The Best Psychological Anime To Trip Out On

What makes a good anime great? Awesome fight scenes? Unique superpowers? Unlikely pairings and relationships? Possibly. But what’s even better than all of that is the psychology.

It’s the psychological element that’s seamlessly integrated into the story. It should tease our brains, make us exercise our minds, think critically, and try to figure things out for ourselves first instead of getting spoon-fed with hard action and templated storytelling. If you’re looking for some of the best psychological anime titles to binge-watch, we’ve compiled them in this list!

 

25. Gleipnir (Manga: Shinichi Inotsume, 2020 / Manga: Sun Takeda, 2015 – Present)

Gleipnir Manga series volume 1

Gleipnir manga

Let’s get this list rolling with something recent. Released just this spring, 2020, Gleipnir is an anime about a teenage boy who finds out that he can transform into a monster that looks like a giant stuffed toy.

Despite the main character’s fluffy, harmless looks, he’s blessed with monstrous speed and strength. What seemed like a typical action/adventure anime suddenly turned dark when he encounters a vixen of a female lead, who’ll do anything to hunt down her long-lost mass murderer of a sister. That includes going inside the body of the furry pet and monster hybrid because apparently, there’s a zipper in his back, and he can be worn just like you would a costume.

Oh, and that same sister is the main character’s ex-girlfriend who chose to erase his memory to save him from an awful future.

Still with us? Good, because that’s just the first couple of episodes! There’s a lot more to uncover; you’ll end up bingeing the whole series in one sitting!

You can see the original (Japanese only) series on Amazon Prime Video here: Gleipnir

 

24. Psycho-Pass (Gen Urobuchi, 2012 – 2013)

If that sounded like “psychopath” to you, you’re right! The Japanese love onomatopeia, which shows in some of the titles of their manga or anime. Cultural lessons aside, the title alone is enough to give you that serious psychological anime vibe. Set in a cyberpunk future, a computer network of sorts measures people’s brains and mentalities to assess potential criminals. It gives off that Minority Report feels, but with an anime storytelling twist.

We follow a newbie inspector’s perspective as she navigates through the law enforcement system, juggling crime-busting with career and existential dilemmas. Not to mention that their all-knowing crime-prevention computer is flawed and that there are still super-criminals who can stay off the authority’s radars.

You can check out the first season on Blu-ray on Amazon here:  Psycho-Pass – Season One [Blu-ray]

 

23. The Promised Neverland (Manga: Kaiu Shirai, 2016 – 2020 / Anime: Toshiya Ono, 2019 – Present)

The Promised Neverland Anime

Oh boy, if you’re a sucker for psychological anime, this one’s a treat! Imagine living in a utopia, only to find out that you’re getting fattened up as livestock for mysterious monsters. It’s messed up, but in the right way, because we see true resilience and ingenuity from people.

Oh, before we forget, we’re talking about prepubescent children here, and not a robust and capable adult. There are adults, but they’re on the side of the carnivorous monsters. They’re the shepherds tending to a flock of children.

It’s dark, twisted, and full of thrilling encounters between the children, their caretakers, and for a bit, their monster overlords. We see how the children work together to survive and elude their captors. Even knowing their situation’s reality, they still had to fool the adults into thinking that they’re naive, innocent kids who can’t or won’t do anything to deceive them.

The Blu-ray is on Amazon, but unfortunately is a region 2 DVD.  You can check it out here: The Promised Neverland – Vol. 1 (Ep. 1-6) [Blu-ray] [2019]

 

22. Paprika (Novel: Yasutaka Tsutsui, 1993 / Anime: Satoshi Kon, 2006)

Believe it or not, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is loosely based on this anime. Yes, THAT Inception–a highly rated movie about highjacking one’s deepest darkest secrets through their dreams.

That’s basically what Paprika is all about, only less Leonardo DiCaprio-y and more drug-trippy color explosion. After all, this anime is about bringing your dreams to life, regardless of how twisted or sick it is. Add some detectives investigating a series of murders, a fleeing, mysterious woman, and you’ll be sure to give your brain a good exercise.

