Fantasy is, without a doubt, one of the most loved genres among anime lovers. But a large number of fantasy anime series have a light tone and are about a wonderful world of magic, adventures, swords, magical creatures, and more, treating it as an escape from reality. On the other hand, there is fewer dark anime where the fantasy world is full of pain and cruelty instead of wonders and adventures.
If you want anime with dark storylines, complex and interesting characters, extreme violence, and especially death, then you’re in the right place.
In addition to some incredibly well-known dark fantasy anime that the majority of people have already seen, we also included several excellent but lesser-known dark fantasy series.
Here is a list of the best dark fantasy anime you’ll find!
Note: This article was created by collaborating with Aditya from Books Wide.
1. Attack On Titan
Attack on Titan took the world by storm when the 1st season aired in 2013. The fourth, final season will conclude in 2023 with its third part.
Few other anime have accomplished what this one has. Both critics and fans adore it, and it has achieved enormous financial success. The manga is one of the most popular manga series of all time with over 100 million tankōbon copies in print as of December 2019. This makes it not only the most popular dark fantasy anime but also manga.
Overall, the story of Attack on Titan comes down to this: Eren Yaeger’s life turns upside down after the wall protecting his village from Titans, monstrous humanoid creatures, gets breached, causing utter havoc. He loses a close relative in a very gruesome way and witnesses firsthand the atrocious power of Titans.
After this traumatic experience, driven by anger, Eren decides to dedicate his life to the eradication of Titans by enlisting into the Survey Corps, an elite military unit that fights the Titans outside the protection of the remaining walls.
2. Death Note
The anime’s MC Light Yagami is a teenager who stumbles upon Death Note, a mysterious notebook that grants its rightful owner the ability to kill those whose name is written in it.
As you can imagine, such power can warp anyone’s mind.
3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
FMA: Brotherhood is frequently cited as the pinnacle of the anime experience, and it’s easy to see why. Compared to the first adaptation, Brotherhood is a more accurate translation of the hugely popular manga series by Arakawa. It deals with issues like ethics, racism, war, and grief in profound and unique ways, and almost every aspect of the work is ahead of its time.
The show is also very well timed, with nicely wrapped storylines that flow into one another and complement a bigger overall plot on particular themes. Brotherhood is a wonderful example of how flexible shounen anime tropes can be.
4. Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul takes place in a parallel universe where humans and creatures known as ghouls coexist. Ghouls are creatures who closely resemble humans, but unlike humans, they only consume human flesh as food.
One day, an ordinary boy named Kaneki goes on a date, but he doesn’t realize that the girl isn’t even a human; rather, she is a ghoul. She unexpectedly attacks Kaneki on their date with the intent to kill and eat him. Despite being seriously hurt, he manages to survive the assault.
Kaneki isn’t ready to accept what has happened to him when he first opens his eyes after the life-saving surgery since he can’t consume regular food, which means he has turned into the creature he despises most—a ghoul. He must now face his new, brutal reality, adapt to his new life, and, like other ghouls, eat human flesh in order to survive.
With the perfect blend of action, drama, and sentiments, Tokyo Ghoul is a true dark fantasy anime classic worth giving a try.
5. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Even those who don’t often watch anime enjoy this dark fantasy anime series. You can probably tell how excellent the show is just from that!
The protagonist of Demon Slayer is Tanjirou, a young boy whose soul was scarred by tragedy; all of his family members—aside from his little sister, Nezuko—were killed by a demon, and now she has become one.
Tanjirou makes a vow to avenge his family, and he sets out to find a way to change Nezuko back into a human.
Re:Zero features both gloomy and lighthearted moments, and overall it’s quite balanced. The MC, Subaru, is a flawed character, which makes him almost uncannily comparable to real humans.
Subaru gets summoned to a new world only to get murdered along with his new female companion. Soon after, he wakes up and finds himself in the same circumstance as just before he was killed. And the day starts to repeat all over again.
7. Jujutsu Kaisen
Jujutsu Kaisen is the ideal dark fantasy anime series to start with for newcomers. It’s comparable to Demon Slayer in that it has the power to enthrall even those who don’t typically enjoy anime.
