The Ending of Anime
After watching an anime, there are many things one can consider while trying to determine whether or not they liked it. For myself there are a plethora of things I consider while weighing the quality of a show. However, one specific category that I personally think is not emphasized enough and that I always try to draw attention to is how a show ends. To put it simply, did the show I just finished have a good ending? How a show ends is so important to me that a bad ending can practically destroy (or at least severely harm) an otherwise great show. Likewise, a stellar finish can save a mediocre anime and make it a good one. With this being said, I felt like it was necessary to categorize the ways anime can end in a simple but concise way. I wanted to demonstrate the various anime ending choices so that even someone who was not familiar with the medium could understand. Therefore, after much consideration I was able to narrow anime endings into three categories with some examples:
1) Anime that follow their source material to the end.
With these anime endings, one has a show that follows the ending that was laid out by its source material, be it manga, light novels, and so on. They are not necessarily good endings, but generally speaking when a show follows its source material through to the end, it is going to provide a solid finish, or at least an expected finish. Shows like this might of course still make changes from their source material but all in all, they stay true to the overall plot of the source.
Shows that stay relatively true to their source material usually have solid endings. Some examples of these shows are Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Parasyte, and Steins; Gate. These shows are examples of the anime staying pretty true to the overall plot of the source materials and also providing a good ending. There are, of course, less great anime out there that follow their source material and this does not make the anime automatically better but it at least does not take away from the viewing experience.
2) Anime that make up an ending to their show.
These anime provide an ending that thoroughly deviates from the original source material. This might be because the show itself has long left the source material in the dust. It might also be because the show has run out of source material and must end because it does not want to fill the time with countless hours of bad filler arcs. I think Gintoki from Gintama explains this pretty well:
This type of ending might also occur because the budget calls for only so much anime, even while the source material continues for many more chapters. This type of ending does not necessarily spell disaster for a show, but it must tread more carefully when developing its ending. This category is the most complicated as many shows with less developed plots will slide into this category; so it is important that the show’s creators develop their endings to fit the show.
This second category as stated above is the most complicated. I personally however believe that this category can be separated simply into shows that worked and shows that did not work. For example, my number one favorite anime, Trigun, does not follow its source material’s ending but nonetheless provides a fulfilling closure to its show. Another example is the original Fullmetal Alchemist. In my opinion the original FMA movie, which ended the anime, saved the show several points on the old rating scale because of its ability to wrap up the show. Then one has shows that make up their endings and fail miserably. Two famous perpetrators to this are Claymore and Berserk. These endings were thrown together because the creators were out of room for their show. Both endings are cringe-worthy and bring down their watch-ability value considerably.
3) Anime that just leave you in a pit of nothingness.What I mean by this is that the anime that fit this category leave the viewer with an open ending that basically tells the reader to go read the source material. They do not bring any closure to the show, nor does the show set itself up for an ambiguous ending . These endings usually do spell disaster for my viewing pleasure and it grinds my gears when a show I really enjoy pulls this little trick out of its hat.
This final category is unique because shows that might eventually get a sequel could move out of this category. However, as of writing this, anime that promise more and then leave you with an unquenchable void fill up this category. Examples of these shows consist of Problem Children from Another World and No Game No Life. Both of these shows created excellent worlds but then failed to fill them or complete the story. Instead these shows felt more like advertisements for the source material. While all anime are technically an advertisement for the source material, it is only with these shows and shows with really bad endings (looking at you Claymore) where this fact becomes overly prevalent and degrading from the quality of the show. Even super popular shows such as Attack on Titan fall victim to this category (until potential sequels are truly announced.)
Now we come to the ending of my fluff. I realize that these three categories do not perfectly cover every anime nor are they free of my own personal subjectivity. However, I feel that generally speaking, they provide a solid backbone for categorizing anime endings and they allow for the viewer and the reviewer to figure out if the show’s creators followed through all the way to the end of their creation.