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Cerebus Syndrome: Anime and Manga
Examples of Japanese animated works getting progressively more serious.

  • RoboticsNotes started out as a pretty light hearted series about a Robotics club trying to get members to build a Giant Robot for a contest, though did have some drama here and there. Then the second season rolled in with Misaki getting injured curing Guns Pro-2 test run and Shizuka's death, and things got dark real fast
  • While Psycho-Pass was already a somewhat dark show, Makishima Shougou's introduction and the Downer Ending in "Saint's Supper", the eleventh episode took things to a whole new level.
  • Shin Sekai Yori: Two words Queer-Rat Rebellion with heaps of Killed Off for Real
  • Fairy Tail underwent a gradual escalation, with each Story Arc becoming more personal, with higher stakes than the last. Character Development in series format, as it were.
  • Dragon Ball was originally a comedic version of Journey to the West. The villains were largely silly, like Emperor Pilaf and Commander Red, but then Krillin got killed by a monster (he got better). The monster was Tambourine, a minion of the Demon King Piccolo, who wanted eternal life, and after this arc and the Piccolo Jr. arc, the comedic elements slowly decreased. This quickly became evident when Raditz, Goku's older brother, came and told Goku that he was an alien from another planet who was supposed to kill everyone on Earth. Toei, the company in charge of the Dragon Ball anime, decided then and there to end Dragon Ball and rename it Dragon Ball Z, starting with the arrival of Raditz.
    • The Buu saga drifted somewhere to the middle and the 2008 Jump Tour special had a heavy emphasis on comedy over action, which many fans seemed to find rather refreshing.
    • Toriyama was aware of this effect to some degree. He introduced the Ginyu Force just to relieve some of the tension from the escalating villains (Raditz -> Nappa/Vegeta -> Zarbon/Dodoria -> Frieza). Of course, just because the Ginyu Force are silly to the point of being buffoonish doesn't mean they aren't extremely dangerous.
  • In the series Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, which is mostly a pure comedy in the beginning, but after several chapters (though fewer episodes) it becomes an action series.
  • In general, the Sailor Moon franchise. The later stories and episodes still contained a lot of humor, but when you compare the original Codename: Sailor V manga to the final few episodes of the Sailor Moon anime, it's almost like experiencing two entirely different works.
  • Between CLANNAD and Clannad After Story, this trope takes effect with a vengeance. The former is a lighthearted story about a high school student finding joy in his life, and subsequently helping other find theirs, through the new friendships he makes. It's riddled with Tearjerkers and plenty of feel good moments, but never quite loses its light feeling. Afterstory clings to this for approximately the first half of the run, until its tear jerker to top all tear jerkers. Better yet? It does this TWICE. Between the two, things get horribly dark, horribly depressing, and horribly hopeless, and just when the slightest glimmer of hope shines through the cracks, it's ripped away. Bring tissues.
  • One Piece villains have gotten more serious as the series went on. At first, the villains could be easily defeated with only minor injuries to the heroes (like Buggy). Later on, they could actually defeat the heroes, only to lose in the rematch (like Crocodile). There's also the fact that the series, while still light and soft for the most part, has started to focus on themes such as slavery, racism, political corruption, anarchy, segregation, and moral absolutism. And a later story arc has drawn historical parallels to violent black supremacy groups, the KKK, xenophobic practices of ancient Japan, and Al Qaeda (all at once, mind you). And the subsequent story arcs only accentuate the darker tone.
    • While it dipped in and out of this from time to time, it wasn't until the Impel Down and Marineford arc that the series charged headlong into this trope with the first two major character deaths (in a series where nobody dies outside of flashbacks,) and the post-Time Skip storyline, while still pretty goofy, keeping this dark tone.
  • Kinnikuman Nisei started off as a comedy series parodying Ultraman, but then became a wrestling series with loads of drama, although with very silly characters.
  • The anime adaptation of Trigun has a variation; all the filler is in the beginning, so it begins as a silly series with occasional bouts of action as the "insurance ladies" track down the identity of Vash the Stampede, then slowly come to accept that the goofball they found is a legendary gunman and walking disaster. About halfway through the series, actual plot from the manga starts appearing in consecutive episodes, with Knives sending the Gung-ho Guns, a team of ruthless super-powered fighters after him. Ostensibly they're hired to kill him, but really they're meant to make Vash suffer, which they all succeed in, each in their own way. This changeover is also evident in whether or not Vash manages to successfully keep people from getting killed; he manages it easily for the first half the series, but in the episode where the change hits you get streets littered with the corpses of men, women, and children.
  • CLAMP's Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle started out as a fairly upbeat and child-friendly adventure story, but took a sudden dark turn in the Acid Tokyo arc, almost exactly the halfway point of the series. The arc's post-apocalyptic setting — where Tokyo is a desert and the only rain is acid — pales in comparison to the revelations of treachery and hints of almost unimaginably horrific backstory. The story gets much more despondent and the action gets much bloodier. Some shreds of hope return in the last quarter of the story, but the more serious themes remain. Tsubasa seems be a case of deliberate Cerebus, with the second half essentially deconstructing the first and showing that its happiness and innocence was enabled by darkness lurking behind the scenes. Only adding to the angst is that Syaoran's decision to turn back time so he could save Sakura's life caused the entire multiverse to start decaying. Space-time was altered so much that Acid Tokyo and Clow Country are actually in the same world: the mysterious ruins that Syaoran enjoyed investigating so much were the post-post-apocalyptic ruins of Tokyo.
