30 Best Sad Anime of All Time

Over the years, anime has become an excellent medium for telling stories like other forms of entertainment. While the realistic portrayal of human emotions and other aspects of life has become more accurate, the anime with sad storylines have reached a much wider audience. Now, a significant section of the anime fandom enjoys these heartwarming stories that not only move them but also give a life-changing message.

While the most popular anime genres are slice of life, action, adventure, and science fiction, a great majority of them have an emotional side that helps viewers connect with the characters and feel the plethora of experiences that they are going through. However, in this article, we will primarily be focusing on tearjerkers who are famous for making viewers cry.

30. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)

Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki have never really dreamt of achieving extraordinary things in life and are comfortable with what they have. The middle schoolers are suddenly given the chance to get any one of their wishes fulfilled when they meet a cat-like magical creature named Kyuubey. However, the new transfer student Homura Akemi advises Madoka to never take the deal as she will be transformed into a magical girl afterwards and have to fight witches. Although Homura’s persistent warnings seem serious, Kyuubey offers logical reasons that accepting the deal is a great choice. ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’ recounts a suspenseful story of a Madoka and her close friend as they together deal with complex situations life throws at them. Feel free to stream the anime here.

29. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (2009)

Mirai Onozawa is a middle schooler but she is already so done with the family circumstances that she wants everything to fall apart, not knowing that sometimes our worst desires turn into reality. Sometime later, she takes her brother Yuuki to the science exhibition and that’s when tragedy strikes. An 8.0 magnitude earthquake strikes the Kanto region leading to a catastrophic situation. As the siblings struggle to get themselves to safety, a single mom and motorcyclist named Mari Kusakabe arrives at the scene. She decides to help Mirai and Yuuki reunite with their parents which marks the beginning of a long journey that is filled with challenges. You can watch the anime here.

28. Steins;Gate (2011)

‘Steins;Gate’ is a science fiction anime that is widely regarded as the greatest series of its genre. The anime follows the mad scientist Okabe as he along with his friends sets up a laboratory with the hope of making a groundbreaking invention. Through persistent efforts, they eventually managed to make the Phone Microwave, a device that looked useless at first but had the ability to send messages into the past. But as they play around too much with the machine, they end up sending messages that alter the course of history and influence the world in inexplicable ways. ‘Steins;Gate’ takes the viewers through a suspenseful and emotional journey that leaves an unforgettable impression on the viewer. Feel free to watch the anime here.

27. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009 – 2010)

Edward and Alphonse are siblings who are driven to try the banned human transmutation technique to get back their dead mother. But they end up losing their arms and bodies respectively in the process. The siblings embark on a quest to find the philosopher’s stone so that they can earn their back bodies only to stumble upon a dangerous conspiracy that changes their worldview forever. ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’ is arguably the greatest anime ever made. The show has some really emotional moments that can move anyone to tears. You can watch the anime here.

26. Death Parade (2015)

When two people die together, they do not go to heaven or hell but instead end up at a bar named Quindecim where an enigmatic personality named Decim is waiting for them. He is actually the arbiter, who uses different tests to pass judgments and ultimately decides the destiny of the souls. While his strategies usually play out quite ordinarily, when he is faced with a black-haired amnesiac, Decim is pushed to challenge his own perspective and reevaluate his previous stands. You can watch the anime here.

25. Tokyo 24th Ward (2022)

The titular jurisdiction area in Japan’s capital uses Hazard Cast which is a special surveillance system that can predict accidents and assist victims immediately to keep citizens safe. Unfortunately, it has its own limitations, so when a girl named Asami dies in a school fire, her friends Ran Akagi, Kouki Suidou, and Shuuta Aoi could feel the emptiness caused by her untimely death for years. During the commemoration of the fire victims, these three friends suddenly receive a phone call that changes their lives forever. ‘Tokyo 24th Ward’ addresses traumatic topics like death and the far-reaching emotional baggage it gives to the survivors. In an exploration of these profound subjects, the series acquaints viewers with the pain suffered by the survivors and is sometimes emotionally overwhelming to watch. Feel free to watch the anime here.

