Anime creators understand how to make us cry, with tons of anime that are created specifically for this purpose. There is no shortage of heartfelt dramas about young love, unrequited feelings and relationship drama or serious stories tackling issues like death, war, and illness. Heck, even shounen anime have tearjerker moments.
If you’re in the mood to see people break down into tears, this list is for you. We have 30 sad anime recommendations that are guaranteed to make your eyes well up with salty fluid. There are countless other emotional anime out there, but these were our top picks!
Content Navigation (TL:DR)
- Made in Abyss
- Violet Evergarden
- Your Lie in April
- Angel Beats!
- Death Parade
- Assassination Classroom
- Rumbling Hearts
- Terror in Resonance
- Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
- March Comes in Like a Lion
- Tokyo Revengers
- 5 Centimeters per Second
- Wolf’s Rain
- Elfen Lied
- Searching for the Full Moon
- We Were There
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Scum’s Wish
- Plastic Memories
- A Silent Voice
- Japan Sinks: 2020
- Now and Then, Here and There
- Serial Experiments Lain
- Welcome to the NHK
- Grave of The Fireflies
- Anohana: The Flower We Saw that Day
Made in Abyss
During a descent to the depths of the mystical chasm, human child Riko and her humanoid friend Regu search for Riko’s mother. It’s like an open-world fantasy RPG that looks and sounds well made. However, Riko and Regu (and Ouzen and Nanachi) aren’t playing a game of pure fun and adventure. Made in Abyss enters an insidious realm in a flash. Despite the temptation to return to the lighter sides of this sad anime series, you’d feel like you must watch for the characters’ sake alone.
The profound, moving, and overall beautiful anime, Violet Evergarden, will leave you destroyed by the end. Most people cite this one as a few that left them reaching for tissues to wipe their tears after watching it. The main character is raised specifically to be used against enemies, but when her wounds are healed at war‘s close, she has no purpose in life until she begins working as an Auto Memory Doll, which is someone who helps translate thoughts into words on paper.
Your Lie in April
Your Lie in April, a heartbreaking anime about music and healing from A-1 Pictures, follows Arima Kousei, a piano prodigy who lost his ability to hear the sound of the piano after his mother’s death. Two years later, he meets Kaori Miyazono, a talented violinist who helps him see that playing freely is better than following strict rules taught by his late mom.
Through the anime, Kousei Arima finds that the point of music isn’t just to hit each note perfectly (while falling in love with Kaori along the way). Sadly, Kaori’s cheerfulness is just a cover for impending tragedy, much like its bright color palette. A deeply felt and heartbreaking tale of overcoming emotional trauma and moving forward, set to a stunning soundtrack, Your Lie in April is sure to make even the hardest of hearts cry.
Check Out: 25 Best Beginner Anime on Netflix (part 1)
Angel Beats! begins with a boy named Otonosahi waking up only to realize he’s dead. He is luckily saved by a girl carrying a rifle named Yuri, who tells him that he has arrived in the afterlife and that she is the leader of a rebellious battlefront against God and the student body president Angel who possesses supernatural powers. There is a point in the anime series when it isn’t funny, and you forget what laughter is.
Otonashi is confused by the morality of the battlefront’s actions as they orchestrate and execute operations against Angel. Ultimately, Otonashi and Angel are able to find out the purpose of the afterlife school – letting those who have endured trauma and hardships in life move on. It’s a tearjerker to watch their struggle to let go of the attachments to their past lives as they try to let go.
Death Parade is a 12-episode series about unmasking people and their true nature. If all you knew was its viral OP, it would seem to be gleeful with characters who love dancing. After death, there is no heaven or hell. Instead, the recently deceased are taken to a bar where they have to play random games with their fate being wagered on it by an attendant. The true nature of each person will be revealed in this ghastly parade where Decim awaits at Quindecim!
Check Out: 50 Best Anime Characters with White Hair
Unlike other shows, this show slowly but surely moved beyond demonstrating Koro-Sensei’s risible abilities and assassination attempts. We grew to love them in Season 2 as they changed so much together – bonding particularly with Koro-Sensei, whose backstory is also quite touching. As the students grow and become capable of killing Koro Sensei, we see the struggle and conflict of emotions as the kids decide whether to help or kill their beloved teacher.
