Emotional anime that will break your heart and make you cry

Anime. Ah, it’s been my steady companion through my ups and downs, much like a faithful old cat who knows when to curl up in my lap or spring into action. It’s been there during my lowest lows, offering comfort, and my highest highs, amplifying my joy. But more than that, anime has taught me so much about the world, about others, and about myself.

I remember one late night in my tiny Tokyo apartment. I was freshly out of college, buried under a mountain of work stress and personal issues. I felt as if I was teetering on the edge of a cliff, looking into an abyss. I was desperately seeking a respite, some form of escape.

On a whim, I decided to re-watch “Your Lie in April”, an anime that I remembered enjoying during my more carefree high school days. I wasn’t expecting much – just a bit of distraction, a slight detour from the throes of adulting. But as I delved into the heartbreaking story of Kōsei and Kaori once again, something within me shifted. Their tale of love, loss, and music moved me deeply. I found myself crying, not just for the characters, but for myself too. It was cathartic. In a strange way, the heartbreak in the anime mirrored my own struggles, making me feel less alone.

Anime has a unique ability to touch our hearts, to make us feel, and to make us cry. Whether it’s through beautifully crafted stories, complex characters, or touching music, anime can reach deep into our souls and stir emotions we didn’t even know we had.

In this article, I’ve rounded up 20 emotionally charged anime that will break your heart and make you cry. These anime masterpieces, each with their unique storylines and characters, will make you experience a gamut of emotions, from the warmth of love to the pain of loss. Prepare your tissues; you’re in for a tearful journey. Let’s dive in!

