Sometimes Japanese animation can have its share of sad moments that tugs at our heartstrings. The best anime to explore relatable issues like bullying and social anxiety are oftentimes the saddest anime.
But that doesn’t stop anime fans from exploring movies and shows that might not have a happy ending due to their thought-provoking storylines and characters.
Whether you like sad romance anime movies or depressing anime, we have the scoop on sad anime movies and shows!
1. A Silent Voice
A young girl by the name of Shouko Nishimiya has impaired hearing and becomes the target of bullies and eventually moves to a new school.
However, Shoya Ishida sets out to make amends with the deaf girl after tormenting her. This slice of life movie explores mental health, disabilities, and giving people second chances.
2. Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the saddest anime movies by Studio Ghibli as it follows two children who struggle to stay alive after being separated from their parents during the war.
Hayao Miyazaki perfectly portrays a sense of loss and heartbreak from the children’s perspective.
3. Wolf Children
An animated film with fantasy elements, Wolf Children focuses on a single mother who raises her offspring in society and the wild.
Hana not only finds herself entering into motherhood after the death of her werewolf man but she also has to deal with the unknowns of being a young mother.
4. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is a recent Netflix series involving the main character Violet Evergarden and her quest to find the meaning of the former commander’s final words after the end of the world war.
Violet’s emotional detachment makes us appreciate human emotions as she learns to understand them. Even though this series is not the first to have stunning visuals, it is the series’ best feature.
Violet Evergreen even won “Best Animation” in 2019 through the Crunchyroll Anime Awards.
5. Garden of Words
Makoto Shinkai’s Garden of Words (Koto no ha no Niwa) is a beautiful story that reflects mutual understanding within relationships.
A lonely high schooler, Takao, decides to miss his morning classes to spend time in a garden. His adventure to the garden turns out to be the best decision when he meets an older woman on rainy days who understands his feelings of alienation.
The beautiful art is only one of many aspects that makes this animated film directed by Makoto Shinkai a must-watch for romantic anime fans.
6. Perfect Blue
Mima Kirigoe decides to end her career as a singer and instead focuses all her attention on creating her new life as an actress.
Perfect Blue is a sad story that depicts a young woman losing her sense of identity. Even though this anime movie explores the darker realities of mental illness, anime lovers continue to add this psychological thriller to their anime list.
7. The Anthem of the Heart
In her early days, Jun Naruse was the culprit behind the separation of her family. Even after a long time, she still carries guilt about her harsh words.
Cursed by a mysterious Egg Fairy, she is unable to say hurtful words again. The Anthem of the Heart is the kind of anime story that can offer meaningful insight into the power of words.
8. Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no uso)
Shigatsu wa Kimi no uso is a top contender for sad romance anime that is worth watching. A piano prodigy lost his ability to play after going through a traumatic event during his childhood.
However, Arima Kousei forms an unlikely friendship with the violinist, Kaori Miyazono, and is eventually placed back into the spotlight.
Your Lie in April offers a palette of emotions as Miyazono and Kousei experience young love and loss.
The anime and manga series is arguably the saddest anime ever produced in Japan and has become popular enough for a famous movie adaptation with Kento Yamazaki and Suzu Hirose.
9. Erased (Boku Dake ga inai machi)
Erased offers plenty of sad moments when Satoru Fujinuma finds himself using his ability to go back in time to prevent people he knows from dying.
Satoru becomes aware that the abduction of a girl is about to take place but ends up caught in the middle of the investigation.
10. Angel Beats
This slice of life anime series is an emotional story of tragedy and friendships. A group of teenagers finds themselves in purgatory and their mission is to pass on to the afterlife.
Although the anime has a sad premise revolving around death, Angel Beats depicts a flawless ending and the hope that everyone will meet up again. This science-fiction drama is considered to be one of the most known in the anime genre.
11. Clannad: After Story
If you thought Clannad had plenty of sad moments, Clannad After Story is a tearjerker. In continuation of Clannad, the after story is adapted from the visual novel. The story follows Nagisa and Tomoya’s relationship past high school. Their love story continues to grow until tragic moments strike. This film has to have one of the saddest anime deaths.
