— Patrick McGoohan on the intentionally confusing ending he created for The Prisoner
What do you mean, "Fin"?!
A Gainax Ending is an ending that doesn't make any sense, or does make sense but is hidden under enough Mind Screw to not have an easy explanation. This is usually a deliberate form of Mind Screw or intended as a Sequel Hook to a sequel that was never made. For whatever reason, after watching a Gainax Ending, you won't have any idea what happened. After rewatching it, rewatching the entire series, discussing it with other fans, looking up the meaning of the symbolism, and subjecting the entire thing to a comprehensive literary analysis, you still might not have any idea what happened. If you're lucky, then there will be some kind of emotional or symbolic resolution even if it doesn't actually explain what happened to the characters, and you'll be left with the sense that the series as a whole was more deeply thought out than it seemed before. If you're unlucky, then you'll be left with more questions than when you started and the sense that the series as a whole has been voided of the meaning you once read in it.
A Gainax Ending frequently involves bizarre and nonsensical Genre Shifts, Fauxlosophic Narration, and/or Faux Symbolism, and may very well cause Ending Aversion. For an aborted Sequel Hook, you might encounter a Diabolus Ex Nihilo (where a new villain appears from nowhere, does something villainous, and then disappears again) or No Ending in the form of an ambiguous Cliff Hanger. Either way, it would have been addressed in the sequel... had there been one.
The Trope Namer is Studio Gainax, who became associated with this trope after the infamous ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Compare No Ending, which shares the lack of resolution, Trippy Finale Syndrome, which has similar imagery but actually makes sense (it's explicitly a Dream Sequence, a Battle in the Center of the Mind, takes place in Another Dimension, etc), and The Walrus Was Paul, where it's not simply the ending but the work overall that evades explanation. For when the ending does make sense and ends up changing the entire scenario, see The Ending Changes Everything. Not to be confused with Gainaxing.
As this is an Ending Trope, expect unmarked major spoilers from here on.
Adventure Time has gained its own page.
Even the movie ending, while straight-forward, is pretty bizarre by normal standards, and would probably be considered an example by the standards of most of the other things on this page if the TV ending hadn't out-Gainaxed Gainax.
Word of God says that the movie was the original planned ending.
It seems to end every episode in this manner. In fact, the entire premise of the show is that as a non-rechargeable combat android, Mahoro can literally number the days till she deactivates, and the viewers are constantly reminded of this fact.
It should be noted as well that that the countdown is never finished, as Mahoro's ultimate attack drains the same energy that keeps her alive; she is forced to use it in the second season, leading to the Time Skip enigmatic ending.
In that ending, she comes back in some form right as Suguru dies. Possibly as a memory, possibly as some sort of afterlife, or possibly as them both being restored to life. What.
Gunbuster's final episode was animated in black and white, with gray tones, alongside intense still shots during the final battle. And then, after the black hole bomb goes off, it takes them 12,000 years to make it back to Earth. (Due to the relativistic affects of near-light-speed travel, probably only a day had passed from their POV) And then "WELCOME HOME!" (with one of the kana backwards, even), which was absolutely awesome and genuinely heart-wrecking, even if it left a billion unanswered questions. While it all does work to increase the dramatic tension, given who produced the show, there have been a lot of suspicions over the years that it was done more for budgetary reasons than for any reasons of high art.
The Black and White stuff was actually more expensive to do at the time, as it is much more requiring to paint in greyscale, also including the fact that you need to compensate for the color detail with drawn detail. Likewise, the episode is done in a downmatted widescreen, and all comedic tone is dead, simply finalizing the evolution the show takes from a fanservice filled parody into something much darker.
This one is a bit more contested, though, as quite a few people have pointed out that, given the awesome scope of the posited final battle, that the still pictures are still remarkably effective and that their effect is greater than what could have been with "actual" animation.
He Is My Master, another show animated by Gainax, is a light, funny, gag series about a guy with a maid fetish. How else to end the series than with a sudden Mood Whiplash into angst and philosophizing?
It's not so much that the ending is weird or incomprehensible as that it flies directly in the face of what looked like it was the moral for the entire second half of the series and the ending it led you to expect.
Also, it's intended to be ambiguous: whether Sasshi has successfully managed to "fix" reality or has simply created yet another, even more elaborate fantasy dimension that is ultimately doomed to collapse just like all the others is left for the viewer to decide.
Creative differences caused a Gainax Ending in Kare Kano, abruptly ending the story just as a new arc was starting up.
Gainax has truly outdone themselves with Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. Long story short, Big Bad dies, but then isn't dead, Stocking is actually a demon WHO KILLS PANTY, and now Brief must retrieve Panty's 666 pieces and bring her back to life. What.
In fact, it's so big of a Gainax Ending that the characters who didn't see it coming react to it in much the same way the viewers do.
And that only covers the last three minutes of it. In more or less chronological order... Panty spends an undefined amount of time as a farm girl (the setting of which is otherwise staged), Panty and Brief finally do it, Brief accidentally unlocks Hellsmonkey, which is a giant penis ghost, Corset turns Scanty and Kneesocks into weapons and kills Garterbelt before fusing with said giant penis ghost, Chuck and Fastener turn into awesome monster things, Panty and Stocking use Garterbelt's credit card to buy enough weapons to attempt to deliver an awesome finishing blow. They miss and hit Heaven, which summons a pair of lifelike legs to close the gate that Hellsmonkey is coming out of. This pair of legs turns out to be Panty and Stocking's mom. Oh, and Garterbelt dies again. And comes back again. Among all this, the heavens are actually pierced with a drill. Even the tropes Gainax are most closely identified with are up for parody.
Basically, the first scene of the series appears to be a preview/flashforward scene from somewhere near the end of the series, but viewers watching it for the first time will have no idea what is going on, and when the events the scene should be in finally come, nothing matches with it.
The theory behind the 'alternate timeline' is presented as one of the possible futures in which Simon and crew failed. However it has also been up to debate as to whether or not it was merely an illusion provided by the Anti-Spirals. Thankfully Gurren Lagann manages to bullshit its way through the series in a way so that the beginning is likely forgotten by the time that scene rolls around. Most people weren't even aware there was anything wrong until they re-watched the series and noticed a certain something that first-time viewers would hardly notice.
It is rumoured that this is actually a previous battle with the Anti-Spirals and the person who appears to be a grown up Simon is in fact a young Lord Genome. This makes it foreshadowing in terms of the plot.
But according to one of the Parallel Works and the start of Guren-hen, Lordgenome looked nothing like that as a young man.
The actual theory that Gainax went with that the fans came up with is that It's an alternate future in which Simon and Dai-Gurren-dan (ignore the Anti-Spiral King's final words and) actually cause the Spiral Nemesis and trigger what amounts to the Big Crunch from overuse of Spiral Power.
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise is another great example of this. Rather than addressing whether or not Shiro's mission is successful, the film ends with an abstract montage of everyday life and the rise of civilization on the fictional planet.
Expected. Another Gainax work, in fact one of their first.
Houkago No Pleiades. Yep, even their otherwise straightforward 30-minute Magical Girl OVA manages to have a weird ambiguous ending. The Big Bad does a Heel-Face Turn, but then is dragged off to who-knows-where by...her earrings? She throws her coat to Subaru, who finds a single flower growing in the otherwise desolate weird holographic garden. This is taken as an indication that she's still alive, or something.
Anime & Manga - Other
In Mirai Nikki, the final episode consists of Yuki escaping the Lotus-Eater Machine and convincing 1st!Yuno to not kill 3rd!Yuno, and so she stabs herself, allowing Yuki to win the survival game. He then returns to the Second World, which is now a vast expanse of nothingness, and mourns her for 10,000 years. In the anime, it ends there. The manga adds about three more pages of story, where Yuno suddenly breaks through the wall of space-time with a hammer, telling him she is the 3rd!Yuno, with 1st!Yuno's memories implanted, and they go off to the Third World to rule as Deus's replacements. Oh, and Nine/Uryuu has flying babies.
Chobits starts out as a typical Magical Girlfriend-cum-Moe show, then, about halfway through, gets... er, weird. And to top it off, after spending half the series contemplating the sentience of persocoms, the single most advanced persocom in existence states that she isn't really sentient, and neither are any of the other Chobits - they're highly advanced, naturally, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, they're only following their programming. Most of the fans interpreted this turn of events as a gigantic middle finger from CLAMP. In the anime, they are sentient.
You think the series ending was Gainax? Try the movie, Revolutionary Girl Utena Adolescence Apocalypse. They ride off into the sunset after one of them turns into a car.
Dragon Ball GT. While GT has many things to scratch your head about, the ending is so sudden and bizarre it's nothing short of a Mind Screw. What happened to Goku in the last 2 episodes? He's clearly dead from that huge energy ball, then suddenly he's alive again somehow able to talk to everybody on earth, then when he's charging the spirit he cannot be killed by Omega at all, despite direct hits. We're not even sure if he's dead or Back from the Dead because there's not even a halo to give us any idea (How that is even possible under the circumstances is itself a mystery). Then after the bomb's thrown, he's dead again, apparently brought back to life, then suddenly he just leaves without even saying goodbye. Vegeta knows something's up, then suddenly we see his clothes left on the ground. But in DBZ when they die, they die with their clothes (In fact, that shot is out of sequence and is shown after the end of the next couple of events). But then he's off to visit Roshi and Piccolo, who both also know something's changed about him, but a mere "Are you...?" is not very helpful. When they take their eyes off him for a second, there's suddenly no one there. Then the Dragonballs merge into Goku, then he disappears. Where does he go? What happened to him?
He doesn't return for 100 years, and if you leave aside what you saw in A Hero's legacy, it's not clear if he's alive or dead. Theories include ascended to a higher plane of existence or that Goku became Shenron himself. And he isn't even remotely bothered by the fact that almost everyone he knew is dead.
A Hero's legacy was made earlier just after the Baby Saga and they intended Goku to be clearly dead and be the Spirit Advisor to Goku Jr. At that time, no had any idea how GT was going to end or just how they were going to get there, they hoped to stop with Baby Saga. But Executive Meddling (which is why GT even existed) wanted to rush two more sagas in production because producers wanted the series to coincide with the release (and marketing) of Dragon Ball: Final Bout for the PlayStation. Viewer ratings began to go into landslide around the Shadow Dragon Saga so they abruptly Cut Short the series and rushed out a hastily written ending out the door. Yes.
The makers of the Air anime were likely shooting for a Bittersweet Ending, but the ambiguity of what happens after Misuzu's death leaves many viewers in the dark.
Same for CLANNAD: To understand the Gainax Ending requires a lot of analysis of the dialogue between Ushio and the Garbage Doll before the Illusionary World collapses. Also, one has to wonder why Nagisa has knowledge of Tomoya wishing that he'd never met her, as well as if the reality where Nagisa, Tomoya, and Ushio died really happened. It really did.
Kanon pulls a sufficiently bizarre rabbit out of its hat at the end, too. A character turns out to have been Dead All Along. No, wait, actually she's alive but it took 24 episodes for someone to mention the comatose girl in the hospital who looks exactly like her (making the whole story a bit of an Idiot Plot). These things were hinted at, but then she wakes up and uses her previously unknown Reality Warper powers to give a couple of dead/dying characters an Unexplained Recovery, which pretty much comes out of nowhere. It's also implied that maybe she didn't wake up and the ending is All Just a Dream. We'll never know for sure.
The bizarre way they treated Tetsuo's fate in the ending of the AKIRA anime counts.
Gainax is even one of the production companies involved in the film.
Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature does this. At the end, Bagi is left prowling the jungle with her human intelligence destroyed, and Ryo just decides it would be better to stop trying to catch her.
The manga version of Sound Horizon's Ark starts out straightforward enough, but a few pages into the second and final chapter, it takes a sudden detour through WTFville into Gainax Ending Land.
While the ending of Chrono Crusade is better explained than some of the other examples here, due in part to some poor planning from Daisuke Moriyama and a rush to get everything explained in the end, the last volume or two of the manga feels like there's a sudden Genre Shift mixed with several open-ended questions, unless you were clever enough to pick up on subtle foreshadowing throughout the series. Some of the weirder points of the ending include the revelation that the demons are really Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, Rosette's soul leaving her body, causing her "death" and a trippy afterlife scene that ends with her and Mary Magdalene entering her body together to revive her, Chrono finding out that the demon Hive Queen was a human woman that was kidnapped by the demons and transformed into Pandaemonium—who was pregnant with human twins that would grow up to be Chrono and Aion, Chrono and Aion charging at each other for their final battle, only for the manga to cut away and change focus, deliberately hiding the outcome of the battle and Satella freezing herself and Florette/Fiore into crystal, and the two of them found and revived in the year 1999 and forced to start over their lives after (almost) all of their old friends have passed on. While the Gecko Ending of the anime is depressing enough that many fans prefer the manga ending, it's still known for being quite weird.
Following the pattern of its own insanity, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has one of these, in which Fei Wong has somehow been defeated (or has he?), Watanuki and Syaoran did... something... which somehow resulted in bringing Syaoran back to Sakura from weird black void-thingy, the clones went * poof* , and Syaoran and Sakura appear to have gotten their memories back. I think. At this point, all anyone can hope for is that Xxx HO Li C explains what the hell just happened.
To elaborate a little further The two Sakuras gather their magic, i.e. Reality Breaking Paradox twice over and grant their own wish of coexisting even at the cost of the foundations of the universe. This distracts Fei Wong to allow everyone else to give the finishing blow to Fei Wong. Then the 3 Syaoran: The Clone Syaoran, the original Syaoran, and Watanuki get trapped in a void outside of time from the dimensional aftershock and/or Fei Wong's last wish. Clone Syaoran in a desperate attempt makes a wish by using his very existence to get the other two out, which the other two accept on the grounds that they understand the repercussions of making an un-Equivalent Exchange.
To finish the trail of thought Syaoran chooses the price of "being always in movement" and he takes the souls of Syaoran and Sakura clones and starts to travel in order to find a place where the four of them can live together. He also gets a present which allows him to go back to where Sakura is more often. Watanuki chooses the price of "staying in one place" and becomes the new master of Yuuko's shop, while he waits for her to reincarnate.
The English marketing of the Manga series (which has previously been a single, out-of-continuity volume) picked up exactly where the show ended, with a brief mention of the situation at the beginning of volume "1".
Actually, it started two arcs before the anime ends and stops TWO VOLUMES before matching it.
In Lucu Lucu, you expect the main character, Rokumon, to end up in a Shipping with Lucu (at least in the first 30 chapters, and you keep hoping)...but, that's not quite what happens... You see Rokumon was used essentially as a sim game by Lucu to learn humility, and his whole entire life has been a lie throughout the 'entire manga. His dead-father-turned-living-talking-cat is also not his real father and his whole entire memory comes back in the last 5 pages of the manga.
Gantz. Did he save the girl? Why was he running from the train all over again? Cut to Gantz once again, almost as if started from the beginning...?
Darker Than Black, both seasons. Both finales actually contain scenes apparently inspired by the TV ending of Evangelion, although the scene in the first season is actually in the middle of the episode and the parts following it make it a bit less mindscrewy. The second season, on the other hand, is a perfect example of a mindscrew ending.
