HoyvinGlavin64: So, we’re all on the same page that this article is most likely going to be all spoilers all the time, right? Good. You probably shouldn’t watch this video if you haven’t seen AnoHana in its entirety before.
Dismissing Grave of the Fireflies (which is brilliantly depressing but feels too obvious), it was between this tear-jerker series ending and one other scene which we’ll be discussing later, but I ultimately went with Menma’s departure from this realm after fulfilling her wish and helping her friends. It’s sad but heartwarming. I haven’t rewatched this ending until preparing for this article and damn it, it got to me again! Menma, I know you wanted Jinta to cry to fulfill your promise to his mom, but you just had to make EVERYONE ELSE cry too!
Rilakkulina: I have definitely drunk karaoked Secret Base and started crying before. “Mitsuketa!” (Note: I am of legal age. Don’t break the law, kids.)
Enzo Honestly, that would have been the other scene atop my list here, obvious as it is. It’s just so darn effective,the perfect culmination of what the story had been building towards. I actually shouted “Mada nai, yo!” a few times when I went to Jourinji in Chichibu - couldn’t help myself - and teared up a bit just being there. AnoHana isn’t a perfect anime by any means but it’s one of the most emotionally powerful I’ve seen.
Scamp: I’m not terribly fond of Ano Hana myself and this scene in particular I’m not a fan of. Well….OK, that’s a huge understatement. It may be my single least favourite scene in all of anime. It became my reference point for anime teen melodrama and why I hate it, giving me a better understanding of why I disliked similar anime in the past in and helped me avoid thematically and structurally similar anime in the future. It was a huge part of why in 2011 I very nearly burned out on anime until Daily Lives of Highschool Boys arrived, put an arm around my shoulder, and said “don’t worry, we know”. I could go on but get me into an Ano Hana rant and I’ll be here all day. So yeah, I’ll stop now…
melodius: I keep meaning to watch this series and see what all the fuss is about, so I don’t want to watch this scene ahead of time and have it spoil the moment. It seems to be the go-to scene when people mention tear-jerkers and that’s all I know.
Season One Finale
melodius: It’s said that narratives are only as good as their villain. However, Makishima wasn’t a character who is endearing or relatable in any sense. He wasn’t sympathetic, misguided, and he didn’t show any trace of regret for his actions. Right to the end, he was prepared to kill in order to realise his vision of a better world. So why, then, do I consider this to be one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever watched?
Put simply, it’s because his departure was quiet and unremarkable. A lot of villains will go out with a bang: eviscerated, pulverised, or otherwise spectacularly vanquished by the series protagonist when their final plans are sabotaged. They get a dramatic exit. But Makishima was a wounded man. He was a wounded man run to exhaustion by the one hunting him, and when he finally gave up on the chase, he fell to his knees, spread his arms to the skies, and waited like a criminal awaiting execution.
His death was dissatisfying. It wasn’t the kind of ending you would expect a criminal mastermind to have. But it wasn’t only dissatisfying, it was sad. Between the quiet orchestral piano trilling in the background and the loud rush of wind rippling through wheat, Makishima died accepting that it was an inevitable outcome. He left behind no legacy and no memory of himself except in those personally involved with his pursuit and death, and most notably, he left no-one - not even Kougami - with a sense of victory.
As a final, poignant note, the music track is known as “Rakuen”, meaning “paradise”.
Other Writer’s Comments
Rilakkulina: We all love some good justice porn where the nasty villain gets all that comes to them, but I think there’s something to be said about anti-climatic endings, and Pycho-Pass seems to me the perfect show to make that kind of thing work.
HoyvinGlavin64: Gen Urobuchi sure knows how to write great antagonists. See also: Kyubey, though I’m not sure anything could make killing that motherf***** sad (Makashima’s death, in contrast, is sad because of his humanity).
Enzo Honestly, I’d pretty much checked-out on Psycho Pass by the time it ended, but killing off Makashima in such an anti-climactic fashion was the final straw. He was a great antagonist, no question about it, but I felt more disillususionment at that moment than anything else.
melodius: @Enzo Believe me, I was angry with the conclusion when I first watched, until I thought about why Urobuchi chose the ending he did. We weren’t meant to feel happy with it because it’s a series about a dystopic world trying to be a utopia and that dystopia did not end up disrupted.
Scamp: There’s something about the futility of the Psycho Pass ending that stuck with me. We learned everything but could change nothing. Makishima was stopped but the cycle began anew. It’s a striking, memorable ending that I disliked at the time but really grew to respect. Although I don’t know about it making me emotional though.
I Will Never Look at Dogs the Same Way Again
Rilakkulina: Remember how HoyvinGlavin64 mentioned a runner-up choice? Yeah, it’s this scene, and it should come across as a surprise to no one that it’s one of our selections.
I picked this episode because it is the single most enduring mini-arc from any anime amongst the anime fandom, and possesses the power to make even the hardest of hearts sad with a single anime frame. I mean, I can’t browse any thread about sad anime scenes, messed up people/actions in anime, or anime dogs (you guys are twisted, twisted people) without dark jokes about Nina. There’s a whole series of memes featuring her, for Christ’s sake. And even though I watched FMA: B several years ago, I still feel the urge to roll into a ball and ugly sob.
Hiromu Arakawa is really good at punching you in the gut with feels. While Nina Tucker is probably the most potent sad moment in FMA, a certain supporting character’s death fairly early in the series affected me so badly I stopped reading the manga for years before I picked up Brotherhood due to peer pressure.
