Body horror is a subgenre that is defined by disruptive transformations of human flesh. While Akira set the standard for the use of body horror in anime, this aspect of the genre has always been around. Long ago, stories were told of yokai as Futakuchi-Onna, who had her mouth hidden under her hair at the back of her head. In the modern world, an urban legend about a woman with her mouth open is as common in Japan as Bloody Mary in the United States.
Body horror is terrifying not just because bodies transform. Human beings are no strangers to growing and changing naturally or unnaturally as their lives demand, and there are many people who live their lives in bodies that can be considered atypical. The hideous aspect of body horror has less to do with the idea of change and more to do with a deeper terror. Often times, a body with many eyes or a bloody permutation of limbs serves as an analogy for something worse: a corrupt heart manifesting itself, retaliation against the cruelties of the world, or a symbol of powerlessness.
10 Attack on Titan turns humans into Titans themselves
In Attack on Titan, the monstrosity analogy is as clumsy as it is effective. The Titans themselves are often twisted interpretations of the human body, with their muted proportions and strange features.
In a series that is in many ways a condemnation of war and human corruption, it is not surprising that Eren and the other shapeshifters must become what they fear in order to survive. And as the series progresses and it becomes apparent that mundane people are often the most evil of all, the Titans themselves seem less monsters and more tragic reflections of humanity’s mistakes.
9 Parasyte: The Maxim features an alien who invades a teenager’s body until they can’t function without each other
Like in John Carpenter’s The thing, body horror is often used to demonstrate a loss of self. In Parasyte: the maximum, the protagonist, Shinichi, is possessed by an alien who would have happily killed him if things had gone differently. Migi twists and contorts Shinichi’s flesh as he wants, and the loss of control is initially deeply disturbing. But teenagers are often uncomfortable in their bodies even without alien invaders, and humans are nothing if not adaptable. The most unsettling element of Migi’s possession is the way it changes both parties over time until they really couldn’t function without the other.
8 Tokyo Ghoul uses carnivorous ghouls to tackle discrimination
Terror in tokyo it’s blatantly violent, but in the best parts of the show, the violence has a purpose. The show is initially a grand allegory of discrimination, using carnivorous ghouls as a counterpoint to humanity. It is easy to hate a monster seen on the news, but after becoming one of them, it is impossible not to feel empathy.
In the real world, people are usually happy with their lives as long as the trials of others do not affect them. In his best moments Terror in tokyo challenge this notion. Change can be violent, but it is not always bad.
7 Beyond the Boundary shows outsiders finding a sense of belonging to each other
Who says body horror can’t be romantic or set in an everyday school setting? In Kyoani 2012 series Beyond the limit, the first cute encounter involves a character stabbing another in the heart with a sword made from his own blood. Mirai is cursed with blood magic, and Akihito is only half human.
For both characters, their bodies have often felt like a burden, but when they meet they feel a sense of belonging. Many anime deal with themes of the “other”, and there is no high school student who does not feel like an outsider. The eccentric successful combination of light blood and heavy feelings is a tribute to Kyoani.
6 Dororo it all begins with a boy who must recover his limbs
At Tezuka’s Dororo, body horror is an exploration of abuse and redemption. When Hyakkimaru’s father trades his son’s limbs and organs for wealth, Hyakkimaru must rebuild himself from scratch. Disabled and abandoned, his growth as a character is literally reflected in the gradual recovery of his members. The horror here is never the same Hyakkimaru; as anyone born with a disability can attest, the horror is others. The monsters that Hyakkimaru must defeat in order to regain his life are never as horrible as the father who abused him.
5 Fullmetal Alchemist shows the consequences of trying to defy death
We all make mistakes, especially when we are children. But few people repent more than the Elric brothers, who sacrifice varying degrees of their bodies in a failed attempt to raise their mother from the dead. But it’s his humanity and mistakes that make the story so compelling. The Elrics are solely responsible for their bodies changing and there is no one to take revenge against. Instead, Fullmetal Alchemist It’s still a fan favorite because it’s all about growth and validation. When one falls, it rises again.
4 Mushishi explores bacterial spirits known as Mushi and their effects on humans
There are few series as beautiful as Mushishi, but it’s certainly not without its creepy terrors. The protagonist, Ginko, lost an eye to a mushi, or a kind of bacterial spirit, and often other mushi manifest as diseases. It is about a boy who grows horns on his head as a sign of a terminal illness, a green-haired girl who cannot be separated from a swamp, and a boy whose rash shows that he is not human. These are just some of the premises that develop in existential observations about humanity. There’s nothing like Mushishi, proving that horrible changes can be a revelation.
3 Dorohedoro is a world where cursed and twisted bodies are the norm
While in most shows, body horror tends to affect the protagonists or villains, in Dorohedoro such mutations are the norm for everyone. In an alternate world where wizards have twisted people’s bodies in any way, it’s rare to find a character who hasn’t been brutally changed.
And while the lizard-headed protagonist Caiman wants nothing more than to know who cursed him in order to get him out of his original human body, it works well in this setting. The audience has to wonder what’s normal anyway, once it’s been twisted so far from recognition.
2 Sankarea is a zombie love story about a protagonist who falls in love with a deceased girl
Zombie stories are perhaps the most popularly adapted offshoot of the body horror subgenre. But while most zombie plots are all too familiar, with a band of humans who must fight mindless monsters, Sankarea He had something very different and strange to say. The protagonist who is obsessed with zombie movies meets and falls in love with a dead girl who was abused and murdered by her father.
The show draws the line between the sweet and the creepy with unnerving care. Are viewers supposed to be disgusted or rooting for this couple? Years later, the show remains a memorable experience.
one Jujutsu Kaisen introduces a protagonist possessed by a demon spirit
Jujutsu Kaisen he’s not doing anything fans haven’t seen before, but that’s not a bad thing. The protagonist, Yuji, is possessed by a demonic spirit named Sukuna who sometimes takes command and deforms his body. Sukuna is truly monstrous, he jokes about hurting women and children early on, and he’s not the type of character who is likely to become more human. But Jujutsu Kaisen he has achieved a fascinating balance of character between host and spirit. Yuji never loses his sense of himself, even after frequently losing control of himself, proving that he is a tougher madman than many shonen characters. Although Yuji’s body is often stolen, his heart and mind remain his.
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