I wonder, I wonder, I wonder what could have been…

Imagination is a powerful thing. Any good horror writer knows that the scariest monsters are not the ones described on the page or shown on the screen, but the ones the audience conjures in their own minds. But what about when storytellers aim our imaginations not towards horrors unseen, but at wonderful events that are never to be? What about when they give us fantastic characters full of life and possibility, characters we grow to love and cheer for against all the challenges arrayed against them – and then they take them away, leaving us forever wondering what could have been. What if, what if, what if.

What am I talking about? In my guise as a storyteller, I observe, analyze, and catalog tropes as a matter of course. That is to say, I can’t help it – this thing goes on in the back of my head whether I want it to or not, dissecting the world for its narrative qualities with all the attention and skill of a mad scientist slicing into the brain of a slavering, eight-foot monstrosity, and with about as much concern for the consequences of my actions. Today, I want to talk about one especially notable bit of storytelling wizardry which I have seen used to devastating effect a time or seven. And, I bet if you think about it, you’ll realize you’ve seen it a few times too.

I’ll stop being coy, since I gave away the topic in the first paragraph – “I wonder.” That’s what this is about, stories that leave you wondering about what could have been. By this, I don’t mean that plot threads are left unresolved because they were forgotten, or the author wrote themselves into a corner, or the series was cancelled. I mean when things are left unresolved deliberately, for the effect it will have on the audience. What’s more, this only applies to matters left unresolved which the audience dearly wishes hadn’t been left so. The audience must be drawn in, made to know and care for the characters and the events going on, so that when the loss is suffered or the question is left unanswered, they go “No, no, wait! What happens after this!?” Though, perhaps unresolved is the wrong way to put it. Cut off, perhaps.

Cut off.

You know what? I think it’ll be easier if I give you an example. The first time I came across this, or rather, the first time I recognized it for what it was, wasn’t in an anime. It was in a Star Wars novel. Yeah, I know, some of you are scoffing now, and laughing at my bad taste, but none of that! I was a lad at the time, and didn’t know there was better out there. And you know what? Some of them were pretty good. Case in point, here’s how one particularly memorable event happened.

Once upon a time, there were two Anakins. There was Anakin Skywalker, the one we all know who became Darth Vader, and Anakin Solo, the son of Han and Leia. Yeah, they got married. Like you didn’t see that one coming. Anyway, both of these Anakins died. That’s not saying much, of course – we all die eventually, after all – but they both died in fairly spectacular ways. I’m not going to go into detail about young Anakin Solo’s death, but I will say that he died a hero, and in a way that a much younger Stilts found to be quite tragic. He also left behind a young girl who liked him very much, as fallen heroes are apt to do.

Ever since I read of Anakin Solo’s death, I always wondered about what could have been, in regards to him and that young girl – here I am, showing my hopelessly romantic side again. Sorry. Would they have stayed together? Marriage, kids, the next generation of Jedi brats for young Stilts to read books about? I wondered about these things, wondered for quite a while, and was left restless by the lack of answers. What could have been?! I wanted to know. I still want to know!

And that’s the thing. I still want to know. I haven’t read a Star Wars book in years, and I’m sure that young girl went on to do things I know not what, but I don’t care about that. It’s the untold stories of her future with Anakin Solo that I pine for. Any of you fledgling storytellers out there ever wondered how to dig your claws into your readers and never let go? That’s how you do it. Give them a great character, full of life and possibility and prone to heroic endeavors, and then take them away. Don’t be callous about it, nor abrupt, or your readers will hate you for it instead of the enemies or circumstances that did the dead. You must do it deftly, and well, but if you can do that…you’ll have them forever.

Luke, I am an anime blogger. Who is talking about Star Wars. Fuck.

That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about, and I’d wager you’ve seen it before. Let’s get into the anime examples. The first picture of this post is of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, so it shouldn’t surprise that it’s an example. And in fact, it’s a fantastic example. Who here who has seen it hasn’t wondered what might have been had Mami, or Sayaka, or Madoka lived past the end of the series? We were given tantalizing glimpses of them all together and happy, but it never ended well, and that only made those moments hurt all the more. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is another that left me wondering. First Kamina, then Nia…what may have happened had one or both of them lived? I know that the day I ran across this happy family picture that never was, I badly wished it had come to pass. Oh, if only.

