Regardless of how long an anime runs, there is rarely a single episode that generates as much hype, expectation, and debate as the finale. However beloved the series as a whole may be, there will always be viewers who are unhappy with the ending. This is natural as everyone who watches a show sees it differently and forms their own individual opinions on the story and its characters. It’s impossible to please everyone. Aside from being the final episode, what exactly makes a finale more heavily scrutinized and debated than the others?
The finale’s job and expectations for it can change depending on the genre. For instance, romcoms and dramas often feature multiple love interests and, inevitably, the fan base splits into factions and passionately debates who the main character should end up with. From Toradora to Golden Time, no finale can or will fully satisfy an entire fandom’s desire for their preferred romance. The only exceptions are typically series where there is only one clear love interest to root for, such as Spice & Wolf or Recovery of an MMO Junkie.
A mystery or supernatural anime has to decide whether to answer the viewers’ most burning questions (Erased) or leave certain details open to interpretation (Death Note). Is there a happily ever after for everyone or do some characters’ struggles remain unresolved? If a story branches out in multiple directions or timelines, like Steins;Gate, does the finale successfully bring it all back together in a way the viewers can understand? The choice between displaying every important detail to the viewers or leaving certain scenes and quotes to be individually interpreted can often make or break the entire story.
What about long-running action/adventure shows like Fairy Tail or Dragon Ball Z? For series that run for hundreds of episodes, generally, the last major conflict has already been resolved by the finale, which is more about winding down the characters’ adventures in a satisfactory manner. Does the finale stay true to its preceding story and its characters’ well-established personalities? Few plot twists are more frustrating than seeing a beloved character’s personality established and developed for years, only to pull a Jaime Lannister and undo that progress near the end.
Of course, no discussion about finales is complete without the shows that leave viewers weeping in the fetal position. Anohana, Your Lie In April, and Angel Beats all deliver highly emotional final episodes that stay in the memory long after the TV has been turned off. For some fans, those finale tears are enough to cement a series’ greatness. Others may have preferred a different ending for their favorite character, or maybe the entire atmosphere that creates such emotion becomes overkill.
There’s also the written source material to consider. Did the finale stay true to its manga or light novels, or did it changes major plot points? Akame Ga Kill makes critical changes to several of its main characters’ fates, which resulted in divisive opinions on the final outcome from those who had already read the manga. Changing the ending, whether it’s a popular decision with fans or not, can boost sales for the manga/light novels from curious TV viewers who now want to see a different finale.
On the flip side, original anime like Code Geass and Re:Creators have their own unique set of challenges. With no source material to lift from, the writers are generally free to take more risks and leaps in logic with the plot, or make sudden twists in a character’s development. This can lead to some wildly fun rides, but may also leave unanswered — or impossible to answer — questions. Geass, in particular, continues to drive many discussion threads on Reddit from viewers wanting questions answered after seeing its roller coaster of a finale.
Finales often struggle in trying to bring the series to a satisfactory close while knowing full well it will disappoint some percentage of the viewers. They will always drive heightened emotions bringing an end to anime people have bonded with, whether for 12 episodes or 300+. Whether it’s a happily-ever-after, an emotionally devastating climax or something in-between, what the majority of fans really hope for is a conclusion that stays true to its characters and the story that has been told up to that point.
The hype for the finale episode of every anime drives discussion and debate long after its airing. Is it really possible to please everyone?