Are you ready to bring back some emo vibes, Gen Z?
Before we list out the top 20 emo anime, let us discuss the question – what is Emo? The term “Emo” was originally used to describe emocore, a form of hardcore punk music, often characterized by emotional and confessional lyrics when it emerged in the mid-80s.
Over the next decade, this genre of music coupled with a unique fashion style gained enough foothold to become its own sub-culture. They became characterized by a particular style of dress, a focus on emotional expression, and a sense of individuality.
Later on, the subculture started being stereotypically associated with social alienation, introversion, and angst with links to depression, self-harm, and even suicide, which is where we present the topic of this article to you – the representation of this growing sub-culture in Japan through the medium of anime.
Best Emo Anime that are dark and edgy:
These emo anime explores the darker aspects of life by painting stories of angst, rebellion, and self-discovery. Pain becomes a source of strength and social isolation is a form of self-expression and emotions are at an all-time high.
So, without further ado, here are some of the best anime that represent the essence of what being an emo means.
20. WataMote: No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!
WataMote is an anime series that follows the life of Tomoko Kuroki, a socially awkward and introverted high school girl who dreams of becoming popular and having a thriving social life. This anime is what I call a cringe-fest as Tomoko’s disastrous attempts to improve her social status always land her in hilarious and awkward situations.
The anime paints masquerades itself to be hilarious but to be honest, it can be quite depressing at times with how relatable it can feel. To call the watching experience uncomfortable is an understatement. Every minute of the show involves Tomoko struggling with life and failing in the most awkward way possible.
It’s so prominent that you can’t help but pity the poor girl and that alone makes it depressing. The show shows Tomoko struggling with the challenges that come with adolescence, her inability to express herself, and her low self-esteem to top it off might make it a toilsome watch for quite a lot of people.
All in all, WataMote portrays Tomoko as a walking and talking mountain of Emo itself. It’s a simple satirical show that uses dark humor to its advantage to provide a glimpse into the inner thoughts and struggles of its protagonist as she navigates to better her life.
Charlotte comes from Jun Maeda, the creator behind titles like Clannad and Angel Beats. And if you have seen any Jun Maeda projects, it’s just another one of his classics, albeit with a pretty interesting twist on things. Usually, Jun Maeda puts a lot of focus on familial bonds and relationships between characters.
A recurring theme in his stories is magical realism, a fantastical element, which is the main niche on Clannad. It’s a story about students who have received mysterious supernatural powers but struggle to balance their normal lives and their supernatural abilities.
What makes Charlotte so interesting is how each special ability is different from the last and how they can be used to solve different challenges. The show places a lot of importance on friendship and support and the characters are very well developed.
The show could have been amazing if not for its rushed conclusions. It feels like Jun Maeda had a lot to say, but just not enough time and tried to cram it all into the last couple of episodes, which is ironic considering the first few episodes move at a much slower pace.
The way the show intertwines its fantastical qualities with a very grounded, human reality is very much Jun Maeda-esque, in the sense that emotions are always the highlight of any scene. Overall, it’s a good emo anime and something you should definitely check out if you are a fan of Jun Maeda’s writing.
18. Summer Ghost
Summer Ghost is a peculiar short movie about three teenagers and their perchance meeting with the ghost of a young woman who committed suicide. The ghost only appears in a specific area and is only visible to people who are in close proximity to death themselves.
Our three main characters are haunted by different problems that lead them to contemplate death. Our ghastly friend here is able to answer any and all questions pertaining to the topic and helps the other characters move past their problems.
Honestly, the one major complaint about this movie is that it’s too short for its own good – a meager 45-minute run time. It just doesn’t have enough run time to properly develop characters and flows too quickly. Since you don’t get too invested in the characters’ stories, the conclusion to their problems feels unsatisfactory.
If you ever feel dead inside (honestly who doesn’t?), it’s not perfect, but it represents emo well enough to make the movie feel relatable. It delivers the message to keep on living and it’s a bittersweet experience which is what we are here for after all, right?
17. Sonny Boy
Sonny Boy is a very peculiar yet wonderful show that’s certainly hard to put into words. It’s a visually captivating series that unfolds in a world where a group of students gain supernatural abilities after being transported to a mysterious void.
Not all students get such abilities though, and it creates a divide in the group. However, they need to work together to survive in this world which has its own set of rules, and try to find a way back to their home. Despite the fantastical elements, Sonny Boy is essentially a coming-of-age story and it feels grounded in reality.
The show certainly feels very abstract. In the beginning, it’s mostly a mystery, but as the show progresses, you realize that it’s more about the characters themselves and their development. The show never explicitly tells anything, it always implies in some or the other way.
