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20 Anime With Satisfyingly Sad Endings

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Though everyone loves happy endings, fiction would become pretty boring if every ending was all sunshine and rainbows. In anime, viewers never know what to expect from the final episode. Many of them opt to tie all the loose ends with a pretty bow to the viewers’ content. Others, however, make their endings a bit more reflective of the world’s cruelty.

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No matter how happy or sad the individual events are from episode to episode, a show’s ending is what leaves the biggest impact. Some endings are so expertly chosen as the culmination of their series that fans can’t help but embrace their sadness. After all, the occasional cathartic cry is healthy for the soul.

Updated on January 3rd, 2023 by Shannon Stoiz, Daniel Kurland, Elizabeth Brei, Maria Remizova, and Sarah Martin: We’ve compiled a bunch of the saddest anime series with satisfying endings into a masterlist. Though there are lots of anime endings that feel like the viewers’ hearts are getting ripped out of their chests, many anime series’ depressing conclusions are understandable.

20/20 Death Note’s Cycle Of Loss Continues With The End Of Light

Light Yagami dies in Death Note

Death Note boasts an instantly addictive story where a mysterious book gives its user the power to kill anyone whose name gets written in it. Fortunately, Death Note sticks the landing as one of the more successful anime of its kind. Strong mysteries drive the entirety of Death Note’s narrative, which says some frightening things about the nature of humanity.

There may be some sense of justice felt when the series ends, or perhaps that there’s a little less evil in the world, but Light gets snuffed out by Ryuk. On some level, it’s implied that this cycle of pain will just begin anew.

19/20 Darling In The FranXX Makes Unnecessary Sacrifices To Realize Its Message

Hiro and Zero Two from Darling In The FranXX.

Darling in the FranXX may suppress its horror influences, but the series is set in a futuristic dystopia where children are created to be pilots for gigantic mecha weapons. Nihilism reigns in Darling in the FranXX, but the characters are still able to gain a sense of purpose.

Much of this progress is discarded when Hiro and Zero Two sacrifice themselves for Earth’s greater good. The gesture represents a significant meaning for humanity, but FranXX could have reached this point without the two heroes needing to die and go through reincarnation.

18/20 The End Of Gurren Lagann’s High-Spirited Journey Is Surprisingly Melancholic

Simon and Nia’s Wedding from Gurren Lagann

Gurren Lagann’s hectic plot is full of drive, heart, and passionate energy. The iconic mecha anime doesn’t present itself as a story that can have a long-lasting emotional effect on the audience from the start. Nevertheless, the series creates a narrative that is simultaneously zealous and heartfelt.

The concluding episodes of Gurren Lagann keep the viewers in a constant state of high-powered emotions, bringing to a climax everything the show was building up to this point. After the final battle against the Anti-Spirals is won and the heroes face the melancholic aftermath of their victory, the built-up emotions crush the audience in a wave of sadness mixed with earnest gratification.

17/20 Wolf’s Rain Remains A Breathtaking Yet Devastating Fairytale Till The Very End

Lord Darcia III from Wolf's Rain.

The dystopian drama Wolf’s Rain focuses on a dying impoverished universe that continues to exist with only one hope: when the world comes to an end, the gates to a mythical paradise will open. Unfortunately, the only creatures that will know how to get to heaven will be wolves, a race that is thought to be extinct.

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Nevertheless, a few wolves still live among people disguised as humans and dreaming of one day reaching their paradise. The anime follows the difficult journey of a group of wolves in search of the rumored land, which ends in a beautiful, heartbreaking tragedy.

16/20 I Want To Eat Your Pancreas Celebrates The Courage Of Human Persistence Under Tragic Circumstances

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

Despite its unorthodox title, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is a shockingly heartbreaking and inspirational movie about living with a terminal illness. The film’s aloof protagonist discovers a secret diary belonging to his joyful and outgoing classmate, Sakura.

However, the girl’s writings hint that she is dying from a pancreatic disease, keeping her condition a secret. Despite the film’s tragic storyline, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas has an uplifting message about valuing your life and always striving to make the best of it, as you never know when it might come to an end.

15/20 Nana Is About Life’s Curveballs

Nana Osaki from Nana

Paradise Kiss manga creator Ai Yazawa also wrote the wildly popular josei manga, Nana, so perhaps it’s no surprise that this story also has a not-so-happy ending. The story follows two young women named Nana, who meet on a train to Tokyo and become close friends. One moved to Tokyo after getting married, the other wants to start a rock band.

