This week I said “good-bye” to an old friend. That is, I read issue 56 of
InuYasha, the final installment in a manga I’ve been following since 2004.
(For those of you who might worry about such things, there will be no spoilers in this piece. Also, if you’re not familiar with anime and manga, I discussed these forms in “Animated Enthusiasm,” my wandering for 3-10-10).
I’d been familiar with Rumiko Takahashi’s work long before I encountered InuYasha. I’d enjoyed some of her Urusei Yatsura and become quite involved with Ranma ½, but both of these series suffered from the same problem. They simply wouldn’t end. I gave up on Urusei Yatsura, but stuck with Ranma ½ until the distinctly unsatisfactory ending of the anime (at least as released in this country) and the slightly better ending of the manga. But in both cases, Takahashi-sensei seemed unable or unwilling to wrap up the story.
No spoilers, but I will say she did a better job with InuYasha.
The problem of series that won’t end is one that plagues anime and manga, yet there are series that have managed to do it quite well – and often in far fewer installments than it took for InuYasha.
In manga, I recommend Fruits Basket in manga form. (I haven’t watched the anime, but apparently the English release didn’t include the full story). It’s well worth the twenty-three densely packed issues. I stress “densely packed.” This is an illustrated story that uses both visual and text to their fullest advantage.
In anime, I’ve enjoyed the noir fantasy/ horror series Witch Hunter Robin. This one is a good example of a story that ends satisfactorily while leaving the viewer with a sense that there’s a lot more to come. I would have been happy with another season, but would rather have it end here, on a strong note, than trickle out.
In fact, one of my greatest dissatisfactions with what otherwise might be my favorite anime/ manga, SaiYuki, is the lack of a solid ending. The manga and anime version diverge widely about mid-way. However, both just trickle to an end. In fact, the ending of the final episode of the anime SaiYuki is so fragmented as to seem padded. An effort to start the story again in SaiYuki Reloaded was so bad that I couldn’t get past two episodes. The characters seemed parodies of themselves, without the “heart” that had drawn me in to their story originally.
Lighter, but still good, are the anime series Sorcerer Hunters and Orphen. Sorcerer Hunters consists of one season with a very solid – and surprisingly gripping – conclusion. Orphen is actually two inter-related seasons. The first might be somewhat stronger, but the second (if you can get through the first half-dozen or so highly comic installments) becomes quite good. Both contrast broad humor and high tragedy in a fashion that is rarely attempted in American writing.
I can’t end this wander without mentioning one truly remarkable anime series, the excellent (and highly deceptive) Princess Tutu. In Princess Tutu, the theme of the series is revealed to be “the story must end.” And the story does, but not at all in the manner you might expect. In fact, even within a medium that often takes real gambles with storytelling formats, Princess Tutu might well be classified as an example of “post-modern” storytelling.
I began this by stating I said “good-bye” to an old friend. Oddly, I meant that. For the last eight years, InuYasha, Kagome, Sango, Miroku, Shippo, and the rest have been the subject of numerous conversations in our house. We’ve speculated on what they’ll do, how they’ll get out of this or that scrape, whether some event is an indication of Things To Come or a red herring.
We’ve been frustrated when Takahashi-sensei seemed to lose track, rejoiced when she began to find her way again. We’re going to miss those characters and the sense of being part of an unfolding story, but I still hold to my belief that, as much as I’d like a tale I’ve come to love to go on, to be solid and satisfying The Story Must End.
What do you think? Even if you’re not familiar with anime and manga, how about unending novel series?