The storytelling may be a bit over the place, but it can be because this show is way ahead of its time. Released in 2006, its contemporaries are targeted to a younger audience (Digimon, Kirarin Revolution, anyone?) or angsty teens (Code Geass, Death Note).

You can get the Blu-ray from Amazon here:  Paprika [Blu-ray]

 

21. Ergo Proxy (Dai Sato, 2006)

Released in the same year as Paprika, Ergo Proxy is another title that 21. psychological anime fans should watch. Don’t be fooled by the main heroine’s heavy mascara, because this one’s a real nail-biter.

This anime is set in a cyberpunk future where humans are forced to live inside a domed city after a global disaster decimated the population several thousand years back. Humans coexist with AutoReivs–human-like androids. But everything changed when a string of murders perpetrated by AutoReivs stirred the peace.

To further complicate things, the human government discovered a “proxy,” humanoid life forms that are god-like, immortal, and powerful. As they began experimenting on the proxies, they realized that they’re why humans survived the disaster from long ago. There are also many things they don’t know about the world they live in.

It’s easy to get sucked into the vivid storytelling. You won’t notice the time pass by until the very end of the series!

You can check out the complete series on Blu-ray on Amazon:  Ergo Proxy: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

 

20. Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World (Novel Series: Tappei Nagatsuki, 2012 – Present / Anime: Masahiro Yokotani, 2016 – Present)

After traveling back in time to 2006 and getting rewarded with two notable psychological anime titles, let’s flash forward ten years to 2016 when futuristic themes were replaced by tons of isekai (getting transported to another world) titles.

The cream of the crop of this year when it comes to psychological anime is, without a doubt, Re: Zero, as it seamlessly mixes fantasy and adventure with dark and twisted storylines.

Usually, when you get isekai-d to another world, you’re given a superpower, a unique weapon, or both. You’re an overpowered being who lords over everyone. This time though, the main character has to navigate his way with no unique power, weapon, or even superior intellect. All he has is the ability to “reset” to a save point after he dies. It took him quite a few painful, traumatic “resets” to truly understand his power and realize his purpose in this new world.

You can get season one (part one) on Blu-ray on Amazon here:  Re:ZERO: Starting Life in Another World – Season One Part One [Blu-ray]

 

19. Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler (Homura Kawamoto, 2014 – Present / Anime: Yasuko Kobayashi, 2017)

Are you tired of the dark, twisted environments, sadistic characters, and a piling body count you commonly see in a psychological anime? Then let Kakegurui be your palate cleanser.

This one’s a full-fledged psychological anime. This time though, the story revolves around gambling. From simple money-games to high-stakes, life-or-death (okay, I lied about the dark, twisted nature of the anime), this title will have you begging for more!

Oh, and did I forget that this was set in a prestigious school full of the world’s most influential people’s kids? That’s why they’re betting money, property, and even their freedom like there’s no tomorrow.

The main heroine’s a cheerful-looking beauty, but beneath that precocious exterior lies a compulsive gambler who’ll do anything to outsmart and outplay her opponents. The right choice of words, considering how every gambling match becomes a game of survival!

Unfortunately, Region 1 DVDs with English are hard to come by.  If you want to check out the Japanese version, the Blu-ray of that can be found on Amazon Japan here:   Kakegurui 1 [Blu-ray]

 

18. Kaguya-sama: Love is War (Manga: Aka Akasaka, 2015 – Present / Anime: Yasuhiro Nakanishi, 2019)

I may have lied a bit about the dark and twisted nature of Kakegurui, so we’ll go with a relatively “innocent” psychological anime this time around.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War is about two teenagers who are playing hard-to-get with each other. They’re both members of their school’s student council, and they’re trying to one-up each other by making them confess their love first. Both of them like each other, but are both afraid of making the first move. Instead, they’ll go to great lengths to put the other in awkward, confusing situations to force them to spill their guts first. Not literally.

The thing is, they’re both brilliant, and both try to stay one step ahead of each other. It’s a chess match for a confession, and they often end up drawing blanks or have their schemes backfire hilariously.

