Over the decades, the world of anime has offered some of the most compelling psychological series and continues to release brilliantly written stories with fascinating characters. With deeply arresting plots, set in a number of environments and universes, there are several ways psychological thriller anime is presented to the viewers. While some tackle the subject of the human psyche, others deal with emotionally moving characters and settings.
From some of the most popular series in the genre to underrated gems, here are 10 of the best psychological anime for a stirring and exciting ride, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
This popular and acclaimed anime successfully split viewers by blurring the lines between good and evil, creating a stirring anti-villain out of the lead character, Light Yagami. In Death Note, a high school student gains the ability to kill anyone by writing their name in a supernatural book, he embarks on a self-righteous mission to rid the world of criminals. But this vendetta shifts the balance of virtue and results in a suspenseful cat and mouse game between him and the authorities, particularly an equally intelligent detective known only as “L.”
Monster features some of the best suspense in any anime ever. A thrilling ride from beginning to end, the story centers on a brilliant neurosurgeon, Dr. Kenzou Tenma, who saves the life of a seemingly innocent young boy. However, years later, Tenma comes to realize the child he saved is a murdering psychopath, and questions his own involvement in the deaths of others. While he tries to make amends and apprehend the monster he seemingly let loose, an emotional and gripping story unfolds.
Psycho-Pass is set in a far, dystopian future, where criminal intent is assessed by the computerized Sibyl System. However, when a brilliant rookie policewoman, Akane Tsunemori, encounters a criminal mastermind, capable of outsmarting this “perfect” system and its judgements, she must question the true meaning of justice. It’s an exciting anime that analyzes human personality in relation to crime and corruption.
Erased details the life of Satoru Fujinuma, who can travel back in time and prevent the deaths of others. When he loses his mother, he goes back in time, but ends up 18 years into the past, and must save his former classmate Kayo from a kidnapping, and eventual murder. It’s the perfect blend of time travel and murder mystery, where the unique plot and characters ensure that the series is a completely illuminating and psychologically thrilling watch.
When a set of humans die at the same time, they are sent to Quincedem — a sort of purgatory — where they are to play a game while risking their lives. However, the participants are assessed based on their morality, as each player’s true nature is revealed during the course of the game, ultimately resulting in a player’s reincarnation, or banishment into the void for eternity. It’s a psychological thriller that highlights the heart, and hidden nature of humans, especially when one’s life is on the line.
Gambling and baseball unite in this thrilling, underrated sports drama. The lead character, Toua Tokuchi, is a highly skilled pitcher and master manipulator, who joins a struggling baseball team under very high stake terms — for every out he pitches, he receives 5 million yen, but each run he gives up will cost him fifty million yen. Psychological warfare ensues between him and his opponents, as well as his club’s greedy owner, as the latter schemes to increase his fortune with each winning performance.
From the New World
In an apparent utopia, thousands of years in the future, several humans possess telekinetic abilities. However, a group of friends come to realize the dark history behind their new world after an unusual incident occurs. Things take a turn for the worse when questions begin to arise about what happens to those without the power of telekinesis. As the group of friends are now charged with protecting the world from an impending apocalypse, they go through tumultuous and twisted situations. This anime starts off light but quickly turns into a dark thriller about human nature.
Yukiteru Amano is an antisocial high school student who discovers his digital diary can predict the future, and his imaginary friend is actually the god of space and time. He is eventually roped into an unusual survival game and soon finds out that 11 other individuals possess similar, but uniquely crafted digital diaries. He must now compete with these individuals in a winner-takes-all battle royale, where only one person can remain alive, and become the next god of space and time. His only ally is Yuno Gasai, a fellow competitor who is obsessed with him, and ready to defend him at any cost.
This beautifully animated series features some of anime’s most twisted and insane characters. Kakegurui is set in a seemingly normal high school, where extremely wealthy students engage in deep gambling, with each student’s rank determined by their number of winnings.
When the series’ protagonist Yumeko Jabami — who suffers from a gambling addiction — joins the school, she upsets the balance and order. While the other students gamble to maintain and elevate their ranks, she gambles for the thrill of it, ready to risk absolutely everything. The anime sometimes suffers from a repetitive plot, but the compelling uniqueness of each character makes it worth the watch.
A chilling tale about fear and paranoia, this anime centers on a criminal boy, who goes around a city in Japan assaulting people. He is marked by his rollerblades and a bent golden baseball bat. While two detectives start to investigate the crimes and attempt to uncover the identity of this child, the city becomes plagued with paranoia, as there is no determined pattern to the attacks, leaving everyone to wonder “who’s next?” As other strange occurrences start to plague the city, every individual begins to react in a number of ways.
So, any of these days, you plan a binge spree of anime series with the most twisted plots and characters, here is a ready-made list of the best of them to start without any delay.