The Berserk anime's ending could be considered a Gainax Ending. If you watch it without ever reading a bit of the manga, you'll have a lot of trouble understanding the fact that towards the end, monsters unknown to each and every character start showing up and eating them, which is hard to understand because the anime doesn't even mention the existence of other behelits apart from Griffith's. Oh, also the anime ends abruptly, with Caska being raped by Griffith (now as Femto), while Guts is forced to watch, being subdued by a group of demons and losing an eye after carving his own arm off to escape some other demon's grip, with no sign of closure whatsoever. No epilogue, not even different credits, it just ends. It didn't get cancelled or discontinued either, its supposed to end there. Talk about downer ending.
The strangest thing of that is that after the credits we see a healed Guts leaves Godo's house to have his revenge on Griffith. In the anime is never explained how that happened. Talk about No Ending or Left Hanging.
Madlax. Totally leaves the viewer hanging on the fate of three of supporting cast. Not to mention the cause of some intense arguments over if Margaret resurrected Elenore, Vanessa and Carrossea or not.
Serial Experiments Lain: The whole series was a Mind Screw, so of course it gets one. Lain creates a new reality where she doesn't exist. That part makes sense. But then she has a discussion with herself about resetting reality and the true nature of the Wired, which only creates more questions then answers. An emotional Lain then tells her alternate self to "stop"...and the other Lain quite literally stops, flickers and vanishes. Then Lain's father appears and she has tea with him while they're both floating in the sky. It's not terribly clear if Lain's father is actually real, a hallucination, or God himself. In the next scene Lain re-introduces herself to an older Arisu in the new reality. Finally Lain appears in a static-filled screen and says that she'll "be with you forever"; the context suggests she's speaking to Arisu, but it's also possible she's speaking to the viewer. The last scene is of the electrical wires that appear at the end of the Once an Episode opening montage. Yeah, your guess is as good as ours.
While the serious and mystery aspect of the plot of Boku no Futatsu no Tsubasa was hinted at through most of the series the ending was extremely rushed making it all extremely odd. The majority was a Romantic Comedy with loads of characters and their changing feelings. A good chunk was all about Mako's gender and keeping her hermaphrodite status a secret. Then the last chapter throws at us: Mako is half an alien, an evil group want to hold her ransom and get the advance alien technology from her royal alien family. To stop her friends from getting hurt Mako decides to return to her alien home. Then she comes back to be with her non-blood cousin Hiromi... which had never been hinted at before in any shape or form.
The climax and after credits bit of the Gundam 00 movie. I'm still not sure what the hell happened, but apparently the ELS were just a race who had lost their home and misunderstood humanity and Setsuna merged with the ELS becoming almost godlike. And his Gundam could grow flowers.
Word of God says that Setsuna becomes the ambassador for the humanity, which led the aliens to live in its own place created nearby the Earth. In order for him to not getting sick while talking to them, he merges himself with ELS and ended up living for years with the same face. His Gundam also gets upgrade. But then it is still confusing.
The ending of that one episode of Kirby of the Stars with the Dedede dolls in it. Seriously, King Dedede actually ends up flying into space and past a planet shaped like him as a result of Kirby swallowing one of said Dedede dolls.
The original Shaman King qualifies. The heroes go to sleep the day before the final battle. After that, it cuts to a series of scenes with Manta and Anna, including a short dream. After that, the series ends. The final battle is neither shown nor spoken of. The ending is unknown. All we get is a "The End" author's note. Luckily, Shaman King Kang Zeng Beng finally showed the ending, but that came out MUCH later.
Episode 12 of Madoka. Although once you get past Madoka becoming a god, it's not THAT hard to decipher.
The Bolivian Army Ending that suddenly appears after the credits throw more confusion as we have a sudden shift to an open desert with Homura facing off against a bunch of wraiths, and the writer didn't feel like going into details - it was an homage to Blade, of all things. What's meta about it is that Gen Urobuchi, the writer for the series, was taken aback by some of the fan interpretations like Homura being the only magical girl left alive; in a way, fans thinking like that is a Gainax Ending in itself to his writing the show.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie Rebellion managed to one up that. The Puella Magi foiled Kyubey's plan, everything's fine, and Homura can finally see Madoka again. All good, right? Wait, did Homura just hijack Madoka's god powers?
Shin Mazinger. Goddammit. Just... goddammit. It ends on a horrible cliffhanger, with Mazinger defeated and the Earth seemingly about to be taken over. It seems to be a hook for a Shin Great Mazinger sequel, given that this reflects the ending of the original Mazinger Z and beginning of Great Mazinger, but there's no plans for one.
The anime for Sorcerer Hunters definitely fits this description. After killing off every hero besides Carrot, the last episode splits its time between Carrot's solo battle against the Big Bad and modern day Tokyo with the other heroes. Then somehow Carrot calls to them, they hear him from across time and space, they somehow come back to the world and proceed to power up (usually involving clothing getting blasted off), and rather than this leading to them having a battle against the baddie, they all run over to Carrot with big smiles and laughter. But wait! There's more. The Big Bad is banished, somewhat without fanfare in silent-film style, with a closing scene of what is presumably Carrot hitting on a modern day girl, not that we see the hero.
In Saishuuheiki Kanojo, the female lead is a normal teenaged girl transformed into a cybernetic doomsday weapon. At the end of the series, it seems as though all life on earth is destroyed, except for her boyfriend... and there's no sign that there's any way he'll be able to survive for long in what's left. A tiny spark that seems to be all that is left of her descends into his hands, and suddenly we're back to the moment they met in the first episode, roll final credits.
Hanaukyō Maid Tai. A mild version in the second series La Verite. Ryuuka proposes marriage to Taro again and beats him up when he doesn't agree, the other maids all try to kiss him but he escapes. He meets Mariel and they walk off into a white background hand in hand.
Episode 26 of Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ ended on a downer note and a Diabolus Ex Machina with a few more added bangs. Reiji is shot dead but it's unknown if Ein dies. She simply lies into the grass and smiles. Sharp eyed viewers say Ein picked apart a toxic flower which would have killed her, others feel she survived.
It's actually not clear weather Reiji was hit or not. Also note that both he and Ein have been "Killed" in the past, only to show up alive-and-well sometime later. Whatever the case, the pair's survival is a hotly debated topic.
RahXephon, as expected from being, um, 'inspired' byEvangelion, featured a final episode containing mostly symbolism and a Journey to the Center of the Mind that led to a final real-world mecha battle, the apparent Big Bad being unceremoniously shot anticlimactically for no apparent reason, followed by the entire universe being mysteriously reset. And yes, at some point the main character's psychosomatic journey involves his images of several of his friends and acquaintances saying "congratulations!" to him.
Legend Of The Blue Wolves has a Bittersweet Ending in that Jonathan is forced to kill Leonard, the man he loves, in order to free him from the control of the aliens that had absorbed him. As Jonathan salutes him in tears, on-screen text indicates that this battle was mankind's first victory against the aliens. Cue after the credits—two individuals who hadn't even been introduced up to this point are riding an elevator and discussing the war. When the elevator opens, they find to their shock an alien spaceship buried deep underground. What does this mean? Nobody knows, because the anime was never finished.
After seven years of Mind ScrewBlack Comedy, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei went into the twilight zone. Superoptimistic Kafuka Fuura (the second-billed character of the series) was Dead All Along, but had previously signed up as an organ donor. Her organs, charged with her positive qualities, were implanted into a group of girls possessed by suicidal spirits. Their teacher was trying to exorcise them all along. Meanwhile every time Kafuka was seen by the viewer, she was actually a hallucination covering up another girl (some Fore Shadowing was given throughout the manga in that Kafuka was never seen in shot of the entire class). And as if that weren't enough...the manga finally ends with sort of a Deconstruction of harem manga in that the teacher marries twelve of the girls. One at a time (whichever one is currently possessed by Kafuka). When Kafuka switches over to another body, he divorces the current and moves onto the next. Lather, rinse repeat.
Fourteen is strange enough, but the ending takes the weirdness to a whole new level. The escape rocket reaches the edge of the universe, and it turns out that the universe itself is ending. America suddenly sees a light outside of the rocket, and follows it until he's outside of the universe. He discovers that the universe the story took place in was a bug crawling on the road in another universe where everyone looks like Chicken George. America stops the bug from being hit by a car, and the driver of the car puts the bug back in the forest. Kiyora appears and reveals that the children are all bug spirits, the rest of the kids exit the bug and talk for a while, and everyone comes to the conclusion that this new universe is Chicken George's. The final shot is of Chicken George and Chicken Lucy, alive and in the new universe.
The horror manga Zashiki Onna follows a college student's attempts to get away from a creepy-looking Yandere, the penultimate chapter of which climaxes in her hunting him down through a hospital and catching him. The chapter after this does not mention what ended up happening to either of them, or who the woman was or what she wanted. It mostly consists of random old women gossiping about events from earlier in the series before cutting to the protagonist's best friend meeting with his neighbor, the yandere's original target, to talk about the events of the story, before abruptly ending with "The End?"
Eureka Seven AO pulls a convoluted one of these, causing quite an Internet Backlash. Truth erases himself with the Quartz Gun, but it inexplicably Cosmic Retcons him back into existence as the Nirvash's "archetype" (some sort of power-boosting soul thingy). It's revealed that Naru is not Ao's sister. His sister was Dead All Along, Taken for Granite as an infant because of high trapar density or something. He'd suffer the same fate if he returned home with his parents, so, instead, he Quartz Guns all the Secrets and Scub Corals out of reality, accidentally wrecking Nirvash in the process and sending them both bouncing through time. For some reason. Eventually he returns to roughly his own time, and is conveniently able to stop randomly time-hopping, but his friends probably don't remember him. "Probably" because we never find out... it just ends there.
The Invisibles is a magic spell in the form of a work of fiction. Everything in the first two volumes of the Invisibles is a lie. There's no massive Manichean struggle of good vs. evil. The outer church is simply an outside intelligence trying to prepare humanity for something mind blowing by essentially inoculating humanity against the horror of the end of the world (which is actually human instrumentality). Think of getting a booster shot. It's not going to kill you, but it's going to prepare your immune system for something worse in the future.
Or, to quote Grant Morrison: "In Katmandu, much to my shock and surprise, I experienced [...] a full-on, Tibetan, Sci-Fi Vision of All SpaceTimeMind As A Single Complexifying Iteration Which Is The Larval Form Of A 5th Dimensional Adult Entity".
The ending to Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?. Granted, the series was intended to close the character of Batman with a metaphysical look at the character, but the ending grabs metaphysics and goes straight into the surreal, passing by Elseworlds, multiple universes, and the Golden, Silver, and Dark Ages of comics along the way. The general point of it was that there is no such thing as a definitive Batman story, and that the happy ending to Batman's story is that he gets to be Batman. Because who doesn't want to be Batman.
Ronin seems like a fairly straight-forward comic until the end where you find out that everything you knew was a lie. It all ends with most of the story wrapped up with a couple mild questions still lingering... and then the very last page throws everything out the window and raises several more.
Tintin Flight 714 starts with Tintin and friends meet his nemesis Rastapopoulos who wants the wealth of a billionaire and for some reasons it ends with aliens who come and brainwash everybody!
Garfield in "Along Came A Splut" was already a bizarre story, but the ending takes the cake; Garfield and the Splut, while going far beyond any possible speed, trigger a direct homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, where they reach the Stargate over Jupiter, where they both end up colliding with a monolith there, and fuse in a big bang like explosion. Mere seconds later, Garfield has now become a Star Child, and is now hovering over the planet Earth, ready to trigger the next phase of human evolution. Then he stares into the camera, gives a dreamworks attitude expression and says "Drink more ovaltine."
The Touhou fan comic The End of the Maiden's Illusion features one.
Film - Animated
The Twelve Tasks of Asterix delivers a pretty jarring example of this trope, considering the movie is based on a comic book series that's usually at least roughly historically accurate (it is a parodistic/satirical series after all). The movie ends with a group of Gauls from a small village ending up being considered gods, thereby overthrowing Caesarnote who is actually both an anachronistic figure (there WASN'T yet an emperor during the time Caesar conquered Gaul) and a mashup of Gaius Julius Caesar and his adoptive son Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus (short: Caesar Augustus) and gaining rulership over the entire Roman Empire. After his companion Obelix leans on the fourth wall by pointing out the historical inaccuracy of this turn of events, Asterix proceeds to break it, explaining to Obelix that everything is possible in animation. Upon hearing this, Obelix magically teleports to the island of pleasure, which the pair has visited earlier in the movie. Oh my...
Film - Live action
On the subject of the Mind Screw subtype of Gainax Ending, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman approaches the monolith in orbit around Jupiter, there's a 10-minute light show, he appears in a strange hotel room and grows incredibly old in a few moments, only for the monolith to re-appear while he's on his death bed and turn him into a baby-thing that looks down at the Earth with a cryptic expression. Essays have been written. Many,many,essays. (The book's ending was clearer, though it should be noted that is not in fact based on the movie but a separate work written by Arthur C Clarke during development, so the two's connection is uncertain.)
Jacob's Ladder ends with a shot of the main character, who has spent the entire film living in the late 80s-early 90s era the film was released in, suddenly on a slab in Vietnam, in the 1970s, being desperately tended by medics as he dies. The whole movie is thus suggested to have been a hallucination prior to his death. So, what? This guy, in the moments leading up to his demise, accurately imagined every event, fashion change, architectural shift and technological innovation that would occur over the next two decades? Why was he in the military and not buying the world on the stock market?
It's more like a gory version of The Sixth Sense. He actually "lived" on after his death, while his apparent life slowly turned into the purgatory he was actually in, until in the end he learnt to accept that he had already died in the 1970s.
The Shining ends with a long tracking shot to a closeup of a photograph from 1921 which in the foreground showed... Jack Nicholson. Whatever this means is up to the viewer, though it seems to imply he's been absorbed into the hotel along with all the other ghostly 'guests'.
As with much of that film, Kubrick may have been paying Homage to his friend Roman Polanski's Repulsion, which also ends with a similar, though higher-speed, closeup of a photograph which we had seen several other times in the film but never in closeup. Again, its meaning in the film's context isn't totally clear, though it's often taken to suggest that the main character in the film was molested as a child.
The 1986 Argentinian film Man Facing Southeast also has a similar ending, with a closeup of a photograph that doesn't really resolve anything.
The ending of Donnie Darko, as well as the exact meaning of the film itself, is still speculated upon by many to this day.
The director's cut apparently clears up a number of questions that went unanswered in the theatrical release.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Python group always had difficulty ending their sketches, and this translated into the film. Just before a climactic battle, some anachronistic police arrive and arrest everyone. The murder of a historian is added earlier in the film to set it up. The ending was originally going to involve swallows dropping coconuts on the French, but they ran out of money. Although you might view the ending as a Stealth Pun - they play up to a big battle between the French and English, and then have a "cop out" (the cops end the movie) instead.
The Wachowskis refuse to explain exactly what's going on with Neo and Smith, the Source, flaming truth vision, etc. etc. in the sequels to The Matrix. The fan theories are a bit odd, but that's inescapable given what they've got to work with.
