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15 Times Anime Proved It Can Deliver Horror Like Nothing Else

These horror anime prove that Japanese animation can also deliver a creepy dose of fear.

By Zuleika BoekhoudtPublished 5 years ago Updated 2 months ago 11 min read
Image by Nattoli

While horror is a genre staple for live-action movies, anime is different. Whether in film or TV, anime produced to generate intense fear, shock, or disgust are not as popular in Japan as other stories. Compared to what we see in other circles, the balance between horror anime and other mainstream series such as Naruto and One Piece is uneven. But, once in a while, an anime makes the genre proud and sets a new standard for horror.

Here are 15 anime TV shows and movies that prove anime can do horror just as well as any live-action film.


  • Number of Episodes: 74
  • Year of Release: 2004
  • Why You Should Watch: A thought-provoking psychological thriller that will take you into the mind of a psychopath. Each episode reveals the horrendous past and actions of an actual monster.

When an unknown young boy gets shot in the head, it’s up to Dr. Kenzou Tenma - a renowned neurosurgeon of Japanese descent - to save his life. However, there is a dilemma, as Tenma's superiors are pressuring the young Doctor to perform surgery on the Mayor instead of the young patient. Nevertheless, Tenma chooses to operate on the most critical patient, the young boy.

Unfortunately, the Mayor's operation isn’t a success. And as a result, the promotion that he was expecting is given to another colleague. To make matters worse, a string of murders surrounds him, with evidence pointing at the young boy he saved. To get his life back on track, Tenma sets out on a journey to find the true identity of the small boy and have a peaceful life.

Hellsing Ultimate

  • Number of Episodes: 10
  • Year of Release: 2006
  • Why You Should Watch: Vampires go at each other in a perfectly choreographed battle. With each fight ending with blood, gore, and piles of bodies.

Hellsing Ultimate is the original video animation (OVA) based on the manga of the same name. The short series follows Alucard - Dracula backward - and his servant Seras Victoria. Together they must fight an organization long thought dead or see England fall into the hands of Nazi werewolves.

Many horror movies and series are grounded in superstition, fear of demons, and the dread of death. However, no single story brings all of these elements together, as well as the vampire legend of Dracula and the story of a half-man, half-wolf. And although these may be tired horror cliches, #HellsingUltimate ends up being a well-executed horror anime that has become a favorite among fans. The fight scenes are well animated that the blood and gore almost feel real. On top of that, the series brings an interesting spin to the horror genre by including comedic relief coupled with extreme violence.

Perfect Blue

  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Director: Satoshi Kon
  • Why You Should Watch: A psychological thriller that blurs the border between the real world and imagination. Often compared to the suspense-ridden works of Alfred Hitchcock.

When pop idol Mima Kirigoe leaves her singing group, Cham, to pursue a career as an actress, she never realized that her life would turn inside out. After landing a role as a rape victim in a sexually-charged murder mystery, Mima finds out that she has a stalker.

On top of that, she discovers that there's a website describing intimate details of her life. Scared for her safety and stressed out by the demands of her new job, Mima becomes lost and confused and starts to hallucinate. Unable to break free from her delusions, she quickly descends into a dangerous state of paranoia.

Higurashi When They Cry

  • Number of Episodes: 55 (3 seasons)
  • Year of Release: 2006
  • Why You Should Watch: An enticing horror mystery that slowly reveals why unexplainable deaths take place during a summer festival.

After moving to the quiet village of Hinamizawa in the summer of 1983, young Keiichi quickly becomes friends with schoolmates Rena, Mion, Satoko, and Rika. And while Keiichi finds Hinamizawa a boring little town, he quickly learns that the village has a dark past, all pointing to village's guardian, Oyashiro-sama.

Don’t let the cute character design fool you; Higurashi When They Cry is more than just an anime about students and after-school activities. And while the animation style may disrupt the eerie atmosphere, it oversells on blood, gore, and mystery.

