Psychological thriller anime picks and borrows tropes from various other genres, ranging from mystery and suspense to horror. But, psychological thriller anime series’ focus less on physical trauma, and instead on the mental state of its characters (and the audience). For anime fans, there are some pretty good psychological thrillers to watch, so here are five that will really mess with your mind.
Future Diary aka Mirai Nikki follows high school student, Yukiteru Amano when he’s thrown into a battle royal to become the new God of Time and Space, with a diary that tells the future. But, he isn’t the only one playing. There are 11 other participants, each with their own future diary possessing unique features. The horrid circumstances that each contestant goes through will push them to the edge, where they can never return.
One of such participant is Yuno Gasai. With the help of her diary, Yuno starts out as Yukiteru’s stalker, tracking his every move. Her obsession with Yukiteru holds no bound, leading her to kill everyone that stands in her way. But in the next 90 days, each participant, including Yukiteru and Yuno, must try to survive until only one remains. Let the twisted game of survival and psychological torture begin.
Alice in Borderland
Alice in Borderland revolves around high school student, Ryōhei Arisu, who has no aspirations and only wants to escape the meaningless existence that is his life. But, one day he, along with two his two friends, Daikichi Karube and Chōta Segawa, see a large firework going off in the sky. But, before they realize it, one of the fireworks becomes a giant explosion that knocks them out.
When they come to their senses, Arisu notices that they’re in an unfamiliar place and no one else is around. The three are soon forced to take part in survival games or die. Arisu and his friends must play to live, as well as find a way back home.
Alice in Borderland is a psychological thriller that explores the ways people transform, from how humans act in normal situations compared to when the unexpected pushes them to their limit. The anime shows how frightening and unsettling situations can bring out the selfish and dark side of people.
Based on the Young Animator Training Project short film, Death Billiards, Death Parade explores the question: “what happens to us when we die?” Do we get the chance to live again or perish into nothingness? In each episode, a tall, pale-skinned bartender tends to the recently departed. There they have to play a game. Whether it’s bowling or a set of darts, the results of the game reveal the player’s true self. And this truth decides if they are reincarnated or fall into a void.
Set in a dark, yet elegant bar, the series features a diverse set of characters. Each episode is a psychological exploration of the end of life by making its characters real and relatable to the audience. The anime shows how each person’s actions and reactions to the inevitable could change someone. It’s a thought-provoking psychological thriller that reveals the real side of human nature.
An elementary school kid dubbed Lil’ Slugger skates around town on golden rollerblades attacking people with a bent, golden bat. Detectives Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa are on the case to solve these attacks. Unfortunately, each of Lil’ Slugger’s victims does not fully remember the attack or the assailant, making it much harder to find the perpetrator.
Each attack causes fear and panic to grow in the city while strange things also start to happen. Do these attacks have a positive impact on the victims or is Lil’ Slugger a menace that the detectives need to stop?
Directed and written by the legend in psychological thriller anime, Satoshi Kon (Paprika and Perfect Blue), Paranoia Agent quickly goes from a regular anime series into a dark and intriguing show due to its take on fear, repression, violence, and psychological problems.
Mahjong Legend Akagi: The Genius Who Descended Into the Darkness
Nangou is a compulsive gambler who has over three million yen ($27,500USD) in debt. To clear his credit, he decides to play mahjong with the mafia. If he wins the game, he gets a big prize. But if he loses, he will lose his life. Unfortunately for Nangou, luck isn’t on his side, and as the game progresses, he moves closer to death.
Luckily for him, a young boy named Shigeru Akagi stumbles into the game. Desperate to turn things around, Nangou tries his luck by handing the game over to Akagi. The gangsters smirk at Akagi as he sits down to play. But, what they don’t know is that Akagi is a natural-born gambler, one who’s destined to become a legend.
Each episode fixates on the psychological tension between Akagi and his mahjong adversary. Every step in the game features frequent and dangerous tile exchanges that bring the viewer to a state of pure anxiety. The tone and atmosphere create the right amount of suspense, that’s synonymous with psychological thrillers.