If you’re a manga fan, you probably know by now that the world is extremely diverse. Manga titles can be classified according to the targeted demographics, as well as different genres, but the borders are often blurred and unclear. Regardless of any of these categories, though, manga titles tend to be very dark from time to time, and for different reasons. In this article, we are going to bring you a list of the 25 darkest manga titles you should read.
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.
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.
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.
4. King of Thorn
Original Run: October 2002 – October 2005
Number of Volumes: 6
In the near future, a terrible disease appears. It infects human cells and transforms people into rock-solid matter. The virus responsible is called “Medusa”, in reference to the gorgon Medusa, a creature from Greek mythology whose gaze turned humans to stone. There is no cure for this disease.
A private company, named Véga, offers a solution: place patients in a state of cryogenic sleep until the medicine has progressed sufficiently to find a cure. Places being limited, only 160 people will be chosen worldwide, through a lottery. Kasumi and Shizuku are twins and both have Medusa. They participated in this lottery but only Kasumi was drawn.
They however go together to the place of cryonics and have a conversation before the departure of Shizuku. When Kasumi and the other 159 patients wake up, they see the ground overgrown with giant brambles. According to the computers, however, they only slept for two days.
5. 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 shooter shot in the head while escaping.
The young Diclonius finds herself with a completely different personality and the two boys decide to call her with 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 the trail of her. What’s more, every time the girl hits her head she goes back to being Lucy.
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: May 18, 2006 – March 18, 2015
Number of Volumes: 24
Oz is heir to the Vessalius family, the most prestigious of the four great ducal families in his country. Having just celebrated his 15th birthday, he undertakes the ceremony of passage to adulthood that all nobles must respect. However, what was supposed to be a formality will quickly take another turn, Oz being sent to the Abyss, a parallel world where according to legend criminals who have committed unforgivable crimes are sent. Cooperating with B-Rabbit, a Chain, the name given to the inhabitants of this world, he sets out to return to his world.
Thus begins his long quest for answers, including his so-called crime which may ultimately be more related than he thinks to the lost memories of B-Rabbit, otherwise known as Alice. Accompanied by her as well as Gil, her faithful servant, and several other important allies, the young man will try to discover the truth about the mysteries of his world, in particular about a century-old tragedy.
8. 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.
He gradually learns to use the powers of the notebook and its rules: the user can only kill a person if he knows their face, by writing their first and last name. He can also specify the cause and detailed circumstances, the default cause being heart attack.
The many unexplained deaths of criminals around the world attract the attention of Interpol and the mysterious L, a particularly talented detective, but whose identity no one knows. L decides to investigate the serial killer, nicknamed “Kira” by the general public.
9. The Flowers of Evil
Original Run: September 9, 2009 – May 9, 2014
Number of Volumes: 11
Takao Kasuga is a normal boy, fond of literature and in particular of Les fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire. One day, Takao impulsively steals the tracksuit of partner Nanako Saeki, the girl he likes. The next day, however, Takao discovers that he has been discovered by another companion, Sawa Nakamura, strange and lonely, who blackmails him by forcing him to sign a “contract” with her.
The girl, in exchange, will keep her secret, otherwise, it will be made public. The story, therefore, focuses on the consequences of the children’s actions, which end up profoundly influencing their family, school, and city context.
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).
Original Run: September 17, 1998 – May 21, 2015 (on hiatus)
Number of Volumes: 37
In 1600 the terrible battle of Sekigahara took place, which established the power of the Tokugawa shogun. Among the fighters, Shinmen Takezo, son of a great samurai, is ready to do anything to survive. Returning to his native village, he is rejected by the inhabitants for having deserted. Pursued, he then begins a long wandering, with a single objective: to become the greatest samurai in Japan.
Vagabond is a long initiation manga, which leads the hero to discover, to understand the world around him and himself, dedicating himself to the way of the sword. Changing his name to Miyamoto Musashi, he challenges and confronts the most powerful samurai, carried away by a murderous spiral, and torn by his love for Otsu, his childhood friend.
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: 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.
Unable to leave his arm, the latter finally merges with his right hand. Meanwhile, other parasites, having managed to take over their host’s brain, begin to feed on human beings, while the creature and Shinichi are forced to cohabit.
14. 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.
15. Vinland Saga
Original Run: April 13, 2005 – present
Number of Volumes: 25
In 1002 A.D. in a small village in Iceland lives Thorfinn, a six-year-old boy, with his father Thors, mother Helga, and sister Ylva, delighting in hearing stories about the legendary land of Vinland from the mouth of the trader and navigator Leif Erikson. Father Thors is a former mercenary of the Jomsborg Vikings who faked his death to retire to lead a peaceful existence away from violence.