Ghost Hunt

  • Number of Episodes: 25
  • Year of Release: 2006
  • Why You Should Watch: Actual ghost hunters help restless spirits go to the afterlife, but not all are willing to leave.

Ghosts are an important part of a lot of horror anime, whether it’s harmless apparitions or murderous beings seeking their next victim. It's usually up to those with supernatural abilities to banish them to the other realm, which happens to be the situation that Mai Taniyama is in.

After walking into a paranormal investigation scene, Mai inadvertently breaks an expensive camera and injures one of the investigators. To pay back the damages and compensate for one less employee, Mai opts to work as a paranormal investigator. From that point on, Mai learns about the paranormal world and the profession of ghost hunting.

Elfen Lied

  • Number of Episodes: 13
  • Year of Release: 2004
  • Why You Should Watch: A vengeful mutant with telekinetically controlled arms leaves nothing but blood and body parts in her path.

Elfen Lied follows Lucy - a mutant with horns and invisible telekinetic hands - who manages to break free from a government facility. However, during her escape, she slaughters the facility's guards leaving a pile of bodies in her wake.

But during her escape, she gets shot in the head. Nevertheless, she survives and drifts on a beach, where two college students, who are also cousins, find her. But, instead of meeting the murderous Lucy, they meet a young woman with the mental capacity of a child. Unaware of her bloodthirsty tendencies, they take the injured Lucy to their home, which they soon regret.


  • Number of Episodes: 12
  • Year of Release: 2011
  • Why You Should Watch: Monsters torture and eat the citizens of a small town. But, they themselves are oblivious or unmoved by these deaths.

Saya Kisaragi appears to be a typical high school girl. During the day, she goes to school and hangs out with her friends. But when night falls, Saya has to protect her village from strange monsters and demons. However, she's has strange dreams that keep her up at night. Which unravels everything and everyone she knows.


  • Episodes: 12
  • Year of Release: 2015
  • Why You Should Watch: A slice-of-life anime with a heavy dose of deception and zombies.

Yuki Takeya is a happy third-year high school girl. And along with her friends - Kurumi, Yuuri, and Miki - they form the School Living Club. The club’s number one rule is never to go home. And while this may be strange, Yuki is living a blissful life, but why aren’t the rest? Or is there something that Yuki isn’t seeing?

Like Higurashi,School-Live! is a horror anime where the character design and animation style are rather youthful, with slice-of-life tropes taking center stage. However, after some time, the true horror comes out, and these lovable characters get a real dose of reality. Major themes such as deception and paranoia play a key role in School-Live! The series will keep viewers on the edge of their seats, wondering if these girls will survive the zombie apocalypse.


  • Episodes: 65 (5 seasons)
  • Year of Release: 2013
  • Why You Should Watch: Japanese myths and urban legends come to life in more ways than one.

Telling ghost stories is a favorite pastime for children. But, when a mysterious yellow-masked man appears, he begins to recite scary tales with his kamishibai, such as the story of the ventriloquist's dummy.

Yamishibai is a collection of shorts with a running time of four minutes. Each installment features a different story based on Japanese myths and urban legends. But, to make it an authentic Japanese horror tale, Yamishibai incorporates a kamishibai style of animation. Kamishibai is a storytelling method that uses illustrated boards placed in a miniature stage-like device.


  • Episodes: 22
  • Year of Release: 2010
  • Why You Should Watch: Farmers and villagers fight vampires in an epic grizzly battle.

Shiki takes place during a hot summer in 1990 in the rural village of Sotoba. And while Sotoba is known as a peaceful yet dull village, this changes when a string of mysterious deaths occur. Dr. Toshio Ozaki - director of the only hospital in Sotoba - begins to investigate these strange deaths. Initially suspecting an epidemic, he soon comes to the realization that something more sinister is at work. Vampires a.k.a. “Shiki.”

Shiki is more than just a vampire horror anime series. From its animation style to the Japanese references, the vampires in Shiki are far from what audiences in the West have come to learn about these creatures. The anime explores how people and “Shiki” deal with fear. Whether exercising it or fighting against it, it all comes to a bloody, violent conclusion.


