We’ve all heard of characters like Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Lecter, and Dr. Gregory House and their exploits. But they are not exclusive to the 3D world. So, we present to you our list of the top 10 best psychological anime of all time.
10. Death Parade
What follows after death? Humans have inquired about this for thousands of years, and dozens of theories exist. Death Parade offers a seemingly simple answer. They go to a bar and play a game with a fellow afterlife visitor, only to be judged not for their sins but for their personalities.
Decim, an arbiter, tends one such bar and, with the help of his mysterious female assistant, decides on the fates of his guests. The games they have their guests play are meant to draw out their deepest emotions, the ones they never show to anyone.
Despite its unusual setting, Death Parade actually offers a great stage for you to meditate on life, death, and how scary or not they ought to be. In any case, if you are a fan of human souls laid bare and pushed to their limits, the fantasy world of Death Parade is for you.
9. Serial Experiments Lain
The anime world will never run short of distressed teenage girls, but Iwakura Lain is special. She has a life-changing moment when she receives an email from her classmate Chisa, who recently committed suicide.
Lain is then thrown into a virtual world called Wired, where she learns of Chisa’s true fate and copes with bizarre new events disturbing her world. She struggles to find the meaning of reality while learning about her true purpose in life and how everything she does affects both the virtual and real plains.
Serial Experiments Lain was written by Chiaki J. Konaka, the one behind?Texhnolyze?and?Hellsing. It’s an anime that will leave you with more questions than answers, which can be frustrating, but it’s still one of the best psychological anime ever and 100% worth watching.
8. Welcome to N.H.K.
What would an evil organization stand to gain by turning Japan’s population into jobless shut-ins? Everything. At least, that’s the reality that Tatsuhiro Satou has started to believe in. Four years of his NEET lifestyle have left him in bad shape, but his world gets rocked when a high school girl named Misaki appears at his door.
She claims to be a friend of Hikikomori and his savior, offering him a contract. Skeptical of her intentions, he refuses her help. Satou also rejects the NEET label, feeding her lie after lie in an attempt to prove he isn’t one, only digging himself deeper in the process. How will he recover from all the mess he’s caused?
Welcome to N.H.K. is the title with the most comedy of all on our list. It’s a drama about friendship, love, and the hikikomori culture. Revel in Satou’s misfortunes as he tries to fight off his demons and get his life back in order.
Set in the Orwellian futuristic Japan, Psycho-Pass follows a group of police investigators trying to resolve a seemingly unconnected streak of murders. Tsunemori Akane, the newest addition to the Criminal Investigation Department’s 1st Division, gets an assignment to discover who is behind this killing spree.
Even though Akane initially comes off as naive and idealistic, she quickly shows her intelligence and insight. Shinya Kogami, her underling and polar opposite in a way, is there to break the illusions she has of innate human kindness and help her make sense of this strange new world she decided to toss herself into.
Psycho-Pass might seem like a plain old detective drama at first glance, but it gets deeper and deeper with every minute you watch it, giving the psychological anime genre a new definition. If you decide to pick it up, you’ll soon realize that, just like Akane, once you make your way down the rabbit hole, there is no coming back.
6. One Outs
Hiromichi Kojima is the cleanup hitter for Saitama Lycaons and one of the greatest batters ever to play in the league. He has set numerous records and earned many awards in his career, but the Lycaons have always been a third-rate team, making winning the Championship title always feel out of reach for him.
However, that changed one day when, while preparing in Okinawa for the last season of his career, he encountered Tokuchi Toua, an amateur pitcher and a gambling prodigy. Toua has never played pro baseball, and his fastball is worse than a high schooler’s.
Yet, he has an achievement that he is rather proud of — a perfect score of 499 wins and 0 losses in the game of One Outs. The rules of the game are simple: a pitcher and a batter play out an at-bat. If the batter hits the ball out of the improvised parking lot infield, he wins; otherwise, the pitcher wins. Still, even though it seems pitcher-favored, a 499 straight-win record sounds crazy.
Well, the secret behind his gambling (and baseball) talent is his exceptional cold reading ability. Combine that with his killer instinct, and you get a pitching genius that leaves his opponents thinking they are facing a mentalist.
Trust me, you don’t have to be a fan of anime or baseball to appreciate this psychological treatise on human nature. It was the first anime I’ve ever watched, and I didn’t know even a single rule. Yet, two days later, I spent six hours locked to my chair watching it. It’s simply that good.
