Tough childhoods and tragic characters are a staple in the world of anime. It is so common in a series that it is difficult to find an anime without a tragic character. You’ll find characters who suffer from multiple forms of abuse, war, slavery, homelessness, and just about every other plausible problems that may befall a person. Every person copes up with their sadness in different ways than others. Some become evil and think that the world should suffer with them, while others fight to protect others. Regardless, it changes them completely, and you can’t help but feel sad for them whether they are heroes or villains, or even anti-heroes.
The world of anime is constantly growing and improving, so we see various characters in them. Tragic backstories always provide an add-on to certain anime characters to make their characters stronger and better than others. Some achieve happy ends while others die a tragic death. Anime like One Piece includes several anime characters with tragic pasts, while other shorter and simpler stories will have one or two. However, these anime characters don’t always make a series dark and gloomy. Even some of the funniest anime characters have a devastating past than no other. Here, we will take a look at the 8 anime characters with heart-breaking, tragic pasts.
1. Trafalgar D. Water Law – One Piece:
Even though many One Piece characters had a few tragic backstories, the Surgeon of Death had the most despairing of them all. Living in the wealthy country of Flevance in the North Blue, Trafalgar had a normal life with his parents and younger sister. Flevance was known as the “White City” for the Amber Lead color that was mined there. Unfortunately, that type of lead results in poisoning, affecting the residents of the country. Sadly, The World Government and the royal family knew about the side-effects but kept it under wraps because of the lead’s high value.
By the time the residents of Flevance found out about the disease’s cause, almost everyone was slowly dying from the disease. The World Government massacred everyone there to stop the disease from spreading and hide their hideous truth. Law escaped by hiding under the dead bodies on a ship and ended up at a port town, where he approached Doflamingo. Law asked him to let him join to destroy as much as possible while he is still alive.
Afterward, he meets Doflamingo’s brother, Corazon, who first showed indifference. Eventually, Corazon heard his full name and became anxious about the “D” in his name. He told him to keep it a secret and everything about his plan against his brother. Corazon was a spy and was working to bring Doflamingo down. He fled with Law to search for his cure and then came across the Op Op Fruit. Unfortunately, Doflamingo wanted the fruit for his selfish purposes, but Corazon force-fed it to Law. Doflamingo killed his brother for his betrayal, leaving Law heart-broken. He fled there and later worked all those years to create the Heart Pirates and defeat Doflamingo.
2. Naruto Uzumaki – Naruto:
Not only did his parents died the day he was born, but he grew up being hated by everyone without even knowing the reason. As a result of his father’s sacrifice for the village, Naruto became a Jinchuriki- the host of the Nine-Tails. As an orphan, he lived alone, surviving on the little allowance from the Third Hokage. Naruto grew up not knowing anything about their parents, not even their names. Even though Minato’s dying wish was for his son to be the village’s hero, Naruto suffered ostracization from everyone. Everyone hated him for having the Nine-Tails inside him and subconsciously blamed him for the Nine-Tails’ crime.
It wasn’t until he was a teenager that Naruto found out the truth, so he never knew why his social isolation. He craved acknowledgment and started pulling pranks on others. Naruto thought that even though pulling pranks will make everyone angry, at least they would acknowledge his presence. Fortunately, he had a lively personality, and his charisma made everyone like him later on. After joining Team 7 as a Genin, he went on missions and was praised for his talents. The Shippuden series became the village’s hero and eventually became the Seventh Hokage as an adult.
3. Future Trunks – Dragon Ball Z:
Unlike the Trunks in this era, Future Trunks grew up in an apocalyptic world. His father, Vegeta, died shortly after his birth, so Trunks grew up with Bulma. After the Frieza Saga, Trunks risked everything to time travel three years before the android’s arrival to warn the Z fighters. In Trunks’ timeline, Androids 17 and 18 destroyed everything and killed almost everyone. On the other hand, Goku died due to a heart virus, and since his death was natural, he couldn’t be revived using the Dragon Balls. The Androids destroyed everything they saw, and as they grew bored of killing weak people, they sought-for more thrill and killed Vegeta.
They attacked the rest of the Z fighters one by one until only teenager Trunks was left. With the strongest fighters on Earth out of the picture, no one could defeat the Androids, not even Trunks, who transformed into a Super Saiyan. A few years later, Bulma completed the time machine, and Trunks went to the current era. He even fought alongside the Z fighters to stop the Androids and Cell. Unfortunately, even though he saved everyone in the past, the future couldn’t be changed. He returned to his time and easily destroyed the Androids. After that, he continued living in the chaotic and despairing world.
4. Zeref Dragneel – Fairy Tail:
Considered the evilest Black Mage in history, Zeref is the main antagonist in the series. 400 years before the anime events, Zeref was a genius scholar mage student who lost his family during the dragons’ attack. For years, he researched a way to revive his younger brother, Natsu. His professors opposed the idea and expelled him from the academy after creating the R-System and the Eclipse Gate. Because of messing with the concept of life and death, he became cursed by God Ankhseram.
Since then, Zeref gained immortality and an ever-lasting youthful appearance. Not only that, he will kill anyone within close range as a black wave of magic power surges from him without warning. Due to the curse, the more love he feels for others, the more life he will take, so he started living in isolation. 300 years after his curse, he encounters Mavis and her friends, whom he taught magic. Mavis ends up casting an incomplete spell, which results in her sharing the same curse as him.
