Whether you’ve been an anime fan for long or are just starting with your first few series, it’s highly likely that you already know that not all shows end with all the characters getting what they want. In fact, quite a lot of anime shows have bittersweet endings, where everyone seems to be happy but not really. Below, you can find some of the best examples of shows that have “happy yet sad” conclusions, but be sure to prepare yourself for some spoilers, along with some reminders of painful memories.
Regarded as one of the most memorable anime shows in the 1990s, Cowboy Bebop tells a futuristic story of space handymen, who call themselves “cowboys.” Spike, the main character, is an eccentric fellow, but he’s well-loved by his crewmates. Later they learned that Spike had a lover named Julia, but their reunion was as romantic as it was tragic.
The ending was anything but abrupt. In the last episode, Spike had a heart-shattering and nerve-wracking match with Vicious, his estranged comrade and long-term rival for Julia’s affection. Both of them ended up killing each other, but they were happy; they’d either reunite with Julia in heaven (if there’s such a thing) or become the best of friends again in the afterlife.
Many people don’t think that Spike actually died, but it was hinted at by visual cues. When Julia died in the previous episodes, doves were seen flying as he falls down to the ground. The same thing happened with Spike. Also, the “shining star” in the sky, said by the fortune teller to guide Spike, gradually but ultimately lost its shine as the ending theme played.
No. 6 tells the story of two young men who met at the most unfortunate circumstances. Shion used to be an elite resident of “No. 6,” one of the six territories built up after the war ended. He viewed the world from a narrow perspective, not seeing anything from beyond his comfortable walls. That changed, though when he fell sick and eventually met Nezumi, a boy his age who lives in the wastelands beyond the walls.
The two of them formed a platonic and later romantic relationship. A raid happened, which put the two of them in grave danger. In the end, the two of them decided to part ways, leaving each other with just their promises of meeting again. Nezumi wandered off to find his father figure, while Shion studied with the aim of leading No. 6 in the future. Soon, if the time is right and ripe again, they might reunite, but no one knows when and where and how. For now, the upcoming winters for the two of them will be colder than ever.
Darling in the Franxx
Probably one of the best-loved mecha anime in recent years, Darling in the Franxx tells the story of children who pilot robots (called Franxx) to fight ancient dinosaurs. The premise feels pretty whimsical, but the stellar storytelling and solid plot buildup gave the audience a moment of epiphany when everything was finally revealed. The two main characters, Zero Two and Hiro (aka Darling), were quite special in their own right and were considered the strongest combo.
In the end, it was revealed that everything that happened so far has been orchestrated by aliens, and only those who can pilot the Franxx can save the world right now. Zero Two and her Darling rode the Franxx and bravely fought in space to drive the extraterrestrial colonizers away. Their friends can do nothing but wait and pray as the two of them expend their life forces to fuel their Franxx. In the end, Zero Two and Hiro succeeded but at the cost of their very own lives. They spent their last moments falling and floating down from space, as many years pass right down on Earth. Their friends now have their own families, and the world they saved has become a much more welcoming place for everyone.
Many generations later, two toddlers resembling the faces of Hiro and Zero Two were seen playing under a big tree. It was the same tree that temporarily sheltered Hiro and Zero Two themselves when they tried to escape from the lab when they were still kids.
It’s pretty safe to assume that no one will disagree about Anohana having one of the saddest but most hopeful endings out there. The members of the Super Peace Busters gradually become estranged after a tragic accident that killed Menma, one of their best friends. Those who were remained, Jintan, Chiriko, Poppo, Anaru, and Yukiatsu tried to lead their lives while trying to move on. However, even many years later, memories of Menma still haunt them. In fact, Jintan, Menma’s closest friend, was befriended by Menma’s ghost.
The estranged friends were forced to have an awkward reunion to try to let Menma’s soul in peace. No one thought it would be a happy occasion, and no one believed they could be friends again, but the happy memories of their childhood were simply heavier than the grudges they hold for each other. Their wounds started healing by spending time with each other again, but when they’re finally close enough, they had to say goodbye to Menma for a second time.
They played a game of “hide and seek” with Menma one last time, and when she was found, she flashed her a smile and told them she’d been found. Her soul gradually lost its figure as she finally ascended and passed on. Those who remained expressed their love for their departed friend and promised to become friends again.
Hyakkimaru lived his first years without anything. It’s already tragic that he was abandoned by his parents, but much more than that, he had no limbs, no nose, no eyes, no ears, and no skin. He would have died in the cold had it not been for a traveling doll maker, who saved him and gave him prosthetic arms and legs. After some time, he learned to defend himself with the katana attached to his elbows, and while wandering off alone, he met Dororo, a toddler girl who accepted him and his monstrous appearance.
Dororo and Hyakkimaru traveled while slaying demons. Their initial goal was to get back Hyakkimaru’s body parts by slaying the demons who stole them. The last organs Hyakkimaru obtained were his arms and eyes. Finally, he was able to hug and see Dororo, and the first thing that he said to her was how beautiful she is. It was a heartfelt moment, but it didn’t last long because they have to bid each other goodbye momentarily.
Hyakkimaru, who had just gotten his senses back, wanted to see the world from a new perspective. Dororo, meanwhile, found her father’s treasure and had to rebuild their village. It was sad they’ll meet again . . . someday and somewhere.
Tell Us an Anime With a Bittersweet Ending
There are tons of other anime that fall under this category. If you know a few examples, feel free to drop them in the comments section below. Let’s have a fruitful discussion!