Anime has been with us since the day Sailor Moon and similar titles left a long-lasting impact on viewers. Genres ranging from sci-fi to rom-coms are what you’ll expect to appear, making rounds of success in the media. But as we move forward to it, how about watching some titles that will change your perspective in life?
This list presents 12 sad animes that are watch-worthy and will make you emotional. We’ll explain each title and give a clear reason for what makes them great.
1. Violet Evergarden
While every anime in this list is equally heartbreaking, nothing beats the story of Violet Evergarden. It’s a show about self-exploration and understanding human emotions like love.
The story revolves around Violet Evergarden – an ex-soldier raised to become a superweapon meant to dominate the battlefield and bring victory to Leidenschaftlich. When peace is soon brought to the world, she has to find a new purpose in life.
Post-war, Violet finds herself working at the CH Postal Company, where she works as an Auto Memory Doll. Think of it as someone who helps clients understand their thoughts.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: We’re no strangers to the concept of self-love and value. But because of our personal life circumstances, we fail to introduce it to the heart and mind. Being devoid of those feelings isn’t the end of it. What’s worse is the people who care for us leave them confused.
What would you do if someone said I Love You, but you’re at a loss of words afterward?
2. Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies takes on another level with the author (Akiyuki Nosaka) attaching her life experience to this anime film. While watching this hour-long animation, don’t forget your tissues.
Japan is in the middle of the Second World War when Grave of the Fireflies takes place. It’s a story of hardship between Seita and Setsuko Yokokawa – two siblings who found themselves in an unlucky place. Together, they’re racing against time to make the most out of it in a Fallout-like world where humanity is almost gone.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: This Studio Ghibli masterpiece is something pulled straight from the history books. In war, there are no losers or winners, only people with broken spirits, especially those in Japan. Grave of the Fireflies will teach you the harsh reality of the world we’re living in under the facade of smiles and happy faces.
If there’s one thing that this sad anime will ultimately leave aside from trauma and a lot of tears, it’s strength. The next best lesson is being kind in this cruel world.
3. Oshi No Ko
The first episode of Oshi No Ko may alert the cringe police in your system but bear with us. This sad anime is more than pop idols, virtual reality, and money. It’s the story of an esteemed Ai Hoshino, meant to dominate the music industry with her talents. However, a “superfan” murdered her, leaving her two children.
Currently, Aqua and Ruby Hoshino set out to find out the real perpetrator of the murder, with evident details that both followed their mother’s career choice.
While Oshi No Ko is yet to conclude, many fans expect more. Well, it seems like you’ll bring less tissue this time.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: If there’s one thing that Oshi No Ko is successful at, it’s deceiving first-time viewers. Under the flashy animation and YOASOBI’s catchy song lies a deep, dark secret waiting to be discovered.
4. Tokyo Revengers
Tokyo Revengers isn’t as sad as most anime on this list, but it’s still a good pick (mid-tier).
The story centers around a super unlucky guy named Takemichi Hanagaki, who finds himself able to go back in time. The catch, however, is it’s the time when his ex-girlfriend is killed.
There’s a little complication to Takemichi’s time-travel powers, but we’ll spare you the details. For now, his goal is to try to change the past to get the result he wanted. We recommend watching it if you want to know what happens to his grand plan. Still, bring some tissues, as this anime has some depressing episodes.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: Again, Tokyo Revengers isn’t precisely a sad anime like Grave of the Fireflies and Violet Evergarden. It’s understandable if it’s not your cup of tea – we experienced the same. But you’ll learn a thing or two about camaraderie in Takemichi’s gang life.
5. Your Name
Makoto Shinkai’s works have reached global popularity, and you’ll find no consistency in rankings, whether Kimi no Nawa is on the top or not. So, put it however you like. We respect if Suzume or Weathering With You is in your first place. However, it’s undeniable that Your Name / Kimi no Nawa will make you tear up a lot.
This sad anime revolves around Taki and Mitsuha living a simple life until both of them wish to switch bodies. Coincidentally, they did and found themselves experiencing a unique life perspective.
Ultimately, they’re tasked with a mission that only the two can fully understand and accomplish. This sad anime will make you cry, with an unexpected ending to top it off!
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: Your Name is reminiscent of the game Life is Strange, although another anime adapted the concept better. Instead, this title focuses on the destiny and what happens to those we meet. It may sound corny, but such a thing exists, determined by your life choices.
Also, Kimi no Nawa tackles the element of longing for something missing in your life with a sense of deja vu (the good way). Overall, this relatable anime is a must-watch, as we’re confident in its quality.
6. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is another sad anime that will leave you crying and thinking for days. It may have an unconventional title, but the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here.
The plot talks about Sakura and Haruki, who became special friends throughout the film upon the latter discovering that she’s suffering from a life-threatening disease. Haruki, the kind guy he is, spends the time accompanying Sakura and the long list of things she always wanted to do. On top of that is an unexpected conclusion that shocked even us.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: We often take things for granted. A friend sends you an email, and you reply a week later, only to find out he’s gone forever. While there’s a subtle hint of that characteristic to Haruki, you’ll discover why as you watch the sad anime. After all, many viewers can relate to him.
I Want to Eat Your Pancreas also tackles philosophical elements like Memento Mori and Amor Fati. Instead of dreading too much, Sakura chose to spend her last moments doing the things she wanted to do (unapologetically). Moreover, she further reinforced the idea of accepting whatever happens to us and a reminder we’re mortals.
