The mystery genre thrives on surprising viewers with unexpected twists, clever conclusions, and a tense atmosphere. Mystery stories can combine drama, murders, and supernatural forces to create something other than standard detective stories.
Here are some of the best mystery anime series.
A calming blend of mystery and slice of life. Hyouka doesn't have mind racking mysteries, but it is a good starter series for people new to the genre.
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Episodes: 22 + 1 OVA
Quick Pitch: Houtarou is an expert "personal energy conservationist," which means he is lazy. At his sister's behest, Houtarou joins the Literary Club so that it won't be abolished. However, Houtarou discovers that the club has a rich history and is home to a 45-year-old mystery.
A time travel gimmick sets up a murder-mystery that involves a manga artist trying to prevent the kidnapping and murder of a childhood classmate.
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Quick Pitch: Satoru is a detached, 29-year-old manga artist with a mysterious power called Revival. The ability sends him back in time before a life-threatening event occurs near him. However, when Satoru's mom is murdered, he is sent back in time to when he was 11. Piecing things together, Satoru believes that preventing the kidnapping and murder of a classmate is the key to preventing the his mom's murder.
A non-linear story about alchemy, a mafia war, and the key to immortality. The out-of-order episodes may confusing at first, but you will be pulled into Baccano's world.
Studio: Brain's Base
Quick Pitch: During the 1930s in Chicago, a transcontinental train called the Flying Pussyfoot begins its blood soaked journey. An immortality elixir is the prize that draws various characters to the train.
One of Japan's most beloved series, Detective Conan is home to some really clever cases. The high episode count (842 and counting) may seem intimidating, but viewing guides are available for people looking for the best arcs.
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Quick Pitch: Shinichi Kudou is a renowned mystery expert at the age of seventeen. One day, he stumbles across an illegal activity and is captured. Given an experimental drug that was meant to kill him, Shinichi wakes up with the body a seven-year-old. He adopts the alias of Conan Edogawa and continues his quest to solving mysteries.
Gosick blends a gothic atmosphere and teases the possibility of the supernatural.
Quick Pitch: Kazuya Kujo moves from Japan to the fictional European country of Sauville. While visiting the school's library, he meets a girl named Victorique de Blois. She possesses a brilliant mind that she uses to help her detective brother solve crimes.
Strange deaths have plagued the once quiet village of Hinamizawa.
Studio: Studio Deen
Episodes: 50 + 10 OVAs
Quick Pitch: Keiichi moves to the village of Hinamizawa, and quickly becomes friends with his classmates. However, Keiichi learns the village is housing a dark secret that has led to several disappearances and murders.
A young technophobe falls down a rabbit hole of conspiracy after receiving an odd email from a dead classmate.
Studio: Triangle Staff / Pioneer LDC
Quick Pitch: Lain is an awkward fourteen-year-old girl who wants nothing to do with technology. Her curiosity wins out after she receives a disturbing email from a classmate that committed suicide. The email leads Lain to the Wired, a virtual communication service, but leads to Lain questing if her life is even real.
A murder-mystery that takes place in a sleepy city, and does not linger too long on a single character. The washed-out color tone and vignetting (edges of the scenes are darker than the center) may take some time to get used to.
Quick Pitch: A string of murders plagued an unnamed Japanese city five years ago. The murderer was never caught, which led to the creation of an urban legend named Boogiepop. High school students are starting to disappear, and with no culprit, the blame is again put on Boogiepop.
Monster is atypical in that we know that Johan is committing the crimes after the first episode. The mystery comes from the string of conspiracies that are connected to Johan and his motivation.
Quick Pitch: Dr. Kenzou is a renowned Japanese surgeon working in Germany. One day, Dr. Kenzou is forced to choose between saving the life of a young boy or the town mayor. Little did Dr. Kenzou know that this decision would lead to a life of turmoil.
A murder-mystery that centers around a delinquent and a delusional girl. The story will keep you guessing until the finale.
Studio: Brain's Base
Quick Pitch: Juu is a delinquent who has no use for friends. Despite his cold nature, a girl named Ame claims to have known Juu in a past life, and swears to serve as his knight. Wanting nothing to do with Ame, Juu has second thoughts about her after news of a murdered classmate spreads.
The only TV series created by renowned director Satoshi Kon. Paranoia Agent is a mind bending mystery that will have you guessing about the nature of Lil' Slugger.
Quick Pitch: Tsukiko is a well-known character designer who created Maromi. Under pressure to repeat her success, Tsukiko is attacked by a boy with a golden bat. When Tsukiko reports this to police, they believe that she is making up the event do to the stress of her job.
A blend of comedy, horror, supernatural, and mystery genres gives Ghost Hunt a unique and refreshing feel. One moment is filled with laughs, then it will switch it up with some scares.
Studio: J.C. Staff
Quick Pitch: Mai and her friends love to share ghost stories. While tell a story in an abandoned building, they get interrupted by Shibuya, who is the president of the Shibuya Psychic Research Company. The next day, Mai accidently breaks Shibuya's camera and injures one of his assistants. To repay for the incident, Mai is forced to join Shibuya's group.
A supernatural detective story that is based on the writings of Ango Sakaguchi. The cases are set to the backdrop of a war torn Japan.
Episodes: 11 + 1 OVA
Quick Pitch: Shinjuurou and his ghostly partner Inga have a reputation for cracking homicide cases. However, Inga's motivation for helping Shinjuurou is as mysterious as the cases they handle.
Techno-based murder-mystery that takes place on an island, and involves the culprit wanting to play a game of wits.
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Quick Pitch: Associate professor Souhei Saikawa and his student Moe Nishinosono spend their days discussing philosophy and computers. Shiki Magata is a genius programmer, and she wants to meet the two on her island. Souhei schedules a class trip, and when they arrive, they discover a pair of murders.
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers sets up as a standard action-adventure series, but becomes a tense mystery as the group of heroes try to discover a traitor in their team. The biggest flaw with the show is the cliffhanger ending, which may never be answered.
Quick Pitch: An ancient legend states that during the revival of the Demon God, six heroes will appear to protect the world. Adlet Meyer, the Strongest Man in the World, travels to the continent of Piena in hopes to be chosen as one of the six heroes. When he meets his comrades, they discover there is seventh hero - and one of them is working for the Demon God.
What are your favorite mystery anime?
Aaron Magulick has been a fan of anime ever since being exposed to it in the late '90s. A fan of nearly all genres, he is not afraid to explore the creepier side of the industry. Feel free to connect with him on GoBoiano Social.