Zombies are one of the most common and oft-used tropes in all media. They’re just so easy to use as a backdrop to tackling other issues, making a comedy, or a proper survival horror video game. Over the past two decades, the zombie genre has found its place in anime as well. While not all zombie anime follow the typical archetypical model of what a zombie is, the essence of these undead creatures is notably common in anime these days.
Most anime get extremely creative in how they use zombies, some using them in the more traditional ways, others creating creatures parallel to zombies, without using the word, while many take the undead trope into a comedy, romance, or slice-of-life setting to see how it goes. This list, however, goes over the most threatening zombies found in anime, albeit these undead brain eaters are oft turned into cannon fodder.
7 Sunday Without God
This is a very unique show with quite an intriguing premise. Essentially fifteen years before the anime starts, God leaves ‘humans’ to fend for themselves. Humans no longer have the ability to die regardless of injuries or maladies, nor can they give birth to more children, leaving them in a somewhat horrifying purgatory state.
God does leave humanity with a parting gift, gravediggers who can put these new zombie-like humans to eternal rest. What makes the ‘zombies’ in this anime threatening is how they are essentially people who can flip a switch at any moment without any consequences. A tragic world with no morality and no consequences can leave much to be desired, and audiences viewing this world at its worst through the eyes of the child protagonist only adds to this. The melancholic soundtrack compliments the setting greatly.
This might have been the anime with the most potential to have horrifying and threatening zombies, sadly it didn’t fulfill its promises and couldn’t complete its run. Based on a horror-esque manga, Tokkou follows Shindo and his sister, two survivors of a horrific massacre where every other inhabitant of an apartment complex was slaughtered, including their parents.
Shindo, after graduating from the police academy becomes involved with a suspicious organization, essentially acting as a hunter of all things supernatural. Moreover, the city starts being littered with holes full of undead. The sequences showing hordes of unfazed undead, still looking human but beaten and battered is one to remember. This anime promised to be bloody and violent, but it didn’t last long.
5 Tokyo Ghoul
Probably one of the most popular anime series ever made, Tokyo Ghoul needs no introduction. The titular ghoul characters, while usually based in Arabian mythology and folklore, draw strong parallels with zombies, the key point being they’re undead.
Ghouls differ from zombies in the sense that while they’re technically undead, they blend in with civilization and are much cleverer than their brain-eating counterparts. Nevertheless, ghouls are definitely threatening, and fans of the series would instantly point to certain parts of the anime which terrified them.
4 The Empire of Corpses
Set in 18th-century Britain, Empire of Corpses acts in a sense as a retelling of the Frankenstein series. Scientist Victor Frankenstein reanimates corpses without souls, using an artificial substance known as Necroware, this is quickly utilized to essentially replace the labor force with mindless undead.
The film essentially follows the protagonist trying to revive his partner Friday, using Frankenstein’s notes, and traveling around the world in pursuit of the truth. The film, whilst not overtly violent, lets the notion creep into the mind of the audience—of when innovation goes too far, and what the potential consequences can be. Certain terrifying questions of morality are raised along the way.
This anime follows Brandon Heat on his quest for revenge. Brandon was killed by his best friend, and now he is back from the dead to exact revenge. He takes up the name Beyond the Grave or Grave for short. Standing between him and his goal, however, are a couple of dozen undead zombies just like him.
This slick and fun anime follows Grave blast his way through his enemies. It also acts as a journey for our zombie protagonist to grow as a person and see the realities of the world he once thrived in. The best part about this anime is how the protagonist, Grave is the threatening zombie.
2 Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack
Curated by one of the most famous horror manga writers, Junji Ito, this anime features zombie fish flooding the town and giving its citizens fatal explosive diarrhea, yes. This movie is extremely gory, violent, and all-around unappetizing.
The zombie fish are definitely a sight to see, and most importantly they’re essentially zombie cyborgs with mechanical legs. Gyo is quite an interesting watch that’s for sure.
Creepy, horrific worm or starfish-like aliens invade earth and burrow themselves into the brains of humans, essentially rendering them dead and then controlling them. Parasyte follows Shinichi Izumi, who manages to thwart a parasite’s attempt to burrow in him, rather the creature ends up stuck on his arm.
What follows is a scary zombie show focused on philosophical questions related to morality and questions about humanity. Particularly exploring the flaws in humans, and how they treat the world around them. Whilst not the most action-heavy anime, it’s definitely one to watch, and the parasitic villains are downright terrifying, threatening would be an understatement.
MORE: Anime That Twist The Zombie Mythos