Top 22 Best Mystery Anime To Watch (Shows & Movies)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
The key to a good mystery is set up, suspense, and then the reveal.
Much like a magic trick, the whole show can fall apart when executed poorly.
Well anime is no different, and we’ve got some brilliant anime with constantly engaging plots, killer setups, and some magnificent resolutions.
It’s all but guaranteed that at least one anime on this list will become a new favorite.
22. Higurashi: When They Cry
The remote village of Hinamizawa is a place detached from normal society.
In summer 1983, Keiichi Maebara moves there and joins the local school. Due to the low population rate, there’s only one and it hosts children of all ages.
There he meets a cute cast of girls, all harboring dark twisted secrets. For Hinamizawa is host to a bizarre number of rumors ranging from mania, to suicide, to brutal homicide.
Slowly, paranoia settles in – and what follows is a disorienting and horrific downward spiral into insanity.
Some aspects of the Studio Deen adaptation haven’t held up, but in general, this psychotic take on the beloved visual novel stays consistently entertaining, puzzling, and mysterious.
Set in the late nineties in Yomiyama Missile School.
Nearly thirty years after a horrific incident left the population in shock, Another opens with Kouichi Sakakibara transferring into the very same class that it occurred (no spoilers).
An unusual hush hangs over the affair. That, coupled with an unusual student he meets who’s all but invisible to everyone else, pushes Kouichi into a conspiracy decades in the making.
Gruesome murders and a disturbing mystery soon await him. Hooked yet?
Another was released nearly a decade ago, and it’s Final Destination-esque campy approach towards pulp horror has found many horror fans rewatching it.
Koyomi Araragi is half-vampire and has dedicated himself to using his enhanced powers to help his friends with the supernatural entities overhanging their small town.
When Hitagi Senjougahara hurtles down a flight of stairs in a graceful descent, Araragi doesn’t think to catch her. And when he does, he discovers two things: she is weightless, as light as a feather; and she is a tsundere, with a hard shell built around her to conceal any emotion. But they bond, and soon Araragi begins his first relationship.
Nisioisin’s Monogatari series tells a complex character study in a non-linear way, with unique and stellar Studio Shaft production.
19. Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain tells a prophetic story of the Internet, social disconnection, dissociation, and a collective consciousness.
All done in a way that’s more prophetic now than when it started airing in 1998.
Lain Iwakura is an introverted lonely teenager who has no experience with technology.
One day her class receives an unusual email from a classmate who had recently taken their life. This is her portal to the Wire (the Internet) and a subsequent lapse of sanity.
Gradually Lain becomes increasingly paranoid, and the lines between real and not begin to blur.
Short, concise, and with some of the best cinematography and direction seen in an anime, Serial Experiments Lain is a unique gem that uses the medium to its maximum potential.
The device ‘DC Mini’ allows a user to dive into the dreams of other people.
Atsuko Chiba and Kosaku Tokita are using this technology to alleviate the mental atypicalities of patients through dream manipulation and exploration.
It’s a marvelous piece of technology, when in the right hands.
Unfortunately it gets stolen. And it’s up to Atsuko, Toshimi, and an unusual girl called Paprika, to return things to normal.
Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece is a technical marvel, manned by Studio Madhouse in 2006. The similarities between Inception and Paprika are startling.
But Paprika did it first and did it better.
17. Madoka Magica
One day, the happy-go-lucky Madoka Kaname and her troubled best friend Sayaka Miki are offered the opportunity to become magical girls.
This is after an unusual and cold girl, Homura Akemi, transferred to their school. Obviously despite Homura’s complaints, they accept the offer and are given one wish to fulfill whatever dreams they have.
The only catch is… they must kill ‘witches.’
Gen Urobuchi’s delightfully dark and tragic deconstruction of the magical girl genre is near legendary.
This is mostly because of the narrative, but the ridiculously good production values elevate this already good anime to great levels.
16. Ergo Proxy
Set thousands of years into the future, after an ecological meltdown destroyed most of the planet, Ergo Proxy follows Re-I Mayer in the last civilization on Earth – Romdo.
Autorevs are robots created to assist humankind with recovering from the calamity. One day, a virus begins to infect units, giving them cognition and consciousness.
Re-I investigates these unusual occurrences alongside her robot companion, Iggy.
However her life is quickly thrown into conspiracy and self-reflection. Meanwhile, Vincent Law is an Autorev mechanic who begins to suffer from weird delusions…
This story follows their journey of uncovering of Romdo’s secrets.
