When the weather outside is frightful, it can be fun to bring the fright to your entertainment, too. Horror anime can range from violent gorefests to cerebral explorations of life’s biggest questions, but they all have one thing in common: they’ll make an impression.
Here are just 10 of the best horror anime to give yourself a scare during the holiday season.
1. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When the Cicadas Cry)
- Year: 2006
- Genre: Horror/Mystery/Suspense/Slice of life
- Director: Chiaki Kon
Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni is one of the best psychological horror anime of all time. It follows a group of children in a sleepy 1980s town who lose themselves to fear, panic, paranoia and violence as they start brutally killing each other. The twist is that they’re stuck in a time loop and don’t even know it, so they’re doomed to repeat the same twisted cycles unless they figure it out.
2. Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl)
- Year: 2005
- Genre: Horror/Supernatural/Fantasy/Anthology
- Director: Takahiro Omori
If you like your scary stories to involve creepy dark-haired girls, Jigoku Shoujo is the best horror anime for you. It combines urban legends and contemporary settings in an anthology-like series where every episode follows a new character. They all call on the services of “Hell Girl” to send their enemies to fiery damnation, but the price is that they’ll have to go to hell when they die, too.
3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Magical Girl Madoka Magica)
- Year: 2011
- Genre: Horror/Mystery/Fantasy/Psychological thriller
- Directors: Yukihiro Miyamoto and Akiyuki Shinbo
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a brutal deconstruction of the “magical girl” genre. While it starts as a cute, colorful series, it quickly dovetails into pain, death, tragedy and existential suffering as the protagonists realize the terrible truth of their roles. It’s probably one of the harshest genre shifts of all time. You should definitely put it on your list if you feel like weeping into your fruitcake this holiday season.
4. Tokyo Ghoul
- Year: 2014
- Genre: Horror/Action/Fantasy/Urban
- Director: Shuhei Morita
Tokyo Ghoul is a popular anime that’s become famous for the toothy, twisted grin of its protagonist. He was an ordinary college student until he went on a date with a ghoul, and after a series of unfortunate events, he became a half-human, human-ghoul in his own right. It might not have been so bad if not for the cannibalistic need to consume flesh.
5. Perfect Blue
- Year: 1997
- Genre: Horror/Psychological thriller
- Director: Satoshi Kon
This classic film from renowned director Satoshi Kon is one of the best horror anime movies of all time. It follows a female pop singer who starts to lose touch with reality in a sea of stalkers, copycats and bizarre murders. Despite its name, Perfect Blue is really more of a Black Mirror or Black Swan, so it’s perfect for philosophical pondering as you consume lots of eggnog.
- Year: 2012
- Genre: Horror/School/Action/Drama/Mystery
- Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Jokingly called “Final Destination: The Anime,” Another follows a group of high school students who are destined to die in gruesome and creative ways because of a curse on the school. It’s up to the protagonists to survive the carnage and unravel the mystery before it’s too late. If you’re looking for the best horror anime with blood, violence and senseless slaughter, this one should whet your appetite.
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7. Narutaru (Shadow Star)
- Year: 2003
- Genre: Horror/Suspense/Fantasy
- Director: Toshiaki Iino
Narutaru is another example of a cute-looking anime that’s actually quite horrific. You’ll be stunned by everything from its mature themes to its graphic depictions of violence, especially since the main character is an innocent 12-year-old girl with a pet starfish dragon. It’s one of the best horror anime series out there, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Don’t watch Narutaru with kids in the room.
8. Shisha no Teikoku (The Empire of Corpses)
- Year: 2015
- Genre: Action/Adventure/Steampunk/Science fiction
- Director: Ryoutarou Makihara
Shisha no Teikoku is basically a zombie movie for intellectuals. It follows a scientific protagonist in an alternate, steampunk version of London who is trying to resuscitate dead humans with their souls intact. It’s a bit light on the “horror” aspect, but it should be nice and meaty for zombie lovers.
- Year: 2004
- Genre: Crime/Action/Mystery/Psychological thriller
- Director: Masayuki Kojima
With a name like Monster, you’d expect this anime to be full of dark and twisted elements, and you’d be right. It follows a cat-and-mouse game between a serial killer and the surgeon who saved his life, and it explores themes of morality, identity and responsibility. It also has things like creepy twins and sinister science experiments if you’re into those kinds of stories.
- Year: 2001
- Genre: Horror/Adventure/Supernatural
- Director: Umanosuke Iida
Hellsing is a popular franchise that’s spawned an anime, manga and several OVAs. It follows a secret organization that defends humanity from supernatural monsters like vampires and ghouls. Its blood-soaked action should keep you nice and warm on a chilly evening, so curl up with its carnage to enjoy a holiday season filled with screams.
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