Of course, though these moments usually involve character deaths, that’s not necessary. Romances can also leave us wondering. We were almost left that way at the end of Ano Natsu de Matteru, though in some ways we still were, in regards to the Kanna, Tetsuro, and Mio situation. Angel Beats! is another one I find myself still wondering about from time to time, about whether Otonashi and Tenshi met again in the next life. So many questions unanswered, so much I wish I had seen…

You’ll have to make a choice eventually, Tetsurou

So what’s my point in all of this? I’ve talked for paragraphs on end about stories that left scars on my heart and questions in my mind. It seems at first blush like a story that leaves you wondering hasn’t done its job properly. Fiction is all about escapism, right? Better to clean up the loose ends, Give us a tidy resolution, and let us get back to our lives, right? Wrong. The thing these stories have in common is not just that they are phenomenal stories (in my not-so-humble opinion), but that they have an effect on their audiences. They make us not necessarily think, but feel.

You see, to me the point of fiction has never been solely about escapism. Sure, it is often enjoyable, and I will freely admit to watching many a show that are carefree and silly. Yet, when fiction is done truly right, it can become a lens through which we can see our world in ways we otherwise would not, and experience feelings and events that are beyond our everyday lives, often for good reason. That is to say, a great story doesn’t just entertain, but it teaches us something as well, and has an effect that lasts long after the book is closed or the screen falls silent. Whether that lesson is that even heroes can fall, what is magic is not always right, even going beyond the impossible has its limits, or sometimes the guy and the girl don’t get together by the time the curtain falls, each has something to say, which they pound into us with scenes crafted like emotional depth charges. That’s what stories like this do. They don’t just entertain, but also change the way we think.

Even heroes fall, but when they do, they make it count.

But I didn’t answer my own question. What’s my point with all this? The title of this post implies that the best stories always employ this tactic, but of course that’s a bit of artistic exaggeration. What is not an exaggeration is this: stories that do this, and do it well, are fantastic. To have an effect beyond the immediate and stay in a person’s mind for years after the fact is an impressive feat. Perhaps it’s just me, but I like to know why this is so.

But more than that, the better question is, what’s my goal with this post? Other than to relentlessly spew my personal philosophy out onto the internet, I think it’s to change how you view stories just a little bit. Many people see them solely as a means of escape, as distractions from the rough-and-tumble bullshit of everyday life, and nothing more. You, as readers of Random Curiosity, a site which has extolled the virtues of shows like Steins;Gate and Bakemonogatari in our year-end polls, probably do not fall into this category; in that case, I seek only to tell you about one particular mark of good storytelling, and perhaps give you some ammunition the next time someone says anime is only moe shounen nonsense for kids. The fools.

As for the reason why I’m bringing this all up now, you have Aquarion EVOL to blame for that, specifically in regards to the situation with Andy and Mix. With everything that has happened in the last half-dozen episodes, things are looking pretty bleak for them, but I badly want them to have their happy ending, more so than any other characters on the show. And yet, maybe it would be for the best if they don’t get their happy ending, if one or both of them perishes and I’m left wondering what could have been forever more. Imagine it: a future without Andy digging holes, and Mix filling them in; Andy’s hot-headed optimism, and Mix’s dishonest tsundere mood swings; Andy’s silly hat and goofy grin, and Mix’s poofy skirt and big bangs. It would hurt to be deprived of this, but I am sure that I would remember the series for much longer if that future does not come to pass. Perhaps that would make for a better story in the end.

No, screw that. I want that happy ending after all! So what if I forget about this show sooner than I might. That moment where Andy and Mix are reunited, and, dare I hope for it, they kiss, would be simply sublime. You did this, Satelight. You made me love them. Maybe it would make for a better story if we were denied that moment of their glorious reunion, but I don’t care. Sometimes, being remembered forever is overrated. Give them the happy ending they deserve, Satelight. A happy ending with big bangs, plenty of holes, and above all else, each other.

One more chance. Give them one more chance, and I know he’ll do it right. I know it.

Note: There will be no Stilts Out Loud posts for the next week or two. I’ve got a special post I want to finish before the next season starts, and it’s probably going to take a while, so I want to give myself plenty of time to focus on it. I’ll try to finish that off within the next week or two, and then Stilts Out Loud posts will start back up after that.


    1. I was not happy with the whimper of an ending. Considering who epic this series was with every episode filled with some action to end it the way they did was a cop out.

