10 Shonen Anime That Don’t Have A Happy Ending

Satou of Happy Sugar Life and Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop

Shonen is arguably the most popular anime demographic of all time, with an expansive library of titles that cover a range of genres. Though shonen targets young boys, just about anyone can enjoy these occasionally sublime stories. The medium has evolved greatly over time, and often strays away from the typical heroic tales fans are so familiar with.

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The typical shonen series tends to end on a happy note, with the hero accomplishing their goals and making their dreams come true. However, not every shonen storyline gets wrapped up in a nice little bow. Many series end on a dark, depressing, or bittersweet note, serving as a harsh reminder that not every story has a positive outcome.

Updated on May 11th, 2023 by Ajay Aravind: A sizeable fraction of the Shonen genre includes very few deaths, although these shows contain copious amounts of violence and brutality. Iconic series like Bleach and Naruto ended on relatively happy notes, but this may not be the case for every shonen anime. As such, we’ve revamped this list with some more relevant information.



10 Happy Sugar Life

It’s safe to say that just about nothing in Happy Sugar Life is happy, despite its misleading title. The story centers around Satou Matsuzaka, one of the most sinister yandere girls to hit the scene since Yuno Gasai. Satou falls in love with a young girl named Shio and hides her in her apartment. As any yandere would, she does everything she can to keep others from her beloved, even killing people when necessary.

By the end of the series, Satou’s crimes come to light, and she ultimately dies for her actions. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse from there, and Satou’s aunt takes the blame for all of her misdeeds, while little Shio is hospitalized and traumatized for life.

9 Chrono Crusade

Thanks to countless story changes, many believe that Chrono Crusade‘s anime adaptation is disappointing. The biggest letdown for most fans is that Rosette never manages to save her brother, and she and Chrono never accomplish any of their goals.

What makes all this worse is that the contract between the two finally begins to take its toll on Rosette’s body, and she resigns herself to her death. Rosette and Chrono hide away in a remote location, waiting for the end together. In their final moments, the two hold each other close, and Rosette reveals her fears and her desire to keep living in one of the saddest scenes of the entire series.

8 Samurai X: Reflection

Many fans of Rurouni Kenshin dislike the OVA special Samurai X: Reflection due to its heartbreaking conclusion for two of the most adored characters. The film features Kenshin and Kaoru years into the future, long after they get married and have a child.

Kaoru anxiously waits for Kenshin’s return, reminiscing on their lives and how they got to where they are now. The ending of the OVA is controversial, featuring Kenshin and Kaoru as they reunite one final time before dying together of a mysterious illness that has caused their bodies to deteriorate over time.

The 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist is infamous among the fandom, thanks to its shockingly unhappy ending. The manga hadn’t finished at the time, so the anime began its own storyline, and many fans were displeased with it. The series ends with Ed making the ultimate sacrifice by opening the Gate of Truth to bring Al back. As a result, he’s trapped inside an alternate dimension, based on World War I Germany, with seemingly no way back home.

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With the addition of the movie, Ed and Al reunite, but at the cost of their home and all of their loved ones. This made for an extremely disappointing bad ending that could only be fixed after Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood gave fans the true happy ending.

6 Death Note

It’s not a surprise that Death Note doesn’t have a happy ending. After all, the series itself isn’t exactly a heartwarming story. While Light’s eventual demise is expected, it still somehow comes as a shock when he’s exposed in the end. The confession scene where the police department finally learns Kira’s true identity is one of the most iconic scenes in the anime, and it leads to one of the most memorable deaths as well.

For a minute there, it looks like Light might just escape his fate, but Ryuk turns on him and writes his name in the Death Note. For such a grand and fearsome character, Light’s death is very quiet and solemn, showing that despite everything, he was still human in the end too.

5 Assassination Classroom

Throughout Assassination Classroom, the students of class 3-E train to become strong enough to defeat the world’s greatest threat, their teacher Koro-Sensei. Given this premise, it should come as no shock that the series ends with the students doing just that. That said, they’ve come to love their teacher, and the audience has fallen in love with him just as much, so the task of killing him is absolutely heartwrenching.

Koro-Sensei’s death is one of the saddest moments in the entire series. Each of his students says a tearful goodbye to him in a final roll call, and Koro-Sensei reminisces on their brief but cherished time together, only adding to the heartache in this bittersweet conclusion.

4 Gurren Lagann

Considering Gurren Lagann‘s fun, upbeat, and inspirational story, its devastating ending comes as a complete shock. After the Anti Spiral race has been defeated and the war is over, it looks like everything has turned out okay. Simon manages to save Nia, and the two finally get married. However, this is when things take an unexpected turn.

After the pair say their vows, Nia suddenly begins to vanish. After this traumatic scene, fans are shown a bit of the future. Simon lives on after Nia’s untimely death, alone and forgotten as the rest of the world enjoys its peace.

3 Devilman Crybaby

Few series are bold enough to kill off their main character, but Devilman Crybaby does just that. In fact, the series eliminates just about everyone, save for one character. Satan remains the one character to survive the end of the world and is doomed to repeat this cycle for the rest of eternity.

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Protagonist Akira is killed in the wake of his destruction, and it’s only after everything has fallen into ruin that Satan realizes this fact. The series ends with him mourning Akira’s loss, as the weight of his actions fully overtake him.

2 Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop seems like the last series to have an unhappy ending. It’s a funky and upbeat action series centered around a rag-tag team of space bounty hunters. Though it’s filled with comedy, thrills, and tons of fun, the series is a tragedy at its heart, and the ending reflects this perfectly.

In the final moments, Spike and Vicious engage in a fight to end all fights. Spike manages to come out on top, but suffers a mortal injury as a result. The ending scene shows him staggering as he goes to leave. He points a finger gun at Vicious’ men and utters his final word: “Bang!“. After this, the scene cuts to black, implying Spike’s untimely death. It’s one of the most shocking endings of all time and still blows fans’ minds today.

1 Your Lie In April

The beginning of Your Lie in April is very deceiving for first-timers. With its cheerful tone and abundance of comedy, most would expect a typical rom-com. However, everything changes after viewers learn of Kaori’s terminal illness. Pretty soon, fans know to prepare for the worst.

Despite this narrative warning, her inevitable death is more heartbreaking than anyone could have expected. At the start, everyone had hoped for a sweet romance between Kousei and Kaori to blossom. Yet somehow, instead, viewers are left with tears in their eyes as they watch him read her a goodbye letter.

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