For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved all things scary! Anime, books, films, you name it. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to watch the old black and white Dracula film! Yeah, I was a strange child. I think I scared even my parents! Maybe this adoration is a cocktail of schadenfreude, deriving enjoyment from other people’s misfortune, or a bizarre fascination with creatures not of this realm or hellish versions of those that are. But it’s more likely because, more so than with any other emotion, fear is so damn immersive! It gets you invested in the safety and well-being of the characters that you’re watching or reading about and leaves you wondering just what you’d do in their situation.
So in honour of the spooky season I’ve put together a list of my favourite scary anime. Please note that I didn’t say horror anime – even those that don’t fall exclusively into the horror genre can have their scary moments, as you’ll soon discover! So, ghouls and boys, without any further ado, and in no particular order, here’s Ty’s Top 10 Terrifying Anime!
Flowers of Evil
Flowers of Evil may not be a horror anime, but it’s a master of what I like to call “creeping dread”, a steadily growing sense of tension or unease over what might happen next. This is largely due to the unpredictability of its mentally unstable heroine, Nakamura, and the vulnerability of both Kasuga and Saeki. Its unsettling soundtrack and off-putting (let’s be honest) animation style, which often places characters firmly in the uncanny valley, also contributes to this sense of dread.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
It’s tempting to think that Higurashi’s fear factor derives solely from watching young children hack away at each other. And whilst that’s certainly scary, what’s most scary about this anime is the way in which it plays with your expectations and perceptions. It’s definitely unexpected for such sweet, innocent looking young girls to turn into such twisted, violent monsters, but even more interesting is the way in which this show toys with its own narrative. Its non-chronological storytelling and unreliable narrator leave you second-guessing what your very own eyes are seeing. Add to that a top-notch, tension-inducing soundtrack and you have yourself one heck of a fright fest!
Inuyashiki scared me in the same way that the news, full of reports of terror attacks, homicides, and mass shootings, scares me. To think that I could just be going about my day and be struck down in an act of random violence is terrifying. I think that this anime, with its psychotic, all-powerful serial killer villain, responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people really taps into this feeling. This show’s not an easy watch, and I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint of heart, but when it comes to genuinely scary anime, it certainly ticks the box.
Made in Abyss
I’ll forgive those of you who are yet to see Made in Abyss for thinking that it is probably a lighthearted children’s show about exploring a magical, mystical world. Making your heroes kids will do that. But the fact that this anime’s heroes are children is what makes this show so frightening! Their naivete often meant that they found themselves in life-and-death situations involving the Eldritch abominations of the Abyss. That, and some strong body horror makes for one scary show.
Monster warrants its place on this list purely for its villain, the oh-so insidious Johan Liebert. Even when off-screen, his sinister presence was almost tangible and you knew that whatever misfortune befell Doctor Tenma, he was somehow behind it! But that was the only guarantee when it came to Liebert, whose mental illness made him incredibly unpredictable. The fact that this anime also taps into the fear of the darkness lurking within all men’s hearts makes it an all ‘round scary show!
To the uneducated, School Days might seem like a bizarre inclusion on this list. And I can see why you’d think that. Its premise: a vile highschooler sleeping with any girl dumb enough to let him at the expense of his relationship with his girlfriend, isn’t particularly scary (unless you stop to consider the STDs doubtlessly incurred). But what is scary about this anime is just how quickly it goes from 0 to 100. Hell hath no fury like a girlfriend scorned! I challenge any cheating partner to watch this show and not tremble in trepidation!
Serial Experiments Lain
Whilst the other anime on this list are scary because of their creepy creatures or terrifying teenagers, Serial Experiments Lain is scary purely for the existential dread it stirs in its viewers. As with The Matrix franchise, this anime will have you asking “How much of what I see and experience is real?” and “How do I know that I’m real?”
Of all fictional monsters, the vampire is perhaps my all-time favourite (closely followed by the wendigo, natch). Nevertheless, it’s not Shiki’s vampires that had me quaking in my boots, but their human prey, who slowly start to turn the tide on them! Their brutal, ruthless, and, well, inhumane treatment of the vampires (who, it could be said, were simply in need of a food source) was sickening and had me questioning who were really the monsters in that situation. SPOILER: very few scenes in anime have made such a lasting impression on me as the one where Ozaki goes all alien autopsy on his recently-turned wife!
Shin Sekai Yori
As I mentioned above, using children in a scary scenario can be pretty darn effective! But, in Shin Sekai Yori, it’s the children who are the source of the scares. This anime asks the question, what would happen if preteens, who are still developing and are beginning to wrestle with raging hormones, are given the powers of a god? Naturally, it doesn’t end well, with many struggling to contain their volatile psychokinetic powers, resulting in them being purged by their strict totalitarian society. This, combined with an interesting post-apocalyptic setting and extremely disturbing mutant creatures, makes for a pretty competent horror show!
Whilst the concept of cold, cruel, and unfeeling killers, like Shiki’s villagers or Inuyashiki’s Hiro, is pretty scary, I’d posit that the idea of bestowing destructive telekinetic powers upon emotionally, physically, and (in most cases) sexually abused teenage girls, in other words, Elfen Lied’s Diclonius’, is just as blood-curdling! If you’re thinking that that sounds like the most stupid idea you’ve ever heard of, you’re not wrong. During this anime’s 13 episode runtime nobody, not even puppies or children, are safe from these poor, unfortunate, yet terrifying, nutjobs!
So there you have it, my Top 10 Terrifying Anime! Leave me a comment telling me what you think about my choices, if you have any hair-raising recommendations for me, and whether or not you have any plans for tonight. I’ll have to live vicariously through you guys, because I’ll be working! Wooo~ Scary!