Archaeon’s Top Ten Horror Anime
Halloween is upon us once more, and at this spooky time of the year people want tales of terror, sagas of the supernatural, discourses of dread and frightful fantasies. Now there are plenty of movies around of one sort another that would have the desired effect, but when it comes to anime it’s a bit more difficult to find anything truly scary.
With that in mind then, here’s a selection of some of the better horror and supernatural tales from the realms of anime.
Based on the Noguchi Takashi’s manga adaptation of Yumemakura Baku’s supernatural romance novel, the story begins in the 12th century and spans a thousand years. Minamoto no Yoshitsune (Kurou), flees to the mountains after losing the throne to his brother Minamoto no Yoritomo and seeks refuge in the home of the mysterious Kuromitsu. During his stay he falls in love with her, but soon learns that she has a dark secret …
Now some people may find this a confusing show, but in all honesty the story is pretty straightforward if you’re paying attention. The gorgeous visuals and great audio effects bring the whole show to life, but it’s a bit lacking in the character department. That said, it does try to accommodate a change of 1000 years into twelve episodes, so something had to give.
9. Hakaba Kitarou
Aside from his mostly decayed father, Kitarou is the last living descendant of the Ghost Tribe. Born in a cemetery, he spends his days trying to forge peace between humans and youkai, but most of the time this simply means protecting the former from the tricks, plots and wiles of the latter.
More commonly known as Gegege no Kitarou, this is the sixth adaptation of the popular horror manga by Mizuki Shigeru. With updated design and animation, much better audio and visual effects, more focus on scares and a tendency towards surrealism, this episodic anime is well worth a look, but be warned – it’s an acquired taste.
8. Boogiepop Phantom
Five years after a string of murders shook the foundations of the city, and one month after a strange pillar of light appeared in the night sky, rumours have begun to surface that the mysterious Boogiepop has returned. A cross between a ghost story and an urban legend, those who meet her in the night will never return, and now the darkness begins to take shape once more.
Each episode focuses on a different character and the story is told from different perspectives so there are many versions of the same event – just as one would find in real life. Because of this the series can sometimes seem a little difficult to get into, but with its focus on how the characters react differently to the same thing it becomes something more than just a simple horror.
7. Kakurenbo (Hide and Seek)
In a an abandoned part of the city the children play a game called “Otokoyo”, a type of hide and seek that involves wearing fox masks. Some of the kids who take part in the game disappear, and the general belief is that they were spirited away by demons. Hikora decides to enter the game in an effort to find his lost sister Sorincha, but what waits for him on the other side of imagination?
Don’t be fooled by the running time of 25 minutes as this OVA does more to ramp up the creepy factor than many shows with twelve or more episodes. The use of a well known children’s game adds to the atmosphere, but also reflects the often dark origins of many such pastimes.
Set during a summertime in the mid 1990s, several people in the small town of Sotoba in rural Japan are afflicted with a strange and incurable wasting disease, and the local doctor fears an epidemic may be starting. Around the same time a new family moves into the refurbished Kanemasa mansion …
Unlike Kurozuka, Shiki is more of a throwback to the vampires of more traditional gothic horror, and it makes a nice change of pace to see creatures that look on humans as food instead of a potential love interest. In addition to this the series has bloodsuckers of almost every age and body shape, and there’s a brutality to both the human and undead characters that is lacking in many shows of this type.
Read the full review here.
During a summer camp, 15 children find a grotto by the sea and decide to explore it. Inside the find computers and high tech equipment, and upon returning to the cave they find a man called Kokopelli. He claims to be a programmer working on a brand new game in which a giant robot must defend Earth from invading aliens, and after some discussions the children decide that they all want to take part. All but one of the kids sign Kokopelli’s contract and he gives them a demonstration of how to play.
It’s not long until the children learn the truth, but by then it’s too late. The ultimate fight for survival has already begun …
Bokurano is arguably one of the best science fiction horrors around at the moment, and while purists will tell you that the manga is much better, the anime is no slouch by any measure. Here the monsters wear a very, very human face.
A spin-off from the “Bakeneko” arc in Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror, Mononoke follows the Medicine Seller as he deals with various spirits in feudal Japan. Things are never straightforward though, and even with all of his tools and his vast knowledge of the supernatural, he can only slay the Mononoke when he uncovers its form (Katachi), the truth behind its appearance (Makoto), and the reason for its unusual behavior (Kotowari).
The artwork may take a little getting used to with this one, but the series is much more in keeping with the atmospheric horrors of the Far East. While it may not deliver in terms of scares, there’s a creepiness to the show that makes it difficult to forget, but a joy to watch.
Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a brilliant young neurosurgeon with a bright future ahead of him, a beautiful fiance and the prospect of a promotion in the near future. All of that changes on the night he decides to save the life of a young boy instead of the town’s mayor, and when a string of murders take place the evidence points to the boy whose life he saved.
At 74 episodes, Monster is easily the longest anime on this list, but it came very, very close to being the best as well. The series successfully merges drama, thriller and horror into something that is unusual and unique in anime, and the only reason it’s not at the top is because it takes its time to build things up properly.
2. Ghost Hound
In the town of Suiten, three boys with traumatic pasts learn that they can send their soul out of their body and into the “Unseen World”. Unfortunately that place isn’t a mere copy of the “Apparent World”, and something has altered the balance of things, allowing the spirits of the dead to return to the world of the living. Taro, Makoto and Masayuki must use their new abilities to search for answer in both worlds before it’s too late.
Ghost Hound is a refreshing take on the supernatural story with it’s atmospheric visual and audio effects, emphasis on the clash between psychology and the paranormal, and all of those creepy little bits that keep the viewer on edge. There are very few shows that can match the feel of this one, but then it is and original concept from Shirow Masamune and Gainax’s 20th anniversary project.
1. Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror
This collection of three horror stories showcases traditional Japanese Horror in a way that almost no other anime has done before or since (with the noted exception of Mononoke of course). “Yotsuya Kaidan” is a tale of a wife betrayed by her husband who seeks vengeance even in death, “Tenshu Monogatari” is a story of forbidden love between a goddess and a human, and “Bakeneko” deals with a mysterious cat monster and its vendetta against a certain family (and forms the basis of the Mononoke spin off).
Each story features different music, effects, artwork, animation, cast, etc, and each has an atmosphere all of its own. Probably the most underrated horror in Japanese anime, and not well known amongst Westerners for three simple (and really stupid), reasons – the stories are too complex, the show doesn’t progress fast enough to be exciting, and worst of all most Westerners don’t understand all that cultural stuff.
Not every show could make it onto the list, but here are some of those that, for one reason or another, didn’t quite make it onto the list.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
No matter what your tastes are, there should be something there that you’ll enjoy.