It’s hard to not get overcome with morbid joy every October when streaming services transition over to horror-centric programming to celebrate Halloween in all of its gory glory. It’s becoming more and more common for content providers to curate a full 31 days of scary sights so that audiences don’t have to go a single hour without horror options at their hedonistic disposal. Halloween traditions tend to highlight the live-action mayhem that’s marked this holiday for years, which remain fun, but often have audiences searching for new ways to get scared. Everyone has seen the perennial holiday classics and the endless slew of slasher sequels, but there’s also a rich catalogue of alarming anime that are just as likely to creep out crowds.
There are more options than ever before when it comes to anime streaming services. Multiple channels offer thousands of hours of content that will appeal to both the obsessive anime otaku and those who have always been curious to check out the animated medium. It can sometimes be a daunting task to sift through a whole anime collection, especially when you don’t know what you’re looking for and what’s supposed to be good, let alone legitimately scary. To help guarantee that the only fear that’s being felt this Halloween season comes from the anime that’s on your binge schedule, here’s a streamlined list of some of the most notable horror anime–both in terms of terrifying tales that lunge straight for the jugular as well as lighter fare for the more supernaturally inclined.
How Many Episodes: 13
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Prime Video, Funimation
Satoshi Kon is one of the most prolific names to come out of the anime industry and despite passing away at an early age he’s forever solidified his status as an auteur of the medium through challenging works like Perfect Blue, Paprika, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers. Paranoia Agent is Kon’s first and only foray into television and many consider it to be the storyteller’s greatest triumph due to the larger canvas that he has to tell this psychologically disturbing story.
Paranoia Agent is a 13-episode anime that brilliantly subverts the very nature of episodic storytelling with how it deconstructs a social phenomena–the mysterious assailant, Lil’ Slugger–through a dozen different perspectives. Each of these eclectic examinations of Lil’ Slugger prove to be true, in their own ways, which allows Kon to elegantly unpack the power of perception and that visceral fears can be even realer than reality.
How Many Episodes: 14
Where To Stream: Prime Video, Crunchyroll
There is no shortage of anime where unassuming individuals encounter a displaced creature of dangerous proportions, but they’re able to soften their edges and open their eyes to a new lifestyle that appreciates the simple glories that Earth has to offer. Elfen Lied begins with this predictable trajectory when Kouta and Yuka run into Lucy, an amnesiac humanoid alien with devastating psychic abilities, only each of their lives are decidedly worse by the end of this 14-episode extended exercise in nihilism.
Despite Kouta’s best efforts, Elfen Lied underscores that humanity is a selfish species that will do whatever is necessary to guarantee their survival. Elfen Lied is full of sweeping scenes of brutal violence as Lucy becomes the universe’s perpetual punching bag. Elfen Lied is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a powerful, dark anime that doesn’t pull any punches.
Higurashi: When They Cry
How Many Episodes: 90+ between various series
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Prime Video, AppleTV+, Funimation
Higurashi: When They Cry started as a moody visual novel series, but it’s gone on to expand into a complex multimedia franchise that consists of several series, spin-offs, and specials. Many casual anime fans completely skip over the Higurashi universe because of the cutesy “moe” aesthetics that adorn its playful cast of characters. Higurashi looks like an innocent slice of life series in a sleepy rural community, yet in reality it chronicles a supernatural illness that turns people into homicidal maniacs. And that’s just scratching its surface.
Higurashi gradually evolves into a foreboding time loop narrative where characters are forced to perish hundreds of times over while they face failure and accept hopelessness. Higurashi: When They Cry always has many plates spinning at once, which is occasionally a detriment to its storytelling, but more often than not it reveals surprising twists that result in a one of its kind horror experience. Higurashi: When They Cry is like Happy Death Day meets High Tension meets Gone Girl, all of which is heightened through anime extremism.
Parasyte -the maxim-
How Many Episodes: 24
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Hulu, VRV
There are plenty of anime that feature unassuming humans who are suddenly paired together with a supernatural partner or even become a hybrid of man and beast themselves. Parasyte -the maxim-,however, is the only one that feels like it could be an unofficial sequel to The Thing. Aliens have invaded the planet with the goal to gradually subjugate the entire human race. Shinichi Izumi is a run of the mill highschooler who finds himself bonded with one of these parasitic monsters who takes up residence living inside his hand.
