Anime are known for their realistic appearances and expressions, intense characters and story backgrounds. They have kept the Japanese culture and history alive in this rapidly changing world with very high competition. They have captivated the audiences, leaving them mesmerized through their stories and intricacies.
If you start watching anime, the first genres you come across are action and romance. But tragic and sad anime are an intricate part of anime, giving deeper insights into their culture and in general the human behaviour. Following is the list of saddest anime ever made that are total tear-jerkers. You can watch some of these sad anime on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. The list includes both anime series and anime movies.
20. Colorful (2010)
These type of movies are the reason why I mostly watch anime when it comes to animated stuff. You just cannot see such type of premises working well in other places. ‘Colorful’ is a really long anime movie. It’s total length clocks at about 2hrs and 7 minutes. This the sort of supernatural drama that will make you emotional and move your heart. It is not an extreme tear-jerker like ‘Grave of Fireflies’ but rather a dramatic approach to showcasing the working of the world. It is a movie about self-realization and second chances. A depressed and sad soul reaches the train station death. While there, the authorities tell the soul that it has won some lottery and is a ‘Lucky’ soul who gets to have another shot at life. Our protagonist soul doesn’t want to live again but has to comply anyway. It has to live in the body of a 14-year-old suicide victim Makoto. The soul has to find out what drove this young boy to commit suicide all the while trying to figure out his sin. The sin he committed which resulted in him getting kicked out of the cycle of reincarnation. The soul has a time limit of six months during which he has to perform these tasks. But apart from this he also needs to learn how to enjoy this second chance at life.
19. Kimi no Na wa. (2016)
‘Kimi no Na wa.’ or ‘Your Name.’ is one of the most popular anime movies. This movie is a visual delight having superb art and character design. The total length of the movie is about 1 hour 46 minutes. The premise is not something original but that’s understandable since it’s not the premise which makes a movie great rather it is the implementation of that premise which hooks the viewers. The protagonists are quite interesting and somewhat relatable which keeps us invested. It is also a nice little love story. Mitsuha Miyamizu is the female protagonist of this anime. She lives in the countryside of Japan and studies at a high school there. But she always longs for something she doesn’t have i.e. life in the bustling Tokyo city. She dreams of living as a boy in a busy city which is the complete opposite of her life here in the village. Taki Tachibana is the male protagonist of this anime movie. Any guesses as to where he stays? Of course, he stays in Tokyo. He has a hard time juggling his part-time job and his studies. Though good at heart, he has a short temper and is quite impatient. One day Mitsuha wakes up to find that she is in the body of a boy in Tokyo city. Her dream seems to have come true overnight. Meanwhile, Taki wakes up to find that he is now a girl who lives in the countryside. Both of them are confused and want to find out more about this mysterious phenomenon all the while searching for the other person.
18. Byousoku 5 Centimeter (2007)
‘Byousoku 5 Centimeter’ is an anime movie which has three parts or episodes with each episode being about 22 minutes in length. The movie belongs to the drama and romantic genre. It is a visually stunning piece of art. The background scenes are really superb and soothe your eyes. At first, the concept of the movie might be a bit confusing but give it a few minutes and it will grow on you i.e. if you like such stuff. The characters are quite relatable as the movie has normal characters doing normal things. Being an ordinary person I like normal protagonists in my anime. The three episodes of this movie are- ‘Cherry Blossoms’, ‘Cosmonaut’, and ‘5 Centimetres Per Second’. The last episode serves as the title for this anime. The plot of this anime revolves around a boy by the name of Takaki Tono who lives in Japan. The film starts in the 1990s and ends somewhere around 2008. When in elementary school Takaki Tono meets Akari Shinohara. He likes the girl and they share similar interests which cause them to quickly become close. They refer to each other using their names only sans any honorifics. In a country like Japan, this signifies utter closeness. But after they graduate from elementary school Akari moves to the neighboring prefecture. But the pair keeps writing letters to each other. Soon, Takaki’s family has to move too and this time it’s on the other side of the country altogether. But before emoving Takaki decides to meet Akari for one last time and confess his love. The film from here showcases their individual lives.
