Let’s say you’re watching your new favorite anime and all is well, and then without warning it ends in a way that leaves you shaken to your very core; either it’s very upsetting, or harrowing, or even both!
We’ve all been in this situation before, right?
To celebrate that awful feeling (for some reason) we’re looking at the darkest anime endings, across the spectrum of both film and television series.
Sometimes an ending will catch us off guard by being far more sinister in tone than the rest of the anime, while sometimes things start off dark and just progressively get worse.
We’ve got it all, so brace yourselves!
Note: since we’re dealing with the endings of anime here, I will steer as far away from spoilers as I possibly can. However, there are some entries where it may be unavoidable, so I’ve marked those with a spoiler warning in the title.
For an anime that centers itself around being a comedy, and a harem based one at that, the ending to Magikano has some deeply troubling ramifications when you stop and think about it.
I won’t spoil the ins and outs of the entire ending, but I will say this for those who haven’t seen it – time loops suck, and one that means you’re stuck reliving the same mistakes over and over again?
That’s the sort of horror that catches you on the second think over.
And for those of you that have seen it, I’m sure once you figured out what that meant for everyone involved, you had the same feeling of creeping dread that I did.
14. Death Note (spoilers!)
This anime is so well known by now that I don’t feel too bad sharing minor spoilers, but just in case you’ve lived under a rock for a decade and haven’t watched Death Note for some reason, look away now to avoid spoilers!
See, the ending of the series raises two grim possibilities – no matter what side of the coin you supported throughout the run of the show.
If you were rooting for Light in his quest to make a pure world at any radical cost, things didn’t go so well did they?
And if you were rooting for the power of good? Let’s just say there are plenty of bored Shinigami looking for an excuse to make a human drama the center of their entertainment again…
13. Persona 4: The Golden Animation
While the mainline anime series adaptation of Persona 4 doesn’t quite hit the dark tones so hard, the OVA we’re referencing here completely flips the script on everything you would expect to happen.
In fact, I’m not sure that things could possibly have gone worse for Inaba and everyone there, all things considered.
When the last person you would ever expect to betray your trust does exactly that, you know that there’s an ending coming that will suck all the joy out of everything you associated with Persona 4.
12. Chrono Crusade
There’s a particular feeling of dark helplessness that comes with watching a scene play out where you know exactly what you don’t want to happen, is going to happen.
But there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
The usually light and full of fun Chrono Crusade does exactly that, leading us on an exciting adventure right up until the final scenes – where we get hit with a ton of bricks with a sad face drawn on them.
We get one last big victory before the inevitable happens, which helps to soothe the sting of it.
But there’s no denying that this ending really sullies the feel-good anime that came before it.
11. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
Oh boy, get your handkerchiefs ready for this one.
If you have any semblance of human emotion in you, there are going to be tears!
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 already starts us off on a dark and tragic path, dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake that has absolutely crippled Japan – and the trials and tribulations of a young brother and sister trying to make their way through it.
But about three episodes from the end, things seem… off.
And as the pieces fall into place, you could be forgiven for flooding your front room with complete and utter sadness.
I’m not spoiling this one for a good reason, because you have to see it for yourself!
If you’ve only read the manga for Gantz, you might be wondering what on earth I’m talking about when I’m waffling on about how dark the implications of the ending are.
But those brave anime-only viewers get me, and they get me good.
While the show may have deviated majorly from the original material (and sometimes in a very not good way), it’s the ending that shows the biggest change – and the most harrowing one.
The journey through the changes in the show may not be worth it for the hardcore fan of the series. But believe me when I say if you read the manga and were expecting it to end in a similar way – prepare to be pretty horrified.
9. Rurouni Kenshin
Former assassin Kenshin’s tale of trying to atone for the sins of his dark and often bloody past are a big part of the reason why “Rurouni Kenshin” is highly regarded as one of the best shonen anime to have ever aired.
But the ending takes a drastic turn, way before the actual end, with a major discovery about the character himself – and a subsequent event you couldn’t have possibly seen coming that throws about seventy spanners into the works.
It’s bleak and heartbreaking, and makes you feel both a little happy for the journey so far, and a lot sad for how it all came together.
This one is deepest & darkest shades of black on the darkness scale, so be warned.
It’s one thing to have a series end in a way that’s completely out of left field.
But it’s another thing entirely to have all the events of that series rendered utterly meaningless along the way.
