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When recommending anime, what shows come to mind first? The ones that make you laugh? Make you wonder where humanity is going? Make you cry? Based on my own experience with anime, high emotions tend to make certain anime stick to the gut of my minds, even if it made me cry.
Even if the show is sad, a certain beauty emerges from this sadness. With this in mind, the following is a list of anime that, while they may have sad endings, nonetheless shine. As this is a list of endings, I will try my best to not spoil any of these shows. However, there will be occasional spoilers, so please be warned!
Now onto the list!
10. Ping Pong the Animation
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: April 2014-June 2014
Rather than merely sad, the final episode of Ping Pong the Animation is bittersweet elegy to the passing of time and the poignancy of friendship. After spending the entire season watching the main characters, Peco and Smile, grow apart, we see them finally reconcile on the ping-pong table. However, Ping Pong the Animation’s ending does not only give closure to the main characters, but also the side characters, such as Ryuichi Kazama, that give the anime a sense of fullness and a human heart.
For those unfamiliar with Ping Pong the Animation, this anime is not your normal sports anime. Based off Taiyou Matsumoto’s manga under the same name, Ping Pong depicts two friends, Peco and Smile, brought together by ping pong and them pulled apart by it as they enter the world of competitive sports. While the animation style might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Ping Pong the Animation is certain to satisfy anyone looking for a great narrative.
9. Kyokai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2013– December 2013
For those who love all things Kyoto Animation, Kyokai no Kanata will not disappoint. With beautiful animation paired with unique and at times enigmatic characters, this show, from its beginning to end will bring tears, both of laughter and of sorrow. Kyokai no Kanata depicts the story of Akihito Kanbara, a half human and half youmu, or supernatural creature, as he confronts and eventually helps his hapless classmate Mirai Kuriyama.
Kyokai no Kanata’s finale does perhaps expose the weaknesses of the show largely centered in its narrative structure. Nonetheless, the bond between Mirai and Akihito by the end of the show that has long been solidifying emerges in the final episodes of Kyokai no Kanata.
8. Psycho-Pass (1st Season)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2012–March 2013
The first season of Psycho-Pass, unlike the second (for those who’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about), had a finale that could be labeled as “sad but beautiful.” For those who have not yet entered the work of Psycho-Pass, this anime takes place in a futurist world in which The Sibyl System monitors all humans and measures the probability of a person of committing a crime. Following the story of Akane Tsunemori as she enters the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division, this show explores issues of person responsibility, justices, and the nature of human existence.
In this finale, there are multiple working parts: Shinya Kougami finally tracks down Shougo Makishima, Ginoza Nobuchika has closure with Tomomi Masaoka, and Akane watches all these pieces fall into place. For those who have a keen eye on glasses characters, the Ginoza arc perhaps best embodies the spirit of “sad but beautiful.” Without spoiling more that I already have, the final two episodes show the limits of humanity while nonetheless dignifying the meaning of being human.
7. Kill la Kill
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2013– March 2014
Regarding the ending of Kill la Kill, there are really two ends: the official last episode and the unaired Kill la Kill special, the mythical episode 25. For this list, I will be referring to this last episode, a more retrospective yet still high paced closing to a show known for its over the top animation and wild narrative.
For those who graduated or are moving onto another period of their lives, this ending may carve a special place in your heart. Without spoiling it too much, I will only say that this ending is a graduation, not only for Satsuki Kiryuuin’s class, but also for all the characters of Kill la Kill. Much like how the characters of Kill la Kill say goodbye to their old lives of uniforms and fights, we are saying goodbye to a world, a kind of sadness that is lovely on its own.
Though only fiction, we see our own world through the mirror of Kill la Kill that reflects on only the foibles of humanity but its complex and never-ending beauty.
6. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011–April 2011
It is probably no surprise that Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica, a show with a great deal of hype largely due to its unexpected dark turns and serious undertones beneath the façade of “magical girl anime,” made it onto this list for those familiar with it. With particular regards to the sadness and beauty of the ending of its finale, for those in search for the magnificence of friendship in the face of the (imaginary) horrors of the world, look no further for there is the friendship-love of Homura for Madoka. (This is, of course, not taking into consideration the most recent installation, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part III: Rebellion.)
For those unfamiliar with this soon-to-become classic, I will only say that this is a great adventure of middle school student Madoka Kaname and her best buddies, Homura Akemi, Sayaka Miki, Kyoko Sakura and last but not least Mami Tomoe and Kyubey, as they become magical girls and protect the world. Have fun.
5. Death Parade
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2015–March 2015
By its very premise itself, Death Parade is structured to bring viewers to tears. However, mentioning the premise will spoil the great surprise of the first episode. So, just for now, just trust that the Death Parade, an anime that meditates not only on the meaning of life but also the depth of human relationships, will play your heartstrings like a full orchestra.
For those sensitive to dramatic anime, your path through Death Parade may be a river that leads to a reservoir of tears released in the final two episodes of Death Parade when watching the culmination of Decim and “Onna’s” adventure together through the nature of humanity.
4. Shingeki no Bahumut: Genesis
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2014– December 2014
On a much different note than Death Parade, we have Shigeki no Bahumut: Genesis of the action/adventure genre. An anime that is surprisingly high quality in both animation and narrative despite being based off of a Japanese card game, Shigeki no Bahumut: Genesis ends with a cinematic smash.
Faced with the end of the world, Favaro Leone, a womanizing bounty hunter, finally becomes a hero in a traditional sense of the word while also still maintaining his unconventional and spunky self. Yet, though he becomes the hero, Favaro cannot save everyone, even the one person he wants to save the most.
Also, as a special treat, for those who enjoy Tiger and Bunny, Shigeki no Bahumut: Genesis shares many of the same the same voice actors with this TV Hero anime.
3. Speed Grapher
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2005– September 2005
Though a bit on the older side, these next three anime nonetheless each deserve to be on this list due to the complexities of emotions each of their endings create. With regards to Speed Grapher, the beauty and true sadness of that had long been layered throughout the show emerges in the last episode.
However, it not with the main character of the show, Saiga Tatsumi, a photographer who gains a special power after meeting Kagura Tennozu, but rather the long thought to be antagonist, Chōji Suitengu.
An anime set in the wake of Japan’s economic decline, Speed Grapher is as much as social commentary on capitalism is it is an introspection on Japan itself as a modern nation.
2. Mawaru Penguin Drum
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2011 – December 2011
People easily loose their way when watching Mawaru Penguin Drum, an anime that marches to the beat of its own drummer. This is perhaps particularly true when it comes to this show’s finale, an amalgamation of dramatic sacrifices and manifestations of love of all sorts.
While the audience is faced with the tragedy of the sacrifices of the main two characters of the show, Kanba and Shoma Takakura for their sister Himari Takakura, they are also left with the hope and strength of love. Like how the main theme music of Mawaru Penguin Drum lingers in your mind long after you watch it, this anime’s representation of love stays with you as well.
1. Angel Beats
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2010-June 2010
Much like how Kill la Kill’s finale is set at graduation to mark the passage of characters from one part of their life to the other, the ending of Angel Beats takes place at a graduation, a graduation of students living a purgatory of sorts. And like how graduations are both a euphoric and sad moment, such is the finale of Angel Beats. Where we see the departure of the central characters, Yuzuru Otonashi and Kanade Tachibana.
But, even though we want to have Otonashi and Kanade be together forever, if there is one lesson to be learned from this anime it is that we need to let things go and move on with our lives.
With hopes, this list is of some use for those in search for both beautiful and sad endings in anime. Though they have various times, genres, and styles, they nonetheless can give you a sense of fullness, satisfaction, and perhaps a tinge of sorrow. If you don’t think this list is up to par or have any other questions, comments, complaints or concerns, please be sure to leave a message below!