1. Steins; Gate (2011) + (2018)
Written by Jukki Hanada, this anime takes place in Akihabara, Tokyo, follows the story of Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed “mad scientist” but in reality, is an eccentric, socially inept university student who runs “Future Gadget Laboratory” discovers that the cell phone operated microwave they were developing actually has the ability to send text messages back in time.
After finding out the bizarre ability they have now, Okabe and his colleagues must use their knowledge of it to stop an evil organisation and their diabolical plans.
While most TV series use time travel as just a plot point, this anime goes the next mile with this concept that we have grown accustomed to, and masterfully applies it in the story. As viewers, we get to be a part of the action as Okabe is dealt with tough choices to make, while we theorize the fate of the characters till the next nail-biting development. It is the ultimate time travel anime ever.
The anime had originally 24 episodes in the year 2011 when it was released and later got a sequel Steins; Gate 0 in the year 2018.
2. When They Cry (2006)
This unconventional anime written by Toshifumi Kawase, takes place in the fictional village of Hinamizawa, in June 1983 when the events of the anime unfold. The story begins shortly before then, when our protagonist Keiichi Maebara, moves to the village and befriends a few of his classmates, sweet and innocent girls.
He soon learns of the village’s annual festival “Watanagashi”, celebrated to thank the local deity ‘Oyashiro’. Keiichi loves the calm and peaceful Hinamizawa, but before the festival learns that since 1979, one villager would die and another would disappear after the festival. These unsolved mysteries are labelled as the ‘Oyashiro Curse’ by the superstitious villagers.
This anime is particularly unique because the timelines keep getting reset with different outcomes, and the overall selling point of the anime is how the seemingly cute and innocent characters that the protagonist has befriended, can commit such heinous acts. Packed with extreme violence and suspense this 26-episode anime is one of the best thrillers out there.
3. The Promised Neverland (2019-2021):
This thrilling manga-turned-anime written by Kaiu Shirai, is a rather popular recent anime about the orphanage Grace Field House, where 38 kids live an idyllic life, under the care of Isabella, the mom of the orphanage.
After finding out about the truth of the orphanage, two of the smartest kids in there (Emma and Norman) begin to carve out a plan for a mass exodus. While this does sound relatively simple, this anime is as thrilling as it gets, the game of wits is something to look out for as well as the character development that evolves as the show progresses.
With two seasons and 23 episodes, the promised neverland is one hell of a suspenseful ride that keeps the viewers on edge, not knowing if the children will escape the chains of fate.
4. Death Note (2006-2007):
This popular anime written by Tsugumi Ohba, tells the story of Light Yagami, an extremely intelligent high school student. His life changes when he finds the death note; a notebook, previously belonging to the Shinigami Ryuk, with the ability to kill any person whose name is written in it, recognising the power that has fallen into his hands, Light begins on a quest of purging the world of criminals.
This isn’t as easy though, as the police turn their attention to apprehending the mysterious serial killer of criminals, enlisting the help of the genius detective ‘L’, the game of cat-and-mouse begins.
This 37-episode anime, in all of its glory, tries to answer many questions about ethics, morals and the justice. “Should anyone have the right to take the lives of other people in their own hands?” and “Do criminals really do deserve a second chance?” are few of the most raised questions from this show.
For all of it’s success, death note inspired a lot of spin-offs, side-stories and musicals as well, and that is without taking into consideration the many live action adaptations that spawned from it, some good while others; detrimental to the essence of the actual anime/manga.
5. Death Parade (2015):
Created, written and directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa, Death parade has a rather simple premise. The story begins when two people after their death enter an ostentatious bar named Quindecim with no memories of how they got there. Enter our protagonist, a white-haired bartender named Decim and his assistant, who coerces the pair to play a game with their life on the line.
As the game progresses, we learn more and more about the characters and we begin to see that when it comes to people, there is really more than what meets the eye. Death parade is interesting in its take on life after death. In the anime community, the Japanese after-life is a big subject of interest for its various imaginations from creators.
So having it be a bar where people play death games is very creative and definitely a refreshing take on it. The anime excels at showing numerous characters with different personalities and their takes on the games. While this show revolves around the games, it also manages to shine a light on our protagonist’s work, which is to be the arbiter that judges if the souls of the people playing the games will be sent for reincarnation or be banished into the void.
With only one season and 12 episodes, this show manages to provide a lot of thrill and closure which is quite the achievement for the series having only 12 episodes. At the end of the day, Death Parade teaches us the lesson to not judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance, whichever applies.
6. Monster (2004-2005):
The mystery and thriller genre cannot be completed without including this critically acclaimed and criminally underrated anime written by Naoki Urasawa. Monster follows the story of Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a young brain surgeon disappointed at the politics and bias within his hospital.
He decides to ignore subsequent orders and operates on a patient named Johan Liebert, saving his life. Years later, to his surprise, he encounters Johan once more, this time as a murderer being referred to as a ‘Monster’. Seeking to fix his mistake of creating this monster, Dr. Tenma goes after Johan.
When it comes to mystery thrillers, Monster is by far one of the best in terms of setting the tone and atmosphere for the type of story it is trying to tell. Its without much of the supernatural elements that anime often takes pride in, and instead works as an amazing, well-grounded look into the human psyche.
With 74 episodes and being filled to the brim with suspense, deep characters, and an intricate plot that will have you thinking about life, Monster is surely a must-watch.