The endings of adoptions
Author correctly points out the elephant in the room for sources of unsatisfying endings with unresolved mysteries: adoptions of ongoing manga series (or any ongoing series, since there are adoptions of light novels too). The honest answer to his question is that I didn't think of it; I was more or less only focusing on things that were within the control of the anime creators.
Having said that, it's still the anime studio's responsibility to solve the problem. I can only think of two good approaches; the studio can break with the manga and come up with their own answers to the mysteries (call this the Full Metal Alchemist approach), or they can do their best to push the unanswerable mysteries into the background and focus the story on something that they can resolve (call this the Fruits Basket approach).
Both approaches can produce satisfying endings if done well, but I think that only the first approach produces a work that stands alone and has a real conclusion. With the second approach, I think you pretty much always get 'and then life goes on, with more happening' endings; satisfying but not complete.
A thought on the problem of endings
One of the things that I've gotten used to as I watch anime is that many anime shows have unsatisfying endings. The show will go along decently or even great in the regular episodes, building up mysteries and intriguing events, and then they reach the concluding episodes and, well, people wind up sitting around going 'that's all? that was their explanation for everything?'
(This is so common that people have coined terms like 'Sunrise ending' and 'Gonzo ending' to summarize how certain studios always seem to end shows badly.)
In thinking about this I've come to an obvious realization; a good part of the problem is, to put it one way:
It is much easier to come up with intriguing mysteries than convincing explanations.
Anime loves throwing intriguing mysteries into its mix, I think partly because it's a simple way to build viewer interest, but over and over again it fails to come up with really convincing explanations to them. And while not everything has to be explained, the shows have generally put the mysteries in the foreground (it builds more interest) so they can't just leave them unanswered because that would make the ending equally unsatisfying in a different way.
(I don't think that this is just the writers writing themselves into a corner as the show goes on, because my vague impression is that most fixed-length anime is completely plotted out beforehand. I could be totally wrong about that, though.)
Naturally this strikes certain sorts of shows more than others, because you generally don't get peculiar mysteries in, say, romantic comedies. The more ordinary the show's setting is the better, at least for avoiding this particular problem. Going the other way, it's reached the point where I've started to actively expect to be disappointed by the answer to any mystery a show raises, which means that I generally expect shows that have a lot of central and important mysteries to wind up being not very good.
A thought on Toradora's ending
Here's one of the things that struck me as nice about Toradora's ending:
Many ordinary romantic comedy animes have endings that could immediately be followed with 'and then complications ensue' (with 'stay tuned for the second season' being optional). While the leads have gotten together and the show has ended, things have not really concluded.
Toradora's ending is not like this. It stretches events out long enough after the climactic events to make it clear that things really are concluded and that complications did not ensue and, I think, is pretty firm about it. (For me, part of that firmness is the mood of the very end, including the voiceovers.)
(One measure of this is that I think a second season would be either very bad or very different. There is just no story left after the ending; either you get a different one, or you're reviving a zombie.)
My view of Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo
Author recently asked about opinions on Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo (hereafter 'Sora Kake'), with special concerns over Moogy's comments calling it the successor to My-Hime since he had had a bad reaction to My-Hime's thematic changes (to summarize Author's entry very briefly and not very well). So let me take a shot at it, from the perspective of someone who's so far watched nine episodes.
I would summarize Sora Kake as entertaining but fluffy, something that is not attempting to tell a deep and complex story. It clearly takes itself far less seriously than My-Hime ever did, which may be either good or bad depending on your views of that (if shows that deliberately set up somewhat over the top and innuendo-laden situations and then play them straight are not your thing, then you may want to give Sora Kake a pass). A commentator at Moogy's called it playful, and I think that is a good description; Sora Kake is clearly having fun.
(I think you can view Sora Kake as partly a low-key parody of its general genre, although this may be going somewhat further than the creators intended (and don't ask me exactly what Sora Kake's genre is).)
On Author's specific concern: since this is anime I'm sure that there's going to be serious elements every so often, and we've seen some hints of them so far (including in the opening). That said, Sora Kake going all serious would be far more abrupt and lurching a change than it was in My-Hime (which started dropping real hints quite early on), and it would completely surprise me. And yes, Sora Kake has shown us conspiracies and evil and mysteries and so on, but so far they don't feel particularly surprising to me; if it makes sense, they all belong in the sort of story and genre that Sora Kake is.
