Supernatural Anime Subgenre
When modern science fails to explain certain phenomena, we must turn to the supernatural. Ghosts, ghouls, people with psychic powers and creatures only known through folklore all make up the vast subgenre that is supernatural anime. What defines supernatural anime is the presence of something unexplainably abnormal in an otherwise normal world; demons that make contracts with high school students, kids playing with ghosts, tales of a myth come to life – any unexplainable strange phenomenon that would not go unnoticed in the fictional world or the real world is supernatural. Magic, while achieving otherwise impossible tasks, is often an understood and/or scientific part of a fantasy world, and is such not supernatural if the anime falls into the fantasy genre.
Since the supernatural subgenre only needs to defy laws in an established world, the subgenre can be found in any main genre and take on any tone in a series. Kids shows can play with the idea of supernatural beasts, while a love story can just as easily include a touch of folklore. The supernatural isn’t limited to the horror genre, and such might be one of the most diverse subgenres in anime yet. Also known as “paranormal”.
Something strange in your neighbourhood. The presence of ghosts or monsters aren’t the only things that signify a series is supernatural. It can be much more abstract than that, but it does need to be strange for the world the anime is set in. Generally, it also needs to be fairly isolated, or else the supernatural elements become something like fantasy.
Protagonist can see dead people. The protagonist, a chosen character or a small group of characters are blessed with the ability to interact with the supernatural (or to use supernatural abilities), either because they just can or because they possess an object. What they do with this ability is up to what kind of series it is.
Some focus on setting. In order for supernatural oddities to break the laws of the world, there needs to be a world to begin with. Setting a series in the modern day doesn’t require much effort to explain the rules, but it does need to be clear what kind of place the story takes place in.
Horror. The supernatural forever remains out of our realm of understanding, so it’s no surprise that many horror series rely on supernatural oddities or events to give you the creepy factor. In fact, you could say that while not all supernatural shows are horror, many horror series are supernatural.
Mystery. Human mysteries can only go so far, but when you bring in elements that work outside of human understanding, there are so many more possibilities. The mysteries behind old curses, haunted mansions, disappearances or why certain things happen around a character rely on the supernatural.
Children’s. When you think about it, supernatural oddities are just big fluffy creatures in need of a hug. While children’s anime doesn’t tend to make the supernatural cute, some series like to draw from Japanese folklore or play with mild supernatural themes to make things fun.
Here's our top 10 'Best Supernatural Anime Recommendations'
1. Mushishi – There are beings all over the world only known as mushi. They can take any form, express any idea but all elude human understanding. As Ginko, a mushi researcher, travels the country to better understand these supernatural organisms, he assists people to understand them. A calming supernatural series that shows what the subgenre can do.
2. Durarara!! – Ikebukuro holds some interesting tales of warring gangs, psychotic killers, men with superhuman strength and all kinds of shady people. But none are more famous than the Black Rider, a dullahan who traverses the city on a pitch black motorbike. When high school student Mikado moves to the city, he is immediately confronted by its bizarre characters and must learn to fit in this strange new world. A detailed series that showcases the supernatural in its many forms.
3. Natsume’s Book of Friends – Takashi Natsume has always been able to perceive wandering spirits called youkai, something he is never able to explain until the death of his grandmother. Now inheritor of the Book of Friends, a tome his grandma used to capture youkai, Takashi resolves to release all the youkai captured over the years and set things straight. A slice of life supernatural show that focuses on the theme of connection.
4. The Garden of Sinners – Shiki Ryougi comes from a long line of family members who have two distinct personalities, much like an internal yin and yang. As she is trained as a demon hunter, Shiki’s frightful power is amplified by her Mystic Eyes of Death Perception – an ability that lets her comprehend mortality in destructible lines and points. While Shiki wanders further and further from humanity, her friend Mikiya tries to hold her back. A mature movie series that blurs the line between fantasy and the supernatural.
5. Bakemonogatari – Koyomi Araragi is a hopeless hero. His complex for helping out anyone in need always dumps him into dangerous situations, but at least he’s got his vampiric remnants to save him. Now on a mission to save girls left and right, Koyomi needs to deal with all kinds of supernatural oddities before they go past the point of no return. An odd supernatural series with strong composition and a love of ecchi.
6. Death Note – There exists a supernatural notebook called the Death Note. Upon writing any name inside it, the named person is guaranteed to die at the soonest possible moment. This is exactly how Light Yagami is going to change the world – by killing everyone who’s wrong. What he doesn’t count on is a mysterious detective to chase him. A supernatural anime with a strong mystery and psychological themes.
7. Tokyo Ghoul – Tokyo is now a major hub for ghouls, supernatural creatures who feed on human flesh. Since ghouls easily blend into human society, the city’s tensions are high – both for humans afraid of being slaughtered and ghouls who want to survive. After a close call, Ken Kaneki’s life is forever changed when he becomes a half human/half ghoul monster, living between both worlds. A horror/supernatural series that explores society.
8. Hellsing Ultimate – The Hellsing organization is London’s answer to supernatural evils that threaten the ordinary lives of humans. With their front man Alucard being able to deal with all vampire-related threats, there’s little to worry about except how much blood will need to be cleaned up. A blood-filled supernatural series that is the first one to come to mind at the thought of supernatural anime.
9. AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day – When a childhood accident tore Menma away from her five friends, nobody was ever able to go back to how things were. Now ten years later and separated by years of guilt, these friends must come back once more to fulfil the wish of Menma’s ghost. A supernatural anime all about past trauma and healing.
10. Noragami – Yato is a minor deity without a single shrine or believer to his name. Taking on whatever work he can do to gain recognition and followers, his path crosses with high school girl Hiyori who, through a series of events, teams up with Yato to try turn his luck around. A modern supernatural adventure.