While the gigantic robots and gratuitous nudity were certainly eye-catching, when I first started watching Japanese animation, one of the things that surprised me the most was the fact that anime characters could, well, die. Sure, American cartoons from Tom and Jerry to G.I. Joe were filled with explosions and gunplay, but while the violence was abundant, injuries were conspicuously absent.
Anime tales, though, have no qualms about knocking off their players. As a matter of fact, characters shake off this mortal coil so frequently that a recent poll ranked the 20 most memorable anime deaths.
Heads up! While animation sometimes allows for the miracle of resurrection, be aware that since this is a list of deaths, it contains spoilers for the following series: Clannad, Code Geass, Death Note, Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, Fullmetal Alchemist, Gintama, Hakuoki, Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, Naruto, Neon Genesis Evangelion, One Piece, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, School Days, and Tengen Toppa Guren Lagan.
Website Charapedia recently conducted a survey of 10,000 anime fans, asking which character’s death had left the deepest impression on them. As proof of the medium’s impressive body count, 150 responses got multiple votes, but since our graveyard doesn’t have that sort of capacity, let’s jump ahead to the top 20.
20. Nagisa Furukawa (Clannad)
Technically, that should be Nagisa Okazaki, but we guess that when Mysterious Anime Waif Disease strikes you down so soon after you wed, you still identify most strongly with your maiden name.
19. Kaworu Nagisa (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
“Nagisa” isn’t intrinsically tragic, as it just means “shoreline.” Nevertheless, we come to the crushing death of the list’s second character with the name.
18. Okita Soji (Hakuoki)
Yes, we know that in this pretty-boy filled series set at the end of Japan’s feudal era, Soji, with his emerald green eyes, looks oh so dreamy. Considering that Okita Soji was also a real person who lived in the 19th century, whose death in his 20s from tuberculosis is a matter of historical record, it’s kind of surprising more people didn’t see this one coming and have the blow softened for them just a bit.
17. Ito Kamataro (Gintama)
Genre-straddling Gintama may be filled with hilarious gags, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets to stay alive to laugh at them.
16. Maes Hughes (Fullmetal Alchemist)
Decorated officer. Devoted husband. Doting father. Dead character.
15. Son Goku (Dragon Ball)
Sure, he recovered, and picked up a spiffy halo in the process, but when arguably the strongest martial artist in all of anime went down for the count, fans everywhere were shocked.
14. Jiraiya (Naruto)
Mentor and fatherly figure to a young, male, action protagonist? Sorry, Jiraiya, you gotta go (we look forward to seeing you again in the Naruto stage play, though).
13. Lockon Stratos (Gundam 00)
Being killed in action is a sad fate, but it becomes just a little easier to bear when you know you’ve got a twin brother ready to take up your name and mantle as a mecha pilot.
12. Neji Hyuga (Naruto)
Gentle Fist practitioner Neji, dead?! Believe it!
11. Itachi Uchiha (Naruto)
You can’t have 15 years of super-powered ninja wars without some casualties, as Naruto checks in for a third time on the list.
10. Kamina (Tengen Toppa Guren Lagan)
Again, taking a future hero under your wing in an action series is pretty much a shortcut to the boneyard.
9. Vegeta (Dragon Ball)
Similar to Son Goku, Vegeta’s death probably would have ranked higher on the list if he wasn’t alive and well (not to mention playing bingo) in the most recent Dragon Ball Z film.
8. Makoto Ito (School Days)
While Makoto’s classmate Sekai, whose storyline ends with her uterus being sliced open, had the more grisly death, the male lead of a high school harem series getting his comeuppance at the tip of a kitchen knife just isn’t something you see very often in anime.
7. Light Yagami (Death Note)
As the main character in a series called Death Note, you have to figure your time on the planet is going to run out sooner or later.
6. Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)
May we always remember the example Caesar gave us of how to have an honorable death: Ripping off your foe’s lip with your last breath.
5. Edward Newgate (One Piece)
You’d think a guy with that many gigantic scars on his chest could survive anything, but you’d be wrong.
4. Raoh (Fist of the North Star)
In the amazingly muscular Raoh, Edward will at least have someone to trade pec workout tips with in the afterlife.
3. Mami Tomoe (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
It’s a sad moment when Mami makes her exit, but nothing to lose your head over, as you’ve still got nine more episodes to enjoy after she checks out of this dark magical girl series.
2. Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass)
After a lifetime of surreptitious maneuvering and becoming one of the most powerful military and political figures in the world, all of Lelouch’s subterfuge eventually catches up to him.
1. Portgas D. Ace (One Piece)
The curse of the action mentor strikes one final time with Portgas, spiritual big brother to One Piece’s main character Luffy. In the end, he gave his life to protect the younger pirate, and what’s most heart-wrenching of all is the thought that perhaps the tragedy could have been prevented if he’d worn any sort of protective covering on his upper body.
But hey, when our time comes, don’t we all want to be remembered for our rock hard, sculpted abs?