Dark anime shows might not be the most popular compared to other anime genres, but they are pretty awesome to watch, especially for more mature audiences.
Although anime has become all the rage recently, many people still believe it is a childish medium that shouldn’t be taken seriously. They think it’s all fun and games; the hero swings in, beats the bad guy, saves the day, and the process is repeated. To be fair to them, they’re kind of right because most of the popular shows today are shonen anime, and they happen to be quite light-hearted and don’t exactly focus on topics that rein in mature audiences.
But this doesn’t mean the community is lacking; it just means you are not looking hard enough. In the vast landscape of anime, where vibrant worlds and endearing characters often take center stage, a distinct genre lurks in the shadows, captivating audiences with its gripping narratives and haunting atmospheres.
Dark anime, a subgenre that delves into the depths of human emotions and explores the realms of psychological turmoil, has gained a fervent following in recent years.
From twisted plots to morally ambiguous characters, dark anime ventures into uncharted territories, leaving viewers spellbound by its grim allure. Join us as we embark on a journey into the enigmatic world of dark anime, where light and darkness converge to create narratives that both fascinate and challenge our perceptions!
Best Dark Anime to Watch in 2023
30. Deadman Wonderland
Deadman Wonderland is a story about Ganta Igarashi, an ordinary high school student whose life takes a harrowing turn when his entire class is massacred by a mysterious figure known as the “Red Man.”
Falsely accused of the crime, Ganta is thrown into Deadman Wonderland, a privately-owned prison that doubles as a twisted amusement park. Inside the prison’s walls, Ganta discovers a horrifying truth: Deadman Wonderland is a nightmarish battleground where inmates, known as “Deadmen,” possess supernatural abilities.
Ganta must navigate this sadistic world if he hopes to uncover the secrets behind his own survival and seek justice for his fallen classmates. In the shadows of Deadman Wonderland lies a sinister conspiracy where dark forces manipulate the lives of the prisoners for their own gain.
Ganta forms unlikely alliances with fellow Deadmen, each with unique abilities and tragic pasts, to uncover the truth behind the Red Man, the secret organization behind Deadman Wonderland, and their own hidden powers.
Another follows the story of Kouichi Sakakibara, a new transfer student, who discovers that his class is plagued by a sinister curse. As a series of inexplicable deaths and mysterious occurrences unfold, Kouichi finds himself thrust into a nightmarish spiral of terror.
He forms an unlikely alliance with Mei Misaki, a girl with an air of mystery surrounding her. Together, they delve deeper into the dark secrets that shroud the curse and attempt to break it. The anime builds an atmosphere of dread and unease with unsettling visuals, haunting sound design, and a spine-chilling soundtrack.
28. Devilman: Crybaby
Get ready for a mind-blowing, genre-defying experience with Devilman: Crybaby, an anime that pushes boundaries and leaves an indelible mark on your soul. Enter a world where angels and demons collide, and humanity stands on the precipice of destruction.
The story centers around Akira Fudo, a compassionate young man who becomes entangled in a supernatural war after merging with a demon.
As Devilman, he harnesses immense power to protect humanity from the demonic forces that threaten to consume the world. But as the line between good and evil blurs, Akira grapples with his own identity and the dark impulses that lie within. There’s a good reason why Devilman: Crybaby is hailed as a modern-day masterpiece.
27. AJIN: Demi-Human
Kei Nagai is a seemingly ordinary high school student, but his life takes a shocking turn when he discovers he’s an Ajin, a rare species of immortal beings feared by society.
Hunted by the government and pursued by ruthless Ajin-hunters, Kei is forced to confront his newfound abilities and make impossible choices to protect himself and those he cares about. AJIN: Demi-Human goes beyond the surface-level spectacle, exploring complex themes such as discrimination, ethics, and the pursuit of power. It’s one of the best dark anime that’s definitely an intense watch.
In a futuristic world governed by a unique system called the Sibyl System, Psycho-Pass takes you on a thrilling ride filled with mystery and philosophical exploration. Follow Inspector Akane Tsunemori as she delves into the dark underbelly of a seemingly perfect society where mental states are constantly monitored to prevent crime.
This dark and thought-provoking anime forces us to confront uncomfortable truths about the human condition and the cost of maintaining a peaceful society.
Psycho-Pass delves into the fragility of mental well-being and the limits of societal control. It prompts us to ponder the ethical implications of a system that judges a person’s worth based on their psychological state, questioning if a mental health assessment is enough to define a human being.
