Posted by: AceRailgun | December 23, 2012

Dark themes in anime – When all hope is lost

I’m a fan of dark themes and have been craving an anime with them lately. When I’m talking about dark themes I’m talking about when bad things happen in stories and there is no happy ending or undo button when all hope is gone and it takes a real struggle to obtain anything. When actions have consequences and the world can’t be saved with hopes and dreams. Too bad there is no anime like this or at least not very many recently.


Dark themes are an odd thing and very hard for me to define because when I think of dark themes Death Note comes to mind but even that isn’t a very good example. Well okay it’s a pretty good example because it’s about death but the main focus isn’t on death but the detective side of things. After that an anime called Sora no Woto comes to mind and anyone who knows what that is is probably thinking I’m crazy but it’s only one thing about that story that makes me say that. The adults of the story all have very dark and depressing back stories which are hidden behind smiles and moe. It’s a unique thing which I suddenly crave and I know it’s because most of the time dark themes go hand in hand with good story telling.


That is unless you are talking about anime and in the case of anime dark themes go hand in hand with stupid things like hyper violence, action horror, sex or god forbid moe with anime like Deadman Wonderland, Shiki, Rin Daughters of Mnemosyne and Another hinting at potential dark themes but then smearing their ridiculous second trait all over it and ruining the potential. I can’t say exactly what I want from a dark anime but it sure isn’t this and the only reason I can’t say is because I’ve never seen an anime that delivers dark themes effectively as it’s main focus.


Full Metal Alchemist, Steins;Gate and Neon Genesis Evangelion all kind of touch base on this but are fall into that category I mentioned earlier which is filled with hopes and dreams. It’s all too easy for the protagonist to train or grow as a person before facing their ultimate challenge and then they win like you expected them to. It’s that unpredictable element I’m searching for and not finding in current anime but I wonder if I’m the only one looking for this kind of thing. Surely not because I’m pretty sure nobody liked Deadman Wonderland. *Cough* It seems I’m coughing up blood just thinking about that awful anime.


  1. Reblogged this on Just my guilty pleasure reblog..

  2. I’ve heard that Infinite Ryvius is pretty dark, so perhaps give that a go!

    • Ah yes I’ve watched that and quiet enjoyed it. It’s pretty much the kind of thing I’ve been asking for in this post if you take out a bit of the teen angst. Too bad they don’t make that kind of anime much.

  3. This is not new, but have you watched Paranoia Agent? Seems dark enough but I haven’t watch it myself (it’s in my plan-to-watch list though).

    • I remember trying a long time ago but being put off by the silly and pointless act of the crimes being committed. Maybe it’s time for another try.

  4. Speaking of dark themes, I recently got that from Psycho Pass this week. I don’t know if you’re watching the anime, but the dark theme has been pretty present throughout and it looks like it will be reappearing a lot more from now on.

    • I’ve been hearing good things about it and I don’t know why I haven’t tried it out sooner. If I do like it I’ll be able to marathon it which should be fun. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. I know what you mean with Sora no Woto. It plays off as cute girls doing cute things, but if you actually take a step back and look around, things become much more grim. The human race is on the brink of extinction, and people are still killing each other over what remains. It doesn’t matter which way you cut it, those girls are child soldiers plain and simple.

    • Exactly it’s about stepping back and looking at the big picture. I haven’t watched it in forever so I can’t even remember what the girls do but I still clearly remember all the flash back scenes about the war and all the conversation about humanity being on the verge of extinction. It’s a very odd combination but it works and I wish there was more things like it.

  6. It’s funny how you bring up Sora no Woto, which completely failed at that aspect due to pee jokes and other dumb things. It’s a shame since it was an interesting world and the one serious episode we got was wonderful :/

    • I know what you mean. All the serious bits were great but as soon as it was forgotten the quality or should I say genre swaps to moe cuteness. I’m just glad it has the serious moments because a lot of anime don’t even do that.

  7. Dark themes…In the beginning I though about Gen Urabochi anime. He’s newest work is Psycho-Pass so maybe you can try watching it. Maybe it’s hard to find that kind of shows you’re describing because people like good endings more, or even if it’s consider a bad end authors add some hope factor because they relate to their characters. Personally, I like bad endings with a little single good thing in the end.
    PS: First comment here, very interesting blog.

    • Thanks for the compliment I’m glad you could take the time to comment.

      It’s true that people like good endings and I must also confirm that since I am a person I too like good endings. But there is also the bitter sweet kind of ending where something is left unanswered or a good thing happens but a bad thing also. Those kind of endings are what I’m looking for and yes I will be trying Psycho-Pass soon too, thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Real life is dark enough. To be more specific, if I wanted to succumb to the darkness, I would tune in to the latest news show, or better yet, a presidential speech. welcome to the house of sob.

    Real life is dark enough for me and Live-Action movies cater to my descent into darkness. that’s why I don’t really have an urge for grim scenarios in anime. If I happen to pick up a show that ends up being depressing, fine. Read Garden, Devil Lady, RAINBOW, Sora no Woto had some dark moments, Madoka (duh!), Penguindrum, a KEY anime, etc.

    So yeah, the darkness is out there but I’m in no rush to enter an animated world full of it…unless it intrigues me.

  9. Oops, forgot to add Elfen Lied, Shiki, Fate/Zero ( I think) and Shigofumi. What am I talking about? I could go on and on about darkness. Sure, not all of them have sad endings but they don’t need to ALL end bad.

    • I try to avoid watching the news on television because everything is so depressing. What makes a dark themed anime different from the news is that the darkness is usually overcome in some way unlike real life where people die and nobody gives a crap.

      As for the anime you’ve listed, I’ve seen a few of them and I’ll have to look into some of the other ones. I’m not so interested in sad endings, I’m more interested in a genuine struggle that doesn’t have an obvious happy ending you see coming from the end of the first episode.

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