Are you under the impression that shounen anime is only for kids? Think again. While some shounen anime is aimed at middle schoolers, others are actually targeted towards older teenagers. The wide demographic range means that while some shounen anime is family-friendly, there are others that have incredibly dark content. Some of these anime have disturbing and bleak storylines that are far from the light-hearted humor that shounen anime usually has. Some, while having the signature shounen style, have heavier, more mature themes. Interestingly, this trend of dark shounen anime seems to be increasing, so here are the top 10 shounen anime that are too dark to be expected:
10. Jujutsu Kaisen
Jujutsu Kaisen has many typical shounen tropes: a brave protagonist, a weird mentor, and extraordinary powers. However, the anime has dark themes and terrifying monsters. Since all of the villains are Cursed Spirits that are created from the world’s problems, the anime is bound to have formidable monsters that heroes must face. In addition, many characters have extreme destructive power that is often accompanied by violence. Jujutsu Kaisen is unafraid of death and vengeance. Overall, this anime feels like a more mature version of shounen. It is available to watch on multiple streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and Viu.
9. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter changes its tone several times throughout the series. However, when it gets dark, it gets really dark. The core story of this anime is about a boy searching for his father who left him when he was young. Along the way, he is accompanied by a boy from a family of assassins, a teenager whose entire clan was slaughtered for their eyes, and a guy who wants to become a doctor because his friend died from not being able to afford health insurance. Their adventures include facing cruel killers, disabling superpowered ants who eat human brains, and pushing the protagonist to an upsetting breaking point in anime history. The manga is even more intense compared to the anime. Hunter x Hunter is available to stream on Netflix, Prime Video, iQIYI, and Bstation.
8. D Gray Man
Messing with dead people’s souls is a taboo that most people would not break. But the Millennium Earl doesn’t care. He exploits grief-stricken people’s desire to bring back their loved ones to life. In doing so, he can harvest their souls and use them to fuel his mechanical weapons called Akuma. The protagonist of this series, Allen Walker, has the ability to exorcise demons, as well having eyes that can see those souls and understand their pain. It’s hard to get darker than that. D Gray Man can be found on YouTube.
7. The Promised Neverland
Emma and the other children at Gracefield House Orphanage feel like they have a happy life under the care of their “Mama,” Isabella, who seems pleasant. They soon realize that their happy life is merely an illusion. They are actually raised as meat for demons who love to eat human flesh. Instead of becoming victims, Emma and her friends decide to escape. But on their escape journey, they find that the outside world is scarier and more beautiful than they ever imagined. The Promised Neverland is available to stream on Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar.
6. Future Diary
Yukiteru Amano is a lonely high school student who spends most of his time recording random observations on his cell phone. His life changes dramatically when the god of space and time gives him the Random Diary. The diary records information that will help him in the survival game that could make him a god but could also end his life. Everywhere he goes, Yukiteru is stalked by his yandere, Yuno Gasai. His diary records everything he does throughout the day. Yuno loves Yukiteru so much that she is willing to destroy anyone who stands in their way, even Yukiteru himself. This series is unsettling and bloody thrilling, to say the least.
5. Chainsaw Man
Looking for a new anime with a dark undertone? Then Chainsaw man is the perfect anime for you. After merging with his pet devil, Pochita, a young boy named Denji becomes a devil hunter for hire. However, Denji is then betrayed and becomes the hunted. Chainsaw Man is undoubtedly one of the most captivating and unique shounen anime. It has a level of grotesque and goriness that isn’t for everyone, and that’s what makes it exciting to watch.
These top 5 dark shounen anime pushed the boundaries of traditional shounen anime, but there are still more anime out there that prove shounen anime is not just for kids, and that can be a good thing. Try watching these anime, and you might find that you enjoy the darker themes more than you expected.