Death is part of life. We know that, even if we try to ignore the fact for as long as it’s possible. Fiction sometimes makes that easy. In superhero comic books, we have the old saying that no one really stays dead except for Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben, and two of those three have not only come back, but also died and come back again at least twice in the last ten years. Manga and independent comic books, however, tend to treat the dead a bit more seriously.
Sometimes, we can see those deaths coming from a mile away. There are characters that, no matter what, are written to be dead. The proverbial Red Shirts, like, for example, Kotori from X, who seem to exist only so that their deaths will make the heroes fight harder. And yet, there are other deaths that are not only unexpected, but also infuriating. Because if there was a character that most of the readers wanted to see live and that’s the one who dies, some people can even rage quit the manga completely.
And that’s why this top ten was created: To talk about those deaths in manga that made readers see red. And given the subject, proceed with caution, as there will be spoilers.
10. L from Death Note
- Authors: hba Tsugumi (Story), Obata Takeshi (art)
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 12
- Published: 2003 – 2006
Death Note has been one of the most popular manga of the new millennium. Setting an unrepentant killer as the main character was a very hard challenge, as Tsugumi Ohba had to make Light likeable, but he couldn’t make him be the smartest guy in the room at all times since that could make the manga a farce. Enter L, the mysterious young man that was considered the best detective in the world, and who managed to pinpoint Kira’s native land within the first pages of his first appearance. The game of cat and mouse between L and Kira was what made Death Note interesting, as the only real advantage Light had was that L didn’t believe in the supernatural. And once he found out about the shinigami –with Light himself forgetting about them- all bets were off.
But every reader that was wondering how Ohba was going to get out of the corner he had written himself into when L met Rem and Light got his memories back got quite a nasty shock when, right at the beginning of the 7th volume, L died, being killed by Rem. Because if there was one character who had to have plot armor, it was was L, as one of the main trio, and tied for most popular character of the story at the time of his death. And the reaction of the readers was swift: many readers started leaving the manga, citing Mello and Near as bad clones of their beloved L. It’s telling that the live action movie tried to undo that point by making L apparently immune to the Death Note –only to kill him at the very end, but at least triumphant- and that the American version, hated as it is, didn’t even try to kill L.
Since his death seemed to derail what was otherwise considered a perfect mystery manga, L’s death opens our list in tenth place.
9. Takashi from Akira
- Authors: Otomo, Katsuhiro
- Genres: Action, Sci-fi, Seinen
- Volumes: 6
- Published: 1982 - 1990
If you ask any reader how AKIRA starts, they will probably remember the epic motorcycle chase that ends with Tetsuo almost running over a weird-looking kid with blue skin named Takashi. After that, the role of Takashi and his two allies, Kiyoko and Masaru, is a bit vague until the end of the anime. However, for readers of the manga, the three espers are far more important. We get to know them in flashbacks, suffer as they are used in horrible experiments that stunt their growth but make them look older than their true age, and, more importantly, understand why they want to find Akira. Because they look like children, and they are innocent despite all the horrors that have been inflicted on them, we just want them to survive. And, in the anime, they do.
Unfortunately for Takashi, and many readers who had grown to love him, this is not true in the manga that was finished long after the anime. There, once he has found Akira and is running towards him, he accidentally walks into the line of fire of a sniper who is trying hard to end Akira’s threat to the world. He gets his head shot right in front of his long lost friend, who reacts with as much horror as the readers who were hoping to see the reunion. The destruction that follows is also a mirror of how betrayed many readers felt after seeing one of the few characters they hoped to see until the end fall dead to the ground.
Since no one expected his death, Takeshi earns the ninth place on our list.
8. Shigeru from 7 Seeds
- Authors: Yumi Tamura
- Genres: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Mystery, Shoujo
- Volumes: 35
- Published: 2001 - 2017
When you have the duty of saving the human race on your shoulders, things can get really difficult. This is why the Japanese government decided to create a plan for survival named the Seven Seeds project, where every country would select a number of young people that would be cryogenically preserved before the Earth was hit by an asteroid similar to the one that destroyed the dinosaurs, in order for them to repopulate Earth afterwards. Of course, in order to select the best candidates, tests had to be made, but the audience doesn’t see those until after the apocalypse happens and we’ve been following our “seeds” for a while.
And this is where Shigeru comes to play. At first, we only know about him from Ango’s memories, as one of his best friends and a candidate for the Summer A’s team. Whenever we see him, he’s always there trying to be as helpful to Ango and the other candidates. So yes, the readers could imagine something was going to happen to him as he wasn’t in the final Summer A team, but the way in which he died, saving the much stronger Ango, came as a nasty surprise to everyone.
Because of how much he affected both readers and Ango in general, Shigeru lands in the eight place on the list.