  1. Your Lie in April: This poignant story revolves around Kousei Arima, a piano prodigy haunted by the tragic loss of his mother. The trauma hinders his ability to hear his piano’s sound, rendering him unable to play. Enter Kaori Miyazono, a vibrant violinist whose free-spirited approach to music rekindles Kousei’s lost passion. Their relationship blossoms into a soulful journey exploring love, healing, and the invincible power of music. The series skillfully uses allegory, visual cues, and an outstanding OST to translate these raw emotions to viewers. You’ll find yourself rooting for Kousei and Kaori, sharing their highs, and weeping over their heart-wrenching lows. It’s their beautiful yet ephemeral encounter, Kaori’s undisclosed feelings for Kousei, and her eventual tragic fate that leave the viewers sobbing uncontrollably.
  2. Violet Evergarden: Violet is a former child soldier, trying to reintegrate into post-war society. Despite surviving the war, she loses her arms and her beloved Major Gilbert. His final words to her, “I love you,” confuse Violet due to her lack of understanding of human emotions. She becomes an Auto Memory Doll, individuals who write letters for those who cannot, to comprehend the meaning of those words. Each episode presents a new client with a heartrending story, adding to Violet’s understanding of different emotions. It’s Violet’s journey of self-discovery, her struggle to come to terms with Gilbert’s loss, and her desperate quest to understand love that forms the series’ emotional crux. With stunning animation and a touching narrative, Violet Evergarden is a series that will leave you weeping and introspective.
  3. A Place Further than the Universe: This anime presents the extraordinary journey of four high school girls traveling to Antarctica. Each of them carries a personal reason for this journey, whether it’s escaping monotony, searching for a lost mother, or just proving one’s worth. Mari Tamaki, the cheerful protagonist, yearns for an adventurous high school life. She meets Shirase Kobuchizawa, who’s saving money to travel to Antarctica where her mother disappeared. They’re later joined by Hinata Miyake, a girl with a mysterious past, and Yuzuki Shiraishi, a child actress seeking genuine friendship. Despite the cute art style and comedic elements, the series delves deep into themes of friendship, growing up, dealing with loss, and realizing dreams. Each girl’s story and their collective adventure in the harsh yet beautiful Antarctic landscape make for an emotionally impactful anime that can leave even the most stone-hearted viewers in tears.
  4. Fruits Basket: At its surface, Fruits Basket might seem like a light-hearted romantic comedy featuring a unique supernatural twist – the Sohma family curse, where 13 members transform into zodiac animals when embraced by the opposite sex. However, as the series progresses, it becomes evident that the show explores much more profound themes. We follow the life of the ever-optimistic Tohru Honda, an orphaned high school girl who, after a series of events, ends up living with some members of the Sohma family. The relationships among the characters, their dark pasts, the exploration of love in various forms, and the characters’ struggle to break free from their ‘curses’ are depicted in an emotionally resonant manner. The series beautifully illustrates that everyone has their problems, but it’s the kindness, understanding, and love of others that help us overcome our difficulties. With its soulful narrative and lovable characters, Fruits Basket is sure to bring tears to your eyes.
  5. 86: Set in a dystopian future where humanity is at war with autonomous drones, 86 introduces us to the Republic of San Magnolia’s ugly secret: they deploy the racially segregated Eighty-Sixth Sector as cannon fodder while claiming to fight wars without casualties. The series follows the viewpoints of Vladilena Milizé, a handler communicating with the front lines from within the safe walls of the Republic, and Shinei Nouzen, the embittered leader of an 86 squadron, as they navigate the horrors of war. The racial discrimination, tragic character backstories, and their desperate fight for survival make 86 an emotional gut-punch. The series skillfully portrays the dehumanizing effects of war, reminding viewers of the high cost of peace.
  6. Made in Abyss: Made in Abyss captivates you with its enchanting art and seemingly innocent storyline, only to plunge you into the harsh realities of survival and human cruelty. It follows the journey of Riko, a young Cave Raider, and Reg, a robotic boy, as they descend into the perilous depths of the Abyss to find Riko’s lost mother. The Abyss, while filled with fantastic creatures and ancient relics, is a merciless place that enforces a brutal “Curse” on those who dare to ascend from its depths. As they venture deeper, they encounter grave dangers, witness the horrifying truths of the Abyss, and endure agonizing sacrifices. The juxtaposition of the innocent leads against the Abyss’s unforgiving nature creates an emotionally charged atmosphere that will surely leave viewers in tears.
  7. Banana Fish: Set amidst New York’s criminal underworld, “Banana Fish” tells the intense story of Ash Lynx, a gang leader, and Eiji Okumura, a Japanese photographer’s assistant. The series doesn’t shy away from depicting the gritty reality of gang violence, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse. Ash’s traumatic past, his complex relationship with Eiji, and the high-stakes power struggles make this anime emotionally gripping. As the narrative unfolds, it presents heart-wrenching sacrifices, shattered innocence, and the struggle for freedom. The tragic tale of Ash and Eiji, coupled with the series’ dramatic climax, are bound to leave audiences teary-eyed.
  8. Clannad: “Clannad” is widely regarded as one of the most heart-rending anime ever created. It follows the life of Tomoya Okazaki, a high school delinquent who forms an unlikely friendship with the shy and sweet Nagisa Furukawa. As they grow closer, they help each other overcome personal obstacles and realize their dreams. While “Clannad” starts off as a slice-of-life high school drama, its sequel, “Clannad: After Story,” takes a deep dive into life’s harsh realities—marriage, family, responsibility, and the inevitability of loss. The trials and tribulations faced by Tomoya and Nagisa, the strength of their bond, and the painful consequences of life’s unpredictability make “Clannad” a profoundly emotional experience that’s sure to make viewers reach for tissues.
