Death in anime is something that is often censored, especially if the target audience tends to be children. Shows like Dragon Ball and Pokémon have tried to come up with alternatives to the typical depiction of death or Hell, like creating "friendlier" afterlife worlds. Yet oddly, these alternative metaphors for death or hell are actually worse than dying. Animation studios usually create these creepy representations for younger audiences to try to soften the blow of losing a character. From censored scenes in Yu-Gi-Oh to the Negaverse in Sailor Moon, these death and Hell metaphors ironically make for far scarier fates and more horrifying stand-ins.
Then there are other anime that are unabashedly aggressive in creating a nastier alternative to death or Hell. Take Gantz, for example - as soon as you die, you find yourself in a literal death match filled to the brim with brutality. From "deletion" to being turned to stone, here are the craziest anime stand-ins for death and Hell that are worse than dying. Vote up the scariest metaphors for the afterlife in anime.
Also ominously known as the Netherworld, the Astral World overlaps the "Physical" and "Ideal" worlds of Berserk, and is certainly the one you might want to skip over if you were doing a tour of the trinity. The Astral World is made up of four layers, each more surreal and terrifying than the last. The scariest layer is the Abyss, where most people cannot keep their sanity or even their sense of self.
The idea of stepping through a gate to access Heaven or Hell is common in most cultures. In Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the Gate of Truth is a metaphysical separation between the forbidden realm of God and man. Gluttony's stomach actually contains a false Gate - a failed attempt by Father to create one. Functioning like a pocket dimension, once activated, it opens to reveal a huge eye at the center capable of hungrily consuming everything within its field of vision. The consumption is instantaneous, too, making escape practically impossible.
Just like Gluttony's appetite, the space inside seems to be terrifyingly endless. What's even creepier is that once Gluttony has consumed someone, they're eternally trapped in his False Gate. This means that not only are all the bones of his victims still in this Hell, but so is their blood. If you ever step inside, you'll probably drown in a sea of red. It will literally be a space that reeks of death, rot, and gore until you join the mass of skeletons just floating inside Gluttony's stomach.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica deconstructs the magical girl genre in a brutal and concise fashion. At first glance, these young girls making a contract with a cute cat-like creature might seem like innocent and happy. However, you later learn that the girls actually become zombies the moment they agree to become a magical heroine. While they still retain a body and have superpowers, their souls are ripped from their human flesh.
Death comes in the form of slavery and emotional distress, where the girls must continue to acquire "grief seeds" from witches that they defeat with their powers from the cat-creature. Only, the whole time, they're already dead. Their souls are anchored by a gem, that must be fed grief seeds to stay pure of "taint." Once a soul gem is fully tainted, the girl becomes a witch, to be hunted down by other trapped magical girls.
If you have a daughter who loves Sailor Moon or PreCure, Madoka is absolutely terrifying. It's about a bunch of elementary and middle school children being tricked into selling their souls to a demon. They're stuck in a vicious cycle where they slowly realize they are dead, that there is no escape, and that they are doomed to become an evil witch.
Lots of cultures around the world have a version of "Limbo" - a waiting room between Heaven and Hell, and Yu Yu Hakusho's Spirit World certainly fits this description. As a dark dimensional crossroad, its residents have the power to observe, study, and ultimately decide the fate of a soul that ends up there. The result is either resurrection in the Human World or complete annihilation.
There is also a region known as "Hell," (confusingly renamed "Limbo" for kid-friendly purposes in the FUNimation dubbed version) where a soul can be sentenced to 10,000 cycles of life before ceasing to exist. The implications of living in a tormented state for 10,000 lifetimes, only to then be erased, is quite chilling.