Lawn Dogs is a fairly realistic and depressing movie about the friendship between a 10 year old girl, Devon, and a 21 year old lower-class outsider, Trent. You know it's going to end bad, when after Devon shoots the man who is beating up Trent and helps him to his car, she gives Trent a comb and a mirror and asks him to throw them out the window as he drives away, to cover his tracks. When he later does so, a river rises up underneath him, and a forest sprouts up behind him. This actually makes some sense metaphorically and was slightly set up, but still seems to come completely out of nowhere.
The ending of Silent Hill was quite opaque. One possible interpretation of the ending is that, once you stumble into Silent Hill, you can't escape. The sequel's answers were... disappointing. At the end of the first film, Rose was still trapped in the Fog World dimension with a fully reincarnated young Alessa after Dark Alessa merged with Sharon, her good half and Rose's daughter. They had seemingly killed off all the remaining members of the town's cult and were destined to live together alone. In the sequel, Silent Hill Revelation 3 D, much of that is haphazardly thrown out the window as we're told Rose found half of the Seal of Metatron (how or where is never mentioned) which she used to send Sharon back into the real world, and no mention whatsoever is ever made of Sharon having been merged with Dark Alessa. Later dialogue from Dark Alessa also seems to contradict their merging at the end of the first movie. There's ALSO a whole new population of cult members from nowhere, somehow.
Being There ends when the main character is taking a stroll by himself after losing interest in Ben's funeral, and winds up walking onto the surface of a lake. And, just so there's no confusion, when he realizes where he is, he fully submerges his umbrella before accepting the situation and continuing his stroll. This ending was not the scripted one, but one the director conceived because he figured the movie was so believably acted - given its plot - that audiences would not find it unbelievable that the protagonist could do this. Note that there is a phrase uttered right before the credits; if you listen to it and compare it with the final shot, you will see it is a clear statement on the film's Aesop. "Life is a state of mind."
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: the ending has the two main characters fly off in the car. Despite it already being revealed the car only had the ability to do that in the dream sequence.
The ending of The Black Hole. The crew go into the black hole and then... they're in Hell? And then they're in space? Wha? At least they did foreshadow the idea of the black hole being a gateway to Hell in dialogue.
The villain and his (robotic soldier) Dragon end up merged and in Hell, the surviving heroes pass through Hell, something else implied to be Heaven, and out into an entirely new universe. The comic adaptation helps.
While Luis Buñuel's last movie That Obscure Object of Desire still classifies as a surrealist work, the surreal elements are notably toned down in comparison to his earlier films (maybe apart from the female lead character being portrayed by two different actresses whose approach towards the role is also vastly different). The movie's plot develops in a pretty straightforward manner and surrealist elements are strewn throughout the movie almost unnoticeably – sometimes purely for comedic effect, as it seems... that is until the very last scene when the two main characters who seem to have (more or less) come to terms with each other are unexpectedly blown up by a bomb. And that's it.
The ending to the remake of Planet of the Apes. Marky Mark hops in his spacepod, flies back through the timewarp, and... suddenly he's on Earth (or what we assume is Earth), and apes have replaced humans. Did he just bump his head getting into the pod, and is hallucinating? Yeah, that's gotta be it. According to Tim Burton, that was supposed to be a cliffhanger if a sequel was made. The sequel wasn't made, so now it's just weird.
This is actually the same twist ending that was used in the original novel, although the film is lacking in setup. The basic premise is that Apes taking over is the inevitable future for mankind. When he goes back through the time vortex to Earth he doesn't end up at the time he left, but instead a point after the Apes had taken over.
Local Hero, for the most part a charming, low key dramedy about a Texas oil man being sent to buy up a small Scottish village, gets a little weird in its last half hour. It's hinted but never confirmed that the old man who's blocking the purchase is descended from the oil company's original owners, and that a major character's love interest is a mermaid. Then the oil man is sent back home, where he piles some shells he collected from the village beach on his counter, tacks up some pictures he took, and goes onto his balcony to watch the sunrise. Cut back to the village and its one phone ringing with no one answering.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) ends on a deliberately ambiguous note. The Earth is hurtling towards the Sun, but a series of massive nuclear detonations in Siberia may avert the catastrophe. The last scene shows the journalists waiting in the print room with two editions ready for printing, one saying WORLD SAVED and the other WORLD DOOMED. (The American distribution however included the sound of church bells ringing, implying that the world had been saved). At first the viewers only see the first headline, so they think it's a happy ending. It's only when the camera pans across and shows the other headline that they realise the disaster hasn't been averted yet.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan ends with Jason being caught in a flood of toxic waste in the New York sewers (happens every night apparently) causing him to, for some reason, become a completely normal looking little boy in swimming trunks. The sequels never address this, probably because the sequels after that was produced by a new studio after Paramount dropped the series. The unused ending was even weirder, involving a tiny, normal-looking child version of Jason trying to crawl out of Jason's mouth right before the tidal wave of sludge.
Presumably he was restored to the state he was in before he drowned in Crystal Lake (which, of course, would effectively end the series). How toxic waste would accomplish this, who the hell knows.
Knowing: The world will end in a super flare from our sun unless something is done at the location of the very first Creepy Child's new home. What happens there? Some alien/angel/demon/somethings that have been following the main kids around for the whole movie take said kids into some spaceship. The main protagonist goes back to be with his family. The sun asplodes. Cut to a shot of the two main kids being dropped off in some sort of meadow centered around the tree, presumably the kids are to Adam/Eve the human race again on some other planet, maybe it's Earth after destruction, and why are there other similar spaceship things in the background? After an entire movie trying to stay somewhat scientific and avoiding the mystical, they end it like this?
That ending might be sort of an Homage to The Quiet Earth, which had a similarly beautiful yet even more inexplicable Alien Sky (see the trope page) ending.
The multiple spaceships imply that other pairs of children have been saved from the doomed Earth, foreshadowed by a line a little earlier when the aliens tell the children that "only the chosen" may come with them.
Casino Royale (1967), starring David Niven and Peter Sellers. While there had been some pretty weird parts earlier in the film, the ending takes the cake during the final showdown at the Big Bad's hideout, culminating with an all out brawl featuring stereotypical Cowboys and Indians, the French Legion, seals, a chimp and a bubble machine, which ends with the casino blowing up, cutting to six James Bonds going to Heaven and a seventh going to Hell, all capped off with one of the most ridiculous closing themes ever to grace a movie. We now know that film had production trouble which resulted in everyone throwing up their hands and saying, essentially, "Fuck it."
After the heroine of Slumber Party Massacre II vanquishes the supernatural Driller Killer, she wakes up next to her boyfriend suggesting that all the preceding was All Just a Dream. Then the killer appears in the place of her boyfriend and she is suddenly in a mental institute, screaming as the killer's drill pierces the floor.
The Element of Crime is entirely a hypnosis induced flashback, with voice-over dialogue between the protagonist and his therapist. The story is sometimes confusing but overall makes sense. But then it ends with a black screen, and the protagonist's voice repeating "doctor? I want to wake up now", and the voice of the therapist laughing slowly in the distance.
Let's not forget that right before that, the protagonist randomly looks into a deep hole in the ground and sees a sloth. The hole was never given any attention before this, and there's been no mention of sloths.
In Open Water 2 Adrift, the main character is finally able to get on the boat to safety! Only to find out that the other guy has decided to swim away to drown himself? And then she jumps back into the ocean to save him in slow motion. And then several flashbacks of her as a child go by. And then a blinding white light. And then it shows a boat passing by the ship and it's completely empty. And then it shows the main character standing on the ship with the other guy lying on the ground, only the boat passing by them is not there. Then it goes to the credits. wat.
The ending of Cemetery Man is completely comprehensible, if you catch on to the incredibly subtle hints throughout that Francesco might not be real. Otherwise, it sort of comes out of nowhere and hits you over the head with a club made of both confusion and the laughter someone is bellowing at you somewhere in the universe. It's existential, is what we're saying.
The Great Yokai War has a very bizarre one that combines this trope with Deus ex Machina and Chekhov's Gun. Kato jumps into a glowing pit to go One-Winged Angel, when the guy from the movie's subplot falls onto a seesaw that throws the bean-counting yokai into the air. This causes him to drop his basket of beans, one of which falls into the pit. Then a song about beans being good for you plays for a few seconds, and after that, THE ENTIRE CITY EXPLODES. But that's okay, because none of the Yokai were hurt. The yokai then say some cryptic stuff, conclude that festivals make them hungry (don't ask) and go wander off. Yeah.
The Laurel and Hardy short "Come Clean" is fairly standard comedy involving the eponymous duo hiding a strange woman from their wives while trying to get rid of her. The short ends when the police arrest the woman for an unnamed crime and ask who brought her to the apartment. Oliver claims that Stan is responsible, and the policeman says he'll receive a $1000 reward. Ollie then pulls the plug on the bath that Stan is sitting in, causing him to be sucked down the drain. When his wife asks where he's gone, Ollie answers "To the beach."
At the end of Grease the car takes off and flies away. Probably intended as more of a fantasy/dream sequence, but still rather jarring. This scene is a direct nod to the original stage production, where the car exits center stage as the curtain falls with a big light behind it. And foreshadowed by Mrs. Murdock's line, "If this car were in any better shape, she'd fly."
The original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Was the whole movie a dream? Did Nancy ever escape into the real world? Was that part a dream? Is her mother dreaming?
Since Nancy shows up in Nightmare 3, and specifically says something about her friends being killed, this should technically resolve the situation. Should. Watch the ending of the original Nightmare while knowing that Nancy survives, and it's still a WTF-y Gainax Ending.
A Sci Fi Channel movie about a mission to Mars is notable for being shown mostly from camera angles. The crew has to undergo several hardships, including sabotage efforts by a Corrupt Corporate Executive but manage to successfully land on the red planet. Since the captain is suffering from a nanite infection (that's killing his nerve cells), his Number One makes the historic first step on another planet. All the world is watching as the camera she set up is zoomed on her face. She starts giving a speech, only to suddenly look somewhere off to the side and say "oh my God" with an astonished face, before the feed suddenly cuts out. The news anchors reporting on the mission say that a satellite in orbit is being repositioned to take a look at the landing site. The movie ends with a fly-by of the Martian landscape and a Cliff Hanger.
In Psycho Beach Party, the ending kicks the dog, rather than let Chicklet be happy, they use an All Just a Dream ending revealing Chicklet to be in an insane asylum having imagined the whole thing. It then switches to a drive in movie theater, presenting it at as a movie, and two minor characters complain about the lameness of the ending. They are then stabbed by Chicklet's alternate personality. For added gainaxing, Chicklet's split personality was a red herring she wasn't the killer. Considering it is a satirical parody of slasher movies, the Gainax Ending is itself a bit of brilliance as a mashup of several different slasher movie Gainax Endings. Since a lot of outside knowledge makes it brilliant, while it makes fun of Gainax Endings, it is a recursive Gainax Ending.
Played for Laughs in Murder by Death. The ending has the party of detectives escape various death traps and confront the butler, who they assumed was killed earlier in the movie. After presenting theory after theory, the butler pulls off a mask to reveal himself to be Lionel Twain, the guy who invited them over in the first place, and proceeds to mock the various Deus Ex Machinas in the story. After the puzzled detectives leave, Twain pulls off another mask to reveal himself to be the cook.
Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive ends this way. With Jojima pulling out an RPG from absolutely nowhere and Ryuuichi pulling out some sort of energy ball-thingy and them shooting at the same time, rocket and ball hitting eachother and blowing up Japan. Up until that point it had been a pretty realistic yakuza movie.
Big Man Japan is a mockumentary about a guy who has a crappy personal life who happens to be able to grow giant from electricity and fight kaiju. At the end the title character is getting the crap beat out of him by a monster, then it suddenly switches to a Stylistic Sucktoku style, some Ultraman-esqueAmerican characters show up and brutally kill the monster without much effort. Roll credits over the main character having dinner with the American Ultraman family. It's supposed to symbolize the decline of Japan's place in the world or something but... What.
The 2011 Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life. Is the beach a metaphor for heaven? Or a dream? Or some sort of confluence of memory? Who knows?
An early example can be seen in the '50's era movie The Incredible Shrinking Man. Did the eponymous man become so small that he died? Did he become one with the cosmos? And just who is he narrating his story to?
Lifeforce makes it patently unclear just what happens to Space Girl and Carlson after he stabs her and himself at the end. The novel the movie was based off was named "The Space Vampires" and, as Carlson was designated to be her new lifeforce gatherer as the prettyboy vamps had been; essentially their replacement, he wasn't taking chances of ending up alone and drinking lives, possibly for eternity.
The somewhat obscure Monte Hellman western The Shooting, from 1966, has an ending that raises a lot more questions than it answers.
Monster A-Go Go: at the end, the monster suddenly never existed, and the astronaut who everyone thought had turned into said monster turns up alive in the North Atlantic. It leaves a number of questions unanswered, starting with "then why did you have footage of the monster wandering around killing people?", moving through "why did we get to see, in graphic detail, every preparation the military made to hunt this monster that doesn't exist?", and finish up somewhere around "what the flying rat heck?!?"
The film adaptation of Casshern is confusing to say the least, but the ending is entirely made of pure whatthefuck. The rundown: Casshern/Tetsuya's father kills Casshern's fiance to show him the pain of losing the one you love. Casshern murders his father in vengeance. Fiancee comes back to life because her blood came into contact with that of the film's dead antagonist (It Makes Sense in Context, sort of) Fiancee says to leave her because the villain's blood has infected her with his hatred. Casshern says they'll be together always as souls rise up from the corpses littering the battlefield below them and join together in the sky. Then Casshern and fiancee FUCKING EXPLODE, sending a beam of light into the sky. Then we see them riding a bike in a field. Said beam travels through space as grainy flashbacks are interspersed, until it reaches a green planet, touching down in a bolt of metal lightning like the ones from earlier in the film. We then see Tetsuya's mother's greenhouse, and the movie ends on a shot of a boy and a girl as the film degrades. Ya got all that?
Near the end of Kazaam, the main character is presumably killed after being pushed down an elevator shaft by the Big Bad, which allows him to control Kazaam. However, after Kazaam beats up all the villain's Mooks, he refuses to grant the villain's wish, instead squishes him into a ball, and makes a slam dunk. Then the craziness really begins: the building lights on fire, and Kazaam rushes down to the body of the shaft and picks up the body of Max. After much angst, he somehow glows and brings Max back to life, but then he becomes an ephemeral giant, and tells Max some platitudes before fading away into a sun. Cut to Max being rescued by a fireman, and Kazaam walking away with a minor character, apparently back to normal. Even for a movie about genies, this comes out of left field.
Barton Fink famously shifts quite a lot after Audrey is killed, and while the last thirty minutes are confusing and shocking, the last moments of the film really seal the Gainax Ending label: Barton, after leaving Lipnick's office disheartened and broken, is on the beach with the box that very well may have Audrey's head in it and he sees a beautiful woman. She asks if the box is his, and he says he's not sure. He says she's beautiful and ought to be in pictures, and she stares off at the beach perfectly recreating the photo that Barton had hanging on his wall.
