[Description]: Suspense thrillers are often full of mystery and psychological mind games. They aim to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat by portraying high-stakes, stressful situations, a myriad of plot twists, unforeseen developments, and narrative cliffhangers that keep you wanting more. Detective narratives, dark and complicated dramas, and horror stories are all pervasive subjects of the genre. There is frequently an emphasis placed upon the protagonists’ mental state and their beliefs or ideologies which often leads to these shows being very thematic and provocative. Links to spoiler-free reviews of all of the shows that have them are included.
9. Boku dake ga Inai Machi
Alternative Title: ERASED
Episode Count: 12 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: A-1 Pictures; 2016
Details: One of the most popular shows of the past several years, BokuMachi is a mystery thriller about a young man named Fujinuma Satoru who has the ability to travel backwards in time and prevent the disasters that unfold around him. When somebody close to Satoru is killed and he is framed for the murder, he is sent farther back in time than ever before – 18 years into the past to the year of 1988. As his child-self, he must solve the string of abductions from his past in order to prevent the tragedy of his future. While the show’s critical success was very contentious and it’s ending was widely regarded as total disappointment, BokuMachi features good directing and a handful of creative visual techniques that keep the show thrilling despite it’s myriad of narrative issues. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
8. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Alternative Title: When They Cry
Episode Count: 55 Episodes; 3 Seasons (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Studio Deen; 2006 – 2009
Details: Higurashi is a psychological horror riddled with paranoia, insanity, and a bizarre procession of events. Maebara Keiichi, the protagonist of the show, moves into the village of Hinamizawa at the beginning of the show. Quick to make friends with his school mates, things begin to feel progressively more dark and ominous as he learns more about the folktales of the village and its various disappearances and murders. After Keiichi fails to get a straight answer out of anyone he talks to, the narrative descends into a fear-ridden nightmare of twists and turns. Despite its kind of cute aesthetic, Higurashi features some truly horrifying subject matter ranging from torture to death and psychological breakdowns. Turn off your lights and watch the absurdities and horrors of Higurashi unfold.
7. Death Note
Episode Count: 37 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Madhouse; 2006 – 2007
Details: One of the most famous anime of all time – Death Note tells the story of the young genius Light Yagami who chances upon a shinigami’s notebook – a Death Note. By writing the name of another person in the book, Light discovers that that they will soon die thereafter. Recognizing the significance of this new power, he undertakes the prodigious task of eliminating all of the criminals in the world in order to bring about a crime-free utopia where only those he deems morally deserving persist. Operating under the moniker of ‘Kira,’ Light’s serial killings quickly draw the attention of various investigative agencies and the famous detective, L. Death Note is a dark and intelligent, mystery thriller that focuses on the dramatic twists and turns within the psychological battle between Light and L. as well as Light’s own crusade to rid the world of evil. Though the latter half of the show isn’t nearly as strong as the first, Death Note is none the less deserving of its staple status.
6. Zankyou no Terror
Alternative Title: Terror in Resonance
Episode Count: 11 Episodes (22-minutes each)
Studio and Year: MAPPA; 2014
Details: Zankyou no Terror is a dramatic mystery thriller from director Watanabe Shinichiro of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo renown. The show focuses on two teenage terrorists named Nine and Twelve who orchestrate their bombings and attacks under the masked identity of ‘Spyhnx’. Threatening the public of Tokyo with widespread destruction and chaos, the two boys prompt a full-on investigation from the police department and detective Kenjirou Shibazaki. Zankyou no Terror’s breathtaking presentation and beautiful soundtrack are offset only by a rather incoherent plot and some terrible instances of character writing and voice acting. Though it has very pronounced issues, Zankyou no Terror remains very graceful and entertaining to watch but certainly has the potential to disappoint viewers with its shoddy writing and loose ends.
