The fantasy genre is well-established in the anime landscape. It’s not hard to come up with many titles displaying a lot of fantasy elements like magic or superpowers.
The dark fantasy subgenre is a bit more specific because it involves fantasy in a way that shows the audience the world won’t be necessarily better because of them.
The addition of fiction may create evil and make the world a worst and more dangerous place to live in.
Our listicle about the best dark fantasy anime proves how fantasy can take a wrong turn and create tragic stories with morally grey characters.
But if you want to enjoy some series from the brightest counterpart, check our updated list regarding the best fantasy anime in our opinion.
Table of Contents
The plot is set in the kingdom of Metallicana, which has been attacked by the so-called Four Lords of Havoc.
The goal of this group is to resurrect the evil god Anthrasax so High Priest Geo, desperate to save the kingdom, decides to summon the chaotic wizard Dark Schneider.
Dark Schneider is hosted in the body of Lucien Renlen, a 14-year-old boy with a strong bond with the priest and his daughter, who he considers an older sister.
The wizard brought back to life will have to fight against his former allies and avoid the resurrection of Anthrasax.
Bastard!! is pretty much the definition of the dark fantasy genre. It involves magical villains who represent an imposing threat to a kingdom that is on the brink of destruction by the hand of a mysterious evil god.
Too bad that the animations are quite mediocre, and the characters end up being stereotyped.
14. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortess
Kabaneri is set in a fictitious scenario where a monster infects people and turns them into kabane, living dead that cannot be killed unless their hearts are pierced.
On Hinomoto Island, people have built fortified stations, where they survive each day by exchanging goods via reinforced steam locomotives.
Ikoma, one of the blacksmiths assigned to maintain the trains, designs a new weapon to pierce the iron layer that protects the kabane’s heart.
The protagonist will eventually find a way to stop the infection on himself, giving new hope to humankind.
The post-apocalyptic setting gives the plot a sense of darkness that, paired with the steampunk aesthetics, makes this show something unique.
13. Ninja Scroll: The Series
A 13-episode anime produced by Madhouse and based on Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s film of the same name.
The story follows the adventures of Kibagami Jubei, a skilled ronin endowed with a great sense of justice and complete disinterest in political affairs.
He must protect the Dragon Jewel, a stone with mysterious powers, and its priestess Shigure from the Hiruko ninja clan, a group of ninjas who want to overthrow the Japanese government.
This anime is dark because of its setting and its characters. Even Kibagami Jubei, despite being the hero, has a moral compass that the viewer may not agree with.
While the plot flows nicely, the fights will be truly noteworthy, both for their technical realization and for the emotions theyconvey.
A 26-episode anime set in a medieval fantasy-themed world where the inhabitants are forced to fight the threat of monstrous creatures that feed on humans.
The Claymores, warriors with enormous power, are fighting these creatures called the Yomi, who can counter the terrible monsters with their swords.
The protagonist of the story is Claire, a low-level claymore who will increase her fighting power over time as she discovers the deceptions behind the Yomi and the society in which she lives.
There are many reasons why you should watch Claymore. Everything comes together from the plot to the soundtrack to make a great product that you will enjoy if you are looking for a mature plot.
11. Ajin: Demi-Human
Ajin: Demi-Human is an anime aired between 2016 and 2019. It’s set in a world where mysterious immortal humans known as Ajin are considered a threat to society and are hunted down by authorities all around the world.
The protagonist Kei Nagai is a high school boy who survives a near-death experience and finds out to be an Ajin himself. He is forced to radically change his life and survive on the run from the entire world.
The frightening bit about this anime is the black ghosts, extremely dangerous entities that can be summoned by other Aijins and that are resistant to physical injury.
They have extraordinary physical strength and display sharp teeth and claws.
Given the premises, it’s clear that this anime is grim and deals with discrimination and other themes you won’t find in vanilla fantasy.
10. Land of the Lustrous
In a not-specified future, the world is inhabited by Gems. Their world had been destroyed by 6 meteors and, from that point on, they are fighting against the Lunarians.
The main character is a Gem called Phosphophyllite, also known as Phos. She wants to help the war effort but she’s cast aside and told to compile an encyclopedia because of her delicate condition.
Phos will meet Cinnabar, another Gem who has been isolated because of the corrosive poison created by her body.
The 2 rejected Gems decide to find a new role for themselves.
This anime is dark because of its setting. We don’t really know what happened other than this is a dystopian universe and the remaining life forms are fighting each other.
10. Ancient Magus Bride
The protagonist is young Chise Hatori, who after losing her entire family, decides to sell herself off at an auction to find some hope.
She will be purchased by a man who stands out mainly because of his tall height and head shaped like a canine skull to make her a magician.
The relationships between the characters will be the real focus of the work, with seriousness and realism to the various emotional developments.
You can start to witness the darkness in this show when you realize that the main character decides to sell herself after a crushing trauma. All the rest is a development of this groundbreaking decision, in one of the best magic anime of recent years.
This anime is from the studio behind Attack on Titans so you can expect a compelling plot and great characters that you don’t want to miss.
9. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
The story of the Elric brothers offers a solid and interesting plot, full of mysteries and never dull.
In a world where alchemy reigns and is used for a variety of purposes, the 2 brothers have a specific purpose, which is to regain their lost bodies.
An outstanding character development and a world with steampunk overtones make this show a masterpiece with undoubtedly badass main characters.
