It is human to want to cry from time to time, and for that, it always works to watch a movie or a series of our favorite animation genre. Sad animes have always been present in history, since drama cannot be missing in daily life. In this list we will list the best sad anime movies and series that we know, so we hope you have your tissues ready.
1. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Genre: War, Drama
If there’s one movie that should be on this list, it’s Grave of the Fireflies . We all know the masterful work of Hayao Miyazaki, but in this case, the film belongs to director Isao Takahata. Takahata specializes in narratives a little more grounded in reality, and this is one of the most heartbreaking that we can find in anime.
The story follows two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, who have become orphans as a result of war. After being taken in by their aunt, the little ones begin to feel hostility from their family, and decide to separate from them in search of their mother.
What follows is an agonizing tale of abandonment and indifference. The city is mired in war and has no time for two little ones who were born during a very dark period for humanity.
2. Clannad (2007)
Genre: Romance, Drama, Tragedy
Episodes: 23 – 24
Here we will talk about both Clannad productions. The first takes place in high school, and the second part, After Story, follows the protagonists as adults. To get the full experience of both stories, we highly recommend watching the prequel, though the second season doesn’t need too much context and could be viewed on its own.
The story focuses on Tomoya Okazaki, a young delinquent who finds no meaning in life. He finds it boring and repetitive, and believes that he will never be able to accomplish anything. But one day, he meets a young girl named Nagisa Furukawa, a girl he finds peculiar. As he gets to know her better, he discovers that she has failed a year due to illness, and that she dreams of reviving the school’s drama club.
What follows is a love story that unfolds over several years, with the second part focusing on the adulthood of the protagonists. This series has made die-hard anime fans cry, so we certainly think it’s worth a look.
3. AnoHana – The Flower We Saw That Day (2011)
Genre: Drama, Slice of Life, Supernatural
This moving story about a friendship that endures over time, despite loss and distance, plays with the feelings of viewers from minute one.
The premise of the series begins with something supernatural: Jintan, a young man unaware of his responsibilities, begins to “hallucinate” one of his friends, who passed away several years ago. But the hallucination is vivid, and Menma looks like she grew up with them. She will soon discover that the girl has a purpose, and that is to bring her friends together again to fulfill a wish.
Now, Jintan will carry the secret that he sees Menma, and little by little he will get closer to his friends again. Some more skeptical than others, they will resume contact, but dealing with a duel that they have carried since they were children is not an easy task. And the loss of Menma marked them all in very different ways.
4. Your Lie in April (2011)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Many people, when they think of sad anime, think of Your Lie in April. It is one of those tragic romance series that touches the heart, and together with AnoHana, it set a standard for drama in Japanese series.
It’s one of those series where the personalities of the characters pop off the screen, and explode, full of life. The protagonists of this story are very realistic, and the series illustrates the beautiful things in life, such as music, youth, and friendship. But what really moves the plot is the relationship between the two protagonists.
When a young pianist finds himself unable to listen to the music he produces, he feels lost. Thanks to a fateful encounter with a beautiful violinist, his past trauma begins to heal, and the two begin to make beautiful music together, developing an epic love that will go down in history.
5. A Silent Voice (2016)
In the case of A Silent Voice , it is a sad anime because it deals with very serious topics. The story covers the childhood and adolescence of two characters who meet in elementary school. However, they are both on opposite sides of the spectrum as Shoya Ishida is the class bully while Shoko Nishimiya is the young victim.
These two characters will be in constant clashes, and it is very difficult as a viewer to understand Shoya’s position. Shoko immediately becomes the focal point of the story, and the empathy you feel for her is genuine.
However, Shoya hasn’t been doing well after what he did to Shoko, so he decides to apologize to her before ending his life. But when he meets her again, the girl treats him very kindly, and this convinces him to move on, and even try to make friends.
6. 3-Gatsu No Lion (2016)
Genre: Drama, Slice of Life
Episodes: 22 + 22
It is also known as March Comes In Like a Lion. The beginning of 3-Gatsu No Lion is difficult to watch if the viewer has experienced depression at some point in his life. The story follows Rei Kiriyama, a young man with an innate talent for shogi , a game of chess typical in Japan. However, this ability has brought him more problems than blessings, and he feels extremely lonely.
