I put together a list of what I considered to be the top horror anime back in 2007. Since that list was published, a great deal of horror-related anime has been released in the West: some new titles, and some older titles now available for the first time. It’s not a genre that’s particularly in vogue at the moment, alas, since studios are focusing more on shojo action and anything with a whiff of moe, but that doesn’t mean there’s not good stuff out there. Since we get comments on that list all the time asking about this more recent anime or that one, we at Need Coffee thought it was time to revisit the topic and prepare for your enjoyment an updated list of must-see horror anime titles. Japan has been cranking out the live action horror lately instead of animated horror, but there are still several gems worth the viewing.
Just keep in mind that one man’s horror is another man’s “boring,” and that what you find terrifying, someone else might think is merely “gory and cheap” or worse… funny. Personally, I think the scariest damn series ever is A Little Snow Fairy Sugar… bloody thing still gives me nightmares after a decade. This list tries to balance all the different points of view with something for most age groups and preferences.
Some of the best horror manga hasn’t yet been adapted into film, such as Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Remote, but there’s still plenty out there to keep you viewing for some time. This list restricts itself to things currently available legally in the United States, so fan favorite titles available only as fansubs on shady, spyware-ridden sites aren’t here.
So without further ado, Needcoffee.com’s new and improved, updated Top Horror Anime, 7 More to Die For:
7. Pet Shop of Horrors
Pet Shop is mildly scary and a great “entry” horror anime title for people new to anime or new to horror. Its episodic nature may wear thin after a while, but it’s oddly hypnotic and appealing at the same time. The enigmatic Count D runs a pet shop in LA’s Chinatown. These are no ordinary pets, as you can see at first glance, and they all come with a catch–or rather three catches, all spelled out in your contract. Breaking any of these three points will teach you a very final and uncomfortable lesson, which of course the people who break them all richly deserve. D’s history and nature are never fully explained, but there’s enough information given to keep it interesting. As a friend of mine once said, “In other words, it’s basically Gremlins with the comedy spray-painted over.”
Here’s a bit from the first episode.
6. When They Cry (aka Higurashi no Naku Koro ni or When the Cicadas Cry)
When They Cry was originally a murder mystery game for the PC, but soon spun off into drama CDs, manga, and of course anime–two TV series and a handful of OVAs. Because these are adapted from mystery games, the idea of solving mysteries and finding clues is integral to the anime, maintaining the idea of question or answer “arcs.” The basic premise is simple enough: a rural town called Hinamizawa is plagued by murders every year during the festivals surrounding the worship of their local deity. The main characters all attempt to solve the mystery of these murders, prevent their own unpleasant demise, and protect each other. However, the series adds an interesting Rashomon-like twist: various arcs are told from different perspectives, adding new information and even reaching different conclusions. If your perfect horror is a creepy atmosphere, then this title is right up your alley.
The theme song here with a fansub for English. Note: animated side nudity if you’re at work and people would be concerned about that sort of thing.
Monster was a fantastic manga series written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, so it’s no surprise that the anime to follow in Japan from 2004-05 was also intriguing. It starts out as what may appear as a medical drama and then spreads out into murder, long-hidden lies, secret East German orphanages and more. The characters never quite know what’s going to happen next, but you can be sure it won’t be good. This one is more suspense than full-on slasher/shock horror, and benefits from the moody art, effective voice acting, and finely detailed storytelling. Not just any cast could pull this story off and make it both realistic and fantastical, but these folks do it justice. (Click here to buy Monster stuff from Amazon.)
4. Elfen Lied
This series introduces a mutant species known as the Diclonii, who have little horns and some telekinetic abilities. We focus on one such Diclonius, Lucy, whose rejection at the hands of humans provides the impetus for the plot. Her story of revenge and destruction touches upon a number of common horror themes, such as whether or not the human race can be or should be redeemed. The manga, as always, goes much more into depth and leaves fewer loose ends.
Here’s the trailer:
3. Hellsing Ultimate
I’m not sure how much more “horror” you can get than having Dracula in your anime. This OVA was closer to the manga than the original Hellsing release, and while fans tend like both equally, this one was lauded for its production qualities and story. Along with a spiffy new soundtrack, viewers are treated to new graphics and the many twists of story that featured in the original manga story. Of particular interest is a long set-piece battle between Alucard and the bio-engineered Father Anderson of the Iscariot Organization. Fans sensitive to gore and the use of religious imagery may want to give this one a miss (and all vampire tales, then), but everyone else needs to see it for its place in anime history.
The first OVA English dubbed trailer:
2. Hell Girl (aka Jigoku Shoujo)
This episodic series centers around a website where you can trade your soul for revenge upon a single person. You need not justify the revenge, merely tell the Powers That Be that you’re willing to sell your soul for it, and up steps the mysterious Hell Girl, whose real job is to ferry souls across the river to eternity. The scariest part of this series is all the idiotic reasons people seek revenge and how utterly dispassionate Hell Girl is about taking the souls, even if they are “innocent,” even if they had good reason for their grievance. The art is also exceptionally beautiful, and the over-arching story of just who and what Hell Girl and her sidekicks are will intrigue you.
The opening to season two here:
1. Le Portrait de Petite Cossette
Petite Cossette starts as a traditional gothic ghost story: a young man stumbles upon a mirror that seems to have the ghost of a young lady trapped in it. But there is, as always, much more going on here than the protagonist realizes. Before he knows it, not only his soul, but his life, body, and loved ones are all in very real danger, and he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to stop it… or if he really wants to. (Click here to buy La Portrait de Petite Cossette stuff from Amazon.)
There’s always a huge array of anime horror out there. As always, we welcome your comments as to what you agree with, disagree with, or that new thing that arrives on your doorstep next month that we won’t have had time to make a list about.