Top 17 Saddest Romance Anime Of All Time

Grab the tissues before watching these heartbreaking love stories.

Romance anime has the magical ability to whisk us away into a fantasy world where love conquers all. However, sometimes the greatest romances are the most tragic ones. If you’re looking for romance anime that will leave your heart aching and your eyes pooling with tears, this list is for you.

From devastating tales of loss to stories of loves that can never be, here are the 17 saddest romance anime that will shatter your heart. Just be sure to have some tissues on hand!

1. Your Lie in April: An Inspirational Yet Doomed Musical Romance

Kaori Miyazono in Your Lie in April

Our list starts with one of the most emotional rollercoasters in romance anime. Your Lie in April follows piano prodigy Kousei Arima who loses his ability to hear the piano after his mother’s death. That is until he meets the free-spirited violinist Kaori Miyazono who brings color back into his life in more ways than one. However, the anime will worm its way into your heart only to then shred it bit by bit thanks to its devastating ending.  

Your Lie in April movingly is a realistic depiction of how trauma and loss can dim one’s world, and how finding the right inspirational person can help reignite faded dreams and passions. The impending sense of doom as Kaori’s illness progresses adds an extra layer of tragedy to their short yet artistically fruitful romance.

2. Clannad & Clannad After Story: Parental Tragedy and Magical Resolution

Tomoya Okazaki in Clannad

While Clannad starts out lighthearted enough, its sequel series Clannad After Story will put you through the emotional wringer. It continues the story of Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa, two young lovers who prepare to start a family together after graduation. However (spoiler!), tragedy strikes early on when Nagisa dies giving birth to their daughter Ushio. 

Clannad After Story pulls no emotional punches, pushing sympathetic leads Tomoya and Nagisa as well as viewers through the wringer. It explores family bonds and personal growth in times of utter devastation when all seems lost. The fantasy elements lending a happier, magical ending after such travails make it all the more cathartic.

You’ll desperately need some tissues for the aftermath as Tomoya spirals into depression while raising Ushio alone. We won’t give away the ending, but let’s just say it’s emotionally devastating.  

3. Plastic Memories: Loving an Android with a Ticking Clock

Tsukasa Mizugaki and Isla in Plastic Memories

In the world of the anime Plastic Memories, terminally ill humans can have their memories and consciousness uploaded into robotic bodies called Giftias. However, these Giftias only have a lifespan of about 9 years before they must be deactivated and have their memories wiped. The story follows new Giftia retrieval agent Tsukasa Mizugaki who is paired up with the Giftia Isla. As you can expect, the two begin to fall in love just as Isla’s 9 year lifespan begins to expire. 

Plastic Memories uses the “doomed romance” trope to full effect, setting up the central love story to tug at heartstrings right from the start. The combination of its sci-fi premise about android mortality and the ensuing race against time makes their star-crossed relationship all the more poignant.

4. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day : Ghostly Lost Youth and Buried Regrets

Meiko Honma in Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Like many entries on this list, Anohana will lure you in with its cute art style and nostalgic coming-of-age premise. A group of childhood friends have grown apart after the death of their friend Menma. But they reconnect in their teen years when the ghost of Menma appears to one of them, wishing to grant her wish so she can move on to the afterlife. Bittersweet feelings ensue as the friends reconcile while slowly helping Menma to find peace. 

Anohana captures the wistfulness of losing childhood innocence and friendships to tragedy. Though Menma herself is more plot device than fully realized character, she represents the lingering pain of mistakes and failures to communicate that can haunt people for years if left unaddressed.

5. The Anthem of the Heart: Healing Childhood Shame and Trauma

Jun Naruse in The Anthem of the Heart

At first glance, Jun Naruse seems cold and unable to convey emotion. She  is unable to speak under threat of a curse that could harm loved ones if she does. Her silence over her guilt involving her parents’ divorce has made her build walls around her heart. However, joining a community outreach group at school challenges those walls as she works with social committee president Daiki, developing a connection with him she fears could undo years of emotional armor.