24. Kotaro Lives Alone (2022)

Kotarou Satou despite being just 4 years old lives alone and strangely behaves like an adult quite frequently. So when he first introduces himself to his neighbor Shin Karino, the manga author is quite shocked. However, when he and other people in the apartment complex get to know Kotarou, they slowly start to become fond of him and try to protect him as much as possible. While the slice-of-life series seems quite enjoyable at first, the anime does well to hide its dark which is only revealed slowly over the course of its 10 episodes. As viewers get to know Kotarou, they start to learn that his life is quite tragic and he has suffered from negligence from at least one of his parents. The series is fun but it also focuses on painful experiences of a child that are quite moving. You can stream the anime here.

23. Oshi No Ko (2023 -)

‘Oshi No Ko’ is one of those rare shows that keeps viewers on their feet with its unexpected twists and turns in every episode. The series tries to recount a harrowing story of revenge and obsession. When an idol named Ai Hoshino is brutally murdered right in front of her children, the twins are psychologically scared for life. But little does the killer know that the boy who saw his mother take his last breath is no ordinary kid. It marks the beginning of his journey to relentlessly pursue the killer and bring him to justice. As you might have guessed, the death of a mother is a constant theme and one of the main themes of the series. It continues to have consequences years after the horrible atrocity and the children who witness it react to it in their own ways. ‘Oshi No Ko’ is one of the highest-rated anime of all time, so it’s no surprise that it also makes it to this list because of its premise. The anime is accessible for streaming here.

22. The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes (2022)

When Kaoru Touno’s siblings die tragically soon and he ends up leaving his house after an altercation with his father, it appears that his whole life is crumbling in front of his own eyes. He ends up in a mysterious tunnel which turns out to be the fabled Urashima Tunnel that grants people’s wishes in exchange for lifespan. When he later returns with the hope that he can fix his life, Kaoru finds out that he is not alone and someone is following him. ‘The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes’ or ‘Natsu e no Tunnel, Sayonara no Deguchi’ is an emotional film that explores grief and loss. While it also addresses uplifting experiences like first love, the heavy subjects make the anime quite sad. You can stream the anime here.

21. Suzume (2022)

Makoto Shinkai’s ‘Suzume’ or ‘Suzume no Tojimari‘ is a fantasy anime that revolves around the titular protagonist who realizes that Japan is facing an existential crisis after she ends up opening the door to a dreamlike universe that allows evil forces to pass to her world. As the crisis starts to get intense, Suzume takes it upon herself to fight back and close all such magical entrances. The Makoto Shinkai directorial deal with a number of themes which also includes loneliness, loss, and recovery. It has some very emotional and moving moments that make the film a great watch and a real tearjerker. Feel free to watch the anime here.

20. WorldEnd (2017)

‘WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?’ or ‘WorldEnd: What Do You Do At The End Of The World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?’ follows Willem Kmetsch, a brave man who fights against the dangerous monster and emerges victorious. But he has to pay for his victory by getting frozen for 500 years and by the time he wakes up, he learns that not only his family is long dead but the entire human race has been wiped out from the face of the earth after the emergence of terrifying Beasts. Now, Willem lives a lonely life on a floating island in the sky and when he is tasked with the responsibility of being a weapon warehouse caretaker, he immediately accepts the opportunity. But little does he know that the weapons are actually a group of young Leprechauns, who have a complete disregard for their own safety and life as they are willing to die for the greater good so that peace can eventually flourish. ‘WorldEnd: What Do You Do At The End Of The World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?’ is a moving story of Willem and these young girls who emotionally connect with each other in their tragic circumstances. You can watch the anime here.

19. Kimi no Na wa. (2016)

Mitsuha Miyamizu lives in the countryside of Japan and studies at a high school there. But she always longs for something she doesn’t have, i.e., life in the bustling Tokyo city. She dreams of living as a boy in a busy town and experiencing the highs and lows that lifestyle in such places offers. On the other hand, Taki Tachibana knows a thing or two about the hectic city life as he lives in Tokyo. He has a hard time juggling his part-time job and his studies. Though good at heart, he has a short temper and is quite impatient.

One day for some mysterious reasons, Mitsuha wakes up to find that she is in the body of a boy in Tokyo city. Her dream seems to have come true overnight. Meanwhile, Taki is shocked when he wakes up in the countryside looking like a girl whom he has never met in his life. Both of them are confused and want to find out more about this mysterious phenomenon, all the while searching for the other person. Their collective efforts put them on a collision course that changes their lives in unthinkable ways. You can watch the anime here.

