8 anime deaths that made us weep
Anime has time and time again proven its ability to make us emote in ways we never thought possible from animation. Be it the beauty of The Wind Rises or the horror of seeing an aberrant titan run, anime can make you feel. And one thing anime does really well is make us feel sadness. So, for your Kleenex moment of the day, here are 8 anime deaths that made us cry.
And it goes without saying, but because we are talking about major plot points, spoilers lurk below.
1) Pumpkinmon and Gotsumon—Digimon Adventure
If you grew up watching Digimon in the United States, chances are you noticed the weirdness of the dub in this episode. When Myotismon—resident evil dude with a cape and fangs—attacks these two tiny creatures, the American edit claims they have been sent back to the villain’s dungeon. Unfortunately, that’s really not what happens when somebody gets attacked by a demon, and these two petite digimon were actually killed. And that’s really a shame because all these two “rockin’ dudes” wanted to do was explore Shibuya, eat ice cream and cause some harmless mischief. They refused to fight the Digidestined when ordered to do so, and became the first “evil” digimon in the show to give up their lives for the greater cause. Digimon never quite had the emotive qualities of some other works, but this definitely hit hard.
2) Spike Spiegel—Cowboy Bebop
As emphatic proof that main characters do not always have to survive, Spike Spiegel persists in “Top 10” lists everywhere as one of the medium’s most iconic and beloved protagonists. As part of a genre that often stars stylish but ultimately shallow gun-toting playboys, Spike Spiegel blazed a new trail of deeply nuanced antiheroes. Pondering existential questions of life while shooting things up, Spike was morally ambiguous yet tremendously affable, occasionally hilarious yet deeply complicated, and incredibly stylish yet deeply damaged. His death was the most heart-breaking moment of one the art form’s best stories, and fans to this day aren’t willing to accept that he is, indeed, dead.
3) Ash—Pokémon: The First Movie
While it’s technically not a “death” per se because our Pokémon Master wannabe was almost instantaneously revived, Ash’s momentary death rings truer in a way that many fans hadn’t originally noticed: that behind the charming premise of Pokémon lies a grim premise. In the film, Ash steps in to try and stop the fight between the original pokemon and Mewtwo’s army of clones. And as they are fighting, slapping, scratching and biting each other, it becomes obvious that Pokémon battling is a highly romanticized form of cockfighting, an illness that still pervades in society. Whether people are forcing dogs to fight each other for money or uploading videos of brutal beatings, cockfighting still exists in our world. And when the parallel between that and Pokémon became so atrociously clear, enjoying the series became a lot more difficult.
4) L—Death Note
L’s death was perhaps the bravest decision ever taken by a writer, and perhaps also the worst. After all, it takes some serious courage to kill your series’ most iconic character, but the wisdom of that decision has to be questioned because you risk killing interest in your series. And, boy, did it kill interest. Amidst anime fans around the world, many of whom became fans particularly because of our strangely pale chocoholic genius, the consensus seems to be that Death Note died with L. Often regarded as one of anime’s premier scene stealers, it took L all of one minute to establish himself as a genius in the second episode, where he used his wits to trace down the arrogant vigilante Kira, and in the process forever stole the spotlight from the series’ bitter protagonist. L stole hearts around the world and is one of the few characters that even non-anime fans are into, effectively making him Death Note’s greatest contribution to pop culture, and his anticlimactic death one of its most colossal failures.
5) Koji Ishida—Gyakkyo Burai Kaiji
In a series filled with gambling addicts who their government has abandoned and left at the mercy of loan sharks that do not have any place in civilized society, Ishida is perhaps the easiest to sympathize with. He risks his life to get out debt because he cannot bear the thought of his wife having to deal with the burden. His son leaves him because he simply doesn’t have the money to bail him out of his own debt. He gives his money ticket to protagonist Kaiji so that when he dies, at least someone can get that money to his wife. And Kaiji, an incurable gambling addict, blows that money trying to go for the big prize. There isn’t a much more desperate and painful end than that, and Ishida’s death is only indicative of the much larger of bane of illegal gambling and loans that the government, by refusing to both acknowledge and prosecute, actively supports.
6) Kamina—Gurren Lagann
At times, Kamina seems a bit strange. His fascination with the surface makes him seem unthankful for growing up in the safety of a village while others die due to lack of shelter. His tendency to constantly explore mysteries through Simon makes him seem a bit unconcerned with the safety of his friend. His philandering demeanor makes his interactions with the opposite sex seem irritating. But beyond all these somewhat quirky traits was a genuine sadness. Kamina was the epitome of the small-town boy who dared to dream, who dared to believe that he could someday find a place for himself above the squalor of his home. Unfortunately, when you are fighting for what is your right, you find yourself at odds with the people who have taken it for themselves. At times, it seemed like the whole world wanted Kamina to accept his fate as a creature of the dirt, and when he didn’t, he paid the ultimate price..
Watch a 400-year old alien hunk fall in love with a beautiful actress in My Love from Another Star.
7) Moses—Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan never shies away from portraying the horrors of war, so the number of very painful deaths in this story is higher than most. But amazingly, amidst all this, perhaps the saddest death is one we barely see. In the series’ first episode, the scouts—tasked with learning something, anything, about the gigantic creatures plaguing humanity—return to their city, only to be called loafers from the citizens for wasting taxpayer money. Men, risking their lives and returning injured with their dead on their backs, were called loafers. A mother comes up to the squad leader when she notices her son, Moses, isn’t there; they hand her his hand, wrapped in a cloth. It was all they could retrieve. As tears roll down her face, all she wants to know is that her son’s death wasn’t in vain. That is all she wants to know—that is what she needs to live: her son’s death wasn’t in vain. That it did something good for their people. And even though he tries, the squad leader can’t lie. He tells her that on this mission, just like every other mission, they learned absolutely nothing. There would be many people the Titans would kill throughout the series, but perhaps no other image would remain as frozen in the viewers’ minds as that woman’s tears.
8) Seita and Setsuko—Grave of the Fireflies
There simply isn’t a sadder story. Siblings Seita and Setsuko genuinely wanted to try and rebuild their lives. They laughed while they were in the bath. They did handstands and swam in the water. He made sugar water for her from an old box of candy. She carried her doll on her back as she swept their little home and made rice balls out of mud. Even after losing their family to war, Setsuko and Seta wanted to try and live a happy life. But cruel circumstances, and an even crueler society, destroyed their will. You look back and you think they could have survived. They had money, so maybe they could have moved to the city. Waited until the war was over. But they simply lost their will to live. War killed their parents, but Setsuko and Seita were killed by their own society’s apathy. And if you really want to know just how horrific all this is, the story is at least partially based on a true story.
9) Bonus: Anyone in Dragon Ball Z
Just kidding. There is never any need to feel bad for a death in Dragon Ball Z. Because they never stay dead. Ever. So don’t cry the next time you see Goku dying. He’ll be back. Every time. Every. Single. Time.