10 Darkest Anime Series Of All Time

A split image of Nanachi from Made in Abyss, Satou in Happy Sugar Life, and Eren in Attack on Titan


There are endless reasons that draw an audience into an anime series, whether they’re meant to function as a source of comfort, excitement, or more visceral material that isn’t afraid to ask dark questions. There’s a certain limitlessness to anime where it feels like anything is possible and that sweet characters and stories can suddenly be subjected to morose malevolence.


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Some anime deliver happy endings after extended periods of pain, but there are other series that are content to live in despair and emphasize just how lonely, sad, and disappointing the world can be. These anime aren’t for the faint of heart and should be watched in moderation, but they’re strong examples of undiluted anime darkness.

10 Mankind Progressively Pushes And Persecutes The Unknown

Elfen Lied

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Elfen Lied is 13 episodes of emotional torture that begins in a bleak place that only goes on to increasingly kick humanity while it’s down. Two warm, optimistic university students encounter a confused girl, Lucy, who’s actually an amnesiac mutant with murderous psychic powers. Lucy is hunted by a shady government agency and a growing body count begins to accompany her wherever she goes.

Anime series of this nature would typically end with Lucy’s salvation or at the least a lesson that emphasizes the importance of accepting others’ differences. Elfen Lied instead condemns mankind and doubles down on society’s worst impulses with a message that implies that peace is impossible.

9 A Sordid Case Of Manipulation Creates False Guardians For Its Frail Victims

Happy Sugar Life

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Satou embraces Shio in the ending scene in Happy Sugar Life anime

First impressions and assumptions are inevitable with certain anime due to their heightened characters and visuals. Happy Sugar Life intentionally leans into this idea, only to lull its audience into a false sense of security before murder, kidnapping, and brainwashing commence in this pitch black series.

Satou is a teenager who becomes so obsessed with an innocent young girl that she’s willing to go to murderous lengths to “protect.”Happy Sugar Life is filtered through Satou’s misguided and deluded perspective, which makes the whole series an upsetting exercise in an unreliable narrator and a protagonist who is far from heroic.

8 A Grim Journey Exposes Itself To Greater Darkness With Each Passing Milestone

Made In Abyss

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Riko, Moogie, and Majikaja listen as Vueko recounts the past in Made in Abyss

At a quick glance, it’s easy to assume that Made in Abyss is some playful adventure series where young and courageous prodigies accomplish incredible things. Made in Abyss technically fits this criteria as Riko, Reg, and Nanachi descend deeper into the titular Abyss. However, Made in Abyss is a captivating anime where the Abyss’ curse worsens with each descending level and the series ramps up its maturity level accordingly.

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What begins as a fun expedition turns into harrowing encounters where Riko and company progressively lose pieces of themselves and it truly feels like they’re doomed. There’s a horrible sense of dread that hangs over these characters’ heads at every moment.

7 A Dark Psychological Masterpiece Unpacks The Slippery Slope Of Toxic Thoughts

Paranoia Agent

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The Lil' Slugger delusion lives on in Paranoia Agent

Satoshi Kon is a groundbreaking storyteller who made waves in movie theaters with his surreal psychological thrillers, Paprika and Perfect Blue. Paranoia Agent is Kon’s 13-episode television series that brilliantly uses the episodic structure of television to deconstruct mob mentality, the festering way in which rumors spread, and how an urban legend can be stronger than any actual villain because of its immortal status.

In Paranoia Agent, a community lives in fear over the possibility of an attack from Lil’ Slugger, a rollerblading juvenile assailant who wields a bat. Paranoia Agent depicts these characters at their most vulnerable and evil is allowed to thrive.

6 Tense Terrorist Attacks Strike Paralysis In Society

Terror In Resonance

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>9 and 12 as Sphinx from Terror in Resonance anime

Shinichiro Watanabe is a masterful storyteller who loves to combine and remix genres with Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Space Dandy being some of his most memorable contributions to the medium. Terror in Resonance is Watanabe’s most subdued and overlooked series.