While each of the Nanas has her own love story, which goes awry, the main love story is between the two women, whose relationship struggles to handle the various curveballs life throws at them.

14/20 5 Centimeters Per Second Has A Bittersweet Ending

Akari and Takaki from 5 Centimeters Per Second.

5 Centimeters Per Second is an earlier film by Makoto Shinkai, the creator of Your Name and Weathering with You. And as anyone who has seen either of those films might expect, this film doesn’t skimp on the drama and the emotional anguish between them.

As the two protagonists try to be honest with each other about their feelings and often fail to do so, it becomes clear that they won’t successfully end up together. The film’s poignant, bittersweet ending leaves viewers feeling empty, but not in a bad way.

13/20 Orange’s Happy Ending Wouldn’t Exist Without Heartbreak

A still from Orange.

Orange is an interesting series that technically does have a happy ending. But because of the nature of the story, even that happy ending is tinged with melancholy.

Orange follows Naho, a high school girl who begins receiving letters from her future self, asking her to make different choices to prevent one of her classmates’ death. The two fall in love, which changes their fates so that the relationships they might have formed don’t happen. As a result, they also cause some heartbreak along the way.

12/20 Higurashi: When They Cry Gets Lost In A Never-Ending Loop Of Sadness

Higurashi When They Cry OP

Higurashi: When They Cry spawned an intricately connected universe, but each addition is haunting in its own way. Higurashi utilizes a disarmingly cute art style to create the aesthetic of an innocuous slice-of-life series, only for it to reveal a dark narrative about serial killers, a virus, and an eternal battle against time loops and destiny.

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Higurashi is fearless regarding its endings since audiences know the murder loop will start again. Even when characters believe they’ve found peace and stability, they’re still wholly unaware of the larger machinations that control them.

11/20 Inuyashiki’s Safe World Comes At The Ultimate Price

Ichiro dies in Inuyashiki.

Inuyashiki may not be a conventional horror series, but it details a mysterious event that transforms a sad old man and a disaffected teenager into mechanical weapons of destruction who use their new powers in very different ways. The youngest of the duo, Hiro Shishigami, commits mass homicide and horrific acts of terrorism.

There’s a palpable sense of danger throughout Inuyashiki, which builds to a massive meteor hurtling towards Earth. Inuyashiki and Shishigami make the ultimate sacrifices and self-destruct together to take out the threat to the planet.

10/20 Dusk Maiden Of Amnesia Is A Beautiful Tear-Jerker

Dusk Maiden Of Amnesia Final Scene

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is proof that a predictable ending can still be impactful. Considering that one of the protagonists is a ghost looking for closure, it’s inevitable that Yuuko finally finds peace in recalling her death and making friends in the present.

As Yuuko slowly disappears, she spends her final moments with Teiichi, making him promise to forget her and move on with his life. The melancholic soundtrack only adds to this painful scene. This would contend for the saddest ending if viewers weren’t distracted by the excessive fanservice and unnecessary credits scene.

9/20 Death Parade Makes Its Characters Look Inward

Death Parade Final Episode

Death Parade follows Decim, a bartender who decides which humans are allowed to be reincarnated based on his psychological games. If the stories and fates of these characters aren’t sad enough, Chiyuki’s backstory brings the audience to tears.

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Fans grow attached to The Black-Haired Woman, so to learn that she took her own life is quite the reveal. While Chiyuki has to endure judgment by “choosing” between her life and a stranger’s, the true tragedy lies within Decim’s self-reflection. Ultimately, he gains a new level of empathy which adds weight to all of his previous judgments.

8/20 Cowboy Bebop Is A Harsh Reality Check

Spike From Cowboy Bebop

Every aspect of Cowboy Bebop sets up its emotional conclusion: friends turned enemies, lost love, and a seemingly apparent death wish. When Julia dies, Spike’s soul dies with her, and the hollow shell of a man continues to fight despite the odds being stacked against him.

The final fight between Spike and Vicious is full of raw emotion, and viewers are on the edge of their seats waiting for some semblance of closure. When Spike receives a likely fatal blow, the empty look on his face is a fitting end to a series that doesn’t shy away from the painful truths of the world.