25. Neon Genesis Evangelion
The world of Neon Genesis Evangelion is one where humanity battles against mysterious creatures called “Angels” in a post-apocalyptic setting. The reluctant protagonist, Shinji Ikari, is thrust into the pilot seat of an enormous bio-mechanical weapon known as an Evangelion.
But this isn’t just a story about epic mecha battles, although there are plenty of those too. As Shinji fights the Angels, he also battles his inner demons, navigating complex relationships with other pilots, including the enigmatic Rei Ayanami and fiery Asuka Langley Soryu.
24. Hellsing Ultimate
Get ready for a thrilling vampire anime called Hellsing Ultimate! Join the secret organization, Hellsing, as they battle supernatural threats to protect humanity.
Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing is the head of this legendary group; however, all of its members pale in comparison to Integra’s trump card; Alucard, a vampire and an overpowered protagonist, who has made it his mission to exterminate his kind.
With a gripping storyline, unexpected twists, and a dark sense of humor, Hellsing Ultimate will keep you on the edge of your seat. So, give this series a watch if you’re in the mood for action-packed excitement, morally complex characters, and a touch of the supernatural.
23. Akame Ga Kill
The story revolves around Tatsumi, a young warrior who journeys to the capital in search of fame and fortune. But little does he know this place is crawling with corruption and evil.
After a series of unfortunate events, Tatsumi finds himself joining Night Raid, a group of badass assassins fighting against the corrupt government. They’re on a mission to restore justice and bring down the wicked. Their goal is simple; complete liberation of their empire from the clutches of the greedy and conniving Prime Minister.
If you’re craving an adrenaline-fueled anime with a mix of action, suspense, and a touch of darkness, Akame Ga Kill is the perfect choice. However, due to its graphic nature and mature themes, including violence and gore, it is best suited for viewers who can handle mature content.
22. Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul is a pretty intense story set in a world where humans coexist with ghouls—creatures that look like people but can only eat human flesh to survive. Our protagonist, Kaneki Ken, starts off as your typical college student, just minding his own business and enjoying life.
But everything changes when he goes on a date with a girl named Rize Kamishiro. It turns out Rize is not your ordinary lady. She’s a ghoul, and she tries to snack on poor Kaneki during their little outing.
Luckily, or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, Kaneki survives the attack, but things aren’t quite the same anymore. He undergoes surgery that involves transplanting Rize’s organs into him, which turns him into a half-ghoul/half-human hybrid. Now he’s stuck between the human and ghoul worlds, struggling to come to terms with his new identity.
21. Elfen Lied
Elfen Lied tells the story of a world where there are these beings called Diclonius. These special folks look like humans, but they have some crazy powers, like invisible arms called “vectors” that can slice and dice pretty much anything in their path.
Lucy is a Diclonius girl who has been locked up and treated poorly. When she escapes, she leaves a trail of blood and chaos behind. She suffers a head injury and loses her memory but is found by Kouta and Yuka, who are determined to help her recover and figure out who she is.
But, of course, it wouldn’t be a compelling story without some dark secrets and conspiracies, right? As she tries to piece together her past, we’re introduced to other Diclonius characters and uncover the truth behind their existence.
20. Ergo Proxy
Ergo Proxy takes us to a world where humans live in domed cities called Romdeau, sheltered from a devastated and uninhabitable Earth. People have created utopias inside these domes, but as you can imagine, there’s more to the story.
Our main character is a young woman named Re-l Mayer, who works as an investigator. She starts unraveling a series of mysterious events, including strange murders and a virus outbreak called the Cogito Virus. Things take a wild turn when Re-l encounters a mysterious creature called a Proxy, who seems involved in the chaos.
She and other characters embark on a journey outside the domed city, seeking answers about the origins of the Proxies. Ergo Proxy is a thought-provoking narrative that explores the depths of human nature, the blurred lines between man and machine, and the consequences of playing God with technology.
Drifters is a seriously cool show that brings historical figures into a whole new world of chaos and battles. It starts with a renowned samurai named Shimazu Toyohisa, who is transported to a strange place after a fierce battle. And guess what? He’s not alone!
Toyohisa discovers that he is part of a group called the Drifters, a group of warriors from different time periods who have been brought together to fight against an opposing group called the Ends. The Ends are led by twisted historical figures with their own agendas. As the plot unfolds, characters like Oda Nobunaga, Hannibal Barca, and others work together to take down the Ends and protect the strange new world they have been thrown into.
Drifters is an action-packed ride with a blend of history, fantasy, and a touch of humor. It brings larger-than-life characters together and lets them loose in an unpredictable world. If that sounds like something you’d like, this dark anime is a must-watch.
