15 years ago a massive explosion in Antarctica caused severe changes in global climate that killed half of the worlds population. Now freakishly huge and terrible creatures are repeatedly appearing out of nowhere to attack the almost entirely deserted Tokyo-3. And the only thing that can stop them are scary giant cyborg robots that can only be piloted by a bunch of emotionally scarred 14 year olds. There's no one else who can do it, and if they fail to stop the attackers, it will be the End of the World as We Know It. And that's just the first episode. Things go downhill from there very fast.
Every single one of the main characters is either highly emotionally unstable or seriously fucked up in other ways. Fighting the Angels also takes a very high toll on their mental health and as the show progresses, it more and more shines through that preventing the end of the world has never been an option. It has always been just about the when and how, not about if it happens or not.
The last few episodes are this as well for Shinji (everyone else is pretty much already going through this), a brief Hope Spot when Kaworu appears and shows Shinji some love, but then Kaworu reveals himself as the final angel, invades NERV and almost causes the third impact before deciding to Screw Destiny and make Shinji kill him, having to do this leave Shinji completely broken mentally, add to that Asuka in a coma, Toji and Kensuke having left Tokyo-3, Kaji dead, Rei being the third one so far, Misato falling into despair and it looks like Shinji's in for a rough ride, then all of a sudden: End of Evangelionhappens...and EVERYTHING goes to hell. Almost literally.
Rebuild of Evangelion takes it to a whole new level by the third film. Shinji has set off the apocalypse twice, seen his only true friend/romantic interest explode right next to him, been shunned by everyone, the girl he was willing to destroy everything for is gone and replaced with a clone and he has had his one hope of making everything better crushed. By the end of the film, Shinji's too traumatised to move from his entry plug, and Asuka is still berating him for everything.
The Mazinger series:
Mazinger Z: In the beginning of the Mazinger-Z versus Great General of Darkness feature, Kouji believes his life will be peaceful from now on. Then an unknown army of Robeasts razes the main cities of the world to ashes. After that, they strike Tokyo. Kouji goes to fight them... and he gets easily defeated. The War Beasts easily burn Tokyo to ashes and leave after tearing Mazinger-Z apart. When he returns to his Home Base, he finds the place has been turned in ruins for another squad of Beasts, his friends have been hurt and their Humongous Mecha destroyed... and his little brother got crushed by a failing ceiling and is in coma. Shortly after more Beasts attack the Institute and he goes to fight them, fully believing he will die. He gets soundly beaten, and Mazinger-Z is finally destroyed. The only highlight is he manages walking out of alive.
Shin Mazinger Zero: In this picture◊, Kouji is dashing headfirst in the Despair Event Horizon after his father has been murdered, his girlfriend has been raped and murdered, and he has been forced to kill his Mad Scientist of a grandfather, losing an arm in the process. It gets worse? Oh, yeah. Straight after an Eldritch Abomination dwelling in the body of a Humongous Mecha will possess his body and will use him to fight an army of Robeasts. During three months he will fight relentlessly Dr. Hell's Mechanical Beasts army, gradually losing his sanity as the whole world becomes ruins. Finally his mind will snap, and the Eldritch Abomination -fed and fueled by his negative emotions of rage, despair, madness, grief and pain- will get loose and burnt the world to ashes. The funny part? That is the first story arc.
The Sailor Moon anime not so much, but the manga goes overboard with this. In the last "season" of the manga, every single person Usagi loves outside of her immediate family dies one by one, most are made a reanimated corpse slave of the Big Bad Sailor Galaxia. She has killed countless millions of people and intends to do so on Earth, and she's only doing it for the power. Granted, it is Sailor Moon, so it ends well, but the last few chapters are like a unending shower of angst.
Bleach probably sets the new record for most iterations of "got worse" in a single 20 page issue, with the release of chapter 364. Two of the best captains get downed in 3 pages, without any buildup or warning. Then two of the best Espada are revealed to still be alive in another 4 pages. Then Aizen, Tosen, and Gin are freed from the Blazing Fortress that Yamamoto had trapped them in at the start of the fight by the weirdass thing that Wonderweiss came in with, free to do as they please, and right in front of Kira and several of his injured buddies. While the last page hints at a Big Damn Heroes moment by a certain third party, it's going to be have to be pretty damn big to make a difference at this point.
Let us put it this way: Tite Kubo is in love with the Big Damn Heroes trope. However, in order for Big Damn Heroes to be required, things must first look very bleak indeed. Thus, events in Bleach tend to get constantly worse until someone shows up to save the day, at which point things briefly get better before quickly going to Hell again in order to set it up for someone new to come save the day.
In chapter 406, Aizen drops Isshin, Urahara and Yoruichi in one shot, and then goes to the Soul Society to try and destroy Karakura Town. All we know now is that Isshin is alive, and that Aizen has a mullet.
514. Yamamoto is dead, most captains are seriously wounded (should be dead, but knowing Kubo, they still may survive), Reich accomplished most of its objectives, destroyed Soul Society and retreating.
And worst of it? All is going according to Aizens plan.
