Horror Anime: Don’t Look Behind You

No treats here, just lots of tricks.

It’s never too late for a Halloween-related post about the highly relevant topic of fear. Contrary to what our instincts should tell us, most people actually enjoy being scared. We go to horror movies so we can jump in our seats and spew popcorn into the laps of the entire audience. We do exciting things like sky-diving or bungee-jumping for the fear-induced adrenaline rush. Let’s not forget the haunted houses that pop around Halloween for poor saps to tiptoe through only to come out on the other side running like Usain Bolt. As for myself, I quite like horror anime. I know, I know…not exactly number 1 on everyone list of terror. It probably ranks just slightly above “slept in for class” in terms of getting your heart pumping, but anime can scare you in its own way.

I don’t mean to make this a post on anime of the horror genre and leave it at that, because I simply have no watched/read enough to be an even remotely good guide for suggesting new material to others. In fact, I went out and started reading or completed almost everything suggested in last year’s recommendation post by both Metanorn writers and site commenters alike. If I need new horror stuff to get into, I can’t possibly help you guys. Forgive me! What I want to talk about is what makes an anime scary.

This is a purely opinion-based topic, so some explaining of my tastes is in order since not everyone will find the same things scary. I once slit a wriggling mouse’s throat with scissors and then wrapped it in tin foil so I could throw it in the compost bin without caring, but my knees go weak if you put me next to a relatively high ledge and make me look down. Everyone has their own fears and quirks. Starting with what doesn’t affect me, I am nearly immune to gore, hate cheap jump scares, and feel no fear of monsters.

…and some people are scared of doggies

Being a bit of a sadist, gore and senseless violence really does nothing much aside from potentially putting me in a better mood. Not very good for trying to scare someone, right? I’m also looking into becoming a surgeon, so being squeamish around blood is a no-no if I’m the one guiding the scalpel. If you’ve ever been around to read me blogging about a bloody show, you’ll know my reaction is generally that of a typical kid in a candy store: glee. I also have a bit of an opposite (kind of) reaction to jump scares. They piss me off because I have rather sharp reflexes and overreact to any sudden movement. My friends never tap me on the shoulder, because my automatic response is to grab their hand and prepare to attack as I turn around. It’s that bad. I’m always surprised by a ghost popping out of the closet, but I dislike those kinds of cheap thrills. The fear is gone the second I don’t actually have to fend anyone off. My dislike for these surprises may be because instead of screeching and moving away from the screen, I’m putting my fists up and getting ready to punch a hole in my computer. This is what happens when you spend too much time in a dojo, I suppose.

As for monsters, they’re always 10x scarier when they’re not shown. As soon as I see what the monster looks like, it’s almost always dumb. I know it’s not real, and can intellectualize that a werewolf isn’t going to break into my house and eat me. Furthermore, monsters tend to look a lot less threatening in anime than in live action movies, so the effect is further watered down. In fact, I’m usually very unaffected by horror anime or movies in general. Aside from the jump scare thing I explained, I don’t really feel frightened as I’m watching or afterwards. I think something truly scary should give you a few nightmares or at least make you think twice about what’s around the corner when you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. When it comes to horror anime, I am even less convinced of the power it could have over me. “HAH! I am the great Overcooled and if some REAL LIFE movie can’t phase me then why would little stick-figure with eyes like Bambi ever make me tremble in fear?!”

Oh, such a foolish girl I am to think this every time. It turns out that I do have a bit of a weak spot. Something I never paid much attention to, but something that can tear me up from the inside out for days after watching something. The scariest monster by far…is the human being, for it is capable of the most wretched evils. Next year for Halloween, just go out in whatever you have on now and tell people you are the writhing mass of black hearts beating as one that is humanity (don’t forget to steal candy when they’re distracted by this statement). The next most frightening monster is most certainly death, and any anime that makes me question why I’m alive is inherently threatening.

“…a moment will come, maybe in a month, maybe a year, maybe even several years. You’ll be sick or feeling troubled or deeply in love or quietly uncertain or even content for the first time in your life. It won’t matter. Out of the blue, beyond any cause you can trace, you’ll suddenly realize things are not how you perceived them to be at all. For some reason, you will no longer be the person you believed you once were. You’ll detect slow and subtle shifts going on all around you, more importantly shifts in you. Worse, you’ll realize it’s always been shifting, like a shimmer of sorts, a vast shimmer, only dark like a room. But you won’t understand why or how. You’ll have forgotten what granted you this awareness in the first place. […] Then no matter where you are, in a crowded restaurant or on some desolate street or even in the comforts of your own home, you’ll watch yourself dismantle every assurance you ever lived by. You’ll stand aside as a great complexity intrudes, tearing apart, piece by piece, all of your carefully conceived denials, whether deliberate or unconscious. And then for better or worse you’ll turn, unable to resist, though try to resist you still will, fighting with everything you’ve got not to face the thing you most dread, what is not, what will be, what has always come before, the creature you truly are, the creature we all are, buried in the nameless black of a name. And then the nightmares will begin.”

-Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Re-reading House of Leaves – an old favourite of mine – gave me the idea for this post and helped me actually pinpoint what I found to be genuinely frightening in the medium of horror. This post is one big excuse to talk about it, in fact. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest that you…you know…READ IT It’s a bit of an unconventional book, but it’s the most chilling piece of media I’ve ever encountered. House of Leaves is the reason I have to shut my door completely at night. But I’m not afraid of ghosts or monsters, I am afraid of the darkness because within it is death. House of Leaves deals mostly with the fear of death, using a dark labyrinth as a metaphor for existentialism. It frightens with the bone-chilling truth of all the wretched things humans must face in life and what horrible creatures we all are. Our mortality, our weakness, our mistakes and our sanity are put on display as a team explores a dark and shifting maze searching for a beast, only to end up turning on each other. The combination of painting humans in the worst light possibility and toying with the notion of death (and how humans will go crazy trying to escape from it) makes me the most frightened. Bone-chilling terror is better than hot and panicked fear, because it stays with you so much longer. For me, this is true fear!

House of Leaves does it best, but there is a similar pattern in the horror anime I enjoy the most. For example, Shiki is one of my top 5 anime and it continues to haunt me. Sure, it has vampires. But I think these types of monsters work well because they are essentially humans who were subject to extenuating circumstances and now require blood every night. The constant tug-of-war battle over whether either side (the Shiki or the humans) is justified in their murders is what always gets to me. They both kill to stay alive, because they have no other choice unless they want to die. Who deserves to die? There is no happy solution to the problems in Shiki, and the fact that we will go to gruesome lengths just to stay alive made the series all the more captivating. Not only do we go to gruesome lengths, we make ourselves think it is the right thing to do in order to feel good about it. Just listening to the soundtrack simultaneously brings on a wave of melancholy and uneasiness.

Another favourite of mine that pulls the bone-chilling horror off quite well is Mononoke. The odd thing about Mononoke is that it’s not really what I’d call a horror anime, but it did make my eyes bulge open rather often. Again, there are supernatural beings involved, but it’s often the more human things that get to me. It’s a show that’s very good at showing the cruelty of humans and spinning it into a wicked tale. Petshop of Horrors does the same thing to a lesser extent, since it never actually got me very riled up. However, it essentially is a collection of folk tales to say “haste makes waste” except that if you’re hasty, a giant bird-girl rips your ribs out and stabs you with them. The best way to learn morals, really.

That’s basically what makes me tick for horror. I’m always a bit wary posting more opinion-type pieces here since this is a team blog and a good portion of you probably don’t even keep track of the different writers. But then again, I still say yes to those 50 questions posts, so why not talk a bit about how I like horror for the Halloween season? I now bring the question back around to you. What scares you the most in horror? What are your favourite horror anime/manga? And if you want to really humour me…what did you dress up as/do for Halloween?

Happy (belated) Halloween! Remember…cavities are also pretty damn scary so don’t devour your candy!


A neuroscience graduate, black belt, and all-around nerd. You'll either find me in my lab or curled up in my rilakkuma kigurumi watching anime.
Blinklist BlogMarks Delicious Digg Diigo FaceBook Google MySpace Netvibes Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter

27 Responses to “Horror Anime: Don’t Look Behind You”

  1. BlackBriar says:

    Shiki hit all the right notes for horror and to this day it’s still one of my favorites not only for the supernatural feel but morality, unique characters and the darkness of humanity. It’s enjoyable because neither side was entirely justified. One of the best parts was that the anime had better, near flawless tension at night with the uneasy silence causing the characters to fear what they couldn’t see until it was too late. The horror is a lot better watching at night.

    The second example for well executed horror was “Another”. It won second place on my list for unpredictability, gruesome deaths and insanity surrounding the mystery of 1972 with the epidemic where students, or people related to class 3-3 students, are caught up in mysterious deaths.

