It is odd for us to seek sadness in the arts. Whether by listening to music, attending the theatre, or watching a movie or anime. We might do this for different reasons, but a part of it is for us to see that others feel the same emotions, deal with their own problems or challenges just like we do. You may watch anime to search for a silver lining in a character’s story that will provide you hope. Whatever the reason, it is our hope that this updated list is here for you to discover new works and some old that will carry you on that journey of self-reflection.
When selecting for this list, we made sure to make recommendations of anime that has come out in the past few years to provide you with some fresh stories that may have flown under your radar for those of you who watch anime seasonally.
10. Violet Evergarden
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2018 – April 2018
Violet was a young girl who was raised as a mere tool to do the bidding of a country’s army to fight against the opposing side. When the war ended and peace was returning, it came with a high cost for Violet who was only left with the words of her commanding Major to comfort her though what the words meant, she did not know. Claudia Hodgins, a friend of the Major and President of the CH Postal Service Company, took her under his wing and employed her as an Auto Memory Doll where she would transcribe thoughts and feelings that are so distant to her. Will Violet be able to grow beyond the weapon she was and learn to understand the words the Major told her?
Kyoto Animation brings a beautiful slice of life, drama, and fantasy story to life in an anime that matches said beauty through its visuals and musical composition. Violet Evergarden takes the audience on a nuanced journey of self expression and understanding as we see Violet struggle and learn to connect with other people’s emotions as well as her own using letters while dealing with her past trauma. While themes of hope and looking forward are present in this work, it does not naively overcast the impact of emotional scarring the character has faced from their past and the quest to know themselves more deeply. Expect some tears coming down your face.
9. Ookami to Koushinryou (Spice and Wolf)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2008– March 2008
One fateful day, a traveling merchant by the name of Kraft Lawrence arrives in the farming town of Pasloe where he comes across a strange woman who he discovers is the wolf deity of the harvest, Holo. Now with her existence as nothing more than a fairy tale among the locals, Holo forms a business partnership with Kraft to travel the country together to do business across different towns and cities in the hopes of Kraft earning enough to opening a store and for Holo to return to her home in Yoitsu, a land that lies far to the north.
Spice and Wolf is a romance, adventure, and medieval anime that manages to be as entertaining as it is educational when it comes to tackling its themes surrounding economics and trade. Yet the reason this anime makes the list is both due to the struggles the characters come to face from guilds, churches, and merchants when seeking their goals as well as the compromises they make to survive even at the cost of their dream. All the while a forbidden romantic tension grows between a man and a deity.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2016 – September 2016
Sophomore high school student, Naho Takamiya has a strange start to school when she receives an envelope carrying a mysterious letter that appears to come from herself, 10 years in the future, when she is 26 years old. Naho is rationally skeptical until events detailed in the letter begin to unfold in her life, so she slowly becomes convinced. The letters do not only speak about her but also a new student named Kakeru Naruse whom Naho is asked by her future self to keep watch over. Will Naho come to feel the same regret as her future self or will things be different this time around?
Orange is a school romance and drama anime that tackles sensitive subject matters of depression and regret. Orange does well in illustrating the barriers that these inner challenges we face can have on our relationships as become more closed off or don’t communicate, even with the ones we love. Orange is ultimately a story about how the choices we make can influence those around us and change the future for better or worse.
7. FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: April 2009 – July 2010
Equivalent exchange is the idea that “to obtain something, something of equal importance must be lost;” this is an absolute rule of alchemy. The Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, both gifted for their age, attempt the most forbidden aspect of alchemy: human transmutation and there by breaking the absolute rule. Their desperate experiment backfires, Edward is left missing an arm and a leg and Alfonse is left with his soul. To further research into getting their bodies back, they both become state alchemists and begin a long journey to uncovering answers in search of the one thing that can make things right, the philosopher's stone.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is a shounen, action, adventure, and fantasy anime. Not only is the premise of the anime heartbreaking when you come to learn more of it as an audience member, but the tragic events which the Elric brothers experience on their journey of redemption is equally sad. Whether the sadness comes from meeting alchemists who have crossed far beyond the line or watching their friends die in an attempt to uncover the truth, the road to salvation is paved with much sorrow. Yet it might help to know this anime is not without its bright moment and humour.
