Looking back at the anime that concluded in Winter of 2009, I have to say that I was quite satisfied with how all of the shows I watched had finished. I did not watch every anime that came out, but out of those I did, I felt there was a general trend of decent to great endings.
A funny thing about anime is that it has the reputation of giving the viewer incredibly good endings and incredibly bad ones, and often times fans can’t even agree on which endings are which. I could come up with a variety of hypotheses as to why people so vehemently disagree on the quality of certain conclusions (or lack thereof), but it really all comes down to personal experience, personal experience that says, for example, whether wrapping everything up by the end is a Good Thing, or if it would be better to leave some things open or to the imagination.
I think the mixed reputation for Anime Endings has very much to do with anime shows actually ending in the first place. I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing, but one of the oft-touted qualities of anime that got fans choosing it over cartoons and TV shows in their own countries was that anime tended to have endings which built upon events which occurred in previous episodes. Of course, as the general level of writing in TV shows has improved over the years there’s less of a discrepancy, but anime seems to rarely get canned outright with no warning to the writers and staff the way American TV shows do. The trend instead seems to be that if a show is getting canceled, the anime staff is told in advance so that they may try to cobble together something to finish the series off with, be it a cliffhanger ending or even the Ideon TV series’ Narrator Exposition Ending (it has to be seen to truly be experienced).
What makes a good ending? Something that says your viewing experience was worthwhile.