Disclaimer: Spoilers Below
While it can be said that most anime will have different effects on the different people who view it, every once in awhile a show comes along that has a large emotional impact on almost anyone who decides to watch it through. While there are plenty of these types of series out there, here are a few that have stuck out to me over the years:
1. Clannad ~After Story~
To not include this series would probably be criminal. Clannad ~After Story~ is up there among my all time favorites, telling the story of Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa following the events from the first season of Clannad. It also makes for a painful watch for the unprepared, as we see Tomoya’s life fall apart and slowly get pulled back together again across five years. It’s a story of learning to stand on your own and recognizing when there are others in need of you. Tissues recommended.
© Sentai Filmworks
2. Grave of the Fireflies
“Life is hard” doesn’t quite cover it for Seita and Setsuko. They’ve been orphaned, are barely getting by, and the only family they have sends them away. After being used for the money they get from their mother’s kimono, they’re left with almost nothing save each other, and must find a way to survive on their own. Watching them struggle can be painful, made all the more so in knowing that this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence during the post-WWII era.
3. Ef: A Tale of Memories
In Shaft’s (Madoka Magica) Ef: A Tale of Memories, we’re told the stories of Chihiro Shindou and Renji Asou, as well as those of Hirono Hiro and Miyako Miyamura. For Chihiro, each day is a fragmented memory she can barely hold, as she suffers from short-term memory loss. Despite this, Renji Asou makes an effort to befriend her, and we see each day of hers become something new to treasure.
As for Hirono and Miyako, one fateful Christmas Eve she wrecks his bike in order to catch a purse thief, and they end up spending the evening together. As they come closer, we see them trying to tackle the trouble in their own lives, and how it’s hurting those around them. This series can also be difficult to watch, even a little disorienting at times as each side slowly comes together. Both tragic and romantic, it’s well worth checking out if you don’t mind the tears that may come with it.
© Sentai Filmworks
4. Angel Beats
We’re dead, and now we have to avoid disappearing. So begins Otonashi Yuzuru’s life in the world of Angel Beats, where everyone is trapped in an eternity of high school and must find a way to survive the attacks of an angel. Arguably the most accessible of any anime on this list, Angel Beats does a good job of mixing action and comedy into the mix without straying from the themes central to the show, particularly the willingness to accept the past and move on to a brighter future.
© Sentai Filmworks
5. AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day
If ever there was a series designed from the start to strum a viewer’s heartstrings, it would be AnoHana. Jinta and his friends have been out of touch for ages when the ghost of a childhood friend, Honma Meiko, returns to his life desiring to have a wish granted. The series pits its protagonists against many of their long-running fears and doubts, which have festered over years since their friend has died. It realistically portrays how many children would be expected to cope with the death of a friend, while also serving as a poignant reminder of the power within people to connect and heal one another.
© NIS America
6. 5 Centimeters Per Second
Makoto Shinkai’s (The Garden of Words) 5 Centimeters Per Second shares the story of Takaki Tohno and Akari Shinohara over the course of several years, from their early friendship and separation to the fading contact they maintain as time goes on. In that time, Takaki is forced to consider his own feelings and make a decision: To hold on or let go?
7. Voices of a Distant Star
Another Makoto Shinkai work, here we meet Mikako Nagamine and Noboru Terao, high school sweethearts separated by the stars as Mikako goes off on a dangerous space expedition. Their only comfort is the texts they receive from one another as she travels further away, and even the time between each text increases. Trusting another to wait for you, taking solace in their words when isolated from one another, this movie encapsulates those ideas beautifully in its 25 minute run-time.
© Anime Limited
These are some of the hardest hitting series I’ve watched, but readers can be certain there are more out there. Are there any big ones you feel I’ve missed?