Ghosts and spirits have always been something we talk about in real life but how would it be if humans could interact with these spirits around us? Here are 10 anime about spirits, youkai, and apparitions.
Since we were children, we’ve always heard about ghosts and spirits surrounding us and controlling everyday life. There could be spirits that are humans that died and live on in this world or spirits that represent nature and laws about the universe. In the real world, we’ve been told and spread these fun urban legends, sometimes thinking how nice it would be to live in a world like that. However, that concept is a popular one in the world of entertainment, especially anime.
Shinto religion and the natural forces that govern our universe are emphasized a lot in many anime shows and references to Shintoism like Izanagi, Amaterasu, youkai, etc. are great plot points to use in order to make a great, exciting story with an emphasis on how emotions and the history behind nature and people can cause spirits to appear. These anime shows explore a world where spirits are around us in the environment, fighting spirits, or coming into the first contact with them. With such a variety of shows within this genre, there are many great shows that are definitely worth watching.
15. Garden of Sinners (Kara no Kyoukai)
In a world where supernatural entities cause accidents, killings, and other crimes/disasters, there are certain individuals that must take care of them as their duty. Enter our two protagonists: Shiki Ryougi and Mikiya Kokutou who are under the supervision of their boss Touko Aozaki. Shiki Ryougi was raised as an assassin as a child by her prestigious family but after an accident, she gains the “Mystic Eyes of Death Perception,” eyes that can see souls. She uses this along with her supernaturally-powered knife to hunt down malicious spirits who terrorize and murder civilians.
Mikiya Kokutou is Shiki’s childhood friend who has incredible deductive reasoning. He was even able to uncover Touko Aozaki’s base of operations, despite Touko being an esteemed and powerful magician. The series revolves around Shiki taking down spirits and evil people who pose a threat to the spiritual and real world. This is a saga consisting of 10 movies. It deals with darker themes and is more on the gore and horror side of spirits so it’s a great watch for thriller/horror buffs.
14. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
Seikyou Private Academy harbors a dark past for 60 years as it is haunted by a young woman named Yuuko, who died mysteriously in the basement of the old school building. Losing all her memories regarding her death and life, she roams the school freely and bored, looking for something to entertain her when she stumbles upon the Paranormal Investigations Club. The club consists of kind-hearted Teiichi Niiya, the cold, silent Kirie Kanoe who is a distant relative of Yuuko, and the airheaded Momoe Okonogi. Teiichi Niiya is the first person to meet Yuuko and decides to help her find out about her past. As the club starts to shed more light on Yuuko’s past, however, dark changes within her start manifesting throughout the show as the club deals with more and more paranormal activities in the school.
This is a slightly-dark dark academia anime that has a decent level of humor continuously throughout the show. Although this show doesn’t focus primarily on many different types of spirits or tie it to any natural element, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia still explores a side of ghosts that isn’t shown much in entertainment and that is the psyche alteration of the ghost itself because of its past. A dark anime as well, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia ties in romance and school life into the mix to give Yuuko a more human feel in spite of being a ghost.
13. Beyond the Boundary
Mirai Kuriyama is the only member of a forgotten clan of Spirit World warriors who use their blood as a weapon. These Spirit World Warriors are beings who fight “youmu” or spirits that manifest from negative human emotions and feed on their life force. One day, she comes across Akihito Kanbara, a half-youmu human hybrid on the school rooftop. Immediately, she stabs him with her blade but only revealing, to her shock, that he is immortal due to his bloodline. Becoming frenemies since then, Miria and Akihito join together to fight youmu along with their Literature Club members: the Nase sibling. Hiroomi and Mitsuki Nase are siblings from the powerful Nase clan of Spirit World Warriors that is headed by their older sister Izumi. Kyoukai no Kanata follows the four of them as they fight youmu and save humans, inevitably releasing the most dangerous youmu of all: Beyond the Boundary.
A Kyoto Animation gem, Beyond the Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata) brings action, mystery, the supernatural, thriller, comedy, and the cuteness of KyoAni characters all into one. This anime resembles your run-of-the-mill spirit world anime where spirits are a product of emotion and need to be exterminated. Although this show may be confusing at points, the story serves to show a great display of commitment and friendship, trusting yourselves to the end.
