The world of manga is a colorful domain. There are a lot of different stories and genres, most of which usually represent Japan’s unique worldview at some level. And while manga – as well as anime – usually have a different system of categorization than Western standards, including some specific genres, there are a lot of genres present in both the world of anime and the West.
Horror is defined, by literary historian J.A. Cuddon, as “a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing”. The theory of horror has a long history, but the focus of this article – here, on Fiction Horizon – is going to be on horror manga, as we are going to bring you a list of the 35 best horror manga you need to read.
1. DEATH NOTE
Original Run: December 1, 2003 – May 15, 2006
Number of Volumes: 12
Light Yagami is a gifted high school student who judges the current world to be criminal, rotten and corrupt. His life changes completely the day he accidentally picks up a mysterious notebook entitled “Death Note”. Its user manual states that “the person whose name is written in this notebook dies”.
At first skeptical, Light however decides to test the notebook and discovers that its power is very real. He meets the former owner of the Death Note, a death god named Ryuk. This one declares to have voluntarily dropped his notebook in order to entertain himself. Light decides to use the Death Note to exterminate the criminals, with the aim of building a perfect world of which he will be the god.
2. Umineko no Naku koro ni
Original Run: December 22, 2007 – February 23, 2011
Number of Volumes: 57
In October 1986, members of the wealthy Ushiromiya family reunite on an island called Rokkenjima, the home of the family’s head, Kinzo. The family doctor has announced that the latter only has three months left to live, and his heirs, therefore, meet to negotiate the division of the inheritance as well as to designate who will take the head of the family.
In addition to members of the Ushiromiya family, a number of servants live on the island, as well as an appointed doctor, bringing the number of people present to eighteen people. However, shortly after the family’s arrival, a typhoon breaks out, preventing them from leaving the island. On the island now cut off from the world, strange events occur, and people are killed inexplicably, leading those present to believe that the culprit may be the legendary witch Beatrice, who is said to haunt Rokkenjima.
3. Tokyo Ghoul
Original Run: September 8, 2011 – September 18, 2014 / October 16, 2014 – July 5, 2018
Number of Volumes: 14 / 16
In the city of Tokyo, creatures named ghouls have appeared and feed on human flesh to survive. One day, Ken Kaneki, a young student, is attacked by one of them and suffers a serious injury.
To stay alive, he receives a transplant from the ghoul that attacked him and becomes a hybrid, half-human half-ghoul (artificial one-eyed). Quickly, he realizes that he can no longer eat the same foods as before. He then enters the service of the café “L’Antique”, a den of ghouls, where he learns to feed himself without harming humans.
But he will soon find himself at the heart of a bloody war between the CCG (Ghoul Control Center), determined to find and exterminate them to the last, and the Aogiri Tree, an organization of merciless ghouls. He discovers that ghouls are not so different from humans, and little by little he will begin to adapt.
Original Run: January 19, 1998 – August 30, 1999
Number of Volumes: 3
Kirie Goshima lives in the small town of Kurouzu, a bit isolated between the sea and the surrounding mountains. She’s a perfectly normal high school girl, but her boyfriend’s father begins to behave in a disturbing way: he is obsessed with observing spiral-shaped objects. This form is becoming more and more present in the small town, as if under the effect of a curse.
5. Highschool of the Dead
Original Run: September 2006 – May 2013
Number of Volumes: 7
On an ordinary morning, everything happened as normally as on any other day. From the roof, Komuro Takashi, the main character, observes a strange happening at the school gates: a suspicious man is causing trouble. One of the teachers, when trying to expel him, ends up being bitten by the suspicious man and amidst the cries of despair from the other teachers he gets up, but now he is a zombie.
He then starts eating the other teachers who were with him. Seeing this, Takashi runs back inside the high school and teams up along with his friend Miyamoto Rei and her boyfriend Igou Hisashi with whom he is best friends. Now the high school is already infested with teachers and other high school zombies. The three then decide to go up to the roof, but on the way, they meet a professor who has been turned into a zombie.
