There are different schools of thought regarding how crucial or not the death of characters is to make an anime good.
There are those who say it’s not necessary and those who prefer a lot of deaths to give more pathos to the story and some degree of realism.
That said, some finales feature the death of the main character(s) and have made the story just for using this trump card.
Here’s our personal list of the best anime where the main character dies, which will inevitable contain some spoilers to provide context.
Table of Contents
16. Figure 17 – Tsubasa & Hikaru
Figure 17 is a quite unique anime, combining sad and happy moments all through a 10-year-old girl protagonist.
Tsubasa Shiina recently moved to Hokkaido to live with her father. One night she witnesses a UFO crash in the woods near her home, and she rushes to the scene and finds the pilot, named D.D. in barely stable condition.
Also at the scene is present a Maguar, an alien form who has hatched aboard D.D.’s ship. As he is about to kill Tsubasa, D.D fuses with her body to form the Riberus Figure 17 battle armor.
Later D.D takes on an identical appearance to Tsubasa and begins to live with her, but the threat of the Maguar eggs scattered throughout Hokkaido will force them to set out to thwart the threat.
Their battle continues, growing more intense and agonizing, eventually culminating in the finale where D.D sacrifices herself to save Tsubasa in an emotion-filled scene.
15. Phantom Requiem of Phantom
Young Reiji is a normal teenager who just happens to witness one of the murders of Phantom while he is in America. We are talking about an unknown and feared killer from the organization known as Inferno.
The killer has long been spreading panic with his heinous actions. No one has ever seen him, witnessed his actions, or lived to tell the tale except Reiji.
Captured by members of the organization, the boy is forced to make a choice: immediate death or become an assassin in the service of the organization.
The boy will be guilty against his will of several crimes, abandoning the path of good.
But after following the events of Reiji, at the end of the events, we will watch a stray bullet fired by an assassin hit our protagonist, who will lose his life.
But the anime features an open ending, which may leave room for various interpretations, which you should watch to judge, but Reiji is most likely dead.
14. Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z is the second series of Dragon Ball, one of the most iconic and famous fighting anime ever, impossible to miss.
Several years after the first series, Goku is now married Chichi and had a son, Gohan. Peace as always won’t last long, because Radish, Goku’s brother sheds light on Goku’s roots.
Whenever a character dies within the series, they can be brought back to life by making a wish to the dragon Shenron.
This fate will also befall Goku, who will die more than once during the series, even though deaths in this series are not that big of a deal.
For this reason, Dragon Ball is low in our ranking since the tragedy of the moment will be dampened as the anime goes on.
13. Space Runaway Ideon
To ride on the enormous success of Gundam, Sunrise studio asked Yoshiyuki Tomino to direct another work. Space Runaway Ideon is decidedly darker and more distressing themes than its parent.
It’s the year 2300, and mankind managed to expand its achievements to space outside the Solar System.
One of the discovered planets is planet Solo, where they will find 3 vehicles and a spaceship (later called the Solo Ship) through excavations.
Not everything goes smoothly and aliens arrive at the excavation site in search of this technology just as the protagonists are there.
They manage to escape entering the just discovered machines, which go on to merge to form a giant robot.
But the aliens won’t give up, as they regard the super robot as a true deity, naming it Ideon.
Nothing good will come out of this war, and in the finale of this iconic anime, we will assist to nothing but death.
Indeed, the scene where the 2 protagonists wander in spirit form through space, depicting the aftermath of a terrible war, is iconic.
Re: Zero is one of the major exponents of Isekai anime, where the protagonist Subaru ends up following an accident in the mysterious magical world of Lugunica.
Here he will make the acquaintance of Emilia, a half-elf with whom he falls in love from the start.
But following an unfortunate accident in which they will both lose their lives, the protagonist will realize that he can come back to life, much like a respawn in video games. What mystery lies behind this strange event?
The premise of this anime may seem repetitive, but Re:Zero hides a great story.
The narrative device of Subaru’s respawn will make each of his deaths full of pathos and meaning, and will contribute to his character development.
11. Code Geass
Code Geass is a famous anime released between 2006 and 2007 by the collaboration between Sunrise studio and the world-famous female mangaka group CLAMP.
Japan has become a colony of Britannia and is now known as Area 11. Lelouch gets caught in the crossfire of a terroristic attack and manages to escape after receiving the Geass from C.C., a mysterious girl.
This power enables him to have absolute control over people simply by direct eye contact, allowing him to control their minds. Here starts his revenge against the oppressors with his trail of loyal followers.
But after following Lelouch’s tale throughout his story by giving us one of the best genius MC of all time, we also get to witness his death at the hands of Suzaku.
As we watch him take his last breaths in the arms of his sister, we will understand that it is merely the result of his last plot.
10. Chrono Crusade
Chrono Crusade is set in the 1920s in New York, with America just emerging from WWI. On the way to apparent prosperity, evil lurks in the shadows in the form of hellish demons.
The Order of the Magdalene, a military organization, was founded to fight this menace. Priests and exorcist nuns are charged with fighting such demons to protect the public order, and so are the two main characters, Chrono and Rosette.
Under his appearance Chrono Crusade hides a sad story of love and loss, culminating in its finale, where Rosette and Chrono die side by side.
But the most poignant thing is that Rosette will take her last breath without succeeding in her quest. Those who have watched it know that her mission is to fight the demons to find her lost brother.
9. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
300 years after the conflict between Earth and Mars, a woman named Cordelia begins a journey to Earth to discuss the independence of the Martian city of Chryse under Earth’s rule.
The 2 main characters, Mikazuki and Orga, are escort members to Cordelia. But when a rebel group takes advantage of the situation, Orga joins the coup. Mikazuki, to cope with the situation, will be forced to pilot an old Mobile Suit.
Any fan of the franchise already knows this, but the endings of Gundam series aren’t usually happy. Iron-Blooded Orphans goes beyond this and gives us one of the most dreadful endings ever.
During the final battle, all the main characters die, and the villains win. So yes, as you may have already guessed, everything is undone, even the sacrifices.
8. Terror in Resonance
Terror in Resonance is a captivating anime released in 2014 in just 11 episodes with a fascinating thriller and detective component featuring 2 of the best criminal MCs ever.
Tokyo is under attack by a group calling itself Sphinx which has begun planting explosive devices around the city and posing riddles via the Internet daring the police to solve them or the bomb will explode.
But who are these Sphinx, why do they act this way, and will the police be able to keep them at bay?
After 11 intense episodes, we will have our answer. Twelve and Nine emerge victorious from their struggle against the system.
But right after they achieved their goal, Twelve is hit by an unexpected bullet fired by the U.S. Forces, dying.
Nine, totally mentally broken, tries to stand up and get justice for his comrade but ends up dying in turn shortly after.
7. Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure – Phantom Blood
The first part of the huge and legendary anime Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, known as one of the best fighting anime ever.
The setting is Victorian England with a dark vibe, where Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando, 2 adopted brothers, live their lives and their eternal battle.
Although Phantom Blood is just an introduction to the better titles that come after it’s necessary to watch it to understand the entire JoJo universe.
And this is mainly because of its ending, which sets up so many of the future events. This starts with the death of Jonathan, the main character, which causes the events of the next series to unfold.
6. Clannad: After Story
Clannad is undoubtedly one of the best-known dramatic and saddest love stories, known as one of the romance with the saddest endings ever.
After Story is the second part of the story, where we see the main characters, Tomoya and Nagisa, now grown up and struggling with adult life.
As we know from the first series, Nagisa suffers from an illness, and although she manages to survive, she will lose her life in After Story, leaving Tomoya devastated.
But what is even worse is that Nagisa was pregnant with their child, who doesn’t make it too, adding salt to the wound.
5. Death Note
If you are a fan of psychological confrontations or the detective genre, Death Note is a must, as it is the perfect example of a psychological thriller.
Light Yagami is a young model student, who nevertheless harbors strong disgust with the world around him.
His life will change drastically when one day he sees a mysterious notebook, the Death Note, capable of causing the death of anyone simply by writing his name.
This time the death of the main character is kinda obvious. The anime really lets us know this, showing us a slow and painful decline of the character toward total insanity.
So we think it is agreeable that this is a well-deserved death that fits like a perfect ending to the evolution of a character who wanted too much.
4. Banana Fish
The main character Ash Lynx finds himself involved in the search for the truth about a mysterious succession of suicides that are happening in New York City. The only link between them is the constant repetition of the words Banana Fish.
After solving the mystery by going through hell, it finally seems to be over for Ash and Eiji, his beloved companion in one of the best male duos ever.
After Eiji, leaving a letter for Ash boards the plane that will take him back to Japan, our protagonist is finally convinced that he can leave his criminal life behind and make a fresh start.
But his hopes go up in smoke when he finds himself stabbed by Lao, leaving him for dead.
And get your tissues ready, because the scene where Ash slowly bleeds to death as he reads the letter from his beloved is poignant.
3. Grave of the Fireflies
Based on a semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, A Grave for Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli’s best movies, directed by master Isao Takahata.
Grave of the Fireflies begins with the ending, directly from the death of the protagonist: it’s 1945, at Kobe Station, and a boy is starving to death amid the indifference of passersby.
The only thing in his possession is a small tin box containing bones, which will be thrown away by an attendant. Here the ghost of the little girl appears and picks it up, soon being followed by the spirit of her dead brother.
We then move 3 months earlier, still in Kobe, and we can witness the story of the main characters from the beginning.
This movie doesn’t discount and shows you war and its barbarities in all its most terrifying cruelty.
2. Devilman Crybaby
Masaaki Yuasa decided to pay homage to the original Devilman by catapulting the events to the present day without unhinging its soul, creating one of the best anime where the MC is a demon lord.
Akira is far too good a boy, and not so is Ryo, his best friend who is more fearless and arrogant than he is.
One day, he will be persuaded by Ryo to go on a Sabbath, which ends up turning out to be a full-blown satanic ritual to attract demons.
Everyone will be possessed, including Akira, and thus is born Devilman, a man-devil with supernatural powers dedicated to the protection of humanity.
Devilman Crybaby has one of the most shocking endings ever. After discovering that Ryo, Akira’s best friend, is none other than Satan, we witness real carnage. Everyone dies, starting from supporting characters to Akira.
Even though the villain wins, we still witness a touching ending, with Ryo who, despite his nature, is torn by Akira’s death holding him in his arms as he takes his last breath.
1. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Earth is uninhabitable and follows the story of some bounty hunters aboard a spaceship called Bebop.
The adventures of Spike Spiegel and his fellow bounty hunters will show us what we can only dream of, accompanied by a soundtrack that many consider the best ever.
This anime literally has everything. Action, comedy, psychological and deep moments, and badass as well. And to follow the thread, he also has one of the most well-known and influential deaths ever.
Spike’s death in the final episode left, leaves, and will leave a hole in the heart of every anime fan, consecrating him as one of the best male leads in a fantasy anime.
The message is clear: you can’t run away from your past, but it’s never too late to make the right choice.