    My favorite mangas are Yougen no Chi, Crime Zone, Warau Kyuuketsuki and Higanjima (Haven’t read that in a while). There’s a lot of decadence to these choices. I have yet to check out Black Rose Alice but I’m told it’s a good manga.

    • Overcooled says:

      I loved Shiki (I think I preferred the anime to the manga as well) but wasn’t so keen on Another. It just had a lot of talking, and some of the deaths were just plain silly.

      I always watch horror anime at night now, it’s just that much better. I do the same with Shinsekai Yori now. It’s the best way to get into it!

      Thanks, I’ll check those out when I have some free time! I don’t know when that will be, but I’ll try lol

      • BlackBriar says:

        I love Shiki as well. A little more love goes to the manga because it had stuff that wasn’t shown in the anime like Seishin and Sunako walking among humans after the chaos in Sotoba. The finale felt open ended but sadly we won’t get anymore creepy goodness. What made Shiki absolutely perfect was that it was mystery, psychological and intrigue as much as horror along with the temptation of making life dicisions (siding with the humans or Shiki) and the old school feel of vampires which made the series very addictive to watch.

        No problem. I have a lot of manga names but the choices I mentioned I felt really have a dark, horror element to them. Plus there’s a lot of blood, gore and death to please the fans who love that stuff.

        • Overcooled says:

          Plus there’s a lot of blood, gore and death to please the fans who love that stuff.

          Awww, BB knows just what I like ;D

  2. Ghostalker says:

    Some of the horror shows I usually recommend are as follows:

    Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni – definitely
    Ghost Hunt – Most of the arcs certainly are spooky
    Shiki is a given, but compare to the 2 above, it doesn’t give me goosebumps XD
    Another For someone who like Final Destination kind of series.

    I have more than this, but I will have to dug deep to my MAL profile XD

    • Overcooled says:

      I felt the opposite. Shiki freaks me out, but Ghost Hunt bored me to tears. I only finished it because I was watching it with my friend. I dropped Higurashi pretty early so I can’t say much about it and I’m pretty iffy on Another. I’m…kinda picky. But those are mostly horror classics, so it’s a good place for most people to start.

    • BlackBriar says:

      Oh, Shiki does give goosebumps. If the vampires don’t get your attention, the human cruelty all in the name of survival will. If you’re going to watch the anime, find a room at night, turn off lights and start marathoning the episodes. Then you’re sure to start feeling some fear and tension. The music and rural setting will play a significant part.

    • Ghostalker says:

      Me and my siblings will testify that Ghost Hunt did gave us the goosebumps.

      As for Shiki, I did sense the hopelessness surrounding the characters as well the general eeriness of the atmosphere thought not as effective as Ghost Hunt.

  3. AllenAndArth says:

    unfortunately i love horror genre… i don’t get spooked by then in a while, maybe i’m not sensible anymore but;

    sugou from SAO gave me quite the goosebumps…he’s really creepy
    Higurashi naku koro ni – is my favorite

    • Overcooled says:

      I don’t get really scared either. It takes a lot to rattle me significantly.

      Interesting to see what freaks people out compared to me. I have a friend who has a phobia of BERRIES and I just don’t get how, but to her it makes perfect sense. Anyways, to me Sugou is creepy but only in a perverted way, not in a way to make me feel personally scared.

      • AllenAndArth says:

        berriephobia?(or whatever it’s called) daaaaaammm soo unusual…
        Sugou: in a perverted way? he just screams phedo every second

  4. Gecko says:

    For me the scariest part is when someone decides to do something but the effects are absolutely terrible. Kind of like Madoka- Kyuubey tricks them into all that terrible stuff and they realize it bit by bit. Shin Sekai Yori is another example of the fear that I really like. Episode 4 was the best part for me so far, with the explanation of what’s really been happening and the kid’s reactions. Even Caster in Fate/Zero could count, by the way we first meet him, killing that kid.
    As for the gore, monsters, ect. I don’t really care. That stuff isn’t my style of horror. I’m a bit rather queasy.

    • Overcooled says:

      Even though Madoka isn’t actually a horror anime, strictly speaking, it was pretty creepy. I’m usually not fond of mythical creature mascot things, but Kyuubey was literally the best villain of the year. I like seeing things descend from bad to worse to EVEN WORSE too, especially when it happens to generally good people who just made some bad choices or were just plain unlucky.

      I love my gore~

  5. Highway says:

    So the best part of this post for me is that you guys are providing a list of stuff that I’m not ever going to watch. 🙂

    Horror is not for me. And just because I’m a grumpy old killjoy, I loathe halloween (it’s my least favorite ‘holiday’, with a bunch of brats hassling me all night. Get offa my lawn!)

