WARNING: The following contains spoilers for I Want to Hold Aono-Kun So Badly I Could Die by Umi Shiina, available in English from Kodansha, and Mieruko-chan by Tomoki Izumo, available in English from Yen Press, as well as discussion of self-harm, suicide, and animal abuse.
Japanese ghosts are notorious for being some of the scariest in horror media. Mieruko-chan and I Want to Hold Aono-Kun So Badly I Could Die are two anime/manga series attempting to blend horror with other genres, using the ghosts within the stories to explore themes that Japanese horror usually doesn't delve into. Despite their comedic and romantic aspects, they do offer some chills and thrills. Let's look at both series and see which one has the scarier spirits.
Mieruko-chan centers on high schooler Miko Yotsuya, who one day inexplicably begins seeing ghosts around her city. The designs of these ghosts are grotesque and horrifying. However, they are relatively harmless for the most part. It's hinted in Chapter 28 of the manga that the way a person views ghosts affects how they manifest for each person. If someone is terrified of ghosts, they are more likely to look terrifying. If a person views them as something akin to "lost souls" they may look more human. Either this, or it could be Miko is so strong she's able to see their true forms. Even the gods of this world appear as horrifying monstrosities.
While not all of the ghosts are evil, they are still scary to see and can pose a threat even to those who can't see them. In Japanese legends, it's said that if a spirit knows you can see it, it's more likely to be able to physically harm you. That's why Miko tries so hard to not let them know she can see them. Her best friend Hana is a constant target for these spirits, even though she doesn't have the sight. They feed off her life aura, and as a result she's constantly hungry. This is brought up when their substitute teacher has a powerful spirit attached to him that begins feeding off of Hana's energy.
However, Mieruko-chan does a good job of also emphasizing that humans are just as dangerous as the ghosts, if not more so. Throughout the story, there is a sub-plot about cats going missing. It turns out there's a person going around killing them. At first the substitute teacher is suspected, but that turns out to be false. Instead, it's implied that he kills the cat-killer. There's also the story of his cruel mother, who also killed a cat he brought home as a child. These stories are arguably more horrifying than the spirits.
I Want to Hold Aono-Kun So Badly I Could Die
Aono-Kun sets up its story as that of a romance between a girl and a ghost. Yuri Kariya begins dating Ryuhei Aono, her first boyfriend. She's immediately smitten with him upon their first meeting, and even goes so far as to say she loves him. However, only two weeks after they begin their romance, Aono is killed in a traffic accident. Heartbroken, Yuri even goes so far as to say she wants to die and tries to commit suicide. However, Aono's ghost stops her and begins staying by her side.
While the ghosts that appear in Aono-Kun are more human in their appearance, there's an underlying tension throughout the lighthearted moments. Aono seemingly has some sort of alter-ego that has more malicious intentions for Yuri. The horror also comes from how words can have a lasting impact, whether intentional or not. Yuri, in an attempt to get closer with Aono, encourages him to try and possess her. This is what initially triggers Dark Aono to come out. She unwittingly created a contract with him by inviting him into her body, even if the intentions were "pure" for lack of a better term. As the story progresses, Dark Aono's possessions begin affecting Yuri's body negatively and we see other spirits begin harming people -- regardless if they can see them or not.
Does Mieruko-chan or Aono-kun Have Scarier Ghosts?
So which series has the scariest ghosts? Frankly, it depends on what you define as "scary." If it's the outright grotesque and macabre, then Mieruko-chan may be more frightening. But if psychological and atmospheric horror are more your jam, then Aono-Kun's ghosts may spook you more.
For more information on the warning signs and prevention of suicide, click here. If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you live outside the U.S., click here for a list of international hotlines.