Anime can hit us deep in the feels in many ways, from the devastating deaths of our favorite characters to redemption moments full of remorse and forgiveness. And, of course, tragic romance.
Despite being fictional and animated, anime has given us some of the most tragic love stories of any narrative medium, and these stories punch us in the gut as they make us feel the pains of characters who cannot have their happily-ever-after endings.
Tragic romance is a commonly used plot device, not just in romance anime but in pretty much all anime series. In fact, when tragic love is incorporated into elements of fantasy, horror, and war, the impact is often that much more devastating.
Here are our picks for the best anime characters with tragic love stories, and why their narratives stand out.
9. Gin and Hotaru (Hotarubi no Mori E)
Hotarubi no Mori E features the relationship between a human (Hotaru) and a supernatural former human (Gin).
Though it may appear to be a simple fantasy love story at first glance, there’s a heartbreaking twist behind this relationship: Gin can’t touch any human or else he’ll disappear forever.
Gin’s condition is what keeps their love story only inches apart, and that condition is what makes the climax so much more impactful than most romantic climaxes.
8. Utakata and Hotaru (Naruto)
There are several tragic love stories throughout Naruto and its spin-offs, from the main storyline to the various filler arcs and movies. The story between Utakata and Hotaru stands out as a notable one.
Utakata is host to the Six-Tailed Beast, and that makes him hesitant to accept Hotaru as his student. But when he witnesses the conflict between her and the people who want a hidden power in her, Utakata accepts her as his student.
Sadly, though he promises to return to Hotaru, Utakata never came back—because he crossed paths with the Akatsuki’s Six Paths of Pain, who are killing people like him to extract their Tailed Beasts.
7. Princess Emeraude and Zagato (Magic Knight Rayearth)
Tragically, the plot of Magic Knight Rayearth wouldn’t have happened if the people of Cephiro knew what Princess Emeraude really felt.
Even more tragically, Zagato—the only one who really knew what the Princess wanted—became the villain so he could save her from her self-induced fate of death (via the Magic Knights she summoned).
As the Pillar of Cephiro, Princess Emeraude has the duty to pray for the safety of Cephiro and its population with all her heart. Her falling in love with Zagato marked the destruction of Cephiro, as she can no longer fully dedicate her heart and mind to her prayers.
6. Yahiko and Konan (Naruto)
Another tragic love story from Naruto centers on Yahiko and Konan, the founding members of the original Akatsuki.
To save Konan from Hanzo’s grasp, Yahiko sacrifices himself and lets himself be killed by Nagato per Hanzo’s demands. It was a bitter sacrifice as Hanzo didn’t keep his side of the bargain, leading Nagato to give him a taste of his Rinnegan powers.
5. Sanji and Pudding (One Piece)
Though it seemed that there’d never be romance between the Straw Hat Pirates, One Piece gave us an exciting “against all odds” relationship in Vinsmoke Sanji and Charlotte Pudding.
Big Mom’s ultimate reason behind the arranged wedding between Sanji and Pudding was to acquire the scientific advancements of the Germa from Sanji’s family. But over time, the two truly fall in love with one another (despite Pudding denying it several times).
Eventually, Pudding switched sides to help the Straw Hats. In their final moments together, she used her Devil Fruit ability to erase some of his memories of her so that he’d step away and aid his comrades, leaving her heartbroken and alone.
4. Christa and Ymir (Attack on Titan)
In the early parts of Attack on Titan, we saw how the foul-tempered Ymir seemed to only care for Christa. No matter what, Christa was her best friend and she always made her priority number one.
This became most apparent when Ymir risked her own life by shifting into the Jaw Titan and exposing herself as a Titan Shifter, just to save the trapped Christa from a horde of mindless titans.
Unfortunately, while Christa was saved, Ymir was taken away by Reiner and Bertholdt, never to be seen again.
3. Kaori Miyazono and Kosei Arima (Your Lie in April)
Kaori Miyazono and Kosei Arima are two characters who are bonded together by music. Though they play different instruments, their musical styles complement one another.
At first, Your Lie in April seems to go in a bright direction for these musical prodigies, but Kaori’s deteriorating health gives their story a sharp downhill turn toward the inevitable.
Despite the devastating ending, Your Lie in April never disappoints viewers. It still gives us a stage where both of our beloved musicians can play their pieces together one last time.
2. Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana (Your Name)
Love and fantasy always seem to elevate one another, resulting in a unique story that’s extraordinarily appealing. Your Name is one of the greatest examples of this in anime, with its elements of love and fantasy elevated even further by a thrilling disaster.
Mitsuha and Taki live in separate time periods but are tied together by a supernatural event. They’re able to learn about one another on an intimate level, and they develop feelings for each other through this supernatural event that made the impossible possible.
But Taki eventually learns a heartbreaking truth: Mitsuha died in the past and he’ll never be able to meet her in person.
1. Escanor (Seven Deadly Sins)
Most fans of Seven Deadly Sins assumed that Escanor and Merlin would end up together with their happily-ever-after ending, and so it came as a surprise when we learned that that’s not how their story ends.
In their battle against the Demon King, Escanor burned up his life force so he could match the opponent’s overwhelming presence.
At the end of the battle, Escanor stood still as he waited for his fate to catch up to him. During that time, Merlin grants him a kiss and makes it known to him that his love was never unnoticed.