Nearly every anime show or movie has a death or two. In fact, it is so common that you may not shed a tear for every character who meets their untimely end. However, occasionally, there are character deaths that really bring on the waterworks, especially when it’s the main character. These deaths leave an everlasting impression on us, adding a level of rawness to an already beautiful genre. So, here are eight anime main character deaths that brought fans to tears.
Seita and Setsuko from Grave of the Fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies may be a Studio Ghibli film, but you won’t find a happy ending here. We know from the start that the main characters are dead. However, knowing this doesn’t make it any less depressing. Through a series of flashbacks, we follow the siblings’ struggles, from being taken in and mistreated by their aunt to passing away from malnutrition.
The film’s animation style and pacing combine to create an emotional experience that resonates with viewers. This also results in thoughtful moments that make us rethink our stance on war. When Setsuko asks her brother, “Why must fireflies die so young?” it is not only heartbreaking but forces us to face the real-life consequences of war. Why must they (i.e., children) die so young?
Ultimately, the movie concludes that sometimes love and hope are not enough to survive the worst of humanity. This revelation makes Seita and Setsuko’s efforts, which are based on real events, all the more depressing.
L from Death Note
As Light Yagami held L Lawliet in his arms during his final moments, there was a hint of sorrow in his eyes (though it was quickly replaced with a smile). Yes, Light had finally defeated his rival, but he’d also lost an intellectual equal, the only person who had ever come close to uncovering his vigilante persona.
Although L lost, he accepted his fate, only regretting how his unorthodox approach to investigating distanced him from others. To keep his investigations a secret, he told many lies. This, along with his social quirks, made it difficult for the young genius to form a bond with anyone besides Watari, who he considered a father figure.
In fact, he didn’t have much of a life outside of solving crimes and murders, which is why his death during the Kira Investigation is so tragic. The most significant case of his career ended up being his last. Despite all the sacrifices he made, he ultimately was unable to solve the case in time to save his life.
Yuuki Onozawa from Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
When an 8.0 magnitude earthquake hits Tokyo, main characters, Mirai and Yuuki Onozawa are left stranded in the metropolitan city. With public transportation rendered useless, they must travel through the ruins of Tokyo. Along the way, the quake’s aftershock leaves Yuuki severely injured. To not worry his sister, he keeps his injury a secret. But soon after, he collapses and ends up in the hospital.
The story then shifts to Mirai’s perspective as we watch the siblings struggle to get home after helping fellow survivor Mari find her mother and daughter. As they near their home, they are once again caught in an aftershock. However, this time around, Mirai realizes that Yuuki is no longer physically with her.
Through a series of flashbacks, we learn Yuuki didn’t survive his hospital stay. It was his spirit who accompanied Mirai home. Yuuki’s spirit tried to talk Mirai about his death during their journey home to help her cope, but each time Mirai brushed him off. These final episodes opened a floodgate of emotions that brought many to tears.
Kaori Miyazono from Your Lie in April
Fourteen-year-old Kaori Miyazono has a debilitating disease that affects her limbs and coordination. However, despite her disability, she’s a constant source of support and hope for Kousei Arima. Through their love for music, they develop a strong romantic relationship — without telling each other how they feel. Unfortunately, their love would never be, as Kaori dies before telling Kosei, who believes Kaori likes someone else, how she really feels.
Her death leads to one of the most unbearable scenes from Your Lie in April. After laying Kaori to rest, Kousei reads a letter that Kaori left for him. In it, she describes the moment they first met and all the joy he brought to her life, ending the letter with several “I love you’s” and an apology.
Yuzuru Otonashi from Angel Beats
As one of the key figures of Shinda Sekai Sensen, Yuzuru Otonashi helped many members of the group conquer their fears and crossover into the afterlife — all while struggling to recover his own memories. Finally, in episode 09, viewers learn how such a great guy passed away.
A train accident leaves several commuters, including Otonashi, trapped in a tunnel. Injured and without outside help, Otonashi steps in as the leader of the survivors. However, as the days go by, they lose hope of ever being rescued. Otonashi, knowing that he’s near death, decides to fill out his insurance card, giving doctors consent to use his organs. After witnessing Otonashi’s selfless act, the other survivors choose to do the same.
Sadly, just as Otonashi starts to slip away, rescuers manage to break open the tunnel. But it’s too late for Otonashi.
Koro-sensei from Assassination Classroom
Koro-sensei is initially seen as a threat to the planet. The self-defense forces were no match for the yellow octopus-like creature’s strength or agility. With such immense power, the yellow monster asks for only one thing: to be the teacher for Class 3-E of Kunugigaoka Junior High School. Throughout the series’ two seasons, we see how the students work to excel in both academics and assassination so that they can kill Koro-sensei and claim the reward of 10 billion yen.
The students eventually learn their teacher’s real motive and identity. However, to save the world, they must, unfortunately, kill their mentor, the only person who believes they can succeed. With tears in his eyes, Nagisa jabs a giant knife into the chest of their beloved teacher as his classmates hold down their sensei, ending his life.
Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop
“See you, space cowboy.” The infamous words that ended each episode gained new meaning when the series finale aired. It was finally time to say goodbye to one of anime’s most iconic characters, Spike Spiegel.
During the last episode of the space opera series, Spike takes on Vicious, his former friend and current leader of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate. After an intense battle, Spike manages to defeat him but is left severely injured. On his way out of the compound, he encounters several members of the organization. With a smile on his face, he mimics a gun with his hand, utters his last word, “Bang,” and falls over.
Although it’s believed that Spike did, in fact, die, Cowboy Bebop’s creator, Shinichiro Watanabe, never confirmed his death. Nevertheless, the ending is bittersweet, as all the characters went their separate ways afterward.