Characters die all the time in manga, but the most shocking deaths are the ones that stay in fans’ minds for months, weeks, and even years. Indeed, shocking deaths don’t happen to minor characters or newcomers but rather key personas and favorites whom fans have invested emotionally a lot in, who have become, in a sense, real to them.
Shocking, in this context, does not mean gory or gruesome, though those too can be shocking in their own way. In this context, shocking refers to deaths that occur unexpectedly and with the dramatic tension that makes them an intense, visceral event. It is not necessarily shocking that a character eventually dies, but that they do in a moment or context that no one would expect them to. Below are ten manga deaths that few could have predicted, and fans will not forget anytime soon.
10 Portgas D. Ace (One Piece)
While Luffy’s brother Portgas D. Ace might not have started out as a primary character in One Piece, he soon became one of its most beloved heroes and an essential presence in more than a few key story arcs. As the only son of the Pirate King Gol D. Roger, there was always a feeling that he was too cool to die. Accordingly, few fans could predict that he would sacrifice himself to save Luffy and the Straw Haw Pirates from the Marines. Moreover, the exact situation of his death, namely a mortal blow by Admiral Akainu, was so sudden that it not only left much of the One Piece fandom agape but also distraught. After all, the hero of the story doesn’t often fail, and Luffy’s failure to save Ace will haunt him, and the fans, for a long time.
9 Himiko Toga (My Hero Academia)
Although Himiko Toga was one of the more sinful villains in My Hero Academia, her heartbreaking backstory – the fact that she was born with a Quirk that she had no control over and was shunned for it – made her a darling of fandom all the same. Indeed, while fans knew she would ultimately get arrested or even die, they never thought she’d die by sacrificing herself to save Ochako, the very person she mortally wounded. Indeed, Himiko’s way of showing love and friendship was to drink the object of her desire’s blood. However, despite confessing to liking Ochako, Himiko did the unthinkable and transferred her blood to the hero rather than drawing it out. This saves Ochako’s life and kills Himiko in a manner fans did not know she was capable of doing.
8 Kyojuro Rengoku (Demon Slayer)
The Demon Slayer Corps’ Hashira are both the tip of the spear and the last line of defense against the demon scourge. They’re not supposed to die – especially ones like Kyojuro Rengoku, who was literally raised in the shadow of a Hashira. Indeed, his eternally positive attitude despite having a heartbreaking backstory, with his abusive father and raising his brother alone, made him the most relatable Hashira. He was the one that fans hoped would survive to the very end. It is for these reasons that his death to Upper Moon Three Demon Akaza was so shocking, and it set the tone for fans who would soon learn that Demon Slayer was not afraid of killing its Hashira.
7 Makima (Chainsaw Man)
Rarely has there been a villain who dominated the story as much as Makima did in Chainsaw Man: Part 1. She had Denji so tightly wrapped around her finger that he literally became her dog. Makima just didn’t dominate Denji, she controlled the whole country of Japan thanks to her powers as the Control Devil. Still, while fans certainly believed she was in for some sort of reckoning, she was nevertheless largely deemed unkillable due to the many layers of protection she put around herself. Naturally, her death at the hands of the Chainsaw Man himself caught fans completely unaware. Indeed, the way she was outwitted by Denji, of all people, was not something any fan could have predicted or thought possible.
6 Eren Yeager (Attack on Titan)
No one was more central to the main plot line of a story than Attack on Titan’s Eren Yeager. From the very beginning, fans’ perception of the story was influenced by Eren’s thinking and ideas. While he held down the role of tortured hero, his increasing embrace of the dark side turned more than a few fans against him. Nevertheless, he remained a star in the story until he started the Rumbling. At that point, it was clear to fans that there would be a reckoning in Eren’s future. What was shocking, however, was that he was ultimately killed by Mikasa – the love of his life, and the person most fans hoped Eren would eventually end up living with happily ever after.
