Shonen anime are some of the most popular shows worldwide. Their emphasis on adventure and coming-of-age stories resonates with fans and gets them excited to come back for each new season. However, many series are a lot darker than typical shows in the shonen genre.
These dark anime have many terrifying themes and horrific imagery. They depict carnage and bloodshed. Typical shonen anime usually lacks these aspects, or has them in small amounts. These dark shonen shows may be for a more mature audience, but they are also some of the best shows in anime.
10 There Is Strength In Desperation
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a story of two brothers on a quest at its core. However, as the aftermath of war and a political coup start to come to a head, Edward and Alphonse Elric find themselves embroiled in the chaos.
With everything being thrown into flux, this anime highlights the lengths some people would go to out of desperation. Some characters are desperate to gain power, while others are just desperate to survive. The show does not shy away from the horrors of conflict, making this anime one of the darkest shonen stories.
9 Light Is A Power Hungry Teen With A God Complex
Light Yagami has a strict moral code that he uses to devastating results in Death Note. The story follows Light after he finds a notebook that has the power to kill whoever’s name is written in it. Light then decides to play god, and begins writing the names of people he feels escaped punishment for their crimes.
As the show goes on, the deaths become increasingly elaborate. Some are even time-stamped or triggered by events. The brutality of some murders, coupled with Light’s growing sense of power makes this one of the darkest shonen anime. Death Note fans agree that watching Light descend into his delusions is both terrifying and unsettling.
8 The Dangers Of The Cursed World Make For A More Mature Shonen
While Jujutsu Kaisen has a lot of the typical Shonen tropes – a plucky protagonist, a begrudging mentor, and incredible powers, the show has many dark themes and terrifying monsters. Since the villains are all Cursed Spirits created from the world’s troubles, there are bound to be horrific monsters that the heroes have to face.
Additionally, many of the characters have incredibly devastating powers. Not only does this show their strength, but it also shows the violence that comes along with such power. Jujutsu Kaisen does not shy away from death and enacting revenge either. Overall, this anime feels like a more mature version of the typical shonen shows.
7 The Demon World Is Unkind To Everyone
Demon Slayer is a show that centers around Tanjrio Kamado and his hunt for a cure for his sister Nezuko’s demonism. Along the way, he faces many demons who hope to devour him, and add Nezuko to their side. However, Tanjiro vows to protect Nezuko and other innocents at all costs – leading to many fights and much bloodshed.
A show about demons is going to be dark. Even so, some fans were surprised by the horrific things the demons and humans alike endure – especially when it comes to the head demon: Muzan Kibutsuji. Demon Slayer is a dark anime for its gratuitous violence and the despicable events that many of the characters experienced.
6 Life Begins Innocently For Young Children Then Takes A Dark Turn
The Promised Neverland
The Promised Neverland looks like an enjoyable show about a group of orphans living together on the surface. Yet, a dark secret lies underneath. The happy, loving orphanage is actually a human farm.
Once the truth is revealed, the show becomes a race for the oldest children, Emma, Ray, and Norman, to come up with a plan to get as many of their siblings out of Grace Field House. The disturbing imagery and the tension of the story makes this one of the darkest shonen shows.
5 Yuno Gasai Makes Her Debut
Future Diary is a Battle Royale anime where a group of people are chosen by the god Deus to fight to the death for the honor of becoming his successor. The story then follows the group as they brutally eliminate each other to win the overall prize.
Additionally, the character of Yuno Gasai is introduced. She is well known in the anime community as being the epitome of a Yandere character – a person who is obsessed with the object of their desire and would do literally anything to be with them. The mature content and focus on troubling behaviors cements Future Diary as one of the darkest shonen anime.
4 A Trapped Group Of Students Try To Survive A Zombie Outbreak
High School of the Dead
High School of the Dead is a horror anime about a group of students who are trapped in a high school during a zombie outbreak. The show has violence in spades as the group fights their way to freedom.
Apart from the blood and gore, the anime also has mature imagery and themes that would not be suitable for all audiences. While the show is an accurate display of the desperation to survive, it is also incredibly bleak. The gruesome violence and bloodshed are some of the many things that make this shonen anime darker than others.
3 Talking Animals Highlight The Disparities Between Species
Beastars is a strangely poignant anime that focuses on the differences between love and desire – featuring anthropomorphic animals. Because the characters are not human, many of them struggle with their hunger or their fear of surviving in a world where others want to harm them.
With so much tension between carnivores and herbivores, the climate between the two categories of animals becomes increasingly toxic after a student is devoured at the local high school. The whole show is unrelenting in its depiction of violence and other graphic content. From the characters to the story points, this show is one of the darkest as well as one of the farthest in form from the shonen genre.
2 Most Characters Experience And Witness Horrific Violence
Attack On Titan
Attack on Titan is a terrifying depiction of war. There are innumerable lost lives in the series. Plus, the Titans who terrorize the island of Paradis are terrifying for new viewers. The whole show is shrouded in bloodshed and mystery as audiences try desperately to piece together the enigma of the Titans.
Furthermore, Attack on Titan tells audiences right away that no character is safe, creating tension and uneasiness among fans. This graphically violent show is one of the darkest shonen anime, as well as one of the most violent.
1 The Graphic Depiction Of Fear Is Not Suitable For Kids
Devilman Crybaby does not hide its mature content. The show is full of gratuitous violence, drug use, and mature imagery. Demons have returned to Earth, causing mass panic and paranoia. This show demonstrates the power fear has in society, and the depths people will stoop to when they have a choice between life and agonizing death.
Not only is the violence in this show enough to make even the most seasoned anime fan recoil, but the creatures are also made of nightmares. This anime is assuredly for older audiences looking for a bleak horror show.
NEXT: 10 Kids’ Anime That Are Way Darker Than They Let On