17. Mirai no Mirai (2018)
‘Mirai no Mirai’ is a beautiful anime movie which deals in fantasy, adventure, and drama. Many people might tell you that it is a stereotypical film but don’t listen to them and watch it. Like other beautiful fantasy anime, ‘Mirai no Mirai’ is a visual treat for everyone. The settings and backgrounds are pretty decent and add to the feel of the movie. The character design is pretty slick too and the protagonist is really cute. If you have a younger brother or sister then you can watch this movie with them. Though the movie was quite fun to watch it will make you kind of sad, believe me. Kun Oota is the 4-year-old protagonist of ‘Mirai no Mirai’. Everybody is quite fond of him and he receives lots of love, cuddles, and pampers. He loves playing with his dog and his train sets. But all of this changes when his younger sister is born. The family names the baby Mirai which means future. At first, Kun loves the fact that he now has a baby sister and his mother is at home. But later Kun feels that his world has been shattered by the birth of his sister as now she is the one who is the center of attention and not him. Everybody now seems to be showering their love on Mirai and Kun is now moving towards oblivion. Kun slowly becomes jealous of his sister Mirai as his mother returns to work and his dad starts working from home to take care of the household. One day Kun storms off to the garden. There he meets and a number of guests from past and future and one of them is a teenage girl who tells him that she is Mirai from the future. Together they go on a journey across space and time learning more about their family. But the question that still lingers is ‘Why did Mirai come from future?’
16. Omoide no Marnie (2014)
‘Omoide no Marnie’ is sort of a tear-jerker. It is a beautiful story about friendship and self-discovery. The art and music are quite good in this anime. The plot is nothing too original or new but it is nonetheless entertaining to watch the anime. It is fun to watch the main characters interact and try to live their life to the fullest. The underlying mystery is kind of interesting glues us just enough to watch the movie till the end. This film is by the anime movie giant Studio Ghibli which has been responsible for such beautiful anime for a long time. Many anime on this list is under the belt of Studio Ghibli. Anna Sasaki is a young girl who has asthma attacks. It his around her that the movie revolves around. She lives with her foster parents and is not social and tries to shut herself out. Worried about her well-being her parents consult a doctor who advises them to send Anna to the countryside because of the simple lifestyle which might change her mood. Furthermore the clean air there will be good for her health. Anna is sent to leave with her aunt in the countryside. There she spends most of her time sketching. In the village, she discovers an abandoned house named Marsh House. But she soon learns that a girl by the name of Marnie stays there. She and Marnie soon become friends and Marnie’s cheerful attitude helps remove the unsocial personality of Anna. But who is Marnie? Will Anna like the truth hiding behind this mysterious girl and the Marsh House? One thing’s for certain though, she will never forget this summer.
15. Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (2016)
War is good for no one. It takes a massive chunk out of the of the peaceful lives of people. The two World Wars that our planet faced has had a devastating effect on the people involved. As you know, Japan was heavily involved in the Second World War. There was a huge loss of life and property during these times. This has been well documented in various films and anime. One of the prime examples of such an anime ‘Grave of The Fireflies’. But today we will be talking about a lesser known anime film set during the Second World War. Don’t worry ‘Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni’ isn’t just about suffering and loss but how to live life to the fullest in hard times. Suzu Urano is the protagonist of this anime. She is smart, hardworking and quite young. She has to move to Kure, a small town in Hiroshima, after marrying Shuusaku Houjo. Suzu is just 18 when she is married. Shuusaku works at the naval base as a clerk. Wartime is hard for everyone but Suzu tries her best to take care of the household and prepare meals for her family even when there is a shortage of food. But during the last phase of the war, the US bombings affected Hiroshima a lot and had devastating effects on everyone. With nothing but sheer courage and will power Suzu continues her best to take care of her family and live as well as she can. The movie is around 2 hours and 36 minutes so be patient as it is worth it.
