9 Times Shonen Anime Proved It Can Be Darker Than Seinen

Pokkle's Demise - 'Hunter x Hunter'

While shonen anime has plenty of exciting and flashy scenes, it’s also a genre that’s rife with disturbing moments. 

Sometimes, these come in the form of backstory – it’s hard not to cry while watching Shigaraki accidentally use decay on his entire family in My Hero Academia. At other times, dark anime moments are used to further the current story, like when the kids from The Promised Neverland discover the body of one of their fellow orphans and realize that they’re at risk of meeting the same fate.

1. Nina Tucker’s Fate – ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’

Nina Tucker's Fate - 'Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood'

Whenever people talk about disturbing anime moments, this one always comes up, and for good reason. Nina Tucker was an innocent little girl whose father, Shou Tucker, fused her with the family dog in order to pass them off as a chimera and enhance his career as an alchemist. He also did the same thing to his wife and another dog.

When the Elric brothers discover what Shou Tucker did to Nina, they are justifiably horrified, as is the audience. Later, when Scar comes across Nina, he “mercifully” ends her life. While he did this in order to help her, it’s still an excruciating moment, especially since the little girl is asking for someone to play with her, and clearly still wants to live on despite what was done to her.

2. The Rumbling – ‘Attack on Titan’

The Rumbling - 'Attack on Titan'

The Rumbling is, by far, the most apocalyptic event on this list. That’s because over the course of just four days, it single-handedly annihilates 80% of life on Earth. 

So, what is the Rumbling? Eren Jaeger gained control of the Founding Titan, which allowed him to both awaken and control the Titans within the walls. These Titans marched across the world at his command, destroying everything they encountered. Eren did this because he thought it was the only way for Eldians to be free from discrimination, but his motive doesn’t make the effects any less devastating.

3. Conny Isn’t Getting Adopted – ‘The Promised Neverland’

Conny Isn't Getting Adopted - 'The Promised Neverland'

The beginning of The Promised Neverland seems idyllic – a group of orphans are living a happy, carefree life under the care of their loving “mama.” But they soon discover that their world is far darker than they ever could have imagined. A little girl named Conny is taken away to be “adopted.” 

That sounds lovely, but it turns out not to be true. Conny isn’t being adopted – she’s being sold as meat to a race of human-eating demons. Emma and Norman discover this when they try to return her stuffed rabbit to her and end up discovering her grey-faced body. Even for viewers who were expecting that twist because they read the manga, this was still horrific. 

4. Pokkle’s Demise – ‘Hunter x Hunter’

Pokkle's Demise - 'Hunter x Hunter'

Hunter x Hunter is a spectacularly brutal series, especially once it gets to the Chimera Ant arc. Though this one involves a minor character, it’s still absolutely heart-stopping. While trying to figure out what’s going on with the Chimera Ants, Pokkle is captured so that he can be fed to the queen. It takes some time for him to recover from the neurotoxin that was injected into his body, but once he does, he finds himself under a pile of bones.

Neferpitou finds him and drags him out, then lobotomizes him and probes his brain in order to force him to reveal what he knows about Nen. After that, Pig slaughters him so that the Chimera Ant Queen can eat him. 

5. Shigaraki Destroys His Entire Family – ‘My Hero Academia’

Shigaraki Destroys His Entire Family - 'My Hero Academia'

My Hero Academia is filled with tragic backstories, but Tomura Shigaraki’s is one of the worst. 

As a little boy, Tomura – then called Tenko – was already having a pretty hard time. His father, whose hero mother had abandoned him for his own safety, absolutely despises heroes. He takes out his anger on his child, who idolizes them. But when Tenko’s quirk, Decay, manifests, things go from everyday misery to a scene straight out of a horror movie. 

To comfort himself after a fight with his father, Tenko hugs the family dog. His quirk, which destroys everything he touches, ends up disintegrating his dog right in front of him. When his sister comes to see what’s going on, the same happens to her. Eventually, this causes a chain reaction that eliminates his entire family. 

The trauma makes him vulnerable to All For One, who adopts him and raises him to become his villainous heir.

