Some anime protagonists and supporting characters, such as slice-of-life protagonists Hitohito Tadano and Narumi Momose, had quite ordinary and moderately happy childhoods. Other anime characters, or their closest friends, genuinely experienced a horrible upbringing that was characterized by suffering, anguish, and difficulty.


Fortunately, these anime heroes have overcome their difficult upbringings to become joyful, healthy, and motivational adults and teenagers. Even the most bitter anime heroes have learned to let the past stay in the past and go on to a new chapter in their adult lives. Some of these characters still carry that childhood gloom with them.

Update April 23rd, 2023 by Louis Kemner: Tragically, not every anime hero can look back on a happy upbringing. While some anime heroes might recall enjoyable birthday celebrations and playing with their siblings, others can recall experiencing loss, violence, abuse, or neglect as children. As a result, these anime heroes often suffer severe emotional and sometimes bodily wounds. As a result, they may speak or behave differently as adults.

15. Thorfinn Karlsefni (Vinland Saga)

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The seinen antihero Thorfinn Karlsefni actually did have a happy childhood until age six in Vinland Saga, but that changed one fateful afternoon in the Faroe Islands. Thorfinn watched in horror as his father Thors died fighting Askeladd's band, and all joy in Thorfinn's heart hardened into rage and hate.

Thorfinn spent the rest of his childhood sullenly following Askeladd around, preparing himself for the day he could finally slay his father's murderer. However, a life of war only made Thorfinn more miserable, and when Canute killed Askeladd instead, Thorfinn's revenge became a bad joke.

14. Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)

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Naruto Uzumaki had, by far, the worst childhood among the original big three Shonen heroes. While Luffy felt bad about Shanks losing an arm and Ichigo lost his mother, Naruto Uzumaki was despised and loathed from the moment of his birth and never met his parents.

Early on in the Naruto series, Naruto caused mischief recklessly out of a need for approval and attention. Naruto eventually found Team 7 to be a more effective means of achieving this aim, but he'll never forget the difficult times he experienced as a youngster that the entire village wished were over.

13. Nami (One Piece)

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Several Straw Hat Pirates had rough experiences in their youth, and that includes Nami, the tsundere navigator. She and her foster sister Kojiko were happy at first in their village, but then Arlong's crew muscled in, and Nami's foster mother Bell-mere was shot and killed.


As Arlong's navigator for years, Nami was pressured to produce accurate maps for him while also working hard to earn the money necessary to reclaim the village that had been taken. When Nami confronted Arlong in the present, Nami's inner demons came back, but Arlong broke their agreement.

12. Shoto Todoroki (My Hero Academia)

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Izuku had a rough time as a child, since he was bullied for being Quirkless, but Shoto Todoroki the kuudere had it much worse. Unlike most children in My Hero Academia's future setting, Shoto is the product of a Quirk marriage, and his good genes were the only reason he was conceived.

As a young boy, that alone caused Shoto a lot of stress, and Endeavor's strict training methods made it ten times worse. Shoto felt alone because he was separated from his siblings Fuyumi and Natsuo, and even his mother Rei lost it and burned him in the face with boiling water.

11. Rukia Kuchiki (Bleach)

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Bleach's shonen star, Ichigo Kurosaki, was heartbroken when his mother Masaki died one rainy afternoon. Otherwise, though, he had a fine childhood, complete with a caring goofball father and twin younger sisters who looked up to him. His Soul Reaper friend Rukia Kuchiki, meanwhile, grew up on the streets.


Rukia's much older sister Hisana abandoned her when Rukia was just an infant, so Rukia grew up as a street urchin with no family to look after her. She did have a gang of friends who were like a found family, but overall, it was one of Bleach's darkest childhood stories of all.

10. Yuki Sohma (Fruits Basket)

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Yuki Sohma, like many other Fruits Basket characters, had a difficult childhood. His peers absolutely adore and respect him, and they believe he can do no wrong. In actuality, Yuki suffers from severe impostor syndrome and is currently dealing with the consequences of his traumatic childhood experiences.

Yuki was born to be the perfect rat, but it didn't keep him from being mistreated. He was imprisoned in a dark chamber for a long period, and his greedy mother regarded him as a means to advance her own position. Yuki will now confront his inner childhood problems and remake his life, inspired by Tohru Honda.

9. Maki Zenin (Jujutsu Kaisen)

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The three major sorcerer families steadfastly cling to old customs in Jujutsu Kaisen's dark realm of curses and magic, even if it means mistreating their own offspring. Maki Zenin, for example, was mocked since she was born a girl and lacked natural curse force.

