It’s that spooky time of year again when the temperature drops and pumpkin spice is literally floating in the air. Hot apple cider welcomes those returning from a long hayride or a difficult corn maze, but once the sun sets a different mood is struck and the bonfire gives off an eerie glow as tales of shock and horror are told.
Those who love good scare actively seek out the adrenaline rush that accompanies the thrill of being spooked. While Hollywood keeps pumping out crappy Saw and Paranormal Activity sequels, I’ll introduce you to some of the scariest moments in anime around. Gather round, children, and listen to the tales I have to tell!
10. Pokemon: The First Movie
- Episodes: ?
- Aired: July 18, 1998
Ash Ketchum is a kid from Pallet Town whose sole mission is to become a Pokemon Master. To fulfill his dreams, he sets off to challenge the world’s Pokemon Gym Leaders in order to obtain badges and eventually be recognized. Together with his best friend (and pokemon) Pikachu, Ash is able to overcome almost any obstacle that has been laid in his path.
That is until Mewtwo showed up. Everything was just fine until Mewtwo crapped in everyone’s ice cream with his gloom and doom attitude. Ash, being the naïve child that he is, basically gave up battling by the rules and instead decided to join the fight himself despite KNOWING that his opponent is one of the most powerful psychic pokemon in the world. So Ash just runs straight towards Mewtwo and…is turned to stone.
Pikachu runs to his aide and cries in a very Pikachu like way and everyone watching is holding their collective breath. The entire scene is heartbreaking, sad, and also scary because as a child watching this movie it is hard not to think that Ash is dead and that the entire series is over.
The fear is short lived though as everyone’s collective tears bring Ash back to life. If only that were true in real life.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 8, 2013
A college student suddenly loses all of her memories and is thrust into multiple worlds where she dates a different man each time. She is accompanied by a strange spirit who wishes to help her regain her lost identity after causing all of her turmoil. At the end of her journey she must choose only one of the worlds to stay in with the guy that she likes the most.
This anime is based on an otome game of the same name and while a good portion both of the anime and the game are filled with romantic and light-hearted fun to make girls’ hearts soar, one of the potential suitors has a really twisted idea of love. Toma may look like a harmless kid, but his intentions and possessiveness lead to some extremely alarming behavior.
At the beginning, Toma finds the main character passed out in the street and takes her to the hospital for an examination. Once she is given the all clear, Toma takes her home where she notices that she is being bullied though she does not know why (because no memories). Toma continues to check up on her giving the main character the impression that they are dating. At one point she even asks Toma if they are dating and he confirms this.
Once the bullying begins to escalate, Toma suggests that she stay at his place until everything dies down. She agrees and stays for a few days before becoming restless. She leaves Toma’s house to investigate her apartment. Toma discovers she has left and brings her home. From here on out begins the really frightening part. Toma begins to DRUG her food in order to keep her “safe” at his home. When she finally realizes what is happening, he LOCKS HER IN A DOG CAGE. At one point he even threatens to RAPE her so that she would “truly become his” because he would never leave her mind after such an act. The worst part is that after all this happens, she still dates him. Truly a nightmare.
8. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 3, 1998 – April 23, 1999
A spaceship name the Bebop carries around a group of misfit bounty hunters who have a knack for getting themselves into horrible situations with no payoff. The crew’s most prominent member, Spike Spiegel, is an eccentric guy who loves meat and can beat anyone in hand to hand combat. He’s a risk taker whose past eventually catches up to him.
Toys in the Attack is one of the most memorable episodes the series has to offer. A mysterious illness plagues the crew after a long forgotten fridge is opened. A mysterious creature is unleashed upon the ship and begins to infect each crew member one by one. The ship’s navigator Jet is struck first, followed by Faye, Ed, and Ein. Spike is left to fend for himself while also managing the rest of the crew’s sickness. Eventually he remembers what he left in that lone fridge many moons ago and begins his mission to destroy whatever has become of it.
This episode takes a lot from old-school Hollywood horror films. Faye’s shower scene in particular is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. In fact, the entire episode is quite similar to the plot of The Thing. For horror buffs, it really is a pleasure to see an anime nod to the horror genre so much as well as give some fun scares.
- Episodes: 74
- Aired: April 6, 2004 – September 27, 2005
Naoki Urasawa’s manga Monster is a masterpiece and so is its anime adaptation. Urasawa insisted on taking as long as possible for the anime so that the story could be told as well as the manga. The entire plot focuses on a promising young surgeon who chooses to save the life of a young boy over a rich hospital donor due to the fact that the child arrived first. After such a decision, his career begins to slip and he is passed for an important promotion. To make things worse, the boy he saved is a psychopathic murderer. In order to fix his mistakes, he sets out to right his wrongs by killing the boy who is even worshipped as a demon.
