It’s said that there’s nothing harder than to start a story. The white page tends to be one of the biggest hurdles for writers, or so the common saying goes. However, ending stories, especially when the story has been going on for more than three years, can be even harder. This is why a lot of complaints about many popular manga –and many fears for other long-run manga that are still going on- are around their finishing arcs, and more often than not, about how the ending was not what the readers expected.
And while deciding what is a good ending and what is a bad ending depends a lot on the reader –and if said ending works or not for them and the story- there are a few manga endings which left everyone cold, and more than one reader so disappointed that they wanted to sell their whole collection before trusting the writer again.
With that in mind, here are our top ten worst endings in manga –and the reason why they ended up on the list. It’s important to say that due to the nature of the list, there will be spoilers, so proceed with caution.
10. Yuu Yuu Hakusho
- Mangaka: Togashi, Yoshihiro
- Genre: Comedy, Action, Drama, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 19
- Published Date: 1990 - 1994
Yusuke Urameshi is a school delinquent that has never done anything worthwhile with his life until he sacrifices it to save a little kid from being run over by a car. The problem was that the kid was not going to be hurt in said accident, so now the afterlife had no idea what to do with Yusuke’s soul so they decide to give him a second chance at life: Guided by Botan, one of the many reapers at the service of Koenma, the judge of the dead, he needs to perform good deeds to show that he deserves to get back to life. And once he does, he becomes the agent of the underworld on Earth, chasing demons and ghosts who have escaped judgment with his new allies: the human Kuwabara, and the demons Hiei and Kurama.
Yuu Yuu Hakusho was an incredibly successful manga for four years, getting an anime adaptation and two movies, as well as a big number of drama cds thanks to the popularity of the story and the cast. However, once the manga reached the last arc, with Yuusuke’s dad being revealed as a demon, and a tournament to decide who would be the next ruler of the underworld, it seemed as if the whole story had lost its rails. And it wasn’t only the readers who had that impression, since without revealing the end of said tournament, the last volume ended up with short stories that seemed a bit unrelated to that situation leaving far too many questions unanswered.
Because the shift of tone, and the fact that the story didn’t really end as much as just stopped, Yuu Yuu Hakusho opens the list in the tenth place.
- Mangaka: Kubo, Tite
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Shounen, Super Power, Supernatural
- Volumes: 74
- Published Date: 2001 - 2016
Ichigo Kurosaki was born with the ability to see ghosts, but for most of his life this didn’t mean much to him except that he saw more people than others. However, a close encounter with Rukia, a shinigami from the Soul Society, changes his life completely as she loans him her energy to save his family and ends up turning him into a full fledged Shinigami. Soon, Ichigo has to take Rukia’s place as a Shinigami, protecting humans from Hollows, evil spirits that prey on mankind, until she has recovered enough to go back to the Soul Society. However, that’s not all that has changed. When another Shinigami comes to get Rukia back, Ichigo and the few friends who have discovered his secret find themselves thrown into a world of danger, intrigue and corruption.
Bleach is one of the longest running manga of all time. And in the 15 years it was published, it amassed an incredible number of readers all over the world. 90 million copies sold pretty much cemented its place as one of the most beloved manga of the last twenty years. But for every new volume, a question loomed: HOW can such an epic story end, and leave everyone satisfied? Well, the answer was, it can’t. Not only did the ending seem a bit too neat, with Ichigo returning to a semi-normal life, married and with children, but it also sparked a lot of disagreement since for more than half the readership, Ichigo ended up with the wrong wife.
Because of the seemingly cookie cutter ending –that could have happened at any point in the 74 volumes previous so it does feel as if it wasn’t made to fit the story but as an end point no matter what happened to the characters- and the anger it created in the audience, Bleach has the ninth spot on our list.
8. Oh My Goddess! (Aa! Megami-sama!)
- Mangaka: Fujishima, Kosuke
- Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Seinen
- Volumes: 48
- Published Date: 1988- 2014
When Keiichi Morisato was left alone to take care of the dorm room where he lived, he accidentally dialed the Goddess Technical Help Line and the goddess Belldandy was dispatched to grant him one wish. Keiichi, thinking it was a joke, asked her to stay with him for all time. Unfortunately for him, this works. And now he needs to find a place to live, because his dorm is strictly all male. This is not the end of his troubles, because once he and Belldandy settle on a semi-normal routine, comes Urd, Belldandy’s older sister. And then the demon Mara arrives via a CD, trying to destroy the goddesses’ lives. Not much later, Skuld, Belldandy’s younger sister, makes an appearance. And that’s not counting Keiichi’s friends and family who must not find out Belldandy’s true origins.
