Fantasy is known for having bright colors, magic, and a world of adventures. What would a world of a dark fantasy look like? Would it be a bright place filled with fairies? Or would it envelop a darker narrative? Here are 18 dark fantasy anime leading you to a thrilling reality!
The concept of “dark fantasy” has existed for almost as long as fantasy itself with the everlasting, emerging ideas of twisting such a pure and perfect world into something darker and more complex.
Dark fantasies serve to give the viewer a taste of how reality is. A world built on the stereotypical themes of fantasy like fairies, sunshine, flowers, regal castles, etc. is warped to fit a new narrative that reflects our world more accurately.
This is what makes dark fantasy so appealing to people. We love to see a fresh world filled with new endeavors and lasting relationships but it’s not nearly enough.
A perfect world is fun to watch but after a while, the development of the characters lacks any serious tone. Dark fantasy combines the supernatural elements of fantasy with real-world complexities to create something darker and more thrilling within fantasy. Not all of them are dark but they implement an aspect of reality that we don’t usually see in these stories.
Best Dark Fantasy Anime
Berserk is an anime following the continued struggles of hardened mercenary-swordsman Guts as he searches for his purpose in life and for what reason he is placed on this Earth.
When you think of dark fantasy, Berserk should be one of the first anime to pop in your head as this show encapsulates everything a dark fantasy should be. Dragons, golems, and orcs are morphed into horrifying, monstrous specimen with details and behavior of creatures of that time.
Berserk is not only popular for how emotionally-driving it is or its action and character development, but for its story.
The story of a man journeying to find who he really is and who he fights for is an answer all warriors search for. Mercilessly killing your enemy who has a wife and daughter, sinking ships that took years of work, slaughtering monsters that know no better than to kill and eat humans;
Berserk explores these complexities of life and the tough decisions people have to make to stay true to their modus operandi. With a gritty and gory art style, Berserk takes the cake for what a dark fantasy should be in terms of sheer violence, morals, and story.
Made in Abyss
A slight change in tone, Made In Abyss is an anime about a little girl Riko and a humanoid cyborg Reg exploring the depths of the Abyss, a 1000-diameter hole situated in the middle of a town sitting on a mountain.
The Abyss is over 20,000 meters deep with increasing pressure, sickness, and curse effects that seep into the body as you descend further. Riko’s mother is a former White-Whistle, a rank given to the elite adventurers who can traverse the Abyss.
Riko found Reg while doing her regular rounds of Relic-retrieval when she finds Reg and keeps him. To find her mother who is allegedly at the bottom of the Abyss, Riko and Reg set out to find Riko’s mother Lyza
Made in Abyss differs in the tone of Berserk as it presents itself as a fun, amicable, and friendly anime that you could potentially show your little siblings, nieces and nephews, and children. However, we clearly see this isn’t the case and many dark aspects of the Abyss start kicking in and affecting the protagonists.
Flying, monstrous bird creatures, upside-down tree homes, a blind chimera, etc. fill the Abyss and give us viewers this sense of adventure and thrill, eagerly following Riko and Reg to see more of what the Abyss holds. This show is very emotional and the developments within it are beautiful.
The story follows the life of a student named Kei Nagai, who discovers he is an “Ajin” after being hit by a truck. “Ajin” are people endowed with the extreme power of recovery and regeneration, being considered immortal.
Consequently, they are seen as non-human creatures and dangerous to humanity, being pursued and captured by the government.
This dystopian anime changes the gears when it comes to what we generally perceive as “fantasy.” Since dark fantasy might give the image of Goblin Slayer or Berserk, we tend to forget shows that delve into the supernatural angles of dark fantasy.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is a supernatural spin-off of the historically-significant Industrial Revolution combined with a very interesting zombie flick.
During the Industrial Revolution, there is a mysterious virus that tears through human flesh and morphs people into zombies with metal-coated hearts that are it’s the only way of perishing.
