One of the biggest anime and manga in the world right now is Demon Slayer. The first episode ends with the horrifying realization that the protagonist’s family has been murdered offscreen. It’s a harrowing moment, but the audience didn’t know these characters very well. Other anime have had the guts to kill major characters off-screen.
Off-screen deaths can be tricky. If done right, it can make the audience feel just as devastated and blindsided as the protagonists. Done poorly, and it can feel like a waste of a character. These anime all had offscreen deaths that shook their audiences, for better or worse.
Conny (The Promised Neverland)
The Promised Neverland takes place in a world of constant and unfair death. It initially presents itself as a harmless world where a carefree orphanage overlooks a score of children. The first episode introduces viewers to the adorable Conny, soon to be adopted. But the protagonists learn the horrifying truth when they see Conny’s body at the end of the episode.
It turns out that the orphanage really sells humans to monsters to be eaten. Conny’s corpse looks so sickly and betrayed that it sells the horror of the situation to the characters and audience. She doesn’t have much screen time, but her death becomes the motivation for the protagonists going forward.
Absalom (One Piece)
Sometimes characters die offscreen for the purpose of a heroic sacrifice. Sometimes, the exact opposite happens and someone is killed to show how evil our villain is. In the case of Absalom from One Piece, it’s the latter. He was a major antagonist of One Piece‘s weird Thriller Bark arc, so it’s not like his death was unwarranted.
It is disturbing how sudden it is, though, as he’s kidnaped by the Blackbeard pirate crew during the events of the time skip. His old friend Gecko goes to look for him but ultimately only finds an imposter and it turns out the real Absalom died some time ago.
Naomi (Death Note)
There’s a lot of death in the aptly named Death Note. In fact, it can be argued that a ton of bored characters died offscreen. Mello’s death is uncertain and Misa is implied to die by suicide as the credits are rolling. The first of these deaths is arguably the most impactful, though, as Naomi Misora is set up as a major obstacle in Light’s life.
She’s a seasoned investigator with a real chance at connecting Light to the murders. Instead, Light Yagami sadly tricks her and uses the Death Note to make her kill herself. Viewers never see her commit the act. Instead, they’re treated to a haunting visual of her walking to the gallows.
Jude Heartfilia (Fairy Tail)
Dealing with family can be really hard. The male lead of Fairy Tail, Natsu, has a dark wizard for a brother. In contrast, female lead Lucy’s relationship with her father, Jude, is much more mundane. Jude was a neglectful father to Lucy, shunning her in favor of running his corporation.
The truth is more complex than that, though. Jude had been in debt most of the time Lucy was alive and struggled to support her by overworking himself and selling off his assets. She eventually tries to make up with him, but it’s too late. He passes away from overwork offscreen after a massive fight with her.
Miho Nosaka (Yu-Gi-Oh GX)
Yu-Gi-Oh is a massive phenomenon, but a lot of western fans might not know about Miho Nosaka. In the original manga, she was a character invented to be a love interest for Tristan. The original anime, however, brought her to main character status. She joined the friend group and mainly served as a comic foil.
She was left out of the dubbed anime’s run, but some fans missed her presence. Imagine their disappointment when she made her “grand return” as a character in Yu-Gi-Oh GX. She is listed among the victims of the serial killer Trueman but audiences never saw her death, they just heard about it.
Hakuhei Sabi (Katanagatari)
Katanagatari is a series all about sword-fighting duels to the death. Hakuhei Sabi was among the top swordsmen in all of Japan, making his death likely. Still, the buildup to Hakuhei’s death was also legendary. Even in the earliest episodes, the confrontation between Sabi and the protagonist Shichika Yasuri was built up.
Prior to their duel, Sabi even saved some innocents, showing his honorable side. So, when he and Yasuri begin to clash their swords, fans were hyped. The next episode then simply cuts to a while later, with the characters talking about how cool the battle was. Despite Sabi being one of the best swordsmen in Japan, he never appears again, likely dying in the duel.
Krillin (Dragon Ball)
Dragon Ball deals with death a lot since the titular artifacts can revive people from it. That doesn’t stop it from traumatizing the protagonists, though. For Goku, the death of Krillin has always been major. When he was blown up by Freeza, it triggered Goku’s Super Saiyan form.
His first death at the hands of the villainous Tambourine occurred during the King Piccolo saga. While eventually, viewers would see it decades later in a flashback, originally, it was a much more somber reveal. Goku finds Krillin’s body laying abandoned in a dojo. It’s haunting and was one of the best-executed deaths in a series where death is cheap.
Kite (Hunter X Hunter)
Hunter X Hunter, despite its sometimes silly tone, has a habit of killing off characters for shock value. Even still, a lot of fans didn’t expect Kite to bite the dust. He had proven himself a powerful ally and in the manga had been around in the story since the beginning. Then they saw his head being cradled by one of Hunter X Hunter‘s strongest villains.
Gon had been clinging to hope that Kite would survive his encounter with Neferpitou. It was sad for fans to watch him hope so much so that even the audience started to believe. Unfortunately, Kite didn’t make it out of his fight with the Chimera Ant, which leads to Gon losing control in one of the anime’s saddest scenes.
Ymir (Attack On Titan)
Attack on Titan isn’t a stranger to off-screen death. All fans remember the death of Marco, who is unceremoniously bisected in the middle of season one. Later seasons flashback to that moment, though. For a purely offscreen death experience, Ymir’s death gets almost no elaboration.
The last time viewers see her, she’s being taken away by Reiner and Bertholdt. After that, she sends a final letter to Christa where she expresses her regrets about hiding her nature as a Titan Shifter. Then the audience sees Porco using her Titan ability, solidifying her death. She didn’t get a lot of screen time, but a lot of fans appreciate how she shook up the plot.
Ryoji Kaji (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
Ryoji Kaji seems like one of the most straightforward and nicest characters in SEELE. He’s one of the few characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion to be a positive role model for Shinji. So, in that sense, he was destined to die.
He was also destined to die because he was actually a triple agent for three different organizations. His betrayal eventually catches up to him, and he’s gunned down without mercy. Viewers never even learn who killed Ryoji and they and the characters are just forced to live with it because the world is cruel.
NEXT: 10 Best Genre Deconstructions In Anime