The ending of an anime is what separates “great” from “legendary.”
An ending is the last hurrah, the thematic synopsis, the final moments in which an anime can distinguish itself from the rest.
These are some of my personal favorites, not the greatest literary, thematically satisfying, most powerful of all time. So, other endings that would probably be considered the “top” might not be here! Also, obviously, be prepared for spoilers!
1. One Punch Man: God Damnit!
This ending is one that people don’t talk about very much, but honestly, I freaking loved it.
One Punch Man is a bombastic, crazy series. Despite not making jokes, it manages to be humorous, simply because of how above-and-beyond it goes. The action sequences that revolve around Saitama are animated beautifully, are always dynamic, yet somehow lack tension, simply because we all know that Saitama’s gonna win. In fact, the tension that exists, is more like anticipation for a foe that can finally give him a decent fight! And boy, we get a few foes that really do push Saitama a bit more than expected. But then, what happens when he inevitably wins?
Well, it’s back to the old grind, of course.
The ending of One Punch Man, at first, seems to be a rather typical one. The Hero Association rebuilds, Genos and Saitama do their thing, and everyone moves on. However the after credits scene made the ending of the anime SO much better. Genos, seemingly alone, confronts a giant pig-monster, but doesn’t seem worried at all.
It’s revealed that Genos and Saitama are continuing to work together, as the “Caped Baldy” comes out of nowhere to completely eviscerate the monster with a single punch, much to his disappointment. Saitama’s back to the old grind, with nothing able to challenge him, and of course, what else can he say, but…
I don’t know about anyone else, but One Punch Man’s ending was freaking hilarious. It summed up just what the anime was about, while providing a rather good “the adventure will continue” ending. There’s still so much room to grow for a second season, but this ending felt satisfying in and of itself. After all, One Punch Man’s focus was not on a story: it was on the absurdity of Saitama, and the hilarity that resulted from his crazy powers. And this ending just served to emphasize that all the more.
2. Clannad After Story: A Second Chance
Okay, now this one is a rather interesting ending, simply for how divisive it is.
Clannad’s an anime that is renowned for two things: first of all, it is legendary for being one of the most emotional trips in the history of anime as a whole. Second, however, is its ending, which some have considered to be amazing, and many other have considered a cop out.
After protagonist Tomoya’s long, tough journey through life, having experienced the death of his lover, Nagisa, and ultimately, the death of his daughter Ushio, one would expect it to be the end of the road. What’s left for Tomoya? He’s lost everything. His family is dead, gone, deceased, and emotionally, he’s in the worst place of his life, by the second-to-last episode.
It’s powerful, it sucks, but Clannad manages to turn it all around, through usage of some rather interesting foreshadowing.
Throughout the entire series, the audience has been presented flashes of another world, beautiful, lonely, and strange. We don’t know why it’s there, apart from some bits of dialogue, but the last episode reveals that these flashes have purpose.
It’s truly another world–a place where, simply put, the happiness of people is gathered, by the young spirit of Ushio, who wished for her father’s own happiness. This happiness, derived from the people who’ve interacted with Tomoya is gathered, eventually allowing for a miracle.
Tomoya finds himself near death, but willing to keep going, accepting this miracle, and finding himself back at the most pivotal point in his life: Nagisa’s death during childbirth. However, things are different. Nagisa lives, Ushio is born, and they are able to finally, finally appreciate a second chance at life together.
Many people hate this ending, for seemingly coming out of left field, but considering how it works in the context of the universe of Clannad, I find it freaking beautiful. From a thematic standpoint, it justifies Tomoya’s insistence on helping people, and provides that touch of surrealism that I believe, Clannad needed to be the story that it is.
It provides a unique happy ending, a way of thinking that the nice guy, the one who suffered so much, was able to get what he deserved, even after struggling through a life that was totally unfair to him. Perhaps the buildup was a bit odd, but regardless, I still consider the ending of Clannad to be one of the best, most emotional conclusions in all of anime.
3. Your Name: A Long-Awaited Reunion
Ohoho, speaking of emotional anime, who remembers Your Name? Your, freaking, Name. This movie was a freaking rollercoaster of emotions, and no moment of the movie exemplified that better than the ending.
Your Name, with a focus on Taki and Mitsuha, two Japanese youths with drastically different backgrounds, who find themselves switching bodies, is a great supernatural drama-comedy-romance. Going through every emotion one can think of, Your Name toyed with everything from gender-bending and all the problems that resulted, to spirituality and the very real possibility of death.
The plot of Your Name ultimately leads to Taki trying to find a way to change the past, to save the people of Mitsuha’s village from a meteor that would destroy everything. And well, by working together, Taki and Mitsuha are able to do so. However, it comes at the cost of forgetting each other, and their unique relationship, entirely.
The ending of the movie toys with this relationship. For a good ten minutes, the audience is presented a hopeful, yet sad picture. Mitsuha’s village has been saved, and it’s even revealed that she’s moved to Tokyo, where Taki lives! But, they pass each other, again, and again, and the audience comes to the conclusion that they really, honestly, don’t remember each other, or are fated to never meet again.
