While a lot of anime stays pretty lighthearted, most viewers know that it isn't always fun and games. There are many depressing anime series and films deal with strong subjects like death, failed romance, illness, and catastrophic tragedies of all sorts. This list looks at some of the saddest anime out there and the moments that will definitely leave you in tears - that means there's spoilers about major plot points below.
While becoming immersed in a show or movie, you develop deep attachments to the characters in the story, which makes you all the more empathetic to their dejected feelings and unfortunate life paths. Sometimes the things that happen to them are so relatable that they pluck your heart strings in all the most sensitive places. Anime like Clannad, Your Lie in April, Grave of the Fireflies, and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 are all great examples of anime so sad you'll cry. So get your tissues and get ready to cry like a baby.
Your Lie in April, also known as Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (April is Your Lie), tells the sad story of piano prodigy Kousei Arima. His mother, who is also his abusive piano instructor, dies when Kousei is still very young. Thanks to the emotional trauma his mother put him through, Kousei can no longer hear himself play the piano. While trying to move on with his life, he falls in love with an erratic and talented violinist, Kaori, who inspires him to take the stage again. However, Kaori has a life-threatening illness, and her time left on earth is limited. Her illness breaks down Kousei's spirits once more as he watches his new love inch closer to death.
In the final, climactic episode, there's a short scene of Kousei and Kaori performing in the clouds, which is not only a nice bit of foreshadowing to Kaori's death, but an emotional reflection of the much-needed light that Kaori brought to Kousei's life.
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Angel Beats! is set at a high school that's also a place of limbo for the dead. Here, the students learn how to give up their attachments to the physical world before moving into the afterlife. As the story progresses and begins to tie together the connections that the characters have to each other, moments of heartbreak and sadness unfold and the characters move on into the next realm. The graduation scene is exceptionally sad. As the characters make their peace and say their final goodbyes to each other, their last words before moving into the afterlife will make even the most stoic viewers cry.
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The entire Clannad series is one long tear fest. The story revolves around Tomoya, a high school student whose mother died and whose father has turned to alcohol and gambling in the wake of that tragedy. In the middle of one of their frequent arguments, his father slams him into a window and injures him, keeping him away from his passion, basketball. Tomoya distances himself from others and begins a life of delinquency.
This series, especially Clannad After Story (a very sad anime series), deals heavily with the imminence of mortality. As Tomoya continues through school life, he befriends a girl named Nagisa, who suffers from an illness resembling AIDS that's made her weak for her entire life. Nagisa feels incredible guilt over the death of her mother during child birth - and it doesn't get any better from there. Tomoya and Nagisa eventually fall in love and have a child who inherits Nagisa's rare disease and dies. Overall, though, Clannad tells a beautiful story of what it means to live through tragedy. Someone please pass the tissues.
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Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day is not a happy anime. It tells the story of loss and regret over the death of a young, childhood friend. A group of friends drifts apart after a tragic accident kills their friend Menma, and nobody quite knows how to cope with the sudden loss. She comes back to haunt her best friend, Jinta Yadomi, because she needs to make a wish but can't remember what it is. Jinta gathers the old group of friends to resolve the problem and viewers see the effects of how Jinta's death has altered all of their lives in different ways. Nobody quite knows how to deal with the loss of their friend, and many of them blame themselves for her death.
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While Wolf Children has a supernatural theme to it, the emotional rollercoaster it puts viewers through is a depressing one. A college student falls in love with a man, who is actually a werewolf, and they start a family together, complete with two cute, half-wolf children. Shortly after, the wolf dies tragically. The mother, Hana, must raise the children on her own, as they face the prejudice of being wolf-kids desperately trying to fit into their society. The overall story of her lonely, but beautiful, life tugs at all the heartstrings.
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Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese film, animated by the singular Studio Ghibli, and set during the final stretch of World War II. Although Studio Ghibli is well known for animating the whimsical films of Hayao Miyazaki, Grave of the Fireflies does not share that tone. The film focuses on two siblings who struggle to survive through the heavy impact of war, including the harsh realities of starvation and mortality. The young protagonist, Seita, frantically strives to take care of his little sister, Setsuko and works to prevent her from suffering a horrible, war-torn fate... to no avail.
Roger Ebert has called it one of the "greatest war films ever made."
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Steins;Gate deals with time travel and alternate time lines. The main character, a self-proclaimed mad scientist named Okabe, finds himself in an endless struggle of trying to save the lives of his friends and lovers. Watching Okabe leap through time just to experience the death of Mayuri over and over again, and his failed attempts at preserving her life, will leave viewers with a sinking feeling of dread.
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Tsukasa lives in a society that has created androids that look, talk, and have all the same emotions as humans. You can't tell the difference. They also have a significantly shorter lifespan. In Plastic Memories, Tsukasa is inevitably forced to put his girlfriend, an android, to sleep before her lifespan ends and she dangerously loses control of her abilities. Her departing day, and their last moments spent together alone on a Ferris Wheel are gut-wrenchingly depressing.
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