One of the things I value most in a story is a proper ending. A well executed ending can excuse a lot of flaws in the beginning and middle, while a badly executed one can weaken an otherwise great story. This problem crops up a lot in anime because TV anime frequently have “read the manga endings,” endings that don’t actually finish the story and require you to read the source material to get the complete story. Anime original endings are generally better, but they’re not always as good as the rest. Following the source material doesn’t automatically make something better, but it frequently ends up that way. To illustrate this, I’ll give a few examples of endings that made things great and endings that dragged otherwise great shows down. Since I’ll be talking about endings, there’ll obviously be spoilers, so be forewarned.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
For me, the ending to FMA:B is the gold standard for endings. FMA:B has a huge cast of characters and subplots galore that makes ending everything properly a difficult task. Luckily, the climax covered everything perfectly. Every character, from the leads to the borderline background characters had a role to play at some point during the final arc. The show bounced between subplots perfectly and tied everything and everyone into the main plot without ever feeling forced. Epic is the only word that can properly describe that ending.
The ending to Cowboy Bebop is one that stays with you. Few anime (or works of fiction period) are willing to kill off the main character at the end, but Bebop did that and still made it feel perfect. It’s a sad scene, but when Spike falls over, it feels final. He didn’t die until he finally defeated Vicious, which makes it feel like a complete story. The main plot to Bebop (inasmuch as there was one), was about Spike trying to escape his past, so the show could only really end with him confronting and accepting it. When the ending card for the episode says “you’re gonna carry that weight,” it’s 100% right.
Bad/Less Good Endings
Madoka Magica Rebellion
The original Madoka Magica anime ended quite well, which leaves it up for debate if this sequel was even necessary (it wasn’t in my opinion). What’s absolutely unnecessary is the way this ends. Homura turning evil and trapping everyone in a fake perfect world was both unnecessary for the story and a poorly set up twist for Homura’s character. In terms of story, it leaves the story in desperate need of a sequel, while having Homura go with Madoka would not have, and was clearly intended that way since the original series did not need one. That twist was also poorly set up since there was only one scene in the entire movie that hinted that Homura would do that, which isn’t nearly enough for such a major shift in character. That ending was both poorly done and just unnecessary in every way.
Before anyone tries to lynch me, I don’t dislike Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s a great show and one of my personal favorites, but the ending does not live up to the rest. It’s not a bad ending by any means, it’s just okay, which is the biggest problem. FMA was great for most of it’s run, so ending a great show on an okay note feels unfitting. An okay ending is fine for an okay show, but a great show should have a great ending. Characters like Dante and Hoenheim weren’t given enough screen time to really leave an impact and the alternate world twist felt like it wasn’t set up enough to feel completely natural in the world FMA created. It’s not a bad ending, but it’s not what it should have been.
There are more endings I could list, but these four best illustrate why I value endings so much in a story. If you have any endings that you loved or hated, feel free to leave a comment with them.