12. Kekkai Sensen
Monkey men, sea-dwelling monsters, vampires, humanoid insects, and so many odd beings roam the street of Hellsalem’s Lot. Hellsalem’s Lot is the post-apocalyptic version of New York City after the gate to the Beyond opened and spilled in radiation and beings from another dimension, forever changing the city. In order to keep the city’s monsters and threats at bay, the underground organization Libra is there who consists of individuals who can freely manipulate their blood as special abilities. Pursuing a passion for photography, a young man Leonardo Watch walks the park with his crippled younger sister and parents when suddenly a god-like being appears and gives a choice to who will receive the “All-Seeing Eyes of God,” and everyone else will become blind since that sole person is the “witness.” His younger sister, Michelle, sacrifices her eyesight for her brother and as a result, Leonardo gains the “All-Seeing Eyes of God.” With the objective of gaining back his sister’s eyesight, Leonardo Watch moves to Hellsalem’s Lot and gets involved with many different villains, monsters, and Libra, in this action-packed anime.
This is an extremely action-packed anime that not only provides a very intriguing backstory on the protagonist but appropriately delves into the stories behind the supporting characters. Themes like love, purpose, family, dignity, and compassion are juggled throughout this anime as our seemingly “weak” protagonist struggles to adapt to his newfound power and life in a city of hell. A lot of the story revolves around Leonardo’s moral choices about whether or not using his powers is allowed or not, given that they’re the product of his sister’s sacrifice. The comedy mixed in with the absolutely heart-racing action absolutely killed me while watching.
Are you having any kind of trouble? Need someone or anyone to lend you a helping hand? Well, if you call this strange telephone number scribbled in red pen, a God will appear. Yato is a minor Shinto deity of war partnered with a human who can morph into a weapon as the deity’s familiar. Yato wants to be worshipped by many people since more people worshipping you means that you become more powerful but without a single shrine for him, this proves tough. Instead, he spends his days doing odd jobs until even his partner gets fed up with him and leaves. Wallowing in despair and hopelessness, he accidentally walks onto the street into oncoming traffic. A random middle school girl jumps in to “save” him, taking the hit. She wakes up but finds that she’s able to astrally project her body as a result of saving Yato. Desperate for Yato to return her body back after finding out how pointless saving a deity from a car crash is, Yato convinces her to help him find a partner until he figures out a way to help her.
This is a great show for people who are into the 2000’s deity shows where rivalries and wars between gods occur. Noragami has a lot of lore and complicated storylines that revolve around each god and spirits they control, showing the way that spirits can even corrupt their own masters or deities. Noragami is also packed with high-speed action scenes and emotional soundtracks.
10. Soul Eater
Enter Death City, a town filled with ghosts, curses, spells, witches, and much more haunted things. Centered in this city is the famous Death Weapon Meister Academy, a private academy founded by Lord Death the Shinigami, where students come to learn how to train “Death Scythes” and wield them to hunt souls and eradicate evil spirits from the world. Death Scythes are not actual weapons but people who can transform into weapons and are used by their trusted Meisters. If a pair collects 99 souls and the soul of one witch, the Death Scythe can be used by the Shinigami himself and it is a great honor.
Soul Eater is a classic shounen anime like Naruto or Bleach. It has crazy characters, hilarious banter, and a gripping story that gets you hooked due to its jam-packed action scenes. Soul Eater does involve evil spirits but they are not necessarily manifest. They’re people who have evil souls within them. This makes it different from a standard spirit anime but Soul Eater still has a complicated power system with soul energy and puts itself in a dignified position as a top shounen anime of all time.
9. Demon Slayer
Tanjirou Kamado is the sole provider for his family of five siblings and his mother ever since his father died. Every morning he goes to sell charcoal cut near his cabin in the snowy woods to the market down the path, maintaining his humble yet peaceful daily life. One day, he leaves as usual but when it gets too dark, he’s forced to stay at a strange man’s house who tells him about the flesh-eating demons that lurk in the night. Paying the senile man no heed, he heads back home and is horrified to see his family slaughtered, blood spilled everywhere in his house. Worse, the sole survivor of his family is his little sister Nezuko who turned into a demon. Overwhelmed with rage and sadness, he swears to avenge his family and turn Nezuko back into a human. He fights alongside the Demon Slayer Corps to help secure a future with no demons and save his sister.
