Anime is known for its vibrant and dynamic aesthetics, which convey a spectrum of feelings, and sad anime movies are no exception. Sad anime movies are recognized for expressing complex human sentiments through stunning visuals that are a treat for the eyes and incredible narratives that evoke a flood of emotions.
Sad anime movies have an incredible power to elicit emotions from spectators, which is aided by awe-inspiring backgrounds and breathtaking animations. Some of these can be tear-jerkers, showcasing the profound influence they can have on the audience, especially when they capture issues and emotions that resonate with the viewers.
Here are some sad anime movies that would leave their viewers bawling by the time they’re over, leaving a lasting impression.
10 Sad anime movies that will leave you with teary eyes
1) The Girl Who Leapt Through Time/ Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (2006)
This award-winning movie revolves around a high school girl named Makoto, who, after accidentally discovering the ability to leap through time, begins using the ability frivolously. However, no action comes without consequences, and her time-leap power isn’t limitless. But by the time she grasps the reality of her situation, she is already faced with a tragedy: losing people precious to her.
The film depicts a sense of sadness and loss, as well as the actions and repercussions that Makoto must learn the hard way, earning it a place on this sad anime movie list. In a very poignant way, the film helps the audience feel a maelstrom of complex emotions as Makoto strives to overcome adversity and rediscover herself and her true feelings.
2) Voices of a Distant Star/ Hoshi no Koe (2002)
One of Makoto Shinkai’s earlier works, Voices of a Distant Star, is a short film set in a world turbulent with a raging intergalactic war, which forces two childhood friends, Mikako and Noboru, to be separated by many light years.
As Mikako travels further into space, their communication becomes increasingly difficult. Life on Earth continues as usual for Noboru, but Mikako is left at a standstill, struggling to face the harsh reality that she'll never return to her old life.
While the animation quality might not match some of his stunning recent works, such as Your Name, Weathering with You, etc., it makes up for it with its compelling narrative. The movie portrays the distance between two people separated by time and the loneliness of being left behind as the world moves on without them, leaving the audience with a lingering sense of melancholy, thereby making its place in this list of sad anime movies.
3) Spirited Away/ Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001)
Spirited Away makes its place in this list of sad anime movies due to the beautiful manner in which director Hayao Miyazaki expressed profound emotions through the tale of Chihiro, a young girl forced to move, leaving her old life behind. This also foreshadows the film’s conclusion, where she must exit the spirit world without looking back, severing the ties she established there.
Through her journey, the movie effectively demonstrates how life’s changes can make people mature and the importance of moving forward. This film is considered one of Studio Ghibli’s masterpieces, presenting the unconventional journey of Chihiro. Her inevitable separation from Haku and the others at the end of the film evokes deep sadness and sorrow.
4) 5 Centimeters per Second/ Byousoku 5 Centimeter (2007)
Next on this list of sad anime movies is another Makoto Shinkai short film, whose main theme centers around love and heartbreak. The movie is divided into three 22-minute segments, with a total duration of 63 minutes.
The story focuses on the main character, Takaki Toono, and his childhood friend, Akari Shinohara. Circumstances force them to grow apart, and despite promises to keep in touch, they gradually drift away over time, to the point of no return.
Even though packed with breathtaking visuals and beautiful soundtracks, the movie portrays a story that is an emotional rollercoaster, leaving the audience feeling nothing but melancholy and glum. With its masterful narrative, the movie flawlessly captures the concept of two people who love each other but aren’t destined to be together, making it a visual masterpiece.
5) Into the Forest of Firefly Lights/ Hotarubi no Mori e (2011)
Yet another award-winning short movie finds its place on this list of sad anime movies, which tells the tale of an unconventional romance. The protagonist is a 6-year-old girl named Hotaru, who meets and befriends a spirit named Gin after getting lost in a forest.
As the years pass and Hotaru grows up, their friendship evolves into unspoken affection. But their relationship stays devoid of any physical touch, as Gin is prohibited from any human contact, for he will cease to exist if that rule is broken.
The movie explores complex themes such as growing up, loneliness, yearning, loss, and the struggle to move on, conveyed through its mesmerizing visuals and impressive storytelling. After experiencing a whirlwind of emotions within a brief span of 45 minutes, by the end of the movie, the viewers will be left with a heavy heart and teary eyes.
