Anime series are filled with characters who are fun, noble, powerful, cute, lovable, and all the other descriptors that make anime characters so likable. But then there are those who are terrifying.
Sometimes an anime character is scary in a badass way. Others have horrifying backstories, facial expressions, or abilities that we just want to stay clear of. And every so often, there's an anime character who's creepy or unsettling or scary for seemingly no reason.
Here are our picks for the most iconic anime characters who are scary, creepy, and frightening. You'll be surprised to find both heroes and villains on this list!
21. Smiling Titan (Attack on Titan)
The Smiling Titan is the first Titan with an identity that we encounter in Attack on Titan, and Eren has a special bond with it—considering that the Smiling Titan is the one who ate his mom.
While every Titan in this anime series is creepy, horrific, and nightmarish in their own way, the Smiling Titan is one of the worst. The massive size, the dead eyes, and the huge vicious grin are enough to haunt your dreams for the rest of your life.
20. Empty Head Girl (Parasyte: The Maxim)
Who wouldn't be afraid if they saw a girl run by who didn't have any eyes and was missing half of her head?
In Parasyte: The Maxim, Empty Head Girl is actually Reiko Tamura after splitting her parasyte body. She lost some sense of thinking and even cracked a joke about being an empty head.
Luckily, it seems that the body loses its desire to eat humans when the head gets mangled in this way.
19. Baby Hyakkimaru (Dororo)
This poor little baby is the product of his father's last resort to keep his power and wealth and to save his land from famine.
Hyakkimaru became a sacrifice for the devils, who each took one of his body parts. And yet, he didn't die—he was still born and still had to live as if cursed from the moment of birth.
Baby Hyakkimaru has no eyes, skin, or nose. The rest of his body is covered with cloth. If he was never adopted, he'd be like a walking corpse—if he managed to survive at all.
18. Gotou (Parasyte: The Maxim)
The parasite-infected humans in Parasyte: The Maxim are all horrifying creatures who feed on human flesh, but Gotou is totally different.
Gotou is an experimental creature who's actually composed of not just one but multiple parasites, and each parasite takes turns leading and commanding his body.
A normal parasite-infected human is already pretty deadly in battle, but Gotou has a far superior form—one that pushed Migi and Shinichi into a corner and almost defeated them.
17. Black Ghost (Ajin: Demi-Human)
In Ajin: Demi-Human, Ajin are people born with immortality, and these immortals have an innate ability that allows them to create Invisible Black Matter (or IBM).
This Invisible Black Matter can be manifested into creepy Black Ghosts, which are tall and ghostly figures that look like mummies, covered with a dark bandage-like material.
The Black Ghost is like the personal bodyguard of an Ajin, meaning they're capable fighters. But they're only visible to Ajin, so normal people can't see or feel their presence.
In other words, using their Black Ghost, an Ajin can eliminate anyone without others noticing them. Frightening!
16. Pickle (Baki Hanma)
The fighters in Baki the Grappler, Baki, and Baki Hanma are all terrifying "monsters" who are accustomed to bloodshed and death. That's certainly true of Yujiro Hanma, the strongest on Earth.
But we're highlighting Pickle because he's truly a monster to be afraid of. He's a human who survived the age of dinosaurs and was found encased and preserved in salt-based rock.
What makes Pickle so terrifying is his primitive instinct and the enormous power that comes with it, just like a savage beast.
With this, he's able to stand against even the strongest martial arts and fighting styles that he faces on the stage.
15. Reaper Death Seal (Naruto)
One of the most effective sealing techniques in the Naruto series is the Reaper Death Seal.
This ability calls upon the power of a shinigami ("death god") to absorb the soul of a target into one's own body, then sacrifice one's own life to seal both souls—caster and target—forever.
The shinigami that's summoned is terrifying. Once summoned, there's no going back. It won't leave without the caster's soul.
14. Mahito (Jujutsu Kaisen)
It's no stretch to call Mahito the embodiment of evil. Despite his innocent-looking face, it only masks the dark, evil desires that brew beneath that facade.
His gentle way of speaking and flowery words are dangerously manipulative, to the point that even Junpei believed everything he said and turned into his pawn.
13. Isaac Netero (Hunter X Hunter)
Isaac Netero isn't a bad guy in Hunter X Hunter. He isn't scary in the usual sense, despite holding the highest rank in the Hunter Association.
So, why did we include him on this list? His fight against the Chimera Ant King. Even after losing an arm, a leg, and most of his strength, Isaac Netero activates a weapon with a ghostly smile before he dies: a bomb that triggers when his heart stops.
That kind of ingenuity in the world of Hunter X Hunter makes him one of the most badass characters, but also one of the scariest. After all, that bomb's explosion wiped out a huge radius!
12. Afro (Afro Samurai)
Afro is the protagonist of Afro Samurai, and it's the extent of his strength, hatred, and thirst for revenge that makes him one of the most terrifying anime characters we've seen.
Though there are other characters in the same series who have their own scary images, we can see and feel in Afro the terror of one who lives for revenge and seethes with rage.
