"Tears of Steel" deals with Albert's Backstory and the story of how he lost his fiance Hilda. They were trying to escape East Germany, so Hilda hid in the back of a van while Albert played an ordinary truck driver. Unfortunately, as they were driving through the checkpoint, the guard tried to tell Albert he'd forgotten his licence. Albert panicked and floored it, so the guards opened fire... ...leading to his being severely injured and Hilda dying in his arms.
The same episode also revolves around Tragic Monster 0011, whose situation parallels Heinrich's: he used to be an ordinary man with a wife and child, but was kidnapped and turned into a cyborg. All he wanted was a chance to return home...
0013's situation is just as bad. Seems Black Ghost loves creating Tragic Monsters.
"London Fogs" reveals G.B.'s history: in this continutiy, he started out in a small theater with a closeknit troupe of friends, including his girlfriend Sophie. As they were preparing to perform "Mists of London", he receieved an offer to act at a prestigious theater. Despite his initial reluctance, Sophie encouraged him to go, and that role helped catapult him to fame... but he lost contact with his old friends, effectively abandoning them. When his star fell, he was too ashamed to try and make amends, especially as he spiraled into drunken depression. When the team visits London, he finally returns to the old theater, and discovers Sophia moved on and had a daughter, Rosa, who utterly despises him. She also takes him to see her mother's grave, and when a BG attack coincides with Rosa and her theater group enacting "Mists of London" itself, he tearfully begs her to let him perform the lead role as his late apology to her dead mother. She does, and later she forgives him..
Pyunma getting forced into a Cain and Abel situation in "Goodbye, My Friend".
"A Phantom Dog". Joe adopting an adorable puppy? Yeah, you know that's going to end well. Especially when the whole episode is presented as Joe narrating the story of how they metup until he's forced to put the pup down.
The climax of the Greek Gods Arc, and Apollo's final moments, where he just... gives up after getting revenge for his sister's death.
"The City of Wind". While looking for a lost expedition party led by one of G.B.'s old friends, Joe gets seperated from the others and meets Princess Ixquic. She begs for Joe to save her from her tragic situation, but he can't — especially after 005's forced to Shoot the Dog and destroy the conditions that enable her and Kabrakan to interact with the outside world.
Not to mention G.B.'s utter breakdown after they find the dead explorers. Joe sure doesn't — the way he calls out G.B. in the end over his anger at Ixquic is heartbreaking in and of itself.
YMMV on Princess Ixquic's handling by the script , and specially on Joe being utterly OOC when saying that his long-time friend's that his pain is less worthy than one of a girl he met less than a day ago (which he would NEVER do), but when you look closely, her situation does massively suck. Clingy and all, Ixquic never was evil... just very naive and sheltered due to her isolation, and truly wants to have company. Sadly, people tend to care more about the gold pyramid than her robotic self, and for worse she could NOT control her guardian Kabrakan...What a shame that her chapter was THAT badly done.
"The Night of the Star Festival", featuring Joe's time jump with Arisu and his wish to see his dead mother... never realizing that the little girl he's traveling with is his mother as a little girl.
"Black Ghost Lives", the Whole Episode Flashback detailing the history of the 00-Project. Particularly when the first four cyborgs meet for the first time... because they've all been thrown into a combat test without warning. Not only poor 003 has a Freak Out due to her overloaded senses, but 004's body starts malfunctioning and he collapses in pain, with the other three unable to help
The same episode combines this with horror by showing the other cyborgs being modified and experimented on, along with the revelation that part of what prompted Dr. Gilmore's Heel-Face Turn was being ignored when he protested Geronimo's heart being replaced by an inferior model.
The Psychic Assassins arc. By the end, Phil's prematurely aged himself to death, Gamo's dead, Lina's sacrificed herself to teleport Cain to The Labyrinth, and Mai, the Sole Survivor, fades out of existence because they changed the past.
Joe getting to catch up with his "Old Friends" Shinichi, Masaru and Mary... and finding out they've been turned into cyborgs meant to assassinate him. Naturally, they blame him for this... but still can't bring themselves to kill him. Though Joe begs for them to join their rebellion, Von Bogoot installed some extra insurance: bombs buried in their bodies. When he activates them, they shove Joe away, bid him farewell, and huddle together for a final group hug, exploding right in front of Joe as he screams helplessly.