Almost 20 years, 48 volumes and a host of new goddesses and demons coming to bother Keiichi and Belldandy later, the question of how it was going to end was finally answered: with the wedding of Keiichi and Belldandy. Problem was, Keiichi and Belldandy had declared their love for each other almost 42 volumes earlier. There was no doubt that they would end up together, no tension about the ‘will they, won’t they?’. Sure, readers had been upset to learn that the reason why the romance hadn’t gone past hand holding was because heaven itself had removed Keiichi’s libido so he wouldn’t try anything with Belldandy, but that revelation was part of the final arc so it was solved pretty quickly.
Because of this finale that is just an abrupt stop rather than an ending, Oh My Goddess! Lands itself in the eighth place of our list.
7. Hikaru No go
- Mangaka: Obata, Takeshi (Art), Hotta, Yumi (Story)
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Game, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 23
- Published Date: 1998 - 2003
Hikaru Shindo had no interest in the game of Go until one day he stumbled into an antique go board owned by his grandfather that has a strange bloodstain that only he can see. This means he can also hear and see Fujiwara-no-Sai, a Go teacher from the Heian era who killed himself after being accused of cheating at Go by a rival teacher of the Emperor. While, at first, Hikaru only played to make Sai happy and a bit less annoying, soon he becomes engrossed with the game and decides to start playing on his own, starting the path to become a professional player.
And here is where it gets tricky. Although most of the story was centered around Hikaru and Sai’s friendship, in Volume 18, Yumi Hotta makes the decision to make Sai finally disappear, after finding the reason why the gods had let him stay around for so long. After that, the series meandered a little: first, by following Hikaru, who swore not to play again unless Sai returned; and once that was solved, seemed to find its legs again by focusing on Hikaru’s rise in the professional ranks until a special tournament between Japanese and Korean pro players.
And then… it just stopped. After the tournament, and with a promise of perhaps something more at the very last page, the series ended without much fanfare. While it was rumored it was due to a lawsuit by a Korean player whose image was used, there wasn’t much news about that. For fans, it just ended without any answers, and 5 volumes without one of the main characters. For that, it has the seventh place on our list.
6. Ranma 1/2
- Mangaka: Takahashi, Rumiko
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Ecchi, Martial Arts, Romance, School, Shounen, Harem, Gender Bender
- Volumes: 38
- Published Date: 1987 -1996
Ranma Saotome was a pretty normal guy. Well, as normal as someone raised from birth to be a man among men, and carried all over Japan by his father in an eternal “Training trip” in order to be the best martial artist in the world. But things got really strange when the trip took them to the valley of the cursed springs in China, and Ranma had the bad luck of falling in the pool of the drowned girl. Now, every time he gets drenched in cold water, he turns into a girl. His father, Genma, suffered a similar fate, only that he fell in the pool of the drowned panda. But it’s not until they get back to Japan, in order to fulfill an old promise made by Genma to a friend regarding marrying Ranma to one of his daughters, when things get really complicated.
Ranma ½ was for a long time one of the most popular manga comedies in the USA, and one of Viz Media’s best sellers. The comedy worked, as Ranma piled up fiancées because of his father’s constant attempts to con people, male suitors who just didn’t get that he and Ranma-chan were the same person, and more than one rival who just wanted to beat him up and show they were better in their specific school of martial arts (Ranma, being from the “Anything goes” School, had no limitations on what he could learn). And while everyone was sure he’d end up married to his first fiancée, Akane Tendo, it was still fun to try and imagine what would happen if he married someone else.
The last volume, however, left everyone cold. There was to be a wedding, and we got to see Akane in her wedding dress. But then things happen, as they usually did in the Tendo household, and the wedding was put off. Ranma and Akane stay together, Ranma doesn’t get cured, and there’s nothing really that tells us that the story ended except for the artist’s boredom with the characters. For this, Ranma ½ has the sixth place on our list.
