The 20 Best Dark Fantasy Manga Worth ReadingThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
If there is one genre that embodies the essence of manga, it’s dark fantasy. It sounds very specific, but this setting’s actually been adapted in about a hundred ways.
Mixed with sci-fi? Done.
Sprinkled on top of action-adventure? Also done.
Truly, few people realize how present this concept is in the industry.
Don’t believe me? Let me show you.
Writer & Illustrator: Yuji Kaku
Here’s a little novelty for you guys.
If you liked Hell’s Paradise, you’re sure to enjoy this recent series, Ayashimon, also from Yuji Kaku!
Maruo is a ridiculously strong teenager, itching for a challenge.
However, what he doesn’t know is how soon he’s gonna get what he wants – thanks to a strange woman aspiring to rule the dangerous world of the yokai, criminals with demonic powers.
The end goal?
Establishing a yakuza syndicate, for which Maruo will need to use his abilities to their fullest.
Does he even know what he’s getting into?
Honestly, I’m not sure.
19. Seraph of the End
Writer & Illustrator: Takaya Kagami
Seraph of the End’s world was ravaged by a virus which only left a tenth of the population. But as if that wasn’t bad enough, this allowed the rise of a civilization of vampires from beneath the Earth, who now terrorize the surface.
In all of this stands Yu, an orphan teenager whose friends were imprisoned for years and killed by their captors.
Vengeful, the boy enlists – set on overcoming his human weaknesses and ridding the planet of his enemies.
Brave, or stupid? Maybe both…
18. Hell’s Paradise
Writer & Illustrator: Yuji Kaku
Yuji Kaku again!
Just like Ayashimon, Hell’s Paradise features its own freakishly powerful MC.
Despite looking fairly normal from the outside, Gabimaru is practically unkillable.
This is convenient, because it’s what makes him unable to be put to death for his crimes – and sends him on a quest for an elixir of immortality.
Paired up with an executioner he must work with to obtain a pardon, he has no idea what he’s about to go through just to see his beloved wife again.
If you give this a read then get ready for quite the disturbing adventure.
17. Blue Exorcist
Writer & Illustrator: Kazue Kato
Yeah, exorcists and monster slayers seem to be a trend here.
Blue Exorcist stars Rin, a young exorcist gifted (or cursed) with strange powers. Pretty standard.
The twist lies in the fact that Rin and his twin, Yukio, are the sons of Satan. Yeah, that Satan.
But that doesn’t stop them from joining the Vatican’s True Cross Order to defend the human realm against the underworld.
Noble intentions for teenagers of literal satanic origins… Will their blood be a hindrance or an aid in their quest?
Only one way to find out!
16. Fire Force
Writer & Illustrator: Atsushi Okubo
Who knew firefighters could be even more badass?
Fire Force takes place in a fictional Tokyo where arson has reached a whole other level. And in this deranged world of flaming monsters is our MC Shinra.
Able to ignite his feet and fly, the guy is hell-bent on joining the Fire Force brigade, made of individuals with fire powers.
Taking care of fiery criminals and arsonists, as well as innocent people, victims of spontaneous human combustion, called “Infernals.”
Flame bending firefighters waging war against burning demons… need I say more?
15. Ajin: Demi Human
Writer & Illustrator: Gamon Sakurai
If you didn’t know about Ajin: Demi Human then today’s your lucky day.
As the title says, this series revolves around monsters called the Ajin. Simply put, they’re rare altered humans who possess regenerative abilities that make them pretty much immortal.
This is something that our MC (Nagai) finds out the hard way. Seems like a good thing, but there’s more…
The Ajin are also able to summon a powerful Black Ghost, making them incredibly dangerous.
This sparks a huge war between monsters and the government, in which our conflicted protagonist has to participate.
It’s a series that truly blurs the line between right and wrong.
14. Akame Ga Kill!
Writer & Illustrator: Takahiro
This is basically the Game of Thrones of manga – how much darker can you get?
Akame Ga Kill! stars (among others) Tatsumi, who left his hometown to make it as a mercenary. However, his plans quickly go out the window after his companions’ unexpected deaths.
Thankfully he turns his life around by joining Night Raid and its local fighters. And it’s there where he meets the eponymous Akame, a cold-blooded katana-wielding girl.
Together these weirdos will face countless enemies, from small-time criminals to monarchs.
The road ahead is rough, but there’s nothing they can’t take on.
