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->''"This was a happy story. But... it could still be a whole lot happier..."''
-->-- '''Kubo''', ''WesternAnimation/KuboAndTheTwoStrings''
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Victory, at last! The BigBad has been vanquished, the day has been saved, all the [[DamselInDistress damsels in distress]] and {{innocent bystander}}s have been rescued and the heroes are ready to [[StandardHeroReward reap their reward]], kiss their LoveInterests and [[RidingIntoTheSunset walk away toward the setting sun]]...

...victory, really? Then why does no one feel like cheering? Why is the atmosphere so heavy with melancholy? Why do you [[{{Denouement}} find yourself counting your losses as well as your gains]]?

Somewhere between the HappilyEverAfter and the DownerEnding, the Bittersweet Ending happens when victory came at a harsh price, when, for whatever reason, the heroes cannot fully enjoy the reward of their actions, when some irrevocable loss has happened during the course of the events, and nothing will ever be the same again. A Bittersweet Ending is still ending on a high note, but one that is mixed with sadness and nostalgia. Often, such endings are the result of the plot making a completely happy ending impossible. (Looked at objectively, some {{Happy Ending}}s have more things lost or irrevocably broken than some Bittersweet Endings. This trope relies more on the mood than on such objective weighing of matters.)

Some specific cases of Bittersweet Endings are:
* DidNotGetTheGirl: When the OfficialCouple is [[BreakHisHeartToSaveHim broken for the right cause]].
* When the hero [[TheGreatestStoryNeverTold fades into obscurity]], gaining nothing in exchange for everything they sacrificed.
* EndOfAnAge: When an irrevocable loss happens, which removes the innocence of the hero or of the world forever.
* BittersweetSeventeen: An ending of childhood, but a developing of selfhood age seventeen.
* [[PyrrhicVictory When the victory is only achieved]] at the [[HeroicSacrifice sacrifice]] of people dear to the heroes ([[TheHeroDies if not the heroes themselves]]) -- or perhaps was [[SenselessSacrifice attempted to be won at this cost]], and the heroes had to soldier on to victory without any benefit from it.
* When OnlyTheLeadsGetAHappyEnding, and everyone else is still in a state of despair.
* The [[KarmaHoudini bad guys get away now]], but their current plans have fallen through. The heroes will have to face them again, and they know it.
* The good guys feel unsatisfied and uneasy because they feel that they [[IdiotBall put on a poor showing]] and won by dumb luck.
* The good guys accomplish what they set out to do, but at the price of [[WhatTheHellHero compromising their integrity]] to win.
* Some endings include the heroes [[IDidWhatIHadToDo lamenting to the effect that they had no choice but to use violence or take life]] in order to get the job done.
* The protagonist or protagonists are the [[SoleSurvivor only ones left alive at the end]]. [[KillEmAll Even the likeable guest or supporting characters get mercilessly killed]].
* And occasionally, you ''will'' get a [[PlayedStraight straight up]] HappilyEverAfter, but then the story will ''keep going'', which leads to the [[KillEmAll inevitable conclusion of all the characters dying]].

Bittersweet Endings can fall on either end of the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism. They come up frequently in HighFantasy, for obvious reasons -- an epic that ends with the hero triumphing over the ultimate BigBad and bringing peace and prosperity to the land, but at the same time defeating the ultimate BigBad does not always come without sacrifices, whether be most or all of the characters dying in the end or the characters are at a loss about [[SoWhatDoWeDoNow what to do now]]. Sometimes these are worlds and stories where you can EarnYourHappyEnding, though it won't be ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin.
Also shows where too many romantic interests are introduced for one hero are doomed to end in this way or with NoRomanticResolution, since painless resolution is mostly impossible.

Sometimes the story's {{A|nAesop}}esop requires a bittersweet ending in order to be effective. For certain issues, this is [[SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped the only way]] to get the point across without the effect being undermined by other tropes such as the EverybodyLaughsEnding.

In short, if the characters are worse off than when they started, it's a DownerEnding. If they're better off (or at least status quo is preserved), but the work still ends on a melancholy note, it's a Bittersweet Ending. Another way to think of it is that if the story's main conflict is resolved in favor of the protagonists, but at great sacrifice, it's a Bittersweet Ending. A DownerEnding requires the heroes to fail, and the conflict resolving with nothing good happening in the end, if it's even resolved at all.

Prone to {{Meaningful Funeral}}s, {{Wartime Wedding}}s, and ToAbsentFriends, and having BabiesEverAfter and SomeoneToRememberHimBy result in DeadGuyJunior.

Compare with PyrrhicVictory, where the day is carried, but the cost of winning is crippling to the victors.

Contrast with RayOfHopeEnding, where the villain prevails but not all is lost. Also with EsotericHappyEnding, where the author clearly ''meant'' it to be joyful, beautiful and uplifting... but the readers don't see it that way.

[[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgment Please be careful in adding any real life examples]].

Note that as an ending trope, the following entries are riddled with unmarked '''spoilers'''.


* BittersweetEnding/{{Anime}}
* BittersweetEnding/ComicBooks
* BittersweetEnding/FanWorks
* BittersweetEnding/AnimatedFilms
* BittersweetEnding/LiveActionFilms
* BittersweetEnding/{{Literature}}
* BittersweetEnding/LiveActionTV
* BittersweetEnding/{{Music}}
* BittersweetEnding/{{Mythology}}
* BittersweetEnding/{{Roleplay}}
* BittersweetEnding/TabletopGames
* BittersweetEnding/{{Theater}}
* BittersweetEnding/VideoGames
* BittersweetEnding/VisualNovels
* BittersweetEnding/WebAnimation
* BittersweetEnding/WebComics
* BittersweetEnding/WebOriginal
* BittersweetEnding/WesternAnimation
** ''BittersweetEnding/GravityFalls''
* BittersweetEnding/RealLife

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* A match seven years in the making ([[SevenYearRule pretty much unheard of in wrestling]]) was "wrestled" at ''WWC Aniversario 2011'', The Universal Champion Wrestling/{{Carlito| Colon}} Caribbean Cool taking on the main he'd been teased as too scared to fight, Abyss, in a monster's ball. Carlito won but was left lying prone after Abyss put him through a steel chair with a choke slam.