5. Vampire Knight
- Mangaka: Hino, Matsuri
- Genre: Mystery, Drama, Romance, School, Shoujo, Vampire, Supernatural
- Volumes: 19
- Published Date: 2004 – 2013
Cross Academy is a very special elite boarding school that has two classes: The Day Class and the Night Class. The reason for this separation is not known for the Day Class students, but prefect Yuuki Cross and her partner Zero Kiryuu know exactly why it is: All the members of the Night Class are vampires, and the separation is to make sure that their secrets are safe, and the Day class students aren’t harmed in any way. But for Yuuki, it is more than just a duty as the adopted daughter of the academy’s chairman: it is the excuse she needs to see her secret crush, the president of the Night class, Kaname Kuran. This really angers Zero, as he believes all vampires are evil –and he is also in love with her.
As a good shoujo, Vampire Knight’s story was wrapped around romance. Sure, we had the very pressing issue of evil vampires and the necessity of a new core to keep vampires alive, but there was also the pressing question: Who did Yuuki love the most? Vampire Kaname or Human Zero. And the answer was… well, she didn’t have to choose, not really. Kaname chose to sacrifice himself for the good of vampire kind, but not before having one last night with her. So she, pregnant with his son, married Zero… until he died and then she went to wake up Kaname and let him take care of her child, and Zero’s child. It was pretty much a non choice from the author that left a lot of readers pretty angry.
And because it doesn’t really tell us anything, and the main characters don’t get to end up together –as Yuuki sacrifices herself to wake Kaname so she doesn’t end up with him either-, Vampire Knight earns the fifth place on our list.
4. Get Backers
- Mangaka: Kibayashi, Shin (Story), Ayamine, Rando (Art)
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Mystery, Drama, Ecchi, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 39
- Published Date: 1999 - 2007
Ginji Amano can generate electric currents within his body. Ban Mido can create illusions in the minds of those who oppose him. Together they form the GetBackers, the self-professed best retrieval team in the world as they claim they can get back anything that a client has lost. Unfortunately, before they can prove said claim they need to get some clients. And that’s the beginning of a very fun story, filled with action and adventure, as we follow Ban and Ginji through their adventures trying to get their clients’ belongings back to them. As the story advanced, it managed to get more complicated, adding intrigue by revealing Ban and Ginji’s pasts little by little, as well as the mysterious Infinity Fortress, a bunch of condemned buildings that had formed their own inner city where legend says that anyone who can reach Babylon City, the upper most level of the Limitless Fortress, can change the world as they wish.
One can’t say that the ending didn’t deliver on that promise. However, the way in which it did so left a lot of readers groaning and it can be considered a bit of a cheat. Because Ginji manages to reach Babylon City, where he can meet his mother. Unfortunately, it is there when she reveals that the whole world that Ginji inhabits is a virtual reality that she created so her dead son could grow up. That’s right, it means that every single character we fell in love with in the previous volumes doesn’t really exist, they’re all a computer simulation that can be changed at will by those who programmed them. Which also begs the question if Ban is real, or was just created to be Ginji’s friend. In any case, Ginji returns to “his” world –as he can’t stay in his mother’s as he’s dead there- and then the pair decide to go on a new mission to “get back” Ban’s mother.
Does that sound like an ending? Not really as the answers seem pretty deux ex machina and the adventure continues which means it didn’t need to end. The story stops, and that’s not a real way to finish. Which is why Get Backers earns the fourth place on our list.
3. Yakitate!! Japan
- Mangaka: Hashiguchi, Takashi
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Parody, Shounen
- Volumes: 26
- Published Date: 2002 - 2007
Azuma Kazuma has one very clear goal in his mind: He wants to make the perfect bread that can represent Japan internationally. So with that in mind, he wants to enter the famous bakery Pantasia as an apprentice, in order to learn everything he can to create the perfect Ja-pan. As he reaches Pantasia, he finds out that to be hired he has to pass a number of tests, competing with other bakers from all over the country. That’s where he meets Kuroyanagi Ryo, a serious baker that is also a great judge of bread taste, and fellow students Kyosuke Kawachi, Tsukino Azusagawa and Kai Suwabara. After this competition, Azuma, Kawachi and Tsukino end up at the Pantasia’s Southern Tokyo Branch store and that’s where the story really picks up.
Unfortunately, it picks up in some really strange directions. While the main theme of the manga was baking, it really shined with the use of some really hard to translate puns. It also parodied the melodramatic way in which other shounen manga made the mundane epic, mostly with people’s reactions at tasting Azuma’s really delicious bread –including one that made the person eating said bread travel through time and change history. Until then, the series was doing very well, but the last arc took a really weird turn when it comes out that the owner of Pantasia has been taken over by sentient evil bread, and somehow Azuma and his friends have to stop global warming and a tsunami from destroying Japan.