  • Da Capo literally tells the viewer in a next episode preview halfway through the series that it's about to get serious. And it does.
  • The School Rumble manga jumps from a completely random love comedy to a surprisingly heart-wrenching drama, set off by the revelation that Karasuma is suffering from a Soap Opera Disease.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! began as a light comedy about an inept ten-year old mage teaching a class of 31 Japanese middle school girls with lots of Fanservice. As the arcs progressed, the story became much more action-oriented and fairly serious at times. This was entirely intentional on the part of the author. From the beginning, he wanted to do an action series, but Executive Meddling forced him to hide it behind an Unwanted Harem image. The Genre Shift was his form of Writer Revolt.
  • Witch Hunter Robin started with the "monster of the week" style then shifted gears into plot and drama halfway through.
  • While Bleach included some darker elements from the outset, the early stories are mostly Monster of the Week plots, flavored with Slice of Life and Fish out of Water scenarios, focusing more on characterization than action. Then Tite Kubo finished defining the starting characters and the Soul Society arc kicked the series into high gear. The anime tried to squeeze in elements from the first season whenever possible, seemingly to remind the viewer what show they were watching. For the final arc, all the Shōnen fighting tropes from previous stories seem to be thrown out the window. The day the Vandenreich show up, things get deadly serious. Within twenty chapters, they kill off a named good character (Chojiro Sasakibe) for the very first time, conquer Hueco Mundo, invade Soul Society on a whim, probably kill off Izuru Kira, and introduce As Nodt mind raping everybody then Yhwach killls Yamamoto. And then the Zero Squad shows up when all's said and done.
  • Get Backers starts out as a fairly standard We Help the Helpless series about two teenage guys having dorky misadventures, but the introduction of the other four major characters brings along the revelation that they have incredibly angsty back stories, involving Ginji becoming a crazy sociopath if he's not careful and Ban killing at least two of his friends, and lots of Parental Abandonment. Happily, the pair retain their status as a Weirdness Magnet and are still capable of being incredibly silly at the drop of a hat, so the slide isn't too drastic.
  • Fruits Basket started as a manga with a balance between humor and drama with some physical comedy and some sadder stories about the character's lives. Near the end, story arcs about the true nature of the curse, and Kyo's eventual being locked away predominated.
  • Toradora! starts out mostly comedy with a little drama on the side, gradually sliding the slider from comedy to drama as the arcs go on.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a lot more dreary after the death of Kamina. Everyone from the protagonist to his True Companions to the enviroment itself is depressed.
  • SHUFFLE!'s first half was more on the comedic Slice of Life happenings of an Unwanted Harem, with a Beach Episode to boot. Then along came Nerine, Lycoris' and Primula's Story Arc. Then there's all the drama during both Kaede and Asa's arcs. And the drama between them.
  • GaoGaiGar to GaoGaiGar Final: The light-hearted original series did dip its toe into seriousness every so often, but it was primarily a fun super-robot show. With the release of the OVA Final it goes into darker and edgier territory. By the second episode...One character's lover is killed by what appears to be the cute kid lead of the series, who is himself killed by the main character. Then, said main character is captured by the villains and brainwashed into fighting the good guys. And in the final episode, despite having defeated the Big Bad, all but two members of the main cast are trapped at the other end of the galaxy, dying, and with no foreseeable way to get back to Earth. Nevertheless, the OVA remained true to the series' central theme of courage overcoming opposition throughout - it merely explored some of the more dramatic aspects of fighting a seemingly hopeless battle against a seemingly invincible foe.
  • Detective Conan started as a mystery-themed comedy just like how Gosho Aoyama did with kendo in Yaiba. With time it has developed into a more serious story—which made the animators who guessed too much making a few Schrodingers Cats.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ initially starts out with the old monster of the week routine with plenty of campy slapstick comedy despite the fact that it's not anime. Then episode 18 rolls around and the story starts picking up momentum, and the comic mischief is eventually displaced by more serious content. By the time it becomes anime, the tone of the series becomes something more along the same vein as Zeta Gundam.
  • The first half of Neon Genesis Evangelion, while still dramatic, is actually somewhat light-hearted at times. Then the series slowly shifts to being disturbing and insane. Though it was always rather introspective to begin with, it doesn't quite compare to later half. Not only that, but during the first half, most of the angels - save for #5 Ramiel - were more human or animal-like and laughably weak, compared to the second half - starting with #11 Iruel and #12 Leliel - which started taking new forms and started posing a greater threat physically as well as a new threat psychologically, with three of the remaining five angels actually capable of defeating the Evas and/or killing their pilots. To compare:
  • The Rebuild of Evangelion movies follow this as well. 1.0 and 2.0 are certainly dark and disturbing at times, but still manage to contain a lot of jokes and lighthearted moments. 3.0, by contrast, is completely devoid of any humor and has a massive Downer Ending. It's jarring enough that you almost feel like you're now watching a completely different series.
