Sunrise is the New Gainax: The Sunrise Ending

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I recently finished Sora Wo Kakeru Shoujo, and I confirmed something that had been bothering me for a while. The writers at Sunrise no longer know how to write a good ending. I’m not sure exactly how long they’ve suffered from this problem, 3 of their major shows in the past 3 years, Code Geass, Gundam 00, and most recently Sora o Kakeru Shoujo have all suffered from this problem. Their ending all had several common problems and themes which I call the “Sunrise Ending.”

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Most fans are familiar with the Gainax Ending. Basically a Gainax Ending is when the writers pull a bunch of random shit out of their ass in the last episode causing it to make no f-ing sense. A Sunrise Ending is similar in that it leaves feelings of dissatisfaction, however the cause is not random last minute plot twists, but rather, a failure to answer some basic questions and tie up loose ends. Whether this is done as a setup  for another season is debatable. Another common theme in a Sunrise Ending is the lack of a proper villain. While there may be an antagonist, their presence is often weak, and how evil they really are is questionable.

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A good example of the Sunrise Ending is Gundam 00. The first season ends with Celestial Being getting their asses handed to them and the fate of most of the main characters left unknown. The only real villain for the first season is Alejandro Corner who appears sporadically, and whose motivations are nothing more than a petty family grudge. So after a lackluster final boss fight, and a predictable twist, the only achievement in the plot is world unification, leaving many problems unresolved. I was ok with this at the time as a second season was announced. So I watched the second season, and while I did find it entertaining, it did have its fair share of problems. Characters who were never given a lot of screen time get killed haphazardly, yet their deaths are treated like a big deal. The biggest example was the resolution. After a lackluster final boss fight, and a predictable twist, the only achievement in the plot is world unification, leaving many problems unresolved. Oh wait, I wrote this same sentence not too long ago, since both seasons essentially had the same ending down to the same song playing over the epilogue. Plot wise, the entire second season could have been skipped getting rid of the pointless bickering that was the battles with the A-Laws. In all fairness, the second season does answer some of the more major issues such as the actual purpose of Celestial Being, but this felt kind of random. I guess what annoyed me the most was the hints dropped concerning Jupiter and its relation to the GN drive in the first season that won’t be resolved until the movie coming out next year, making me wonder if there was any point to mentioning Jupiter besides leaving some loose ends open for the movie.

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The best example of the Sunrise Ending was Code Geass. The Emperor proved to be a weak villain despite being played by the voice of god Norio Wakamoto. He isn’t even the final villain, and his plan to destroy the world has little to do with the main plot. It never made too much sense to me why they had all that Ragnarok Connection bullcrap to begin with. Schneizel also has somewhat noble intentions, although they’re buried under such a deep layer of bullshit that you don’t really remember why he did anything he did. Very much like Gundam 00, Code Geass was a collection of entertaining events, although in the end there wasn’t much substance. Then there’s the infamous ending, which may have been unintentionally vague if one reads interviews with the writer and director. However, we are left with an enormous loose end, if Lelouche really died or not.

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The show that brought the Sunrise Ending to my attention was Sora Wo Kakeru Shoujo. Firstly, there was no real villain. Nami wasn’t really evil, just selfish, spoiled, and confused by Aleida. Except Aleida wasn’t really evil, she was only being mind controlled by Nerval. Except Nerval and the other brain colonies wasn’t really evil, he just wanted to be human and the rest were just vain. Then there’s Leopard’s dark side which appears out of nowhere and wants to destroy the universe for no good reason. If you think about it, Sora Wo Kakeru Shoujo was nothing more than 26 episodes of pointless bickering. It was very pretty and nostalgic bickering, but pointless nonetheless. Next there was the lack of resolution. Nami is still selfish, spoiled, and confused and just sits in a bath tub feeling sorry for herself in the end. People who were considered villains for most of the series are treated like old friends. Most disturbingly, the people in boxes are still in boxes are still trapped in their boxes. This bothered me as I originally thought they were going to be a clever commentary on anonymous message board users as they indirectly communicate with each other despite being mere inches away from each other. They also felt like a commentary on NEETs who don’t care about improving themselves outside of their boxes as long as they have their basic comforts. However, nothing came out of this. There wasn’t any resolution to this analogy. It was almost as  if Sunrise was telling NEETs to stay NEETs so they continue buying DVDs and other related merchandise.

So why do Sunrise Endings bother me so much? It’s a combination of poor planning and repetition. It feels that Sunrise is so concerned with making each individual episode entertaining, that they forget about the overall ploy, and have to pull something out of their ass in the end. They’ve also done this so many times that I’m beginning to lose faith in them. I’m already doubting that the Gundam 00 movie will bring an adequate conclusion to the series. I’m expecting a third season or an OVA of Code Geass because of how damn popular that show was, just so that they can milk that cow for all its worth. It’s worrying as I feel that their writing staff is starting to run out of good ideas. I’m hoping that the next Gundam anime isn’t crap. If it is crap, I at least hope it will give me a weekly laugh like 00 did.