Original Run: May 1997 – September 30, 2008
Number of Volumes: 10
It centers around the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, which is an organization founded by Abraham Van Hellsing and run by his descendants. His mission is to protect the queen and the borders of the country from any supernatural threat. The organization is led by Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, the last living member of the family, who inherited her responsibility as director after her father’s death when she was 12 years old.
Under her command are Walter C. Dornez and Alucard, a powerful vampire who was captured by the family a hundred years ago. Later the ex-policewoman Seras Victoria also joins, who after being bitten by Alucard becomes her offspring and by extension a Hellsing soldier.
Original Run: August 1989 – present
Number of Volumes: 41
Berserk tells the story of the meeting of Guts and Griffith, leader of the Falcon Troop, a band of mercenaries in the pay of the kingdom of Midland. From this meeting will be born an ambiguous friendship, but nevertheless efficient: the presence of Guts, a warrior with the disproportionate sword, will quickly prove essential to the ambition of the young Griffith, swashbuckler and outstanding tactician.
The anime is thus the account of the rise and fall of the Falcon Troop, and of the relation between Guts and Griffith, particularly complex, between the relation of interest (Griffith uses the force of Guts), mutual respect ( both see each other as soldiers), and deep affection (each inexplicably needs the other’s presence).
8. Mirai Nikki
Original Run: January 26, 2006 – December 25, 2010
Number of Volumes: 12
Yukiteru Amano is a solitary young boy who takes refuge in his imagination to escape the social void that constitutes his daily life. He considers that he can avoid any annoyance by observing the world from an external point of view, and records all the events happening around him in the form of a diary which he keeps using his mobile phone.
One day, one of the imaginary entities serving as his playmates, Deus ex Machina, god of time and space, and Mumur, Deus’ helper, offers him to participate in a game. Yukiteru realizes that the phone on which he recorded his observations begins to contain entries about the future around him. Initially, he uses this power excessively and is happy to possess it until his diary predicts his own death and a girl from his class, Yuno Gasai, who also has a diary from the future follows him; he then ignores that she wishes to save him.
The game has begun, a game of survival where the winner can become the god who will succeed the current Deus. Twelve people were elected to compete, all of whom received a future journal in relation to what they used to note in their regular journals. All will have to take advantage of the information relayed by their future diaries, to hope to survive by killing the others and achieving victory.
9. Higurashi: When They Cry
Original Run: July 6, 2007 – December 17, 2007
Number of Volumes: 24
June 1983, Maebara Keiichi is a young student belonging to a middle-class family, who in search of rest decides to move to the small and secluded village of Hinamizawa. Here, the forest air is strange, mysterious, but Keiichi manages to feel comfortable in that place that somehow looks so cozy.
He also makes some friends at his new school, and with them he engages in after-school club activities, mostly playing strategy and card games. The days go by and the town seems as normal and calm as ever until the arrival of “Watanagashi”, a local festival in which the god Oyashiro-sama is thanked.
10. High School DxD
Original Run: September 20, 2008 – March 20, 2018 (light novel)
Number of Volumes: 25 (+ 4 short story collections: DX.1 to DX.4, + 3 spin-offs: EX, Zero, Harem King Memorial)
Issei Hyoudou is a second-year high school student, very sensitive to female forms. Her life is turned upside down during her meeting with Yûma, a charming young girl who turns out to be a fallen angel. At the end of the day, Issei is taken to a small park and Yûma asks him if he wants to make his wish come true. He expects to receive a kiss, but she asks him to die for her by resuming her true appearance.
The boy is brutally attacked and killed by Yûma. Issei wakes up the next morning, believing in a dream. The next day after suffering a second attack from fallen angels, he notices Rias Gremory, a third-year student in his high school, naked in bed. She reveals her demon identity to Issei and tells him that she has reincarnated him as a demon to live as a servant of the Gremory family.
11. Elfen Lied
Original Run: June 6, 2002 – August 25, 2005
Number of Volumes: 12
The story is set in Kamakura, Japan, and revolves around the Diclonius, mutant beings very similar to humans but with two strange horns on their heads and endowed with very strong invisible limbs called “vectors”. Believed to be dangerous to the normal human race, Diclonius babies are killed at birth or locked up in research laboratories, subjected to terrible torture, and extremely violent experiments.