The Anthem of the Heart deftly utilizes its fantastical speech taboo curse premise to explore real issues of childhood shame, social anxiety stemming from home trauma, and the courage to free oneself from past pain in order to love fully. Jun and Daiki’s tentative bond breaking through her imposing silence becomes quite moving.

6. Orange: Changing Fate with Foreknowledge

Kakeru Naruse in Orange

Would you change the past if you were given the chance? This is the central dilemma of Orange, a romantic drama with a time travel twist. One day Naho receives a letter from her future self detailing regrets surrounding the new transfer student Kakeru. Before long, Naho finds herself falling for Kakeru just as the contents of the letter warn her of his tragic fate. 

Will Naho choose to alter the course of events? Either way, Orange is sure to give you all the bittersweet feels.

7. 5 Centimeters Per Second: Longing across the Distance of Time

Akari Shinohara in 5 Centimeters Per Second

Makoto and Akari form an instant connection when Akari moves into Makoto’s elementary school class. However, fate seems intent on keeping them apart. The film 5 Centimeters Per Second shows their friendship painfully growing distant as their circumstances in life change. 

They never stop yearning for that deep connection they formed as children. Yet sometimes love means having to let go. And the final scene where they pass each other after years apart will absolutely wreck you.  

8. Angel Beats!: Rebels Versus the Afterlife Guide

Ōyama in Angel Beats!

Angel Beats! starts off chaotic with new arrival Otonashi finding himself recruited into the Afterlife Battlefront at a high school waging war against…God? But even amidst all the offbeat action and comic relief, a tragic love story emerges from the shadows. At the center lies the Afterlife Battlefront’s villainous foe Tenshi who lives alone without memories of her past. 

As key details about Tenshi’s backstory and connection with Otonashi rise to light, prepare for some bittersweet romance feels. Just be sure to watch past the credits of the final episode for a touching last scene.

9. Hotarubi no Mori e: A Spirit Realm First Love

Ryouta in Hotarubi no Mori e

Sometimes the greatest romances are the briefest ones. Hotarubi no Mori e embodies this maxim with its short but bittersweet tale of first love. When six year old Hotaru gets lost in an enchanted forest, she is helped by a young forest spirit named Gin. They continue to meet every summer, slowly forming a bond that blossoms into love over time. 

Yet their romance is star-crossed as Gin will disappear if a human ever touches him. How can they ever be together? Reaching just 45 minutes long, this film will quickly win your heart just to then repeatedly pierce it.

10. True Tears: Messy High School Love Geometry

Hiromi Yuasa in True Tears

True Tears may start off fairly typical with high school student Shinichirō caught in a love triangle between two girls. But its surprising depth and bittersweet resonance in exploring the various faces of love set it apart. 

While on the surface it’s about who Shinichirō will end up choosing, the series deftly focuses on the quiet heartbreaks, family ties, and painful betrayals surrounding Shinichirō’s choice. Unexpected and utterly devastating stuff. 

On the surface depicting a typical adolescent romantic drama, True Tears intricately explores different notions of love beyond just romantic attraction. The series stands out in its thoughtful, patient look at how one comes of age both emotionally and sexually in learning how to love someone truly, wounds and all.

11. Golden Time: Amnesia Splits Lover in Two

Koko Kaga and Banri Tada in Golden Time

Golden Time seems at first to avoid the tragic romance trope by focusing on Banri Tada who suffers amnesia after a devastating accident that erases his memories since entering college. All seems to be going well as he adjusts to a new life with girlfriend Koko and friends…until echoes from Banri’s past subconscious threaten his relationship. 

Will Banri choose his current life or reclaim his past? Golden Time packs in the drama and angst as it heads to its unexpected conclusion. But not before putting viewers through an emotional rollercoaster in getting there.

12.  I Want to Eat Your Pancreas: Saccharine Romance Takes a Backseat to Raw Survival

Sakura Yamauchi and Haruki Shiga in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a beautifully tragic anime that explores themes of mortality, friendship, and the bittersweet beauty of living life to the fullest. While it’s often referred to as one of the saddest romance anime, the story’s depth goes far beyond just heartbreak.

