A list of Anime that Ruin Childhood Dreams

You know old internet meme of anime series of various darkness levels being throw into cartoon sections? The classic case of “this art style looks cute, so it’s meant for kids” thing and then having kids actually watch these things and ending up being scarred for life? (To be honest, I think that kids should be scared but that’s a topic for later.) Adults and employees neglecting to look at the ratings of certain series aside, anime does have a history of using a younger art style of characters as a visual dissonance for all the hard themes that go in a series quite a bit. I’ve heard during the Retro Mecha Podcast about how Zambot 3 was a dark take on a super robot series centered around children. That aired in 1977 and it was Tomino, so maybe that was inevitable. So out of all the history anime centered around the death of childhood hopes and dreams, here are five-ish shows I consider interesting enough to watch. Maybe child haters like Irina will enjoy this post? (I’m kidding and sorry Irina, I had to. Love you to death.)

1) Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss

This seems like an obvious one because it’s the latest show in this list, but that doesn’t change the fact that it deserves a place here. Made in Abyss is an adventure series centered around two kids traveling down a literal circle of hell on Earth toward the bottom. The art style for these characters is cute, but that doesn’t make the drama any less real. Especially since there are hard reveals about how one of these characters wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the terrors of the abyss itself. Not to mention some mad science experiments on kids and a creature actually getting one of these kids and causing unknown horrors as well. All of this sounds bad, but it’s just so powerful and well done. I can’t recommend this show enough. One of my favorite shows of 2017.

2) Madoka Magica (and other “dark” magical girl shows)

madoka magica

I bet you were expecting this one too, right? Yeah, I am nothing but predictable with this list and that’s ok I think. Yes, it’s a “dark” magical girl series that pushes the bounds of magical girl shows that most people know about from Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon. It pushes the bounds of all of that too existential horror through the darkness of people’s wishes. All of that crazy stuff. All that being said, Madoka isn’t original when it comes to this. I mean, Princess tutu, Magical Girl Site, and a few others that I have heard about do the same things as well. Still, Madoka does have a place here and it is worth talking about.

3) Bokurano: Ours


It would be easy to call Bokurano a mech show. It does have the set up for one. You know, the classic super robot opening of kids meeting at a beach, meeting some random guy, and then they control a giant robot somehow? Yeah, that’s the plot. The show much more traumatic then that. Every episode is a vignette of one our characters solving their problems in some way before they die. Yes, ever episode or sometimes a duo of episodes, a child dies horribly. All this to feed the existential threat or multiverse tournament of deciding which Earth should live. That isn’t anything that kids should deal with, but the weight of the world is put on this large group of kids. It’s such a powerful show, if you are interested in it.

4) A lot of things created by Hideako Anno

Unit one eva

From Gunbuster to Nadia: Secret of Blue Water to Evangelion, Hideaki Anno has a history of pushing kid characters farther then they should be pushed. Nadia has an early episode where our young teenage protagonists pick up a young girl under the corpse of her dead mom. The girl in question’s parents were killed by a fascist regime which adds to the terrifying factor. Do I need to say anymore here? Do I need to mention the fact that Eva pushed younger characters to grow up faster then they should have (Asuka), one turned out to be a literal clone, and Shinji’s deal. What does Anno have against kids? A lot it seems.

5) Girl’s Last Tour

Girls Last Tour

A unique one here, but I am going to push that it counts. This show is two young girls traveling around an apocalyptic world where barely anybody lives in it. They fend for themselves trying to find food and fuel to keep their journey going. This topic come into play more during Girl’s Last Tour’s last few episodes where how the would turned into it’s current state. It’s somehow displayed subtlety, despite the fact that giant robots with powerful laser canons are not subtle, but it’s a lot to take in for people their age. I couldn’t imagine the kind of things they had to live through. Existential horror is terrifying, no matter how you slice it.

I think that each one of these shows are interesting enough to look at from a lot of perspectives. Yes, I know I am leaving some out. Hunter x Hunter and Full Metal Alchemist deserve a place here as well and I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of series that I can’t think of on the top of my head. List your favorites in the comments.

Just don’t watch these around kids unless you want to ruin their lives. (Or give them a unique perspective to think about as they go about their lives.)


  1. All the anime with a semi-colon in the title. And many of the anime with a colon in the title are this: child killers. They have beautiful settings and art styles and then a child or teenager is brutally murdered, raped, and eaten, sometimes in that order.

