Over the last few decades, zombies have become a mainstream cultural phenomenon, infecting every form of media from books to anime. With their human appearance and mindless craving for human flesh, zombies make for a great antagonist and reminder about the fragility of civilization.
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Many anime include zombies as minor creatures for the main characters to overcome, but a few anime take it a step further and feature zombies as a main element of the plot. These anime take different approaches in how they portray zombies, and a few of them have distinguished themselves as truly excellent.
10 Corpse Princess
After she is murdered, Makina Hoshimura is reanimated as a “Shikabane Hime,” or Corpse Princess. To gain entry into heaven, she is tasked with killing 108 other reanimated corpses. In her fight to find redemption and avenge her family, Makina gains assistance from a Buddhist monk and makes enemies with the Shikabane organization known as the Seven Stars.
Corpse Princess is less of a horror story and more a tale of revenge. Shikabane aren’t the rotting corpses that most people imagine when they think of zombies, so the series is great for fans of zombie action who are squeamish when it comes to horror. Also, it helps that Makina looks really badass mowing down her enemies with dual MAC-11 submachine guns.
9 Sankarea: Undying Love
Sankarea: Undying Love forgoes the usual plotline of desperate heroes fighting hordes of the undead in favor of a different genre: romantic comedy. In this offbeat, experimental anime series, Chihiro is a young teenager with a fascination for zombies. Lucky for him, his dream of having a zombie girlfriend comes to fruition when a girl named Rea Sanka drinks a potion that turns her into a zombie.
The series is at times serious, as it grapples with themes of dating and young love, but it never loses its irreverent atmosphere. It mixes humor, horror, and romance all while subverting the audience’s expectations every step of the way.
8 Highschool Of The Dead
As the name implies, Highschool of the Dead is a story about five high schoolers who must rely on each other to survive after a strange pandemic turns most of their former classmates into mindless zombies. The students fight to escape the hordes of the undead and reach safety but are hampered by obstacles along the way, both living and dead.
While the show does not necessarily add anything new to the genre, it is a solid series that borrows elements from popular storylines in many Western zombie movies and shows. If nothing else, the scenes of highly stylized violence that feature zombies dying in myriad ways make the series worth watching.
7 Is This A Zombie?
Arguably the funniest zombie anime out there, Is This A Zombie? is deeper than its plot implies. The story follows Ayumu, a high schooler who is killed while investigating a mysterious house. To his surprise, he wakes up as a zombie after a necromancer resurrects him, and he spends the rest of the series hunting for his murderer.
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Fans of Is This A Zombie? enjoy that the series does not pull punches when it comes to violence, fan service, or comedy. Many of the best scenes involve Ayumu as he struggles to rationalize his existence as a zombie. The series does not take itself too seriously and frequently pokes fun at common tropes in anime.
6 Hellsing Ultimate
A classic series that has influenced many other zombie and horror anime, Hellsing Ultimate is about the Hellsing organization, a group dedicated to battling the forces of darkness. The anime follows the operatives of Hellsing as they battle against the Nazi vampires of the Millenium Organization and the vampire hunters of Iscariot.
Hellsing Ultimate follows the manga more closely than the original Hellsing series, which makes it one of the best Studio Madhouse series in the minds of most fans. While the members of Hellsing do not solely fight zombies, there are plenty of scenes involving Alucard, Seras, and Walter C. Dornez blowing away hordes of undead.
Based on the PlayStation 2 game of the same name, Gungrave subverted expectations to become a classic anime series. The story follows Brandon Heart, a criminal who is killed by his best friend, Harry MacDowell. After he is reborn through necrolyzation as Beyond The Grave, he sets out to take revenge on his former friend and the syndicate that ruined his life.
Gungrave melds classic mafia tropes with zombie sci-fi action that includes some truly outrageous fights with armies of undead soldiers and mutant criminals. While Grave is the title character, Harry’s character growth and his relationship with Brandon are what many fans remember most about the anime, as the dynamics of their friendship undergo dramatic changes over the course of the series.
4 Sunday Without God
In Sunday Without God, God abandons Earth, meaning that humans can no longer bear children or die. The series follows Ai, a 12-year old girl who is a gravekeeper, beings left behind by God to help the souls of the undead to find eternal rest.
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The zombies in Sunday Without God are not rotting corpses, but, in a way, the fact that the dead look the same as they did in life makes them just as terrifying as classic zombies. In addition to the beautiful animation and worldbuilding, fans of the anime appreciate its theme about finding one’s path in a world that seems to lack purpose.
Yuki Takeya and her friends are part of the School Living Club, a club dedicated to living at school. In the first episode, Yuki details the joys of spending her days with the club as they get up to hijinks with the help of their adorable dog and club adviser. However, it soon becomes apparent that not everything is as it appears.
Few anime make viewers feel as much cognitive dissonance as School-Live!, which is part of the brilliance of the series. The series is full of twists that leave the audience reeling and the way it positions Yuki as an unreliable narrator is nothing short of masterful. Part cutesy slice-of-life anime, part grotesque horror survival story, School-Live! is one of the most unique zombie anime out there.
2 Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress
One of the newest zombie anime in the last few years, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, also happens to be one of the best. Set during the Industrial Revolution, a mysterious plague that turns people into zombies has driven humanity to the brink of extinction. The few people left alive live in walled cities or giant armored trains, afraid to step foot outside out of fear of the kabane, or zombies.
The story follows Ikoma, a young man who is turned into a kabaneri, or half-zombie, and his fight to protect the remnants of humanity. In addition to the incredible action scenes, fans of the series love the show’s realistic blending of the futuristic and the historic. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is part samurai epic, part zombie horror story, and is likely to one day be considered a classic zombie anime.
1 Tokyo Ghoul
No list of zombie anime would be complete without Tokyo Ghoul, one of the most popular zombie anime of all time. Tokyo Ghoul is about Ken Kaneki, a shy 18-year-old whose life suddenly changes when he almost dies and receives an organ transplant from a ghoul. This turns him into a half-human, half-ghoul who must now eat humans to live.
While the ghouls in the show are not traditional zombies, as they maintain their reasoning skills from their lives as humans and possess special powers, the series still includes many of the most loved zombie tropes. The show has an excellent soundtrack, beautiful animation, and complicated characters that challenge viewers’ conceptions of what it means to be human.
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About The Author
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Patrick Sather is a writer based in Irvine, California. A graduate of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln with Bachelor of Arts in creative writing, he strives to create engaging content for ScreenRant readers. He currently works in finance, but dreams of one day owning his own board game and escape room cafe. He splits his free time between writing about anime, working on his first novel, talking philosophy with his wife and chasing around his infant daughter.
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