Shinichi and his alien parasite try to root out and eliminate the rest of these predatory species and the result is an amazing hybrid of mystery and action with constant body horror thrown in for good measure. There are hundreds of different aliens featured in anime, but the threats in Parasyte will actually make stomachs churn. In addition to the disturbing visuals, Parasyte crafts a surprisingly emotional relationship between Shinichi and the alien living in his hand.
How Many Episodes: 10
Where To Stream: Netflix
The Devilman series has been around for decades in various iterations, but the most recent take on the material, Devilman Crybaby, feels special and like it’s trying to do something different with the property. Devilman Crybaby‘s plot isn’t overly complex. It features a world that’s at risk of being overrun by demons. Akira bonds with a demon in a way that turns him into Devilman, a hybrid between man and demon that’s the key to ending this war.
Devilman Crybaby is dripping in carnage and it’s a series that trades in extremes. The legendary Masaaki Yuasa is the director and it’s the fluid ways that he plays with animation and color that makes Devilman Crybaby such a delight. Bloodshed and monsters have never been so visually beautiful.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
How Many Episodes: 26, +2 Movies
Where To Stream: Netflix
Neon Genesis Evangelion may not immediately come across as a horror series, but there’s disturbing imagery that’s present from the first episode that only becomes more intense as the series goes on. Evangelion is a moody deconstruction of not just the mecha genre, but also human nature. The series elegantly meshes together provoking questions with incredible action sequences and gutting character drama.
The anime stands out for its unique take on robots, monsters, and how it intertwines religion with it all. It’s an ambitious project, but few anime create the same sense of anxiety and dread as Evangelion. Neon Genesis Evangelion is still considered to be one of the most acclaimed and challenging anime even decades after its debut. There’s truly nothing else like it.
How Many Episodes: 26
Where To Stream: Netflix
Ajin: Demi-Human is a horror anime that riffs on many of the themes that populate the genre. Kei Nagai learns that he’s an Ajin—a hybrid between human and demon—who have advanced regenerative abilities. Ajin can also create powerful ghost-like warriors to combat other Ajin, which is kind of like if Tokyo Ghoul mixed together with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Ajin are hunted by the government and turned into science experiments, which makes Nagai and the rest of his kind determined to take out the corrupt organization and quell the conflict between human and Ajin. Ajin: Demi-Human is more interested in action and atmosphere than some of the heavier psychological issues explored in these other anime, but it’s still addictive and morbid fun.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
How Many Episodes: 12 Episodes, +4 Movies
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Hulu, VRV, Funimation
Anime audiences have become so savvy towards genre archetypes that there are an increasing number of series that embrace these stereotypes only to deconstruct them beyond recognition. Puella Magi Madoka Magica plays the long game when it comes to the idea that it’s simply another exercise in magical girl escapism. What’s brilliant about Madoka Magica is that a magical girl contract is akin to a deal with the devil. The entire anime tries to ensnare Madoka in this arrangement, all while the audience knows that this spells her eternal doom.
This conflict triggers an existential crisis that resets the nature of reality multiple times over, but it’s still not enough to reward Madoka and company with true freedom. The way in which Puella Magi Madoka Magica uses magical girl tropes as tools to process grief and trauma is enlightening, but the abrasive art style and chaotic look for the anime’s villainous Witches is deeply unsettling. These incongruent creations feel like Old Gods who can crumble existence.
How Many Episodes: 12
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, VRV
Another tells an unnerving mystery that sees class 3-3 in a middle school turn into a hotbed for supernatural activity after a popular girl passes away in the ’70s. Now in the present, a new transfer student enters class 3-3 and he’s the only one that’s able to see Misaki, the girl who passed away over 20 years ago. Mysteries continue to grow and this transfer student forms an unexpected alliance with the mysterious Misaki to figure out what evil forces have a hold of their school.
Another plays up the mystery and suspense angle over pure horror, but it still knows when to turn up the blood and guts when it’s appropriate. Another benefits from a concise 12-episode story and even though the series’ central mystery changes in some major ways in the second half of the season, it’s always engrossing. You truly want to see Kouichi, the transfer student, find some peace and hopefully be able to give Masaki’s soul some rest, too.
Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories
How Many Episodes: 130
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Prime Video
Yamishibai has steadily been trucking along for over six seasons and it’s turned into one of the more traditional horror anime staples in Japan. The series gets its inspiration from classic urban legends and ghost stories from Asian culture and distills them into brief four-minute bursts of horror.