The series follows the story of a high school student that gets dragged into a thrilling world of shamans and cursed spirits after consuming a cursed object and gaining its power.
8. Promised Neverland
Emma, Ray, and Norman are orphans. They’ve been living at the Grace Field House, an orphanage, for 10 years. The orphanage has around 38 children in it of different personalities, ages, and ethnicities but despite all that, they considered each other a family. With a mother who takes care of them, they spend their days filled with the happy little things in life.
At the orphanage, there is only one rule. They are not allowed to go outside the orphanage walls until they get adopted by someone.
One day, when a girl named Conny gets adopted but forgets her favorite stuffed toy, Emma decides to go after her and give it back to her. But finds her dead. She learns the horrific truth behind the orphanage’s existence.
9. Akame ga Kill!
Akame ga Kill is a short yet outstanding anime series. Although there are just 12 episodes and no second season, fans are still wanting more.
Tatsumi comes from a poor village, so, he decides to leave for the city where he could earn a good amount of money to help the village. But due to his rotten luck, he gets robbed on his first night there and is left penniless.
He meets a young lady who agrees to help him and takes him to her house for the night. But her family is attacked by Nights Raid.
Nights Raid is a group of assassins who target high-ranking officials of the Empire. Their goal is to kill the greedy and corrupt Prime Minister of the empire who’s taking advantage of the young emperor’s inexperience and slowly leading the empire to ruin.
As Tatsumi finds out the truth, he decides to join the Nights Raid and help them fight against the corrupt empire.
In contrast to other generic isekai, Overlord’s protagonist is an evil mastermind.
Momonga is a guy who becomes trapped in the Yggdrasil virtual reality game. With all NPCs suddenly developing personalities on their own, it’s now up to him to conquer this new world!
11. Made in Abyss
The stunning contrast between the adorable chibi characters and the intensely dark and eerie plot is one of Made in Abyss’ most notable features. Dark fantasy anime fans should not judge this solely on its first impression because that judgment will be incorrect.
Riko is the daughter of a famous Diver Lyza. Divers are very brave individuals who dive into The Abyss—a gaping chasm stretching down into the depths of the earth, filled with mysterious creatures and relics from a time long past, facing dangers and physical and mental deterioration as they descend and ascend. She is determined to find her mother and works in the upper layers of the Abyss even though she is only a child.
When Riko discovers a humanoid robot in the Abyss on an apparently routine day, everything changes. Riko and the robot, now named Reg, hit it off right away and resolve to sneak out and descend into the Abyss’ deeper layers in an attempt to discover the harsh truth.
12. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
The magical girl genre is well-known for its cutesy. Well, Puella Magi Madoka Magica didn’t take the same route as other magical girl shows and instead mixed it with darkness.
In the world of Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica, “messengers of magic” exist and can grant one wish to a chosen girl. However, there is one catch: the chosen girl must subsequently transform into a magical girl and battle evil witches.
This is the suggestion that Kyuubey, one of the magic’s messengers, offers to Sayaka and Madoka, two schoolgirls. But as this is going on, Homura, a magical girl, approaches them and tells them not to take the deal because nothing is as it seems.
13. Chainsaw Man
Chainsaw Man is the story of a Dark hero with a devil’s heart. But the anime hasn’t aired yet. It will air in October 2022, which is only a couple of months away, as I’m writing this. I’m really excited about it!
All Denji ever wanted was a normal life but he couldn’t even have that. He lives a life of poverty due to the debt his father left behind that he has to repay now. So, he exterminates devils all day with the help of his devil friend Pochita who has a chainsaw on his head, but all that gets him is pocket change.
One day, he gets betrayed by his employer because he’s outlived his usefulness and gets offered as food to a powerful devil. He dies but Pochita sacrifices himself to merge with his body and revive him. Denji comes back to life as a devil.
After catching the eyes of an official devil hunter, Denji decides to join the Public Safety Bureau and become an official Devil Hunter as well.