The young boy, Johan, is the perfect representation of evil. He is good looking, charismatic, and cold blooded. He was raised at an orphanage aimed at reviving the Third Reich by finding a boy Hitler. Johan actually incited a riot which caused the deaths of all of his fellow orphans as well as the caregivers. Johan was the only one who made it out alive.
Johan is the scariest thing about this anime because everyone knows someone like Johan. He can be anyone. A neighbor. A classmate. A coworker. He’s personable and well-liked. He’s basically the antichrist and no one would ever suspect him.
6. Hellsing Ultimate
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: February 2, 2006
The protestant organization named Hellsing was established by the Queen of England in an attempt to fight off paranormal threats (mainly vampires) that roamed the streets of England. After a long rest, someone has begun to create an army of vampires for no other reason than to start a war of chaos. The leader of Hellsing, Integra, summons their ultimate weapon, the vampire Alucard, to eliminate the problem.
The main antagonist of the series are Nazis. Or to be more precise, Nazi vampires. And their leader is none other than a crazy Hitler wannabe who only wishes for war because apparently that is his thing. When a man like this is adored by bloodsucking demons of the night, nothing is too gruesome. The only thing scarier than a horde of vampire zombies is Alucard, an evil count in his past life who put spikes through the heads of his enemies and displayed them in front of his castle. When he releases all of his abilities he takes the shape of the famous Cerberus, the dog who guards the gates of hell.
In fact, one of the most memorable and scariest scenes in the series appears when a “worthy” opponent finally confronts Alucard in the basement of Hellsing’s headquarters. After fighting in his regular form and having his attacks be blocked and even countered, he finally acknowledges his opponent by released his true power. His body is then slowly transformed into the stuff of nightmares. He is no longer a solid being and his shape and presence fills the room with an overbearing sense of horror. Even the man that had challenged Alucard backs down and declares the vampire a monster deeply disappointing him. Just the vision of Alucard’s amorphous body can give anyone nightmares.
The art style of Hellsing Ultimate really enhances the gritty mood of the plot. The thick outlines juxtaposed with such muted colors really gives a feel of darkness and loss of hope. The character designs are amazingly detailed as well as the blood and gore of combat.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January, 9 2012 – March, 26, 2012
Koichi, having transferred to a new school, befriends the quiet and mysterious Mei who attempt to solve the mystery of “Misaki of Class 3-3” a student who died decades before while halfway through the school year. In their grief, the class decided to pretend Misaki was alive for the rest of the school year leading to an eerie class photo. In present day, the students of class 3-3 begin to die one by one and
Mei’s quiet nature makes her a prime suspect for the murders, but Koichi and Mei attempt to clear her name by solving the mystery and proving otherwise. Every episode involves strange deaths made to look natural and that prey on real fears such as drowning in an undertow. A curse cannot be seen which makes it all the more deadly. The only way to fight curse is to confront the source itself, forcing the two main characters to face their enemy head to head.
Several of the deaths in Another are quite bizarre and unbelievable, but many do stick out for being grounded in reality. In fact one of the worst and scariest deaths occurs within the school and in a situation that most people have faced. One of the young girls begins rushing down the stairs with her umbrella when she begins to lose her footing and falls down the stairs. Falling down the stairs can be lethal enough in certain situations, but the umbrella adds an entire new level because as she falls down the final stair her umbrella is waiting for her with its tip facing up and towards her throat. When she is found, she is on her knees twitching and propped up by the umbrella with a pool of blood surrounding her, Every episode is unpredictable, making Another a thrill ride for those watching and waiting for another death. Likable characters will be killed off. No one is safe.
4. Paranoia Agent
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: February 2, 2014 – May, 17, 2004
A young illustrator under extreme pressure to create a new mascot character as successful as her last one, falls victim to an assault by a mysterious suspect only known as “Shounen Bat”. Soon the entire city reports attacks by the golden roller blading boy who knocks out his victims with a baseball bat. The only thing connecting each of the victims are that each is suffering from depression and anxiety, which “Shounen Bat” seems to take away. He becomes the perfect scapegoat and soon everyone wants a piece of him.
The entire series Paranoia Agent is a psychological thriller where the attacker is created in one young woman’s mind and spreads into something bigger and more tangible. The series is more of a critique on modern day society and people’s inability to accept responsibility for their own mistakes and shortcomings. Instead, they look for an easy excuse and “Shounen Bat” provides the perfect answer to all of their problems.
Perhaps the real scare happens once realization hits and viewers can’t deny that this is a real problem in everyday life. While “Shounen Bat” won’t come to kill everyone in the city with a problem, the lack of honesty and trustworthiness in the world currently certainly makes others wary of human interaction, something necessary to survive
SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!! The most terrifying part of the series happens when the entire town begins to pin their problems on “Shounen Bat” and he begins to manifest as a real living and breathing being instead of an urban legend only much like the game telephone, he is now much larger and stronger as a result of each person exaggerating the original story. As people become more and more aware of him he begins to terrorize the city more until he becomes similar to Godzilla and devours the city. This is the end of the series and it is really poignant. Was “Shounen Bat” real or was it all a result of people’s carelessness?
3. Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 4, 1996 – March 27, 1996
Shinji is summoned by his father, Gendou, who is the leader of a private weapons company called NERV, to operate a giant robot which may or may not be harboring the soul of his dead mother. He is forced to fight against aliens from another planet nicknamed “angels” that wish to cause “Third Impact” and force the planet to be reborn according to the wishes of one person. He sets out with two other pilots, Asuka and Rei, to protect the Earth, but ultimately fail.
While the “angels” in Evangelion are quite terrifying, the actual horror comes in the form of one man: Gendou. Gendou is soulless and uncaring with the exception of his long, lost wife. The audience only knows this because Rei is discovered to be an exact clone Shinji’s mother from her younger days. In fact, Gendou has a basement full of Rei’s growing at his disposal. Shinji even develops feelings for Rei, who is a CLONE OF HIS MOTHER.
Gendou is even so cold as to sleep with Ritsuko’s mother in order to use her intelligence to create the super computer Magi. Once she has found that she was betrayed (she found out about Rei) she is STILL loyal to Gendou and even infuses a part of her soul into the Magi program which later turns on her only daughter Ritsuko.
The scariest moment involving Gendou is when he forces his son to kill his best friend. Shinji is alerted to fight a new angel and just as he is about to finish his mission with the final blow, he realizes that the “angel” is actually another Eva unit that has gone berserk. It dawns on him that his friend is the pilot inside and so he hesitates to crush the head housing the cockpit and his friend. Gendou ends up taking control of the unit and does the job for him. Talk about cold and uncaring.
Gendou shows no emotion to his son and doesn’t seem to care what happens to him, which is probably why after Third Impact, Shinji decides to wipe everyone out. With Gendou for a father, I suppose no one can quite blame him.
2. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 4, 2006 – September 26, 2006
Keiichi has moved to a small town in the midst of their battle to prevent a major dam being built and covering the entire area with water. The town is small, but very active and on the surface quite friendly. He becomes fast friends with four of his female classmates of various ages and everyday becomes an adventure until he begins to inquire about the murders from years past. As he grows more suspicious, so do his friends.
The first episode of the series plays out as any slice of life series does. Friends spending their carefree school days playing games and having fun. It isn’t until Rika drags him to the dump that he discovers an old newspaper article describing some gruesome murders that had happened years ago. When he questions Rika, he seals his own fate in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
The episode involves Rika arriving at Keiichi’s house with a prepared bento for him. After he takes his first bite, he begins to choke and spits his food into the sink where needles are reveal. His onigiri are filled with needles. Later on, he looks outside his bedroom window only to find Rika standing outside in the rain repeatedly saying “I’m sorry.”
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 7, 1997 – March 31, 1998
Guts, a talented, young mercenary with nothing to lose, is invited by the handsome Griffith to join The Band of the Hawk, a mercenary group. Guts initially refuses, but after a fight is forced to join. He begins to develop a relationship with Griffith and a strong one-sided bond of friendship is formed though Griffith’s feelings towards Guts may be a little different. After Griffith is kidnapped and tortured for having sex with the King’s daughter and after being saved by Guts, he can’t bear to face himself anymore so he makes a pact with the devil and becomes a demon. In order to fulfill his wishes though, he must abandon all emotion and destroy his company including Guts.
The ending of Berserk is visceral and raw. The ugliest and most terrifying monsters imaginable are summoned to rip apart every man in the area, but Guts manages to survive along with their fellow female captain, Casca, who Guts is romantically involved with. In a final act of severance, Griffith has Casca brought forth so that he may rape her in front of Guts. Guts, who now has his arm trapped in the mouth of a monster, rips off his appendage and loses an eye trying to save Casca. Miraculously, both of them survive.
Nothing is as horrifying as seeing the one you love be violated in front of you. Nothing can compare. The entire scene is gut wrenching and vomit worthy making it the number one scariest thing in anime so far.
Some honorable Mentions: Full Metal Alchemist - Edward and Alphonse bring their dead mother back from the dead. Also, Nina. Elfen Lied - An alien woman goes berserk on a laboratory, leaving it a bloody mess.
While most of these anime are unconventional, each are spooky in their own way and cater to different types of scares. While the fear of the unknown can be quite terrifying, the fear of the familiar provides a bigger impact on those watching. The familiar is all around. It can be a loved one, a dear pet, or perhaps a place once thought to be safe. Have the safe feeling given off from these ordinary and every day routines be betrayed, perhaps, is the scariest feeling of them all. So don’t get too comfortable or you may be next!