Demon Slayer has gained widespread critical acclaim for its amazing animation by Ufotable studios and its gripping story involving beings who are seemingly inhumane and malicious. This kind of spirit anime returns to a darker theme with gore and conviction that pushes these characters to do the things that they do. It involves samurai as well so the fight scenes are amazing.
8. Angel Beats
Otonashi wakes up near a deserted high school only to learn that he is dead. Moreover, he is thrown into the middle of an all-out battle between a girl with a rifle Yuri and a seemingly-indestructible girl in white called Tenshi. Yuri explains what’s going on to him as Otonashi can only remember his name. She explains that she is the leader of the Shinda Sekai Sensen or the Afterlife Battlefront. Their task is to fight this girl named Tenshi who has access to multiple abilities and serves as a threat to the people living in this limbo-like afterlife. Otonashi doesn’t believe that such a small girl could be harmful or evil so he approaches her, only to get sliced in half. He wakes up later and finds himself surrounded by the SSS and decides to join them in order to figure out the mysteries behind this afterlife.
Angel Beats is a great anime that doesn’t go only skin-deep into the topic of ghosts and apparitions. It also delves into the afterlife and where our souls go after our body has run out of energy on this planet. Angel Beats develops each character’s backstory of their death and their motivation to move on and creates a dramatic plot that connects the mysteries of who the Tenshi is and what this place they live in is.
Ichigo Kurosaki is your regular high schooler enjoying life. He has the ability to see spirits and he helps preserve the memory of those who passes on. One night, his family is attacked by a Hollow, a corrupt spirit that devours human souls and is subsequently intervened by Rukia Kuchiki. She is a Soul Reaper but gets injured while protecting Ichigo’s sister. Unable to do anything, Ichigo offers to accept Rukia’s powers and become a Soul Reaper to save his family. Now that Ichigo is a Soul Reaper, he is tasked with hunting down Hollows that infest their town and manifest negative emotions. He gains new comrades and starts learning more about his powers, the world of spirits, and beyond.
Bleach is one of the “BIG THREE” when it comes to shounen anime alongside Naruto and One Piece. The series hits all the marks for a classic shounen anime like inspirational speeches, amazing fight scenes, a boatload of interesting characters, and plot-driving arcs. Bleach serves as a staple for people who want to see a “hunting”-type anime that involves spirits and amazing powers.
6. Hotarubi no Mori E
Ever summer, six-year old Hotaru Takegawa travels to visit her grandfather at the foot of a mountain to listen to the stories of the mountain god and spirits that wander in the ancient forest nearby. Exhausted in the heat one day, she meets a masked forest spirit named Gin. Gin takes the form of a human teenage boy but wears a fox mask. Hotaru learns the hard way that she cannot touch Gin or he will disappear. Despite the danger for Gin, he leads Hotaru carefully out of the forest and warns her to never return.
Ignoring his cautionary words, Hotaru returns and brings a gift. Reluctantly, Gin accepts and starts to spend more time with Hotaru and develop a close bond with her as she grows up and visits him every summer.
Hotarubi no Mori E is a beautiful anime movie that focuses on the importance of relationships. Hotaru grows up every year and consistently visited Gin, allowing them to literally grow up with each other and watch Hotaru grow into a teenage girl. The movie starts to blossom into a romance that is hindered by only one tragic rule. Hotarubi no Mori E gives viewers a look into the beautiful nuances behind a world inhabited by spirits and humans, leading to some indifferences and rosy feelings between the two.
The infamous “Medicine Seller;” the deadly enigmatic master of the occult travels across feudal Japan looking for malevolent spirits called “Mononoke” to kill. Upon locating on of these Mononoke, he can’t seem to kill it. He learns that he needs to master its Form, Truth, and Reason in order to wield the Exorcism Sword to kill it. Thus, he begins his journey to learn more about the Mononoke and become more habituated to their way of life in order to be able to exorcise it. He eventually meets Shino, a pregnant woman staying in a hotel room. He hotel owner put her in the room but the Medicine Eller learns that it. is actually infested with the mononoke Zashiki Warashi. It’s. arace against time to learn about the Form, Truth, and Reason behind the Zashiki Warashi in order to kill it.
Mononoke is an amazingly highly intensive thriller anime that shows the horrors that are depicted in classic western horror movies. The spirits called Mononoke bring severe calamity and despair onto the human race because that is their purpose behind their creation. Seeing the ongoing battle between the Medicine Seller and the Mononoke is a fascinating show that pits spirits versus man and demands to find a victor.
