* The end of the Golden Age Arc from ''Manga/{{Berserk}}''. [[spoiler: After Griffith's capture the Band of the Hawk is driven out of Midland and hunted as fugitives. Guts returns a year later and it seems that with his help they may be able to rescue Griffith and restore the Hawk's glory. They succeed, but Griffith is warped from torture and uses his behelit to initiate The Eclipse, which promptly kills the remaining members of the Band of the Hawk. With the exception of Guts, Griffith and Casca, the characters they've spent the entire manga so far building up are offed without much ceremony]].
* The Chapter Black saga from ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'' could be considered an example of this. The characters pull out all the stops, [[PyrrhicVictory sacrificing a great deal in the process]], in order to try and stop Sensui from opening a tunnel to Demon World, only to eventually learn that [[spoiler:A) Sensui's true motive for opening the tunnel was just so he could go to the demon world and find an opponent who could kill him, B) he would have been dead within a month anyway, from a fatal disease, and C) the spirit world's elite soldiers could seal the demon tunnel with [[HardWorkHardlyWorks relatively little effort]].]]
* '' VisualNovel/{{Clannad}}'' After Story, before the ResetButton is hit, shamelessly goes for a shaggy dog shoot, taking the story from sad to abjectly miserable and pointless. Despite this, there are some who think this ending is superior to the True End.
* During the last few episodes of ''Anime/CodeGeass'' [[spoiler:Nunnally's apparent demise was one of the key reasons Lelouch started the [[ZeroApprovalGambit Zero Requiem]], [[DespairEventHorizon feeling he has nothing left to live for]]. Guess who shows up to oppose him not long after he's in too deep to turn back?]]
** [[spoiler:Even though the end result is world peace, it comes at the expense of the destruction caused during the Zero Requiem, which, again, could have been averted had it not been for the above case. Not to mention that the resulting peace will not last more likely than not, and at the same time, Lelouch will still be dead, when he would be more useful alive as a leader.]]
* Asano, the UnluckyEverydude from ''TheTwelveKingdoms'' has several of these moments in his plot arc. Despite being an OrdinaryHighSchoolStudent trapped in another world, he is ultimately ineffectual in doing any good for himself or for his friends, and he eventually becomes a patsy of the BigBad. Just when it looks as though he's about to redeem himself by performing a vital, heroic mission for the good guys, he gets intercepted by the villains, who kill him in spite of his being armed with a gun, while they only have primitive weapons. To further rub salt into the wound, Asano, before he dies, learns that his mission was completely unnecessary, since reinforcements were ''already'' coming to help the good guys.
** Considering Asano wasn't part of the original book (and neither was his female counterpart) and the only reason for him to be there is to externalize Yoko's inner TomatoInTheMirror conflicts in the medial transition, this is hardly surprising.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' (particularly its supplemental film ''The End Of Evangelion'') is a borderline case: [[spoiler:after Instrumentality/Third Impact, the Earth is left in ruins and everyone besides Shinji and Asuka is reduced to "primordial soup" with the choice to recreate themselves if desired (meaning that the whole plot caused more harm than good for everyone who would rather not live as part of a puddle of Tang).]]
** In ''Anime/RebuildOfEvangelion'', [[spoiler:the third movie is this compared to ''1.0'' and ''2.0''. To sum it up: everything that happened in the prior two movies has been rendered moot because Shinji triggered Third Impact. It becomes clear throughout the movie that everything Shinji does to try to make things better ends up backfiring and making things worse for everyone, [[TraumaCongaLine usually through no fault of his own]]. Little wonder he's in an AngstComa by the end. The final movie will determine whether things will stay as they are.]]
* A lot of the more [[BrokenBase critical fans]] consider the ending of [[TengenToppaGurrenLagann Gurren Lagann]] to be this, stating that [[spoiler: Nia's death]] seemed to [[BrokenAesop violate the show's theme]] of [[ScrewDestiny defying the odds through sheer determination]], [[spoiler: especially after everything Simon went through to both restore her true self and get her back]].