So the new season is well underway. Canaan seems interesting, although the first episode is still rather vague. Aoi Hana has a great OP and looks really pretty, although the pacing is a bit slow. Haruhi has gotten frustratingly slow with the Endless Eight story. Finally Umineko no Naku Koro Ni is crap. I don’t see what the hype was all about. That’s it for now. Take it easy everyone.

4 Responses to “Sunrise is the New Gainax: The Sunrise Ending”

  1. kadian1364 Says:

    The Sunrise Ending has been the studio’s trend since the later half of this decade. Gundam Seed Destiny, Mai Hime, and Mai Otome are all examples where the presented resolution seemingly comes out of nowhere and feels forced and empty. It would be irresponsible of me to paint them all these Sunrise shows in the same strokes, since their specific problems and overall qualities are widely varied, but they’re similar in how they all leave a bad taste in your mouth.

    I very much prefer Gainax’s body of work with their infamous endings, Gunbuster, Eva, Kare Kano, over any of these modern Surnise shows, and I think they’ll be remembered longer too.

  2. Maximilian Says:

    Let’s see, where to begin…I could literally be here all day.

    It would be too draining to argue this at length and you probably don’t really care that much, from what I can gather, but at least I’ll try to focus on the essentials.

    I have to disagree. In my opinion this is a bit of an unfair description of the endings to both Gundam 00 and yes, even Code Geass, since I didn’t feel unsatisfied at the end of either of them, both objectively and subjectively. Quite the contrary.

    I definitely think both endings resolved everything important that needed to be addressed for their main stories to work, as opposed to issues and details that were either marginal or secondary, at best.

    I could go into the details, quite extensively in fact, but you probably disagree there, naturally, so I’ll just sum up my basic thoughts.

    In the case of Gundam 00, the immediate crisis has been fully resolved. The upcoming movie is still out there and it may ostensibly provide a few more answers to the overarching plotline, but the series ending was still satisfactory enough in most regards.

    In the case of Code Geass things are more complicated since there were a number of obvious execution problems, and that’s something I would admittedly attribute to poor planning too, but I don’t have any conceptual issues with the ending at all. I think it works perfectly in that area, if nothing else, which is what an ending is primarily supposed to do. It’s been said that the series is nonsensical, but to me that’s just a testament to how little attention some people pay to certain points.

    I hate resorting to fallacies, but it’s a fact that most viewers, including some of the more critical observers out there, actually seem to share the common opinion that both of these endings were a positive, not a negative, for the two series under discussion.

    As for Sora Wo Kakeru Shoujo…I couldn’t care less about it, but the series was, by far, the most self-conscious of how utterly ridiculous and pointless the entire proceedings were, so it doesn’t really matter either way.

    • djwhack03 Says:

      My problem with both 00 and CG was that once I finished the series, and gave myself time to mentally digest the ending, I felt like it was a waste of time.

      While each individual episode for both shows was entertaining on its own, I felt that the writers sacrificed a lot of plot to make this happen. The constant, outrageous plot twists in Geass were fun to watch, and it was fun to see people’s reactions on 4chan, but when it came down to it, that’s all Geass was, a bunch of twists, making it fun to make fun of.

      While I agree that 00 did resolve the major conflicts, and tie up most of the loose ends, I don’t like their method of doing so, i.e. killing people off. I was really disappointed with the deaths of Wang Liu Mei and Nena Trinity as they seemed important, but were picked off kind of randomly, and it’s almost as if the writers wanted to just get them out of the way. The same applies to the people who worked on the Ptolemy in season 1. They cram a seasons worth of character development into one episode and kill them off minutes later. It was drama for the sake of drama.

      Thinking on what you said about SWKS, its ridiculousness and self-consciousness are probably a commentary on how absurd Sunrise shows have gotten in the 2000s.

      • Maximilian Says:

        I can still see your point of view, to some extent, but it’s pretty clear I’m not going to agree. Was there an excessive amount of plot twists and drama in both shows? Yes, but I do think there were still some merits to them beyond just that, in either case. I’m not going to pretend that’s great storytelling, nope, but it’s not little to nothing either.

        Still, I think SWKS is essentially a case of self-parody, no doubt, but a very selective one even…considering how good old Tomino himself was the king of including absurd elements in his shows, way back in the day. A more comprehensive parody wouldn’t just be about modern Sunrise but about Sunrise, period.

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