During the following arc, Pyunma's reaction when he discovers that Gilmore upgraded him while he was unconcious. While Gilmore's reasons for doing so are sound — after all, he saved his life — he chooses poor counterargument by pointing out how much stronger this makes him, getting called out for it.
And how does that same arc end? With Viina and her sisters getting murdered by Von Bogoot — bonus points for Viina dying in Heinrich's arms exactly like Hilda did — and Joe and Jet appearing to burn up in the atmosphere while Francoise's powers means she's Forced to Watch helplessly. What makes this worse is that Jet was trying to save Joe... but didn't have enough fuel for reentry, rendering it a Senseless Sacrifice other than ensuring that Joe wouldn'tdie alone. As poor Joe screams at Jet and pleads with him to save himself.
The team helping the dead Pu'Awak sisters touch each others' hands was an anime-original moment that added to the already upsetting scene of their deaths.
In "Conclusion: Gods War", the Mind Rape of all the cyborgs at once, being shown their worst fears — that not only are they monsters, but so are all of humanity.
Anime (1979 series)
In episode 3, a little girl is critically injured in a fire trying to save her grandpa (who is really the 'God' controlling the giant). As she lies on the ground surrounded by the cyborgs, 004 assures her that her grandpa is fine. The little girl, worried about her grandpa, requests to hear his voice and reveals that she can't open her eyes due to the fire damage. 004, distressed, says that he's not sure if he can do that and the little girl asks if she could at least hear her grandpa's music. In the background, 007 begins to play her grandpa's accordion, tears streaming down his own face. The little girl expresses her delight, thinking that her grandpa's still alive, and then dies.
Episode 11, where Albert befriends this German girl named Lena, who is actually a Robot Girl, whom her father/creator wants to use as a Soul Jar for the soul of Adolf Hitler. He manages to save her, but he cannot stay or bring her along, and Lena is left at the train station morning how she couldn't tell him that she loved him.. Holy shit, the end is sad.
Episode 18 of the '79 series, "The Vampire Within Us", sees a town launching a vicious Vampire Hunt. Shortly after the cyborgs arrive, they try to save a couple from being killed by the mob, only for the Mayor to come out and shoot them both dead, then insist he did what was best for the village.
This isn't the first time he's killed, either. In the past, he murdered his son's best friend after he was accused of being a vampire, burning his house down — with the boy's father inside as well. The father survived and turns out to be the Villain of the Week, faking a vampire outbreak in order to force the mayor to kill his apparently vampirized son. And the reason Jim was mistaken for a vampire? He was trying to help a girl who'd been bitten by a snake.
Episode 19 of the '79 series delves into Gilmore's past and how he used to be friendly rivals with two fellow scientists. A summons to meet them on a manmade island turns out to be a trap, and the one responsible reveals that their mutual Love Interest died long ago. Though he'd married her after Gilmore disappeared to join Black Ghost, their bliss came to a premature end when she got in a fatal car crash. Blinded and on the verge of death, she accidentally confessed to her husband that she'd always been in love with Gilmore.
G.B.'s Backstory in the '79 series. He used to go on frequent hiking trips with his best friend, another actor named Henry Brown. The two competed for the lead role in a major production; when Brown won, he encouraged G.B. not to give up on his own career. The two then went on a climbing expidition together, but a sudden equipment failure led to Brown falling to his death before G.B.'s eyes. Due to the timing, everyone suspected he'd killed him out of jealousy. That effectively destroyed his career, causing him to spiral even further into drunken depression.
Anime (1968 series)
Episode #2 of the 1968 series with Cyborg X...You actually would be quite surprised.
This series also adapted the Kubikuro side-story that was utilized in the 2001 anime. Joe has to face off against the dog, and drops his gun in horror and grief after having done what he'd needed to. He then muses that the dog is now in Heaven, with images of a barking and happy Kubikuro superimposed against the sky.
In "The Golden Lion", Pyunma returns home to his village- just in time to find out that his parents and little sister have been mauled to death by the titular lion, with him discovering the horrific sight of their mangled bodies.
The end of the Yomi arc, as with the 2001 anime, has Jet venture up into space to rescue Joe, only for the events that follow to pretty much occur the same way. The only difference is that the manga lacks Francoise's terrified reaction shot (indicating that she can sense what's happened to Joe) as the "shooting star" makes its way down to Earth. Even if it was retconned shortly later, the ending is very bittersweet, and this is where Tokyopop opted to stop the manga in the U.S. releases.
