10 Greatest Anime Endings Of All Time

Whether triumphant or heartbreaking, these are some of the greatest anime endings of all time. WARNING: spoilers ahead.

1. 10. School Days (AKA Nice Boat)

It’s the anime that launched a thousand memes. School Days as a piece or work isn’t all that great as it is relentlessly dark, mean spirited and each of the characters is a nasty piece of work. However, when the final episode was about to show (in which the “protagonist” is killed by one of his spurned lovers,) in real life Japan a young girl murdered her father with an axe. Instead of showing the ending, the last four minutes were a picture of a cruise ship with orchestral music dubbed over. Hence the meme: NICE BOAT.

3. 9. Death Note

Death Note has faded into the past a bit, but it still remains one of the most influential animes to grain traction in the US. You have a misguided if understandable protagonist (Light) who uses a magic notebook to kill those he deems evil, demons and tireless detectives working to solve the case of the mystery killer. The ending is a tad MacBeth, but incredibly effective.

5. 8. Angel Beats!

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One of the few anime series that was not inspired by a manga, Angel Beats! takes place in a quasi-purgatory in which a group of students form the Afterlife Battlefront and fight against God, in this case a small girl named Angel. Complex and sad, yet still outstandingly funny, Angel Beats! examines whether the life you lived previous to dying was rewarding and whether it is possible to find closure in the afterlife.

7. 7. Gurren Lagaan

Over the top adventure. Exciting action scenes. Unexpected people getting killed off. Gurren Lagaan might be seen as over the top by some, but remains one of the finest examples of the “hero arc” portrayed in an anime. Watch mankind take back the surface or the world and stay for the amazing battle cries.

9. 6. Honey & Clover

Anime tends to stay away from college and focus solely on high school, perhaps because the emotions in college become more complex and nuanced. Honey & Clover faced these complexities head on and demonstrated that you don’t always get what you want from life and love, but normally become a better person from experiencing either.

11. 5. FLCL

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Sometimes a show will smash through a wall and break through all preconceived notions of what can be done in a medium. In just six short episodes, FLCL brought all the insanity that it could muster and addressed the issues of loneliness, sex and being adrift in a boring world. It still holds up today and is still held in reverent awe by those who found entry in anime through its run on Adult Swim

13. 4. Paranoia Agent

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If you want to delve into a satisfying study of character psychosis, than Paranoia Agent in the right anime for you. It’s the study of a city gripped by fear over the random attacks of character named L’il Slugger whose assaults upon the characters may be brutal, but ultimately change their lives for the better. Questions of sanity, repression and anxiety are all hallmarks of the show and the ultimate reveal is an immense pleasure.

15. 3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

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The “magical girl” phenomenon is a bit of a trope in Japan (think Sailor Moon) so many didn’t have high expectations of this show when it first debuted. Instead, Puella Magi Madoka Magica turned convention on its head and made one of the darkest and most interesting animes in recent memories. What would you be willing to sacrifice to become a magical candy coated super heroine?

17. 2. Welcome to the NHK

Sometimes we all get stuck in a rut in life. In Welcome to the NHK, that rut becomes so severe that the protagonist becomes a hikkimori (shut in) and the anime studies his attempts to escape his depressing life with the help of another outcast. Welcome to the NHK is notable in that it tackles a real problem in contemporary society, but does so with a sympathetic air. The ending will leave you hopeful, but not convinced that the characters have pushed past their issues. Sometimes the ambiguous endings are the best endings.

19. 1. Cowboy Bebop

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Still the gold standard. It was the anime that made Adult Swim must-watch-TV and was played out almost perfectly in its character arc. For all the humor and action included in Bebop, it was the sense of melancholy that really gave the story poignance. To this day it remains the undisputed king of anime that has crossed the Pacific.

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