The most glaring example, from Digimon Tamers (which was inspired by NGE), is after episode 33. So, the little kid converted the bunny Deva into her partner. Yeah! There's no need to kill (there is no Disney Death in this series) the last (or so we think) enemy that we hadn't met so far! The title of episode 34? "The Kindhearted Hero, Leomon Dies!". Oh, it got worse, much worse, and then some. The main characters are 10 years old (bumped up to 13 in the dub).
The original Digimon Adventure 's final arc starts off on a relentless note. First, Piedmon appears, then his henchmen repeatedly attack the Digi-Destined, then Chuumon sacrifices himself to save Mimi from Piedmon, then Pixiemon dies trying to protect our heroes, then Whamon defeats MetalSeadramon at the cost of his life, then Matt gets upset at the events that have occurred and takes it out on Tai (and he leaves the group, as do the pacifism-seeking Mimi and Joe), and all of this reaches its peak when Kari falls ill at the worst possible time! Needless to say, we were all relieved that Kari gets better the following episode, topping off her getting the power of her crest, which makes fellow Digimon stronger.
Played for Laughs in Digimon: The Movie, when a young Tai and Kari are looking after Koromon. Tai begins ranting about how they can't hide him in their flat, and what the reaction of their mother will do when she finds out, capping off with "It can't get much worse!" Koromon promptly poops, and Tai announces "it just got worse."
Chapter 104 of Fullmetal Alchemist. Up to this point, we have the chaos of the rebellion in Central, the return of Furher Bradley, the deaths of Fu and Buccaneer, the army of Cyclops soldiers, and Mustang being forced to commit human transmutation, becoming blind as a result as "bad". Then in this chapter, we have Father completing his nationwide transmutation, turning almost the entire population of Amestris into a single Philosopher's Stone (including several major characters), and absorbing the power of God. Essentially:"worse". MUCHworse. And then it got better.
Just about the summary of most of Higurashi: When They Cry, thanks to a "Groundhog Day" Loop plot that's been repeating itself for about forty thousand days (over a hundred years), and only one of the protagonists can remember the previous cycles. Typically follows this pattern: two people die on the night of a festival, one person gets suspicious of his or her friends, the suspicious person kills someone, Rika turns up ritualistically murdered, and thousands of people die overnight. And then Minagoroshi-hen happens. And after that, in Matsuribayashi-hen, though it gets better.
Going by the speed at which the loop shortens, and bearing in mind that it's known to cover several years at one point, the number should be more like several thousand. Oh, and although Rika is the only one to explicitly remember earlier loops (with some help from a friend), the others aren't unaffected - Satoko's trap-building skills are the result of long experience. In short, by the time it's all over, none of those close to Rika are exactly normal people.
Narutaru is the poster anime for this trope, as it starts out on a light and deceptively cheerful note and ends up getting systematically darker and more disturbing with each episode until the anime ends on a pitch black note (and the manga it was based on — only the first half was actually animated — is far worse).
Bokurano is pretty much the same way. Mohiro Kitoh seems to enjoy doing this to kids.
In Silent Möbius, after Roy gets killed by Ganossa, Katsumi gets hold of a sword called Medium. Six months later, Katsumi returns but she is possessed by an evil weapon and turns on her friends.
Saikano is an example of this trope to the point of causing chronic depression. One release actually had a warning at the end of almost-happy episode 10, saying that absolutely nothing happy was going to happen after that point.
It is pretty difficult to get worse than the beginning of Texhnolyze but the show manages to do so in spades.
School Days is a deconstruction of the Love Triangle, in its original visual novel (Choose Your Own Adventure-style) video game format about a quarter of the endings fall under this. For the infamous anime, they made one that was worse than any in the game: Sekai snaps and stabs Makoto to death, Kotonoha snaps, kills Sekai, slashes her open to see if she's really pregnant from Makoto, then flees with Makoto's rotting, severed head to die on a boat alone at sea.