5. Ergo Proxy
In the far-distant future, after the Earth has endured an ecological catastrophe that wiped out 85% of the human population, domed cities remain the last bastions of humankind. They house humans and AutoReivs, humanoid robots meant to aid them in their everyday lives. Everything changes when a pandemic of the Cogito Virus breaks out among the Android population, giving them sentience.
Re-l Mayer, an investigator for the Intelligence Bureau, and Vincent Law, a worker for the AutoReiv disposal unit, get tied up with solving the mystery behind the robot pandemic. The plot thickens when superhuman monsters start emerging and massacring people.
What are these creatures, why did they appear, and what’s their connection to the Cogito Virus? The only ones who can resolve this mystery are none other than Re-l and Vincent. However, nothing can prepare them for the truths they will uncover.
Dai Satō, the man behind other great anime like Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop, wrote the script for Ergo Proxy. It features a ton of gnostic and philosophical motifs, including characters named after famous philosophers (Deleuze, Derrida, and Lacan). So, if you like the postapocalyptic + mystery combo, heed my advice and watch Ergo Proxy.
4.Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell’s story plays out in New Port City, a fictional metropolis in futuristic Japan. You will explore this cyberpunk world through the eyes of Motoko Kusanagi. She is a squad leader within the Public Security Section 9 and a cyborg with an entirely synthetic body.
She and her team begin investigating a case of a person being hacked and turned into a puppet. It turns out it’s all connected to a covert government incentive dubbed Project 2501. What they don’t know though is that this investigation will change Motoko forever.
She was already haunted by questions about her existence and what was left of her ghost. The only difference now is that she finally encountered someone similar to her, someone who looks, acts, and seems like a human but doesn’t feel like one.
Ghost in the Shell is a psychological thriller that paved the way and set a standard for all cyberpunk anime that came after it. Even though Masamune Shirow wrote the GitS manga more than 30 years ago, the manga and all of its adaptations still remain the best that the cyberpunk genre has to offer.
Dr. Kenzou Tenma, an accomplished neurosurgeon, gets a call from his hospital director while preparing to perform surgery. He tells him to drop his current patient and save a famous opera singer instead. Everyone praises his achievement, but his choices start tormenting him.
Weeks go by, and he faces the same dilemma again. This time, he chooses to save the patient who arrived first, a young boy with a gun wound in his head. Tenma understood he would face severe consequences for disobeying the director, yet he still did it. What he didn’t know was that saving the boy would turn out to be his life’s biggest regret.
Monster is one of Naoki Urasawa’s best works. Many consider him to be one of the finest storytellers and mangakas of all time, which certainly translates to this masterpiece. And by the way, don’t let Monster’s long runtime intimidate you because any less wouldn’t be enough to convey the depth of its plot.
2. Death Note
Death Note is a book that a shinigami uses to kill a person in the human realm. One day, Light Yagami, an honor student, finds such a book while at school. He is skeptical about the content of the book at first but soon realizes that it has the power to take people’s lives.
That’s when he meets Ryuk, a harbinger of death and the book’s original owner. He tells Ryuk of his reasons for using the book and how he plans to cleanse the world of evil people.
Light’s god complex captivates the shinigami. It changes his mind about humanity’s boring dispositions, and he decides to follow him on his quest. Before they proceed, Ryuk tells him one thing: a human that uses the Death Note is going neither to heaven nor hell once they die.
Death Note is by far the most popular anime on this list, and that’s not by accident. It has brilliant detectives, a justice-crazed protagonist, otherwordly monsters, you name it. If you haven’t seen it yet, know that you are missing out on one of the best the psychological anime genre has to offer.
Rintaro Okabe is a self-proclaimed mad scientist and the founder of the Future Gadget Lab. He wastes his day away in a small Akihabara apartment together with his friends. There, he invents gadgets intending to bring chaos to the world and overthrow the secret organization controlling it.
He goes to attend a time travel seminar and witnesses the death of a red-haired neuroscience and physics genius, Makise Kurisu. His delusions of world-controlling groups being out to get him and time travel turn into reality once he meets her again a week later, alive and well.
With jumbled-up memories and no idea whether he is crazy or not, Rintaro has to make sense of what is happening in his world. All in an attempt to save his beloved friends.
Steins;Gate is a psychological anime adaptation of a?visual novel?bearing the same name. It’s a mind-bending adventure about time travel that will overheat your brain. Seriously, it’s the only anime on this whole list you simply mustn’t skip.