Psychological anime is one of those genres that you typically don’t see standing on its own. You might see psychological action thrillers in which the characters are playing a game of strategic chess with people’s lives. You might see psychological horror shows where the characters within don’t know what is right or even real. You could even have psychological romance series where a girl tricks a guy into loving her. Okay, so that last one was kind of a joke, but I’d watch it. Typically psychological series can be very complex as well, which can be off putting to some. However, if you have stayed away from psychological anime until now, but are trying to make the jump in, these are some good anime recommendations to start with.
Monster starts off based on one philosophical question. It then branches out into one of the most twisting and complex psychological horror anime series you will ever watch. However, while full of twists and discoveries, it maintains a rather easy entry to the show. Once you get invested, you stay invested.
Welcome to the NHK
Not Employed, in Education, or Training – NEET – it is a psychological condition not specific to Japan, but a pretty big problem there. Essentially, young people drop out of society and become shut-ins. Welcome to the NHK is a bit of an examination of this phenomenon, based on a book originally written by a NEET. It’s full of conspiracy theories, coping mechanisms, and delusions which give you a look into the mind of these broken people.
Satoshi Kon was a master of the psychological, creating such classic anime movies like Perfect Blue and Paprika. Unfortunately, Paranoia Agent was his only anime series, but it is every bit a Satoshi Kon piece of work. In it, you will question, like the characters themselves, what is real and what is just made up. However, it isn’t all intense mindfuckery, there are actually some great character stories within too.
There is a reason that this anime is so enduringly popular. It was not only a refreshing change to follow the villain as the main character for once, but in Light’s eyes, he was very much the hero. It was an interesting view, but became even more intense when you followed Light having a battle of wits with L, the detective trying to capture him. It is the most intense and ever-changing game of cat and mouse ever seen.
Psycho Pass follow police in a world where you can be arrested simply for having the potential to commit a crime or even killed for it. Obviously, much of the series centers around the morality of this, but also creates some interesting crime mysteries for the detectives to chew on.
Death Parade has a pretty simple plot. It is just stories of people who play games to decide their afterlife. However, in simplicity can also come the finest psychology. Through these games, you discover the true nature and face of these people, and it is often terrible. Fun to watch though!
From the New World
This series is truly a case of how you see the world might not be how it actually is. You follow a group of characters starting as children and see their lives as they grow into adults. They discover the secrets and horrors of the post-apocalyptic society they live in. In essence, you watch the world go from that innocent view of a child to the warped view of an adult.
At a glance, Future Diary is a killing game. Typically these series don’t tend to be too psychologically complex, but Future Diary really goes the extra mile to create truly damaged characters that only become worse when put under the stress of death. Combine some literally insane characters with the twists of the series, and it is an anime that you can’t look away from.
Steins;Gate can definitely delve into some complex areas, but for the most part, can be easy to get into if you watch it seriously. It definitely isn’t a series that you can half-heartedly watch and understand, though. This show explores the implication of time travel and how one change can ripple in the most unexpected way. Of course, the majority of the series is more about trying to undo these changes or prevent other horrifying things from happening.
Erased is a psychological thriller in its finest form. As long as you don’t think too deeply on the specifics of how it all happens (i.e. the time travel), it is a hell of a ride. Essentially the main character goes back in time to solve his greatest regret – the three murders of kids his age. It is a show where you constantly want to guess the killer, but just when you think you know, it twists in a different direction.