The ending, while it could make some readers chuckle at the sudden breaking of the fourth wall, doesn’t really fit with the beginning of the story. Sure, Azuma somehow ends up the winner of the Nobel prize, but we never find out if he made bread that would taste better than rice to Japanese people. Because of this, it earns the third place in our list.
2. Hot Gimmick
- Mangaka: Aihara, Miki
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Shoujo
- Volumes: 12
- Published Date: 2000 -2005
Hatsumi Narita is a bit of a doormat. She and her family live in a company-owned apartment, where they really can’t afford to move and have to live in fear of their neighbor, the noisy Mrs. Tachibana. However, that’s not Hatsumi’s only problem. She also has to deal with her younger sister, Akane, who tends to force her to do everything in the house just because she can’t be bothered to do so. One of those things is asking Hatsumi to go and buy her a pregnancy test as she’s late and can’t afford to be seen buying one. Hatsumi, unfortunately, accepts but is discovered by Mrs. Tachibana’s son, Ryoki, who promises not to tell anyone about her “secret” as long as Hatsumi becomes his slave. Things seem to be better for Hatsumi when Azusa, her childhood friend and crush, comes back to the apartment, but Hatsumi doesn’t know that Azusa is also planning revenge on his enemies and won’t stop at anything to get it.
Hot Gimmick is, in many ways, an anti-shoujo. Unlike other similar stories, it doesn’t pull punches at showing a truly abusive relationship between Ryoki and Hatsumi. No matter how much she thinks he could change because he “loves” her, we, the readers, know he never will. And the same thing goes for the other men in her life, the revenge-driven Azusa and her older, adopted sibling, Shinogu who, despite having been raised as Hatsumi’s brother all his life, is in love with her. It’s a messy, but effective story, that seems to be pointing out that love is not the solution to everything and that Hatsumi’s solution to her problems should be her standing up for herself.
Except she never does. The story ends up with her going with Ryoki, still convinced that her love will change it. This ending, which is also an abuse-apology, was so hated by the Japanese readers that there was the need to make an alternate ending to make them happy again. And because of this, it earns the second place on our list.
1. Banana Fish
- Mangaka: Yoshida, Akimi
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Shoujo
- Volumes: 19
- Published Date: 1985 - 1994
Ash Lynx has had a very hard life in New York. Blonde, blue eyed, and extremely handsome, he ran away from home only to end up as the sex toy of “Papa” Dino Golzine, and the leader of one of the most vicious gangs in the city, while also taking care of his older brother who went mad in Vietnam, gunning down his squadron. Since then, the only words he’s said are “Banana Fish”. This comes to haunt Ash when he finds a man being chased by part of his gang on orders from Papa Dino, who also says the same words before handing Ash a vial and dying from his wounds. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also being followed by Shunichi Ibe and Eiji Okumura, two Japanese photographers who are doing a report on street gangs. And so, while trying to figure out exactly what drove his brother mad, and survive a very dangerous gang war, Ash finds himself more and more attracted to the young, and very innocent Eiji.
While Banana Fish is not BL, even stretching the definition as far as it can go, it did focus a lot on the relationship between Eiji and Ash, and how Ash began to see Eiji as the symbol of everything he didn’t have in his life: peace and happiness. To every reader’s relief, Ash even promised to go with Eiji to Japan, away from all the violence that had filled his life, as soon as he could finish the war against Golzine’s men and the creators of Banana Fish. However, in a final and very dark twist, Ash is unable to fulfill this promise. After the war is over, the day he was supposed to meet with Eiji at the airport, he is knifed down by a survivor from a rival gang and chooses to die bleeding in the New York library as he writes down his goodbye note to Eiji.
While said downer ending could be said to fit the rest of the story, where most of the characters died in a violent way, the fact that it was apparently inspired by the real life death of River Phoenix a year earlier –as Phoenix was one of the inspirations for Ash’s looks- makes it come out of nowhere and thus, the first place on our list.
It is not easy to say that something is the worst of their kind. As we said, tastes vary from reader to reader, and thus what doesn’t work for one, may perfectly well work for another. Still, there are certain endings that just don’t seem to fit and have only left everyone wanting and that is the reason why we chose the ones in this list for your consideration.
Do you agree with our list? Or did we miss the ending that left you completely cold? Please, let us know in the comments below, and meanwhile, let’s hope that all your other favorites end in a way that leaves you completely satisfied.