One of them, Lucy, however, manages to escape to the sea, massacring anyone who comes in front of her. She is found on the beach by two boys in a complete state of amnesia and double personality, caused by a shot in the head while escaping.
The young Diclonius finds herself with a completely different personality and the two boys decide to call her by the only word she can pronounce, namely “Nyu”. Unable to leave her alone in those conditions, they take her home waiting to find out about her past. But the military does not give up and remains on her trail of her. What’s more, every time the girl hits her head she goes back to being Lucy.
Original Run: December 1994 – December 2001
Number of Volumes: 18
Düsseldorf, 1986. The young and brilliant Japanese neurosurgeon Kenzo Tenma saves a child, Johan Liebert, from certain death, after he was found wounded with a bullet in the head; her twin sister Anna is also hospitalized in shock. The fact that he had chosen to operate on the child instead of the mayor is however criticized by the director, and Tenma loses his social status. Later the twins suddenly disappear, while in the hospital garrison some crimes involving Tenma’s main opponents occur.
Original Run: April 3, 2010 – December 3, 2011
Number of Volumes: 4
In 1972, a 3rd-grade student in Yomiyama died in a fire. This studious and athletic person was admired by all his classmates. After her mysterious death, in full denial, the latter decided to act as if she was still among them and this, until the end of high school. In 1998, a young boy named Kôichi Sakakibara was transferred to this same class.
There he encounters a mysterious atmosphere and frightened students. His curiosity is aroused by a strange and very beautiful teenager, wearing an eye patch and to whom no one speaks. Her name is Mei Misaki. As the months go by, students in the class and those around them die one after the other.
14. Ghost Hunt
Original Run: August 5, 1989 – April 1994
Number of Volumes: 10 (light novels)
The story tells the story of a group of occult detectives, headed by the young Kazuya Shibuya, who is also president of the Shibuya Psychic Research Center (SPR).
15. Soul Eater
Original Run: May 12, 2004 – August 12, 2013
Number of Volumes: 25
Several young students from Shibusen School are learning to become Meisters. This school was founded by Master Shinigami (the God of Death), on the one hand with the aim of training young meisters with their demonic weapons, which can take human form, to mow down souls; on the other hand to prevent the Great Devourer, who nearly engulfed the world in despair and madness, from being reborn again.
The goal of the meisters is to swallow 99 corrupted human souls and one witch soul to their weapons, in order to gain access to the rank of Death Scythe. Unfortunately achieving this goal is not so simple, and many obstacles will stand in the way of the protagonists.
16. The Promised Neverland
Original Run: August 1, 2016 – June 15, 2020
Number of Volumes: 20
Emma and her siblings, all orphans, were placed in a special institution when they were very young. Although their freedom is limited and the rules are sometimes a little strict, the children live a happy life at Grace Field House, and the woman they call “Mom” (real name Isabella) takes care of them. and offers them all the love that a mother could offer her children.
But one evening, after the departure of one of their own, Emma and Norman discover that the children of this orphanage are delivered to demons, with the consent of “Mom”. To survive, they will have to be resourceful and try to escape.
17. Black Butler
Original Run: September 16, 2006 – present
Number of Volumes: 31
Count Ciel Phantomhive was a 19th century English aristocrat with a troubled past. Between the years 1888 and 1889, aged 12 and having lost his parents in an inexplicable fire, he sees himself becoming the heir to the toy and candy company Phantom. He lives in a mysterious mansion in the countryside, on the outskirts of London, with his servants.
Ciel is the “watchdog” of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, a private agent responsible for unraveling the occult conspiracies brewing in the kingdom with her butler. He is also very shrewd and sure of himself (for his age) when it comes to carrying out an investigation, often doubling Scotland Yard in their investigations.
Original Run: 1988 – 1995
Number of Volumes: 10
One night, spheres the size of tennis balls, containing snake-like creatures, fall in unknown numbers all over the world. They are programmed to take the place of human brains. One of these attacks a young man, Shinichi, during his sleep, trying to enter through his ear but cannot reach him, the latter having kept his headphones on for the night.
