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->''"Salvation is born of sacrifice -- miracles of misery."''
-->-- '''Orphan''', ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII''
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Victory, at last! The BigBad has been vanquished, the day has been saved, the [[DistressedDamsel 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 [[BreakHerHeartToSaveHer 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.
* [[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 know it.
* 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 are frequent in stories on the cynical end of the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism. They also work well when the characters are at a loss about [[SoWhatDoWeDoNow what to do now]]. They come up frequently in HighFantasy, for obvious reasons -- an epic that ended with evil winning would usually mean the end of the world, and the mother of all {{Downer Ending}}s, but at the same time defeating the ultimate BigBad without paying some kind of price would be awfully unsatisfying. 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.

In short, if the characters are worse off than when they started, it's a {{Downer Ending}}. If they're better off, 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}}, and a {{Downer Ending}} requires the heroes to fail, and the conflict to be resolved in the favor of the antagonists.

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

Contrast with RayOfHopeEnding, where the villain prevails but not all is lost.

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

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

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!!Examples:

[[index]]
* 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/RealLife
[[/index]]

[[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.
[[/folder]]

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