Although his life is surrounded by darkness and loneliness, there is a light that always tries to be present for him. It is about the Kawamoto sisters, Akari, Hinata and Momo. Akari, the oldest, meets Rei one day when some older shogi classmates force him to drink until he passes out and leave him abandoned on the street in front of the bar where the girl works.
From that moment, Akari begins to understand the situation of Rei, who lives alone, and sometimes finds himself so involved in his own demons, that he is unable to take care of himself. 3-Gatsu No Lion masterfully works the balance between a story aimed at teenagers and which in turn touches on extremely adult themes. Rei suffers from depression, post-traumatic stress, and a fear of abandonment mixed with a constant feeling of loneliness.
But what’s beautiful about the series is that this trio of sisters, and a kind teacher from her school, give her some much-needed warmth. A familiar feeling is created between them which gives a respite from the protagonist’s dark state of mind. In addition, we see it grow, improve and change little by little thanks to these positive influences. It’s a poignant series with elements that masterfully blend adult roughness with adolescent confusion.
7. Angel Beats! (2010)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Supernatural
Esta es otra historia que viene de parte Jun Maeda, autor detrás de Clannad. Cuando viene de Jun Maeda sabemos que va a romper un par de corazones, a pesar de que desde hace algunos años no produce nada innovador. La historia de Angel Beats! es bastante interesante, donde tocamos temas como la muerte y una sub-trama de guerra.
La historia sigue al personaje principal, un joven llamado Otonashi. El chico se despierta para descubrir que se encuentra en la vida después de la muerte, y una chica llamada Yuri le dice que tiene que luchar contra Dios. Dios, teniendo como su fiel aliada a Angel, la presidenta del consejo estudiantil que tiene poderes sobrenaturales.
La serie es muy graciosa, los niveles de comedia son muy saludables. Pero los giros que comienza a dar a partir de cierto punto hacen que olvidemos las risas que nos entregó. Esto ocurre cuando nos adentramos en las verdaderas historias detrás de estos personajes y de sus vidas pasadas, antes de entrar como soldados en rebeldía contra Dios.
8. Steins;Gate (2011)
Género: Drama, Ciencia Ficción, Suspenso
Temporadas: 3 + Largometraje
Episodios: 24 + OVA + Largometraje
Stains;Gate es una de esas obras maestras que mucha gente recomienda pero en distintos formatos. Originalmente es una visual novel con un trabajo fenomenal en lo que a interpretación de voces se refiere, y muchas personas recomiendan jugarlo antes de ver el anime. Pero el formato del mismo y su corta longitud hace que provoque saltarse ese paso.
La serie no se vende como un anime triste, pero tiene uno de los arcos más tristes en la historia del género. Seguimos a Rintarou Okabe, un estudiante universitario que se hace llamar a sí mismo un científico loco. Accidentalmente, descubre junto a sus amigos una manera de cambiar eventos del pasado, y luego de que realizan un par de “experimentos”, las cosas se le salen de las manos.
This leaves him with an impossible dilemma, which involves saving one of two people he loves very much. And the decision will never be easy. Time and time again you will find yourself in this dilemma, and it will be impossible to keep the viewer indifferent in the face of so much suffering.
9. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (2011)
Genre: Drama, Suspense
Madoka Magica is a must stop for any anime fan. It is a thriller series whose image is misleading as it deals with very serious and adult themes using an extremely colorful and eye-catching drawing style. This managed to attract the attention of many viewers who, thanks to this “deception”, were surprised when the series turned out to be much darker and more adult than expected.
Madoka Kaname is a young girl with a normal life as an elementary school student. Her best friend, Sayaka Miki, wants to change the life of the boy she loves, who after an accident lost the ability to play the violin.
One day, they are confronted with an offer that is difficult to refuse. A magical being named Kyuubei offers to transform them into “magical girls”, in exchange for fulfilling a wish. Whichever is. Sayaka, unlike Madoka, has that wish very clearly, and she accepts without much thought. But when both girls run into a mysterious girl named Homura Akemi, they realize that this proposal could be very dangerous.
