Anime has always explored a wide variety of themes. Despite its negative reputation among certain groups for being no more than surface-level fanservice, you will be surprised to find that there are seasonal jewels that require a deeper level of thinking. Among the range of industry-favorite genres, psychological and thriller animations offer an unforgettable atmosphere and dialogue that will leave you deep in thought.
The context of the behind-the-scenes creation of anime allows producers to take on a more liberal approach to plot and movement. As a result, you will find a stunning, almost exaggerated response to the discourse of life and death. It is evident in plenty of highly-praised releases, including Death Parade and Psycho-Pass. If you are a fan of exploring life and death through anime, here are top choices that will keep you at the edge of your seat.
Death Parade was an anime original that aired in Winter 2015. The 12-episode anime focuses solely on exploring the morality of human beings. The premise of the one-of-a-kind plot begins after two seemingly disconnected individuals’ deaths, who, upon losing their memories, are forced to play a game that gradually reveals their personality. The game evaluates whether they are fit for reincarnation or should rot in the void forever — a decision that is made solely by a dedicated judge, also called an “arbiter.”
What makes Death Parade stand out is its take on determining people’s fates: by disregarding the complexity of their emotions and leaving their afterlife to the subjectivity of the “arbiter,” upon witnessing their behavior for a short time. While more layers contribute to Death Parade’s — a rather ironic name for a plot with grim undertones — story and psychological elements, it is up to you to watch the show and put together pieces of the puzzle. You will certainly not regret it.
Psycho-Pass is a dystopian world where psychometric scanners quantify the state of people’s minds. Essentially, the numbers — called a Crime Coefficient — determine a person’s likelihood to commit a crime, a concept of psychological quantification that has become all the more relevant today with China’s implementation of a social credit system. The plot follows a new field officer whose work involves getting rid of criminals.
But there are more complexities behind a system that seems flawed in theory, as it becomes more so detrimental in practice. Psycho-Pass explores the human mind, the fickleness of the justice system, and the injustice behind those wrongfully oppressed. It is a must-watch if you are a fan of exploring human morality.
Fate/Zero is a bit of an outlier because it is part of the large-scale Fate franchise. However, as its events precede the other shows, you can certainly watch it as a standalone. The plot primarily focuses on the typical Fate structure, which involves summing servants — also called Heroic Spirits — to aid the participant in the Holy Grail war. But its charm comes from the mental dialogue of the protagonist and the overarching psychological theme of the show. It revolves around the concept of saving the majority at the expense of the minority.
The idea of disregarding the minority has always been a leading philosophy in politics, science, and anthropology. But beyond being lumped into a quantified scale, every one of the sacrificed minorities is a human being with lives and emotions. In the case of Fate/Zero, it, at times, involves people with direct relation to the protagonist. Give it a watch if you feel like exploring the value of human life portrayed through a fantasy world.
The portrayal of life, death, and morality in anime offers viewers a unique take on a popular genre. A lot of times, producers hide deeper themes within seemingly fun and slice-of-life shows, so there is plenty of merit in giving new releases a try as well. After all, there is certainly a lot to learn about the human mind, whether through anime or real life.