    1. Another good example! Rule of thumb though: if I don’t mention a show, it’s just because I didn’t think of it at the time, or I decided to cut it for brevity’s sake. I wrote a lot this time anyway =X

      Also, I haven’t seen Code Geass. I know, I know! It released during a period I wasn’t watching a lot. I’ll get to it eventually!

      1. “Note: This is FAKE. I made this. In reality, Lelouch is DEAD. They specifically announced it in magazines and separately to quell all the stupid rumours that fans forced to make it look like he is alive. There is no ambiguity on the ending at all, he is dead.”

    2. I’m pretty sure at some point “Word of God” already confirmed he was dead. Like really dead. Not living in the countryside with C.C pretending to be dead.

      Also this post is kind of spoilers galore. It might be a bit of commonsense coming into this post but yeah, a lot of dying has been mentioned 😛

      1. Hence why I mentioned those in the excerpt. Just a reminder, but if you’re ever worried about spoilers in these posts, check where it shows up on the main page! I list any potential spoilers there.

  1. I always looked for the underlying meaning of shows, and understand the value of imagination and wondering, but you Stilts have expressed, expanded, and explored the idea of “imagination” in ways I have never even fathomed! Excellent Post!

  2. I try not to dwell in the “I wonder” world since it leaves me with an empty feeling after knowing the show ended and there won’t be a sequel. It has the same affect as an open-ended ending and I despised them. Curse you Code Geass!

  3. “What could have happened?”

    This is the main question that all fanfic writers (including myself) ask themselves when they write. Whether it be because we are unsatisfied with the ending given, or if things are left open to interpretation, we all have ideas on what we think should happen.

    However, I believe that when stories on left open-ended, there still needs to be sufficient build-up. Otherwise, it just leaves the viewers more frustrated rather than curious. Since you mentioned Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Stilts, let’s take an example from that. There are some people who have not seen it, so I will leave it in spoilers.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Without proper build up and established details, it leaves things too open. When that happens, it feels like you are not being as faithful to the original source material as you should be.

    Well, that is my two cents. Feel free to discuss or argue against me if you wish.

    1. Nope, I pretty much agree. That’s why I mentioned that when you do this, you have to do it well or else the readers/viewers will just get mad at the writers instead of being hit by the feelings the writers meant to convey. As with your example, the trick is to keep bittersweet from turning into bitter…and what a hard trick that is.

    2. Oh, that reminds me. Have you read the manga spin-off Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – Guren Gakuenhen before, Stilts?

      It is a high-school spin-off of the main series, and Kamina and Nia do meet in that one. Their interaction is as hilarious as one would imagine.

  4. Since you said pretty much everything I wanted to say, I’ll play the devil’s advocate here.

    Good anime that leaves you wondering are really rare. They come by around once per season and sometimes not at all. Bad anime that leaves you wondering, on the other hand, are by far much more abundant.
    Take for example shows like [C], Haganai, Kamisama Dolls, etc. These shows leave you hanging for reasons ranging from bad scriptwriting to the studio trying to plan for a sequel. By the end of them, I am left wondering “What could have happened?” in a bad way.
    Also, when Stilts talks about stories leaving a lasting effect on people, that may not be the case for a lot people who watch anime. Most people watch anime for the entertainment value and not a lot of them looks for the meaning of life in an anime. As such, these people may feel that so-and-so series are amazing and very emotional, but by the end of the day, it’s just an anime. Sure, they may look back and say it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever watched, but that’s about it.

    1. Not to beat a dead horse but Guilty Crown had me wondering what could have been all the way. I kept hopping it would get better as I was watching it. (I still don’t get way it was popular in japan as the series was rather self deprecating and not uplifting or inspiring.)

    2. Granted on both parts, Rakkyo. To the first one, that is why I said things like “By this, I don’t mean that plot threads are left unresolved because they were forgotten, or the author wrote themselves into a corner, or the series was cancelled…” I point this out only because I’m a businessman during day job, so I pride myself on my ass-covering abilities 😀

      As for your second point, that’s why I wrote this post, in order to change how people view stories, even just a little bit. Stories are lenses into reality, whether they’re made-up or not. Humans have been telling stories to one another since the days we roamed across the plains wearing loincloths and jabbing great big animals with pointy sticks. Sure, at the time people thought those gods they spoke of were real, but they were really just telling stories in an attempt to explain their world. How are politics, religion, or history any different? You could say it’s because they have a basis in fact, but they’re all really still just stories, with all the boring bits cut out so we can focus on the good stuff.

