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There are dozens of different anime genres to explore, but it’s the action-packed adventures of the shonen genre that draw the most attention.
The series shonen are manga and anime that cater to a younger male demographic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have some originality. The dark forces that attack heroes in shonen anime are sometimes not only evil, but also legitimately scary. While not strictly speaking horror series, here are the biggest shonen titles that are likely to bring nightmares to their audience.
10) Dark Creatures Cause Mayhem Through “Monster of the Week”: Digimon Ghost Game
Digimon is nearly 25 years old and has done a great job of pushing its monster franchise into new territory while nostalgically returning to what 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, is largely geared towards a younger audience, which means Digimon Ghost Game is somewhat limited in the severity of its threats. That said, Digimon still manages to take lives and unleash unsettling body horror not unlike Japanese horror films or the works of Junji Ito.
9) The main villains aren’t afraid of high kills: Dragon Ball Z
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z might not be the first shonen series audiences think of when it comes to spooky anime content. However, several genuinely gruesome sequences are used to highlight the boundless evil of these villains.
The action trumps the horror in Dragon Ball Z, but times like Cell imperfect draining humans of their blood or Majin Buu liquefying inside someone’s body and causing them to implode from the inside will be remembered. Not to mention the times when entire planets are about to be destroyed or tyrants like Frieza or Super buu commit genocide.
8) Powerful Stand abilities can leave characters in living nightmares: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure 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 sleek and sassy characters that make up JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure engage in incredible battles using their various Stand powers. However, it’s easy to forget that JoJo is primarily a vampire series.
JoJo never turns into a full-fledged horror series, but the circumstances that plague Stand users and victims are often nightmarish. The characters are transformed into mutants, condemned to eternal purgatories or to existential destinies far worse than death.
7) A death sentence becomes morbid entertainment: Deadman Wonderland
Deadman Wonderland explores such dark subjects as serial killers, death row, and weapons made of blood. It’s a surprise that it doesn’t fit into the more mature seinen genre. Ganta Igarashi is framed for the murder of his classmates and ends up in an unconventional prison, the Deadman Wonderland amusement park.
Ganta is constantly fighting to stay alive, which is a tense and frightening experience for the viewer. The mysteries surrounding Ganta’s illegal incarceration, his newfound powers, and the girl Shiro who begins to follow him are gripping, but fear never leaves the equation.
6) Evil ghouls gleefully prey on unsuspecting humans: Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul fans haven’t had it easy, and the show’s phenomenal first season was followed by a downturn. The second season, 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 came a bit too late.
Narratively, Tokyo Ghoul becomes a mess, but it still deserves credit for the fascinating world it establishes, where ghouls and humans are locked in a harrowing ware. The designs of the Ghouls are scary, but so are their Kagune powers and the corresponding quinqua weapons that are used to fight them.
5) A mysterious disease and an enigmatic serial killer trigger desperate horrors: Higurashi: When They Cry
Animation is such a tricky medium of storytelling that there are an abundance of shows that adorn themselves with likable aesthetics and cute characters, so that those disarming details only heighten the visceral horror. Higurashi: When They Cry begins as a humble slice of life in the quiet community of Hinamizawa.
A murder mystery begins to unfold, but there’s also a supernatural time loop element that adds to the hopelessly nihilistic atmosphere. Brief moments of levity begin to seem impossible to Higurashi.
4) Heroic responsibilities that fracture the mind in the face of danger: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is primarily a mecha series, but its courageous examination of teenage angst and depression in the face of the apocalypse elevates it to much more than just a fight of robots against weird monsters. Evangelion draws in its audience with a conventional story where an inward-looking teenager must pilot a mech to help save the world from evil angels.
Shinji’s struggles become representative of the human condition and he is forced to journey within and contemplate terrifying ideals. Evangelion is full of shocking visuals that strike in unexpected ways and attack logic and reason. It’s still one of the most extreme experiences in anime.
3) Humanity is turning on itself with disgusting results: Attack On Titan
Attack on Titan set new standards for shonen stories where betrayals are always around the corner. Eren Jaeger and many other brave young soldiers pledge their lives for a noble cause against monstrous giants who threaten their safety. Step by step, Attack on Titan morphs from a man-vs.-monster tale to a brutal indictment of humanity and the brainwashing of war.
The constant losses are frightening to watch, but what’s even more horrifying is how pure individuals deal with corruption and lose their souls. Each character occupies haunting shades of gray and that heavy nihilism eats away at the audience.
2) Violence reigns supreme in this world of demons: Chainsaw Man
chain saw man of Tatsuki Fujimoto is one of the latest shonen sensations and its recent anime adaptation is already hailed by critics and audiences as one of the best of the 2022 series. Chainsaw Man is set in a dark dystopia where monsters known as Demons are responsible for society’s greatest problems..
The modest and depressed Denji becomes the unlikely host of the Chainsaw Demon, a first-rate creature tasked with eradicating the rest of the threats from demons unleashed. Even some of the show’s more innocuous Devils, like the Tomato-Demon, remain body horror spectacles. chainsaw powers Denji can also be used to fill the scenes of gore unending.
1) Cursed spirits announce disgusting designs that defy comprehension: Jujutsu Kaisen
Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the biggest shonen hits of recent years and his feature debut, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, broke box office records. The anime’s 24-episode first season is full of memorable moments. shonen anime follows Yuji Itadorian aspiring Jujutsu wizard, a select person who can channel cursed energy to perform powerful techniques and confront deadly cursed spirits.
The cursed spirits of Jujutsu Kaisen manifest as monstrous demons that are all truly terrifying. Managed by MAPPA-StudioJujutsu Kaisen is aesthetically stunning, which means that those gruesome monsters and gore execution methods of Jujutsu wizards are even more intense.