18. Goblin Slayer
Goblin Slayer takes us to a medieval fantasy world infested with, you guessed it, goblins! But don’t let their small stature fool you because they’re downright vicious. They cause havoc, terrorize villages, and generally are a pain in the neck.
Our main character, Goblin Slayer, is on a mission to exterminate goblins. He’s a tough and relentless warrior who’s dedicated his life to eradicating goblins. Armed with his trusty armor, weapons, and a singular focus, he’ll stop at nothing to wipe out every last one.
Goblin Slayer forms a ragtag group of adventurers to assist him in his quest, including the Priestess, Dwarf Shaman, High Elf Archer, and Lizardman Priest. They face numerous challenges, treacherous dungeons, and several goblins in an effort to protect innocent lives and put an end to the goblin menace.
17. Mirai Nikki
Mirai Nikki, also known as Future Diary, is a suspenseful story that revolves around a high-stakes survival game. Our main character is a high-schooler, Yukiteru Amano, who’s a bit of a loner and spends most of his time writing in his diary on his cell phone. He writes down everything that happens to him.
Suddenly, Yukiteru’s diary starts predicting things that haven’t happened to him yet, and he discovers that he’s been dragged into a deadly competition. He’s not alone, as there are other participants with similar diaries, each with their own special abilities. The ultimate prize in this game is becoming the next God.
Enter Yuno Gasai, a girl who’s obsessed with Yukiteru and will do anything to protect him. She’s got her own diary, and let’s just say she’s a force to be reckoned with. Her devotion to Yukiteru takes the story to a whole new level of crazy—Yuno’s one of the most iconic yandere to come out of anime.
Shiki takes place in a small, remote village called Sotoba, which seems like your typical quiet countryside community. However, things quickly take a dark turn when mysterious deaths begin to occur, linked to the arrival of the Kirishiki family.
As more people fall victim to the unexplained deaths, suspicion grows, and the villagers become desperate to uncover the truth. Toshio Ozaki, the local doctor and one of the first to realize that these deaths aren’t just natural occurrences, begins investigating alongside a young man named Natsuno Yuuki, who’s skeptical of the supernatural but soon finds himself tangled up in the horrifying events.
As the story of this dark anime progresses, we witness a battle between the humans and the mysterious creatures responsible for the deaths—known as “shiki.” The small, idyllic village quickly turns into a nightmarish place where the line between life and death blurs.
Texhnolyze takes us to the underground city of Lux, a bleak and gritty place where violence and despair reign supreme. The city is divided into different factions, each vying for power and control.
Ichise is a stoic and tough individual who finds himself tangled up in the dangerous web of Lux. After a brutal encounter, he loses an arm and a leg, but he’s given a chance at a new life when he’s fitted with advanced cybernetic limbs known as “Texhnolyze.”
Texhnolyze is a slow-burn anime that explores themes of identity, technology, and human depravity. It follows Ichise as he navigates a chaotic city, becoming involved in a power struggle between the Organ Guild and the Racan. Along the way, he encounters enigmatic characters, uncovers the secrets of Lux, and confronts the harsh truths about humanity.
14. Banana Fish
Banana Fish tells the story of Ash Lynx, a young and charismatic gang leader in New York City. He’s got the looks, the smarts, and a troubled past that haunts him. Things kick into high gear when he crosses paths with a mysterious drug called “Banana Fish.”
As Ash investigates the origins of Banana Fish, he uncovers a sinister plot that involves government officials, crime syndicates, and the military. One fateful encounter brings Ash together with Eiji Okumura, a kind-hearted Japanese photographer. Eiji becomes Ash’s companion and confidant, offering him a glimmer of hope in his otherwise dark world. Their friendship becomes a driving force throughout the series.
Banana Fish takes us on a thrilling ride through the underbelly of New York City, exploring themes of crime, corruption, and the consequences of power. If you’re into gripping crime stories, intense character relationships, and a healthy dose of mystery, this is an anime series you won’t want to miss.
Dorohedoro takes us to a bizarre and chaotic world called “Hole.” It’s a grim place where sorcerers and humans coexist, but not in a very friendly way. The sorcerers have the upper hand with their magical abilities and are not afraid to use them.
Our main character is a reptilian-headed guy named Caiman, who suffers from amnesia and has one goal: to find out who turned him into this peculiar creature and get his original face back.
To help him in his quest, Caiman teams up with Nikaido, a badass girl with incredible combat skills. Together, they embark on a dark and twisted journey, hunting down sorcerers and trying to unravel the mysteries of their world.
