In recent years, anime has grown in popularity as a storytelling medium. Tragedy and misfortune is a popular niche in anime that frequently examines human nature’s darker and more emotional sides. Tragic anime movies and series may have a long-lasting influence on viewers, making them consider the fragility of life and the human condition.
The experiences vary from war, disease, death, and the loss of loved ones to more personal challenges, such as mental health and relationships. These stories might be heartbreaking, but they can also be effective in eliciting empathy and allowing viewers to connect with the characters on a deeper level.
The tragedy felt or experienced by the titular characters resonates with the audience. Thus, several of these anime programs and films are considered among the best in the genre. Here’s a list of 50 anime movies and series with sad endings that you should watch.
1. Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies (1988), helmed by Isao Takahata and made by Studio Ghibli. The film is based on Akiyuki Nosaka’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, which was published in 1967.
Seita and Setsuko, two siblings, are the focus of the plot, which is set in post-World War 2, Hiroshima, Japan. This movie is a heartbreaking story of loss and survival as the siblings fight to find food and shelter while dealing with the brutal realities of war.
The film shows how conflict can destroy families and have terrible effects on innocent citizens. The bond between the siblings, as they struggle to maintain love and hope in the face of so much sorrow and suffering, is the core of the film.
2. Your Lie In April
Kyohei Ishiguro’s anime series Your Lie in April is well known. Your Lie In April explores the lives of musician Kosei Arima and his student Kaori Miyazono. In the series, we meet Kosei, who is suffering from a mental breakdown as a result of his mother’s death.
It features a fascinating narrative and heartfelt storytelling, making it one of the finest anime series. It explores the themes of love, friendship, and pursuing one’s aspirations. The series is immensely engaging despite its sorrowful tone, and it ends in tragedy too, when one of the major characters dies. The characters are complicated but accessible, and the emotional rollercoaster trip will be inevitable.
3. Assassination Classroom
Assassination Classroom is one of the best, if not the best, anime of all time, and nobody can deny that. Reading the synopsis might make you think otherwise, but a series with an IMDB rating of 8 and a crunchy roll rating of 4.8 is no joke.
The series is mostly comical and shows us the lives of students who are trying to kill their teacher for a huge amount of money. The real tension arises when they get to know the truth about their sensei and why he must be killed.
4. Clannad: After Story
When IMDB rates something as high as 7.8, you know the series is good. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara, the series is based on a novel of the same name and premiered in 2008, with the last episode airing in 2009.
The second season follows Tomoya and his journey. We see that Tomoya has already proposed to Nagisa, and they are in a relationship. He also continues to meet new people with family issues and helps them.
The series reminds us how fragile a human’s mental state is and why we should celebrate our life with the people we love and care about. The series is treasured by people all over the world and is regarded as one of the best series of all time.
5. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
This fantasy drama from 2011 depicts the lives of five childhood friends as they reconnect to fulfill the desires of a deceased buddy. The anime starts with a tragedy when one of their pals is killed in an accident.
Throughout the series, the protagonists struggle to accept their friend’s death, and the climax serves as a reminder of the finality of death and the need to cherish the memories of loved ones who have died. The series ponders over the issue that the group has with their friend’s death. Anohana covers the theme of love, revelation, and the significance of moving on, while the main character also contends with loss and illusions.
6. Elfen Lied
Elfen Lied is 2003 anime series about the often complicated interactions between humans and decisions, a mutant species similar to humans in build but who are distinguishable by two cat-ear-like horns and “vectors,” transparent arms which can pass through air and objects at high speed.
Despite having just 13 episodes, this series is fantastic. Elfen Lied is sad, violent, full of fantastic characters and emotions, and extremely delightful. While many fans claim that it has aged badly, some are still awed by its storyline.
7. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Produced by Kyoto Animation, written by Fumihiko Shimo, and directed by Tatsuya Ishihara and Yasuhiro Takemoto, this anime movie is a 2010 Japanese drama film. Also known as ‘Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoshitsu,’ The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is based on the fourth Haruhi Suzumiya light novel of the same name by Nagaru Tanigawa.
The story follows the characters of Haruhi Suzumiya and Kyon. And the tragic ending of the movie shows that Haruhi has the power to change reality, and she alters it to a world where she doesn’t exist, and the events that had happened with Kyon and the other members of the SOS Brigade never happened.
