When you ask anime enthusiasts for some good horror anime recommendations, they usually rattle off the usual suspects: Tokyo Ghoul, Elfen Lied, Death Note, etc. The only problem with these stories is that, while they incorporate horror elements, they're not actually scary. Not as terrifying as other, similar series of their ilk, anyway.
Here's a selection of five terrifying shows that'll have you scrambling for some nice, safe Bob's Burgers or another fun, colorful cartoon to scrape the residual terror from your mind. You're going to need it.
This series, like Paranoia Agent later on in this list, is a macabre exploration of an ensemble cast of characters privy to Boogiepop, an urban legend who's said to be Death himself. The series can be viewed out of sequence or in the correct order, with terrifying themes, developments between characters, and the personalities dormant inside all of us. There's a harrowing, dreamlike quality to the show that pervades each moment, and you'll be struggling to figure out what's real and what's fake as it carries on. It also has some seriously spine-tingling moments.
The World YAMIZUKAN
When it comes to horror anime, this particular anthology series is cut from a different cloth. It may look more like a PowerPoint presentation drawn with colored pencils and striking art styles from episode to episode but stick with it. The bizarre tales unraveled throughout each installment will stick with you long after they've concluded, much like a great episode of The Twilight Zone. From sentient cars that guzzle people down to a woman who disappears over and over in the middle of the night and appears to be possessed, YAMIZUKAN is rife with uncomfortable, unsettling stories that you'll need to watch with all the lights on.
Typically, we're expected to root against the vampires in popular media (except for, you know, Twilight and such). Shiki takes this story trope and flips it on its head for some nightmarish developments. With its several surprises waiting around every corner, it delivers a multifaceted tale of betrayal, hatred, and horrifying visuals that prove many monsters you encounter out there in the world are actually human. From the first few moments of the show where it quickly becomes evident that even vampires don't have idyllic existences with their superpowers and insane abilities, you'll be hooked — especially when you see them trying to feed for the first time.
The late Satoshi Kon is responsible for myriad fantastic films, and his foray into anime, Paranoia Agent, is a legendary addition to his classic pieces. This 13-episode series follows a young woman who essentially brings an urban legend about a crazed young man with a bat (Shounen Bat) to life, committing grisly murders across the town she lives in. Though technically not a horror anime per se, its psychological elements and chilling supernatural themes make it a tough watch for sitting alone in the dark this close to Halloween.
Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories
Traditional Japanese ghost stories, like the ones seen in Yamishibai, are some of the most chilling tales put to animation. A cursed woman who must deal with a skin condition passed down from her ancestors, a terrifying video tape, and a haunted ventriloquist's dummy are just a few of the horrors spread out in the now sixth season of the horror-centric series. With each episode offering a bite-sized chunk of scares to roll with, it's got something that'll scare the pants off of just about any viewer.