Jolted awake as the parasite tries to enter through his nose, he tries to defend himself but ends up having his right hand punctured. The high school student then takes his headphones and wraps them around his arm, preventing the parasite from climbing to the brain.
19. Chainsaw Man
Original Run: December 3, 2018 – present
Number of Volumes: 11
The story takes place in a world where demons are born from human fears. Demons are often dangerous and malevolent, their power proportional to how strongly their corresponding fear is incited into the collective human consciousness. However, humans can sign contracts with them to use their powers.
People who specialize in hunting and employing demons are called demon hunters. Demons originate from Hell and exist in an endless life cycle between Earth and Hell: they are reborn on Earth when they are killed in Hell, and vice versa. In Hell live extremely powerful demons called Primal Fears, who have never been killed. The transit between the two worlds seems to be supervised by the Devil of Hell.
20. Helter Skelter
Original Run: July 1995 – April 1996
Number of Volumes: 1
The story tells of a vain and greedy girl named Ririko, who, after undergoing a series of illegal plastic surgeries, becomes the perfect ideal of beauty. So she becomes a super-model, actress and singer, she is invited to star in the best films. However, the clinic where Ririko applied for help was closed, so there is nowhere else to maintain her tone.
Her body, unable to withstand so many operations, began to collapse, swelling and ulcers began to appear on Ririko’s white skin, which quickly spread throughout the body, the girl’s mind began to fade along with the body, she was so afraid of losing the rest of her beauty and being forgotten by everyone that decides to die still beautiful and commits suicide.
21. I Am a Hero
Original Run: April 27, 2009 – February 27, 2017
Number of Volumes: 22
Hideo Suzuki, a paranoid former mangaka whose girlfriend, Tekko, is an up-and-coming mangaka herself, tries to find success again by presenting a manga of his production. Thanks to the money that the manga can bring him, he wants to buy a house to live there with her. However, he does not notice the beginnings of an epidemic that transforms people into bloodthirsty monsters.
As the infection spreads across Japan, possibly even the entire world, Hideo will try to survive the outbreak and witness the destruction of Japanese society under the horde of infected and survivors who have for the most also abandoned all humanity.
22. The Garden of Sinners
Original Run: October 1998 – August 1999 (light novel) / September 15, 2010 – present (manga)
Number of Volumes: 3 (2007–2008 printing) + 2 short stories (light novel) / 10 (manga)
Set in the Japanese city of Mifune, Japan, predominantly in the late 1990s, Kara no Kyōkai follows the story of Shiki Ryōgi, a young teenager raised as a demon hunter who, after surviving a fatal accident, acquired the “mystical eyes of mortal perception”, which give him the ability to see the “death” of any entity in the form of lines and points.
Any cut, traced on that line, leads to the irreversible destruction of the essence of the object. recounts Mikiya Kokutō’s unflinching efforts to get closer to her when they were still high school students, and the evolution of their relationship. After gaining control over her ability, Shiki gets a job at Tōko Aozaki’s detective agency, Garan no Dō, where she investigates various supernatural cases taking place in Mifune and tries to find the meaning of Aozaki’s very existence.
The play is constructed from separate chapters, each containing her own story and different antagonists. Both the light novel and the films are presented in non-chronological order, with each chapter/feature film functioning as part of a collective narrative.
Original Run: December 27, 2007 – February 12, 2015
Number of Volumes: 13
In Japan, the game Rabbit Doubt is a hit. The rules are simple, the players are rabbits in a colony, and one of them is secretly designated as the wolf. Each turn, the wolf devours a rabbit, and the remaining rabbits must try to unmask the wolf. The game ends once the wolf is unmasked or when all the rabbits have been eaten.
Five players from Rabbit Doubt, Yū Aikawa, Eiji Hoshi, Haruka Akechi, Rei Hazama, Hajime Komaba (who did not come due to an emergency at his university) as well as Mitsuki Hōyama (who is not at the start a player) decide to meet to get to know each other and spend time together.