You can check out the DVD on Amazon here:  Kaguya-sama Love Is War Blu-ray

 

17. ERASED (Kei Sanbe, 2012 – 2016 / Anime: Taku Kishimoto, 2016)

Enough of the palate cleansers, let’s get back to what psychological anime is known for: gripping, twisted storytelling. And you’ll get plenty of that with ERASED, a sci-fi, time travel-themed mystery that will have you staring at your screen for hours.

Without spoiling any details, the anime is all about going back in time to solve a cold case. A murder of an acquaintance, and understanding the circumstances behind it, can be too much to bear for the now-young protagonist. With his memories of the present intact, he’ll do his best within his power to change the course of events, get to the bottom of the case, and somehow try to survive to return to his present timeline.

And because the main characters are young children, there’s a sense of powerlessness that makes everything doubly tricky. Indeed an edge-of-your-seat series, you’ll go through episodes quickly, so make sure to have plenty of snacks ready!

Unfortunately, Amazon only has the Region B/2 Blu-ray.  You check it out here: Erased Vol 1 (Eps 1-6) [Blu-ray]

 

16. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Gen Urobuchi, 2011)

Continuing the prepubescent protagonists’ trend, we head over to a title that you’d likely question if it belongs to the list. Yes, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a magical girl anime about young girls with more than enough power to level an entire city. But this one exposes what lies beneath their cute colorful interiors. They’re overworked, bound by an unfair contract, and treated as weapons or tools by those who made them.

In reality, magical girls live a cruel, inescapable life. They begin to lose pieces of themselves when they accept the job. Even the perk of getting a wish granted for taking the contract can often backfire and have unfavorable results. This is why the remaining magical girls must figure out a way to solve this before they all lose their sanity and turn into witches–the very enemy they’ve been hired to fight.

Amazon only has a region 0 Blu-ray, which will not work in the USA.  If you have a player than can play this, check out the series here: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Complete Series Collection [Blu-ray]

 

15. Welcome to the N.H.K. (Tatsuhiko Takimoto, 2002 / Anime: Satoru Nishizono, 2006)

Japanese culture has several quirks, and one of them is the concept of Hikikomori, or being a shut-in or a social recluse. Documentaries are tackling this concept, and some anime titles have incorporated it as a theme. One of them is Welcome to the N.H.K., which gives the viewers a glimpse of several Tokyo resident’s lives, some of them suffering from this social condition.

If you’re into engaging dialogue, in-depth discussions of personality disorders, and more, this anime suits you. The main character is a young adult who identifies as a hikikomori. One day, he meets another quirky character who promises to help him get over and cure his hikikomori ways. Psychology and psychoanalysis will be a recurring theme, as part of the ways to cure him were to deal with what’s going on his head first.

Check out the complete series on DVD on Amazon here: Welcome to the NHK – The Complete Series

 

14. Serial Experiments Lain (Chiaki J. Konaka, 1998)

Released in 1998, this anime is one of those titles that explore the “what ifs” of interconnectivity brought about by relatively new technology like the internet. As the internet gets more accessible to ordinary people, we see speculations of how it (and other similar “connected tech”) can be used to upload your consciousness to a network, leave your physical body behind, and live in a different plane of existence altogether.

Here, we see the titular character Lain get entangled with people who’ve seemingly died physically but are very much alive, powerful, and even god-like in a virtual reality network. We see her evolve from an awkward, introverted girl to someone who can influence others to stop a new kind of evil in this high-tech world.

With an offer to abandon her physical body and live like a god in the network, we see her resolve as she gets tested and tempted many times. She’s a new-age heroine, even when the global connectivity that we have today was just a figment of the anime creator’s imagination.

Check out the complete series here on Amazon: Serial Experiments Lain – Complete Series – Classic (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

 

13. Ghost in the Shell (Manga: Masamune Shirow, 1989 – 1990 / Anime: Kazunori Ito, 1995)

Continuing with the theme of future tech as it affects modern society, we have the original Ghost in the Shell anime film from 1995. Well, technically, it’s a bit older than Serial Experiments Lain, but in the timetable of tech, this is well beyond that kind of future.

Set in 2029 (wow, just a few odd years from now,) this anime shows us how cybernetic tech could shape society’s landscape. Humans can be upgraded with cybernetic parts, so cyborgs are the future that this title predicts. The anime itself is more a mystery trailer, as crime sprees rise because of “shells” getting hacked. Shells, as you’ve probably guessed, are cybernetic bodies you could transplant consciousness into.

