It seems an appropriate time for me to turn my attention to how audiences receive final episodes given the Summer anime season is rapidly drawing to a close. As much as we think about first episodes and how important it is to grab the audience and draw them in, for me, once I’ve decided to watch a show, how it ends becomes incredibly important. No matter how much I’ve enjoyed watching something, a poor ending can really sour the whole experience, or at the very least make me not want to rewatch an anime. While some viewers won’t mind whether something has rewatch value or not, for me that’s the whole point of falling in love with a show. Watching it again, and again, and again.
As I am discussing final episodes, please note that there will be spoilers.
What makes it hard with anime is the sheer number that just don’t end. They leave themselves open for sequels that may or may not ever exist or they deliberately stop where they do because they want you to engage with the source material (whether it be a game, manga, or novels). These shows automatically make it hard for me to recommend them because they aren’t a complete story in and of themselves and if they haven’t even taken minimal steps to leave the audience at a satisfactory resting place in the story it just doesn’t feel like it is worth the effort starting something that decidedly doesn’t end. Other people may feel differently about it, but my primary focus with watching anime is the story so an unfinished story is more or less the kiss of death no matter how great the journey to get there was.
That said, not every single loose end needs to be tied up and just because there is sequel bait doesn’t mean we can’t get to a satisfactory resolution for the immediate issue or problem faced. There are plenty of good examples of anime that manage this kind of ending, though from the Summer season I’m going to look at How Not To Summon a Demon Lord.
While the overall complication of Diablo having been summoned into a game like world is not resolved leaving the story open to plenty of sequels and the overall story is clearly not complete, the final episode of How Not To Summon a Demon Lord managed to bring the audience to a decent climactic point and resolve the current drama. They did this through the sub-plot of Rem carrying around another Demon Lord inside of her that was going to be reborn. This wasn’t suddenly thrown at the audience in the final episodes to give an excuse for a fight. It was introduced early in this season and we revisited this point multiple times throughout the series before it became the central focus of the final few episodes.
The rebirth of this Demon Lord and the subsequent fight felt satisfying because there had been build up to this issue, it was directly tied in with the main characters, there was a genuine sense that this was dangerous enough as a threat, and the immediate danger/issue was solved by the time the final credits rolled. This is a great example of a narrative that wants to continue giving the audience enough of an ending that even if no sequel ever occurs, we’re all still pretty satisfied with the season as it aired.
Alternatively, we could look at the obvious comparison of The Master of Ragnarok (though making fun of the ending seems kind of pointless given how many other things went wrong with the series) and realise how it utterly and completely dropped the ball. Midway through the season we were still introducing would be antagonists and powers and rules to the story so very few of them felt like they meant anything. The main character was returned to his original time which should have been the end, only he felt bad about abandoning ‘his’ people in their time of need so opted to be summoned back. Also fine enough, except for the part where I am still not sure how his coming back actually fixed the dire situation his people were in. They never did explain how he overcame any of the challenges. Not to mention he took his childhood sweetheart back with him (admittedly she asked to go) and I just have to wonder if she knew what exactly she was getting into.
This ending just didn’t satisfy or even make a lot of sense and while there is clearly sequel potential, I’d have to wonder who is actually hanging out and waiting for a continuation of a show that just kind abandons fights midway through because clearly they don’t have a solution for how the protagonist is going to get out of the situation they dumped him in.
Moving away from isekai stories though, we had another great example of a story ending in Steins;Gate 0. Now I am not the biggest fan of this particular spin-off story and yet the way it concluded, bringing itself nicely back into line with the events in the original series provided an incredibly satisfying end to the overall narrative that had been established by this series. Okabe had given up on trying to save both Kurisu and Mayuri and had let Kurisu die. He was now going back to save Kurisu. It is as complete as it needs to be and while there are definitely loose ends and I’m still curious about the whole war thing, there is little to complain about in terms of narrative closure.
However, there are times when we get an ending that does in fact conclude the story and yet still feels like it isn’t particularly satisfying. This season I got that feeling from Phantom in the Twilight. I really enjoyed that series once it got going and there is a lot to like about how it builds up the world and story throughout. The final episodes bring us a conflict between the established antagonists and the protagonist and her friends and the fairly predictable good guys win the fight ending occurs. While there is heaps of room for a sequel, this particular chapter is wrapped up nicely.
Yet, there was a lot lacking from these final episodes. My biggest issue will be with the villains as I still didn’t really care about them or their motives and they largely came to lame ends that served no real purpose. The monsters the group were fighting were very samey and didn’t really seem to put up enough of a fight so even though there were lots of enemies you didn’t really get an overall sense of danger. Basically while the story worked the execution let it down and while it is still good enough, it leaves an impression that the story was somehow less impressive than it might have been and while I still enjoyed the series overall these final episodes certainly left me with a weaker impression of it than I had at about the midseason mark.
Basically, I really wish more anime actually ended well. So I’ll turn it over to the readers and ask you which anime you think have the best endings and which ones have the worst and why?
Thanks for reading.
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