A List Of 30 Psychological Anime You NEED to Consider

A List Of 30 Psychological Anime You NEED to Consider

There’s nothing like watching a good psychological anime.

Psychological anime tends to explore the human psyche, digging into common perception and provoking thought, all while providing an enthralling story.

The hallmark features of psychological tales are:

  • Internal/Interpersonal conflict(s).
  • Philosophical themes.
  • Character driven storytelling.
  • Exploration of character motives.
  • Stream of consciousness and interior monologues.

MyAnimeList defines it by the mind games between the characters, claiming it to be “when two or more characters prey each others’ minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by trying to demolish the other’s mental state.”

You can also consider Google’s definition of psychological as “of, affecting, or arising in the mind; related to the mental and emotional state of a person” and apply it to the how we view the anime genre. 

Although it can be a broad genre, these kinds of shows are all mentally stimulating in their own way.

Anime classified as psychological tend to be my personal favorites, and I have compiled a list of anime that I believe are worth sharing!

 

1. Death Note

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  • Total Episodes: 37.
  • Premiered: 2006.

Perhaps the most popular psychological anime of all time, Death Note should need no introduction.

The story follows the highly intelligent high school student Light Yagami, who finds a mysterious notebook called the “Death Note”. Capable of killing anyone the user desires by writing their name in it. 

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The show gives you plenty to contemplate:

  • How do we define proper morality?
  • What is justice?
  • What is utopia?

Psychological anime tend to provoke thought in this manner.

Death Note is not shy about its themes, but where it really shines is the incredibly gripping, intense mind games between Light, and L, and the renowned detective tasked with finding out Light’s identity.

These two elite minds bring out the best in each other, and it’s truly a spectacle to behold. 

Related: 30 Thought Provoking Quotes From Death Note

 

2. Monster

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  • Total Episodes: 74.
  • Premiered: 2004.

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster is an intense psychological thriller following Dr. Kenzo Tenma, who saves the life of an innocent boy named Johan over the elderly mayor (that his boss preferred he save).

He does this because the boy was there first.

Since that moment, Dr. Tenma’s life goes downhill and to make matters worse, the child whose life he saved grows up to be a serial killer.

Dr. Tenma feels a lot of responsibility for the lives of those that Johan takes, motivating Tenma to find and kill Johan.

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The tale is rooted in reality, making it a far cry from most other anime.

Without fantasy elements, it becomes a chilling psychological terror about the nature of man.

There are many characters, all feeling very real and all with an important part to play. While it is a slow burn, every moment comes together to form a masterpiece by the end. 

Related: The Most Thoughtful Anime Quotes From “Monster”

 

3. Code Geass

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  • Total Episodes: 50.
  • Premiered: 2006.

Packed with brilliant strategy and war tactics, Code Geass is quite the compelling watch.

Lelouch vi Britannia gains a power called “Geass” which allows him to make anyone do anything, through direct eye contact.

He uses this power to start a rebellion against the Britannian Empire to create a less corrupt world. 

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Lelouch is faced with many tough decisions in the 50 episodes of Code Geass. Many of which put him in a position where he must decide what takes priority over his goal of a better world where the Britannian Empire has fallen.

The thrilling psychology of this series is accompanied by high quality mech action and flashy animation.

 

4. Neon Genesis Evangelion

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  • Total Episodes: 26.
  • Premiered: 1995.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most influential shows in anime history. An absolute must-see for anyone who fancies themselves an anime fan.

It follows Shinji Ikari, who is tasked with piloting a mecha called an “Evangelion”, to protect the world from destructive alien beings called “Angels”.

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Shinji and the other Eva pilots have their own fair share of psychological issues that tie into their personalities and why they defend the Earth.

The show uses the pilots and other characters to explore the psychological hurdles that plague all of us, in a way that was groundbreaking and innovative. 

Related: 9 Military Anime To Get You Hooked On The Genre

 

5. Future Diary

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  • Total Episodes: 26.
  • Premiered: 2011.

