It’s only natural that when people think about children, there’s usually the desire to protect their innocence and shield them from the cruelty that exists within the world. The lens that only an optimistic, unburdened child can see the world through is a truly beautiful thing. Often in fiction, children tend to be incredibly hopeful characters who help lift others up and provide a more naive worldview.
Sadly, however, this isn’t always the case. Tragedy is a very real part of life, and not everyone is able to go through their childhoods without any suffering. This is also true in the case of anime, where any form of tragedy befalling children is often used to evoke a heart-wrenching, tear-jerker reaction from the audience.
10 Nina Falls Victim To Her Desperate Father’s Experiments (Fullmetal Alchemist)
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Nina’s life is especially tragic. Though her father is often busy with his research, she has a loving dog to spend time with and seems quite happy overall, especially after the Elric brothers begin visiting her.
These happy days don’t last, however, as Nina’s father ends up combining her and the family dog in a horrific attempt to keep his certification as a State Alchemist. There’s no way to return her to her human state in either version of the series, and she ends up being put down in the end.
9 Naruto Is Ostracized From The Very Moment Of His Birth (Naruto)
While he thankfully ends up achieving his dreams and having a beautiful family of his own, Naruto’s childhood is anything but pleasant. He is forced to grow up alone and has no idea who his parents are, and the villagers hate him from the start because of the Nine-Tailed Fox spirit inside of him.
His childhood is spent desperately trying to get attention from others in the form of pranks, and it’s tragic that he has no one to welcome him back home at the end of the day. Still, Naruto doesn’t let this stop him from creating unbreakable bonds and becoming a fine shinobi.
8 Mikasa Witnesses Her Parents’ Murder And Is Subsequently Kidnapped (Attack On Titan)
Mikasa and her mother from Attack On Titan are highly valued targets to all sorts of corrupt people who want to profit off of them being the last of their race. A group of criminals end up finding the Ackerman family, and Mikasa is kidnapped to be sold after her parents are killed.
She’s quite young at the time, and this event has a long-lasting impact on her overall worldview. She understands that the world is a cruel and often vicious place and that one has to adapt in order to survive.
7 Todoroki Faces Parental Abuse From Both Sides (My Hero Academia)
Todoroki from My Hero Academia is born as the result of a quirk marriage, where his mother is essentially forced to marry Endeavor so they’ll have incredibly powerful offspring. Todoroki’s father forbids him from interacting with other children and subjects him to cruel training regularly, including unjust physical punishment.
His mother is dealt a horrible hand by his father as well and ends up lashing out in the form of pouring boiling water on Todoroki’s face, permanently scarring him. It’s no wonder he seems colder and has a harder time joking around than many of his peers.
6 Yuuki’s Young Life Is Only Spared Due To Her Mother’s Sacrifice (Vampire Knight)
Yuuki from Vampire Knight seems like a naive, optimistic teenager who hasn’t been affected by any tragedies in her life. However, suppressed memories from her past come back to haunt her at her worst moments. In actuality, when she’s only five years old, her uncle attacks the family in an attempt to take her away.
Her mother is able to protect her by sealing away all of her memories of being a highly-sought after Pureblood Vampire and making it so she appears to be a normal human. And while she seems well-adjusted, there are moments when her past tries to break through and tear her down.
5 Ciel’s Family Is Killed By Cultists And He Sells His Soul To Escape (Black Butler)
Black Butler’s Ciel is kidnapped on his tenth birthday after the destruction of the Phantomhive Manor and the murder of his parents. If all of this isn’t devastating enough, the people who kidnap him are cultists who attempt to use him as a sacrifice following the events of the anime.
During all of this commotion, Ciel is able to summon forth a demon, Sebastian, to obey his every command and never betray him. It isn’t as great as it sounds, though, as he must sell his soul in the process. This means his fate is to eventually be eaten after his goals are reached.
4 Crona Is Born As Little More Than An Experiment Of Their Mother (Soul Eater)
Children who are only born as experiments of their parents are never treated well, and Crona from Soul Eater is no exception. Their mother, Medusa, is only interested in creating a powerful weapon out of Black Blood to do her bidding.
Crona has far too soft a heart for such a life, so growing up under Medusa’s cruel orders and strict punishment from birth takes a horrible toll on them. They only start growing out of their life of abuse thanks to Maka in the anime, and they aren’t nearly as lucky in the manga.
3 Yui Is Programmed As A Childlike AI, But She Has To Watch Players Suffer And Die (Sword Art Online)
When Kirito and Asuna first meet Yui in Sword Art Online, she acts in many of the same ways that a child does. She furiously clings to her “Mama” and “Papa” as she dubs them, and she has an incredibly childlike sense of curiosity about life and the world around her.
This makes her character feel all the more painful when one remembers what Yui’s true purpose within the Cardinal System is before she wanders off and finds Kirito. Yui is programmed to keep players’ mental health in check, but since she’s forbidden from directly interacting with players after SAO’s darker days begin, she’s essentially stuck in isolation while watching the players suffer and die.
2 Haku Is Abandoned For Awakening His Kekkei Genkai As A Curious Child (Naruto)
Haku is simply a curious child within Naruto who discovers his rare Kekkei Genkai that allows him to control ice. He is excited to show his mother, who ends up hitting and scolding him, much to his confusion.
What’s worse is that his father finds out about the Kekkei Genkai and proceeds to kill Haku’s mom. Haku could have been killed too if he hadn’t used his Kekkei Genkai to kill both his father and the angry mob that he’d amassed, leaving Haku all alone at such a young age.
1 Eri Is Subjected To Overhaul’s Dark Experiments Because Of The Nature Of Her Quirk (My Hero Academia)
At an incredibly young age, Eri awakens her Rewind quirk and accidentally uses it on her father without any understanding of its effects. This, in turn, causes her father to rewind to a point where he no longer exists, effectively killing him.
Not only is this traumatizing enough for a confused young child, but her mother abandons her as a result, and she’s subjected to all sorts of horrific experiments from Overhaul. Thankfully, Izuku is able to give Eri her first genuine chance at safety and happiness at U.A. High School, which she desperately deserves.
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