  • Episodes: 13
  • Year of Release: 2015
  • Why You Should Watch: A good reason to be reminded why you shouldn't have cameras around you at all times.

Kowabon is an original horror anime that explores the dark side of the digital age. Where the eyes of digital devices see the otherworldly beings that are invisible to us. All the stories in Kowabon have different characters, with each installment having a unique touch on digital terror.

The series has a distinct style of animation called rotoscoping, in which live-action frame-by-frame footage is traced to recreate it as animation.

The Garden of Sinners

  • Year of Release: 2008
  • Director: Takayuki Hirao
  • Why You Should Watch: A dark, captivating movie, where a horrifying murder at an apartment complex, is more obscuring that it initially is thought to be.

The Garden of Sinners is a series of seven anime films based on the novel series of the same name. However, it’s the fifth installment Paradox Spiral, that cranks up the horror and suspense to a whole new level. The movie follows the events of a double homicide committed by a young man, Tomoe Enjou.

And although Tomoe feels remorse for his actions, he’s baffled that the police nor the media have covered his crime. To add to his confusion, he finds out that his mother - who he killed - is still alive. How can this be? Did he actually commit the murders, or is his mind playing tricks on him?

Despite being the fifth installment, it’s not necessary to see the other four movies, to follow the events of Paradox Spiral. Still, the horror anime movie is an accurate representation of psychological twists and turns. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to every scene, or you will miss key points in the plot.

Corpse Party: Tortured Souls

  • Episodes: 4
  • Year of Release: 2013
  • Why You Should Watch: Gore, guts, and torture are synonymous with this series.

Based on a game of the same name, Corpse Party: Tortured Souls, follows a group of students that, after performing a chant, are transported to an alternate dimension. Now, they must find a way home and try to survive the shadowy forces that haunt this dimension.

Corpse Party, is viewed as a cult favorite in Japan with a dedicated fan following. The horror series explores themes such as torture, violence, and gore, which may put the average viewer off. However, if such series are your cup of tea, then Corpse Party: Tortured Souls is a must-see.


  • Episodes: 12
  • Year of Release: 2012
  • Why You Should Watch: If you're a fan of great horror, this is basically an animated version of Final Destination.

In 1972, a peaceful town was rocked by the death of a popular student. Since then, the town has been shrouded by a dark and fearful atmosphere. Decades later, there’s a new group of students, and they all seem to be unaware of the presence of their schoolmate Mei Misaki. However, when new student Kouichi Sakakibara arrives, he begins to form a friendship with Mei, ignoring the other student’s warnings. At the same time, he also tries to solve the gruesome anomaly plaguing his new classroom.

Another is similar to the live-action Final Destination film franchise, where small accidents end up in brutal deaths, making the characters wary of their actions. The violent, gory scenes in this series will appeal to many horror fans.

From the New World

  • Episodes: 25
  • Year of Release: 2012
  • Why You Should Watch: A well-thought intricate series exploring civilization's social structure, where one social group exercises its superiority and dominance towards the other one.

Taking place one thousand years from now, five friends - Saki, Satoru, Maria, Mamoru, and Shun - live in a quiet and harmonious town that can be described as a utopia. However, not all is what it seems, as Saki and her friends come to realize the true nature of their world. They go on a life-changing adventure, fighting to protect their village and a world that's on the brink of collapse.

Despite not having much physical violence, From the New World, is a real horror anime. The setting and characters are a mirror of today’s society, from humans to monster rats. The horror anime explores how superior beings treat their inferior counterparts. Consequently, making the series interesting for its take on civilization, but also difficult to watch due to the horrific treatment of some beings.

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About the Creator

Zuleika Boekhoudt

I'm Zuleika, a multi-passionate writer and blogger with a flair for crafting engaging romance stories. I enjoy blogging about anime, beauty, and sharing my passion for combat sports.

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