Anime deaths are designed to crush your soul. It is like directors have grief counselors on payroll for maximum impact. Think about that one time (mad times) you were OD invested in a narrative arc and a character you loved (not even a main character) got merked out. You were all geeked out and then boom! You out here letting thug tears run down your face onto your hidden leaf bandana. Sometimes you have to reach out to friends to hold you down. That’s what we’re here for, to share the pain.
Spoilers for DEATH NOTE, ONE PIECE, ATTACK ON TITAN, TRIGUN, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, SAILOR MOON R THE MOVIE: PROMISE OF THE ROSE, CODE GEASS, FULL METAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD, OUTLAW STAR, and PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA
Nicholas D. Wolfwood (Trigun)
“Cuz where I come from, so often
People you grew up with are layin in a coffin”
Homie was a composite John Woo protagonist with a crucifix LMG filled with gats. Need I say more? *walks away from computer to compose himself* Wolfwood was the personification of grace bestowed upon a redemptive humanity in a dystopian setting. A beacon of mortality to balance out the schizophrenic antics of the immortal Vash the Stampede.
Shikaku Nara (Naruto: Shippuden)
“But my daddy named me warrior
This is his memorial”
Yo. I was so tight at this one. The million-year-war was in its eleventh hour, and Bijuudama is bucking off all types of (seemingly) wild shots. Ninjas out there getting that Nine-Tails work like Avon and Marlowe was on the scene, feeling powerful and what not. Then that doo-doo brown, moon-jutsu making, dog-looking, one-eye having, mark ass Ten-Tails lets a ki round off into the distance. Everybody like, “Oh he bugging. Let’s body him!” Then we see the sensory ninjas back home doing their sensory thing with Shikamaru’s dad holding down strategems.
At this point, mad flashbacks and allusions to fatherhood are popping up all over, and it hit me square in the feels since I have dad issues. Then, the water sensory joint starts acutely pointing in one direction. I looked at the manga page and issued a prayer, “Don’t do that to Shikamaru.” (Meaning don’t do that to me.) I shed one actual tear on a flight to Panama, and reflexively hit the flight attendant button to ask for a drink to ease the pain. *dabs eye corners*
L (Death Note)
“Many men wish death upon me”
After watching Light Yagami satiate his god complex in Death Note, I learned that I was in the minority that wanted Light to be crushed under every last bit of the bad karma he was accumulating. My only hope for that happening was the rival super-genius L, who was the complete opposite of what you’d expect an anime protagonist to be. But, unfortunately, L lost the real-life chess game he was caught in with a faceless enemy.
Dude died halfway through the show! Light Yagami legit got the W and walked away like a champion. And, no, having two L clones finish the job later doesn’t make it any better.
Ace (One Piece)
“Everybody I be idolizing surprisingly die, who next, Shanks?”
When One Piece first started, Luffy was even further down on the power scales than anyone realized. His fighting skills were kind of basic and he had no idea just how weak he was compared to his idols, especially his older brother Ace. So it only made sense that we’d see the two square off one day so Luffy could elevate to the next level. But then Ace got kidnapped and plans changed drastically.
We got Ace’s true origin story – his dad’s identity resulted in me making an audible “anime gasp” – in the arc, which made him even more admirable. Then the entire pirate alliance came together to save him from execution with no fucks given about their own well-being. Luffy almost died and Whitebeard put his entire army on the line for Ace’s safety. They got him back and all was right again. But then he had to go and sacrifice himself to save Luffy in one of the biggest moments in the show’s run to-date.
Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon R The Movie: Promise of the Rose)
“If you really think you ready to die, with Crystals out /
This is what Serenity’s bout, soldiers the time is now!”
First of all, let me say that Sailor Moon R: The Movie goes hard and I was not ready. Tuxedo Mask gets stabbed in the chest. Chibiusa pulls a gun on Usagi — a goddamn gun you guys! They crucify Sailor Moon and nearly impale her on a thousand spikes while she stares on dead-eyed and drained of energy. WTF was this movie doing??
Then it happens, underscored by the melodic sounds of “Moon Revenge.” The Moon Princess successfully forces a deadly asteroid away from the earth, her crystal shatters, her eyes go blank, and she falls over dead.
Y’all. I was done.
We just montage’d through each Sailor Soldier’s most precious moment with Usagi and y’all just gon have ol’ girl drop dead? Y’all just gon break the Silver Crystal? You do know that’s what brings everybody back to life, right? Son, you just killed Shenlong and destroyed all the Dragon Balls. You just erased all save points. You just dropped my memory card in water. Ain’t no coming back from this!
