There is much anime like Grave of the flies, Anohana: The flower we saw that day, A Silent Voice, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, and others that are capable of making the viewers cry. This sort of tear-jerking emotional anime is not rare. But that raises an interesting question, which is the most depressing anime of all time?
This is a tough question, as there are so many good ones. Anohana: The flower we saw that day, which tells the tale of teenagers who deal with the loss of their childhood friend, Grave of the Fireflies which recounts the story of two siblings who are left to fend for themselves after losing their parents in the World War or The Silent Voice which is a story of regret and redemption in which a bully after being bullied himself tries to make amends with his past. The competition is tough but one stands out. Angel Beats is very likely the saddest anime ever made.
Angel Beats is set up in purgatory high-school where people are supposed to overcome the traumas, regrets, and grudges of their lives, in order to make peace with their mortality. The protagonist is an amnesiac teenager who ends up in purgatory where he meets Yuri Nakamura and other people. Yuri has started an organization called SSS, which tries to fight their arch-rival and God’s associate Angel whose real name is Kanade Tachibana.
Yuzuru Otonasi, the protagonist joins the SSS and meets other members like Masami, Hideki, and Yui. He is told that there are also fabricated characters. The show starts off as stupid, unmeaning, and ludicrous. It’s hard to tell that the story is going to get so dark and emotional. That’s what is unique about it. Although most depressing anime usually has some comical elements to them so that the viewers are not overwhelmed by the sorrowful narration. But Angel Beats is so comical in the first few episodes that one can mistake it for an action-comedy.
Otonasi, even though he becomes a member of the SSS, keeps questioning the morality of the things they do. He gets back some of his memories after being hypnotized by Ayato Naoi and later befriends Kanade who helps him get back all his memories.
Why is it bittersweet?
Angel Beats is a story of unconditional self-acceptance, regret, redemption, and acceptance of mortality. The characters are struggling to move from purgatory after they have died. This is because of the entrenched regrets over an unlived life. The characters are typically young boys and girls who died really young so they missed out on experiencing a lot of things. This has kept them stuck in purgatory along with all the unfulfilled desires and the failure to accomplish some task that is close to their hearts. All of them try to hide and bottle up the emotional turmoil that they are going through. But eventually, they have to confront all the emotional and psychological traumas.
What is paradoxical is how the entire anime is set up to reflect on life, mortality. So, that one ends up having a closure. But the show itself fails to give the audience that. All of the other such shows usually give the viewers some sort of closure. But this is where Angel Beats totally leaves the viewers to their own devices. The show ends on a very ambiguous note raising so many questions that are still unanswered to this day. That’s the reason Angel Beats is so sad. Not just the whole sorrow-filled journey that it takes its viewers on but also the absence of a sense of closure adds to the pain that is hard to get over.
Even for Otonasi, there was a lack of sense of closure. He falls in love with Kanade who passes on. But Otonasi remains in the purgatory. Does he ever get a chance to meet Kanade again? What happens to all the people who pass on? Where do they go? Like viewers, Otonasi also is left to fend for himself.
There are various interpretations and speculations over the show online. People looking for a sense of closure have come up with different theories of their own. The show’s sorrow is increased manifold by the lack of sense of closure. It is this uniqueness that makes the show the most depressing anime as fans are left desperately looking for answers after a tear-jerking journey. But that doesn’t mean that the anime is not worth watching. It is rated 7.7 on IMDb and makes for an interesting watch. So, if you are looking for an emotional rollercoaster filled with regrets and sorrow followed by redemption and subsequent acceptance of mortality, Angel Beats is the anime to watch.