The 2012 movie was directed by Mamoru Hosada and followed the story of a single mother, Hana, trying to raise her half-human, half-wolf children Ame and Yuki, alone. The movie explores the subplot of family building, love, and identity crisis.
Wolf-Children has a tragic ending as Hana, in the end, is left alone, as her son Ame chooses to be a werewolf, leaving her alone despite her cries. It is also revealed by the end that her daughter, Yuki, has also left home to live in the school dormitory.
This 2015 anime series, based on an original narrative by Jun Maeda, writer of Angel Beats and Clannad, explores the supernatural lives of a group of teens and the price they must pay for being different.
Yuu Otosaka, a teenager who discovers the capacity to briefly control another person for five seconds, is the protagonist of the fantasy series. The story shows the importance of responsibility and using your powers for a good cause as it leads to a tragic end.
10. The Promised Neverland
Do you like human vs. demon storylines? If yes, then this series is for you! The promised Neverland follows the story of three Titular characters Emma, Ray, and Norman.
While the anime is adventurous, the ending is not, as you, along with the characters, find out the truth about the orphanage and its legacy. The 2018 series was directed by Mamoru Kanbe and released in two seasons, with the first season being aired on Fuji TV.
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11. The Wind Rises
Toshio Suzuki produced this masterpiece which gives us a peek into the life of the Japanese Engineer and aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi. The Wind Rises, set up in World War 2, follows the story as Jiro aspires to be an aeronautical engineer.
While he travels to the university, he falls in love with Nahoko Satomi. The story slowly reaches its tragic climax as Jiro, in the end, realizes the brutal reality of his personal life and the part that his technologies played in the conflict.
12. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Puella Magi Madoka Magica introduces us to Mitakihara, Japan’s magical city, as it digs into the fantasy and magic genre. Madoka Kaname, the protagonist, is given magical abilities and the duty of slaying witches.
The main character gains knowledge about the value of sacrifice and the nature of hope as the plot develops. The series also deals with the question of what it means to be a savior and the cost of trying to change fate.
13. The end of Evangelion
The movie serves as an alternate ending to the original Tv series, which faced backlash after its controversial last episodes. Directed by Hideaki Anno and Kazuya Tsurumaki, they released the anime film in 1997.
The movie follows Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami, and Asuka Langley Soryu, who pilot a mecha called Evangelion. The climax of the movie is altogether opposite to the TV series as Shinji struggles with his insecurities and his relationship with Asuka.
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14. Anthem of the Heart
This 2015 production by Shunsuke Saito has its own fan base. The story is about a high schooler named Jun Naruse, who, due to a trauma she faced during childhood, can’t speak.
The narrative emphasizes emotional healing and the necessity of self-expression, as well as Jun’s emotional challenges. The characters become entangled in a love triangle when everyone misinterprets the main character’s compassion as a sign of love.
A tragic hero, time jumps, romance, Erased has everything stuffed into it. This 2016 A-1 Production has an impressive 8.5 IMDb rating and doesn’t fail to deliver a murder mystery story.
The story follows Satoru Fujinuma, whose mother gets killed, and someone wrongly blames him for the same. Satoru has time travel powers, and he gets sent back 18 years into the past. The story then shows us how sacrifices must be made for justice and why having justice is not always a precursor to a happy ending.
16. I Want To Eat Your Pancreas
Or Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai in Japanese is a 2018 anime film based on a novel of the same by Yoru Sumino. The movie is already based on the tragic premise as Sakura Yamauchi, the main character, is suffering from some kind of terminal illness.
I Want To Eat Your Pancreas makes you cry by its end as the male protagonist not only faces rejection from other female characters but also loses the one person he somehow starts to care about.
17. Banana Fish
Nobody who watched Banana Fish was surprised by the outcome; nonetheless, not everyone anticipated how painful it would be. Following several confrontations, including a mind-control medication, human experimentation, human trafficking, and more, Ash Lynx, the protagonist, is finally able to address some of those issues. He liberates himself from Dino Golzine’s grasp and returns Eiji, his lover, to Japan safely.
All the hardships faced by the main character are not the only sad themes in the series. He has to give up the one person he cares about and has to send him back because Ash knows if he keeps Eiji in NYC, Eiji won’t be safe.