  • Self-published manga Onani Master Kurosawa (given the Fan Nickname "Fap Note") starts out like a goofy parody of works like Death Note, with the main character having over-the-top monologues and carrying out masturbation-related revenge against some classmates. However, it doesn't take long before it turns more angsty and dramatic with love triangles and themes about coming of age (pun not intended).
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni pulls one of these on purpose. It's part of what makes it great.
    • For the first season at least, the series seems to contract Cerebus Syndrome exactly once an arc, beginning as a typical Unwanted Harem before regularly bringing out the terrors, with progressively less time in between the two, until approximately the second arc of Kai.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Third season, just about one third through. Suddenly there are people actually dying. And then they go back to the alternate world thing and it just gets worse. See also: Yubel. It's worth noting that said dead people do come back.
  • Rosario + Vampire started its slide towards Shounen action series once the Student Police were introduced, and when Ruby was introduced in the Witch's Hill arc it was clear what direction the story was taking. Multi-issue story arcs replaced the Monster of the Week. Then Mizore joined the cast. Once Tsukune Took a Level in Badass thanks to his ghoul powers, the move was complete.
    • The second season continues this as it gradually becomes Darker and Edgier as the series goes on. Though this should be noted as only happening in the manga, in the anime the second season continues to be a Romance Comedy.
  • The infamous School Days starts off as a rather typical bishoujo comedy with a love triangle, but soon plummets into drama, violence, and downright insanity. It has long been notorious for such same elements in its original video game and for its brutal ending paths of which the anime adaptation decided to stay true to. Many unlucky saps fell for the anime who weren't aware of this fact.
  • While it never permanently slipped into this, Keroro Gunsou got some more serious moments as the series progressed. You're watching (or reading) this hilariously cute story with these frogs who never get any invading done. You expect Status Quo Is God to remain in effect forever and nothing bad to ever really happen to the planet, then suddenly the entire planet is put into paralysis by a much more dangerous platoon who has come not only to take over the planet but also to discharge the Keroro Platoon. To add to it, Keroro is in the middle of being de-aged and losing his memory, Giroro gets shot out of the sky by his brother and we don't know if he's alive for a while, and we learn that when a platoon is discharged, the members of it are supposed to separate forever. OUCH.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • The series started out as a wacky comedy about a tough high schooler who dies but gains a chance at returning to life by doing good deeds as a ghost, mining comedy from the fact that Yusuke can't really figure out how to do a "good deed" without being violent, rude, or abrasive. This led to a mostly episodic series of adventures as Yusuke and his guide Botan wandered the city finding people in need of help and playing Clarence to their George Bailey. Then after about 30 chapters of this, Yusuke gets brought back to life, discovers he has superpowers now, and is given a job as a "spirit detective", which basically involves beating up bad guys connected to the afterlife. YYH becomes an action fighting series and the comedic formula is dropped permanently.
    • After becoming Spirit Detective, Yusuke had to do some semblance of actual detective work, tracking down fugitives and recovering magical items they'd stolen rather than just beating them up (though he did that too). Botan was set up as his assistant, providing him with detective tools and passing on his assignments from Koenma. This lasted for exactly one story arc, after which the series shifted into a simpler shonen fighting formula. With a two great big Tournament Arc.
    • After the Chapter Black Arc, in which it is revealed (as hinted at by Hiei and Kurama becoming good guys) that not everything is as cut-and-dried as the previous theme of "Yusuke and Friends vs. Demons" action stories led us believe, the story suddenly becomes extremely character-driven, exploring Yusuke's disconnection with his formerly "normal" existence, Kuwabara's resolve to become something productive, Hiei's finding a new purpose in life, and Kurama resolving his demonic past. This is especially notable in the anime, where the first third of the Three Kings Arc has nearly NO fights, instead being low-key character pieces about Yusuke, Hiei, and Kurama, effectively going through Cerebus Syndrome twice as it evolves from an offbeat comedy to action show, then suddenly to a more character-driven series rather then the less serious and more action-oriented shonen Fighting Series.
  • This does not happen in Ranma 1/2, unless one counts the Ryu Kumon story arc- if anything, the series actually has a reversed form of this, starting out fairly serious (if comedic) and transforming into more or less slapstick plus dramatic moments. The fandom, however, is known for its creation of drama and angst Fan Fiction, evidently based on the fact that a lot of the series' humor does stem from Comedic Sociopathy, "you gotta laugh or else you'll cry" moments, and bits that ring uneasily if you think about it enough. For example, at one point in the manga, Akane demands Ranma throw a fight in the belief that this will reduce his Unwanted Harem. When Ranma refuses, she casually uses a cat to terrify him into obedience, despite knowing how badly they scare him and all about the childhood trauma that made him so afraid of them. Ryoga having No Sense of Direction is quite easy to play for angst, given that Ryoga himself does this in canon.
