Welcome to Cartoon Crackdown: bringing you a compendium of horror-related animation posts for cartoons you should and MUST see.
Anime has always been one of those art forms that’s had trouble becoming mainstream in America, as other cultures are largely unfamiliar with the different animation style and the often more adult themes of the stories. Outside of certain punctuated examples, a lot of these anime shows and movies remain largely obscure from an international standpoint, which is a shame since so many of them are worth checking out. Because of this, and because it’s the month of Halloween, here are three must-watch horror anime that horror fans, whether familiar with anime or not, can truly immerse themselves in.
PERFECT BLUE (1997)
Before Natalie Portman went bonkers in Black Swan, there was Perfect Blue, an animated psychological thriller from anime master Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Millenium Actress, etc). Steeped within themes of fame and its subsequent side effects, Perfect Blue follows pop singer Mima Kirigoe as she shifts career gears from singing to television acting. This decision results in a gradual breakdown for Mima, as she faces hallucinations, fainting-spells, and the increasingly dangerous hazings of a creepy stalker. It’s not long before all Hell breaks loose, and Mima must attempt to escape the misfortune brought by her new found television fame.
Beautifully animated and excellently voice-acted, Satoski Kon’s horror story is Hitchcockian in its execution. The shots are haunting, the atmosphere drips with dark moods, and the suspense never dials down for even a second. It was also one of the earlier films that demonstrated animation’s potential for adult stories to other cultures (American especially) that were conditioned to believe that animation was merely kid stuff. It’s absolutely riveting and definitely a must-buy for any fans of psychological horror.
PARANOIA AGENT (2004)
Returning to the genre that solidified his early success, Satoshi Kon released Paranoia Agent in 2004, a thirteen episode miniseries that combined slasher movie elements with a Se7en style mystery. After famous toy designer Tsukiko Sagi (who develops the Japanese equivalent of Tickle-Me Elmo called Maromi) gets mysterious assaulted by a near phantasmic roller skater with a baseball bat, a string of strange murders pop up involving this attacker whom they’ve dubbed “Lil’ Slugger.” Two detectives are put on the task of apprehending Lil’ Slugger, but gradually find themselves trapped within the most haunting and dangerous case of their lives.
Sporting filmic visuals and direction despite its small-screen venue, Paranoia Agent dives somewhat into Kon’s earlier themes of fame but additionally immerses itself more in creepy supernatural undertones. The writing is excellent, the show design is stunning, and Lil’ Slugger himself stands as one of the most terrifying killers I’ve ever seen in any horror story. Couple that with the extremely eerie opening sequence, and you have a thrilling show that will floor and frighten you.
MIRAI NIKKI (2011-2012)
Based on a popular horror manga from Sakae Esuno, Mirai Nikki (or Future Diary in the English version) brings a paranoid distrust to the forefront that’s reminiscent of John Carpenter’s monster classic The Thing. After introverted loner Yuki Amano gets selected by a seemingly omnipotent deity (named Deus Ex Machina hilariously enough), he becomes ensnared in a survival game that threatens to destroy him. The rules are simple: twelve combatants compete for a chance to become a literal god and all but the winner must die beforehand. Saddled with fear and stalked by an obsessive, schizophrenic participant named Yuno Gasai, Yuki learns that he can’t trust any one if he is to survive this game at all.
While the beginning premise dives far into the realm of fantasy, the series quickly transitions into tense murderous action that’s both intense and fun to watch. In particular, it perfectly executes a psychopathic character study with Yuno, whose constant swaying between cuteness and carnage scared the absolute Hell out of me. By its end, Mirai Nikki will have you constantly glancing over your shoulder with each and every betrayal, murder, or narrow escape. Clocking in at twenty-six excellently animated episodes, this series is an unforgettable nail-biter that’s worth watching this very second.
Hope you guys enjoyed the list, and feel free to check out the little snippets for each of these anime below. You won’t be disappointed.