      My point is, whether a story is made-up or real, it can tell us something about our world. Sure, many don’t say a lot because their authors weren’t trying to say much, but those that do can have wonderful things to say. I think people should take stories seriously, peer inside them and let them effect you. When you do, you’ll find that they’re actually all around you.

      Too much crazy Stilts philosophy? : )

      1. And cover your ass you did. XD
        I can’t argue to that without being a troll hahaha.

        I swear Stilts, one of these days you’re going to get your brand of philosophy trademarked.

  5. Darker than Black 2nd season ending still leaves me wondering and wanting more… What happened to Hei and Yin after… Recent rumors of a season 3 makes me hopeful.

    Code Geass and End of Evangelion gave me that same feeling. Is Lelouch really… and what happens to C.C.? What happened to Shinji and Asuka? Did they become the next Adam and Eve? How do they survive in a world that’s just a sea of LCL… Good thing there’s Code Geass side stories and Eva Rebuilds to tide us over.

    Chillax Mang
  6. Stilts-San, I look forward to these entries every week- and once again, you have failed to disappoint.

    *raises glass*

    Here’s to another good entry! *downs beer*

    Nice Chibi btw XD

  7. Same with me. I was wondering what happen to Kanade and Otonashi.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Since they left so many unanswered question people will craft for more. And that is why i read some fanfic to fill an unanswered question even only a bit.

    And I also like you mention Andy and Mix. Show Spoiler ▼

      1. O.O I might cry.

        Man, I can’t believe I didn’t mention Hinata and Yui. Tbh, I like them better than Kanade and Otonashi anyway. That last scene, with Yui… T___T Gets me every time, man.

  8. Good open endings are probably the best type of endings simply because they allow you to reminisce in what could have been and also let you speculate in what will and could happen. They are that good friend you haven’t talked to in awhile, but think of fondly and take a trip down memory lane for fun.

    That’s also the reason why open endings aren’t common, because many a writer want to close out a story and end it. If people are that attached to the tale, the writer can be just as bad or worse. Which can then lead to sequels that aren’t as good or just out right suck. Or if its an ongoing story, it can lead to the author continuing it long after it should’ve ended.

    1. This is insanely correct. As a creative writer myself, I have wrestled with this when deciding how to end my own story. Any amount I am attached to the characters I mentioned in this post is multiplied by FIFTEEN MILLION FUCKIN’ TIMES when it comes to my own characters, so the thought of giving them anything but a happy ending…eeeee >_< Of course, that doesn't mean I won't do it. It just means it's going to hurt me way more than it hurts any of you if I decide that's not how the story ends.

  9. Oh well, perhaps my ultimate “what could have happened” involved “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, with Kushana successfully using Titan, erm, God-soldier to cleanse and purify wasteland, unite the warring human tribes and go on for a galactic crusade to reclaim lost human colonies… That’s why I loved the manga which explores Kushana and her stroy much further…
    Another example of “what could have been” is the ending for Cowboy Bebop – with not one but two alternatives, one being the survival of Spike and his love, but another being a “big damn heroes in a cool gunship” rescuing Spike after his “roaring eampage of revenge”.
    And when we get to the Star Wars universe, I’d love to see a timeline where Grand Admiral Thrawn investigates loyalties of his Noghri allies a bit deeper and dismisses his bodyguard before the battle of Bilbringi…
    Of course all of the harem animes with actual endings just beg for alternative ones, and the omnibus format is just a logical extension which I came to like very much.
    And then there is the whole business with “altenate histories” genre, from the Philip K. Dick’s masterpiece “Man from the High Castle” to the awesome manga “Zipang”.

    1. On the point about Cowboy Bebop, there’s this hilarious fan theory that supposedly after the episode where everyone got food poisoning (thanks to the rotten-alien-food-in-the-fridge), all the characters actually died and the rest of the series is all just a dream. It’s hilarious when you account for the fact that Julia says “It’s all just a dream” as well the fact that characters keep saying how everything is just a dream. XD

  10. If there isn’t a happy resolution for Andy and Mix I am going to be crushed.

    They could start killing off even more characters, Mikono and Amata can end up never getting together and Mikage can end up mind breaking Zessica.