Berserk's Golden Age arc starts spiraling into a series of things getting worse after Guts leaves the Hawks. To wit: Griffith, after having been defeated by Guts, heads to Windham Castle and has sex with Princess Charlotte. When her dad, the King of Midland, who has had some less-than-fatherly eyes for her ever since the passing of her mother, finds out about this, he's pissed. So pissed, in fact, that he has Griffith imprisoned in the Tower of Rebirth to be put to the torture and the Hawks he led declared outlaw, leading to Casca and crew having to spend a year on the run as they are hunted and killed by the forces of the country they once threw in with. When Guts returns and the Hawks learn where Griffith is being held, they mount a rescue mission. They manage to reach him, only to find him a broken, emaciated shell of his former self as a result of his torture. They make their escape, and have to deal with not only pursuit by the Bakiraka, but a goddamn demon and his mercenary army as the King is hellbent on revenge against Griffith. By the time it's over, the Hawks are demoralized and looking to go their separate ways, and Casca feels the weight of The Chains of Commanding on her as she attempts to rally what's left of Griffith's people. While things are bad now, it only gets worse when Griffith hits the Despair Event Horizon and finds his Crimson Behelit again, triggering the events of the Eclipse. The Hawks are transported into hell, where they are met with a multitude of demons and the four most powerful demons in existence, the Godhand. After the Godhand explain the nature of demons, Griffith accepts their Deal with the Devil despite Guts's best attempts to reach him. Because the Eclipse is the ceremony for the birth of a new Godhand, which only happens once every 216 years, every demon in the Berserk universe (with the exception of Zodd, who in the manga is busy fighting the Skull Knight) comes out of the woodwork to eat the Band of the Hawk alive. Many characters that we had come to like die horribly until only Guts and Casca are left, Guts because he makes a very badass showing against demon after demon after getting his bearings, and Casca because Pippin and Judeau, the two best warriors of the Hawks other than Guts and Griffith, sacrifice themselves to keep her alive and because the monsters have even worse in mind for her than being eaten. As Guts tries to save her, a demon snaps its jaws around his arm as he tries to reach her. Then Griffith gets reborn as Femto, the fifth member of the Godhand, and gets his hands on the now-naked Casca, who he proceeds to start having his way with. Guts does everything he can to make a dent in the demon's hide, and when the sword he appropriated from Gaston breaks, Guts uses what's left of the sword to chisel off his own arm in a serious badass moment to free himself so he can save Casca and kill Femto, a Hope Spot that is very cruelly quashed when Guts finally gets free and rushes Femto, only to be basically dogpiled by a whole mess of monsters, pinned down, his right eye clawed out, and Forced to Watch as Femto rapes Casca to insanity right in front of him. And that's the point where the anime ends.
In the manga, after a brief reprieve as the series moves back to its present day ("Band of the Hawks" is a flashback), it just keeps getting worse from there. Case in point: Femto uses the Skull Knight's dimension-warping attack to fuse the mortal and supernatural worlds together, resulting in Hell on Earth.
The Majin Buu saga in Dragon Ball Z. Buu goes on a rampage after killing Vegeta. Then he gets redeemed, only to be overwhelmed and absorbed by the evil inside him. This new creature kills off a large chunk of the long-standing cast, and every challenger, though at first looking quite promising, is eventually defeated and absorbed as well. And just when Goku and the temporarily restored Vegeta think they've got him on the ropes, Kid Majin Buu finally does what nobody else had every been able to do - he destroys Earth, and everyone on it, including the four friends Goku and Vegeta just saved. Three of whom are their sons. Even before destroying Earth, Buu had already used the aptly-namedHuman Genocide Attack, meaning there weren't many people left to kill anyway.
Basically, if Goku is begging for the monster to stop (and mind you, Goku isn't the type to beg. At all!), you know everyone is well and truely screwed.
Similarly, the Android Saga kicked off with a group of androids which would apparently go on to slaughter all the Z Fighters and take over the world. The next thing you know, Cell makes an appearance...
The Garlic Jr Saga was this; first Garlic Jr escapes the Dead Zone, then he imprisons Kami and Popo in glass bottles, then he unleashes the Black Water Mist upon the Earth causing all who breathe it to become his mindless slaves that turn on their un-infected friends and family. Almost everyone on Earth is infected including several of our heroes' allies and family. Then Piccolo is bitten by evil Z Fighters and turns as well leaving only Gohan and Krillin to save everyone, but then Gohan gets his ass kicked by Piccolo, who shortly afterwards bites and infects Krillin, turning him bad too. On top of all that, there's no Goku or Vegeta to help out and Garlic Jr is immortal. Thankfully, Piccolo and Krillin were only pretending to be infected in order to save Kami and Popo, but before the reveal things looked utterly hopeless for poor Gohan.
The Piccolo-Daimao arc of the original Dragon Ball as well. Immediately after Goku and Tien's fight ends, Krillin is killed by one of Piccolo's minions. Goku goes after said minion and is seemingly killed as well. Oolong finds a paper with the Japanese character "Ma" (which roughly translates to "Demon" or "Devil"), which is when Master Roshi decides everyone's in mortal danger. Goku wakes up for a brief reprieve and meets Yajirobe, but then fights Piccolo himself and is stomped, to say the least. Soon after, Master Roshi attacks Piccolo and uses the Evil Containment Wave, which doesn't work. Then Piccolo wishes for eternal youth and kills Chiaotzu. THEN Piccolo invades the capital city of the entire world and successfully becomes king of the world, and announces that he will choose a district of the world to destroy every year via lottery, to commemorate his coronation, and starts with West City, Bulma's home city. Tien shows up, armed with the Evil Containment Wave, but never gets the chance to use it and finds himself on the wrong end of a Curb-Stomp Battle. Things don't get better until Goku returns, having powered up tremendously.
The Novelization dials it up a notch: Kamille got mind-fried and then watched as Rosamie sacrificed herself to save him from Gates Cappa, who has a free shot at the mentally crippled Kamille. At that point he thought she was his mother and, well, when Fa came to pick him up, she didn't know he opened his helmet and is presumably dead.
Yet GundamZZ somehow manages to be a comedy that takes Refuge in Audacity. Subverted in the movies, where Kamille does not end up mind-screwed and tearfully reunites with his girlfriend Fa in a Bittersweet Ending which may or may not invalidate ZZ's existence.