    • In addition, during the manga, Kuno is implied to make two attempts at raping an unconscious Ranma.
    • Nabiki sells Ranma as a slave to some yakuza to cover a restaurant debt and is surprised he escaped.
    • Gosunkugi makes repeated attempts to mind control Akane or Ranma in a world where magic works.
    • Shampoo has tried to drug Ranma into compliance.
    • Kodachi out right states she knows Ranma doesn't love her, but pretends that he does.
    • Making Kodachi top on the list of most likely Ranma characters to commit suicide.
  • Queen's Blade season 2 is pretty much the Cerebus Syndrome Season, some characters who got eliminated were encased in crystal or are permanently eliminated and in just two episodes, two characters were dead.
  • The best way to describe the Cerebus Syndrome of Hayate the Combat Butler in the last fifty chapters or so (200-250~ when you discount the missing chapters) is that it's started taking itself seriously. Not that it loses the humor entirely, but still. Hello Athena, and hello drama.
    • Of course, once the Athena situation is dealt with, the next mini-arc involves the cast trying to move into an apartment building that's haunted by ghost cats, who possess Izumi and turn her into a catgirl. My neck hurts for some reason...
  • Gakuen Alice started as an upbeat, sparkly shojo tale about a girl discovering she has superpowers (basically) and going to a school with lots of other kids with superpowers. Predictably, wacky hijinks and love triangles ensue. There have always been hints of dark things going on in the background, but the focus was on the humor and warm fuzzies. Then around chapter 90 the series took a nosedive into severe angst.
  • Excel Saga parodies the bejesus out of this in its penultimate episode, in which Excel finally notices that Il Palazzo keeps killing her. Of course this is just serves to throw the last episode ( "Going Way Too Far") into sharper relief.
  • Ouran High School Host Club begins as an Affectionate Parody of shoujo manga, and while it doesn't leave its comedy behind, its storyline has gotten gradually more dramatic as it has gone on — particularly once it lapses out of Comic-Book Time and two of the main characters actually graduate from high school and start attending university. (Early volumes, in contrast, state in the narration that no one will be moving up in grades and the seasonal changes are purely aesthetic.)
  • This starts to happen at the end of Konjiki no Gash!!, mostly in part due to the seriousness of the King Festival (the winner has the power to kill any and all demons he wishes, and Clear Note wants to kill every single one. And he has shown clear intention of wanting to destroy the Earth as well.) Near the start of the arc, though, the author gets out his last hurrah of comedy in one of the most bizarre manga chapters ever written: a dream sequence which involves Sunbeam dressed up as a butterfly, him giving Kiyomaro wings and making them both fly into the sky by madly flapping their arms about, Brago wearing a lion's head for underwear (and nothing else), Sherry tossing tennis balls at Brago (who proceeds to laugh as he swats them around), the teacher's wife's head becoming that of a dog, Victoreem carrying Kid around in a cart (after which Kid pummels Victoreem), both of them slipping on banana peels, Dartagnan dressing up as Professor Riddle and tricking Kid, Dartagnan knocking Kid out with a tranquilizer dart, Dartagnan falling into a pile of crap (only for Reira to give him a rope to grab onto and swing out, only to fall into another pile of crap), Gash, Umagon, Tio, and Kiyomaro dancing dressed up as otters, and everyone wanting to slap him silly.
  • Mai-HiME follows the 'intentional' version of this trope. The first half of the series is generally light and silly, corresponding to the usual Magical Girl series. The same can be said for Mai-Otome.
  • Later volumes of the romantic comedy Ai Kora are less comedic and more dramatic. The twelfth volume is probably the peak of this.
  • Gunbuster and its sequel Diebuster were masters of this. They both had a fairly cheerful if a bit dramatic character drama going up until the magic episode, when everything started going to hell.
  • Soul Eater picks up this trope and takes it home. It started off as a comedic couple of one-shots about a few kids who were Death's apprentices, screwing up while trying to graduate. Cue 70 chapters later and we have (*cough cough* ahem): Mind Rape; actual rape; horrors Up to Eleven (including taking someone, draining them of their blood and then wrapping them up in their own skin to rot for eternity); arguing and trying to resist against the nature of insanity with each of the characters getting closer and closer to their breaking point; deals with the voices in your head; and blood that will tear your mind out. Literally! It started to get Darker and Edgier at the point where Ashura got introduced and it... just kept getting darker. And darker. Aaaand darker...
    • As the series manages to maintain its warped sense of humour and fanservice in many of its darker moments, the Knight of Cerebus in this is undoubtedly Medusa. Asura brings the horror, but he is largely inactive. The meddling of Arachne and Noah pale in comparison to the Complete Monster that is the Gorgon lady.
      • Related to the above, the anime coincides into decay into Cerebus Syndrome with its Mid-Season Twist. Crona and Ragnarok are the first foes that the crew couldn't beat, as well as the first time they are truly shown to be mortal and actually rather vulnerable. After episode 7, Maka in particular became much less comedic and more serious. And it goes From Bad to Worse.