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18. The forest of Firefly Lights
Another good story with a tragic end, The forest of Firefly Lights or ‘Hotarubi no Mori e’, is a romance/drama movie directed by Takahiro Omori.
The story is about a forest spirit, Gin, and a little girl named Hotaru Takegawa, who meet and grow very close to each other. As the story progresses, it takes passion and romanticization. The two eventually fall for each other, but the ending of the movie will definitely put you to tears.
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19. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is a neo-noir cult classic series based in a post-apocalyptic world. While we usually see aliens colonizing earth, this movie makes humans a superior race who have colonized several planets and moons.
The action-based action-based series is a tragedy in its own right, as the main character has lost his loved one and is emotionally unavailable to any outsider.
20. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
A series that focuses on disaster and its aftermath is bound to be grim. The story is about siblings Mirai Onozawa and Yuuki Onozawa. Mirai is one of those obnoxious teens that has reached the age where they simply despise everything and everyone. The story, in the end, establishes that Yuuki was never alive and that Mirai was hallucinating his presence.
21. Death Parade
Death Parade is a 2015 anime series available on Hulu. The series is a psychological thriller, and the ending is quite tragic as both the main characters have to part ways despite visibly growing close to each other.
The story follows Decim, the arbiter of the afterlife, who has no emotions whatsoever and is supposed to judge humans who come to his bar, but all of it changes when a black-haired woman arrives at his bar.
22. Devilman Crybaby
Satan, mythical demons, and devils, do you need it in the plot? You got it! Devilman crybaby follows the story of Akira Fudo and his best friend, Ryo Asuka, both of whom visit a nightclub to investigate something.
The 2018 series, directed by Masaaki Yuasa, delves into satanic storytelling and does it while covering the themes of puberty, sexuality, and love. Many people consider it terrible when a narrative closes with a significant character dying. But what happens when practically the whole primary cast perishes? That’s really depressing.
23. Plastic Memories
No matter how much anyone desires anything, it doesn’t last forever. Plastic memories cover this theme in its plot and boy, does it deliver. The anime is set in a future world where artificial intelligence and androids are common.
One such android and a human grow close, and the story is about the progressing relationship between the two; it deals with very relatable issues such as death and the inevitability of seeing your loved ones pass away.
24. Your Name
These 2016 fantasy and romance anime have their plot based on body swapping. The titular characters swap bodies and live each other’s life without knowing the names of each other. They only communicate through notes, messages on phones, and sometimes on each other’s skin.
The ending is tragic as one of the characters finds out that he can’t swap bodies anymore. Not only that, everything related to the female lead is slowly disappearing, including his memories related to her.
25. True Tears
The title itself suggests the theme of the plot in this 2008 series. True Tears shares the same name as its visual novel from 2006, but it has a totally distinct story, characters, and aesthetics. The titular characters deal with sadness and love. Its finale is rather tragic, as it forces the male protagonist to pick between two female characters with who he has gotten very close.
26. Akame Ga kill
This anime starts with a tragedy as the lead character’s childhood friends are abducted and killed in their city of dreams. Akame ga kill doesn’t stop there. Throughout the story, every character you grow accustomed to is killed off.
Even the ending of this 2014 anime series will keep you on the edge of your seats as, in the finale, one of the main characters dies, leaving behind a lot of memories to reminisce.
27. 5 Centimeters per Second
Written, produced, and directed by Makoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters per Second is based in Japan and centers around the life of a boy named Takaki Tōno.
The movie contains three segments, each representing a timeline in the life of the protagonist. The movie contains a lot of drama as Takaki and his childhood friend promise each other to live together forever, only for Takaki to end up alone.
28. Darling in the Franxx
Known for its polarizing ending, Darling in the Franxx is a 2018 science fiction, monster romance anime TV series. Why polarizing? Many claimed that the ending, which involves reincarnation, is not something a sci-fi movie should have. While many still shed tears when both protagonists die.
29. Code Geass
Produced by Goro Taniguchi, Code Geass is based on an alternate timeline in which Lelouch vi Britannia gets the superpower of controlling anyone and everyone.
What’s tragic in the story is that Lelouch has to lead a rebellion against his own father, who apparently was the reason for his mother’s death and his sister’s paralytic condition.
