Free-to-play visual novel Doki Doki Literature Club! has been entrancing fans with its cute visuals, meta-horror, and tight writing. It’s a unique experience that can have fans yearning for similar stories – especially as an anime.
Here are psychological anime that lure you in with cute characters before breaking you with psychological horror and shattered characters!
Higurashi is the closest to Doki Doki Literature Club! in terms of tone. The series establishes a heavy sense of dread that creeps you out throughout its run, but you make sure you have a strong stomach for blood!
Studio: Studio Deen
Episodes: 50 + 11 OVAs
Quick Pitch: Keiichi Maebara moves to the quiet village of Hinamizawa during the summer of 1983. He quickly becomes friends with schoolmates since all of the grades share a single classroom. While Keiichi’s life seems idyllic and laid back, there is a darkness lurking in the town’s history of murders and disappearances that occur in connection with an annual festival.
The crazy cute characters hide a disturbing twist the shouldn’t be spoiled. School-Live! is an intense story that can be continued in the manga.
Quick Pitch: Yuki Takeya loves her school and the activities of the School Life Club. The club also includes president Yuuri Wakasa, the athletic Kurumi Ebisuzawa, the mature Miki Naoki, supervising teacher Megumi Sakura, and the club dog Taroumaru. Together, the club participates in various activities and mini-adventures…or that’s how Yuki sees things.
Madoka Magica is one of the most popular anime examples of a genre shift. While there is heavy foreshadowing, the opening three episodes play out like a standard Magical Girl anime. Make it past the start, and you’ll descend into a pit of despair!
Episodes: 12 + 3 (kind of remakes / sequel) movies
Quick pitch: Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki are friends who live normal middle school lives, but everything changes after they meet a cat-alien named Kyuubey and a transfer student named Homura Akemi. Kyuubey offers to grant them a wish in exchange for becoming magical girls, but Homura urges the duo to decline or they will enter a world of despair.
4Yuki Yuna is a Hero
Yuki Yuna is a Hero is lighter than Madoka Magica, but it’s still filled with dread. Without spoiling too much, the cast is asked to sacrifice their bodies in order to use their powers to save humanity.
Studio: Studio Gokumi
Quick Pitch: Yuki Yuna is a member of her school’s Hero Club, which helps others and brings smiles to faces. While Yuna is up for any task, she doesn’t know that the Hero Club is a part of a larger organization. A strange phone app transports Yuna and her friends to a strange plane to fight a deadly threat as magical girls.
Neon Genesis Evangelion looks like a basic mecha anime: a teenage boy pilots a giant robot to battle an alien threat. About half-way through, Evangelion warps into a psychological-horror series that’ll have you questioning your life choices.
Episodes: 26 + 2 movies
Quick Pitch: Nerv director Gendou Ikari seeks young pilots that can synch with the Eva units and combat the Angels. Shinji Ikari, Gendou’s son, is whisked away to pilot Eva Unit-01. The weight of humanity’s fate on Shinji’s shoulders starts to unearth uneasy feelings within him.
Do you love (or hate) romantic-comedies with a harem spin? School Days has a very slow start, but fans that stick with it will be treated to a beautiful climax.
Episodes: 12 + 2 OVAs
Quick Pitch: Makoto Itou notices Kotonoha Katsura during their second semester at high school. Entranced by her beauty, Makoto snaps a photo of her to keep as a charm. Sekai Saionji notices Makoto’s charm and offers to hook them up, which leads to many hardships and joy.