The Problem with Horror Anime

maxresdefaultAbout a year ago I wrote a FANTASTIC post called The Problem with Romance Anime, and considering the majority of my audience – you guys – are anime watchers, it has become my most consistently viewed post (fancy that!). So to give my readers what they want – and get more followers ;D – I’m going to begin a five part series of problems I have with other genres in anime, ending with what most of you perverted bastards really want: The Problem with Ecchi Anime. So… something to look forward to, I guess. But for now I’m going to be talking about the problem with HORROR anime.

The problem with horror anime is that, in general, anime just isn’t really that scary, and the few rare anime that are scary are usually riding on the coat tails of a superior genre.For the average Joe or Jane, it’s incredibly hard for 2D animation to be truly scary unless the proper atmosphere has been built up with right music, plot, imagery etc. It’s very rare for anime to do this right. To recover from this failure to become scary, many anime desperately resort to either a silly amount of gore and over the top violence, which loses its novelty after a while, or it slowly transforms into an action or fan service anime to squeeze some entertainment out of the material (I’m looking at you High School of the Dead, Tokyo Ghoul, Tokyo Majin, Deadman Wonderland, Blood C, etc. etc…).


Don’t get me wrong, though. There are a few anime like Monster, Another and Higurashi that I would consider good horror anime, but I wouldn’t say that it was the horror elements of these anime that made them “good”. For instance, it’s the mystery elements of Another, the thriller or suspense aspects of Monster and the puzzle elements of Higurashi that appealed to most viewers (I have no evidence to back this up so take my word on it). However, if you look up horror anime on Google, most of the horror known to be “good” only have horror as its subgenre. Calling anime like Blue Exorcist, Madoka Magica and Death Note horror anime is really stretching the definition of the genre in my opinion.

The closest I would come to calling an anime great is generally if it is mixed in with another more dominant genre that leads it to being actually scary. With anime like Hellsing Ultimate and Parasyte, I could say action, but because these are more cool than scary, I’ll say that the most common victim of this backpacking is the psychological thriller genre. Anime can do psycho-thrillers well. Anime like Perfect Blue, Paranoia Agent (Okay Lazarinth, get Satoshi Kon’s dick out of your mouth), Yami Shibai and Serial Experiments Lane are just a few in this genre that have some really freaky things about it that could be considered scary.

1450333991-52f027e44b8b7766f16b8b59a45c804cBasically my complaints can mostly be whittled down to the same issues I had with the romance genre (and probably the same complaints I will have about most of the genres I focus on). Having horror as an aspect of an anime is fine, but when the entire focus of the story is to make the viewer afraid, it can come off as really contrived, over the top or incredibly predictable. If you want to prove me wrong and can think of an actually good horror anime, feel free to mention it in the comments.

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11 Responses to The Problem with Horror Anime

  1. Adam says:

    I definitely agree that strong horror is a rarity with anime, and Monster is definitely more psychological interesting than frightening, but I think Higurashi may be one of the stronger examples of horror that I’ve seen in general.
    In contrast with films like the Ring, or about vampires, where there is a clear timetable, Higurashi plays to the unexpected. It’s a narrative that can be kind and sweet one moment, and suddenly become very dark and intimidating. I felt a wonderful chill whenever a character’s voice shifted, and their eyes grew distant, because suddenly anything could happen.
    I have not yet seen Another, though I intend to this fall, in the spirit of Halloween.

    • Lazarinth says:

      All good point. Higurashi is another example of good horror I think. Did you read the visual novel?
      Also I went through your blog and noticed it does spotlights on books, any chance I could convince you to give my book a read and maybe a spotlight in the future? I have a sequel coming out this year and want to try getting as much attention for it as possible before its released.

  2. Pingback: The Problem with Comedy Anime | Fantasy and Anime

  3. I dont know if its horror but “Erased” is pretty scary to me and very thrilling to watch. And one anime that i forgot the title is a story that if you cant kill the real dead/ghost in that specific class room all of them will die one by one.

  4. yurimylove says:

    umm… Elfen Lied?

  5. Pingback: The Problem with Romance Anime | Fantasy and Anime

  6. Karandi says:

    I like horror anime. Of course, I like horror in general and find that it being predictible is just how horror works. It’s like the mystery genre, or most genres, where there are some basic formulaic elements and the rest of the story just kind of fits around them. That said, there are some anime that call themselves horror but mostly they just go for hurting the characters and expect that to be horrific enough.

  7. Japesland says:

    I find that the reasons you described about the 2D break that makes anime horror generally less, well, horrifying tend to be the same reasons why I prefer anime’s storytelling reliant upon the grotesque or revolting over live action’s portrayals of the same. The nature of the medium simple makes it easier to consume without vomiting or questioning your sanity.

    Less related, though, you are not the first person I know to praise Another as a solid horror entry in anime. Maybe I need to re-watch it, but I recall finishing it and thinking it was overwhelmingly mediocre without room for argument until I found out people actually LIKED it. What exactly is it that people liked?

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