6. Boku dake ga Inai Machi (Erased)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2016 – March 2016
Satoru Fujinuma, 29-year-old manga artist, finds himself bestowed with the ability to move backwards in time, though he does not have full control over it yet. While he wishes to do only good with his ability, things change drastically as he finds himself framed for a murder he did not commit. While in chase, he is transported back to 1988 when he was child and is left to uncover what may be the truth behind the tragedy surrounding a classmate and perhaps the murder in his future. Yet will he be able to change anything as a child? Will he survive?
Erased is a seinen, supernatural, and psychological mystery anime that takes its main protagonist and thrusts him into a mind-bending and sorrowful circumstance as he races against the clock to save a girl and himself by uncovering the mystery that had long eluded police for years. You will feel a mix of nervousness, hopelessness, and at times bittersweet emotion as you watch the tale unfold.
5. 3-gatsu no Lion (March Comes in Like a Lion)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2016 – March 2017
Below the seemingly stoic exterior of a shogi prodigy named Rei Kiriyama, who turned professional in middle school, is a spiral of trauma and anxiety from his past. From his parents’ death, his adoption, as well as the pressure to live up to his reputation, it can all become too much. Rei will need to learn to have faith in his mentors at the Shogi Hall and three neighbourly sisters: Akari, Hinata, and Momo Kawamoto, as well as their grandfather. Through his matches and blooming relationships. He will learn to grow as a person.
From the creator of Honey and Clover comes this strikingly beautiful story of individual growth and resilience. Using its unique artistic style to personify the inner monologue of the tortured Rei, March Comes in Like a Lion follows an enticing narrative dealing with themes of depression and self-esteem as well as growing beyond one’s own trauma. The authenticity of the protagonist’s struggle and mirror of a warm and happy external world in contrast to the inner workings of Rei’s thinking is what helps define the sadness the story carries.
4. Angel Beats!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2010 – June 2010
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you one day woke up dead? That is the situation that Otonashi finds himself in when he is informed by a girl named Yuri that he has passed on. She claims to be a part of an afterlife battlefront to defend against a girl named Tenshi who is thought to be an enemy. Yet as Otonashi spends more time in this place and uncovers more about the secrets that lie beneath and those of the mysterious Tenshi, will it finally bring him and others peace?
This anime brought to you by P.A. Works begins the portion of the list where those listed are guaranteed to make you cry once if not profusely. Angel Beats! is a supernatural action-oriented school anime that despite its comedic moments, carries with it some of the saddest backstories you can experience in a high school anime. The use of music in this anime is particularly effective in drawing out emotion in ways that are like the following entries on this list.
3. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. (Anohana: the flowers we saw that day)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Jinta Yadomi has been spending his time reclusively hiding in his home away from school, playing video games, and living everyday like the one before it. One day, he comes across his old friend Meiko "Menma" Honma who looks the same as the day he last saw her many years ago. She visits him to request he and their old friends fulfill a wish that he promised, yet how can that be possible when Menma is dead and this girl that visits Jinta is probably just a manifestation of his guilt, a hallucination. Yet as time progresses, Jinta finds himself more convinced it is the actual spirit of Menma and seeks to bring together old friends who were split apart by her death. Can Jinta reunite everyone to grant her a last wish or will they think Jinta has gone insane and leave Menma’s wish unfulfilled?
A-1 Pictures brings you a stunning supernatural, slice of life, and drama anime that shines a light on the impact a single person’s death can have on friends and family afterwards. It shows us how we can be divided or brought together by such tragic events. The anime especially showcases how time affects the wounds we are given and if we can ever really move on. Anohana: The Flowers We Saw That Day is as beautiful a story as it is tragic accompanied by a score that will stay with you long after you finish watching.
2. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2014 – March 2015
A former piano prodigy, Kousei Arima was looked at as if he was a metronome perfectly replicating great compositions of music. This all changed when his mother died, and he found himself unable to hear the notes he had been playing, therefore dropping out of competitions entirely. Many years passed with no change in sight for Kousei. Kousei just walked through life unfulfilled alongside his friends until he encounters the effervescent Kaori Miyazono, a beautiful violinist who might just change his outlook on life and help his music.
Your Lie in April, through vibrant animation and a beautiful score, brings you a story that shows the impact that new relationships can have on our lives for the better. It shows how one person can change our outlook or energy and keep us pushing forward. Yet what brings this anime near the top of this list is the interwoven tale of love and loss and finding hope even in the darkest of times. Be ready to cry when you watch this anime.
1. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies)
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: April 1988
It is 1945 and the second world war is almost at a close. Japan is in ruin from bombing, and the land is decimated. Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies follows the turbulent journey of a young boy named Seita and his little sister Setsuko who find themselves orphans and homeless, left to scour the destroyed lands in hopes of surviving. When all they have is each other, will they be able to make it through unharmed?
There are various elements which contribute to an artistic work evoking feeling of sadness to varying effect. While various anime on this list are grounded somewhat in reality, allowing the audience to empathise with the circumstances of a character that others may have experienced, this work takes it one step beyond by setting its story near the end of one of the darkest wars in human history, an actual historical event. This movie, if nothing else, speaks of the consequences of war and how we are all affected in one way or another. Grave of the Fireflies does not make light of the consequences and tragedies its characters experience. It will leave you in tears.
Thanks for reading our latest recommendations for sad anime. One of the special things about sad anime is that what causes us to be sad is very universal in nature, themes of death, break ups, depression, etc. These are human experiences that people share regardless of culture or time. We hope you found one or two anime that peaked your interest. Let us know in the comments below what you would watch from the list and what you would recommend.
Anime can make us feel a whole range of emotions. From being happy, to shocked, to being hyped, anime can even make us feel sad. For today, we will check out sad anime. There are many reasons why we feel sad when we watch certain anime. In the anime industry, there exist a few animes that are extremely sorrowful such that they remain popular till this day. Join us, as we count the top 10 sad anime!
Beware of possible spoilers!
10. Kokoro Connect
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jul 8, 2012 to Sep 30, 2012
When you are part of a common after school club, the first impression would be of a normal slice of life anime on club activities and their daily interactions. However Kokoro Connect is not just a simple slice of life anime. This is a story of a group of 5 friends who find themselves in various supernatural phenomenons that will test their friendship to the limits. Whether if it is a body switch or the temporary ability to read a random person's mind, the secrets that friends keep to themselves ought to be hidden for a reason. Through this trial, the true dispositions of each individual are revealed for all to see.
Even amongst friends, the privacy of one's mind is the only thing that is kept away. We find ourselves unable to say certain things at times but we choose to keep them to ourselves. In this sad anime however, all barriers are broken down and the friendship that that is shared is threatened. What makes it particularly sad are the hidden secrets that one will, for the greater good, be turned against them. With no other outlet to explain themselves, some of the characters in this series will have us sympathizing with them.
9. Golden Time
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 4, 2013 to Mar 28, 2014
Banri Tada is a newly enrolled student into law school. Due to an accident however, he had lost his memories prior to entering high school. Upon entering the school gate, Banri ran into another freshman, Mitsuo Yanagisawa who was having a hard time dealing with his overly attached girlfriend Koko. They soon became quick friends. Banri soon meets one of his childhood friends, Linda but unfortunately, due to his memory loss, he was unable to recall the relationship of him and Linda. The developing relationship between him and Koko soon conflict with the forgotten memories of Linda.
When Banri lost his memories, he'd forgotten about that one eventful event that might have potentially changed his life. Now, as Banri enters high school, he begins another relationship. All this while, not knowing the past relationship he had with the childhood friend he met - Linda. As the story and revelations slowly comes to light, the current relationship he has could also be potentially threatened.
8. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Jul 10, 2009 to Sep 18, 2009
Japan - a country that lies on the edges of the Ring of Fire. Earthquakes are not uncommon in this country and this anime depicts a situation of what will be if an 8.0 earthquake hits Japan. Mirai and her brother must travel from the other end of Tokyo back to their home without the aid of transportation. Along the way, they will only be greeted with the sights of death and panic. Not all is bleak however; as they will meet other survivors who are still striving to survive. Follow the siblings as they start their long and arduous journey home.
This sad anime is quite realistic and that is why it is quite hard to take in. For people that have gone through a severe earthquake, it can also be quite distressing to watch. This anime paints an authentic scenario in an earthquake such as the despair the people faced, encountering death and the constant worry for their loved ones. Throughout the anime, you will be cheering for the siblings as they travel back home while at the same time empathize with them in their dire situation.
7. Byousoku 5 Centimetre (5 Centimeters per Second)
- Episodes: 3 part - Movie
- Aired: Feb 16, 2007 to Mar 3, 2007
Takari Toono and Akari Shinohara were two very close friends. While their relationship can't seem to get any sweeter, a transfer of Akari's family to another region forced them apart. Choosing to maintain a long distance relationship, they continued to communicate via mail. As the years passed, they grew more distant from each other. While still maintaining fragments of memories of each other and yearning to meet each other for one last time.
Everyone knows that maintaining a long distance relationship is hard. Byousoku 5 Centimetre portrays not just how hard it is to maintain such a relationship, but also the anguish and frustration that comes with it. This sad anime also emphasizes highly on emotions. The sequence where both parties remembered each other was especially heartbreaking to watch. You are forced to see them yearning for each other but know that it never happened.
6. Steins; Gate
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr 6, 2011 to Sep 14, 2011
Self proclaimed mad scientist Okabe Rintarou is interested in the research of future gadgets. Alongside his assistants, Mayuri Shiina and Hashida Itaru they begin their creation of a new machine called the Phone Microwave. After a series of tests, they soon realise that the device has the capability of sending emails back to the past. Time however, is not a toy. They will soon realise that altering the past will have drastic effects on the future. Together with a newly joined team member, Makise Kurisu they seek to reverse the effects of manipulating time and put it back on its original path.
How does it feel to continue living in reality alone despite being surrounded by the same friends and acquaintance that you have? In Steins; Gate, due to the tampering of time, Okabe is forced to alter time back to its original state. If he should fail, his friends' lives are at risk. Along the way, the developing relationship between Okabe and his lab assistant does not help as the whole timeline is not stable and he risks losing everything.
5. Plastic Memories
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 5, 2015 to Jun 28, 2015
In the distant future, human-like androids known as Giftias were developed to serve society. They serve a variety of functions to society ranging from work to even human companions. Giftias act and function just like any human being such that it may even be hard to discern them apart. The only downside to this - Giftias are programmed with an expiry date and they last about 9 years before their memories and personality are completely wiped out from existence with no way to ever recover them. Coming from the viewpoint of one such Giftias, Isla have accepted her position and her short time in this world. Even though there is one person who actually loves her, Mizugaki Tsukasa.
Memories and remembrance are the reminders of the events that have passed. Although they are no longer in the physical world, they still live on as impressions in our mind and are the last connection we have with them. That is why this anime is incredibly sorrowful to watch. It is already known that all Giftias has an expiry date and though it is unavoidable, it becomes extremely painful to watch as they continue their relationship while trying to ignore the inevitable..
4. Angel Beats
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 3, 2010 to Jun 26, 2010
When Otonashi woke up and found out that he was in an unfamiliar environment, he was confused. What mattered was not that fact that Otonashi has no bearings of his location but the fact that he was dead! Meeting the eccentric Yuri does not help him in this supposed afterlife as he was still clueless of the situation he was in. Agreeing to join SSS, Otonashi becomes part of a group that is intent on taking down the one being in this world that is equivalent to God - Tenshi. Strangely enough, he is oddly drawn to this enigmatic character. Whilst regaining his memories, he will soon learn the true nature of Tenshi and this mysterious high school that he is stuck in.
