There are simply times when we just want to have a good cry out. Thankfully anime has a unique ability to tug at our heartstrings and squeeze those tears out. Many shows in the genre aren’t afraid to dive down into complex and dark themes, such as loss, grief, loneliness, depression, and more.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s start and take a look at some of the best saddest animes that should be on your watch list!
Your Lie in April
Let’s start with one of my favorites, Your Lie in April, which, yes, I try to watch every time it’s April!
The story of Your Lie in April revolves around Kosei Arima, a piano prodigy who is unable to hear the sound of his piano after years of trauma, mainly after being forced by her mother to learn piano. Kosei then lived a monotonous life for years without touching the piano until he met a vibrant violinist named Kaori.
Kosei and Kaori then try to get through the trauma he suffered and finally play the piano in the spotlight once again.
But don’t get me wrong, this musically inclined anime is not just for people with a passion for classical music. While a ton of story revolves around music, the story essentially tackles trauma and recovering from it. It also tackles love, loss, and of course, like with a ton of anime, friendship!
The portrayal of traumas and the twists and turns that the plot takes makes this anime one of my favorites every time I want to get a good cry on! And, of course, this not only has top-notch music, but it also has great animations, usually showing accurate instrument playing.
Where to watch: Hulu
Grave of the Fireflies
Next up, we have Grave of the Fireflies, a 1988 anime film directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Studio Ghibli. This anime is more than just an animated feature; it’s a poignant and somber reflection on the human experience during war times. Set in the final months of World War II, it focuses on a young boy, Seita, and his little sister, Setsuko. The tragic story unfolds as they lose their mother to an air raid, with their father away fighting in the war, leaving them to fend for themselves.
The siblings’ desperate struggle to survive amidst food shortages and the unforgiving harsh realities of war paints a grim and heart-wrenching picture of lost innocence. The film doesn’t shy away from showing the grim details of their suffering, which makes Grave of the Fireflies a painful movie to watch not only for its vivid depiction of the siblings’ struggle but also for the broader commentary on the devastating human cost of conflict.
It’s a profound reminder of the tragedy and senselessness of war, capturing the deep sorrow that permeates the lives of those caught in its wake.
With its emotive storytelling, haunting imagery, and masterful direction, Grave of the Fireflies stands as a timeless testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a grim reminder of the horrors of war. Nevertheless, I think this is a great movie for you to understand why Oppenheimer felt remorse after the nuclear bombings of Japan.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
If I’m going to describe Your Name, it is a film that feels like a dream you don’t want to wake up from! Directed by Makoto Shinkai, this 2016 animated masterpiece tells the story of Taki and Mitsuha, two teenagers who live in vastly different parts of Japan. In an inexplicable twist of fate, they find themselves waking up in each other’s bodies, leading to a series of delightful, confusing, and at times, comical events.
As they navigate each other’s lives, they begin to form a connection that transcends space and time. They leave notes, messages, and small influences in each other’s lives, creating a bond that feels as real as any face-to-face relationship. But there’s more to this connection than meets the eye as they start to uncover a deeper, more mysterious link between them.
The film weaves together themes of love, destiny, and time in a way that’s heartfelt and engaging. It’s filled with gorgeous animation and a soundtrack from RADWIMPS that just slaps! Watching Taki and Mitsuha’s story unfold feels like a personal journey filled with laughter, tears, and a longing that’s hard to describe, so hard that I’ve only felt that in this film.
Overall, Your Name isn’t just a tale about swapping lives; it’s a story about connections that can reach the impossible. It’s a warm and human film that speaks to the part of us that believes in fate, in love that can endure anything, and in dreams that can become reality. If you let it, Your Name will tug at your heartstrings and remind you of the beauty of human connection.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
A Silent Voice
Next up, we have A Silent Voice, a moving story that revolves around Shoya Ishida, a young man haunted by his past actions. During his elementary school years, Shoya relentlessly bullied Shoko Nishimiya, a new classmate who is deaf. Shoko’s genuine efforts to communicate and make friends, despite her disability, were met with ridicule and exclusion by Shoya and others in the class.
As Shoya matures and recognizes the weight of his behavior, he is consumed by guilt and regret, so much so that he even attempts suicide. The desire to make amends brought him to seek out Shoko once again, setting him on a path to redemption. However, this journey is far from straightforward. He is confronted with numerous challenges and tough decisions, with each step being more difficult than the last.
The anime doesn’t shy away from exploring dark and heavy themes, such as bullying, remorse, forgiveness, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. It delves deeply into the psyche of its characters, offering a raw and unflinching look at the emotional toll that their experiences have taken.
