Western audiences started getting their fill of Japanese anime in the mid-90s as more titles were released stateside. It was a major culture shock for many fans of animated films, thanks in part to their propensity for violence and adult content. This is part of what drove the popularity of anime in the West, and kicked the doors open for an entire subculture of pop entertainment.
The anime films of the 1980s weren’t interested in coddling the censors. They went straight for the jugular with extreme amounts of violence and shocking gore, making them unsuitable for children. Young teenagers, however, were enthralled, and couldn’t get enough. With bloodshed on that particular scale, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Black Magic M-66 (1987)
At the time, Black Magic M-66 introduced violence that wasn’t typical of anime films that came before. The product of Masamune Shirow, the creator of Ghost In The Shell, this film centered on two military androids who spin out of control, and must be put down before they can kill their creator’s granddaughter.
The violence in the film consists mainly of the androids beating up various soldiers trying to take them down. Most of it is the red mist variety, but there are a few scenes of blood and gore that helped make it notorious enough for the Western anime fan scene to take notice.
Wicked City (1987)
This interesting anime focused on a 20th century reality where demons lived side-by-side with humans in our world, necessitating the need for a supernatural security force known as the Black Guard. It wouldn’t be complete with some bloodshed to go along with it.
The violence in question is centered mostly on the demons themselves, with less human gore. It also contains one of the most brutal slow-mo punches in all of anime, ending with the fist going straight through the opponent’s face, causing his eyeballs to fly out of his skull in gory detail.
Golgo 13: The Professional (1983)
Golgo 13 has taken on more than a few forms throughout the years, including a fantastic detective-style animated TV series in 2008. The 1980s film; however, is quite a different affair. It’s much faster paced, and its level of violence is quite a step up.
The bloodletting is what anyone would expect from a series focusing on a high paid international assassin. There’s plenty of gunfire, knife fights, and other combat scenarios that help serve up a double dose of bloodshed, which is all in line with Golgo 13’s extremely violent career choice.
Though not the most violent anime film of the 1980s, there was enough bloodshed to warrant it getting a nod. Akira is more about psychological horror, as opposed to physical. However, the character of Tetsuo manages to cause enough carnage to get people caught in the crossfire, often with horrible results.
One scene involves Tetsuo using his unstable psychic powers to implode the surrounding area, reducing those within it to body parts and blood sticking to the ceiling. Another scene shows his body mutating into a large creature which inadvertently crushes his female friend Kaori.
Guyver: Out Of Control (1987)
The Guyver series has always been an acclaimed favorite in Japan, but it’s still relatively unknown over here. Its notoriety was secured thanks to films like Out of Control, an extremely violent short anime film that serves as a great introduction to the character.
There’s a ton of bloodshed in the film, with lots of severed limbs, fountains of blood, and flying entrails. It would prove influential enough to greenlight the popular Guyver: The Bio Boosted Armor series, which ran from 1989 to 1992.
Vampire Hunter D (1985)
One of the darkest anime films ever made, the original Vampire Hunter D capitalized fully on the adult-oriented horror genre, and it showed. Most of the blood and gore is inflicted on the various monsters and demons in the film, but the innocent get it, as well.
The follow-up sequel Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust wouldn’t tap into even a third of the bloodshed of the original, even if it was more stylish. No, the original is still the king, thanks in large part to its horror imagery, and its refusal to shy away from characters being torn to shreds.
Devilman: The Birth (1987)
The story of Devilman is directly connected to Violence Jack, another ultra-violent anime series set in the same reality. The Birth tells the story of Akira Fudo a kindhearted teenager who is destined to become the fearsome Devilman, a satanic being whom he is able to control, and wield for good.
The Devilman series was always a gory one, but this anime film was the one that really solidified it. The scene where the titular anti-hero finally emerges at an underground club is one of the highlights of the film, where he slays a variety of demons in various gruesome and shocking ways.
Fist Of The North Star (1986)
Based on the original manga comics and anime series of the same name, this ultra-violent 1980s film unleashed the bloodshed and gore to insane levels, making it one of the most notorious films of the decade. It loosely follows the story of Kenshiro, the fabled Fist of the North Star, who battles evildoers in a post-apocalyptic futurescape.
Kenshiro’s fabled martial arts training give him the ability to inflict deathblows on his opponents, causing them to rupture from the inside out. If that weren’t enough, the movie was littered with plenty of scenes of dismemberment and gore to make Clive Barker blush.
Violence Jack: Evil Town (1988)
Without a doubt the most violent of the 1980s anime movies, Violence Jack was either banned, or heavily censored in many countries due to the subject matter. The character of Jack is one of the most brutal anti-heroes in anime, and he never hesitates to rip his foes limb from limb in all manner of grotesque ways.
Violence Jack also didn’t shy away from sexual content, including rape, making it one film that should never, ever be played in front of children. Its follow-up sequel Violence Jack: Hell’s Wind was just as notorious, particularly for an opening scene showing a man dismembered and murdered with a chainsaw, while his girlfriend is forced to watch.