Top 20 Best Sad Anime Shows of All Time

By Louie Fecou
Published: January 15, 2023 (Last updated: 4 weeks ago)

We discuss the Top 20 Best Sad Anime Shows of All Time. Keep this list handy for the best anime recommendations. 

Sad Anime, or tearjerkers, are a staple of the genre. Designed to deliberately tug at the heartstrings of the viewer, these shows are often littered with broken hearts and shattered dreams that allow you to become invested with the characters, empathize with them, and experience their sadness with them. Often featuring powerful stories and desperate situations, here is our list of the ~Top 20 Best Sad Anime Shows of all time.

Top 20 Best Sad Anime Shows of All Time

20. True Tears (2008)

This simply constructed story follows the touching relationship between Shinichirou Nakagami and the girl that lives in the same building as him. However, there is something odd about her behavior and what should be a dream for Shinichirou becomes a difficult situation. A powerful emotional ending earns a space on our list.

IMDB Rating 7.1/10

19. Chrono Crusade (2003)

In a post-war New York, The Magdalene Order is charged with protecting the world from demons. Rosette has lost her brother but continues to remain hopeful that she will be able to find him after his abduction by the monsters. Nuns with guns, with a doomed relationship in the middle of the action, leads to a sad finale.

IMDB Rating 7.1/10

18. Plastic Memories (2015)

Just like in Bladerunner, the androids in this story are so lifelike that you cannot tell if they are human or not, and they have a limited lifespan, so when our protagonist Tsukasa gets a job at  Terminal Service One, he is assigned to Isla but does not realize that she is approaching the end of her lifespan. Their relationship grows but there is nothing but heartbreak in the future for this couple. Poignant and sorrowful, nothing lasts forever.

IMDB Rating 7.3/10

17. 5cm Per Second (2007)

Now you know the speed of falling cherry blossom in this tale of loss and regret from Makoto Shinkai. The beautiful imagery and production only add to the melancholic story of two close friends whose lives slowly drift apart as they go about their lives. This realistic approach that shows lives being pulled away from each other is poetic and filled with remorse as we realize that growing up is never easy.

IMDB Rating 7.5/10

16. Orange (2016)

There is a mystery at the heart of this story that involves a letter from the future. The letter has been sent by Naho’s future self and wants to warn her of something, but can she divine their true meaning, and or does tragedy await? Guilt, grief, and regret all permeate this production, darkly melancholic and infused with a real feeling of doom. Unmissable.

IMDB Rating 7.6/10

15. Angel Beats (2010)

At first glance, this looks like a supernatural fantasy adventure, with our protagonist Otonashi waking up, and realizing he is dead, however despite the epic battle between God-like entities and rebellious teens, there is more underneath the story. With great characters and a mix of action, humor, and romance, this is an often-overlooked short Anime series that deserves a look.

IMDB Rating 7.6/10

14. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (2009)

This is an intense, dark, and realistic depiction of the aftermath of a huge natural disaster, as seen through the eyes of three well-rounded characters. An earthquake hits Tokyo, and brother and sister Mirai and Yuki try desperately to find their way back to their parents. Aided by single mother Mari, also trying to reunite with her daughter and mother, the team becomes closer as they support each other. This is a bittersweet touching drama that focuses on the love between the siblings, and the importance of family. Brace yourself for a poignant ending.

IMDB Rating 7.8/10

13. Clannad (2007)

High school drama, heartbreak, friendship, and romance take center stage here, as this heartbreaking series lets you into the lives of the main characters. A unique approach to storytelling makes this a beautiful but tear-jerking unfolding story, but it should be noted that there is a sequel After Story, which should be watched in conjunction with this entry, that takes the whole premise one step further.

IMDB Rating 7.8/10

12. Elfen Lied (2004)

Elfen Lied follows a young girl named Lucy who is a Diclonius, a human with terrible powers. She becomes the victim of a horrific scientific experiment but manages to escape, killing everyone around her. However, she receives an injury that causes her to revert to a childlike state. It’s one of the most controversial anime ever made, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, and there is a scene of animal cruelty early in the series that some will find disturbing, and there are also scenes of nudity and violence too, but underneath this notorious series, there is heart and sadness.

IMDB Rating 7.9/10

11. I Want to Eat your Pancreas (2018)

This is a tragic story that revolves around Haruki, who discovers through a journal that Sakura has a crippling pancreatic disease. He resolves to help her fulfill her bucket list, but as their relationship grows, and their true feelings are revealed, there seems to be no way to avoid the inevitable ending to the story. Despite the odd title, there is a sadness that permeates this production, even though the characters do their best to stay up. Distressing and ultimately unfortunate, this distressing series delivers for lovers of tears.