They meet after several years, and Zeref tells her about her curse, which leaves her devastated. At that time, Zeref was building his own Empire in another continent, Alakatasia. While the two fell in love with each other, Zeref takes her life, even though she was an immortal. Heart-broken, Zeref returns to Alakatasia and continues building the Alvarez Empire. His goal was to annihilate everyone in Ishgar, saying that since the world has rejected him, he will reject the world as well. Zeref dies in the final season of the series alongside Mavis. Though the curse couldn’t kill him, it could be broken if someone truly loved him. Due to Mavis’s love for him, he finally gained the peace he was longing for.
5. Van Hohenheim – Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood:
Van Hohenheim is the father of the Elric brothers, who left his family when they were little. As an immortal, Van Hohenheim is also one of the most tragic anime characters. He was a slave in the 15th century, approximately 400 years before the events in the anime. Van was a nameless slave in the capital of the ancient and advanced country of Xerxes, a neighboring country of Amestris. He had some of his blood taken for an alchemy experiment. While cleaning his master’s laboratory, he encountered the product of the experiment. It was a nearly shapeless creature inside a flask calling itself a Homunculus.
Feeling grateful for the blood that gave him life, The Homunculus decided to name him Van Hohenheim, short for Theophrastus Bombastus Van Hohenheim. The highly intelligent homunculus taught Hohenheim to read and write and advised him to escape the bonds of slavery. Later, it taught Hohenheim about arithmetic, science, and basic alchemy. The King of Xerxes summoned the creature to find a way for his immortality. The Homunculus manipulated the King by telling him about the philosopher’s stone created by sacrificing every Kingdom citizen.
The King didn’t hesitate and went along with the plan only to sacrifice himself and the citizens. The Homunculus gained the power of the stone and took on the appearance of Van. It also gave him half of the stone’s power as a repayment. Since then, Van wandered around Xing and Amestris, teaching people about alchemy and alkahestry. Over the years, Van also planted parts of the stone all over Amestris to stop The Homunculus from killing everyone in the country.
6. Hyakkimaru – Dororo (2019):
Hyakkimaru is also of the anime characters who had a tragic past, and his life was full of hardships and sufferings. He is a samurai searching for the body parts that were taken from him by the demons. He can gain the parts by defeating the demon that took it. His father was a Samurai Lord who made a pact with the demons for his land’s prosperity that was suffering from drought and poverty. He vowed to exchange anything in return, so the 12 demons claimed each part of his body. Luckily, his head, which belonged to the most powerful demon, remained intact due to the Goddess’s sacrifice of Mercy his mother worshiped. Due to that, Hyakkimaru survived even without any limbs or even faced.
After being abandoned, he grew up with his foster father, Jukai, who built artificial prosthetics for others. He grew one of his legs when he defeated the monster that attacked Jukai. Jukai realized that there is a way for Hyakkimaru to recover his body parts by finding the demons and killing them. He regains his body parts as he defeats more and more demons. Unfortunately, the more body parts he grew, the more calamity his father’s clan faced. After knowing his son is still alive, Daigo vows to find and kill his son and complete the pact with the demons. Meanwhile, after learning the truth about his missing body parts, Hyakkimaru vows to kill his father.
7. Itachi Uchiha – Naruto Shippuden:
Itachi is one of the most-loved anime characters who had a tragic past. He was Sasuke Uchiha’s brother and the eldest son of the clan leader. He single-handedly slaughtered the Uchiha clan in one night and joined the terrorist organization “Akatsuki.” Itachi claimed that he murdered everyone, including his parents, to test the limits of his ability. He was an S-rank international criminal posing a threat to every village. Since childhood, Sasuke was obsessed with avenging his clan and killing Itachi. He got his wish, and Itachi died by his hand. Unfortunately, after his demise, Tobi reveals the truth about Itachi. Itachi served as an Anbu Captain and was highly trusted by the village elders.
While the Uchiha clan was planning a coup against the village for their injustices, one village elders gave him a top-secret mission to annihilate everyone in the clan. Seeing that he had no choice, Itachi agreed on the condition that his younger brother will be spared. After that, Itachi was assigned to act as a spy in Akatsuki and stop them if they ever attacked the Leaf Village. Tobi also revealed that Itachi was suffering from an incurable disease, so he decided to die by Sasuke’s hands and make his brother the village’s hero. Despite his sacrifices, Itachi remained the village’s villain and betrayer, as he never wanted anyone to find out the truth.
8. Koro-Sensei – Assassination Classroom:
Despite the way he looks, Koro-Sensei is the strongest creature on Earth. He has instant regeneration, superhuman senses, speed, and reflexes. He can even shoot laser beams and create a defensive spell for himself. Koro-Sensei claimed to destroy 70% of the moon. Koro-Sensei then forced the government to make him the homeroom teacher of Class 3-E of Kunugigaoka Junior High School. During his introduction, he threatened to destroy the Earth within a year and asked the students to kill him. Quickly, he became the best teacher they ever had, and the students continued their assassination training with their regular studies.
However, Koro-Sensei was born a human in the vilest slums of an unknown country. He grew up in poverty throughout his hardships, he became a ruthless assassin, killing several people along his path. He eventually became the world’s most dangerous assassin called “The Reaper.” Due to the betrayal of his apprentice, a research facility caught him and experimented on him. His current appearance and powers were the result of those experiments. There, he met the homeroom of Class 3-E, Aguri, who developed a strong bond with him.
Unfortunately, while due to their experiment on a rat, the antimatter caused a chain reaction that turned 70% of the moon’s matter into antimatter, exploding, leaving a crescent shape. The researchers were horrified and calculated that the same thing will happen to The Reaper on March 13 of the following year. Aguri overhears and tells him the truth. The Reaper asks her to leave the place and unleashes his powers, killing several security guards. Meanwhile, Aguri suffers a fatal wound during her escape. Before dying, she asks him to teach her students, thinking it would be a wonderful experience for him.