Tears and tissues-aside, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas has tidbits of valuable life lessons, but we recommend a first-hand experience by watching it.
7. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Dying is a subject most people will push away when having conversations. Of course, it’s even more painful with a pang of burdensome guilt on the shoulder, like the ex-members of a childhood friend gang.
Enter Jinta – the former leader of a group of friends. After Meiko Honma died in a gruesome accident, this guy started to grow apart from the crew (and all members). While there’s no one at fault, one situation leading to another ended up losing their friend.
Sometime later, Jinta reported Meiko haunting her, but for good reasons. Watch the tear-inducing anime to find out the rest of the details.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: Grief is a heavy feeling to bear. But Meiko taught the gang why going forward with life is important. It’s even gloomier once you see Meiko smiling while being aware of her death. But in the end, you have to learn why you have to do the same.
8. Your Lie in April
Kousei Arima gets all the spotlight in Your Lie in April – an anime with an unconventional theme.
Kousei Arima is a child prodigy, thanks to his supportive mother. Unfortunately, he’s devastated beyond imagination after his mother passed away. If that’s not bad enough, the young protagonist lost grip on his well-honed talent.
In all the twists and turns, there are more to come upon meeting a fellow musician, Kaori Miyazono, who plays the Violin. From this point, get ready for a lot of gut punches.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: Your Lie in April has some interesting, relatable elements. For instance, character development, which is very well-written. Overall, this sad anime presents new knowledge for coping with loss and life-changing tips for handling trauma and depression.
9. Weathering With You
Weathering With You is another masterpiece made by Makoto Shinkai. As the title implies, elements of weather are involved in this sad anime.
The story starts after Hodaka runs away from an abusive household to Tokyo City. His hopes of finding a self-sustaining job fail after spending the last dime, with his failure accounting more due to his age. It’s obviously an undesirable start, but things turn good when he encounters a young lady named Hina Amano.
Hina Amano is a mysterious girl with the unique power to manipulate weather on will. However, overusing has complications, leading her to decide Tokyo’s fate. Because of Weathering With You’s well-written characters and plot, you’ll shed a lot of tears as soon as you start approaching the anime’s climax.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: Like the Grave of the Fireflies, Weathering With You has a similar message it intends to deliver to the audience. The difference is intensity, whereas Hodaka’s world is slightly more forgiving.
Selfishness is what makes a villain in any anime. But while Hodaka is viewed as such by some viewers, we beg to differ. The young boy has every right to be one. A good question to ask is the reason for acting good if the world is cruel to you. But we digress.
From Hina’s perspective, Weathering With You is also reminiscent of Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange. The game is about Max and Chloe in a similar situation where the former is challenged to save their city or loved ones. In real life, we stick to a choice we regret the least, and that’s what matters.
10. A Silent Voice
Shoya Ishida’s story in A Silent Voice is the classic main protagonist redemption arc in anime. As a young boy, he’s battled his boredom at the expense of a girl trying to befriend her named Shoko Nishimiya. The ordeal resulted in Shoko transferring to school multiple times, with Shoya getting the hate until his teenage years even becoming bullied himself.
With a supposed “final mission”, he goes to seek out the person he wronged. However, Shoya’s story is long, with countless realizations and discoveries for him to uncover.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: A Silent Voice may have a mellow theme in the first few episodes, but the conflict resolution in the end is satisfying. Of course, expect to shed tears as the anime has themes relating to depression.
Shoya Ishida and Shoko Nishimiya’s story delivers a valuable message about empathy that you can pick up.
11. Angel Beats!
Angel Beats! is the first isekai anime in this list where Yuzuru Otonashi finds himself dead with no memories save for his name. While it isn’t particularly a sad anime, the ending can be a little gut-wrenching.
The place Yuzuru is trapped in can be best described as a ‘purgatory’. He later meets several others like Kanade Tachibana, who helps others move on and be reincarnated. On the other side of the faction are SSS (Shinda Senkai Sensen) members who rebel against the Angel, who ultimately wants to confront ‘God’.
Throughout Angel Beats!, anyone can die multiple times and get respawned. However, when Yui never returns (and is later revealed to be reincarnated in the real world), they begin teaming up to do the same. The few final episodes show a simple ending, yet speculative to branch to two further interpretations:
- Yuzuru moved on.
- Yuzuru stays in the place and waits for Kanade to come back.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: From our remarks earlier, expect Angel Beats! to have a lot of comedy elements in them. There are some moments that left us crying like Kanade leaving Yuzuru behind. When the anime included gratitude and moving from past actions (things get serious), this is how we know it deserves to be on this list.
12. Fruits Basket
Considering its slice-of-life theme, the main Fruits Basket arc has a good balance of wholesome and sad anime moments. However, we recommend watching the prologue, where a young Tohru had to experience loss and grief. The scenes get pretty dark as well, so prepare for that.
Tohru stumbled upon the Sohma family, shrouded in mystery after the events of her mother’s passing. She slowly learns about a curse with her getting accustomed to the clan. A normal person hugging any members (as long as they’re opposite sex) will temporarily morph a Sohma into their respective Zodiac animal.
In the end, Tohru managed to break the curse. Don’t worry. There’s no violence here. Everyone gets their happy ending, even the main antagonist herself, who is forced to do all the inconvenience.
What to Expect / What Makes it Great: Fruits Basket touched on the topic of battling depression against all odds. This is particularly evident when Tohru breaks down as she remembers her traumatic childhood and mother’s passing. Aside from that, it also showcases a wholesome trait most women lack or refuse to show – their nurturing side.