Not everything ends up happily. Not even in anime where technically, if they wanted to, they could make everything end happily. This is because sometimes it is more interesting if things do not have a happy ending. If you are a romance anime fan that just wants a little of that delicious emotional pain, then head on down below.
Tomoya Okazaki is a delinquent who finds everything dull and believes he will never amount to anything. That is, until a girl named Nagisa catches his eye one day on his way to school. Suddenly, Tomoya begins to notice Nagisa more and more. She is sickly and weak, but she always tries her best in order to follow her dream of reviving the school’s drama club. Claiming he has nothing better to do, he decides to help Nagisa, and along the way ends up helping several other girls and potential drama club members. However, as he learns more about the girls and helps them overcome their problems, he might just be able to overcome his own as well.
Clannad is the type of drama series that likes to make you feel okay as the main character helps other people to ignore his own problems. Then at the end of each arc, it usually likes to hurt you to a varying degree. However, when it comes to Tomoya’s own romance, it likes to hurt you a lot.
Your Lie in April
Although once a child prodigy in the music world, pianist Kousei Arima is left in a downward spiral after his mother’s death, unable to even hear the sound of his own piano. Even after two years, Arima has all but left the music world behind, disappointing fans and rivals alike, and living in a colorless world. Then one day that that all changes when he is introduced to the beautiful violinist Kaori Miyazono who brings color into his world once more.
Right next to Clannad, Your Lie in April is a legendary tragic romance not only because it makes you feel for the characters, but the tragedy kind of sneaks up on you there. It has one of those endings where you think things will end up okay, but they don’t.
Tsukasa Mizugaki has failed his college entrance exams, but he manages to land a job at the Sion Artificial Intelligence Corporation. This corporation is responsible for the creation of Giftias, or highly advanced androids which are almost indiscernible from normal humans. However, unlike humans, Giftias have a maximum lifespan of around nine years and four months. Terminal Service One, the station Tsukasa was assigned to, is responsible for collecting Giftias that have met their expiration date, before they lose their memories and become hostile.
Nothing says tragic like a romance with a set expiration date. Giftias are human-like androids with a lifespan shorter than some pets. You know that main character is going to fall in love with one and feel that sting.
On the first day of a new semester, Naho Takimiya oversleeps. On her way out after being late for school, she finds a letter waiting for her that says it is from herself ten years in the future. The letter ardently states her regrets that she has surrounding a new transfer student Kakeru Naruse. Thinking it is a prank at first, Naho ignores it, but when the events described within begin to come true, Naho decides that she will try to help her future self.
Orange essentially allows a group of friends to fix their regrets and in doing so alters who the main character will end up with. Either way you look at it, there is some tragic romance at the end of both timelines here.
After the accidental death of their childhood friend Menma, Jinta and his group of friends drifted apart. However, one day, Jinta, now living as a recluse, begins to see what he believes to be Menma’s ghost. She keeps asking him to help her fulfill a long-forgotten wish. This draws Jinta and his friends together once more where they must overcome their past guilt and regrets.
Ostensibly, Anohana is about dealing with the loss of a friend. However, more-than-just-friend love is a part of that. Jinta took Memna’s loss particularly hard because he was in love with her. There was also a friend in love with him, making it difficult for them to watch him suffer.
Full Moon wo Sagashite
Before she could confess to him, Mitsuki’s crush Eichi moved to America. She continues to follow her dream of becoming a singer in hopes that her music will reach him someday. However, Mitsuki suffers from throat cancer and is putting off a surgery to remove it for fear of losing her voice. One day, two shinigami appear and tell her she only has a year to live, which spurs her into action.
When older anime does something tragic, it always tosses nuance out the window and gets a little hamfisted with it. However, that isn’t a bad thing. There are a few great things in this series, but it can come off as cheesy sometimes.
Ef: A Tale of Memories / Ef: A Tale of Melodies
Ef tells two different love stories. One about Hiro Hirono who accidentally spends Christmas Eve with Miyako Miyamure after she steals his bike (and crashes it) to chase down a robber. The other follows Renji Asou, a boy with a white knight complex, who comes to have feelings for Chihiro Shindou, a girl that is always reading alone at an abandoned train station. In effort to get closer to her, he eventually suggests they write a novel together.
