Given their episodic natures, not all anime are destined to keep the same tone throughout their run. All it can take for a lighthearted series about memorable adventures and friendship is one pivotal scene to lose all levity. Before audiences realize it, the anime they’re watching would deconstruct the fun things it displayed just an episode ago.
After these scenes occurred, these anime either leaned toward a more mature outlook, or changed their genres entirely. Sometimes it was a major character’s death that brought about this change, or it was something worse than death. Either way, these anime were never the same after they reached a certain event and never looked back.
10 Trigun — Legato Bluesummers’ Arrival Killed The Comedy
Trigun is (in)famous for lulling audiences into a false sense of comedy. Vash the Stampede was a wanted gunman, but his goofy personality and wacky take on nonviolence made Trigun seem like a fun comedy about cowboys. As it turns out, Vash was running away from a violent past, and Legato brought this darkness back.
When Vash was playing with kids, their game’s and the anime’s playfulness abruptly ended the moment Vash sensed Legato’s deadly presence. Through Vash’s sudden fear, audiences realized that Legato wasn’t just another silly gunman for the human tornado to outsmart, but a legitimate threat who could kill everyone.
9 My Hero Academia — All Might’s Retirement Marked The End Of A Heroic Age
All Might never kept his impending retirement a secret, but his retirement seemed like something that the characters and audiences could put at the back of their minds. Unfortunately, All Might’s retirement was sped up by his final fight with All For One. That said, All Might’s victory and retirement caused two seismic societal shifts.
On a hopeful note, he told Izuku Midoriya (and by extension, his generation) that he would be the next Symbol of Peace. Conversely, All Might’s downfall marked the end of his protection, thus inspiring the villains to stage a comeback. As for the anime itself, Midoriya finally stepped out of All Might’s shadow and took the lead.
8 Berserk (1997) — Nosferatu Zodd’s Arrival Brought Back The Dark Fantasy
Berserk is one of the most renowned dark fantasies ever made, but anyone who just started watching the original 1997 anime would be forgiven for forgetting that. After Guts slayed the Snake Baron in the pilot episode, the next 24 episodes were flashbacks set during Guts’ time with the Band of the Hawk, and the supernatural was mostly absent.
In its next few episodes, Berserk was a realistic period piece about the Medieval Ages. This changed when Guts and Griffith fought Zodd, an Apostle, whose existence defied logic and was their first encounter with the supernatural. The supernatural would only resurface near Berserk’s finale, but Zodd’s debut was the beginning of normalcy’s end.
7 Attack On Titan — Eren Yeager’s “Resurrection” Was The First Of Many Harrowing Truths
at first, Attack On Titan presented itself as a dark fantasy about humanity’s fight for its very existence against the Titans. Characters dying left and right seemed par for the course, but then Eren came back to life after being devoured by a Titan. Specifically, Eren emerged from the nape of a bizarre Titan that was somehow sentient.
Though it would take a few more episodes to understand that Eren was a Titan Shifter, his Titan form and his resurrection were the first of Paradis Island’s dark truths to be unearthed. from then on, Attack On Titan stopped being a straightforward dark fantasy and became a slow unfolding tragedy that spanned the entire world.
6 A Certain Scientific Railgun S — Misaka 9982’s Death Gave Mikoto Misaka An Existential Crisis
Academy City wasn’t exactly the scientific utopia it claimed to be, but Mikoto’s life in the Esper-filled city was a blast. Even when scientists went too far, Mikoto knew that she and her friends would be able to save the day. That wasn’t the case when Mikoto bumped into her clone, as their weird but fun meeting ended in bloody tragedy.
The truth was that Misaka 9982 was one of thousands of Mikoto clones who were created to be thrown into Accelerator’s path for an experiment. A Certain Scientific Railgun was a mainly cheery sci-fi anime, but the second season everything after took a noticeably darker turn after Mikoto saw her clone die horribly.
5 One Piece – Portgas D. Ace’s Death Ended Luffy’s Youthful Adventures
Even though he and the Straw Hats faced hard times like their forced disbandment at Kuma’s hands, Monkey D. Luffy’s voyages across the seas were generally enjoyable and fun. Luffy’s carefree days came to a crashing halt during the Summit War of Marineford where he saw his older brother die.
Unlike the Straw Hat’s temporary loss to Kuma, there was no way for Luffy to undo Ace’s death. Worse, Ace died protecting Luffy, and Luffy predictably blamed himself. One Piece’s innocently boyish days ended with Ace’s death, and the post-time skip arcs where Luffy all but became a revolutionary showed this shift in priorities and tone.
4 Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – Kamina’s Death Stopped The Whimsical Shonen Adventures
With a hero as inspiring as Kamina leading its first arc, Gurren Lagann seemed like it was going to be a typical shonen anime with big robots and the power of friendship. However, Team Dai-Gurren (and viewers) got a harsh reality check when Kamina was the heroes’ first major casualty in their fight for freedom.
With Kamina dead, his younger brother Simon had no choice but to grow up fast and take Kamina’s place. Though it was still a fun anime about giant mecha fighting each other, Gurren Lagann became noticeably darker after Kamina’s demise. To this day, Kamina’s death is considered to be one of the saddest anime turning points of all time.
3 Puella Magi Madoka Magica — Mami Tomoe’s Beheading Began The Anime’s Darkness
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is famous for deconstructing the magical girl formula into a cosmic horror story, but it didn’t start out that way. Initially, Madoka and Sayaka’s brush with magic was something to be excited about, even if their anime’s first episodes were slightly darker than their contemporaries. But then Mami’s head was chomped off by a Witch.
Mami was introduced as Madoka and Sayka’s big sister figure and possible mentor, and she was just as happy-go-lucky as they were. But the moment Mami died while fighting a Witch, the story’s true darkness began to slowly creep into the characters’ colorful world. little by little, madoka undid the innocence synonymous to magical girls.
2 Neon Genesis Evangelion — Bardiel’s Identity Began Shiji Ikari’s Psychological Descent
Evangelion was always a darker look at the typical super robot anime, but its underlying darkness only really took hold at the halfway point. By then, Shinji killing Angels was routine, but there was something unsettling about the thirteenth Angel, Bardiel. For one, it was a hijacked Eva Unit-03, and it was being piloted by his friend, Toji.
Worse, Shinji only realized these after his father Gendo remotely commandeered Eva Unit-01 to brutally maul Bardiel and nearly kill Toji. From this point on, Shinji and Evangelion as a whole became angrier and darker. Whatever excitement and fun Evangelion’s earlier arcs had, dissipated the moment Shinji saw Toji’s bloody body.
Even after losing parts of their bodies during their botched attempt to transmute their dead mother back to life, Edward and Alphonse Elric saw alchemy as a cool power to master. They got a harrowing reality check about alchemy’s potential for horror when they saw it used on the innocent Nina and her dog, Alexander. Worse, Nina’s father was at fault.
Desperate to make any kind of scientific progress, Shou transmuted his daughter and pet into a Chimera. Shou succeeded, but he created an affront against nature and human decadence. After this legendary nightmarish scene, Ed and Al viewed alchemy more seriously, and Fullmetal Alchemist took on a darker tone to warn of power’s hubris.
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