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Before we get into the list, let’s define Dark Fantasy. So when we say ‘dark’ it essentially means an anime that covers not only mature themes, but a world or civilization or city or habitat that abides harshly to the guidelines of nature. That is to say, people prey upon one another and are willing to kill to get ahead. This generally allows for a rather dark, dystopian, and brutal world to come into existence. In other words, it takes what we usually look to for an escape and turns it into a hell. The second part, which seems like it would be more obvious, is actually a bit trickier to define. Fantasy. Does this mean the anime must take place in some medieval setting? Does there need to be some type of magic involved?
Well, for this list, we’re keeping it broad and allowing fantasy to essentially take in anything that has heavy tones of the supernatural. Now, as this is an updated list, be sure to check out the original one below, as it has some of the best shows, past and present. Trying to keep an interesting perspective, this list keeps to shows that were not mentioned in the original.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jan. 2016 – Apr. 2016
Immortal beings known as ‘Ajin’ appeared in the world 17 years ago and have been targeted as threats since then. If one is found in society, then they are to be arrested immediately, despite the fact that there hasn’t been any real incident involving an Ajin. Well, even though the news constantly voices concern over the possible terrorism, a good chunk of people could not care less as these threats feel so far away. Kei Nagai is one such person who couldn’t care less, but that turns around to bite him as one day he discovers that he is an Ajin.
Now, the CG aspect of this show might turn some viewers away immediately. Let it be known that you are missing out. Ajin’s story is impressive as it builds an entire world of misinformation and deception. Truly, from the beginning with the infrastructure of the media and how powerful rumors are, it’s quite clear that we are entering into a highly volatile world, or a world of smoke and mirrors. This aspect combined with some of the brutal terrorist actions doled out by Satou makes Ajin a definite watch.
9. Gokukoku no Brynhildr (Brynhildr in the Darkness)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr. 2014 – Jun. 2014
When Ryouta was just a small child, he and his best friend went out to look for alien life. Well this adventure ended with his best friend’s death. Ten years later, Ryouta still trying to prove aliens exist, a transfer student who looks exactly like Ryouta’s best friend comes strolling in. Not only does she look like his friend, but her name, Kuroha Neko, is essentially the same. There is one particular difference though; she can predict death.
Well as Ryouta pushes himself into Kuroha’s life, he finds himself in a world he could never even imagine. More than just aliens, there’s magic and artificial witches and a lot of terrifying experimentation that he must learn to navigate. Now, it is similar to Elfen Lied in a couple ways, primarily the fact that these girls the protagonist keeps running into have been tortured and experimented on. If that’s not quite dark enough for you, then you should know basically anyone can get killed off in this anime. Except Ryouta, who happens to put his life on the line constantly and then is magically saved.
8. Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct. 2014 – Jun. 2015
Okay, so Fate/Zero (included in the original list below) might have been the darkest installation of this series, but that doesn’t prevent other seasons from being brutal and dark compared to other anime in general. Fate Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works still takes us into an epic battle between mortals and heroic spirits who are putting their lives and beliefs on the line.
What Fate/stay Nigh Unlimited Blade Works does so well is bring in numerous narratives into one complex and solid series. Not only does it handle the thoughts and motives of the magicians but the spirits that are summoned to battle as well. Included in these various personalities and backstories is just about any major theme you can imagine, and some of them are extremely dark and complex (looking at you Kirei). Add to that intense battles and the fact that several contestants are basically children, and you’re in for one wild ride.
7. Shinsekai yori (From the New World)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Sep. 2012 – Mar. 2013
Powers beyond your imagination have developed in a small percentage of the world’s population. War ensues for several generations until the supernatural beings having developed their own community and brokered a shaky peace with the rest of humanity. Inside this apparent utopia, Saki Watanabe and her friends awaken to their powers and soon find themselves navigating a much different world than they could ever expect.
From the New World is in many ways reminiscent of When they Cry. Its rather simple, rural environment becomes a nightmarish landscape as these adolescents get thrown into chaos. Who the characters can trust and what they believe in are constantly shuffled in this anime. Impressively, the show is not only able to cover the corruption of a community, but tackle certain outlying aspects that truly threaten the protagonists. Cultivating distrust in just about everything and showing the hidden truth in the way the world functions are just two of this show’s strong points.
6. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr. 2016 – Sep. 2016
At first, you think you’re about to get brought into a magical world that will act as an amazing escape. Then our hero and his savior die while trying to solve a mystery. Then he’s brought back to life, renewing your hope that this will be a fun and amazing fantasy world to run through. Well, Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu decided that’s not the direction it wanted to go. Instead, we’re thrown into a world where the ability to revive only leads deeper into a never-ending, deadly maze.