18. Byousoku 5 Centimeter (2007)

When in elementary school, Takaki Tono meets Akari Shinohara. The duo immediately hit it off as they share similar interests. It does not take long for them to become each other’s closest confidants who love one another’s company over anyone else. But after they graduate from elementary school, Akari moves to the neighboring prefecture. But the pair keeps writing letters to each other and keeps in touch even though they don’t get to meet daily.

But everything changes when Takaki’s family has to move too, and this time it’s on the other side of the country altogether. However, before they get separated for a long time, Takaki decides to meet Akari for one last time and confess his love for her. But will the stars align in their favor, and the duo get to open up about their feelings before it’s too late? The anime is accessible for streaming here.

17. Violet Evergarden (2018)

Once the four long years of war and bloodshed are finally over, Violet Evergarden finally gets the chance to lead a normal life. She soon finds work at the CH Postal Services as an Auto Memory Doll, where she is tasked to transcribe people’s emotions, heartbreaks, regrets, and thoughts on paper. As she helps reshape the lives of her clients, Violet also finds herself on a path to self-discovery that changes her perspective on life and gives her daily struggles a new meaning. ‘Violet Evergarden‘ recounts an interesting story that moves viewers with it’s emotional storytelling and makes it one of the saddest anime ever made. You can watch the anime here.

16. Omoide no Marnie (2014)

‘Omoide no Marnie’ is a tear-jerker that recounts a beautiful story about friendship and self-discovery. The film follows Anna Sasaki, a young girl who frequently has asthma attacks. She lives with her foster parents and prefers a solitary life as she has social anxiety and struggles to make new friends. Worried about her well-being, her parents consult a doctor who advises them to send Anna to the countryside, hoping that the simple lifestyle there may be more compatible with her personality.

In the following days, Anna moves to a village to live with his aunt and spends much of her time focusing on sketching once she is there. When she accidentally discovers an abandoned cottage named Marsh House, she is strangely drawn to it. Her curiosity leads Anna to Marnie, a girl who stays there. She and Marnie soon become close friends, and the cheerful attitude of the latter helps the protagonist become more social. But people in the village rarely know Marnie, so who is the mysterious girl Anna keeps meeting? Is she hiding some unspeakable truth? Feel free to watch the anime here.

15. Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (2016)

War is good for no one. The two World Wars that our world has to go through have had a devastating effect on people’s lives and the progress of humanity. Both of them have been well-documented in popular culture and have inspired countless movies and books. ‘Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni’ is one of the films on the long list, but it isn’t just about suffering and loss but how to live life to the fullest in hard times. Suzu Urano is an intelligent and hardworking young adult. She has to move to Kure, a small town in Hiroshima, after marrying Shuusaku Houjo at the age of just 18. Shuusaku works at the naval base as a clerk.

Wartime is hard for everyone but Suzu tries her best to take care of the household and prepare meals for her family even when there is a shortage of food. But during the last phase of the war, the US bombings on Hiroshima have devastating effects on the people that live in the region. With nothing but sheer courage and willpower, Suzu gives her best to take care of her family and live her best life. You can stream the anime here.

14. Perfect Blue (1998)

An adaptation of the novel written by Japanese author Yoshikazu Takeuchi, ‘Perfect Blue’ is a critically acclaimed movie that has won multiple awards and nominations. However, before you decide to watch this film, we would like to issue a warning that it has a lot of adult content and themes that are inappropriate for a younger audience.

The film follows Mira Kirigoe, a famous pop singer and a member of the successful J-pop idol group CHAM! But with the desire to be an actress, she leaves her band. But she soon finds out that it is hard to shake her J-pop idol image, and her acting keeps on receiving mixed reviews all the time. She started taking on more demanding roles but still couldn’t find the success that she had hoped for. Meanwhile, there’s an obsessive fan who does not take Mira’s career change lightly and begins staking her. Then anonymous websites pop up, which start detailing every moment of her life. In addition to all this, her former group is doing quite well without her, which eventually starts to take a toll on Mira as she finds herself losing her sanity. You can stream the anime here.

