Episode 12! An intense battle is taking place. Rivals are clashing in an epic final confrontation, a last-minute plot twist changes the course of the story, and characters we got to know across the adventure pass away in tragic, but heroic death scenes. The leading couple finally gets their first kiss before the duo presses a button and fires the plot-solving laser, destroying the doomsday robot and ending the war. It’s everything a good ending to a show should have and then some. But what is this? Episode 13?
Mild spoilers for El Cazador and The 08th MS Team. Nothing major, but do beware.
This thought crossed my mind after recently concluding Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, but I had a similar frustration weeks earlier after watching El Cazador de la Bruja; epilogue episodes in TV anime are hard to do right and probably just not a good idea in general.
An epilogue is a chapter at the end of a story that provides closure to a work of fiction by showing what has become of the characters. It gives all the surviving members of the cast a final moment in the spotlight and reveals if they really did get married or opened that cozy restaurant together. However, this can also work aversely and actually harm the enjoyment of the show.
The length of a TV episode is a big contributor to this issue, going by my experience with El Cazador. After 25 episodes of increasing tensions and a big confrontation at the end, asking me to watch an entire extra episode just to wrap up the afterthoughts doesn’t feel right. Getting to see what became of the characters could have been neat as a short special or just a minute or two at the end of the final episode. 25 minutes is just excessive for this purpose, leading to an epilogue that feels padded and, honestly, quite boring.
The 08th MS Team had a similar problem. Instead of showing what the characters went on to do after the final battle, it delves into a new adventure entirely with just Michel and Kiki. It introduces a whole new storyline with new characters and new lore. We do eventually get a conclusion to the story of the original cast, but it has to co-star alongside this new plot just to fill that entire episode. It feels busy and distracting, plus the new storyline doesn’t get to develop at a healthy pace. They are trying to pull off some serious emotional drama here, which is wasted on characters we only get to see for like 5 minutes.
While going with the ending of episode 12 may have been a tad abrupt for most people, episode 13 just has too much to tell and too little room. It’s a special case. What The 08th MS Team needs, in my opinion, is an OVA episode or maybe even a movie. Give the storyline some room to actually breathe and build up all the big ideas it introduces. It may seem extreme, but this is Gundam we’re talking about. Everything gets a movie in the Gundam universes.
In conclusion, epilogues are fine, but do have to be tailored to how much there is to tell. If all a story needs is a few nods to let people know what the characters are doing, it’s unwise to stretch those minutes of content across an entire episode. It leads to padding and padding leads to boredom, which is a sour note to end a series on that was otherwise enjoyable. Therein lies the problem, doesn’t it? Broadcasters are strict about their timeboxes and are unlikely to just let you air an episode that is non-standard just because that’s what your story needs. OVA episodes, specials, and movies offer a healthy alternative, but aren’t viable for all productions.
So what are your thoughts? Have you seen anime with dedicated epilogue episodes who did it well or do you prefer epilogues as a little aside at the end of the final battle?