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Japan already proved with movie legend Battle Royale its capability of creating memorable survival stories. Anime of this genre depict scenarios in which characters strive to survive. It doesn't matter whether it's other characters, monsters or the environment itself - something is out to kill our heroes.
Let's all appreciate our relatively safe lives for a second while we go through this list of Top 10 Survival Anime.
10. Log Horizon
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2013 - March 2014
Let us start slowly, with a show that’s not as disturbing or bloody as some of the following recommendations of this list. Log Horizon is targeted towards all those people that wish they could live inside their favorite video games. Hero Shiroe and his friends are transferred into the world of Elder Tale, a highly popular online multiplayer game. Now they have to face new challenges as they try to find their spot in the new world they were thrown into.
Log Horizon is a show that delivers what it promises, not more and not less than that. It’s fun to watch and easy to enjoy in the evening when you want to unwind. The story itself does have action scenes but its focus lies more on the dialogues and interaction between the different characters. Log Horizon is certainly worth a try.
9. Sword Art Online
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: July 2012 – December 2012
If you liked the idea of Log Horizon, chances are you will also enjoy Sword Art Online. It’s set in the near future where people are able to control personal avatars in an online universe with their brain waves. But our hero Kirigaya Kazuto, as well as other players, soon realize that they are unable to log off. Their only chance is to fight for their survival.
Some of you might think that the story is basically the same as Log Horizon, and I cannot deny that the plots resemble each other. Still, they both have their special charm and can be enjoyed for individual reasons. Sword Art Online has good character design and a great soundtrack, and personally, I really enjoyed the action scenes.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2013 - September 2013
Danganronpa is the first show of this list set in a high school. But it isn’t a normal high school. In order to graduate the students have to kill one of their classmates. If the killer gets away with it he’s promised a life of success and the other students are exterminated. If not, he himself will be murdered. Who’s able to survive this cruel game in order to graduate?
Danganronpa is one of those shows that combine a dark and cruel concept with cute characters. Head of the school is a teddy bear called Monokuma, that surveys every step the students make inside school grounds. It’s a really interesting show that will catch hold of you and won’t let go until the last episode. The main strength is the fact that it doesn’t only have an attention-grabbing storyline, but other mysteries as well that are slowly unraveled as the story progresses.
It’s worth a watch, so give Danganronpa a try if you haven’t already.
7. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2009 – September 2009
With Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, we’re slowly starting to get to the darker and psychologically touching shows. This show revolves around the Mafia situated in America and how a Japanese tourist gets dragged into their world of assassination, death and cold murder. Given the code name Zwei, he has to fight in order to survive the new life that was forced onto him.
I recommend this show for everyone that enjoys stories set in an urban environment of modern days. And even though the action scenes are great, especially for fans of guns and shootings, Phantom focuses more on the relationship between the two main leads, Ein and Zwei. This show has a great fanbase so check it out if you want to find out what the hype is all about.
6. Highschool of the Dead
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2010 - September 2010
For those of you that enjoy stories set in a high school environment, we present Highschool of the Dead. Chances are you have at least heard of this widely popular show. The story revolves around a group of high school students trying to survive in a universe where the outbreak of a new plague has turned the majority of the population into zombies.
Good Zombie anime are hard to find these days, so Highschool of the Dead is definitely a must-watch. It features a bunch of different characters that all manage the apocalypse differently. It’s a show aimed for a wide base of audience, so it’s likely that you will enjoy it no matter what you’re into. We have a lot of blood, a lot of fights and a lot of fanservice.
Check it out if you’re a fan of the living dead.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2012 - December 2012
Next up is a show whose name pretty much sums up what happens throughout the episodes. Ryouta Sakamoto is a pro at the hit video game Btooom. What he didn’t expect is he himself becoming a part of the game. One day he finds himself alone on an island equipped with some food and lots of bombs. His goal is to find the other players on the island and to eliminate them before they can kill him.
The special charm of Btooom! comes from the fact that the first episodes are already really dark. The anime shows blood, death and rape without disguising it. Its main strength though are the fights themselves. Ryouta has the abilities and skills he acquired from the video game but now he has to use them in real life. It’s not a straightforward killing spree where all contestants blow each other up, but a game that requires tactics and planning. This show managed to keep me on my toes until the last episodes.
4. Attack on Titan
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
Is anyone surprised that I included Attack on Titan on this list? Probably not.
Just imagine yourself living in a world where giant Titans are out to eat you alive. Attack on Titan might be the cruelest Survival anime that also really tries to make you feel the desperation and terror of its characters.
What’s so special about the show in my eyes is the fact that you cannot predict who’s going to die or get wounded next. Eren and his friends trained the better part of their lives to kill any Titan approaching them, but sometimes life isn’t fair. That’s what Attack on Titan teaches its viewers. It’s also the first show that made me really fear for the main characters lives, so it definitely deserves a spot on this list.
3. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2007 - April 2008
Kaiji is one of my personal favorites even though it might not be as popular as other shows on this list. It shows the struggles of gambling addict Itou Kaiji who participates in a rather unique game. He gets the chance to fight other players in an adjusted game of Rock Paper Scissors in order to win enough money to get rid of all his debts. Can he win one last game that might turn his life around?
This one goes out to all those viewers that like survival anime but don’t necessarily want to see too much blood or gore in general. Suspense is created through Kaiji’s struggles and his constant attempt to find new techniques that could guarantee his victory. Don’t be put off by the rather unique character design – after some episodes you will learn to appreciate the thin faces and long noses.
A special recommendation for fans of shows like Death Note or No Game, No Life.
2. Deadman Wonderland
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2011 - July 2011
Deadman Wonderland portrays the worst case scenario of being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit. High school student Ganta Igarashi is trialed for brutally murdering his classmates and thus being sent to Deadman Wonderland – the first privately owned prison set in a dystopian future. What he didn’t expect was that Deadman Wonderland is in fact an amusement park where inmates compete in bloody games for the entertainment of the masses.
If you’re looking for great action scenes and are not afraid of seeing blood then Deadman Wonderland is a strong recommendation. The design as well as the development of the main characters is really unique and great to watch. Even though the show itself doesn’t have too many episodes and the ending came way too fast it still stayed in my mind for a couple of days after.
A great show if you want a good anime that you can finish in one weekend.
1. Mirai Nikki
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2011 - April 2012
Mirai Nikki might be the most popular Survival anime out there. Not only that but it also created the infamous character of Gasai Yuno, one of the most psychotic girls found in anime.
The story starts with Amano Yukiteru’s common phone diary turning into a Future Diary that’s able to predict upcoming events. But he’s not the only one – he’s one of twelve contestants that try to kill each other in order to get the chance to turn into a god. If I had to describe the anime to someone who hasn’t watched it I would call it the anime equivalent of Battle Royale. So if you’re a fan of the famous movie you will most likely also enjoy Mirai Nikki.
It’s not only the main idea that’s intriguing but its further development as well that makes Mirai Nikki so special. Check it out if you’re ready for a psychological thriller that will keep you entertained for a long time.
Survival anime are a unique genre since they are a combination of action, drama and sometimes even horror elements. Watching these heroes on their struggle for survival will quicken your heartbeat and make you sweat.
Which one is your favorite? Comment down below and let us know.