Equal parts Asimov and Ghost in the Shell, Ergo Proxy plays out a robotic, philosophical mystery that will constantly push your buttons. Well worth a watch.
This stylistic cinematic thriller will keep you guessing with strong plot points and a beautiful aesthetic.
Wrongly accused of murder, Fujinuma Satoru flees the scene and runs for safety when he’s suddenly sent back in time to high school, still in possession of the memories and cognitive abilities of his future self.
With the ability to change the outcome of his – and other’s – lives in his hands, Satoru goes about proving his innocence whilst saving an old classmate from her cruel fate.
As Hinakuzi Kayo was abducted and killed around the same time. Quite a thriller once you dive into it.
Inspired by Stephen King’s masterful vampire novel ‘Salem’s Lot,’ Shiki is a heavy-hearted story of humanity and violent decadence.
In the small village of Sotoba, a young doctor stumbles upon a mystery after a young girl dies suddenly.
Soon he comes to realize his village is infested with vampires, and is presented with a question of morality and humanity.
Should he remain human and stand back? Or do something about his discovery, and ultimately begin a summer of bloodshed and murder?
Naturally, the latter.
Telling a genuinely moving anti-war narrative with wonderful music and strong characters, Shiki will test your resolve as an empath and push your tear ducts to their limit.
13. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan took the globe by storm with it’s kaiju x zombie x mecha hybrid formula proving a winning one with fans worldwide.
Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert, are three young kids living in a large confine surrounded by overwhelmingly tall walls.
They’re around to keep the titans out – towering creatures that sustain themselves on human feasts.
That is until one day when a titan of gargantuan, colossal proportions, kicks a hole through the wall.
Wit Studio built their fame with this cinematic tour-de-force, with some of the best music (courtesy of the legendary Hiroyuki Sawano), direction, and animation we’ve ever seen.
The final season is coming at the end of 2020, and though Studio Mappa are taking the reins, we’re optimistic it’ll conclude the epic satisfactorily.
12. The Promised Neverland
The Grace Field house is a quaint little house hidden away from society and surrounded by gates and pitfalls.
Residing within are orphans and their protectors. Or at least, that’s what the kids think.
Until one day, a girl is adopted. By happenstance, our protagonists find her before she leaves.
Or, they find her body, at least… and a Lovecraftian monster carting her off.
The rest of the first season is a suspenseful prison escape story with more than simply freedom on the line.
The first season left many questions unanswered, but we’re expecting season two early in 2021. I can’t wait.
11. Future Diary
Yukiteru Amano is a disillusioned teen stuck in his own head.
Everyday he’s documenting his life with a diary on his phone.
One day, the being in his head reveals himself as a deity hosting a battle royale and declares Yukiteru a participant.
Him and 12 other users are given diaries with special properties capable of perceiving the future. Yuki is thrown headfirst into a bloody tragedy alongside his stalker, the enigmatically frightening Yuno Gasai – another diary owner who vows to protect Yuki at any cost.
Constantly twisting and turning, Future Diary is an unpredictable rollercoaster with an engaging premise.
10. Death Parade
After death, but before nothingness or reincarnation, you are sent to a quaint little bar in limbo to be judged.
There, the arbiters of your fate will decide what happens based on a game.
You and another dead soul will randomly select one game (snooker, darts, racing) and then compete.
Ultimately, the choices made in life will affect the outcome. However, overhanging the whole situation is a bureaucracy holding a mystery for our protagonists to decode.
Studio Madhouse delivered a brilliant and original series from a short film, Death Billiards. We need more anime like this.
9. The Garden of Sinners
The Garden of Sinners comprises seven achronological short films, all distinct from one another, that build to create an impactful finale.
Shiki Ryougi is torn between a murderous urge and humanist restraint.
We follow her and her relationship with Mikiya Kokutou from their teenage years to their early adulthood, and see her turn from a girl on the brink of becoming a serial killer to a capable heartfelt woman striving to do good with the cards she’s been dealt.
The narrative structure will keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering how each piece will fit until the end.
Beautifully produced by Ufotable, The Garden of Sinners is one of the prettiest anime out there.
My personal favorite is the fifth film, which blew my mind.
8. Mawaru Penguindrum
When the young sister of the Takakura family, Himari, is given temporary leave by the hospital, her brothers – Shouma and Kanba – decide to take her to an aquarium.
However she collapses, only to be revived by a hat she had previously brought from the souvenir shop. Huh? Exactly.
