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Top 10 Anime Characters with a Tragic Past

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Craig Butler Some people are just born with a little black cloud over them – especially in anime. Welcome to and today we're counting down the Top 10 Anime Characters with a Tragic Past. For this list, we're looking at anime characters whose childhood or earlier lives were marked by some form of tragedy that influenced their future lives. And we're limiting the tragic backstories to one character per franchise. Special thanks to our user AnimeLife4Life for submitting this idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Craig Butler

Top 10 Anime Characters with a Tragic Past

Some people are just born with a little black cloud over them – especially in anime. Welcome to and today we're counting down the top 10 anime characters with a tragic past.

For this list, we're looking at anime characters whose childhood or earlier lives were marked by some form of tragedy that influenced their future lives. And we’re limiting the tragic backstories to one character per franchise

#10: Masami
"Angel Beats" (2010)

In one way or another, every character in “Angels Beats” has a tragic backstory: they’re all dead and hanging out in limbo. Masami was the child of parents who seemed to be constantly fighting, causing her to feel severe anxiety and loneliness. She found an outlet when she began playing the guitar. Things seemed to be looking up – until her father hit her in the head with a beer bottle during one of his fights. She then suffered a stroke which paralyzed her and eventually led to her death. Hopefully she’ll have better luck in the afterlife.

#9: Trafalgar Law
"One Piece" (1999-)

This anime also has its share of tragic characters, like the twice-orphaned Nami. But Trafalgar Law’s past takes the cake where misfortune is concerned. He was born in a country being decimated by a terrible disease, which his beloved sister contracted. His parents were doctors who were working to fight the illness. Unfortunately, enemies of his country attacked, killing his parents and friends before his eyes and destroying the hospital with his sister inside. Trafalgar survived – but only by hiding beneath a pile of rotting corpses until they were conveyed out of town. Now that’s just nasty.

#8: Johan Liebert
"Monster" (2004-05)

Johan Liebert is the monster of the title, and he is indeed horrific. While definitely not justifying his actions, Johan’s horrible childhood helped twist him into the man he became. Johan and his twin sister Anna were part of a eugenics experiment which sought to create a perfect individual. Anna was further experimented on in traumatic ways, but Johan comes to believe he was the victim. Much more ensues, including the children being adopted and Johan shooting their new parents. He then orders Anna to shoot him in the head, which she does. And that’s just the beginning of his tale.

#7: Lucy
“Elfen Lied" (2004)

Lucy is an outcast, amd the small horns she was born with are a clear sign to everyone that she isn’t human. Because of it, she is feared and mistreated by those around her. The fact that she believes her parents abandoned her also causes her grief. As a child, she befriended a stray puppy and came to love it. When she revealed the puppy’s existence to a girl she considered a friend, the girl betrayed her trust. Some local school boys heard about the puppy, stole it from Lucy and beat it to death in front of her. So she killed them. After that she was taken in by a secret organization who experimented on and tortured her endlessly. Well, that does explain the bouts of rage.

#6: Kotomi Ichinose
“Clannad" (2007-08)

Kotomi is painfully shy and withdrawn when viewers first meet her in “Clannad”. It turns out that she and Tomoya, the main character of the series, were once good friends when they were little. They renew their friendship, but one day they witness a bus crash which traumatizes Kotimi. It reminds her of the plane crash that killed her parents and made her afraid to get close to anyone again for fear of being hurt. Fortunately, Tomoya doesn’t let her withdraw from the world again – but it takes alot of effort to bring Kotomi back into contact with people.

#5: Kaoru Hanabishi
“Ai Yori Aoshi” franchise (2002-03)

Kaoru’s problems originate in his birth. He was the oldest son of the head of the Hanabishi clan, so things should have been rosy. Unfortunately, his father and mother lived together without benefit of marriage, which caused a bit of a scandal. His father died when he was five years old, his grandfather insisted on adopting him – and cutting off all his ties with his mother. He suffered a great deal of physical and verbal abuse thereafter before running away to live on his own.

#4: Hakuryuu Ren
"Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic" (2012-)

Being a prince isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Hakuryuu. At the age of six, he was caught in a massive fire when enemies revolted against his father. He fledwith his older brothers, both of whom died – but not before revealing that it was their own mother that started the revolt. One of his brothers stabbed himself and poured his blood all over Hakuryuu, hoping the liquid would protect him from the flames. Although scarred, Hakuryuu lived – and had to confront the fact that his mother had brought about this destruction.

#3: Yuno Gasai
"Future Diary" franchise (2011-12)

Yuno is one crazy kid – and we mean that literally. Anyone might go a little nuts with her history, though. Her father largely ignored her, while her mother was obsessed with turning Yuno into a perfect person. To that end, she locked her in a cage and starved and abused her. Eventually, Yuno was able to turn the tables and locked her parents up. Unfortunately, she forgot to feed them and they eventually starved to death. After which, she kept their dead bodies around for conversational purposes. You know, healthy normal stuff.

#2: Gaara
"Naruto” franchise (2002-)

The star of the Naruto franchise may have his own backstory involving a sprit being sealed in him as a child, but Gaara had it even worse. Not only was a demon sealed inside him while he was in the womb, but his mother died as a result. The villagers feared and hated him, largely because the demon inside Gaara caused him to unintentionally hurt others. He even ended up killing his uncle, the only person who had taken care of him. It took a long time for him to learn to work and play wellwith others.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Mikasa Ackerman
“Attack On Titan” (2013-15)

“Gin Tama” franchise (2006-)

Kenshin Himura
“Rurouni Kenshin” (1996-99)

Kyo Sohma
“Fruits Basket” (2001)

“Fullmetal Alchemist” (2003-10)

#1: Guts
"Berserk" (1997)

Some births are more difficult than others. Guts, for example, was birthed from his mother’s corpse as she hung from a tree. But wait, there’s more. He was adopted by an abusive mercenary named Gambino who regularly raped Guts and later ‘rented’ him out to the rest of the army. When Guts was old enough to finally kill Gambino and flee, all he knew was a life of suffering and hardship. For a long time, Guts’ only source of happiness is fighting and killing, traveling around withmercenary groups in search of a glorious death.

Agree with our choices? What other anime faves with woeful backstories should we have included? For more enthralling top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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