Horror Anime

Horror Anime

Introduction

Horror as a genre in anime is fairly similar to horror as a genre in Western movies. By this, I mean horror generally isn’t as good as many other genres. However, horror in anime lacks one key component: the horror.

According to Wikipedia, “Horror is a genre of fiction which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror.”

I went through all of the anime tagged “horror” on MAL and made a list of every one I’ve seen, and not one of them would I say “induced feelings of horror and terror.” In fact, there were some anime which weren’t tagged as horror which I would say do a better job at being horror anime.

Bad Horror

We’ll start with bad horror anime since this is probably more easy to recognize. For me, there are two different types of bad horror: cheap shock horror and non-horror.

By cheap shock horror, what I mean is the anime will continuously throw things at the viewer for shock value without any real reason for doing so other than to be “edgy,” as the kids would say. If you’ve ever seen the anime Another, then you should have an idea of what this is.

Another simply throws in gore and death scenes for the sake of it without any real reasoning behind it. Sure, the plot has to do with the students dying in various ways, but suspense is the best way to create fear.

By showing all the deaths on-screen, the viewer becomes desensitized to it and it becomes predictable. A better way to do this is have the first couple deaths happen off-screen and have ambiguous descriptions of them.

Then, when the viewer least expects to actually see one of these scenes, that’s when you add it for maximum effect. While the constant scenes of death and gore become predictable in Another simply due to their frequency, they’re also predictable due to the buildup before many of them.

The viewers won’t be shocked by someone dying if you foreshadow it happening for multiple minutes leading up to the event. At the same time, viewers don’t tend to care when some no-name character suddenly dies either because they had no emotional attachment to them.

Yukari Sakuragi's ghost from the horror anime Another
Yukari Sakuragi’s ghost (Another)

Non-horror is probably easier to understand without an explanation, but by this I mean the anime isn’t really horror. Although classified as horror on MAL, I would argue that Devilman: Crybaby isn’t horror.

It has gore, violence, and monsters, but does it really do anything to “induce feelings of horror or terror?” No. Not unless you count being reminded that humans are the real monsters as horrifying or terrifying.

If anything, Devilman is more of a super-antihero anime with social commentary, not horror. However, that isn’t to say it’s a bad series; I enjoyed it a lot.

Good Horror

So what makes an anime a good horror anime? Personally, I think it’s suspense and the unknown. However, there are multiple ways a series can go about doing this.

Parasyte -the maxim- is my favorite horror anime. Parasyte creates a sense of suspense and the unknown simply through how the primary antagonists, the parasites, function. They’re monsters who eat humans, but at the same time they blend in and look just like anyone else.

If this seems very similar to Devilman, that’s because it is. In Devilman, the demons do the same thing as the parasites, and the lesson we’re supposed to learn at the end is the same.

The main difference between the two that I see is that Parasyte focuses more on the individual while Devilman focuses on society as a whole. That’s not to say that they don’t overlap, but each has a primary focus.

Akira wants to kill all the demons so that everyone will stop hurting each other and be able to get along. Shinichi, on the other hand, simply wants to save himself and those close to him.

This change in focus to the individual makes the fear of the parasites feel more real because it’s easier to grasp concepts at the individual level than the global level. If the world is going to be destroyed, there’s nothing I can do, but if my life specifically is in danger, then I’m more likely to act out of self-preservation.

From the New World is another example of a good horror anime. While Parasyte uses the “other” to create a sense of suspense and the unknown, From the New World simply leaves the viewer in the dark to create these same effects.

There are monsters in the series such as the “ogres” and “tainted cats,” but for most of the series we don’t really know much about them. We really only know just as much about the world as the children we’re following do, and they’re kept in the dark until adulthood.

The fear of the outside world and what you don’t understand is where From the New World excels.

An Ogre attacking from the horror anime From the New World
An Ogre attacking (From the New World)

Finally, we have School-Live! and the psychological horror genre. School-Live! may be the most generic of the horror anime I’ve mentioned so far in that it has to do with a zombie apocalypse, but the way the series is presented is anything but generic.

Our view of the world the girls live in is seen through their eyes rather than from an outside perspective. Specifically, through the eyes of Yuki Takeya. This is important because Yuki is suffering from some sort of PTSD resulting from the zombie apocalypse.

While most of the first episode is completely through Yuki’s eyes, over the course of the series we gradually see more of reality and less of how Yuki sees the world.

By shifting from the viewpoint of a middle school girl with a mental disorder to the real world, the viewers are gradually given more information about the world, similar to how the viewer learns more about the world in From the New World as the kids grow up.

During the beginning portion of the anime there’s the misunderstanding that the viewer is getting the whole picture. However, later on there is the expectancy that everything isn’t what it seems which is where the suspense and fear of the unknown come into play.

There are other reasons why I love the anime School-Live!, but it’s use of a psychological condition to hide information from the viewer is one reason I think it’s a good horror series.

Conclusion

Shock, gore, and violence aren’t the qualities that make a good horror anime. Rather, a good horror series should create suspense and the fear of the unknown. However, there are some anime which aren’t in the horror genre that also use these concepts.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, specifically the Phantom Blood arc, is one of them. I noticed that the old anime for JoJo’s was considered horror, but the new series wasn’t so I didn’t include it on my list, however, Phantom Blood is a good example of a classic horror story involving a vampire.

It’s not a horror story because it involves a vampire, otherwise the Monogatari series would be horror, but it’s instead a horror story because of how the vampire Dio is a monster of unknown power who could be lurking around every corner.

The other anime which isn’t classified as horror, but I think should be, is Attack on Titan. While it’s more of a shounen/action series, it does use the techniques I mentioned for making a good horror anime.

There’s the fear of the unknown in the form of the world beyond the walls and the titans, and there’s plenty of suspense throughout the anime as well. In fact, I would consider Attack on Titan to be a horror anime, just one that’s out-shined by its own action scenes.

Do you agree with my assessment of the horror genre in anime? What are some of your favorite horror anime if any?

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