There are a lot of TV shows out there and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable shows through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best anime, our attention this time turns to tragedy. From heartbreaking romances to corrupted fantasy lands, there’s a good choice to whet your appetite.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!
Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (Anohana) is one of those shows full of gut-wrenching moments that will make many fans cry. While the characters indulge in some activities where they appear happy, the series implements endless amounts of heartbreaking imagery and scenery to dampen the mood.
Embracing realistic issues with authentic characters, Anohana is a brilliant gem from 2011 that everyone needs to watch more than once. This tragic tale revolves around our male protagonist Jinta whose having trouble progressing in life due to the loss of his childhood friend.
Ever since his friend passed away, Jinta’s remained secluded from his other companions and doesn’t enjoy socializing with people. It isn’t until his friend’s ghost starts haunting him that Jinta realizes it’s time to move forward with his life. After re-establishing former friendships and going through endless traumatic experiences, some will find Anohana’s conclusion bittersweet.
Clannad: After Story
In case you’re looking for an anime based on real-life issues, then Clannad’s second season After Story could be just what you’re looking for. This season ages up Tomoya and his friends and hones in on their new adult lives. The scenarios they encounter feel more heartbreaking than the previous ones.
In this season, you’ll see Tomoya struggle to survive his adult years. He’ll encounter similar issues with his father and fail to protect those he holds close to his heart. Some side characters will struggle to find footing in this world, but their issues pale to the circumstances that Tomoya encounters in this season.
That said, the visuals and animation ascend to a higher quality than in the previous season. Everything from its character design to its town-like setting looks breathtaking and remarkable. If you’ve watched Clannad’s first season, but somehow forgot to check out its next one, I’d suggest you do so.
Angel Beats is another emotional roller coaster with tragic and romantic elements. This anime offers relatable characters who come from dark and depressing backgrounds. From failing to achieve their life goals to finding themselves paralyzed in a hospital bed, these characters have been through some intense situations.
Our story revolves around Otonashi who dies because of a tragic accident and winds up in a dimension between life and death. Otonashi encounters a group of students who call themselves the Afterlife Battlefront. Their sole goal is to murder their student council president Angel.
Otonashi discovers that Angel isn’t as cruel as the Battlefront claims after meeting her. Therefore, Otonashi finds himself stuck in the middle of both sides and must find a way to settle the score between these factions. While there are moments that’ll make you cheer, there are times when you’ll find it hard to wipe away your tears.
Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is a rare gem amongst Studio Ghibli’s other works. It depicts the tragedies and horrors that stem from war and how devastating its effects can be on its victims. At the center of this film are two siblings named Seita and Setsuko.
These two start off the film having lost everything from their parents to their home. As they try to find a place to stay, they’ll endure multiple hardships from people denying them help to others treating them like dirt on the street. Despite the odds, these two have this smidgen of hope throughout the film that will make audiences want to empathize and cheer for them.
Grave of the Fireflies isn’t something you’d expect from Studio Ghibli. This is a film that’s not afraid to amp up the sadness levels to their maximum potential. That said, this is a brilliantly written film with likable protagonists. If you can withstand anime like Anohana, Clannad, and others, you should be able to handle this film without any issues.
Elfen Lied is a walking pile of tragedy, violence, and beauty. While its art and animation hasn’t aged that well, this tale provides a great balance of elements that makes it a worthwhile watch. Our tale takes place at a government building where our protagonist Lucy is being experimented on and held captive.
Lucy is a Diclonius, a human with strong telekinetic powers. During one of their tests, Lucy escapes and murders multiple security guards and scientists. Upon escaping, she receives a deadly head injury and ends up plummeting into the ocean.
After washing ashore on a beach, Lucy develops a split personality. While walking on the beach, she meets two college students who decide to take her in. Little do they know that they’re now a part of a giant government conspiracy. Like most horror-themed works, Elfen Lied features a large amount of nudity and bloodshed.
As someone who doesn’t hold back when it comes to violence, Lucy will cause extreme pain to anyone who dares mess with her and the people she loves. Despite this, Lucy’s bond with the two college students is adorable to watch onscreen. This is due to her split identity feeling more naive than threatening.
Penguindrum is a series that urges its viewers to watch it several times. With its clever storytelling, intriguing characters, and vibrant world, this anime delves into heavy themes that will impress some audiences.
This story follows Kanba and Shouma who live alone with their sister Himari, who suffers from health issues. One day, Himari gets permission to leave the hospital. To celebrate, her brothers take her to an aquarium. At the aquarium, she collapses but gets revived by a penguin-hat from the aquarium’s shop. Everything isn’t what it seems as Himari’s body serves as a home for a new entity.