I was blown.
And the rest of the team is stuck on this asteroid because guess who was their ride home. But their reactions. Bruh. They’re just sitting on this piece of rock floating in space with the body of their best friend and I can’t even handle it. Tuxedo Mask is shell-shocked, holding her dead body. Sailor Mars is shaking her and screaming out her civilian name. Guys, you know things are serious when secret identities get thrown out the window. And everyone else is like, “What’s the point of saving the world if Usagi is dead?”
No, no I’m fine. Just keep reading while I sit here for a second.
Hilda (Outlaw Star)
“No one’s going to give you a map, you’ve gotta walk your own path”
“Hot Ice” Hilda was an enigmatic, yet profound character on Outlaw Star. Although her time on the show was brief, she established that the life and code of an outlaw is up to each individual. However one thing is made clear; outlaws are never taken out easily. Hot Ice goes out with a literal bang, by detonating a bomb to take out an enemy and save her crew, whom she was only able to be a part of for a brief, bittersweet, minute.
Her sacrifice spoke volumes about the way she lived and saw life, and what she was capable of doing in order to protect what she believed in. She remains a constant source of inspiration and forewarning for Gene Starwind. While her death may not have destroyed me, it does remind me how a fictional character can have an impact on how you see the world, and what humans would do for one another. Here’s to “Hot Ice” Hilda, eternal outlaw.
Special Operations (Squad Levi) Survey Corps (Attack on Titan)
“Fuck ya dead homies, run ya bread homie”
Look man, I’m gonna tell you like a young Mikasa Ackerman told me. These evolved Titans ain’t loyal man. After the Titans done came up in humanity’s home again and put they fuckin’ feet up on the coffee table, knocking the throw pillows off the damn couch and shit, the whole crew finally goes beyond the wall to reach Eren’s old home to see what secrets his father kept. That’s where they encounter the Female Titan, the most terrifying Titan with intelligence yet. It becomes obvious she’s after Eren himself, who is being protected by the baddest group of killas this side of the Rose Wall District. These cats got so many Titan kill streaks you would think that Call of Duty got hip to that 3D Maneuverability gear. Captain Levi went to the academy and said, give me the folks that know how to whip them cables and them blades back and forth.
When the Female Titan comes to collect Eren, the elite Survey Corps squad knows they can’t outrun her and its time to take the Female Titan down for good and protect “The Boy Who Would be Titan.” Yo, even though the Female Titan been mercilessly poppin’ young cable jumpers like bubble wrap, when she run up on the elite squad, it seems like she done bitten off more human than she can chew. Should’ve have known shit was all bad when Annie (not yet in Titan form) killed Gunther Schultz on some “you swinging my way?” type of shit. When she goes full Titan, the rest of the squad kicks into gear and yo, there was hope fam. There was real hope. The Special Ops Squad out here lookin’ like the Golden State Warriors, no talkin’, doing no look passes, shooting threes and turning around before that shit even goes in. Female Titan lookin like steak-I-forgot-was-on-the-grill-done. Can’t move her arms. Blinded, slumped against the tree, waiting for execution…
…until she focused her regeneration on the one eye. Until Eld Jinn goes in for the kill and the Female Titan sees dude coming AND BITES HIM IN HALF, THEN SPITS OUT HIS NETHER REGIONS. Everyone is in shock, including Petra Ral who the Female Titan then runs up on and curb stomps into a tree. IT WAS ALL GOOD ABOUT A TRANSFORMATION AGO! Seeing his whole crew is just fertilizer now, Oluo Bozado makes one last ditch effort at the nape, but his blades get the diamond force feedback instead and then he gets drop kicked like a fuckin’ tether ball. There’s a reason this episode is called “Crushing Blow.” Special Operations squad was up by 20 with two minutes left and lost by 15. It was like watching Ned Stark become a head shorter 4 consecutive times, fam.
Maes Hughes (Full Metal Alchemist)
“With a tre-pound, forty shells bouncin’ off the ground
This how my living room sound, when Maes Hughes got shot down…”
On the surface, Maes Hughes fooled us all at first, didn’t he? The always too cheerful man who couldn’t go half an hour without assaulting you with photos of his beloved wife and daughter (ESPECIALLY HIS DAUGHTER, ELICIA) who stood out as an oddity in his military profession. Ahhh, but underneath it all was a dangerously intelligent and observant man who was loyal and steadfast in his beliefs of supporting a better future. He’s the guy smiling and being the everyday man but is secretly in position to pass info to his friend and superior Roy Mustang. Roy, who he backed every step of the way to one day fix the corruption and do right as Führer.