These zombies are called “Kabane” and like most zombies, they can’t be satiated with anything other than human flesh. Humanity has kept Kabane outside their fortressed-walls circling the multiple human cities. However, when a transportation station collapses from Kabane, a girl with mysterious powers saves everyone.
Ikoma, the protagonist, is attacked and infected by a Kabane during this attack but manages to stop the virus from reaching his brain by strangling himself.
Now, Ikoma has the body and powers of a Kabane who is known as a Kabaneri. Ikoma along with the girl travel to help prevent the further destruction of humanity by Kabane. As is common in such stories, Kabaneri are necessary at the same time that they are feared, and live on the border between the monster and the human.
This show shares a lot with Attack on Titan with the isolated cities, man-eating monsters, and a boy gaining mysterious powers through unconventional means. These are the perfect elements that set up any good supernatural anime, especially dark fantasy genres. This show doesn’t hold as much quality as Attack on Titan, Berserk, or Made in Abyss but it has a gripping storyline and characters that will tie you into the story very quickly.
Goblin Slayer is a man beyond understanding for most adventurers visiting the local Guild for quests because the only quests he accepts are goblin-slaying quests.
He’s so famous for only kiling goblins that his real name is unknown, only “Goblin Slayer.”
Despite being the third-highest rank of adventurers, he refuses to handle most other quests and only kills goblins due to the trauma of seeing his older sister and the villagers raped, plundered, and murdered. Never letting his guard down, he brutally massacres the treacherous, cowardly, and greedy goblins in their caves, training for years to specialize in goblin-killing and their survival tactics to snuff any of them out.
One day, he saves a priestess from being killed by a goblin and agrees to let her join him on his journey, coerced by the priestess’s innocent admiration of him. Gradually, he meets more people and forms allies that he can now start to trust in bigger goblin missions.
This is a story of a character who deals with a trauma by closing himself off from the world, but precisely because of that trauma he gradually opens up again. A fun and not too pretentious adventure, but one that contains a good deal of graphic violence and some heavy scenes of rape, so be warned, prepare your stomach before embarking on this peculiar adventure. A lot of triggering things happen in this anime and it really depicts the cruelest, darkest aspects of what fantasy could be – I highly recommend it.
In this world, there are monsters called “yomas” that disguise themselves as humans and live among them to devour them. The only warriors capable of facing them are the Claymore, aptly named for the large swords they carry.
These Claymore soldiers were ordinary women and girls who had yoma cells injected into them, creating a type of super-soldier with increased strength, reflexes, agility, endurance, and sensing yoma aura as well as developing special techniques for stronger Claymore.
Like in Black Bullet with Cursed Children, humanity depends on and fears these soldiers as using too much of their power can catalyze their transformation into an actual yoma.
Our protagonist is Clare, the weakest Claymore, as she fights restlessly without any reward to find a place in the world for Claymores. They’re feared by humans and detested by yomas, giving them no place to call home.
Claymore is an absolutely amazing anime with deep-rooted camaraderie values and the drive to live. Finding your place in the world is hard and it’s frustrating when you don’t have the amount of power you need to make that change. Claymore follows Clare through her story of getting stronger and establishing the good relationships that Claymores, humans, and maybe even yomas need.
Garo: Seal of Flame
For many years, the Inquisition of Valliante Kingdom has been hunting evil spirits, witches, and heretics at all costs to preserve humanity from malicious entities for 17 years. However, the citizens who cherish this kingdom don’t know the targets of these witches are humanity’s greatest protectors known as Makai Knights or Alchemists.
These warriors are dutied with protecting humanity from Horrors, evil spirits and demons that plague a soul’s sadness and pain. Leon Luis is a young Makai Knight who yearns for greater power but is held back by his mother’s death by the kingdom.
His father decides to train him and build his resolve, knowing how the people with magical abilities are the ones saving humanity, not the kingdom.
On the other side, the king’s kind and amicable son Alfonso struggles to solve the growing threat of spirits and is eventually betrayed and exiled from his kingdom. Determined to regain what he lost and help save humanity, he wanders until he stumbles upon Leon and their fates are set after this.