Two teenage terrorists, Nine and Twelve, launch terrifying attacks around the city, all of which are set to culminate in the release of a nuclear weapon. The cat-and-mouse game that plays out between these amateur terrorists and the police is incredibly suspenseful, but there are so many attacks that highlight the random nature of death and how living itself can sometimes be the hardest thing in the world.

5 An Ultra Edgy World Offers No Hope For Its Vulnerable Heroes

Goblin Slayer

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Red smoke coming out of Goblin Slayer's armor in Goblin Slayer anime

A crucial detail in any dark anime is that its nihilistic attitude is justified or if it’s just a hollow excuse to be edgy. Goblin Slayer sadly fits the latter and its first episode has a notorious reputation as one of anime’s most controversial installments due to how it needlessly victimizes its Priestess.

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The Priestess’ abuse sets an early precedent in Goblin Slayer for violence as a source of character development. The story in Goblin Slayer is nothing special, but it does deserve credit for just how many lines it’s willing to cross and that anything and everything happens to these characters. No dramatic plot twist is too shameless.

4 A School Of Death & Horrors Hides Even Greater Secrets

Another

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Mei Misaki stands by the fire in Another anime

Another is a tight horror anime at 12 episodes and one OVA installment that explores an unconventional ghost story that keeps the audience guessing over who’s really alive. Kouichi Sasakibara transfers to a foreboding new school and his one friend, Mei Misaki, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strange activity.

Kouichi longs for stability, but instead just encounters death and despair. A chilling murder mystery begins to play out where innocent students lose their lives and Kouichi is left with even greater questions that surround his new alma mater.

3 The Corruptive Nature Of Power Triggers A Terrifying Massacre

Inuyashiki

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Hiro Shishigami readies a finger gun in Inuyashiki

Inuyashiki is a compelling examination of power, responsibility, and how the same opportunities can trigger corruption and evil in some and altruism in others. A freak meteoric event inexplicably transforms Inuyashiki, an elderly man, and Hiro – a blunt teenager, into world-ending cyborgs.

Inuyashiki pledges to use his newfound strength to help others, but soon his priority becomes protecting society from Hiro, who goes on a reckless killing spree. Inuyashiki’s actions inspire hope in the audience, but Hiro attacks with a cold bluntness. A huge body count accrues by the end of the series and it stings even more since Hiro’s carnage is completely pointless.

2 Humanity’s Greatest Hero Transforms Into Their Worst Enemy

Attack On Titan

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Eren brainwashes Grisha in the past in Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan begins as a depressing series where mankind tirelessly fights against a gargantuan carnivorous threat, but there’s still heavy optimism behind Eren’s pledge to wipe out all Titans. It’s heartbreaking to watch Eren and the rest of the characters get hardened by war and lose sight of what’s important.

Betrayal becomes commonplace and the corruption of these warriors becomes harder to bear. Eren goes through a terrifying transformation that casts the entire series in a haunting new light. Attack on Titan has set the stage for a bloody final act where it’s not even clear if the grander generational problems will get solved.

1 A Depressing World Steadily Descends Into Deeper Darkness

Neon Genesis Evangelion

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>A vision of Asuka's rotting corpse in Neon Genesis Evangelion

It’s easy to dismiss Neon Genesis Evangelion as a chaotic mecha series where atypical Angels threaten an apocalypse week after week. That being said, Evangelion is a deep dissection of humanity, religion, and the very nature of existence. Evangelion depicts depression with a fearless, raw authenticity that turns its final episodes into a terrifying, nihilistic experience.

Every character is pushed past their breaking points in Evangelionand the level of carnage is devastating on both a physical and psychological level. A lot of mecha series highlight how human pilots are just another form of expendable artillery, but it’s especially bleak in Evangelion.

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