7. Fuuka from Fuuka
- Authors: Seo, Kouji
- Genres: Drama, Ecchi, Music, Romance, Shounen
- Volumes: 16
- Published: 2014 –ongoing
We’ve talked about the unspoken contract between readers and writers before. There are characters that, unless we’re in a deconstruction or a biographical story, just can’t die. Or at least, won’t die on camera. Children, for example, usually are immortal and the few stories where they aren’t become quite infamous. Main characters, on the other hand, have an almost guaranteed plot armor right until the third to last chapter. Seeing a main character die and not come back immediately is rare. Seeing a main character die and not come back at all while the story continues is practically unheard of.
Enter Fuuka. With her name on the title, and the fact that we see her as the manic pixie girl to the much more serious Yuu, everyone expected to see her grow up as a character, fall in love, and to debut as a singer. We want to see her become successful. But no, she dies in the most shocking way possible: run over by a truck. The reaction of the readers was so explosive, that when the time came for the anime to adapt that episode, they decided to make her survive, which in turn enraged the fans who had come to accept that Fuuka died. The anger and rage from this death was so big that even in the manga they tried to undo it in chapter 135, with a girl who was pretty much just like Fuuka, and another character with the same name. Needless to say, despite the fact that the manga still goes on, there was no coming back from the anger that the death scene caused.
And this is why Fuuka’s death wins the seventh place on our list.
6. Kengo Asamura from Monochrome Factor
- Authors: Kaili Sorano
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Shojo, Supernatural
- Volumes: 11
- Published: 2004 -2011
Going back to the characters that usually have a plot armor against death, we have the protagonist’s best friend. While they can die early on, especially if the hero decides to ignore the call for action, once they manage to survive the first two volumes, we can expect them to stick around and either get powers, or slowly disappear from the story. Akira Nikaido from Monochrome Factor, is pretty lucky in this regard, as his best friend Kengo Asamura not only knows about Akira’s job keeping the balance between the shadow world and the human world, but is also able to change into a shin and fight alongside his friend.
But Kengo is not that lucky. He’s incredibly powerful because he has a dark factor within himself. But that makes him go insane, into a berserker mode that doesn’t let him distinguish between friend or foe. And yet, he fights. Especially because he wants to protect his sister from all harm. Which is why it’s very shocking when Homurabi tortures him and then rips his dark factor from his chest. To add insult to injury, then Akira chooses to help another friend instead of reviving him, and when the battle ends, everyone has forgotten Kengo exists. Yes, even his sister.
Because of this tragic outcome that didn’t set well with the readers, Kengo earns the sixth place on our list.
5. Ryouta Saki from Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo
- Authors: Sato, Fumiya (Art), Yozaburo Kanari, Seimaru Amagi (Story)
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, School, Shounen, Psychological
- Volumes: 76
- Published: 1992 – ongoing
In the case of the Young Kindaichi, you just can’t get attached to any character. Every volume of the manga is a contained arc where Kindaichi has to find a serial killer before they kill again. That means that we start with a cast of 10 or so characters and end up with less than half of that. And, sometimes, that’s just because the author needed enough people in the reveal scene to make it interesting. Even so, there were a few characters that have a very good chance of coming out alive: Kindaichi’s friends who help him in the case. Not people we just met that arc, as those are either the killer or red shirts; no, we mean people who come and show up in more than one case, such as Miyuki, Det. Kenmochi and Inspector Akechi. And then, we have Ryouta Saki.
As member of the mystery club of Fuuda High, Ryouta decided to join Kindaichi in many of his cases, using his video camera to record everything that happened in front of his eyes. Since that gave Kindaichi the vital clue for the case more than once, it was easy to imagine Saki had won his way onto the main character list, until the case of the Ijinkan Motel, where he suddenly and very shockingly is killed in his hotel room precisely because he had taped a very important clue. As the readers complained, and he was important to the case, the manga tried to solve the problem by introducing his younger almost identical brother, Ryuuji. On the other hand, the anime decided that they weren’t going to go through that and left him alive.
One can’t find many deaths that made the anime team just ignore them, so Ryouta climbs to the fifth place on the list.
4. Hakuron from Haou Airen
- Authors: Shinjo, Mayu
- Genres: Drama, Romance, Shoujo
- Volumes: 9
- Published: 2002 - 2004
Kurumi Akino and Uon Hakuron have a romance that is the stuff of legends. She met him when he was wounded, and thus, saved his life; not knowing that he was a member of a Triad family. So she was kidnapped the very next day, and despite her protests, ended up involved in his world. Hakuron, for his part, is not only a Triad boss, he is also a direct descendant of the King of China. Given their differences, their relationship had ups and downs, the most notorious being when Hakuron killed one of Kurumi’s classmates because he got wind that the guy had planned to gang rape Kurumi. Not that Hakuron is that good with refusals either, but in the end, it seems that everything is going to go their way, as Hakuron asks Kurumi for her hand and she agrees to marry him.
It’s a classic shoujo ending, right? Wrong. Because when Hakuron relinquishes all his weapons before entering the church and decides to marry Kurumi without any violence touching her, Kaafal, an old friend of Kurumi who was in love with her, guns him dead right outside the church before the wedding. The worst part is that Kaafal had excellent reasons to kill Hakuron: he had been sexually abusing Kurumi in the name of their “love”, and even raped her once, even if she doesn’t remember. But since she loved Hakuron, the audience forgave him for his crimes. Kaafal didn’t.
