Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bad End, Why does it happen?

School Rumble, perfect example
Have you ever invested so much time and money in something only to get let down in the end? This is a common story told by fans of the anime and manga medium. They would invest lots of time watching, reading, discussing, dreaming, and anticipating a series that they feel a connection with. After so much emotional investment it ends abruptly or it ends in a nonsensical manner that doesn't fit with the pace of the storyline. There are a myriad of reasons why it happens, but I will hone into two reasons why they disappoint. The two reasons are because they are not the source material or because they were rushed to finish the product. These two reasons are reasons why there are many examples of series with bad endings.

Reason #1: Not the source material

In general, the source material is the best version of the series because it follows the original intent of the artist. When talking about anime series with good endings that satisfy the customer (Code Geass, Kaleido Star, Cowboy Bebop) they typically are the source material with the storyteller working directly with the animation studio. Anime with good endings are the source material because it is the original work of the animation studio. As the story, characters, and themes moves from one medium to another, something is lost in translation. In many instances what is lost is subtle character interplay or the pacing of the storyline. This happens more in the manga to anime transition, but it goes both ways.

Kaleido Star had a great ending, because it was the original.
When it comes to anime endings based off of manga, many bad endings happen because the manga is still going and the anime director does not want to create a forced ending. In these instances you have an ending that never happened, nothing is resolved and the anime series just ends. When it comes that has this, there are so many examples that it would be fair to say that a large chunk of anime is like this. Classic examples of anime ending abruptly are Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, .hack/sign, Initial D, Gantz, and Love Hina. There is also bad endings in anime when the people working in the anime studio does not understand manga source's character interaction, development, and a variety of other things so they have an ending that feels completely unnatural compared to the rest of the series. I don't want to name any specifics to offend people, but I am sure this form of bad endings has a couple of anime series that come to mind.

When it comes to manga endings based off of anime, many bad endings happen because the transition from anime to manga was difficult in the first place. Maybe the characters don't transition that well to the manga medium. The pacing of the original anime may not fit the paneled style of manga. It eventually reaches the conclusion and the manga artist may deviate to create a different ending to be different, or they may have deviated so much in the manga transition that they had to create a totally different ending that is a completely different experience than the anime. The example that comes to mind is Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally. It was based of the world of Code Geass but it was a radically different interpretation. It started off slightly different and completely veered off on its own track because it had Code Geass characters but it sure didn't feel like Code Geass. I personally thought this manga was superb but it technically did have a "bad ending" that felt out of place and completely rushed. The author also notes in volume 5 that Nightmare of Nunnally was a "spectacular failure." There aren't many manga based off of anime, but the reason why manga have bad endings are different than anime.

When the anime or manga is the source material, it typically is the most complete version. There are a variety of reasons why an anime of manga could have a bad end if it was not the source material. Since it is not the source material, the transition from one medium to another is an issue since something is lost in transition. An anime may end abruptly since they have nowhere to go. There may be a failure to understand the vision of the original artist to lead to an ending that is out of place. The anime director or manga artist may take liberties which changes the dynamic and it leads to an ending that is less than satisfactory. Not all anime have bad endings that are based off of manga. A perfect example of that is Full Moon wo Sagashite, one of my favorite shojo anime of all time, but it is the exception, not the norm.

Reason #2: Rush to finish the product

There are a variety of reasons an anime or manga is rushed to completion. One of the reasons could be the very tight deadlines to complete a project. Another could be that the series has sales that are underwhelming, and it is effectively canceled. In the end, it leads to the same conclusion, you get a bad ending.

Anime is made under very tight schedules, with a fairly small budget. To hit the deadlines they have to make sacrifices, and having a proper ending could be one of those sacrifices since it was animated later. Imagine that you are a writer who is writing an anime series, you have to create a shojo anime based of a really popular manga. As the writer, you need to read the manga multiple times to really understand the character dynamic and the eventual dramatic conclusion where the boy and girl finally kiss. Then imagine that you have only one chance to read it because the producer wants a working script in a couple of days. As you can imagine the quality will suffer and the final anime may not even show a complete understanding of the story. With the anime market shrinking and anime seasons getting smaller and smaller, it may not even be possible to make a proper ending since the series doesn't have a chance to spread its wings. Even if you are a talented writer, writing an effective storyline with aggressive deadlines means that heavy sacrifices are done, and that may mean a terrible ending.

There is so much to do....oh it is done.
Cancellations happen frequently with manga. If you don't know, manga is a very competitive arena and it is very easy to get lost in the flood of manga being released in the same time period. As seen in the manga of Bakuman (which is surprisingly accurate on some level), how an editor determines whether a manga continues or not is a completely esoteric and convoluted process that requires sales, surveys, and many other variables. The turnaround for manga series is extremely fast, what was once extraordinarily popular is now out of vogue. A manga artist may plan a grand story with plenty of characters, lots of foreshadowing, and an inviting world to develop and explore. Unfortunately if their sales are horrible, they will eventually get told by their editor that they have only a couple of chapters to wrap up a story. If the manga artist planned this great epic saga with a rich cast and is told in the middle of a story arc that they have to end it soon, you will get a forced ending which has to wrap things up too soon and in the wrong place. A forced ending like that is a bad ending since the author is forced to give closure to a story arc and the complete series. This happens a lot in manga, read a random manga series that ended way too soon and felt incomplete. The reason is because it was cancelled before the artist wanted it to end.

Anime and manga have bad endings more often than other media like video games. That is because they are not the source material or because the creators were rushed to finish the product. Bad endings happen so often that it is more of a norm than an exception. In many instances a bad end is a testament to just how brilliant the anime or manga was in the beginning and the middle. A bad end doesn't mean that it is a bad product, it is just that it leaves the user less satisfied than the experience they had before it ended. When it comes to it, just heed the words of wisdom that my teacher said when I was taking confirmation class. Enjoy the ride, because the ending can happen anytime! He was talking about life, but this can be applied to Anime and Manga. As long as you enjoy the journey of the anime and manga, then a bad ending should not sour you because the fact is that you enjoyed the experience until the bad end.

Feel free to comment about about this article. What anime or manga did you experience that had a bad end? Does a bad end ruin change a positive anime or manga experience?


Anonymous said...

You didn't like the ending to school rumble? This requires discussion sir!

Anonymous said...

Actually strike that previous comment.