12 people are chosen by the god of space and time to play a survival game where the winner gets to replace him.

Each person has a cell phone (or “diary”) that predicts the future in different ways, tailored to each characters personality.

They use their diaries to kill each other.

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Amano Yukiteru is our protagonist who seems to be the least insane diary user… Especially compared to Yuno Gasai, a psychopathic Yandere who will defend Yuki with her life.

This series is a chaotic frenzy.

Every person with one of the diaries has a unique disposition which makes for a lot of different methods of attack. This keeps the plot fresh and never fails to surprise while keeping you on the edge of your seat. 

 

6. Parasyte: The Maxim

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  • Episodes: 24.
  • Premiered: 2014.

Parasyte: The Maxim is centered on Shinichi Izumi, a high school student who is attacked by a strange alien creature called a Parasyte.

These are worm-like creatures that burrow into the human body and take over the brains of their human hosts. They act like humans for the public eye, but feed on unsuspecting human flesh when they can.

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Shinichi stops the Parasyte before it gets to his brain, enabling him to use the powers of his Parasyte and live alongside it.

Together they fight parasites hiding among society. 

The series explores human nature and the role that humans play in society. It begs the question of whether other creatures can be humanized, and provokes sympathy for other inhabitants of the earth.

Relevant: A Collection Of Powerful Quotes From Parasyte: The Maxim!

 

7. Terror in Resonance

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  • Episodes: 11.
  • Premiered: 2014.

Terrorists have attacked Tokyo and devastated the city. These terrorists are Nine and Twelve, and they are our protagonists.

They want to wake up the world, and they use terrorism, and cryptic messages they leave behind as a means of doing so. They threaten the police with the widespread destruction of Tokyo, which puts the detectives in a race against time. 

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From episode 1 through episode 11 I could not turn this show off.

This psychological crime thriller is a tale about the hopeful rebellious spirit of youths, and has loads of socio-political commentary on isolation, the fragility of modern society, and what defines crime. 

 

8. Perfect Blue

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  • Episodes: 1 Movie.
  • Premiered: 1998.

Perfect Blue follows pop idol Mima Kirigoe, as she leaves her J-pop group in hopes of becoming a big-time actress.

This upsets some of her fans, including a creepy stalker. The transition from pop star to actress has more obstacles than she expects, some of which are psychological. 

Reality and fantasy blend together for Mima in the only movie entry on this list, making the plot extremely mind-bending.

Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece explores our own preoccupations with perception, pop idol culture, consumerist society, and the effects of all of it on one’s mental health.

This story really tests the mind. 

Recommended: The Most Intense 18+ Anime Series That Are Too Mature For Little Kids

 

9. Psycho-Pass

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  • Episodes: 33.
  • Premiered: 2014.

The story takes place in an authoritarian society, in which the Sybil System can determine the level of threat any individual poses.

This objective system examines their mental state for any bad intentions they have, and the results are reflected as their “Psycho Pass”. The story follows Akane Tsunemori as she starts her career as an Inspector for the Sybil System.

Psycho-Pass brings the fallacies of an “entirely objective” justice system to light.

The protagonist struggles with enforcing a system that does not exactly enact justice perfectly as advertised, and all the Inspectors carry their own trauma from being on the police force.

 

10. Welcome to the N.H.K

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  • Episodes: 24.
  • Premiered: 2006.

This entry is much different than others on the list because it’s more of a psychological slice of life, rather than a psychological thriller, horror, or game anime.

The protagonist is Satou Tatsuhiro, a college dropout who’s unemployed for 4 years.

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He’s a shut-in and blames everything but himself for his lifestyle. He gets the help of Misaki Nakahara, a mysterious girl claiming to be able to help him stop being a recluse. 

Welcome to the NHK explores the psychology behind shut-in lifestyle, depression, otaku-culture, and suicidal thoughts.

I’d recommend this anime to anybody who ever felt like they don’t know their place in society.

 

11. Death Parade

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  • Episodes: 12.
  • Premiered: 2015.

