Most horror animes aren’t really horror, even when they scare us

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Every Halloween, anime fans are given one list after another of horror anime to watch for the holidays. And year after year, the lists fill up with shows that, in my opinion, aren’t really horror. Of course, there are shows that involve tons of violence and gore, or rampant demon / vampire / monster activity, and many of the must-see titles deal with the darker parts of the human psyche and include tense storylines. . So what constitutes “horror”? Simply put, entries like this are meant to provoke fear. Whether you, as a viewer, are personally scared or not is subjective, but true horror Hanime shares a direct lineage with the story of Scary Tactics. Since true scares are rare, animated series that actually fit the bill become more worthy of celebration.

The Soul of Horror has been a part of animation since the dawn of the medium, at least in the West. Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies, in particular “The Skeleton Dance”, and works by the Fleischer brothers such as Swing you sinners and White as snow, animation opened up the world of cinema to spooky imagery, even though it was in the service of a fun musical number with dancing ghouls. In Japan, however, the creators set an identifiable horror tone in the 1960s with shows like Adventure Boy Shadar and GeGeGe no Kitarō, although the focus was on fighting monsters and ghosts to save the world rather than scaring the public. During the 1980s, a stronger perception of horror anime took shape, with the rise of OVAs (mostly live video animes) giving way to a decade of extreme violence, gore, sex. and the grotesque were rife in shows like Wicked City, Vampire Hunter D and of course, Akira.

These anime used violence and gore to shock audiences, but they were more interested in thrills than fear. Of course, Tetsuo turns into a giant drop in Akira is pure Cronenberg-style body horror, but the film isn’t meant to instill as much fear as it is just plain exciting. Where Cronenberg focused on the horrific and traumatic ways our bodies might transform in order to dig deep into our collective fears of our fragile bodies that have just collapsed, Katsuhiro Otomo’s seminal anime aims for a tamed story but always captivating about puberty and male violence.

Akira
Image: Funimation

Indeed, most of the animated films and shows grouped under the horror genre are more like thrillers, where the emphasis is on surprises that keep audiences intrigued and excited for what is to come. Another is a great anime with the plot of a final destination movie, great murders, and an intriguing plot full of shocking twists and turns, but it plays more like a bloody mystery than a horror show, aimed at providing a fun puzzle to be resolved as to who will die next. It is not a question of disturbing the public in such a way as to fear the Following death scene, something that the popular Higurashi when they cry succed to. Then there is an acclaimed trio: Boogiepop Phantom, Lain Serial Experiences, and Agent of paranoia, which privilege the atmosphere, the frightening images and the feeling that reality is not what it seems. The series deals with paranoia and existentialism, resulting in the anime shows that are closest to horror, even though their plots don’t follow any explicit horror trope.

Animation can be an eyesore, but time has suggested that there are obstacles; it seems much more difficult to make audiences feel fear when looking at 2D drawings than with real humans, but it can and has been done. Take for example the animated film Monster house, a 3D animated film aimed at kids that still offers a lot of scares, an eerie atmosphere, and characters you fear – all without the need for violence and gore. Then there are R rated animated horror movies like the Train to Busan spin off Seoul Station and Resident Evil: Degeneration, who use zombie horror tropes to make you care for what happens to the characters, and fear as much as they do when they meet their inevitable deaths.

Seoul station: woman hanging from bar above horde of zombies

Seoul Station
Image: FilmRise

Surprisingly, the anime came close to the authentic horror tone of the shōnen genre. Since the 1980s, action-horror animes have embraced horror tropes and used them to make violence harsher, like Evil man and the above Vampire Hunter D. In the 90s, shōnen animated like YuYu Hakusho and uber-popular Bleach was inspired by horror movies and shows like GeGeGe no Kitarō to create action-centric series that always weave supernatural elements. Death threat and Monster, during this time, took a psychological thriller approach, telling us dark stories of murders and serial killers and presenting them to a large mainstream audience.

Over the past five years, a shōnen anime trend has taken this idea further by embracing the tropes of horror to place the characters in terrifying situations that ultimately heighten the sense of optimism of the subgenre. The attack of the Titans Not only did it become one of the most popular anime shows of all time, but it broke into the mainstream by competing with The walking dead for one of the darkest and most gruesome shows of recent years. It’s a show set in a cruel world with violence, gore, and constant fear for the characters, who can die at any time – all while presenting a classic story of a young boy learning to embrace his powers. More recently still, we have Demon slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen, arguably the two biggest shōnen anime at the moment, both adapted from manga published in the prestigious and long-standing Shnen Jump magazine which has also published mainstream hits like One Piece, My Hero Academia, Naruto and Hunter X Hunter.

Jujutsu Kaisen episode 3: Yuji kills his first curse by putting a sword in his head

Image: MAPPA

Demon slayer and Jujutsu kaisen have all the makings of a winning shōnen anime: sympathetic protagonists with incredible power, a story of perseverance and determination, as well as a group of supporting characters who support the hero and help him learn the value of the friendship to face adversity. What makes them unique, however, is the way they essentially take this winning formula and place it in a seemingly impossible horror frame where hope always has to fight harder to exist, where power levels don’t. aren’t just toys, but they come at a cost, where characters can face horrific fates, wounds aren’t instantly healed but leave bloody marks, and the bad guys are truly creepy and menacing. Take the third episode of Jujutsu kaisen, which essentially unfolds like a haunted house story, using tropes of spooky noises and things moving by themselves before unleashing a threatening spirit on our main characters, before letting them kick ass with their cool powers and croissants.

Before he goes astray The promised imaginary land perfectly married a shōnen story of children reunited to save the day from the monsters and turned it into a horrific and anxiety-provoking horror story. The first season uses the framing to keep the characters at bay, and the contrast between the CG environments and the 2D characters to give the story an eerie feeling that something is wrong and accentuate the monstrous forms of the series’ villains, as well as orphans. caretaker.

As for the more traditional “horror anime”, all is not lost. An adaptation of the horror comedy Mieruko-chan is currently airing and cleverly uses horror tropes to create a fun anime with terrifying imagery about a ghost whisperer. Next year, the highly anticipated adaptation of Junji Ito’s classic Uzumaki The horror manga is expected to play as a cross between the body and cosmic horror as it tells about a city plagued by a curse involving spirals. In the meantime, horror has become an integral part of what makes the anime both exciting and popular, although these shows aren’t exactly embalmed in horror stuff.

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