13. Doukyuusei (2016)

‘Doukyuusei’ is one of the best romance anime movies that has ever been made. The film follows Rihito Sajou and Hiraku Kusakabe, two people with conflicting personalities and very few common interests. Rihito is what you would call an intelligent student. He is quite good at his studies and was able to secure full marks in the high school entrance exam. Hiraku Kusakabe, on the other hand, is into music and plays the guitar in a band. He is handsome and quite popular among girls.

Two people from completely different worlds have a higher chance of not having their paths crossed. But somehow, the paths of these two individuals merge as the music festival approaches. Rihito has to make preparations for the chorus and is offered help by Hiraku. The pair frequently starts meeting due to this, and soon they start enjoying each other’s company. The emotions soon grow into love, and Hiraku confesses. His direct attitude makes Rihito back off at first, but slowly he too engages in this romantic affair. But what does the future hold for these two uncommon lovebirds? In order to find out, you will have to watch the film. You can watch the anime here.

12. anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2011)

Jinta Yadomi is an introverted teenager who prefers to live a solitary lifestyle. He is often preoccupied with playing video games all day, but one ordinary evening things take an unexpected turn when Meiko “Menma” Honma, his childhood friend, suddenly comes to his house and asks him to grant a forgotten wish. For a moment, Jinta is confused and believes that he is hallucinating as Menma died several years ago. But it soon becomes evident that he is seeing her ghost. As his friends learn about Menma, they all join hands to help her move on, but they must face the pain and guilt of the past in the process. The anime is accessible for streaming here.

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11. Your Lie in April (2014 – 2015)

Your Lie in April‘ follows Kousei Arima is a prodigious pianist and a master of tough musical notes. Whoever has heard him play knows that he has a bright future ahead of himself, but all of that changes when her mother dies one day. The trauma of losing her is so heart-wrenching for the teenager that it renders him unable to listen to the sound of music when he is playing. The following two years of his life are filled with depression and a complete lack of ambition.

But things take a turn for the better when Kousei first lays his eyes on a beautiful violinist named Kaori Miyazono. Within just a few more weeks, she manages to convince the human metronome to not only face the music but perform in front of a live audience. While Kousei slowly falls in love with her, he is completely clueless that Kaori is keeping a dark secret hidden from him that could potentially change his life forever. You can stream the anime here.

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10. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

This story takes us back to the year 1945, after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. The movie is unraveled in flashback, leading right to the beginning of the story where Seita dies alone at the train station. The story is about Seita and Setsuko, two siblings, whose mother is killed by burns suffered during an American bombing, while their father who is working in the navy, works tirelessly to fight for the country during a time of terrible crisis. It is a tragic story of a time when compassion and basic requirements were both scarce. ‘Grave of Fireflies‘ shows the horrors of war and how it affects the citizens of a country. It is a very well-directed movie, the ending of which will leave you in tears. You can watch the anime here.

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9. A Silent Voice (2016)

After bullying a deaf girl in his youth, a now victimized Shoyo must find a way to make amends. As he tries to seek her out, what follows is the most tear-jerking portrayal of redemption and forgiveness that you never see again in any other anime film. The character of Shoyo is so realistic and derivative of reality that it can be felt like he is a real person. You can stream the anime here.

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8. Clannad (2007)

Tomoya Okazaki is a young third-year high school student who has distanced himself from his father, who works the night shift. Tomoya’s mother died when he was very young. He goes to school and seems to have no interest in the life around him. One day, Tomoya meets Nagisa Furukawa, who is repeating the third year due to her ill health the previous year. She befriends him and follows him to school every day. While helping Nagisa to organize the drama club, Tomoya finally begins to enjoy his life. All the characters in the movie have sad, realistic, and sympathetic stories, which makes the movie more relatable. A sequel to the movie “Clannad: After Story” was released a year later, which is also heartbreaking to watch. The anime is accessible for streaming here.

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7. Angel Beats! (2010)

When Otonashi awakens in the afterlife following his untimely death, he is greeted by Yuri, a rifle-toting girl who leads the Shinda Sekai Sensen (Afterlife Battlefront). The goal of the group is to revolt against a girl named Tenshi, but the protagonist can’t help but be drawn to her for some mysterious reason. When their first encounter does not go as planned, Otonashi reluctantly joins the SSS. However, his attraction towards Tenshi does not end there, and when they finally get to have a heart-to-heart conversation, Otonashi finally unravels the mysteries of his cruel past and comes to terms with his death. You can stream the series here.