    Most of the anime featuring a Louise character have tsundere sex themes or child soldier themes or even abusive parent themes. Samurai X (progenitor of Ruroni Kenshin) is about a child soldier with a bunch of dark themes. His and Her Circumstances is about teens with dark and troubled childhoods being haunted and codependent as they become adults. Assassination Classroom has a cheerful and childish shounen art style but is also about attempting to murder their teacher for “reasons” later explained. RahXephon is about incest, apocalypse, memory, ghosts, and ritual murder/sacrifice of teens and adults, along with cloning, of course.

    Since such themes are common in anime and these are popular shows and manga, you have to accept that its a popular theme in asian markets. Many of the best asian movies are tragedies about love, revenge, and death. They nearly always have a tragic ending. Western movies pander to Western optimism so we tend to get better ticket sales with happy endings. Disney is trying to prove this wrong with SJW themed Star Wars, but Disney has been cited repeatedly for child pornography in their animation aimed at children, with proof easy to find with a simple google image search. We shouldn’t be surprised that Disney is trying to kill the franchise the same way that Paramount stabbed Star Trek to death with SJW politics. Sigh. It doesn’t sell tickets, and it turns off audiences. Well, the marketplace will decide, and Solo lost money.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I totally didn’t know that Hideako Anno helped with Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water but based off of what I know about him that makes sense. I remember Nadia being vaguely off-putting, and how they ‘found’ Marie was absolutely tragic. And I remember picking up the Bokurano: Ours manga but stopped before there was too much death.

    Gotta love the not so hidden messages in anime right?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. That explains so much then lol. The art is not my usual cup of tea but I was into it until I couldn’t track down one of the volumes. >..<


    1. To be fair, Anno also directed a show about an adorable hamster called Hamtaro, which he described as the needed cleansing after Evangelion caused two of the staff to suicide.


  3. Madoka and girls last tour on my list but man, did I love getting kicked in the stomach by Made in Abyss. There’s just something super cool about a series that is about kids, but is not a kids story

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well you already listed one of my favorites here (and no it’s not Neon Genesis Evangelion). It’s Bokurano. Such a terrific, but also incredibly sad and dark series. I absolutely loved it from start to finish 😊😊

    Liked by 3 people

  5. LOL Berserk and Evangelion fried my mind as a wee lad.

    What happened to the entire cast of characters as they were kids is MONSTROUS… they are survivors. But it is honest and convincing.

    Life isn’t kind to everyone and it is down right cruel to some. Not letting trauma define us, to overcome hardship, I got a lot out of those shows.

    I still need to see Abyss! I’m working my way through my hero academia but that one is next!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bokurano is such an obvious example. This was an overlooked series. You can also add Kitoh’s other series Shadow Star Narutaru. Imagine the tragic nature of Bokurano, but replace it with homicidal Pokemon-type creatures and their owners. You can also add Grave of the Fireflies, Patapata Hikousen no Bouken (despite some of the lighthearted stuff), or Key the Metal Idol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like you always give me more shows to watch. I had no idea Shadow Star exists, but I need to give it a watch.

      Yeah, those seem like obvious choices I skipped over.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! I certainly have a long memory with all the shows and movies I watched when I was knee deep into anime a while ago. Shadow Star was actually the first Kitoh work that got animated. It gets brutal especially with the Hiroko story arc in the last three episodes. I heard the manga (it goes farther than the anime) is WAY more graphic with everything.

        Don’t worry about it. I’m sure I’m forgetting some more. Hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I can see these haha. Princess Tutu you could totally watch with kids, just a note for you in case you wanted to know, but yeah I’m with ya on all the entries. Fun article, I enjoyed it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Aaaaand Bokurano is added to my want to watch list! 😀

    I think one that really has a cartoon-ish look and it’s not for kids at all is Aggressive Retsuko. Although the kids wouldn’t be scared for life, the Anime is a comedy piece about things that only adults who are working can really understand xD However, the animation seems like it could be the next show passing in Cartoon Network lolol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent. Muahahahaha.

      You’re right about that. Jeez, I keep forgetting so many great things. I don’t think I added this one, because it’s a working place comedy for adults, but the cute animals probably do wonders for kids.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Good list and an enjoyable read, there are a few I haven’t checked out here. If you haven’t already seen it I recommend “Now And Then Here and There”. It’s a harrowing series but braving the darker moments will reward you with a brilliant story. Just don’t watch it if you’re feeling down or depressed as parts of it are pretty bleak. It certainly fits the bill for an anime with cute looking character design and disturbing content.

    Liked by 1 person

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