I watched this fairly obscure 80s OAV awhile back by the name of California Crisis. It played like one of those scummy low-budget flicks you’d see on USA Up All Night back in the early 90s, minus Gilbert Gottfried yelling at you during commercial breaks, and for that I really dug it. An alien object lands on Earth, the Americans and the Russians want it, and a civilian dude and a skanky girl with an animal sidekick get caught up in the middle of it. Lots of gratuitous, low-budget action and music got thrown into the mix, and everything cumulated out in the barren Californian desert the same way any other 80s no budget movie that couldn’t afford things like “sets” had a way of resolving. It was seriously like someone took one of the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes sequels and animated it using an even smaller budget.
All that nostalgic nonsense aside, I really love the ending of this OAV. It goes through the process of hyping up this alien object, making us wonder why everyone is willing to kill for it and making us question whether it’s some powerful artifact or whatever, only to have the damn thing break at the very end of the OAV. After a big chase through some canyons, the orb falls into a pool of water, cracks, and whatever was inside of it (if anything) has leaked out. All we’re left with is the two main character staring at the orb while helicopters can be heard in the distance. We never find out what’s up with the orb. Hell, we never find out what happens to the main characters, unless you count the end credits showing them driving off in separate directions. As far as we know, those helicopters that we heard at the end of the OAV came by, took those two away to a “secure location,” and they were ever seen again.
All in all, to use the internet kiddie vernacular, California Crisis had a “bad end.” Not only does it end badly, but it has a thoroughly anticlimactic ending. But this isn’t the sort of ending that ruins the preceding stuff. Rather, this is the sort of anticlimactic ending that helps cap off the story in a way that hammers home some sort of message, with that message in this case being the inherent absurdity of the actions everyone went through to protect or obtain the orb. No one knew it was important outside of vague “feelings” that it had purpose, yet people were willing to risk their lives and/or kill others to make sure they had their way with the orb. By having the orb fall and break without telling us a damn thing about it makes you look back at everything that’s happened up to that point and laugh at it (For different reasons from which you were laughing at it before, in this case at least.).
I love anticlimactic endings like this. Occult Academy, for the most part, has been doing an awesome job of utilizing the anticlimax as well. Seeing that Japanese Velma had her glasses on her head the whole time is the same sort of resolution. It takes an inherently absurd situation that’s being played straight-faced and points out its inherent absurdity without really drawing attention to said absurdity. There’s no one jumping up and down yelling “OMG isn’t this SO STUPID! Laugh now!” or anything like that, but it’s a subtle cue to let you know that you shouldn’t be taking all of this shit seriously.
My favorite thing in the world, Aeon Flux, was all but based around the Anticlimax. The original short that was serialized on Liquid Television had a similar kind of ending. In that story, Aeon was trying to infiltrate a building and assassinate the main villain of the story, Trevor Goodchild. She fights through waves of soldiers, squirming through traps, and basically does a whole bunch of shit that proves she’s a total badass that can’t be stopped. Once she reaches the window outside of Trevor’s domicile, Aeon ends up stepping on a randomly placed tack, which causes her to lose her footing and plummet to her death. The End. While the torrents of blood, hypersexualized actions, and all of the other weirdness should have let you in on the fact that this was hardly a serious affair (Aeon kills so many dudes in one room that the fight leaves about a foot’s worth of blood on the floor. It’s a beautiful sight.), the ending hammers in the idea that this is all a big joke. An awesomely action-packed joke, but a joke none the less.
It’s funny how seeing people not get what they want in the end gives me what I want in the end.