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The 15 Darkest Shonen Anime Ever Made, Ranked

May 18, 2021 3.8k votes 711 voters 20.7k views15 items

Some people think that shonen anime is for kids. This isn't true. While some of it is geared towards middle schoolers, some of it is actually targeted at older teens. That huge demographic range means that while some shonen is family-friendly, some of it deals with some truly dark content. 

One of the darkest shonen anime is The Promised Neverland, which follows a group of orphans as they try to escape from a grisly fate - being sold as food to human-eating demons. There's also D.Gray-man, which features the souls of the deceased being used as high-tech weapons. If you love disturbing shonen, this list has something on it for you. 

  • When many people think of dark shonen, Attack on Titan is the first thing that comes to mind. The series begins with the protagonists' homes being destroyed by gigantic, man-eating monsters. At first, they seem like a simple but terrifying threat - and the series does not skimp on the graphic violence. But as further details are revealed about the Titan's origins, things get much darker. More than just monsters, they're the focal point of generations of political strife and ethnic discrimination. It's nearly impossible to tell who the good guys are, and the raw brutality doesn't let up while you're trying to figure it out

    Dark for a shonen?
  • Photo: Madhouse

    Death Note is a grim and fascinating take on hubris causing a person's downfall. After Light Yagami finds a magical notebook that lets him end the life of anyone whose name he writes inside, he decides to use this new ability to start eliminating criminals by giving them fatal heart attacks. With help from Ryuk the Shinigami, he begins the process of trying to create a new, peaceful world with himself at the helm.

    But the power quickly goes to his head. Soon, it's less about taking down evildoers and more about trying to defeat his enemies and amass power. He betrays his allies left and right and eliminates people who are completely innocent. The darkest moments are the ones where we see the monster that Light has become. 

    Dark for a shonen?
  • Photo: White Fox

    Do not get attached to any of the characters in this series. Whether their head is on a pike or they're being eaten alive, nearly every character bites it in one the most gruesome way imaginable. Considering the fact that the story is about a group of assassins using their power to unseat a corrupt government, it's not surprising that things would get violent, but this series is less 'violent' than it is 'blood-soaked.' 

    Dark for a shonen?
  • Emma and the rest of the orphans at Gracefield House think that they're living a happy life under the loving care of their "Mama" Isabella. They soon realize that that happy life is all an illusion - they're actually being raised as meat for a race of demons that love chowing down on human flesh. Rather than let themselves be victimized, Emma and her friends decide to escape. But when they escape, they discover that the outside world is both more terrifying and more beautiful than they ever could have imagined. 

    Dark for a shonen?