Horror as a genre is one of the best genres to adapt to a visual medium such as manga. Unlike film and TV, which has the benefit of jump scares, manga needs to be compellingly chilling.
Most of the best horror from Japan is a mixture of body horror and psychological horror. Some stories have a slowly creeping terror, while others are fast-paced and gory.
But with so many mangas to choose from, how do you know which one is best? If you’re wondering where to start when looking for the best horror manga, then don’t worry.
We’ve found some of the best horror manga (see also ‘Best Seinen Manga‘) on the market to chill you to your core.
Uzumaki By Junji Ito
When it comes to horror manga, Junji Ito is one of the best authors out there. Uzumaki is, without a doubt, one of Ito’s most famous works.
It was first published in the seinen manga magazine: Big Comic Spirits from 1998 to 1999.
Within two years, it was published in America by Viz Media, and over the past 20 years, it’s had a major impact on the world of horror manga.
Uzumaki is a story about the people who live in Kurouzu-Cho, a fictional city where the residents are plagued by a supernatural curse that involves spirals.
In the center of all this is Kirie Goshima and her boyfriend, Shuichi Saito, who watch as the spiral’s curse affects their friends, family, and the area around them.
There’s a reason that Uzumaki is treated as Junji Ito’s greatest horror series. Over the years, Junji Ito has become known for his chilling horror stories.
Since it was released, Uzumaki has been adapted into a live-action film, two video games, and an anime adaptation was announced in 2019.
Other Recommended Works From Junji Ito
Junji Ito has a wide range of horror works, and in this section, I’ll include some of my own recommendations.
Gyo is a manga that revolves around Tadashi and Kaori as they fight against a mysterious horde of undead fish with metallic insectoid legs.
It was published in 2001 and is a story that relies on your senses. Tomie is about a mysterious woman named Tomie Kawakami, whose beauty drives the people around her to madness.
Since the manga was released, you may be familiar with the many live-action films based on Ito’s work.
These are only a few of my recommendations, but if you enjoy horror manga, the best place to start is with Junji Ito.
Blood On The Tracks By Shuzo Ozhimi
Blood on the Tracks is an ongoing horror manga by Shuzo Oshimi that first began publication in 2017 and has been serialized in Big Comic Super since then.
As of 2020, the series has been published digitally by Kodansha USA, and Vertical has published the physical volumes.
This is a psychological horror mixed with suspense that focuses on the relationship between Seiichi Osabe and his overprotective mother: Seiko.
After a family hiking trip goes wrong, Seiichi is left traumatized by the darker aspects of his mother’s personality.
After witnessing his mother push his cousin off a cliff, he is manipulated heavily by his mother and eventually discovers just how much his mother’s upbringing has affected him.
With a conclusion yet to be found, Blood on the Tracks has been keeping fans on their toes for years.
It’s a horrifying series that is grounded in the reality of how abusive relationships can affect families.
If you enjoy your horror with twists and turns, you should check out this series and Shuzo Oshimi’s other works.
Happiness By Shuzo Oshimi
If you’re looking for another horror manga to read by Shuzo Oshimi, I would recommend Happiness.
Happiness is a series about a boy named Okazaki who is turned into a vampire after going for a walk at night.
After he struggled with these issues, he and his friends became aware of the horrors found in the night.
Parasyte By Hitoshi Iwaaki
Parasyte is a science fiction body horror series that was originally published between 1988 and 1995 in the magazines Morning Open Zokan and Monthly Afternoon in Japan.
It was originally published in America by Kodansha USA. With over 25 million copies in circulation as of 2022, it’s one of the best-selling manga series of all time.
In a world where aliens called parasites invade the Earth, a teenager by the name of Shinichi Izumi is attacked by one in his sleep.
Instead of crawling into his nose, Shinichi blocks it, and it enters his arm instead. Shinichi and the parasite, which he names Migi, bonded as they both retained sentience.
Throughout the series, they fight several other parasites and devour them as food.
Since its publication in the ‘90s, Parasyte has had numerous spin-offs, tributes, and adaptations. There have been two live-action films and an anime adapted by Madhouse.
Even after 20 years, it’s retained its popularity due to its exploration of philosophical and psychological questions and the role of humanity and morality.
The Drifting Classroom By Kazuo Umezu
The Drifting Classroom was originally published in Weekly Shonen Sunday from 1972 to 1974, making it one of the more classic horror series on this list.
It was eventually published in English by Viz Media and is a perfect mixture of science fiction and horror.
One day, a school is transported to a post-apocalyptic future that environmental disasters have ravaged.
With no hope of returning home, the adults in the school descend into madness and try to kill one another.
Eventually, when the adults are no longer there, Sho Takamatsu, the sixth-grade protagonist, tries to lead everyone in a small government.
But there’s non-stop dissent in their ranks, and they need to learn to survive with one another and the horrific world they’re in.
Since it was released in the ‘70s, The Drifting Classroom has had a major impact on other writers. It was adapted into a live-action film in 1987 and a TV drama in 2004.
It even won the 20th Shogakukan Manga Award back in 1974.
GANTZ By Hiroya Oku
Gantz was published in Weekly Young Jump from 2000 to 2013 and has been collected into 37 volumes. Meanwhile, in the US, it is published by Dark Horse Comics.
Gantz may be your best bet if you’re looking for a more action-packed horror series with a mixture of sci-fi and horror.
Set in modern Japan, two high school students: Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato, are hit by a train when they try to save a drunk homeless man who fell onto the tracks.
After they die, they’re transported to a hotel room where they meet the Gantz sphere. It is there that they’re enlisted into fighting aliens under Gantz’s orders.
Upon completion of the missions they’re given, they have a chance to return to their normal life, get a stronger weapon, or revive someone who has died.
However, they can only do this if they have 100 points. Gantz has a collection of spin-offs, such as Gantz:G and Gantz:E, and has also been adapted into a 26-episode anime by Gonzo.
It has been adapted for film, too, with the first film released in 2011. Currently, it is expecting another live-action film to be released, which was first announced in 2020 by Sony.
As one of the most violent and gory series on this list, it’s no wonder it became so well-loved.
Chainsaw Man By Tatsuki Fujimoto
I’ll admit, Chainsaw Man is definitely more under the label of comedy horror and dark fantasy.
Written by Tatsuki Fujimoto, Chainsaw Man was originally published from 2018 to 2020 in Weekly Shonen Jump.
The series eventually continued in 2022 but was published in Jump+, Jump’s online magazine. It’s published in the US through Viz Media.
The story of Chainsaw Man takes place in 1997, in an alternate timeline where certain events from history didn’t occur.
In a world where Devils are born from human fears and are personified by them.
A teenager named Denji works with the canine Chainsaw Devil for the Yakuza as a Devil Hunter to pay off his father’s debts.
After being betrayed by the Yakuza, Denji, and Pochita, the Chainsaw Devil, merge together to become Chainsaw Man to save Denji’s life.
Enlisted by the Public Safety Bureau, he is then enlisted to work with them to find the Gun Devil.
Chainsaw Man won the 66th Shogakukan Manga Award in 2021 in the shonen category and won the Harvey Award for best manga in both 2021 and 2022.
It’s both violent and action-packed, with well-written characters and storylines that have been a joy to read. As of 2022, it’s been serialized as an anime produced by MAPPA.
These are some of the best horror manga that have been released in Japan. Horror is an incredibly popular genre in Japan, with some of the best films also found there.
Hopefully, with this list, you can enjoy some of the best horror series available.