Japanese toku parody/deconstruction/reconstruction/SOMETHING Zebraman is about a teacher who's dissatisfied with his life due to a cheating wife, kids who like him, and hates his job. He escapes from all this by watching the titular TV series. He decides to make his own costume and become a Batman Expy, fighting crime apparently through the power of his opponents being unsure if he's real or not. some aliens who want to take over Earth realize he's basing his actions off of a TV show, start doing the same so they can find a way to beat him, and finally DO beat him because, unlike the "real" Zebraman, he has no super powers. Then, in his dream/death vision, his wife in a Zebragirl costume comes out of nowhere, sticks him with an oversized novelty syringe, and when he wakes up he turns into a flying unicorn zebra and carves a big "Z" in the head alien's face. The movie literally ends here, with no sort of wrap-up of any kind. The sequel never answers any questions, either.
Magnolia: The rain of frogs. Foreshadowed by the opening narration, which suggests God is real, and is a fan of irony.
Take Shelter so is Curtis getting better or not? Is it a dream or not? Up to the viewer.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ends with our heroes literally hanging from a cliff as murderous orcs bear down on them . . . when giant eagles suddenly show up and carry the good guys to safety. If you've read the book or seen The Lord of the Rings movies, you know that the eagles are friends of Gandalf's who live in the area, and that the stuff Gandalf was doing with a butterfly earlier was him summoning them. However, if you're just watching the movie on its own, the eagles are given zero explanation. What's more, the characters don't even comment on the fact that they were saved by eagles; it just happens, then they move on like nothing happened, like this isn't in any way unusual. That starts to cross the line from fantasy into Alice in Wonderland style nonsensery.
To be fair, the Hobbit films are being marketed as prequels to The Lord of the Rings films, and Gandalf does the exact same thing when escaping from Isengard in the Fellowship of the Ring. It was likely assumed that people would connect the moth and eagle from that film with the moth and eagles from the other.
Blow-up, Michaelangelo Antonioni’s most successful film, widely regarded as his best. It centres on a fashion photographer in swinging London, who blows up a photo and finds that he has apparently captured the scene of a murder. The perpetrators might be after him, too. He does find the body back at the murder scene, but fails to do anything sensible about it and largely carries on with his life, visits a few happening places around London, and later finds that the photo has been stolen and the body has gone. Shortly after this last discovery, he stops to watch two mimes pretending to play tennis, and throws their "ball" back to them when "it" goes out. Watching play resume, he slowly fades from view and disappears, leaving an empty lawn. The end. Does this "mean" that the killers "rubbed him out"? You guess – there’s no other clues.
The Bad Lieutenant Port Of Call New Orleans ends with McDonagh and the guy he saved in the film's beginning hanging out in an aquarium, with McDonagh high as a kite and wondering if fish have dreams. The scene before it establishes that the guy is going to help McDonaugh with his addiction so it's not completely oblique, but the aquarium thing still comes out of nowhere.
The Akira Kurosawa crime drama The Bad Sleep Well ends with the villain not only killing the hero and the whistle blower but with him destroying the evidence, meaning his ruthless actions will go unpunished. This happens off-screen and is only alluded to, making an important moment in the story something of anti-climax. Further more, the villain's conversation on the telephone at the end implies that he is in league with someone far more powerful than he, though this character was barely alluded to until the end. His children disowning him, however, is a small consolation.
Performance has a notorious example, in which one protagonist kills the other for ambiguous reasons before consciously embracing his own death, and in the last split second of the film apparently turns into the other guy.
In the South Korean animated film Dino Time, one of the rocks in the kids' town has a mysterious carving on it, dating back to Cretaceous period. Mysterious because no humans were around then. The kids end up going back in time and at one point the main kid decides to make a carving to tell their parents in the future how to get the time machine to work, but he gets distracted when his sister is kidnapped and ends up not making the carving. At the end of the film, his mom explains they got to them in the time machine by looking at the carving, leaving the main kid to wonder how the carving got there in the first place.
Captain America: The First Avenger: After performing much heroism in World War II, culminating with his Heroic Sacrifice, Captain America's body is retrieved and he turns out to be Not Quite Dead. That's great, isn't it? Now he can receive deserved medals, reunite with his team, dance with his girlfriend, and enjoy the post-war peace. Except... he doesn't wake up in the 40s, but in 2011, a world far advanced in technology, vastly changed from the past, and much grayer in morality. And everybody he knew is either dead or 70 years older, including the love of his life. Stay tuned for his awesome adventures in The Avengers, kids!
Older Than Feudalism: The Aeneid is an ancient example of this: the story literally ends with Aeneas killing Turnus and Turnus going to hell. . It's also assuming that his Author Existence Failure wasn't at fault, and that the relevant pages aren't just missing, as happens with much ancient literature.
The Book of Revelation. Read it in all its insane glory here.
The Book of Daniel. Starts off normally enough: Famous stories like the fiery furnace, the handwriting on the wall, and the lion's den in the first half. The last half consists of four very confusing prophetic visions that seem to be about world events over the next few centuries.
Stephen King's From a Buick 8 and especially 'The Colorado Kid' are based on this theme: the mysterious death of the eponymous character from 'Kid' is no closer to resolution at the end than the beginning.
His Dark Tower series could be considered for this trope as well. Although the ending does tie into the overall theme of 'ka' (Karma/fate) as being a wheel, so it could be taken as a more symbolic ending.
The Long Walk. The ending is a bit confusing. Why does Stebbins suddenly drop dead? Who is the shadowy figure beckoning to Garraty? Fan theories abound.
In Nuklear Age by Brian Clevinger (who made 8-Bit Theater), most of the book is a comedic parody of the superhero genre, somewhat akin to The Tick. The last section of the book turns quite rapidly to dark as nearly everyone dies in a villain-caused apocalypse that killed off half the planet's population and destroyed every major city but three, and injects a bunch of philosophy based somewhat off of Norse Mythology into the mix. It was quite the elaborate joke, at least according to The Apology.
In the Beatrice Letters, it explains very briefly what was happened to the Baudelaires after the 13th book. Not a whole lot, just enough to keep the mystery alive.
Moreover, the reader not only finds out the fate of almost all the major characters (even if that fate is occasionally metaphorical), enough information is given for the readers to make a good guess about the immediate Lemony/Beatrice backstory, even if the characters can't. The author doesn't give explicit answers, but a lot is done by implication.
On the other hand, it doesn't even give a hint about the Sugarbowl Secret.
The very final sentence does reveal who Beatrice was, although most readers will probably have figured it out already.
"Faith Of Our Fathers" might be Philip K. Dick's most confounding story. Is it a satire of Communist society? An exploration of the true meaning of religion? Or a role reversal on LSD culture? Who can tell? The great communist leader is actually god in human form, and you can only see his true form(s) (a series of grotesque monstrosities) when you take thorizen, the "antidote" to LSD.
Cryptonomicon: although the novel's ending is implied to be suitably epic, by that point in the story, the POV character has lost interest, so all we get is a bare-bones version of events, with a month's worth of events crammed into just under six pages.
Anathem actually has a proper ending, so he may be growing out of this.
Robert Sheckley's Mindswap has this. The hero ends up trapped in the "Twisted World" but believes himself to have regained his own body and returned home successfully.
Not exactly intentional. Douglas Adams said that (as usual) he was late in finishing the novelization and eventually the exasperated publisher rang up and said, "For God's sake, just finish the page you're on and let's have it."
The Difference Engine is arguably much more so, as Neuromancer has an ending that makes complete sense (at least it does once you read Mona Lisa Overdrive, which explains what actually was going on, which matters for the plot of the book). Engine just sort of abruptly stops and then there's a long stretch of seemingly random snippets of nothing.
The ending of the Dungeon fantasy series, which was written by multiple authors, leaves much unexplained and even makes the main character into some kind of god without explanation.
British children's/teens' author Alan Garner has an affinity for the Gainax Ending unusual in non-adult fiction. The Owl Service ends with a young girl who had been possessed by an incredible supernatural force converting that force from anger - "owls" to peace - "flowers". However, everything else about the characters' relationships (which have been totally wrecked) is left unresolved.
There is an official extension to it, The Discourager of Hesitancy. Found here at the moment.
Fredrick Pohl seems to like this. In the penultimate chapter of Jem the POV protagonist gets knocked out at the start of a war involving everyone on the eponymous planet. The next chapter is set in a radically different society several generations into the future with no real mention of how we went from one to the other, and nothing by tantalising glimpse of how this new civilization came about, or how it works.
In Gateway, the protagonist is undergoing psychiatric care to resolve the issues in his life. At the conclusion, we discover the reason he's come to the (robot) psychiatrist in the first place, and the story ends without a real attempt at closure.
Unless you take the psychiatrist program's final remarks as pointing out to the protagonist that, despite his angst about the events, he's perfectly capable of living with himself.
Hero in the Shadows, by David Gemmell. After a straightforward ending in which the invading demonic hordes are pushed back, the epilogue engages in some pretty strong Mind Screw: Waylander, who has only hours left to live, is sent into an alternate universe, where he manages to prevent the rape and murder of his wife - making it not only an alternate universe, but the past as well, or something like that. He then dies, after which the Waylander from that dimension comes home to his wife. The End.
Not really unforeshadowed. Early in the novel is a reference to a fortune teller prophesying Waylander will never know peace until he looks up into his own face. Which is exactly what happens: after saving his wife and child in an alternate past reality and preventing the moment that turns him into a assassin he dies looking up at the alternate version of himself knowing he is free from the nightmare his life would become.
Joe Haldeman has written several novels (Mindbridge, Forever Peace, Worlds trilogy) where the plot seems to have come to a halt, and the resolution apparently is to introduce an all-powerful, invisible, sadistic alien that randomly murders and tortures several of the characters. Then this alien wanders off, apparently satisfied it's made its point, whatever that was. Then the plot continues to some anti-climatic 'and life goes on' type of ending.
Haldeman's short story "Monster" is presented as a document being dictated by a Vietnam vet confined to a mental hospital. In it, the vet insists that, when he was a member of a LRRP patrol in 'Nam, he watched a black-skinned, black-furred creature come out of nowhere and tear apart two other platoon members engaged in a homosexual encounter. However, a Viet Cong deserter who happened to approach at the same time testified that it was him, our narrator, who committed the crime, and of course our narrator can't say he saw a monster for fear it will make him sound even more crazy. Our narrator spends years in an asylum, after being adjudged insane. While inside, he studies legend upon legend of monsters, but can't find anything in the literature that resembles what he knows he saw. When he comes out, he hunts down the former Viet Cong soldier, now an American citizen, and tortures him to make him admit the truth — that either the former VC is the monster, or that he saw what our narrator saw and wouldn't admit it. To no avail; the former VC says nothing, and our narrator kills him, turns himself in and is put back into an insane asylum. The story ends with a doctor's report detailing the incident of the night before: Our narrator was found dead in his cell from having his heart torn out. But there was no break-in, no signs of a struggle, and no noise. The story's last line is: "He did it to himself, and in total silence." The questions the story raises remain unanswered — was there really a monster or wasn't there?
The Science of Discworld volume 1 ends this way. Long story short, the wizards have accidentally created a pocket universe where magic does not exist, where worlds are round balls rather than discs on the back of turtles and elephants. At the end, the computer Hex mentions "Recursion Is Occurring" and then, after the wizards have abandoned the "Roundworld Project", we see a discworld atop elephants and a turtle condensing out of gas and dust in the far reaches of its universe...
Legacy of the Force is particularly bittersweet, but it raises two questions: Is Jacen redeemed or not, and how the hell did Daala become president? But between the fanservice, the Cain and Abel, the shotacon, and the like, Gainax could've written it.
A. E. van Vogt's fixup novel The Weapon Shops of Isher, which is mostly about the eponymous weapon shops, the Isher Empire that opposes them, and an immortal man trying to keep them in balance, ends with an alien concluding that humanity is "the race that shall rule the sevagram". This is the first time anyone in the story has mentioned a sevagram, and we never learn what it actually is.
Actually, that's the ending of The Weapon Makers, the sequel to The Weapon Shops of Isher. But neither book explains the "sevagram".
Warm Bodies makes clear that its zombies aren't simply diseased humans, and implies early on that they're in some way supernatural, but most of the story plays out in a pseudo-realistic fashion. Then the ending all but states that zombies are a consequence of human sin, and explicitly calls upon The Power of Love to fight them. This doesn't outright contradict anything earlier in the story, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
Almost all of the novels of Bret Easton Ellis have or border on having Gainax Endings. The most well known of these is the ending of American Psycho where the main character may or may not have imagined everything, with evidence supporting both theories.
In Fame, Elisabeth finds herself in one of Leo's stories together with him, talking to his characters. When she asks him why, he simply vanishes from the story and leaves her in a world where no one knows who he his, and where as the author, he has full power over what she says and does. The straightforward explanation would be that she left him and he just included her in a later story out of spite, but more surrealistic interpretations are also possible.
The ending of The Last Battle, the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia. You can read the summary here. It makes sense if you treat it as the very heavy-handed Christian allegory that it is. It actually makes a great deal more sense than the story it's a reworking of.
David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest provides a bunch of hints near the end that come close to explaining the strangeness of the first chapter, and sets up a dramatic climax, then ends very deliberately before that climax, in the middle of a secondary character's flashback.
Croatian novel The Devil's eye is a pretty standard teen-horror story; a teen-age hero must stop an evil demon that's killing his classmates... and the whole thing ends with a Gender Bender, with abso-friggin'-lutely nothing resolved. And the author's response? "The ending is whatever you think it might be." Yeah, thanks.
Greg Egan's novel Permutation City ends with the simulated universe called "the Autoverse" somehow becoming more real than the hardware it was running on, much to the confusion of all the characters involved, as well as the reader.
The series Maximum Ride by James Patterson. Ends with much cataclysm, as promised, but no one knows what caused it.
The Giver ends with Jonas getting a vision of a family celebrating Christmas. Is he hallucinating? Is it real? Is he still alive? Who knows? Lois Lowry had a Word of God t-shirt made with the slogan "Jonas Lives" (and indeed, this is confirmed by later books in the series). Still doesn't explain the Christmas thing, though...
One of Dave Barry's books, in the midst of his trademark wonky comedic observations, suddenly shifts into a serious romance plot about a woman working towards having an affair—portrayed sympathetically, at that. This has next to nothing to do with the chapter it's supposed to be the conclusion for, and is also a bit of a BLAM.
Doom would make Studio Gainax proud by having two such endings:
Fly and Arlene finally return to Earth after nearly five hundred years, hot in pursuit of the Newbie/Resuscitator ship planning on "fixing" humanity. The enemy never arrives and they never find out why. They land at the rebuilt Salt Lake City Tabernacle where an AI construct of Jill is waiting. She confirms their identities and welcomes them inside to receive a gift: a teenage clone of Jill and a black box on a card table with a card reading "Albert". The end.
Albert! Albert?! I didn't know what to say, so, Goddamn it, I decided to just shut up and be a Marine. Semper fi, Mac... I know when I'm beat!
