Given the plethora of manga available to readers, there is no shortage of high-quality titles in virtually every genre. However, while family-friendly series geared toward younger audiences often receive plenty of fanfare, their more mature counterparts frequently go unappreciated thanks to their dark subject matter and graphic violence.
Although this type of manga may alienate some readers, there are plenty of others who enjoy the brutal nature of its presentation. In order to capitalize on this demand, plenty of series go above and beyond in their depictions of violence and savagery, resulting in some of the darkest manga series ever released.
10. The Promised Neverland
Although The Promised Neverland‘s anime adaptation is one of the biggest flops in recent memory, many fans consider the show’s source material to be one of the best shonen manga released in the 2010s. Written by debut author Kaiu Shirai, this dark fantasy series centers on a trio of orphans — Emma, Norman, and Ray — attempting to escape their demonic captors.
Despite The Promised Neverland‘s cute art style and child protagonists, it explores various mature topics. Solitude, violence, and even death threaten the show’s heroes at every turn, leaving little time for readers to catch their breath.
9. Death Note
Very few series in anime and manga history have reached the same level of popularity as Death Note. Light Yagami, Ryuk, and the series’ stellar cast of supporting characters are all enthralling, and their use of the Death Note, the murderous tool that provides the thrust of the narrative, makes for some of the most entertaining material of all time.
Given Light Yagami’s primary tool in the series is mass murder, Death Note delves into some incredibly dark themes. This, coupled with Ryuk and the other Shinigami’s desire to sew discord and misery throughout the human world, help create an eerie ambiance that permeates the entire plot.
8. I Am A Hero
While there are plenty of manga that explore the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, few do so with as much candid relatability as I Am a Hero. The horror-thriller was first released in 2009, and almost fifteen years later, its ability to provide commentary on everyday life is still commendable.
I Am a Hero follows Hideo Suzuki, an underpaid manga assistant, as he finds attempts to assert his own self-worth in the face of a pseudo-zombie apocalypse. Every bit as charming as it is brutal, this title perfectly blends the mundane aspects of life with the hyper-violent landscape of an undead outbreak.
7. Chainsaw Man
Most of Chainsaw Man‘s excessive violence is either tongue-in-cheek fun or a meta-commentary on the shonen genre, but that doesn’t change the fact that its material is among the most brutal of any major manga. Denji, its half-devil, half-human protagonist, spends a large part of his time carving through devils and fiends with reckless abandon throughout much of the series.
Similar to Evil Dead and other classic horror films, Chainsaw Man pulls no punches when it comes to showing graphic violence. Its combat is full of visceral gore and high-stakes circumstances — thankfully, this is often offset by well-placed bits of character development and legitimately funny comedic sequences.
6. Dead Tube
Snuff films are generally considered to be the stuff of urban legend, but thanks to Dead Tube, the fear inspired by these fatal films feels more real than ever. The manga’s protagonist, Tomohiro Machiya, lives a normal life as a student until he is forced to film his school’s idol as she kills her boyfriend.
This sets in motion a chaotic series of events that explore the dark underbelly of cinema culture. Thanks to its seinen classification, Dead Tube is free to depict the graphic murders of its demented characters. As its plot progresses, they slowly push the boundaries of their films, resulting in crueler and crueler circumstances for their victims.
Junji Ito’s talent as an author and illustrator of horror manga is well-documented, yet even with his extensive catalog, Uzumaki stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. Thanks to its eerie tone, suspenseful pacing, and creepy spiral imagery, the series contains several of the most iconic panels in the history of horror manga.
Uzumaki originally ran from 1998 to 1999, and thanks to its massive popularity, it has been re-released and remastered multiple times since then. With a new anime adaptation of the series set to debut on Toonami in the near future, the popularity of this title is clearly as high as ever.
When a series centers on the proclivities of a serial killer, its material is bound to be quite mature. Monster, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasaw, was first released in 1994, and since then, it has become known as one of the most engaging psychological thrillers in manga history.
Kenzo Tenma, Monster‘s protagonist, works as a neurosurgeon in Germany when the series begins, but after he is forced to choose between the lives of two different patients, a series of mysterious deaths begin occurring around him. In an effort to prove himself innocent of these murders, Tenma begins down a winding path he hopes will uncover the identity of the killer.
Whereas some manga are more mature or light-hearted than fans would expect, the tone of Homunculus is exactly as dark as one would expect a story about trepanation to be. Susumu Nakoshi, its protagonist, is homeless when the series begins, so in order to make some quick cash, he allows a medical student to drill a hole in his head.
Unfortunately, this trepanation procedure is only the beginning of Nakoshi’s problems. After the operation, he suddenly gains the ability to perceive the homunculi of other people, launching him down a path that explores the darkest corners of the human psyche.
2. Fire Punch
Fire Punch‘s main character, Agni, might resemble a slew of other superhero manga protagonists, but in reality, he and his journey couldn’t deviate more from the genre’s norms. Tatsuki Fujimoto, the series’ author, pushes Fire Punch‘s commentary as far as he can, resulting in a fourth-wall-breaking, ultra-violent story centered on the never-ending pain of its main character.
Born into a dystopian world where individuals are randomly born with superhuman “blessings,” Agni benefits from one of the most powerful gifts in the series: rapid regeneration. Unfortunately, he is lit on fire by a never-ending flame as a child, resulting in the constant, excruciating struggle to survive that typifies his character.
Written by late author Kentaro Miura, Berserk follows the story of Guts — a stoic swordsman wandering through a world teeming with evil forces. The series debuted in 1989 and quickly earned a dedicated following, largely due to its brutal violence, mature storylines, and terrifying antagonists.
Berserk explores a wide variety of adult themes, and it leaves no stone unturned during its exploration of human depravity. Guts fends off friends, foes, and supernatural forces on his journey, including five of the most heinous characters in manga history — the God Hand.