We all know the scene. It’s usually about two thirds of the way through the story and the nice character, the one we all love, suddenly gets cut down. What makes it even sadder is that usually the only purpose their death serves is to give our protagonist a renewed focus. yep, the guys that killed your friend are evil. Now you need to go get them back.
Okay, not every sad death scene goes like that. But you must admit it’s fairly common in anime. My list below are the deaths that came in isolation (no group deaths), in non-horror/slasher anime, that serve as a critical plot point and really crushed me. As such, it’s an entirely subjective list. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.
Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.
Honourable mentions this week go to:Shirou Fujimoto (Ao No Exorcist), Nagisa Furukawa (Clannad After Story), Art (Hamatora), Kuro Sensei (Assassination Classroom), and Mikoto Suoh (K).
Number 5: Maes Hughes from Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
Kind of a given going into this list that Maes Hughes would appear. Arguably one of the most well remembered anime deaths of all time. What makes Maes stand out (I feel) is that he is a genuinely sweet character, a family man, and very few of the main cast in Full Metal Alchemist die. They get injured a lot and there are some deaths, but Maes is really the only one that get’s treated as a true death with the funeral and the mourning family.
While Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood plays this for the emotional punch and uses it to drive first the Elric brothers and then Mustang into action, Maes’ death is more than just a cheap plot device. It is a devastating reminder that life and death are at the core of the story. If you look at the timing, it has been a long time since the hit from the death of the Elric Brothers mother, and quite a length of time has passed since Nina’s tragic end. There are many lighter moments in the show but they always come back to the darkness at the centre of the story and Maes’ death is definitely one of those moments.
Number 4: Mikage from 07 Ghost
I was really torn about this one. Certainly, I was really crushed when he died (or rather was horrifically murdered after being forced to try to kill his best friend) but then the show pulls the whole his soul is still with you in the form a really cute animal that follows Teito around for the rest of the run time. It kind of takes some of the impact out of the death.
Clearly though, I decided Mikage’s demise was one of the saddest deaths in an anime. I think it is more that Mikage never did anything to deserve anything that happened to him. Sure he helped his friend escape the military and that certainly deserved some punishment, but having his family threatened, being possessed, and forced to try to kill his friend before choosing to die so that neither his family or his friend would be hurt, just kind of sucked all round. This was definitely a sad death scene. (It doesn’t help that the rest of the anime kind of suffers from Mikage’s lack either).
Number 3: Joker from Black Butler Book of Circus
I started noticing a theme in my choices. Characters who aren’t inherently bad but end up on the wrong side of the protagonist for whatever reason or try to turn over a new leaf and get killed in the process.
Joker is a pitiful character. He originally comes off as quite strong and together but it becomes quickly apparent that he is desperately trying to hold up his little sand castle of dreams even as the tide is washing it all away. By the time Joker is killed he literally has nothing left to live for. It is sad and tragic and just leaves you feeling empty inside.
Number 2: R from Jormungand
Hard to believe that any death in an anime about an arms dealer travelling with body guards would get to you but R manages it. In the first season he is almost a non-entity, but he is definitely there. After seeing the second season I went back and watched and began to see how they had managed to make a character who seemed so in the background such a major emotional turning point.
R is working against Koko with the American government, but when one of their agents targets Jonah, R throws caution to the wind to save the child soldier, in the process revealing his duplicitous lifestyle to Koko before getting himself very dead. The impact this death has on Koko is enormous and unlike most of the deaths before it, this one causes the show to pause for some quiet reflection which hits the audience hard.
Number 1: Nephrite from Sailor Moon
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Firstly, what makes a death sad is emotional connection to the characters, and given that Sailor Moon is one of my all time favourite anime, it should be no surprise that I feel an emotional connection to the characters. Secondly, I saw this when I was pretty young and unlike most other cartoons, they just knocked off a fairly major character, on screen, and one who had redeemed himself (kind of), and they didn’t even wait for a season final or something. This was really different from anything else I was watching at the time and I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d just watched. I remember sitting and staring at the screen completely stunned. I wanted to scream, “But he just saved Molly!”
No matter what anime deaths come after this one, I will always remember Nephrite. Even though he was a villain, and not a particularly good one, and even though he was barely in a quarter of the series, his death had real impact.
Okay, who do you have on your list?