A duplicate Fly and Arlene slog through the Deimos facility looking for a backdoor out of the Newbie computer system. They find the door and open it, finding the soul of a Newbie, and kidnap it back into the simulation as the Newbies pull the plug. The hyperactive evolution overclocks within the system and they will the Newbie to evolve out of the physical dimension. They have no idea if they banished one or somehow all of the enemy species, it turns out they did and that is why the enemy ship never arrives. The pair realizes that, barring a miracle, they're trapped inside the simulation forever. Fly and Arlene resolve that they can will their new reality to be better than the original by ending the invasion before it lands. Arlene hopes she can un-remember Albert's death so she can be with him again. The end?
I awoke to a brave new world that had such damned peculiar creatures in it!
Quantum Leap. Sam ends up in a bar run by a guy who has the same name as his closest friend, populated by guys that either have the same name as his other closest friends, look like people from earlier episodes or both, at least one of whom has a different reflection in the mirror. And a guy who may or may not be Al's uncle leaps out and is promptly forgotten by everyone. And the guy running the bar is probably responsible for Sam leaping around and may be God. It ends with Sam leaping back into the season two finale and telling Al's first wife that he's still alive before she can get their marriage annulled (hence changing every single episode of the series), at which point a photo of Al leaps out (Because It Looks Cool presumably) and a series of captions inform the audience that Al got a happy ending and Sam didn't. Throw in the fact that Sam and Al only meet for one brief scene and some viewers found it...unsatisfactory.
Twin Peaks. Agent Cooper manages to reaches his kidnapped girlfriend Annie in the otherworld Black Lodge, but displays less-than-"perfect courage" when he confronts her kidnapper and the evil spirit entity BOB and gets overwhelmed by BOB, who is able to once again manifest himself in the real world, this time as a doppleganger of Cooper. Ironically this was foreshadowed by accident in the pilot episode, which showed an aged (and helpless) Cooper sitting in a chair in the Black Lodge - the world's longest waiting room.
Cooper would have been rescued in season three had the show not been cancelled; through time travel antics (and the movie "Fire Walks With Me") Annie would have contacted Laura Palmer in the past and Laura would have written a message in her diary alerting Coopers friends of his plight/impersonation, which they would suddenly notice when said new message shows up in the diary when a character reads it.
LOST seems like this trope if you have no knowledge of 2,000 year old religions like Neoplatonism or Gnosticism it draws from (or can't type "dharma" into Wikipedia).
Since the ending of LOST "does make sense but is hidden under enough Mind Screw to not have an easy explanation", it is the second form of Gainax Ending. If an ending requires a couple of college courses (such as "Religious Studies") or other extensive off-screen research to understand it, its a Gainax Ending.
Most Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches and episodes end in bizarre fashion. When the troupe felt that a sketch had run its course, they'd drop a 16-ton weight; have the "Stop, this is silly!" officer enter; or segue into an animated sequence, news broadcast or documentary. This was a reaction against conventional sketch comedy where every sketch had to have a punchline. The Pythons thought it would be funnier to deliberately subvert convention, and were dismayed to find that their comic mentor Spike Milligan had done it first with his show Q5 (Many of Milligan's sketches ended with everyone stopping what they were doing and shuffling offstage chanting "What are we going to do now?" shuffle, shuffle, shuffle "What are we going to do now?").
The episode that ended with The Argument Sketch turned the Gainax Ending almost into an art form. All episode long, sketches had been ending with the police entering and making arrests, and the Argument Sketch was going to be no different. Then another police officer comes in to arrest the whole show for Gainax Ending abuse, only to suddenly realize that his doing so made him guilty of the same thing. As was true for the next cop who entered to arrest him, etcetera ad inifinitum.
Actually, the second or third officer gets what looks like a moldy Wookie "arresting" him, IIRC.
Much of Monty Python's humor made fun of how British comedy shows were written, produced and performed, something the members knew about all too well, as they were veteran British comedy writers themselves. They hated punchlines and how anticlimactic they were compared to the goings-on within the sketches, so they did away with them or lampshaded their arrivals .
In the American remake of Life On Mars, Sam Tyler is a New York detective from 2008 who somehow found himself in 1973. Was he mad? Lying in a coma in a 2006 hospital bed, dreaming of 1973? Back in time? None of the above. Sam and his fellow officers from 1973 were really all from 2035. They were astronauts on the first manned Mars mission, and were kept sedated, with artificially-induced dreams, for the voyage. The show was cancelled its first season so this ending was placed in. Had they had a season or two more they could have foreshadowed it more and not made it such a Gainax (there had been some hints about it, but they only made sense in retrospect). The final shot of the episode, somebody in 1970s shoes stepping onto the Martian surface, also left enough ambiguity that had there been a super-last-second renewal they could have been able to explain it away.
Also worth noting that in the original Life On Mars, we see at the end of the second season that Sam had been in a coma the whole time. The Gainax comes as the point at which he wakes up interrupts the "other" plot just as it reaches the climax (in which Gene leads his team in to foil a train robbery). Of course, just as he's woken up and reintegrated himself into life he throws himself off a roof to "rejoin the action".
The Sopranos famously ended with a mid-scene cut to black. This may or may not have signified the main character's death.
The series finale of Farscape ends with John and Aeryn getting engaged on a boat in some random body of water somewhere, having tied up virtually all the major loose ends, and providing a fairly solid conclusion to the show with just the right balance of closure, and riding into the sunset style implications of continuing adventures. Then a freaky looking alien whose species we have never seen before, flying a ship we've never seen before, talks to someone over his radio, zooms in, and blasts them with a beam that causes John and Aeryn to shatter into a million little pebbles. To be continued... They knew this was going to be the series finale, and not only do they end it with that random Mind Frell, but they have the balls to top it off with a to be continued. The mini-series actually fixes this, and manages to make this relevant and even answer significant questions the show never dealt with. But before that, seriously, what the hell?
They were under the belief that they were renewed and were suddenly cancelled right around the filming of the final ep. They debated options but in the end didn't have the time or money to change it so they reluctantly filmed it as it was and hope it would somehow work out. The cast and crew were notably upset about it though when informing the fans of cancellation.
According to the makers of Stargate SG-1, the Sci Fi Channel never lets them know if they're renewed or canceled until it's too late to base the final episode around it. That's the reason every season finale of SG-1 blows the remaining special effects budget and generally wraps up the current plot - they don't know if it's the series finale or not.
On the note of Stargate SG-1, that show ended with Daniel, Vala, Carter, Teal'c, and General Landry spending several decades in a time bubble while Carter tries to figure out a way to get them out of their current predicament. Unlike previous seasons, none of the season's major plot threads are resolved, and the episode, while poignant, is a huge Mind Screw when placed as a Series Finale. The reason for this is that the creators were convinced they'd be picked up for an 11th Season (unlike every other season where they were sure they'd be cancelled), and saw no need to tie up loose ends this time around.
Though they did change the ending of the finale at the last minute so it wouldn't be a total cliffhanger, and later came out with two movies to clean up the major survivingbaddies.
The end of Battlestar Galactica... The angels seen by Baltar and Six reveal that human/Cylon hybrid child Hera is Mitochondrial Eve and speculate on whether it's all going to happen again. After Head Baltar reminds Head Six that God doesn't like the name "God", she looks at him sternly and he cryptically says, "Silly me". They walk away unseen through the streets of modern New York while All Along the Watchtower plays over a montage of robot advances on television.
Joss Whedon's Dollhouse had this in season two, with Epitaph Two. Though this was more a case of Missing Episode and All There in the Manual. Epitaph One, the season one finale which jumped to the future to show that the Dollhouse tech would be weaponized to cause the apocalypse, was not aired on television but was put out on DVD. So for those who did not buy the DVD, the episode made little to no sense.
NARRATOR: Maeby was struggling with a screenplay in her secret life as a film executive.
RITA: Is that a story?
MAEBY: Not yet. It doesn't have an ending. He's in LA, she's in Japan, how do I get these two characters together?
RITA: Maybe they could walk.
Dead Like Me suffers from a series finale that drops all its established character arcs and eventually peters out with a strange, sit-com-like Halloween story. None of the conflicts or arcs are resolved. It was as if the writers, knowing the show was over, simply spat out a non-sequitor.
The story was resolved somewhat in the movie. Rube moves on, and George becomes the new boss.
The Hills. Yes, a Reality Show managed to have a Gainax Ending. The finale ends with Brody saying his goodbyes to Kristin, who gets in the limo and heads off, with a Softer And Slower Cover version of "Unwritten" playing in the background... and then the camera pulls back to reveal that the entire scene was shot on a soundstage. Kristin's limo is sitting right nearby, and had not driven off like we had been led to believe. The question as to how much of the show was just as fake goes unanswered.
The best estimate would probably be Joel's: EVERYTHING!
V. The heretofore serious Black and Gray MoralityAlien Invasion vs. La Résistance science fiction series Gainax Ends big time in the last five minutes of the second miniseries, V: The Final Battle. The alien/human hybrid child Elizabeth develops sparkly magical powers just in time to save the world by disabling the Self-Destruct Mechanism. Never mind the fact that magical or psychic powers have never even been mentioned on the entire show before, and that the heroes already had a perfectly good plan to save the world. Sparkly magical baby! Fandom wtfed.
This was handled much better in the novelization of the miniseries. In the novelized version, Elizabeth saves the world by cracking the supposedly "uncrackable" security code which has Our Heroes locked out of the ship's navigation-and-control system. The reason this works better is that Elizabeth's unusually-precocious facility with computers and solving mathematical puzzles was properly foreshadowed in a couple of scenes earlier in the book, so her ability to break the ship's command codes didn't just suddenly come out of left field. Since the novel was adapted from an earlier version of the script, it's highly probable that Executive Meddling was involved.
Creator Kenneth Johnson quit after writing the original script due to conflicts over budget and the network's plans for the series - he wanted to keep it as yearly mini's, they wanted an ongoing. Years later the head of NBC at the time apologized, saying if they'd stuck with Johnson's plan they'd have been on the sixth chapter by then.
Star Trek: Enterprise threw one in the third season finale, the Xindi plot was resolved in a totally sane (and awesome) way, and the Enterprise goes back to Earth, without their Captain, who they believe is dead. They try to call Starfleet and no one responds, so figuring some sort of communications difficulties they send a shuttlepod down to San Francisco. They meet a flight of American P-51D Mustangs. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Captain Archer has been discovered unconscious by Nazi soldiers. One of them asks the others in the group if they recognize his uniform. The camera pans over each of the officers until finally one steps out of the shadows and reveals himself as an unknown alien wearing a Nazi uniform. Roll credits.
A lot of fans who had been enjoying the Xindi arc threw up their hands and stopped watching the series in frustration at that point. Amazingly, however, the next season managed to explain/resolve the Evil Alien Nazis story in a not-entirely-stupid fashion.
There is widespread fan speculation that this was thrown in by Berman & Braga as a Take That against Manny Coto, who was being promoted to showrunner by Paramount in an attempt to rescue the show once it became clear that Berman & Braga were simply running out of creative ideas and not really delivering on the kind of prequel stories the fans wanted. Presumably, they were annoyed about being kicked upstairs, and hoped that Coto wouldn't be able to write his way out of the Evil Alien Nazi hook. (Coto promptly used it as an excuse to abort the entire "temporal cold war" plot arc, which the fans had never really warmed up to and which was already showing signs of decaying into a tangled mess which would never actually be resolved.)
The final episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? ends with the leader of The Midnight Society of the previous generation finishing his story, which happened to be about the real supernatural events occurring to the members of the current generation of the Midnight Society.
In-Universe example in a sequence of Season 3 Friends with a subplot about a play Joey is appearing in. In rehearsals, it appears to be a True Art Is Angsty play about a married couple's problems. When we see the play all the way through, the last scene is Joey's character going off with aliens to find an alternative fuel source.
The Beatles' "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da," about Desmond and Molly Jones, a market vendor and a singer, respectively. They fall in love, get married, and have kids. The second-to-last stanza describes Desmond and his children working in the marketplace while Molly still enjoys her singing career. But the final stanza switches their roles, putting Molly in the marketplace and Desmond (who is now apparently a woman) in the band.
Happy ever after in the market place,
Molly lets the children lend a hand.
Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face,
And in the evening he's a singer with the band!
This was an accidental case. They weren't paying proper attention during the recording, and as a result Paul got distracted by John and George yelling "Arm!" and "Foot!" in the break after the first "lets the children lend a hand" and got their roles backwards on the last chorus. They decided to keep it as-is because they thought it was neat (and they were sick of working on the song).
The Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra by Francis Poulenc.
Polymorphia, by Krzysztof Penderecki has a rather jarring ending. Why is it so jarring? The entire orchestra suddenly plays C Major, the most "normal" chord there is, after several minutes of intricate experimentation.
In Crazy Night, the same thing happens, but it seems like she's forcing herself to do it. Then, suddenly they all are alive and float off into the distance as Miku says it shouldn't be that way. They all say that they'll wait for another night, and suddenly the hooded figure appears on screen.
In Twilight Night, Rin and Len pick up the missing page to the book in Crazy Night, which was apparently her letter.But it was blank, and suddenly things get even more Gainax: Everyone's ecstatic, but then Miku appears, saying it was the wrong page. They all turn into illustrations on a page of the book, because the page was blank, and so apparently there was no ending.
Justified, as the viewpoint character spends the entire movie gradually descending into total madness. He only thinks that ending happened.
Our House the Madness musical: was always going to have two endings due to the parallel universes plot. However, even after these are resolved via dual Karmic Twist Endings there's still time for a third 'ending' to turn it all into a Shaggy Dog Story (done by introducing a third option in the life-changing event at the beginning of the play which would mean none of the things we've just been watching happened at all.) Oh well. Song and dance number!
Einstein feels a sneeze coming on, and takes his handkerchief from his pocket. In Act II, he realizes that he is not going to sneeze after all, and he puts his handkerchief back in his pocket in Act III. ** (The whole thing is a parody of Einstein on the Beach, an opera by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, which is notorious for lasting four and a half hours without plot.)
Einstein goes down to Hades to bring back his cousin Sophie, avenge the murder of his brother at the hands of Tsar Ivan the Inside Trader, slays the dragon guarding the entrance to the Golden Cave, seduces the Count's daughter on the eve of her wedding, and unites Italy.
Most The Goon Show episodes have no clear ending, unless everyone dies. The grand finale actually dissolves into random gibberish as the entire show comes to a crashing halt, and it doesn't seem atypical. As the announcer often observed, "It's all in the mind, you know."
This is mainly seen in later episodes, probably because Spike Milligan himself had no idea how to end them. Earlier surviving episodes tend to have fairly logical plot resolutions, for a certain definition of logic.
The Marathon series is probably the best example of this. Although the second game is pretty straightforward, the first one still has people arguing about it on forums. Also, not a single damned person has a bit of an idea about what anything in the third game means at all.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor's ending: A giant machine called Death Mask appears right the fuck out of nowhere and kills all robots on Earth, including Astro. Roll credits. Fortunately, this turns out to be just the halfway point of the game, and the rest involves Astro getting unstuck in time thanks to the Phoenix and jumping around the game's timeline to find out how to prevent this from happening.