IMDB Rating 8.0/10

10.  Wolf Children (2012)

Hana is a single mother that is trying to raise her two children, trouble is they are half-wolf, and the father has been killed while out hunting. We follow Hana as she struggles with her life, raising her supernatural kids, and trying to keep them hidden from an uncaring society. Despite the spooky setup, at the core of the story is something very real and very human.

IMDB Rating 8.1/10

9. A Silent Voice (2016)

A Silent Voice is about a deaf girl named Shouko, relentlessly bullied by her peers in school leading to her having to transfer schools many times. This Anime from Kyoto Animation isn’t a comfortable experience. Instead, it focuses on making the viewer feel what the characters are going through. With themes of regret and redemption, this is a heartbreaking watch.

IMDB Rating 8.1/10

8. Banana Fish (2018)

This anime follows Eiji and Ash, who slowly fall in love with each other. This anime received praise for its realistic depiction and well-rounded characters. Set within the realms of a crime drama, the story of gang leader Eiji and photographer’s assistant Ash is sometimes disturbing and violent, and ultimately it seems there is no happy ending in sight.

IMDB Rating 8.2/10

7. Anoman: The Flower we saw that Day (2011)

This anime tells the story of a group of childhood friends, now grown up, attempting to cope with the loss of their friend Menma, who died when they were very young. As the story progresses, we see how Menma’s death affected each of her friends, as they come to terms with their own inability to cope and overcome their feelings of guilt. Themes of loss and closure make this so poignant it is almost unwatchable. A real tearjerker.

IMDB Rating 8.2/10

6. Your Name (2016)

This Anime follows Mitsuha and Taki. High school students who come from average lives. Mitsuha yearns to live in Tokyo, but she can’t afford it while Taki struggles to study and hold down a job. In a twist, these two characters are brought together by fate when they suddenly switch bodies. The strange event makes them aware of the impact they both have on each other’s lives. Beautiful to look at and presenting a love story like no other, the thought-provoking script leaves this one with you after the credits roll.

IMDB Rating 8.4/10

5. Violet Evergarden (2018)

Our protagonist Violet Evergarden was raised to be a weapon used against enemies. But with the current battle ending, she has to find a new purpose for her life. After recovering from her injuries, she begins working as an Auto Memory Doll, her job to help translate people’s thoughts into words on paper. Often profound and moving, spliced with some heavy emotional scenes, this story shows the powers that words can have.

IMDB Rating 8.4/10

4. Grave of Fireflies (1988)

Set in the last days of World War II, the film tells the story of a boy named Seita and his younger sister, Setsuko, whose lives have been destroyed by the cruel and savage war that’s left them without their home and family. Left to fend for themselves, the siblings’ optimism helps them to survive in the face of adversity. Grave of the Fireflies is a heart-wrenchingly depressing watch, oddly beautiful, and deeply moving this is another Anime film that will leave you tearful.

IMDB Rating 8.5.10

3. Your Lie in April (2014)

Your Lie in April addresses the story of a pianist named Kousei who finds that after the death of his mother, he can no longer hear the music that he makes. Years later he meets Kaori, a violinist, who shows him a new way to experience music. Unfortunately, Kaori’s cheerfulness is merely a mask that hides her own secret, and the story slowly reveals an impending tragedy. Your Lie in April is a heartfelt story that deals with trauma, overcoming loss, and optimism. A classic of the genre.

IMDB Rating 8.6/10

2. Steins; Gate (2011)

Steins; Gate tells the story of Okabe Rintarou, a college student and self-made scientist who discovers a way to change past events by sending what he calls D-mails. However, after making use of these emails, Okabe and his friends find out that when you fool about with time, it tends to fool around with you. Despite a lot of setup, you have to see this through to the end as the ultimate payoff is worth the wait.

IMDB Rating 8.8/10

1. Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (2009)

This is a story of two young brothers who break the laws of alchemy by attempting human transmutation, in order to bring their mother back to life. The brothers pay a high cost for their dabbling, with the younger Alphonse losing his entire body and older brother Edward who loses his leg and then his arm in the process of bringing his brother’s soul back and binding it to a suit of armor. However, these brave and determined brothers refuse to accept their fates and set out to find a way to get their bodies back. This is a multi-faceted, and mournful story that is highly regarded. With an uplifting and emotional resonance, this highly-rated show is at the top of our list.

IMDB Rating 9.1/10

Do you have any other recommendations for Best Sad Anime Shows that should be in this Top 20? Let us know!

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