What Is Dark Manga? (Explained)

In fictional writing, movies, or dramas, the phrase “dark” refers to a violent, melancholy, tragic, and hopeless type of entertainment. It provides the reader a sense of impending doom, hopelessness, and depression by the end of the novel, movie, or drama.

You may be wondering who in their right mind would choose to be purposefully upset and grieved by a movie or book rather than be entertained. Surprisingly, a lot of people.

A possible reason for this genre’s success is that it adds a touch of realism to its fictitious setting; instead of the good guys always winning and the force of friendship driving them to triumph in real life, this isn’t always true in the dark genre of entertainment; there is death and loss. Many readers and entertainment customers will find this refreshing.

Here’s a table with some popular manga genres:

ShōnenShōnen manga is primarily marketed toward male teen readership. The themes in shonen manga include sub-genre like martial arts, mecha, science
fiction, sports, horror, or mythological creatures.
SeinenSeinen manga is aimed to attract young adult men. Seinen manga mostly focuses on action, politics, science fiction, fantasy, relationships, sports, or comedy. 
JoseiJosei manga, also known as ladies’ comics, the most popular themes of josei mangas are typically drama, romance, or pornography. 
IsekaiIsekai is a fantasy-based genre where the mc is teleported to, reborn, or trapped in a fantasy or parallel unfamiliar universe. Some isekai even have beings from other worlds visiting Earth. Isekai uses world-building to develop an unfamiliar and adventurous setting.
Popular Manga Genres

Keep reading to know more.

What Exactly Is Dark Manga?

Dark manga, as the name implies, is the “dark” type of entertainment applied to manga. It works surprisingly well, likely due to many mangas having individuals and situations we can all identify with, giving it an added sense of relatability.

Other than blood, guts, and monsters, dark manga can refer to a multitude of topics. It might be brutal, serious, psychological manga, or it can be seductive manga with violence. Most of the manga isn’t in the horror genre because most of these anime are aimed at people aged 12 and up.

Here’s something to think about. “Dark” makes us uncomfortable because it reveals a side of ourselves that we don’t like to admit exists.

They’re more of a defensive mechanism than anything else because there are elements of our minds that we all wish didn’t exist. True “Dark” animes do not feature anything supernatural, a muted color palette, or even a foreboding soundtrack.

To clear up any confusion, a manga artist’s use of a literal “dark” or “black” color palette to give his images a literal “dark” setting doesn’t constitute dark manga. As a result, no colors are linked with the genre. There are also some mangas with bright color settings that contain twisted and stomach-churning moments, making it extra gloomy despite the bright environment.

Delving into the Depths: A Guide to Dark Manga (Unleash the Spooky Thrills!)

What Are Some of The Best Examples of Dark Manga?

There are numerous dark mangas, some of them are enjoyable while others are not. I’m going to compile a list of the top five darkest novels I’ve read this year, in no particular order.


Panel from Uzumaki manga
Panel from Uzumaki by Junji Ito

From: January 19, 1998 – August 30, 1999

Number of Volumes: 3

Kirie Goshima resides in Kurouzu, a small hamlet nestled between the sea and the surrounding mountains. She’s a completely average high school girl, but her boyfriend’s father begins to act strangely: he becomes infatuated with spiral-shaped objects. As if by a curse, this type is growing increasingly prevalent in the small town. 

Death Note

a panel from Death Note
Page from Death Note written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata

From: January 19, 1998 – August 30, 1999

Number of Volumes: 3

Light Yagami is a brilliant high school student who believes that the current world is criminal, filthy, and crooked. His life is turned upside down the day he unintentionally picks up a mysterious notebook named “Death Note.” According to the user manual, “the individual whose name is inscribed in this notebook dies.”

Light, who is initially doubtful, decides to test the notebook and realizes that its power is extremely real. He encounters Ryuk, the former possessor of the Death Note. This one claims to have dropped his notebook voluntarily to entertain himself. Light plans to utilize the Death Note to exterminate the criminals to create a flawless world over which he would rule.

Tokyo Ghoul

Panel from Tokyo Ghoul
A Panel from Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

From: January 19, 1998 – August 30, 1999

Number of Volumes: 3

Ghouls have appeared in the metropolis of Tokyo and feed on human flesh to survive. Ken Kaneki, a young student, gets assaulted by one of them one day and sustains significant injuries.

To stay alive, he accepts a transplant from the ghoul that attacked him, transforming him into a half-human, half-ghoul hybrid (artificial one-eyed). He quickly finds that he can’t consume the same stuff he used to. He subsequently joins the staff of the ghoulish café “L’Antique,” where he learns how to feed himself without endangering humans.

But he will soon find himself at the center of a brutal struggle between the CCG (Ghoul Control Center), which is dedicated to discovering and exterminating all ghouls, and the Aogiri Tree, a cruel ghoul organization. He realizes that ghouls are not that dissimilar to people, and he gradually begins to adapt.