6. The Origins Of Gyutaro & Daki – ‘Demon Slayer’

The Origins Of Gyutaro & Daki - 'Demon Slayer'

During the Entertainment District arc, demonic siblings Gyutaro and Daki cause a ton of destruction. While the damage they do to Tanjiro and the other Demon Slayers is dark enough on its own, their backstory is what really pulls the whole thing together. 

It turns out that they were born into such abject poverty that Gyutaro literally had to eat rats and insects to survive. Worse, his mother beat him for being a burden and for being “ugly” and his neighbors did the same thing. Things turned around when his sister – then called Ume – was born. Ume was beautiful, so she was able to bring in money as a sex worker, while Gyutaro collected money on her behalf. 

One day, the whole setup fell apart. Daki stabbed a client in the eye with a hairpin, and in retaliation she was burned to a crisp. When Gyutaro discovered her body, he was similarly attacked. Once he annihilated their attackers, he wandered around carrying his charred sister, searching for help that he knew wouldn’t come. When he finally did get help, it was from a demon who wanted to transform him and his sister, giving them a new lease on a human life that was about to end.

7. The Uchiha Massacre – ‘Naruto’

The Uchiha Massacre - 'Naruto'

When Itachi Uchiha was 13 years old, he annihilated his entire clan, including his own parents. The sole survivor was his eight-year-old brother Sasuke. Sasuke didn’t see the whole thing go down, but Itachi made sure he knew about it by subjecting him to highly realistic illusion-based jutsu. When Sasuke asked Itachi why he did it, Itachi claimed that he’d wanted to test his skills. Sasuke spent years training to get revenge on his brother.

While the actual moment of the massacre is misery-inducing, the reason behind it is even worse. Itachi was manipulated by an adult political figure into slaying his clan. If he agreed, he’d be able to save himself and his brother – if not, they’d all be destroyed. 

8. Junpei’s Death – ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’

Junpei's Death - 'Jujutsu Kaisen'

After being driven to desperation by bullies, Junpei Yoshino decides to make a deal with Mahito, a Curse who promises to give him the power he needs to defend himself. He considers killing his bullies. 

Around the same time, Junpei befriends Yuji Itadori. He realizes that he actually can connect with other people. He realizes that he isn’t willing to take other peoples’ lives, and that he will find some other way to deal with his problems. This could have been a happy ending, except that Mahito hid one of Sukuna’s fingers in Junpei’s home, which attracted a Curse that ended his mother.

Mahito convinces Junpei that one of his bullies – Shota – did this to him. He decides to get revenge and attacks Shota, only to be stopped by Yuji. Yuji is furious with him at first, but he soon comes to understand where Junpei is coming from, and calms him down by inviting him to Jujutsu Tech, where he can learn to control his Cursed power and can find the person who is actually responsible for his mother’s demise. 

Sounds like a happy ending, right? Nope, because then Mahito appears and uses Idle Transfiguration to turn Junpei into a monster that will pass away in the next few minutes. This would have been painful no matter what, but this scene presents hope and then snatches it away.

9. Brook’s Decades Of Loneliness – ‘One Piece’

Brook's Decades Of Loneliness - 'One Piece'

One Piece has so many dark moments that it’s hard to choose just one. For now, we’ll talk about Brook, because he often takes a backseat to some of the other more well-known characters.

Brook was once part of the fun-loving and musical Rumbar Pirates. His whole crew was wiped out, not once, but twice. The first time, it was by a fatal illness that ripped through the crew, forcing them to separate so that the healthy ones might be able to stay that way and survive. Though the disease didn’t follow them, it wasn’t long before they were attacked and poisoned by another crew. One by one, they passed away. Brook made things more bearable by encouraging his crew to play music before the end, but that doesn’t halt the inevitable.

Because of Brook’s Devil Fruit, he’s revived into a skeletal body. He spends the next 50 years collecting his former comrades’ skulls in order to memorialize them properly – and he also spends that whole time alone, because thanks to having his shadow stolen by Moria, he can’t be exposed to the sunlight. The extreme isolation and loneliness would have totally destroyed him if he didn’t have one thing to live for – finding the baby whale, Laboon, who was waiting for the Rumbar Pirates to return.