What I want out of endings is closure, but the best ones deliver things which really resonate with me.
Spoilers for Code Geass, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Steins;Gate, Kill la Kill, Cowboy Bebop, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
I overlooked many things about Code Geass, because the heart of it was awesome. I bought into the big picture, the storytelling, and the characterizations with all their idiosyncrasies. Yes, we are pushed into heavily contrived scenario after heavily contrived scenario in order to get a big, emotional climax. But it’s done under the conceit of trying to reach the end of exploring its themes and bringing about a bigger payoff for the finale. All of Lelouch’s journey and the rocky progression of the story finally come to a head when Lelouch stages his own death, knowing he will go down in history as the evil tyrant he made himself out to be at the end. This revelation has a huge impact on Nunnally. And I too, after following and rooting for this character for so long, am sympathetic to his ambitions and tragic end. After I saw this, I returned to the drudgery of everyday life, but something always tugged at me from the corner of my mind.
I actually enjoyed it when he was in the midst of his monstrosity, at the heights of his evil powers, and the narrative did little to dissuade this notion. Lelouch committed heinous crimes in the name of love; first a love for his sister, Nunnally, and second a sympathetic love for those still alive. The narrative is twisted to make his character intoxicatingly romantic and his facets of evil and love are charmingly juxtaposed. His obsession with creating a better world through the destroying the current one stems from this wrinkled affection of those closest to him, and the fact that he makes peace with the idea he has no right to redemption and decidedly sacrifices his name, life, and reputation for the sake of others is what makes him such a terribly great character. I appreciate him for everything he is and everything he is not. But the finale gave me a lot more, a WHOLE lot more. It was an epic, beautifully crafted ending and made it all worth following him on his path of self-destruction.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was a lot more mature and tragic than I was expecting it to be, and surprisingly deeply moving on multiple occasions. Beyond simply listing all of the things about it that I connected with, I’m not sure how best to describe what was so special about the show and its ending. I think it’s the acknowledgment and acceptance of all the loss and pain felt in the show that makes the happiness of the series that much more potent. That the decisions made by these characters, however minor, seem consequential. And in this regard, Brotherhood delivers, and HOW! The show relies a lot on fantasy techniques to liven it up, which are all done phenomenally well and incredibly well-paced, and the power and violence was nothing short of spectacular. A lot of the fantastical conceits and intense movement makes the journey and the destination SO SATISFYING. One thing after another, this show provided many interesting and entertaining developments of character and story, and perfectly ties together everything in an appropriate and well deserved feel-good ending.
I was not prepared for the complexity of the characters and epic story in Steins; Gate. The thematic ideas which is explored here speak to me in a kind of personal way that’s difficult to explain. I for one, have no experience with time travel, and very much doubt its real-world practicality. However, the science fiction of Steins;Gate felt very much like a fantasy to me. At the time I was watching it, I felt the pathos of the main character, Okabe, to be very important and dear to me. So much of the series is spent exploring the horrifying implications of time travel, along with a more subtle thematic subject of isolation. Okabe is constantly having to re-explain himself to others whenever he jumps to another time, and the feeling of loneliness and sorrow is palpable, at least to me.
But then the series allows things to go right in the end and all is well and good. Okabe saved everyone, but now he’s changed, and probably doomed himself to a lifetime of traumatic nightmares after everything he’s been through. It’s probably meant to be a happy ending, but I see it as a bittersweet one, where even though Okabe ultimately succeeded in fixing everything, he’ll never be able to forget all the mistakes and misfortune he caused and experienced along the way. I saw something touching, moving, and sad. And in that sense, it is an experience I won’t soon forget.
Kill la Kill felt big, dense, interesting, and memorable. The excellent action scenes, hilarious story, and well-designed characters and backgrounds made it a ridiculously enjoyable experience. I was absolutely blown away by the sheer amount of ideas packed into the show and the ending was equally compelling. Its themes are punctuated through a lot of visual (and verbal) metaphor scattered with surprising density and made of pure awesome. So much of Kill la Kill is multifaceted; multi levelled, and it really is hard to pin all of its readings, references, and layers of win, but the ride and spectacularly ludicrous climax is just so enjoyable and fulfilling that all of the other stuff are bonuses for fans of the work, or those who are interested and care enough to get something more out of it. I actually got more satisfaction out of it watching it the second time, when I was more aware of its themes and metaphors, and more appreciative of its developments in character and story. It was a hilariously awesome ending befitting of a hilariously awesome show. Oh, and what a lovely and wonderful epilogue it has. I look forward to revisiting it for years to come.
The whole idea of Cowboy Bebop is cool. Most of the characters are cool. It showed me how cool, violent, and sexy anime can be. The fight scenes were excellently executed, but didn’t overshadow the major themes of the story. Its realistically conceived aesthetic and great lengths taken to present itself as something intellectual and deep struck such a strong chord with me that I could only standby and watch in awe. I am less concerned about realism than simple storytelling, yet I am very thankful to have received both from Cowboy Bebop. There’s no shortage of reasons to love and appreciate this work. Much of it is contemplative, gripping stuff and the ending is no exception; the kind that leaves a mark. I can still connect to these feelings, not that I feel the same way now. If anything I may feel more strongly about them now that I’m older and understand it better, than since I last watched it. It’s definitely something that increases one’s fulfillment once analyzed and reflected upon.
This might sound strange, but I really enjoyed the nihilism this show offered and found it wholly interesting. It really helps sell you on relating to these characters, bring you into their lives, and invites you to think about your own. It doesn’t need a monologue to get its ideas across. You connect with it through a shared understanding of the human experience. And the show is very meditative and reflective in its themes, through its characters being forced into moments where they must face these thoughts and feelings that haunt them and they so desperately are trying to not think about and escape from. But ultimately they can’t escape it. And when Spike heads off for a final confrontation with Vicious and emerges victorious, it is presented as only a brief moment of catharsis for him before he too succumbs to the same fate, letting off with one last parting word.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann charmed me like nothing else, and ended in a powerful and beautiful way. The entire work was gorgeously animated, had a wonderful soundtrack, and excellent pacing. I’ve had a difficult time articulating what was so appealing about the show, but the series has already been praised to the heavens. So I imagine anyone who loves it as much as I do can understand why I’ve chosen it as my personal pick for best ending to an anime. What is it about these themes and characterizations that makes them so exciting and relatable to me?
Showcasing such over-the-top badass action scenes as more than just awesome spectacle constantly notching it up to eleven, but also really heartwarming and inspiring moments of character and thematic exploration right up through the emotional climax of the series was so emotionally gripping and awesomely empathetic that it goes beyond the scope of anything for words to do it justice. It grabbed hold of me.
What I felt really brought everything together was the culmination of the characters, their stories, and the the full extent of the thematic explorations of the series. We cherish the time we’ve spent with these characters as they grow to fully mature and accept the transience and melancholy of life. Yes, the ending is sad for certain beloved characters, and for those of us who loved such memorable characters; Nia’s death will be remembered in the hearts of us all, but the height of awesomeness the show reaches in its closing act lies within it coming to terms with its themes of maturity and the duality. It’s a thing of beauty, really.
I know I kept my reasons for liking these shows and their endings quite broad, but I just wanted to leave the room for exploring them further and discussing them more specifically and what I find lovable and interesting about them kept for another time. I want you understand that the place to best explore and discuss them isn’t as part of a (daily) anime challenge. Also these are not the only anime endings I would call my favourites, but any others I have which didn’t make the list was purely because I hadn’t reflected on them enough before writing this.That said I hope I was able to give a decent enough idea as to why I consider these among my favourite endings in anime.