While finding out his the meaning of his existence in this new world, Otonashi becomes quite attached to this new group of strangers that he may now call his friends and comrades in battle. The reason why they fight is not entirely clear. Their only objective is to rebel against the supposed God in the new world. Yet however, it was Otonashi who eventually realise that Tenshi was just about in the same position as them - lost and unsure. Watch until the end to find out the special woeful relationship between the two of them
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr 15, 2011 to Jun 24, 2011
Due to a tragic event that caused the demise of one of their friends, Jinta, Hisakwa, Tsurumi, Anjou and Atsumu have strayed apart since their childhood. Now living separate lives independently from each other, they soon enter high school. Due to an appearance of a ghost of the distant past, Jinta embarks to reconnect with his peers in an effort to bring everyone together again. The journey is not easy however as the conflicts that was buried in the past have surfaced again. The feelings of each other and the root cause of the accident are some of the hurdles the group have to overcome before they are able to reconcile.
Despite being a short anime of only 11 episodes, this sad anime has managed to grip and tug at the heartstrings of many. Short and sweet is the best way to describe this anime. The overarching theme of this anime is friendship. This anime depicts how the bonds of friends can be so strong that they can even reach out from beyond the living to reconcile old differences.
2. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: Oct 10, 2014 to Mar 20, 2015
Child prodigy Arima Kousei is renowned as an extremely gifted pianist. He holds a reputation for playing on point to any musical piece has earned him the title, the human metronome. Unfortunately, the passing of his mother has made him fear music such that Arima can longer hear the sounds he plays. Even as he enters high school, Arima cannot bear to touch another piano. Just as all hopes of him playing the piano again is extinguished, he met the carefree Kaori Miyazono, whose personality is reflective of her free spirited style of playing the violin. And it was then he decides to step into the world of music again.
What makes Shigatsu particularly poignant is the use of music to express emotions. How the characters play their instruments is reflected by the mood such that it becomes easy to understand them. Since the theme of the anime is music, it shows how music carries the potential to alter someone's viewpoint of the world. The conclusion of the anime sums up the story very well and remains as the most emotional scene in the anime. Shigatsu is a very expressive anime and is able to convey the emotions of the anime directly to the viewers.
1. Clannad/ After Stories
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: Oct 5, 2007 to Mar 28, 2008
Tomoya Okazaki is an individual that had lost his drive to excel in anything. Preferring to be labelled as a delinquent and waste his life away, Tomoya meets the sickly and frail Nagisa Furukawa. A short exchange between the both of them ensured their eventual friendship. Tomoya learnt that her sickness is the reason why she did not attend school nor have friends. Reviving the drama club, he recruits other girls with their own share of problems. By listening to their problems and trying his best to aid them, Tomoya starts to realise that life was not as boring as he originally thought it was. At the same time, the relation between Tomoya and Nagisa continues to develop.
After Stories is simply the continuation of Clannad - Season 2 if you will. In After Stories, it takes after the visual novel of the Nagisa's route. Here, the relationship of Tomoya and Nagisa is expanded. The drastic event that occurs during this series is the reason why Clannad is known as the anime of true love and romance. Clannad itself does not fall too short of expectation as well! It contains the arcs of the different heroines with each ending in a bittersweet fashion. All in all, Clannad remains as one of the saddest anime and it is a MUST watch if you're an anime lover.
Hence, we conclude this article. There are a variety of reasons why we feel sad when we watch a certain anime. The experiences that we face are individual and unique. However, these anime appeal to a general understanding such that we are able to feel for the anime and the characters. Which of these anime made you tear up? Do you have another anime that appealed to you personally? Share with us the saddest anime you've ever watched in the comments below and we will see you next time!