nonetheless, he is tasked with using the Mizuhanome System to dive into other criminals’ cognition to understand culpability and the scene of the crime.
Through pursuing one murderer, they stumble upon a mystery none of them can solve, snowballing into a large-scale investigation into the identity of a serial killer who constantly evades them.
ID – Invaded as an ambitious anime. An original that relies on high-concept psychoanalysis and neuro-cerebral investigation, featuring tons of twists and turns.
8. Umineko When They Cry
On the mysterious island of Rokkenjima, the aristocratic Ushiromiya family gather for their annual meeting.
This time, they intend to discuss the passing of their patriarch and the will he will leave behind.
However, before arrangements are made, they are stranded due to a typhoon, and a curious murder spree begins.
One by one, family members drop, and the others are left to recover and respond, in a whirling-twirling murder mystery thriller with an investigating protagonist.
While it misses out a lot of what makes the original visual novel so amazing, it still manages to retain the intense and complex plot.
7. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Set in a near cyberpunk future where autonomic androids and robotic prosthetics are commonplace, Stand Alone Complex follows Section 9.
They are a division of a criminological unit designed to tackle socio-cybernetic crimes, led by Daisuke Aramaki and the renowned Lt. MotokoKusanagi.
They have their work cut out for them when a prodigy hacker called ‘The Laughing Man’ begins a string of politically-motivated terrorism, and they are tasked with bringing him in.
It’s brilliantly produced – particularly for its 2002 release date – and features some of the best sound design and music of any anime courtesy of the wonderful Yoko Kanno.
It was basically the only well-known detective (or cyberpunk) anime in the community for a long time, and its legacy can still be seen in shows like Psycho-Pass and ID – Invaded.
6. Paranoia Agent
Before his passing, Satoshi Kon directed and released a small handful of cinematic masterpieces, yet Paranoia Agent was his only directorial television production.
I wish he’d done more because he did an amazing job here. It touches on topics of dementia, mania, societal horror, and psychological biases with amazing attention to detail.
It’s episodic in nature, with an amazing plot twist later that re-contextualizes the entire show.
It’s one of a kind, and I recommend it to anybody, especially those interested in anime revolving around detectives or investigations.
5. Higurashi When They Cry
Far in the countryside and detached from society lies the sleepy, remote village of Hinamizawa.
It’s the summer of 1983, and Keiichi Maebara has recently moved there. He makes tons of friends across various ages and settles in nicely.
All things considered, Keiichi is happy and satisfied – until he stumbles upon a secret mystery deep at the heart of Hinamizawa. It plays host to murders, suicide, hysteria, and paranoia.
Every moment is a rollercoaster that will keep you at the edge of your seat, and by the end of the second season, it all comes together perfectly.
There are some issues with the Studio Deen adaptation, but it’s still effectively creepy and far more digestible than the ten-times-as-long visual novel it is based on.
It’s 22th-century Japan, and the criminological justice system rules the way people live, think, and exist.
This is all enforced through the Sibyl system – a predictive qualitative method of detective latent criminal likelihood.
Depending on your predisposition towards crime, you are given a number – that number determined your freedom and even life.
The show follows the new Psycho-Pass investigator, AkaneTsunemori, as she comes to realize how corrupt and inherently broken such a system actually is.
It’s stellar in its production design and writing, providing equal action, philosophical thought, and mystery.
3. The Garden of Sinners
Spread across seven achronological films, The Garden of Sinners tells the story of Shiki Ryougi. They are a troubled individual torn between their desires to murder and want to be human and connect with others.
Throughout her teenage years, the story follows her through to adulthood, touching on her unique relationship with MikiyaKokutou, a seemingly ordinary book.
It’s emotionally riveting, entertaining as hell, and contains a multitude of different mysteries (alongside an overarching one that maintains throughout all seven films).
In particular, the fifth film is an incredible showcase of animation and musical direction, rivaling even the best of works.
Kenzo Tenma is a renowned neurosurgeon living in Germany. He’s got a huge amount of potential ahead of him, engaged to the hospital’s director’s daughter, and ensured promotion.
However, after choosing to save a young boy’s life over treating the mayor, he is chastised and ostracised for his decision and forced to stay at the bottom alone.
The only thing keeping him sane is the sureness he made the right choice. Except, he discovers, he didn’t.
The boy he saved is now a serial killer, and in Urasawa’s detective mystery thriller masterpiece, Dr.Kenzo Tenma decides to take responsibility for the decisions he had made.
1. Death Note
Death Note is one of the greatest thriller mysteries of all time. It tells the story of Light Yagami, a disillusioned teenager who is granted a special notebook from a God of death.
Writing a person’s name in it murders them, and so Light sets out on the path of creating a world in his image free of whatever he deems corrupt.
Meanwhile, the world’s greatest detective ‘L’ is after him, and Light doesn’t know his name.
It’s constantly engaging, with a quick-witted plot and an epic scale. It’s a brilliant supernatural cat-and-mouse tale through to the end – though some might disagree.
Seeing the light wriggle his way out of being stuck in a corner time and time again while being pursued by L never gets boring.
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