30 Best Dark Anime To Watch: Our Top RecommendationsThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Have you ever finished watching a series like Fairy Tail and just thought “man I wish I could watch something with a little more bite. Something a little more mature and dark”
Well luckily there are quite a few dark and gritty anime shows out there.
You just have to know where to look! And if you’re checking out this list, well you’re looking in the right place.
Let’s count down our top recommendations for the best dark & mature anime out there.
30. Talentless Nana
This show is rather new to the scene, so it might have slipped under your radar. It’s basically a giant game of Among Us only the impostor’s job is made ever harder.
It centers around a girl who’s sent to an island full of teenagers with super powers and is tasked to kill them all. However, she doesn’t have super powers.
So she has to use her wit and some pretty brutal methods to get the job done. And I truly do mean brutal, some of those scenes are not for the faint of heart.
29. The Promised Neverland
This show has shot up the ranking for a lot of people since its first episode, because of how tense and well-written it is.
It follows a group of children who live in a small house in the middle of a field surrounded by a forest. Sounds like a setup for either a slice-of-life show or a horror flick, right?
Well it’s definitely the latter, as they soon learn that their guardian is selling them off one by one to aliens. Why?
To get eaten.
Trust me, this show will have you biting your fingernails off as the tension will get to you. It’s extremely scary and definitely deserves all the praise that it gets.
28. Terror In Resonance
At first glance, this show is just about terrorism. It’s also quickly made evident that we’re rooting for the terrorists, which is a sentence that will definitely make me end up on some watch lists.
However, bit by bit we learn that the two protagonists aren’t just blowing stuff up because they’re bored or have daddy issues.
There’s something that they want to show the world.
Visually the show might seem like your typical PG-13 anime. But trust me, it hits some rather heavy topics.
27. Elfen Lied
Elfen Lied is probably as far away as you can get from shows like Fairy Tail.
I mean, the first episode literally depicts a full-on mass murder spree with limbs flying everywhere and human bodies being reduced to a pulp.
The power of friendship means little to nothing. And good-hearted confrontation just ends up with someone losing an arm and a leg.
This is not to say that the show is needlessly violent. It all makes sense in-universe.
But you should definitely be prepared to see a lot of gore if you’re thinking of picking up this old classic.
26. Death Parade
The question of life and death can often times be the source of the deepest darkness, as we don’t know whether there is an optimistic spin on death.
Death Parade kind of takes a crack at it by imagining that people get judged after death by being forced to play games. However, the games are set up in such a way that their deepest and most vile emotions will come to the surface, leading them to lash out in violence and do things they never thought possible while they were still living.
And if that wasn’t heavy enough, we also get the question of individuality and the power of choice thrown into the mix, just to really make sure we can’t sleep at night.
25. The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Although we’ve grown numb to it by this point, there’s nothing cute or fun about war.
The Saga of Tanya the Evil makes you think that it’s just another action show, because of the use of magic… but it’s just a simulation of what a full-on war looks like.
The sleepless nights, the bloodshed, the discrepancy in the chain of command, the politics that pull the strings in the background.
It also makes you realize that the person who just got killed by the protagonist isn’t a monster or some evil person. Just someone who happened to be born in a different country.
24. Hunter x Hunter (2011)
This show really had me fooled.
It starts off as the most stereotypical shounen: a boy goes on a quest to find his dad and also wants to be Hokage, I mean a Hunter.
He gets some new friends and they all go on adventures together and help each other out. But as the show progresses it just keeps getting darker and darker, throwing harder and harder curve balls at us.
By the end we’re looking at people stricken with grief tearing up a corpse, a man committing suicide for the future of his people, and how emotions can be intertwined with politics.
It’s quite the ride, that’s for certain.
23. Vinland Saga
Although the action is overexaggerated, Vinland Saga feels like a historical retelling of a very tragic tale.
There’s no magic and there’s no wishing upon a falling star.
It’s a story about a boy whose father gets killed right in front of his eyes. Obsessed with revenge, the boy follows his father’s murderer for years in the hopes that one day he can get revenge.
In the meantime, war is waged and all the political strings and battle brutalities are presented front and center.
It’s an amazing show and I highly recommend that you watch it, especially if you like anything related to Vikings.
22. School Live
Oh what is this, a high school slice-of-life?
Well that’s not what I was looking for, that isn’t dark at all… Oh wait, never mind, the protagonist is just suffering from PTSD and is extremely delusional.
What’s really happening is this: it’s the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, there’s no sunshine and there are no rainbows.
Just a group of friends trying their hardest to survive.
I think that fits the dark category, don’t you?
21. Psycho Pass
Psycho Pass is one of those classics that just had everyone hooked with the idea alone.
We live in a society where officers have a gun that can detect whether we’re capable of committing a crime, and we’re prosecuted immediately.
