Even though its just a bunch of colored pictures given sound and motion, anime can make us feel just as happy or sad as any movie or drama, and it’s especially good at giving us some grief. So for all those people that think anime begins with the sparkles Cardcaptor Sakura and ends with kittens in K-On!, here are the 10 most depressing anime of all time.

And, as with any article about a show’s story, this may contain some micro-spoilers so tread lightly.

1) Slam Dunk

The anime that made basketball popular in Japan, Takehiko Inoue’s masterpiece follows Hanamichi Sakuragi, a ridiculously tall guy that was rejected by 50 (that’s Five-Zero!) girls in junior high, and so he decides to join his high school’s basketball team to impress the (latest) girl of his dreams. Along the way, he becomes part of the underdog team that makes it to the national championships. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately, after 101 DBZ-paced episodes of struggle, the show ends without letting us know how the championships go. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the manga afterwards tells you they don’t win the championships either. Teardrop.

2) Noaki Urasawa’s Monster

Dr. Kenzo Tenma sacrificed his career to save a child’s life. The child grew up and became a serial killer. If that already doesn’t feel like a kick in the old pantsu, there are plenty more tear-jerking moments as Tenma travels across post-WWII Europe and sees atrocities like child abuse, racial hatred, and entire families destroyed for no reason. And there’s also a really sweet guy who is always smiling—he grew up in an abusive orphanage, his son died, and his wife left him. Yeah…happy stuff.

3) Nana


When Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki met on a train to Tokyo and ended up moving in together, it looked like they would be best friends forever. And even though Nana O. always kept reminding us things would get worse, we never believed a friendship so sincere—a bond so deep—could be broken. And, boy, was it broken. If you have ever had a friend you loved and lost, this is an anime you need to see. Bring Kleenex.

4) Honey and Clover

This show lies to you; it tricks you into thinking it’s a comedy about the zany antics of five art school students. And then, in just a couple of episodes, the very real problems come out. Takemoto’s mom is struggling to fit in with her new husband’s family, Mayama loves his widowed and damaged boss, Hagu has to survive outside her grandmother’s house for the first time in her life, Ayumi feels obligated to marry someone she loves like a brother and Morita has problems only Morita would have. There are happy moments, sure, but seriously…stop pretending to be a comedy when you’re going to make people cry!

5) Hikaru No Go

This show has a beautiful message: the strength you looked for outside when you were growing up was really within you. But Hikaru No Go is still a really sad show because it doesn’t just convince our hero to grow up—it forces him to grow up. When Hikaru finally abandons his “imaginary” friend, you realize what it means—we must all abandon our childhood and face the world alone. And here I wanted to watch a few more animes while I was still young….

6) House of Five Leaves

Our hero Masa is an incredibly skilled samurai, hired as the bodyguard for the “chivalrous gang” called Five Leaves. And while it may sound like traditional samurai anime fare, this show has absolutely no action. Instead, what the show focuses on is how every single member of the group is haunted by their past and unable to move on, even though they want to live good lives. Watching all twelve episodes of this show is like skinning an onion for three years; the tears will come.

7) Hajime No Ippo

On its own, this show is an inspiring tale about the rise of Ippo Makonouchi, a loveable young kid with a natural gift for boxing. Unfortunately, Ippo is not the only struggler. In fact, the people Ippo beats often have even sadder lives and even more reasons to win, so it really hurts to see them fall. If you always felt like you knew exactly who to root for in a movie or drama, watch this show and get your alliances thrown out of whack.

8) Samurai Champloo

Easily the best mix of hip-hop and feudal Japan ever (eat it, Afro Samurai!), Samurai Champloo hates happy endings. Every single episode usually ends with good people losing someone they love. At least it wraps up each adventure nicely and keeps our heroes going forward in their search for the samurai who smells of sunflowers. And yes, I repeat, a show about samurais that smell like a summer field is going to make you cry.

9) Flowers of Evil

Possibly one of the coolest looking animes ever, this ongoing series explores the moral destruction of middle school student Takao Kasuga. Not only do you see a perfectly nice kid go down the wrong path in life, you also see a very sweet girl repeatedly get hurt because she loves him (well, as much as any schoolgirl loves someone). It’s sad how a good life is thrown away but, more importantly, its even sadder how messed up kids today are. Whatever happened to riding bikes and trading Pokemon cards?

10) Death Note

There simply can’t be a list of sad stuff without mentioning this muddled mess of a mystery. Kira—who betrays his father, manipulates the orphaned fangirl that loves him, and kills the guy who considers him his only friend—is the most heartless scumbag in history (yes, he’s worse than Frieza). This egomaniacal douche kills so many but, even then, his horrific end is kind ofsad. Death is ugly—and the ugliest was reserved for the sickest scoundrel on the show.

11) Bonus: 5 Centimeters Per Second

This is just a bonus because, technically speaking, nothing sad happens. Takaki and Akari were good friends but Akari moved and that was that; it’s something we’ve all faced when moving. But there’s still a feeling that things could have been different—that they still could have been friends. Maybe it’s more unfortunate than depressing, but when their paths cross again across train tracks and they just look at each other…it gets you right in the childhood. I miss that fourth grade friend I used to have that I wouldn’t recognize if I saw today….

So what are your favorite sad stories of anime? Be sure to share them in the comments below.

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