6) A Silent Voice/ Koe no Katachi (2016)
This list of sad anime movies would be incomplete without A Silent Voice, the award-winning movie that delves into sensitive topics such as disabilities, bullying, social anxiety, and suicide. This movie magnificently captures how such negative emotions can leave the victims scarred with trauma and anxiety that they struggle to overcome for a long time.
The story begins with an elementary school kid, Shouya Ishida, who persistently bullies his new deaf classmate, Shouko Nishimiya. Ironically, Shouya falls victim to bullying himself, ending up as a loner. After many years, now in high school, Shouya suffers from intense social anxiety. Haunted by guilt and remorse, he seeks to reconcile with Nishimiya, which leads to their journey of healing.
The movie received recognition and praise worldwide for its compelling narrative. Depicting issues from the real world, it’s bound to stir deep emotions in the audience and move them to tears.
7) Wolf Children/ Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (2012)
This movie is a journey of overwhelming emotions that addresses issues faced by single parents and children who struggle to fit in with society. It intertwines elements of pain and loss, struggles with coping with children’s growth, and eventual departure. The movie narrates the journey of Hana, who falls in love with a werewolf and gives birth to two wolf children, Yuki and Ame.
However, their lives turned upside down with the sudden death of Hana's husband, leaving her alone to raise their hyperactive werewolf children. Starting a new life in the countryside, she and her children struggle with the numerous challenges life ceaselessly throws at them. With its exceptional narrative and heartbreaking ending, Wolf Children has won many awards and earned a place on the list of sad anime movies.
8) I Want To Eat Your Pancreas/ Kimi no Suizou wo Tabetai (2018)
This movie is one of those absolute tearjerkers that left the audience in pieces, therefore securing a spot in this list of sad anime movies. To clarify, despite what the title might imply, the movie involves no cannibalism. The plot revolves around a girl named Sakura with a terminal pancreatic disease and how she meets and falls for an emotionally detached boy, Haruki, who happens to be her classmate.
As their love blooms, it becomes apparent that her days in this world are numbered, hinting at the tragic path the story is taking. With mesmerizing animation, visuals that enchant the audience, and a compelling narrative, this movie captures the themes of friendship, loss, mourning, and acceptance.
9) When Marnie Was There/ Omoide no Marnie (2014)
This Studio Ghibli movie tells the tale of a 12-year-old orphan teenager named Anna, who, after moving to the countryside, is immediately drawn to an old, empty mansion by the side of a lake. There, she befriends a mysterious blond girl her age named Marnie.
When Marnie Was There beautifully captures the protagonist’s struggles with social interaction, feelings of abandonment, and coping with familial loss. It also depicts how deep grief and regret can follow one even in the afterlife. With exceptional storytelling paired with some stunning visuals and the plethora of emotions it evokes, this sad anime movie would move the audience to tears.
10) The Grave of the Fireflies/ Hotaru no Haka (1988)
The utter desperation and trauma that come with this sad anime movie can be too much to bear for some viewers. Based on the short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, this Studio Ghibli movie is a stark contrast to their usual colorful and uplifting works.
Grave of the Fireflies is the story of Seita, a teenage boy, and his little sister Setsuko, two Japanese orphans of World War II who are dealing with hardships in a world that’s falling apart as they struggle to live through them.
The story illustrates their journey of losing their home and parents, seeking food and shelter, and eventually suffering from starvation and illness. The manner in which the anime movie captures the horrors of war so convincingly and the enormous repercussions they have on the lives of countless people, including children, leaves a profound effect on the viewer.
As heartbreaking as it is, this film can be considered one of those masterpieces that can be too much to handle for a second time.
Even though these sad anime movies are often mixed with fantasy elements, the emotions they convey and the situations they depict aren't far from reality. These sad anime movies can help the audience have a better understanding of their own emotions, especially if they've been through or are going through a similar situation.
As these sad anime movies let people experience a range of emotions through the journey of the characters, making one feel emotions coming from the depths of their souls, sad anime movies are sure to leave their mark and have their tales etched into your heart.