*WARNING – MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW*
Pop’s and Toboe’s Death – Wolf’s Rain
Part of what makes deaths in storytelling so sad is actually survival. Characters survive dangerous situations and overcome challenges. That’s why these kinds of deaths will stick with you more than deaths in other anime, where the bodycount is high. If everyone dies, it’s just a matter of course. When characters live through dangerous situations, we get to see our characters’ mettle tested. Through those, we often get a glimpse at the very heart of our characters. When they die, we’ve become so invested in those characters that it leaves a very large impact.
This was my second anime ever, so it came as a surprise when main characters died. In this case, everyone dies. However, there are several things that stand out about this pair of deaths in particular. It’s the first in the chain of deaths. But what makes it so sad is the complicated relationship that Pops has with the wolves. At first, he’s actively trying to pursue and kill them as an almost generic antagonist. But as time goes by, he becomes quite the sad and tragic character himself. This death happens right as the viewer is lead to believe that Pops is redeeming himself. What makes it worse, is that he seems to believe he shot Toboe. We never know for sure. In a sense, the deaths are somewhat redemptive for the both of them, which makes it tragic as well. Really impactful, even thinking about it many years later.
– WARNING – MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW –
Wizardmon – Digimon
Now, I know I said that my first anime was Azumanga Daioh, but that’s because I didn’t quite feel like I could give Digimon as a legitimate answer. I’m talking the Fox Kids English dub/edit version of Digimon. But, here’s the thing—even with all the editing and the cheesy lines, it still comes out to a surprisingly deep show about growing up and discovering who you are. I won’t go into it here, but after watching Digimon Adventure 01 in Japanese years later, I have a renewed respect for the show that goes beyond nostalgia glasses. (By the way…I may end up using more English digimon names than the Japanese because that’s what I saw first…my apologies for any confusion.)
So, after that introduction, I will now launch into the sadness. Wizardmon. Wizardmon is an interesting character who seems to be just one of Myotismon’s evil henchmen invading Tokyo from the Digital World, but his story slowly unfolds into so much more. He lies to his boss, cheats his boss, and seems to be oddly independent from him. His true allegiance and deep friendship lies with Tailmon/Gatomon, and it is for her own good and happiness that he does all that he does. She had saved him when he was lost and starving, and he could see how she was lost and felt as if she had no purpose in life—as if something was missing. Wizardmon then joined Myotismon’s army to follow Tailmon and eventually help bring her and Hikari/Kari together.
Upon discovery of his subordinate’s “treason,” Myotismon sends an attack to kill Tailmon and Hikari…but the attack never reaches them. Instead, they see the shadowed back of Wizardmon and the tattering of his cape and hat as he takes the full blow in their stead. He falls to the ground, imparting a few encouraging words to them before disappearing before their eyes, never to return.
Part of what was so powerful about this scene to me (especially the first time I saw it), was that I believe it was the first time I had ever really felt so very sad watching something. It was surprise, it was sadness, it was the crushing reality that he wasn’t coming back. He wasn’t going to show up in the Village of All Beginnings. He was dead. My brother and I sat on the couch, eyes wide, tears welling up in them as we had to say goodbye to a character that we had grown to love and respect. Even now, years later, when I mention Wizardmon to my brother, we pause sadly together. It had just that big of an impact on us.
Farewell, Wizardmon, good friend. You will always have a place in our hearts.
Zenko signing off.