Beautifully rendered and vividly colored, there’s just something about seeing violence in an animated form that can make it even more effective. So, it’s no wonder the horror genre translates so well into anime. And there have been a number of series that have pushed the limits of just how much death, destruction, and gore can be crammed in 2D! Below are my personal picks for ten of the bloodiest anime ever made.
The second TV anime based on the BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE franchise, it at first seems fairly tame. Following Saya Kisaragi, a student by day, and hunter of demonic “Elder Bairns” by night, dark secrets are unearthed, and the demon’s attacks become more effective against the population of Saya’s small town. The beasts horrifically mange and devour any poor sap, including flesh eating shadows and a giant spider-crab that impales its way through Saya’s classroom. It all leads up to a massacre where the townspeople are skewered butchered by kaiju-sized bunny beasts.
When an anime revolves around vampires, you just know things are going to get messy. This action-horror show revolves around a holy British order called Hellsing, run by a descendent of Van Helsing and tasking an ultra powerful vampire named Alucard (Wonder who that could be?) to eliminate any undead threats to the crown. The manga/OVA escalates steadily, from search and destroy missions, to a full on siege of London by a heavily armed unit of Nazi vampires calling themselves Millennium. And with Alucard marooned at the time, things do not go so well for the civilians. We are treated to the sight of the war hungry undead laying waste with weaponry such as V2 rockets and machine guns, but showing how truly inhuman they’ve become by devouring any poor bastard in their path, lingering on one vamp soldier stuffing his maw with a freaking baby!
BATTLE ANGEL ALITA
With more new about the Cameron/Rodriguez adaptation, it’s a perfect time to reflect on this classic Original Video Animation from the 90’s. Adapted from the manga of the same name, the story takes place in a dystopian future where the elite live in a space-hook suspended paradise, while those below live in the refuse of Scrapyard City, where most citizens have become cyborgs to survive the rusted dystopia. There’s no police, but a bounty caste of ‘Hunter-Warriors’ who will take down criminals, only for the cash. There’s a mutant woman that likes ripping apart prostitutes, organ harvesting kids, and Greweicia. And there is a former cyborg fighting champ who became a wanted criminal due to his drug habit who eats the brains right out of people’s skulls for a dopamine high!
What happens when sword and sorcery fantasy comes crashing hard onto an even bleaker version of the dark ages? BERSERK. Guts, a cursed swordsman and mercenary walks the land in search of the man who caused his misfortune, while being stalked by and killing any demonic “Apostles” that gravitate towards him due to a cursed seal on his neck. Right off the bat (depending on which adaptation you watch), there’s a forest of evil spirits and tree monsters that possess, devour, and otherwise murder any living thing that gets in their way, and a demonically turned Snake Baron who demands repeated human sacrifices that he devours. And that’s just the supernatural threats. Medieval combat proves to repeatedly to provide just as much bloodshed.
In an attempt to colonize Mars, scientists send a terraforming cocktail of algae vegetation and cockroaches (highly adaptive organisms) to the red planet. Hundreds of years later, a manned expedition is sent to check on the terraforming process… but mysteriously they lose communication. A second team is sent, now equipped with a state of the art gene therapy that gives them insectoid abilities. The new team discover to their horror that the cockroaches adapted too well. Now they evolved into the titular, ultra strong Terraformars creatures. While mainly a sci-fi action series, it does not shy away from just how much damage super-humanly evolved space bugs can do, which is extremely messy. A particularly memorable scene involves one Terraformars ripping off a guy’s head, MORTAL KOMBAT style, then using the spinal chord like razor wire to slice several astronauts into kibble and bits.
Another seemingly kid-friendly adventure show that hits more mature topics like scientific ethics, genocide, and how destructive fantasy violence can be., this one is set in an alternate version of our world where alchemy is a successful science. Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric seek the power of alchemy’s greatest achievement, The Philosopher’s Stone, capable of granting immortality and healing their bodies from an experiment gone wrong. Only to get involved in a massive government conspiracy and witnessing unbelievable evil that seeks to use the Brothers for their own goals. The Brothers are traumatized early on when an attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy ends up with Ed sans an arm and a leg, and Al having his soul bound to a suit of armor. In the process, it creates an abominable mockery of a human body…
A new offshoot species has begun appearing, strange and brightly-colored haired women with immense telekinetic powers called “vectors”. The opening sets the tone as the lead character, Lucy, escapes from a prison/research facility that was conducting inhumane experiments upon her, using said vectors to easily rip the security forces apart, pushing on one guard’s chest and launching his heart out like a beanbag. Lucy even decapitates a secretary who gets caught in the middle and uses the body as a shield against machine gun fire. And this is just the opening!
GYO This is one of the few adaptations of master of horror Junji Ito’s terrifying works and perhaps one of his most bizarre. Though there are a few key differences between the original manga and the OVA, the story basically revolves around curious phenomena of fish and other sea-life suddenly walking on land thanks to disturbingly spider-like mechanical walker attachments. A disgustingly deathly odor spreads as well, and it soon becomes evident that whatever caused the event is moving on to more and more species… including humans. GYO manages to combine oceanic-based fears along with body horror and apocalyptic madness. Making ‘Landshark’ a plausible and terrifying threat as it devours every human in its path.
AKIRA The classic. This is the cyberpunk anime movie that became a landmark for the importation of Japanese animation in the west. Set in a post-World War III Neo-Tokyo… because there isn’t a Tokyo anymore, the story follows a motorcycle gang that gets caught up in a conspiracy between revolutionaries, the government and the implementation of massive psychic powers, including the mysterious AKIRA. There is no shying away from how much of a dystopia the city has become. Children are brutally beaten by authority figures and fellow gangs. Dissidents are gunned down with impunity in bloody detail. And then there’s the horrifying extremes of psychic capabilities in Tetsuo, a biker turned human guinea pig. Tetsuo telekinetically rips apart or crushes anyone in his way to chunky sals, and accidentally squishes the poor girl he loved in his rapidly mutating body.
From the golden age of gritty, gory, nihilistic 90’s cyberpunk comes GENOCYBER! The plot concerns a new one world government and a secret multi-national experiment to create the ultimate psychic weapon. There are two psychic sisters whose powers combine to create a god-like cyborg monster called GENOCYBER! What sets this series above the rest in terms of violence is the sheer body count and bloodshed. But with a title combining ‘genocide’ with ‘cyber’ that’s to be expected. In the first episode, we have civilians shredded to pieces by masked cyborg assassins, a detective flayed alive, and the psychokinetic devastation of Hong Kong. Episodes 2 and 3 are a highlight for grotesque body horror when an attempt to recreate GENOCYBER unleashes a techno-organic abomination that merges with a battleship and gruesomely assimilates the entire crew.