Anime is by all accounts a medium, and within that medium, there can be many shows of varying genres. Among them is a wide variety of horror anime, full of eerie atmosphere and terrifying imagery that could send shivers up even the sturdiest of spines. That all being said, there are times when even non-horror anime spend a scene or even an entire episode dipping their toes into the spooky end of the pool.
There are plenty of anime titles that can balance other themes with horror-centric ones, but it’s always interesting to see the ones that aren’t known for that pushing the limits for just how scary they can get.
10/10 Naruto & Friends Investigate A Haunted Castle (Naruto)
It’s no secret that the Naruto franchise is home to numerous filler episodes, and while many are looked down upon by fans, there are some gems among them. As for the episode “The Mysterious Curse of the Haunted Castle”, this might be as close as Naruto got to a Halloween episode.
It centers around Naruto, and Hinata, as they investigate a disappearance that leads them to enter a spooky castle that might just be cursed. Despite the truth about the castle’s “haunting” by the end, this episode has all the hallmarks of being trapped in a haunted house with a being who wants the young ninjas dead.
9/10 Popuko & Pipimi Turn One Segment Into A Horror Movie (Pop Team Epic)
Pop Team Epic is a sketch comedy that is, more often than not, known for its surreal sense of humor that has poked fun at other genres across its run, which, of course, includes horror. In its eleventh episode, “Cursed Mansion,” the anime takes a hard left turn into horror as the title segment features a group of students staying inside a mansion that is cursed with the ghostly Popuko and Pipmi.
Ironically, the ghostly duo doesn’t do much to the victims themselves, their paranoia ends up getting the better of them. By the end of it, they all end up killing each other, while the ghostly Popuko and Pipimi are unsurprisingly uninterested in these events.
8/10 Atsushi & Junichirō Get Trapped In Anne’s Domain (Bungo Stray Dogs)
The world of Bungo Stray Dogs is a dangerous place full of characters with their own signature abilities, but some are more terrifying than others. In the final episode of season one, Atsushi and Junichirō investigate a string of mysterious disappearances only to wind up trapped in an alternate dimension ruled over by Lucy and her ability, a creepy doll-like creature called “Anne.”
Lucy challenges them to a game of hide-and-seek between them and Anne, with the reward of everyone she’s trapped being set free, a game that’s harder to win than it sounds. While Lucy would become an ally in future episodes, her first appearance made her a chilling force to be reckoned with.
7/10 The Thriller Bark Plot Thickens (One Piece)
In all fairness, pretty much all of One Piece’s “Thriller Bark Arc” was a spooky change up from the usually colorful high seas adventure the series is known for. Full of ghosts, ghouls, and zombies, this arc of the Straw Hats’ journey makes it hard to pin down one episode among them for its spookiness, though not impossible.
The episode “Nami in Big Trouble! The Zombie Mansion and the Invisible Man” sees Nami, Usopp, and Chopper settling into Dr. Hogback’s manor only to be jumped by an invisible man and a number of zombies hiding in plain sight. This episode starts with a false sense of security before revealing that there is more to Thriller Bark than meets the eye.
6/10 The Digital World Takes A Turn Into Creepy Territory With The Dark Ocean (Digimon Adventure 02)
The Digimon franchise has delved into more dark and scary territory here and there; even its more upbeat early seasons have taken a trip to the creepy side of things. One episode, in particular, Adventure 02’s “His Master’s Voice,” is one of them, featuring Kari getting strange visions of another world, tormenting her until she disappears into the Dark Ocean.
To make matters worse for Kari, she’s attacked by a hostile Airdramon and menaced by some rather creepy Scubamon who attempt to make her their Queen and warn her of their dark master, Dragomon. It’s an episode with a somber and eerie tone that stands out from the rest of the season.
The pursuit of humans trying to play god is seen more than a few times in Fullmetal Alchemist, many of which feature some disturbing implications and results. Even with the Elrics’ attempts to bring their mother back, one particular episode from the original series stands out, “Night of the Chimera’s Cry.”
Ed becomes suspicious of their host, Shou Tucker, and decides to investigate and eventually discovers that he’s made a new talking chimera and the horrible truth that Tucker sacrificed both his wife for the first one and his young daughter, Nina, for the second. This episode turns Tucker from a kindly father to a mad scientist straight out of Frankenstein.
4/10 Griffith Reaches The Point Of No Return (Berserk)
Despite its terrifying imagery, Berserk is technically not considered a horror anime. That being said, this iconic dark fantasy is no stranger to mature themes and a horrific atmosphere, and no episode of this anime is more recognizable for it than the final episode of the original series.
Broken both physically and mentally, Griffith brands the Band of the Hawk as sacrifices for the demonic Apostles who turn him into the demon, Femto. The bulk of the episode watches as characters are devoured and ripped to shreds in bloody fashion by monstrous demons. Guts is barely able to make it out alive himself, and the anime ends with him swearing vengeance on his former friend.
3/10 Malamar Is Practically A Horror Movie Monster (Pokémon)
Even the usually child-friendly Pokémon anime has managed to produce some episodes that shed light on its darker side. There have been episodes about ghosts, psychic Gym Leaders, and cursed objects, but one of the most frightening comes from one creepy Pokémon itself.
In the XY episode “A Conspiracy to Conquer!” a mysterious figure named Madame X sets her sights on Ash’s Pikachu, using her mind-controlling Malamar. Nobody is safe from Malamar as it strips away the free will of Team Rocket, Ash’s friends, and even Pikachu and turns them into mindless zombies. This episode’s tone is unsettling, making it feel less like a Pokémon and more like a monster movie.
2/10 The Wicked Smile Of Mad Pierrot (Cowboy Bebop)
Cowboy Bebop has many episodic stories of Spike and the Bebop crew and their many jobs as bounty hunters, and some go to darker places than others. The most haunting among them would probably be “Pierrot Le Fou,” an episode that sees Spike encounter an eerie killer called Mad Pierrot, which he barely survives.
Spike’s pursuit of Pierrot eventually takes him into an abandoned theme park, where he’s hunted and nearly killed in a gun-filled game of cat and mouse. While Pierrot is actually not a ghost or a ghoul, but a genetic experiment that gave a man superhuman abilities, his creepy visage, mental regression, and glee of murder make him as terrifying as a slasher villain.
1/10 Yoshikage Kira’s Introduction Is Beyond Chilling (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Considering that this anime started with vampires and ghouls before getting to Stand battles, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is no stranger to spooky horror elements. Yet the creepiest and most unsettling episode in this anime’s long run doesn’t have a monstrous creature of the night, but a monstrous human being, Diamond is Unbreakable’s main antagonist, Yoshikage Kira.
In part one of “Yoshikage Kira Just Wants to Live Quietly,” viewers are introduced to the serial killer Kira and get a good long look at his psyche, including his distorted view of reality that involves severed hands. The way in which Kira goes about his daily life and his horrific actions without care makes this episode all the more uncomfortable.
NEXT: 10 Horror Anime That Are No Longer Scary On A Rewatch