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.
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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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.
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."