The plot features darker moments but also a little bit of comedic relief so it’s not the darkest entry on this list by any means.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood handles this mix between darkness and lightness in a perfect blend that we recommend to anyone.
8. Princess Mononoke
A movie by Studio Ghibli from 1997, Princess Mononoke is quite famous and deals with themes attached to the environment.
We can summarize this production by saying that it’s about the contrast between nature and humanity, a quite current theme right now. All of that in a pleasant fantasy setting tracing back to the late Muromachi period in Japan.
The titular Princess Mononoke is called San, a young girl who was raised by wolves and he feels distrust and hatred toward humans.
She will eventually come around and start to feel different toward Ashitaka, another main character who goes out of his way to defend and save his people.
It can be considered a pretty dark movie because of the plot and the sensible themes covered.
The setting is colorful but is also unsettling at times and that also plays a role in how this Miyazaki’s masterpiece ultimately makes you feel.
7. Haibane Renmei
Haibane Renmei is a 13-episode anime created by Yoshitoshi Abe in collaboration with the Radix studio.
Rakka is a girl with angelic features who lives inside thick, stifling walls together with her fellow humans, called Haibane.
None of them remembers who they were before, why they have this strange appearance, nor even why they live inside this wall, isolated from the outside world.
It’s a quite dark anime both for its aesthetics and its plot.
Haibane Renmei presents the viewer with a mysterious story that doesn’t quite resolve itself even at the end and involves misleading symbols that are open to many interpretations.
A must if you are a lover of suspense and mystery, compelling plots that keeps you glued to the screen, and great fantasy anime with a female MC.
Born at the hand of legendary master Osamu Tezuka, it has recently received a remake in 2019.
The plot revolves around Hyakkimaru, a boy with a body made of prosthetics, who fights demons. When he was a child his impoverished father sacrificed the child to demons to seek prosperity.
These demons now possess his body parts and senses, so Hyakkimaru will have to seek them out and defeat them to regain his lost body.
He will do this together with Dororo, a child that is keeping him company during the journey.
It has a solid plot accompanied by excellent animation and a soundtrack that will make the fighting even better.
The fleshed-out and diverse characters that populate one of the best dark fantasy-themed feudal Japanese worlds are the real stars of this immortal work.
5. Vinland Saga
One of the most interesting works to come out in recent years, animated by Wit Studio and based on the manga by Makoto Yukimura.
The plot follows the life of the warrior Thorfinn, in a precisely Viking world inspired by real historical events.
Thorfinn is a warrior who became one to avenge the death of his father Thors, killed by the pirate Askeladd on behalf of King Sweyd because he had deserted years earlier to retire to a quiet life.
An anime with psychological traits that dwells on the choices that must be made on the battlefield.
Our protagonist will find himself tangled in a quest for revenge and he will learn that one can easily slide and take wrong turns while blinded by such an evil sentiment.
Not to mention that this anime is simply a must if you like anime with kingdoms and empires at war.
4. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
A 2011 anime produced by Shaft and Aniplex, Puella Magi Madoka Magika is a masterpiece that brought freshness into the classic Majokko stereotype.
Even though the first scenes look normal, you will soon realize why this anime deserves a spot on this list.
The slice-of-life setting and the cute characters are the perfect way to create a stark contrast with the events of the story.
Madoka will understand that she is not living in a fairy tale and that sacrifices are necessary to fight the terrible Witches.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of the best magical girl anime out there and its fantasy elements are simply amazing.
3. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan has become an instant classic because of its character development and the rawness of the narrative.
Humanity is hunted down by giant heartless humanoid creatures and has to survive inside walls, exiled from the rest of the planet.
What seems like the premise of almost just another shonen is soon broken when in the very first mission we witness mutilation and people being eaten alive.
This is an epic journey where you will see the main characters grow and face deep questions about themselves and the world, with Eren being one of the best male leads in a fantasy anime from recent years.
This is one of our best picks for dark fantasy because they managed to write a story that is extremely compelling and complete.
2. Hellsing Ultimate
The name of the series comes from the secret organization Hellsing, whose duty is to hide the existence of Vampires and to keep the population safe.
It’s financed and supported by the British government and its current leader is Integra Hellsing.
The main character Alucard works for Hellsing as a vampire exterminator, being himself a member of the vampire race. He is supported by his new assistant Seras Victoria, a former policewoman whom he saved in the past.
Integra is worried about a new wave of vampire attacks and the problem seems much bigger than she expected.
The mysterious group called Millenium is plotting to throw England into disarray, and threaten the entire world.
This anime is known for showing massive amounts of blood on screen and this happens pretty often. It has a pretty over-the-top story so the animation and the gore follow suit.
A masterpiece of the dark fantasy genre and one of the best sword and sorcery anime that came out in 1997.
There aren’t many other works that can match this one due to the complexity of its characters and for starring two incredible personalities: Gatsu and Griffith.
This work has irreversibly influenced every media outlet that has approached fantasy and magical elements from a horror perspective.
Gatsu uses a massive weapon called the Dragon Slayer to obliterate his foes, which also becomes a metaphor for his sheer power and raw strength.
Even though the anime is nothing compared to the manga, Berserk deserves the first spot on this list due to its richness of themes and character development.
The contrast between Gatsu and Griffith examines some of the darkest sides of human nature, and the fantasy setting doesn’t subtract realism.