While the anime’s melancholic tone resonates deeply, it’s important to remember that I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is ultimately a story about hope and resilience. It celebrates the beauty of life, even in the face of death, and encourages us to live each day to the fullest.

13. Voices of a Distant Star: Texting Across Cosmic Distance

Voices of a Distant Star

At only 25 minutes long, Voices of a Distant Star packs quite the emotional punch. It follows middle school students Mikako and Noboru who grow closer as Noboru prepares to depart for space training with the mecha pilots fighting against an alien race invading the solar system. 

As the war rages on they stay in touch via text messages which take longer to reach each other across the vastness of space. How long can their relationship survive the distance of space and time? While short, Voices of a Distant Star will pierce your heart all the same.

14. Scum’s Wish: Misplaced High School Affections

Akane Minagawa and Narumi Kanai in Scum's Wish

On its surface, Scum’s Wish seems like your typical slice-of-life, love-polygon series. But it sets itself apart by tackling loneliness and adolescent sexuality with unflinching honesty. When Mugi and Hanabi discover both secretly harbor unrequited crushes on their respective teachers, they attempt to use each other to numb the pain of heartbreak.

What follows is a messy tale of misplaced affections and confused emotions. Yet amidst the chaos, Scum’s Wish touchingly captures our universal longing for connection. Just brace yourself for loads of heartaches.

15. White Album 2: Fracturing Bonds of Musical Friends

Kazusa Touma and Haruki Kitahara in White Album

White Album 2 is a rare harem anime that goes to unexpectedly somber places. It focuses on normal college guy Haruki Kitahara who gets dragged into a love triangle with Setsuna Ogiso and Kazusa Touma after they form a band together. 

But what seems like a lighthearted slice-of-life takes a serious turn halfway through as pent-up tensions boil over during an emotional confrontation on a snowy mountainside. Cue the waterworks as relationships shatter amidst the icy terrain and everyone is left picking up the pieces in the aftermath.

16. EF: A Tale of Memories & Melodies: Past Versus Future Romantic Fate

EF: A Tale of Memories & Melodies

EF: A Tale of Memories & Melodies is made up of two anime series exploring sweet yet tragic tales of love. Memories focuses on the budding romance between Renji Aso and shy Chihiro Shindō, even as Renji’s forgotten past romance haunts him.

Meanwhile, Melodies explores aspiring writer Kuze Shūichi and the deep connection he forms with Yū Himura and Yū’s cousin Mizuki Hayama. However, various circumstances conspire to keep the couples seemingly fated to be apart. EF packs all the bittersweet emotional feelings into the journey of its central couples finding each other against the odds.

17. Maison Ikkoku: Culture Clash Courtship After Loss

Ibuki Yagami in maisson ikkoku

Last but not least in our saddest romance anime is Maison Ikkoku, one of the classics of the 1980s shōjo genre. Godai is a ronin uncertain about his future who moves into the run-down boarding house Maison Ikkoku. There he often clashes with the widowed landlady Kyōko Otonashi, even as he finds himself falling for her. Mix in wacky side characters and a love polygon involving Kyōko’s old flame.

While a comedy at heart, Maison Ikkoku turns on the waterworks when exploring Godai and Kyōko’s slow-burn romance filled with insecurities and misunderstandings keeping them seemingly apart. Yet their eventual union feels all the more earned after going through so many bittersweet tribulations to find each other.

While romantic tragedies in anime can leave us emotionally drained, there’s something cathartic about watching these stories unfold. We hurt for the characters we’ve come to care for, and we can’t help being moved by the depth of their love and personal struggles. Though tragic, these anime remind us of the enduring power of love, loss and the full spectrum of human emotions that connect us. 

For those times when you want to just have a good cry or wallow in melancholy feelings, you can’t go wrong with these 17 painfully sad, yet beautifully poignant romance anime. Just be sure to take good care of your heart once the credits start rolling.