The premise for this series is simple. Whenever someone dies, they are sent to a mysterious bar where they participate in death games with their “soul” on the line.

Unknowingly to the participants, the bartenders mediating the games are judging them based on the way they conduct themselves during the game, and decide whether or not they deserve to be reincarnated or banished into the oblivion. 

With every game, unique human circumstances are presented, and it builds into a psychological exploration of how people act when they’re put under the pressure of such high stakes.

The bartenders also have their own fair share of issues, feeling the weight of making the decisions regarding others’ afterlife. 

 

12. Serial Experiments Lain

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  • Episodes: 13.
  • Premiered: 1998.

Lain Iwakura receives an unsettling email from a classmate who committed suicide, and from then on she becomes consumed with the Wired. A global communications network that mirrors the real world’s internet.

Lain gets caught up in a series of events that range from cryptic to surreal, and have her investigate the mysteries behind the Wired.

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This anime explores issues of how identity and consciousness are affected by the advancement of technology.

The internet can be a scary thing when you think about the impossible wealth of knowledge that it holds, and Serial Experiments Lain is a manifestation of that. 

 

13. Paranoia Agent

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  • Episodes:13.
  • Premiered: 2004.

There’s a terror plaguing Musashino City and his name is Lil’ Slugger.

Lil’ Slugger rides around town on rollerblades, hospitalizing people with his signature golden baseball bat. Detectives Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa are working on finding out his identity and capturing him.

As the name implies, Paranoia Agent handles the contagious nature of paranoia and anxiety.

With each attack, the fear of Lil Slugger becomes more intense, and the paranoia reaches a fever pitch that presents a commentary on how people act under intense paranoia.

 

14. No Game No Life

  • Episodes: 12.
  • Premiered: 2014.

Sora and Shiro are a pair of step-siblings who are undefeated at various games in the online gaming world.

After defeating the god of games in a chess game online, they are transported to a world where major conflicts are solved by playing games.

Sora and Shiro set out to use their skills in games to unite this “game world” and forcibly become the God of it. 

With everything being solved by playing games, there is no shortage of interesting happenings and unique strategy taking place every episode.

Seeing how these two manage to come out on top even when the cards are stacked against them, makes this anime a worthwhile watch. 

Related: The BEST List Of No Game No Life Quotes That Are Thought Provoking

 

15. Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji

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  • Episodes: 52.
  • Premiered: 2007.

Kaiji Itou is tricked into signing off on a loan for one of his co-workers, and it seems to be an overwhelming amount of debt.

He’s offered a shady deal to participate in underground gambling on a cruise ship to try and regain the money.

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There is no shortage of mind games between Kaiji and his opponents.

This anime also exposes the nature of what human beings can be like when survival instinct kicks in, and there is nothing left to lose.

These characters all have a lot at stake, so cheating, deceit, and any other methods to win by any means necessary are took into consideration

Relevant: 37 Of The Darkest Anime Quotes That Will Hit You Like A Ton Of Bricks.

 

16. Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler

  • Episodes: 24.
  • Premiered: 2017.

Hyakkaou Private Academy seems like any prestigious school with a high standard for its students on the surface, but it doubles as a gambling den by night.

Student hierarchy at this school depends on their monetary contributions to the student council, so they gamble in a variety of games in hopes of rising up the ranks.

Most students gamble with their future in mind, but not our protagonist Yumeko Jabami. She’s in it for the thrill. 

Much like Kaiji, Kakegurui provides intense, high-stakes mind games in each episode. It displays the corruptible nature of money, and how the value of money can create a hierarchy.

 

17. From the New World

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  • Episodes: 25.
  • Premiered: 2012.

Set thousands of years in the future, psychic humans live in an isolated society with complex rules.

12-year old Saki Watanabe who has just awakened her powers, and gets to join her friends who have awakened powers as well.

However, she starts to wonder what happens to those whose powers never awaken, and the kids begin meddling with these secretive matters.

