When Ends Are Nigh

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They always say there's two sure things in life; death and taxes. The adage is quite the same for anime, except perhaps the sure things are a loli and a girl with breasts the size of her face.

Death in anime is very much applicable though as well; in not just the character sense but also in the series sense as well. Time tends to travel in the forward motion and so all anime series, with the possible exception of certain shonen series with 300+ episodes, eventually come to an end.

It's definitely a conflicting time when one gets to the last few episodes of a long-running series. It's often the most exciting and climatic point of the series; but on the same hand there's that creeping sense of time passing by.

One episode left. 25 minutes. There's the eyecatch. That's what, 12 minutes? Wait, the last part's probably an insert song. 8 minutes.

Tick tick tick.

Tick tick tick.

And before you know it, it's all passed by. Game over. One can watch the series again over and over but there's really nothing quite that matches the first viewing of a series. That sense of mystery, wondering what happens next, is gone. It's not like one can never watch a series twice; but the first viewing is definitely the best.

And so, sometimes one would wish that some shows would just go on forever. Certainly some shows have the possibility to do it; slice-of-life shows can run on as long as 5-minute plots can keep getting produced.

But, to be like a cheesy sitcom, you get what you ask for. Would it be such a good idea to keep some anime going for eternity? Or would a definite ending be better?

Of course each argument has their merits but I would have to side with the side of conclusion. The fountain of youth may keep shows looking young, but there's plenty of disadvantages to being young forever...

Perhaps the strongest argument for ending shows after a sane amount - I've always found 26 episode series to be a good number - is that after a certain point the fountain simply runs dry.

Especially for plot-driven stories - typically the visual novel adaptation genre - there's only so much you can do with a setup and a bunch of characters. A lot of the magic of these series lies in the balance between normal life and the paranormal, the supernatural, or maybe just the out of the ordinary.

As a series grows in length, the balance gets tipped more and more (plot twists and revelations can only last so long). And if things get too mindless...things get, well, dull, especially if one actually expects something to HAPPEN in these series. At least it's me that can't handle straight-up fanserviced and half-baked attempts at humor.

Slice-of-life shows may seem equally aimless as well, but a lot of them do seem to have forward motion as well. A lot of these series are school-life series, and characters actually do progress through those three years of school. Theoretically we could have the American sitcom version of time, where characters stay constant forever.

But how many different plots and gags can one come up with? It's certainly possible to watch Osaka being spacey, Konata being geeky, and Nozomu being in despair for hours and hours - but in the end, there's a concept of "too much of a good thing". Tsukasa and her naive moe mode is great, but could you watch that for 25 minutes straight?

...Don't answer that. The concept is the same for any other character and stereotype that you think of - oftentimes the characters in slice-of-life characters have a decent amount of depth, but usually they rely on the same jokes repeatedly. There's only so many different ways for Konata and Kagami to interact with each other. And well, it seems like it'd be almost strange for it to be any other way - so how much character development (change) can we have?

In the end a good reason to end anime is to prove that there is more to anime than Haruhi, or any mainstream show. It seems like a better idea to broaden one's horizons, even if it is just horizontally in the same genre (speaking as eight-harem-series-man).

In fact, even if one is such a mad fan of Kanon as myself, it's certainly not the case that one needs more content to have more enjoyment from the series. Just like a character that got killed off halfway through the series, even if it's gone it still exists in the heart or minds of everyone else.

There's always the fanart, the discussion of the deeper elements, even the speculation about the ends left open. Sometimes it's better for an ending to leave a few things unsaid, to leave some room for contemplation. In a harem show, the possibilities for shipping side characters together. In a plot-driven show, the meaning of a theme or a symbol at the end of a series (say, the shoot on the stump - and the fox in the background - at the end of Kanon).

In a sense, even in the absence of actual content there is still content apparent. And that's why endings aren't too bad.

(who still wishes that he didn't finish Da Capo, TokiMemo, and Azumanga all at once.)



Endings are always good for plot-driven anime. Dragging out a good thing can get pretty old, which is what happened to a lot of shounen anime and a certain 30-minute game advertisement. "Eternal life" would be a better word to describe them rather than "eternal youth". They live forever, but still get old.