I have a rather large collection of anime on my shelves, but if there is one thing I learned pretty early on it was not to blindly spend my money on a show that I haven’t seen or watched to the end. My experience has been that while the first few episodes might be great, never expect the rest of the show to follow suit or, in a few cases, even follow the same plot or genre; others just end on sad or tragic notes because anime has never followed the Hollywood trope of happy endings. That unpredictability is actually what interested me in the format to begin with since I was getting bored with the whole “happily ever after” cliche that Hollywood churns out. Of course, that in itself is a double-edged sword. While some endings hew towards happy or bittersweet, others took that factor to its extreme conclusion and just went all-out batshit insane.
Several times I got burned when I purchased a show that was great for almost the entire run of the show only to quickly descend into an absolute clusterfuck in the last episode or two. As a result I have made it a point to never drop a dime on a show that I haven’t already watched from beginning to end (and if you’re curious why I would buy something I’ve already seen, it’s to support the industry – and my crippling habit to collect things).
However, while I may have saved money, this means I have also lost countless hours watching something that can’t be unseen. So with that in mind, I decided to draft up a list of ten shows I personally enjoyed for the majority of the show’s run only to watch it suffer a horrendous finish to the point where it almost completely negated my enjoyment and perception of the show as a whole, thereby (almost) guaranteeing that it would not end up on my shelf. So yeah, like the title says: good shows ruined by a terrible ending, with the caveat that I can only comment on shows I’ve seen or watched to their conclusion. I cannot speak to shows I have not watched, so even though I have seen online that many people were not happy with the endings to shows such as Death Note and Soul Eater, having not watched them I have no choice but to bite my tongue as far as they are concerned.
Also keep in mind that this list only includes good shows that had let-down endings, so if you’re wondering why shows like School Days or Gantz didn’t make the list, it’s because they sucked from the get-go. A terrible end to a terrible show is just par for the course, but a crappy ending to a promising show is a travesty.
As a quick side note before I get started, another factor I’ve taken into account is the non-ending or the “to be (hopefully) continued” ending as it’s a bit unfair to criticize those shows for leaving an open ending when they were either following the source material closely, such as the manga or light novel, or there was hope for a second season that just never materialized. That being said, however, that doesn’t discount shows that hoped for a continuation but had a really crappy or anti-climatic final episode. The final episode is the most important episode for capping off the entire season and leaving a lasting impression on the viewer, so if it’s a let-down or doesn’t build on the promise of the show, it fails.
Oh, and if some summaries below seem a bit shorter or lacking in details compared to others, or a few minor details are incorrect, I do apologize but it’s because some of these shows I watched years and years ago, so I only have my vague memories and online episode summaries to go on. Given the topic of this blog post, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory that I’m certainly not going to watch these again just to get exacting details.
And now on to the list:
10. Legend of Legendary Heroes
Legend of Legendary Heroes falls into the “to be continued…” category of anime in that it doesn’t have a proper ending, leaving the resolution open-ended with potential for another season or to entice fans to check out the original source material. I get it, this sort of thing happens quite frequently with anime. But here’s where Legend of Legendary Heroes differs from the majority of its ilk: the final episode was rather anti-climactic. Throughout the course of the 24-episode series the point is constantly driven into our skulls that Ryner is regarded as a monster by almost everyone around him, himself included, due to the truly destructive and uncontrollable power residing within him. Given that, one would expect that factor to come into play at the end.
We see Ryner unleash his devastating power that leaves nothing but death and destruction to friend or foe alike in its wake twice in the series (frustratingly though, it is only ever aimed at friends; even when antagonists unleash it the second time, he still aims for his most trusted and loyal companion, Ferris, allowing the enemy to escape unscathed), the last occurrence happening about halfway through the series, yet it is completely absent from the end. Instead it ends with a show-down between Ryner and his best friend/king Sion who wants to make a better world, but becomes corrupted by the spirit of the mad hero (as a side-note, beware white-haired wanna-be rulers with noble ambitions, as they will undoubtedly turn evil; refer to Griffith from Berserk below). Does Ryner use his power? Nope. So how does he end the fight? Oh yeah, he doesn’t. He refuses to really fight and then is rendered unconscious by an intervening spirit, only for Sion to ultimately decide not to kill him.
That’s it. That’s our big “fight” to end the show about a berserker power that resides within a good guy causing him to feel like a monster. Seriously? A last episode, whether it be a conclusion to a story or left open-ended must have a worthwhile climax that made the entire journey to this point worth it. Legend of Legendary Heroes did not, and that angered me greatly. Instead it had a boring ending where Ryner’s powers were expected to come into play, and yet they never did. It made the whole two seasons feel like constipation: all build-up only to result in a whole lot of nothing.