Because his death is seen as a way of “stealing” the happy ending for the manga, readers weren’t happy. And so, Hakuron’s death lands him in the fourth place of the list.
3. Maes Hughes from Hagane no Renkinjutsushi
- Authors: Arakawa, Hiromu
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Shounen
- Volumes: 27
- Published: 2001 – 2010
Soldiers risk their lives for their country. That is something we know and understand, even if no one likes it. During a war, there are deaths. That’s another reality that can’t be denied. And yet, when it comes to fictional wars, we always hope that our favorites will survive despite all evidence to the contrary. Maes Hughes was one of those characters. Because he was easily likeable, an honest friend to the main characters and, most importantly, loved his family with all his heart. Every time he appeared, we could count on him showing off pictures of his daughter, and that made some very dark scenes become bearable.
Now, by the time the first anime was made, people were a bit wiser to some tropes. While people were shocked by his death, they weren’t outraged. But here, we’re talking about the manga, where he seemed to be the only true ally the Elric brothers had in the military’s high ranks at the time, and where while he was a comic relief, he also seemed to be one of the most capable non-alchemy fighters in the series. And then, just as the readers were recuperating from another heartbreaking death, he is killed mercilessly when no one was really expecting it. A death so shocking, that even now, four adaptations later, there are fans who still hope for a version that doesn’t kill him (or make him a villain).
Because of the multiple feelings Hughes’ death created, in a way that even now, 8 years after the end of the manga, it’s remembered as one of the worst moments of the story, it earns the third place on our list.
2. Ash Lynx from Banana Fish
- Authors: Yoshida, Akimi
- Genres: Mystery, Adventure, Crime, Shonen Ai
- Volumes: 19
- Published: 1985 –1994
Ash Lynx’s life was always surrounded by violence. From the moment his brother Griffin came back from Vietnam almost catatonic and unable to say anything but “Banana Fish”, and Ash was forced into prostitution in order to be able to care for him, he knew that he would die in a violent way. But the readers are allowed to have hopes that it won’t come to that. Especially as he not only opens up to Eiji, a young Japanese photographer assistant to the reporter who is making an article about New York gangs, but also accepts Eiji’s offer that, once they manage to get out of the gang war started when Ash started to investigate the Banana Fish mystery, he will go to Japan with Eiji and start a new life, free from violence.
And Ash succeeds in destroying those who destroyed his life. We can see that he sees the end of the tunnel, when he is walking to the airport to meet Eiji, right in the last volume. Only that someone stabs him, in revenge for something that happened volumes earlier, something that wasn’t even Ash’s fault. And Ash, instead of looking for medical attention, decides to go to the New York library, write a letter to Eiji, and slowly bleed to death. It’s very telling that more than 20 years later, when we’re finally getting an anime adaptation of Yoshida’s masterpiece, the one thing every fan wants from the adaptation is a different ending.
As the grudge against Yoshida has survived the millennium, one can’t deny that Ash’s death belongs in the second place on our list.
1. Sasha Blouse from Shingeki no Kyojin
- Authors: Isayama, Hajime
- Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Apocalyptic, Horror, Shounen
- Volumes: 25
- Published: 2009 – ongoing
Attack on Titan could be easily subtitled “Everyone not named Eren or Mikasa can and will die”. From the very beginning of the story, when we meet the giant man-eating Titans, we’re told that anyone can die, in the most gory and senseless fashion. We barely get to know some characters before they’re eaten, crushed, maimed or all of the above. And yet, we still hold hope that some of our favorites will survive, especially as they manage to come out alive from some real massacres, helped only by their wits and charm. Sasha Blouse was one of those characters. She won the readers’ hearts when she was nicknamed Potato Girl, for her love for Potatoes, and from then on, there were a lot of readers very invested in her continuous survival.
So it’s no surprise that when she finally died, it made an impact both in and out of the story. In the story, because her death was caused indirectly by Eren’s actions, he is shunned by many of his friends, including Hange, Jean and Levi. Out of the story, fans’ reactions went from denial to rage, with some even swearing off not only the manga, but any story Hajime Isayama might write in the future. Perhaps the outrage seemed bigger than the rest on the list because it was the first that happened in an age when social media allows the readers to interact directly with the author, but even so, it managed to make other fan reactions, such as the one to Bleach’s ending, look small in comparison.
As none of the other deaths managed to become trending topics –or their equivalent- in their own right, Sasha Blouse and her tragic senseless death earn the first place on our list.
Death in fiction is very polarizing. Sometimes we cheer when the villain dies, and we cry when those too good for this sinful world finally get to rest. But that doesn’t mean we, as readers, have to like when a character dies. In fact, more often than not, it means we don’t like it.
So, which are the manga deaths that really made you mad? Which are the deaths you still can’t forgive the creator for having written and drawn? Are they on the list, or did we miss them? Please, let us know in the comments below.