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Top 8 Darkest Anime
Remember the first time you saw blood in an animated show? Wasn’t it shocking? Maybe not. What is for certain is that, unlike the lighthearted Western cartoons many of us grew up with, anime often tackles some very serious subject matters. That more adult approach is one of the elements that attracted several people to anime in the first place. However, there are some that take the extra step to make the audience spit out their popcorn and exclaim, “oh, my God”. I have compiled a list of the eight darkest anime I have seen that make you wonder if the creators need a hug or two. But in all seriousness, all of these shows are actually quite recommendable if you know what you’re getting into.
Keep in mind that this list only includes shows that I have personally watched from start to finish. Feel free to name your personal picks in the comment section if you feel like I missed something essential.
Be warned that there are some minor spoilers regarding the type of content present in each series.
1. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni
Adapted from a series of doujinshi visual novels written by the now-famous Ryukishi07, this mystery series has become (in)famous for its strong horror elements involving cute girls turning into deranged psychopaths. Studio Deen’s animation is sub-par – sometimes even laughably bad – but the sudden twisted facial expressions, good pacing, fantastic original voice acting and eerie soundtrack are more than enough to make even the more stoic viewers uneasy. The likable characters and intriguing premise are sure to immerse any fan of murder mysteries… as long as they can stomach some gruesome scenes.
2. Welcome to the NHK
This might very well be the darkest comedy you’ll ever see. Welcome to the NHK realistically portrays the real societal issues with Japan’s troubled youth. And it doesn’t hold back revealing these things either. The show follows a paranoid hikikomori NEET (an unemployed shut-in), going through various ordeals, including near-starvation and getting unintentionally mixed up in an internet suicide pact. You’ll get a few good laughs as well as some insight about the darker depths of the Japanese culture, but other than that Welcome to the NHK is in many ways downright depressing.
Originally a light novel that serves as a prequel to the famous Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero is written by Gen Urobuchi, who is known for his dark themes in other shows such as Madoka Magica and Psycho Pass. The story is about a Battle Royale between seven mages and their servants, the winner of which will be granted the omnipotent Holy Grail. What makes Fate/Zero so grim besides the violence and sneaky, ruthless war tactics, is the important characters’ back stories and their conflicting ideals. Themes such as ethics and honor in battle are brilliantly discussed and debated. Do the ends justify the means? You decide!
4. Elfen Lied
Although the original manga by Lynn Okamoto is arguably even more relentlessly cruel, Elfen Lied’s 12-episode TV series is undeniably one of the most violent animated shows in existence. In addition to several scenes of bloody dismemberment, there are depictions of child- and animal abuse. This series has a beautiful and interesting story that explores themes of prejudice, revenge, and repentance, but the way it’s delivered might definitely be too much for some viewers. Hopefully you like red, because you’ll see a lot of it.
5. Death Note
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise. Death Note’s critically acclaimed anime adaptation of the equally successful manga has probably the biggest body-count in any fictional show to date. The premise alone promises as much. A brilliant high school student devotes his life to completely wiping out crime by killing convicts with a Shinigami’s notebook. Need I say more? What is perhaps more grim than the show itself is the fact that there have been several subsequent cases of real-life students writing names of their classmates on their own ‘custom’ Death Notes.
6. Clannad After Story
This is an adaptation of Key’s famous romantic tearjerker visual novel, and a gorgeous one at that. Clannad After Story’s first ten episodes have the same wacky humor as the first season, but you won’t be laughing for long as things start to get more dramatic. Get those tissues ready because you will be crying a river soon. Being a happy family isn’t always so easy.
7. School Days
Don’t let that cheerful opening fool you. This love triangle is not the cute and fluffy romantic comedy it first appears to be. That much should be clear after the first few episodes. You can expect a lot of cheating, lies, heartbreak and unjustified hype about the most clueless harem protagonist you’ll ever see. But it is the shocking last episode that the series is known for. Out of respect to a real-life victim of a murder incident that happened at the time, the finale of School Days got pulled when it was originally set to air, . It aired later on, censored, but the uncut version can be seen in the DVD. The episode is disturbing enough as is, but what makes it even more unpleasant is knowing that it got pulled because of a similar incident happening in real life.
8. Steins; Gate
Another visual novel adaptation. You’d think a sci-fi time-travel anime starring a self-proclaimed mad scientist would be all fun and games, but around halfway through the series, Steins; Gate goes through a huge and unexpected tonal shift as our protagonist learns the horrific consequences of trying to mess with the timeline.