14. Perfect Blue (1998)
‘Perfect Blue’ is a critically acclaimed movie. The movie has won multiple awards, nominations, and praise. The movie showcases the horrors in the showbiz industry. The film is about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. This movie is the anime adaptation of the novel ‘Perfect Blue: Kanzen Hentai’ written by Japanese author Yoshikazu Takeuchi. Before you start watching this film be advised that it is not for young viewers as it has lots of adult contents and themes including but not limited to rape, nudity, and violence. Mira Kirigoe is a famous pop singer and is a member of the successful J-pop idol group CHAM!. But wanting to be an actress she leaves her band. But it is hard for her to shake her J-pop idol image and her acting receives mixed reviews. She starts taking on more demanding roles but still there isn’t enough success. Then there’s an obsessive fan who did not take Mira’s career change lightly and begins staking her. Then anonymous websites pop up which start detailing every moment of her life. In addition to all this, her former group is doing quite well without her. This eventually starts to take a toll on Mira as she finds herself losing her sanity.
13. Doukyuusei (2016)
‘Doukyuusei’ is one of the best romance anime movies that has been released int he recent years. The characters in the movie are quite interesting. The character designs are quite good and the art of the movie looks pretty decent. The movie is about 1 hour long and covers the first volume of the source material. The protagonists of the movie are Rihito Sajou and Hiraku Kusakabe. Rihito is what you would call an intelligent student. He is quite good at his studies and was able to secure full marks in the high school entrance exam. Hiraku Kusakabe is into music and plays the guitar in a band. He is handsome and quite popular among girls. Two people from completely different worlds have a higher chance of not having their paths crossed. But somehow the paths of these two individuals merge as the music festival approaches. Rihito has to make preparations for the chorus and is offered help by Hiraku. The pair starts meeting frequently due to this. But soon they start enjoying each other’s company. The emotions soon grow into love and Hiraku confesses. His direct attitude makes Rihito back off at first but slowly he too engages in this romantic relationship. But what does the future holds for these two uncommon lovebirds?
12. Jin-Roh: Wolf Brigade (2000)
After the end of World War II, anti-terror policeman Fuse gets suspended after a young terrorist girl’s self-detonation during an operation. He had failed to shoot her in time. When he begins gathering some information about her, he meets and befriends her sister. Both get dragged into the rivalries between the police administration and the counter terrorism commando unit ‘Jin Roh’ (human wolves). The movie is so surreal and beautiful that it will make a dent in your heart with its story and will leave you searching for tissues.
11. The Place Promised In Our Early Days (2004)
The story takes place in an alternate period, in 1996, where Japan is divided into two. Hokkaido is ruled by the ‘Union’, while the southern islands are under US authority. In the summer of 1996, three middle-school students make a promise that they’ll cross the border with a self-constructed plane. But their project was abandoned, after a girl, Sayuri Sawatari, became mysteriously ill and had to be transferred. At the brink of another war, Hiroki Fujisawa finds out that Sayuri had been in a coma since then, and he asks Takuya Shirakawa to help him find a way to wake her up.
10. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
This story takes us back to the year 1945, after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. The movie is unraveled in flashback, leading right to the beginning of the story where Seita dies alone at the train station. The story is about Seita and Setsuko, two siblings, whose mother is killed by burns suffered during an American bombing, and father who is working in the navy, struggling to make ends meet. It is a tragic story of a time when compassion and basic requirements are both scarce. The movie shows the horrors of war and how it affects citizens of a country. It is a very well-directed movie, the ending of which will leave you in tears.
9. A Silent Voice (2016)
After bullying a deaf girl in his youth, a now victimized Shoyo must find a way to make amends. As he tries to seek her out, what follows is the most tearjerking portrayal of redemption and forgiveness we have seen in an anime. The character of Shoyo is so realistic and derivative of reality that it can be felt like it was the a real person.
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8. Clannad (2007)
Tomoya Okazaki is a young third-year high school student who has distanced himself from his father who works at a night shift. Tomoya’s mother died when he was very young. He goes to school and seems to have no interest in the life around him. One day, Tomoya meets Nagisa Furukawa, who is repeating the third year due to her ill-health the previous year. She befriends him and follows him to school every day. While helping Nagisa to organize the drama club, Tomoya finally begins to enjoy his life. All the characters in the movie have sad, realistic and sympathetic stories which makes the movie more relatable. A sequel to the movie “Clannad: After Story” was a year later which too was heart-braking to watch.
