1. Nina Tucker, Fullmetal Alchemist/Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
It's hard to pick just one horribly upsetting moment from Fullmetal Alchemist and its reboot/remake/we-promise-it's-more-like-the-manga-this-time follow-up Brotherhood. If we're looking for a character whose death brought us the greatest range of twisting, churning emotions during the series, however, it's certainly Nina Tucker.
In all versions of the story series protagonists Edward and Alphonse Elric spend a great deal of time with the rather likable child. The trio grows closer through shared adventures in that way only flashbacks and montages can properly achieve.
Nina's father Shou, however, isn't so likeable. Oh, sure. He's quiet, throws himself into projects he refuses to talk about, and cares more about his job as a government alchemist than his family, but... You know what? Maybe we should have seen this coming after all.
Besides being kind of a crappy dad Shou specializes in a very particular kind of alchemy (the show's word for transforming things into other things). "Bio-Alchemy" to be specific. Just the sort of thing the show's imperialist government could use to raise an army of "chimera" soldiers stitched together from humans, animals, and whatever else happened to be laying around. Except Shou is also a bit of a failure. His only successful chimera having been secretly made out of his supposedly estranged wife.
One night Nina gets just a bit too clingy and gives good ol' dad a horrible idea: to buy himself a win by sacrificing his daughter and the family dog. The result is passed on to the military, but an eagle-eyed Edward notices some uncanny similarities to his once-human friend.
Needless to say, he's not as impressed by the top brass.
Now here's where the two anime series -- and the manga -- diverge. In the books and Brotherhood Nina is peacefully disintegrated by a misunderstood murderer by the name of Scar. In the 2003 series, however, Scar blasts the half-dog, half-Nina concoction into a hard-to-clean stain.
And that's just the start of her woes as a cloning subplot drags Nina back into the story much, much later. So, with all due respect to Maes Hughes and the other victims of Fullmetal Alchemist's brutal plot, we give the trauma award to Ms. Tucker.
2. Kamina, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
In a world of serious, often dreary mecha anime there came a series called Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Besides being gorgeous, energetic, and propulsive, this show was fun. Much of which had to do with the principle cast: the worrywart with potential, Simon, the knowledgeable resistance fighter Yoko, and the trio's heart, soul, and official Cool Guy Kamina.
Of the three Kamina seems the most likely to lead humanity to the surface in a post-apocalyptic world where society has been driven underground by alien "beastmen" and their giant robots. It sounds pretty serious on paper, but their fearless, impetuous, and brash leader Kamina does a fantastic job of lightening the mood.
Here is a man who believes in everyone, and isn't afraid to shout the news three inches from their faces for the better part of an episode. Here is a man put a giant pair of sunglasses on his giant suit of powered armor. A suit he stole from more-or-less the first person he saw after encouraging his partner, Simon, into drilling to the surface world. Here is a man who knows that sometimes, someone, somewhere has to pull off wearing a cape with no shirt.
And then he dies. It's a heartfelt, powerful death that sees him go out with all the flair you might expect. It's also only about a third of the way through the series, against a third-rate lieutenant working for the ever-growing rebellion's true target: the Spiral King Lordgenome.
For those who didn't know it was coming, ethis was more than a little shocking. Simon was always going to be the true hero of th series, but anyone watching at the time expected the duo's dynamic to last at least until the first climax.
In the end this might have been the right move on the part of the showrunners. Kamina is as likeable a martyr as he was a warrior. His expulsion from the story gives Simon motivation, and the room to grow into a tall glass of charisma in his own right. Still, the abruptness of the change -- and ensuing, multi-episode depression spiral it sets our heroes down -- were enough to make Kamina's short time with us feel too short.