But when King Sweyn I of Denmark summons his vassals to invade England, Thors must also answer the call to protect his village from possible repercussions. However, his boss has not forgotten his desertion and plans to kill him by hiring the pirate Askeladd. Having been ambushed, Thors prefers to be killed in order to save little Thorfinn, who had secretly boarded his ship.
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”.
17. 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.
Original Run: November 30, 2000 – September 12, 2018
Number of Volumes: 23
The series is set in a fantasy world divided into three distinct realms: Hole, a dirty, degraded, polluted, and violent metropolis where humans live; the world of sorcerers, a rich, colorful, and magic-dominated kingdom, connected to the human world through magically created doors; and hell, where the souls of dead sorcerers gather and demons live.
Although indistinguishable in appearance, humans, and sorcerers belong to two different species: the former developed naturally, and the latter created by the primeval demon Chidaruma. Sorcerers have a unique circulatory system, which allows them to produce smoke from their fingers or mouth through which they perform their magical abilities. Each sorcerer possesses a specialized type of magic, which can be either common or highly sought after, such as healing, the ability to bring the dead back to life, or control time.
Original Run: 2011 – present
Number of Volumes: 8
The story follows Nicolas Brown and Warwick Arcangelo, two contract killers with opposite personalities: the first is deaf, taciturn, and secretive while the second is boastful and a womanizer. They live in Ergastulum, a city controlled by the mafia and gangs, and earn their living by performing various paid tasks ranging from delivery to assassinations under the guise of their “agency” of “services of all kinds”.
Their lives will be turned upside down when they meet Alex, a prostitute who is trying to escape the underworld. It is then that the newcomer discovers that Nick is “indexed”, or “twilight”.
20. The Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection
Original Run: 1997 – 1999
Number of Volumes: 16
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.
21. The Record of a Fallen Vampire
Original Run: 2003 – 2007
Number of Volumes: 9
Just over a thousand years ago, the terrifying powers of the vampire queen, Adelheid, nearly destroyed the world. The humans led by the so-called great master in spiritual energy, that is to say Maria Saberhagen of the infinite crosses, imprisoned him while waiting to be powerful enough to take his life. It was without counting on the king of the vampires: since then, he seeks her relentlessly and, for her, he abandoned his crown and his.
Men, dhampirs (half-men, half-vampires), all seek to eliminate him for fear of the chaos he could unleash. For a millennium, a merciless war has been going on between Rose-Red Strauss with her one and only ally, Lætitia, and the dhampirs led by Bridget.
The Vampire King also has a tough time dealing with his most fearsome enemy the Black Swan, a spell devised by Saberhagen that reincarnates itself in the body of every young woman with every new generation. The vampire king may defeat them one after the other, but the powers of the black swan increase with each generation, and he knows that one day he will be definitively defeated.
22. Battle Royale
Original Run: 2000 – 2005
Number of Volumes: 15
In the Republic of Greater Asia, a geographically totalitarian state that is an alternate version of Japan, Battle Royale law applies. In accordance with this law, each year a third grade high school class is chosen by lottery to participate in what is called “The Program.” The game consists of a fight where the participants must kill each other in a place specially chosen by the government and previously evacuated.
To force them to participate, they are placed on a collar that provides the control center with the position of the students and that explodes in the event of a breakout or riot. Participants are given survival gear that includes a random weapon (from machine guns to pot lids), to standardize chances of survival. The objective is that there is only one survivor left, the only one who can return home.
The manga features students from one of the extracted classes: Shiroiwa High School’s Class 3-B, 21 boys and 21 girls. Your show will take place on an evacuated island. The students almost immediately separate into two different factions: those who refuse to play the game looking for ways to rebel against the government, and those who agree to fight.
While the latter generally move alone, the “rebels” form different groups and implement different strategies to end the game, such as a direct attack on the command center headquarters and the head of the operation, Professor Yonemi Kamon, designed by hacker and anti-government rebel Shinji Mimura, who fails dramatically, while members of the class continue to die one after another.
23. Drifting Net Cafe
Original Run: February 28, 2009 – June 28, 2011
Number of Volumes: 7
Koichi Toki is an office worker or salaryman with a wife, he works hard to bring food to the home and leads a rather simple and boring life. During a work trip he decides to spend time in an internet cafe, where he meets an ex-classmate after a while without seeing each other.
In the same cafe, several customers begin to have problems with their computers and the cell signal disappears, the group of customers along with the manager of the place, Toki and her partner are trapped, to discover that they are in a mysterious place that is not Japan. The group suffers from misunderstandings, several escalations of anger and despair trying to survive while the relationship between Toki and his friend progresses little by little.
24. 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.
25. 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.