14. Goblin Slayer
Goblins are lowly creatures. No adventurer wants to take up a quest of killing goblins since it always pays a very small amount of money. Because of this goblins can do whatever they want, killing people, capturing and ra*ing them, and their high reproduction rate is another big concern that no one pays any attention to.
Onna Shinkan is a young priestess who recently reached the Porcelain rank as an adventurer. She decides to join some young adventures on an investigating quest related to goblins. But unfortunately, everyone ends up dead and even she accepts her fate when suddenly a man in full armor comes to help her and easily destroys the entire goblin nest.
The man is known as the Goblin Slayer, an adventurer who only kills goblins and still manages to reach the Silver rank. Shinkan decides to join him on his adventures and help him in any way she can.
The plot of the anime is based on a manga authored by Kouta Hirano and centers on a group called Hellsing whose main mission is to eliminate zombie-like supernatural beings.
The current leader of this organization is Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, who took up Hellsing’s leadership after her father’s passing as a kid. She aims to put an end to everything by deploying her most important asset, a potent vampire named Alucard. Alucard, a vampire himself, is the organization’s top agent, reporting to Integra Hellsing and carrying just a single firearm.
Overall, Hellsing is a dark fantasy anime that is entertaining to watch and has a lot of action scenes and plot twists.
16. Berserk (the 1997 version)
Berserk’s manga has been praised to the heavens and it continues to be regarded as one of the most influential works of dark fantasy. This leads to high expectations for the anime series among readers of the manga. The 1997 version did a decent job as it’s jammed with action, drama, character growth, twists and turns, and a dash of romance.
This story follows Gut, a talented swordsman who dedicates his life to getting revenge on the man who stole everything important to him. Unfortunately, he is plagued by misery and misfortune.
Toyohisa is a fierce warrior of medieval Japan but during a battle, he gets injured and dies. He suddenly finds himself in a strange white hallway with hundreds of doors. He gets sucked into one of the doors and again finds himself in an unfamiliar place.
The place he finds himself in is not normal. In this world, creatures like elves exist. There he meets two of the most famous and infamous warriors – Oda Nobunaga and Nasu no Yoichi.
He soon befriends them and learns that they’ve been sent to this world as Drifters, warriors who are tasked to fight against the ‘Ends’. The Ends are people who’ve created a powerful and evil empire in this world and they persecute any race other than humans like elves and demi-humans.
Now, it is up to the Drifters to fight the Ends and protect the world from their tyranny.
‘Hole’ is the name of a desolate town where only poor and pitiful people live. The people living in the Hole are nothing more than test subjects to magic users. They come to the Hole to test their abilities by killing the people.
Kaiman lives in the Hole as well but he’s not a normal human. He’s more of a lizard. A magician, whose face he can’t remember, put a strange spell on him that changed his face to that of a lizard, and to make it even worse, there’s a mysterious man hidden inside him.
Now, he must find the magician who did this to him but since he doesn’t remember what he looks like, he takes the help of the man inside him.
Who did this to him and Why? Will he be able to find him? Who’s the man inside him? There are too many questions and the only way to find the answer is by watching the show.
This one’s not exactly an anime. It’s a dark medieval fantasy American animated series on Netflix based on a popular video game. A show based on a video game is generally hit-or-miss but Castlevania is one of the best fantasy anime with exceptional characters and an equally exceptional plotline.
One day, Dracula, the powerful leader of thousands of vampires, fell in love with a human woman. After he married her, he even stopped killing humans but when he wasn’t home, some people captured his wife and burned her alive. When he came back and found his wife dead, he was maddened by grief and summoned his legion of vampires to destroy the human race.
Trevor is the last living member of Belmont, a disgraced and excommunicated clan of Eastern Europe. Now, that Dracula is on a rampage, he must find a way to stop him to prevent human extinction. And he’s not alone. He’s accompanied by his team of misfits.
20. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
You’re probably already familiar with the Netflix show called “The Witcher” based on the books of the same name. Well, Nightmare of the Wolf is a dark fantasy anime movie that serves as s spin-off to the original show and focuses on Vesemir, Geralt’s mentor.
