Lions and tigers and bears… oh my. We’ve set up our horror anime and populated it with great characters. It’s brimming with atmosphere and all and all it has been one fantastic ride. Now we just need to actually get to the conclusion without the story falling over. Oh no.
There will be spoilers for the ends of some horror anime below. Read only if that does not bother you.
This issue isn’t exclusive to horror anime. There are so many anime that either don’t finish or the conclusion is incredibly weak or trite. Sometimes it is just a confusing mess. However, this becomes really notable in horror stories where the conclusion needs to be pretty solid. And you would think it would be hard to stuff up. They either overcome whatever the horror is or the horror wins. Not so hard. Yet there are a myriad of ways that anime manages to make this go terribly wrong.
From over-complicating something simple, wiping out anyone left in the cast in rapid succession (and with little to no reason for the audience to care), random introductions, explanations that make no sense, or just unfinished stories, somehow horror anime manage to have developed quite the talent for narrative dysfunction.
I’m Sorry, What?
Did you ever wonder why Future Diary suddenly went off the rails in the final couple of episodes? I mean, it was a perfectly simple set up for a story with a god literally called Deus ex Machina at the centre of a death game involving precognitive mobile phones… Okay, maybe not that simple but the crux was. Don’t let your phone get destroyed and destroy everybody else’s. We got down to the final two and then things just got weird.
Admittedly, it isn’t completely incomprehensible but as they layer on twist after twist and yet another alternative reality on top of a pre-existing one you just have to wonder if maybe they were trying too hard for a big finish. The end result is somewhat less than satisfying. While that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, ultimately it is the steps leading up to the end that are enjoyable rather than the ending itself.
Equally weird is Parasyte. While the ending of that is easy to follow the anime starts out in a horrific manner and builds up this dark body-snatching (or at least head-snatching) invasion and then somehow becomes an action before delivering an environmental awareness message in its final episodes. It isn’t as though there wasn’t an environmental tone a little earlier in the story, however the blatant messaging and tonal shift seemed to come out of left field leaving us with an ending that felt like it belonged on a very different story to the one we’d watched unfold.
And then we have the endless plot twists delivered by The Lost Village, though there are some who claim the whole thing was meant to be a satire so maybe the end that spirals out of control before half the characters literally just up and go home is entirely deliberate? It certainly doesn’t leave you feeling like anything really got resolved.
A Guide On How Not To End A Horror Anime
I’d love to say that we have a guide on good endings to horror anime but the tragedy is the best I could think of was Higurashi and it has the added advantage of having multiple retellings of the same time period before the final loop ‘resolves’ the drama. While I love Another and Shiki, both go for a blood bath ending and a quick killing off of lesser characters and some named was before wholesale destruction (in both cases brought about by fire). Certainly they both ‘end’ but it feels more like someone got bored and kicked over all the toys rather than actually took the time to bring things to a close.
And so I’m left with looking at an anime that was more of less broken from the start but excelled at delivering a disaster of an ending: King’s Game.
When a large chunk of the series was given over to a small group of character’s investigating the source of the King’s Game in order to stop it you kind of expect that they’ll either succeed or that there was never any way to stop it and they will all die anyway. Unfortunately, King’s Game wasn’t satisfied with just delivering a hopeless scenario. They had to go for a hopeless, convoluted, and almost nonsense scenario.
We learn that the game started initially with letters giving instructions in a village and had been ongoing ever since. How that accounts for any of the supernatural elements, I’ve yet to figure out. Virus or not, I’m stumped as to how that could make someone’s head fall of or a rope tie around their neck. At least in stories like The Happening characters have to actively act to kill themselves rather than simply being killed by an external force. However, it was this reveal in the later episodes that made me howl with laughter.
So I’m assuming they are trying to convince us that a virus of some sort, that already defied any kind of sense for a virus, transformed into an internet virus and continued on. Next thing you know, I’ll have to worry about my laptop getting a cold.
In addition to wiping out more and more of the cast and leaving us with just the people we kind of expected would make it to the final episodes, with explainers like the above getting dropped King’s Game did the one thing no story, horror or otherwise can be forgiven for: it failed any kind of internal logic.
No one expects horror stories to make real sense. By their very nature they are supposed to invite in unknown horrors to chill and thrill. Yet, once rules are established, once events occur, we expect that within the constructed story what happens will at least make internal sense and not contradict or just seem stupid within the context of what has already occurred. King’s Game failed at that and assuming the poor writing and dreadful characters hadn’t already killed the enjoyment for you, the only thing you could do was laugh as the story spiralled out of control. Not actually the response I think it was trying to gain.
However, that brings us to the end of this series on making the best horror anime and I’ll hand it over the reader’s one more time and ask which horror anime had the best ending. Much like the post, I assume there will be spoilers in the comments so read on only if that’s fine by you.
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