Writer & Illustrator: Q Hayashida
I’ll admit, this is a weird one right here. With its mix of crime thriller and dark fantasy, Dorohedoro is a manga you won’t forget.
We follow the journey of Caiman, a cursed man with the head of a…
Caiman? Crocodile? Alligator?
…punching his way through a lawless post-apocalyptic underworld ran by sorcerers and demons.
Having no recollection of his past, Caiman desperately seeks to regain his memory stolen by a sorcerer. Fortunately, there are a few things going for him.
Not only does he have a strong bite (duh), but he’s also immune to magic, making him a huge threat to the establishment.
If that’s not enough for him to have his way, I don’t know what is.
12. D. Gray Man
Writer & Illustrator: Katsura Hoshino
Anyone in the mood for a dark fantasy manga classic?
D. Gray Man revolves around Allen a young exorcist from the Black Order.
His job? Exorcising… stuff.
Surrounded by gothic steampunk set pieces, Allen fights using his supernatural abilities – constantly moving closer to an opportunity to vanquish the villainous Millennium Earl.
However, the notions of good and evil aren’t always so simple. Which is something he’ll soon come to learn as his human and inhuman aspects become increasingly mixed up.
Innocence, Dark Matter, exorcists…
All concepts you’ll be able to clear up as you devour this exciting manga.
11. Demon Slayer
Writer & Illustrator: Koyoharu Gotouge
This is easily one of the 2010’s biggest hits.
Demon Slayer follows Tanjiro, a teenager whose family was slaughtered by a bloodthirsty demon. Well, not all his loved ones – as his sister Nezuko still lives, only turned into a demon herself.
Tanjiro embarks on a journey to find a cure to his sibling’s ailment, where he meets many people – enemies or allies.
Among those are the Demon Slayer Corps, powerful swordfighters who will help Tanjiro and his friends harness their magical skills.
Be honest, you didn’t really need me to explain the plot to this, did you? Well if you did, then I’d say give it a read. Please and thank you.
10. Chainsaw Man
Writer & Illustrator: Tatsuki Fujimoto
Surely you’ve heard of this at some point. It’s an iconic manga that definitely fits into the “dark fantasy” vibe.
Chainsaw Man is a current hit, and will be for some time – and for good reason.
Like many dark fantasy series these days, the manga stars Denji, an outcast who gets the chance to break free from his depressing life. How this time?
Actually, the title gives a great hint:
By becoming a chainsaw man.
In this reinvented Soviet-era timeline in 1997, Denji is approached by the Public Safety Division, who successfully hires him as a Devil-hunter.
That may sound perilous. But when you have a literal chainsaw coming out of your face, danger is relative…
Writer & Illustrator: Paru Itagaki
Beastars is pretty much “Zootopia on steroids.”
Sounds dumb, but I think it’s an apt description.
This manga shows a world where humans are replaced with anthropomorphic animals, all enjoying regular lives.
Among them is Legoshi, a lanky and shy grey wolf in high school who’s just going through the motions – until he meets Haru, a small and bubbly rabbit.
Cute, sure. But there’s a twist.
Whether you’re an herbivore or a carnivore in Beastars is a very important detail.
It’s this natural dichotomy that drives the story in a sometimes wholesome, but mostly dark and animalistic sort of way.
Put simply, this series is not nearly as innocent as it seems.
8. The Promised Neverland
Writer: Kaiu Shirai
Illustrator: Posuka Demizu
The Promised Neverland revolves around a bunch of kids in a strange orphanage ran by a lady known as “Mom.”
Could be weirder, right?
The series quickly drops its cutesy atmosphere to introduce its trio of main characters to a world of death and destruction. Realizing they’re nothing but livestock for a superior race of monsters, Emma, Ray and Norman embark on a journey way too dangerous for mere children.
Do they care? Nope.
Are they scared? Who wouldn’t be.
Writer & Illustrator: Kouta Hirano
If you thought Seraph of the End was dark, well buckle up pal.
Hellsing stars the famed Alucard, member of the Royal Order of Protestant Knights.
Alucard’s job is pretty simple: find and destroy the supernatural threats to the English crown.
Of course, this includes vampires – which you’d think would be a problem since Alucard is, you know, one of them.
Being quite detached from everything since his original defeat under the name Dracula, and after years of immortality, this anti-hero only craves blood and money.
However, things get complicated as the order starts to unveil machinations that will shake society to its very core.
Only one question remains… what’s in it for Alucard?
