Top 10 Darkest Shonen Anime

Top 10 Darkest Shonen Anime
VOICE OVER: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
These shonen don't hold back. Join Ashley as we look over the most savage action anime out there, including the likes of "Demon Slayer", "Attack on Titan", "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure", and more!

Script written by Jonathan Alexander

Top 10 Darkest Shonen Anime

Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the shounen heavy hitters that weren’t afraid to go to the dark side.

#10: “D. Gray-Man” (2006-16)

Set in a gothic alternative version of the 1800s, “D.Gray-Man” depicts the struggles of Allen Walker, a young exorcist who battles the Noah Family, whose army of demons is poised to destroy humanity. Tragic circumstances are common throughout the story, from character deaths to ostracization. The demons are particularly unsettling. “Gray” is also in more than just the show’s name, as the heroes go to dark lengths to achieve their goals and the villains have hidden depths. While the anime has had a troubled history, looking at you Hallow, it’s still well worth your time.

#9: “Akame ga Kill!” (2016)

Despite its bright character designs and goofy moments, “Akame ga Kill!” is anything but sunny. The series follows a group of assassins who try to overthrow the tyrannical government of the magical country they live in. Gross and graphic abuse of power by those in charge is squarely at the forefront, providing a lot of motivation for the protagonists. The deaths are also quite disturbing, and not even the heroes are safe from grisly ends. Not even the waifu wars have a patch on this show’s darkest moments.

#8: “To Your Eternity” (2021-)

When an entity is dropped into the world, it imitates various objects, and eventually creatures and people as it grows and comes to understand humanity. The being, which takes the name Fushi, encounters both the best and worst that humans have to offer. This includes killing, assault, betrayal and the impermanence of life, but also kindness and love. And it's that constant sense of loss that keeps the cycle of heartbreak a’going! “To Your Eternity” is a mirror held up to show us everything we’re capable of, and it isn’t always pretty. But it’s still a moving and touching story that’s a true experience.

#7: “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” (2012-22)

“JoJo” may be hilarious and the origin of what feels like half of all anime memes, but it also goes to some truly dark places. The generational saga of the Joestar bloodline contains plenty of blood and guts. Vampiric villains terrorize the family and everyone who gets in their way. A serial killer with a severed hand fetish explodes his victims. One of them is even set in Florida! The violence is as creative as it is strange, though always manages to land an emotional blow when needed, even amidst the madness of any given Stand battle!

#6: “Jujutsu Kaisen” (2020-)

After consuming the finger of a powerful curse, Yuji Itadori becomes involved in the world of sorcerers, who battle monsters and conjurations to protect the world. Although it has many Shonen tropes, “Jujutsu Kaisen” stands out because it has strong elements of horror, particularly body horror. The curses in general are pretty terrifying, featuring abstract bodies and killing in gruesome ways, but the big bads are straight up nightmare fuel! Mahito – enough said. But, if you can stomach a few bad dreams, “Jujutsu Kaisen” is an action-packed, and remarkably funny Shonen series with some spectacular animation.

#5: “The Promised Neverland” (2019-21)

This happy go lucky slice of life follows a group of children in an orphanage with a mother that loves them. And that’s it. No grim, traumatic story here. Okay, fine, they’re being raised like cattle to be fed to demons, happy? The premise alone is as bleak as can be, but the series in general has an air of Grimm’s fairy tales about it, with monsters lurking in the wider world and a different kind of monster found at home. And like all the best fairy tales, “The Promised Neverland” will scare as well as inspire.

#4: “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” (2019-)

After his entire family is killed by a demon and his sister converted into one, Tanjiro sets out to find a cure for his sibling and to get revenge on the monster responsible. Although it has obvious influences from many big Shonen series, “Demon Slayer” has a distinctive, gorgeous art style and stunning action sequences that have made it a huge hit both on the big and small screens. It also doesn’t shy away from its dark subject matter, with its brutal and occasionally tragic storylines hitting home especially hard, whether it be the scars of the swordsmen or the unfortunate origins of the various demons they hunt.

#3: “Death Note” (2006-07)

What if a god of death gave a teenager the ability to kill anyone just by writing their name down in a notebook? That’s the premise, and the result is utterly compelling and tremendously dark. Light Yagami may start out trying to kill criminals and the worst of society, but he quickly develops a god complex and becomes willing to end anyone who stands in the way of his goals. Standing in his way is L, a brilliant, and effectively nameless, detective. Their veritable game of cat and mouse is thrilling and racks up quite the body count. Is Light the biggest monster here, or are we, for almost rooting for him?

#2: “Attack on Titan” (2013-)

Set in a world where monstrous giants threaten the remnants of humanity inside a city of concentric walls, “Attack on Titan” follows a group of young soldiers as they battle the encroaching titans, as well as threats from within their own borders. There's a good reason that “Attack on Titan” has been called the “Game of Thrones” of anime, and it’s not just because of its meteoric popularity – no one is safe! Shocking character deaths are the order of the day, and they’re usually horrific when they happen. Stunning action scenes, sprawling ensemble casts, twists and turns galore, once you take a dive in, this series won’t let you go.

#1: “Hunter x Hunter” (2011-14)

While creator Yoshihiro Togashi also went pretty wild with his famous series “YuYu Hakusho,” he went even further with his other masterpiece. This series feels like a typical Shonen action series about a boy trying to find his father, as well as many other adventures he has along the way…until it suddenly doesn’t. “Hunter x Hunter” subverts many of the typical Shonen tropes in several ways, and that includes some truly brutal subject matter. Mafia gangs are massacred. Monster ants devour kids. One of the child protagonists even rips out a guy’s heart and shows it to him! While other shows may be consistently darker, “Hunter x Hunter” brand of violence and storytelling stands out in contrast to the rest of it. And it’s amazing!

If there’s a Shonen series that’s more bloody than hot-blooded that we missed, please tell us in the comments!