TOP 10 Dark Fantasy Anime That Brings Cruelty, Despair, and Misery

©2017 つくしあきひと・竹書房/メイドインアビス製作委員会​

Dark fantasy anime with a profound worldview and suffocating truths hidden within it can draw viewers into the world of the anime itself. This is one of the big attractions of this genre, as viewers can immerse themselves in the work.

In this article, the ciatr editorial team has carefully selected ten dark fantasy anime works to introduce. We will explain each work’s highlights, dark aspects and how they contribute to their overall appeal. This can be a helpful guide when choosing which works to watch.

1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

©Magica Quartet/Aniplex・Madoka Partners・MBS

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is an anime that caused a massive response at the time of its broadcast, becoming a social phenomenon.

It features fancy character designs that seem to be for girls’ magical girl genre, created by Ume Aoki. However, the script by Gen Urobuchi completely contradicts that image, adding a solid dark fantasy aspect to “Madoka Magica.”

The story follows a group of girls who become magical girls by making a deal to have their wishes granted. However, they must fight against the threat to humanity posed by witches, and in the story, the central magical girl characters die one after another.

The true purpose of the cute-looking mascot Kyubey, the identity of the witches, and the harsh fate that awaits Madoka Kaname and Homura Akemi are all revealed as the story progresses. It’s a series that mixes hope and despair with each episode, leaving no time for the viewers to breathe.

2. Goblin Slayer


Goblin Slayer is an anime that aired in 2018. It tells the story of Goblin Slayer, a protagonist with abnormal revenge towards goblins, and his battles against them.

The protagonist, Goblin Slayer, is a unique adventurer in the guild who continues to hunt only goblins, considered small fry. After saving a novice goddess priestess during a goblin subjugation mission, he teams up with her to continue their goblin-hunting adventures.

The original novel’s cruel and extreme depictions remain predominantly intact in the anime adaptation. However, the brutal actions committed by goblins are also depicted without being cut, and viewers of the fantasy adventure genre will be shocked.

One of the distinct features of this anime is the realistic portrayal of battle scenes. High-ranking adventurers suffer vivid damage and even lose their lives, resulting in intense and deadly battles. This anime is recommended for those who want to experience the dark fantasy of adventure stories.

3. Yuki Yuna is a Hero

© 2021 Project 2H

Yuki Yuna is a Hero is an anime that aired its first season in 2014 and the second season in 2017. In the beginning, the story depicts the laid-back activities and peaceful daily life of the “Hero Club,” founded on the principle of “doing something for the sake of others,” where the protagonist Yuki Yuna belongs.

However, the Hero Club members are candidates to become the true “heroes” who will fight against humanity’s archenemy, the Vertex, and soon they start fighting as heroes after a particular day. The show depicts the girls’ battle against the Vertex and their cheerful daily life scenes in the first half of the series, creating an atmosphere of a “battle girl” anime.

However, gradually, despair starts to surface after the happy ending of the destruction of the Vertex. Then, the past events and the truth gradually become clear.

Although you can enjoy this anime on its own, reading the light novel series Yuki Yuna is a Hero, which complements some of the setting details not explained in the anime, will allow you to enjoy the world of this work further.

4. Tokyo Ghoul


is an anime that was aired in 2014. In 2018, a sequel based on the original manga titled Tokyo Ghoul: re was also broadcasted.

The protagonist, Kaneki Ken, has his peaceful life turned upside down after receiving an organ transplant from a Ghoul who lives by eating human flesh. He becomes a Half-Ghoul and struggles to live in the narrow space between humans and Ghouls, filled with conflict and fear. While taking refuge in the cafe Anteiku, where Ghouls gather, he searches for his way of life.

Humans and Ghouls are incompatible; their conflict is the story’s central theme. Various organizations with different motives get involved, sometimes in conflict and sometimes in resonance, creating a rough yet delicate depiction of their coexistence.

The anime also incorporates the philosophical and poetic atmosphere of the original manga, setting itself apart from being just a battle anime. Instead, it is an anime that prompts one to think about human dignity, living life in one’s way, and more.

5. Attack on Titan

Ⓒ諫山創・講談社/「進撃の巨人」The Final Season製作委員会

Attack on Titan is a manga that has surpassed 100 million copies in circulation. The anime adaptation began airing in 2013, and the fourth season was broadcasted in 2020. The animation’s high quality and the theme songs’ impact contributed to the anime’s tremendous popularity.

The world in Attack on Titan is one where humanity’s peace, protected by massive walls, is shattered by the appearance of colossal Titans. After witnessing his mother devoured by a Titan that suddenly attacked their hometown, Eren Yeager harbours a deep hatred. So he joins the Survey Corps and his childhood friends, Mikasa and Armin, and confronts the Titans.

