- 1+ 49- 2
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.
- 2+ 36- 3
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.
- 3+ 34- 3
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.
- 4+ 18- 2
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.
- 5+ 28- 7
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."
- 6+ 16- 2
Just in the first episode, viewers see Lucy escape from an experimental medical facility, kill guards, then get shot in the head, so you know things are going to get pretty messed up in Elfen Lied. The anime deals with a variety of emotional topics like death, molestation, bullying, abandonment, and heartbreak. Nobody in this series gets out without a pretty heavy dose of trauma.
- 7+ 21- 7
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.
- 8+ 15- 2
Air presents the story of a traveling puppeteer, Yukito Kunisaki, and a young woman, Misuzu Kamio, who befriends him. After their fateful meeting, the two begin to grow closer, and at the same time, Misuzo's childhood illness begins to reappear. As Misuzo's illness grows more severe and her attachment to Yukito becomes stronger, the two realize they share a fate that will prevent them from ever being together. Yukito and Misuzo's love never breaks and the series ends in heartbreak with a scene where Misuzu dies in his arms. In a final, sorrowful promise, he swears he will find her again one day, wherever she may be, and break the curse.
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