The original Full Metal Alchemist anime caught my attention story wise years ago because of the gripping back and forth of all these characters– the story of the Elric brothers finding themselves with a unique brand of allies. In the State this includes the Flame Alchemist, the arrogant Commander Roy Mustang, the quiet and collected Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, and Major Alex Louis Armstrong, the Strong Arm Alchemist.
Maes completed that group and was indeed this lovable goof of a family man yet he was also this highly capable intelligence agent who nearly had it all figured out. His death by Envy in disguise, whom he uncovered quickly much to the Homunculi’s surprise, was a true punch in the gut–even in his final moments, Maes was…Maes.
Simply himself in the way that he was vulnerable yet extremely perceptive. His death truly served as a catalyst in the series and you can’t dissuade me from that. Granted that the original anime aired in 2003 and I rewatched parts of FMA: Brotherhood (2009) it rings true after all these years — It’s still just a terrible day for rain. Let those thug tears roll out. I’ve got tissue in my purse.
Lelouch vi Brittania (Code Geass)
“And if I die before I wake I pray the lord my soul to take /
‘Cause I’m ready for a funeral”
Lelouch Lamperouge aka Lelouch vi Britannia aka Zero aka Savior of the world aka Dude who should be on everyone’s top 10 anime characters list had one of the most tragic deaths ever broadcast via television or computer screen. Now while Code Geass has many deaths that are tragic and made me clutch my Pikachu stuffed animal, Lelouch’s death didn’t make me feel that way. His death made me feel at peace with the show. His death created one of the most satisfying endings to an anime that I had ever seen. Code Geass is amazing, easily one of the greatest shows and there are many plot lines and character arcs that have a part in Lelouch’s death feeling so satisfying and tragic at the same time. Lelouch and his sister Nunally watched their mother get assassinated. Their father (emperor of the Britannian empire) banished them to Japan where Lelouch became a political prisoner. He gains the power of Geass “the power of absolute obedience.” He can make anyone obey his command as long as they have eye contact with him.
Lelouch plays the villain through the entire series, garnering hate from everyone who loved him and his allies. He ultimately plans his death as atonement for everything that he’s done. “Only those who are prepared to fire should be fired at.” This is a quote that he utters early in the series and it comes full circle as he was always prepared to die. Lelouch has his best friend kill him in front of the entire world after he’s become emperor. After his sister, who’s happiness was his goal the entire time cures him. After the Black Knights, the rebellion group he started, turns on him. After all of the people who have been killed by him or made sacrifices for him, and even killed on his behalf, it all comes to an end. Lelouch is stabbed in front of his sister, in front of the entire world. He smiles as he glances at his friend one last time as the sword pierces through him. As he slides down to the ground from his throne, his sister crawls to him and his plan to make her happy and have the whole world including her grow to hate him is revealed. As she cries, the entire world cheers because the “evil tyrant” Lelouch is dead. Only a select few weep for him as he passes on. Lelouch’s death is definitely tragic, sad, and deserved. There’s one word that would describe it best…Heroic.
Mami Tomoe (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
Y’all, I already got the thug tears going just starting to write about this. After I watched this episode in college, I remember driving with my boyfriend at the time and trying to explain what I’d just been through, having to give up, and stare solemnly out the window like the saddest music video ever to be recorded. Look, I know Madoka is a dark ass series but gahdamn. Not my girl Mami. Not like this.
So after spending years feeling isolated from other people because her family had been killed in an awful way and that there were no other magical girls she could trust (we’re talking anime, not manga), our gentle Mami finally finds the friends she can open up to about being scared and trying to hold up the facade of the perfect fearless leader. She’s dancing in glowing flowers, giggling as she holds Madoka’s hand and leads her through the witch’s labyrinth, glowing to herself that iconic line: “I’m not afraid of anything any more. Because I’m not alone any more.” Hell, any more flowers and skipping and we’d land squarely in a tampon commercial.
Now you know she’s about to get murked. You know it. I know it. She’s just too good. She gets the Tiro Finale off without a blink. And then it happens. Sweet baby Madokami, does it happen. Magical girls been stabbed, they been literally dusted, they been choked, but I ain’t never seen one lose her entire mind. And the worst part of this death ain’t even the moment itself. Nah, son, it’s these memes. Everywhere. Straight disrespectful every time you’d search Tumblr for a picture to remember her by. A curse on both your houses, fandom, ’cause the only thing worse than a rude death is a ruder afterlife.