Elfen Lied

a panel from Elfen lied
Panel from Elfen Lied by Lynn Okamoto

From: June 6, 2002 – August 25, 2005

Number of Volumes: 12

The plot is set in Kamakura, Japan, and revolves around the Diclonius, mutant beings who look like humans but have two weird horns on their heads and extraordinarily strong invisible limbs known as “vectors.” Diclonius newborns are slaughtered at birth or locked up in research laboratories, subjected to severe torture and highly brutal tests since they are thought to be dangerous to the normal human population.

Lucy, one of them, manages to get to the sea, where she slaughters anybody who gets in her way. She is discovered on the beach by two boys in a state of full amnesia and double personality, the result of a gunman being shot in the head while fleeing.

The young Diclonius discovers that she has an entirely different personality, and the two brothers decide to address her with the only word she can speak, “Nyu.” They can’t leave her alone in those conditions, so they take her home to investigate her background. However, the military doesn’t give up and continues to pursue her. Furthermore, every time the female strikes her head, she reverts to Lucy.


a panel from Berserk
Panel from Berserk by Kentaro Miura

From: August 1989 – present

Number of Volumes: 41

Berserk is a manga that depicts the narrative of Guts and Griffith, who’s also head of the Falcon Troop, which is a band of mercenaries working for the kingdom of Midland.

Their meeting results in an unclear but effective friendship: the presence of Guts, a warrior with a disproportionate sword, who swiftly proves to be an important aspiration of the young Griffith, swashbuckler, and great tactician.

The anime, therefore, tells the story of the Falcon Troop’s development and demise, as well as the extremely complex relationship between Guts and Griffith, which combines mutual respect (both view each other as soldiers) and intense attachment (both mysteriously need the other’s presence).

I’ve also included a video if you want some more recommendations


Is Berserk The Darkest Manga?

Berserk is possibly one of the best instances of a dark manga; I’d suggest it to practically anyone, whether they like gore or not. Because, aside from the gore, it features a beautiful and well-written plot that many readers will sympathize with. It’s a must-read for anyone wishing to get into dark manga.

Berserk is, without a doubt, one of the darkest fantasy stories ever written by mangaka

It’s the long-running magnum work of Kentaro Miura that strikes a fine balance between true moments of humanity and the absolute worst that people can do to one another — the latter is guaranteed to give anyone nightmares.

Berserk is home to some of the bloodiest and most demented occurrences imaginable, leading one to question what is going on in Miura’s head. While some may argue that Berserk went too far in some spots, others argue that these are the moments that characterize the manga. In any event, the narrative’s violent aesthetic may not be for everyone.

Is Attack On Titan Classified As A Dark Manga?

Panel from Attack on Titan
Panel from Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

Although it’s not the darkest manga out there, it can be considered as a dark manga as it is filled with a lot death, violence, and trauma.

Attack on Titan is one of the best-selling mangas of all time, and its popularity is not only prevalent in Japan but also in the West, which is something that only a few mangas have achieved.

Attack on Titan is an undeniably grim show filled with death and betrayal, yet it isn’t inherently a nihilistic program. Texhnolyze, on the other hand, freely embraces its nihilistic inclinations from the start, and the animation is essentially a meditation on humanity’s meaningless essence.

I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the series, but the series includes:

Characters are traumatized in every way imaginable.

Torture, seclusion, mass killings, genocide, and other acts of extreme violence, fascist governments, enslavement, insanity, and humans being eaten alive by enormous naked titans are all examples of extreme violence.

There have been several fatalities, ranging from incredibly significant and notable personalities to minor civilians. Additionally, a nasty and twisted universe turned upside down on its head, cruelly (but brilliantly) designed only to play with your frail emotions and more importantly human characters with moral flaws, which is an understatement.

To be honest, the amount of blood in Attack on Titan could fill entire Olympic swimming pools, with a side order of human skulls.

Attack on Titan is still a terrific manga, one of the finest out there, and I would recommend watching it, if not reading it, even if it is gruesome. The anime is more censored, but the manga is also enjoyable to read.

Oh, and the finale will leave you broken and a human husk. So yeah, Attack On Titan is quite dark.

Claymores Is What Kind Of Manga?

It is also a dark fantasy manga, akin to the Berserk manga.

The twist is that, as a result of the Yoma epidemic, entities known as humanoid form shifters consume humans. It’s a pretty gloomy manga that’s difficult to read. The female soldiers were known as Claymores fight against Yoma.

It’s a dark historical manga with some fantasy elements thrown in. This manga has been running for over 20 years and has a large fan base. This manga explains why it is so excellent on its own.

What Are The Greatest Dark Fantasy Manga To Read Late At Night?

These few dark fantasy mangas are ideal for late-night reading when the boundary between what’s real and what does not become ever so little blurred.

  • Vampire Juujikai
  • Madoka Magica
  • Uzumaki
  • Petshop of Horrors
  • Hellsing


  • A dark manga is a comic that has a gloomy, sometimes gory theme, that incites a sense of hopelessness and dread in its readers
  • Some popular dark mangas are Berserk, Death Note, and Attack On Titan.
  • A dark manga doesn’t need to have a dark color palette to be dark in a literal sense.
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