    As long as the Big Bangs magically reappear and the two of them get together they could kill off the entire cast… except Yunoha… poor girl’s been through enough.

  11. Show Spoiler ▼

  12. For me, the best kind of wonder isn’t posed through questions about what would happen, but rather what did happen.

    “If I reveal the truth within my games, that is also rude towards the people who arrived at the truth. I also wanted to write a story where you can only get to the truth by repeatedly reading and if you keep on thinking. The only guarantee I can give you is that if you read the thoughts of those who arrived at the truth now, even if you’re amongst the people who did not arrive at the truth can come closer to it. I promise you that if you don’t stop thinking, then you will arrive at the one single truth.”

    -Ryukishi07, on his work Umineko no Nako Koro Ni, a pretty famous visual novel which I have not read at all >_>

    Plot points which are open to interpretation, when executed well, add a lot of depth and mystery to series. I love it when writers don’t merely give the viewers the answer, and task the audience to find their own answers and interpretations to what happened. When executed perfectly, open-endedness allows for plenty speculation and debate on what events which occur, and also compel the viewer to even give the series another watch. Unfortunately, if the question posed to audience isn’t presented well, then the whole series goes to shit.

    I love a good open ending. A good open ending will force viewers to venerate the show with careful thought, wonder, speculation, and, best of all, debate. But in order to have a good open ending in the first place, there has to be a question which has been consistently posed to the audience and also, the audience has to be able to take the series seriously. If a show is filled with plot holes from the beginning and has the story sloppily presented, the audience won’t give a modicum of thought to ending, no matter how ambiguous, since the series didn’t earn that attention to detail.

    Let’s take Guilty Crown, Angel Beats, and Code Geass, all series which I’ve had plenty of problems and nuances with, both major and minor. Angel Beats and Code Geass, despite how questionably laid out the plots were to some, had fairly incredibly strong open endings. Why? Because they posed valid questions before hand, while managing not to degrade the intelligence of the viewers. All throughout Angel Beats, the questions are posed about what happens beyond the “school.” Are they reborn? Do they go to heaven or disappear? What will happen to the main characters? Code Geass also managed to do the same, with strong execution. Did Lelouche absorb his father’s code? Who’s driving the C.C.’s carriage at the ending? Even though the plot quality for both series is questionable, both questions posed were serious, recurrent, and thought provoking (and hey, the emotional impact at the end of each helped out too). But when a series like Guilty Crown, poses questions about the fates of characters such as Arisa or about Shuu’s absurd blindness, viewers can’t take the questions seriously, since they couldn’t take the series as a whole seriously anyways. How could an audience, who has been peppered with myriads of pure nonsensical ridiculousness, take questions like that seriously? By the end of Guilty Crown, I gave zero fucks about what happened. Why would I speculate when I don’t even fucking care? There has to be a drive, a compelling, to find out what happened to the story or the characters which you cared about.

    So yeah. Giant wall of blah, blah, blah text, lol. The TL;DR version of this would be that for an open ended segment of a series to succeed, it has to have a well posed question behind it, while still remaining interesting. Some parts which were left up to the imagination may be absurdly frustrating, but that’s the point! While I strongly believe that good writers have a predetermined interpretation what was and had been, it’s the audience’s job to arrive at their own answer.

    Oh yeah, and I’d just like to throw this out there. A plot hole is an oversight in the plot, not something deliberately left open for interpretation!

    1. Wow I actually read everything there, and I definitely agree on all points.

      On a random note, as much as I love the series Canaan (contrary to popular belief, I thought the show was fairly straightforward and actually tied up all the main plot points well enough that it doesn’t even a need a 2nd season), would one consider the part where Yun-Yun manages to rescue Maria despite seemingly doomed to die in the train near the end a plothole? >_>

    2. Even though the plot quality for both series is questionable, both questions posed were serious, recurrent, and thought provoking (and hey, the emotional impact at the end of each helped out too).

      That’s a very good point. I’m going to toss that in my notes somewhere, for use in my writing later on. Good reply!

  13. What could had happen?, as a part of anime fan that question will always be in our mind, not just for unresolved ends but in all ends because everyone has own view of perfect ending.

    And I agree that with a unresolved end will it makes us feel the bitter-sweat feeling when we finish a show like that, and with that we will continue to remember and appreciate the anime we saw. have you guys have you felt it?

    although my inner fan, as Stilts says, will always want the happy ending. And come on who dosen´t?

