Depression is raw and consuming, affecting millions of people across the world. It comes in all shapes and sizes, affects all races and genders, and hides in plain sight.
While people watch television shows and movies to be entertained, it is also about finding those characters who tug at their heartstrings. Those are the characters that keep people watching, hoping that the character will finally find their happily ever after. Anime is no different. These characters all suffer from depression in their own unique way, living tragic lives and showing that depression is very real.
Warning: There are spoilers contained in this article of Orange, Dragon Ball Z, Seven Deadly Sins, and Naruto.
Kakeru – Orange
In the anime Orange, Naho Takamiya is a teenager who receives a mysterious letter that claims to be from her future self. Regretting mistakes of the past, future Naho tells her past self that there will be a new boy in school – Kakera Naruse – and she must befriend him to prevent his suicide.
After his mother’s suicide, Kakera blames himself and contemplates joining her. As Naho and her friends become friends with Kakera, they help him open up about his depression and seek help.
The anime is about righting the wrongs of the past, the value of friendship, and helping those who need it the most.
Aang – Avatar: the Last Airbender
Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the most popular shows on this list. Known for its global and historical context, the show has been enjoyed by children and adults alike, so facing tough issues like depression may make it easier for families to discuss the serious issue.
After being frozen in ice for 100 years, Aang finds out his entire nation was killed and he is the last Air Nomad. While Aang seems like a happy-go-lucky kid, he is ridden with guilt, blaming himself for what happened to his people, since he wasn’t there to prevent it.
Aang battles depression but hides it behind a wall of pranks, jokes, and smiles. All of his pent-up anger, depression, and anxiety is played out on screen throughout the series, but even more so during the final few episodes.
Crona – Soul Eater
Crona, the daughter of Medusa Gorgon, is mentally unbalanced due to severe abuse from her mother in Soul Eater. She wields a demon sword – Ragnarok – created by her mother with a combination of black blood and Cora’s own blood. In Soul Eater, black blood causes people to go mad, a sickness known as Black Blood’s Madness.
Crona writes poems so depressing they have people who read them also sinking into depression and wishing they were never born.
Gohan – Dragon Ball Z
In Dragon Ball Z‘s world of superpowered humans and aliens, little Gohan has the weight of the world on his shoulders. As one of the most powerful beings in creation, Gohan is expected to fight and save the world, when all he really wants to do is just be a kid.
He is expected to be the perfect fighter, the perfect son, and the perfect student, which is a lot to put on a kid. His dad, Goku, is always dead, and his mom makes him do homework all the time, so of course he’s depressed.
The Elric Brothers – Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
One of the most popular – and heartbreaking – anime of all time is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who have lost everything – their mother, their father, and even part of themselves.
While attempting to bring their mother back from the dead through transmutation, Alphonse is completely disintegrated, and Edward loses a leg. Not ready to give up, Edward gives his right arm to bring his brother’s soul back from the dead – housed inside a suit of armor that was in their basement.
The emotional rollercoaster of a story is about love, loss, and brotherhood. It’s heartbreaking to see everything they have to go through, but inspiring to see their will to fight.
Ai Enma – Hell Girl
Ai Enma is a girl who can’t catch a break. She was bullied by her classmates, then chosen by her village to be a human sacrifice. While being buried alive, Ai vowed to return for vengeance. She awakens as a vengeful spirit named Hell Girl, who massacres the entire village for their atrocities.
To ensure her parents, who were murdered by the same villagers that killed her, get out of Hell, Ai agrees to travel the world, sending bad people to Hell. That’s a lot of emotional trauma for a 13-year-old girl.
Meliodas – Seven Deadly Sins
In Seven Deadly Sins, Meliodas lives in torment. There are not many things worse than watching the people they love die. Meliodas has watched the woman he loves die more than a hundred times, after being cursed by their own parents.
While Elizabeth is cursed to die over and over again, Meliodas is cursed to watch helplessly. The torment is unbearable, with him trying and failing to break the curse countless times.
Itachi – Naruto
Another hugely popular and successful anime on this list in Naruto. Itachi Uchiha was surrounded by death and destruction as a child, tormenting his childhood. After finding out his entire village was going to be destroyed, Itachi formed an alliance to save his village and little brother Sasuke – agreeing to slaughter his own clan. Itachi was forced into the life of a traitor and villain in order to protect his brother.
Known as a villain throughout the series, Itachi lived the hard life of a double agent – working with the enemy while feeding information to his village. Itachi’s motivations were all done out of love, which makes his story even more tragic.
Satou Tatasuhiro and Misaki Nakahara – Welcome to the N.H.K.
In Welcome to the N.H.K., Satou Tatasuhiro suffers from depression and paranoid delusions, unable to leave his own house. He is also an avid conspiracy theorist, who believes Nihol Hikikomori Kyōkai – an imaginary evil organization – is targeting him and other people through the media.
Misaki Nakahara also suffers from depression but hides behind a smile while trying to help Satou, but she also uses and manipulates him to make herself feel better. After Misaki attempts suicide, the two form a reverse suicide pact, agreeing not to kill themselves. When feeling helpless, they agree to call each other and talk it through.
Violet Evergarden – Violet Evergarden
Growing up as an orphaned nameless child who becomes a weapon of war, Violet Evergarden only receives a name after being found and given as a gift to a man named Gilbert Bougainvillea. Gilbert is a major in the Leidenschaftlich army and is the first person to treat Violet as a human, teaching her to read, write and speak, and growing to love like a daughter. Before going missing in action and presumed dead, Gilbert tells Violet he loves her.
As seemingly the saddest and most unloved girl in the world, Violet tries to figure out what it means to “love” a person, a word previously unknown to her because Gilbert was the only person to ever care for her.