The prequel to Zeta, Gundam 0083, is one long Bad To Worse as, while the heroes have their minor victories, the ostensible villains succeed in their goals... which turns out to be a Batman Gambit causing the creation of the real villains, the Titans of Zeta. 0083 is basically an "it was getting worse even before it got worse" prequel series.
The original Gundam SEED was a slow moving From Bad to Worse until the emotional battle between Athrun and Kira, where Nicol and Tolle were killed, Dearka was captured by the Archangel, and Athrun and Kira both went MIA. At that point the series fell off the From Bad to Worse cliff and the whole Humans Are the Real Monsters thing reached the breaking point. With superweapons galore and gorn at unbelievable levels, human life was reduce to little more than numbers on paper and the only reason that there was even any life left on Earth at the end was because of the existence of the Three Ships Alliance and Kira himself.
Manga/Devilman takes a turn for the worse near the end of the story: Ryo Asuka reveals to the world that his best friend, Akira Fudo, is Devilman. People become afraid of Akira, his girlfriend Miki's parents are arrested and tortured, and Miki herself is murdered by an angry mob. Eventually, humanity goes extinct in the war with demonkind, and Akira spends the next twenty years fighting Ryo, who is actually the fallen angel Satan. In the end, Akira dies fighting Satan, leaving his mortal enemy heartbroken in the moments before angels descend upon the earth to cleanse it of demons.
Respectfully disagree the biggest from bad to worse moment is when when Suzaku blows up Tokyo and supposedly kills Nunnally Lelouch is subsequently betrayed by his BlackKnights and the last loyal person to him dies to save him as his former companions set out to martyr him.
About 2/3rds of the way through Mai Hime, the heroine of the series even remarks "I've finally hit rock bottom" after one of her friends tries to backstab her, which causes her to lose her temper so that her veritable little sister abandons her, her younger brother remarks that he doesn't want her help anymore since he doesn't want to be a burden on her, and the HiME war seems to be getting out of control. But, that statement being as it is a beacon for From Bad to Worse: The next episodes see her little brother, and the guy she finally realized she had a thing for, dying in front of her, both killed by the now possessed Dark Magical Girl, what-used-to-be her adopted little sister; her other good friend going off to die in a Heroic Sacrifice to take out her best friend who has gone mad; and her entire life and everyone she actually cared for pretty much being in entire ruin by the final episode. But at least they got better.
Can basically be used to sum up most of Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. A shadowy organization is working against Mithril, providing their enemies with technology to match theirs. Sousuke is not only pulled off of his assignment to guard Kaname and leave the job in the hands of someone he doesn't trust to protect her adequately, he is further commanded to never have any contact with her again. Instead, he is ordered to devote his energy to working with a Humongous Mecha that he hates because its technology is unreliable. Eventually he slips into a Heroic B.S.O.D. and simply walks away from a mission, wandering through Hong Kong, acquiring a bottle of scotch, and letting himself get picked up by a prostitute. And then it gets worse: he finds out that his worst enemy, Gauron, is still alive and claims to have had Kaname murdered in Sousuke's absence.
In the light novels, it gets a "hell" of a lot worse — cue Mithril destroyed by Amalgam, Kaname kidnapped by Tessa's psychotic brother (who just happened to invent a new type of mechanical soldier to dominate the world with), Sousuke wandering the earth looking for Kaname (where the author just decides to insert a Canon Sue as a love interest *wince*), Tessa's brother mind raping Kaname in an attempt to sway her over to his side. Not fun.
Both the anime and the manga of Chrono Crusade use this. Often. Most of the examples are far too complicated to list here, but here's a few cliff note examples, avoiding spoilers as much as possible: After the heroes are attacked on a train, they seem to defeat their enemy — only to put themselves into an even more dangerous situation. They win the fight, but inadvertently give information to the Big Bad in the process. Another scene has the heroes finally reaching one of their goals, when they're attacked by the Big Bad. Chrono attempts to protect Rosette, but gets badly wounded in the process. In the manga, his fear of Rosette getting hurt causes him to fly into an Unstoppable Rage and unseal his powers, which drains Rosette's lifespan drastically as he uses them. He manages to stop himself, only to be stabbed by Aion, who then takes off with one of the members of their Nakama. In the anime, Chrono recovers to fight Joshua—removing his horns, but also "stopping" his time in the process. Aion then kidnaps Rosette and abandons Joshua and the other apostles for dead. And that's not even talking about how either the anime or the manga ends...
In Excel Saga, Excel's life worsens as the series progresses. Excel goes from living alone and trying to pay the rent on a crapppy apartment, to sharing the apartment with two other people, to trying to escape a prison and an island, to losing her memory (though her life was actually pretty nice then, but Excel would not see it that way), to regaining her memory and living under a bridge.
In the anime, the story of Pedro, the cursed migrant worker, is a comedic version of this. Oddly enough, it's also the only continuity the show has until almost the very end.
Barefoot Gen, set in Hiroshima during World War II, begins with Gen's family struggling with wartime food shortages while being persecuted as traitors for having spoken against the war. Then Little Boy drops. Afterwards, the title character must deal with famine, crime, and occupation.