Until one day, their eyes meet on different trains, and something about that eye contact strikes them. They get off their trains, run to find each other, and meet, but even then, they’re not sure they recognize each other. And so, they finally ask,after a tense few moments, “Your name is…?”
Holy crap, this scene had my whole body tensed for the ENTIRE time it was running. The movie did an excellent job of building up their relationship, as friends, and eventually, as potential romantic partners, but it also treated their memory loss as inevitable. It was a running theme that their experiences would be forgotten, but at the same time, it was made clear that their relationship was something special.
In short, you couldn’t tell whether the movie was going to go with the sad, melancholic ending, or the happy ending. There were many, many moments where the movie tried to convince you that they had truly forgotten each other–that despite everything, they would go their separate ways. And it made you believe it.
This buildup made the ultimate result, their second meeting, all the more satisfying. The history and emotion behind their re-introductions to each other was fantastic to watch. As a story, it was constructed very well, and ultimately, was a huge part of making Your Name extremely memorable in my mind.
4. Orange: Saving Kakeru
Orange’s conclusion is one that exemplifies “simple, but effective.”
Orange is the story of Naho and Kakeru: two young youths with an affinity towards each other. Perhaps this story would have been a bright one, except for one thing: Naho receives a letter from herself in the future, detailing very clearly, how Kakeru ends up killing himself in another time.
As such, Orange tells us, not of a blossoming love between a new student and a girl, rather, the journey of a group of friends, who rally to save someone they care about. Naho and her friends learn more and more about their friend, his powerful, crippling, yet subtle emotions, all with the knowledge that in another timeline, he dies around Valentine’s Day.
The series is built around this one concept: so, during the final episode, when the day of Kakeru’s suicide finally comes, you feel damn scared. Kakeru has vanished from his house, his bike is trashed, it’s late at night, and no one knows where he is. Eventually, Naho and co. are able to find him, wandering in a stunned daze on the streets.
However, before they can reach him, a truck comes by at full speed, and Kakeru is ready to take the final step, an inch away from death. He’s knocked over, and for a few tense moments, everyone believes they couldn’t do a thing. But as it turned out, Kakeru couldn’t commit–having been scared to leave life, and his friends, behind, he stopped himself at the last moment. Naho and the others were able to save Kakeru.
This conclusion is one that, from a technical standpoint, is quite predictable. You know that Orange wouldn’t end with Kakeru’s death, but regardless, it felt really, really satisfying. The whole of the 12 episodes was spent building up to one conclusion, and was wrought with tension throughout. Every emotion Kakeru revealed was important, every outburst he had, felt like it had the potential to cause catastrophe.
And this made the ultimate conclusion that much better. The angry outbursts, the tears, the hard work that everyone put in for the sake of one life, was worth it. When Kakeru was revealed to have survived, the tension was lifted, all at once, and it felt GREAT.
Orange had a simple conclusion: it wasn’t the most powerful, complex, thematically pleasing ending in the world, but for the series, it was just right.
5. Code Geass: The Zero Requiem
Let’s end off this list with something that no one can question. Code Geass’s ending has gone down in anime history, as an irrefutably, undeniably great conclusion.
Lelouch vi Britannia has won. In every sense. Having shed the identity of Zero, taken control of the corrupt nation of Britannia, and subjugated the combined nations of the world, it seems like there is nothing to stop him from ruling the world with an iron fist. It’s at this point, the audience wonders, is this how the series ends?
But then, the camera pans up, to reveal…Zero? This new Zero runs up to Lelouch, effortlessly making it past his guards, ready to run him through with a sword, and end his reign prematurely. It is at this point, when Lelouch smiles, and the audience is presented with what happened behind the scenes.
Lelouch and Suzaku had it all planned out: Lelouch would be painted as the bad guy, the emperor, dethroned by the symbol of hope, Zero. In this way, Lelouch would eliminate all those who opposed him, making himself the singular villain of the world, only to get killed himself,
By setting himself up as the ultimate, only evil, his death would allow for nations to unite, and debate peacefully about how to reconstruct the fractured world. Suzaku, as Zero, would then become a symbol of peace, a figurehead, around which hope in the future could be fostered.
It’s a crazy revelation. It’s something that, with its scope, honestly doesn’t make much sense unless you’ve watched the series all the way through. But considering everything Code Geass has presented, this ending is perfect–one of the best I’ve ever seen. The thematic undertones of the series, the significance of the power of Geass, everything Code Geass presents is acknowledged, and resolved with this ending.
Basically, the ending of Code Geass does everything an ending should do, and is one of the reasons this anime has gone down in history as one of the best. Experiencing it for the first time was crazy–and I’m sure that many of you guys who have watched the series can agree.
That all being said, leave a comment down below! What are some of YOUR favorite endings in anime?