  9. A Silent Voice: This film tackles the severe themes of bullying, disability, and suicide with raw honesty. Shouya Ishida, a former bully, sets out to make amends with Shouko Nishimiya, a deaf girl he tormented in elementary school. Their journey towards forgiveness, redemption, and self-acceptance is portrayed with striking emotional depth. The film’s portrayal of Shouko’s isolation due to her disability, Shouya’s crippling guilt and social anxiety, and the duo’s struggle to overcome their past makes “A Silent Voice” a tear-jerking masterpiece that leaves a lasting impact.
  10. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0: This anime takes a realistic look at the aftermath of a massive earthquake hitting Tokyo. We follow the journey of Mirai and her younger brother Yuuki as they navigate their way home through the devastated city with the help of a single mother named Mari. The series doesn’t hold back in showing the disaster’s severity, complete with building ruins, aftershocks, and the human toll. The anime masterfully builds a deep emotional connection between the viewers and the main characters, making the narrative’s eventual heartbreaking twist all the more impactful.
  11. Ousama Ranking: The heart-warming tale of a little prince who wants to be the world’s greatest king despite his physical shortcomings and lack of self-esteem. The series follows Bojji, a deaf and weak prince who is often underestimated and overlooked because of his disabilities. However, Bojji is determined to prove his worth and never loses his kind-hearted spirit. As he embarks on his journey with Kage, a shadow looper, their friendship and growth provide many tear-jerking moments. It’s a moving tale of perseverance, friendship, and self-belief.
  12. Plastic Memories: Imagine a world where humanoid androids, known as Giftias, coexist with humans, but have a limited lifespan. We follow Tsukasa Mizugaki and his Giftia partner, Isla, who work in the terminal service department, tasked with retrieving Giftias nearing their expiration. As Tsukasa and Isla grow closer, the looming end of Isla’s lifespan creates a profoundly emotional narrative. The show beautifully explores themes of memory, life, and the fleeting nature of existence, leaving viewers to ponder their own mortality.
  13. Grave of the Fireflies: This is a tragic tale set in the backdrop of World War II. It follows two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, struggling to survive in war-torn Japan. Their heartbreaking journey portrays the horrors of war from the perspective of innocent victims. The poignant narrative, complemented by the beautiful yet somber animation, makes it one of the saddest war films, leaving a lasting impression.
  14. March Comes In Like A Lion: The story revolves around Rei Kiriyama, a 17-year-old professional shogi player who lives alone. Dealing with the loss of his family, social anxiety, and depression, Rei’s life changes when he meets three sisters who are dealing with their own struggles. The series realistically portrays mental health, loneliness, and grief, offering a deeply moving viewing experience.
  15. Madoka Magica: At first glance, Madoka Magica appears to be a typical magical girl anime. However, as the story unfolds, viewers are plunged into a dark, twisted narrative that subverts expectations. It follows Madoka Kaname and Sayaka Miki, two ordinary girls who are offered the chance to become magical girls and have one wish granted. But they soon learn the harsh reality behind the glamorous façade. The series deals with themes of sacrifice, despair, and the heavy cost of wishes, resulting in a gripping and emotional narrative.
  16. Your Name: This is an emotionally-charged anime movie about two high school students – Mitsuha, a girl living in the countryside, and Taki, a boy from Tokyo, who start switching bodies inexplicably. As they navigate their lives while inhabiting each other’s bodies, they begin to develop a connection, only to be separated by a twist of fate. The movie is a beautiful tale of love, longing, and the threads that bind people together, with a plot that unfolds in a poignant and heart-wrenching way.
  17. A Place Further than the Universe: This anime tells the story of four high school girls – Mari Tamaki, Shirase Kobuchizawa, Hinata Miyake, and Yuzuki Shiraishi – who embark on a journey to Antarctica, a place further than the universe. Each of them carries personal reasons and emotional baggage that get explored throughout the series. The portrayal of their friendship, personal growth, and the tackling of their inner demons, against the backdrop of the vast, icy wilderness of Antarctica, is sure to tug at your heartstrings.
  18. Fruits Basket: The series revolves around Tohru Honda, an optimistic orphan who finds herself living with members of the mysterious Sohma family, who are cursed to turn into animals of the Chinese zodiac when hugged by someone of the opposite sex. As she becomes intertwined in their lives, she learns about their traumatic experiences and how they cope with their curse. The series is a poignant exploration of love, friendship, and the effects of abuse, with an emotional intensity that grows with each episode.
  19. Made in Abyss: Don’t let the cute art style fool you. Made in Abyss is a dark and emotionally charged anime about a young girl named Riko and her robot friend Reg, who descend into the titular Abyss, a giant, near-bottomless chasm, in search of Riko’s mother. The Abyss is a place of wonder but also a source of untold dangers, and the deeper they go, the more they are affected by the ‘Curse of the Abyss’. The series does an excellent job of combining moments of light-hearted innocence with the crushing reality of their situation.
  20. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day: This anime is a touching portrayal of grief, guilt, and the power of friendship. It tells the story of a group of childhood friends who drifted apart following the death of one of their members, Menma. Years later, Menma’s ghost appears to Jinta, the group’s former leader, and asks him to grant a forgotten wish, forcing the old friends to reunite and confront their unresolved feelings.

Grab a box of tissues and prepare yourself for an emotional journey as you delve into these powerful anime series. Each one offers a unique narrative filled with emotional highs and lows that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the medium.