4. Spirited Away
Chihiro Ogino is a bratty, naïve 10-year-old girl who is dissatisfied with moving to a new home. Their family stops by a nearby abandoned amusement park on the way and while cautiously venturing inside, Chirhiro starts to panic and asks to return. Being pushed on by her parents, she moves forward to find that the amusement park isn’t abandoned and that there is a ton of food lying everywhere. However, Chirihito is skeptical and starts to see strange things occuring as dusk falls. Her parents are turning into pigs and ghostly apparitions ar starting to float around her as Chihiro realizes that she has crossed into the spirit world. Along with the help of the mysterious boy Haku, she has to help him save the spirit world, her parents, and be able. to return home.
An already widely-popular movie, Spirited Away is known for being a great coming-of-age story that highlights how experiencing what you have lost and seeing new perspectives can allow you to become a better person and more empathetic of people. Spirited Away shows Chihiro discovering more differences and similarities between the spirits and humans and realizing how much connections to the real world and cherishing those relationships is. It is a great movie if you want to see some trippy spiritual visuals as well as a wholesome movie about children growing up.
3. Natsume’s Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujinchou)
Teenage boys hold all kinds of secrets about girls, grades, parent troubles, etc. Takashi Natsume, on the other hand, holds much more terrifying secrets. He’s able to see and has been constantly chased by youkai for as long as he can remember, all while never knowing why. Returning home, he finds a book that his late grandmother Reiko passed on to him called the Yuujinchou or “Book of Friends.” It contains the names of all the youkai that Reiko defeated and trapped in her book which she had under her control. Since the book is now in Natsume’s possession, he finally understands that the youkai are chasing him to release their name from the book, somehow attaining freedom. An orphan and constantly being passed around by foster parents in cold environments, Natsume looks for peace and a place to call home but his only companion is the monstrous cat-spirit Madara who is only waiting for the prime chance to take the Yuujinchou when Natsume dies. This series follows Natsume and Madara meeting new spirits, people, and finding more about the worlds between and his grandmother.
Natsume’s Book of Friends is a calming shoujo anime that doesn’t serve to reveal huge morals or an overarching plot behind the story; all this show displays is the raw emotions that exist between humans and spirits and how the bonds formed between any beings is special. Natsume and Madara release more and more spirits and learn so many more valuable lessons about life and cherishing the time you have and the friends you make.
Koyomi Araragi, a third-year high school student who is an ex vampire who meets various different girls and almost forms his own “harem” but it’s not the typical cheesy harem that most of you are aware of. Each girl harbors sentiments and pasts that are linked to oddities which are entities caused by their emotions that have manifested into the real world. Along with Shinobu, the vampire who turned him into a vampire a long time ago, and Meme Oshino, an enigmatic care-free priest who holds a vast knowledge on oddities and the supernatural, Araragi gets involved with many different characters (mostly girls) and helps anyone he can in this amazing chronology of stories.
For one of the most well-known anime franchises of all time, it really makes for a complicated series with multiple intertwining timelines with some stories transporting you to the future or past. These oddities that Araragi and his friends face are manifestations of these emotions that are suppressed and never properly dealt with over time. The unique storytelling and picturesque animation style that this anime series presents makes it seem like a collection of documented spiritual occurrences.
“Mushi” are the most basic forms of life in the world Mushishi that by merely exist without a goal or purpose. Some may call them spirits, youkai, ghosts, apparitions, etc. but these are beings that function on the mind-track of existing. They do not exist within the concept of good and bad so their nature cannot be blamed for any consequences. However, this cannot be ignored for there are people who suffer as a result of Mushi just like there are people who benefit. So the question comes to why are there Mushi in the first place? Ginko is a man who ponders this question constantly as he journeys through Japan searching for the answer. Wanting to understand their hierarchy of life, he uses his knowledge to help others understand the beautiful phenomenon that is Mushi which could help explain the meaning of life itself.
Standing at the top of this list is a non-traditional anime about spirits. Existentialism and the meaning of why one is living at the moment is explored through Mushishi, answering questions about one’s purpose and place in the universe and grand scheme of life. It’s a great anime that doesn’t treat spirits and ghosts like individual entities but as part of nature and ourselves.