It’s hard not to spoil the film by just explaining what it’s about. The main character is an enigmatic Makoto Kusanagi, an assault team leader with serious questions about her humanity. There’s also the Puppet Master, a terrorist who gets the story rolling with his crime spree. If you’re into psychological anime with a mix of cyberpunk futurism and a hint of existentialism, then this is something you shouldn’t miss.

You can check out the DVD on Amazon here: Ghost In The Shell

 

12. MONSTER (Manga: Naoki Urasawa, 1994 – 2001 / Anime: Tatsuhiko Urahata, 2004 – 2005)

Picture this: you saved a child’s life to find out a decade later that he’s now a prolific killer. Would you try to correct your mistake and do what you can to stop him? Or would you live with the guilt knowing that you’re partially responsible for his atrocities?

Well, that’s basically what’s been bugging Dr. Kenzo Tenma throughout this series. You see, as a young doctor, he chose to save the life of a young boy, Johan, over that of a prominent politician, thinking that what he’s doing is right. The consequence of his actions hit him when he learns that the now-adult Johan has been killing people left and right, and no one can stop him so far.

Feeling burdened by his actions, Tenma makes it his responsibility to stop Johan. There are many more layers to this story, and delving deeper would be spoiling the good parts. Just know that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill psychological anime, as the who series ran for 74 episodes. It is excellent. Trust me.

The DVD can be found here: Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Box Set 1

 

11. Future Diary (Manga: Sakae Esuno, 2006 – 2010 / Anime: Katsuhiko Takayama, 2011 – 2012)


Most psychological anime titles have at least one insane character. It could either be quite evident from the get-go, or someone who falls into a pit of madness. But no matter how crazy that character gets, it’s almost impossible to be as crazy as Future Diary’s Yuno Gasai. But that’s not the only reason why this series deserves a spot in this best psychological anime list.

Future Diary is a battle royale-styled tournament pitting “diary” users against each other. These diaries are cellular phones that predict the future, depending on the personality of the owner. Amano Yukitero, the main character, is quite unfortunate to have one. He’ll need to eliminate other diary users to survive and get a wish fulfilled.

And as I mentioned earlier, these diary users, except for the protagonist, are all crazy. But again, not as mad as Yuno Gasai, another diary user whose obsession knows no bounds. Fortunately for the protagonists, she’s obsessed with him, and she’ll do everything to protect him from other diary users.

You can check out the complete series on Amazon: Future Diary – The Complete Series + OVA [Blu-ray]

 

10. Terror in Resonance (Shinichiro Watanabe, 2014)


If you need proof that there’s an anime for everything, here it is. Terror in Resonance is about two teenage boys who stole a prototype atomic bomb and went on a bombing spree around Tokyo. And since they’re the protagonists, they did it for a cause.

They’re the survivors of atrocious human experimentation, where special Savant children are isolated and developed into human weapons. They wanted the world to know about the atrocities of those who did this, top politicians and other people in power. Because of their influence over society, only acts of terrorism like bombing offices and public transportation can draw the public’s attention.

With authorities and investigators on their tail, the city becomes the stage of a chess match. They need to be a step ahead so that they won’t get caught, while ALSO trying to keep the destruction to a minimum. Well, at least they’re trying not to kill civilians!

It’s a bit messed up, I admit. But the storytelling is excellent, and that it will have you hooked from the first episode down to the last.

Check out the complete series on Blu-ray on Amazon here: Terror in Resonance: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

 

9. Death Parade (Yuzuru Tachikawa, 2015)


What happens when a person dies? Are they reincarnated, sent to a higher plane of existence, or sent to the underworld to repent for their sins? Well, in this anime series, it’s unique, yet straightforward: they’re sent to a mysterious bar, participate in a death game, and bet on the results with their souls. They win, and they’re all set for reincarnation. They lose, they get dragged into the void, with no chance of escape or redemption.

Often arriving in pairs, the participants are made to play games with their souls on the line. However, the results don’t depend on the outcome of the game, but by the way they conduct themselves during the game, as bits and pieces of their memories before dying return to them and possibly affect their actions and perception of the other participant.

