10 Saddest Moments In Studio Ghibli Movies


This November 11th Studio Ghibli’s Park will open up to the public and tickets are already available for sale (via Japan RailPass). Every fan of the studio and its extraordinary films will be able to take a stroll among the breathtaking attractions which include recreations of the most popular characters, items, and scenarios of the films.

The Japanese studio has given audiences plenty of movies that are considered masterpieces of animation, and as such, most of them are as beautiful as they are gutwrenching. The touching, unforgettable, and profound stories Studio Ghibli follows have been guilty of bringing their audiences to tears more than once and these are the most difficult to watch without needing a box of tissues.


10/10 Taeko Is Slapped By Her Father – Only Yesterday (1991)Only Yesterday Studio Ghibli Taoko Slapped By Her Father

Only Yesterday recounts the nostalgic and troubling memories of protagonist Taeko, who in one of the most upsetting recollections of her childhood, she remembers how her father slapped her for stepping outside the house without shoes.

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The scene is shocking at first but as it sinks in it becomes terribly sad. Witnessing how parents in the 40s thought disciplining their children with physical punishment was understandable is disturbing enough, but the dark subjects prove to be even more concerning as a friend of Taeko admits her father has beaten her multiple times too.

9/10 Howl’s Bad Hair Day – Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

In the Howl’s Moving Castle cinematic adaptation, Sophie accidentally rearranges Howl’s bathroom potions, which leads him to mix the wrong bottles and dye his hair in a different color. At first, the moment comes across as silly, but it soon turns into a deep reflection on self-esteem and how self-destructive humans can be within their desperate desire to be loved and appreciated by others.

Howl throws a tantrum because he finds no sense in life if he cannot be handsome. Mark then tells Sophie that he had never seen him invoke demons like that since he was left by a girl she loved. Sophie cries admitting she has never been pretty, and it all becomes too relatable and too sad to watch for some viewers.

8/10 Sosuke Can’t Find His Mom – Ponyo (2008)

The lighthearted film of lovable Ponyo is one of the best mermaid movies of all time and follows with great tenderness the story of the innocent love between two adorable children, Brünnhilde (a fish that becomes human) and Sosuke.

Although most of the film is sweet and cracks a smile with the personalities of its endearing characters and gorgeous depictions of nature, there is one moment that definitely drops a tear or two. When Sosuke can’t find her mother after a flood he becomes desperate (like any little boy would), which is heartbreaking to watch.

7/10 Naoko’s Tuberculosis – The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises has many sad scenes to choose from, which incldes Jiro’s dreams being crushed at the discovery of how his airplanes are used, and the death of Naoko. One particularly heartbreaking moment is the lead-up to the latter, where Naoko becomes really ill, sneezes blood, and audiences get to see Jiro devastated because of his wife’s health condition.

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It is safe to say though that every moment regarding Naoko’s health is hard to watch and probably brings up more than a few tears. The painful changes that come with the illness of a loved one cannot be depicted any other way and The Wind Rises greatly addresses its sorrow.

6/10 Setsuko’s Death – Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

There’s no easy way to talk about the most depressing anime of all time without remembering its heartwrenching moments and feeling like crying all over again. The story of the siblings Setsuko and Seita, based on the crushing real-life events in Japan during World War II and the semi-autobiographical story of Akiyuki Nosaka, is a painful one to watch.

Setsuko, given the lack of food provoked by the war, dies of malnutrition. The moment is critically overwhelming and feels like the drop that spilled a glass of devastating smaller events that build up to an unbearable, wretched, and piercing reality.

5/10 Seita’s Death – Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

Setsuko’s death is so emotional that it is hard to conceive another tragic event that is as sad to watch, however, as the film progresses into its finale viewers witness Seita’s death which hits differently, but just as powerfully.

Viewers do not only have to observe his hurtful demise under precarious conditions, which is painful enough, but also how he is completely alone, abandoned by a cruel world that is counting too many corpses for Seita’s to be relevant, and carrying the guilt of not having been able to save his little sister.

4/10 Kaguya’s Party – The Tale Of Princess Kaguya (2013)

The Tale Of Princess Kayuga follows the story of a girl who, because she is born inside a bamboo shoot, is thought to be divine and becomes royalty, but contrary to what many princesses’ tales say, she becomes miserable with her acquired noblewoman status.

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The restraints of being an idolatrized woman make her crave freedom, nature, and love. In one of the saddest and most powerful scenes, Kayuga hears men talk about her at a party that celebrates her naming, and runs away enraged by her circumstances which are very relatable, and therefore moving, for many females.

3/10 Mei’s Disappearance – My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro is an overall beautiful and tender film, but when sisters Mei and Satsuki get into a fight, things turn a bit dark and Mei disappears. Although the light-hearted film prevents expectations of disturbing reasons behind Mei’s vanishing, it is upsetting to watch everyone look for her.

Parents and guardians especially know how terrifying losing a child is. It is impossible to not assume the worst if a vulnerable kid is on their own facing the dangers of the world. Following the character’s suffering because Mei is gone is upsetting to watch.

2/10 The Deer God’s Death – Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke already tackles so many important and devastating issues that overall, it is a heart-wrenching film to watch. But one moment overcomes them all, and it’s when, after the death of beloved Gods Moro and Okkoto Nushi, the Deer God is decapitated.

It is not without reason that Princess Mononoke is considered one of Studio Ghibli’s best movies. Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece uses powerful metaphors that address the devastating consequences humans have upon nature. Inevitably, this moment is incredibly depressing to watch.

1/10 Chihiro Leaves The Spirit World – Spirited Away (2003)

Hayao Miyazaki changed the history of cinema and animation when he released his masterpiece Spirited Away to audiences around the world. The metaphorical depiction of the merciless labor conditions and work culture in capitalist societies (and Japanese culture) that make employees forget their names and work all day was as powerful as it gets.

The film has multiple unforgettable moments that drove viewers to feel everything. From absolute horror when Chihiro’s parents are turned into pigs, to the heart-melting sensation her tender relationships provoke, and of course, that moment when she has to leave the world that made her grow so much and leaves Haku behind.

NEXT: 10 Best Studio Ghibli Movies Not Directed By Miyazaki, According To Ranker


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