12. Your Name
Your Name is based on the manga written by Makoto Shinkai. This fantasy and romance film shows the magical connection when a boy and a girl end up switching bodies. It is bound to become even more complicated when they meet in person. Your Name has stunning artwork that makes it a great movie amongst the anime fan community.
13. Plastic Memories
At first, Plastic Memories seems to be the usual sci-fi anime series that involves artificial intelligence. However, this anime explores a futuristic world with hints of romance that might not have a happy ending. Humans learn to work with androids to destroy the androids gone rogue.
The meaningful themes in Plastic Memories force the viewers to analyze their life and what would happen if everything was already predetermined.
14. 5 Centimeters Per Second
5 Centimeters Per Second starts with Takaki Tono who becomes close friends with Akari Shinohara in elementary school. From then on the sad anime film follows Takaki Tono’s growing love for Akari as they go through several phases in their life. The theatrical film is split up into three segments and never fails to capture the lingering feelings of first love in normal life.
Orange is an anime that everyone seems to keep an eye on. It is not surprising that an obsessive fan would tell you to read the manga and watch the anime. This school life romance drama is about a teenage girl (Naho Takamiya) who discovers a letter written by her future self. A twist to the usual school life anime, Orange is an emotional rollercoaster of life and death.
A classic for every anime fan, Air is a fantasy anime by Kyoto Animation that involves a legend about winged creatures. Yukito Kunisaki is a traveling showman that is on a quest to find the girl in the sky. While Yukito is on his journey, he meets Misuzu and befriends her.
17. Ef: A Tale of Melodies
A similar premise to A Silent Voice, this emotional series forces the main character (Yu) to confront their regrets and sorrows from their past. Amamiya Yuuko awakens childhood memories that are better left forgotten. It leaves viewers questioning whether they were childhood friends or not.
Colorful takes on another realm when it comes to sin and death. A soul appears in the body of Makoto who committed suicide but it must figure out the reason why Makoto died and the sin that the soul had committed in the past life. The title of the film happens to be the complete opposite when it comes to the dark themes.
19. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
Despite its bright animation and warm visuals, Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day is a story of a girl who died but is unable to pass on. Menma’s friends come together to help her remember and attain a wish, so she can enter into the afterlife.
Even though this anime is made of sad moments, it never fails to disappoint with the beautiful artwork as well as the wholesome friendships when dealing with the death of a friend.
20. Whisper of the Heart
A classic by Studio Ghibli, Whisper of the Heart is a coming-of-age romance movie centered around Shizuku Tsukishima. One day, Shizuku decides to look at the checkout cards in her library books to find that all of the books were checked out by Seiji Amasawa.
Whisper of the Heart is a journey of love and dreams that we can’t help but watch over and over again. It might not have dark themes, but the film perfectly depicts life’s shortcomings and regrets. Based on your own perspective, this Studio Ghibli film can be depressing or inspiring.
21. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
A slice of life drama from Aniplex, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas explores the relationship between a boy who finds a diary and a girl who suffers from a fatal pancreatic illness. Even though Haruki Shiga and Sakura Yamauchi become close friends, the anime doesn’t really live up to the romance genre and the viewers are left to interpret the kind of relationship the characters were in.
However, anime fans can appreciate the flawless character development of Haruki Shiga as he goes from being a loner to someone willing to make friends.
22. Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light
Adapted from Hotarubi no Mori e, Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light takes a stab at the star-crossed lovers’ theme. Hotaru is rescued by a spirit when she loses her way in a forest as a child. A friendship between Hotaru and the spirit (Gin) begins to blossom despite the spirit’s tragic fate that he will disappear if he is ever touched by a human.
This animation might just look like a human and a spirit falling in love but it attempts to showcase the desire for dreams and the beauty behind them. Add this movie to your sad anime romance movies list!
23. Hal (Haru)
Hal (Haru) is another anime film that highlights the desperation of keeping the one you love close. Kurumi falls into a state of depression after the death of her boyfriend, Hal. But through a twist of fate, an android is sent to Kurumi to help her escape her solitude. Would you accept an android of the one you love?
24. The Wind Rises
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises features a Japanese aviation engineer who spends his career building an A6M World War II fighter plane. Despite this film being fairly slow compared to other Studio Ghibli works, The Wind Rises is a heartfelt story of passion, innocence, and love. It might just be the most memorable sad romance anime you will ever watch.
25. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
A film combining romance and sci-fi elements, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is about a 17-year-old tomboy trying to survive high school. With her ability to time travel, she takes every chance to go to the past and the future to resolve issues and make changes. But there will always be a consequence when things seem too good to be true. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, this 2006 film lays down a few perspectives that could either leave you hopeful or sad.
26. Dog of Flanders
Based on a true story, Dog of Flanders is an animated series and movie about the bond between a boy and his loyal dog in north Holland. The colorful and crisp animation rivals that of many Studio Ghibli works. The bright animation style is a contrast to the struggles that the boy goes through following the death of his grandfather.
27. Barefoot Gen (Hadashi No Gen)
Barefoot Gen is a classic Japanese movie taking place during the after-effects of the atomic bomb. This war movie never shies away from showing the devastating effects of war; especially the bomb scene. Similar to Grave of the Fireflies, this film will tug on your heartstrings. Watch this old-school-style movie on Amazon Prime Video!
Clannad follows Tomoya Okazaki’s life in high school as he meets new friends. However, there is one specific girl that begins to change his world entirely. Even though Nagisa and Tomoya make up the forefront of the series, anime fans all around the world can’t help but adore the side characters.
This romantic drama shows the realities of school life and tight-knit friendships. Clannad reminds us that it’s okay to rely on others and make memories.
29. Golden Time
Banri Tada takes the college entrance exams for a college in Tokyo. But there is just one problem, he is diagnosed with retrograde amnesia and is forced to confront memories of his past as well as his relationships with friends.
Due to how lovable the characters are, some anime fans may argue that Golden Time ranks at the top of their list for romantic comedy anime.
30. Children Who Chase Lost Voices
Children Who Chase Lost Voices thrusts viewers into a magical world that leads a young girl to take on quite the adventure while also navigating first love. She comes across a radio left by her father that unexpectedly places her into an extraordinary world when mysterious music is played.
Even though the magical world is stunning, there are a few places where the world-building seems to fall short. But Children Who Chase Lost Voices shows Asuna trying to live a life where her father is no longer by her side.
31. Rumbling Hearts
Rumbling Hearts started as a visual novel and eventually became a part of the video games world with its place on Dreamcast and Playstation 2. Eventually, Kimi ga Nozomu Eien became an anime that revolves around the main protagonist, Takayuki Narumi. What began as a love story between Takayuki and Haruka ends up taking a turn for the worst after she enters into a coma.
32. A Whisker Away
A Whisker Away is a coming-of-age story filled with fluff. A young girl who finds herself unhappy in life decides to reach out to her crush at school. Due to her strong desire for Hinode to notice her, she receives a magical Noh mask that transforms her into a cat. Her ability to become a cat lets her stay close to Hinode’s side, but Miyo longs to confess that the cat and she are the same person when Hinode takes a liking to the cat.
This Japanese animation explores a commonly used theme of unrequited love and is bound to be relatable as we instill hope that Hinode will finally notice her for who she really is.
33. When Marnie Was There
Based on the book by Joan G, When Marnie Was There is a psychological drama with a whimsical world that every Studio Ghibli fan will love. Anna Sasaki is a young girl who struggles with self-esteem, asthma, and belonging. It isn’t until she is sent away to live with her foster parent’s relatives, that she starts to make friends and find herself.
34. Flavors of Youth
Flavors of Youth is a toned-down series of anthologies located in China. Every story within this film is about childhood memories and elicits nostalgia. Even though this movie is separated into three parts, all of the stories carry the same youthful atmosphere. Many anime fans also find the animation to showcase the beauty of Chinese cities perfectly.
35. In This Corner of the World
An inside look into Suzu’s world, this historical romance film follows a cheerful artist in the midst of the Pacific War. After Suzu marries into the Shusaku family, she comes to terms with the war threatening the people in Kure. She makes an effort as a housekeeper to make herself useful to others. In This Corner of the World is based on the true incidences during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
36. The Place Promised in Our Early Days
Following the separation of Japan in 1945, the “Union” takes over Ezo and creates a tower that seems to fascinate three middle school children. The two boys, Hiroki Fujisawa and Takuya Shirakawa find a drone plane with the hopes of being able to fly it one day. However, their friend, Sayuri disappears and eventually tears the three apart.