    • BlackBriar says:

      If you have any spare time on your hands, check it out. Trust me, it isn’t so bad. Take a look at Shiki. Manga or anime, the choice is yours. I, myself, wasn’t into horror at all at the beginning but now I feel restless if there isn’t a decent horror anime playing every now and again.

    • Overcooled says:

      Haha, that’s okay, we all have genres that just don’t do much for us. Mine is fluffy, shoujo romance. Shiki is really damn good, but if you’re not into horror than I don’t know if you’ll actually enjoy it. :B Although as BB says, I wasn’t a big horror fan either until I actually saw Shiki.

      On Halloween you have to block off the entrance to your house with garbage bins so they don’t ring your doorbell all night! That’s what my neighbours do.

  6. Kyokai says:

    I’ve been rewatching Kara no Kyoukai with some folks every Saturday and on every watch, we are amazed with the amount of gore and blood we see, not to mention mystery. It will always be my most favourite supernatural story, if not specifically horror. Like you, I’m not easily scared and it takes a lot to get me to even flinch. From all the western movies I have seen, I think I only got a bit disturbed by Ring or the original Ringu (due to those death faces >>;). Anime-wise, it would be Shiki and Jigoku Shoujo along with KnK.

    To me the horror factor comes from the despicable behaviour of humans. All nightmares arise from one’s action and finding out more about what secrets are hidden in the darkness is what gets me all pumped up. Also, about time I marathon Mononoke. xD

    • Overcooled says:

      Kara no Kyoukai has lots of blood and gore, although that’s not enough to scare me. Hmm, I haven’t seen Jigoku Shoujo, so maybe I’ll check it out if it was able to make even the boss-lady squirm.

      Mononoke is really good! I’m biased towards most things by Kenji Nakamkura though.

      • Kyokai says:

        Jigoku shoujo didn’t make me squirm, neither did KnK; though, Shiki did make my eyes bulge a bit at some point. It’s hard for me to take these things seriously but what I liked is the different point of views on how humans make their life choices and how life unravels with them.

        I think I’ll be joining the Kenji bandwagon soon too as I loved Tsuritama and have heard a lot about his previous works too.

        • Overcooled says:

          I’ll give it a try regardless. I’m sure it has other merits aside from just being creepy.

          Yes, the Kenji bandwagon is a glorious place. :3 I assume you’ve seen Kuuchuu Buranko already too..?

          • Kyokai says:

            The main creepy is voiced by Noto Mamiko and she does better than Oichi so it was pretty good. Masu was after me to watch Kuuchuu Buranko for some time and it’s even downloaded at my end now. Just gonna marathon it one fine day. xD

  7. MikADo says:

    I hate horror, i cant watch it! i just cant!
    call me a baby i dont care! i watched freaking Jurassic Park and i couldnt sleep for 2 days or so!
    mystery,gore,blood is great but its a no no for horror for me. weird, i know, but its the truth
    i just might be able to withstand a little bit of suspense though XD

    *i love halloween thou XD lots of candies&sweets i can munch on XD not to mention the clearance sales when its over 😀

    • Overcooled says:

      Oh dear. Well, don’t watch any of the things myself or the commenters suggested if you don’t want to get nightmares. It’s not weird though, horror is SUPPOSED to scare people!

      Ahhh post-Halloween candy sales. Thanks for reminding me~

  8. Hanazuka says:

    OMG did not expect to find another House of Leaves fan here! It’s such a genius book by the genius Mark Z. Danielewski! The idea of it is so creepy and eerie it’s AWESOME <3

    • Overcooled says:

      Sweet love of my life, why have I not met you before now! I love House of Leaves, but haven’t convinced any of my friends to read it because of how unconventional the page layouts are. That was enough to scare them away forever. I’m re-reading it now and getting goosebumps, even though I know what happens. That house man…that house…

      • Hanazuka says:

        Hahaha yeah the unconventional page layouts were a little deterring and it took a while to finish reading but it was mind-blowing heh.. Especially if you read other commentaries about it! It’s like totally cool :p

        • Overcooled says:

          The layout was what actually made me buy the book since it was so unusual. Of course, when I was actually reading it I was a little lost at times, but it really grows on you. I haven’t read any commentaries about it, but now I’m starting to think I should. There’s no way I caught every little secret stuffed in there on my own. It’s just that intricate and well-planned. <3

Leave a Reply