While the aesthetics of Anime and Manga lends itself well to a younger audience, many TV shows and movies that are animated in that style are far from kid friendly. Many are violent, gorey, and deal with very adult themes. Many would also just fly above the head of the average youngster. Visually stunning, most anime is a joy to watch with intricately woven storylines and stunning imagery throughout. Here, we take a look at some of the best anime movies and TV shows with dark, adult themes that you should not miss. But be aware that these are not for younger viewers.
TEKKONKINKREET is an intricate story of the bonds of brotherhood. The movie addresses the problems of living in a large city in today’s society, and deals with issues such as the loss of a true love, and the kindness that dwells within the human heart. The story focuses on two street kids, two brothers called Black and White, as they try to prevent the evils of the Yakuza, and big city mobsters, from infiltrating the sanctity of their beloved city. The movie is based on a three-volume ‘seinen manga’ series by Taiyō Matsumoto.
Elfen Lied is a beautifully woven tale of acceptance, and the cruelty and fragility of the human spirit. Lucy is a new breed of human, referred to as a ‘Diclonius’. She is born with a short pair of horns, and invisible telekinetic hands. She has become the victim of inhumane scientific experimentation by the government. However, Lucy gains freedom from her captors in a bloody and violent escape. During her escape, Lucy receives a blow to the head which leaves her with a split personality. One personality is that of Nyu, a harmless child possessing a limited speech capacity. Nyu stumbles upon a pair of young students who take her in and try to help her. Over the course of the series we learn that Lucy is not the only Diclonius, and a bloody and violent battle ensues between her, the other Diclonius’, and the laboratory that wants to recapture her.
Paprika is the first on this list from the amazing mind of Satoshi Kon.The movie depicts the story of a machine that allows therapists to enter their patients’ dreams. When the machine is stolen, chaos ensues, and it is up to female therapist, Paprika, to solve the mystery and find the missing machine. Despite similarities drawn between this and Christopher Nolan’s 2010 movie Inception, Paprika actually pre-dates Nolan’s movie by four years. It is also, arguably, a far better movie.
Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is a cyber-punk anime series from the late 90’s. It follows the story of young school girl Lain, who is obsessed with a virtual social network called ‘The Wired’. When her classmate commits suicide, Lain and other members of the peer group begin to receive e-mails from their dead friend. At first they assume it is merely a cruel prank, but Lain gets more and more curious, and slowly begins to fall deeper into the mysterious web the The Wired is weaving for her. During her investigations and research, Lain discovers truths that potentially undermine the very fabric of existence.
What a peculiar, surreal joy this movie is. Cat Soup is the perfect example of Anime as an art form. The story essentially follows that of a little boy and girl cat as they go on an odyssey to reclaim their souls from the land of the dead. The movie, however, is full of surreal, sexually suggestive imagery and vulgar suggestion.
The second entry from Satoshi Kon to this list, Paranoia Agent, was Kon’s one and only attempt at episodic TV. This is a masterclass in suspense, paranoia, and mounting tension, that any live action director could seriously take notes from. It tells the story of ‘Little Slugger’, an urban legend about a mysterious, rollerblading kid, who can put you out of your misery if your life’s falling apart. After a vicious attack on a young female as she makes her way home from work, two detectives are called in to investigate. They discover that Little Slugger may be more than just a rumour, and soon, more and more people fall victim to his attacks. But more than just thuggish attacks, as the detectives dig deeper, the reality they thought they knew begins to crumble around them. Full of violence, with just a smattering of sex, Paranoia Agent takes you in the kind of paranoid, surrealist trips that only Satoshi Kon could deliver.
This absolute gem of a movie flies under the radar for some strange reason. It is a neo-noir detective drama set in a futuristic city. It tells the story of two worlds that have existed in harmony for centuries, Earth and the Black World. The Black World is a realm of supernatural beings that most humans are unaware of. A military group called the Radicals are intent to breaching the peace and returning men to their former heritage : as slaves. Two special agents, Taki, a human, and Makie, a supernatural, are called in to prevent the Radicals from seizing control. The two form the Black Guard who must protect a 200 year-old man named Giuseppi Mayart, the only man who can keep the peace from being broken by the Radicals. This smart, stylish and eerie Anime is one of the early Manga greats.
Dead Man Wonderland
When the sole survivor of a high school massacre, Ganta, is framed for the crime, he is incarcerated in Deadman Wonderland, a strange and sinister private prison. This prison has a perverted and insidious take on incarceration, and what inmates must endure. During the massacre, the real killer embeded a red crystal inside Ganta. This crystal imbues him with powers, and he soon learns that all of the prisoners at Deadman Wonderland must entertain the public, by performing in dangerous games, in exchange for privileges. All of it is televised, and performed in front of a live audience. Ganta soon forms alliances within the prison and soon develops a rag-tag band of misfit friends. Together they must fight for survival, and find out what is really going on in the prison.
Another Satoshi Kon movie, Perfect Blue offers an intriguing look at the dangers of modern celebrity culture, and its inevitable objectification of its beloved starlets. This was Satoshi Kon’s debut movie, released in 1997, and introduced the world to a decadent, depraved genius. The movie tells the story of Mima Kirigoe, a recently retired pop idol and a member of the adored pop group: CHAM. Mima has come to despise the vapid excess of her pop idol fame, and becomes determined to make it as a real, quality actress. During the process of redefining herself, Mima’s fans begin to despise her, and a sinister stalker emerges from the shadows and seems to bare witness to every moment of Mima’s life. Chaotic fantasy becomes mingled with reality, and we are drawn to a paranoid, blistering climax. Truly a masterpiece of cinema whether you are a fan of animated movies or not.