12. Hell Girl
Hell Girl centers around a mysterious website called the “Hell Correspondence,” which grants a person’s desire for revenge by sending their tormentor straight to Hell.
The catch is that once you make a pact with the Hell Correspondence, your soul is also bound to Hell. To summon the Hell girl, you type in the name of the person you want to send to Hell. Then, Hell girl, aka Ai Enma, will exact your revenge.
Throughout this dark anime series, we meet various individuals who have been pushed to their limits, seeking vengeance for the wrongs done to them or their loved ones. As they wrestle with their emotions and contemplate the consequences of their actions, they ultimately make the fateful decision to seek out the Hell Correspondence.
But it’s not all about revenge. The anime also delves into the lives of those affected by this dark phenomenon, including a journalist named Hajime Shibata, who becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth behind the Hell Correspondence.
11. Death Parade
Death Parade is a philosophical anime set in a mysterious bar called Quindecim, where souls go after death to be judged. The bar is unique because the bartenders, known as arbiters, oversee intense games that determine the fate of the souls. These games, ranging from billiards to darts, serve to reveal the true nature of the souls and their past actions.
The participants’ memories resurface as the games progress, leading to emotional confrontations and revelations. Their true selves are exposed as they face their past mistakes, regrets, and hidden truths. The story primarily focuses on Decim, the calm and enigmatic bartender, who starts questioning the purpose and fairness of the judgment system.
10. Terror in Resonance
Terror in Resonance is a captivating anime that revolves around two enigmatic teenagers named Nine and Twelve. These brilliant masterminds embark on a series of meticulously planned terrorist attacks in Tokyo, aiming to send a message to society and unveil hidden truths. They cleverly leave behind cryptic clues and challenges for the authorities, creating a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.
Detective Kenjirou Shibazaki becomes deeply involved in this intense chase, refusing to back down and risking everything to uncover the motives behind Nine and Twelve’s actions.
As the story progresses, we delve into the troubled pasts of Nine and Twelve, their connection to a secretive organization, and the true nature of their mission. Alongside them, we meet other compelling characters who become entangled in this dangerous game.
When talking about the best dark anime, there’s no way we can ignore this title. Berserk is a dark and gritty tale that revolves around Guts, a skilled warrior carrying a troubled past and an intimidating sword. In a brutal medieval world, he navigates through bloody battles against monstrous creatures and dangerous human adversaries.
Guts becomes intertwined in “The Eclipse,” a ruthless event that forever alters his life and fuels his quest for vengeance. Driven by an insatiable desire for retribution, he seeks to confront the demonic God Hand and their newest member, Griffith, in an unyielding pursuit that tests his limits and plunges him into despair.
Armed with Dragonslayer, a sword too big and heavy even to be called one, join Guts on his journey for vengeance against the man he once thought was his closest friend.
8. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica takes us into a world where ordinary girls can become magical girls and battle against witches. Our protagonist, Madoka Kaname, is a cheerful and kind-hearted girl who is drawn into this supernatural realm.
A mysterious creature named Kyubey offers Madoka the chance to become a magical girl and fulfill her deepest wish. Madoka embarks on a journey filled with magical battles and perilous encounters alongside her best friend Sayaka and other magical girls.
However, Madoka soon discovers that being a magical girl isn’t all sunshine and happiness. She learns about the sacrifices and hidden consequences that come with this role. As the story progresses, Madoka uncovers the dark side of being a magical girl and the tragic fate that awaits them.
7. Made in Abyss
Made in Abyss tells the captivating story of Riko, a young girl living near the massive and mystical chasm known as the Abyss. This treacherous and awe-inspiring place is filled with ancient relics and unknown creatures.
Driven by her desire to become a skilled Cave Raider, individuals who explore the Abyss for valuable artifacts, Riko encounters Reg, a mysterious robotic boy with extraordinary powers. Together, they embark on a dangerous journey to uncover the Abyss’ secrets and find Riko’s missing mother, a renowned Cave Raider.
As they venture deeper into the Abyss, Riko and Reg confront deadly challenges, encounter peculiar creatures, and unravel ancient mysteries. They forge alliances with fellow explorers, unraveling the enigmatic history of the Abyss and facing its lurking dangers.
Made in Abyss showcases stunning world-building, breathtaking visuals, and a captivating narrative. It seamlessly blends fantasy, adventure, and mystery elements, creating a truly immersive experience.
6. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan takes place in a world where humanity teeters on the edge of annihilation. Gigantic humanoid creatures known as Titans roam freely, devouring humans and sowing terror among the survivors.