* ''{{Narutaru}}'''s anime adaptation. Most of the cast goes insane and dies in a generally unsatisfying fashion, except for the [[BreakTheCutie main character]] and the vaguely established villains, who vanish off the face of the earth around episode 10. Most of the plot points are LeftHanging, and noone seems to care much. The description that 'nothing much has happened except that a few ineffectual people has died' fits the story like a glove, although this is because the anime only covers the first half of the manga, cutting off right before things start to get ''really'' bad. The manga, incidentally, may also count as this.
* ''VisualNovel/SchoolDays''. After spending ten episodes acting like a complete jerk and taking advantage of [[IdiotPlot the complete idiocy]] that seems to affect the entirety of the school, Makoto is [[spoiler:stabbed to death by his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sekai, and then his corpse is decapitated by his girlfriend Kotonoha, who proceeds to murder (and cut up) Sekai and runs away, taking Makoto's head with her.]] Life at the school goes on, unaffected by the lunacy that just transpired.
* The whole Fallen One arc in ''Manga/DGrayman'' is one of these. Allen encounters another Exorcist, Suman Dark, who has betrayed his [[EmpathicWeapon Innocence]] by betraying the Black Order to a villain, and has been turned into a [[OneWingedAngel giant angelic torso-looking thing]]. Allen struggles to save Suman while he attacks mindlessly, killing a lot of innocent people. Allen finally manages to hold Suman back by over-activating his own Innocence, and he manages to pull Suman out of the monster... [[spoiler:only for him to find that Suman has lost his soul anyway. Turns out Allen hadn't succeeded; Suman's Innocence basically timed out. Then, just to make things worse, Suman explodes in a fountain of blood, thanks to the sudden appearance of the villain from whom he begged for mercy in the first place.]]
** [[spoiler:Who then destroys Allen's left arm, punches a hole in his heart and leaves him for dead, because the arc just wasn't cruel enough as it was. Really, the only good things to come out of the arc is that Tincampy manages to escape with Suman's Innocence, and the destruction of Allen's arm eventually leads to him receiving a NextTierPowerUp.]]
* ''{{Gilgamesh}}'' ends with the deaths of [[spoiler:the entire main cast against the villains, followed rapidly by all life on Earth getting wiped clean by a being who intended to reform the Earth afterwards, but is killed before it can recreate it.]]
* ''ChronoCrusade'' (anime only), also a definitive example of a DownerEnding, ends with [[spoiler:the main cast either dead or broken. None of the heroes' goals were met, and the villain succeeded in all his plans, with his "death" only being a temporary setback. If anything, the world would have been better off if the heroes had NOT been around.]]
* The first season arcs of ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry'' are all like this; the audience are treated to several versions of the local TrueCompanions going AxCrazy and murdering each other in various gruesome fashions, only for the GroundhogDayLoop to kick in and the whole tragedy repeated in a slightly different manner. The last arc seemingly subverts this, as Keiichi remembers one of the other realities and talks Rena down from her attempted mass murder/suicide... Only for Rika to get murdered anyway later, and the whole town wiped out by the volcanic eruption. Again.
** Also from ''Higurashi'', "Plan 34". A plan to kill thousands of innocent people in order to prevent a disease from causing a ZombieApocalypse scenario is initially presented in the anime as evil, but better than the alternative. Then, the manga arc ''Onisarashi-hen'' shows that after the plan was carried out, [[spoiler:infections started breaking out all over Japan anyways, due to people who had once lived in Hinamizawa but had moved away or were out of town at the time of the massacre]]. And ''then'', because ''Higurashi'' '''really''' loves kicking you when you're down, it shows that [[spoiler:the infection isn't as contagious as first thought and dies out on its own, demonstrating that the Plan 34 massacre was entirely unnecessary, and that the perpetrators were horribly misguided at best, or willing to intentionally kill thousands of innocents for political gain at worst]]. Isn't ''Higurashi'' wonderful?
*** It's even worse. [[spoiler:The trigger for Hinamizawa Syndrome isn't distance from Rika, which the villains originally suspected; it's actually just extreme stress. In that case, their whole plan to wipe out the village through Plan 34 actually CAUSED the outbreaks in Onisarashi-hen.]]
** ''VisualNovel/UminekoWhenTheyCry'' does it in a similar manner. One example is a pair of climatic fights in the 4th arc, where the protagonists were about to win.
