Ranking Every Major Shonen Anime By How Sad They Are

Though they might be invigorating and action-packed, shonen anime can be incredibly sad. Whether it's because of a beloved character's tragic demise, a particularly painful backstory, or devasting plot development, there are moments in your favorite shonen anime that will make you cry buckets.

What are the saddest shonen anime? Your mileage may vary - we all have unique emotional landscapes, and what makes one person cry will leave another dry-eyed. But there are shows that contain unbelievably painful moments. One example is Naruto, a series that appears cheerful, but is about child soldiers whose lives are torn apart by war. There's also The Seven Deadly Sins, a show in which the protagonist's goal is to bring his cursed life to a close, and The Ancient Magus' Bride, which is themed around its protagonist's experience with abuse and trauma. There are also a few shonen anime that don't fit what we think of as shonen but technically count, like Your Lie In April, which is known for being a tearjerker. 

Which of these shonen anime hurt your heart the most? 

  • 1
    444 VOTES

    A Silent Voice

    A Silent Voice
    Photo: A Silent Voice / Kyoto Animation

    Though it doesn't contain the action-based plotlines found in most shonen anime, A Silent Voice is technically a shonen because the manga was published in Weekly Shounen Magazine - and oh boy is it emotionally devastating. It follows Shoyo Ishida as he attempts to make amends for bullying his deaf classmate Shouko Nishimiya. The process isn't at all an easy one - in fact, it pushes both characters to the brink of despair. Don't watch this movie unless you're prepared to cry. 

    444 votes
  • Your Lie in April
    Photo: Your Lie in April / A-1 Pictures

    Though not typically thought of as a shonen, Your Lie in April technically is one. It's also one of the anime most likely to bring on the waterworks. It's about a middle school boy named Kousei Arima who lost his passion for music after his abusive mother passed away, then regained it when he met a fellow musician named Kaori Miyazono. But Kaori is facing a potentially lethal illness, which could cut her own budding musical career - and her relationship with Kousei - short.

    521 votes
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
    Photo: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood / Bones

    FMA is about two brothers who lose all or part of their bodies trying to bring their mother back to life via alchemy. The opening is sad enough, but once you start to see other sad things like their teacher Izumi Curtis's stillborn baby, the Ishvalan genocide, Shou Tucker's treatment of dogs and children, and Maes Hughes demise, it's going to be hard to avoid crying.

    677 votes
  • 4
    586 VOTES
    Attack On Titan
    Photo: Attack on Titan / Wit Studio

    Attack on Titan takes a world in which gigantic beasts called Titans who devour humans have forced everyone to live inside a wall for safety. When they manage to break through the wall, it's a blood bath - one which leaves the protagonist motherless. Things get worse from there as Titan attacks get more brutal, and the painful secrets behind what's causing them are revealed. 

    586 votes
  • 5
    688 VOTES
    Photo: Naruto / Studio Pierrot

    Naruto features a protagonist who lost his parents due to an incredibly violent event, had a monster sealed inside of his body, and then was isolated by his community for it. The other protagonist's entire family was viciously annihilated because his thirteen-year-old brother was forced to by the government. Just about every character is a child soldier, and some are so broken by constant warfare that they think the only solution is wiping out civilization. Tons of beloved characters pass away. That's not even a small percentage of it - we could write a whole book about how sad Naruto gets. 

    688 votes
  • Assassination Classroom
    Photo: Assassination Classroom / Lerche

    If you haven't seen Assassination Classroom or heard about its reputation, you probably don't think it's sad. It's about a giant tentacle monster training kids to be assassins, that's just ridiculous, not sad. But once Koro-sensei's backstory is actually revealed, and you experience his last moments with the children who have come to love him, you'll see what we mean.

    479 votes