From the New World is a coming-of-age story of Saki and her friends as they try to grow into their roles of the complicated world they live in.

As they discover the harsh and dark truths behind this supposed utopia, a lot of introspection comes into play as to whether they want to accept their roles in such a society or not. 

 

18. Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex

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  • Episodes: 52.
  • Premiered: 2002.

Mankind has advanced to the point where body transplants from flesh to machine is possible.

Naturally this causes a great increase in physical and cybernetic prowess. However, criminals have access to the same technology, leading to an even more dangerous crime scene.

Section 9 has been established by the government to deal with such crimes, with cyborg Motoko Kusanagi at the forefront.

This series is increasingly relevant as technology gets stronger and more advanced every day.

There are questions being raised about the connections between body and soul, as well as questions about how beneficial the advancement of technology truly is. 

Relevant: 26 Of The Most Powerful Ghost In The Shell Quotes That Are Timeless

 

19. Revolutionary Girl Utena

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  • Episodes: 39.
  • Premiered: 1997.

Utena Tenjou attends Ootori Academy, where she duels for the prize of the Rose Bride with Anthy Himemiya.

As the series progresses Utena’s attention shifts to discovering the secrets behind Ootori Academy, and hopes to revolutionize the world. 

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There are so many themes packed into this series. Childhood idealism, adulthood, sexuality, abuse, and identity are all explored extensively in Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Common tropes in fairy tales and the magical girl genre are included, subverted, and deconstructed. 

 

20. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

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  • Episodes: 12.
  • Premiered: 2011.

Life changes for Madoka Kaname and her friends when they meet Kyuubey, a cat-like magical creature.

Kyubey gives them an offer that will grant any one of their wishes, and in exchange they’ll become magical girls.

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Speaking of deconstructing tropes, Madoka Magica not only does this, but also deconstructs the entire magical girl genre.

Gen Urobuchi (the novelist behind Madoka Magica) wanted to explore aspects of the genre that are troubling and problematic.

And he and succeeds in doing so while providing many plot twists, and an overarching feeling of discomfort for the viewer as the show gets darker.

 

21. One Outs

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  • Episodes: 25.
  • Premiered: 2008.

The Saitama Lycaons are the worst team in Japan’s premier baseball league.

Toua Tokuchi intends to change that with their best player who’s desperate to win a championship.

The owner is skeptical about bringing on a player with no professional experience, and in turn offers him a special contract. For each out he pitches, he’ll receive 5 million yen.

For each run he gives up, he’ll lose 50 million yen. 

One Outs documents the intense psychological warfare taking place between Toua and those he faces.

 

22. Ping Pong the Animation

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  • Episodes: 11.
  • Premiered: 2014.

Peco and Smile have been friends since childhood. Now, they’re both members of the table tennis club at Katase High School.

Peco’s full of confidence, aiming to be the best in the world. Smile on the other hand shows little ambition and seems like a closed book, but he’s talented nonetheless.

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Both Peco and Smile have a lot of mental obstacles they have to overcome, and their struggles are relatable if you’ve played sports at any point in your life.

This series explores the themes of talent vs. hard work, and is a classic story that’s memorable.

 

23. The Tatami Galaxy

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  • Episodes: 11.
  • Premiered: 2010.

The Tatami Galaxy follows an unnamed third year student at Kyoto University. He has regrets about how he lived through college, and re-experiences his college life through different parallel universes.

Each time he’s at a different school joining a different circle of friends, but each time Akashi, the center of the protagonist’s romantic affections, is there with him.

This mind-bending series forces the nameless protagonist to experience the harsh realities of college life, as he’s forced to see that it’s not the rose-colored experience he always dreamed of. 

 

24. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom

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  • Episodes: 26.
  • Premiered: 2009.

Inferno is a mysterious company who uses their nearly invincible human weapon, “Phantom” to do most of their dirty work.

One day, when a tourist accidentally witnesses a murder committed by Phantom, he’s captured and all his memories are wiped.

Apparently he impressed the leader of Inferno enough that he’s recruited to become the next Phantom. 