10.Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin (2010)
Genre: Drama, Suspense
Rainbow has a long-standing reputation as one of the best anime drama series that many are unaware of. It is an extremely serious series, which follows a group of teenagers who enter a kind of correctional prison that puts them in impossible situations, completely deprived of a human approach.
Our protagonist is called Mario Minakami, and he has just arrived at the correctional facility with five other teenagers who were arrested for very serious crimes. They know each other since they are in the same cell, and there they connect with another of the inmates, an older man who used to be a boxer.
This series is brutal with its showing of the worst side of humanity, but it also has a side that shows that the connection between people is one of the ways to get out of a terrible situation.
11. Violet Evergarden (2018)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Slice of Life
Seasons: 1 + Movie
What about Violet Evergarden ? Not only is it a masterpiece in terms of animation and history, but also, the characters in it will break our hearts over and over again. The premise alone is heartbreaking.
Violet is a young girl modified to become a weapon of war. However, her life has not been entirely terrible, since she was “adopted” by a good family that intends to educate her in the art of hand-to-hand combat. And sure enough, she Violet becomes a weapon, but loss is inevitable during wars, and when she loses the only person she knows and loves, she Violet is left aimless.
After this, the girl wonders what those last words that her beloved Gilbert said to her meant. What does it really mean to love? She, well, she will discover it thanks to her new job. Violet transforms into an Auto Memory Doll, a scribe specializing in emotional letters, where those who hire her will try to show all her feelings. The young woman’s travels will lead her to understand a little more about her human emotions and, in addition, will help her understand those enigmatic last words of her favorite person.
12. Plastic Memories (2015)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction
Plastic Memories también es una serie reconocida por su contenido de romance y drama. Esta serie explora en su mayoría la relación entre un humano y un ser tecnológico llamados “Giftias”, un androide avanzado, casi imposibles de diferenciar de los humanos.
Tsukasa Mizugaki tiene 18 años, y ha fallado el examen para entrar en la universidad que deseaba. Sin embargo, gracias a ciertas conexiones, entra en la empresa de inteligencia artificial de Sion. Allí se crearon las primeras Giftias, y vienen con un desperfecto: su vida dura nueve años y cuatro meses.
Tsukasa tendrá que trabajar en el departamento que se encarga de recoger las Giftias que ya han pasado ese tiempo, antes de que pierdan sus recuerdos y se vuelvan hostiles. Esto se vuelve complicado cuando Tsukasa comienza a trabajar con Isla, una Giftia que es una veterana en su trabajo, con una naturaleza dulce y delicada que le roba el corazón. Y su tiempo en esta tierra es limitado.
13. Fruits Basket (2019)
Género: Drama, Romance, Fantasía
Episodios: 25 + 25 + 13
Fruits Basket, a veces, es difícil de explicar. Sí, es un anime de romance, y también puede incluso calificarse como un harén inverso, pero es mucho, mucho más que eso. Es una historia sobre resiliencia y amor, por sobre todas las cosas, y eso es lo que la hace tan especial.
Tohru Honda lo ha perdido todo. No tiene un techo dónde dormir, no tiene una familia que pueda acogerla, y no pretende molestar a nadie más con sus peripecias. Por esto, decide vivir en una tienda de campaña en las afueras de un terreno baldío. Pero eso dura poco.
Una noche durante una tormenta, la tienda de campaña es destruida, y rápido acuden a su rescate… un compañero de clases que la ha visto en el peor momento de su vida. Tohru se siente muy avergonzada, sobre todo por lo popular que es este chico, pero Yuki Sohma le demuestra una gran amabilidad, ofreciéndole un techo a cambio de ayuda doméstica. Tohru se niega, al principio, pero eventualmente acepta.
As Tohru digs a little deeper into the Sohma family, she discovers a secret that makes the family close off from others. When hugged by someone of the opposite sex, they transform into animals. And she could be the key to changing all that.
14. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas (2018)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Fantasy
As the title suggests, this story deals with a female protagonist suffering from a disease of the pancreas that will eventually take her life. To deal with this, she has started keeping a diary that she plans to publish eventually, which is called “Living Dying”.