    • This trope seems to be even more in play with it's Spin-Off Soul Eater Not!: it starts out as a pure Slice of Life centered on several lower classmen of Soul Eater's main characters, but then we're introduced to Shaula, Medusa's younger sister. The Slice of Life continues but with a plot that involves mind-controlling innocent bystanders then killing them bubbling beneath the surface, which then collide when Shaula uses her power to make one of the classmates attack the others, then orders her to kill herself.
  • Genshiken starts out as an introspective manga on otaku parody and college life but somewhere along the way it transforms into romance... more romance... and occasional forays into yaoi parody. Cue magazines being ripped to shreds and posted on the internet.
  • Even Kanamemo wasn't immune to this, but not as serious as some examples, as the show goes from complete comedy with minor drama moments to more of a dramedy (the 13th episode does bring back the comedy full force, though).
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross has some of this — starting out as an Affectionate Parody of Mobile Suit Gundam-style shows, the early episodes have quite a bit of humor to them. Then, suddenly, Hikaru is shot down by friendly fire. Then, Roy dies. Then, Kakizaki dies, and Toronto is destroyed. Then, Hikaru is paralyzed by self-doubt. Then Misa is ordered to Earth, where she has a front-row seat to the Earth being nearly annihilated just before the series-ending battle battle marking the midway point of the show. Though the show never got explicitly Grim Dark or went through a genre change, there is a marked change in tone after roughly Episode 16.
  • Future GPX Cyber Formula was originally a typical shonen adventurous/hopeful sport anime with a few good drama parts in it. The show however, gets more dramatic and less comedic as the OVAs were released. The Double-One arc deals with Knight Schumacher/Osamu Sugo's dramatic problems (namely, his eye problems stemming from an incident with Smith in the TV series which nearly rendered him blind), ZERO builds the angst out of Asuka Sugo and Bleed Kaga, SAGA has more dramatic villains (Nagumo in particular) and SIN caps off the series with very little comedy left to it and Kaga's full-blown angst because of his jealousy towards his ex-pupil, Hayato.
  • Now and Then, Here and There: From the majority of the first episode, one could be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of lighthearted adventure in a fantasy future. One would also most definitely be scarred for life from the shock of how wrong that assumption turns out to be.
  • The Fullmetal Alchemist manga somehow managed to be lighthearted and funny for its first few volumes, despite Edward and Alphonse's relatively dark backstory. The story suddenly caught Cerberus Syndrome when Hughes was killed.
    • The episodes in both series involving Nina are their own example of cerebus syndrome, starting out light and harmless, building tension, then leaving the audience in horror and depression by the end.
    • The 2003 anime adaptation intentionally follows this general trajectory; despite the brothers' tragic backstory, the early episodes are generally lighthearted, with only occasional hints of darkness around the periphery. About a quarter of the way through, the show begins to get progressively darker, leading up to a halfway point where Hughes is murdered, much like his manga counterpart above. Oddly enough, from there it somewhat resets itself; the following episodes go back to being somewhat lighthearted, then get gradually darker until, by the end of the series, the story has evolved into outright tragedy.
  • The Golden Boy manga. It starts in a somewhat formulaic way following the happy-go-lucky wanderer Oe Kintaro and his misadventures with attractive women. Then at some point a weird techno-sex cult run by a former childhood friend comes up, Kintaro gets relegated to a side character and the manga gets increasingly wordy with confusing and lengthy arguments about the ills of society, mind control, etc. None of this appears in the anime version, which is far better known.
  • This is a pretty standard formula for Digimon series:
    • Digimon Adventure. While at first it seems like a light hearted comedy/adventure, it becomes increasingly serious after the introduction of Myotismon.
    • Digimon Adventure 02 doesn't start off as light-hearted as the first one...but the first third or so of the series is quite light-hearted with the digidestined enjoying adventures while thwarting the Digimon Emperor and his slaves. Then it becomes a lot more serious once he's defeated and The Man Behind the Man is revealed.
    • Digimon Tamers starts off as a Slice of Life series. Then all of a sudden, some stronger opponents appear to challenge the tamers...then a weird kid, a government agency tries to wipe the digimon out, and that's before they actually go to the digital world!
    • Digimon Frontier starts off rather light-hearted, but then starts to become a lot more serious with the occasional "Fun break" once Grumblemon appears. Heck; the first Big Bad Cherubimon is mentioned briefly during the first couple episodes.
    • Digimon Savers also follows this formula; becoming a bit of a comedy/adventure following DATS acting as a benevolent form of "Digimon police". Then Mercurimon shows up...and the trope really begins to kick in.
  • Love Is In The Bag suddenly shifts its tone significantly by the end of Volume Three, with the revelation of the nature of Kate's "condition".
  • Nerima Daikon Brothers is a cheerful episodic anime musical about three struggling musicians and their pet panda trying to raise money to build a dome to perform in. Then the last four episodes turn into an extended political satire of and attack on the then Japanese Prime Minister's efforts to privatize the Japanese Post Office, complete with a much more dramatic tone, characters turning on each other, and an army of pandas getting brutally beaten up by the Prime Minister's personal guard. It will also make very little sense at all if you don't read the liner notes.