Based on a novel of the same name by Fuyumi Ono, Shiki is a horror anime series that delves into the theme of morality and evil. The series is based in a village where sudden disappearances and deaths of villagers occur due to supernatural beings known as Shiki or Corpse Demons.
Many of the key characters, including Natsuno, die at the series’ terrible conclusion, and some of the survivors are forced to leave their village and start a new life, leaving behind their memories and loved ones. The conclusion emphasizes the fragility of human life and the value of community in times of distress.
31. Seven Deadly Sins
The Seven Deadly Sins or Nanatsu No Taizi is a 2015 anime series based on a manga of the same name. The travels of Elizabeth, the third princess of the Kingdom of Liones, and her pursuit of the Seven Deadly Sins are chronicled in Nanatsu no Taizai. She attempts, with their assistance, not only to reclaim her kingdom from the Holy Knights, but also to seek justice in an unfair world.
32. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
This series, a successor to the original and immensely successful Mobile Suit Gundam, takes place eight years after the end of the One-Year War. As the anime proceeds, it delves into subjects like war and governmental corruption.
The premise of the story is set in a futuristic timeline with robots and mecha, which are controlled by humans. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam’s central characters get entangled in a feud between Titans and the Anti-Earth Union Group. The story ends in a tragedy as Kamille suffers from dementia in his last battle.
33. Wolf’s Rain
Wolf’s Rain is a tragic and gloomy story about a pack of wolves fighting to live in a harsh world and eventually dying on their path to a place they call “Paradise,” which appears to be a better place than the one they’re in now.
Wolf’s Rain is a Studio BONES anime series that premiered in 2003. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future where wolves are thought to be extinct, yet they still exist and may assume human form.
34. The vision of Escaflowne
The Vision of Escaflowne is known for its niche of fantasy and romance, but don’t let the fantasy fool you, as the ending is quite tragic, as the main characters have to part ways because of some difficult circumstances. Hitomi is a High School Girl transported to a new world and gets caught in the wars of its different kingdoms. The series is set in a fantasy world where humans and dragons coexist.
The 2008 anime series based on a novel of the same name revolves around Ryuuji Takasu, a high school student with a cranky exterior but a gentle heart. He meets Taiga Aisaka, a brash and adamantly independent young woman who has a crush on his closest buddy. Toradora’s finale is heartbreaking because one of the series’ characters is abandoned, having lost both her closest friend and a future partner.
37. Parasyte: The Maxim
The anime series follows the life of Shinichi Izumi, whose right arm is taken over by an alien parasite. The 2014 sci-fi thriller series delves into the theme of survival and the co-existence of two different entities altogether. Throughout the series, the lead character grows personally, and ultimately his conscience is tested in the finale.
Redline is a 2009 anime film directed by Takeshi Koike, and it was his directorial debut. The sci-fi movie is full of action, high speed, and modified car races and chases. It digs into the protagonists’ emotional challenges as they come to terms with the race’s high stakes and the sacrifices they must make to win. As you reach the end of the movie, you realize that both the main characters died trying to win the race.
39. Voices of Distant Stars
The voices of a Distant Star are a story of two childhood friends who get split when one of them is sent to combat aliens in space. This 25-minute OVA shows us never-ending bonds and love that crossed boundaries.
In the climax of the anime, the ship Mikako is shown drifting in space due to the heavy damage it has taken, thus indicating a tragic end to it. The voices of a Distant Star debuted in 2002 and was followed by two DVD releases.
40. The Girl who Leapt through Time
The Girl who leaped Through Time was produced by Madhouse and written by Satoko Okudera. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the Girl who Leapt through Time is a science-fiction romance movie.
It deals with time travel as the female lead, Makoto Konno, gets the ability to time-leap. Initially using the ability for her day-to-day needs, such as not getting late to class, Makoto realizes the gravity of the situation she is in as she loses a friend she loves.
41. Gurren Lagann
Not every story is supposed to have a happy-ever-after ending, and Gurren Lagann gives us that kind of story. Lord Genome, the Spiral King, rules over humanity in a fictional future where mankind lives in isolated subterranean villages.
As the heroes emerge triumphant from their final battle against the Anti-Spirals, the built-up emotions plunge the audience into grief mixed with joy. The series is co-produced by Konami and Aniplex and was released in the year 2007.