Garo, like Kabaneri and Goblin Slayer, depicts the more raw elements of dark fantasy with showing deceit and arrogance within the kingdom.
The idea of two populations developing polarizing personalities due to the kingdom’s misinformation is an interesting take on this genre as the show goes into cooperation, friendship, and placing your hopes and trusts into the person you trust the most. It’s an anime that will get you hooked, no matter if isn’t as good as Berserk.
Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor
Sho Fukamachi is a regular high-school who happens upon a special block “Guyver,” which can form a bio-shock exoskeleton when its name is shouted.
Dressed in armor, he will receive incredible power that will plunge into the horror of any of his opponents, his abilities will be strengthened many times, and additional ones will appear.
With a majority of the block’s true abilities in the dark, it’s furiously hunted down by The Chronos Corporation, which specializes in weapon research and development through alien technology and the original creators of “Guyver.”
Chronos creates a weaker version of the Guyver – the Zoanoids. This development turns ordinary people into monsters, whose powers and abilities are also greatly enhanced.
A whole army of Zoanoids goes to Sho, about to take the “Guyver” from him, and the young guy has to fight to save his home planet. Now, if the corporation regains all three blocks of bio-armor, it will become invincible and can take over the whole world, plunging it into real chaos.
An older anime with a similar feel, this differs greatly from what peple see as fantasy given the setting is near a high school or suburban area. However, it’s nonetheless a great oldie that you can watch with your little brother, cousins, or other younger family that likes this pure action.
A tiny village in the wilderness of Sotoba. Mom and Dad Natsuno Yuki decided to move to get closer to clean air. My son, such a move, is categorically not happy, because he is used to a civilized city with many people living nearby.
He is not attracted by the quiet area in the vastness of the forest. In addition to this family, a thirty-year-old doctor also moved to the village, taking a place in the role of director of a rural clinic, in the place of his deceased father. Time in such a quiet and remote village from the city passes slowly and carefree.
Natsuno begins to miss the big city, because he did not need a move at all. But events in the village heat up the situation and turn Natsuno’s boredom over.
Quite unusual, for a quiet village, the occurrence of several murders in one year. The first victim of an unusual attack is an ordinary schoolgirl, named Magumi Shumizu, who is madly in love with Yuki. Next, a new victim, the girl’s best friend, Tor Muto, appears.
The doctor, Toshio, cannot figure out the cause of the death of the two children, but all coincidences point to the cause of evil spirits, or rather vampires. But on the hill, the strange inhabitants of the house live, terrifying the settlement. Yuki and Toshiu decide to restore the truth and find those responsible for the death of their acquaintances.
The anime takes place in the Heian era. Two monks try not to be seen by the people who chased them. After going a long way, they decide to stay in one abandoned house that happened to be on their way. After all, it will soon get dark, as a result of which it seems dangerous to continue to be on the street.
One of the monks is Kuro. At first glance, it is obvious that this person has a far from simple origin. He is a native of a noble clan who is now forced to hide from the assassins chasing him. He is followed everywhere by Benkei, who is his faithful companion, ready to sacrifice his own life in a critical situation for his good.
Soon, quite unexpectedly for himself, Kuro realizes that he has fallen in love for the first time in his life. He began to harbor affection for a charming woman named Kuromitsa, who had previously agreed to host them.
Remarkable is the fact that she is also persecuted by numerous people who want to know the secret of her inexhaustible youth. This means that this trinity can be said to be on the same plate. Soon, the most terrible thing that can mark the end of the human era will come
Kaneki Ken studies Japanese Literature at the prestigious Kamii University in Tokyo. Quiet, timid, and reserved, he works up the courage to ask a fellow bookie on a date with him. Eveyrthing is going well until she goes to kiss him and instead takes a bite out of him.
