Feature – On Anime Ending Badly

An anime ending badly is kind of a cliché at this point. Particularly if the anime deviates from source material and creates an original ending.

We’ve all watched anime series that have been amazing until that final episode. We’ve all cringed as the show has suddenly veered off a cliff and sent the characters and plot flying in all directions. I’ve often heard it asked by casual anime viewers why do so many anime end really badly?

An anime ending badly is unfortunately all too common.

I don’t actually have an answer but I figured it was worth looking at this topic. Firstly, what are some of the things anime do that considered bad ends?

Number 1: They don’t End.

This is my number 1 pet peeve and the response from some people that you should pick up the manga or the game of light novel or whatever the source material is does not make the lack of ending of the anime any better. While there are some notable American TV shows that also never got an ending (usually due to being cancelled), this seems to be a pervasive problem in anime.

So, even if we remove all the anime that don’t end because they were being used to advertise source material, we’re still left with anime that seem totally open ended. Romances that are just starting and characters that have only really begun moving along on their journey. This leaves the audience thinking why isn’t there a sequel or why would you end it there?

There’s probably no single answer but some of these can probably be attributed to cultural differences. In western literature we are big fans of having loose ends tied up and bringing things to a firm and definitive conclusion. That’s when the story ends (this is a mass generalisation and yes there are some good examples of literature that doesn’t conclusively resolve but statistically most of them will). But this is kind of true of English as a language.

We like to explicitly state what something is and be definite about it. This isn’t necessarily true of Japanese where a large number of things are implied rather than stated.

Would any reason actually make it any more satisfying for you to watch an anime that ‘doesn’t end’? Probably not, but some of those non-endings might be justified.

Key examples are Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Pandora Hearts, No Game No Life, and dozens of other anime that just kind of stop and we wait for a sequel that never comes or go and read the books.

Number 2: They used the power of friendship?

The old combine our powers, work as a team, and somehow overcome the big scary thing we’ve been unable to even scratch up until this point ploy.

I recently commented on another blog (sorry can’t remember which one) that I don’t mind this so much as long as it is suggested all along that combining powers was an option and that friendship could in fact enhance those powers. if there is nothing to suggest this prior to the last episode than it is just lazy writing to get the characters out of an unwinnable situation.

Seriously, Sailor Moon can pull of a power of friendship ending as the scouts work with the Moon Princess to vanquish Beryl but that’s because love and friendship were core to the story. Just pulling out a power of friendship last minute save for a non-sensical problem is an issue (looking at you Kiznaiver).

Number 3: This is not my real power.

Right up there with the power of friendship. Yep, the hero suddenly has an unlock of some super never seen before (and usually never hinted at) hidden power that of course saves the day.

Same as the one above, if it is foreshadowed than go for it. If they just had no better solution, pass.

And seriously, too many examples of this to count. And this is definitely a sign of an anime ending badly because it feels so cheap and tacky. Also, overused at this point.

Number 4: They just killed everyone.

This is a hard one to really examine because there are so many different responses to this kind of ending. I mean, Shakespeare did it regularly in his tragedies and nobody really criticises that (being boring and long winded and impossible to understand are regularly criticisms but not the fact that everyone ends up dead in most of the tragedies). And I guess what it comes down to is purpose.

Are those deaths purposeful and meaningful to the narrative? If yes, go for it. The story won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but some people will really appreciate that you didn’t try to pull out of a death spiral at the last minute and give lip-service to happy endings.

However, if they are simply killing off a large cast of characters because they couldn’t think of a better way to make your ending dramatic than there is probably a few issues with the story other than the ending.

Another almost gets away with the massacre style ending because enough characters do survive to still feel there’s some kind of victory, but still, there were a lot of deaths in those final episodes and you have to wonder if all of them were needed.

Number 5: So the story actually ended about two episodes ago but now we’re going to the beach/hot spring/etc.

While this doesn’t actually mean the anime ended badly (there was probably a perfectly satisfying conclusion) it does leave you wondering why you are watching the additional episodes other than the fact that someone clearly was contractually obligated to deliver x number of episodes.

So what are some of the anime you’ve found that have a ‘bad’ ending and what is the worst way for an anime to end? Share your thoughts below.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

25 thoughts on “Feature – On Anime Ending Badly

  1. When a series does a No. 4, I just… wanna break my TV? 🙂 Series that do these “Oh, let’s kill half the cast” endings, to me, the wriiters just got lazy.