I’m more of a manga reader to be honest, and if that was an option, I might have gone with Chrno Crusade or Hikaru no Go, the latter of which makes me angry cry simply because the ending was so unsatisfying.
HoyvinGlavin64: Confession: I never really got into Brotherhood. I know it’s supposed to get great after it diverges from the 2003 anime, but the first season where it’s just the first half of the old series but with weaker pacing/development since they assume everyone’s seen it already just seemed like a slog to me. Maybe I can skip over that stuff and get into it? Watching Brotherhood’s version of this incredibly disturbing scene still packs a wallop, but I think it might be even more powerful in the 2003 anime with two episodes of build-up showing Nina’s normal happy life before “The Night of the Chimera’s Cry” rather than telling the story in just one episode like Brotherhood did.
Rilakkulina: You could probably just skip it and go straight to where the plots diverge. I personally like that it doesn’t spend as much time developing the plot/characters.
Scamp: I’m on a similar page in that I remember this far more strongly in the original Full Metal Alchemist. That may have simply been because I saw that first, although it is generally agreed that the original FMA did a lot of the earlier material better.
melodius: People often view the reboots more critically than they do the original contact (keep those nostalgia goggles well in mind, everyone!). For me, the dub voices get in the way of any feeling I have towards this scene, but I’ve seen the meme so many times that’s probably also taken away some of the sensitivity. There were quite a few touching scenes in FMA and I should really catch up now that the original canon material has concluded.
Voice Actor Breakthrough
Scamp: I have a very personal, fundamental dislike of what most people consider standard tearjerker material, as you may have gathered from my little Ano Hana rant earlier. This may be because my heart is black and shrivelled, resembling somewhere between a prune and a lump of coal. Hence I was tempted to pick something more out-there conceptually, like nearly crying with happiness at the ridiculousness of the ending of Aquarion EVOL. But I ended up going for something a bit more normal anyway with this scene from Shirobako.
For me, the more powerful scenes are the ones where you see someone come back from their worst. This scene doesn’t work if we don’t see Shizuka drinking beers alone in her room, swearing at the young successful voice actress on TV. It doesn’t work if we haven’t seen all her buddies succeed around her while she still toils as a waitress. We see her jumping around in a monster suit to appease children. Without that, the emotional release when we finally see her breakthrough, realise she’s finally got that piece of luck she desperately needed, doesn’t have anything like the same impact.
HoyvinGlavin64: Haven’t watched this anime myself, though it seems interesting.
melodius: Ditto the above, but it’s something that seemed to come with good recommendations. It’s nice to have a teary scene here which ends on a positive note rather than a mournful one. I can’t say I’ve ever cried with happiness but I know the feeling.
Enzo: I can’t not give mention to other scenes that merit consideration here - in addition to the AnoHana above, I’d bring up the scene in Uchouten Kazoku where the Tanuki family gathers after their father’s death, and the moment in Hikaru no Go when Hikaru realizes how much he misses Sai and breaks down. But I have to go with the final scene of Seirei no Moribito, just because it was so emotionally true. That series had so much buy-in after 26 near-perfect episodes, and both Balsa and Chagum had sacrificed so much during the course of the series. They deserved to be together, and they couldn’t be - and that was almost unbearbly sad for me.
What really makes that scene and the entire show arguably anime’s best ever is that these characters are so noble, yet so human. They’re good people with flaws who have depths of remarkable empathy inside them, and they bring out the best in each other. Seirei no Moribito is proof that there are no shortcuts to great fiction - you just have to build the castle brick by brick.
Scamp: For as much as I like the director’s other anime, Stand Alone Complex and Eden of the East, I could never get into Moribito. I tried several times too.
HoyvinGlavin64: In the same boat as Scamp on this one.
melodius: I haven’t even heard of it so I can’t say whether I like or dislike or even understand, unfortunately. It sounds like a slow-burner though, which is always nice.
Rilakkulina: Honestly the only reason I know this anime is because Enzo’s written several articles mentioning it, so… same.
HoyvinGlavin64: Interesting that this topic inspired more debates than the funniest scenes did, given they always say comedy’s the most subjective art. That might be the case, but arguing the effectiveness of a sad scene seems to arouse more passionate disagreements.
melodius: I think it’s because we’ve all lived different lives and we come to have different things which bring on the tears more than others. I’m someone who will cry over a character whose life’s work (whether “bad” or “good”) ends up a futile endeavour, while others clearly empathise with farewells and goodbyes. Personally I can’t cry more than once over the latter kinds (if I do at all), but I’ll always grow melancholy thinking about characters who did their best and then fell short.
Enzo: FWIW I agree comedy is the most subjective genre there is, at least in my experience. Sadness is subjective too of course, but I think there’s more of a universality to it somehow. I’m sad, for example, that no one else on this roundtable loves Seirei no Moribito - but I doubt any of you are!
Scamp: While comedy is more subjective, the thing with emotional scenes that draws so much debate is because it’s very easy to take any criticism of the scene as a criticism of you. When another person says a scene is bad that you cried at, it feels like they are saying your feelings are trite and fake.
Rilakkulina: I think it’s interesting that we chose scenes that evoke very different kinds of sadness. We’ve covered reconcilliation and reunions, dissatisfaction, indignation, success after failure, and farewells. I’m also surprised no one went for the other most obvious choice besides AnoHana and FMA (cough Clannad cough).