There's some debate on what it means, exactly, for a work to be dark, grimdark, and if they're the same thing or not. This trope's creation is an attempt to resolve the doubts. It's also an attempt to take all those works that were mistakenly attributed to Darker and Edgier
(to the point that "Grimdark" redirects to that page, which it shouldn't), and only leave there examples of franchises that took a visible turn to the dark, with an emphasis on the "commercial gimmick" aspect of the trope, which is what the trope is actually about.
So, what definitions of "dark" and "grimdark" would fit the common usage best?
"Dark" is about confronting
the horrible things about life. Think Blood Diamond
. Dark is earnest; when there is black humour and sarcasm, it is as a coping mechanism. Dark is straight-faced.
"Grimdark" is about celebrating
the horrible things and gloriously bath in them. Think Repo! The Genetic Opera
. Fun is being had, the author takes some distance from the work, Black Comedy
is only one step away; the expression "tongue in cheek" might be invoked. "So dark I can't take it seriously anymore" and "this is just getting silly
" also come up now and then. I would call that a Refuge In Darkness
; style over substance taken into the horrific direction.
As a rule of thumb, when something horrifying happens and someone
is going to go "that was so cool
", you're faced with a grimdark element.
Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are never grimdark, because evil is systematically portrayed as lame, disgusting, flawed, cowardly, and not at all awesome. They're dark, but they aren't tagged
dark, because the dark parts, while crucial to the plot, aren't what the bulk of the feeling is about; that would be "friendship" and "a sense of wonder and curiosity" for the former, and "the futility of ambition in the face of entropy, the wisdom of humility" "the sense of loss" for the latter.
Evangelion is dark (save for the occasional lavishly-animated carnage). End of Evangelion starts horribly grimdark and then decides we need to go deeper.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
is dark. Hellsing
is dark. Death Note
is grimdark. Both somewhat soberly so.
's Batman films are dark (except for Two-Face's face). Tim Burton
's are grimdark.
Into The Wild
is dark (humbly so, and acknowledges the light). Hobo with a Shotgun
is dark. Fallout3
Jojos Bizarre Adventure
is... a very fabulous
, very energetic
kind of grimdark. The manga at least. The current anime censors and downplays the violence considerably, while sacrificing nothing in action, melodrama, and madness, so I'd say it doesn't even qualify as "dark", just normal shounen-grade violence.
In Princess Mononoke
, the story is generally just dark, it gets grimark whenever the violence and the gore becomes exceedingly unrealistic (anything involving demonic possession, the battle of pigs).
is dark (noir, in fact). GTA is grimdark. Sains Row
is out and out black comedy.
Gangs of New York
Farenheit451 is dark. 1984
The Lord Of The Flies