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.


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Karandi James