Therein lies the double whammy of the ending of Blood-C; a fairly standard and 100% totally intended for mature audiences adventure romp that involves more than a little bit of blood spilled and a whole lot of endings that make you go “oh no, OH NO”.
Well, just one ending that makes you do that, actually.
But as far as endings go, one is really more than enough!
7. Angel Beats! (spoilers!)
What makes the ending of Angel Beats! quite so bleak, you ask?
Well I’ll tell you, so note that spoilers lie ahead, since I cannot think of a single way to describe this without them – so I’m sorry in advance!
The series was already pretty bleak, what with everyone already being dead and all.
But close to the end of the final episode, lead character Otonashi who had been tasked with helping those in the afterlife avoid their suffering and pain, decides to abandon all that to stay with another character.
And then? That character disappears.
The last we see of Otonashi is him alone and crying before vanishing and leaving us with the realization that everyone who he was supposed to be helping are now alone and suffering, just like he was. Talk about depressing.
What makes the ending to the original run of Berserk quite so scarring is two-fold.
The first reason is the treatment that Griffith receives, and the lengths to which his captors go to really, and I mean REALLY make him suffer.
We see it in excruciating detail too.
But that’s not quite the whole of it.
See, beyond that, Griffith has to make a choice.
And he makes a choice that turns the ending from dark, to “I can barely see my hand in front of my face, metaphorically, because this is so goddamn dark”.
Again, the consequences play out in awful toe-curling detail.
And this turns what could have already been a grim ending into one that leaves you in no doubt whatsoever.
5. Space Runaway Ideon
Usually when there’s a large scale conflict in any sort of medium, there’s some measure of resolution – and then everyone is able to move on and reflect on the horrors of the war they were in in their own time.
Less so with Space Runaway Ideon.
The large scale conflict is certainly resolved, but not in a way that suits many people.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say (without spoiling it) that it winds up pretty darn bleak for everyone involved.
And the anime starts so action-packed too, and quite frankly seeming like it’ll be free of the ending that we inevitably get subjected to as well.
This one does not pull punches with making viewers suffer, no sir.
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Nothing is ever simple for Shinji, not really.
Becoming the pilot of a mech suit, as much as he sulked about it, was probably the highlight of his entire life compared to what was to come.
In fact, all things considered when it comes to the ending of this show, Shinji probably didn’t even deserve that little bit of awesomeness either!
Yes, it gets real dark real fast. But it also gets real weird just as quickly. I’m talking unexplainable at certain points, where you really need to have watched the whole thing to get how un-gettable it actually is.
Neon Genesis Evangelion has an incredibly weird ending that’s open to a lot of interpretation.
And all of those interpretations are as dark as it gets.
3. School Days
I know there’s more than a few of you who have seen this entry and thought to yourselves “nope, that ending was perfect. It’s a brilliant example of karma coming back around – and also I’m a bit of a psychopath!”
Me stereotyping readers aside, you’re right that the ending does bring about a lot of satisfaction, in one way.
In every other way, it is the most grim & overkill ending possible to cram onto the end of what started as (let’s not forget) a romance anime.
School Days starts off weak, and gets a bit worse in the middle. But honestly I’d recommend sticking around for the end if you want your socks well and truly blown off by just how dark it gets.
2. The Ideon: Be Invoked
You’ve probably seen the word “Ideon” here and realized it seems familiar – yes, this movie-length sequel to Space Runaway Ideon is the answer to the question “how could it possibly get any worse?”
And oh boy, does it get worse.
Graphically speaking, it gets worse – the use of a film budget extended to making all the deaths a gruesome as possible – and in terms of hopelessness it somehow manages to get worse too.
But even then, for one big hurrah, it takes the ending of Space Ideon Runaway and cranks it up to a full 11, making sure that literally nobody remains unaffected.
If you don’t enjoy the fate of the universe being quite bleak, I’d avoid this like the plague.
1. Grave of the Fireflies
Please don’t make me go into the details of why Grave of the Fireflies is renowned for being one of the darkest endings to anything anime in the history of the format.
Genuinely, I’m not sure my little heart could take it.
The entire thing starts out as bleak as it gets – two homeless orphans, both of those things caused by firebombing in World War II, struggling to survive and slowly starving in various Japanese locales.
And then the final few scenes begin. And it’s like all the good in the world has been ripped out of your heart.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of my all-time favorite films for multiple reasons.
But I’ll be darned if I haven’t thought about skipping the ending so I don’t have to cry myself to sleep on more than one occasion.