Think your ex cheated on you while you’re still alive? You can attack them and make them suffer now or play it cool and be rewarded with reincarnation. Tired of respecting your boss even in death? You might want to watch your actions, or else both of you could be banished to the void. The cases differ from episode to episode, so trying to figure out the circumstances of the death games’ participants is part of the appeal of this mind-teasing anime.

You can get the complete series on Blu-ray on Amazon here: Death Parade: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

 

8. Paranoia Agent (Satoshi Kon, 2004)


Fear can be crippling, and paranoia can be contagious. This is what Paranoia Agent is all about, though it starts as a simple yet violent prank.

Picture yourself walking at night, when suddenly you’re hit in the shins by a bat, wielded by a mysterious boy on rollerblades. From the authorities’ perspective, it’s annoying–but not enough to warrant a full investigation or a more severe action. But as the number of victims grows, and the damage caused by this agent of paranoia increases, society itself can be thrown to chaos.

And apparently, there’s a supernatural element to the perpetrator. As more and more people believe in and fear him, the bigger and stronger he grows. His blows are now crippling and even fatal, a far cry from the painful pranks he played on his first few victims.

The series explores how paranoia can affect people’s lives. It can drive them insane, scared, and even violent themselves. They can’t distinguish what’s real from what’s not, and in doing so, they’re exposing themselves to more dangerous situations.

You can check out Volume 1 on DVD on Amazon here: Paranoia Agent – Enter Lil Slugger (Vol. 1)

 

7. Parasyte: The Maxim (Manga: Hitoshi Iwaaki, 1988 – 1995 / Anime: Shōji Yonemura 2014- 2015)


A parasitic alien race descends upon humanity, turning anyone they infect into monstrous killing machines. The plot alone gives you chills. Just wait until you see the actual monsters they transform their human hosts into! But that doesn’t immediately qualify this anime into this “best of” list, right?

Well, if you know how creative anime creators are, it’s easy to imagine how they can shoehorn a psychological element even in this kind of title. Instead of making it a fight between humans and parasites, we’re given the main character who’s a hybrid of both.

Shinichi resisted getting taken over, so his parasite was only confined to his right hand. He also convinced his sentient body invader to help him against his battles with monsters with his strong will.

As Shinichi accepts the alien in his life, his personality also changes, probably because of the circumstances he’s experienced. Overall, the series gives us a glimpse of what happens when humans and monsters form a symbiotic relationship. It explores human nature, especially when under stress, and how quickly we can adapt to the drastic changes in our lives.

You can get the complete collection on Blu-ray here on Amazon: Parasyte – The Maxim – Complete Collection [Blu-ray]

 

6. No Game No Life (Light Novel: Yu Kamiya, 2012 – Present / Anime: Jukki Hanada, 2014)


The blood, gore, and overall darkness of the previous entries can be heavy, so we’ll break that streak with something light and colorful. That’s where No Game No Life comes in.

A pair of hardcore gaming siblings get isekai-d in a world where all the problems and conflicts are solved with games. It’s a utopia for this hypercompetitive pair, as they get to flex their brainpower and reign supreme over this world’s inhabitants.

But life’s not always good. Some conflicts challenged them and even put them in harm’s way. But thanks to their superior intelligence, impeccable strategies, and just the sheer love for winning, they’re always able to pull through. But there are more layers to uncover in this series. They face opponents who are equally cunning and intelligent, every game turns into a chess match, with one side trying to outmaneuver the other.

You can find the Blu-ray on Amazon here: No Game No Life [Blu-ray]

 

5. Ping Pong the Animation (Taiyo Matsumoto, 1996 – 1997 / Anime: Masaaki Yuasa, 2014)


Okay, pick up your jaw, we’re serious here!

You may think that a simple, straightforward game like table tennis can’t be turned into an anime with a psychological theme. You haven’t been paying attention.

With the main characters aspiring to be the best in the sport, we can see how they deal with their struggles and mental obstacles to be better at the game. In many cases, your worst enemy is yourself, which is somewhat applicable to this series’s protagonists.

