This post is part of The 30 Day Anime Challenge Series alongside the Cosmic Anvil Kickstarter campaign. Click here to read the introduction, and click here to check out and support the campaign to help us fund the printing and distribution of our first collected volume of our manga-inspired comic series, Age of Revolution.
[SPOILER ALERT: Obviously, there will be death scenes discussed in this post!]
One of the saddest deaths I’ve ever seen in anime is the death of Maes Hughes in Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. I was genuinely distraught by his death, especially as we get to know his wife and young daughter who are left behind, and considering how much he also takes care of everyone including Edward, Alphonse and Winry 😦
As I’ve said before during this blog series, I’m a complete wimp – I cry very easily at nearly anything, from TV adverts to just watching the news sometimes. That’s why for this post I decided to go with a death scene that I that I didn’t expect to make me as sad as it did, and also one that I never see come up on ‘saddest deaths in anime’ lists, and that’s Ciel Phantomhive’s death in the season one finale of Black Butler, or Kuroshitsuji.
I was completely hooked on this anime when it came out in 2008 from the very first episode. In a genre that is totally over-saturated with cliche, Yana Toboso’s Black Butler breathed new life into the Supernatural, ‘monster-of-the-week’ structure of story-telling with it’s gothic style, ghoulish humour, endearing characters, and new twists on British legends and history.
Set in a Victorian-era England, the story follows orphaned thirteen-year-old Earl Ciel Phantomhive, who after witnessing his parent’s murder at the hands of a mysterious occult group, vows revenge on their killers. Hearing his cries for vengeance, a demon offers him a contract: assistance in helping him reek his revenge in exchange for his soul. Ciel accepts, and the demon takes the guise of Sebastian Michaelis, his loyal and extraordinarily skilled butler.
But the path to attaining Ciel’s precious revenge isn’t a straight one. As well as heading up the Phantomhive’s toy company (which is clearly intended to be ironic considering Ciel has no interest in childish pursuits) the young Earl must also fulfil his family duties as Queen Victoria’s ‘Guard Dog’ and protect the Queendom from ‘abnormal’ threats. Werewolf attacks, Jack the Ripper, child prostitution, royal ghosts, rogue angels… These are all dangerous missions that Ciel and Sebastian take on together through the first series.
All the while, Sebastian attends to Ciel’s every whim and need with delicate precision to little to no expression of gratitude from his stoic master. It seems that Ciel’s heart has been hardened by the early trauma he has had to endure, to the point at which he has completely abandoned his own childhood. Instead of playing with other children he attends business lunches and signs documents in his study. Sebastian endeavours to melt his frostiness with a strange gentile touch, strange because every act of kindness his performs for Ciel is always tinged with that underlying feeling of hunger for the soul he is fattening up. You see, Sebastian doesn’t just want any old soul: he wants one he has grown and nurtured until it’s just right to eat.
This all reaches an inevitable climax at the end of the series when Ciel’s soul is indeed ripe enough for Sebastian’s tastes. But what caught me completely off-guard about the final sequence is how moving it was. I was expecting something bloody and monstrous, but it turned out to be strangely tender and peaceful. Sebastian rows Ciel to a strange deserted island and lays him down on a bench in an abandoned ruin. He removes Ciel’s eyepatch that hides the eye inscribed with the demonic contract, and Ciel smiles up at him – not fearful, or in pain, but relieved and satisfied. Sebastian leans in with a fanged smile towards his lips… and that’s it. I don’t know why it choked me up so much. I guess I didn’t realise how invested I’d become in these two over such a short episode run, or how cathartic a death I knew was inevitable would feel. Rather than a hunter consuming its prey, it felt more like a close friend helping anther to find a much-needed release from life.
Such a shame then that such a satisfying ending was kind of ruined by a bizarre second season At least the manga is still going strong though!
Honourable mentions: L (Death Note), Maes Hughes & Nina Tucker (Full Metal Alchemist & Brotherhood), Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop), Asuka Langley Soryu (End of Evangelion), Koworu Nagisa (Neon Genesis Evangelion) Seita and Satsuma (Grave of the Fireflies), Kikyo (InuYasha).
I’ve already talked about two deaths during this series, so in order to not repeat myself, I’ve had to really think hard about another anime death that left me feeling emotional. One of my saddest anime deaths (apart from the ones I’ve already talked about) is the death of Wizardmon in Digimon Adventures.
Wizardmon is the best friend of Gatomon, the Digimon partner to Digidestined Kari – sister of original Digidestined Tai. Gatomon is introduced to us as a Digimon who works for Myotismon, one of the many villains of the series, and one of her redeeming qualities is her friendship with Wizardmon, showing that maybe these two aren’t as evil as their master.
It is revealed to us that Kari is a Digidestined, and that Gatomon is her Digimon partner. Myotismon learns this and battles the Digidestined now including Kari and Gatomon, he tries to attack Gatomon, but Wizardmon takes the hit, sacrificing his life for his friend. I remember watching this as a kid on my VHS tape that I used to record Digimon on, and crying my eyes out. The most touching part of his death is how zen he is. Gatomon says sorry and blames herself, but Wizardmon calmly says that he has had a happy life, and the reason for that was Gatomon’s friendship. He thanks her for it and passes away.
Here is Wizardmon’s death scene for you to watch… you know, if you’re into that sort of thing:
Written by The Cosmic Anvil Team.
Check out our own Welsh-manga (or ‘Wanga’) series, AGE OF REVOLUTION on our official site and Comixology! And if you want to join the fight to get the AGE OF REVOLUTION Volume printed check out our Kickstarter page!