As the boys find their own paths, they come to realize that Sayuri has been stuck in the hospital for a couple of years. Sayuri’s condition has led her to forget their precious memories. The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a coming-of-age film around World War II that explores friendships, love, and dreams.
37. Banana Fish
Banana Fish focuses on the relationship between Ash Lynx and Eiji Okumura. Many people have distinguished this series as one that showcases homosexuality. Adapted from the 1985 manga, Banana Fish takes on dark topics such as redemption, violence, and mental illness. But we can’t help but glorify the characters for their deep history.
Nana is a slice of life story involving Nana Osaki and Nana Komatsu as they cross each other’s paths. Even with their different personalities and interests, the two women find things in common and confide in each other as they go through life. Although, fame and love begin to test their relationship.
39. Searching for the Full Moon
Searching for the Full Moon (Full Moon Wo Sagashite) is about two friends, Mitsuki and Eichi who made a promise to follow their dreams. With her feelings turning into love for Eichi, she hopes her music will reach him. But she realizes that her singing career might be short-lived once hearing the news that she has throat cancer.
40. No. 6
This dystopian action anime centers around Nezumi and Shion. Shion saves an escapee from the prison; however, they both lose sight of each other. Eventually, they meet again to uncover the dark secrets hidden within the city, No. 6 while falling in love. Anime fans are left feeling quite nostalgic from No. 6 but the ending is sure to leave you feeling all types of emotions.
41. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
This precious drama follows Maquia as she learns that her home is being destroyed by people who seek out her blood for longer life. The people of lolph possess youthful longevity making them a target for people who desire to stay alive longer. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms doesn’t shy away from the hardships of life, especially when displaced from home.
Mirai is a tale of sci-fi adventures with a sad twist from the perspective of the young boy. Kun starts to feel forgotten by his family when Mirai appears. He runs to a garden to find out that he can time travel and see his mother as a little girl. Kun’s world instantly expands when joining together with his little sister and his mother for a series of adventures.
43. Weathering with You
Weathering with You offers a stunning animation style by Makoto Shinkai and follows Hadoka who befriends an orphan girl that has the power to influence the weather. This exceptional film makes viewers wish they could go back to their youthful days to soak in every second.
44. Voices of a Distant Star
This Japanese sci-fi movie perfectly depicts the feelings that one goes through when separated from someone they love. Two friends, a boy, and a girl are living normal lives when the girl has to go to space to fight with the aliens. Makoto Shinkai not only portrays love and hope as two kids struggle to live in an unfair world, but he also creates a stunning world that will stick with viewers for a long time.
45. Her Blue Sky
Her Blue Sky is a romantic film with underlining sad moments. Aoi wants to become a musician and Shinnosuke hopes to one day succeed as a guitarist. The string of fate ties Aoi and Akane together due to the loss of their parents in an accident 13 years ago. Akane decides to give up her dreams to stay by Aoi’s side.
This animated film combines the complex feelings of regret during teenage years. Her Blue Sky forces viewers to think about the ambitions and the feelings of the characters.
46. Summer Ghost
A fantasy drama that will instantly bring you into an ethereal world as the film taps into death and finding peace within yourself. Tomoya, Aoi, and Ryo became friends through the internet, but they have a plan to meet the summer ghost who appears during fireworks.
47. The Boy and the Beast
A boy versus the world theme, The Boy and the Beast centers around Kyuta who finds himself placed into an alternate universe where his guardian is a bear-man. Kyuta tries to make sense of the world that he ended up in but not without an adventure between both worlds. The Boy and the Beast blends in maturity as well as father issues for a satisfying ending.
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, Belle is an adventure into a virtual world. A high school student becomes a singer and takes on a journey to reveal the identity of a mysterious beast. Belle taps into relatable issues of today’s world and flawlessly depicts them through stunning animation. This Japanese film will have you confront the issue of toxic people as well as mental issues. Although it is not as sad as some of the other films on this list, Belle is still a heavy load to absorb.
49. Modest Heroes
A gorgeous story involving aquatic humanoids, Modest Heroes follows Shun and Sato who search for their missing father. But the fantasy anime divides itself into three stories and explains the hardships that the characters go through.
