The one-cour comedy 'curse'

Should one-cour comedies turn serious in the final episodes?

  • Yes

    Votes: 1 11.1%
  • No

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Depends on the show

    Votes: 8 88.9%

  • Total voters
    9

Dai

Dandy Guy, in Space
It's a familiar pattern: You start watching a new comedy anime. You know it's only going to adapt a fraction of the source material. The first 8-10 episodes are funny as hell, but then... it tries its hand at drama for the finale. This almost always follows the pattern of either, a) the characters risk being split up forever/dying, but it's actually fine and everything goes back to normal by the end, or b) flashback to how the protagonist met Character X.

I understand why shows do this; it's smoke and mirrors to make the viewer think there has been story progression, when in fact nothing gets resolved and everything returns to the previous status quo. The question is, do you enjoy shows that abruptly drop the comedy and go this route, or would you prefer they just keep doing episodic comedy until they hit the end of their 12 episodes? Can you think of examples that did either route particularly well or poorly?
 

CommanderZx2

School Idol
I remember seeing that pattern in the past, but I haven't really noticed it much now a days. I guess the producers caught onto people noticing these pattern of events and decided to change things up. Lately I've seen a dramatic turn of events placed earlier within the series and is typically overcome long before the end of the series.

For example in the current season The Journey of Elaina and Maesetsu! Opening Act already had what I believe to be their biggest drama episodes, where things are at their worst, prior to the last couple of episodes.
 

Neil.T

Shinki
This is an interesting topic. 🤔

Thinking about season 1 of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, I actually preferred it when it started to turn serious in its latter stages, then wearily rolled my eyes when it dialled everything back in the final episode in order to drag more out the established character dynamics and get another season out of them. 🙄

On the other side of the coin, season 1 of Negima! is mostly pretty lightweight stuff, before turning deeply, actually depressingly serious for its final arc. That remains one of the most bizarre tonal shifts I've ever come across in a piece of fiction. (I've read virtually nothing of the manga, so I've no idea whether it's adapting anything from that.)

I guess... tonal shifts away from how the series was at its beginning are a gamble, because they risk putting off the people who started watching the show for what it was in the first place, and the people who it's now ended up being aimed at have already missed a bunch of episodes they might not have enough interest in backtracking to catch up with.

But then again, Madoka. 乁| ・ 〰 ・ |ㄏ
 

WMD

Dragon Knight
So when I think of my favourite anime comedy FMP Fumoffu I think it pulls 2 clever little tricks.

1) It puts its piece of character/relationship development into the penultimate epsiode rather than the finale. We see Souske get more and more desperate and Kaname more and more exasperated before they share a quiet moment together which also doubles as a call back to Souskes obliviousness from the beach episode and shows hes progressed a little.

2) The finale itself has the characters believing it's the most serious and desperate situation they've ever been in. This is then played for some of the best laughs of the entire series.

I think these 2 tricks allow for some seriousness to be injected at the end of the show but also allowed the episodes to be predominantly comedic and generally in tone with the rest of the show.

Maybe one of the reasons it works is because Souske himself is a very serious character. He is very unaware of any comedy he causes which is part of the joke.

Ultimately I think it depends on the show and generally works better in longer shows. Toradora being perhaps the best example of doing that sort of tonal shift and having it really elevate the show. That's not to say it cant work in shorter shows and i dont think it's ever annoyed me to see it happen.
 

IdiomaticLynx

Dandy Guy, in Space
More often than not, I think it makes perfect sense for a comedy focused story to shift to a more serious tone later on. The thing that makes or breaks it, is simply the execution. If you ask me, the change shouldn't be abrupt or jarring. Some developments in earlier episode should already point/hint at it. The resolution should have some lasting significance. And where possible there should still be a balance between drama / comedy throughout, instead of no comedy at all.

I think you highlight a situation in which the above is hard to pull off. A one-cour show adapted from a manga likely won't reach any more serious/drama arcs in the source material. So either they skip ahead, omitting most build-up, or they craft their own, again missing most of the build-up. And let's not forget that there are also plenty of works out there that simply don't have the best writing and might include an abrupt drama arc just for the sake of it.

