Romantic anime can be sad, funny, or it can be a mixture of both. This story is dedicated to the tearjerkers.
Some of these romantic anime TV series and movies may make you chuckle at times. But don’t be fooled; the plot will be bittersweet. If you’re looking for an anime that will tug on the heartstrings, read on.
(If you’re looking for my list of funny romantic comedy harem anime, click here instead.)
List of Sad Romance Anime
- Angel Beats!
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
- 5 Centimeters Per Second
- Your Name
- Fruits Basket
- Your Lie in April
- I Want To Eat Your Pancreas
- Clannad: After Story
Warning: Spoilers are unavoidable in an article about romantic downer endings.
8. Angel Beats!
The anime series Angel Beats! is a deceptively funny school parody at first.
However, romantic visual novel specialist Visual Arts/ Key collaborated in its production. Visual Arts/ Key (Kanon, Air, Clannad, etc.) created a lot of sad romances.
In Angel Beats!, teens are trapped in a high school purgatory. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that things aren’t what they seem. The presumed villain Angel is anything but, and the SOS Brigade-esque “good guys” are actually misguided.
Eventually, the truth comes out. And that’s when the bittersweet, romantic ending kicks in.
We finally learn protagonist Otonashi’s history, which features one of the main girls. We also find out what he must do in order to “move on.” Needless to say, moving on involves letting go.
7. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a 2006 time-traveling science-fiction anime movie by Mamoru Hosoda.
At first, schoolgirl Makoto tries to use her newly-discovered time-travel power to improve her life. (In one memorable scene, she “time leaps” backward to avoid getting hit by a train.) However, she quickly realizes the unintended consequences of her ability, and tries to be more cautious.
Despite this, she still deliberately erases a love confession from her friend Chiaki. Of course, this just leads to more romantic complications.
In the end, Chiaki explains that he is from the future, and must return home. By the time Makoto is ready to confess that she has feelings for him, it’s too late.
6. 5 Centimeters Per Second
The 2007 anime film 5 Centimeters Per Second is a lovely and touching romantic movie. It’s divided into three parts — Cherry Blossom, Cosmonaut, and 5 Centimeters Per Second.
The story features themes of lost love, and feelings which remain across time and distance. In the first part, Takaki and Akari become close friends in elementary school. But when Takaki moves, their relationship falters.
The second part (in high school) features a new girl, Kanae, who has feelings for Takaki. But she can’t seem to get through to him.
In the third part, Akari is about to get married, and Takaki has a girlfriend. But Takaki still remembers Akari. In the end, the two have a brief, chance meeting.
5. Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa)
A boy and a girl swap bodies unexpectedly in the 2016 science-fiction romantic anime film Your Name, by Makoto Shinkai.
Interestingly enough, the two high school students don’t even live near each other. The boy, Taki, lives in Tokyo, while the girl, Mitsuha, is out in the country someplace.
It takes time for them to figure out what’s going on. For a while all they do is mess with each other’s lives.
Eventually, it is revealed that they are separated by time as well as distance. Mitsuha’s town was destroyed several years ago. The climax features Taki (in Mitsuha’s body) trying desperately to get everyone to evacuate.
4. Fruits Basket (2019)
The recent remake of Fruits Basket is definitely more of a tearjerker than the 2001 anime series.
The earlier series deviated from the manga. Plotlines are left unresolved. It’s essentially a romantic comedy about a girl who befriends squabbling boys (who have a transformation curse).
However, the 2019-2021 series tackles the show’s underlying deeper issues. Characters struggle with the Sohma family’s “branch household” hierarchy. Can the Sohma clan break the Zodiac animal curse? Who wins Tohru’s heart? These questions are answered with a lot of angst and tearful confessions.
3. Your Lie in April
Your Lie in April is an anime series about music, and music can stir a lot of emotions. Combine that with a heartbreaking romantic tale with a downer ending, and you will need tissues.
The story begins with Kosei, a former child prodigy who gives up on the piano after his mother dies. He returns to music with the encouragement of Kaori, who accompanies him on violin.
The two naturally grow close, with Kaori’s free-spirited personality pushing him forward.
There are some romantic complications and potential love triangles. But the real tragedy is Kaori’s illness.
2. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
Like the heroines of several other anime on this list, Sakura in the 2018 anime film I Want to Eat Your Pancreas suffers from a serious illness.
One of Sakura’s classmates finds out about her condition. He spends time with her, and helps her do the things she always wanted to do.
Sakura’s death is a foregone conclusion, but it’s still a shock when it happens suddenly and unexpectedly. The rest of the film shows how Sakura affected the lives of those who knew her.
1. Clannad: After Story
Clannad: After Story is a sequel to Kyoto Animation’s 2007 anime series based on the visual novel by Visual Arts/ Key.
The original Clannad series featured delinquent student Tomoyo, and sickly schoolgirl Nagisa. Nagisa was held back a year because of her illness. The first series ended with Tomoyo and Nagisa firmly in a relationship.
In After Story, Tomoyo graduates. But Nagisa gets sick again. She finally graduates, and the two get married. Nagisa becomes pregnant, and then…
The ending to the anime echoes the visual novel, which has both a good and a bad ending. Major characters die, but then time rewinds. In one ending, Tomoyo and Nagisa start a family. But the road there is still a tearjerker.
If you’re trying to watch these anime on Netflix or any other streaming platform that geo-locks certain anime titles, you can get around these restrictions by using a VPN.
How to Watch These Sad Romance Anime on Netflix from Anywhere via VPN
This method works on both desktop PCs and mobile phones or tablets.
- Purchase (or start a free trial) of a VPN. NordVPN works for this purpose.
- In the settings, choose the country that you know has the title you want to watch as your location (usually the UK or the US).
- Fire up the VPN
- Once you’re connected, navigate to Netflix (or whatever streaming app you’re using)
- Search the anime name in the search bar and you should see it pop up.
Enjoy! Please note that if your Netflix library doesn’t update to reflect the country you selected in your VPN, you may have to clear the Netflix cache first and try again. This may be the same for other streaming platforms as well!
To to do this, go to settings -> apps -> Netflix -> clear cache. I’ve had no trouble using this method and I still use NordVPN to watch anime from various Netflix country libraries daily.