Without any memories of his past life, our protagonist fights to survive by killing for Inferno, but often struggles with his lack of identity, the amount of deceit at play, and how much of a killing machine he’s become. 

Relevant: 25 Of The Best Anime Quotes About Depression You Should See

 

25. Danganronpa: The Animation

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  • Episodes: 13.
  • Premiered: 2013.

Hope’s Peak Academy is a prestigious school, so prestigious that only 15 students were admitted.

Unfortunately for them, when they arrive they’re trapped by the principal.

They’re only allowed to leave if they kill one of their classmates and get away with it. However, if they are caught, they’ll get executed.

And anyone remaining continues the “death-match” until 1 students left standing.  

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As a mystery anime, there’s a lot of moments where we’re taken into the mind’s of the characters as they try to figure out the motives of potential murderers among them.

There’s also plenty of survival tactics that makes this show entertaining and thought provoking.

 

26. Aoi Bungaku Series

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Episodes: 12.
Premiered: 2009.

This series consists of adaptations from six modern classics of Japanese literature.

Aside from the first adaptation which is 4 episodes, each adaptation is 2 episodes, all telling exceptionally realistic, deep, and mature stories.

Aoi Bungaku really puts you into the mind of the protagonist of each story.

The undeniably detailed insight into their feelings and their thoughts fits right into the psychology genre. Best of all it does so while following an intense plot each time. 

 

27. Devilman: Crybaby

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  • Episodes: 10.
  • Premiered: 2018.

The devils in Devilman: Crybaby are immensely powerful beings, but they can only take form with a living host.

They plan to take the world back from humans and do so by taking their bodies.

However, if a host has a strong enough will, they can gain the powers of the devil and maintain their humanity. Akira Fudou has become one of the few to do this, and will try to use it to protect his loved ones. 

Devilmen like Akira must resist urges of the monsters within them. They walk a fine line between those urges and the humanity their will allows them to keep.

The series uses violence to explore the themes of paranoia, prejudice, and the age-old question; Can a monster feel as a human does? 

 

28. Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World

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  • Episodes: 25.
  • Premiered: 2016.

Imagine walking into the store and walking out of it to see you are in a whole different world.

That is reality for Subaru Natsuki and in this reality, he is attacked immediately, but thankfully saved by a white-haired beauty.

In return he agrees to help her find what she is looking for. Unfortunately for them they are being followed by a dark force and the day does not end well, but Subaru will get to relive this day and attempt to save himself and the girl: Emilia

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Subaru is a flawed protagonist which makes him realistic.

He thinks he’s in a better situation than he was in the “real world”, but it turns out to be more severe.

With home nowhere to be seen, and the circumstances worsening, Subaru’s forced to make the best of it.

Related: 5 Unique Differences Between Rem And Ram From ReZero

 

29. Btooom!

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  • Episodes: 12.
  • Premiered: 2012.

Another series in the same vein as Future Diary and the Hunger Games, Btooom! is about a game of survival.

Ryota Sakamoto is trapped on a deserted island playing a real life version of his favorite game, in which every player must kill 7 other contestants with different kinds of bombs.

Different bombs call for different strategies, and our protagonist just happened to be Japan’s top player in the online video game with the same rules, so he uses those talents to stay alive in this game.

The story pulls no punches on how people act in a kill or be killed environment.  

 

30. Kino’s Journey

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  • Episodes: 13.
  • Premiered: 2003.

Kino is a young traveler, and with her bike Hermes, she explores many countries and towns.

Each location varies in customs and inhabitants, ranging from interesting to morally-gray to tragic.

Kino spends no more than 3 days at any given place, so we get to see a wide spectrum of practices across its 13 episodes.

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Kino has no interest in influencing or changing the small worlds she visits, as they decide to be mere observers who believe that “the world is not beautiful; therefore, it is.”

This makes her a vessel of questions, someone who is in the same position as the audience.

Kino’s Travels has a lot of philosophical reflection baked into it.

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