There’s endless anime content to explore and it’s never been a more rewarding time to be a fan of this creative medium. There are dozens of diverse anime genres to explore, but it’s the action-packed adventures of the shonen genre that tend to garner the most attention.
Shonen series are any manga and anime that are geared towards the younger male demographic, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t still have an edge to them. The dark forces that prey upon heroes in shonen anime are sometimes not just evil, but legitimately frightening. While not strictly a horror series, these are the biggest shonen titles that are still likely to cause nightmares for their audience.
10/10 Dark Creatures Provoke Through “Monster Of The Week” Mayhem
Digimon Ghost Game
Digimon is nearly 25 years old and it’s done excellent work to both push its monster franchise into new territory while also nostalgically returning to what’s worked in the past. The newest series in the franchise, Digimon Ghost Game, adopts a “monster of the week” structure that features some of the scariest Digimon of all time.
Digimon, as a whole, largely skews towards younger audiences, which means that Digimon Ghost Game is somewhat limited with the severity of its threats. That being said, Digimon still manages to claim lives and trigger disturbing body horror that’s reminiscent of a Japanese horror movie or the works of Junji Ito.
9/10 Major Villains Aren’t Afraid To Leave Mass Casualties
Dragon Ball Z
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z may not be the first shonen series that audiences think of when it comes to scary anime content. However, there are several truly horrific sequences that are used to emphasize the unlimited evil of these villains.
Action more than overwhelms horror in Dragon Ball Z, but moments like Imperfect Cell draining humans dry or Majin Buu liquefying himself into someone’s body and imploding them from the inside will stick with audiences. That’s to say nothing of the moments when entire planets are on the brink of destruction or tyrants like Frieza or Super Buu commit genocide.
8/10 Powerful Stand Abilities Can Leave Characters In Living Nightmares
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has gradually headed into seinen territory, but Hirohiko Araki’s magnum opus began as a shonen series with a fearless desire to mix up its formula. The stylish and cocky characters that make up JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure engage in unbelievable clashes of power courtesy of their diverse Stand powers. However, it’s easy to forget that JoJo begins as a series about vampires.
JoJo never turns into a full-blown horror series, but the circumstances that afflict Stand users and victims are often nightmarish. Characters are turned into mutants, consigned to eternal purgatories, or stuck with existential fates that are far worse than death.
7/10 A Death Sentence Becomes Morbid Entertainment
Deadman Wonderland explores such dark subjects like serial killers, death row, and weapons that are made out of blood. It’s a surprise that it doesn’t fit into the more adult seinen genre. Ganta Igarashi is framed for the murder of his classmates and winds up in the unconventional prison amusement park, Deadman Wonderland.
Ganta is constantly fighting to stay alive, which is a tense and frightening experience for the viewer. The mysteries that surround Ganta’s unlawful incarceration, his new powers, and the girl Shiro who begins to follow him are captivating, but fear never leaves the equation.
6/10 Evil Ghouls Gleefully Prey Upon Unsuspecting Humans
Tokyo Ghoul fans haven’t had it easy and the show’s phenomenal freshman season is followed up with diminishing returns. Season two, Tokyo Ghoul √A, tells an original story that makes such a mess of the narrative that Tokyo Ghoul:re‘s attempts to get the series back on track are too little, too late.
Narratively, Tokyo Ghoul becomes a mess, but it still deserves credit for the compelling world that it establishes where Ghouls and humans are locked in a trying war. The Ghoul designs are frightening, but so are their Kagune powers and the corresponding quinque weapons that are used to fight against them.
5/10 A Mysterious Illness And Enigmatic Serial Killer Trigger Hopeless Horrors
Higurashi: When They Cry
Anime is such a challenging storytelling medium since there are an abundance of series that dress themselves up in friendly aesthetics and cute character designs, only for these disarming details to make the visceral horror hit even harder. Higurashi: When They Cry begins as a humble slice of life drama in the quiet community of Hinamizawa.
A vicious murder mystery begins to play out, yet there’s also a supernatural time loop element to the narrative that hammers in a hopelessly nihilistic atmosphere. Brief moments of levity begin to feel impossible in Higurashi or that they’re merely part of this wicked cosmic plan.
4/10 Heroic Responsibilities Fracture The Mind In The Face Of Danger
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a mecha series, first and foremost, but its brave examination of teen angst and depression in the face of the apocalypse elevates it to far more than just robots beating up strange monsters. Evangelion lures in its audience with a conventional story where a put-upon teenager must pilot a mecha to help save the world from evil Angels.
Shinji’s struggles become representative of the human condition and he’s forced to journey inward and contemplate terrifying ideals. Evangelion is full of jarring visuals that unexpectedly strike and attack logic and reason. It’s still one of the most extreme anime experiences.
3/10 Humanity Turns On Itself With Sickening Results
Attack On Titan
Attack on Titan has set new standards for shonen storytelling where betrayals are always right around the corner. Eren Jaeger and many other courageous, young soldiers pledge their lives to a worthy cause against monstrous giants who threaten their safety. Gradually, Attack on Titan evolves from a man against monster narrative into a brutal indictment of humanity and the brainwashing nature of war.
The constant casualties are scary to watch, but what’s even more horrifying is how pure individuals face corruption and lose their souls. Every character occupies haunting shades of grey and this heavy nihilism eats away at the audience.
2/10 Violence Reigns Supreme In This World Of Devils
Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man is one of the newest shonen sensations and its recent anime adaptation is already receiving critical and commercial acclaim as one of the 2022’s best. Chainsaw Man is set in a bleak dystopia where monsters known as Devils are responsible for society’s greatest problems.
The unassuming and dejected Denji becomes the unlikely host of the Chainsaw Devil, a top-tier creature who’s enlisted to wipe out the rest of the rampaging Devil threats. Even some of the more innocuous Devils in the series, like the Tomato Devil, are still body horror spectacles. Denji’s Chainsaw Man powers also mean that endless gore fill up scenes.
1/10 Cursed Spirits Tease Disgusting Designs That Defy Understanding
Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the biggest shonen success stories of the past few years and its first feature film, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, broke box office records. The anime’s 24-episode debut season is full of memorable highlights. The shonen anime follows Yuji Itadori, a budding Jujutsu Sorcerer, a select individual who can channel Cursed Energy to perform powerful techniques and take on deadly Cursed Spirits.
Jujutsu Kaisen’s Cursed Spirits manifest as monstrous demons that are all truly terrifying. Handled by MAPPA Studio, Jujutsu Kaisen is aesthetically gorgeous, which means that these gruesome monsters and the Jujutsu Sorcerers’ gory execution methods are extra intense.
NEXT: 10 Funniest Scary Anime