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The 21 Saddest Anime Masterpieces

Drew is a Fantasy-LitRPG author. A longtime anime, manga, manhua, and manhwa enthusiast. He fights boredom by reading across multiple genre.

Sad anime makes for a perfect weekend binge watch!

Sad anime makes for a perfect weekend binge watch!

Why Watch Sad Anime?

We all know that the world isn’t just flowers and high fives. Do your best lest you end up with regrets. Fully live, one day at a time. Don’t take everything for granted.

Believe me, watching sad anime has taught me about life more than my teachers and professors. And unlike learning in school, watching these works of art is a hundred times more entertaining.

Anyway, tissues up? This is going to be one hell of ride.

21 Saddest Anime to Binge Watch

  1. Violet Evergarden (2015–20)
  2. Your Name (2016)
  3. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2011)
  4. Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song (2021)
  5. Demon Slayer (2019)
  6. Your Lie in April (2014–15)
  7. Made in Abyss (2017)
  8. Clannad (2007–08)
  9. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (2018)
  10. To Your Eternity (2021)
  11. Eighty Six (2021–22)
  12. Angel Beats (2010)
  13. Kobato (2009–10)
  14. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018)
  15. Plastic Memories (2015)
  16. A Silent Voice (2016)
  17. Wolf Children (2012)
  18. Erased (2016)
  19. 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)
  20. Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (2009–10)
  21. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
"Violet Evergarden"

"Violet Evergarden"

1. Violet Evergarden (2015–20)

Violet has lived her entire life as a war weapon. Battle after battle. Kills after a kill. Pushing on to survive while she fights like an emotionless machine.

But all war has an end. Now, she has to struggle and live as a normal girl while seeking the meaning of life, love, and friendship. Believe me, this drama anime hits like a speeding Maglev train.

My Rating: I’ll rate this heartbreaking anime 10/10. Violet Evergarden will grab your eyes with its intricate and phenomenal visuals. Add a list of awesome soundtracks, and you’ll get one of the best anime experiences you’ll ever have.

"Your Name"

"Your Name"

2. Your Name (2016)

Mitsuha Miyamizu is a bored countryside high school girl. Her dream? Live a fulfilling life in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Tachibana Taki is a busy city-dweller, working lots of part-time jobs, and saving up for his dream to become an architect.

Two people. Two different places. But a series of mysterious body-switching events will bring them together.

My Rating: The plot is fully-loaded with laughs, tears, and thrills. No crap, Your Name cracks into my list of the best anime movie ever produced. Stunning visuals, epic soundtracks, and lovable characters. I’ll rate this goody 9/10.

"Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day"

"Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day"

3. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (2011)

Jinta, Atsumu, Tetsu, Naruko, and Chiri—a group of friends, estranged by the death of their childhood friend, Menma.

But when Menma suddenly pops out of nowhere, Jinta and everyone will find themselves in a chaotic mess, gathering them all together once again. Their goal? To fulfill Menma’s last regret so she can move on.

My Rating: I’ll rate this 10/10. One of the saddest anime I watch. A cocktail of emotions that’ll make you cry loads. The music and plot are so damn gripping I binged it all in one sitting. The characters? Scarred and complex you’ll feel hurt for them.

"Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song"

"Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song"

4. Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song (2021)

Vivy is the earliest and first autonomous android to work in Nialand—an A. I. theme part where science and dreams come to life. Vivy’s goal is simple. To sing a song her audience will love.

But her dream will be short live when Matsumoto, a talking teddy bear, barges into her life. Its goal? To prevent the A. I. an apocalypse that’ll happen in the next 100 years. And it seems, Vivy’s help is needed.

My Rating: A solid 8/10. Vivy is a whiplash of different themes through time. From artificial intelligence, spaceships, time travel, showbiz, kick-ass action, and apocalypse; Vivy has it all. Though it might sound like a mess, it is not.

The plot progression is engaging you’ll be glued to the screen. Badass soundtrack? Check. Gripping characters? Double Check. It’s one of the best drama anime you mustn’t miss.

"Demon Slayer"

"Demon Slayer"

5. Demon Slayer (2019)

Tanjiro’s wish is simple. To help his mother and little siblings survive the harsh world. But tragedy strikes and he’ll find most of his family murdered in cold blood except for his sister. Unfortunately, she isn’t human anymore.

To save and protect her, he’ll strive to become a Demon Slayer and search for a cure. Of course, while preparing himself to face the monster who killed his family.

My Rating: I’ll rate this anime 10/10. Demon Slayer has the best animation you’ll ever watch. Credits to Ufotable. The character growth of Tanjiro is a hands-down masterpiece. The art, pacing, and soundtrack are in a league of their own. No wonder this series is the highest-grossing anime of all time.

"Your Lie in April"

"Your Lie in April"

6. Your Lie in April (2014–15)

Kousei Arima is a famous piano prodigy known as the “Human Metronome” for playing piano like an unfeeling robot. Perfect, precise, and honest to the scores. Unfortunately, the death of his mother will traumatize him so much that he’ll lose his ability to hear tones.

