With series like Chainsaw Man and Mob Psycho 100 coming this fall to fill the already packed year 2022 has been for anime, there’s still a huge catalog of shows that span countless subgenres. And for fans of darker material, there are several dark anime series worth checking out.
Many of them range from more grounded black crime to more inventive neo-noir TV shows. cowboy bebop will probably be the first to come to mind for longtime anime fans, but gripping crime sagas like Freak are also worthwhile time investments.
After the life of Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowell, Gungrave tells the story of two carefree street kids living in a gritty world who rise through the ranks of the criminal organization Millennion to achieve fame, wealth and power. However, after all this power going to their heads and corrupting them, betrayal leads them to clash.
Unfolding over several years, Gungrave strings together a classic gangster style story drama, stylized animated action, and greed offshoots that fans of dark crime should feel comfortable with.
The underrated 91 days is a great example of an anime that borrows from the best elements of the film noir genre. It’s also one of the most grounded noir crime anime fans will find, as the series is set against the backdrop of 1930s America during the prohibition era.
Young Angelo Lagusa sees his family murdered in the midst of a mafia dispute, and he grows up trying to carry out a plan for revenge against the Zenetti family. This premise alone is enough to titillate audiences looking for a flavor of The Godfather in their anime, as well as a period piece. Its 12-episode run also makes it an easy-to-digest watch in terms of time.
Whereas ghost in the shell established himself as the face of the cyberpunk/neo-noir subgenre in anime, ErgoProxy turned out to be an admirable modern version. In a sci-fi future, humans and androids once coexisted as normal until a virus gave the AutoReiv machines self-awareness and went on a killing spree.
This prompts special investigators, including protagonist Re-L, to uncover the reason for this soaring uprising. And as you might expect from this premise, a darker and more complex mystery lurks at the heart of ErgoProxyThe plot, which has been cited as the series’ strongest narrative point. The coming revelations raise questions and themes of self-reliance.
Science fiction is a popular complementary genre to black anime, and Psycho Pass is undoubtedly one of the best-known modern series. The show combines a cyberpunk premise with a psychological thriller story, set in a dark future dystopia where the Japanese government enforces the law – often in deadly ways – by forcefully analyzing the mindsets of citizens in search of a hint of wickedness. Psycho Pass focuses its plot on the Enforces; investigators who have become cynical and who have freedom as long as they respect this tyrannical law.
Unfortunately, the quality of the series drops to some extent over its final two seasons, but Season 1 was hailed as an excellent seinen/mature anime for the way it handled its interesting character dynamic, as well as its thoughtful themes of morality and privacy in an aggressive digital environment.
darker than black
As indicated by his name, darker than black is an atmospheric noir anime series that also mixes sci-fi and supernatural. The premise revolves around two spatial phenomena that suddenly appeared in the world – the “gate to heaven” above South America and the “gate to hell” above Tokyo in particular – and how the one in Japan alters the sky and ravages the land below it.
From there, the series follows a group of contractors, people with supernatural abilities who are hired to investigate Hell’s Gate. darker than black was well received thanks to the compelling mystery at the heart of its story, as well as its clean animation and unique cast of characters.
Although incredibly exaggerated and brutal in its portrayal of violence, black lagoon is a serious contender for crime drama fans. The anime begins with a 25-year-old Japanese employee who finds himself turned into human collateral in what turns out to be a nuclear weapons trade.
Rokuro Okajima then throws his life away in Japan to stay with the titular mercenary team after discovering how little his life means in a world dominated by corporate evil. However, black lagoon – between bombastic action and searing humor – becomes incredibly introspective in its (admittedly dark) commentary on moral ambiguity and humanity’s place under the dark machinations of world governments.
It may not have the same tone that some might expect from the surface of a black series, but Baccano! is a clever crime story that draws on the genre in terms of narrative structure. Set in 1030s Prohibition-era Chicago, similar to 91 days, Baccano! takes a more elegant approach aesthetically and in its use of the supernatural.
Like film noir, this anime takes on multiple characters in their respective storylines that are all indirectly related, involving warring alchemists, thieves, and mafiosi. Baccano! was praised for its engaging pacing, culmination of character arcs, and explosive action.
Ghost In The Shell: Standalone Complex
The original 1995 ghost in the shell The film has helped compel global audiences to pay attention to the anime genre. It was an engaging sci-fi neo-noir world that seemed to pay homage to other cyberpunk-themed works like Ridley Scott’s classic. blade runner. The ghost in the shell The film paved the way for a franchise, the best of which is arguably the The loneliness complex series.
In a world where the Japanese government creates the organization Section 9 to offset new high-tech crimes, protagonist Mokoto Kusanagi and the rest of her team hunt down a dangerous hacker nicknamed “The Laughing Man”. Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex retains the compelling nuance of the original film, raising questions about the human condition in an increasingly technological world and retaining a sense of identity.
For a tense HBO-level crime drama in anime form, fans would be hard pressed to find much better outside of Freak. This sprawling 74-episode thriller follows protagonist Kenzo Tenma, a former Japanese doctor living in Germany who sees his life fall apart when he refuses to operate on a politician in favor of saving the life of a brutally injured boy.
Years later, this boy grows to haunt Tenma as an elusive serial killer, leading the former surgeon to end his madness. Freak is a captivating and cerebral experience, focusing on black crime from a psychological perspective. Challenging philosophical themes and revelations are explored as the plot unfolds, and it cements itself as one of the best seinen anime to date.
In addition to being one of the greatest showcases of neo-noir in this genre, cowboy bebop is a triumphant step for the anime as a whole. It’s a masterful blend of sci-fi, western, and crime noir all rolled into one to create a captivating 26-episode series.
Set in a dystopian sci-fi future where humanity has expanded into space after corporate greed has rendered Earth nearly inhospitable to life, Spike, Jet and co. serve as bounty hunters simply trying to make ends meet in an equally oppressive society. cowboy bebop is structured in a mostly anthology-style format punctuated by an overarching narrative, but the deeper and deeper dives into the mindsets of these characters prove to be an intimate and elegant exploration of existentialism.