Probably the most famous example in gaming culture is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It was possibly influenced by The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster's mindscrew on the distinctions between author, character, reality, and fiction. There is no way to summarise the key events in a reasonable amount of space, so you can look here if you want to know what happens. There was a point to all the meandering, but the end result was not very popular.
Xenogears, starting somewhere along the second disk, replaced virtually all overland map movement and scenes with the characters sitting in chairs narrating everything that happened. This actually is an openly admitted case of a low budget and forced rush to market causing a Gainax Ending.
Monetary constraints aside, the ending was pretty straightforward: the party fights Deus in its sanctuary, Elly takes Deus away before it self-destructs on the planet, Fei enters Deus and he and Elly have a Battle in the Center of the Mind with it, chat with Krelian, and leave before Deus explodes. Then they come back home to a very unambiguous, triumphant welcome from the rest of the heroes. It got metaphysical once or twice, but everything else was spelled out crystal-clear, leaving virtually no room for alternate interpretations. Though the fact that Krelian managed to get away with his numerous crimes including genocide and psychologically scarring Ramsus and Fei for no adequately explained reason, to the point that he condescendingly informs Fei that "Only God can judge him now" left a bitter taste in many fans' mouths.
Fable, a 1996 adventure game of no relation to the one from Lionhead Studios. The entire game is full of Scenery Porn and an admittedly interesting story. However, once you try to give yourself the knowledge of the Mecubarz, all you see is a cutscene where The protagonist is in jail, with the narrator describing how it was his birthday and how he couldn't believe that he killed all of his own family with a spoon. Another version o the game existed where he simply returned to have lunch with his girlfriend. A Gainax Ending gone horribly wrong, so bad it's even listed on the No Ending trope as one of its worst offenders.
And then Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer bailed on the series, so we never found out how it was meant to go from there. The Curse of Monkey Island opens with adult Guybrush floating in the ocean in a bumper car with a pair of balloons in his inventory. It's never exactly explained what happened in the meantime, but the second-to-last chapter of the game suggests that LeChuck had put a spell on him, and he escaped after breaking the spell. By having all that stuff happen again. It's almost as if they had wanted to pick up right where things left off, but Executive Meddling forced them to open with Guybrush stranded in the ocean instead.
Super Mario Galaxy, surprising for a series that's usually known for shallow plots, and a game that seems to follow that pattern throughout. It usually takes at least two viewings of the ending for players to figure out just what happened, which is convenient because you need to see the ending four times for 100% Completion. It involves the complete destruction of the universe, a Fade to White moment between Mario and an enormous Rosalina, the rebirth of the universe which apparently Mario and co. pass through unaffected, and Mario yelling "WELCOME NEW GALAXY!!"
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels ended with a cutscene involving random Toads circling Mario/Luigi and Peach, both on the ground and in the air, constantly disappearing and reappearing as if either Mario/Luigi was actually making something up.
Chrono Cross: The main character is supposed to be dead. A computer that controls destiny. The computer kept humanity safe from a race of dragon people, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero. Everybody from the last game is inexplicably dead and your actions may or may not have actually done anything about it. Schala Lives! Then finally, a credits sequence of a girl — heavily implied to be Kid/Schala — running around in...Tokyo? And good luck figuring out if you actually accomplished anything from playing the game.
This is actually a case of All There in the Manual. There's a lot of supplementary material, including Chrono Trigger and Radical Dreamers, that you need to understand to put it together. The main character erased his own time line from existence. There's a... lot of reasons he did it, but that's he chose to do. The time line that happened instead is (Similar to) our time line.
Beyond Good & Evil springs a last-minute surprise on the player that's set up in such a way that it's incredibly easy to miss - the DomZ are feeding on the citizens of Hillys because their own weird alien lifeforce, which they call "shauni", was stolen from them — by Jade's parents. Jade's somehow the DomZ's shauni, and they would very much like her back. In hindsight, it's a decent explanation for a lot of odd behaviour that the player's already put down to "it's a game". It's not terribly well set up even if you notice the extremely incidental evidence the game presents in the final level, specifically a conversation the player overhears that's optional, and how the sacred chant the DomZ keep repeating has the same lyrics as the battle music — including the word "shauni".
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II had this for Light Side. You beat Kreia, she talks to you for a bit, explaining why she liked you, and explaining the fates of some of your comrades. Then, she dies, your ship picks you up, after it fell into a chasm to its apparent destruction earlier, then flies away from the exploding planet unscathed. AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS. No denouement, no "what's next?", just hop on the ship GOOD NIGHT, EVERYBODY, leaving everyone wondering "Okay, is there ANY backstory for Sion or Nihilus? How did the remote beat G0-T0? And why was HK apparently completely extraneous?"
Cut content that has been partially restored by modders actually makes more sense of this. There was a cut mission that would have been played solely as HK during the battle over Telos where he would have gone to the factory making HK knockoffs. HK uploads his personality into new upgrades and destroys the entire line of droids that's been hunting you. In the light side ending, he and his new friends show up to take care of G0-T0 and let the remote do its work.
Dark side wasn't any better, in fact it was worse. Your ship falls into a chasm before you even reach the academy for no apparent reason. Then, you beat Traya and become leader of the Sith Academy. That's it, no mention of what happened to the rest of your party, except for the remote, which G0-T0 presumably destroyed. Just you and the academy. A Winner Is You indeed.
The planned ending involved a variety of things, such as your friends actually trying to help (rather than mostly just disappearing once you hit Malachor), possible tragic deaths, and even maybe facing Atris instead of Kreia. Which would have been much better. But no. Thanks a lot, Lucas Arts. And for some reason, Lucas Arts adamantly refused to allow the release of any patches to restore the cut content.
Also, the entire story of Revan and the Exile has been Gainax'd by the coming MMO....
Word of God states that Revan and the Exile never returned from the Unknown Regions. Fans are waiting for the announcement that the Sith Empire would have invaded a hundred years earlier, if those two hadn't single-handedly crippled their invasion force.
And that's close to what happened. The Sith Emperor used Revan as a living power source, but in doing so left Revan in a position to subtly influence the Emperor's mind, playing on his fear that the Sith Empire might not win against the Republic. And the Exile's Force ghost helped Revan stay sane enough to keep at it.
The World Ends with You is almost a Double Subversion: the plot is a Gambit Pileup we don't get too many details about, and the ending is just utterly confusing. However, you're then given the ability to unlock reports explaining what happened. But then you eventually get all of them, and unlock a final scene that makes even less sense.
When the events of the ending reduce the protagonist to screaming "WHAT THE HELL?!," it's a sure sign of this trope.
Dragon Squadron Danzarb (Which actually happens to be partly made by Gainax, funnily enough) ends with the revelation that the soldiers in the squad are mind-wiped convicts who were sent to a remote island chain to fight staged battles (while being secretly filmed "reality TV" style). The money earned from their exploitation is being used to fund "real" military ventures in the rest of the world (which they've been sealed away from). After discovering the truth, the main character looks into a camera and chews out whoever is watching, scolding them for getting a kick out of watching other people die for the sake of their own amusement (implying that the player, who has been watching the whole thing, is one of those sickos).
The Good ending for Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth consist of a nonsensical poem that doesn't have anything to do with the plot. The Bad ending, while making more sense, is still very strange.
Silent Hill 1 invokes this trope no matter which of the Multiple Endings one achieves. Both Good endings have Alessa and Cheryl merging and forming a giant glowing woman thingy. Kaufman splashes some red liquid on it, and it suddenly becomes a giant red demon thingy, which Harry then has to kill. After its death, the glowing woman returns and gives Harry a baby, who then runs off into the fog. The end. The Bad ending has Harry kill the glowing woman thingy, which says "thank you" in Cheryl's voice before dying. Harry collapses in grief as the room crumbles, before Cybil snaps at him to leave. The Worst ending is also the worst Gainax Ending, as it only has Harry still in the car from the accident at the beginning of the game, unconscious/dead and bleeding from the head.
Gainax ending? It makes perfect sense!The glowing woman thingy is both Alessa and Cheryl, as they are the same person. The red liquid is supposed to exorcise the demon so you don't have to kill Alessa/Cheryl, that's why she gives you a baby in the good ending, it's HERSELF.
By those standards, the alien ending, in which Harry is abducted by aliens after asking them if they've seen his daughter, almost makes sense.
The following games mostly contain far less ambiguous endings (although they're still heavy on the Mind Screw), but they aren't immune from them. Without contest the most bizarre is one of the endings of the second game, in which James discovers that the controlling force behind the town and the cause of all his torment is a dog. No, not a talking dog, just an ordinary dog. A Shiba Inu, to be specific. Her name is Mira. James is utterly confused, and the credits devolve into Shiba Inu happily barking... and growling at Eddie's belly. This is all played for laughs.
All Silent Hills (exception of 4 and Downpour) contain a "UFO ending". The third game's one ends in a cheerful children's tune about the silly main characters. While we're on the subject, the aforementioned dog named Mira has been seen in two of the joke endings with the aliens.
The "comedy ending" of the white chamber seems to be this intentionally. The crew that Sarah had murdered turn up alive, and reveal that everything was just as planned for a surprise birthday party. It's rather entertaining, as the other crew members in this ending are a rather odd lot... Oh, and the meteor coming out of nowhere along with the karaoke bunny-ears guy riding it. "You were confused by the 'comedy' ending" indeed.
Braid has one. We're not even sure how much of the entire game previous was metaphorical. Somewhere between 50 and a 100% probably.
The final level has the Princess running away from a knight, while you follow underneath her and help each other overcome obstacles. At the end, you find yourself outside the princess's bedroom, and are only able to rewind time. Rewinding shows that in fact it was you who was chasing the princess, while she tried to stop you with a variety of traps that you managed to overcome, with the knight rescuing her at the end.
Not considering the fact that if you get the seven secret stars some of the switches in that level become timeproof, so you can rewind and go fast enough to stand on the chandelier as it's going back up, catch the princess and...KABLAM!!!!! As with 2001 mentioned above, essays have been written. Long ones.
Drakengard. Legions of creepy floating babies, a giant naked woman who uses sound as a weapon, a main character turning into a clone army of demonic angels that destroy the world, and that's just scratching the surface. It's like they were trying to out-Evangelion Evangelion. Fortunately the first ending, which is the canonical one, is straightforward.
Eternal Sonata. The story takes place in the fever dream of a dying man so of course it's not going to make sense. It consists of 45 minutes about the main characters philosophing about Life, Death, Reality and Dreams.
Dear Esther does this beautifully. What does it mean? Who cares.
Unless you died on that island. If you died there, then everything neatly fits together.
Killer7. While the individual stages have their own moments, like First Life being a front for Ulmeyda's thrill seeking cult, The Handsome Men being erased from existence by Trevor's sister killing them in a video game, and whatever the hell was the purpose of the room you fight Curtis in, the ending blows them all away. Samantha dies somehow, Christopher gets killed, Garcian interrupts Kun and Harman's chess game, Garcian is actually insane, there is another Harman Smith and he's in his 30's and works for the government, all of Garcian/Emir's actions were controlled by the United States government, the memos were sent years ago and are addressed to Garcian/Emir and the guy writing them was killed by Samantha on the orders of old Harman, Emir/Garcian killed the entire Smith Syndicate at the age of 13, Iwazaru is Kun is the last Hevean Smile, Garcian/Emir's eyes turn green and he gets a nice suit, and Japan either gets bombed by the USA or leads the UN in a full scale attack on America. Also, Kun and old Harman are alive 100 years later in Shanghai to do it all again.
No More Heroes has one. Like the rest of the game, it gets played purely for laughs. So much so that Travis and Henry decide to have a(nother) fight to the death, as Henry tells that it's Travis' job as the protagonist to explain everything and tie up all the loose ends, after he (Henry) does several big and relevant ass pullsin the last few minutes of the game. Needless to say, Travis isn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of such an ordeal and is reminded that there is no escaping the video game world.
Sylvia: You like this painting, don't you? Let's go, Jeane. I know, too bad there won't be a sequel.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle has an interesting example. The ending itself is pretty straightforward: Travis kills the 1st assassin and avenges Bishop's death, and then hooks up with Sylvia, probably while quitting the UAA for good. It's the final boss that brings it into this territory. All you get of him until the end of the game is a brief silhouette and a name. And after fighting and killing your way to the 2nd rank and through a slew of strange and unique boss fights, you start getting pumped up for the final fight and get to wondering what he's gonna look like (even Travis himself admits the suspense is killing him.) Then step through that door and it's a tiny, buck-toothed goofy-looking man in a colorful suit and a flying car, who then turns into an even goofier-looking superhero with extremely cartoonish proportions, who then turns into an even MORE goofy-looking giant Macy's Day parade balloon. Even Henry, who jumps in to help you out at the beginning of the fight, eventually bails out because the fight is just getting too ridiculous.
There are all kinds of interpretations of the final boss. Including that it's part of the game's growing You Bastard mentality ("Congratulations! You senselessly murdered hundreds of people! Here's your final boss, asshole!" Another interpretation is that Jasper is a mirror of what Travis could've become in his quest for revenge, and if he kept fighting as a heartless bastard who doesn't care who he kills: a gross caricature of a human being that only gets more and more ridiculous as the fight goes on. Fortunately for him, he starts to grow a conscience partway through the game and realizes how absurd all of this is. There's also the interpretation that he's a parody of Batman.
Shadows of the Damned: You beat Fleming and saved Paula! CREDITS! Wait, doesn't Suda usually have two sets of credits... DID PAULA JUST EAT GARCIA? AND DO WE HAVE TO ACTUALLY FIGHT HER? OK, we beat her, she's calmed down, new credits. OK, Garcia's in an eternal war to stay with his demonic girlfriend...OK, normal for Suda... wait, Johnson's... RAPPING? AND SAYING THINGS COMPLETELY OUT OF CHARACTER?
Michigan Report From Hell ends with the player character finally being revealed and being shot in the head before he can reveal who unleashed the monsters. Unless you pushed the Karma Meter so far you got the 'Evil' ending, where he claims to be the one behind everything that happened before turning into a monster.
Even LPs of Suda 51's games aren't safe. Most notable in Chip and Ironicus' LPs of Killer7 and No More Heroes, where the former ends in the revelation that The LP was all in Chip's head and the latter ends with Chip and Ironicus suddenly proclaiming "It's coming." repeatedly in monotone during the final video of the LP, until semi-trucks start to rain from the sky.
World of Goo - Every chapter has its own Gainax Ending. The Ivy Goos float away with balloons! The world is powered by the beauty of a giant ugly woman! The World of Goo corporation's new product is the third dimension! MOM is a spam bot! The fish have wings and levitate the telescope! The title refers to the moon! Made even better by the insanely epic music that plays during each scene, despite the game's premise being, essentially, poking goo until it goes somewhere.
Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals has an extremely bizarre ending: After the player spends the last third of the game scouring the jungles of Nontoonyt as Patti looking for Larry, both characters get captured by lesbian cannibals and bound in a cage. Patti then uses a magic marker to draw a magical portal into the air, which transports them out of the game and into Sierra Studios, where they run around the Police Quest, Space Quest and King's Quest sets until Roberta Williams offers Larry a lucrative deal to design and write adventure games based on his own adventures. Al Lowe had to skip the fourth installment in the series altogether just to write himself out of that one.