Now embedded with an entity demanding a ‘Penguin Drum’ for possession of her soul, Himari throws her brothers into a destiny-bound search for the mysterious and unknown.
Directed by the enigmatic Kunihiko Ikuhara, Mawaru Penguindrum is rich with metaphors, narrative, and style.
7. Land of the Lustrous
Studio Orange are the current reigning King of blending CGI and drawn animation.
The unusual, strange, wonderfully illustrated Land of the Lustrous proves this.
In an illusive future, a battle is waged between Gems(crystal-based humanoid beings) and Lunarians(a spiritual alien species hellbent on destroying them for their bodies).
Our main character Phos is one of the youngest and weakest gems, keen to make a use of herself in a world that prioritizes confusing violence and tragedy.
This anime will leave you constantly guessing. And some of the scenes blow you away.
It’s short and sweet, and leaves you wanting more. Season two, please? Thanks.
6. The Count of Monte Cristo
Based on the Alexandre Dumas novel of the same name, though with large liberties taken here and there, Gankutsuou is a tale of aristocratic revenge, capitalist disillusionment, and blood money.
Albert is a youth keen to experience life at its fullest.
But when he meets the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo at an opera performance and quickly becomes an apprentice of sorts, he soon finds himself in a decade spanning revenge plot soaked in decadence and misfortune.
Studio Gonzo outdid themselves nearly two decades ago with this eccentrically unique Klimpt-inspired sci-fi mystery, comprising of many constant twists and turns.
Set in 22th-century Japan, the criminal justice system has changed.
Enforcement of the Sibyl System – a qualitative metric predictor of latent criminality, referred to as Psycho-Pass – is mandatory.
We follow a group of justice upholders, primarily the rookie Akane Tsunemori, as she falls deeper into the faulty system that she’s sworn to protect.
Like a Philip K. Dick book adapted into anime form, Psycho-Pass is a stellar criminological mystery with constantly building momentum and a memorable climax.
Dr. Kenzou Tenma is a respected neurosurgeon with a fantastic future ahead of him.
He’s in a good relationship with the hospital director, even engaged to the man’s daughter, and has many colleagues who look up to him.
As Tenma begins to perform surgery on a young boy, the mayor is brought in with a lesser emergency. Tenma is pressured to switch patients, but refuses, choosing instead to save the child and suffer the social circumstance.
Nine years have passed, and Tenma has lost everything. He’s left depressed and angry.
This is all worsened when he discovers the boy he saved is now a serial killing young man.
Naoki Urasawa’s masterpiece mystery thriller is faithfully adapted into animation by Studio Madhouse in one of the greatest, most suspenseful anime ever made.
3. Death Note
One of the all-time great thriller mystery anime of all time, hands down. Light Yagami enters a contract with a God of death to acquire the ability to murder anyone he knows by face and name, with his soul on the line.
Already a high school genius, Light is dissatisfied with the world and uses his newfound power(and intellect) to achieve his lofty ambitions of creating a new world that he can rule from the shadows.
This would be an easy goal, were it not for the attention the Death Note brings to him.
Specifically, the best detective in the world; the illusive L, who won’t stop pursuing Light until the very end.
Constantly engaging, quick witted, bizarre, and epic in scale. Death Note is a brilliant supernatural cat-and-mouse tale on a global scale.
2. From The New World
This series is based on the 2008 novel by Yusuke Kishi.
A1-Pictures offers an amazingly directed, well-paced dystopic mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat questioning until the very end.
From The New World is set in the future and follows a group of students in a mysterious school for psychics.
Saki Watanabe is a young girl at the beginning, and we watch her uncover the mysteries of her hometown Kamisu 66 throughout her life until she’s middle aged.
Morality and humanity are key questions overhanging the plot, so keep that in mind.
Watch this if you’re up for a slow burning, gorgeously produced journey spanning generations.
Okabe Rintarou is a university student chuunibyou, occasionally lapsing into a mad scientist persona.
He lives atop an old TV repair shop with his friends performing experiments. He’s an unusual character who’s masked himself in mystique and whimsy to escape who he truly is.
One day they discover the ability to send text messages back in time. What follows is a host of conspiracies, evil plots, and mysterious figures lurking in the shadows.
Whenever anyone asks me for a time travel story, I point them to Steins;Gate.
The writing is tight and it possesses near endless rewatch value.
This series combines multiverse theory, otaku culture, strong character writing, and an incredible plot to provide one of the greatest – it not the greatest – mind bending stories of love and resolve spanning time and space.