  • The World God Only Knows begins as a comedic manga about a Dating Sim otaku being forced to live through what amounts to a real-world Dating Sim (admittedly, it's on pain of death) in order to exorcise "Runaway Spirits". After the Goddess Diana appears, things start to get darker, with it being revealed that the "Runaway Spirits" are in fact the escaped Demons of Old Hell (called "Weiss") and that Diana and her sisters are necessary to seal them away again. This culminates with perky idol Kanon (who happens to be the host of a Goddess) being stabbed by a member of a terrorist group seeking to revive Old Hell (equivalent to the normal idea of Hell, whereas New Hell is more of a neutral "Underworld"). Then, the Time Travel arc comes along, and things became rather bloody and messy. It still has comedy, but things are certainly getting darker...
  • The first 12 episodes of Revolutionary Girl Utena are pretty lighthearted, despite being weird. It's from episode 13 where things start to turn darker. And weirder.
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun could certainly qualify. The first few episodes follow Mikoto and Kuroko hanging around Tokiwadai and getting into comical trouble somehow, with an action scene or two occasionally thrown in. Then someone starts rigging up aluminum bombs around the city and raging against bullies while listening to somewhat bizarre-sounding music on his MP3 player. From there, it gets more and more serious, eventually culminating in many of the people around Academy City going comatose. Then at the halfway point, it goes From Bad to Worse. It's pretty jarring to going from talking about shaved ice flavors to listening to Harumi talk about how her good-natured job and research culminated in the horrible disfigurement of a bunch of Level 0 orphans who only wanted powers of their own.
  • Fushigi Yuugi started out as a fairly typical shojo romance where a girl gets sucked into another dimension that has a mix of comedic and dramatic parts. But then the second half of the series took a darker turn when Tamahome comes home to find his family brutally murdered, and things got even more worse when more characters started to die.
  • The Kyou Kara Maou anime has self-definition, personal responsibility, and war being bad as themes from the start, but it's generally a very lighthearted and wacky show, with Yuuri showing a certain amount of Medium Awareness, Gunter and Wolfram's lovesick antics being Played for Laughs when they're honestly pretty creepy, slapstick moments, and many humorous resolutions to dramatic situations. Then Yuuri gets summoned by someone other than Ulrike, and the last thing he sees as Conrad sends him home is his godfather's left arm arcing through the air as the church burns and the faceless knights close in...
    • Because he doesn't know quite what went down, he stays relatively lighthearted himself until Conrad reappears as an enemy. He is capable of being distracted and has hilarious hijinks like his sled race with T-chan, and even his angst Heroic BSOD when he sees the Shimaron Knights again involes a tidal wave of tea.
      • Wolfram, on the other hand, enters a hugely intensified phase of his Character Development arc beginning with his Skyward Scream at the burned church, and everybody makes some character progress, even Yozak who didn't really need it. The 'Conrad Arc' does its Cerberus thing. And then the nuclear-bomb allegory plotline begins.
      • The show never actually stops being funny — Mama-chan helps puncture the moment, when nothing else can, although the two notable instances of this in the finale build-up are Crazy Awesome and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming respectively. Still, the level of drama and darkness gets a serious kick somewhere in this arc ( which is also when Murata becomes an active character, contributing both deep depressing info and gags) and never dies down to the previous level again.
    • While all media of this series start in the same place, with the hero being flushed down a toilet into a fantasy world where he's king, the novels get much Darker and Edgier than the anime ever does, ditto the manga, which is adapted independently from the original novels and makes everyone longer and prettier. A few books back, for example, Yuuri mistakenly attacked Wolfram in a dark room and nearly killed him.
      • The manga also makes Wolfram, a lead role in his own right, a more prominent character from the start—instead of just Conrad's necklace after the first visit, for example, Yuuri's also got a brooch Wolfram chose for him, but that was removed partly because it lessened the impact of the necklace, which actually mattered, and because they'd planned out a Character Arc that involved Conrad steadily falling back as his most important Shin Makoku relationship as Yuuri bonds more closely with the others, allowing Wolfram to come into his own in a more meaningful way.
  • To Love-Ru took this one to heart after a Creator Breakdown ended the orignal manga. When the legal problems got solved, it got restarted as To Love-Ru:Darkness which was both Darker and Edgier and Hotter and Sexier.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica started off like a fairly regular magical girl anime that promised sugar, hugs and happiness all around until Mami gets her head bitten off suddenly and very gruesomely at the end of EP 3, gut punching any unaware viewer like so many tons of bricks. The rest of the show only gets worse too.
  • Sakigake!! Otokojuku started as an Affectionate Parody of the shounen genre, with lots of slapstick humor, telling the misadventures of the Otokojuku's 1st Years, and their relationships. Then from the 4th volume onwards, all the story arcs are Tournament Arcs, that enters a Stealth Parody territory of the genre.