Agonizing on the verge of death, steel beams luckily slip off and crush the girl with the doctors using her organs to save Kaneki’s life. However, using her organs gives a nasty side-effect: Kaneki is now a half-ghoul and has to now adapt to his new life facing more ghouls, saving his loved ones, and finding his place.
Most stories have the weak protagonist getting stronger gradually and finding his place like in most shonen. However, Kaneki’s transformation is more serious. Constantly seeing his weak self unable to save the ones he cherishes, he resolves to become stronger by releasing his weak-willed compassion.
We see Kaneki grow throughout this show from a weak guy to a troubled, broken man and is continuing to change by learning to distinguish what should and shouldn’t be done in this world. This show is a tragedy with a good ending as viewers are subjected to emotional despair watching the events unfold and Kaneki’s mental health rapidly deteriorating. Highly recommend the manga, if not the show.
Attack on Titan
Centuries ago, humanity was forced to the brink of extinction by gigantic, mindless, horrifying beings that preyed on humanity like insects: Titans. Faced with potential total annihilation, the remnants of mankind erected enormous concentric walls to create a safe haven for people away from the horrifying Titans.
These monsters kill and eat humans out of pure pleasure, not hunger or other necessity. Within these walls, mankind enjoyed 100 years of peace and stability, slowly growing ignorant of the world beyond their bastion.
However, like the wings on a butterfly when touched, that peace was shattered when a colossal titan spontaneously emerges and destroys the outer wall. From that day onwards, humanity was harshly reminded of how their despairing fight for survival against the Titans that surround them.
After witnessing his mother killed and devoured by these creatures, 12-year old Eren Jaeger vows to wipe the Earth of every last Titan in a crazed rage. He trains and enlists to the Survey Corps, one of the three military divisions involved with the research and scouting of Titans beyond the walls.
It’s the most elite division of soldiers that deal with these terrifying monsters every day. Shingeki no Kyojin follows Eren, his adoptive-sister Mikasa Ackermann, and childhood friend Armin Arlert as they endure this brutal war against the titanic beings that threaten mankind’s survival.
Attack On Titan is one of the only shounen anime series that is making its way to becoming one of the greatest anime/manga series to ever bless the Japanese entertainment industry. This story is one that is similar to Yakusoku no Neverland where it juggles the idea of humans trapped in a closed area.
However, Isayama (the creator of Attack on Titan) intelligently plans every panel and every second of this series, producing amazing foreshadowing moments and references to different events in the story.
This creates a perfectly-interwoven story that shows the truth beyond the walls and what the history of humanity has ACTUALLY been. Titans, humans, the walls, what’s outside; all these questions are explored and tied together to create an absolute dystopian masterpiece that is Shingeki no Kyojin
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a dark satirical show about magical girls fighting witches but there is so much more to it than what’s at face value.
The series follows Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki, middle school girls who live ordinary, happy lives until they meet the new transfer student Homura Akemi, a quiet, stoic girl who carries an enigmatic aura and a creepy cat-like entity named Kyuubey.
Kyuubey offers a deal for Madoka and Sayaka: in order to grant any one wish you want in the whole Universe, become a magical girl to gain enough power to fulfill your dreams. The offer is enticing but Homura Akemi sternly tells the girls that everything is different from what it seems.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica shatters the prejudices and conceptions of what a “magical girl” is by showing us the true horrors of being able to have any wish for the cost of becoming a soldier against witches.
This is a story of hope, despair, and friendship, destroying what you felt was right, happy, and ethical in this world for things that you will truly find important. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica deals with the difficulties of being a magical girl and the price one has to pay to make a dream come true. A dark and unsettling story of the descent of values, morals, and friendship. Losing all trust, hope, and dreading the fate of the ties connecting one another can be a terrifying thing.
Girls’ Last Tour
Girls’ Last Tour is a work depicting a long-desolate city of murmurs once booming with life. A motorbike’s rumbling cracks the winter silence as the calm, collected Chito and the clumsy, airheaded Yuuri zoom past, surviving as the last two people in this war-torn city.