Boy, this show tackles morals and what it takes to run a country like no other anime out there.
Is the system just? Should people give up their own judgement and submit to an algorithm? Can anyone truly judge one’s capability to do harm?
What is the difference between a criminal and a law-abiding citizen?
This and more will be answered, if you decide to check it out.
20. Goblin Slayer
Goblin Slayer is a bit less heavy than Psycho Pass, but will shock you visually if nothing else.
In fact, the first episode made such waves among the community that the show nearly got pulled altogether.
The show has a fantasy setting and is all about a guy who just wants to kill all the goblins, the name of the show is pretty accurate in that regard.
But the goblins are not your typical foul-mouth small fry like in most shows.
They need females to reproduce and have a workaround for the issue of being a male-only species, if you catch my drift. So if you’re in the mood for some gore, give it a look.
19. Akame ga Kill
If you find yourself frequently thinking “that character totally should have died, that was just plot armor” then Akame ga Kill might be the perfect show for you.
It follows a group of assassins and really doesn’t shy away from what assassins are: killers.
Death comes from all sides and you learn pretty early on that even the core cast isn’t at all safe from such an end.
And when someone does die, it’s not off-screen, it’s not depicted as just having a little blood on the forehead or anything like that. It is brutal.
Speaking of shows where characters drop dead left and right, we have Another.
It’s a mystery thriller anime with a fairly simple concept. Something is off in the world and the people from 3-3 keep dying gruesome deaths.
So the protagonists have to crack the code before everyone in their class ends up 6 feet underground.
I know I said Akame ga Kill was gory, but even it can’t hold a funeral candle to what Another has up its sleeve.
Putting Charlotte on this list is somewhat of a spoiler, as you would have never guessed how dark it becomes.
This is because at first glance, it’s just a normal high-school slice of life show with some supernatural elements thrown into the mix.
But after a certain incident happens you can feel the entire show changing, now depicting a much more deprived, gritty, and bloody world where you have to question whether everyone will make it out alive.
16. Sunday Without God
With a title as pessimistic as this one, I would be shocked if anyone expected a cheerful world to be depicted.
The concept is pretty easy to grasp: God literally gives up on us and leaves, making it impossible for anyone to die or to be born.
Even though humans often dream of immortality, they soon come to realize that it’s not that fun.
However, before God left he did leave a special breed of humans called gravekeepers, who can send people off into the afterlife.
These are our protagonists. And we follow them around as they go from place to place and put to peace many poor souls.
15. Death Note
Death Note is a classic in the anime community, as its dark aesthetic and plotline attracted millions.
The story follows a super-genius named Light who comes upon a death note, a notebook that gives him the ability to kill anyone if he writes their full name in it and has their picture in his head.
This sets him off into a spiral decline of a God complex and before long he has to evade the cops, and multiple genius detectives, while also carrying out his “holy” mission of cleaning up the world.
The show is an absolute must-watch, especially for fans of dark-themed anime.
14. Devilman Crybaby
Now this show is extremely unique, as by the end it feels like a big acid trip.
One of the protagonists becomes a devil, but decides to use his new power to defeat other devils and demons so that some sort of peace can be achieved.
The other protagonist is the biggest wild card, as he usually films from somewhere close by. But also carries heavy weaponry on hand and is the one that started the demonic ritual that got his friend turned into a devil in the first place.
The show is very graphic. And the last episode is in my opinion absolutely iconic. So if you don’t shy away from some gore and nudity, I wholeheartedly recommend giving the show a watch.
If you have ever thought how anime these days can’t compare to the shows from some other golden age, then maybe you can give Monster a shot.
It’s a down to earth drama that follows a doctor, Tenma, and his fight for what he believes to be right in this world.
He saves a boy who later ends up being a serial killer. And is now determined to find him and put a stop to his tyranny.
But will it truly be that simple? And how many people will die along the way?
But for this show, the most important question is, what made the little boy turn out this way? And does it make his actions just?
Rainbow is the type of show that will make you hate and love humanity all at the same time.
It follows a group of seven people who are locked up in jail. They all become friends and promise each other that they will one day walk together freely on the outside.
However, sadistic jailors who also aren’t afraid to be bribed make their life a living hell, with countless humiliating acts and beating directed towards the protagonists.
I’m going to leave it at that so that I don’t spoil anything. But I will say that if you liked Monster, then this one should be just as entertaining.
11. Casshern Sins
In the world of Casshern Sins, robots have more or less wiped out humanity and are now the rulers of the Earth.
However, after a certain incident they realize that they’re actually not immortal. And will suffer the same future as the humans.
Their only hope lies in a myth of a robot named Casshern. If devoured, he’ll give that person their immortality back.
The story follows Casshern as he roams around a ruined Earth while countless robots try to eat him, all the while questioning and cursing their own existence.
The show is rather slow. But the themes covered are as dark as you can get.