  • Naruto receives a shot of Cerebus Syndrome every now and then. At first this show was about the lovable Naruto and his comedic antics with a dark backstory lightly touched upon. Then Team 7 went on their first C-ranked mission a few episodes in and suddenly the stakes are raised to potential death. Then Orochimaru decides to invade the Leaf Village near the end of the Chunin Exams which only had one plotline death (the Third Hokage) but more lives were at stake then before. After the timeskip, Akatsuki takes the role of main antagonists (Orochimaru is put on the side) and they have plans of world domination. They even go so far as to kill Asuma, Shikamaru's sensei, which greatly affects him. The latest dose happens in the Pain arc, where Pain invades the Leaf just like Orochimaru, but actually causes several plotline deaths and devastates the Leaf village even more. Though the characters killed get an Author's Saving Throw via Nagato's sacrifice. Then the Tobi declares war against the world...
  • Tiger & Bunny started out as an Affectionate Parody of the Super Hero genre with rather comedic and harmless villains. Then we're introduced to Lunatic — a Knight Templar who is the first opponent to be treated completely seriously and to kill somebody (though the humour was back when he wasn't around). His appearance was followed by the introduction of Jake Martinez, who defeats a number of heroes one after another while holding the entire city hostage in what can be considered the first truly Wham Arc of the series. Since ep.15, every episode has a serious tone and a good dose of drama; Lunatic's tragic backstory is downright depressing. The comedy never disappears completely, but it takes a back seat to more serious plot points.
  • Believe it or not, Ah! My Goddess is not immune. Its Nifhelm Arc has the group literally going through hell for the purpose of stopping the radicals who usurped Hild to prevent a destructive war between heaven and hell. This is a manga normally best summed up as Slice of Life and Magical Girlfriend, by the way.
  • Ghost Sweeper Mikami gets into the syndrome once Ashtaroth starts getting prominent. However, Shiina never lets this obstruct the original comedic qualities, leading to a pretty fair amount of Mood Whiplash.
  • Haibane Renmei is initially quite cheery and light-hearted, but roughly half-way through shifts into something darker and much more dramatic.
  • Very mild case in Cowboy Bebop.
  • Mawaru-Penguindrum starts as a wacky series about the Takakura brothers's tragicomic attempts to keep their sister alive. By episode 8, we learn that the people involved in this are quite more complex and flawed than they look, but there's still quite a Mood Whiplash. By episode 18, not only more secrets and complexities are revealed (alongside many Freudian Excuses), but one character straight up tries to kill another and almost manages to kill said character and maim another. And by episode 21, after MANY other reveals, shit has hit the fan like whoa.
  • Gosick has a case of this, with the tension and scale of the story underlying each mystery building greater and greater towards the climax, eventually dropping the romantic comedy scenes altogether.
  • Slayers loves this trope, at least in the anime, to the point that you can almost track where you are in the season by it- in the first quarter it's a hilarious episodic comedy about the party's adventures on the road fighting bandit troupes, various amusing monsters, and other random events, with hints of fore-shadowing and plot dropped in, usually for more laughs. At the half-way point, things go darker, with the introduction of the first major enemy, who's usually somewhere on the way to destroying the world. At three-quarters, it's back to comedy, though slightly darker and with a bit more plot than the first quarter. In the last quarter, it's back to the dark stuff, and time to take care of the Big Bad for good.
  • Hoo boy, Magical Project S. Until episode 18 we have an over-the-top fourth wall breaking parody of a Magical Girl series, culminating in a two-parter with a team of evil housewives. Then we get episode 18, which is more of a standard magical girl episode. But the trope really hits in episodes 19 and 20 where the Dark Magical Girl gets utterly broken and the main character has to try and help her. Episode 19's is even entitled "The Magic Fades Away", and episode 20 even has a unique Eye Catch just to demonstrate the sheer gravity of the episode. But after that, the comedic elements appear in the plot again, although this time the show doesn't return to being a parody of magical girl series - it becomes one.
  • The Wandering Son manga started out pretty typical - it had lighthearted moments and mature moments but it wasn't so bad. Once puberty started kicking in more viciously and the characters entered middle school it slowly became less comedic and more angsty, quite intentionally.
  • Narutaru starts off like a reasonably series before quickly becoming a Mind Screw full of horrors. It's a very intentional example.
    • As was the author's next series, Bokurano. It starts off looking like a retreat to '70s and '80s style Super Robot Genre about middle-schoolers saving the world with a giant robot (in terms of overall story - more Genre Savvy viewers quickly noticed the odd lack of comedic antics from the main characters and strangely apathetic and cynical behavior of the scientist that chose them to pilot the robot.) things quickly get worse. In fact, the author is famous for using this trope to deconstruct typical kids' genres of anime. When he announced that his latest work would be about a boy who rides his bike ad loves fishing, many people started to produce ridiculous theories about how the boy's bike would destroy the world.
  • Popotan is in no way only comedic to begin with, but even so its first couple of episodes at least has more laughs than tears. The later ones do not. The biggest example is without a doubt Konami's death in episode 9, which marks the transition from dramedy to regular drama.
  • Happens once in a while in Gintama. The Benizakura, Itou, Yoshiwara, Jiraia, Kabukichou (and other) storylines are way more serious and dramatic than the usual lazy-ass, nose-picking, potty humored regular episodes. Also, any time Takasugi shows up, shit gets serious. And then he goes away, and the series goes back to the normal idiocy. It's also notable that even in the serious stories, the series still maintains a certain level of dorkiness.