Vesemir used to work for a noble when the noble’s wife was attacked by a monster. A witcher along with his help was able to kill the monster. Enticed by the possibility of leaving his poor life behind and earning gold as a witcher, he leaves for Kaer Morhen and undergoes mutation to become a witcher.
Years later, when he’s killing a leshen, a type of forest deity, the leshen says something to him in an ancient language that makes him think that it was being controlled by someone. Soon, he gets involved in a terrible mess as a new menace rises.
Yoma are demons who eat humans and can take the appearance of those they eat. This helps them blend in with the humans and easily prey on them. This also makes it hard to find them and the only key to identifying Yoma and killing it is the Claymores.
The Claymores are half-demon, half-human women with the ability to distinguish a demon from a normal human, and the power to kill a demon. But their half-demon side can take over them at any time, turning them into flesh-eating monsters.
Raki lost his family to a yoma and the villagers banished him from the village. He meets Clare, a claymore, and joins her on her journey to kill the demons plaguing the world. Will he be able to help Clare retain her humanity while she fights demons every day?
22. Blood+ Members
Saya can’t remember anything beyond the previous year. She has no memories of her life and who she was but she doesn’t let that get her down and lives a normal and good life with her adoptive family.
But one day, she’s attacked by a monster, and just when she thought she’s going to die, a man named Haji saves her. From him, she learns that she has special abilities that she can use to kill hellish beasts that hide in the shadows.
Haji is a member of an organization called Red Shield. The organization works to rid the world of monsters and Saya can help them with it.
What’s the strange power that resides in her blood? What are the secrets hidden in her past? Now, Saya must work with Haji and others to find the answers to her questions while killing blood-thirsty monsters.
23. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Vampire Hunter D is a light novel series by Hideyuki Kikuchi, consisting of over 40 novels. The novel series has sold millions of copies and is one of the best-selling light novel series in history.
The first novel was originally adapted as a movie by Ashi production in 1985. You can watch the first movie if you’re okay with old anime but if you don’t want to then you can just watch the second one which is better than the first one anyway.
The story is set in a world ruled by Vampires. D is a half-vampire who works as a vampire hunter for the right price. Even though he helps humans, he often finds himself being hated by them.
One day, when a vampire lord kidnaps a girl, her father hires D and a pair of vampire hunters called the Marcus brothers, to save and bring her back. Now, he must race against both time and the Marcus brothers to save the girl and claim the reward.
But D soon finds out that the girl is accompanying the vampire of her own free will…
24. Garo: The Animation
Garo is a great dark fantasy anime series with magic, power suits, and superheroes. Each season of the anime focuses on a different story but the plot is always based on the good vs evil ideology which can sometimes make the story generic. However, the action in the series is beyond amazing and if you’re an action fan then you should definitely watch it.
Mendoza is the chief advisor of the King of Valiante. He conducted a witch hunt which resulted in the death of many knights and sorcerers. One such sorceress was Anna, married to Knight Germán Luis, she gave birth to a son before she died.
Luis decides to flee and raise his son away from the capital to be the heir to the legendary Golden Armor. Years later, the kingdom is fully under the control of Mendoza who’s driven out the prince from the castle. Now, the prince seeks to find the owner of the Golden Armor to ask for his help in saving the kingdom and its people.
25. Bastard!!: Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy
Originally, in 1992, a six-episode OVA series based on the manga was released, covering up to vol. 6-7 of the manga. Recently, Netflix revived the project and released a 13-episode anime series on June 30, 2022.
The second part of the anime consisting of episodes 14-24 will be released on September 15, 2022.
Dark Schneider was a powerful wizard capable of even destroying the entire world. But he was sealed away inside the body of a young boy by the High Priest of the Matallicana Kingdom. Years later, the kingdom of Matallicana is on the verge of destruction at the hands of the people who wish to take the world for themselves.
Yoko is the daughter of the High Priest who told her the method of releasing Dark Schneider which requires a kiss from a virgin maiden and to prevent the destruction of the kingdom, she uses the method, bringing back the most powerful wizard in the world.