During the One Piece Sabaody Archipelago arc, the Marine Admiral and his subordinates are picking the Straw Hats apart one by one. And then Bartholomew Kuma shows up to utterly annihilate them. Think rock bottom has been reached? Oh ho, think again. The whole Whitebeard War arc is pretty much one big From Bad to Worse, and we have still yet to reach the Godzilla Threshold.
End result: Blackbeard's crew killed Whitebeard after he was already wounded, Blackbeard has the Gura Gura/Tremor Tremor Fruit along with his own, rendering him the most powerful pirate alive (P.S, this is also the man who released dozens of criminals from prison who were so vile that they were erased from history, meaning the new strongest pirate in the world is batshit crazy). And to add further pain, guess what happened to Luffy, the childish, happy-go-lucky protagonist? He watched his brother die in front of him after he went through hell (6 levels of it to be exact) to rescue him from death and becomes mentally fubar. "Whitebeard War" Saga? Try "The World Is Now Shot To Hell" Saga.
The Dressrosa Arc is almost as bad. First, it turns out that Donquixote Doflamingo never quit the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and is now technically allied with Admiral Fujitora. Then Law gets shot at least three times, and then captured by Doflamingo. To top it off, one of Big Mom's ships arrives to get Caesar, who apparently swindled some money out of them a while ago, and is now converging on the Straw Hats at sea. To say nothing of the Tournament for Ace's devil fruit, where the entire coliseum is surrounded by marines, and where Luffy is and participating in. Also participating in said tournament include several of the most powerful fighters in the New World, including Jesus Burgess, captain of the first fleet of the Blackbeard Pirates. Yeah, Oda upped the "Holy Shit!" Quotient again.
A comedic example would be Trafalgar Law regarding the Straw Hats. Every moment he spends with them makes it seem as if he's on the verge of a mental breakdown due to their eccentric natures as all his plans go up in smoke thanks to Luffy's "I do whatever the hell I want" attitude.
Gantz pretty much lives this trope. The first issue sees the protagonists die. Things get no better for them as they are forced into a bizarre war-game by a sentient 1337-5p33king black sphere. Even in an early mission, the enemies rapidly scale from 20-foot tall statues to a hundred-foot Buddha trying to kill the team. And that's not even the worst they face in that incident. Which compared to the Osaka and Italy missions was pretty much a walk in the park. Also, the complications created by Gantz' ability to bring the dead back to life and alter memories which is exploited by at least one team member with predictably screwed-up consequences.
You think Claymore is pretty grim and bleak? Try chapter 95. Bad news: a new type of Awakened Beings appear that have no weak points. Good news: they die on their own if you fight them long enough. Bad news: they reproduce exponentially by infecting people with their parasites. More bad news: Riful is still alive. Kinda good news: she is attacked by the Organization's hunter-killers. Good news: said hunter-killers are killed by Alice. Back to bad news: that's because Alice Awakened. Very bad news: Alice Awakened because Beth, Number #2, was killed by one of those parasites that turn people into mindless monsters. And the very, very bad news: the cause of all this is still at large... and it is immensely more powerful than any of its spawns. Holy shit.
Good News Priscilla is back to her normal mindset and using consciously her apparently endless powers to kill Alice and Beth, who had almost killed pretty much all the already established as insanely powerful characters or whoever overpowered those characters, all in a "*scoff* whatever" mildly interested attitude. Wait... that isn't good news... that isn't good news at all... Priscilla has killed Riful with a single, effortless touch and has approached Clare's group, resulting in Clare activating her trump card of Awakening...only to discover that she is physically incapable of Awakening.
It says something about a series when a character not being able to irreversibly transform into a horrible man-eating monster is a bad thing.
And now - MORE BAD NEWS! Now that Clare finds out that she can't fully Awaken - and can't use her speed to its full potential in order to defeat Priscilla - she is quickly defeated, but Deneve and Helen escape with her while they have the chance. Meanwhile, the Destroyer (which is Luciella and Rafaela's combined awakened form) is infecting and sucking the life out everything in its vicinity, and in the turmoil, Clare gets assimilated, which allows Priscilla to catch up with the group. However, Clare is able to take control of the Destroyer's youki for a brief moment and catches Priscilla, allowing both Deneve and Helen to escape as both Clare and Priscilla are absorbed into the Destroyer.... and we haven't seen them since.
And, to make a very, very, very bad story short: the Organization is in turmoil, the Claymores are revolting, and to combat them, the Organization has resurrected three very powerful former #1 warriors, one of them being the series' first serious monster... and all of whom Awaken within the hour due to the resurrection process. That's right, three new Lords of the Abyss, one of whom was irredeemably evil to start with. Where Berserk is "From Bad to Worse: The Series", Claymore is "We Got Bad News: The Series."
Gyo by Junji Ito is a beautiful example. What starts with one dead fish ends up wiping out humanity. Every time you think the horror has reached its limit, it increases exponentially.
Uzumaki by the same author also does a good job, especially the final few chapters.
Junji Ito in general. Hell'O Dollies is a good example: it's already bad enough that children are turning into creepy wooden dolls, but somehow he takes it even beyond.