    Just for sharing my first experiences whit this subject, and i know is silly, was with Digimon, How could Tai not end with Sora? Man, all this time and still bugs me.

  14. This is one of the biggest aspects of why I love anime. Only certain shows/movies have left me in such deep thought.

    One the best ones that truly left me thinking, and still does to this day (and in turn, becoming my favorite anime of all) is none other than the Kara no Kyoukai film series animated by Ufotable and the first creation (and masterpiece) of Type-Moon. The situations and the scenarios that played may seem out there and fantastical, but the ideas behind the actions of the characters felt so human that the way things could’ve gotten but didn’t really left me wondering. What would happen if Lio never committed the murders? Would Shiki and Mikiya have gotten as close as they did at the end of the series had such a monster not acted out on his desires and in turn, set up the events that would bring Shiki and Mikiya closer? What about Tomoe? What if he was given a second chance to live a normal life? And then the end of series in the Epilogue left wondering what if Shiki truly killed Mikiya based on her murderous impulse? What would happen to her mental state then especially considering how we find out she was never the killer all along?

    Now I want to take a moment to talk about the series’ Epilogue. While some got bored of it because it’s “all talk”, I certainly found it to be an enlightening experience. It’s all primarily just dialogue between the two characters, but it highlights and delves into the full extent of Shiki and Mikiya’s character and their role, while also touching on certain aspects of the world of Kara no Kyoukai that certainly puts the whole series in a different perspective (creating a world that’s dictated both by choice and fate/destiny). While some think that the philosophies and concepts discussed by the characters are nothing more than pretentious rambling (or simply typical Nasuverse philosophical musings), they’re actually reminiscent of Buddhist/Daoist/Hindu concepts except a bit more sensationalized to suit the story’s atmosphere and I thought was handled really well. I thought the Epilogue’s tranquil nature pretty much captures the essence of Kara no Kyoukai and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s funny how much I love the Kara no Kyoukai films considering how very often Type-Moon fans claim that one can only truly enjoy it if they were familiar with the Nasuverse yet I was not a fan nor was I very familiar of Type-Moon at all when I first dove into Kara no Kyoukai.

    Sorry for the long post, for once I felt like I could voice my opinion on something about anime that some of my friends can’t seem to relate to, so I was happy read about your post on this Stilts. I had similar thoughts in Madoka Magica as well, especially when you compare the promotional artworks of all the girls together against the despair and suffering they experienced in the actual series. So I do wanna say thanks for this post.

    Speaking of stories that leave you wondering………..let’s not even get started on anime like Evangelion….. >_<

    1. Before anyone jumps on me, I would like to point out that yes, Kara no Kyoukai did have a definitive ending and one that was truly satisfying, but the reason why I think it applies to this discussion is because when one accounts for the various actions of the supporting characters, there are many possibilities where certain events could’ve played out differently if the characters were to act differently or if the events allowed them to play out a different role in the plot (especially with characters like Lio or Tomoe.)

  15. Somehow I like stories that have involve death of important characters or characters the has significant role to the important characters. For example, Madoka, Code Geass, or even One Piece. Some death scene could happen so suddenly and they were so unexpected and leaves great impact to those who watches it, and yet they are pretty sad in the same time. And this kind of event always make the show become unpredictable but also makes me wonder and anticipate what would be coming next.

  16. I wonder sometimes whether we would of got a different ending to Madoka if not for the earthquake.

    For me the memory of those tragic real life events are inextricably linked with the memories of watching Madoka.

    1. The earthquake didn’t change Madoka’s ending, she like a lot of shows were put on the back burner to deal with what was going on. It most likely that the episodes where already done on the animation side but they needed to splice it, add sound tracks and voice overs.

  17. Toradora fits this description for me. Even though it ended well and most of the thread were tied up nicely I still wonder, to this day, what their every day life would be like. I could probably watch a 24 episodes slice-of-life of that and be perfectly happy. That’s what happens when the characters and their stories are that engaging and I think it’s the mark of a great anime. This example is a ‘what if’ but not in the sense of loss, just a sense of curiosity that goes beyond the usual ‘I don’t want it to end’ feeling.

    1. That’s a slightly different situation, but a still valid feeling. What I was talking about here is when the creators deliberately leave us wondering about what could have been, by taking away certain possibilities or leaving the resolution of some up for the reader to decide. The sense of longing for Toradora, on the other hand, was a product of a great show and great characters that, when the final episode plays out, you just don’t want to come to end.