It consistently loops around, demanding more and more from its hero who is unraveling before us. Outside of the stated fact that revival leads to consistently worst consequences and harder decisions for our protagonist, this recent anime really does a wonderful job mixing twisted elements into a fantastical world. The animation is light and wonderfully fluid, but it can take a turn for the gory and leave its characters bloodied and battered.
5. Zetsuen no Tempest (Blast of Tempest)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct. 2012 – Mar. 2013
So Yoshino Takigawa is secretly dating Aika, his best friend’s sister. Then one day she disappears and so does his best friend, Mahiro, as he searches for her. Fast forward a month forward and Yoshino gets a visit from a strange girl, who holds him at gunpoint and is ready to pull the trigger. This is how Yoshino gets involved in the search for Aika’s kiler, which has always been a part of his fate.
The whole, painful idea behind this story is that our past builds our future. For both Yoshino and Mahiro this partially involves the disappearance and death of Aika. Mahiro finds himself embroiled in a vengeful quest while Yoshino is almost apathetic. However, they must learn to use such an experience to better themselves. Now, that’s a solid premise, but it’s with the little flourishes that brings Zetsuen no Tempest into the realm of dark fantasy. Outside of the simple inclusion of magic, we are introduced into a story of destiny that makes us question if notions such as right or wrong even exist. All sides believe they’re right and each have their honorable points, which is pretty impressive considering that the fate of the world is at stake.
- Episodes: ?
- Aired: Oct. 2016 -?
Yes, this show has just begun airing, but already you should be able to tell how amazing of an addition it will be to the dark fantasy genre. It follows Toyohisa being transported into another world after being mortally injured. In this world, he joins the likes of Oda Nobunaga and Yoichi Suketaka Nasu as they try to figure out their new fate.
The first episode alone is extremely promising as bodies get hacked apart and Toyohisa impales himself on enemy spears in order to get in close enough to shoot down a Li Naomasa. Let’s not forget that one of his happy memories is his father congratulating him for brining back the head of an enemy official. The blood and overall desire for conquest is simply powerful in this new anime, and it’s not holding anything back. It definitely has the action and ruthless characters to create something fantastic, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
3. Hellsing Ultimate
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: Feb. 2006 – Dec. 2012
The Hellsing Organization has been keep England safe for years from deadly terrors. Vampires, ghouls, and other creatures of the night have been unable to infiltrate the country under the organization’s watch. How? Well, they happen to employ the original and most powerful vampire of all time: Alucard. However, will he be enough to stop the invasion of an army of Nazi vampires?
When your protagonist is arguably the most blood thirsty and chaotic character in the show, then you have found yourself an extremely dark anime. The creators really push the boundaries with Alucard and the entirety of the Hellsing Organization as they are being directly compared to an insane radical group of Nazis. As Alucard clearly states throughout the series, he is a monster and will commit essentially any atrocity if permitted to. However, that’s the key to show, he makes everyone complicit in his actions by needing their permission. Essentially, he is dragging every single person into the pits of hell with him.
2. Berserk (2016)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul. 2016 – Sep. 2016
The original Berserk set the bar for dark fantasy, and let’s be honest it set the bar extremely high. Now, practically two decades later they continue the story, picking up at the point where Guts has taken up the Dragonslayer and is hellbent on revenge more than ever.
Now, some of you might not find this continuation worth its salt, and that’s mainly because of the animation style going CG. Admittedly, it does lose a certain grittiness by taking on this animation. That aside, the killings are basically just as brutal, the story is just as dark, and the characters are just as dynamic and cruel. No one is innocent in this world, and just about any atrocity should be expected. Murder is essentially the status quo. In other words, suck up your feelings on animation and get through the show. Everything in this world is cold and ruthless and will provide you countless reasons to be concerned about the true nature of humanity.
1. Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2016 – Jul. 2016
We all wanted the second season of Attack on Titan, right? Well, that’s essentially what we got with Kabaneri. This anime throws into a world where a virus has created Kabane, monsters that have a thirst for human blood and also have a steel cage around their heart. This part of their anatomy makes it particularly hard for people to kill them, and as civilization lost out to the hordes of Kabane, people have barricaded themselves in a few heavily guarded and fortified cities.
Taking a lot of cues from Attack on Titan, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri has no reservations about testing the human conscience. From the beginning till the end, the show constantly asks if the end justifies the means? At least three scenes in the first episode hold situations where one must decide between the lesser of two evils, and to be honest, most people (outside of the protagonist) can’t seem to do right by society. However, you’ll still find most of the characters interesting and dynamic. It’s pretty common to find yourself in a love-hate situation with some of the characters (Kurusu). Now, the narrative stays pretty strong throughout the anime, but placing it so high on this list are the glorious battles. They’re vicious and bloody and simply enjoyable to watch, if you can handle some gore.
