Fantasy anime is one of the most popular genres in the medium – but just as there are series about wondrous worlds filled with magic and beauty, there are also series that explore the dark side of fantasy.

The genre of dark fantasy sheds light on human nature and reminds us that the world would be no less cruel if magic were real – on the contrary, it might even make things worse.

If you’re looking for a series with complex characters, intriguing worlds, and plots that focus on morality and the human condition, then these dark fantasy anime references are a great place to start.

15. Ajin

Length: 26 episodes.
Studio: Pictures of the polygons

The immortal creatures, called Ajin, first appeared in Africa almost twenty years ago. Since then they have been persecuted and imprisoned for fear of their power.

After a near-death experience, high school student Kei Nagai finds himself in Ajin.

He is immediately on the run, forced to become the demon that society expects him to be in order to survive.

While the CGI animation may not be as good for some of you, the storytelling of the show is excellent. This is definitely worth mentioning.

14. Berserker

Length: 24 episodes.
Studio: Lyden Films

Berserk is known as one of the darkest and most desperate stories ever told in a manga – and the anime adaptation lives up to its name.

Of course, the battles are epic. And MC Guts is a master swordsman.

But he is psychologically realistic. After a series of horrors, including being attacked at a young age and nearly sacrificed to the god Eldritch, Guts is understandably traumatized.

The sharp characterization of this series is one of its best aspects, and while the animation is low-level and relies heavily on CGI, the story and world-building are good enough to keep coming back.

13. Goblin Hunter

Length: 12 episodes.
Studio: white fox

The first episode of Goblin Slayer starts off pretty positively with the priestess joining the group and having an adventure – then everything goes to shit.

The brand new priestess was not only destroyed, but she watched as the goblins tormented and attacked her without mercy.

This is the world of the Goblin Slayer, and this is where the real show begins.

Despite some disturbing scenes, the series is excellent if you like inventive characters who defeat their enemies with their brains rather than their brawn, like the titular Goblin Slayer.

12. Blood +

Length: 50 episodes.
Studio: The production of I.G.

Based on the classic anime Blood: The Last Vampire, Blood + presents a dark and compelling story about vampires, horror and those brave enough to fight them.

After an attempt on her life, Okinawanese schoolgirl Saya realizes that her blood is the only thing that can defeat the bloodsucking horrors known as Hiropterans.

Armed with this knowledge and her jagged katana, she embarks on a journey through Japan, Vietnam, Russia and the United States to discover the truth about her origins and put an end to the chiropteran threat.

11. Yuki Yuna – Hero.

Length: 12 episodes.
Studio: Gokumi

In the 300th. In the twentieth year of the Age of the Gods, mysterious creatures known as the Apex threaten to destroy humanity – and only a heroic sacrifice can stop them.

Yuki Yuna is a deconstruction of the traditional magical woman genre, exploring the human cost of war. In our society, we value self-sacrifice for the common good – but when is it too much?

All the members of the Hero Club are adorable – full of hope, dreams and the desire to help others. The emotional bonding that occurs in the first half of the show only adds to their desperation.

10. Monocoque

Length: 12 episodes.
Studio: Toei Animation

Not to be confused with Princess Ghibli Mononoke, this is a spin-off of Ayakashi : Samurai Horror Tales reads like a murder mystery – where the culprit is always an evil spirit.

Mononoke follows a medicine salesman who travels through Japan at the end of the Edo period.

During his travels he meets Mononoke, dangerous spirits from Japanese mythology who connect and feed on negative emotions.

The only way to eliminate these beings is to know their form, their truth and the reason for their existence. With this realization, the protagonist is able to calm the storm.

9. Destiny/Null

Length: 25 episodes.
Studio: Information portal

Both the original Fate/Stay Night and the alternate Fate/Unlimited Blade Works contain a fair amount of darkness, but the backstory takes them to the next level.

The mages fighting for the Grail in War IV have just had their skills upgraded, and in the Destiny universe that usually means they’re even grayer in their morals.

They were willing to sacrifice children, betray their best friends, and even invoke the abomination of the Eldritch if it meant they could get their hands on the Grail.

In addition to these fascinating characters, you can expect incredible battles and action.

In what other series do you see an aerial battle between an ancient Sumerian flying throne and a possessed magical fighter?

8. Made in the abyss

Length: 13 episodes.
Studio: Citrus Film Library

At first glance, Made in Abyss seems like a charming series with likeable characters and a charming fantasy world.