    1. That’s definitely my main issue with it (unless, as I said it was clearly foreshadowed). It all just kind of makes it less dramatic and emotional because it just feels like a child got sick of playing with their toys so knocked them all down.

      1. I’m with you on that. Unless it is foreshadowed, but to just kill the characters just to kill em, no. I’ve seen a few like that, but since I’m just waking up, I’ll name one. Akame Ga Kill. Weak story/characters, but the killing off of the characters every two eps. sunk it into my “Avoid like the Plague” list! 🙂

  2. My biggest pet peeve? When shows end in a haphazard and hurried way without a proper explanation, like Erased. I loved it, but the ending was so awkward!
    Number 1 doesn’t annoy me that much, because there are shows like Kaze no Stigma, where the creator died before finishing the manga.

    1. That would probably be my biggest complaint with Tokyo Ghoul. We have a fight that leaves a lot of characters dead (for seemingly no reason) as nothing of substance is ever resolved and we still don’t know what is going to happen to our protagonist because it is left hanging.

  3. For number 1, I think it’s important to distinguish a show not ending, to a show with an ambiguous ending. There are a lot of western, and Japanese shows that have ambiguous endings (Angel in the west, and Snow White with the Red Hair are the two that come to mind) that really don’t bother me, because you know what the end result is going to be, and what the purpose of the ambiguous end was for. Like, Angel was ambiguous because the point of the message was he was going to have to continue fighting for the rest of his life, because that was his purpose. And with Snow White I mean, you know Shirayuki and Zen are going to wind up married, the rest of the show would just be more fluff than we already got (but that legit wouldn’t bothe rme rotfl).

    When I think of a show that doesn’t end, I think of a show that legit didn’t conclude – like, we were left knowing that a crapton of plots weren’t resolved, or teased that there was going to be more, then didn’t get it. Like when Sailor Moon’s DiC dub first aired, and the final episode for years was an episode that was a lead in to SMS, that was torture!

    I can’t stand the “new powers” trope. It’s why I really dislike DBZ lol. I don’t mind friendship to much, but it depends on the genre of anime I’m watching. If I know that it will inevitably have an unexplained friendship power, I just nod a long and enjoy the ride.

    I think this was my favorite Friday’s feature of yours, it’s very thought provoking!

    1. Thanks for that and thanks for the comment.
      I agree that there is a difference between a non-ending and an ambiguous ending. Ambiguous I can deal with. Even if I want more I can usually be happy with where things are and where I assume they will logically go based on what we do know. Non-endings on the other hand just leave you with nothing except a possible ‘go read the manga’ kind of feel and that is just annoying.

  4. Your #1 is something that doesn’t bother me at all as to me, it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. But I’ve seen this thrown around enough to know a lot of people are annoyed by non-endings. Endings, like goodbyes are sad. Leaving something open ended keeps the world alive, and open to the imagination.

    #2, 3. and 4 are unimaginative and worthy of a sigh as you realize whats going on. I’d rather get a non ending than a randomly drawn 2,3 or 4. But like you said if it makes sense and goes well with the story, it’s totally fine. Except 3. 3 is never fine. Screw 3. 3 killed Ulquiorra.

    5 is just a bonus, that’s a bit like a “afterwords” which isn’t anything bothersome. Usually. Speaking of Bonuses, Steins;Gate’s bonus episode was like a more conclusive ending, which also briefly gave us Kurisu in a maid outfit, and a questionable “Suzuha” cameo. This bring me back to Romances from #1. I’ve always felt/ agreed with endings that ended on the confession. I’ve always found the journey to getting two characters together is typically more interesting than seeing them together. If the focus IS on two characters dating, then they better be like that VERY early on the show or straight from the start, that way we’re ensured more… drama? I guess? Geez. I should’ve just written my own blog post… Maybe I will. Either way, thanks for sharing, and the inspiration.

  5. i agree that number 1 is pretty egregious, but i think there’s a caveat. if you’re adapting a light novel that goes on much further than the arc that gets adapted, i understand leaving the sequel bait ending and not trying to make up an original ending…that never ends well

      1. yeah, i agree with that. i think most LNs adaptations end up being like that. i agree with what you’re saying about romances too. it’s why i usually read the manga for romances rather than watching the anime form…because they actually show the relationship and not just the path to the confession.

      1. It need one but we will not have it anytime soon, even if it was with filler, the studio bankrupted, unless a other studio take over, we have to wait Kohske start publishing chapter again.

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