7/20 Akame Ga Kill! Uses Death To Make A Point

Akame Ga Kill! Final Episode

Normally, sad anime endings can be clocked from a mile away. However, when fans sign up for the action and adventure of Akame Ga Kill!, they don’t expect nearly every character to die, including the protagonist. The show is meant to stress that evil comes in many forms, and justice is never what it seems.

Akame Ga Kill!’s ending is just a series of deaths, each one more bitter and unexpected than the last. In the end, Akame is left fighting alone, and her solitude seems almost worse than if Night Raid had all died together.

6/20 Assassination Classroom Follows Through With Its Premise

Assassination Classroom Ending

For a comedy, Assassination Classroom has quite a few moments that leave fans sobbing, and the ending is no exception. The goal since day one is for the class to kill Korosensei, and the tentacled teacher even trains them to be assassins. As the mission goes on, the students grow to care for Korosensei as a teacher.

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When the class eventually succeeds, none of them are happy about it. They hold down Korosensei through tears, and as he dissipates into the air around them, Class 3-E does their best to hold onto their happy memories of him.

5/20 Anohana Brings Together The Past And Present

Menma from Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day crying as the sun sets behind her

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day is on everyone’s sad anime list, and with good reason. The anime mixes mistakes of the past with pains of the present, and the series ends in a satisfyingly heartbreaking manner. Jinta spends the entire series being the only one who can see Menma, so it’s a relief when the others believe him.

The characters all play hide-and-seek with Menma’s ghost after giving her the closure she needs to pass on. As the characters finally see and hear her, everyone is in tears. After all, Menma’s passing on doesn’t just mean her closure, but her friends’ as well.

4/20 Plastic Memories Sticks To Its Universe’s Rules

Anime Plastic Memories

It’s hard for an anime to have an impactful ending if the entire plot is full of heartwrenching death, but Plastic Memories manages to execute the perfect finale. Isla’s end is painful for viewers to watch, but it definitely highlights that death comes around for everyone, especially given what her job entails.

Tsukasa tries to make Isla’s countdown to the end happy, but even as the pair enjoy Isla’s final hours, viewers cannot ignore the looming despair. While the interpretive post-credits scene is controversial, Tsukasa retrieving his own partner is a perfectly poetic conclusion.

3/20 Banana Fish Is Devoted To Being Really, Really Sad

Ash Lynx With Letter Banana Fish Anime

Banana Fish is uniquely sad in the way it doesn’t try to find beauty in its dismal conclusion. While a few viewers have criticized the seemingly random nature of Ash’s supposed death, most fans view his fate as proof of how relentless the evil in this world can be.

Either way, the ending maintains the same bleak tone that is built throughout the series, making this the perfect show to watch for viewers who like a mix between sad and straight-up unsettling. After all, some fans would be disappointed if an anime as devoid of happiness as Banana Fish mustered a tidy ending.

2/20 Your Lie In April Has A Gorgeous (And Tragic) Final Duet

Your Lie In April

Few fans of Your Lie in April can admit just how satisfying the ending is. After all, viewers spend 22 episodes growing attached to the characters’ friendship only for Kaori’s illness to take her life. It’s a horrible end, especially considering how part of Kaori thinks she will live past her surgery.

If her death isn’t sad enough, Kousei sees her ghost during his performance, and she plays the violin alongside him. Fans watch in tears as the cruelly realistic anime comes to a fitting (and harrowing) conclusion, and the characters are allowed one final duet.

1/20 Angel Beats Highlights The Joy Of Youth

Angel Beats Final Episode

Angel Beats is oddly upbeat considering its premise. When various kids die prematurely, including the protagonist Otonashi, their souls end up in a limbo of sorts where they get to experience teenage life before passing on (disappearing from this world). Despite how goofy the characters’ adventures are, the ending is heartbreaking.

When only the prominent characters are left, they hold a graduation ceremony. As they smile and reminisce, the characters vanish one by one. Otonashi confesses that he wants Kanade to stay with him longer, but she admits she only came to this world to thank Otonashi for donating his heart, the heart that helped her live a while longer. Kanade disappears and Otonashi is left sobbing and grasping at air. It’s impossible for viewers not to tear up, but the ending proves that this stop to the afterlife accomplishes what it’s meant to.

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