When it comes to supernatural and fantasy media, demon anime shows and movies have a certain appeal that you just can’t get with other non-human beings. Most of the time, it’s because the intimidating cultural reputation of demons is a great shorthand for “big bad is really OP,” making us root for our protagonist even more.
But that’s just one way to make a demon anime, other versions of this concept will have the demon be an anti-hero whose moral alignment is always in question, keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Some shows and movies go the extra mile by exploring themes of community and even discrimination through a demon protagonist. Most of the time, you see this in a half-demon, half-human protagonist or a protagonist demon who’s in love with a human. Huh, I basically described InuYasha, didn’t I?
While the o.g isekai anime never gets old, it’s time we shine the light on some newer demon anime shows and give some airtime for the ones that didn’t get the hype they deserved. Expect to not see InuYasha or that one 90s anime whose protagonist turns out to be a demon, because that would be a massive spoiler if it were added here.
1. Demon Slayer
You already saw this one coming so let’s get it out of the way first. With a name like Demon Slayer, it’s obvious that you’re going to see more than one demon on this show. Though the shounen protagonist fighting supernatural evils has been done to hell and back, no pun intended, this demon anime keeps things fresh by also making one of the main cast members a demon.
Instead of having a cool and collected male demon or seductive femme fatale demoness on their side, the main demon protagonist of this show is actually the main character’s sister. This key difference means that Demon Slayer‘s demon protagonist angle doesn’t play out the same way as established tropes. Instead, it feels more like watching Tanjiro be a worried big brother who’s doing his damndest to cure his sister of an illness that threatens to strip her of her humanity.
Demon Slayer, in a nutshell, is an action historical fantasy that’s set in early 20th century Japan. Though Japan is changing, the threats that lurk in its shadowy forests and dark alleyways remain the same as they were centuries ago. One of them finds the Kamados, a poor family living in the Japanese countryside.
When Tanjiro leaves home to sell charcoal to provide for his mother and siblings, he comes home to a completely trashed hut and the corpses of his family. He quickly realizes that his sister Nezuko is still alive and doesn’t seem to be turning into a full-fledged demon yet.
Naturally, he protects her from Giyū, a demon slayer, who then takes pity on the siblings and recruits Tanjiro into the Demon Slayer Corps. Together with Nezuko, Tanjiro starts battling demons in a quest to avenge his family and cure his sister.
2. Black Butler
This demon anime may have been released in 2014, but it still remains one of the best of the best, especially if you’re trying to get someone into anime or if you don’t typically watch historical animes.
Black Butler follows the life of Earl Ciel Phantomhive as he tries to pretend to be a normal, or as close to normal as he can be, teenager. Just to be clear, in case the photo had you thinking that way, Ciel isn’t the demon here.
It’s actually his butler, Sebastian Michaelis, who’s the demon. The sigil in Ciel’s eye is actually a seal symbolizing their contract. Sebastian has a matching one on the back of his left hand which he keeps covered with the gloves that are part of his butler uniform.
But how does a boy meet a demon? Well, after the assassination of his parents, Ciel was kidnapped by cultists who planned to use him as a human sacrifice. After weeks of abuse and inevitable death, he’s desperate to survive by any means necessary.
Ciel accidentally calls upon Sebastian after crying out that he needed help, regardless of who it came from and what price he had to pay. Since then, the master and butler pair have been solving mysteries throughout Victorian England together.
If that’s too shounen for you, don’t worry. Black Butler knows how to serve the fujoshis some content. The anime is adapted from a manga of the same name written by Yana Toboso whose portfolio is equal parts shounen and equal parts shotacon. Expect to see some, ahem, suspiciously non-heterosexual moments between Sebastian and Ciel.
3. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Care for a demon anime with a plot that’s completely out of the box?
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, sometimes called Archenemy and Hero, is a demon and human romance set in a fantasy medieval world. While it definitely has Romeo + Juliet vibes, the show turns the demon-human romance concept on its head by having the female character be the demon lord and the male character be the hero.
Now, you’re probably thinking that the male hero gets her to abandon her demonly ways, but it’s actually the other way around. The female demon gets the male hero to help her perpetuate the war between humans and demons.
Our male protagonist, creatively called Hero, is your typical powerful isekai fantasy lead without the isekai part. Hero has a strong sense of justice that’s also unfortunately a little too black and white. All he knows is that war bad, peace good so he strives to end the war by fighting the Demon King who is actually a Demon Queen.
The highly intelligent Demon Queen has progressive ideas for the world that demons and humans share. Her goal is to find a way to stop the war and continue the technological advancement that has come with it without disrupting the unity that human nations developed thanks to the war effort. After convincing Hero with peer-reviewed scrolls and statistics, Hero agrees to help her.
