The Saddest Anime I’ve Ever Seen…

During my winter vacation while I was fighting a high fever and a serious chest cold, I watched the movie Hotaru no Haka. Several coworkers and quite a few students mentioned that Hotaru no Haka was a sad cartoon. I listened, but thought to myself “It’s just a cartoon, how bad could it be?” So I watched it. I am here to report that Hotaru no Haka was without a doubt the saddest cartoon I have ever seen in my life! Oh my God! I was already sick…and watching that Ghibli film just depressed me.

Believe or not, Hotaru no Haka (also known as Grave of the Fireflies or Tombstone of the Fireflies) is based on a true story from autobiographical novel “Hotaru no Haka” by Nosaka Akiyuki. The Ghibli film looks at World War II from the Japanese civilians’ perspective. We follow a young man named Seita, his younger sister Setsuko, and members of his family during the final stages of the war. Your heart just goes out to these people in Kobe…they aren’t soldiers, they’re just regular people facing the terrors of war. The constant threat of air raids, the sheer scarcity of the food and supplies we take for granted everyday, the burning of the dead in shallow, open graves…all of it is heart-wrenching.

The film was so powerful because it gives you insight into how tough times must have been for Japanese civilians. The anime is touching because you see young Seita have to grow up far to quickly and face the realities of life and death far too soon.

I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, so I’ll just say that one saddest moment for me is when you see the flash back and hear the phonograph playing “There’s No Place Like Home.” Of course there are sadder moments, but that’s one I can say without giving up too much.

I highly recommend that you watch this anime because it’s masterfully done, but it’s also incredibly sad (or at least I thought so). If you decide to watch it, have some comedies ready to watch afterwards or make sure you’re in a super good mood before you start watching.

What’s the saddest anime/cartoon you’ve ever watched?


Donald Ash

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  • Julia

    I’ve seen this before! I had a terrible cough and I cried so much my cough got worse. :(
    It’s a real gem from Ghibli, aswell as Totoro.

    • Donald Ash

      Yeah, Julia, Hotaru no Haka is definitely not a film to which while you’re sick, huh? I think the movie’s so sad it makes it harder to recover. Totoro is also one of the ones I like.

  • Amanda

    I’ve been wanting to watch this for a while. A friend said it was a really powerful movie, but also warned me that it was very sad.

    • Donald Ash

      Your friend isn’t lying. I thought it was just people talking…but it’s totally true. But it’s worth watching because it is so moving. Just make sure you’re in a good mood first.

  • Peter

    It’s semi-autobiographical, written by Akiyuki Nosaka, to make amends to his younger sister for his quilt of what happened to her after the bombings.

    Very sad indeed, and doubly so knowing why it was created.

    • Donald Ash

      Yes…INCREDIBLY sad! I kind of want to read the Akiyuki Nosaka book, but then again I kind of don’t. Books usually give the writer a chance to go into more details, and I’m not sure I want to know anymore. I bet the book is really good, but there’s the potential that it could be sadder than the anime :o. Thanks for your comment, Peter.

  • fahad

    I watched this movie ONCE, and then I simply could not watch it again, EVER.
    Not because the movie was bad, in fact it was amazing, but because it was simply too depressing. I was in a funk for 3 full days after I watched.

    • Donald Ash

      I wholeheartedly agree, fahad. Hotaru no haka is notorious for that. I was depressed for a few days myself. Extremely well done, but incredibly sad :( . Thanks for stopping by.

  • LanceT

    Oh man, that movie, I can’t even express how sad it made me. Everyone should be made to watch just so they can learn a bitter lesson and maybe come to cherish what really matters in this world.

    An anime series that I found quite sad as well was Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 ( I honestly think this anime wouldn’t have been made if it had been after this latest disaster. It was one of those poignant “what-if’s”. I had remained quite steeled throughout my entire watching of the show until I hit something near the end that brought tears to my eyes that I was unable to hold back. I can’t for the life of me explain it. It just struck a chord somewhere in my mind, like I was caught completely unprepared even though I thought I was. Powerful stuff.

    • Donald Ash

      You are the fifth person I’ve heard that from. I’ve wanted to watch Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, but when enough people say something’s sad…it’s probably REALLY sad. I remember putting in Grave of the Fireflies thinking “How sad could it be?” It was incredibly sad. I will watch Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 eventually, but I have to be in VERY high spirits on the day that I do.

  • I watched this first when I was pretty young, less than 11 I think; and again a year or so ago, and the first time I was crying so hard it was kind of ridiculous. I was really apprehensive about watching it again with my class at school; lest they not have the same emotional reaction (and there was at least one jerk who came out of it perfectly happy and not even acknowledging it was sad) but it hit me just as hard.
    I home-stayed in Japan quite recently and I was told that the place where I stayed (Nnishinomiya) was very close to both the lake and train station.
    Generally whenever I’m asked for my saddest anything I usually say Grave of the Fireflies.

    • Donald Ash

      Right? I thought it was SUPER sad! Definitely not the kind of anime you wanna watch when you’re home sick, lol.

  • Arkady

    May be not so sad as the one you’ve described, but I saw it being a kid and was deeply impressed. It was “Without Family”, or in original “Chibikko Remi to meiken Capi” (1970), director Yugo Serikawa. The cartoon is based on French novel “Sans Familie”, 1878 by Hector Malot.

    The other was Taro, Son of the Dragon.

  • Sassafrassery

    The ending of Angel Beats made me cry but I don’t think it compares in sadness to Hotaru no Haka.

  • air made me feel sad

  • Historia Lenz

    This is one of the saddest indeed, but for me, it’s “Flanders no Inu.” I watched it as a kid in the Philippines, but it still makes me teary-eyed when I remember it. :(

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