** And all the Rikas get to become Umineko's FallenHero BigBad as well, starting the cycle of death all over again for another group of people! Because [[YouBastard she knows you want more.]]
* ''Anime/HellGirl'' Negoro Tetsurou's story is a mild version of this, played mostly for laughs.
* OsamuTezuka's ''Manga/ApollosSong'' manga fulfills the "Don't just have the protagonist die an agonizing death, trap him in a grim cycle of reincarnation and make him [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption a failure in every incarnation]]" point of this trope to a T.
* ''TokyoBabylon'', particularly when the continuation provided by ''{{X1999}}'' is added in. After spending the series waiting to see if Subaru can inspire any actual feelings of love in him, and just when Subaru has realized his feelings for Seishiro, Seishiro decides that... no, he doesn't care about Subaru. So he tortures him, tries to kill him, and does kill his sister, leaving Subaru permanently broken with the heart's desire that one day Seishiro will kill him too. Except that when he tries to let that happen, he ends up killing Seishiro instead. And then he becomes the Sakurazukamori in Seishiro's place.
* The anime adaptation of ''Requiem'' (marketed as ''Anal Sanctuary'' in the United States) has Yukina being presented with Cecilia, an angelic violin capable of opposing Cannone, the demonic violin that has driven Akio to...ahem...enslaving the female student body of St. Cecilia academy. Immediately after we see Cecilia, cut to a scene of Yukina and the priestess who presented the violin in captivity, about to be raped by Akio's possessed students, and Akio in possession of Cecilia. Everyone gets ruined, mission failed, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 pints of [[NauseaFuel shit]].
* ''The Fox of Chironuppu.''
* ''ChirinNoSuzu''.
* The ending of ''{{Texhnolyze}}'' results in [[KillEmAll the death of everyone on the surface, just about everyone in Lux, and every main and supporting character who ever appeared]]. The survivors get turned into what essentially amount to sentient, cybernetic trees. Naturally, the protagonists are completely ineffectual in stopping any of this; if anything, they make things worse.
* ''{{Kurokami}}'' ends with most of the cast dead and when everybody expects a happy life for the main protagonists, it's revealed that the curse is not lifted, and requires a sacrifice to save humanity which will nullify all the reasons why they were fighting. And even after that sacrifice, one genius concludes that it does not matter much since many other curses still exist so getting rid of one was not a big deal.
* ''Anime/LostUniverse'' pretty much ends this way depending on how you interpret the CutShort ending was supposed to turn out. Protagonists die while fighting with the BigBad. But too bad, there are a few baddies left and now there are no people who have the abilities to defeat them if they show up.
* YMMV since the ending was pretty ambiguous, but ''Anime/WolfsRain'' [[spoiler:finishes with pretty much the entire cast dying within the last couple of episodes, and they never reach the Paradise they're looking for. In fact, the only thing they manage to do is stop ''somebody else'' from getting to it; it's pretty disheartening when the entire 30 episode show was about getting there. It's kept from being a DownerEnding]] by implying that they've been reincarnated, or have been put back in the human world, or... well, something, but seeing as they were there anyway, it definitely counts.
* Creator/OhGreat wrote a self-contained arc in his H-Series ''Silky Whip Extreme'' called ''Junk Story'', that is a pretty damn grim version of this trope. To Wit: The plot is that, 100 years before the story began, A super-powerful military robot called Gatt fell in love with a woman named Mariko. By being denied Mariko, Gatt took revenge on all of humanity, destroying most of civilization and forcing humans to live in fear. The first 3 issues are Mariko, revived as an immortal cyborg, teaming up with a gun-runner to try and destroy Gatt. Only, it's revealed in the last two issues that all of this was pointless; [[spoiler:The world government has ''deliberately'' allowed Gatt to keep rampaging for a century, as even though they have cyborgs vastly more powerful than him, leaving humanity in fear of an external monster foe makes them easier to control. The end of the series involves Mariko being captured by Caligula, a powerful AxCrazy cyborg employed by the government, the Gunrunner-Turned-Love-Interest getting killed off, and Mariko being forced to become Caligula's personal sex slave]]. Not only does the ending completely invalidate every plot development brought up until that point, but it brings up even MORE questions that will never be answered.