There is a tragic event in the drama anime series Rumbling Hearts that complicates matters of young romance – and here, the situation is truly unique. Takayuki must choose between two women: The first is Haruka, his ex-girlfriend, who got into an accident that he blames on himself. Another is Mitsuki, who arranged the meeting in the first place and with whom he falls in love after Haruka’s accident. Neither of them is intentionally trying to hurt the other, but they have to deal with the facts that they can’t change.
Terror in Resonance
Terror in Resonance is the story of Nine and Twelve, two boys who are elusive figures known as Sphinx. The world may not understand them, but they exist with strong spirits that can make a whole city crumble around them if it means burying their own tragic truth.
One of Japan’s nuclear facilities is the only thing left after a terrorist attack. The word “VON” is painted red in the aftermath. Sadly, the government was unable to act, leaving the police frantically seeking ways to punish the perpetrators. Six months later, the public discovers a strange video on the internet. Identified only as “Sphinx,” two teenage boys threaten to destroy Tokyo with destruction and mayhem in the video. As the panic spreads throughout the city and the police are desperate for information, the police struggle to deal with these terrorists effectively, with Detective Kenjirou Shibazaki thrown into the middle of it all.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
When a powerful earthquake hits Tokyo, two children find themselves struggling to reach their parents as they track their way home from an exhibition. The siblings are assisted by Mari, who is making her way to reunite with her daughter and mother. On the long journey back together, each of them finds comfort in those around him/herself – becoming family on some level. This film depicts how three strangers become one after experiencing tragedy during this horrific event.
March Comes in Like a Lion
In this film, March Comes in Like a Lion recognizes that psychosocial elements have the power to drastically impact lives, just as they can for good or bad. In some way, the studio translated the emotional and mental turmoil of the characters into visually stunning sequences. Next, there is the second season, which is even more powerful and emotional than the first. Rather than focusing on Rei (even though he’s still present and better off), this episode focuses on other characters. For a good reason, Season 2 influenced many fans with its look at bullying. In addition to spending time with the bullied individual, the show also explores the reasons why someone can bully someone else, exploring the possibility that they have been bullied themselves, turning to bullying to cope with the pain. There are many other painful, emotional aspects of life in March Comes in Like a Lion.
Nakamichi returns to 12 years ago and relives his past. Intent on saving his ex-girlfriend from the hands of the Tokyo Majin Gang, he goes back and forth from past to present, trying to change the course of events. We follow Takemichi’s struggles and turmoil, both as a student and an adult, in handling loss, death, and self-pity. The anime also gives us some of the saddest anime deaths of the same character.
Check Out: 13 Anime Like Tokyo Revengers
5 Centimeters per Second
5 Centimeters Per Second makes us feel for Makoto Shinkai’s characters in a way that his other films do not. The film follows two close friends, Takaki Toono and Akari Shinohara, who keep drifting further apart as they go through life. Despite their efforts to stay in touch, they can’t seem to meet again despite the growing distance between them. The title is a reference to the speed of cherry blossoms falling-a poetic metaphor about how people tend to naturally drift away from each other throughout life’s natural progression.
Jun and the other kids shouldn’t have to feel like the fate of the world is in their hands, but that’s exactly the situation they’re in. One of the kids who accepted Kokopelli’s contract must pilot the robot Zearth for each enemy. They will die if they win (and save the Earth from danger). The mecha will feed on the life of its pilot in exchange for using Zearth. No one, especially children, should make such a sacrifice. Is it even possible that they want to save everyone? It places children in traumatic situations, revealing their life perspectives and what they value most.
Check Out: 13 Dark Anime Like The Promised Neverland
When you watch Wolf’s Rain, it feels like breaking up with a long-term partner. Except the show doesn’t give you room to breathe as one heartbreaking moment is piled on top of another at the end when they finally reach their destination, and all that viewers want for them now is paradise. In the story, a lone wolf named Kiba is lured to Freeze City, an impoverished town ruled by the callous Lord Orkham, by an intoxicating scent.
Kiba finds that the same aroma has drawn in the wolves Hige, Tsume, and Toboe. The wolves set out on a journey across desolate landscapes and crumbling cities to find their legendary promised land after smelling the fragrance of the “Lunar Flowers,” which is said to open the door to their ideal world. Although they are seeking paradise, others with more sinister intentions will do anything to attain it first.