Revolutionary Girl Utena starts out a fun, weird saga of a crossdressing girl in an odd school caught up in odder after-school activities. We're introduced to the main cast and their personal problems. There's humor involving funny animals, body-switching curry, and the cast hangs out and watches the weird happen with confused, bemused indifference. Then Touga, a member of the group of not-quite-friends, breaks down everything the main character was fighting for by pretending to be her prince. Then the Black Rose Saga starts, and the sex, obsessions, emotional craziness, and horror elements begin. The bubbly sidekick tries to kill the main character. Then the Akio arc starts, and it all gets five billion times WORSE. Heaven help any kid that tries to watch for the sword duels and nutty sense of humor.
20th Century Boys ends its first two arcs with things getting incredibly worse. The first arc has Kenji and Fukubei seemingly die stopping Friend'sHumongous Mecha, Friend take credit for its destruction and become the beloved savior of Japan while the second ends with an even more sadistic man taking over Friend's identity, killing a ridiculous amount of the world's population and becoming the president of the world. Both instances are also Hope Spots.
While it's normally more optimistic, the point of the recent flashbacks in Mahou Sensei Negima! seem to be to show exactly how everything went to hell for Negi's parents immediately after the war ended. (And judging by Negi's past, things didn't really get better for the Springfield family for a while.)
The manga MPD Psycho by Eiji Otsuka uses this as a primary plot device, with its body-hopping serial killers and web of conspiracies. The live-action TV adaptation actually tones this down a bit; which is rather unexpected, since it was adapted by Takashi Miike, who is notorious for his Gorn-laden horror movies.
This occurs during Pain's invasion of Konoha. Having already killed Jiraiya and coerced Sasuke into joining him, he then runs amok, tearing souls out of people, launching massive amounts of ordinance at homes and orphanages, summoning monstrosities, and disturbing the peace. He confronts Tsunade and proceeds to rip the soul out of Shizune, gaining the hidden location of Naruto. The village is in ruins, shinobi are dead, including Naruto's other mentor, Kakashi, and the secret they tried to protect is lost to the Big Bad. And then Pain nukes Konoha.
Naruto returns, far more powerful than ever, having removed the flaw from his Rasen-Shuriken and gained other levels in badass to boot. But it's not enough. He destroys some of Pain's lesser bodies, but in the end Pain beats him down and stabs Hinata through the stomach right in front of him after she told him she loved him, which was the first time he ever heard anybody say that to him genuinely. This ain't over yet; it gets worse.
It gets even worse when he finds out that his brother was ordered by the village's elders to kill the Uchiha clan, then prompting Sasuke not to want revenge against his brother but the entirety of Konoha.
The resurrected Madara Uchiha is the king of this trope. His appearance alone freaks out the entire Unified Shinobi Army. He uses the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan, with allthat entails. Pulls out Mokuton on the army, revealing that he's even more powerful than he was alive. The shinobis have a Hope Spot, and think they've got him... and cue the Rinnegan and Colony Drop using METEORS. All five Kages join forces to fight him... where he reveals that his full power is a massive Susanoo that can cut down mountain ranges. And to top it off, he hijacks the summoning that revived him, meaning that he's now an endlessly regenerating immortal zombie with no Power at a Price drawbacks. "Holy Shit!" Quotient has been breached.
Madara teaming up with Obito to take on our main hero squad was bad enough, but then the Juubi is revived! So far so good as the entire alliance makes its appearance to aid Naruto and co in fighting it, only for the Juubi to transform from its bloated, mostly stationary form, into a horribly emaciated monster that begins to nuke the hell out of the surroundings, INCLUDING the Alliance's HQ! This results in the death of Shikaku, Inoichi, and countless others from the now destroyed Hidden Cloud Village. Which also means Shikamaru and Ino now have to deal with the deaths of their fathers, one day after having to fight their dead sensei. And then Neji sacrifices his life to protect Naruto and Hinata, which devastates Naruto so badly that he nearly gives in to Obito's Breaking Speech.
And then things proceed to get even worse. Bee is dead, Naruto and Sasuke are dead or dying, Zetsu has intercepted the half of Kurama that Minato was trying to use to save Naruto, Sakura was already exhausted before she started performing CPR on Naruto, Madara's stronger than ever and has Minato, Kakashi, Sakura, Gaara and Naruto within range, Gai is barely able to stand, let alone fight, and the only one who seems to be in a position to do anything useful to help them is Tenten.
Downplayed when Kaguya replaces Madara. While she is far stronger than Madara, she is less tactical and initially tries to absorb the heroes' chakra rather than kill them before they can analyze her jutsu.
The first half of Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- starts off like your average action/adventure story where a group of characters fated to meet go on a journey together to find the pieces of Sakura's lost memories that have taken the shape of unique feathers. Their journey sends them to all sorts of interesting and diverse dimensions. Sounds like a light-hearted series, especially considering it includes Syaoran and Sakura from another very well knownCLAMP work, right? Wrong. After the Rekord Country arc From Bad to Worse, just watch the Tsubasa Tokyo RevelationsOVAs — that's where the series took a very dark turn. The manga continues with the darkness through several arcs, including Fay's past which is anything but pleasant. Along with things getting darker, toward the end it turns into a massive Mind Screw.
