Anime has its fair share of heart-wrenching series that leave people in pieces by the final episode, but the depressing anime here is more than just anime that makes you cry. These bleak anime series and films sit with you long after they are over, challenging your views and inviting existential questions that are guaranteed to linger.
Anime in this vein grapples with complex philosophies of humanity, survival, and judgment. It can also examine issues closer to home for people, like depression and social anxiety. It's the job of anime like this to present hard, difficult truths, and it can leave you with lasting pangs of sorrow at the very mention of a character's name.
The lessons and themes expressed in these stories may not be sparkly and hopeful, and the endings may be more bitter than sweet, but they remain grounded stories featuring the hardships and struggles many fans face on a daily basis. While they aren’t afraid to point out the negative, they do so with spectacular writing, outstanding animation, and extraordinary characters. They may leave you bummed out, but you won’t be disappointed.
Grave of the Fireflies follows two siblings struggling for survival in Japan during World War II. It is utterly depressing in its brutally honest portrayal of starvation, the selfish nature of humans, and the stubbornness of pride. The producer pulls no punches when it comes to showing the suffering of societal individuals in war.
#57 on The Best Movies of 1988
Anohana is about a group of kids who suffered the tragic loss of one of their friends in the sixth grade. Years later, they've drifted apart and one of them, a boy named Jinta, has become a complete recluse. He suddenly finds himself face-to-face with the ghost of the girl who died, and when he tells his old friends, they don't believe him.
The short 11-episode series follows the teenagers as they explore the bleaker aspects of grief, tragedy, and maturity. It confronts the concept of death unabashedly, challenging viewers to think about how brief life really is.
#86 on The Best Supernatural Anime
In the world of Plastic Memories, mankind lives with human-like androids called Giftia. The most advanced models are similar in appearance to humans, with personalities, emotions, and opinions. However, Giftia have a lifespan of about nine years before they degrade and sometimes, even become extremely violent. Plastic Memories follows Tsukasa, a guy who works with Terminal Services and collects Giftia that are nearing the end of their lifespan.
The show is heartbreaking in that Giftia are very much portrayed in a human fashion. People form emotional attachments to them and struggle with parting ways. It's depressing to not only watch humans grapple with losing a loved one, but also to watch the Giftia resign to their fate.
Terror in Resonance, brought to life by the acclaimed director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), follows a cast of haunted and socially distant characters, all of whom need a hug because they obviously haven't had enough of them. From Nine and Twelve's desperate mission to Lisa's frustration at her own helplessness, their story is one of struggle and anger.
The show boasts stellar animation and emotionally charged scenes, and the whole thing is underpinned with an intense score by brilliant composer Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Kids on the Slope).