A lot of Yamishibai’s charm comes from its creepy atmosphere and short stories, but the anime’s quality wildly fluctuates over the show’s ten seasons. Some episodes are more uncomfortable or strange than terrifying, and the show’s low production values may deter some viewers, but it’s a great source to learn about all kinds of creepy new stories.
How Many Episodes: 13
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, VRV
Kagewani looks at a desperate video blogger who attempts to find success by faking the appearance of cryptids and monsters in his videos. Before he knows it, there are real monsters that are loose in the city and a growing epidemic begins to sweep the community. This hapless blogger, Sousuke, attempts to eliminate these creatures, but the mystery he’s put himself in continues to deepen.
Kagewani is easy viewing with its short seven-minute episodes and even though the art style leaves plenty to be desired, it features creative monster designs and a mystery that holds up until the end. Dedicated fans can also check out the show’s sequel series, Kagewani: Shou.
GeGeGe no Kitaro (Kitaro of the Graveyard) (2018)
How Many Episodes: 97
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Tubi, VRV
GeGeGe no Kitaro is an anime series that’s actually been around since the 1960s, but every decade has featured some fresh attempt at remaking the series. 2018’s rendition of GeGeGe no Kitaro seems to have learned much from its predecessors and feels like the most polished execution of the anime yet. The series focuses on a number of yokai that are determined to keep the world safe from the more dangerous spirits that are out there.
Each episode features a “yokai of the week” that must be handled, but a larger serialized story also courses in the background. GeGeGe no Kitaro has a wide cast of weird, enjoyable characters and even though it skews younger, it still manages to surprise. The basic premise behind the series may sound played out, but incredible art design and addictive storytelling help keep this anime on top.
How Many Episodes: 12
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Netflix, Hulu, VRV
Erased is a tight psychological thriller that feels like what would happen if David Fincher had written and directed Back to the Future. The anime centers around the pursuit of a child killer who’s been on the loose for decades while someone else has wrongfully taken the blame. This compelling serial killer mystery also throws in supernatural elements with how the central character experiences a phenomenon known as “Revival” that sends him back in time a few minutes to prevent incidents.
The 29 year-old suddenly finds himself sent back 19 years and in his 10-year-old self with the opportunity to stop and catch the child murderer before his initial crimes take place. It’s an incredible mix of genres with a villain that’s genuinely scary and phenomenal characters that you want to see survive. Erased is only 12 episodes and not a single one is wasted as this mystery plays out and goes to dark places.
Made in Abyss
How Many Episodes: 25, +3 Movies
Where To Stream: Prime Video, HIDIVE
Made in Abyss may not traditionally be a horror series, but it contains such upsetting images and draining acts of torture that it’s likely to get under the skin of even the most seasoned of horror fans. Made in Abyss masquerades as a playful adventure series, an illusion that’s pushed even further through its young, innocent protagonist, Riko. Riko dreams to descend into the titular Abyss, a mysterious realm that’s said to contain incredible wonders, but also progressively intense curses with each new level.
There’s a genuine sense of dread as Riko and Reg get closer towards their goal, yet become exposed to greater dangers and debilitating transformations. These are adorable, lovable characters and Made in Abyss makes it seem as if they’re destined to either die or transform into hellish abominations. Made in Abyss currently only has two seasons and an original feature film that bridges their content, but in this short span of time it’s introduced enough disturbing visuals and unique horrors to last for hundreds of episodes. With any luck, Riko and Reg won’t be stuck in this debilitating Abyss for that long.
How Many Episodes: 37
Where To Stream: Crunchyroll, Netflix, Hulu, Tubi, Prime Video, Peacock, PlutoTV
Death Note is a series that’s turned into a colossal hit and even though various live-action versions of it exist, there are none that compare to what the anime accomplishes. Death Note succeeds in taking something as outlandish as a magical killing notebook and an apple loving devil shinigami and tie it with a hard-boiled cat and mouse crime saga.
Light Yagami’s plummet into darkness and L’s pursuit to apprehend him and keep the blast radius from increasing is really great stuff. It digs into the inherently scary nature of what misdirected rage can make people do. It’s such a different take on a serial killer and the anime remains unpredictable until the end, even though it takes a major turn after the halfway point that isn’t for everyone.