5 Nobara Kugisaki (Jujutsu Kaisen)
Despite the likelihood of someone dying, manga generally don’t kill off their main characters, at least not until the bitter end. That, however, was not the case for Jujutsu Kaisen’s Nobara Kugisaki. Introduced in the third chapter, Nobara – with Yuji and Megumi – made up one of the story’s original hero triumvirate. The chemistry between the three was almost instantaneous. This led fans to believe that these three would be fighting together all the way to the last battle. Naturally, Nobara’s sudden death at the hands of Mahito just when it seemed she’d figured out how to beat him came as a jaw-dropping surprise that no one saw coming. Still, Nobara’s death was never fully confirmed in the manga, and some Jujutsu Kaisen fans are sure Nobara will come back before the end.
4 Jiraiya (Naruto)
While Naruto and Sasuke have their dueling fan bases, everyone seems to like Jiraiya. Despite being one of the famous “Sannin,” Jiraiya always had a soft spot for capable children who did not have a famous or powerful family to support them. The most notable receiver of his was Naruto himself, who became his favorite disciple. There was also Jiraiya’s pacifist nature – which for a ninja runs counter to their way of doing things – and that Naruto inherited. Considering that Jiraiya became a father figure for Naruto, it was a major shock when he was defeated by Pain – another one of his former students. Notably, Jiraiya wasn’t brought back as an Edo Tensei revenant during the final war, as the author said he could not imagine a moment meaningful enough for his return.
3 Ai Hoshino (Oshi no Ko)
The concept of shocking deaths in manga should not apply to supporting characters, as they are not essential to the story. However, this was not the case for Oshi no Ko’s Ai Hoshino. Indeed, being the “gateway character” for readers to enter the lives of her children Aqua and Ruby, Hoshino was central to framing and providing context to their stories. This is why her sudden murder in front of her children caused a fandom-wide shocked reaction. Indeed, nothing about the circumstances set fans up for what was about to transpire. She opened the door expecting she would see the children’s long-estranged father, only to end up with a knife in her belly. For someone who oozed perky positivity, she exhibited few if any of the characteristics that would put fans on notice that she would die.
2 Gesicht (Pluto)
It’s rare for the main character to be confronted by the central problem of the series, and resolve the problem, but just when they are about to enter the “happily ever after” zone, they die a violent death. That is what exactly happened to Pluto’s Gesicht. Gesicht is the protagonist who is tasked with finding a robot killing robots and humans. However, the stress of the cases and his life as a police detective take their toll on him. After the case is resolved and the alleged culprit is identified and detained, Gesicht decides to take some time off. One day while wandering trying to get away from it all, Gesicht runs into a robot that reminds him of his deceased son. Unfortunately, that robot is controlled by the series’ villain who then commands it to kill Gesicht. It was an eye-popping surprise that at that point seemed an oddly random – yet shocking – way to conclude a story.
1 Satoru Gojo (Jujutsu Kaisen)
If there ever was a character who represented a series while not being the main character it’s Satoru Gojo. Absent for large sections of the story, including some of its most important and significant, Gojo nevertheless has been the face of the Jujutsu Kaisen universe. However, despite his oversized status, fans knew he was not necessarily immune to death. Indeed, if creator Gege Akutami has revealed anything about himself, it’s his penchant to kill off fan-favorite characters. What was shocking about Gojo’s death was not that it happened at the hands of Ryomen Sukuna, the “King of Cruses”, but the way that the author presented it. While in the previous chapter Gojo seemed to have the upper hand, the following one opens with the hero talking to his deceased friends in a version of Heaven, before revealing Gojo’s dissected body in front of Sukuna.
Death happens all the time in manga, but there are certain deaths that stick with fandom permanently, even long after the series has ended. With a medium so full of tropes, it’s hard to surprise fans at all, so having a truly shocking death is a testament to the quality of a series. These most shocking deaths in manga, however, are not just used for cheap shock value, they always make the story more interesting and unpredictable.