Written by Ryan Johnson (RyanDJ) Thursday, 29 March 2012 05:00
So, BioWare is going to add on to Mass Effect 3, basically allowing a rewrite of the ending because fans said so. To some, that's the best thing ever; for others, it's the biggest fail in the universe. Most likely, it'll end up somewhere in between.
A lot of people have talked about changing the ending being an artistic milestone: who has the right to change an artist's vision? There are sculptors or painters who can receive negative impressions on their work: most of the time, they'll either scoff someone for not understanding their original piece, or change their vision in the next work. I highly doubt Da Vinci heard people saying there needs to be a different smile on the Mona Lisa and cared one lick.
When you get into the entertainment area though, things can change. Once you have investors, you are selling the rights to your art to myriads of others. Say you write a sitcom, and have plotlines that last three seasons. Suddenly, ratings drop because the Next Big Show goes across from you in the time slots, and you lose your entire audience. The broadcast company thinks they have something to beat it, and needs your time slot. Overnight, they decide you need to cancel your show. Whether you leave it hanging in the hopes it gets picked back up, or give some two-part episode closer, cutting 3/4 of your plan, your artistic vision isn't so much your own anymore. And this decision came from the consumers: they stopped watching your show, so the execs canned it.
Japanese animation companies have faced many reasons their work hasn't met up with the "ideal," whether it be from their own internal decisions, lack of funding, or backlash from the fans. Below, I've listed a few of my own recollection's of this happening. When possible, I've hyperlinked to Amazon where you can buy the series. Most of this is out of my own memory of what happened, and I've referenced online when I can, but if there are any other anime fans here and I've misrepresented a story, kindly note in the comments, and I'll gladly edit the script.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: This seems to mirror Mass Effect the most. For reasons that could fill a whole article on their own, the series ends in a strange way, with many questions being asked. Fans disliked the end, and made it vocal. Eventually, movies were created, including the "End of Evangelion," which was more a "real world" end, as opposed to the more cerebral ending of the original series. It also entails some universal consciousness where every living being in the universe is stitched together into one. Everything I find online about this series shows even more difference of opinions between fans after the movie. Is it an alternate ending? A different viewpoint? What the %$#* was that? This in the end is what sparked this article: what if BioWare tries something different and ends up making people mad still? How many changes will they be required to do to appease all? In a game where choice is king, and everyone wants to see each and every choice they make effect the ending, BioWare could easily make tens, hundreds of endings, all vastly different, and someone's still gonna be pissed.
The Big O /Berserk: For varied reasons, budget or just the desire to sell manga to tell the rest of the story, both of these shows ended in terrible cliffhangers. Berserk took the series to the lowest point, filled a man with the absolute worst rage (the same man who goes on awesome killing sprees every time this happens), shows him get ready to fight, and ends. Big O is like Batman with a giant robot in a town full of mystery. All at once the main character starts talking like he's figuring it out, a battle starts as if to stop him from figuring it out, and the series was over. In America, an ending was so desired that Cartoon Network ended up funding a second season, a definite first for Japanese shows. Last I heard, Berserk may be continued as well. This is where I feel the series needs to go: leave the mysterious ending, do not replace canon, but use creativity and figure out where to go from here. The company has said Mass Effect will have more games, even though some feel that with the current ending it is impossible, as the relays were destroyed. But Big O definitely suprised me, taking me to new places I never thought possible in the original story.
Record of Lodoss War: This one is interesting. As I recall, there was a huge story to tell. While feeling generic right now, Lodoss was one of the originators of the medieval epic style of anime. The story was slated for 13 episodes, when far more story was created. Therefore, the developers made the last few episodes by changing who did what, eliminating a lot of characters by having others complete their storylines, and just made an ending. When the second series was created, the developers simply said the last X number of episodes didn't even happen. A familiar scene started the show, and it went on from there. This is probably where most of the people wanting a Mass Effect change would like it to go: the ending that came originally is completely moot, and you get a fresh start with whatever the ending is "supposed" to be. Sadly, this one is out of print, and from what I understand, in a bit of licensing limbo. Keep an eye online for it to return...some day.
Trigun: My favorite media of all time. The creator was writing the manga at his own pace when the anime came along. He had loads of story to tell, but the anime was on a schedule: shows had to continue coming out. The people behind the show asked for an ending, so he gave one. But when he went along to create the manga, he didn't necessarily follow the same plot. While the world is the same, as well as the general plot, the manga reads completely different from the show. In a fun twist, characters were invented for the TV show that the author liked, but he was past that point in the manga, so he just re-used the characters in completely different scenarios. If you have simply enjoyed one or the other, you owe it to yourself to check out the other one. It's almost backwards from everything else on this list, wherein the author took input from the ones "changing his vision" and modified it into his works.
One American series comes to mind when it comes to modification of a story, yet it's the main reason I hate the series: Alien. Movie 1 ends: We killed the aliens! YaY! We are safe! Movie 2: Wait! We missed one! But let's save these people!...We saved the little girl! YaY! Movie 3: LITTLE GIRL DIED. ALIEN STILL HERE.....Okay, if main character dies, we're done. Throw her into a vat of boiling stuff. Movie 4: HEY HER BODY WAS DISINTEGRATED BUT WE CLONED HER!...and so on..... No matter what you say, those plot points weren't planned. It was "how can we get another movie out of a happy ending?"
So Mass Effect 3 isn't the first artistic vision to get attacked, either via fans or the almighty dollar. I personally side with the "don't change the end" people, but it's going to happen. Which way, though? How do YOU want the end to be? And when will it stop? If there's still someone mad, will BioWare go back? Is someone going to start suing RockStar for John Marston's end? Perhaps I'll find the owners of the license and sue for that crackpot telling Virginia there really was a Santa Claus. I mean, come on already...