The most iconic anime deaths tend to be sudden, but in some cases, death was foreshadowed as early as the first episode. But even if viewers suspected what awaited their favorite characters, they still denied it and hoped for something better.
Just because these deaths came across as predictable to some anime veterans, doesn't mean they're bad or ruined in hindsight. Instead, the fact that these characters' deaths still hit as hard as they do despite the obvious foreshadowing is a testament to their impact and quality.
10 Berserk (1997) — The Band Of The Hawk Wasn't In The First Episode For A Reason
Berserk's first episode is really more of an epilogue, since it showed Guts surviving The Eclipse from the two-part series finale. After the pilot, the anime cut to Guts' past and showed his time with the Band of the Hawk. Given their absence in the opening episode, and Guts' pact of vengeance, the Hawks' deaths shouldn't be that surprising.
However, knowing that the Hawks die doesn't mitigate how nightmarish and heart-wrenching their fate is. The Hawks' deaths became more inevitable with each passing episode, making Berserk something of an exercise in denial for fans who grew emotionally attached to the likes of Casca, Judeau, Pippin, Corkus, and more.
9 Fullmetal Alchemist — Maes Hughes Raised Too Many Death Flags
Maes' brutal assassination is still regarded as one of the most tragic deaths in both Fullmetal Alchemist incarnations and anime. In hindsight, viewers should've seen it coming. Besides being one of the few characters whose loving family was still alive, Maes kept showing off their pictures, and he even figured out the plot too early.
A family photo and cracking the mystery early on are two tropes most commonly associated with supporting characters whose sudden deaths establish the stakes, and Maes fulfilled both. What's more, Maes got a love letter in the middle of the Ishvalan War, and Roy Mustang warned him about how such mementos attract death in the battlefield.
8 Code Geass R2 — Shirley Fenette Was Too Innocent For The War's Worsening State
Given Code Geass' bleak depictions of occupation and revolution, it isn't surprising that most of the characters quickly became bitter and jaded fighters. Shirley was one of the few idealistic exceptions, since even her father's death couldn't break her moral reserve. Simply put, Shirley was too kindhearted for the Code Geass world.
Though she didn’t die until the second season's halfway point, Shirley maintaining her idealism in spite of everything instead of being broken by the war like the other characters was a clear sign that she wouldn't make it to the end. Shirley's demise also marked Code Geass R2's turning point, as it became much darker after Rolo killed her.
7 Puella Magi Madoka Magica — Sayaka Miki's Death As A Witch Was Set In Stone
After Kyubey explained that a magical girl's soul was separated from her body upon the contract's signing, everything went downhill for Puella Magi Madoka Magica's characters — especially for Sayaka. Combine this existential horror with crushed romantic dreams, and it was unfortunately clear that Sayaka would cross a point of no return.
Sayaka's refusal to ask her friends for help didn't help her case, and it further cemented her coming death. Additionally, Sayaka's transformation into a Witch sealed her fate, since the anime established that Witches only exist to be killed by magical girls. Kyoko ending Sayaka's misery was inevitable, but that didn't make it any less tragic.
6 Cowboy Bebop — Spike Spiegel Already Felt Dead Inside
One of Cowboy Bebop's most recurring themes was feeling empty or lifeless, and Spike perfectly embodied this fatalism. As far as Spike was concerned, life was just a dream, and he was sleepwalking through it ever since Julia left him alone in the graveyard. This, coupled with Spike's refusal to move on from the past, sealed his death at the series' end.
What's more, Spike didn't even fight his fate and, instead, ran towards it. Despite his new friends' advice and viewers' own concerns, Spike always took the opportunity to chase his old rival Vicious instead of letting past grudges go. Spike dying shortly after Vicious and Julia died was the only way his story could end.
5 Anohana: The Flowers We Saw That Day — Meiko Honma Only Fate Was Passing On
In Anohana, a group of estranged childhood friends reform their old group, the Super Peace Busters, to help their dead friend Menma pass on. While Menma is already a ghost, she basically dies a second time when her friends help her find peace. Menma passing on was the only way Anohana could end, but that didn't make it any less sad.
Just like Jintan and his friends, viewers hoped that Menma could stay around forever, but they knew this couldn't happen. Menma moving on to the afterlife became more unavoidable as Anohana neared its finale, and neither viewers nor the surviving Super Peace Busters could prepare themselves for this inevitable but still sad conclusion.
4 Angel Beats! — Everyone Would "Graduate" Sooner Or Later
Angel Beats' big twist was that the boarding school where Otonashi and his friends shot guns at each other in fun action-packed firefights was actually Purgatory. The campus helped the characters come to terms with their abrupt deaths by giving them a chance to die on their own terms before letting them move on to the afterlife or reincarnation.
With this in mind, it's clear that everyone in Angel Beats!would eventually leave the school. Knowing this, however, doesn't mitigate how emotionally devastating it is to see Otonashi's group of friends dwindle with each passing episode. By the end, only Otonash is left, and it's unclear if he actually graduated or not.
3 Plastic Memories — Isla Couldn't Avert Her Pre-Programmed Death
In Plastic Memories, androids called Giftias are perfect replications of people, save for the fact that they all have a predetermined expiration date that would shut them down. Tsukasa and his Giftia lover, Isla, do everything they can to buy her more time and avert this fate, but they (and viewers) know that death is inescapable.
Plastic Memories offered a few glimmers of hope, but snatched them away at the last second. With such blatant warnings about the coming tragedy, it was clear to Tsukasa, Isla, and viewers that the romance wouldn't end happily ever after. The final episode closing with Isla's death may have been expected, but it wasn't any less painful.
2 Your Lie In April — Kaori Miyazono's Fatal Illness Was Inescapable
Your Lie In April is famous among anime fans for its doomed romance between an ordinary high schooler and his terminally ill love interest, but Kaori's condition isn't immediately made apparent. Instead, there are some clear warning signs that not only pointed towards Kaori's ailing health, but to her unfortunately unavoidable death.
The foreshadowing starts small with Kaori casually joking about dying, or the opening credits and songs reflecting on death. Things get worse later when she suffers uncontrollable shakes or faints in the middle of performances. When Kaori's condition is made clear near the anime's finale, it's obvious that she wouldn't live to see the end.
1 Grave Of The Fireflies — Setsuko & Seita Were Never Going To Make It
Grave Of The Fireflies is a tragic movie about Seita and his younger sister Setsuko struggling to survive post-war Japan, but it opens with Seita dying of starvation, alone in a train station. From there, Setsuko picks him up, and they take a train to the afterlife. The rest of the film is a flashback, showing Setsuko and Seita's last moments alive.
Even though Grave Of The Firefliesdepicted Seita and Setsuko's deaths, it's not uncommon to hear stories of viewers who still hoped for a happy ending where at least one of them survived. Instead, the movie ended with Setsuko dying and Seita cremating her body before returning to the somber prologue where the two reunited in death.
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