      Mind you, there are very few things that would make a writer more proud than hearing that people want to stay in their story’s world after the final page has been turned. For Toradora, while I don’t think it should have a sequel – I talked a little bit about that situation here, 7th paragraph – my less disciplined, emotional self dearly wants to see more of Taiga, Ryuuji, Minorin, and all the others.

  18. I agree with much of what you said, the problem with open endings is doing them well. Finding the balance between showing the audience everything they want to see and still leaving it open enough for people to imagine their own conclusions. Madoka and Penguindrum did a great job with this. In Madoka’s case, they ended the story but still left it open, there was basically half an episode dedicated to showing a little about everyone’s future while at the same time showing, they still have something to fight for.
    There are a few shows that are left open ended but the ending feels rather incomplete more than open. So having an open ending and doing it well is somewhat of a gamble the writer takes that needs to really be implemented well for it to work.
    I also want Andy and Mix to have their happy ending, they have always been my favorite characters and i really want to see them atleast go back to how things were around eps 16. I dont really see why they shouldn’t. The story of Aquarion Evol is not really about them. So them not getting their happy ending in order to make the show more memorable wouldnt be as effective. The open endings should revolve mainly around the main characters. At the same time though, i realize that i am a big Andy & Mix fan and just really want them to end up happy, so i could just be justifying to myself why they should end up happy.

  19. Gurren Lagann, at least for me, is still by far the most painful one. It’s the epilogue that done me in. Showing everyone in their old age and then showing that last scene where Simon was pretty much all but forgotten. Without that epilogue, Lagann’s ending wouldn’t have been hardly as memorable as it is now to me.

  20. I disagree with the premise you used to arrive at your ultimate conclusion, but agree oh so very strongly with your ultimately conclusion.

    Leaving you wanting, leaving you wondering is not the best thing for an anime to do. It is a symptom of something, not the root cause itself. It might be easier to identify some great shows because it’s easy to see that symptom, but it doesn’t look directly at the source. You yourself Stilts, even touched upon that all important root cause, but why, why do you do it through a symptom?!

    The root cause of course, is that great shows make us feel. They make us feel hard. We root and cheer for the characters, wish for their happiness, and are upset and angry with them through their tragedies. You don’t have to be left hanging to experience that. Granted, you are sorta linking it to why tragedy, when executed well, is so powerful: because it leaves us with very strong feelings.

    The longing you are describing as a viewer meant you feel for the characters. Are series sometimes more memorable, do you feel more for them because things don’t always work out perfectly? Sure, that’s why there’s such a strong case for bittersweet and tragic endings. You can also emulate that just prior to the climax, have a happy ending and not lose that much impact (excepting really poorly executed Dues ex Machinas. Look at Steins;Gate, it fixed itself, and it was still really, really memorable.) It was the journey that really, truly mattered, not the conclusion.

    Your own ending paragraph on EVOL betrays this Stilts! What’s important isn’t how it ends anymore, it’s that you feel for the characters. You want a happy ending because you already feel for them. You want a tragic ending because maybe it’ll make you feel even more.

    All storytellers need to create, develop and deepen the link between their audience and their creations. That is the magic of a good story. That is what truly matters in any storytelling medium. Anime is no exception.

    So back to the beginning: Wondering ‘What if’ isn’t really it Stilts, it’s all about the feeling. Wondering ‘What if’ is just a single symptom. Tragedy does often make us feel. It often makes us feel strong and in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise. Perhaps that’s why you came to your ‘what if’ premise. I don’t think tragedy is necessarily the only way or the best way to develop these connections, but I do agree it plays an important part.

    1. You misunderstand my point in writing this post a bit. My stated goal was “to change how you view stories just a little bit.” Trying to convince people of things is a fool’s errand to begin with – most people are set in their ways, and will not change no matter what you say.

      Yet, if you’re to try to do such a thing – and I’m exactly that kind of silly optimist to try, apparently – it is best to approach it from a point of agreement. You do not dive straight into the deep end and expect those filled with trepidation to follow! If anything is to make people feel, would it not be the cessation of possibilities, especially via the death of a beloved protagonist? Once this is agreed upon, I have paved the way towards pin-pointing the true culprit behind such things: the feeling. It is only then that a few people slide closer to understanding.