But his quiet life will soon be disturbed by the mysterious and bubbly violinist Miyazono Kaori. One step at a time, the two will grow closer, slowly revealing secrets and one simple lie.

Looking for an anime musical drama? Then Your Lie in April is a masterpiece you mustn’t miss.

My Rating: I’ll rate Your Lie in April a resounding 10/10. Just the masterful delivery of its soulful music deserves a chef’s kiss. The plot? Deep, engaging, and realistic. This sad anime didn’t make me cry, it made me bawl.

"Made in Abyss"

"Made in Abyss"

7. Made in Abyss (2017)

Riko, the young daughter of a missing famous abyss diver, will find herself on a grand adventure. Her goal? Dive into the mysterious abyss and look for her mother.

On her journey, she’ll meet an amnesiac human-like robot and a human rabbit. And together, they’ll descend into the deepest of the abyss. Then all things are now good and happy. No.

My Rating: Don’t be deceived. This masterpiece is a bloody drama and psychological thriller shrouding itself in the guise of innocence. Armed with epic music, a wonderful plot, and deep characters, Made in Abyss will give you both the feels and screams. I’ll give this sad anime a solid 9/10.

"Clannad: After Story" was the second season of the series.

"Clannad: After Story" was the second season of the series.

8. Clannad (2007–08)

Okazaki Tomoya is just another delinquent brat. But behind that façade lies a high school student grappling with family issues. In his search for answers and freedom, he’ll meet Nagisa and a bunch of friends he’ll soon open up to. And later, he’ll eventually find love and new meaning.

The first season is a classic rom-com anime and one of the best of its time. Meanwhile, Clannad: After Story, the second season, is a lot more mature and family-centric than its prequel. And this is where all dams break loose.

My Rating: If you ask me, Clannad is the saddest anime I’ve ever watched. This drama anime deserves a solid 10/10. It has it all; wonderful music, great storytelling, and characters that’ll just make you root for them.

"Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai"

"Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai"

9. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (2018)

Puberty syndrome—a supernatural phenomenon causing mysterious unpredictability among adolescents. And Sakuta Azusagawa knows its more than a figment of imagination.

Still, when he meets a mysterious bunny girl in the library, he finds himself faced with an enigma. After all, it seems no one can see the beautiful bunny girl except for him. Is it a case of puberty syndrome?

My Rating: I’ll give this drama anime a 9/10. The storyline is incredibly engaging and unique. If you’ve watched Monogatari, it has the same atmosphere. The animation looks neat. Just the chemistry characters’ fun chemistry makes this one of the best sad anime to watch.

"To Your Eternity"

"To Your Eternity"

10. To Your Eternity (2021)

Fallen from the depths of space, Fushi begins its long journey in the world of mortals. By imitating living, he’ll soon understand life is more than meets the eye. Life and death, meeting and separation, and the beauty and the ugliness of mankind.

But soon enough, he’ll need to face the real reason for his existence. To slay Nokkers, space parasites planning to destroy the world Fushi has come to love.

My Rating: I’ll give To Your Eternity an 8/10. The plot is episodic, focusing more on the growth of the main characters. Watching him grow one step at a time is quite a novelty. I find this drama anime enjoyable. The animation? Smooth and gripping.

"Eighty-Six"

"Eighty-Six"

11. Eighty Six (2021–22)

Under constant war against Gladian Empire’s unmanned drones called Legion, The Republic of San Magnolia is forced to develop its autonomous drone. The machine’s goal? To avoid bloodshed and casualties of their citizens.

But behind the guise of propaganda and claims of bloodless war lays Sector Eight-Six. An erased territory where young men and women are forced to pilot the government’s “unmanned” weapons to death.

My Rating: Eighty-Six strikes deep into the soul. A 10/10. The realities of war have never been so clear in this age. Death, camaraderie, trauma, and the fickleness of despots make this anime the best I’ve ever watched.

The animation looks superb, filled with great transitions and symbolism. The characters? Deeply human. The soundtrack is also a damn masterpiece and perfect for this anime theme.

"Angel Beats"

"Angel Beats"

12. Angel Beats (2010)

An amnesiac Otonashi Yuzuru wakes up and finds himself in the world of the dead. No, not hell or heaven. But a school campus filled with students with deep regrets. The goal of the school? Help the soul move on to the next life.

Still, teenagers are teenagers. A small group of rebellious students didn’t believe in it. They’ll fight off the rules, hoping to remain in the school.

My Rating: Stunning visuals, great music, and extremely lovable characters. Spiced it up with hardcore comedy with a heartbreaking plot, and you’ll get Angel Beats. A solid 9/10.

"Kobato"

"Kobato"

13. Kobato (2009–10)

Kobato Hanato is but a pure, strange, and innocent lady. And she has a mission. To collect candy-like Konpeitos— mysterious stones that can only appear when a broken heart heals.

She jumps into the lives of others deeply, connecting with them deeply. The catch? She isn’t allowed to fall in love with anyone whose heart she heals.

My Rating: Kobato is an underrated drama anime deserving of my 9/10. It has a heartwarming plot, captivating characters, and soulful music. Even after a decade, I still can’t forget Kobato’s healing voice and music. A must-watch drama anime you mustn’t miss.

"Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms"

"Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms"

14. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018)

Maquia is one of the last remaining survivors of the Iorph race. A clan of long-lived humans (yes like elves but no long ears) known to live for hundreds of years.

During her journey, she’ll save and raise an orphaned boy from a ransacked village. Still, people grow old and their time ends, wilting like a flower. How will Maquia handle losing someone she loves?

My Rating: I’ll rate this anime movie 8/10. Maquia is a hidden gem with a great cast of deep and humane characters. The art style and the use of CGI are also amazingly well-done and are ahead of their time. I’ll be honest, I teared up a few times watching this sad anime.

"Plastic Memories"

"Plastic Memories"

15. Plastic Memories (2015)

When Tsukasa Mizugaki finds himself working on human-like androids called Giftias, he never thought he’ll be in one hell of a job. There, he partners with Isla, a veteran Giftia. An android he’ll soon come to love.

Tsukasa is tasked to bring these androids back. Giftias who are about to meet hit their machine lifespan of 81,920 hours. The hard part? These Giftias have owners and families who love them.

My Rating: I’ll give Plastic Memories 8/10. The plot is simple but delivers the right punch to the gut. The animation is also smooth and is just right for the anime. My only gripe is it's too short for me to empathize with the characters deeply.

"A Silent Voice"

"A Silent Voice"

16. A Silent Voice (2016)

Shouko Nishimiya is an innocent, cute deaf girl who finds herself transferred to a new school. There, she meets Shouya Ishida, a bratty kid who will change her silent life forever.

It’s indeed silent but emotionally jammed-pack anime tackling bullying, disability, traumas, and growing up. It’s packed with tears, sadness, grins, realizations, and redemption.

My Rating: A top-tier sad anime masterpiece worth 10/10. The plot and characters taste like bittersweet dark chocolate. And it’s full of feels with every bite. Plus it also has masterful cinematography and soulful music.

"Wolf Children"

"Wolf Children"

17. Wolf Children (2012)

Hana, a lovely college student, just did every werewolf romance reader dreams of. She marries an enigmatic man who turns out to be a shapeshifting werewolf.

But this drama anime hates tropes and kills off his werewolf husband in an accident. Now, Hana is forced to confront her new reality—taking care of her two little pups.

My Rating: I’ll give Wolf Children a 9/10. A hidden gem that shines brighter the more you watch it. It’s also a multi-award-winning drama anime that’ll pluck your heartstrings.

It is also loaded with fluid animation and inspirational characters. A mature, insightful, and realistic anime dealing with change, loss, and family.

"Erased"

"Erased"

18. Erased (2016)

Satoru Fujinuma is but a boring young man. He has nothing to boast aside from his part-time job and his thick accent. But when he discovers that he can travel through time and prevent accidents, things change fast. But not for good, but for the worse.

Erased is not simply a drama, but also a psychological and mystery powerhouse. It is dark, gritty, and stunning.

My Rating: I'll rate this drama anime 9/10. Mix a top-tier plot, engaging characters, and incredibly good soundtracks, and you’ll get this hidden gem. Trust me, the pacing and plot twists will tie you to your seat for hours.

"5 Centimeters per Second"

"5 Centimeters per Second"

19. 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

Tono Takaki and Shinohara Akari are two shy students closely bonded together by circumstances. And this is their life’s journey from young age to adult hood.

5 Centimeters per Second nails an incredible story of love, regret, drifting apart, and acceptance.

My Rating: This drama anime is a somber masterpiece for its adult audience. It’ll give us a glimpse of how human love grows and dies over time. This sad anime has a mature and deep theme. Every time I rewatch as I aged, the better it becomes.

"Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood"

"Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood"

20. Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (2009–10)

Alchemy’s First Law: The Law of Equal Exchange. To obtain something of equal value, something else must be lost.

Young Alphonse and Edward Elric have never been thought of as such when they performed a taboo—human transmutation. Something they’ll pay dearly. One lost an arm, but the other lost all except for his soul.

My Rating: I'll score Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood 8/10. It is a thrilling action-drama anime that’ll keep watching episode after episode. The depth of the plot is amazing. The characters? Multi-faceted and strikingly human.

"Grave of the Fireflies"

"Grave of the Fireflies"

21. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies is the story of Seita and his little sister Setsuko as they try to live in Post-World War 2 Japan. A simple tale of survival, war, and despair, but also hope.

It has kept me reflecting on how lucky we are. A slap of reality on how we are taking peace and everything for granted.

My Rating: Grave of the Fireflies is one of the oldest anime masterpieces of Studio Ghibli. An iconic representation of the the pains of war. Despite its age, this a heartbreaking drama will make you hold your breath like never before. I’ll rate it 8/10.

Final Thoughts

I have been watching drama anime for at least two decades now. This list is the culmination of everything I have binged throughout the years, season after season.

Still, I know more sad anime that’ll make me cry will come out soon. After all, this anime niche has lots of loyal fans willing to spend like us. But for now, prepare your tissues and start watching.

© 2022 Drew Agravante