Alternative Title: Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Episode Count: 24 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Gonzo; 2004
Details: Gankutsuou is a dramatic, science-fiction mystery that adapts the popular novel The Count of Monte Cristo into a futuristic, space-faring setting. In the year 5053, Albert de Morcerf, a young aristocrat, visits Luna to partake in the upcoming festival where he meets a charming nobleman who introduces himself as the Count of Monte Cristo. Mesmerized by the Count, Albert invites him back to his home in Paris but upon his arrival, the city becomes uneasy and it steadily becomes apparent that Albert’s new acquaintance is more than he claims to be. Gankutsuo is a wonderfully gripping story of machinations, love, and betrayal all presented in an incredibly unique visual style of colorful graphics and palettes. Though its narrative becomes rather obscure near the end, Gankutsuou is a hard show to put down and will leave you hanging with the conclusion of every episode. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
4. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
Alternative Title: Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
Episode Count: 52 Episodes; 2 Seasons (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Madhouse; 2007 – 2011
Details: Itou Kaiji’s deplorable life of gambling, cigarettes, and cheap liquor is upended one day when he is visited by a debt collector following through on an outstanding debt which Kaiji foolishly cosigned for a co-worker in the past. Suddenly burdened with enormous debt, he is left with only two options – to work his life away trying to pay it back or spend one night on the high-stakes gambling ship, the Espoir. Ignorant of the ship’s true danger, Kaiji opts to partake in the underground gambling circuit which sets his life on the path to hell. Kaiji is a dramatic, psychological show about gambling, mental warfare, and the darker parts of human nature. Underneath its crude character designs is a gripping and unforgiving story of deceit and intellectual struggle illustrated through Kaiji’s subject material of risk and inventive games. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
3. Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu
Alternative Title: Parasyte -the maxim-
Episode Count: 24 Episodes (23-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Madhouse; 2014 – 2015
Details: Kiseijuu’s story begins when Shinichi Izumi, an average high-school student, is attacked by an alien parasite which attempts to infiltrate his brain and take control of his body. Able to thwart the alien’s attempts, he isolates its possession of him to his right hand. Shinichi, along with the parasite Migi, are then forced into a strenuous coexistence where he must maintain the appearance of his every day life while battling other parasites who would otherwise use humans as their food source. Full of action, gore, horror, and psychological concepts, Kiseijuu is an absolute blast to watch. Backed by an incredible soundtrack, every episode leaves you wanting more as Shinichi encounters other parasites and evolves into something that even he himself can’t fully comprehend or understand.
Episode Count: 74 Episodes (24-minutes each)
Studio and Year: Madhouse; 2004 – 2005
Details: Possibly the most critically acclaimed and famous animated work of psychological mystery, Monster is an absolute must-watch for any fans of the genre. The story centers around Kenzou Tenma, a genius neurologist, who saves the life of a young boy named Johan Liebert after he suffers a gunshot wound to the head. Realizing years later that Johan is a cold and calculating murderer, Tenma undertakes a quest of redemption to find him and right the wrong of saving his life. Monster is an absolute thematic masterpiece. It’s intelligent, methodical, gripping, and strung together by some of the most masterfully written subtext in all of anime. Tenma’s ideals and transformation and Johan’s mysterious past are endlessly fascinating and though the show offers a very slow burn at 74 episodes, it is undoubtedly worth watching. You can read a spoiler-free review: here.
Episode Count: 25 Episodes; 2 Seasons (26-minutes each)
Studio and Year: ufotable; 2011 – 2012
Details: Fate/Zero is a dark and electrifying addition to the Fate franchise and I heavily recommend watching the other shows in its series beforehand to better understand and appreciate it. The story details the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War – a grand contest wherein seven mages call upon seven Heroic Spirits to battle each other for the ‘Holy Grail’ and its wish-fulfilling capabilities. The Heroic Spirits themselves are legendary warriors ripped out of history and lore. Fate/Zero earns its viewer’s attention through it’s incredible animation and fight choreography which is just as interesting as its contemplative and brooding dialogue. The show’s many intricacies, enthralling plot, and incredibly well-written characters easily earns it a spot as one of the best anime of all time.