A good chunk of these shows aren’t for the light of heart as they do splatter some blood around and can definitely make a person cringe. Now it is true that the visual grittiness and on-screen brutality help create a dark fantasy. However, all of these shows made this list, because there stories are also something worth taking note of. They are solid and they handle mature themes that a lot of other shows will skim over or ignore completely. Now, were there any amazing dark fantasies that should have been included in these lists?
Fantasy is a good genre to indulge in; we all need to escape from reality from time to time and to believe that our world is not as boring as we all think it is. However, with the evolution of storytelling, new sub genres are created to suit different people's taste.
Dark Fantasy is a niche genre with its own specialty. It allows us to immerse ourselves into the anime while at the same time, reminding us that not everything is a walk on a flower field. Sometimes we want to deal with morbid concepts and dark humour as well, this is why dark fantasy continues to attract individuals with a penchant for the darker side of living in a fantastic world.
10. Strike the Blood
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2013 - Mar 2014
Despite being very draggy and slow and sometimes the story shows no signs of progression, it still ran for two courses which showed the creator's willingness to extend the series. Strike the Blood may be one of the underrated series in that particular season, perhaps for good reasons. The story takes some time to develop, sometimes the balance between fan-service and actual progression is broken.
All in all, however, I actually quite enjoyed this series. Strike the Blood portrays Kojou Akatsuki, the Fourth Progenitor of the vampires and his sidekick - Yukina Himeragi as they fought on to protect the peace of Itogami from demons.
As mentioned, there is a mix and match of a few different genres but the dark fantasy theme still is a main component in this show. Lust, death and loss are a few traits of this show. While the story progresses quite slowly, if you put everything together, it's actually a decent anime and keeps you entertained.
9. High school of the Dead
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2010 - Sep 2010
Now, as otakus and sometimes gamers, most of us would really love to be placed in a zombie apocalypse. Wielding weapons, the freedom to do anything without repercussions by the law and trying to survive - be honest, we all have those fantasies before to be the last few members of the world.
High School of the Dead depicts just that, a group of high schoolers who were swamped by hordes after hordes of zombies. They realised how lucky they were to survive and not many of their friends are as lucky as them to survive, they fought on with a single intention in mind - the sole will to survive.
Granted that there are many fanservice scenes (some form of 'fantasy'' for us too to lighten the mood), this show reminded me that a zombie apocalypse may not be the thing for me after all. Death, pain and suffering are few of the trials that we have to go through and this is what the anime shows best, the characters endeavours to survive while moving from Point A to Point B.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Oct 2011 - Dec 2011
The prequel to the hyped Fate/Stay Night. Fate/zero is a more somewhat darker anime than its successor. It operates on the same premise. Servants are mythological figures that can be summoned for the pursuit of the Holy Grail, an artefact that grants both Servant and Master their wish.
However, during this pursuit, themes such as death and human greed are accurately portrayed which makes Fate/Zero a dark fantasy genre.
Just as Masters have their own intentions, servants too, have their own intention of what to do with the Holy Grail. Furthermore, they are placed in an elimination style battle royale to be the sole winner.
Not everyone is born a winner, even if they are folklore legends.
7. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2011 - Apr 2011
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is about Madoka Kaname journey as a magical girl and - "Why?, just oh why is a mahou shoujo anime on this list?" - is probably what many of you would be wondering. The Mahou Shoujo category has always been the quintessential genre to portray moe and sometimes (actually most of the time) loli MCs.
This is different, I promise. It is written by Gen Urobuchi. The famed creator of popular works like the Fate Series and Psycho-Pass. He is, and always will be, one of the best creators for darker settings in the market.
Imagine my surprise when I heard this is one of Urobuchi-sensei's works. I cannot imagine him suddenly taking a break and delving into a lighter genre, much less the mahou shoujo genre.
IMAGINE my surprise, when I realised that he took the mahou shoujo category to a whole new level that is unorthodox to this specific genre and manage to turn it into his field and line of work.
You know it can be trusted if I say Urobuchi-sensei puts the "dark" in a fantasy series. He managed to turn the mahou shoujo category into something darker and that is what makes this show particular unique and one of the best ranked anime.
6. Tokyo Ghoul
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2014 - Sep 2014
For ages now, ghouls have existed alongside humans and humans fear these creatures as they feed on them. Kaneki had a freak accident with a ghoul and he now exists as a part-ghoul part-human creature. He can't be truly called a ghoul as he cannot tolerate the consumption of human flesh; neither can he be called a human. Tokyo Ghoul portrays a boy who was granted such said power but it is a challenge for him to exist in the society as they shun him.