* While the overall series is not so grim, the 18th episode of ''ScrappedPrincess'' ends with [[spoiler:Furet]] getting killed in order to prevent Pacifica and the others from getting captured, only to have them get captured five minutes later anyway.
* ''LightNovel/{{Katanagatari}}'' combines a horrendous character mortality rate with an epilogue that states the ThanatosGambit that caused everything seems to have had no effect whatsoever.
** However, it's not particularly depressing, since no living people actually cared about the plan one way or the other. From the little we saw of him, it's questionable whether even Shikizaki Kiki cared about it.
* In ''Manga/{{Bakuman}}'', "Classroom of Truth," a work submitted for the main characters to judge, ends this way. The characters are put into a survival tournament to escape their classroom, and [[KillEmAll all of them die]]. [[TheHeroDies Even the main character]] gets chased down and eaten by a doppelganger. Mashiro and Takagi note that it is the opposite of the typical Jump manga that value hard work and friendship, but having the main character die in spite of his efforts doesn't work.
* Part VII of ''JoJosBizarreAdventure'' features Gyro Zepelli, an executioner who took pity on a young boy who, in a bad case of "wrong place wrong time", was sentenced to die. He pleads with the king of Italy to spare his life. The king says that he will give the boy amnesty if he completes the Steel Ball Run, a horse race in the United States. [[spoiler:Gyro dies before completing it, but the boy was granted amnesty shortly after the events of the story arc following the collapse of the monarchy.....only to die of illness shortly thereafter.]]
* ''Manga/DeathNote'' in every adaptation sees the deaths of [[spoiler:all major characters and many supporting ones,]] and leaves no implication that the [[spoiler:world is a better place for any losses or sacrifices]]. If Ryuk's statement about CessationOfExistence is an AuthorTract, this can't be anything but a ShootTheShaggyDog story; negative gain for everyone would be the only possible outcome.
** To be fair there was one character who achieved all his goals and changed the world in the way he wanted - [[spoiler:Near.]] And, debatably, [[spoiler:L ultimately achieves his goals in every version, even if he dies]] in the process.
** It being [[spoiler:[[KarmaHoudini Near]]]] who gets what he wants, though...
* The Impel Down/Marineford arc of ''Manga/OnePiece''. [[spoiler:Luffy breaks into the most secure prison in the world, makes grudging allegiances with SEVERAL old enemies in the process, undergoes incredible punishment and nearly dies from poisoning...all to save his brother Ace from being executed. It's said that he's sacrificing his lifespan again and again with near-constant uses of Gear Second, plus the treatment Ivankov gives him for the poisons. He then breaks OUT, makes it to the execution, reaches the platform against ALL odds with help from newfound friends, and ACTUALLY SUCCEEDS IN FREEING HIS BROTHER. After all that...it's some choice petty insults from Admiral Akainu that goad Ace into a fight when he and Luffy are about to escape, leading to Ace getting killed by taking a magma fist intended for Luffy. It's the first real time in One Piece where the protagonist DOESN'T accomplish his goal.]]
** But he does [[spoiler:[[NiceJobBreakingItHero cause enough chaos in Impel Down which makes it easier for Blackbeard to fulfill his objective of recruiting level six criminals.]] As seen when he initially met Magellan, Blackbeard [[CurbStompBattle was no match for him]] and he only survived because Shiryuu saved him. Why was Shiryuu was out of his cell in the first place? Magellan was busy dealing with Luffy and hoped Shiryuu would help against Blackbeard.]]
** [[spoiler:[[SarcasmMode Oh that's comforting,]] [[NiceJobBreakingItHero Luffy's efforts to save his brother inadvertently helped the guy responsible for his capture in the first place.]]]]
** A villainous example happens in the Fishman Island Arc: [[spoiler:Hody Jones is an extremely racist Fishman who uses energy steroids to gain the power to take over the island and eventually of mankind. He had also murdered the reigning queen of the time and frame it on a human in order to make sure he'd have a loyal following of like-minded thinkers. After going through massive beatings from Luffy, he is defeated and the truth of the steroids is revealed. It turns out they're a special candy of the royal kingdom that accelerates the aging process, to which he and his men had overdosed on; leading them to become extremely elderly men. Even if he did manage to defeat Luffy, which is very slim, seeing how he was effortlessly beaten, he'd be too fragile and weak to achieve his ambitions. Also having admitted to his direct hand in the murder, as well as his abuse of literally every single major life in the kingdom, has made sure he's not going to paroled or jail-breaked from his imprisonment anytime soon]].