Even better, the show doesn’t fall into the usual trope of having the female characters fight over the leading man. Though Demon King and Female Knight are romantic rivals, the two are actually on good terms and have great respect for each other, eventually growing close enough as friends that Female Knight moves into Demon King’s palace to teach swordsmanship.
4. Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan
Now, if you’re looking for an InuYasha experience that isn’t InuYasha, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan might fit the bill for you.
Just like InuYasha, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan features a part-demon, part-human protagonist. The events of the story actually begin 400 years before our protagonist Rikuo Nura is even born because it’s not him who’s a half-demon, it’s actually his father.
400 years ago, his grandfather, the infamous Nurarihyon, met Yohime, the daughter of a noble clan. The romance of the Past Arc has some very folkloric elements as Yohime is hailed as the #1 beauty of Kyoto and is shown to have magical healing powers along with a heart of gold.
Her kindness and beauty attract Nurarihyon to her, leading the demon lord to offer to show her the real world. He eventually spirits her away from her corrupt noble family and she becomes part of the Nura Clan, the biggest yokai family in the eastern regions of Japan.
Centuries later, following the death of Nurarihyon’s son, the Nura Clan begins to decline in power and influence, leaving the clan with no choice but to start training Rikuo Nura to become the next demon lord of the clan.
But Rikuo has other plans. Because he’s only three-quarters human, he initially isn’t interested in taking over his father’s position and keeps doing good deeds to avoid embracing his yokai heritage.
If you were watching Animax sometime in the late 2000s to early 2010s, you might remember seeing this demon anime in passing. Claymore is easily one of the least popular series on this list and you rarely hear about it in most anime listicles or be suggested to people looking for an anime show to watch.
That said, the lack of popularity has nothing to do with the actual quality of the show and likely has to do more with its less traditional art style that doesn’t immediately communicate that it’s an anime as Claymore kind of gives the impression that it’s a Western animation.
Claymore is a criminally underrated anime series that follows a human and Yoma hybrid named Claire. Yoma are shapeshifting demons that threaten to destroy the world and it’s the Organization’s job to keep them at bay by training Claymores. Everything you read from here is going to sound like a cross between Attack on Titan and The Witcher.
“Claymore” is what the demon slayers of this setting are called. It’s a name given to them by regular humans as a reference to the massive swords they use to slaughter the Yoma. The humans also call them “silver-eyed witches,” alluding to their less than human attributes because it’s not the swords that are the real weapons, it’s the biological mutations that the Claymores are given.
The Organization typically takes human orphans and will sometimes purchase them from their parents so that they can be taught martial arts and trained as warriors. These children are then grafted with Yoma flesh and blood to grant them superhuman strength and speed to aid them in battle.
You never get overpowered Yoma hybrids in this series though, unlike in AoT, because the Claymores need to rely on their training and intelligence to get a leg up on the much stronger Yoma. All in all, it’s a wonderfully done series that’s perfect for veteran demon anime fans who are tired of the stereotypical shounen protagonist.
6. Wicked City
Not all great demon anime shows are a series, some of them are movies that flew completely after the radar and remain largely unacknowledged by the anime community.
Wicked City is a film noir anime movie set in an alternate world, specifically an 80s city, where most humans live with no idea of the threats that lie in the Black World, a demon dimension that’s connected to the human world.
A tenuous peace treaty protects the fragile harmony between the human and demon worlds. To support the terms of the treaty, both races field secret agents that are collectively known as the Black Guard.
In anticipation of the renewal of the peace treaty, the Black Guard sends two of its agents to protect a diplomat named Giuseppe Mayart who has been sent to represent the demons. But with anti-peace radicals on the loose, the two partners have their work cut out for them.
This demon anime movie takes some admittedly strange turns. For reference, it’s about as bizarre and R-rated as Akira so you might not want to watch this one in public.
7. Legend of the Millenium Dragon
Last but not least, we have Legend of the Millenium Dragon, an isekai demon anime movie featuring a shounen protagonist who gets sent back in time to put a stop to the war between demons and humans.
Though the movie seems like it won’t be much different from your typical shounen series, watching it kind of feels like watching a Studio Ghibli film, as Legend of the Millenium Dragon uses several Japanese folklore themes and characters.
For one, it’s set in the Heian period meaning that Jun Tendo, our protagonist, ends up 1,200 years in the past. As if life without wifi wasn’t bad enough, he has to find the legendary Yamata no Orochi, an eight-headed and eight-tailed dragon from Japanese folklore, and convince him to help in the peace effort.
And that’s it for this demon anime round-up. If you want to read more about demons, check out A Little Bit Demonic: The Lesser Key of Solomon and Its 72 Demons.