And just like any sports or game-related anime, it has superb storytelling to make up for the actual tedious nature of the game.

You can find the complete series on Blu-ray on Amazon: Ping Pong: The Animation – The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

 

4. Danganronpa: The Animation (Makoto Uezu, 2013)


If you’re craving for a murder mystery, last-man-standing violence, and some serious brain exercise, and you can only watch one anime series, Danganronpa: The Animation is your best bet. Based on a console game of the same title, this anime is packed full of suspense, non-linear storytelling, unique dynamic characters, and plot twist after plot twist.

But you need to probably take note of the characters’ names first, as most of them get introduced all at once; it can be hard to follow, especially if you’re not fond of pausing and rewinding to catch their names.

And since it retains some of its game elements, you can expect that some of the characters will surprise you as the story progresses. It’s a fantastic ride from start to finish, and you can easily binge through all 13 episodes. Fortunately, several story arcs are already available, so you won’t miss it that much, even if you finish this series in one sitting!

You can find season one on Blu-ray on Amazon: Danganronpa: The Animated Series – Season One [Blu-ray]

 

3. Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers (Light Novel: Ishio Yamagata, 2011 – Present / Anime: Tatsuhiko Urahata, 2015)


From the first episode, this anime feels like an epic adventure that’s about to start. Six warriors are summoned to go on a journey to defeat the evil Demon God. But as they’re gathering, seven people show up, with one clearly being an impostor meant to disrupt their journey. From that alone, you’ll know that you have an awesome psychological anime in front of you, and you can’t wait to watch through the episodes to figure out who’s who.

You can expect betrayals, epic fights, and many chess-like matches. Every hero is intelligent and cunning, and won’t stop at anything to expose the fake and foil their evil plan. But because they’re not sure who’s the imposter, everyone’s on edge, and their patience runs thin. From an epic adventure to a mystery thriller in just the first episode!

You can check out the Collectors Edition Blu-ray/DVD set on Amazon: Rokka – Braves of the Six Flowers Collectors Edition BLURAY/DVD Set 1 + CD (Eps 1-4)

 

2. Death Note (Manga: Tsugumi Ohba 2003 – 2006 / Anime: Toshiki Inoue, 2006 – 2007)


The list won’t be complete without an epic psychological anime like Death Note. This one set the bar high for “intellect-testing” anime titles. Imagine pitting two of the most intelligent people on the planet against each other, with one aiming to pile on more bodies to cover his tracks. The other is trying hard to lessen the death and destruction while figuring out who’s his opponent.

The thing is, nothing’s a mystery to the viewers. They know that Light is Kira, and he’s always a step ahead of L. But the fact that we, as the audience, see everything unfold before our eyes make the series more exciting. It’s a cat and mouse game between them, and we’re mere spectators waiting for the result.

Summing up something as brilliant as Death Note in just a few words is hard, so it’s better to witness it for yourself. If you’re new to the genre and want a gateway anime to get the ball rolling, this is perfect for you!

You can find the complete series on Blu-ray on Amazon here: Death Note: Complete Series Standard Edition (Blu-ray)

 

1. Steins;Gate (Visual Novel: Chiyomaru Shikura, Naotaka Hayashi, Shimokura Vio, Tanizaki Ouka, 2009 / Anime: Jukki Hanada, 2011)


Time travel, alternate, overlapping dimensions, mad scientists–all these elements are present in this mind-boggling anime. It pushed boundaries during its time, and many viewers have been influenced by this series to learn more about the science related to it.

The premise can be a bit complicated, but to simplify: it’s a science experiment gone wrong. In an attempt to alter the present, scientists attempt to send text messages to the past. Something went wrong when dead bodies start piling up.

Now, they need to send themselves back in time to fix their mistakes, but their progress is impeded by human conflicts that science has yet to figure out how to fix.

You can get the complete series on Blu-ray at Amazon: Steins Gate: Complete Series Classic [Blu ray] [Blu-ray]

 

We’ve come up with 25 of the best psychological anime titles for you to watch, but truth be told, there are many more we could have covered! If you have any other titles you want to add or recommend, head on to the comments and tell us! We’d love to hear more from you!

Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend