Depressed Anime Characters
Anime can be depressing! Not all the time, but when it comes to getting your angst on there’s no medium like Japanese cartoons. Join us for a summary of 21 of the most depressed anime characters – from sad boy favourites like Shinji to the post-modern misery of Homura. Depressed Anime Characters are as diverse as group as any.
Before we get started, as an article on depression, the expected content warnings apply – mentions of suicide, self-destruction and suffering lie ahead. Here’s 21 of the Most Depressed Anime Characters.
1. Shinji Ikari (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
Let’s start with the obvious. Shinji gets a lot of crap for being miserable and whiny, and some of that is justified, but the kid is also dealing with one of the worst fathers in existence and a pseudo-incestuous crush on his mum’s clone. And driving a giant robot. It’s a rough time for a teenager, so I might be alone in this but I hope the upcoming final reboot movie gives him something to smile about.
2. Psyduck (Pokemon)
Oh, the existential angst of Psyduck. He suffers from a permanent headache and occasionally triggers massive psychic storms the like of which are normally only found in X-Men comics. He is a duck who contains multitudes, and all of them are sad.
3. Legoshi (Beastars)
Yes, it’s a 3D furry anime, and it’s really good. Protagonist Legoshi is a wolf who has a lot on his plate- homoerotic tension with his snarky deer frenemy, family secrets, a doomed romance with a rabbit, along with general self-hatred for wanting to eat most of his classmates.
4. Al Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)
So you’re a little kid, and your dad leaves. That sucks. Then your mum dies. That also sucks. So you and your older brother decide to bring her back from the dead. This inevitably goes wrong, and you end up a disembodied soul bound to a suit of armour. Al has a lot going on and it is all very bad! What makes it worse is how hard the kid tries to be cheerful for his brother, which works some of the time except for when it doesn’t. Which is why he’s not the only Elric on this list.
5. Ed Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)
So you’re a little kid and your dad is gone, your mum is dead, and you manage to lose your brother’s body when you’re trying to bring her back. Now you’re like fourteen and you’re carrying the burden of saving the world- and more importantly to you- saving your brother. And you are also entirely without decent adult support. Also you’re so short that everyone assumes your little brother is the main character! Ed turns his angst outwards and spends a lot of time shouting, but the kid is miserable.
6. Clare (Claymore)
I mean, I say Clare but all of the Claymores are miserable. These girls are basically walking weapons, doomed to become the monsters they routinely get ripped apart fighting, and hated by all the normal humans around them. Clare gets the slot because she’s the protagonist so her depression gets the most focus but the rest of this article could be Claymores all the way down.
7. Lain Iwakura (Serial Experiments Lain)
She’s a computer program who thinks she’s a person then spends a whole anime slowly disengaging from humanity. Very sad times! And honestly, given that her separation from her personhood involves slowly surrounding herself with computers and refusing to leave her bedroom, very relatable.
8. Homura Akemi (Madoka Magica)
In Madoka, Magical Girls are soul batteries who run the world with their depression, so just like the Claymores they could all fit in here. Homura gets the slot because, following the death of the girl she’s in love with, she’s so miserable that she destroys the world over and over again to save her. And her main way of saving her is to drive her away, so they can’t even be together. This girl needs a new hobby.
9. Asuka Langley Soryu (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
Bet you thought we were done with Eva, but nope. Nobody on this show is mentally healthy- but we’d be here all day if we got into listing everyone. Instead, I’ll focus on the opposite end of the spectrum from Shinji: depression takes many forms and while Asuka might be loud mouthed and obnoxious, she’s also so self-destructive that she likes getting into robot fights. Also she found her mum’s post suicide corpse when she was a kid! That’s some dark stuff.
10. Kiki (Kiki’s Delivery Service)
We go right from finding your mum’s dead body to a beloved kids movie. That’s how it goes sometimes. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a charming, awesome, film about a little witch striking out on her own and triumphing over adversity. And that adversary is burnout related depression. After pushing herself too hard and dealing with the isolation of moving to a new place, Kiki finds herself barely able to get out of bed and far too miserable to use magic. Anyone who’s dealt with real depression knows what that feels like – even if you aren’t a witch.
11. Nozomu Itoshiki (Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei)
This guy lives on a knife edge; he dangles like a miserable pendulum over his constant depression. Nozomu is a teacher, and everything he encounters causes him to scream about his despair and curl into the foetal position. He is introduced to us, and his student, in the middle of a suicide attempt, and things do not get better from there. For someone this unhappy and this unaware of how to find a psychiatrist, that is as good as it gets.
12. Czeslaw Meyer (Baccano!)
Baccano! is a very fun show. Gangsters, trains with silly names, immortality and golems all collide in 1920s America and everyone has a great time. Everyone except for Czeslaw. He looks ten, but he’s a few hundred years old, and while that would be enough to get most people feeling isolated, Czeslaw takes it a step further.
See, he spent most of that time being tortured to death (then coming back to life) at the hands of a scientist who wanted to test the extents of his immortality. It’s no wonder that he’s more than a little jaded when we meet him, and very surprising that Baccano! manages to be as delightful as it is with something like this in it.
13. Ai Enma (Hell Girl)
From one tortured child to another! Ai’s had a really rough time. She went from being bullied as a kid to being chosen as a child sacrifice, to hiding from her village to avoid said sacrifice, to being found and buried alive. The mental trauma pushed her so hard that she rose up as a vengeful spirit and burned her village to the ground- and really, who can blame her? If I had magic powers I’d have done the same thing to the last guy who argued with me about movies.
Unfortunately, Ai has more suffering to come. Her parents were murdered by the villagers when they discovered that they’d faked her sacrifice, so the Master of Hell makes her an offer. If she works for him her mum and dad get to go to heaven. As part of this Ai needs to stop feeling anything- including her own hatred and misery. This girl can’t even be depressed about how depressed she is. That’s peak performance.
14. Suzaku Kururugi (Code Geas)
On the surface Suzaku seems to have done okay for himself. Sure, he got orphaned when he was a kid and sure, he suffers from institutionalised anti-Japanese racism in the dystopian world of Britannia, but hey, he’s been admitted to a fancy school and reunited with his old friend LeLouch. Except this is all an act put on to hide just how messed up he is.
Ten-year-old Suzaku killed his dad, the Emperor of Japan, in an effort to end the war and spare his people- but ended up just causing more problems. Guilt ridden, Suzaku spends most of the early parts of Code Geas accepting dangerous missions in the hope that they’ll kill him, which only gets worse when his girlfriend dies.
And then things get weird when he’s mind controlled with the order to ‘live’. Suzaku, the ultimate death-seeker, can no longer seek death. I mean I guess it’s cheaper than therapy?
15. Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury (Sailor Moon)
Bear with me. Sailor Moon is an archetypal Magical Girl series where princesses save the day. Unless you watched the show, you probably don’t know that it’s also occasionally emotionally devastating. At the end of the first season, the Sailor Scouts all die! Sure they come back to life again afterwards, but Ami still kills herself on screen because she thinks she’ll be useless in the upcoming battle. It’s even worse because the show hasn’t made a big deal of her feeling like that before – just how much are you bottling up, Mercury?
16. Seita Yokokawa (Grave of the Fireflies)
This one might be cheating since it’s hard to tell if Seita is sadder than I am, but Grave of the Fireflies is miserable enough to get away with it. Seita and his sister Setsuko are orphaned during WWII, and set out to live by themselves. It does not go well and both kids starve to death. That’s the movie! More exactly, Seita dies alone in a train station after trying and failing to save his sister. He’s 14 and clutching her ashes in the tin which used to hold her favourite sweets. What makes it worse is that the book it’s based on is inspired by the real life experiences of the author.
17. Jiro Horikoshi (The Wind Rises)
While we’re on the subject of real-life tragedy around WWII…
This movie follows Jiro Horikoshi as his designs for airplanes are taken out of his hands and used to cause huge suffering. The movie functions as a metaphor for the loss of creative control as well as making stark anti-war statements. While the bittersweet ending sees Jiro come to terms with his life’s work and the repercussions of it, it’s still a tough watch.
18. Wormmon (Digimon Adventure)
To begin with, his name is Wormmon. That’s not a good start to any life. Wormmon’s suffering began when he was partnered with Ken, a human boy meant to be his best friend. Unfortunately nobody told Ken he was in a kids show, so he decided to go evil and conquer the Digital World by murdering and mind controlling all the Digimon. Wormmon stayed loyal to him, eventually saving his life in an act which finally persuaded Ken that Digimon were sentient. Sucks that it took so long!
19. Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)
Nihilistic, superficially careless and deeply unhappy, Spike is a complicated guy in a complicated universe. Unlike most of the characters on this list, Spike gets slowly better as his found family of crewmates reminds him that caring about other people is a good thing. Not that that goes well for him, but you can’t have it all.
20. Korosensei (Assasination Classroom)
Beginning life in the slums, Koro learned to kill to survive and eventually became a famous assassin. This led him to take on an apprentice, a kid who he treated cruelly because of his own cruel upbringing, and who eventually betrayed him.
He ended up in an experimental lab which both taught him about compassion, and transformed him into a yellow octopus, as you would expect. Koro was a bad guy made by bad circumstances, and while that doesn’t excuse murder it does explain just why he spends most of the show trying to get people to kill him.
21. Ash Ketchum (Pokemon)
He’s been ten years old for over a decade. He will never be the very best. He will only continue, forever.
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