Given their episodic nature, not all anime are destined to maintain the same tone throughout their run. All it takes for a light-hearted series about memorable adventures and friendship is a central scene to lose all levity. Before the audience realizes it, the anime they are watching would deconstruct the funny things it showed just an episode ago.
After these scenes took place, these anime either leaned towards a more mature outlook, or changed genres entirely. Sometimes it was the death of a main character that led to this change, or it was something worse than death. Anyway, 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 gunslinger, but his goofy personality and crazy notion of nonviolence did Trigun seems like a fun comedy about cowboys. It turns out that Vash was running away from a violent past, and Legato brought this darkness back.
When Vash was playing with children, the playfulness of the game and anime came to an abrupt end the moment Vash felt Legato’s deadly presence. Through Vash’s sudden fear, the audience realized that Legato was not just a stupid gunman for the human tornado to outsmart, but a legitimate threat that could kill anyone.
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 the characters and audience could put to the back of their minds. Unfortunately, All Might’s retirement was hastened by his final match 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 fall marked the end of his patronage, thus inspiring the villains to mount a comeback. As for the anime itself, Midoriya eventually 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 famous dark fantasy ever created, but anyone who just started watching the original 1997 anime would be forgiven for forgetting it. After Guts killed 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 largely absent.
In the next episodes, Berserk was a realistic period piece about the Middle Ages. This changed when Guts and Griffith battled Zodd, an apostle, whose existence defied logic and was their first encounter with the supernatural. The supernatural would only reappear nearby Berserk’s finale, but Zodd’s debut was the beginning of the end of normalcy.
7 Attack On Titan – Eren Yeager’s “Resurrection” was the first of many harrowing truths
First, Attack on Titan presented itself as a dark fantasy about humanity’s struggle for existence against the Titans. Characters dying left and right seemed in line with the course, but then Eren came back to life after being swallowed by a Titan. Specifically, Eren emerged from the neck of a bizarre Titan that was somehow sentient.
Although 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 Paradise Island’s dark truths to be revealed. From then on, Attack on Titan ceased to be an outright dark fantasy and became a slowly unfolding tragedy that spread across the globe.
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 the scientists went too far, Mikoto knew that she and her friends would be able to save the day. That was not the case when Mikoto met her clone, as their strange but fun encounter ended in bloody tragedy.
The truth was that Misaka 9982 was one of thousands of Mikoto clones created to be thrown into Accelerator’s orbit for an experiment. A certain scientific railway gun was a predominantly cheerful sci-fi anime, but the second season and everything after took a noticeably darker turn after Mikoto watched her clone die horribly.
5 One Piece — Portgas D. Ace’s death ended Luffy’s teenage adventure
Although he and the Straw Hats faced hard times such as their forced dissolution at the hands of Kuma, Monkey D. Luffy’s travels across the ocean were generally enjoyable and fun. Luffy’s carefree days came to a halt during the Summit War of Marineford where he watched his older brother die.
Unlike Straw Hat’s temporary loss to Kuma, there was no way for Luffy to regret Ace’s death. Worse, Ace died protecting Luffy, and Luffy predictably blamed himself. One Piece’s innocent boyish days ended with Ace’s death, and the jump arcs after the time where Luffy almost became a revolutionary showed this shift in priorities and tone.
4 Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann — Kamina’s death put a stop to the whimsical Shonen adventures
With an every bit as inspiring as Kamina leading her 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 the viewers) received 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. Although it was still a fun anime about giant mechas fighting each other, Gurren Lagann became noticeably darker after Kamina’s passing. To this day, Kamina’s death is considered one of the saddest turning points in anime of all time.
3 Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Mami Tomoe’s beheading began Anime’s darkness
Puella Magi Madoka Magica is known 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 the anime’s early episodes were a bit darker than its contemporaries. But then Mami’s head was chopped off by a witch.
Mami was introduced as Madoka and Sayka’s older sister figure and possible mentor, and she was as happy as they were. But the moment Mami died while fighting a witch, the true darkness of the story slowly began to creep into the colorful world of the characters. Little by little, Madoka uprooted the innocence synonymous with magical girls.
2 Neon Genesis Evangelion – Bardiel’s identity began Shiji Ikari’s psychological descent
Evangelion was always a darker take on the typical super robot anime, but its underlying darkness really took hold halfway through. Back then, killing angels was routine for Shinji, but there was something unsettling about the thirteenth angel, Bardiel. First, it was a hijacked Eva Unit-03, and it was piloted by his friend, Toji.
Even worse, Shinji only realized these after his father Gendo remotely commanded Eva Unit-01 to brutally break Bardiel and nearly kill Toji. From this point on, Shinji and Evangelion as a whole became angrier and darker. Regardless, excitement and fun Evangelions previous bows had disappeared the moment Shinji saw Toji’s bloody body.
Even after losing parts of their body during their failed attempt to transform their dead mother back to life, Edward and Alphonse Elric saw alchemy as a cool power to master. They got a harrowing reality check on alchemy’s potential for horror when they saw it used on the innocent Nina and her dog, Alexander. Worse, Nina’s father was wrong.
Desperate to make any kind of scientific progress, Shou turned his daughter and pet into a chimera. Shou succeeded, but he created an affront to nature and human decency. After this legendarily nightmarish scene, Ed and Al took alchemy more seriously, and Full metal alchemist took on a darker tone to warn of the hubris of power.
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