It is impossible to guess what kind of dark attraction you will end up in.

It all starts in the town of Orth, built around an impressive colossal well that goes deep into the earth – and the deeper you go, the crazier it gets.

This becomes clear when the main character Rico begins to descend into the abyss. While her robot friend Reg has no problem with her machine-like body, Rico soon begins to suffer pain and bleed profusely, making her an easy target for the pit’s monstrous inhabitants.

And this is just the beginning…

7. Haibane Renmei

Length: 13 episodes.
Studio: Radix

I love dark sci-fi anime because it allows for deep psychological exploration of the characters – and Haibane Renmei has that in abundance.

Shaw follows Rakka, a young girl born from a cocoon in a strange city, with no memory of her past.

They are cared for by other Haibane, winged creatures who are born in cocoons and must pass through a kind of purgatory before they can fly away, though no one knows what happens next.

The world of Old House and the town of Glee are dark and sometimes depressing, but at the heart of the series lies a message of rebirth.

6. Brilliant Land

Length: 12 episodes.
Studio: Orange

If you’ve ever watched the Stephen Universe series and thought you’d like to see a more adult cartoon version, you’re in luck.

The Earth of The Shining is set on a world inhabited by humanoid Gems, a new life form created after Earth was hit by a series of meteors that destroyed most biological organisms.

Largely useless in the Glance’s perpetual war against the Lunarians, the fragile gemstone Phosphophyllite is tasked with creating an encyclopedia of gemstones – and begins to research the nature of its reality.

The series is innovative and fresh, and uses computer animation to enhance the aesthetic of the series rather than take away from the studio – this has earned it several awards, and it probably deserves your praise.

5. Attack on Titan

Length: 60+ Eps.
Studio: Vitov Studio + MAPPA

Attack on Titan, one of the most famous dark fantasy animes of all time, is a brutal series that isn’t afraid to kill off its main characters when the plot calls for it.

It is set in a post-apocalyptic era where humanity has retreated behind huge walls to protect itself from the Titans, mindless humanoid predators that roam the walls in search of prey.

The series is full of mysteries to be solved, and that fits perfectly with the political and psychological themes.

AoT proved to be a safety net for anime newbies, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t seen it yet.

4. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Length: 26 episodes.
Studio: Information portal

If you’re looking for a dark sci-fi anime that won’t leave you red-eyed and depressed, Demon Slayer is worth checking out.

After his entire family is killed and his sister is turned into a demon, Tanjiro Kamado begins searching for a way to bring his sister back. And I hope to end the demonic threat once and for all.

What makes this series so good is the way the horror of fighting demons is balanced with Tanjiro’s kindness and positive attitude.

Even when the show’s characters are enjoying a brief respite, there’s no shortage of light comedy.

3. Puella Madhya

Length: 12 episodes.
Studio: Golf

When you hear the term Magical Girl, most people think of a group of bright and cheerful female justice warriors, like the girls from Sailor Moon.

But this is starting to change thanks to anime like Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

This stark take on the magical girl genre is deceptively ordinary at first.

Madoka signs a contract with the sorceress Kyubei, gets a bright pink magic dress and can now fight the evil apparitions known as witches.

The fact is that these witches are often the souls of former magical girls, corrupted by their horrible experiences – a horror Madoka soon realizes.

2. Bocurano: Our

Length: 11 episodes.
Studio: Gonzo

The giant robot anime genre is not generally known for its dark themes – after all, these shows are primarily about selling merchandise, and making your audience depressed is an apt way to lose sales.

Bocurano is the exception to the rule.

The series follows a group of high school students who are forced to pilot a giant sword called Zeart to save their world from destruction.

Twist?

Every time he is deployed, Zeart takes the life of a young pilot.

As if that wasn’t desperate already, each episode meticulously follows the pilot chosen for the next fight, deepening their character and practically making you feel an emotional connection to them.

1. Fullmetal Alchemist : Brotherhood

Length: 64 episodes.
Studio: Bones

Does the WFA really need full representation?

Fullmetal Alchemist is set in the military state of Amestris: The community explores the consequences of playing for God and the tragedy it can bring.

After a failed attempt to bring their mother back to life, the Elric brothers lose their human bodies and go in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, a powerful artifact that would give alchemists unlimited power.

On their journey, they discover the horrors of an unethical quest for power. But again, there is a fantastic basic framework built in.

The brotherly love of the Elrics and the bonds formed along the way shine a light of hope in a dark and cruel world.

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