      …or perhaps I’m just making all this up after the fact, when in reality I just started writing, and stopped when I felt I had said what I wanted to say. Who’s to know? You’ll have to remain wondering, because I shan’t reveal the answer, nishishi >:3

      Edit: one other thing. You said “…leaving you wondering is not the best thing for an anime to do.” I agree. That’s why I specifically noted that was “a bit of artistic exaggeration.” Ahhh, there are my ass-covering tendencies again : )

      1. Trying to convince people of things is a fool’s errand to begin with – most people are set in their ways, and will not change no matter what you say.

        You say you’re a silly optimist, but this is an awfully pessimistic thing to say about the world. A major reason why people read is because they want to learn and expand the horizons of their knowledge; most people are actually not set in their ways as you assume. Often, we read what others write about the things we love like anime, not as a confirmation of our beliefs, but to gain a new perspective on them.

        Also, trying to convince people is not a fool’s errand at all – the whole concept of argumentative writing is centered around making this happen, and Aristotle himself divided the means to this into three categories: ethos, pathos, and logos. I’d have to agree with Delwack here, the “logos” part of your essay, its premise – that a good storytelling technique is to leave the audience wondering – is not always true at all.

      2. I’m sorry, but if you are claiming to want to change how someone views something, even if a little bit, then you are definitely talking about convincing someone. If it’s a matter of degrees, than yes, it is easier to lead someone down a guardian path of logic and arguments slowly. Perhaps your approach is to simply link anecdotal experience with a broader concept. Either way, saying then that it is a fools errand to convince people of anything, in my opinion, is entirely contradictory and counterproductive. All of these corners are meant to convince people of something! They are effectively editorials after all.

        I also think Verdant is right, I enjoy reading these corners because I enjoy gaining a different perspective. I want to know what other people think, and why. We all change our worldviews, I think, as people around us show us different points of view.

        Perhaps the problem is I’m not exactly the target audience for your post, as I don’t necessarily disagree with what you are saying, just how you get there. Perhaps this is the cause I don’t need convincing.

        Either way, I think we both agree that tragedy is a powerful driver of emotion, of feeling, and can be a powerful element of what makes a story good. I’d say that this is true of any medium, be it book, movie, tv show, music, pictures, paintings or anime. Much art is about conveying something; it is about making people think, making people feel. The shows that do both, are some of the best around, regardless of medium.

      3. @ Delwack

        Of course I’m trying to convince people of something! I was not saying that I wasn’t. I was merely saying that I am a fool for attempting such a thing : ) But yes, you are correct – we do agree that great art is about conveying something, whether a thought or a feeling, and that the greatest art of all are the ones that do both.

        @ Verdant

        I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree here, my friend. You see, my argument did not convince you because you are set in your ways – you are an incorrigible optimist, and no amount of argument on my part will convince you to become otherwise. Likewise, you did not convince me because I am only an optimist that is settled on a thoroughly cynic base, so no matter what you say, I…ahhh, see what I did there? :3

        But cute table-turning aside, there is a burgeoning realization among a number of different disciplines (mostly social sciences, which are, of course, un-scientific nonsense to a certain kind of point of view) that people do not use logic to arrive to conclusions – rather, we leap to conclusions, and then use logic to justify the conclusions our gut produced. Protest all you like – and in fact, I hope you do, because your viewpoint is a lot more productive, and I rather like that world it represents more than the one in which I dwell – but that doesn’t necessarily make it factual. Though, I’ve already said somewhere in this post that the truth of a thing isn’t necessarily the most important part of it, so does that even matter? Hmmm…

        As for your assertion that trying to convince others is not a fool’s errand, I’m afraid you’re incorrect – most people are not open to convincing, no matter how elegant of arguments you deploy. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing. Though a fool it might make us, sometimes it’s better to be a fool endeavoring to do what one feels is right rather than a cold-hearted realist who doesn’t even bother. After all, sometimes the fool will convince someone, even if only by accident…but also only because he tried ; )

  21. I really hope Mix and Andy gets a good ending.
    I want them to end the story of Show Spoiler ▼

    If they are gonna give Mix and Andy a tragic end by killing one of them off, they better have them promising to fall in love again 12000 years later.

  22. Y’know, I’m always questioning why the main character of a lot of anime is missing one or both parents.
    I do wonder if they would have affected the story line in any way~


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