Adapted into an anime in 2017, the story follows the life of Inuyashiki Ichirou, an old, lonely, and unappreciated salaryman who is transformed into a powerful cyborg after an alien spacecraft crashes on him. Inuyashiki uses his new powers to help others.
As the story progresses, Inuyashiki is confronted by another cyborg, Shishigami Hiro, a high school student who also has the same power but, unlike Inuyashiki, uses his powers for personal gain. The series has a tragic ending as the two cyborgs confront each other on the moon. Inuyashiki has to make a difficult decision to stop Shishigami Hiro and sacrifices his own life in the process.
43. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
It is not always that a predictable story cannot be impactful and toasts what Dusk Maiden of Amnesia proves. This 2012 anime revolves around the life of a high schooler, Teiichi Niiya. He finds out that a ghost, Yuuko Kanoe, is haunting his school’s buildings.
During the two falls in love, it is painstakingly evident that someday or at some point in the anime, they have to part ways as Yuuko has to move on from his world to a world where every soul goes.
44. Cyberpunk: Edge Runners
Based on the video game Cyberpunk 2077, Edgerunners is a result of the Polish-Japanese collab. Nearly all of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners’ important characters – including protagonist David Martinez – perish. Rebecca’s crushing by Adam Smasher, David’s near-death experience from cyber psychosis, or Kiwi’s betrayal by Faraday after betraying the other Edgerunners first, the entire ending is tragic.
Although Lucy – the person the Edgerunners were trying to rescue – survives, she isn’t exactly thrilled about it. Her boyfriend, David, was all she had to live for. Her dream of going to the moon comes true, but without him there, the experience rings hollow.
45. Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
First aired in Japan in 2004 and later dubbed in English and aired in North America in 2005, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is a part of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Franchise. The series follows the story of Jaden Yuki, a young boy who becomes a student at Duel Academy and learns how to become a better duelist. The series is known for its action-packed card battles and its character development.
To get Yubel to stop trying to eliminate all of his friends, Judai takes off on a lengthy mission, living within his body the whole time. To put it simply, he has abandoned his former life and his friends to spend all of his time with the spirit that has made him miserable since he was a child. Despite the show’s appearance, it’s a shockingly bleak conclusion. Despite the show’s appearance, it’s a shockingly bleak conclusion.
46. Happy Sugar Life
Happy Sugar Life aired in 2018 and was directed by Tomiyuki Kawamura and written by Eka Komori. It covers the story of high school student Satou Matsuzaka, who has a deep obsession with a young girl named Shio Koube. The series has a dark and disturbing ending, as Satou’s actions catch up with her, and the truth about Shio is revealed.
47. God Eater
Based on a video game of the same name, God Eater was directed by Takayuki Hirao and written by Ufotable. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is on the brink of extinction due to the appearance of creatures known as Aragami.
God Eater ends tragically as the characters are forced to make difficult decisions in order to save humanity. The series explores themes of sacrifice, determination, and the cost of survival.
An American comic book with the same name served as the basis for Witchblade. Writing and directing credit for the show goes to Yasuko Kobayashi and Yoshimitsu Ohashi.
A girl called Masane Amaha finds out that she is the wielder of Witchblade. Masane’s difficulties adjusting to her new abilities and her responsibility for defending the world against entities attempting to utilize the Witchblade for their good reasons are both explored throughout the series.
To ensure the safety of her daughter, Masane uses the Witchblade to its full extent destroying everything that threatens the Earth and its inhabitants.
49. The Secret World of Arrietty
Unbeknownst to the owners and staff, Arrietty, a little girl, lives with her parents in a basement apartment in a suburban house. Arrietty hides from her human hosts but often emerges from beneath the floorboards to steal necessities like sugar cubes. When 12-year-old Shawn meets Arrietty, they develop a secret connection, but their relationship may be dangerous for Arrietty’s family.
50. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x hunter is one of the most popular anime of recent times. The 2011 adventure/fantasy drama follows Gon Freecss, a young boy, and his journey to meet his father, Ging, who left him a long time ago.
As the story progresses, Gon meets several people who become his friends. By its end in 2014, we see tragedies happen throughout, with Gon losing all his powers in the end.
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