9. Venus versus Virus
To be perfectly honest, I watched this show so long ago that I don’t even remember most of the plot details. I do remember it being an enjoyable little show up until the end however, at which point things took a decidedly unsatisfying turn. The boy main protagonist Sumire had spent a few episodes building a sweet little relationship with turned out to be working for the enemy, so that was a bit of a bummer. I also remember there being something to do with him being made of mud or something weird like that as if he were a clay golem or a humonculus; again, I don’t remember the exact details, but that kind of came out of left field and was just really odd. Then there was the final episode, which felt extremely detached from the rest of the series, destroying the flow progression of the plot and suddenly having the two main protagonists squaring off against each other in a fight to the death for some reason or another. I don’t remember there being a very good explanation for it and it just appeared out of nowhere. The showdown ultimately results in one of those vague “a shot is fired but we don’t know who was shot” kind of ways as the camera just pans out to a long shot of the church they’re in, so there was no adequate resolution save a final image of a picture featuring both girls, suggesting that maybe Lucia managed to save Sumire from her berserker state, but again, that’s simply speculation. When you have a climax straight out of left field and then leave it without a clear resolution, it kinds of leaves the show bogged down in a pile of muddy crap. That’s pretty much all I remember about this show and that’s more of a black eye than a feather in the cap.
I’ve seen the term “Claymored” on the interwebs a few times to refer to a show that was ruined by a terrible ending, and with good reason. I’ve never read the manga but I understand that the anime ending is completely different from the events depicted in the manga, and to be honest, I’m okay with that because I don’t really mind when a show tries to wrap up a story without leaving an open ending. The real key becomes whether the given conclusion is satisfying or not. Unfortunately for Claymore, it’s ending falls into the latter category.
Claymore is one of those cases where the animators wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They hewed closely to the source material but then made the executive decision to finish with an anime-original ending. Since an anime-original ending almost assuredly negates a continuation series since it now differs from the source material, studios are better off going all out with an original ending or leaving things on an open note by being true to the original source; it’s the half and half approach that usually sinks a show because it tries to be conclusive while leaving a lot of plot threads unresolved.
After a gritty, character-driven build-up set in an interesting world, in the final episodes, Claymore gets bogged down by far too many fights. The final showdown lasted about six or seven episodes and the final battle battle between protagonist Clare and the source of her revenge, Priscilla, lasts about three. But in the end, Clare does not get revenge on Priscilla as she survives to fight another day, while also being treated as something of a victim in all this since she reverted to her human form and lost her memories, despite being a complete arrogant bitch and killing Clare’s mentor earlier in the series. On top of that, none of the creatures of the Abyss that the Claymores were fighting against were killed, so we’re left with the unsatisfying feeling that a good number of Claymores died for no reason.
In summation, the show closes out its final arc with tedious fight after fight after fight and yet ultimately none of the enemies are defeated and few plot threads are wrapped up. Not a great way to go out. Claymore should have adopted the concept of “go big or go home” when the series was created, but it didn’t, and the fans are left with a half-flaccid mess in their hands.
7. Pandora Hearts
Pandora Hearts spent two cours building up it’s overly-complicated and somewhat confusing mythology, and just when it started to get to a point where things were starting to come into focus, well, I hope you weren’t expecting any answers or resolutions because there weren’t any to be had. The last episode was pretty much a big middle finger to its audience. It felt so disjointed from the rest of the show and it was obviously an anime original ending, except that it really wasn’t an ending at all because it just ended without tying up any loose ends. While it’s understandable that the show was not going to wrap up the complete story given that the manga is still ongoing, the series deviated from the original source material in the final arc enough that even a second season was unlikely since it would be so off-track. Ultimately this was a 25-episode waste of time since it went absolutely nowhere and provided zero payoffs for those who stuck with it to the end.
Kurozuka was no-holds-barred violence wrapped in a convoluted mystery from the start, so it should come as no surprise that viewers were in for a flurry of unexpected and bloody reveals at the end. Unfortunately, the reveals that were given were less than satisfactory. The story revolves around the bond between Kuro and the mysterious and enticing immortal Kuromitsu who makes him immortal so they can be together for all eternity. Unfortunately Kuro is cut down by his trusted servant Benkei before his immortality can fully kick in. He then awakens a thousand years in the future in a dystopian and violently oppressed society with no recollection of his past, knowing only that he must find Kuromitsu. Thus the mystery of what has transpired for the last thousand years and where exactly Kuromitsu is begins. An intriguing start.
But then it all starts to unravel pretty quickly. For me it begins with Rai’s death in the penultimate episode, a sucker punch if there ever was one. After Kuro saves her from her torture and impending death, it is suggested that they have sex and then he carries her in his arms to the top of the building in search of Kuromitsu and answers. Only just as the half conscious Rai starts to stroke his face in an affectionate manner, BLAM! Kuon shoots her right through the forehead, then cruelly kicks her body out of the top floor window. So she was saved just to die a second later.