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6. Plastic Memories (2015)

After failing the college entrance exam, Tsukasa Mizugaki, a young adult, finds a respectable job at the Sion Artificial Intelligence Corporation, which creates highly advanced androids. Although they are indiscernible from normal human beings, they have a shorter lifespan of nine years before they become hostile or go rogue. After joining the company, Tsukasa works alongside Isla, a beautiful android at Terminal Service One. As they work alongside one another, the protagonist comes to terms with her feelings for Isla and the approaching expiration date of the android. You can stream the anime here.

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5. Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Shizuku Tsukishima is a free-spirited and cheerful 14-year-old girl who is currently enjoying her summer vacation. She loves spending her free time at the local library, where she notices that the books she reads are often checked out by a boy named Seiji Amasawa. One day while riding the local train, Shizuku notices a strange cat sitting near her. Shizuku decides to follow the mysterious cat to see where it goes and soon stumbles upon an antique shop run by a violin maker named Nishi, the grandfather of the mystery boy who shares her taste in literature.

Seiji and Shizuku soon become friends, and while Seiji is sure of his dreams and how to follow them, Shizuku is still unsure of her own talents. However, when she sees a strange cat statuette, “The Baron,” in the shop, it seems as if that statuette whispers something to her, tugging at her heart and giving her the inspiration she so desperately needs. One voice pushes Shizuku further than she could have ever imagined, changing her life forever. Feel free to watch the anime here.

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4. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

This movie is a loose sequel to a novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui, which was published in 1967. It shares the same basic baseline of a young girl who gains the power of time travel. Makoto (one of the central characters) begins using the time-leaps frivolously to fix problems but soon discovers that her actions can adversely affect others. Her reckless time-traveling takes its toll, a powerful climax in which one of her friends pays with his life. The movie beautifully shows the effect of trying to change the world using your powers without thinking about the consequences. You can watch the film here.

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3. Nana (2006 – 2007)

Studio Madhouse’s ‘Nana’ recounts a story of two young women doing their best to find their place in the world. The anime follows Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki, two women with identical names but contrasting personalities who leave their hometowns to head to the capital of Japan with their hearts full of dreams. After facing several disappointments in her early relationship, Komatsu finally finds a dependable boyfriend. But when he decides to move to Tokyo for his education, Komatsu does not complain but instead follows him there. Osaki on the other hand is a talented musician who is going through a rough breakup.

Determined to become a successful artist, she travels to the capital unaware of the surprises the future holds for her. Interestingly, circumstances force both of them to live under the same roof and as they get to know each other more, the duo become great friends. As they try to forge a future for themselves, Komatsu and Osaki support each other through all the ups and downs that life has to offer. You can watch the anime here.

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2. Wolf Children (2012)

A nineteen-year-old college student, Hana, falls in love with a classmate who is secretly a werewolf and can change into a wolf as per his wish. He and Hana have two wolf children, a daughter Yuki, and a son Ame. Soon after Ame’s birth, their father dies, leaving Hana to look after the two werewolf children. She takes them to the countryside, away from prying neighbors. The children are unable to control their transformation, and Hana struggles to make ends meet while dealing with her children’s choices.`The movie shows the toll parenting takes on the parents and that too when there is only one of them and the children are not normal but require special attention. You can watch the anime here.

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1. Orange (2016)

‘Orange’ is one of those rare anime that masterfully amalgamates the sci-fi and romance genres to recount a psychologically engaging story. The show revolves around a high schooler named Naho Takamiya who receives letters addressed to her from the future. It turns out these letters are written by her future self and they basically warn her about the regrets she is going to have in the future. As Takamiya tries to make sense of her situation, she also learns that she has a far greater burden of responsibilities on her shoulders as she is expected to protect the new transfer student, Kakeru Naruse from a tragic fate. The show is an emotionally charged one as it explores some deeply moving themes that often leave viewers with tears in their eyes. Feel free to watch the anime here.

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