And the way the show handles characters is kinda fascinating. We see the world mainly from one of our leads, Nagara’s perspective. He starts out as kind of apathetic and doesn’t take an interest in anything. But by having him interact with other characters, he gradually matures to realize that he is never in control of his life.
But whatever life throws at him, he’ll just have to accept it and move forward, even if it’s just one step at a time. The show is so abstract in its presentation, that it’s hard to interpret what message it was trying to deliver, but what is also the strength of the show – that it is open to interpretations.
16. Terror in Resonance
Terror in Resonance tells the tale of two young and hot-blooded boys who have mastered the craft of engineering bombs and detonating them at points of interest (such as a nuclear power plant), with no people around so that no one is injured. So an anime about terrorism you ask?
Not quite, I say. Terror in Resonance tries to align itself into the anti-hero territory. The focus of the plot is not on the act of terrorism itself but on solving cryptic challenges to prevent these bombings. Before you ask, yes, the terrorists announce their bombings in advance and leave cryptic messages about their target’s whereabouts.
It’s a bit blunt sometimes, and the solution to the puzzles just feels way too simple, but the show handles itself with a surprising amount of maturity. The visuals and sound design are what sets it apart though. If you like Michael Bay movies, this IS THE ANIME for you because explosions muahhh! (Transformer movies were peak EMO amiright?)
15. Hell Girl
In Hell Girl, there’s a certain rumored mysterious site that is only accessible after midnight. It is said that if you enter the name of your enemy on this site, Ai Enma, will appear in front of you, and offer to send that person to hell. However, there is a cost – she will claim your soul and drag it down to hell as well when you die.
Hell Girl at its core, is an anime about succumbing to desperation. It builds up a horrific atmosphere through its portrayal of agony. It shows how the tormented are pushed over to the point of desperation by anguish, knowing that there is an option right there that will solve their problems, but doing so would mean dooming their soul to eternity.
So, will they take the option? That is precisely what this anime shows us. With all its horror, psychological trauma, nervous breakdown, and despair, Hell Girl can be a really good emo anime if you find any of these themes intriguing.
14. Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed
Shigofumi fills a particular niche that few anime have tried to explore. As the title suggests, Shigofumi is about letters from people who have passed away. What’s in these letters – the strong feelings that they have left behind, feelings of love, longing, regret, or even resentment.
Shigofumi follows our lead girl Fumika, who’s job is to deliver these letters from the departed to their intended recipient, even if they don’t want to read them. The series presents its contents in a very neutral way, that is to say, the content of the letters, whether they may be positive or negative, is presented simply as they are.
Shigofumi feels just a tinge bit similar to Hell Girl in the emo category, but it lacks the scary imagery or the psychological horror. Instead, it focuses on delivering a very grounded story with its powerful emotions and muted and somber color palette.
13. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei has somewhat of a cult status in the anime sphere. It’s essentially an anime about eccentricity. We follow the story of Nozumu Itoshiki, the world’s most pessimistic teacher. So much so that even the smallest of misfortunes will send him down the path of despair.
In fact, the anime opens up with Nozumu’s attempted suicide shortly before it is stopped by another teacher. From there on, we witness the relationship of an eccentric teacher with his eccentric students, where each character is based on one problematic aspect of Japanese society and we tackle them one at a time.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei tackles a lot of serious subject matters but it develops these problems with a dark comedy. A really unique, cynical, and often nonsensical type of comedy. The satirical aspect of the show is what allows for a much deeper reflection of these problems. It’s an amazing emo anime and you should check it out!
Colorful is a unique take on the ‘second chance’ troupe in anime. Usually, people who have regrets are teleported back in time to correct those mistakes, or teleported to a new world altogether, but colorful does that a little differently.
In Colorful, souls who have committed grave sins are lined up to receive their judgments, and one such impure soul wins the lottery – a second chance at life. But there is a catch – the soul is reincarnated into the body of a 14-year-old boy who recently committed suicide, and is tasked to identify the boy’s greatest sin in life within 6 months.
Despite playing into the fantasy theme of reincarnations, this anime doesn’t shy away from exemplifying the harsh realities of life in a real-world setting. Its portrayal of the complexities of people’s emotions and actions is spot on. Overall, Colorful is a deconstruction of ideas of fractured families and suicide, making it a great emo anime.
Orange, for the most part, is a typical shoujo romance anime but it goes beyond the standard shoujo tropes. The story revolves around Naho Takamiya who starts receiving mysterious letters from her future self. Her future self writes about her regrets in life and hopes her younger self can correct the mistakes that she made.
From there on, Naho and their friends plan every step carefully to save Kakeru, a new transfer student in their class. Along the way, the show talks about various topics, even addresses suicide and devolves into the common troupe of forming a love triangle.