  • Dog Days got dramatic towards the end of the first season, with a fight against a massive demon, and the drama around Cinque finally going home. Dog Days', on the other hand, has taken great glee in subverting this whenever possible.
  • This trope was played differently in the Light Novel and Anime version of Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!.
    • The anime gradually becomes more serious as Rikka's past comes into play and her family begins pressing her into accepting the reality of her father's death and putting a load of the responsibility of that on Yuuta.
    • The first volume of the light novel is pretty lighthearted, but the second starts becoming more serious when Rikka accuses Yuuta of being unfaithful and forgetting their contract, before running off. Then she gets kidnapped, and the kidnapper makes Yuuta play a game with Rikka at stake.
  • Medaka Box went through a pretty serious case of this reasonably early on. It starts out as the adventures of Student Council President Kurokami Medaka, her best friend Zenkichi and the rest of the Student Council as they solve problems submitted to them via the suggestion box, dubbed "The Medaka Box". It's pretty light for the first little while, then comes in the Disciplinary Squad, whose arc ends with Medaka going into War God Mode and partially destroying the school, and in her rage at Unzen Myouga nearly killing him for his injuring her friends.
    • And then we get the finale of the arc immediately following this, the Flask Plan, which gradually gets darker as time goes on, and in another giant leap down the Darker and Edgier slope ends with twelve people crucified to the wall by giant screws.
  • Having started out really lighthearted, Murasakiiro No Qualia completely changes tone, getting more and more serious throughout the series, with several [1]s intensifying the tone of this fast-paced change. Biggest turning points were Chapter 6 and Chapter 10.
  • Tenchi Universe is a light-hearted slapstick comedy, until the last few episodes when shit gets serious in a big way.
  • Kimi ni Todoke started out as a fluffy, light-hearted shoujo manga with lots of funny and heartwarming moments. It hasn't quite lost this, but later chapters have definitely been taking themselves a little more seriously. Then again, as the characters near graduation, they're growing up with the series, so it probably makes sense.
  • Pretty Cure tends to do this, especially when it's time to deal with the big bad of the series. Fresh Pretty Cure! is notable for the sudden swing midway that started with the Power Trio passing out from utter exhaustion and being hospitalized and culminated in a High Heel-Face Turn.
    • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! did this sooner in its run by having the person who put Cures Blossom and Marine's predecessor out of commission come around to put them on their backsides.
    • Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3 is quite noticable for probably being the darkest of the movie franchise's series. Later movies do away with it.
  • Heaven's Lost Property While the series always has had a fair bit of moodswings, the later chapters really start to turn dark with the more serious mood swings coming in greater frequencies and major characters starting to drop of like flies.
  • The original Negima! anime is noted for the fact that it's last few episodes don't go into Cerebus Syndrome, it drops like a cannonball. Thanks for killing Asuna...
  • Kill la Kill started off as an over the top series about a Magical Girl Warrior on a quest to avenge her father. It's fairly episodic up until episode 11, when the arrival of Nui, the one responsible for the death of the protagonist's father, causes the series to escalate into a quest to stop alien life forms from destroying the world.
  • Persona 4 Golden: The Animation: The show starts as Lighter and Softer slice of life material, only for it to start focusing on Adachi in episode 6, and become extremely dark as it explores his fractured psyche.
  • Surprisingly enough, Free! was hit with this in the second season. Even the fanservice was reduced in order to fit more drama, especially notable with Sousuke having to give up his dream as well as Haru breaking due to pressure.
  • Umi Monogatari has this set in around episode 6, coinciding with the solar eclipse and Urin being corrupted by Sedna.
  • Magi - Labyrinth of Magic It started as a classical adventure manga, with a fair dose of comedy and drama. But since the Magnostatd arc, the manga became way darker than it was.It became worse with the Alma Torran arc, and the current one, in which Hakuryuu began his roaring rampage of revenge to kill his mother.
  • For a manga set during a Zombie Apocalypse Gakkou Gurashi is pretty light hearted. That is until a little over 15 chapters in. After we learn the government knew about zombies prior to the outbreak, and later Kurumi getting bit by Megu-nene it quickly Bloodier and Gorier and a lot darker in tone.
  • Yuuki Yuuna Wa Yuusha De Aru starts off as a cute Magical Girl Warrior anime with an unusual emphasis on Slice of Life elements. There's nothing too noticeable until not even half way in when the girls each lose a physical ability. Fu is blind in one eye, Itsuki can't speak, Yuuna can't taste anything, and Mimori is deaf in one ear. They think it's temporary but later learn it's not after meeting Sonoko. Sonoko was a character in the prequel light novel who was Mimori's friend and a Hero as well, but Mimori lost her memory permanently and Sonoko has lost most of her limbs, is bed bound, and is covered in bandages. It turns out Magical Girl's are sacrifices to Shinju-sama.
Reverse Cerebus SyndromeCerebus SyndromeComic Books

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