6. Jujutsu Kaisen
Writer & Illustrator: Gege Akutami
If there’s one manga series I’d call “hot” right now, it’s this one.
Jujutsu Kaisen tells the story of Yuji, a teenager whose path leads to a world he doesn’t truly understand.
Hidden among society, Jujutsu sorcerers are charged with defending mankind from curses, grotesque monsters who feed on the vitality of humans.
Armed with incredible strength and agility, as well as the mentorship of Gojo Satoru (the world’s most powerful Jujutsu user), Yuji is along for the ride.
He leaves his monotonous life behind & the boy dives right into action with his new companions, only to uncover much more danger than he’d bargained for.
Is that a problem? Of course not.
Yuji is a shounen protagonist, after all…
5. Tokyo Ghoul
Writer & Illustrator: Sui Ishida
Ah, the famous Tokyo Ghoul!
Created by Sui Ishida, this disturbing series might have the biggest fandom on this entire list. The world of this manga isn’t so different from our own – but it has one tiny little issue: ghouls.
Essentially being humans, ghouls are able to manifest various powers with their true form. And our MC Ken Kaneki isn’t one of them. At first…
Indeed, everything changes when he crosses the path of a seductive woman who happens to die in front of him right before killing him.
Saved by a transplant, Ken ends up with ghoul organs, which turns him into one.
With his now life ruined, the young adult will have to make do, because there are bigger things in motion… he really is gonna need all the help he can get.
Writer & Illustrator: Norihiro Yagi
Here’s another staple of Shonen Jump’s 2000s run.
This manga is brought to you by Norihiro Yagi’s, and Claymore is named after an order of half-human, half-monster swordswomen: the Claymores.
They’re basically superpowered mercenaries for hire. These women travel the roads of a dark fantasy universe with their faithful claymore strapped to their backs.
And among them is our protagonist, Clare.
In a world that’s already pretty grim, our main character slowly starts to uncover a much larger plot amongst all the little side quests. If she thought that 8-foot-tall Yoma were tough, she’s in for a bumpy ride.
Will a big sword be enough to beat Awakened beasts with the power to cut buildings in half and destroy mountains? Absolutely not.
Thankfully, Clare isn’t your run-of-the-mill Claymore.
And she has more to her than what meets the eye…
3. Attack on Titan
Writer & Illustrator: Hajime Isayama
At what point does “dark” become downright creepy?
I’m sure the 30-foot-tall humanoid monsters with beer bellies aren’t helping.
Born from the mind of Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan tells the story of humanity’s remnants, forced to hide behind gigantic walls from foes called Titans.
Unpredictable and ridiculously dangerous, this threat of unknown origins has culled the human population. But even when all hope seems lost, the highly trained hunters from the Survey Corps (including our protagonists) will risk their lives for a better future.
Sticking together through thick and thin, childhood friends Eren, Mikasa, and Armin are hell-bent on ridding the land of every single Titan, no matter the cost.
A naive goal, you might say… but at this point a little determination is all mankind needs.
Writer & Illustrator: Kentaro Miura
Obviously this was coming at some point.
The late Kentaro Miura’s Berserk is one of the most well-known manga ever created, and rightfully so.
It’s often revered as the pinnacle of dark fantasy. Berserk never shies away from gore or difficult themes, pushing its characters to their very psychological limits.
Its MC (Guts) can take most of it, but not without consequences.
Through the course of over 30 volumes, readers can follow the warrior’s long and tough journey as he strikes down monsters left and right.
Whether you see it as a heroic voyage or a descent into madness is up to you.
And that right there is what makes this series so incredible.
1. Death Note
Writer: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata
Was there any doubt about this top spot? Not for me.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone who reads manga has heard of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note – and for good reason.
While its setting might seem fairly realistic at first, this series is nothing short of crazy.
Grade-A student Light was terribly bored with his mundane life. Until a Shinigami’s Death Note fell onto his lap – which is a tool that allows him to kill anyone by simply scribbling their name inside it.
Against all odds, Light manages to befriend Ryuk, the book’s alleged owner. And he decides to have a little fun by seeing what this strange human teenager can do.
What ensues is a dark thriller starring a falsely righteous man, eager to play judge, jury, and executioner.
In megalomaniac fashion, Light changes the status quo of the entire world, forcing agencies from all around the globe to group up to stop him.
It’s the most fascinating game of cat and mouse ever written. And for that, we know who to thank.