×××HOLiC, Tsubasa's sister series, also takes a dark turn. We're introduced to some interesting, yet funny characters such as the very quirky and Tsundere-esque Watanuki Kimihiro who can see the supernatural — this only causes him problems, though. We follow Watanuki through his daily life as he helps around Yuuko's shop and tries to win the heart of Himawari, while arguing with his (thought to be — in his mind, anyway) rival, Doumeki, for her affection. As Tsubasa took a darker turn, Holic slowly followed suit. As the story progresses Watanuki unconsciously tries to kill himself by falling out of a second story school window, which happens during a pivotal moment in the Acid Tokyo arc in Tsubasa. We also learn that Himawari doesn't get close to people because she was cursed with horrible luck — so bad that she's unintentionally KILLED people merely by being in the vicinity. Things continue to go downhill from there.
D.Gray-Man's protagonist, Allen Walker's entire life is this trope. He's abandoned by his parents at birth because of his apparently deformed arm. As a very young child he works at a circus where he's beaten by the clowns. He's finally adopted by Mana at the age of seven, only to lose him three years later. Then Allen makes a contract with the Millennium Earl to bring his foster father back, only to have Mana curse him before Allen unwillingly kills his now-Akuma father with his own Anti-Akuma weapon arm. The trauma turns his hair white. Then he goes through hellish training with General Cross for four years, which leads to him becoming an exorcist. After that it's just one horrible situation after another, including: losing his arm, and Innocence, and getting a hole torn out of his heart thanks to Tyki and seeing the only place that he could ever call home, the Order, almost be destroyed by a Level Four Akuma attack. Think he deserves a break? Too bad: it goes From Bad to Worse. The night before his mentor dies he is told that he is the host of the batshit evil Fourteenth Noah who wants to take over his body and personality in order to become the Millennium Earl... and he'll have to kill someone who he loves dearly. It hasn't gotten any better since then.
In the Natsume Ono manga Not Simple, the protagonist Ian is almost From Bad to Worse personified. The events of his life are as follows: His sister (who is the only person in his family he's close to) is put in jail when he is a child. During this time, his emotionally distant father abandons him to his physically abusive alcoholic mother, who later decides to start selling his body to fund her booze habit. After his sister is released, she moves to the United States and he completely loses contact with her, leading him to walk back and forth across the U.S. several times to try and find her (which he never does.) During this time, he learns that his sister is also his mother, which was the reason the woman he thought was his mother hated him so much. Finally learning that his sister/mother moved to England, he goes there only to find out that she has been sent to prison again... only to die from AIDS. Which she caught from her boyfriend, who just so happened to be the same man that Ian's body was repeatedly sold to as a child. Oh, and since the man was infected at the time, that means Ian has the virus as well. The light at the end of the tunnel for all this has been a woman he met and fell in love with three years ago, who he is supposed to reunite with upon returning to the States. When he gets there, however, he finds out that she has died in the interim, which leads him to finally commit suicide in a New York subway bathroom.
Each episode of Shiki is pretty much an exponential slide of "It Just Got Worse".
When Mahou Sensei Negima!'s Ala Alba pull off a dangerous rescue/theft right from the clutches of Fate, they lose some promoted-to-main characters but at least they succeeded, right? What do you mean there's more forc- FOUR MORE AVERRUNCUSES? Oh SHIT.
Oh wait, when Negi recovered and with two of those Averruncuses defeated, things should be moving up about no- wait WHAT?! COSMO ENTELCHIA HAS SET THEIR PLAN IN MOTION?! THE MAGICAL WORLD IS APPEARING IN MAHORA?! Ouch!
FINALLY, the battles with Negi and Fate, Setsuna and Tsukuyomi, and Mana and Poyo are over with Ala Alba victorious. Both group are starting to work together and WHAT! THE COSMO ENTELCHIA MEMBERS ARE ASSEMBLED AND THE LIFEMAKER HAS REVIVED!? Is the series starting to have a DBZ syndrome?
The Twin Signal manga is a sustained examination of this trope, occasionally bordering on Diabolus ex Machina. None of the robots in Otoi-sensei's faction ever gain back any lost ground. Ever.
As a Deconstruction of the Magical Girlgenre, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has this in spades. You say that your best friend just got eaten alive by an Eldritch Abomination and that entering into a contract with Kyubey means you have to fight them in order to obtain their Grief Seeds wasn't bad enough? It gets worse. It turns out the Soul Gems that magical girls use to tap into their powers are just that — soul gems — and that upon entering into the contract, you basically become a lich. And it doesn't even stop there — You know those Grief Seeds the magical girls are collecting? They're what happens when a magical girl's Soul Gem, which darkens every time she uses magic or otherwise gives in to The Corruption, goes completely black. This means that every Witch (those Eldritch Abominations that magical girls fight in the series) was once a magical girl herself (with the exception of those Witches that were once the familiars of other Witches), and that every magical girl will eventually become a Witch. And this is exactly how Kyubey wants it — his job is to create magical girls and act as an "incubator" that aids their maturation into full Witches. In short, you can pretty much name any episode from episode 3 onwards and expect this trope. With the possible exception of episode 10, which is more like Things Got Worse. Repeatedly.