50. Spirited Away
Chihiro is not fond of the fact that she has to move to another town. When Chihiro and her parents drive to their new home, they encounter a strange tunnel that leads to an abandoned amusement park. However, Chihiro soon finds out that the amusement park had been bewitched.
After seeing her parents turn into pigs, she becomes determined to change them back by working for Yubaba at a bathhouse. Spirited Away explores love and memories as Chihiro comes across Haku who helps her navigate the world beyond the amusement park.
51. Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle is about a woman named Sophie who finds herself turning into an old lady after the Witch of the Waste pays her a visit. The rumors that Howl is a wizard lead her to find him in order to reverse the spell.
Her relationship with Howl begins to change once she figures out that he is battling a curse that is slowly killing him. The love story is just as delicate as the rooms in Howl’s moving castle and makes for one of the best romance anime movies of all time.
52. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
An apocalyptic fantasy world, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind follows the last remaining humans that live in a toxic jungle.
The young Nausicaa can communicate with insects and hopes to return the peace to the damaged planet. This Studio Ghibli film allows viewers to think about the consequences of destroying the world’s ecosystem.
53. From Up on Poppy Hill
Studio Ghibli’s film, From Up on Poppy Hill blends in mourning the dead, protecting history, and celebrating youth.
Even though Shun and Shiro are forced to grow up due to the ongoing war, they both still live out their childhood in a stunning way. The other films allow the viewers to live in fantasy worlds, but From Up on Poppy Hill portrays a simplistic view of life.
54. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
A woman born from inside a bamboo stalk orders her suitors to do near impossible tasks in order to show that their love for her is real.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya gives an inside look into her perspective as she faces intimacy and the unclean world.
55. Castle in the Sky
Sheeta is held captive on a plane by Col. Muska. However, the young orphan escapes and lands safely at the workplace of a boy named Pazu.
Sheeta starts to realize that the magic crystal is the key to a mystical city called Laputa. She must join forces with the pirates to help take Muska down.
Castle in the Sky is one of the most down-to-earth films that has beautiful visuals and dynamic characters that make for a memorable story.
A goldfish princess encounters a human boy named Sosuke while surveying the world above the water.
Ponyo and Sosuke develop a heart-warming friendship that makes her long to become a human. Her determination to join Sosuke on land has her rebelling against the ocean kingdom.
A story that is adapted from The Little Mermaid, this Studio Ghibli movie Ponyo is an adorable glance into a youthful relationship.
57. Princess Mononoke
In a world where humans, animals, and gods live in harmony, Princess Mononoke portrays the crumble of the peace that the world had fought so hard to keep.
Ashitaka attempts to find a cure for a wound from an animal attack through a deer-like god. On his adventures, he encounters a fight between humans and a wolf god and also finds out that his companion, Princess Mononoke is also in the mix.
Princess Mononoke combines greed, a love for nature, and the determination to bring back a peaceful world.
58. My Neighbor Totoro
The esteemed film, My Neighbor Totoro focuses on a school girl named Satsuke and her younger sister.
Due to their mother being in the hospital, they are unable to see her often and instead center their attention on the spirits in their house and the forest.
Through times of hardship, My Neighbor Totoro depicts hope and innocence in a fantasy world.
59. March Comes in Like a Lion
One of the most relatable anime series so far, March Comes in Like a Lion centers around Rei Kiriyama. His life as an introvert can be difficult when it comes to making friends.
But he gradually steps out of his bubble and makes the most of the world in front of him. He seeks to escape the friend of his father and decides to live on his own.
March Comes in Like a Lion shows the stunning story of an introvert growing in many aspects of life.
60. Ao Haru Ride
One of the best shoujo series of 2014, Ao Haru Ride is an emotional masterpiece that confronts issues such as bullying and self-love.
Futaba Yoshioka tries to fit in with her friends by acting unfeminine. She encounters her first love and realizes that he has changed from friendly to indifferent.
Despite trying to focus on herself, she soon finds out that Kou Tanaka, her first love, has lost his mother and helps him through grief.
Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) is a romance anime with hints of sadness that has viewers wanting to hug the characters to reassure them that everything will be okay.
There are many honorable mentions not included in this lineup, but every anime on this list tackles a range of themes and issues that are oftentimes relatable. Many of them are sure to make you shed a tear or two.
Hope you enjoyed this list of sad anime romance movies and other sad anime!
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