Conclusions, Closure, and Criticism: What’s Left After the Final Anime Episode?

I figured this might be something to talk about as the Fall 2017 anime season begins to draw to a close.

The way I see it, the ending to an anime series (I’m not talking about the ED) can usually be classified into one of three possible categories:

  • Definite
  • Open-ended
  • Incomplete

What makes each category distinct, in my mind, is the inclusion (or neglect) of closure.

Definite Endings

These are the types of endings that include closure. We usually get to see what most if not all of the characters are now up to, which means definite endings usually feature a time skip and/or narration. Some definite endings can come across as being lackluster, but for the most part these are the sort of endings that satisfy most anime viewers.

I would have considered Code Geass to be a good example of a definite ending, but with the news of an upcoming third season I’m left feeling uncertain of the definition of this category. Or perhaps the ending for the second season of Code Geass was definite but they’re still choosing to push the story further? Your mileage may vary.

Open-ended Endings

These are the types of endings that may include some degree of closure. We know how some characters fare by the final episode, but the fate of some characters are sometimes left unknown. Such endings, if I have to be overly reductionist and make a grossly broad generalization, usually feature a character that is MIA / not confirmed dead. That way, said character can reappear should a spin-off / sequel / second season for the series in question come up. Speaking of which, series that might be blessed with additional seasons, etc are the ones most prone to these sort of endings.

But, remember: causation doesn’t mean correlation. Just because a series has an open-ended ending doesn’t mean it will receive another season. It only means that there’s the possibility.

Incomplete Ending

If definite endings are usually satisfying (if I had to use a metaphor, it would be like you received an entire pizza with all of your favorite toppings), then incomplete endings are like the slice of pizza with all of the toppings you don’t particularly care for. When anime critics complain about an anime series having a weak or subpar ending, chances are good that said series features this sort of ending.

There’s little to no closure. We don’t know what happens to the characters after the episode ends and have to just guess or infer. It’s like the anime series was a roll of film and someone took a pair of scissors and snipped it off after episode 12. It may be done, but it’s not complete.

This is the typical fate that befalls anime series adaptations while the original source material is still ongoing. That is, this is what happens if said adaptation tries to stay “faithful” to the manga or visual novel or light novel. But often times the studio will opt for an original ending to avoid giving the audience the feeling of that the series ends on an unfinished note. Some anime opt to embrace such a sensation, however, since the series is intended to only be an advertisement for said source material.

In other words, the story continues~

The key thing to focus on here is the concept of closure. Wait, what is closure again?

Well, closure could be considered “the sense of resolution or conclusion at the end of an artistic work.” And according to my own definitions, a series having closure means the ending feels definite. If it has some closure, then the ending is open-ended. If it’s lacking closure as a whole, then the ending is and feels “incomplete.”

Now, I think it’s fair to say that many anime critics focus on the ending of a series which is reasonable. After all, it’s something that usually leaves an impact given that it’s, well, the last thing the viewer sees. But what I found interesting is how they evaluate open-ended endings.

I say this because the other two categories are much more straightforward. If an ending is definite, then all the critic can really do is point out whether they agree or disagree with what happened in the end, whether a character got off too easy for doing this or that, and so on. Even if people disagree how the ending pans out, no one will bother to say that a series should not have a definite ending. The definite ending is, in other words, considered desirable.

For the series with an incomplete ending, however, the anime critic will usually mark this as a deficit. It’s something to warn other fans about. That’s because such an ending simply isn’t as satisfactory compared to a definite ending. There’s simply no sense of release after 12 or so (or more) episodes. As a result, we as viewers feel robbed or slighted whenever this happens. It’s easy enough to see why this usually isn’t appreciated, I hope.

As for the open-ended ending, the reception is much more mixed. There’s a sense of ambiguity here. The series may or may not continue through another season. Some critics will claim the open-ended ending is a demerit while others will take what they can get and accept the resolution either way (i.e. it’s a decent enough ending without a continuation but another season would be appreciated). In comparison to the other two categories, this sort of ending is much more controversial.

One last note before I conclude this incomplete thought of a post. Some anime viewers are quick to point out that there are side-materials or a game or that the original source material is ongoing if a critic voices that the end felt unsatisfactory. While that is all very well and good, I’m of the opinion that the anime series should be good enough to stand on its own. I’m not talking about the franchise as a whole here, right? When I’m reviewing an anime series, I’m strictly talking about the anime series.

With that being said, I think it’s fair if you note that an anime series left out this or that and that negatively affects the series as a whole. But this is not what you should blurt out when people start bashing your favorite shows. Clinging onto the excuse “but the manga is better” doesn’t change the fact that the anime series is boring to watch. In my opinion at least.

I don’t even know anymore. Am I even making sense? That’s all for now, folks.


15 thoughts on “Conclusions, Closure, and Criticism: What’s Left After the Final Anime Episode?

  1. Hmm…in the paragraph starting “Well, closure could be considered…”, at the end, “If it’s lacking closure as a whole, then the ending is and feels “complete.””, should probably say incomplete? (Please don’t hate me, sorry, I just notice these thing easily and that bit could easily confuse your meaning a little.)

