9 Anime Protagonists Who Hit Absolute Rock Bottom and Came Back

Gon Realizes Kite Isn't Coming Back - Hunter x Hunter

Some of the most powerful scenes in shonen anime come when the protagonist is at their worst. Whether they’ve lost a loved one, been trounced in a fight, or been publically humiliated, these moments show us who the hero is on a deep level. We see how they respond to the toughest of circumstances – and if and how they pull themselves out of that hole. 

Who are some of the shonen anime characters who hit rock bottom? One memorable and excruciatingly painful moment is when Naruto Uzumaki reacted to the demise of someone he cared for deeply – and when Monkey D. Luffy did the same. But it’s not always about losing a loved one – there’s also the time that Edward Elric started questioning the very fabric of his existence, or the time Light Yagami’s identity was revealed in the most humiliating way possible.

No matter their content, these moments will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching the series. 

1. Luffy Watches His Brother Get Annihilated – One Piece

Luffy Watches His Brother Get Annihilated - One Piece

It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but having to actually watch it happens elevates an already horrific experience to unbearable. After Akainu’s vicious and fatal attack on Ace, Luffy can’t do anything to help him. All he can do is hold him as he chokes out his last words. Luffy, who is usually a happy-go-lucky person who takes everything in stride, sobs inconsolably, and is miserable for a long time afterward. It’s the worst experience he’s ever had, bar none. 

2. Gon Realizes Kite Isn’t Coming Back – Hunter x Hunter

Gon Realizes Kite Isn't Coming Back - Hunter x Hunter

When Gon finds out that Neferpitou terminated Kite, he’s upset – and he’s even more upset when he sees Kite’s body being manipulated to fight his allies like an automaton. But Gon still believes that there’s a chance that Pitou can bring Kite back. When that flame of hope is finally snuffed out, he absolutely loses it.

The normally cheerful little boy spends a few minutes mumbling to himself about Kite’s demise, then is so overcome by rage that he trades in all the power he’ll ever have in his life to become a hulking, adult version of himself that mercilessly destroys Pitou in one of the most emotionally scarring scenes in anime history. Afterward, he’s so badly damaged that his survival looks unlikely. 

3. Naruto’s Sensei Is Slain – Naruto

Naruto's Sensei Is Slain - Naruto 

More than just a teacher, Jiraiya is one of the most important people in Naruto’s life. Other than Iruka, he’s the closest thing Naruto ever had to a parent. That’s why when he learns that Jiraiya didn’t survive an assault by Pain, he’s absolutely gutted. At first, he finds it hard to believe, but once he accepts it, the grief sets in. The only thing that even begins to lift him out of it is a heart-to-heart with Iruka. But while Iruka’s support is invaluable, nothing can truly ease the pain of a loss that enormous. 

4. Yusuke Loses His Mentor – Yu Yu Hakusho

Yusuke Loses His Mentor - Yu Yu Hakusho

Genkai was a brutal mentor who never let Yusuke get away with doing any less than his best. Though the two of them argued constantly, that kind of tough love was exactly what the neglected teen needed. Yusuke adored Genkai, so when he found out that Toguro had destroyed her for seemingly no reason, he’s overcome with despair. 

This wasn’t the reaction that Togruo hoped for – he wanted to fire Yusuke up for their upcoming fight. But for once, Yusuke’s overwhelming emotion isn’t rage – it’s sadness.  

5. Vash Is Forced To Take A Life – Trigun

Vash Is Forced To Take A Life - Trigun

Vash is an avowed pacifist who desperately wants to protect people from harm, and never wants to be responsible for anyone’s demise. His brother Knives thinks that humans are predatory monsters who should be eliminated, and he really wants Vash to agree with him. That’s why he sends Legato Bluesummers after Vash. Legato goes on multiple violent sprees before finally threatening two people Vash really cares about – Milly and Meryl. Up until this moment, Vash thought that he could stop Legato without destroying him, but he can’t find another solution. Legato agrees, and tries to persuade Vash to shoot him.

He does. Milly and Meryl are safe, and Legato is no longer a threat, but Vash feels worse about himself than he ever has in his life. 

6. Alphonse Elric Questions His Identity – Fullmetal Alchemist 2003

Alphonse Elric Questions His Identity - Fullmetal Alchemist 2003

Being a soul bonded to a suit of armor can’t be good for one’s sense of self. When a guard at Lab 5 suggests that Alphonse’s memories could have been fabricated by his brother Edward, he can’t dismiss the idea. He eventually starts doubting everything he knows about himself and his life, and lashes out at his brother about it. He accuses Ed of intentionally manipulating his memories with alchemy. Not only has he lost faith in the basic facts of his own life, he no longer trusts his brother, one of the people he loves most in the world. 

7. Itadori Can’t Save Junpei – Jujutsu Kaisen

Itadori Can't Save Junpei - Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t over yet, and it’s possible that worse will come later – but this moment was a low one. 

One of the harshest lessons that Yuji Itadori has to learn is that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t save everyone. He learns that lesson in a brutal way when he’s utterly powerless to save his friend Junpei Yoshino. Junpei had been manipulated into villainy the cursed spirit Mahito, and was suffering both from bullying and the loss of his mother. Itadori persuaded him to leave Mahito’s side and come to Jujutsu Tech, where he assured him he’d find friends and a purpose.

But just as they finished reconciling, Mahito showed up and used Idle Transfiguration to turn Junpei into a misshapen monster that would only live for a few more minutes. Afterward, Itadori is emotionally gutted. 

8. Eren’s Mother Is Devoured By A Titan – Attack on Titan

Eren's Mother Is Devoured By A Titan - Attack on Titan

Eren’s Mother Is Devoured By A Titan – Attack on Titan

9. Meliodas Wrecks Danafor – The Seven Deadly Sins

Meliodas Wrecks Danafor - The Seven Deadly Sins 

Meliodas used to be a knight serving the Kingdom of Danafor. When Fraudrin invaded the Kingdom and annihilated his lover Liz, he lost control of his emotions and destroyed everything that Fraudrin hadn’t touched yet. It’s a rare glimpse into the darker side of a normally cheerful character – one that exemplifies just how much Elizabeth means to him.