10 Terrifying Anime Shows That Will Keep You Up At Night

For any anime fan, the fact that this genre of TV and film goes so far in terms of stories, plots, and deeper meanings is all the more entertaining. Fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and comedy are all available on Crunchyroll and draw people into the anime universe.

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Japanese anime creators seem to excel at mind-blowing stories where gruesome circumstances surround characters that don’t usually belong there. Viewers watch relatively innocent protagonists sink deeper into the characters they are forced to become. For anyone new to the anime genre or feeling like they’re running out of viewing material, some shows stand out more than others for their originality and ability to be thought-provoking and terrifying.


‘Steins;Gate’ (2011)

Steins Gate characters in a collage from most important to least important
Image via White Fox

This 2011 sci-fi anime felt like it was flying under the radar. Few people know it today, but those who have seen it put it at the top of their favorites list. Steins; gate is about a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” Rintaro Okabe who runs a home lab with his friends Mayuri and Itaru.

The plot heats up when the three lab rats start experimenting on their remote-controlled microwave. It doesn’t seem to be going well at first. But then Rintaro finds a stabbed girl on the street and sends a message to Itaru, whose phone is hooked up to the microwave at the time. However, the text unexpectedly goes into the past. This triggers time travel events filled with grief, murder, and tension. It is a mind-blowing series that keeps viewers up at night.

ERASED (‘Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi’) (2016)

Satoru and Kayo in front of a snowy tree in

DELETED follows Satoru Fujinuma, a manga creator whose life is turned upside down when an unknown character murders his mother. However, viewers are not introduced to Satoru as just a manga author; instead, they see him as having a unique ability to travel through pivotal moments, and essentially, through time.

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Satoru’s ability and his mother’s death force him to remember terrifying past events, eventually sending him back to elementary school. DELETED is unique for its tension, strong plot and shocking revelation. It also got a live-action adaptation which didn’t do as well as the psychologically challenging series because there wasn’t as much of the same darkness or tension that occupied people’s minds.

‘Agent of Paranoia’ (‘Mousou Dairinin’) (2004)

Paranoia Agent's Lil Slugger wielding a bat

An entire class could be taught on Satoshi Kon and his animated work. Of Paprika at perfect blue, he makes sure his films stay in the minds of viewers for a long time after watching them. paranoia agent is one of these works; also, according to IMDb, this is his first and only time directing an anime series.

paranoia agent is about terror-inducing incidents caused by possibly one of the most chilling anime characters of all time, a forward wielding a twisted golden baseball bat known as Lil’ Slugger. KonThe animation style is quite extravagant – unusual frames, close-ups, and acidic, trippy character movements; this contributes to the disturbing nature of the series, which ultimately reveals the human struggle with various mental health issues.

‘Monster’ (2004)

Monster cartoon with Kenzo Tenma and Johan

It seems that 2004 was a successful year for Japanese psychological thrillers. The same year paranoia agent came out, viewers received another mystery/thriller anime called Freak.

It is set in post-war Düsseldorf and follows the brilliant Japanese brain surgeon Kenzo Tenma. Her life seems perfect until it’s not. The hospital where he works primarily treats politically and financially valuable patients, which Kenzo doesn’t like.

One day, he is forced to choose between operating on a godfather or a child named Johan. Kenzo decides to save Johan, ruining his career. However, he soon realizes that saving the boy has terrifying consequences. Freak often manages to send shivers down the spines of viewers. It’s a memorable and rarely terrifying anime series that feels like Scandinavian noir.

‘Psycho Pass’ (2012)

The main characters of Psycho pass in a line-up

Psycho Pass takes place in a futuristic Japan, where society is ruled by a biomechatronic computer network called the “Sybil System”. It reads citizens’ biometrics, predicting their potential to commit crimes. When Sybil catches someone with a criminal potential over 100, she is arrested, chased, and often killed by detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department.

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The story follows Akane Tsunemori, a rookie in this department, having to hunt down a criminal mastermind slipping under Sybil’s radar. Psycho Pass could easily be an episode of black mirror, although it has several sequels. Story lovers with advanced technology that seems to be more of an enemy than a friend relish every moment of this anime. Lovers of sci-fi thrillers won’t be able to help thinking about it.

‘Mononoke’ (2007)

Mononoke anime drug seller

For all who have seen Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, its spin-off Mononoke was probably the next thing on their watch list. The story is set in the transitional years of the Edo periods in Meiji Japan and follows the unnamed drug seller on his journey to new mind-boggling supernatural adventures.

Mononoke doesn’t seem terrifying at first glance. It’s actually quite slow-paced, but a visually stunning series often referred to as cutting-edge. Its unusual animation style brings some unease in the minds of viewers. Mononoke is unique and a favorite among many offbeat and horror-themed anime series.

“Lain Serial Experiments” (1998)

Lain of serial experiments Lain

Serial Experiments Lain is about Lain Iwakura, a high school girl who communicates more with the virtual world than with the real world. One day, Lain receives an email from a classmate; however, this classmate is dead, but her message indicates that her mind has moved on to the virtual world where she feels free.

In 1998, the Internet as we know it today was just an idea. Nobody knew the lengths it could reach, although many liked to predict it. It’s safe to say that Serial Experiments Lain is one of the most terrifying animated series about immersion in technology. Its plot is debated by theorists and fans alike to this day, and while the message and philosophy are pretty clear, the plot has left people pondering it for years.

‘Terror in Resonance’ (‘Zankyou no terror’) (2014)

The main characters of Terror in Resonance
Image via Funimation

Terror in resonance is a story of terrorism – but it is not. Two young men blackmail the people of Tokyo by threatening to blow it up with an atomic bomb. The outcome? Solve a cryptic puzzle. Over time, audiences learn that he was part of social experiments that turn Savant children into bio-weapons.

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The initial subject matter sounds scary, as terrorism stories always do. However, the most terrifying thing about Terror in resonance is his socio-political commentary. Creepy and frightening things usually lurk all around us, especially in the human ability to test the limits and psyches of others. It is a stunning anime with excellent visuals.

‘Flowers of Evil’ (‘Aku no Hana’) (2013)

Image of Takao and Sawa in Flowers of Evil

The title, Flowers of Evil was inspired by the Charles Baudelaire book of the same name. The protagonist is high school student Takao Kasuga, who one day steals the gym clothes of the girl he likes. Thinking he got away with it, Takao goes on with his life, but another student, Sawa Nakamura, approaches him, saying she’s seen it all.

To avoid being caught or reprimanded, Takao agrees to Sawa’s terms – she forces him into some kind of contract where he has to do whatever she wants. It’s a twisted but in many ways sad depiction of sanity and feelings of rejection. Coupled with anime’s unique drawing style – rotoscoping – the story causes unease and leaves viewers perplexed.

‘Tokyo Ghoul’ (2013)

Close-up of Tokyo Ghoul characters

tokyo ghoul has several spin-offs and was a hit upon its release. Set in the alternate reality of Tokyo, where flesh eaters called ghouls exist, the story follows a boy named Ken Kaneki. After surviving a ghoul attack, Ken becomes a half-ghoul himself. It sounds like a vampire-themed anime series, but it’s more than that.

Ken’s struggle to adjust to his new life as half-human, half-ghoul shows in gory detail. However, it also depicts the true struggle of someone belonging to both worlds, seemingly unable to fit into one place or mold. This gory anime still has plenty of action and a memorable setting – a dark and eerie ghoul cafe called “Anteiku”, where Ken learns to assimilate.

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