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10 Anime That Paint a Bleaker Future Than Attack on Titan

10 Anime That Paint a Bleaker Future Than Attack on Titan
Image credit: Legion-Media

Just in case you needed to self-destruct tonight.

1. "Neon Genesis Evangelion" (1995)

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You thought Titans were bad? How about existential dread wrapped in a giant bio-mechanical robot? "Neon Genesis Evangelion" takes the cake for crafting a future so desolate it'd make Eren Yeager want to retire. In the year 2015, humanity is on the brink of extinction following a global catastrophe known as the "Second Impact." Enter a group of teenagers piloting huge mechs, known as Evas, to battle enigmatic beings called "Angels." As the series progresses, the characters face not just physical, but also emotional and existential battles. Each revelation about the true nature of the Evas and the Angels chips away at the sanity of our protagonists and the audience. Rotten Tomatoes rates this bleak masterpiece at 100% on the Tomatometer.

2. "Akira" (1988)

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"Hey, let's ride motorcycles in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo!" sounds fun until one of your friends gains telekinetic abilities and turns into a monstrous organic mass. "Akira" set the standard for grim, dystopian anime. The plot centers on Kaneda, a bike gang leader, and Tetsuo, his childhood friend turned psychic god-like entity. The film is a cornucopia of cyberpunk visuals and a chilling representation of a society that has lost its way. Not so fun fact: in the manga version, Tetsuo loses an arm. He compensates by forming a new one from scrap metal and flesh.

3. "Ghost in the Shell" (1995)

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Move over, "Blade Runner," we have a new melancholy-infused, cyberpunk-themed existential crisis. "Ghost in the Shell" explores a future where the line between human and machine is blurred. The protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is a cyborg working for Public Security Section 9, a crime-fighting unit. As the story unfolds, she begins to question her humanity and identity. The movie is rich in philosophy and symbolism, asking profound questions about what it means to be human. Interestingly, the title "Ghost in the Shell" is a metaphor for the soul (ghost) within the body (shell).

4. "Texhnolyze" (2003)

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"Texhnolyze" is the kind of anime you'd watch if you felt like "Attack on Titan " wasn't quite brutal enough. It takes place in the underground city of Lux, where societal decay and despair are the norms. The story follows Ichise, an orphan turned prize fighter, whose limbs are replaced with "Texhnolyze," advanced prosthetics that change his life. What makes "Texhnolyze" bleaker than "Attack on Titan" is the lack of hope. Every glimmer is quickly snuffed out, leaving only a cold, grim reality. On a lighter note, Lux is powered by a Raffia flower, which, sadly, doesn't exist in real life.

5. "Ergo Proxy" (2006)

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"Ergo Proxy" is set in a future where humans and androids coexist, but it's not as cheerful as it sounds. The story unfolds in the domed city of Romdo, where the protagonist, Re-l Mayer, investigates a series of murders committed by robots infected with the Cogito virus, which gives them self-awareness. As the mystery unravels, so does the bleak reality of their existence.

6. "Berserk" (1997)

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"Berserk" doesn't just go to dark places, it lives there. It centers on Guts, a wandering mercenary, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the "Band of the Hawk." Griffith's ambition and eventual downfall create a chain of events that is just pure tragedy. The Eclipse event, in particular, would make any Titan shudder. On a scale of "Attack on Titan" to "Berserk", the bleakness here is off the charts. But, in the midst of all the grimness, you get one of the best character studies in anime. A sliver of trivia for you – the author of the manga, Kentaro Miura, was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's artworks while creating some of the Hellish imagery in the series.

7. "Serial Experiments Lain" (1998)

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Imagine if the internet was a gloomy place where your consciousness could get lost. Well, that's "Serial Experiments Lain" for you. The anime follows a shy teenage girl named Lain who becomes engrossed in the digital world known as "The Wired." The series is a medley of existential ennui, digital despair, and reality-bending narrative. It's a contemplative look at the future of humanity and technology, but let's just say you won't be rushing to log onto your social media accounts afterward. By the way, did you know that "Lain" has been called one of the defining anime of the 90s?

8. "Now and Then, Here and There" (1999)

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This anime starts with the innocence of a Studio Ghibli film and then proceeds to throw it into a wood chipper. "Now and Then, Here and There" is a story about a boy named Shu who's transported to a dystopian future where water is scarce, and children are forced into military service. The series is infamous for its brutal depiction of the realities of war and its impact on children. Interestingly enough, despite the harsh narrative, the creator, Akitarō Daichi, is better known for his comedic anime series.

9. "Wolf's Rain" (2003)

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"Wolf's Rain" takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where wolves are thought to be extinct, but in reality, they've just learned to look like humans. The story follows four such wolves as they search for the mythical Paradise in a dying world. The series is known for its melancholy tone and beautifully crafted narrative. Its introspective look at life, death, and the nature of paradise is soul-stirring. "Wolf's Rain" ends on a bittersweet note, making it a fitting entry on this list. MyAnimeList rating, you ask? A well-deserved 7.80.

10. "Casshern Sins" (2008)

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What do you get when you mix existentialism, robots, and a post-apocalyptic world? A melancholic journey called "Casshern Sins." Casshern, a cyborg blamed for the world's ruin, embarks on a quest to understand his purpose and the despair-filled world around him. With hauntingly beautiful visuals and philosophical undertones, "Casshern Sins" offers a bleak future filled with endless despair and introspection. Quick trivia: The series is a reimagining of a 1973 anime called "Neo-Human Casshern."