There are a lot of different ways for a series to end. Some are really appropriate for what’s been happening, others involve contortions so that the writer can get the ending they want even though it doesn’t make that much sense. Some are really good, some are awful. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of craptastic clichés that get employed when it comes to endings. That being said, there’s one particular ending trope that I find to be particularly egregious and annoying. Let me warn you in advance, this discussion is going to have some spoilers for Blue Gender and Shin Sekai Yori.
It may surprise you to learn that I’m not talking about a deus ex machina ending. Undoubtedly, a deus ex ending is lazy and contrived but at the same time it at least has some variety in execution. I can talk about an ending involving deus ex elements without spoiling the ending. In contrast, if I mentioned this type of ending you’d know exactly how it goes. I’m referring, of course, to the babies ever after ending.
Yeah, you know the one. The characters go through their trials and then settle down to have babies and be domestic and boring. There are several anime I’ve reviewed where I specifically mentioned the ending being terrible and this is what they did. So, what about this type of ending makes it so obnoxious? Really, there are three big reasons.
The first is just that it is always the same. Going back to my aforementioned comparison, if I tell you there’s a deus ex moment, you don’t have any idea what form it’s going to take or what the actual ending is after the main conflict ends. If I tell you that something has a babies ever after ending, you know exactly what happens. The main protagonist hooks up with their love interest and they have kids. There’s not exactly much room for variation.
The second is that it’s frequently out of place. sometimes for the characters who become parents, sometimes for the narrative itself and sometimes for both. Take Blue Gender. We find out that the bug monsters were the planet’s defence mechanism and they came out because there were too many humans. So, do they learn their lesson from this? Seemingly not, since a big part of the ending is our main couple, who I can’t be bothered remembering the names of, end by contributing to a higher population. There’s nothing about how they’ll be more careful this time. Just, babies ever after. For that matter, look at Shin Sekai Yori. The entire series establishes that this society is really screwed up and our main protagonists who have seen the most definitive proof of that end by hooking up and assimilating into that society and the anime, at least, treats this like a good thing. Way to undercut your own dystopia.
The third is that this trope frequently involves the characters deciding to settle down and be boring and domestic. We don’t want to see these characters be quit of their adventures. We want to see them keep going with what they’re doing. We want to see them keep contributing, not become side characters in their kids’ adventures.
Now, I’m not saying that no characters should ever have kids or that no franchise should ever continue with the adventures of a new generation. However, I would argue that characters having children shouldn’t be a focus of the ending. There needs to be more to it than that and, if the franchise is going to continue, the characters who became parents shouldn’t just be a side-note or have their entire characters decimated to focus on them solely as parents.
That’s why I personally loathe the babies ever after ending. Not only is it trite, but it frequently comes at the expense of the narrative, the characters or both.