Elfen Lied is known to be quite depressing. The show has a horrific scene of animal abuse early on; if that would cause you heartbreak, it may not be for you. The series follows Lucy, who is one of two types: Diclonius and human (of which she’s unaware). She becomes the victim in several scientific experiments, which eventually leave her with split personalities after killing everyone around her except Nana–her other personality protects Kouta while at high-risk/violence mode until near death, where she loses control again before being shot by scientists bringing about their end as well.
Searching for the Full Moon
Mitsuki Kouyama is the protagonist of Searching for the Full Moon. With her childhood friend Eichi Sakurai, she vowed to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional singer. However, she has throat cancer, and the shinigami came by and told her she will only live another year. Despite the fact that it courageously confronted death (and even suicide), “Searching for the Full Moon” went above and beyond expectations. Viewers experienced a full spectrum of emotions, making her journey all the more meaningful.
We Were There
The aesthetic of We Were There was plain, to say the least. Nevertheless, the series is a fan favorite romance anime partly thanks to its clean & bare visuals. The show has 26 episodes. If it doesn’t have a second season, many of us will never feel fulfilled (unless we read the manga). It’s something about the way their eyes tell you that they’re concealing a secret (or desperately trying to forget) someone. Motoharu and Nanami, as well as Masafumi and Yuri, all do their part in the shoujo tropes, which are effectively executed. Tragic events do occur. But We were there is also a beautiful story of teenage love, filled with the familiar joys and pains of teenage life as well as soothing yet sad music.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
There are few stories that can keep audiences glued to their seats as much as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It’s a story about two brothers who attempt human transmutation in order to bring back their deceased mother. The younger brother loses his entire body, and the older one has no choice but to lose part of his arms and legs during this process. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a story of love, tragedy and magic. The anime features many different stories that will make your blood chill and your eyes tear up.
Scum’s Wish is a dark and uncomfortable anime about unrequited love. It starts out as something sweet but quickly becomes very ugly when the characters are relentlessly trampled on until they become trash themselves. Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya, according to the outside world, are the ideal couple. Yet, they both have a secret pain: they both love someone they cannot have. Hanabi has always loved Narumi Kanai, her childhood friend and neighbor, so she is delighted to discover that he will be her new homeroom teacher. However, Narumi is quickly noticed by the music teacher, Akane Minagawa, and a romance blossoms between them, much to Hanabi’s chagrin.
Mugi has been in love with Akane ever since she tutored her in middle school. Through a chance meeting in the hallway, he comes into contact with Hanabi. After spending more time together, these two people realize they are both lonely. As a result, they decide to use each other as a substitute for the person they truly love, sharing physical intimacy in an attempt to cope with their loneliness.
Check Out: Top 47 Ecchi Anime Of All Time
Watching the protagonist come to terms with his time running out is what makes Plastic Memories so interesting. The show gives viewers a bracing dose of reality and how things aren’t forever, but it also shows us why we fight for our loved ones no matter their form or lifespan; you never know when your last day will be together.
A Silent Voice
A Silent Voice from Kyoto Animation is a somewhat grim anime film, but that’s actually to its advantage. You won’t feel comfortable watching this movie. You’re meant to feel what the characters on screen feel, and it does its job well. The story focuses on Shouko, a deaf girl who was constantly harassed by her peers in elementary school to the point where she had to transfer schools several times. Additionally, it is also about Shouya, the bullying pupil of Shoko, who later becomes the target of bullying himself. In the third year of Shouya’s high school career, haunted by his past mistakes and regretting his choices, he vows to undergo a journey of redemption. In an effort to make amends, he finds Shouko again. A Silent Voice is heartfelt and moving, yet also hauntingly unsettling. It will take you on an emotional rollercoaster.
Although Steins;Gate is not a sad anime, it still has a heartbreaking narrative line. This story is about Okabe Rintarou, a self-proclaimed insane scientist who discovers that he has the power to change the past by sending Dmails (D stands for dimension). They realize that this leads to a lot of problems after they use these dmails to mess with time.