What sets A Silent Voice from a ton of sad anime is its ability to tap into everyone; there are a handful of characters, and I’m sure you’ll relate with at least one of them on a deep level.
Where to watch: Netflix
I hear ya! Assassination Classroom is an action-comedy anime! But I’ll say it right away; it’s a surprisingly sad anime as well!
What’s it about? Imagine a classroom of students, all considered failures, being taught by a mysterious and unkillable tentacled creature known as Koro-sensei. It sounds weird, but that’s where the magic begins.
The students of Class 3-E are tasked with the mission to assassinate their alien teacher before he destroys Earth. But Koro-sensei is no ordinary foe. With his incredible speed and intelligence, he not only teaches them academic subjects but life skills as well, all while evading their assassination attempts.
As the series progresses, the students grow not only in their abilities as would-be assassins but also as individuals. Koro-sensei becomes a mentor, guiding them with wisdom and humor, challenging them to overcome their weaknesses and to see their own worth.
The blend of action, comedy, and touching moments makes Assassination Classroom a rollercoaster of emotions. The seemingly odd premise evolves into a narrative filled with heart, exploring themes of failure, redemption, and the importance of striving for personal growth.
What really sets Assassination Classroom apart is its ability to make you care deeply for an unlikely protagonist and his students. The connections they form and the lessons they learn together result in a story that’s as heartfelt as it is thrilling. You might start watching for the unique plot but stay for the endearing characters and the profound insights about life, learning, and the power of believing in oneself. It’s a classroom experience unlike any other!
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
Weathering With You
Weathering With You is a film that encapsulates both joy and sorrow, weaving a tale that resonates with a profound sense of melancholy. Like Your Name, it’s also directed by Makoto Shinkai; the story unfolds in rain-soaked Tokyo, where Hodaka, a teenage runaway, meets Hina, a girl with the ability to control the weather.
Their partnership initially blooms with hope and excitement as they bring sunshine to a city oppressed by rain. But beneath the dazzle of clear skies, the weight of reality begins to set in. Hina’s powers come with a price, one that begins to burden their youthful dreams and aspirations.
The more they use her abilities, the more they are entangled in a web of moral dilemmas and unforeseen consequences. The realization that something precious must be sacrificed for the greater good casts a shadow over their relationship, turning their once bright adventure into a journey filled with tough decisions and heartbreaking realizations.
Weathering With You is not just a story of magical realism; it’s a reflection on loss, sacrifice, and the often painful transition from innocence to maturity. The characters’ struggles are depicted with a raw sincerity that makes their joys and sorrows deeply relatable.
The stunning animation and soulful soundtrack (from RADWIMPS again!) heighten the emotional depth, portraying both turbulent weather and the human heart (god, I love RADWIMPS!). Like Your Name, this film leaves viewers with a lingering sadness that’s hard to explain; it’s a reminder of the complex and often bittersweet nature of love and growing up. It’s a cinematic experience that captures the essence of longing and the melancholy that comes with understanding the world and one’s place in it.
Where to watch: Max
I Want To Eat Your Pancreas
Last but certainly not least, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (weird title, I know) is an anime film that delicately balances joy, humor, and profound sadness. The story centers around an unexpected friendship between two high school students: an introverted boy and a vibrant girl named Sakura who is suffering from a terminal pancreatic illness.
Their relationship begins quite by accident when he discovers her secret illness through her diary, and what follows is a shared journey filled with life’s simple pleasures, meaningful conversations, and the looming shadow of Sakura’s inevitable fate.
Despite the grim prognosis, Sakura’s zest for life and her determination to live her remaining days to the fullest brings a certain lightness to the narrative. Her influence on her introverted friend is transformative, pulling him out of his shell and teaching him to embrace life with all its complexities.
With this confusing mix of emotions, the audience is constantly reminded of the fragility of life and the cruel twist of fate that brought these two characters together, only to threaten to tear them apart.
I think I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is a celebration of life and a meditation on death, exploring themes of friendship, love, loss, and the human capacity to connect despite incredible odds. The film’s power to make anyone cry a river lies in its ability to portray both the cheerfulness of youth and the profound sadness that comes with understanding our mortality.
Where to watch: Netflix (Geolocked to a handful of countries)
These animes, with their diverse themes and touching storytelling, showcase the emotional depth that animes can reach. Whether it’s the profound exploration of life and death, the bitter-sweet tales of love and loss, or the devastating effects of war and tragedy, these stories can stir emotions in ways few others can. However, amid all the sadness and tears, they also deliver powerful messages about life, love, and resilience, reminding us of the enduring strength of the human spirit.
Do you agree with this list? I’m sure there are a ton more animes that could make you cry a river, make sure to leave them in the comments below! Thanks for reading