Best Anime of 2019 – Dark Series

Continuing on with my reflection on 2019. There were a number of shows last year that explored darker themes and tried to evoke an emotional response in the audience (that wasn’t laughter at the sheer corniness of it all). These darker series definitely appeal to a certain audience when done right so what was the best dark anime of 2019?

Please note, the nominees and winning choice are entirely my own opinion and are not based on any rigid criteria. Feel free to nominate your own winners for the categories in the comments. Help other readers find some awesome anime from 2019 to watch.

Best Dark Anime of 2019

Here’s the short list. Unlike romance, I had no trouble thinking of anime in 2019 that had decided to share a bit of despair with their audience, even if some did hide darker themes under jovial delivery. Whether they did so successfully was another story but here are my nominees.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka

No Guns Life

The One’s Within

The Promised Neverland Episode 4 Ray

The Promised Neverland

To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts

And the winner is…

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To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts

Unlike best romance, this one was actually a pretty tough decision. Asuka was out because while it certainly had torture, pain and misery at its forefront, it abandoned the idea early on of actually dealing with PTSD in a serious manner and mostly just went for the shock factor. Still, if you like your anime bloody and don’t mind if the story is a mess, by all means check it out. No Guns Life, despite some fairly complex themes and some really dark ideas, such as the kid having his vocal chords removed, continued to be fairly light and entertaining fare, never really dealing with the underlying darkness. The One’s Within was certainly intriguing but more curious than genuinely dark. Which left me to decide between The Promised Neverland and To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts which were both shows I really enjoyed in 2019.

To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts won out in the end because to me, The Promised Neverland was more about overcoming the challenges to find hope even when there was little there. With Emma at the centre of the story, no matter how dark the situation got, there always seemed to be that little ray of hope plugging away at the problem. Whereas, To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts looks at life after war for a soldier, specifically soldiers who were transformed into literal beasts in order to win the war and then thrown aside because they were no long useful.

While the story is imperfect and the pacing definitely a problem, in terms of exploring the darker side of human nature, To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts gave it a pretty good effort and it certainly left me feeling like it had dragged me through the emotional wringer. That’s why I ultimately decided that it was my best dark anime from 2019.

I’d love to know what titles you would have nominated from 2019 as the best dark anime of the year and what you think should have won. Be sure to share in the comments below.


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Karandi James



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2 thoughts on “Best Anime of 2019 – Dark Series

  1. Hm, this is one of the categories I’m having trouble with. When do dark elements of a show take over to the extent that it’s a “dark anime”? I have to admit I chuckled at the inclusion of The Ones Within. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but it felt more like an absurdist parody of the survival game genre than something genuinely dark. I do understand it’s inclusion; I just didn’t expect it.

    Shows like The Promised Neverland use their darker elements more as a device of heightening emotions, than any sort of facing. It’s more catharsis, even with things like Isabella’s backstories, so while they’re undeniably dark, it feels more in line with straightforward horror, and so won’t make it onto a list I devise.

    But if I take that out, too, what remains? I’m having trouble forming a good sense of what the category entails. I have this hunch that The Price of Smiles qualifies, as it’s actually really delving into the darkness of the soul during war, both psychological and social. But it’s just so uneven and in the end is undone by a too consolitary ending that doesn’t really fit what comes before.

    Shows like Fruits Basket are actually a whole lot darker than most “dark” anime, but the focus is so much on healing, that pretty much every instance of darkness is immediately countered with a sense of hopefulness, though there remains a fairly consistent dark strain in the subtext (like a mislaid landmine).

    That leaves me with the following shows:

    Dororo
    Granbelm
    Vinland Saga
    Beastars

    And I can think of a few reasons for each of those shows why they don’t count. In the end, I’d say I’d give it to Vinland Saga, which starts with a Viking having escaped the constant fighting, only to spin that out of control, kill that Viking off for his ideals and send his son down a spiral of vengeance, with Vinland (America) taking the shape of a mythical place of hope, much like a mundane version of heaven. So, I’d go with this for now, but don’t hold me to it tomorrow.

I'd love to know what you think.

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