Despite that, I would generally prefer shows going for it. The alternative is to remain episodic, which for me doesn't work as a resolution (so unless it's a given that it would get a second and third season, I'd rather have some resolution over nothing). One alternative I do generally like, although I'm drawing a blank for examples, is ending with an arc that is played up in seriousness. For example a sports festival or some other competition, as it allows the show to comfortably remain a comedy while having a narrative that works as a resolution (there's conflict, progression and the stakes can be "high").

But if we would shift the focus to longer shows, there's almost no way around it IMO. Which isn't a bad thing, as it's a true and tested method. I'd even argue that comedy shows are in the unique position of pulling this off better than most shows that start off serious. Due to the comedy you tend to be less critical of the character traits and interactions, but as soon as the story gets serious, you do take past interactions between characters into account. Instead of thinking "why would X help Y?", it's "X and Y have been through so much together" (even if those interactions wouldn't make sense outside of a comedic context).

The above turned formulaic is something you can clearly see in most Key/Visual Arts works. Although in most cases I would no longer describe those works as just "comedy" as one goes into the show expecting more besides the comedy.
 

Dai

Dandy Guy, in Space
I remember seeing that pattern in the past, but I haven't really noticed it much now a days. I guess the producers caught onto people noticing these pattern of events and decided to change things up.
I've definitely seen these tropes still cropping up in the last few years. Wasteful Days of High School Girls and The Demon Girl Next Door, for example. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid pulled both the extended first meeting flashback and the will-they-be-separated-forever tricks.

Thinking about season 1 of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, I actually preferred it when it started to turn serious in its latter stages, then wearily rolled my eyes when it dialled everything back in the final episode in order to drag more out the established character dynamics and get another season out of them. 🙄
That show was a great example of this trope handled well, since it resolved a plot thread that had been establised early, and was building throughout. Mainly though, that finale was just a really well executed piece of emotional drama, and maybe execution is the key factor here, since a lot of comedy writers don't seem to have the chops for straight drama. Dragon Maid floundered in this regard, with Kobayashi making a cringe-worthy appeal to keep Tohru with her, coming across as neither emotional nor funny.

So when I think of my favourite anime comedy FMP Fumoffu I think it pulls 2 clever little tricks.
...
2) The finale itself has the characters believing it's the most serious and desperate situation they've ever been in. This is then played for some of the best laughs of the entire series.
Yes, that was another one that handled its final episode well, managing to inject some dark humour into a situation that at least seemed serious. I can think of a few shows that did a good job of subverting the expectation of a serious twist, like Osomatsu-san and Chronicles of the Going Home Club, with some of the latter's best gags coming when the characters broke the fourth wall and started worrying about what they needed to do to keep the show from being cancelled.
 

CommanderZx2

School Idol
I've definitely seen these tropes still cropping up in the last few years. Wasteful Days of High School Girls and The Demon Girl Next Door, for example. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid pulled both the extended first meeting flashback and the will-they-be-separated-forever tricks.
Oh yeah forgot about that in Demon girl next door, but I don't remember it feeling all that serious. For something in the past I was thinking more along the lines of Season 1 of Squid Girl where
her tentacles stop working so she abandons her friends and returns to the sea an entire year only to return and her tentacles still don't work or grow back until the very end where she needs to save someone.
 

Demelza

Adventuring Alchemist
AUKN Staff
It's a tough one for me because I can see the argument from both sides, but personally I prefer it when series turn serious toward the end. If it's always focused on the comedy I don't feel like I get to know the characters well enough whereas an emotional arc to wrap up an anime will mean the show is far more memorable and more likely that I'll care about it in the future.

That's just because I don't really like straight comedies though, I always want there to be some other reason for me to be watching a show. This is usually because of the characters or the overarching story, so the more of that I get the happier I am. I don't really mind if that means a 'reset' for a second season either as I'm quite used to that reading so many light novels where things are resolved in a book or two and then put back onto the status quo.
 
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