This leads her to unexpectedly meet a young man who loves to read, but hates making human connections. One day, the young man comes across her manuscript and reads it with interest. But what is her surprise to discover that it is something written by one of her classmates, Sakura Yamauchi.
The young woman tells him about her illness, something that neither her family nor her friends know. The boy, indifferent to her, refuses to connect with her, but thanks to her insistence, he agrees to accompany her during her last days. And her connection begins to grow little by little, showing the boy that his indifference must change, and that he can open his heart if he wants to.
15. Orange (2016)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction
Seasons: 1 + Feature Film
Episodes: 13 + Feature Film
If you could change the past… would you? Well, the premise of Orange is exactly that, but it must be added that she is also dedicated to breaking the heart of anyone who sees her. The anime adaptation of this masterful manga left something to be desired, but it’s still a faithful representation of its source material.
The story begins in the future, where a group of adults, who were friends in their teens, meet again. They’re brought together to open a time capsule they buried upon graduating from high school, and their lives have changed dramatically since then. Two of them are married and have a beautiful son together, but Nao, the main character, especially feels the absence of one of the boys. His name was Kakeru, and he was a depressed young man who ended his life.
And so, we return to the past. The magical element comes into play when a 14-year-old Nao receives a letter from her “me” from her future, begging her to save her friend Kakeru from her. Nao doesn’t understand the letter, since she hasn’t started the school year yet, and Kakeru doesn’t exist in her life. But when she meets him, she feels an instant connection, and falls in love with the boy. The problem? This exciting new relationship puts everything we know about the future in check, as Nao was married to her other classmate, a kind and golden-hearted young man named Suwa.
But the curious thing is that little by little the friends will realize that not only Nao has received letters from her future self, and they will all agree so that Kakeru remains in their lives, one way or another. Regardless of the consequences.
16. Ishuukan Friends (2014)
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
In Ishuukan Friends we find ourselves with a plot that could seem hopeless, but that is taken with a degree of comedy. The female lead suffers from an illness that doesn’t allow her to keep memories of her after a week, and Hase, the boy who has a crush on her, sets out to become her friend over and over again.
But for Hase, just being friends doesn’t fill him up, and week after week, he tries not only to befriend him, but also to achieve a romantic rapprochement. Each week is similar to the previous one, but the plot of the series remains unique and special because of how this peculiar relationship develops.
This series shows how invaluable human connections and friendship are, and it does so with a plot that seems to be taken from a romcom , but with very special elements that transform it into something special.
17. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (2009)
This series is very grounded in reality, as Japan is very prone to earthquakes. However, the story it touches on is fictional, and it centers around a teenage girl named Mirai Onozawa.
Mirai is an impulsive young woman who, during a trip to Odaiba with her brother, gets frustrated and wishes the world would end. Shortly after, the country is shaken by an earthquake of magnitude 8.0, which puts all its inhabitants in danger. Mirai begins to think that it was all her fault, and in the process of surviving, she is reunited with her brother.
Eventually, they meet a delivery girl, a woman named Mari who offers to escort them back to Tokyo. This story follows her fight for survival and a magnificent journey that will show all the nuances of adolescence, narrated by Mirai.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction
The series follows a teenage girl named Chise, a fragile girl focused on her relationship with her boyfriend Shuuji.
They live in a very quiet town in Hokkaido, where their worries are their relationships with their friends, their girlfriends, and how tired they got when climbing the hill to school. During a trip to Sapporo, Shuuji and his friends are shopping for souvenirs for their families and friends, when they see that the city is in the midst of a military air attack.
Shuuji tries to run away, but in the process he runs into Chise, but the girl has transformed. She has steel wings and a weapon instead of her arm. Without knowing it, the girl has been transformed into a terrifying weapon, and her relationship with Shuuji is put to the test. She even raises the question of whether she was ever really human.
19. Banana Fish (2018)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Why is Banana Fish a sad story? I think it’s worth telling a little about the circumstances of its protagonist, known as Ash Lynx. He is a smart and attractive young man, but was “adopted” by an American mobster. This man not only uses it as a weapon, but also considers it his “pet” and his “toy”. Dino Golzine is a despicable being, and in this story, Ash will try to free himself from his clutches at any cost. But first, he has a mystery to solve.