11. Nanika (Hunter X Hunter)
In Hunter X Hunter, Nanika has the ability to grant a wish when someone successfully fulfills three of her demands. Those demands can be as simple as giving a piggyback ride or as intense as giving up one of your internal organs.
As if that weren't scary enough, Nanika's pale-white face and pitch-black eyes make her look like a creepy doll. If you came across Nanika, would you dare to ask for any wishes?
Oh yeah, and don't forget that if her demands aren't met, a terrible fate awaits you and there's no way for you to escape it.
10. Muzan Kibutsuji (Demon Slayer)
In Demon Slayer, Muzan Kibutsuji is the progenitor of the demon race and the most terrifying demon in the series. For him, humans are just his meals or people to kill for fun.
And if he isn't in the mood to eat or kill, he can turn someone into a demon—a terrifying fate that's permanent.
Even for his own creations, he has no qualms about killing them if he deems them as weak and/or useless. Just look at how he disbanded the Lower Moon Demons (by killing them one after the other).
9. Souichi Tsujii (Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre)
There are lots of horrifying themes, creatures, and characters throughout Junji Ito's works. However, Souichi Tsujii is one of the most disturbing and horrifying of all time.
He's a prominent character in most of Ito's stories, appearing as a mentally unstable character who always has something dark brewing within his mind.
It's no wonder that no one wants to be friends with him and everyone always seems to keep a considerable distance from him.
8. Tomura Shigaraki (My Hero Academia)
Tomura Shigaraki, whose real name is Tenko Shimura, is the archvillain of the My Hero Academia series. With his Quirk called Decay, he can make anyone and anything rot and vanish into ashes.
What earns him this spot on this list is his desire to destroy everything that was built up by All For One.
Tomura Shigaraki is a villain who's the product of his tragic past, and his terrifying nature is completed by his frightening appearance—with or without the severed hands.
7. No-Face (Spirited Away)
A lot of people think No-Face from Spirited Away is cute. Yet while he's something of a benign spirit overall, he's actually pretty creepy if you think about his temperament.
No-Face is timid on the outside, but he's so obsessed with Chihiro that he'll go to any length just to get her attention.
His intentions are good—he feels abandoned and just wants to be friends—but he takes it in a wrong direction that's actually kind of horrifying. (We all know someone like this, right?)
6. Lil' Slugger (Paranoia Agent)
Lil' Slugger from Paranoia Agent is the kind of person you need to watch out for whenever you're on the streets. He's a kid who'll randomly strike anyone with his gold-colored bat.
But what makes Lil' Slugger even more terrifying is that he isn't even a real person. His existence is actually born from the paranoia of people who are experiencing extreme distress and depression.
5. Rika Orimoto (Jujutsu Kaisen 0)
Yandere characters are ones who possess an extreme love, infatuation, or liking toward someone, to the point where they get obsessive, possessive, invasive, and destructive.
In the anime movie Jujutsu Kaisen 0, Rika Orimoto is just an ordinary girl who's in love with Yuta Okkotsu. But after death, she becomes a special-grade Curse who's undeniably powerful.
And upon this change, she becomes a yandere whose love for Yuta becomes a cursed obsession. At first, she saves Yuta from his bullies (in a very grotesque manner) but later becomes Yuta's source of power as well as his partner in battles.
4. Illumi Zoldyck (Hunter X Hunter)
An assassin by occupation and born to a family of killers, Illumi Zoldyck is one of the most terrifying characters in Hunter X Hunter. Behind his pretty face is an evil that won't hesitate to kill others.
His true evil side was shown in the scene where he's teased by Hisoka for killing Killua. Upon hearing it, Illumi's face turns dark and his aura oozes with bloodlust. Terrifying, indeed.
3. Hisoka Morow (Hunter X Hunter)
Speaking of bloodlust, Hisoka Morow of Hunter X Hunter is seen with a powerful bloodlust during the Hunter Exam, to the point that Gon was stopped and terrified. Luckily, Hisoka managed to calm himself down.
He's one of the most terrifying characters in the series (along with the aforementioned Illumi Zoldyck). The fact that he has a clown character design makes him that much more alarming.
2. Peter Ratri (The Promised Neverland)
Most horrifying anime characters aren't out-and-out monsters or demons but rather humans with wicked intent—like Peter Ratri of The Promised Neverland.
As the head of the famous Ratri Clan and its illicit business, he grooms and sells children for demon consumption. He never once thinks about the morality of it or about stopping his family's evil business.
Why? Because he's drunk with greed and power. And when you think about it, that makes him one of the scariest anime characters.
1. Johan Liebert (Monster)
Even though it doesn't have any characters with superhuman abilities, Monster is one of the darkest anime series of all time. This is all thanks to Johan Liebert, a truly deplorable human being.
He may not have any special powers, but he's a sociopath with genius-level intellect and a silver tongue that can manipulate anyone or even make them lose their mind.
Just by talking, he's able to orchestrate murders and suicides. Knowing that this happens in the real world lends the character of Johan Liebert a level of scariness that's realistically nightmarish.