But during the day, the young people are rendered unconscious and wake up in a disused hospital alongside Hajime Komaba, the player who could not be present at the meeting. They find out that Rei has been murdered and soon realize that one of them has decided that Rabbit Doubt will play himself in real life. Their only way out will be to unmask the wolf and kill him.
Original Run: June 29, 2000 – June 20, 2013
Number of Volumes: 37
Kei Kurono is a relatively cynical and selfish high school student from Tokyo, a big consumer of erotic magazines. One day, while waiting for his subway, he meets a childhood friend, Masaru Katô, whom he had lost sight of and who happened to be at the station. He is then pushed against all odds to make a heroic gesture: to save a drunken tramp who has fallen on the tracks.
25. Attack on Titan
Original Run: September 9, 2009 – April 9, 2021
Number of Volumes: 34
The plot of Attack on Titan revolves around the young Eren Jäger, his adoptive sister Mikasa Ackermann and his best friend Armin Arlert, who live together with the rest of humanity in cities that are protected by huge walls from the attacks of the so-called Titans, gigantic humanoid beings who devour people for no apparent reason.
The walls that promised peace have existed for 107 years. But one day the Titans break through the outermost Wall Maria and the people are pushed back further. Eren’s mother dies and he and many other people flee behind the second wall, Wall Rose. Eren swears when his mother dies that he will wipe out the Titans.
26. Franken Fran
Original Run: September 2006 – February 2012
Number of Volumes: 8
Fran Madaraki is a surgeon created by the scientist Naomitsu Madaraki, the most important and renowned biologist in the world. She was initially created to be Doctor Madaraki’s assistant, but due to his absence, Fran ends up taking over the lab. Fran’s life goes by performing different surgeries, some quite bizarre, she enjoys doing them more than most of the time she ends up performing monstrosities on her patients.
She eagerly hopes that Doctor Madaraki will one day return to take over the jobs. In this manga, the premise “Be careful what you wish for” is exploited, since her patients come to her making requests such as being thinner, more beautiful, younger; Fran agrees, but most of the time her patients’ dreams turn into medical nightmares.
27. The Drifting Classroom
Original Run: 1972 – 1974
Number of Volumes: 11
One morning, a primary school and all its occupants mysteriously disappear in a deafening din. Instead of the building, a gaping hole. Students and teachers then find themselves in a hostile and gloomy desert. While adults will quickly fall into madness and prefer suicide and violence, children will have to fend for themselves in this dangerous universe.
28. Pet Shop of Horrors
Original Run: 1995 – 1998
Number of Volumes: 10
Count D is the mysterious manager of an exotic pet store in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. The animals that the Count sells (gives, lends, or simply exchanges for candy), come with a contract with three important clauses. These clauses change depending on the animal sold, and breaking this contract induces (or intentionally provokes) dire consequences for the buyer (consequences always related to conflicts and problems in his life), for which the store does not accept any responsibility, although the intrinsic intent is actually to cause such events.
Individual chapters of Pet Shop of Horrors are often based on these consequences and are presented as stand-alone stories, generally introducing one or more characters in each chapter. With the exception of the main characters (Lion and the Count), it is rare for a character to appear in the anime for more than one chapter, giving the series a very episodic nature, unlike the manga, where individual stories are chained into macro-stories.
In the miniseries, Detective Leon Orcot is the nexus that ties the chapters together in an ongoing plot, usually in the form of a subplot within each chapter. He initially suspects that Count D is a criminal who uses the pet shop as a front for drug trafficking; but as he progresses through the series, he learns more about the pet shop and Count D himself, beginning an unlikely friendship between them as he tries to uncover the truth.
Original Run: March 17, 2003 – February 21, 2011
Number of Volumes: 15
Manabu Ito is a wealthy medical student with an interest in the occult, while Susumu Nakoshi is a very rational salaryman, on extended leave and recently living in his car. Due to money troubles, Susumu accepts Manabu’s offer to undergo trepanation in exchange for 700,000 yen. This trepanation activates a new function of Susumu’s Sensitive Homunculus, which then acquires a sixth sense.