The team ordering 006 to ceremonially cremate the Pu'Awak sisters' bodies, in order to give them a more dignified send-off than what Von Bogoot had done to them.
The manga's telling of the "Old Friends" story is sad in a different way, compared to the anime rendition: After a long fight and chase after his modified friends, Joe pleads with the three to stop and tells them that they're all victims of the Black Ghost. He urges them to believe him. The three other teenagers proceed to lunge at Joe— and wind up exploding, with a horrified Joe flying away from the disaster. He gazes at the smoking crater left behind where his friends died, and realizes that the Black Ghost wired them to explode if their thoughts strayed from their mission.
The Kubikuro story is as much a tear jerker in its original manga incarnation, with the final splash panel depicting a tearful Joe crying as he cradles the dog.
While 0012 is a much flatter villain in the manga and doesn't have the backstory that her anime counterpart got, her situation is still a bit pitiful. Despite her sadistically taunting the team beforehand, she quickly folds and shows her fear when the jar containing her brain is shattered, causing her to go haywire. She pleads with the team to save her, but it's too late; as she telepathically screams in agony, her mansion "body" quickly crumbles and is sucked into the ground. While Albert and GB believe that she was trying to finish them off, Joe muses that 0012 must have been only trying to give herself a proper burial.
"The Glacier of Love" from the '80s run provides some introspection into Jet, who's since been taking on a darker edge with the years of fighting that have gone on (and his own weariness of being a cyborg). He meets a terminally ill young woman named Eva Klien and opts to spend time with her, learning that she had wished to see the tops of the mountains one last time. She confesses to Jet that wished she could see the world and be free, and before he's able to stop her, she plunges to her death in suicidal despair. With her dying breath, she tells him that she was able to feel happiness and love. The chapter ends with Jet flying her corpse through the mountain sky, before burying it in the snow as he muses bitterly about his abilities and potential immortality.
"Father and Child" (from the same above era) has Joe and G.B. relate the tale of a blind young man named Kouji who had issues with his father. After the father was killed in a hit-and-run, his dying wish to G.B. was for Kouji to see again. The man reveals that he was terminally ill anyway, and in his last breaths, G.B. shapeshifts into the son to comfort him and let him see his child one last time. After the cornea transplant is complete and Kouji regains his sight, he expresses his rage at his father (with G.B. having taken on the guise) for having belittled him throughout his life. Joe and G.B. then take the young man to a cemetery and relate his father's sacrifice to him. Kouji then tearfully asks if G.B. can transform one more time, and he breaks down, crying "Father!".
"The Dolphin and the Boy" tells the tale of a young boy named Shinji who wishes to stop the killing of dolphins. It's then revealed that he has a fondness towards them due to a dolphin having saved him from a shark, though nobody else would believe him. After Ivan psychically pushes a group of dolphins to direct a school of tuna towards the beach for fishermen to catch, Shinji reaches an epiphany and promises to study dolphins in hopes of having humans and dolphins get along as friends. Francoise encourages him to follow his dream, and thanks Ivan for his help.
"The Snow Carnival" has the abrupt and tragic demise of Linda and Lena, two adoptive sisters that were manipulated by their cruel father for many years. Joe and Albert are left unable to save them from the avalanche, and tragically muse on how neither would live to see the carnival.
"The Red Shoes" involves Francoise relating the story of a former dancer, Rieko Kana, who was crippled and lost her ballet ability due to an automobile accident. However, Rieko turns back up to reunite with her former lover at a scheduled performance of "The Red Shoes", with her able to dance once more under mysterious circumstances. Francoise immediately realizes something is up, as flashbacks detail that Rieko had cybernetic surgery done on her legs. Before Joe can stop the performance, Rieko's very own "red shoes" turn out to be time bombs and detonate, killing both her and her lover. When the dust settles, Francoise believes that the two had intended to die together.
"Heart of the Machine" has Albert befriend a delinquent teenage girl named Nana. She turns out to have been targeted by gang members, and learns that this is due to her having connections with a drug-dealing friend. It's revealed that the girl's mother had walked out on the family, while her father had hooked up with a prostitute. Nana attempts to seduce Albert in a revealing negligee and when rebuffed, insists that he must stay to "take responsibility" and protect her. In the climactic sequence, Albert tears into Nana for her dangerous and toxic friendship and ways of enabling a drug user, but she disrobes and insists that she won't listen to a man who's too cowardly to have sex with her. After disrobing and receiving a silent disapproving reaction, she covers herself breaks down into tears at realizing how far she's fallen. Towards the end, when the two are on better terms, she insists that Albert must stay to protect her (as nobody else cares about her), but he firmly and bluntly points out that she's still trying to be dependent and that she needs to stay strong. He once more takes out the gang members that attempt to harm her, but leaves her with the parting gift of a kiss, with Nana tearfully watching him walk off.