7. Millennium Actress (2001)
In this animated movie, filmmaker Genya Tachibana begins work on a documentary about famed Japanese actress Chiyoko Fujiwara. Now well into old age, Chiyoko has become reclusive and shy about any publicity, but she eventually warms up to Tachibana and starts to relate her life story. As the decades pass, Chiyoko is transformed from a teen with big dreams into a full-blown celebrity, while her cinematic characters span various eras, from ancient Japan to the distant future. The movie treats us with a heartbreaking look at how fame and fortune can steal the light out of a person.
6. The Wind Rises (2013)
Kaze Tachinu is the story of the man who created the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, the most famous airplane in Japanese history. From his childhood in Fujioka, Jirou dreamed of designing flying machines like his hero, Italian aviation pioneer Giovanni Battista Caproni. Through disaster, romance, war and loss, Jirou continues to chase that dream – learning along the way that once released into the world, dreams can take on a very different shape.
5. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Shizuku Tsukishima is a free-spirited and cheerful 14-year-old girl who is currently enjoying her summer vacation. She loves spending her free time at the local library where she notices that the books she reads are often checked out by a boy named Seiji Amasawa. One day while riding the local train, Shizuku notices a strange cat sitting near her. Shizuku decides to follow the mysterious cat to see where it goes, and soon stumbles upon an antique shop run by a violin maker named Nishi, the grandfather of the mystery boy who shares her taste in literature. Seiji and Shizuku soon become friends and while Seiji is sure of his dreams and how to follow them, Shizuku is still unsure of her own talents. However, when she sees a strange cat statuette, “The Baron,” in the shop, it seems as if that statuette whispers something to her, tugging at her heart and giving her the inspiration she so desperately needed. One voice pushes Shizuku further than she could have ever imagined, changing her life forever.
4. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
This movie is a loose sequel to a novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui, which was published in 1967. It shares the same basic baseline of a young girl who gains the power of time travel. Makoto (one of the central characters) begins using the time-leaps frivolously to fix problems, but soon discovers that her actions can adversely affect others. Her reckless time traveling takes its toll; a powerful climax in which one of her friends pays with his life. The movie beautifully shows the affect of trying to change the world using your powers without thinking about the consequences.
3. Air (2005)
This movie is based on a novella of the same name by ‘Key’. The two stories run parallel to each other. One is of Yukito Kunisaki and Misuzu Kamio in the present timeline, and the other is of Kanna and Ryūya in the past. Kanna and Ryūya’s love had a tragic end, and have been reborn as Yukito and Misuzu. Yukito promises as he leaves town that he will break the spell that has kept the two apart for both the lives. This is a very sad love story spanning two lifetimes but the love only increases between them and their struggles will make you eyes wet.
2. Wolf Children (2012)
A nineteen-year-old college student, Hana, falls in love with a classmate who is secretly a werewolf, and can change into a wolf as per his wish. He and Hana have two wolf children, a daughter Yuki and son Ame. Soon after Ame’s birth, their father dies, leaving Hana to look after the two werewolf children. She takes them to the country side, away from prying neighbors. The children are unable to control their transformation, and Hana struggles to make ends meet while dealing with her children’s choices.`The movie shows the toll parenting takes on the parents and that too when there is only one of them and children are not normal but require special attention.
1. Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light (2011)
This is a romantic-sad anime movie, and is the story of a six-year-old girl named Hotaru Takegawa, who gets lost in a forest inhabited by a mountain spirit, as well as yōkai. She is found by a mask-wearing, human-like entity named Gin, who warns Hotaru that he will disappear forever if he is touched by a human. Gin leads Hotaru out of the forest. Hotaru returns to visit Gin in the forest over the next few days, and they become friends despite the limitations. At the end of the summer, she leaves Gin, but promises to return to visit him every summer holiday. As the years go by, Gin and Hotaru struggle with their budding romance and their uncertain future together, while Gin wishes to touch her. Gin takes her on a date to a forest festival hosted by the spirits. A young boy sneaks into the spirit festival, and touches Gin. Before he disappears, Gin and Hotaru embrace and confess their love for one another.