Have you ever been watching an anime and hoped deep in your heart that the characters would get a happy ending, only to have those hopes crushed in the final episode by a cruel twist that dooms the heroes to a tragic fate? We’ve certainly had that experience, and even when this kind of ending is done well (such as in a horror series), it still hurts all the same. If you feel like wallowing in depression for a bit, please join us as we detail five cruel anime endings that twist the knife at the last moment.
5. Kamisama ni Natta Hi (The Day I Became a God)
Fall 2020’s slice-of-life dramedy The Day I Became a God presents itself as a cutesy fluff anime about a girl who may or may not be a god and the hapless boy she drags along with her to have the best summer ever before the world (according to her) ends in 30 days. But instead of the Haruhi-esque antics and heartwarming ending that viewers expected, this anime decides to shatter the charming illusion by revealing that the girl actually has a degenerative brain disease that’s medicated by a supercomputer microchip implanted within her. Once the government captures her and forcibly removes it, she’s reduced to a husk of her former self who can’t walk and can barely speak. The boy does manage to befriend her again over time, but the out-of-nowhere twist alienated many viewers who had been watching the anime as a comfort show.
4. Banana Fish
Here’s a twist that’s a little easier to see coming, partly because hard-boiled crime dramas don’t usually have happy endings, but mostly because Banana Fish’s source manga ended in 1994. Still, Ash’s senseless death at the end of the series remains a devastating moment for the characters and the audience alike. Ash is a teenage gang leader who lies, cheats, steals, and kills in order to find the real reason behind his older brother’s death at the hands of corrupt government agents and mob members. Along the way, he falls in love with a naïve Japanese reporter named Eiji who teaches him to value himself again, and they’re all set to leave the country when a former minor enemy who still holds a grudge against Ash stabs him in broad daylight. It’s a poignant scene that reminds us of how the consequences of our actions follow us around for the rest of our lives, but we do secretly wish that our boys could’ve lived a peaceful life together...
3. Devilman: Crybaby
This is another modern adaptation of a very old manga with the same “open secret” ending situation as Banana Fish, but Devilman: Crybaby somehow manages to be even more depressing than its source material because the superb writing allows us to get genuinely attached to these characters before their inevitable doom. After paranoia rips through society like wildfire, all of our favorite characters are either graphically killed or irreversibly transformed into demons. Akira and Ryo are the last ones alive on the blighted Earth, at least until Akira silently dies while Ryo laments his choices that led to this outcome. God then sends Ryo back in time to relive his entire life again, knowing full well that he’ll make the exact same mistakes over and over for eternity. There’s no happy ending for these characters in any possible universe—not as long as Ryo is alive.
2. Hataraku Saibou Black (Cells at Work: Code Black)
This spinoff of the popular Cells at Work anime focuses on the inner workings of a body belonging to someone who doesn’t take care of himself. Red Blood Cell and his friends must risk their lives every single episode to keep the body running for just one more day, and after several months of this torture, our tenacious hero has seen so much death and devastation that all he can do is to keep smiling for the sake of everyone who believes in him. But when the body nearly perishes from a heart attack, its owner finally changes his ways and the hellish landscape the cells once lived in is restored to its former healthy glory. All is well with the world and Red Blood Cell has properly earned his happy ending... until an after-credits scene shows that he and his friends get sucked through a needle and end up (via blood donation) in an even worse body than before! Honestly, guys—is a second season really worth crushing Red Blood Cell’s dreams like that? Hasn’t he suffered enough?
1. Saishuu Heiki Kanojo (She, the Ultimate Weapon)
More commonly known as Saikano, this nearly 20-year-old anime is notorious for having a monumentally depressing twist ending. It starts off as a sweet story about two childhood friends named Chise and Shuuji who have just discovered their love for each other, but it takes a turn for the horrific when their city is bombed and Chise is transformed into an all-powerful cyborg against her will. As the military forces her to commit atrocities against “the enemy” over and over again, Chise and Shuuji begin to wonder if she’s even human anymore. But this isn’t even the worst of it! After episode 10, this anime goes full-on Devilman and ends with a global apocalypse that leaves only the main couple alive. As an early fansub once warned, “This is the end of happiness in Saikano. If you would prefer the anime to have a happy ending, consider stopping here and pretending there are no more episodes. Continuing will only bring misery and pain. You have been warned.” Yikes!
In the interest of keeping spoilers contained to the five highlighted anime, we won’t add any honorable mentions this time. But rest assured, plenty of other shows have cruel twist endings that are sure to leave you in tears. It’s up to you whether you choose to watch them or not!
What did you think of our list? Have you seen any of these anime? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!