Things start becoming a bit pretentious after that, with the tower being inexplicably filled to the brim with blood, followed by Kuro peeking in on a conversation between Kuromitsu and an aged Benkei. The gist of the story was that Benkei lusted after Kuromitsu from the start and so killed Kuro out of jealousy. Because Kuro’s body wasn’t fully immortal, every hundred years Kuromitsu would have to attach his head to a new body, resulting in him losing all of his previous memories. In the last few decades, Benkei’s oppressive regime then assisted Kuromitsu in creating an immortal body, Kuon, for Kuro so that he would no longer require new bodies. But with Kuro having killed Kuon and his body now beginning to shut down, Kuromitsu decapitates him once more and the cycle begins anew. In his decapitated state, however, Kuro recalls everything and wishes only to be allowed to die, but Kuromitsu does not wish to allow that to happen because she doesn’t want to be alone for all eternity, so she creates a game of cat and mouse with him each time he is given a new body to stave off the boredom that comes with eternity.
The problem here is twofold: Firstly, not only do Kuro and Kuromitsu remain forever locked in a game of hide-and-seek, but it also creates the appearance of Kuromitsu being manipulative and selfish, thereby making her something of a bad guy, which for a story about eternal love is a bit depressing. Secondly, we are shown glimpses of Kuro going through ordeals similar to his past again and again, as well as what appear to be reincarnated versions of lost friends such as Rai and Kurata, suggesting that the world, the “immortal” Kuro included, is caught in a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth, resulting in the same tragic fates befalling everyone throughout all of their reincarnations.
Or at least that’s what I think it was implying, since it was a little unclear, which in conjunction with the unsatisfactory resolution to Kuro’s current incarnation, created something of a let-down. It wasn’t the worst ending I’ve ever seen, but it could have been so much better.
Texhnolyze wasn’t exactly the most heartwarming tale to begin with, given that the show starts off with our main character losing an arm and a leg as punishment for sleeping with his fight promoter’s girl and even the “good guys” have moments where they flirt with ambiguous morality. That being said, however, the ending is probably one of the bleakest in all of anime history. Everybody dies – literally. Main protagonist Ichise is the only one left alive at the end in a dead world, and he just lays down and resigns himself to death at the close of the show. But it is the events that bring about this apocalypse that really drag the show down. Everyone in the city of Luz goes mad, Doc commits suicide in her despair, Shinji goes on a killing spree and ultimately ends up with a large shotgun hole in his chest, Onishi’s secretary/mistress Michiko is abused and gang-raped, ultimately pleading to be put out of her misery when Onishi finds her, which he does with a sword through her throat. As for Onishi, he stands up against the mob of mad citizens and is literally shredded to nothingness by a hail of bullets so that only his Texhnolyzed (bionic) prosthetic legs remain. Even innocent flower girl Ran is forcefully turned into a Shape – humans that have had their entire bodies turned into Texhnolyzed spider-like bodies with only their heads remaining natural – resulting in Ichise mercy killing her. I didn’t expect a happy ending from the start, but Texhnolyze went from bleak to absolute cynical rock-bottom despair and simply left a bad taste in my mouth in the end.
4. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
The most disappointing thing about Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is that after being so good for the duration of its run, despite the expected trips and stumbles along the way, virtually the entire 26-episode series was ruined in the literal very last second of the show. True, I did have some issues with the whole grown-up and improbably busty Cal in that I didn’t understand why either she or Ein had to die and there was no other outcome allowed. There seemed to be a bit of an understanding on both their parts in the end so I don’t see why they couldn’t have just worked it out through words instead of guns, but alas.
So yes, that was a bit frustrating, but the greatest crime was that after all of the ordeals our “hero” assassin Zwei has gone through, he and Ein appear to have found peace in the countryside from her childhood memories. But then that peace is short-lived as a car drives by, Zwei is shot in the back of the head and then the whole scene – and the show – fades to black. So I’m not exaggerating when I say the whole show was destroyed in the very last second. Sure, Zwei did a lot of horrible things in his job as an assassin, including killing an innocent child, but he was also abducted and brainwashed into the whole assassin gig in the first place, so we kind of wanted him and Ein to set their guns down and find some sort of peace. Apparently the writers thought differently, and our happy ending becomes a downer at the very last moment, and maybe it’s because we weren’t given time to process the tragic end given its suddenness, but in all stories, our feelings when we read the last word of a book or the scene fades to black is what helps determine how a show will forever be remembered, and this certainly wasn’t the best note to go out on (literally).