As otakus, we all yearn for supernatural powers to be granted on us and live in anime-ish world. However, that would make it a fantasy anime. Being granted with a supernatural ability may not be the best thing in the world. Sometimes, you're better off dead.
5. Akame Ga Kill
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jul 2014 - Dec 2014
Ever thought what would be like to be an assassin?
The assassin archetype has long had associations to the shadows and stealth kills. It sounds very fanciful and even cool to a certain extent.
Akame Ga Kill portrays a young boy, Tatsumi who sets off on a journey to save his poor village. He set his sights on the capital city. What he will find however, is corruption of an inconceivable nature within the city.
After almost falling prey to the corruption himself, he is recruited by a band of assassins known only as Night Raid who are feared even by the ruling imperialists. Night Raid's objective is absolute - to end the corruption as well as the lives of those that caused it.
Throughout the series, viewers will be shown what it truly means to be an assassin as it touches on morbid concepts like loss, suffering, death and despair.
Murder is the trademark of the assassin archetype and it is not an easy thing to fathom as the common fantasy setting portrays it to be. By showing the underlying values and traits of the assassin, this anime earned its dark fantasy classification.
4. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2013 - Sep 2013
Attack on Titan is set in an alternative historic time but this is not some historical tale of heroes and dragons. Attack on Titan is a tale where humans live in fear of large humanoid creatures known as Titans - so much that they built walls to surround the city and protect themselves.
This series portrays the human will to survive. This last remnant of society live in fear of the Titans as these monsters will not hesitate to consume them. After Eren Yaeger, the MC's own mother was eaten right in front of him; he joined the iconic Survey Corps in order to discover more about the Titans and their existence. Along the way, he will find out more about the Titan's origins as well as his father's (who never made an appearance) connections to them.
This was a much hyped fantasy anime back in Spring 2013 and it shows that the dark fantasy trend is not dead yet.
3. Gakko Gurashi!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2015 - Sep 2015
When I search and source for anime, the art style and content always catches my attention first. It just so happens that one day, I was hoping to find a good simple, comedic, light hearted anime.
WELL HELLOOO! Moe high school girls, catchy opening, descriptions and trailers be like "Let's have fun in this high school! YAYY!" I was so happy. It's been a while since I saw a slice of life anime so I mentally prepared myself to be treated to an afternoon session light natured anime.
I cannot be more wrong... My first hint should probably be studio Nitro+. They are well-versed in the market... but for a different reason.
They lied. That's what they did. Those liars! They're lucky they didn't lie to me in April, I would go on a murdering rampage.
Enough of my ranting and I apologize that you have to read through all of that. You came here to find a dark fantasy anime and I give this to you. It's definitely a dark fantasy theme but I wouldn't want to spoil much. This can actually be the most misleading anime after Madoka but what's dark fantasy without a little twist?
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 2007 - Sep 2007
Claymore is an anime set in medieval times. Raki was merely a teenager when his whole family was killed by demons. He tags along with a 'Claymore' named Clare who avenged him by slaying all of the demons.
It would be a fantasy if the boy tagged with a heroic figure - but Claymores are despised by humans. Despite being despised, Claymores can blend perfectly with humans and are the ones that exterminate the demons that haunt humanity. Nevertheless, they are cast out by society and have no place amongst humans.
This is why Claymore has more of the dark fantasy theme to it with attributes such as rejection, isolation, death and independence. It is not every day that a hero can be glorified and worshipped, that is why there are still heroes known as unsung heroes. Not only are they doing the world favour, they are the outcasts of society.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 1997 - Mar 1998
The fantasy genre has existed for quite some time now. It is only through recent innovations that the sub genre of dark fantasy came into existence. Before then, it was deemed as a unique deconstruction of the genre and nothing more.
Berserk was an anime that aired before the 21st century, before dark fantasy came into cognizance of the anime industry. It was pretty unique for its time period but is easily classified as dark fantasy in today's standards - and for good reasons too.
Known also as the Black Swordsman, Guts is a warrior with a desire for vengeance against his own best friend now turned rogue - Griffith. Guts is no glorified warrior of the century either. He had a terrible past and was raised to be soldier by his foster father.
Guts knows only loss and despair, till the point that he is being portrayed as the Anti-Hero archetype. He cuts down the numerous enemies he faces mercilessly, making Berserk one of the notorious gory anime.
Everything about this anime is dark and no doubt it is an aged piece, but it is still a very popular anime and manga today.
As anime traverses through time, it no longer appeals to the newer generation. Berserk however negated that component and continues to be a hot favourite even today with the manga still ongoing deserving therefore, the No.1 Spot.
So here is my top 10 picks for the dark fantasy genre. And what about you? Do you have a particular anime that latches onto you?. What do you feel about this genre or what is it about it that appeals to you? Share your thoughts and comments below!