Anime Underground

15 Unique Takes On Horror In Anime

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Vote up the horror anime you really never saw coming.

These unique horror anime series offer a different look into a genre known for its blood, fangs, ghosts, and ghouls. Featuring some of the weirdest horror anime out there, these stories explore themes and motifs that remain inimitable and unparalleled, from sibling cannibalism to the invasion of sea creatures in Tokyo. These series don’t rely on the classic horror tropes and weave much more intricate narratives than run-of-the-mill thrillers, serving up content you haven’t seen before (and probably wish you could unsee).

Each anime achieves its unique touch in different ways, from bizarre premises to explorations of distinctive themes largely ignored within the genre. Some actually mask its hidden horrors; Gakkougurashi! and NaruTaru in particular are notorious for suggesting much more happy-go-lucky plots than they deliver. Like all pretty good horror anime or the top horror anime of all time, these stories are best watched with the lights on. Now, as this list examines atypical examples of horror, there may be spoilers and/or disturbing content. Proceed with caution.

  • 1
    923 VOTES
    Photo: AT-X

    Easily one of the most misleading horror series ever, the first episode tricks viewers into thinking this show will follow the misadventures of cute high school girls, like K-On!. Nothing could be further from the truth. As it turns out, the shoujo life envisioned by protagonist Yuki is an illusion she created to mask her reality: living in a dystopian world after a zombie outbreak.

    This is not your average survival story, as Yuki's delusions constantly keep you guessing what (and who) is real or a figment of her imagination. The use of an unreliable narrator elevates the show to a more unconventional experience, as this device is rarely present in anime, regardless of genre. The series certainly derives horror from good ol' zombie scares, but it also examines the psychological terror of living in a post-apocalyptic environment, and how one comes to terms with accepting the actions they must take to survive. 

  • Shinsekai Yori (From the New World)
    Photo: A-1 Pictures

    Just the first 60 seconds of Shinsekai Yori prove that this anime is remarkably different from anything in the horror genre. The true terror of Shinsekai Yori lies within the dark truths uncovered by the protagonists, which encompass human experimentation, prejudice, mass murder, and histories of violence.

    The scope of existential themes explored throughout the show paired with its world-building are what really set this series apart, presenting questions of morality that linger even when it's over. Though the series provides its fair share of love polygons, the absence of sexual/gender stereotypes in the relationships add an extra layer of distinction. Plus, the romance not only doesn't distract from the plot (a setback many horror anime suffer from), but actually adds to the complexity of the show.

  • Rin: Daughters Of Mnemosyne
    Photo: AT-X

    A testament to the argument "not all anime is for kids," the violence in Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyn might even be a little too much for some adults. Main character Rin is not only a badass detective, but an immortal one too, an aspect that is explored in the 60-year span this show covers. The progressive timeline and the fluid details that go with it present a unique atmosphere for a horror show, fully utilizing Rin's immortal status instead of making it a simple character trait.

    Additionally, the gory situations Rin and the other characters endure might make it seem like a typical slasher show, but each episode proves that it isn't being gory just for the fun of it. Every near-death injury Rin suffers inspires questions about her humanity, and explores the pleasure people feel in both receiving and inflicting pain. The story doesn't pull any punches with its mature themes, including explicit sexual encounters, which are rare in your everyday anime. The series also features a lesbian relationship outside of the yuri genre, which really pushes Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyn into truly noteworthy territory.

  • 4
    326 VOTES

    The Empire Of Corpses

    The Empire Of Corpses
    Photo: Toho

    While zombies are a horror staple, The Empire of Corpses considers a more practical perspective on the use of reanimated bodies: put them to work. The film manages to provide a new spin on the classic monster by introducing a science fiction element (artificial souls), which allow resurrected corpses to serve as laborers, soldiers, and more.

    What makes this story even more interesting are the characters, many of whom are historical and literary figures like John Watson, James Bond, and Ulysses S. Grant. There are plenty of references throughout the film to their respective lives and stories, which makes this one of the nerdiest zombie anime films ever.