Plants vs. Zombies does this as well, bonus that it also doubled as the game's advertisement.
Cryostasis arguably has one of these. The Crew being Ice Monsters aside, most of the storyline was fairly realistic, until you reach the end where Heat Cracks start appearing all over the ship and the Nuclear Reactor goes Chernobyl, whereupon Chronos, the God of Time, pops out and you have to defeat him using magical energy balls from your hands. Oh, and you go to some kind of ruins out in space where you get to go back in time to one of three different places and change history to prevent the tragedy from occurring in the first place. Presumably, it explains all the weird bits of the game.
The ending itself is straight forward, it's the fate of the protagonist that was ambiguous: Protagonist died by giving his life to save the universe. Originally, it was up to the player to decide whether or not he died or just went to sleep when he was reunited with his friends.
Little King's Story has you find out that your entire world is a cardboard stage in the bedroom of a kid that looks like the king. The final boss battle is with some ordinary rats who are eating the stage, while a news reel keeps you apprised of what parts of your world are being destroyed by the fight. Then the real boy who looks like the king throws the rat out the window after the fight, and he and the tiny king see each other with gratuitous zoomshots of them being reflected in the other's eyes. Roll credits
Tales of the Abyss. The regular ending you see before the credits is simple enough: the Big Bad is dead, most of the party escaped, but The Hero stays behind to make a Heroic Sacrifice; he gets congratulated for his work by Lorelei. It's the post-credits scene that screws everything up; it's been a couple of years? And The Hero is back? Or is it his twin/clone? What promise was he talking about? Why is his hair so long?
Well, the promise is pretty straightforward. It was either Asch's promise to Natalia or Luke's to Tear. The rest more or less stands, though. We're supposed to decide for ourselves whether Luke is back, Asch is back, or there's some sort of third option
The promise could also refer to the promise Asch makes to Luke before his Heroic Sacrifice. He promises Luke he'll survive.
Though the original ending to space shooter Tyrian is somewhat Gainax-y, involving the main character finally having enough of single-handedly saving the galaxy from the evil Microsol corporation over and over, and fleeing the galaxy, the re-release, Tyrian 2000, offers a final episode that's even more Gainax-y. Your ship is intercepted and you're forced to fight the Zinglon cult mentioned numerous times throughout the game, who turn out to be behind all of Microsol's evildoings and plan to deprive the universe of it's food supplies and construct a fleet of warships made entirely out of fruit. Though the game's lore shows that the game designers weren't taking the story too seriously, the final episode is when the game stops any pretense of seriousness entirely.
Divinity 2: Ego Draconis. What could have been a semi-decent game was rendered null by the way it ended. Basically, you spent all that time running around listening to a dead lady's voice in your head only to find out she's been tricking you. She sends you on a wild goose chase to resurrect the Big Bad's dead wife, Ygerna, saying it'll help defeat him. Turns out that she is Ygerna and resurrecting her actually makes Damian invincible. But you don't find that out until after an unavoidable and tedious boss fight. There are no Multiple Endings. So the story ends with your hero being stuck in limbo and Lucien, the guy who you killed in the aforementioned boss fight, is happy to inform you just the entirety of Rivellon is down the crapper because of you, and the game ends with a cutscene of Damian and Ygerna raging across the land. It also reeks of gimmickry. Want to bet the sequel/expansion pack (and there will be one) ends the exact same way?
The original .hack games ended this way. After 4 games, forced grinds, and the damn virus cores that slowed the last two You fight through the last parts of the last game after learning that the Big Bad is the game itself. Then you fight through a Multi-tiered boss fight against a monster with a crack at the top that splurts out explosive white drops before turning into a plant and then an eye. Then you'd fight Morganna? Wrong. That's when you find out the psychedelic eye was the True Final Boss. After you beat it, The World goes crazy, your party get's "Drain Heart"ed with no explanation as to what that is before Kite has his Moment of Awesome running up to the eye that refuses to die. Then Aura, the girl you've been journeying to restore this entire series gets in the way as you're about to stab it and takes the hit, dying. Then there's some crazy lights, the eye get's destroyed, and everyone shows up in the Net Slums where they mention something about Aura having to die to be born again Bullcrap. Then the game ends with Kite looking at the sunset and everyone who'd just been owned is back with no explanation.
Spore. After battling your way through the Grox (or befriending them, which is arguably harder), finding your way through the maze of stars, and more likely than not sacrificing any allies you had with you, you finally make it to the center of the galaxy. You scroll in to avoid the Grox firing upon you, since you're probably almost dead at this point, and watch as the colors of swirl around you. A deep booming voice congratulates you on how far you've come, and that few, if any other species will make it as far as you. Then this happens.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. It's a visual novel with Multiple Endings, and each story path puts Junpei in different groups, giving him the opportunity to find out more about their backstories, and some paths unlock the opportunity to find new paths, ultimately culminating in the True Ending. It's actually a subversion, as each of the different paths are actually being observed by the protagonist from outside normal time, and the True Ending explains all the weird inexplicable stuff that has been going on since the start of the game... except for one particular character who is referenced repeatedly; the cast finds the place where she's supposed to be hidden and finds nothing, and conclude that it's all just a myth... and then she's hitchhiking on the side of the road in the True Ending, and the game ends on that image.
Final Fantasy Tactics leaves us in the lurch about whether the main characters are really alive or dead. Due to bad visuals, there's also some confusion about whether Delita and/or Ovelia live or die after Ovelia stabs him.
In Final Fantasy IX, the entire final dungeon is a huge Gainax ending. You basically go backward through your memories, then the planet's, and then the universe's. After you defeat Kuja, you take on the eternal darkness. The ending itself isn't so much, though.
Dark Reign ends with a cutscene showing the player character receiving some unspecified energy-thing treatment by Togra, who has apparently become a god. Weird for a game with so much science in it.
Cargo! The Quest for Gravity is weird from the outset, but in a silly, lighthearted way. Once the game ends and the world is saved, though, things get... confusing. Apparently the Robot Devil is going to remake the world but reward the main characters by transforming them into Fun so that they'll be around to see it? Or... something like that. Granted, anyone familiar with developer Ice-Pick Lodge's previousofferings ought to have seen it coming.
At first, it looks like the ending of Portal 2 will be a Bolivian Army Ending when the lift you're on suddenly stops at a group of four turrets... but then the lasers shut off and the turrets start singing. A few floors later and you're at an entire choir of turrets singing a farewell opera. Then you get to the top, go out into a field of wheat, hear a loud noise behind you... and out comes the original Companion Cube, charred and beat up. Roll credits.
In fact, the entire ending sequence, starting from shooting a portal onto the moon feels like it comes out of nowhere, even though it was foreshadowed throughout the game. The achievement for it even has the description "That just happened".
Radiata Stories: Two endings; one makes sense (if leaving plot threads unresolved) and another where any number of things could have happened.
For those who didn't play the game: There's two dragons responsible for the remaking of the world, and they take turns. However, the silver dragon has grown fond of humanity, so he doesn't want them to die, he decides to kill the gold dragon (Ridley) in order to prevent this. In the non-human ending (good) Jack and Ridley join up, defeat him, and the game ends with them together in an empty city, where presumably Ridley remade the world but left Jack alive (they seem happy, so there's that). In the Human ending (bad) the silver dragon manages to kill Ridley, and Jack, heartbroken, defeats him. What happens next is not shown, but the implication is that the world eventually depleted itself and Jack died alone. All in all, the endings implied more than they shown.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates manages to subvert this, the ending makes very little sense with the protagonist twins remaking the world to one where Galdes is stuck repeating himself for all eternity and then Chelinka dies and then little Chelinka uses two of the same crystal to make herself and Yuri kids again and their parents alive. However, once you replay the game you see how the ending twist was somewhat foreshadowed, so early you wouldn't remember it. And after playing through the epilogue in Multiplay, you get some more closure and get a clearer picture of what the outcome of the ending actually was.
Usually, the Streets of Rage series had pretty straightforward endings: Mr. X is defeated, the town is safe, everyone's happy; but the last official installment in the series, 3, introduced Easy-Mode Mockery to the already ending trilogy. The ending you get on the lowest difficulty does reveal that Mr. X on the 5th stage is actually a robot. If you try a harder difficulty, but fail to save General Petrov/chief of the police, you will fight Shiva as the final boss. Right after both of these, the true Mr. X shows up, watching what happens in his hideout (like a movie in the theatre) and breaking a glass of wine... which makes perfect sense at first, but that's until you get to his real hideout which reveals that Mr. X is in fact a Brain in a Jar. Now that makes absolutely no sense, especially when you realize he couldn't turn into that in just a couple of hours of the storyline time!
It makes sense when you consider the boss of Stage 5 is a robotic body Mr. X controlled via his Brain in a Jar. If he was able to get his brain into a jar then there's no reason he couldn't have multiple bodies to control, or backups, seeing as how he's supposed to be dead, if not critically injured by the end of the second game.
The bonus ending from completing the extra stages is only slightly more comprehensible.
In Limbo of the Lost, Briggs is captured and his earthly guide (also known as you, the player) must save him by completing some in and of themselves confusing tasks. After you finish, Briggs is freed and proceeds to the game's ending... where he is greeted by almost the entire supporting cast of the game who decide to crown him The King of Limbo while singing a song about him. No explanation is given as to how the denizens of Limbo know each other, how they reached this location, or why Limbo has a king - or why no one seems to care about the player's contributions to any of this. To say that They Just Didn't Care is an understatement.
Even if you win, the ending depends on your ending party. That is, you can "win" with the wrong party and have most/all of the party die (since the final boss has a final attack scripted by the story).
If you die, but have the right party, your characters just say some really strange words about the hero, and how she wasn't really a good person, not really a bad person, "she was a person." And then they walk off. If you don't have the right party, the universe explodes. It is explained why, and yet still doesn't totally make sense.
Even the best ending makes no sense, as it turns out the main hero was God all along (she's told this by God), and now has the choice while sitting in a White Void Room on whether to create the universe or not (and she can definitely choose to just become God and sit by herself for all eternity). What?!? It Gets Better, though.
The Playable Epilogue has three endings, based on a choice made after the game's final boss. One involves healing the final boss, which makes the hero God again, and her family thinks it's cool, while she plans a date for tomorrow. The second has her kill the final boss, and then snap, and start deciding to destroy everyone, eventually forgetting the party and killing them too. The final ending just has her walk off, and has some Grow Old with Me style ending, combined with Babies Ever After, combined with the female and male lead's death, and afterlife. All in fairly rapid succession.
Digital Devil Saga's both parts manage to land one of these. The first ending is explained in the second game, and it makes sense.
8:Capsule. Do not pass 8. You did? Now solve some weird puzzles! And eat that pill to screw up the scenery. Then solve more puzzles! Goddamned Boss time! And once you beat it... BEAUTIFULWHOAWAHHHHWAT
At the end of MOTHER 3, Lucas pulls the final Needle and awakens the Dragon, which destroys the world. A giant THE END screen pops up... but if you use the D-Pad, you can walk around and talk to the various characters. Whether Lucas created a new world for his friends and family, or destroyed the world and put everyone in the afterlife is up to you to interpret.
Tir Na Nog and Dun Darach, by Gargoyle Games for the old ZX Spectrum had (for the time) incredibly huge animated sprites (56 pixels high!!) and deep, deliberately obscure gameplay, and partly thanks to the slow pace took hours and hours to finish. When you finished the first, the screen changed colour slightly a few times. When you finished the second, you entered an entirely black room with the words "ta from gg" on the wall. And. That's. It.
After killing the Enderdragon in Minecraft, you're treated to a wall of scrolling text depicting a discussion between two Sentient Cosmic Forces discussing you, the player of the game. The discussion in question implies that the entire game was All Just a Dream, life as we know it is merely an even bigger dream, the many mobs we fought in the game were the darkness in our hearts, and humanity's entire existence is a quest to understand itself.
The pessimist ending of I Miss the Sunrise is a minor example — we definitely know what happened, but not any of the ramifications or if the final plan even worked as intended. Ros enters the Core and absorbs the universe into a single point of energy, thereby completing the Progenitor's plan...then the game just ends.
It's complicated by the factor of the Black One claiming that it will lead to the end of all things. We have no idea which character was right, even though that's a really important distinction.
Conker's Bad Fur Day slips into this. Suddenly Don Weaso whips out a gun and shoots your girlfriend to bits. Then Ze Professor put a xenomorph egg into an unsuspecting Panther King as his chest bursts open to reveal the hatchling, while the room they are in rockets into space. Conker is almost killed by the xenomorph until the game actually freezes, and the developer gives Conker multiple options to kill the xenomorph. Unfortunately, the developer disappears before he can have the chance to revive Berri, and is crowned the new king of the land.
The Town With No Name, if you opt to just get on the train and leave, the main character is begged not to by a random child, who he then shoots, declaring that his name is not Shane, as the child called him. The train is then seen floating up and taking off into outer space.
Famously Limbo, after traversing the bleak eponymous underworld searching for his sister, the boy breaks into a glass and slowly floats in the darkness, until he wakes up in the same place he started his journey, he stands up and walks to the right where he finds his sister picking flowers at the base of a tree-house, as he approaches her she suddenly stands up startled, and then it cuts to credits.
Emelia. After being wrongly accused of murdering her fiance, Emelia embarks on an epic quest of revenge against the true killer, a man known only as Joker (no, not that one.) Instead, on the last leg of her mission she comes across a church, decides out of nowhere that she wants to have a make-believe wedding with a male party member playing the part of her dead fiance, fights a giant angel/goddess monster, and then the story ends. She never finds Joker or wraps up any of the other plot threads encountered in her story.
Blue. A wizard from the Magic Kingdom, who must find and kill his twin brother Rouge, so that he can become the perfect wizard and save the kingdom from evil. After killing Rouge, Blue and Rouge merge into a super-wizard and you return to the Magic Kingdom to face the end boss. After fighting through all of the final boss's multiple forms the screen goes black and the story ends with no more explanation then the words "Game Over". Word of God is that Blue continued fighting the boss for the rest of eternity, thereby protecting the Magic Kingdom. Lovely, but why couldn't you say that in the game?
Mass Effect 3: Shepard activates the superweapon you spent all game building, which turns out to interfere with the AI who controls the Reapers. It then gives you three options of how to deal with the Reapers - destroy all synthetic life in the galaxy, take control of the Reapers, or make everyone in the universe into a bio-synthetic hybrid. In the original ending, the only real difference was which color explosions the mass relays made, while the extended cut at least explained the consequences of your choices, and explicitly removed some of the Fridge Horror in the original endings (which basically suggested that galactic civilization and some of your surviving True Companions were doomed anyway).
The Leviathan DLC gives a mission set before the grand finale, and explained a lot of the set-up in such a way that the finale seemed less of a last-minute Ass Pull, at the cost of what was originally a Twist Ending now seeming clumsy, as it simply explains the same things again, with no revelation this time. The actual choices still came pretty much out of nowhere, but since it was stated multiple times throughout the game that nobody really had any idea what the Crucible would do, that aspect of the end was acceptable to many fans.