Is this a recommendation? Maybe. I'm a pretty undiscriminating consumer of anime, so I'm easily entertained. And there are elements of Sora Kake's presentation that may really irritate people (I have read of bad reactions to one character, for example). In thinking about it, I feel that the opening is actually a pretty good representation of Sora Kake's mood; if it gives you hives, you will probably not like the show. Also, the first episode is pretty typical of the feel of later episodes, so if you don't like it I suspect that later episodes aren't going to be any better.
(My views of Moogy's comparison itself are complex enough that they don't fit within the margins of this entry.)
Where to find my Flickr photostream
Someday I will probably put together a 'stalker's guide to Chris' page to have all of this sort of information in one spot, but in the mean time here is my Flickr photostream. My major use of it is for Project 365, which I am on my second year of.
Disclaimer: contents contain bicycles.
(It has no snazzy name-based URL because, as I may have mentioned, I am bad at coming up with names and Flickr doesn't let you change your mind so your first choice had better be the right one. It's much easier not to choose than to choose badly.)
How to help bicyclists #1: don't do us any special favours
Let us suppose that you are a well meaning driver who wants to help out bicyclists, but you don't bicycle yourself (or at least not anywhere where you're sharing the road with cars) so you don't have direct experience to draw on. So, what can you do to help?
Paradoxically, one of the best things that you can do to help is to not do us bicyclists any special favours; to treat bicyclists just as you would any other vehicle (which is what they legally are, at least here in Ontario).
The problem with doing bicyclists special favours is that it makes you unpredictable, and bicyclists really want cars to be predictable. When a car deviates from what we expect and what it should do, we have no idea what it's going to do next; we have to slow down and assume the worst, not because we think you're malicious but because we just don't know what's going on.
The corollary to this is that if you do want to do a bicyclist a favour, such as letting them turn left in front of you, it will help a lot if you do something obvious to signal that you're doing it deliberately. This converts your unpredictable behavior (inexplicably slowing down, for example) into predictable behavior; ah, you're generously letting them turn.
(PS: please don't be offended if the bicyclist doesn't give you much acknowledgement of such things. Generally the best I can do is to give you a brief thumbs up in thanks, because I am otherwise too busy with the mechanics of signaling, turning, and so on.)
What Jigoku Shoujo taught me about my tastes in anime
One of the things I've found is that I learn more about my tastes from the anime that I strongly dislike than from the anime that I like. It can be hard to figure out why I like something, whereas with stuff that I dislike there's often something in specific that I can point at and say 'that, I can't stand it'.
(Reviewers are familiar with this; I've read many comments that it's much harder to do an informative positive review than an informative negative one.)
Which brings me to Jigoku Shoujo, which I watched a few episodes of once upon a time. I started with high hopes, because the general setting sounded promising (I like the general 'modern supernatural' genre), but I found that I just couldn't stand the actual show; I had an immediate and violent dislike from the first episode onwards.
(I only watched more than the first episode because I hoped that the first episode would be an aberration and the show would change.)
What Jigoku Shoujo taught me is that I cannot stand seeing ordinary, decent people tormented to the point where they are desperate enough to damn themselves just to get the torment to stop. That this was what most episodes were about (see here for more details) made the show completely unwatchable for me.
(A disclaimer: this is not a review and I am not saying that Jigoku Shoujo is a bad show. Since I couldn't watch it, I have no way of forming an opinion about its quality; all I know is that it's very definitely not for me.)
Why Roving Thoughts
In theory, when I started writing WanderingThoughts it was going to be for anything that I wanted to write about. In practice, it rapidly developed into what I've called a techblog, a blog for writing about technical computer stuff, and no longer felt like an appropriate place to write about other topics.
(I've admired people who mixed topics in their blogs, and I think in general it's a good thing, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.)
But I do have other interests, other things that I've wound up wanting to write about. So that's what this is, and why; it's a place where I can write about topics that don't feel appropriate for WanderingThoughts.
(I am calling it RovingThoughts because I am terrible at coming up with good names for things.)
Although predicting the future is dangerous, I expect RovingThoughts entries to be much less frequent than WanderingThoughts entries. I also expect the topics to vary significantly, since this time around I really do mean for RovingThoughts to be for anything that doesn't fit in WanderingThoughts and quite a few of my interests have nothing to do with each other.
Sidebar: logins here
I have not copied over logins from WanderingThoughts to here, partly for technical reasons. If you want a login here, send me email; I would be happy to give you one.
(Use the email address that is associated with WanderingThoughts.)