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20 Anime Heroes Who Had Brutally Sad Childhoods

Updated December 7, 2020 26.6k votes 4.9k voters 97.5k views20 items

Tough childhoods are a staple in the world of anime. In fact, this trope is so common that hard to find a series without a single character it applies to. In some series with larger casts, it applies to almost everyone. 

No subject is too horrific for a tragic backstory. You'll find anime characters who suffer from homelessness, abuse, starvation, slavery, war, disease, human experimentation, and just about every other conceivable problem that could befall a person. In many cases, an individual character will have to deal with multiple tragedies at once. Sometimes it impacts them realistically, changing their personalities and their outlooks on life - but in other cases it's hard to see what the impact was. Among these anime characters with sad childhoods are popular characters like Raphtalia from The Rising of the Shield Hero and Kakashi from Naruto, as well as lesser-known characters like Yoshio Kobayashi from Trickster.

Which characters' backstories caused you the most grief? 

  • 5

    Ray - 'The Promised Neverland'

    Though technically still a kid, Ray's life has been a nightmare from Day One. Unlike the rest of the kids at Gracefield House, Ray grew up knowing that Isabella was secretly feeding kids to demons. While he was secretly plotting his own escape, he had to endure watching countless other children be sent off to their doom. He wasn't confident that he could get out, either - in fact, there were times when he became so distressed about it that he wished for his own demise.

    The worst part of all? The fact that Isabella is his actual, biological mother. So not only does Ray have to grow up with the most painful knowledge imaginable, he has to accept that it comes from the woman who gave him life.

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  • Photo: Madhouse

    As a member of the Zoldyck family, you're pretty much garuanteed a bad childhood. Killua was raised to be a ruthless mercinary, and his parents methods for training him were vicious indeed. Starting at the age of three, he was put into life threatening situations over and over again in order to force him to train. Various forms of torture were par for the course. At age six, he was forced to enter a martial arts tournament at Heavens Arena, and wasn't allowed to come home until he reached the 200th floor - a process that took over two years. That's just the short version - there are plenty of other painful incidents in young Killua's life.

    At 11, he got tired of this brutal lifestyle, and had to physically assault his family in order to leave. By this point, he's taken out more people than most adults do in a life time. 

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  • 7

    Eri - 'My Hero Academia'

    Eri's childhood isn't over yet, but so far it's definitely been abysmal enough to qualify her for this list. As a toddler, Eri accidentally used her quirk on her father. Her quirk, Rewind, allows her to turn any living thing or object backwards in time. While this can be helpful for things like healing injuries, it can also rewind somebody so far backwards that they cease to exist. 

    But Eri's trials don't end there - her quirk is also useful for Kai Chisaki, aka Overhaul. Chisaki subjects her to brutal human experimentation, taking vast quantities of her blood in order to use it for create quirk destroying drugs. As a result, she's still visibly traumatized. 

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  • Photo: GEMBA

    Guts's life is one of the most insanely horrifying ones in the world of anime. While many of his most traumatic moments take place during his adulthood, his childhood certainly didn't make those any easier to deal with. As a newborn, he was found underneath the remains of his hanged mother. After that, he's found by a mercinary named Gambino who ends up adopting him, only to blame him for everything that goes wrong in his life due to Guts's birth being a bad omen. 

    What does Gambino do because he thinks Guts is ruining his life through bad karma? Beat him black and blue, expect him to feed himself at age six, use him as a mercenary tool, and rent him out to child predators willing to pay big bucks for time alone with him, and flat out trying to eliminate him. This might account for some of Guts's difficulties with intimacy in later life - although his friendship with Griffith might also have something to do with it. 

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