3. School Rumble
Since some people may not be aware of it’s existence, please note that I am not talking about the end of the second season, but the “third” season that consisted of two episodes. I loved School Rumble. It was hilarious, quirky and consisted of a large cast of fun and often-sympathetic characters. I owned all of the seasons and even bought the manga into the double-digits. But then I saw the last episode, and my feelings for the show were irrevocably tainted. If only I could unsee it.
In the final episode, Harima sacrifices his love for Tenma by dragging her to the airport so she can go to America with Karasuma, who has admitted he loves Tenma but has a disease that eats away at his memories (a convenient but nonsensical explanation for all of his bizarre actions thus far). We also finally get to see closure on the Harima’s love for Tenma front, and though somewhat bittersweet, it seems to tie everything up with a nice bow. This is where it should have ended.
Instead we get Harima getting into fights and, when she tries to help him in his beaten state, he calls Eri a slut and that he hates people like her, which seemed extremely harsh after everything they’d been through over the course of the series; it also demonstrated that for all of their interactions he still didn’t understand anything about her. Strike one. Then it makes the mistake of having a reunion of sorts set several years after that. Harima had become a nomad for a while but now returns, as do Tenma and Karasuma. It devolves into a pie fight. Yes, that’s right, the whole series ends with the class having a pie fight. Strike two. It also seems to imply that Harima is back in love with Tenma, which means there was no progress or permanent character growth for him throughout the course of the series; we’re right back where we started. Strike Three.
And there’s that pie fight. Did I mention how stupid that was?
The ending to Berserk is universally panned as one of the biggest atrocities to the genre in its entire history. I don’t know a single soul who thought it was good. Berserk weaved an excellent tale of camaraderie, love, loyalty and war throughout its main storyline through the eyes of badass mercenary Guts. In addition to the brutal battles in the form of castle sieges and Guts taking on a hundred soldiers single-handed, the dynamic amongst the strong but effeminate Griffith, the tomboyish Casca and the stoic Guts is intriguing throughout, what with Casca initially liking Griffith and disliking Guts for several reasons, one of which is how he joins Griffith’s squad and becomes the favorite right from the get-go, only for that to reverse course as the series progresses. Griffith for his part forms a somewhat unhealthy attachment to Guts, enough that he feels completely betrayed when Guts decides to leave him and the group to embark on his own path.
So what does this all lead up to? If you predicted Griffith dragging all of his men into a Hell dimension to be slaughtered, becoming an anti-Christ-like demon and cruelly raping Casca in front of Guts while Guts gets an arm ripped off and an eye gouged out struggling to stop it, then you have an incredibly warped and sick imagination. But you’d also be right. That final episode, which also ends abruptly leaving no clear resolution to the fates of Guts and Casca, is one of the most disturbing and out of left-field plot twists I think I’ve ever seen, and not in a good way. It’s something I will never be able to get out of my head and forever tarnished what had until then been a fantastic sword and sorcery tale.
As bad as the endings for the rest of the shows were, Gilgamesh takes the cake. After building up a very intriguing and mysterious story filled with fascinating characters and a deft handling of some powerful themes such as jealousy, familial relationships and the best approach to “saving” the world from it’s post-apocalyptic state, a surprising denouement is certainly something we were expecting. We had been treated to 25 episodes of solid plot and character development, most of which were presented in a very slow and deliberate manner, with only a select number of action-y battles. Given the three opposing sides in the conflict that had besot this ruined world, a final showdown in the last episode was inevitable. But I don’t think anyone besides sadists were expecting the bloodbath that ensued, killing off every single character on the show in some of the most heinous and brutal ways. It literally made everything the show built up to this point pointless and unnecessary.
Was that the point the author was trying to make, that life is a struggle, humans are inherently violent and all of it is ultimately meaningless? Maybe, and if the show maintained it’s bleak and depressing ending in a more subtle way, it might have been fitting and generally better received. I’m not opposed to tragic or sad endings on principal. But it’s really the sudden massacre that ruined this entire show in one fell swoop. We’re not just talking people getting shot or stabbed like we’d normally expect to see, we’re talking characters getting skewered, forcefully drowned and ripped apart limb from limb. It’s disturbingly visceral and left me really hating the main antagonists for everything that happened to these characters we came to know over the course of the series, so much so that I was practically whooping for joy when the main character’s older sister Kiyoko hatches from her cocoon thing as the first of a new breed of humanity and instantly hatchets the reborn “evil” entity in the skull with a tuning fork. That should not have been my reaction, but it was.
Gilgamesh was actually the catalyst for my “watch until the end before buying” approach to anime because of that final episode that trashed all of the goodwill that had come before (remember also that this was in the days when anime shows were released in 5 or 6 separate volumes, so a full show was far pricier than the boxed sets on the market now). I had actually been all set to purchase the show on DVD and then I saw that ending and said, “Fuck no, I’m not giving those assholes my money.” True story.
And a disappointing ending for retailers.