30. The Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection
Number of Volumes:
Tomie is a student hated by her peers for her arrogance and selfishness. She is attracted to Professor Takagi. One day she is inadvertently pushed by her boyfriend Yamamoto following an argument, and she falls off a cliff. Her body is mutilated by schoolmates and the teacher, and her pieces are hidden in various places, so as to hide what happened from the authorities. The next day, Tomie returns to class. The girl makes men fall in love with herself, drives them crazy, causes them to kill her and then regenerates herself indefinitely.
The collection includes a variety of different horror stories.
31. Deadman Wonderland
Original Run: May 2007 – August 2013
Number of Volumes: 13
A powerful earthquake ravaged mainland Japan and largely destroyed Tokyo, submerging three-quarters of the city in the ocean. Ten years later, the story centers on Ganta Igarashi, a seemingly ordinary student who attends Nagano Prefecture College.
Although a survivor of the earthquake, Ganta has no memory of the tragedy and has lived an ordinary life. All of this changes when a strange man covered in blood and wearing purple armor floats outside the classroom windows. Smiling like a madman, the Man in Red slaughters Ganta’s entire class and, rather than killing him, embeds a shard of red crystal in his chest.
32. Hell Girl
Original Run: November 2005 – April 27, 2012
Number of Volumes: 36
When a person feels a grudge, Jigoku Shōjo (Hell Girl) appears and sends the person causing that hatred to Hell. However, the user must seal a contract with her before executing the revenge, and the price to pay is always that the person who accepts the contract must also go to Hell when he dies.
The series is basically a collection of independent stories, each of which tells the story of the suffering of a different person at the hands of one or more subjects, the contract with Enma Ai and the punishment to which the aggressor is subjected by her.
During each story, the dramas are recounted in detail from the beginning of his harassment, and progressively increasing the anguish suffered by the protagonist until he feels unable to bear his torment any longer, to the point of requiring the help of the girl from the hell.
Jigoku Tsūnshin “is a mysterious page only accessible at midnight, by those who want to take revenge. The only contents are the text” We will take revenge for you “, a form where you have to write the name of the person receiving the revenge and a button of “送信 (Send)”.
Original Run: 2011 – 2012
Number of Volumes: 6
The series is set over 30 years after the events of the feature film Blood: The Last Vampire – in 2005. The plot introduces lines related to modern intrigues, in which various organizations are involved, including, for example, the US Army, which wants to control vampires in order to use them for their own purposes.
Saya Otonashi lives in a city in Okinawa with her adoptive father, George Miyaguscu, and two brothers, Kai and Rik. Saya does not remember the events of her past until she began living with a new foster family a year ago. For medical reasons, she needs blood transfusions from time to time.
Original Run: December 4, 2007 – June 3, 2011
Number of Volumes: 11
The story takes place in the remote mountain village of Sotoba where ancient traditions still survive, such as the burial of the dead. At the end of a scorching summer, the Kirishiki family suddenly moves into the western-style castle that dominates the village from the top of a hill.
At the same time, a series of sudden deaths begins to decimate the inhabitants; Chief physician as well as owner of the only clinic, Toshio Ozaki, initially suspects a mysterious epidemic but, with the help of his childhood friend, Seishin Muroi, now a local temple bonze and author of successful novels, will instead discover a horrifying truth: the dead come back to life as vampires who are forced to suck the blood of other people to feed themselves, it all started with the arrival of the Kirishiki family.
Original Run: June 6, 2001 – October 4, 2014
Number of Volumes: 27
Claymore takes place in a fictional world co-inhabited by the human species and by a species of demons known as Yōma, which are natural predators of human beings (in the manga they are also known as Specters). An innate ability of the Yōma is to take human form, which allows them to live hidden among humans.
The only beings capable of identifying these creatures and eliminating them are the female warriors known among humans as Claymores, who are beings created by a secret organization from humans. The name given to these warriors is due to the large sword they carry, known as a claymore. Although their appearance is very similar to humans, they have some peculiarities. The most outstanding physical feature is their silver eyes, which have also earned them the name “silver-eyed witches”.