Okabe must race against time to save his childhood friend Mayuri and ends up watching her die repeatedly. Eventually, he is forced to choose between Mayuri and Makise Kurisu – a girl who has been helping him all this time as well as a girl he has been in love with. Watching Okabe fail over and over is overwhelming for anyone; it can especially be difficult when you fall in love with someone on your journey there, too.
Check Out: 25 Best Beginner Anime on Netflix (Part 2)
Japan Sinks: 2020
Japan Sinks: 2020 went well beyond the disaster, examining socio-political elements that are still being discussed in Japan today. It illustrates the devastating effects of earthquakes that there is more to it than one big earthquake. There are aftershocks, and you may experience landslides, fires, automobile accidents, flooding, or even deadly stampedes. Simply watching the first two episodes reveals how unforgiving the world is. It’s hard to imagine that death can be just around the corner while those you care about may not even have time to grieve. The anime also exposes the cruel and treacherous sides of humanity with its depiction of discrimination, racism, and human cruelty.
The show Rainbow makes a powerful point about prison reform and prisoners’ rights, especially when it comes to teenagers who are lawbreakers. While the anime is cruel, it is needed this way. Prisons do not always serve their intended purpose, despite what many people want to think. The prison system is a topic that’s often discussed in documentaries, whether in developed or developing countries. Rainbow reminds audiences that political, social, or even sexual power can be abused by figures of authority and that not everyone behind bars is a morally deplorable human being – some have moral values greater than the guards and doctors tasked with reforming them.
Now and Then, Here and There
Now and Then, Here and There is a dark anime that has a character who is thrown into the middle of an apocalyptic desert world where there are no laws. It’s disheartening to see how many times Shuuzou gets back up despite being in so much pain, but it shows us just how strong he can be even when faced with all these odds against him. Now and Then, Here and There contains lots of violence along with torture as well as murder which isn’t suitable for children at all!
Serial Experiments Lain
This psychological avant-garde mystery series follows Lain as she makes decisions that will impact both real and virtual worlds. Only Lain will understand the significance of their presence after closing one world and opening another. While Lain struggles with concepts such as self-identity, belonging, and determining what is real, she is also facing loneliness, family issues, and cultural stigmas that continue to haunt Japan (and other societies) today.
The anime series Clannad is sad but also focuses on the importance of family. It has two seasons: twenty-three episodes for season one and twenty-four in season 2, where it shows how relationships change when faced with new challenges that come into adulthood. In this anime, we are able to watch a character’s entire life instead of just seeing him or her graduate high school or tie the knot. Clannad doesn’t pull any punches, however. The experience will leave you in tears and with a broken heart.
Welcome to the NHK
Welcome to the NHK is about a NEET named Tatsuhiro Satou who has all but given up on life in the real world. In meeting Misaki, he embarks on a journey that is both agonizing and ultimately necessary for individual progress. This film is tough to watch, but it’s one that everyone should watch, not just NEETs or people like me. The purpose of this contribution is to inspire NEETs, and NEET-like individuals, to try and break free from the cages they have created, both for themselves.
Grave of The Fireflies
There are few emotional anime movies as heartbreaking as Grave of the Fireflies. A character named Seita and his sister Setsuko have been displaced from their home and their parents due to a brutal war that took the lives of both of them. The story is set in the final days of World War II when the war has destroyed their family.
With no one to turn to in their impoverished homeland, the siblings’ youthful optimism blinds them in the face of immense hardship, so they can attempt to resist fate. A Studio Ghibli film that is at once painfully sad, beautifully moving, and profoundly beautiful, Grave of the Fireflies is sure to leave everyone teary.
Anohana: The Flower We Saw that Day
If you want to cry for eleven episodes straight, check this one out. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day is an anime from A-1 Pictures that aired in spring 2011. This sad anime series tells the story of six teenagers coping with loss after their friend Menma died when they were kids.
The group of friends has drifted apart over the past five years, but the ghost of Menma might be enough to bring them back together. As they reunite, Menma is able to fulfill her wish and move on, while at the same time, her friends receive the closure they need to move on without her. Our main characters in the story struggle with their own guilt and inability to cope after Menma’s passing. It is a touching, tear-jerking experience not to be missed.
There you have it, anime fans. We hope you enjoyed this list of some of the saddest animes the anime industry has to offer. If we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments, and we’ll add it to our next post! Which one is your favorite?