Mushishi is an oddball on this list as it’s not dark because of excessive gore or bleak world-building, but rather because it is pretty realistic.
It centers around the Mushi, I guess you can call them “spirits” but they’re just specs of life. We get to watch and see how they affect people.
They’re drawn to strong desires and can easily make slightly off-putting situations escalate to tragedies.
The protagonist is a Mushishi, a person who’s trying to get to the bottom of what Muchi are and what they want.
He travels around the country searching for cases where Mushi are involved, hoping to get a definite answer.
9. Hell Girl
Hell Girl is like the extremely condensed version of Dr. Faustus.
There’s a site that people can access at midnight that allows them to put out a hit on anyone.
People, being the impulsive breed that we are, get carried away and use this site at a whim, unaware that what comes around goes around.
This phrase is quite literal here, as the titular Hell Girl goes and murders the person who has a hit on their head… and then returns the favor to the person who put out the hit.
Every episode follows one case, while we as the audience just have to question where the line is for human anger and jealousy.
Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of an individual?
That’s the central question of the entire show, as a baby is given up to the devils for the land to prosper.
However, against all odds the baby survives, be it in the form of a hunk of flesh.
This baby is our protagonist. And after getting some prosthetic limbs, he ventures out into the world to return his body from the demons, unaware of the great tragedy that will have on his country.
Heavy topics, death, gore, it’s all here.
Plus if you have an action itch to scratch Dororo is sure to make you satisfied as the battles are top notch.
7. Mirai Nikki
I had to put at least one battle royale bloodbath on here. And why not make it a classic?
The usual battle royale rules apply: 12 people are given special phones, each with its own power, and the last person alive gets a prize.
Only instead of some V-bucks, the prize is to literally become God.
Our protagonist Yuki teams up with Yuno, a psycho chick who still gives me nightmares, and the battle begins.
There’s just so much death in this show that you need a cold shower after binging it.
And Yuno is just messed up enough for you to fear a drawing on a television screen.
6. Hellsing Ultimate
If Edgar Allan Poe made a Twilight reboot, this would be it.
All you need to know about the show is its central character, Alucard.
He’s the Kirito of this universe.
But with the added twist of not conforming to any form of morality and being a vampire.
He works under Integra, because of an oath, who’s the head of the Hellsing organization.
They’re basically an organization that ironically kills demons, zombies, and even vampires.
So under Integra’s orders, Alucard just murders everything and anything while a group of priests try to get in his way. Because he’s still a vampire.
It sounds convoluted. But all that you need to know is that Alucard is a one man massacre. and that it’s great fun.
Erased is a murder mystery, but with the added fun factor of time travel.
The main character, a fully grown man, suddenly travels back to when he was a boy and is tasked with saving the children in his reach from an unknown killer.
Since this is a seinen, topics like domestic abuse, trauma, and of course murder are pretty common place.
But the fact that literal children are the targets only further amplifies the dark tones of the show.
4. Re: Zero
Have you ever thought about how painful the checkpoint system would be in real life? No?
Well this show is bound to show you.
It’s an isekai where a boy, Subaru, gets transported into a fantasy world.
But instead of being overpowered, he just gets the capability to return to a certain point in time after he had died.
That might sound overpowered. But keep in mind that he can’t chose the return spot, and also that he literally has to be murdered in cold blood in order to use this power.
As you can imagine, there are plenty of mental breakdowns in this show. Alongside a lot (and I mean a lot) of death.
As a franchise, Berserk may just be the darkest thing to ever be created, no joke.
The problem is that I can’t explain what makes it so dark, as it only really gets going in the latter part of the series. So you will just have to trust me on this one.
It follows a warrior named Guts. And this man is the angriest and unluckiest man to have ever lived.
There’s murder, betrayal, more murder, sex, demons, everything.
Just watch the 1997 version and if you still feel like you can look the franchise in the eyes, transition into the manga. Trust me it’s worth it.
2. Attack on Titan
Since the final season is here, of course I have to pay respects to Attack on Titan.
In a world overrun by Titans, humans hide inside giant fortified cities.
But rocks break. And Titans really like human flesh.
This show honestly has everything you could want in an anime: jaw-dropping fights, a beautifully constructed world, a very gritty and dark outlook on everything, aka no friendship powerups, and some memorable characters.
If somehow you still haven’t seen the show, give it a try and thank me later.
Steins;Gate is one of the most highly acclaimed anime shows, and for good reason.
It deals with time travel and all the problems that come with it.
I put it on this list not because of excessive gore or anything, although there is some murder here and there.
But it’s ranked here because it’s one of the best depictions of a person literally going insane.
Our all-so-loved protagonist Okabe starts off by pretending to be a crazy scientist. But by the end he looks like a man who has been through hell to find a true appreciation for life.
It’s a masterpiece, for sure go watch it.