Maki despised being treated this way just because of her sex, so she persuaded her sister Mai to quit the family compound with her, regardless of the risks. Maki, now a sorcerer student, will work hard and strive even harder to show her conservative family wrong and establish a name for herself.

8. Guts (Berserk)

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Guts, the mercenary swordsman, has been through a lot both as a child and as a young adult. He would have died as an infant, but a roaming band of mercenaries discovered him early in Berserk's story and reared him to fight to earn his keep. Then, when he was only nine years old, he was subjected to horrible crimes.

Guts had yet another setback when his boss and foster father Gambino turned on him, prompting him to flee and become a hermit. He fought alongside other mercenaries and even joined Griffith's own band, but the happy moments were far outweighed by relentless bloodshed, danger, and the haunting memories of Guts' childhood.

7. Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail)

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Many members of the Fairy Tail guild had a tough childhood, including the three Strausses and Juvia Lockser. The Fairy Tail anime focused on Erza Scarlet's own childhood in great detail, where she and her friends became child slaves working on the Tower of Heaven project.

Erza suffered greatly, but she did lead the other slaves in revolt and escaped, fortunately. Other flashbacks showed that even before she was born, Erza was being mistreated. Her pregnant mother Irene once planned to be reborn in her child's body, proving that Erza wouldn't ever have a loving mother to support her.

6. Revy (Black Lagoon)

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Black Lagoon is an action-packed, ultra-dark crime thriller anime where the dandere protagonist Rock found himself abandoned in southeast Asia's brutal criminal underworld, such as the fictional port city Roanapur. Now he has a friend in Revy, but she's defensive, especially about her upbringing.

Revy grew up with an alcoholic father in New York City, and as a teen, she was arrested. A police officer committed unspeakable acts against her and no one helped, so even to this day, Revy is bitter and defensive about herself and her safety. She has learned to trust and rely on no one but herself, based on her grim childhood.

5. Jonathan Joestar (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure)

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The first JoJo's Bizarre Adventure hero, Jonathan Joestar, actually had a wonderful childhood until he was about 12 years old, when his villainous foster brother, Dio Brando, arrived. From that day on, Jonathan's childhood and teenage years were abysmal, starting with the heartbreaking death of his dog, Danny.


Jonathan faced constant bullying and harassment from Dio, and his father, George, refused to believe it and often took Dio's side. Then, as a young man, Jonathan witnessed his father's death, and his foster brother became a vampire to finish off the Joestars for good.

4. Touka Kirishima (Tokyo Ghoul)

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Touka Kirishima and her younger brother Ayato in Tokyo Ghoul lived with their single father for a time, until the fateful day arrived when their father died at a CCG investigator's hands. Touka and Ayato went on the run as desperate orphans, which marked the beginning of Touka's dark years.

The Kirishima family was falling apart, and Ayato made it worse by descending into villainy. By her late teens, Touka felt all alone after Ayato ran off to join Aogiri Tree, and she had plenty of painful memories to think back on. That may be why she doesn't want the young Hinami Fueguchi to suffer the same fate.

3. Lucy/Nyu (Elfen Lied)

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Elfen Lied's antihero protagonist, Lucy, had a terrible childhood as a horned Dicolonius being who had no place to call her own in the human world. She tried in vain to find a home or find people who would love her, and she eventually resorted to repeated homicide to vent her frustration and loneliness.

All this defined Lucy's childhood, though she at least spared Kota, a boy who actually tried to befriend her. Now Lucy and her alter ego Nyu are still trying to find peace as a young adult, but the problems from her childhood are returning, and she may be totally cornered this time.

2. Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

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In tragic flashbacks, the Fulmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime depicted the gifted brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric try to bring their mother back with forbidden alchemy, and pay a hefty price for it. Ed lost his right arm and left leg, and Al lost everything but his soul.

That wasn't the brothers' only childhood trauma, since they had witnessed their mother's death and also lamented how their father, Hohenheim, was hardly ever around. Now, an adult Edward will start a much happier and healthier family with his new wife, Winry Rockbell.

1. Erina Nakiri (Food Wars!)

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Erina Nakiri is a total himedere and tsundere with a lively personality, but she was totally different in her childhood, starting at age four. Food Wars! flashbacks show Erina under her tyrannical father's thumb, being little more than Nazami's puppet and tool in a gilded cage.

Erina's God Tongue became a burden and curse rather than a gift, and her father tried to exploit it for years. This made Erina terribly lonely and timid, until she finally fought back during her high school years with all her friends backing her up. Now the Nakiri family is happy and whole once again, but Erina still won't ever forget what her selfish father did.