Some animated shows are very episodic in nature, meaning that they have no real finales. In contrast, others have long-running narratives that have both starts and finishes. Considering the sheer number of animated shows that have been made, it stands to reason that some of them have been much better than others. Of course, this is something that can see significant variation from person to person, but here are five of the best animated finales in my personal opinion:
5. Gurren Lagann
Gurren Lagann gets a mention because of pure spectacle. There have been more powerful super robots in mecha anime, as shown by how the Ideon of Space Runaway Ideon managed to blow up much of the universe. However, there are very few super robots that can even come close to the Gurren, which was using entire galaxies as weapons in the last fight with the Anti-Spirals. With that said, what really set Gurren Lagann was its message. In short, the series was supposed to encourage its viewers to challenge convention in spite of the challenges to come. However, it recognized the potential problems of recklessly rushing ahead as well, which is why it advocated for tempering an invincible spirit with a sense of temperance. This is the reason that Simon let Nia pass even though the two could’ve sustained her existence using Spiral energy. Certainly, the universe could’ve held up with one or two such cases, but that would’ve been horribly unfair to the countless other people with loved ones who are either dead or dying. Unfortunately, the rules of Gurren Lagann mean that while sustaining all of them might have been possible, that much use of Spiral energy could have led to the destruction of the setting as a whole.
4. Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar: The Last Airbender was very received on the whole. However, it is interesting to note that its finale was a subject of much contention. Many of the viewers thought that the series was building up to a conclusion that Aang would have to kill Ozai, which is why for them, the discovery that it was possible to neutralize Ozai as a threat by removing his bending came as a cop-off. Whatever the case, the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender tied up a lot of loose ends with a number of spectacular confrontations, thus making it well worth the watch.
3. Samurai Jack
Samurai Jack’s finale came as something of a surprise because of the sheer amount of time that had passed since the last season. However, it was interesting in that it offered a very different depiction of the titular character compared to previous seasons. One that was much more focused on the personal impact of his fight against Aku. In a way, that was most appropriate, seeing as how it needed to reinvent itself if it wanted to be able to capture the interest of both viewers in the now and viewers from back then who have since become much older.
2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Pretty much everyone saw the darkness in Puella Magi Madoka Magica coming because of Gen Urobuchi’s involvement, though many of them were shocked nonetheless when it came. Still, the finale for the series was actually pretty optimistic considering everything that was happening. Yes, Homura lost the fight against Walpurgisnacht in spite of the sacrifices that she had made for her best friend Madoka, but Madoka’s sacrifice was able to change the universe on a fundamental level, thus bringing an end to the cruelties of the previous cycle. Moreover, while Homura clearly took her death very hard, she was able to get up and continue on, which was very much a sign of hope for the future. Granted, the movie changed all of that, but there is a reason that some fans choose to ignore the movie as much as possible.
1. Steven Universe
Steven Universe isn’t over. However, the reconciliation between the Diamonds means that it has reached the end of the story that Rebecca Sugar pitched, meaning that it isn’t wholly unreasonable to say that it has had a finale of sorts. Currently, it has so high up on this list because of how recent it is. However, its themes of learning to accept imperfections as well as the potential for broken families to heal seem like it could remain well-regarded for a long time to come.