Halloween is almost here, and beyond causing me to contemplate which of my past cosplays I might repurpose as a Halloween costume, this season has me thinking about the scary anime I’ve seen . . . and have yet to see!
In truth, there aren’t as many horror-themed anime series out there as one might expect—or at least, not many that have gained a lot of traction with fans aside from the most devoted aficionados. There are certainly a lot of creepy or trippy ones out there, or even fairly light ones that have a creepy episode here and there, though that’s not really the same, in my opinion.
Despite that, though, there are still a number of great bone-chilling anime series to choose from! Here’s a couple that I can vouch for, plus one that’s on my to-be-watched list.
Pseudo-Scary: Vampire Knight
Okay, so this one isn’t scary, per se—it could be better described as having a “spooky” aesthetic, with a dash of creepy on the side. Its theme may center around the traditionally scary aspects of vampires and their ilk, but don’t be fooled; this one is all about the love story at the heart of the series. (Do I want to say “glorified Twilight”? Not really . . . but . . . almost.)
Vampire Knight follows the story of Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy. The Academy is an elite school that teaches both human and vampire students, during day and night classes, respectively. Not everyone knows the true extent of the academy’s course offerings, but to Yuki, vampires are just as normal as the humans around her, if not more so. Aside from fending off the occasional peckish vampire friend, Yuki spends most of her time gaining the knowledge and fighting prowess she’ll need to become a guardian who works to protect vampires from discovery by the outside world. Oh, and she also has to figure out where her heart truly lies: with Kaname Kuran, the aristocratic vampire she’s admired since her childhood, or Zero Kiryu, her troubled classmate and fellow guardian who harbors a dark and dangerous secret (because what else, you know?).
This is a fun anime for those who are still riding the last waves of the vampire phenomenon of a few years ago (cough, like me, cough) and for those who want something with a dark and broody feel but without overly scary moments.
Dystopian Thriller: Attack on Titan
And now for something completely different. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) has been a wildly popular series in the States ever since its release here in 2013, and while most people wouldn’t peg it as a scary or horror anime right off the bat, well . . . I beg to differ. Its genre may be dystopian, but the themes that pervade the story scare the ever-loving daylights out of me.
The story is set in a group of cities bound by a series of huge, concentric walls. It is, as far as its inhabitants know, the last outpost of humanity—everyone else was devoured by the Titans, massive, man-eating humanoid creatures who nearly wiped out humanity 100 years previously. Eren Yeager and his friends have spent their childhood behind the walls, in a period of uneasy, hard-won peace. But that peace is shattered when a Colossus Titan attacks and breaches the outer wall, forcing the inhabitants to retreat to the inner circles, salvaging what they can of their society in the midst of fear and near-starvation. As soon as they’re old enough, Eren and his friends join the military to learn how to defeat the Titans. What follows is their (potentially ill-fated) quest to wipe out Titans once and for all so that the world may be reclaimed for humanity.
Attack on Titan isn’t exclusively scary, but when it is, it’s terrifying. The bleak, seemingly hopeless state of humanity would be scary enough, but there’s so much more. There are the uncanny, empty smiles that never leave the Titans’ faces as they feed on humans. There’s the fact that secrets about the true nature of the Titans are gradually revealed as the show goes on. There’s the far-too-slow progress the people behind the wall make in their fight against the Titans. And there’s the exploration of what might really happen to people in this situation: Would they fight back? Panic to the point of self-destruction? Give up entirely and resign themselves to their fate? And we can’t help but wonder, what would we do, if we were them? Which is perhaps the scariest thought of all.
I’d recommend this series to anyone who gravitates to the psychological-thriller side of horror. It will force you to contemplate some of the deepest, darkest sides of humanity, all while inspiring you to root for the characters to reach the heights of what humans are capable of. And no matter what, it’s a story that will stick with you long after you’ve finished watching.
As I mentioned, the last series on my list is one I have yet to watch, though I hope to sometime soon—while poised to hide my eyes during the scariest bits. (I’m a huge wuss when it comes to horror. Could you tell?) I don’t know much about Hellsing, but what I do know is that it’s exceedingly violent, which has scared me off thus far. And yet, since I keep on hearing about what a good series it is—and as it seems to be a staple in most well-versed anime fans’ lists of series they’ve seen—I know that the day will come when I’ll take the plunge and watch it.
The plot follows Hellsing, the eponymous order whose purpose it is to hunt down and destroy the supernatural creatures that threaten humanity. At the time the series begins, the order is led by Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, who, after witnessing the death of her father, changed from a quiet, unassuming girl into a force to be reckoned with, bent on getting her revenge for her father’s demise. Her closest partners in that venture are Walter C. Dornez, former butler of the Hellsing family, and Alucard (heh, see what they did there?), a powerful vampire who’s sworn his loyalty to Hellsing.
This series has been around for quite a few years now, and there have been several iterations of the story. (You can read more about the spinoffs, prequel, and other related series here.) But however one chooses to dive into Hellsing, it looks like one intense, bloodcurdling, exciting ride.
And there you have it: three great spooky anime options, from the not-so-scary to the truly terrifying. Have you seen any of these series? What other scary anime series do you love to get freaked out by?