Conclusion: God's War (Light novel and manga adaptation by Jo Onodera)
The premise of these two incarnations are rather bittersweet, with Ivan and Dr. Gilmore contacting a manga-style Author Avatar of an ill Ishinomori and letting him know that it's his job to write out their final tale.
006 being the first member of the team to be cruelly picked off by the Gods, overlapping with Nightmare Fuel when Shiva forces him to ingest parasitic snakes- which cause his body to explode, traumatizing his teammates.
008 sacrificing himself after revealing that his Heel-Face Turn was an act. He teleports off into the vacuum of space, against 002's terrified pleas, and uses his pressure manipulation ability to blow up a horde of Gods and mythical creatures- killing himself in the process
After another Curb-Stomp Battle, this is followed by 004 being crippled from the waist down by Odin. He convinces 007 to fly him off to a secluded place where he can self-detonate the atom bomb in his body, in a last-ditch effort to buy the other team members some time.
The Buddha killing Dr. Gilmore and the remaining team members' horrified reactions, followed by Buddha killing 007 and severely maiming 005 and 002, with the two dying very shortly after. In 002's case, we're treated to him lying helplessly with a terrified and pained expression as the life drains out of him, while 005 is called up into the heavens.
001's explanation of the origin of Earth becomes this, when 003 and 009 realize what they might have to do: The Earth is a corrupted version of a peaceful world that once existed in a parallel universe; the universe of light. What humans consider to be "Heaven" is based off of residual memories of that world. The angels that the team witnessed are denizens of that world, who have come to conduct surveillance on the imperfect Earth. 003 and 009 learn that beings of Earth are comprised of two souls, one of darkness and one of light. If they die, their pure souls will be returned to their proper world, while the dark side will linger as something akin to a ghost or demonic force. The Gods that the team have fought against are thus actually demons that have taken on that imagery, and there doesn't seem to be much way to truly defeat them.
With the world on the verge of collapse and the two deciding to pass away on their own terms to win against the Gods, Joe asks Francoise of her wish. She answers that she wishes to marry Joe.
The final sequence showing an alternate, peaceful Earth depicted in full vibrant color (rather than the grayscale manga). 002, 004, 005, 006, 007, and 008 appear alive, but now as ordinary humans enjoying a peaceful moment at the beach. They then reunite with 003 and 009, who also appear as humans. What makes this doubly tear-jerking is that in the light novel and in 001's explanation beforehand in both versions: This is the "world of light", that perfect and uncorrupted predecessor to Earth. With the implications given, the 00 team could still be seen as dead, but either reborn as beings of that alternate world or existing as purified spirits. And in a further bittersweet implication? Shotaro Ishinomori can be seen happily conversing with Dr. Gilmore in a brief cameo, as the two watch the team play around at the beach.
The deaths of the 0010 twins if you really think about it. They're brothers, but they're never able to touch or else they'll die (being opposite polarities, if they made contact they'd short-circut). In both the anime and manga, they're tricked into coming into contact with each other; Joe tricking them in a desert in the manga, while the anime sets the battle in a power plant. When the two attempt to charge after him, they crash into each other and short-circuit themselves to death, with Ivan telepathically stating that with their powers gone, they've died. And in their final moments, their corpses can be seen holding hands. Pretty sad and almost touching way to go for a couple of Jerk Ass villains.
The sacrifice of 0013 is another sad moment that's repeated through a few continuities. After the young cyborg suicidally detonates the giant robot that he uses to fight, Joe manages to recover his body from the debris. With his last dying gesture, the boy writes (and telepathically states) that he wanted to be Joe's friend. The 2001 version takes it further with him dying before he can give Joe his name. In the '79 version, this boy does have a name (Tsutomu), and explains to Joe via telepathy that his parents were murdered when he was a child, which caused him to lose his speech ability. Tsutomu then takes his giant robot out into the ocean, and despite Joe's pleas, blows it and himself up.