The Ef series doesn’t just tell one romance story, it tells several. Across each story, it hits the right buttons for tragedy, though Tale of Melodies does a little better job in this regard.
Initially, Takayuki Narumi befriended Mitsuki Hayase because Mitsuki’s friend Haruka Suzumiya had a crush on him. He grew close to Mitsuki, but when Haruka asked him out, he accepted in order to not hurt her feelings. However, as Takayuki and Mitsuki begin to realize their feelings, tragedy strikes that changes everything.
Although rather old these days, Rumbling Hearts is a staple tragic romance. It takes that older anime style melodrama and heaps on some extra portions. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you haven’t been spoiled by more nuanced plot, it can hit just right.
A Lull in the Sea
Long ago, all of humanity lived underwater. However, a portion of them soon left to live on the surface, losing the ability to breath underwater. With this gap between them, the two societies grew apart. A Lull in the Sea tells the story of a group of kids forced to attend school above the water where they come to terms with themselves and the discrimination against them.
A Lull in the Sea is as messy as a young romance can get. It is notorious in the anime community for having largest and most unwieldy love polygon. Furthermore, that gets even more complicated as the characters grow up over the course of the series. There is a time skip event that makes an already messy circle of relationships into an absolute emotional shitshow (in a good way).
It has been five hundred years since humanity went extinct at the hands of the mysterious beasts that roam the land. Now the surviving races have retreated to floating islands in the sky out of reach of most of the beasts. However, there are ones nimble enough to put these people in danger. A small group of young girls, a race called the Leprechauns, are now raised as the only ones that can wield ancient weapons to fend off invasion by the beasts, but it often requires them to sacrifice themselves and they don’t often live to see adulthood. Enter Willem, the last surviving human woken from his slumber and sent to watch over these girls, still feeling the sting from the final battle where he lost everything five hundred years ago.
While a little lighter on the romance in lieu of advancing the plot, a major element of World End is the tragic romance. You watch a girl given the opportunity to live a normal life and pursue the person she fell in love with and, well, this is a tragic romance list, so you know what happens.
In a stroke of fate, Makoto Itou noticed Kotonoha Katsura on the train ride to school. Too shy to ask her out, he finds himself encouraged by his classmates Sekai Saionji who also has a crush on Makoto. What should have been blissful school days soon turns sour as a love triangle forms and both women find themselves unable to live without Makoto.
School Days is a sad romance if you don’t find the extreme shift of things hilarious. School Days is meant to take the drama of your standard school romance to the way far extreme. It means it ends tragically, but also in a rather “what the fuck was that?” sort of way.
To the outside world, Mugi and Hanabi look like the perfect couple, but the truth is that they are only dating each other because they can’t be with the people they actually want to be with. For Hanabi, it is her childhood friend-turned-homeroom-teacher and for Mugi it is his older tutor that has been teaching him since middle school. In order to stave off the loneliness, the pair find solace in each other’s arms.
Most tragic romance anime series on this list are tragic due to circumstances that the characters really can’t control. Scum’s Wish is different because it is really just people being awful and making bad decisions that lead to their unhappy romances.
This is the story of two girls, both of which are named Nana. Nana Komatsu is a naive girl addicted to love who is moving to Tokyo to chase after her boyfriend going to school there. Nana Osaki is a proud punk rocker that is moving to Tokyo to become a rock star. By chance they meet on the train. By even bigger chance they end up wanting to rent the same apartment only to decide to rent it together.
There are a lot of times where Nana can be too relatable due to how realistically flawed literally everyone is in it. While Nana is about more than just romance, romance is a major part. You watch the two girls go through their various romantic troubles, and really no one is going to end up happy at the end.
She, The Ultimate Weapon
Chise is a small, frail, and not particularly smart, but she is in love with her classmate Shuji. The two begin dating, and when Shuji takes a trip to another town to get a gift for his girlfriend, their hometown is attacked. Through the chaos, he sees Chise with steel wings and a massive gun in place of her arm. He discovers that she was, against her will, made into a battle weapon.
Aside from Chise being just the cutest little weapon of war, it turns out that is not such a happy thing to fall in love with. Essentially, what you are watching is a character be absolutely powerless to heal the suffering of his girlfriend.
Do you have more tragic romance anime series? Let those sad romance anime fans know in the comments section below.