The entity orders her brothers to locate the Penguin Drum. In this heart-racing tale of shocking twists and revelations, the brothers must combat other wishmakers who are after a similar prize. This is another show where our characters aim to defeat fate. This show bombards its audience with multiple flashbacks that will help them empathize with its characters and understand the world they’re a part of.
While the constant flashbacks will annoy some folks, others will appreciate getting more details. The characters in this show receive wonderful development. The side characters surrounding feel realistic and actually perform actions that heavily impact our characters’ quest. With splashes of beautiful colors and a mixture of psychological tropes, this is a series that’ll leave an impression on folks.
Ef: A Tale of Memories
Ef: A Tale of Memories evokes emotional feelings from its audience. This anime doesn’t contain any ounce of humor and aims to make its viewers feel depressed. Everything about this show feels serious and dramatic. By the series’ end, viewers will understand how its stories intertwine into something heartbreaking and pure.
Ef: A Tale of Memories features two narratives involving several youths’ relationships that occur on Christmas Eve. The first tale follows a boy named Hiro and a girl named Miyako. Miyako asks to borrow Hiro’s bike to chase a purse thief. After some time, Hiro finds Miyako’s unconscious body next to his bike. The two spend the holidays together as we watch their relationship blossom into something more romantic.
Elsewhere, we follow Renji, a boy who aims to be a hero. He encounters a shy girl named Chihiro Shindou, who likes reading books at an abandoned train station. The two become friends and start writing a novel together. Renji’s ideals are put to the test when he discovers Chihiro’s secret regarding her short-lived memory disability.
This series tackles a slew of health issues from memory loss to depression. It doesn’t hold back with its material as there will be many instances where you’ll want to walk away and find something that’s more cheerful. While the show delivers some happy moments, it thrives off making viewers suffer alongside its cast.
Air is a momentum-building gem that’s not as polished as Kyoto Animation’s other works like Clannad and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The series doesn’t offer the best pacing and isn’t as well-crafted as those works. Where it lacks in those departments, it makes up for with its dramatic and emotional segments.
This anime centers around Yukito’s journey to find the Winged Maiden, a figure from his mother’s tales. On the side, Yukito hosts puppet shows to raise money. Eventually, his life changes when he meets Misuzu, who invites him to stay at her place. While he stays in this town, Yukito establishes new bonds with the townsfolk and learns of their differing issues.
This forces Yukito to put his search quest on hold. Unbeknownst to Yukito, the Winged Maiden may be closer to him than he thinks. Misuzu isn’t the only girl who’ll enter Yukito’s life, but she ends up leaving the biggest impact on him. The bond between these two will evoke heavy feelings from audiences. Besides relationships, everyone had a tear-jerking story to tell.
Air gives everyone enough screen time to warrant fans’ sympathy toward them. If you’re searching for a beautiful anime with heartbreaking scenes, genuine dialogue, and wonderful characters, give Air a shot.
Your Lie In April
Dealing with loss and heartbreak can be challenging for many people. During those tragic times, there are people who come into our lives to offer a helping hand. Your Lie In April is one of those shows that tackles this concept with integrity and doesn’t hold back with its punches.
A proficient pianist named Kousei loses all motivation to play piano after his mother passes away. Kaori is a talented violinist who plans to reignite Kousei’s passion for the craft he abandoned years ago.
Shows like this are emotional and tear-jerking rides that explore depressing issues in the real world. Its goal is to drain the viewer of happiness–as many scenes will elicit an emotional response from you. While some scenes in this show will fill you with joy, it’s also one that’s not afraid to fill you with dread.
Now and Then, Here and There
Now And Then, Here And There offers a world lacking happiness and prosperity. With its gloomy atmosphere, desert environments, and endless war-like conflicts, this anime delivers a landscape no one would want to visit. Our protagonist Shu is not a hero, as many view him as the villain.
Realistically, Shu is a victim of all this. However, he tries to bring light to this world full of war and countless conflicts. Shu’s willingness to help the people in this world is hampered by these tragic situations and the mean-spirited gossip about his reputation.
Shu endures this suffering all because he failed to Lala-Ru, the only one with the power to bring peace to this land. While everyone continuously spirals down a terrible path, Shu maintains his resolve to make things right. This is what makes Now And Then, Here And There an incredible work as viewers will find themselves rooting for Shu the whole way through because of the odds stacked against him.
If you want to find out if Shu manages to save this world from doom, I’d suggest giving Now And Then, Here And There a watch.
So, there we have it, our picks for the best anime through the years about tragedy!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!