Star Fox ordinarily has a fairly straightforward ending, unless you manage to gain access to the secret level "Out Of This Dimension", where you lose contact with General Pepper as you find yourself in a utter Mind Screw area battling paper airplanes and a giant slot machine. Then you just fly around in space (presumably forever) with the words "The End" floating just ahead of your ship (the only way out for the player is to restart the game.)
In Devils Crush, reaching 999,999,990 points will treat you to a very brief ending with a woman and a pinball... that makes no sense whatsoever.
A literal case of this happens in Xardion, a lesser-known Super NES game in which Gainax themselves had a hand. Toward the end of the game, you fight the core of the living planet, NGC-1611; a large boss with multiple forms which absolutely refuses to die. When you finally manage to beat it, you find out the true cause of its aggressive behavior toward the rest of the galaxy: The whole time, its entire reason for waging war on the other planets of the galaxy, was just to keep its creator's daughter safe from harm.
To make things all the worse, the "daughter" was never even alive to begin with. The planet had mistakenly chosen to protect a holographic image of its creator's daughter. So everything it had done up to that point had been completely and totally pointless. What a downer...
Every YouTube Poopever! It makes sense, considering the videos themselves in turn aren't even supposed to make sense to begin with.
An episode of Salad Fingers ends with the title character having his head eaten by a clone. Or was that the clone?
There Will Be Brawl. Hoo boy. The reveal of Kirby as the ultimate mastermind and Ness and Lucas jointly acting as "the Butcher" isn't too hard to understand. The really weird stuff happens after the final battle when we see Kirby is still alive, has murdered Masahiro Sakurai, and just before it fades to black Shigeru Miyamoto walks into the room. Buh?
The original Ryan Vs Dorkman ends with Dorkman successfully offing Ryan and walking away to leave - only for Ryan to reappear and ignite a lightsaber through Dorkman's chest. It didn't make any sense until the ending of Ryan Vs. Brandon 2, which reveals that there is a bunch of Ryan clones - this also explains why Ryan has lost every single one of his fights and manages to come back alive.
The music video for the song 'Fantasy' by Dye. It starts off innocently enough, with four teens (two girls and two boys) breaking into a swimming pool to fool around a bit. One pair of teens starts to get rather frisky in the pool, while the girl in the second pair shies away from her mate and jumps into the deeper end of the pool instead. Then things start to get... weird. The girl who jumped into the pool notices a strange bulge start to move around in her underpants, and quickly gets out, then she and the boy she left by the poolside turn around, and notice the other pair of teens who had been making out have turned into something ''different''. The mutated girl somehow assimilates the other boy into her body, while the final girl tries to escape, but fails. As her former peers close in around her, she jumps into the pool again, and, upon reaching the bottom, somehow finds herself in a different world. She then looks over the horizon, and her eyes explode. The camera then pans over to a massive Eldritch Abomination, and the video ends.
"Obedience" is a short film. It starts out as a thriller where the subject is put through a twisted take on Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" experiment... and then it gets weird. With tonal shifts and then a twist ending that seems like it was taken from this sites WMG pages...
Decades before Studio Gainax became known for this stuff, Fleischer Studios loved having totally bizarre, unpredictable endings. One prominent example would be the ending of Bimbo's Initiation, which ends with the leader of the cult "Do-It-Or-Die" be revealed to be Betty Boop, who seduces Bimbo into being a member. Once Bimbo accepts, the other cult members show themselves—and then rip off their disguises, revealing themselves to all look like Betty, and then they dance to the end.
In "The Great Money Caper", just before Lisa could explain why the town, media and police officials had "nothing better to do" than show Homer and Bart the consequences of their actions Otto appears in the courtroom, shouting, 'Surf's Up!', and the episode ends with everyone surfing.
The first season ending of Sheep in the Big City shifts to the Narrator escaping after all the characters are trying to capture him, then the Sheep rescues him, going down the drain, and ends up having Sheep being an Evil Overlord who can talk. Private Public start to speak French, and so is everyone else. Then the Narrator gets put into the Narrator-powered raygun with him begging that the whole thing's a dream, then a flying pig appears and says This Is Reality or else he won't have wings. What?
12 oz. Mouse: The army of robots destroy the city, Fitz plays pinball, then he wakes up in a mind control center inside a mushroom.
"The Boy Who Cried Comet" certainly qualifies. The episode suddenly ends with the revelations that Arthur and Co. are actually aliens wearing rubber masks acting out the show on a distant planet. Had most of the audiences throwing their hands up in the air and declaring that they can never look at the show the same way ever again.
It's not limited to that episode. "The Best of the Nest" had a particularly weird ending that only relates toThe Teaser of the episode. At the end (before the ending, Brain was convincing the gang to break their addiction of a new game and do something natural, like go on Mr. Ratburn's camping trip. They eventually do that.), Brain asks Muffy and Francine who were the "Best of the Nest" (the game). They say none of them were and Francine also says "Who knew the best way to scare off a bear was to do the Hokey Pokey?" (referring to a Running Gag in which one of the three-answer questions' answers was to do the Hokey Pokey). All of a sudden they hear a bear and they actually close the episode nervously doing the Hokey Pokey.
The season finales of The Venture Bros. always end on cliffhangers, but the ending of the first season is by far the most inexplicable, where shortly after being bailed out of prison, the Venture twins are suddenly and accidentally killed during a chance encounter with Henchmen 21 and 24.
Of course, being the only Adult Swim show with continuity, this leads into a massive reveal in the Season 2 premiere and begin a major theme on the Venture family's treatment of death.
"Aloha Hoek" has Ren and Stimpy getting stranded on an island. Long story short, it ends with them taking off their disguises, revealing they're really human "Russian" spies (who talk like Fred and Barney for some reason) and riding off in a submarine.
"Ren Needs Help!" is even stranger. Ren has a Freak Out at the end, and is restrained by the mental hospital doctors. He's apparently given electroshock, and in the next scene, he's fitted with a suit and tie, placed at a desk on the moon, and addresses the nation as the president of the United States (a nod to a fellow patient's paranoid ramblings), where he launches into a parody of Ronald Reagan's infamous "We begin bombing in five minutes" speech.
Neither of those have anything on "Haunted House", though. When the ghost's inability to scare Ren and Stimpy drives him to suicide, he comes back to life... as a big, fat naked black man who drives off in a convertible as a confused Ren and Stimpy wave goodbye.
"Mad Dog Hoek"... Just... Ren and Stimpy spend the entire episode in a wrestling match, which their competitors, for no apparent reason, throw in Ren and Stimpy's favor. After the match, the competitors promise revenge. When asked for a response, Ren begins to answer and is promptly thrown aside by Stimpy, who wants to "holler the loud funny words" and proceeds to scream a long ramble about how much he likes his friend Darren. The episode promptly ends. (It is important to note that no one named Darren was ever seen or heard from in the episode.)
"I LIKE HIS AUTOGRAPH! IT IS A NIIIIIIICE PICTURE!!"
The ending of the Girl Scout episode. The Girl Scouts unzip their skin, to reveal that they are old men in disguise. Ren takes off his skin to reveal his skeleton and organs. And everyone laughs.
The ending of Disney's The Three Caballeros. Donald has a series of crazy musical fantasy sequences about beautiful women, then the last one leads to a mock bull-fight, with Pancho as the matador, Jose as the audience, and Donald in a bull costume studded with fireworks.
A lot of Spongebob episodes are like this. "Graveyard Shift" ended with all the strange occurrences being explained by the actions of a nervous new potential employee of the Krusty Krab... except for the flickering lights. It turned out that it was the live action version of Nosferatu turning the light switch on and off all along, and nobody seems to be bothered by this. And let's not forget the ending of "Bubble Buddy".
"Spy Buddies" ends with Mr. Krabs and Plankton revealing that they challenged each other to see who could do each other's jobs better. They use disguises to cover up who they were during the switchup. Krabs fitting in a Plankton costume is confusing enough, but then Spongebob and Patrick begin to take costumes off themselves, revealing they are Sandy, Squidward, and each other. What.
Up until the last two minutes of "My Fair Mandy", the episode plays like a straight Very Special Episode where Mandy tries her very best to finally outdo longtime rival Mindy in a pageant (something just about unthinkable due to Mindy's popularity and Mandy's surly attitude). All throughout, Grim, Billy, and Irwin tell Mandy that she can't win unless she can smile (a very rare occurrence for her). At first it looks like Mindy will run away with it, but eventually the judges, which include Mindy's mother, start to turn on her. Mandy closes the gap and is neck-and-neck with her rival going into the very last routine. Her helpers remind her one last time via cards that YOU-HAVE-TO-SMILE(-YO). She strains, she struggles, she summons every ounce of will in her small frame...and...AND... ...creates a catastrophic maelstrom which rips apart the fabric of reality, and everything goes white. When Grim, Billy, and Mandy come to, they find that they've turned into The Powerpuff Girls. The episode concludes with the familiar flashing-hearts screen and a jaunty "So once again, the day is saved, thanks to...Billy, Mandy, and Grim!"
The ending of "Billy Gets an A": Grim and Mandy go back in time to stop Grim from changing Billy's test grade to an A but while past!Grim is distracted Billy changes it himself. They go back further to tell him to study but being an idiot he still fails. Then they go back to stop him from being born and fail again, then keep going back until they're at the dawn of time and fail to stop a dinosaur with Harold's hair from burping. Grim asks how it will all end; Smash Cut to a "The End!" card.
"Mommy Can You Hear Me?" plays out as a normal episode, with Candace trying to bust the boys while they try to send their astronaut friend Sergei, who is searching for wormholes, a birthday message. Long story short, Candace, in her attempt to bust the two, accidentally sends a message to Sergei that leads him to a wormhole. Everything is wrapped up, but Phineas is still bummed that he never wished Sergei a happy birthday. Cut to Sergei, who is now lying in bed as an old man akin to the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ferb appears as a starchild, floats up to him and whispers, "Happy birthday". Sergei responds, "They did remember. Such nice boys."
Same thing with "The Curse of Candace". Starts out normal, with Candace thinking she's a vampire, thanks to a teen vampire movie, among other things. She confronts her brothers about this at the end, and they explain the reason behind some of her vampire powers. So thus, they take off the cloak she was wearing, exposing the sun to her and...she turns to dust. A bemused remark from Phineas, and then? Roll credits. Of course, since he said "Ferb, We're gonna need a dustpan and some glue," it could be that they actually managed to put her back together. Given that it's Phineas and Ferb, it's not impossible. But it's still really weird.
The credits gag for "This is Your Backstory" reveals that Phineas and Ferb's extra long ping-pong match was so they could build up the kinetic energy needed to open a quantum singularity. It promptly sucks everything in, leaving behind Candace in a white void.
"Royal Pudding": The Royal Canadian Wedding is interrupted when the princess gets kidnapped and Kyle's little brother Ike (who is Canadian) has to rescue her. At the end, Ike rescues the princess and they have the royal wedding, but after the "I do's", the prince tears off the princess' arm and shoves it up his ass.note As is tradition It Makes Just as Much Sense in Context, aside from the implied Stealth Pun (the people engaging in these "traditional" activities are aristocrats).
"Butterballs": Kyle continually foreshadows Stan "jacking it in San Diego" should he achieve popular success for his anti-bullying video. After his token Woobie—Butters—loses it on national television and causes the entire project to be shut down, Stan ends up... doing what Kyle said he would. The entire ending sequence is a song-and-dance montage that lasts over two minutes, and even in context seems out of left field, with the episode still feeling unresolved despite the logic behind it. To top it off, all this is lampshaded by the Penguin from Neon Genesis Evangelion appearing briefly in one of the shots.
The Plot Twist near the end of the "Coon and Friends" arc.
"Goth Kids 3" ends with the reveal that the entire plot of the episode was all part of a prank on a minor character by a game show. Lampshaded by the Goth Kids' reactions.
In the cartoon "Riff Raffy Daffy", Daffy ends up tricking Porky into letting him sleep in the department store by taking out a couple of wind-up ducks and presenting them as his "children". In the end, as Porky walks away, it's revealed that he understands what Daffy's going through because his kids are also wind-up toys.
It's rarely shown today, but the ending of the short "Fresh Hare" has Bugs Bunny in front of a firing squad. When Elmer Fudd asks him for a Last Request, Bugs randomly starts singing "I Wish I Were In Dixie". Then, everyone turns into blackface minstrels and start singing "Camptown Races."
Bugs: Unbelievable, isn't it?
People that disliked Codename: Kids Next Door's finale Operation: INTERVIEWS have accused it of being this kind of ending, starting off as a scavenger hunt competition over the DCFDTL's birthday cake. Nigel manages to win only to suddenly be taken somewhere where he is offered to join a galactic branch of the KND, but requires him to leave Earth for several years and leave behind his treasured team if he accepts. Nigel showed very slight reluctance when he accepted but doesn't really question the whole thing. The fans of the show that dislike the finale strongly consider Nigel's decision (or at least the way he gave it) a serious Out-of-Character Moment.
A scary one comes from the Rugrats episode "What the Big People Do": After Chuckie and Tommy return back to normal, Angelica, for no reason other than scaring the crap out of viewers, says "Oh BOOOOYS! Time to play HOUSE!" Cue Angelica's face morphing back into her adult version, her making an Evil Laugh, Tommy and Chuckie screaming and a hard cut to black. Their screams even echo into the credits.
Another scary one is from The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Remote". Throughout the episode, Gumball, Darwin, Richard, Anais and Nicole have been fighting for the remote since their shows come at the same time. At the end, Gumball discovers this was planned by Anais from the whole start after she told them to buy the wrong remote. So when they realize the real one is still in the house, they find out they have been locked out of the house so Anais can watch her show alone, and at the same time everybody else's shows comes on. The other Wattersons then scream and Anais makes a horrifyingface which the camera proceeds to zoom in on.
The ending to the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "The Eds are Coming, The Eds are Coming".
The Chowder episode "Won-Ton Bombs" has a Gainax Ending in which the whole world of Mazipan City just disappears and tears apart to reveal C.H. Greenblatt wearing a wig and nervously writing storyboards.
Every damn episode of Superjail! ever has an ending like this. The most notable example here is the 2-part season 1 finale "Time Police" which ends with the camera zooming out to reveal... a frying machine. What.
The Powerpuff Girls episode "Him Diddle Riddle" has Him forcing the girls into solving all sorts of odd riddles and challenges with the threat that "the professor will pay". By the end of the episode, it's revealed that the challenges were all part of a bet that he made with Professor Utonium so as to see if he did not need to pay full price for a breakfast at a restaurant that Him works at. Keep in mind, this is HIM we're talking about.
Narrator: So, once again... um... yeah.
Several episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force end this way, but one that stands out in particular is the season 10 opener "Muscles", where after Shake drinks an illegal performance-enhancing beverage he develops self-aware muscles. To get rid of them, Frylock puts him in a cow pen to wait for the muscles to eventually melt away, and when he, Meatwad, and Carl come back to him 6 months later he's now overweight and thinks he's a cow, and as they decide that he's better off this way and leave him there, he gets mauled by coyotes offscreen.