Seinen anime are notorious for dark storylines; they cater to an older audience. Seinen isn't exactly a light watch since it usually tackles heavy topics. From shows that address social injustices like Erased and Rainbow to gory fantasy like Berserk and Vinland Saga, seinen has it all.
The entire seinen genre isn't bleak; some titles are pretty wholesome. But since seinen makes its audience question life as they know it, it isn't surprising that some seinen don't have happy endings. Some notable seinen anime avoid cliché happily-ever-afters and live up to the no rainbows and butterflies reputation.
10 Light's Death Is Either A Sad Ending Or Karmic Justice (Death Note)
Whether or not Death Note has a sad ending depends on which demographic one belongs to. It's a heavily debated topic in the fandom. Though the majority agree that Light's lonely death was much-deserved, the main character dying doesn't exactly call for a party.
Despite every horrible thing Light has done, a good proportion of the fandom is still rooting for him, at least enough to see a brighter end to his story. However, there's something so undeniably beautiful about him dying from the very weapon that turned him into a monster in the first place. It may not be a happy ending, but it's poetic storytelling nonetheless.
9 Johan's Open Ending Launched A Domino Of Film Analyses On The Internet (Monster)
Again, Monster's finale is a highly divisive issue in the fandom. Toeing the line between good and evil, Monster has the audience constantly questioning their own beliefs. Like any spine-chilling psychological thriller, philosophy and ethics often come into play.
Many adore the symbolism behind Tenma starting and ending Monster by operating on Johan. Like the series' philosophical questions, there is no right or wrong answer in deciding the nature of the ending. However, Johan's empty hospital bed and open window certainly don't scream positivity. To this day, niche corners of the internet still demand answers for Monster's open ending.
8 Spike Deserves Better (Cowboy Bebop)
Cowboy Bebop centers around a group of kids without a care in the world, living life one adventure at a time. Neglecting expectations of conventional life, Faye, Jet, Spike, Ed, and Ein find comfort in their little rogue group of outlaws.
Spike spends most of his time with the gang running away from his demons. Unfortunately, he never receives the happy-ending he deserves. The horrors of his past haunt Spike until his death, and he seemingly never lets go of his regret and agony. Cinematography-wise, the black-and-white sequence gives the anime an ominous ending that still burdens fans today.
7 Shion & Nezumi Are Romeo & Juliet Variants (No. 6)
Instead of warring families, Shion and Nezumi from No. 06 have a great wall. Like the walls that divide social classes in Avatar: The Last Airbender's Ba Sing Se, a massive wall protects City-state No. 06 and wards off those living in poverty in the barren wasteland beyond. Despite having everything he could ever want in utopia, Shion risks it all for Nezumi, a fugitive.
Though this seems like the start of an epic love story, Shion and Nezumi have a tragic fate. Banishment, depression, death, and resurrection, the two go through it all. Even after everything, the anime ends with a passionate kiss goodbye and Nezumi disappearing into the desolate wasteland, implying that No.6's yaoi couple was never meant to be.
6 The Sextuplet Hermits Yearn For Closure & Progress That Never Comes (Osomatsu-San)
For three seasons of Osomatsu-san, the audience follows the Matsuno sextuplets trying their hands at life. The conventional one that everyone and their mothers rave about that is. Being recluses, they could care less about finding a stable job and a loving wife.
In tune with the satiric comedy of Osomatsu-san, they acknowledge the pathetic nature of their lives. The Matsuno siblings embody one of today's society's most relatable first-world problems, battling social anxiety and seeking unattainable happiness. Although the series finale includes a bittersweet montage of the six embracing their true nature, the final dialogue sucker punches the audience unexpectedly.
5 Sotoba Going Up In Flames Is Hardly A Happy Ending (Shiki)
Unsurprisingly, a horror anime starring vampires, deadly diseases, and unknown deaths has a non-happy ending. The blurry line between good and evil gets progressively more obscure in Shiki's world, where vampires live alongside humans.
The villagers abandon faith in an all-powerful God and look to Shikis for help. Everything about the horror-psychological-thriller anime is brutal. The narrative takes its time developing its major plot points. The finale involves a pit full of dead Shikis, remnants of Natsuno and Tatsumi from a self-inflicted explosion, Sunako repenting her sins to an abandoned deity, and villagers driving away from their viciously burning village. Shiki is an underrated cult classic that only a niche group of anime lovers know about.
4 Attempted Suicide Isn't The Brightest Note To Start/End On (Happy Sugar Life)
Despite the positive-sounding title, Happy Sugar Life has a disturbing storyline, particularly shining a light on life's real nitty gritty parts. The anime starts and ends with the same scene: Satou and Shio voluntarily plunging to their deaths. Being a relatively controversial anime, this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding how unsettling Happy Sugar Life can be.
Shio's ending scene gives Happy Sugar Life a far more morbid meaning. Though the two plunged to death together, Satou saves Shio's life by purposely landing first. Shio refuses to live a life outside of her happy sugar life with Satou. With the latter dead, this goal is only feasible in Shio's memories, inadvertently implying that she'll only continue to live in her delusions.
3 Kino Finds Beauty In An Otherwise Wicked World (Kino's Journey)
Kino's Journey is a travel log of a 15-year-old traveler with a talking motorcycle as a trusty steed. The anime offers thought-provoking conversation topics that highlight humanity's beauty in an otherwise cruel world. Rife with brutality and loneliness, Kino's adventures with Hermes often end in tragedy.
Each episode ends with Kino saying a sad goodbye. Kino watches in pure horror in the finale as the town before them gets pulverized by a pyroclastic flow. Through a letter, they discover that the friendly townspeople known to be cold-hearted jerks chose to accept their tragic fate long before it happened. Without speculating on metaphors, Kino's Journey has a beautifully heartbreaking ending that gives viewers a new perspective on life.
2 A Mother's Sacrifice Knows No Bounds (Witchblade)
Regardless of Witchblade's central premise, the true meaning of the series emphasizes the power of a mother's love. Even after everything the mother-daughter duo has been through, running away from numerous governmental organizations, Masane and Rihoko still don't get their happily ever after.
In the finale, Maria and Masane have their final showdown. Rihoko nervously watches her mother in a brutal fight against the humanlike weapon, only to end up watching Masane implode as a self-sacrificing act of love. For a second, Masane's relentless hits are misinterpreted as a vicious act of brutality. In reality, it shows how far she'll go for Rihoko.
1 Lucy's Unconfirmed Death Has The Fandom Quaking (Elfen Lied)
Elfen Lied is one of the most prominent names in seinen. It's infamous for its explicit gore, action, and spine-chilling emotional scenes. Facing the music, Lucy surrenders to the security team, losing one of her horns. Although viciously shot at, Lucy's demise was never confirmed. Many speculate that Lucy isn't dead. Lucy constantly fiddles with the grandfather clock throughout the anime. Never hearing it chime once, it abruptly starts working when an unknown visitor comes.
Accompanied by the Lilium music box and Wanta's barking, the ending scene creates an eerie vibe that many believe implies Lucy's return. Regardless of the unnerving open ending, the rest of the episode is an emotional rollercoaster. Many argue that the episode perfectly encapsulates the dark side of humanity in a neat animated package.
NEXT: 10 Shonen Anime That Don't Have A Happy Ending