Friday’s Feature: The Importance of the Final Impression

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.

How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 12

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.

Ragnarok12d

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.

Steins23e

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.

Twilight12a

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.

Karandi James

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31 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: The Importance of the Final Impression

    1. Kaze no Stigma definitely needed a bit more direction and focus to its story and then it needed more time to resolve itself. It ended up very messy. And yeah, harem anime by their nature tend not to resolve the actual issue because then they can’t have a sequel.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “though making fun of the ending seems kind of pointless given how many other things went wrong with the series…”

    I’m with you on this one. I had to force myself to finish watching The Master of Ragnarok, even though I had been looking forward to it. It couldn’t hold a candle to How Not to Summon a Demon Lord in terms of plot coherency and complexity. And its other claim to fame, its fanservice, suffered by comparison as well.

    And I’m still astounded that I’d use the phrase “plot coherency and complexity” in a non-ironic way about How Not to Summon a Demon Lord! But, there it is…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Demon Lord was very coherent in how it told its story and I really enjoyed that it managed to like things together throughout to build up to its climax. Ragnarok on the other hand, other than the magic mirror thing that still wasn’t really explained, didn’t have a lot tying it together.

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  2. It’s funny how often it seems like anime struggle to get their endings right. Such a basic thing, and yet apparently so hard to do. Even a lot of my favorite TV anime have endings that are of…debatable quality, assuming they even have a proper ending and don’t just meander to a stop somewhere along the way. On the whole, it seems like sports anime have the best track record (for me) of coming up with satisfying endings, probably because whatever big match they spend the series building towards creates a natural climax/resolution arc that they don’t have to overthink. Of the anime on my personal top 20-ish anime list that didn’t involve some kind of sport or competition, I’d say that Anohana, Hyouka, and Trigun probably had the best endings IMO. I’m aware that Hyouka’s ending in particular is kind of polarizing, but personally I thought that last episode beautifully showcased Oreki’s growth and maturity since the beginning of the series and was a great way to wrap things up.

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    1. I really liked Trigun’s ending. I felt that story was nicely completed and I really just enjoy how that story evolves as it goes along before coming to what is by the time you get there a fairly natural conclusion.

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  3. I guess the biggest problem is when people have differing opinions on an ending. I thought the ending to Master of Ragnarok was great but that’s because I was only watching the show for the characters at that point and not the plot. But as I found out with Seven Senses of the Re’Union endings are very important and end up informing my whole opinion of a show, especially if it’s a show with no sequel season.

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  4. As some one who just watched the ending of Parasyte, endings are very important. They wrap the whole series up and try to make the whole thing make sense. (Parasyte didn’t do that). I series that wants to continue should at least have some feeling of conclusion to them with maybe a hint or two to what’s going on next. I’m worried about MHA S3 not having a satisfying conclusion to it too.

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    1. I really don’t see how MHA is going to be able to wrap anything up in a satisfying manner this season given we had just had new characters introduced last episode. I guess we will find out tonight how they plan to end it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it is that make or break moment. That’s why I’m still so mad about KADO and how it ended. I really should let it go at some point but every time I think about how that ended it just frustrates me.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Some anime end really perfectly. Some are open-ended in hopes of getting funded for a sequel. Some end so poorly you write them off. Cowboy Bebop has a great ending. Evangelion has a crap one. Rune Soldier Louie has a great ending. SNAFU doesn’t even have an ending. Neither does Kare Kano (aka His and Her Circumstances). Konosuba sort of has an ending, which is okay. I haven’t seen all the endings this season, but some of the anime I’m watching are just baffling. Island (of Indifference) I just don’t care about its ending. If anything, that show has been more incoherent than Celestial Method or Glasslip, which are my personal baselines for incoherent stories despite having good animation. I still don’t know why those got made in the first place. I may have to put Island on that list.

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      1. Have you seen the original ending from the TV series? Before the OVA movies were made it was a hot mess of “WTF just happened?” It was improved by the OVAs, but they came many years later. And there were death threats. Imagine getting invested in the characters and the story and then the last six are hot garbage with popsicle sticks and crayon drawing stills. And “nice boat”, which replaced one of the episodes because they just didn’t finish it in time. Its FAMOUS for failure. Evangelion getting finished at all was amazing, but it was extra horrible how they finished it too, with all the wrenching character deaths. Evangelion caused actual suicides. Its also spawned LOTS of fanfiction because so many people were unhappy with it. They didn’t like its ending, and thought they could do better. https://www.fanfiction.net/anime/Evangelion/ 8300 stories. That’s a lot. More when you include crossovers. Many people just weren’t happy with how Evangelion ended or how long it took to get to that dissatisfying condition.

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        1. I really didn’t care for the OVA’s. I loved the original TV series ending. Yes it is a hot mess but that is kind of what I liked about it. I also know lots of people hate it, but honestly, I think the ending fits perfectly well with the overall ideas the show was presenting.

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          1. Its similar to Evangelion, only better done with a more cohesive plot, many of the same voice actors, and is generally considered “Evangelion done right”. Its also listed in the Top 50 anime of all time.

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  6. Wow…that’s a tough question to answer indeed🤔🤔 Like you I was also left a bit unsatisfied with the ending of Phantom in the Twilight. It wrapped the story up, but at the same time it could have been so much better 😔
    I was looking a bit through my list of anime shows that I have seen, and I think that two spring to mind when it comes to endings that I liked. One is the first season of Psycho Pass. It ended very satisfactory and wrapped the story up incredibly well. The second is Your Lie in April….and I don’t even think I have to explain that one.
    When it comes to bad endings I hate series that just leave everything wide open, especially if it’s shows that I truly enjoyed. For that one I will choose Deadman Wonderland. I really enjoyed that series, but then it just…stopped without any kind of resolution whatsoever. That made me so mad.
    I agree though, and ending to a series is just as important as a beginning, because it can make or break the way you feel about a show 😊 Great post as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree with you on Deadman Wonderland. I was having a great time with that show and then, nothing. I won’t ever rewatch it because it just leaves everything hanging. Much like Btooom really. That said, I also agree with you on the first season of Psycho Pass. I love how that ends.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Such an incredible shame. I loved that show a lot, and was really invested in it. I always hoped that maybe they would go back to it at some point, but nope…never happened 😢
        I’ve not yet seen Btoom, but I will keep that in mind as it is on my to watch list. I’m wondering what they will do for the 3rd season that is coming up for Psychopass 😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Btooom literally just stops mid story as well. What you get is fun but without any closure it just kind of hurts.
          I still haven’t seen season 2 of Psycho Pass. A lot of negative reviews kind of put me off trying it because I didn’t want it to be another Black Butler or Darker Than Black where I had to just pretend the second season didn’t exist because it undid an ending I quite liked. That said, not really sure I’m up for a third season of Psycho Pass.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well…than honestly, I am not going to watch it. I don’t see the point in seeing it, if it stops just midstory. That really makes me sad.
            Well…Having seen the second season, I can say it isn’t as bad as a lot of people made it out to be. Yes, the first season is much better that is true, but I quite enjoyed the second season as well. There are certainly a lot of interesting developments there too, and the story also is pretty cool (not too mention very gruesome).
            Well…as for a third season..if it has a good script, I’m down for it 😊😊

            Liked by 1 person

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