And then Rebellion happens. Due to Kyubey's machinations, the characters are pulled into a witch-barrier replica of their hometown, with the witch being none other than Homura herself. And once the other Mahou Shoujo finally take her down and free her from the nightmare? Homura, whose devotion to Madoka has taken on Yandere levels, pulls a Face–Heel Turn and usurps the power of Goddess Madoka herself to become Akuma Homura, trapping Madoka and everyone else in a world where they don't have to become magical girls and where Kyubey and the other Incubators are under her direct control. Only time will tell what the next movie will bring, if there is one.
In the second half of Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu discovers that his NEXT powers are fading and he'll have to quit being a superhero. Before he can figure out how to even approach the subject, however, his partner Barnaby starts having a breakdown over the inconsistencies in his memory regarding his parents' still-unsolved murder, leading to an argument between them when Barnaby overhears Kotetsu's plans to quit. Barnaby disappears after his father figure Albert Maverick (who also happens to be his parents' murderer) tampers with his memory again. And Kotetsu shows up at work one morning to find that his ID has been revoked, nobody knows who he is, and he's being accused murdering Barnaby's old housekeeper.
The S-class arc in Fairy Tail is this. First they're invaded by a dark guild that effortlessly takes out their Big Good and several of them get beaten half to death, then it turns out that the mysterious boy wandering around the island is actually the infamous Black Mage Zeref, and when they nearly get themselves killed managing to chase off all the invaders, a dragon, which is powerful enough that problem number 2 declares them all screwed, shows up to kill them. They are presumed dead for seven years.
The Tartaros arc is the definition of this trope. In just the mere beginning of this arc the magic council is killed by Jackal, Laxus is poisoned by Tempester, then Erza and Mira get captured by the traitor chairman of the council, Natsu's attack first think about it later mindset comes back to bite him and this is not even the whole of it. Elfman is put into a deal with the devil situation, Jellal faces off against the freed Oracion Seis, Tartarus' objective is to active Face a weapon designed to take away all magic on the continent, some of the defeated demons are revived, and the penny drops when the whole reason for all of these actions is to revive E.N.D the thing Igneel could not stop a DRAGON!!! Of course this is just the start of Fairy Tail's personal hell it gets much worse later onwards.
The first season of the Hakuouki anime ends on a down note - the shogun has fled and the forces loyal to him, including the Shinsengumi, are forced to withdraw from Kyoto after suffering a crippling loss against the new firearms wielded by the Imperial Army; Heisuke, Okita, and Hijikata have all become Rasetsu; Kondou is out of commission from being shot in an assassination attempt; Inoue and Yamazaki are dead, and the age of the sword is coming to an end. Then season two starts and it all just keeps going downhill from there.
Happens in Black Lagoon with Hansel and Gretel. The Italian mafia brought them in to help take control of Roanpur, but they soon go far beyond their original mission of taking out Balalaika to outright sadism. It was already bad they were hammering nails into the head of one of Balalaika's men.. It gets even worse when the Italian mafia decides to eliminate them. Needless to say, not only does it not work, but Roanpur ends up being the site of a massive cat and mouse game between the twins and...everyone else.
Happens to Hisoka Kurosaki in Descendants of Darkness In the first volume of the manga we find out that he is an empath who's parents couldn't stand their son being different and he ends up being locked in the basement as punishment. but there's more Hisoka finally escapes from the basement to get some fresh air when he comes across a man murdering a woman. The man spots him and then proceeds to rape him and curse him causing him to suffer a slow painful death which took three years to finally destroy his body and soul so in hindsight you can't blame him in the slightest for being so cold and introverted.
Happens a few times in Super Dimension Fortress Macross. It starts with an alien fleet in the hundreds showing up to target the titular ship. Then said titular ship ends at the far end of the Solar System, and the fold drive to return home immediately has disappeared, and with it the ability to fire the main gun. At high cost to the refugees on board they find a way to fire the main gun, and they improvise both a shield and a powerful manouver to kill enemy ships even when you can't use the main gun... So the Zentradi call reinforcements led by a Blood Knight. They manage to finally return home... Only the brass has declared the refugees dead, so they can't leave and there's a riot, the Zentradi got other reinforcements including elite forces, and the Zentradi Blood Knight manage to get you to destroy a city and you have to leave Earth. Yet the Macross has been repaired and resupplied, and the mecha complement is finally at nominal numbers... At which point the Zentradi get another thousand warships. Circumstances have opened a way to sign peace? Cue five million Zentradi ships showing up to destroy everything, including the Zentradi you fought until now.
Attack on Titan: This series was taking notes from EVA. The story starts with humanity on the brink of extinction and still gets worse. Every victory is countered by about ten more losses. Every time we think we understand the Titans a little bit, they prove the information wrong. Loads and loads of characters die, some you might actually like. But the saddest thing is, the series makes every human death depressing.
Pandora Hearts in its entirety is this trope. It was pretty messed up to begin with, but then a major character, Elliot, dies. This is a huge turning point for the manga, and although things weren't going very well to begin with, things get much worse from here on. Eventually, everybody's either insane or dead.