The girls scavenge ex-military bases for food, equipment, and resources to continue their exploration of the wastelands, reminiscing about the world that once was.
From time to time, loneliness and the cold emptiness of the desolate city can become overwhelming on either of them but with the warmth of the other, these days become somewhat more and more bearable. Days past the end become slightly dynamic with different fun activities on this frozen plain.
Depression, loneliness, laxness, and so many more emotions flood through these girls as they are the last two humans on Earth, surviving in this bleak reality for as long as they can. It’s a great story that shows making the most out of whatever life you’re given. It embodies dark fantasy without cruel themes but highlights how life can be enjoyed even in the bleakest outlooks.
However, it is different from other dark fantasy in that not only sad and scary events occur, but the emphasis is on the “beauty” of the world where humanity has disappeared .
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Alchemy: one of the most popular pseudosciences is bound by the principle of “equivalent exchange” where one thing can be created if another thing of equal value is relinquished.
This is the foundation of all alchemy but unfortunately, the Elric Brothers didn’t heed this rule as an attempt to perform human transmutation. Human transmutation is the taboo of all alchemy in which one tries to bring someone back to life.
The Elric Brothers pay a terrible price for their transgression—Edward (the older one) loses his left leg, Alphonse his physical body. Only through the desperate sacrifice to save his brother, Edward sacrifices his right arm to transmute his brother’s soul to a large suit of armor. Crushed and despaired, their only hope is to move forward and learn more about alchemy in order to return their bodies back by searching for the Philosopher’s Stone, an item fabled to bypass equivalent exchange.
It’s no exaggeration when people claim Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood to be the greatest anime of all time. With its engrossing plotline, heavy drama, and metaphysical/philosophical allusions, FMAB is one of the greatest twists on dark fantasy by using the age-old concept of alchemy in fantasy-like times.
However, its implementation of a military system makes the setting more complex, forming greater connections in a web as the story progresses. Not only these themes, but the idea of Truth, God, and the reality that we perceive is drastically different from the One or Truth that connects us all which leads to the foundation of alchemy.
Millennium Earl is an enigmatic weapons researcher devoted to studying how the soul can be manipulated and twisted in hopes of reviving a passed loved one. To create these weapons called “AKUMA,” he uses dead souls that are called back and traps them in an Akuma forever unless they are released by an Exorcist with the anti-Akuma weapon “Innocence.”
Allen Walker is a young trainee who is sent to the Black Order – who are willing to fight AKUMA and Millennium Earl – to become an official Exorcist. He now has to work with the organization to stop Millennium Earl’s plan that could end the world.
AKUMA present a complex villain in dark fantasies as these beings are innocent beings morphed into monsters. Having to extract the souls from these creatures is a sad thing to do because of one man’s influence. It presents a depressing reality that the organization has to face and really fleshes out the dark aspects of dark fantasy.
Overlord is a work depicting a man left behind in a VRMMO game.
The protagonist was originally a mediocre Japanese, but transformed into a character in the game due to an unknown phenomenon, and would have to explore a different world with a strange shape like a skeleton.
The interesting thing about this work is that the hero is not “justice”, but rather a “devil king” who brings fear to the inhabitants of another world.
If you think that you are helping others, you can mercilessly massacre unsavory human beings or plan to take over another world … This is an animation where the hero often takes actions that do not seem to be the hero.
A novel dark fantasy in which the protagonist is not a hero or a hero but is treated as a “foreign object” even though it is a different world reincarnation .
18. Jewelry Country
Jewelry Land is the story of a world in which “creatures resembling humans” with bodies made of jewelry life.
All the depictions in the work are beautiful artistic animations, such as living jewels shining whole body and a quiet ground with almost no living things.
However, there is a dystopian setting that humanity has been destroyed long ago, and it is natural for eerie creatures called moons to kidnap jewelry, making madness behind the beauty The feature is that it is finished in a work that can be done.
The fact that the dark settings are not discussed in detail in the anime further increases the discomfort that “this work is something strange”