Orange is certainly a unique watch because of its different approach to the shoujo genre. It captures the emo phase of these teenagers quite well, showcasing the confusion, regrets, and guilt of teenage life very well. The show’s not the perfect adaptation of the manga, but’s certainly something interesting to watch if you are into the premise.
10. Now and Then, Here and There
Now and Then, Here and There is probably one of the earliest isekai anime out there. And oh man, Isekai were far different in those days huh? The older isekai titles were essentially about figuring out a way to return back to home and this one plays into the same troupes, albeit with some very heavy elements.
The story centers around a boy named Shuu, who is teleported along with another mysterious girl into a desert world. There he finds lots of children similar to him, who have been teleported in a similar fashion and are now forced to fight a war. Shuu must find a way to return back to his world, all while protecting his new companion.
The people who made this anime wanted to convey a message through their story, and they did so by using the direst and bleakest way they could muster. It’s a world gone mad with misery and anguish and what could be more emo and dark than that?
9. Welcome to Irabu’s Office
Welcome to Irabu’s office is somewhat of a very quirky series. Directed by Kenji Nakamura, the show shares the same kind of bizarreness to its art style that he did in Mononoke. It’s so distinctly different that it’s offputting for a lot of people, but for those who are interested, it does indeed prove to be quite a unique experience.
In Welcome to Irabu’s Office, we follow the story of Dr. Irabu, an incredibly skilled psychiatrist who treats a lot of patients suffering from a variety of disorders. The stories are lighthearted and delivered with boundless comedy. And the situations themselves are so whacky that they are just sheer entertainment.
Why is this here then? Well, it’s because it’s very different. A psychological comedy? Goodness gracious I have never heard that term ever before. Isn’t the spirit of emo in being ‘different’ from regular folk? I think this anime captures the essence of the emo phase without specifically playing into emo troupes.
8. A Silent Voice
As a wild elementary kid, Shoya Ishida used to bully a deaf girl in his class which landed him in a lot of trouble, and he eventually got singled out by his friends and classmates. Now in his third year of high school, Shoya is haunted by his guilt and he seeks to make amends by meeting Shouko once again and to try and become her friend.
A Silent Voice is just so beautifully presented in its entirety that I have nothing to say but sing praises of it. It tackles some extremely heavy topics like bullying, how it can spiral into depression, how depression induces loneliness and it feeds back into depression and even contemplating suicide.
But The Silent Voice never highlights any of these aspects in big red letters, even though we have two leads – one who’s battling through depression, and the other who’s contemplating suicide, it always focuses on the brighter emotions to pull these two together. That’s one thing I really respect about this movie.
7. Tokyo Ghoul
I bet you were waiting for this. A list of emo and edgy shows – there’s gotta be Tokyo Ghoul in there, right? Of course, this list would be incomplete otherwise. When Tokyo Ghoul first aired back in the Summer of 2014, it exploded in popularity almost overnight. Why you ask?
Well, first of all, the show featured a banger of an opening – Unravel, one of the most iconic soundtracks in all of anime now. The show itself had some seriously edgy fight scenes, lots of blood and gore, cute and badass anime girls, and a loud manga fanbase highly anticipating the show, all the ingredients for a successful show.
Tokyo Ghoul is a story set in an alternate reality world where flesh-eating ghouls exist in secret alongside humans. Kaneki, a college student, is transformed into a half-ghoul after a fatal encounter with one of these creatures. As someone who walks between both worlds, how will he resolve the conflict between both sides?
Tokyo Ghoul handles its themes majestically. Kaneki himself is the front and center of all the themes the show touches on – self-harm, morality, darkness, repressed emotions, everything. Personally, Kaneki Ken is one of my favorite characters in all of anime and manga. And I hope we can share that sentiment once you’ve watched it.
Speaking about the show, I highly, highly recommend reading the manga after watching the first season. The anime is more or less a very flawed adaptation. It does its job of promoting the manga but in no way does it do it justice, and the manga is just soooooooooo good, I cannot praise it enough.
6. The Tatami Galaxy
The best way to describe The Tatami Galaxy is that it is a sheer cataclysmic joy ride. The show centers around a lonely third-year college student, whose life has devolved into a meaningless void of misery, and as he seeks to turn his life out, he’s given a magical second chance to improve his college life.
The premise may sound quite simple, but let me tell you, the plotline is both unique and unpredictable and that art style is so bizarre, that it might as well rival the Jojo stands. Although the show still has some predictable cliches, the characters are so well-written and more importantly so flawed that it makes them terribly relatable and human.
Even though the crux of the story is delivered with a lot of humor, underneath it’s just sad. Nothing more to add to that, it’s just sad, it’s just your everyday life of an average maidenless weeb but it’s the execution of this show that makes it truly exceptional. The Tatami Galaxy just radiates a solid emo vibe that can be enjoyed by everyone.