One of the highlights of the anime adaptation is the eerie movements and expressions of the Titans. The camera work and sense of speed in the scenes where the Survey Corps uses the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment in battles against the Titans are unique to the anime medium. It’s a series that captivates viewers with its worldbuilding and the revelations about the truth behind this world, particularly in the fourth season and beyond.

6. From the New World

from the new world

The anime From the New World is based on the novel by Yusuke Kishi and is set in a future Japan, a thousand years from now. It is a science fiction work.

The story occurs in a peaceful village where boys and girls live amidst idyllic landscapes. In this world, humans possess a psychic power called “Cantus” and coexist with a creature called “Bakeneko.” One day, Saki Watanabe and her friends uncover a hidden part of this world’s history.

What if the peace they have taken for granted was a fabricated illusion? As their daily lives gradually crumble, the terrifying aspects of collective psychology and mind control slowly emerge. This series may not be flashy, but it offers a unique psychological horror experience where fear lies in the mind rather than the spectacle.

7. FullMetal Alchemist


The anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist serialized under the catchphrase “The Strongest Dark Fantasy,” has two different titles produced and aired. If you want to follow the story as it is in the original, I recommend the 2009 series, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.”

The story revolves around the Elric brothers, who have lost parts of their bodies after attempting the forbidden human transmutation. The older brother, Edward Elric, becomes a State Alchemist, and the two embark on a journey to regain their original bodies.

Dealing with themes of death and life, the series is far from light-hearted. However, with the lively interactions between the characters, the personalities of the Elric brothers, and intense battle scenes, it retains the energetic spirit typical of a shonen manga work. Despite its heavy themes, it is a dark fantasy anime that can be enjoyed with a refreshing feeling upon completion.


CLAYMORE is a series that depicts the half-yoma female warriors known as Claymores, created to combat the yoma. The story revolves around Clare, a Claymore, and a young boy named Raki, who joins her on a journey.

The series is characterized by its dark tone, reflecting the harsh destinies and lives of the Claymores. The combat scenes are also depicted realistically, allowing the viewers to grasp the weight of the fated burden placed upon the Claymores.

Beyond the theme of battling yoma, the story delves into the complexities of conflicts among the Claymores and the organization’s objectives. It is a dark fantasy anime that appeals to an adult audience.

9. Made in Abyss

©2017 つくしあきひと・竹書房/メイドインアビス製作委員会​

Made in Abyss is a work that, despite its cute art style, portrays a harsh adventure befitting the label of dark fantasy.

The story revolves around Riko, an apprentice cave raider, who aims to reach the bottom of the vertical chasm known as the Abyss, also called the “Netherworld’s Abyss.” Accompanied by a robot named Reg, whom she found in the Abyss, Riko descends into the Abyss in pursuit of her mother’s footsteps. Unfortunately, this vertical chasm is burdened with the “Curse of the Abyss,” which imposes ascending penalties, and the deeper one goes, the greater the burden becomes, potentially leading to death during ascension.

By solely observing the interactions between the curious Riko and the curse-immune Reg, the story may initially feel like a heartwarming adventure. However, the unforgiving terrors of the natural world and the law of survival of the fittest present a relentless and harsh atmosphere, particularly intensified by the young age of the protagonists.

Do not be deceived by the heartwarming art style; this work requires emotional preparation for its intense and dark developments.

10. The Saga of Tanya the Evil


Saga of Tanya the Evil is an anime that aired in 2017. It tells the story of a man who was an elite salaryman in modern times and is reincarnated as an orphaned young girl named Tanya Degurechaff, retaining his memories.

The reincarnation occurs in a world reminiscent of the early 20th century, on the brink of a great war. With her genius-level magical abilities and the ruthless rationality of her previous life, she embarks on a military career.

Despite the title suggesting a young girl, the anime is a war story filled with gun smoke. The highlight is the tactical warfare incorporating magic and the battles between great nations. In addition, the anime adaptation includes a powerful portrayal of the intervention of a transcendent being called “Being X,” who claims to be a god, enhancing the fantastical aspect of the story.

In the 2019 film Saga of Tanya, the Evil: The Movie, the subsequent battles following the events of the anime series are depicted. If you enjoyed the anime series, I recommend also checking out the movie.

Immerse yourself in a dark fantasy anime!

We introduceten10 recommended dark fantasy anime. Fantasy works are known for their unique and well-established worldbuilding.

Among them, the ones categorized as dark fantasy are characterized by their heavy settings and struggles. Therefore, fiction works that can engulf your heart are highly recommended when you want to immerse yourself in anime fully.

Living in Japan, I work as an Editor/Writer at 1ScreenMagazine. Self proclaimed King of the Funny.

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