10 Dark and Gritty Anime Series for People Who Think Anime Are For Kids

Unlike live-action, animation grants audiences a broader realm for imagination while allowing greater visual freedom. With massive potential to surpass one’s impression of what they are going to get in the first place, most audiences’ first thoughts on anime are likely fixated on works from Studio Ghibli, whose animated works usually adopts cutely-drawn characters placed in hyper-fantasical settings.



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If you’re someone who grew up with Toonami and Adult Swim, or your induction into the world of anime was through works like Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion, then these following anime recommendations will hit the nail right on the head about anime being versatile genres.

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‘Berserk’

Before the CGI abomination of a remake released in 2016, the 1997 series is the first anime adaptation of late manga artist Kentaro Miura’s groundbreaking adult manga Berserk, and one which has received the most critical acclaim and praises from fans.

Exploring a wide range of themes from child abuse to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Berserk left many viewers in disgust and horror due to its darker realistic take on the fantasy adventure category, accentuating the horrors of war and the malignance of demons. The series can be viewed as a prequel to the lead character Guts’ status as the revered Black Swordsman. Undeterred by the abrupt ending which leaves people with more questions and fear, Berserk is a must-watch for its exhilarating exhibitions of popcorn-worthy violence but never losing sight of the complexity of humans even during war.


‘Shigurui’

Perhaps the most audacious and graphic portrayals of samurai that cinema has nothing on, Shigurui starts with a cliffhanger, a fighting tournament involving the one-armed Fujiki Gennosuke and blind Irako Seigen. While wooden swords were used in the past, this time, real swords are brought into play.

Before they are who they are in the present, Gennosuke and Seigen were both disciples of the greatest swordsman in Japan, Iwamoto Kogan, whose long list of creepy behaviors are sure to make audiences’ skin crawl. Detailing their intertwining fate filled with jealousy, ferity, sex, and taboos, both swordsmen prove who will be the last man standing despite their disadvantage.

‘Elfen Lied’

The anime that inspired the creation of the hit series Stranger Things, Elfen Lied spares nothing when it comes to displaying the barbarity of humanity. Dog lovers should also shield their eyes from a particular scene in the series.

Two college students stumble upon an injured girl with short horns on her head, whose sweet and innocent demeanor leads them to take care of her. Little did they know that behind the girl’s sweet and air-headed demeanor lies her murderous tendencies, a split personality acquired during her escape from the inhumane experiments she experienced in the government laboratory. The girl is Lucy, a special breed of human known as the Diclonius, and has the gifted ability of telekinesis. Soon, the two students will find themselves in a world of deception, government conspiracies, and violence of great vehemence.

‘Rainbow’

In spite of owning a cheery title, Rainbow presents a hard-nosed insight into the promise of a second chance at life. Set in 1955 Japan, the series follows the struggles and humiliation suffered by seven young inmates during their time at the Shounan Reform School.

A sadistic prison guard and a doctor with a penchant for young boys offer to make the youngsters’ life hell on earth. With the guidance of older cellmate/former boxer Rokurouta Sakuragi, the inmates must remain optimistic and do whatever it takes to survive to see life after redemption, in addition to the promise of a reunion in post-war society.

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‘Black Lagoon’

For fans of Cowboy Bebop but expected more shootouts and foul-mouthed badass anime women, look no further than Black Lagoon, a playful hybrid of One Piece‘s pirate pilgrimages and a John Woo-esque signature style of action flicks. Heck, there’s even a character named Chang in the series who mirrors Chow Yun-fat‘s dual gun-wielding characters in Woo’s films.

When salary-man Rokurou Okajima finds himself reluctantly joining the Lagoon Company after being held at gunpoint, he must soon adapt to the mercenary’s precarious lifestyle involving illegal transactions, kidnappings, gun battles, and constant abrasive encounters. He’s joined by a hot-tempered colleague, Revy, a Chinese-American gunslinger who has a fondness for bloodshed and chain-smoking.


‘Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo’

A loose adaptation of Alexandre Dumas‘ novel by the same name, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is much more than just a story about vengeance. Bearing multiple discernible differences from its original source, Gankutsuou takes place in a futuristic setting where humans coexist with the extraterrestrial and mecha is a run-of-the-mill element.

With a unique animation style that sees a crossover between Western Impressionism and Japanese Ukiyo-e, the 24-episode series mainly follows the wide-eyed Viscount Albert de Morcerf who becomes enthralled by the mystifying Count. Unbeknownst to Albert, the Count is planning to exact revenge against his father who was one of the masterminds who had betrayed the Count in the past.

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‘Hellsing Ultimate’

When the Millenium Organization comprised of Nazi vampires threatens to obliterate the entire human existence, it’s up to Hellsing, a sub rosa organization dedicated to destroying supernatural forces to save the world.

Not your typical hero, Hellsing’s ultimate weapon of choice is Alucard, the most powerful vampire that ever walked on earth and bears abilities like inordinate regenerative powers, shape-shifting, and hemokinesis. With his half-human, half-vampire sidekick Seras Victoria on his side, audiences will get a great kick out of seeing Alucard exacting his sadistic tendencies on his victims and annihilating the whole Nazi army.

‘Vinland Saga’

Loyal fans of the “Vinland Sagamanga certainly had not expected the anime adaptation to be quite a faithful and surprisingly enlivening watch. With odes to Nordic sagas, the series centers around Thorfinn, a young mercenary working for Askeladd, a skilled swordsman and leader of a band of Vikings.

As Askeladd had assassinated Thorfinn’s father when the latter was a kid, Thorfinn swore vengeance and while refining his combat skills, hopes to one day challenge Askeladd to a duel. Despite his initial dreams of living in a peaceful land where war and slaughter are absent, Thorfinn’s instinct for survival becomes increasingly refined amongst the worsening war between the English and the Danes.

‘Monster’

Inspired by the 1960s American crime drama The Fugitive, Monster was manga artist Naoki Urasawa‘s first work to receive international recognition. Its 74-episode anime adaptation is exceptional in its own right, carefully executing the intricate motivations behind each character with support from long-time Studio Ghibli animator Kitaro Kosaka and a haunting ending theme sung by English songwriter David Sylvian.

After saving Johann Liebert as a child over the mayor of the town many years ago, skilled brain surgeon Kenzou Tenma becomes enveloped in emotional turmoil upon discovering that Johann turns out to be a psychopath, inciting those he encountered to give in to their cardinal sins, resorting to committing crimes or worse, suicide. Determined to put a halt to Johann’s nefarious ways, Kenzou starts investigating Johann’s past and discovers something far more sinister, especially past incidents that had happened at an orphanage known as 511 Kinderheim.

‘Basilisk’

Imagine Battle Royale (2000) or The Hunger Games (2012), but the set in 1614 feudal Japan. Basilisk follows two rival ninja clans who are instigated to battle each other to determine which grandson of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu will become the next heir.

The deadly competition involves ten elite warriors chosen from each clan, Tsubagakure of Iga and Manjidani of Kouga, representing each potential shogunate’s heirs. Torn between their love for each other, Gennosuke Kouga, heir of the Kouga clan, and Oboro Iga, heir of the Iga clan must choose whether to kill the person they love or lead their respective clan to slaughter.

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