Horror manga is a whole new level of terrifying that goes beyond what we’re used to seeing in western horror books, comics, and movies.
The following horror manga publications are not for the faint-hearted. If you’re not usually a fan of scary content, then horror manga most likely isn’t for you, but if you love all things monstrous, ghoulish, and gory, then you’re in for a treat. Be prepared for plenty of grizzly scenes and illustrations, as well as some disturbing and dark psychological plot lines.
So without further ado, here are my top 8 most terrifying horror manga stories to read this year.
Best Horror Manga
If you’re not familiar with Junji Ito, let me introduce you; he’s the undisputed master of Japanese horror manga. He has an unrivaled ability to create terror and unease with his boundlessly dark imagination, and his extensive work has captured the attention of millions around the world.
The story of Remina begins with an intergalactic wormhole, which births a dark and mysterious new planet. The planet is first discovered by a doctor, who names the planet after his beloved daughter, Remina. But little did he know how truly destructive this celestial body would turn out to be.
As time passes and the planet evolves, it begins to consume absolutely everything in its path, gobbling up the universe as it travels through space and time. And now, this unstoppable evil force is heading directly for Earth.
This gruesome story of alien invasion is not what you might expect. Rather than walking, talking aliens we’re used to seeing in fiction, these aliens are parasitic worm-like creatures that burrow into the brains of their hosts in order to take over their bodies.
But when Shinichi, a young high school student, suddenly awakes to one of these horrifying creatures heading straight for his brain, he manages to deflect the attack at the very last moment. Instead of entering his skull, the parasite burrows deep inside his arm. Better than his brain, but still, not ideal.
Now Shinichi has a mission; he must protect the human race from these deadly attackers, all while learning to survive with his newfound alien invader.
This is the first publication of the follow-up series to the classic manga “Pet Shop of Horrors.”
It follows a bizarre and mysterious pet shop owner, a Chinese Count known to the world only as “D.” Several years ago, D embarked on a reign of terror from his store in LA’s Chinatown, selling not pets exactly, but nightmares. These pets aren’t your typical furry friends; they look eerily similar to human beings, and those that buy one are forced to sign a contract unlike any other.
Since the days of D’s horrifying petshop, the world has returned to relative peace, but now there are rumors of his return. A man fitting D’s description has suddenly appeared in Tokyo, and he’s opening up a brand new store.
The Drifting Classroom is a classic horror manga series that spanned from 1972 to 1974. Despite its age, it’s still revered as one of the most artistically disturbing publications from the genre.
It tells the tale of an entire school which, after a strange earthquake, is teleported into a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of darkness and danger. Left behind is nothing but a giant hole in the ground. Investigations begin, and parents grieve the loss of their children.
Meanwhile, the students and the teachers find themselves in a living nightmare. They discover that they’ve been transported to the future of plan earth, and now they must learn to survive and adapt in this terrifying new world.
There’s a new craze that has taken over Japan; a fun murder mystery game called Rabbit Doubt. In the virtual game, the payers, known as rabbits, must discover who among them is really a wolf in rabbit’s clothing. If they fail, they’ll be killed off, one by one. It’s a little dark, but it’s just a game, right?
Unfortunately for a group of teenage cyber friends, the game has just turned deadly. After losing consciousness, they awake in a dark and dank abandoned building, with seemingly no way to escape. Each teen has a bar code tattooed on their skin, and there’s a brutally murdered corpse hanging from the ceiling.
The teens must find out who among them is the wolf before they lose their own lives, for real this time.
We can’t have a list of the best horror manga without including at least one zombie story, and I Am a Hero is up there with the very best zombie manga of all time.
Hideo is a depressed, lonely artist with a seemingly bleak future ahead of him until a terrifying zombie outbreak rips through Tokyo. Regular people are becoming infected, and when they do, they become crazed monsters who attack and consume the flesh of their fellow men. Suddenly, his mission is clear. With his trusty firearm (a rare commodity in Japan), he must become the city’s hero and save the population for otherwise certain death.
Here’s another must-read title from the master of horror manga, Junji Ito.
Uzumaki tells the tale of a cursed town on the coast of Japan. But the curse doesn’t come from a witch, a demon, or a monster; the town is cursed by spirals.
Kirie’s boyfriend Shuichi is convinced that this spiral pattern is contaminating their whole town, dragging it down into a dark and sinister realm.
This psychological horror is a spellbinding read that was first released as single volumes in a larger series. Now, you can read the whole thing in one terrifying publication.
Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly is another classic horror manga mini-series that was first released back in 1996. It’s since been translated into English and has become a cult hit around the world.
The story centers around a world-famous fashion model named Lilico. Obsessed with staying on top of her game in the modeling world, and in a desperate bid to cling onto her looks, Lilico opts for an experimental surgery that takes a horrifying turn. Her body begins to rot in front of her eyes, and her career is doomed.
In an act of spite, jealously, and sheer desperation, she lures her assistant into committing brutal crimes against other models in order to make them as physically repulsive as she is.
I hope this list of the terrifying horror manga gets you inspired to explore this fascinating genre. What are your favorite horror manga stories? Let me know in the comments below!