A major factor in why anime has been able to become such an important medium of entertainment because it often feels like the standard rules of storytelling don’t apply. There is of course lots of anime specific genres that thrive on a story of structural tropes, but the anime also worked hard to subvert those exact expectations.
Animated series can take wild and unexpected twists and turns, but it has become surprisingly common that some content completely lost his initial tone and turn into a very different type of story. Some anime start out as warm and heartwarming stories, then gradually turn into depressing series that test their audiences.
ten Gintama’s Odd Jobs team begins to feel the weight of the end of the universe
A change in tone can carry considerable weight when it has hundreds of episodes to tease that development. Gintama has over 350 episodes and he turns out to be a master of episodic and serialized storytelling, but that versatility too extends to his comedy and dramatic sensitivities.
Gintama is lightweight and leans into Gintoki’s lazier nature, but longer, more dramatic action arcs start to take over. At the end of the series, there is a terrible showdown for the fate of the universe with an immortal foe and many casualties.
9 Vash The Stampede’s guilt eventually takes over and pushes Trigun into sadness
Trigoun is only 26 episodes and it’s surprising how much the tone of the anime undergoes a change in its ending. Trigoun presents the Renowned gunslinger, Vash the Stampede, as well as the colossal bounty on his head that makes him a perpetual target for outlaws.
The start of Trigoun still features death and bloodshed, but it’s presented in a comedic and exaggerated way that highlights Vash’s eccentric nature. However, the pain Vash carries with him eventually takes him and his encounters with Legato Bluesummers and the Gung-Ho-Guns are deeply cynical and feature an absolutely broken protagonist.
8 Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the ultimate bait and switch for magical girls
The tropes of the anime genre have been around for so long that there have been some brilliant modern series that use these conventions to surprise their audiences and turn their story into something deeper.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica begins like any typical magical girl series where a group of young heroines make contracts to become magically empowered and fight witches. There are subtle clues to the truth in the early episodes, but it’s still a major shock when the anime becomes a grim condemnation of Magical Girls as it attempts to seriously examine their toxic nature.
seven Made In Abyss becomes a depressing gauntlet the more its characters descend
Crafted in the Abyss has carefully crafted a fantasy and adventure series that covers both an animated series and feature films that gradually deepen the journey that Riko and her companion robot, Reg, put on. Crafted in the Abyss begins with its brave, adventure-enthusiastic characters, but they face increasingly eerie creatures and obstacles as they descend deeper into the abyss to their goal.
Thematically, Crafted in the Abyss is excellent with the progressively mature nature of the story, but it’s still shocking to see such sad material pick up on what begins as a fun adventure into the unknown.
6 Digimon Tamers grows up and throws surprising trauma to his tamers
Digimon remains a popular anime for kids that is full of cute creatures. It can involve regular fights, but it is often in a sanitized manner. Digimon Tamers is the third major Digimon series and it takes some risks compared to the previous one Digimon Adventure series.
Digimon Tamers grapples with surprisingly grown-up themes after Impmon betrays the heroes, kills one of their own, and plunges some of the tamers into crippling depression. Tamers are forced to face real threats in the real world, and its conclusion features a grim farewell between the Tamers and their Digimon partners.
5 Urahara’s kindness in Harajuku is consumed by a battle for survival
Urahara works as a pastel colored love letter with Harajuku fashion and ornate nature. Much of the series is content with letting its three protagonists celebrate their cute style and ideas, but by the end of the anime, they battle an alien invasion that threatens to steal their culture and everything they consider. as sacred.
Admittedly, this alien showdown isn’t as dark as it could be, but it presents a huge shift in what came before it and there is a sense of dread and loss in the final episodes which are completely absent at the start of the anime.
4 Re: Zero turns Natsuki’s journey into a showdown with the darkness that never lets go
The isekai genre has grown into one of the most popular styles of anime over the past decade, resulting in particularly lazy material that doesn’t do enough with the fundamentals of the genre. Re: Zero is how the isekai anime series should be approached and the unexpected summon of Natsuki Subaru in a fantasy world continues to evolve in surprising ways.
Natsuki’s growth as a warrior is inspiring, but darkness creeps in frequently. Re: Zero fluctuates between these extremes, adding more dramatic conflict, only to bring its conclusion to devastating lows than ever before.
3 Osomatsu-San finally pushes its lazy NEETS into adulthood
Osomatsu-san is a fearless gag anime that indulges in silly genre parodies as well as slice of life madness that relates to its group of sextuplet slackers. Osomatsu-san actually a running joke that each season culminates in a serious way where the Matsuno sextuplets are forced to reckon with their future and take the leap to finally grow.
The accompanying season premiere always undoes that progress and it’s clear these brutal twists aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but they still provide an unexpected injection of sadness and drama into the conclusion of each season.
2 Neon Genesis Evangelion trades mech origins for existential depression
Sticking to the original vision of a series can certainly have its strength, but there is something so powerful and honest about a creator can focus on their work and turn it more into a metatextual project. Certainly, Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t exactly a light-hearted anime in its early days, but it does come with its fair share of Pen Pen jokes, comedic situations, hijinks, and the synchronized dance episode definitely embraces comedy.
Hideaki Anno’s growing depression overwhelms Evangelion narrative and it ends as a dark and nihilistic series it’s completely devoid of humor. Even the mecha aspects are toned down.
1 Cowboy Bebop Breaks Free From Space Western Roots With Austere Finish
Cowboy Bebop has been able to persevere for decades and become one of the most famous sci-fi anime because of the creativity it shows from the start of its run. Spike Spiegel and his team on the Bebop make any adventure special, but the anime uses an episodic nature to tell lighter tales that describe the series as a wacky western opera from space.
Spike’s past catches up with him and the series ends with considerably dark territory as the Bebop team disband and Spike embarks on a disastrous mission he knows he can’t win.
NEXT: 10 Heartbreaking Anime Stories Where No One Dies
Naruto: 10 Things That Make No Sense About The Hyuga Clan
About the Author