His brother served in the Vietnam War, and he came back really messed up. He is unable to stand up for himself, and only mumbles the words “Banana Fish” over and over again. This causes Ash to become obsessed with these two terms that seem to have nothing in common, but that soon the streets of New York would make sense of them. After meeting a gang member who claims to know about the substance, Ash discovers that it is a drug.
All this happens during a visit from a Japanese journalist who wants to do a report on street gangs. This is how Ash meets Eiji Okumura, an innocent young Japanese man who wants to learn photography. But during the interview, things spiral out of control, and Eiji is kidnapped along with a member of Ash’s gang. Both boys will find themselves at the center of a dispute between the most dangerous gangs in New York, and before one of the most dangerous drugs that has ever existed… and everything will end up returning to Dino Golzine.
20. Hotarubi No Mori E (2011)
Genre: Romance, Supernatural
This film deals with one of the most difficult subjects of the modern age: time. Time goes by so fast, sometimes it’s even like there isn’t enough of it, and in this story, we meet Hotaru Takegawa, a little girl who gets lost in a forest.
Originally, Hotaru wanted to find a god named Gin, and learns the hard way that she must not touch it, as it will disappear if she does. When her spirit manages to help her out of her, she makes him promise not to come back, and the girl refuses.
The story unfolds during various encounters between Gin and Hotaru, who slowly grows up and falls in love with the spirit. But the rule is that you must not touch it, and it is very difficult when there are feelings of love involved. Also, Hotaru is unable to see Gin outside the forest, and in the fall, the young man disappears, only to return the following summer.
21. Nana (2006)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
Nana could be considered a sad story because a friendship that seemed perfect in theory deteriorates due to external agents and bad decisions. And I think it hurts all of us to lose a friend.
Nana is a story that follows two young people with the same name. One night, they meet on a train to Tokyo. Nana Osaki has big dreams of becoming a famous singer, while Nana Komatsu wants to become independent and live in peace.
Both connect by having the same name, and by fate, they end up living together. But the life that awaits them is not entirely rosy, and the volatile heart of Nana Komatsu (nicknamed Hachi), will end up creating a gap between the two women. And not only that, but they will break our hearts over and over again with love relationships that are destined to fail.
22. The Wind Rises (2013)
Genre: Drama, Romance
This film, which is one of the most successful of Studio Ghibli, was formally Hayao Miyazaki’s last film before he retired. It is a movie based on World War II, and follows Jirou Horikoshi, a young man with dreams of being a pilot, but with vision problems.
However, this does not stop him, since instead of focusing on being a pilot, he decides to become an aircraft designer. Following his hero, Giovanni Battista Caproni, he decides to move to Tokyo to study at the Imperial University, and his arrival is marked by the earthquake of 23.
During this event, he meets a young girl named Naoko Satomi, and World War II soon breaks out. Jirou will dedicate himself during that time to creating a plane that will eventually be used to fight, and this position leads him to reflect if his integrity as a human being is worth the sacrifice to fulfill his dream.
23. To Your Eternity (2021)
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Supernatural
Episodes: 12 + Second season in production
To Your Eternity , known in Japanese as Fumetsu No Anata E is a unique story within its genre. She’s from the acclaimed writer who brought us A Silent Voice , and judging from her previous work, we know we’re going to suffer a bit. The story basically follows a sphere created by a powerful and mythical being, who must learn about humans in order to understand the stimuli and grow.
When we meet the protagonist of the story, he has transformed into different things. Understanding his stimuli better, he turned from a rock to a moss, and eventually, he transformed into a wolf. This brought him a fortuitous encounter with a young man who receives him as his pet. Together with the boy, he learns about food and devotion. The young man has been left alone, since his family has moved from that frozen landscape in which he lives to less hostile lands, leaving him behind. And that wolf is his only company.
Together, they embark on a journey that would last several days, and whose danger is much greater than they thought. The young man is a mere mortal, and when he suffers a potentially life-threatening injury, the “sphere” begins to fear for him, a feeling that will accompany him on his travels as an immortal being whose mission it is to protect humanity.