5. Perfect Blue
Perfect Blue is the directorial debut of Satoshi Kon and what an amazing movie this is. It is an adaptation of a novel of the same name. Perfect Blue is centered around Mima Kirigoe, the lead member of an idol group who decides to go solo as an actress.
Dealing with her new career as an actress eventually starts to get way too taxing for her, and in addition, she has to deal with a stalker who seemingly knows everything about her life and publicizes it on a website, Mima eventually gets more deranged as she can no longer differentiate reality from the fantasy.
What could possibly be more emo and cool than witnessing a person slowly sink into the depths of the abyss known as insanity? After watching this movie, you will come to understand why the name Satoshi Kon is so well known and respected in not just the anime sphere, but throughout the western movie industry as well.
4. Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain might have been one of the first anime to address the horrors made possible by the existence of networking and technology. Our main character this time around is Lain Iwakura, a socially awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old girl.
The story revolves around the expeditions of Lain into the virtual world of the internet where she gets tangled up in a web of conspiracies. However, her own personal life gets increasingly unraveled the more she tries to uncover the mysteries of this virtual world.
Serial Experiments Lain is essentially a take on existential horror and portrays dark themes with both its color palette and the story elements. Overall, this anime can be summed up as sort of a warning to be very careful of the horrors that lurk on the internet, and it works better than any school lesson ever could.
3. Wonder Egg Priority
Wonder Egg Priority is a story about four friends who are tasked to save different girls like themselves from their nightmarish demons, in a dreamscape world. In doing so, they believe that they are getting close to saving their beloved friends.
Wonder Egg Priority has a lot of interesting ideas going on – the nightmarish demons are all symbolic iterations of the various traumas the different girls have suffered. The anime talks about some really terrible stuff that happened to these girls like sexual assault, self-harm, and even suicide.
On one hand, Wonder Egg has gorgeous visuals and a colorful saturated art style in contrast. The stories are handled fairly well, in the sense that they never feel oppressive and have an intriguing aura. On the other hand, it has a messy narrative, shallow concepts, failed execution of ideas, and a devastating trainwreck of an ending.
The pros outweigh the cons with this one, but this is a list of emo anime with dark and edgy themes. Is it worth a watch? If you are a fan of visually striking art style and gorgeous presentation, not to mention the wonderful score, it sure is but just, keep your expectations appropriate with this one.
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
When it comes to divisive anime, there is perhaps nothing more famous than Neon Genesis Evangelion. For a lot of people, it’s either the best anime has ever been or plain overrated. Despite being a massive Evangelion fan myself, I have never really been adept at explaining the plot of this anime. So here’s a speedy summary –
Shinji, a 14-year-old boy is called to Tokyo 3 by his father, Gendo, who practically abandons him and then forces him to fight against enigmatic beings called Angels in colossal humanoid robots called Eva. As things get progressively worse in this war of survival, Gendo has nefarious plans for humanity.
If that doesn’t sound good, the next bit will, after all, Shinji is living every emo teen’s dream life – A depressed teenager risking his life every day to save the world, surrounded by beautiful women adhering to different cliches, and closing the distance between each of them using typical anime style fanservice (hospital scene anyone?).
Jokes aside, Evangelion is a brilliant piece of media that combines typical emo themes with heavy religious symbolism, extreme psychoanalysis, and an intricate plotline to top it all off. It’s more than worth your time and is definitely worth a watch.
1. Welcome to the NHK!
Welcome to the NHK is about a 22-year-old college dropout named Tatsuhiro Satou. He has isolated himself and has been living as a shut-in for the last 4 years. As a result of his reclusive lifestyle, he has started participating in researching conspiracy theories.
The one theory that stands out among the rest is that the Nihon Hikikomori Kyokai (NHK) is the sole organization responsible for promoting and perpetuating hikikomori culture.
NHK blends comical with sensitive topics such as that of self-harm and suicide in a concoction to deliver this dark humor that portrays everyday events in a manner that is both self-deprecating and can feel grotesque.
Adding to this, seeing Tatshuhiro navigate through the hallucinogenic scenes is something you are bound to find extremely cool. Overall, NHK is a great emo anime to watch that delivers its dark story with a heavy punch.
Wrapping Things Up
As you might have noticed by the end of it, not all of these anime are about emo but all of them contain some of the other topics that we stereotypically associate with being an emo. It’s difficult to find so many things for a niche list alright.
Anyway, do you agree with our list? Did we miss something? Don’t forget to mention your thoughts in the comment below and if you have any suggestions for anything, hit me up with them. I will you next time with another interesting article.