* ''LightNovel/FateZero'' ends like this, which shouldn't surprise anyone who is familiar with ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'', given that ''Zero'' is the prequel and [[DoomedByCanon sets up the scenario]] for ''Stay Night'', but the details are [[TearJerker heart wrenching]]. [[spoiler:At the end, Kiritsugu is forced to destroy the Grail which he had banked all his hopes on because it had become corrupted. His wife is dead, he will never see his daughter again, and [[DoomedProtagonist he has only a few years to live]]. Sakura is still with the Matou. Saber still blames herself for the destruction of her kingdom. Worst of all, the two major villains survive. The one ray of hope that keeps this from being the worst DownerEnding of all time is that Shirou has taken up Kiritsugu's ideal and will eventually make things better.]]
* ''Manga/{{Shiki}}'' ends with about 90% of the cast getting killed off in horrific, pointless ways, and then [[spoiler:the village of Sotoba, which most of the remaining living humans sacrificed their sanity to protect from the vampires, ends up burning to the ground. Oh, and the only vampire who survives is the one who engineered the entire thing.]]
* ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' does this with [[spoiler:Mami's [[DroppedABridgeOnHim unceremonious beheading]] (shortly after Madoka decides to team up with her)]] and ''narrowly'' averts it in the ending. [[spoiler:After several episodes of ruining Sayaka's life and one episode of sending both her and Kyouko to the grave along with Mami, Homura is about five seconds away from becoming a witch and allowing Walpurgis to destroy the city; but then Madoka appears and uses her amped-up wish to undo most of the damage. Without this last-minute intervention, Kyubey--the BigBad--would have been the only survivor.]] Yet, like Clannad, some people dislike this ending because it wasn't the comprehensively tragic one they were expecting.
** [[spoiler:It gets worse in ''[[PuellaMagiMadokaMagicaTheMovieRebellion The Rebellion Story]]'': because Homura mentioned to Kyubey how the universe operated before Madoka changed everything, Kyubey sets up an elaborate plan to lure out Madoka, who had become a goddess, so he can use her power for his own use. In the end, it wasn't Kyubey that ultimately made Madoka's sacrifice moot, but '''''Homura''''', who stole Madoka's power, becoming a demon who rules over a new universe where everything is as she sees fit.]]
* Faust's backstory from ''Manga/ShamanKing''. He fell in love with a girl with an incurable disease, and spent 20 years developing a cure. When he did, they finally got married and moved into their new home...where she was promptly killed by a burglar.
* ''NowAndThenHereAndThere'' starts with a happy-go-lucky boy named Shu who meets a ReiAyanamiExpy named Lala-ru. Suddenly she's captured by a viciously insane dictator time-traveling from the barren, war-torn distant future, along with Shu, who vows to save her from this hell. [[spoiler:She can control water with a pendant around her neck...at the cost of her life. After she uses her water to defeat the dictator and bring water to the parched future, the two share one last sunset together before she fades out of existence.]]
* ''Ousama Game'', [[spoiler: all of Nobuaki's often desperate and extreme efforts to stop the Ousama Game and keep everyone alive are futile. He doesn't manage to save anybody, and the one person he does manage to keep alive, his girlfriend, dies minutes afterward anyway from something practically unrelated.]]
* In an episode of [[OddlyNamedSequel Slayers NEXT]], the second season of the ''[[LightNovel/{{Slayers}} Slayers anime]]'', Lina and party team up with an eccentric [[TheDragonslayer lake dragon-hunter and chef]] in hopes of preparing the legendary Dragon Cuisine. After much trial and effort, they catch and slay a huge [[StockNessMonster Lake Dragon]] and Lina eagerly starts getting ready for the meal, only to be told that lake dragon flesh is intensely poisonous and so even the least complicated meal will take weeks of treating to leach out the toxins before it can be consumed. Much to her dismay, the rest of the party drag her away, leaving the chef happily getting started on the year-long process to make the complete Dragon Cuisine course.