Our protagonist, Eren Yeager, is a determined young boy yearning to explore the world beyond the protective walls that safeguard humanity’s last strongholds. With his adoptive sister Mikasa and their friend Armin, Eren joins the military to combat the Titans and unravel the mysteries shrouding their existence.
As members of the Survey Corps, an elite force tasked with eradicating Titans, Eren and his comrades engage in countless battles and witness the horrific devastation wrought by these merciless beings. Along their journey, they uncover grim truths about the Titans, their origins, and the history of their world.
The story unfolds with gripping action, strategic warfare, and poignant sacrifices. Eren and his friends must confront not only the Titans but also the political intrigues and power struggles within their society, making it one of the top-rated dark anime that no one should miss!
5. Death Note
Death Note revolves around the brilliant high school student Light Yagami, who stumbles upon a mysterious notebook known as the Death Note. This powerful book grants him the ability to kill anyone whose name and face he knows by just writing their name in it.
Motivated by a desire to create a world free from evil, Light, now called Kira, starts using the Death Note to execute criminals. Unexplained deaths attract the attention of the enigmatic Detective L, leading to a thrilling game of wits between the two.
By relying on his intelligence and strategic thinking, Kira evades detection and manipulates events to his advantage. Meanwhile, L is determined to uncover Kira’s true identity and bring him to justice.
As the story unfolds, the stakes rise, and the distinction between right and wrong becomes blurred. Light’s actions draw the interest of others, including a second Kira who supports his cause. The intricate web of alliances, betrayals, and mind games keeps audiences engaged until the gripping conclusion.
4. Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain revolves around Lain Iwakura, a quiet and introverted girl who receives a peculiar email from a deceased classmate. This email connects her to “the Wired,” a virtual realm where thoughts are shared.
Driven by curiosity, Lain delves into the realms of consciousness, identity, and technology, blurring the boundaries between the real world and the Wired. As she navigates this digital landscape, she questions her own existence and the nature of reality.
Throughout the series, Lain encounters enigmatic characters and uncovers a complex conspiracy involving the manipulation of human minds through the Wired. The distinction between the physical and the virtual becomes increasingly indistinct as Lain unravels the mysteries surrounding her identity and the true purpose of the Wired.
Dororo follows the journey of Hyakkimaru, a young orphan who seeks to reclaim the body parts taken from him by demons when he was a baby.
Lord Daigo Kagemitsu’s land is fated to perish in the samurai era. In a last-ditch attempt for survival, he deals with demons for a hefty price; the body of his firstborn. Soon after the land prospers, the child is brought into the world, missing his eyes, ears, limbs, nose, and skin. He is cast away into a river, but as luck would have it, a medicine man discovers this abandoned baby.
The man grants him prosthetics to fend for himself, and he grows into a living weapon. Now grown, the boy is accompanied by the lost orphan Dororo in a gruesome hunt to kill the demons that robbed him of everything and claim back what was rightfully his.
2. Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga transports us to the Viking Age, where we follow Thorfinn, a young warrior driven by a thirst for revenge against his father’s killer. Immersed in a world of warfare, honor, and conquest, Thorfinn becomes part of a Viking group led by the legendary Askeladd.
Fighting alongside his comrades, Thorfinn sharpens his skills, determined to confront Askeladd and exact his vengeance.
However, as his journey unfolds, he begins to question the cycle of violence and the purpose of his quest. The harsh realities of war clash with his ideals, leading him on a path of self-discovery and redemption.
Monster is one of the best dark anime shows that follows the journey of Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a brilliant and compassionate neurosurgeon faced with a moral dilemma. His choice to save a young boy over the city’s mayor sets off a haunting chain of events.
Years later, Dr. Tenma discovers that the boy he saved has become a ruthless killer. Driven by guilt and a sense of responsibility, he embarks on a mission to stop Johan and uncover the dark secrets of his past.
Dr. Tenma becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy, manipulation, and psychological warfare as the story unfolds. He encounters a diverse cast of characters, each with their own motivations and hidden agendas, including detectives, criminals, and fellow doctors.
While encompassing a wide range of genres, dark anime shares a common thread that sets it apart from its counterparts: an intense and dark storyline that delves into the depths of human nature.
From psychological thrillers to supernatural horror and dystopian settings, this subgenre of anime captivates viewers with its ability to weave captivating and unsettling narratives.
I hope you’ll find some gems in this list of the best dark anime shows. Whether you’re drawn to the psychological twists and turns of Death Note, the harrowing journey of vengeance in Vinland Saga, or the moral complexities of Monster, these series offer a unique and thought-provoking viewing experience.
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