    Hmm…complete agree about Code Geass and the S2 ending. S3 is going to be interesting and weird to see how it plays out and whether is can avoid messing up the earlier season’s impact, or even add to it somehow…or just fall flat on it’s face and be forgotten about/ignored to the best of everyone’s ability.

    Semi-interesting ones are endings that are something between a “Definite” and an “open-ended” ending…for example the endings for seasons 1-3 of Nanoha (Original, A’s, StrikerS, trying to avoid spoilers here, so I’ll just speak generally), that have an “epilogue” telling you what characters are doing, but also ending in a last scene that makes it clear it isn’t the end of the story, as such, but merely the end of “part of the story”.

    As for another of my favorite anime, this is exactly the kind of thing I think makes a lot of people dislike Madoka Magica Rebellion’s ending, as compared to the series ending. The series ending is basically a “definite” ending (though with foreshadowing that everything isn’t over yet), whereas Rebellion leaves so many questions unanswered, or merely hinted at with boatloads of symbolism, that many fans are unsatisfied with it until we eventually get a continuation to that part of the story (hopefully the concept trailer leads to such soonish/eventually).

    Anyways, good post, once again. Keep up the interesting topics!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, you’re definitely right. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

      Mmm. We’ll have to see. It felt such a closed-book ending that I’m feeling nervous about S3.

      Ohhh I like what you’re saying about Nanoha. That does sound very interesting.

      Mmm that’s probably one of the several reasons Rebellion sort of disliked. I thought the series was good enough as is, too. I also hope that the concept trailer leads to something else soon, too.

      Thank you! I’ll try my best.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I could mention that I might be overhyping Nanoha’s season endings here…while what I said what true, they don’t end with definite hints as such to what’s coming next, but more like this kind of…feeling, that there is more to come, in a way? I guess. Especially StrikerS.

        Also, I’ll clarify that I’m one of the few(er?) people that liked the series ending, but really, really felt Homura’s story wasn’t over, so I was waiting for more (though I watched it after Rebellion had already been released, so no real wait for me), and who really liked Rebellion’s ending and all the character development for Homura and understood perfectly all the things that led to that ending. Though I do still indeed wish to see more, including a proper ending for all the girls. (and more Yuri! Give me more!)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t mind open-ended endings as long as I do get a sense of completeness from the story. There might be ongoing issues and things to consider and maybe not everything is wrapped up neatly, but I still feel satisfied. A good example of this is something like Sunday Without God. Each of the smaller story arcs gets an ending but the journey itself is ongoing and there’s still a lot you could learn about the world. Another season would be fine, but it isn’t needed as the immediate issues and conflicts have been dealt with.
    Still, I prefer definite endings. I’m very worried about a season 3 of Code Geass because to me the ending of season 2 was solid (even with the controversy of Lelouche not being dead theory). Whether he was dead or not, that ending was definite and Lelouch as Zero and all the rest was over and finished. I get the distinct impression that anything season 3 does is going to feel like it undermined what I felt was a pretty perfect ending. Much like the second season of Black Butler.
    Incomplete endings drive me crazy. It is like someone gave you a book but tore the last thirty pages out. Just why would you do that to your audience?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Open-ended endings can be alright, yeah. I definitely agree with you on Sunday Without God.

      Mmm Code Geass S3 is going to be very weird. That was a definite ending no matter how you look at it.
      I just pretend that the second season of Black Butler never happened since it’s anime-original. The same thing is happening for the anime adaptation for Tokyo Ghoul:re after root A has Kaneki getting killed by CCG.

      I wish I knew.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Great post, Remy! I feel a lot of anime series gets into the latter two categories. The open-ended one can be good or bad depending on the writing. Haibane Renmei is one of my favorite series, but the ending is open. However, I thought it would be overkill if they made a sequel since it’s clear that things are going to be good in Glie. That I didn’t mind at all. As much as I enjoyed Shinesman and I still stand by my opinion that it’s one of the funniest anime ever, I would’ve loved to have seen some more episodes without overdoing the comedy and plot.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You are making a lot of sense Remy (awesome post by the way, let me just say that now before I forget that in the …erm end).
    I said it over on I think it was Karandi’s blog, that these days a lot of anime series seem to end without having a resolution or a next season in sight. While I moght have enjoyed the series as a whole, that point is pretty much wasted if there is not a single thread resolved. My response usually is: what was the point of watching it in the first place? I recently saw Deadman Wonderland. It really was a highly enjoyable anime, but then the series end came and nothing, absolutely nothing was resolved. There is no second season, and it will probably never come either seeing it was 6 years ago the last season was made. So that’s what I mean with: what was the point in me watching something like this, only to feel cheated in the end.
    So yes an ending can have a big impact on my experience. If it’s done in a poor way, all that came before it can seriously be ruined because of it. And as I said, lately a lot of series seem to have that problem 😢

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Such a shame about Deadman Wonderland.

      Still, I think the journey was still worth it even though the destination was not to your liking. Be that as it may, I hope that lackluster endings doesn’t remain a trend.

      Liked by 3 people

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