Not all anime arcs wrap up with a totally happy ending. In series' darkest moments, insurmountable obstacles often appear, and some issues can only be resolved if beloved characters gets hurt. Many anime heroes die trying to solve such problems, and it takes a particularly brave spirit to walk knowingly into mortal peril.
While a lot of heroic anime sacrifices involve a loss of life, some characters survive, but surrender something of equal importance to get the job done. While Madoka Kaname of Puella Magi Madoka Magica gains power after she become a deity, the transformation obliterates her closest relationships, as she loses all ties to the human world.
Whether they occur in action-packed shonen stories or heart-wrenching romances, the best anime character sacrifices feature high stakes. The fate of the world often hangs in the balance, but it can be just as exciting to watch a character give up everything to protect the person they care the most about.
During a battle with the Marines, Portgas D. Ace finds himself in a fight he can't win. Although his fire abilities make him largely resistant to burns, he can't stand up to magma, which flows freely from the wicked Admiral Akainu.
From the first moments of their battle, Ace knows he's outmatched. However, when Akainu turns his attention to Ace's adopted brother Luffy, the pirate sacrifices himself to protect his family.
As Akainu hurdles towards Luffy, Ace steps into the line of fire, and a magma fist goes straight through his torso. He survives just long enough to thank his fellow pirates for loving him. His death marks one of the saddest moments in One Piece.
Out of all the heroic sacrifices in Naruto, Neji Hyuuga's is perhaps the most jarring, as he gives up his life to save his family and friends.
During a battle against the Ten-Tails, Naruto is nearly impaled by a vicious attack. With the show's hero down for the count, Hinata comes to his aid, determined to defend Naruto until the bitter end.
Neji isn't ready to see his cousin perish, so he stands in front of her and takes brunt of the beast's attack. As he dies, he tells Naruto to appreciate Hinata's dedication, and alludes to the time Naruto helped him overcome some problems he'd had with the complicated Hyuuga family.
Neji's death is devastating, as it's legitimately heroic and totally voluntary. Neji could have easily escaped while Ten-Tails had its way with Naruto, but he instead chose to give up his life so his friends might live on.
The entire plot of Code Geass is one long heroic sacrifice on Lelouch Lamperouge's part. His goal is to protect his helpless younger sister Nunnally, and create a world where she can be happy and safe.
Lelouch gives up his comfortable life as a student at Ashford Academy to engage in dangerous terrorist activities. His goal is to take down the Brittainian government and return control of Japan to the Japanese people.
As the fighting intensifies, Lelouch makes a terrible choice. He becomes a tyrant who both nations can hate, in hopes that the two sides will come together to destroy him, then live in harmony. He sacrifices his own happiness, and his life, for the prospect of peace.
While anime heroes regularly sacrifice themselves for the greater good, the same can't be said for villains, who are typically self-motivated or narcissistic. This is doubly true when the antagonist is the living embodiment of avarice, which is exactly why Greed's final moments in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are so impactful.
For most of the series, Greed lives like a parasite inside Ling's body, and uses him to do whatever he wants. The two start off as enemies, but slowly develop a friendship, and shockingly, Greed seems to genuinely care about his human host.
When Father, another homunculus, tries to kill and absorb Greed in order to gain his power, Greed severs his physical connection to Ling so he doesn't get consumed as well. Had he not expended energy saving Ling, he might have been able to fight Father off. Instead, he prioritizes saving his companion's life in a bizarre act of generosity.