A few dark cartoons for those who are interested
So if you have ever been in one of my livestreams, chances are you know about my love for dark cartoons from my childhood. I need to distract myself a bit from work right now and decided to make a short list of a few of the cartoon shows and movies that stuck with me for one reason or another, some of them from my childhood, some of them from not so far back. I’ll give a very basic non-spoilery summary and, in a separate part, an example that is probably spoilery.
My only „rule“ is that they’re not rated for mature audiences. These are just some creepy, strange or downright disturbing animated series and films that I like and that you may wanna check out if you’re interested. Remember, these aren’t the worst things out there, far from it! But it’s the sometimes subtle horror of children’s cartoons that is a special brand of dark. I am not putting any links here. This is also a lot from my memory, so I apologize should I get something wrong.
The Animals of Farthing Wood (1993)
Summary: Based on a book series, this is a show about a bunch of animals who need to find a new home after their forest is destroyed by mankind. They make a pact to not kill each other and instead help each other out until they reach their goal, but their journey is long and full of danger, with several animals dying horrible deaths along the way. They don’t shy away from showing blood either. I also remember it having one of the worst romantic relationships I’ve ever seen. The show has 39 episodes and was broadcasted on channels for children.
This was kind of like a kid’s version of Game of Thrones, as in: I watched this show. Most of my friends watched this show. And we’d always discuss the latest deaths and hope our favorites didn’t die.
Examples: There’s a kind of infamous scene where a red-backed shrike kills all the baby mice and impales them on a thorn bush. Yes, you see the baby corpses with blood and everything. The show is also unintentionally hilarious at some points because sometimes, none of the characters give a shit about somebody’s death and they just move on and never mention it again immediately.
The Yearling (Kojika Monogatari) (1983)
Summary: This one fucked me up as a kid, as in: this one stuck with me so intensely that I still remember the entire scene frame by frame after more than 15 years. It taught me that life isn’t fucking fair at the age of 6 or something.
This is another one based on a book (most of these are), it’s the story of a farmer boy who one day finds a fawn in the woods and keeps it as his pet. The whole show is kinda boring now that I think of it, it’s the boy growing up with his best friend and pet and he has his ups and downs. Until the last few episodes happen.
Examples: I am including this because of the last I think three episodes. in short: character death and emotional trauma. This show has about 50 episodes, so you’re with these characters for a rather long time. I am just going to spoil the ending, so if you want to go blindly into this, please stop reading this now: Near the end, the protagonist’s best friends becomes sick, but it looks like he’ll be okay. Until the boy one day wants to visit him and finds the whole family grieving; the friend is dead. We experience the very sad funeral and hope that please, let the last two episodes bring us some hope. But no, the now grown-up deer eats all the crops and the boy, after failing to chase his now only friend in the world away, has to shoot him in the head. And that’s the end. It literally ends with a boy losing the last friend he has by killing him and then having to take over the farm at age 14 or something. That’s the ending.
Fun fact: You know what the German title of this show translates to? „All my friends“ . What a happy title to this tragedy.
Summary: This one wasn’t aimed at children, but i’s rated 12 and up, so it counts.
Felidae is a murder mystery with cats. The main character, Francis, moves to a new home with his owner and immediately finds a dead cat in the courtyard. He starts to investigate and soon finds out that there is a serial killer on the loose. Really, it’s a detective story with cats.
Examples: Gore. So much gore. This is one of the most violent cartoons I’ve ever seen, even if I included animated movies with an R rating. I have no idea how this was rated 12. There’s beheading, disemboweling, explicit animal experiments, torture, a gutted pregnant cat, all in full plain view. It wasn’t made by a major studio, but the animation is pretty decent. Nothing spectacular, but decent. Also, the gore seems to have the best animation. Oh also, on a non-disturbing level, there’s a cat sex scene with saxophone music.
I personally really like this one. It has it’s hiccups, but it’s interesting and I love murder mysteries. I thankfully didn’t watch and read this as a little kid.
Mountain Villa Murder (from Detective Conan) (1996)
Summary: More murder mystery! This is from Detective Conan (aka Case Closed), an anime series about a brilliant young detective named Conan who is turned into a little boy because of a strange poison. While he tries to find a way to become an adult again, he lives with his crush and her father, who both don’t know who he really is. The father is a detective as well (though a bad one) and Conan stays at his side, secretly solving all the mysteries for him. I watched this all the time in elementary school and I still find enjoyment in it today.
Examples: Mountain Villa Murder Parts 1 + 2. There are a lot of brutal episodes, most of the cases were murders after all, but I think Mountain Villa Murder (episodes 34 and 35) are a great example to show how elaborate and gruesome the killings would get sometimes. I don’t want to spoil anything about these episodes.
Watching the entire show is sadly kinda exhausting because A) at some point you just know this is never gonna end and B), there are certain patterns to most cases and once you figure these out, which sadly happens quite quickly, you can usually guess who the culprit is even before the murder happens. But it’s still entertaining as hell, at least to me.
Pingu’s dream and Pingu in the Ice Cave (1990)
Summary: My country seems to have produced exactly two pop-culture relevant things: Oh Yeah by Yello and Pingu. The latter is a cute stop-motion show about a little penguin named Pingu who basically behaves like a little boy. It’s about him doing pranks and getting shit for it, there’s a lot of hugging in it which is really cute and also sometimes, stuff goes wrong. Usually, it’s harmless though. Usually.
Example: There are two episodes that scared me on two different levels. If you have 5 minutes, I urge you to watch „Pingu’s dream“, an infamous little episode of that show, where he has a nightmare that completely derails from kinda funny to utter horror when he encounters a giant walrus, straight up from the Uncanny Valley, tormenting him. It’s kinda funny, but the walrus looks and sounds way too creepy.
The other one is „Pingu in the ice cave“. I don’t know if this is just me to be honest, but this is one of the first and only times I felt actual fear during a movie. Pingu and his friend get stuck in a big ice cave and try to find their way out. That’s it, but it’s unsettling. They’re all alone, nobody knows they’re in there, there’s a scene where the friend just sits down and cries in despair. It’s just such a horrifying scenario that it still fills me with dread to watch it. The friend crying in fear of his life is too much. It’s just 5 minutes, but it’s really kinda unsettling to watch. Nothing too bad I suppose, but still… it’s kinda like The Descent with penguins.
I also wanna mention Watership Down (1972) and Plague Dogs (1982), which most people know about already though.
These are the first few that came to mind, there’s tons more, of course, but for now, that should be enough. If anyone is interested, I can do another one of these some day. Thank you for reading!