Animorphs is one of those series that probably would have faded into obscurity were it not for its intense commitment to leaning as hard into darkness as possible. This isn't the happy, everything's-okay-in-the-end world of many other popular YA series. There are a lot of weird things you forgot about Animorphs, and no, the fact that one of the main characters is permanently trapped as a red-tailed hawk isn't one of them. Amongst all the teen drama and thermal riding, there are some seriously dark moments in Animorphs. That crazy streak, as much as nostalgia and genuine heart, is part of the reason fans are still talking about the series today.
Animorphs wasn't afraid to take itself pretty seriously for a book about teens transforming into animals to stop alien invaders. That's precisely why there are so many messed up moments from the Animorphs series: it was fully locked into its reality, meaning all the gross parts, the frightening scenarios, and the tragedy are presented with honesty. These books are as emotional as they are absolutely bonkers, all because author K. A. Applegate committed to a premise that could have easily been silly.
An Ant Becomes A Human And Can't Stop Screaming
Turning into animals isn't always fun. The Animorphs struggle with ant and termite morph hiveminds, while a Taxxon morph makes them ravenously hungry. But in The Hidden, readers see the reverse happen: an ant walks across the Blue Box, gaining the ability to morph. The result is horrific, as the ant has also acquired Cassie and begins to morph into some awful combination of the two. It starts screaming and can't stop, overwhelmed with the sense of being an individual for the first time in its life. In the end, Cassie is forced to stomp a creature that looks something like her to death.
Five Kids Trap Another Kid On An Island And Leave Him As A Rat
The entire David subplot of Animorphs is seriously dark, but it culminates in The Solution in a scene that's so messed up it's impossible to forget. David joins the Animorphs as a sixth member when it's discovered he found the Blue Box and gained the power to transform. But he turns on the group when things don't go his way, attempting to kill most of them before ultimately being outwitted. They convince him to transform into a rat, and Rachel lures him to an abandoned rock out in the ocean. There, he's trapped in a cage for long enough that he becomes stuck in the morph. The Animorphs listen to his anguished, angry screams until the clock runs out and they can leave him there, a human trapped in a rat's body for the rest of his life.
Morphing Is Incredibly Disgusting
Animorphs doesn't shy away from the gory details, especially when the team is morphing. While pretty much every morph looks disgusting during the process of transforming, the lobster is a whole new level of terror. Admittedly, lobsters aren't the cutest animals to begin with, but the details K. A. Applegate uses to describe the kids shifting in The Predator are particularly horrific:
"His arms had begun to split open and swell... His eyes were gone, replaced by little black BBs... Jake's face seemed to open up, to split open into a complex mess of valves. I think I would have thrown up, seeing that. Except that I, also, no longer had a mouth."
The Series Was An Intentionally Brutal Anti-War Message For Kids
A lot of fans found the series' ending off-putting. The Beginning ended on a cliffhanger, with Jake and the surviving Animorphs ramming their ship into The One. Readers never find out if they win or not, whether this greater threat will be defeated, or what really happened to Ax. But it's not laziness on K. A. Applegate's part; she intentionally wrote the series with a strong anti-war bent, and was clear about her intent in a letter to fans that followed the series end:
"So, you don't like the way our little fictional war came out? You don't like Rachel dead and Tobias shattered and Jake guilt-ridden? You don't like that one war simply led to another? Fine. Pretty soon you'll all be of voting age, and of draft age. So when someone proposes a war, remember that even the most necessary wars, even the rare wars where the lines of good and evil are clear and clean, end with a lot of people dead, a lot of people crippled, and a lot of orphans, widows and grieving parents."