You know, if there’s one thing I tend to enjoy even less than a pure romance anime, it’s a romance anime that ends badly. What can I say, I’m a fragile child and I don’t like sad endings.

But sometimes, a sad ending is just what a story needs to really get the emotion across. And sometimes it’s a cheap crutch desperately trying to manufacture emotion that the writer didn’t manage to actually invoke. Either way, if there ever was a time to watch sad romantic anime, it’s now.

Keep in mind that given my particular tastes, I have not seen many bummer romance anime. So this is not so much a Top 5 list as the only 5 romantic anime that end badly that I have seen!

5- Steins;Gate 0

There’s a bit of an argument to be had on whether Steins;Gate 0 even is a romantic anime in the first place. There’s a lot going on. I have to say I really liked the anime but I absolutely loved the game and the heartbreak is even more apparent there.

In any case, for those of us who were invested in the timeless romance between Okabe and Kurisu, seeing them ripped apart through a butterfly effect was hard enough. But accepting that some timelines never converge can be devastating. However, even though that, it manages to be hopeful. I love this series.

4- Elfen Lied

Once again, the romance tag is sort of dubious. There are definitely romantic elements, especially at the beginning but they might get somewhat overwhelmed by the…rest.

In any case, for a while there it does seem like a lot of trouble could be avoided if Lucy can just find a good man to love. Or woman. Or pet really. Honestly, one healthy relationship would have helped a lot. And Kouta might just be that man. Well, let’s be honest, boy.

However, even the generally not picky anime teenager has to draw the line somewhere. And that somewhere may be a cold-blooded mass murderer. After a while, murder just stops being quirky. Is that just me?

3- Scum’s Wish

Scums Wish is a depressing show. I’m not spoiling anything. It’s depressing right from the first episode and stays depressing. Actually, to be fair this one might in fact have a happy ending. I’m not sure about the anime but in the follow-up to the manga, Kuzu no Honkai Décor, there is some implication that at the end of it all, they might have a chance at happiness.

But that slight possibility comes at the expense of a lot of hurt feelings and moping around. And honestly, most of the anime is just a lot of depressing banter. And a lot of people liked it! If you want a more unusual exploration of love this season, Scum’s Wish may be for you.

2- I Want To Eat Your Pancreas

So I thought this was going to be a zombie movie…

I want to eat your pancreas is ruthless. The thing is, you go in kind of knowing what you’re in for. Well kinda. Right from the start, we know that Sakura is sick and is really not likely to get better. The sick girl/boy trope is actually rather common in romantic fiction so it’s not that big a shocker. Anyone familiar with the genre knows what to expect.

They expect that the shy withdrawn Haruki will slowly come out of his shell through his connection with Sakura. That although their time together may be all too brief and doomed, it will nonetheless be deeply significant. One will be able to go on to what comes next peaceful and comfortable with one great love in her life and the other will carry her in his heart, symbolically sharing all his future joy with her.

The movie just smacks us all in the face and tells us that it doesn’t care about our feelings. Oh, man…

1- School Days

I still think it’s hilarious that Schol Days is considered a romance. I also don’t get people who think it’s a masterpiece. I know quite a few. I mean the writing and pacing of the adaptation are just bad. I loved the game as much as the next guy but I can admit that the anime completely failed to capture it.

School Days is an anime adaptation of a rather famous in Japan, Visual Novel. The VN’s fame came partly from the fact that at the time it was one of the first to actually deconstruct classic harem Visual Novels in a gradual and impactful way. By making players navigate through the potential routes, most of which are rather traditional, and then just tweaking a few choices here and there until they pile up allowing for some harrowing results, the game really examines what the natural extreme of these stories would be. It also takes a good long satirical look at the player and what their choices imply about how we view relationships. It was a game that was somewhat ruthless to its own player base and that captured a lot of people’s imagination.

So you get an idea of what the anime was supposed to be. Of course, the anime takes player choice out of the experience entirely, already kneecapping a lot of the impact and wit, and then just adapts one of the more talked about routes without bothering to properly reframe the nonlinear storytelling of the game to the linear anime. As such, School Days has many levels of unfortunate circumstances. Not only does the story end badly for the characters, but it’s also sad for the viewer who gets such an inferior experience than they were supposed to, making it the number one choice for this list.

There you have it. Love doesn’t always end with two people riding into the sunset together. Sometimes it ends with a nice boat!

10 thoughts

  1. Scum’s Wish was certainly not “happy” or “upbeat” viewing…but I certainly think it was an excellent series because it explored issues of adolescent sex, sexuality, and emotional being in a realistic, non-saccharine manner that, while often uncomfortable viewing, nonetheless took seriously the humanity pf its protagonists. And I think the conclusion contained an important morale: namely, that happiness is more often a matter of being able to walk away from destructive contexts than it is about getting everything we want.

  2. Thanks! Now I know what… NOT to review. Honestly, my doctor is right. There really is not enough antidepressants in the world to fix my mood if I keep reviewing downer series. Also nice title Japan. You… Want to eat my pancreas. Don’t do it! I don’t even know where my pancreas has been, and it’s my pancreas!!

  3. Heh, Your Lie in April, your header pic, also ended badly – but by the time the anime ended, I was just glad it was over. It’s not… my favourite romance.

    I’m trying to remember anime that ended badly that aren’t on your list. Hm, White Album 2, Plastic Memories, WorldEnd?

    Oddly enough, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have thought of School Days. For all its notoriety I guess I don’t think of it as a romance. (My Schooldays history: I randomly click on it, but bow out at episode one – not in the mood. I hear about the nice boat, and how it’s supposedly one of the worst anime ever. I watch it and find it’s actually surprisingly good. Now: yeah, I’ve seen it, no idea how I’d feel about it on a rewatch, and I’m not particularly motivated to find out. But I’m pretty sure I’d still disagree with either the extreme scoldings or the extreme praise.)

    1. As you can probably tell, I’m bitter about how good School Days could have been. I still think it’s not well written, specially in the character arcs but it’s not the worst show I have watched.
      I chose the Your Lie in April gif on purpose. I try to always pick a header gif for the top 5 list that is relevant but not in the list itself. Sometimes I fail.
      I haven’t watched any of the anime you mention. Maybe if I decide I want a sad romance binge, I’ll pick one.

  4. I liked the end of Scum’s Wish because it left her standing on her own two feet, not especially needing a man (or woman) just so she’d have one. So I thought Hanabi was empowered

        1. Sweet. I sshould have clarified is shows where the romance ended badly, not the show iself. I mean Steins;Gate 0 has an awesome ending and Elfen Lied is also technically a triumphant happy ending. Actually you could probably say the same for School Days as well. I guess Pancreas is the only bummer one.

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