A World Half Full

Ruby: As a girl, I wanted to be one of those heroes from the books! Someone who fought for what was right, and protected people who couldn't protect themselves!
Blake: That's... very ambitious for a child... Unfortunately, the real world isn't the same as a fairy tale.
Ruby: ...Well, that's why we're here. To make it better.

A World Half Full is the other half of the unambiguously awful Crapsack World (formerly known as World Half Empty). It is usually featured in a similar condition to the above, a place where the world is in an extremely broken state. In fact it is almost the same hellhole as it was when it was more depressing. However, it can be saved, sort of...

In this world, The Protagonist is only one man; he can't bring life instantly to an abandoned village, but he can find the materials needed to bring upon the seeds of growth that will bring life back to the once desolate town. However, such changes are not overnight miracles and in fact many of them will not be noticed in his or her lifetime. He is also quite tempted to exploit the wasteland and will have to resist such urges. More Anti Heroic characters may not even bother holding back.

Just as before, the forces of darkness run through relatively unmolested and it is ill-advised for characters to confront them head on. Most of the time, the protagonist will skirt around the major sources of power and just go for the source of ills itself and it will rarely result in the total destruction of the enemy, especially if the problem is Inherent in the System and the Big Bad is, for all his current importance, ultimately replaceable.

However, victory is often a minor one as it is only a small portion of a constantly decaying world that has been fixed. While you may change life for the better for your people and solve today's ills, everyone else could potentially suffer whether or not you are deliberately or accidentally causing it through false progress or is still suffering as usual, unaffected by the hero's successes. Nevertheless, it's still better than waiting for the end to come, as any Knight in Sour Armor will tell you.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fist of the North Star exemplifies this: just because the world is torn by nuclear fire doesn't mean it can't be rebuilt, and just because violence can be used to oppress the weak doesn't mean you can't use it to protect the weak and and make the world a better place either.
  • Code Geass: A third of the world is ruled by an insane Straw Nihilist. Another third is ruled by the corrupt advisors of a pre-teen child empress. They are locked into a state of perpetual war, while we never see the other third. The hero is a cynical jerkass who commits morally questionable acts with frightening regularity, and the nicest and most idealistic character in the series is a self-deluded Knight Templar who is complicit in genocide. However, the ending does provide some measure of hope that things will get better, with most of the surviving characters shown to be relatively happy, although it's a Bittersweet Ending for all of the major protagonists.
  • Ghost in the Shell is a world half full for most of the main characters. They frequently expose corruption and conspiracies, and stop terrorists from killing more innocents, but at the end of the day, their actions don't do anything to change the corrupt and uncaring system of Japanese society. Still, they feel pretty good about what little good they can do.
  • Gundam:
    • Gundam X was all about this, taking place After the End. We would expect a Mad Max or Fist of the North Star world where the entire earth was an unsafe place where slavers took anyone they like, Raider left behind huge examples of their brutality and the government purging and reclaiming what is theirs. Instead humanity continue to move on. The world isn't some sort of badly irradiated earth despite its share of Colony Drop and humanity has begun its path towards civilization. Sure we got a few hiccups like the Frost Brothers and remnant of Earth and Space's army wanting to continue the war. But the setting notably light for a supposedly Crapsack World.
    • Gundam 00 and Gundam SEED are also like this.
    • Gundam AGE starts off as this. In spite of the Earth Federation being rotten and incompetent in handling the problem of the Ax-Crazy UE murdering colonies mercilessly, Flit Asuno and Grodek were dedicated in saving the humanity from the UE's vile clutches and promoting peace and harmony. That is, until the Diva's crew realize that the UE are human soldiers for Veigan and Grodek shows that his true goal was revenge against the man who killed his family, not to saving humanity. Worst of all, Flit Asuno refuses to accept that the Veigan soldiers are human and prefers to continue viewing himself as a savior... for the corrupt Earth Federation. And he's more than willing to take Veigan lives to become this. The war's only going to get worse from there...
    • G Gundam, once Domon finds out just how the Gundam Fights have destroyed Earth and The Devil Gundam's true programing and Master Asia's intentions. He finds out that everyone he thought was a villain was really trying to restore Earth and protect it from the real bad guys.
  • Darker Than Black is a Darker and Edgier deconstruction of superhumans, whose protagonist is a mass-murdering assassin who's basically just working for The Syndicate for lack of other options. The world is full of superpowered sociopaths, and the governmental agencies and criminal groups that employ them are locked in a pretty much constant underground struggle to control both the Contractors and the Imported Alien Phlebotinum from the Gate. Nevertheless, over the course of the show it becomes clear that Contractors can have feelings and morals, and that it's possible for things to improve; several mini-arcs end relatively happily, and in the end Hei manages to Take a Third Option when forced to choose between allowing a genocide of all Contractors and wiping Japan off the map, and the end of the first season shows that the broken Masquerade will help prevent rogue Contractors from running wild. Still a Bittersweet Ending, and things haven't improved too much by the second season, but there's hope.
  • Pleasant as it may seem, Sound of the Sky's Earth is dying a slow death while the survivors fight for the last fertile lands rather than cooperate. Yet the girls of the Helvetian 1121st Tank Platoon and their bastard princess friend will have none of that.
  • Monster is a bleak world where lots of violence and death happens. The villain, Johan, is a heavy contender for the most evil bastard ever written into existence. But its shown that he and his supporters are the exception. Most of the people in the series are decent to really good people who just want to help others succeed or atone for past misdeeds. And those who go through horrific trauma can put the pieces back together and enjoy life. It's never to late to start anew. Accentuated by Nina who after the terrible things she goes through and coming so close to suicide goes on to living a normal and happy life afterwards.
  • In Bleach, Soul Society is becoming this, thanks to Ichigo. In chapter 461, we've learned that the influence of Ichigo Kurosaki has changed General Yamamoto so thoroughly that the previously Lawful Neutral commander of the Gotei 13 gave a direct order to all Gotei Captains to restore Ichigo's powers. Captain Hitsugaya comments that before Ichigo came along, the General never would have given any such order.
  • Madoka's Abstract Apotheosis helps Puella Magi Madoka Magica move into this territory. It's confirmed in the sequel movie, where- for the first time ever- magical girls are working together on a large scale to support each other, and they die peacefully instead of being warped into murderous witches. When Homura falls, it's because she rejects salvation, not because there is no salvation.
  • In Naruto, the world was a war-torn Crapsack World before Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha made peace between their clans, jump-starting the Hidden Village system that somewhat limited the bloodshed. The world's still far from perfect, but good people can and do make a difference. Ironically, the main villains of the series are people who believe the world is still a Crapsack one and they are willing to do anything to make their ideal world a reality.
  • Snow White and Seven Dwarfs takes place in a post-apocalyptic Japan run by a dictatorship government, leaving most of its people in despair and without hope for a better future. That said, you can bet the heroes—either people who haven't given up or who regain faith—work like hell to earn their 'happily ever after.' While Tokyo is still in shambles by the end, the worst is over and it's rebuilding from there on.
  • The world of Attack on Titan may be a brutal place to live, but hope still exists. For one thing, if it weren't for Eren and his friends, then humanity would've never earned its first victory against the Titans.

    Comic Books 

     Fan Works 
  • Midgar and the Planet by the end of The Fifth Act. Yes Shinra still controls the world and is draining the Lifestream. But the terrible tragedy and huge death tolls from Meteor, Geostigma and Deepground never happened, Midgar isn't as bad as Cloud remembers it, Wutai retains a large amount of its autonomy and there's plenty of high ranking employees willing to change Shinra. As Aerith says "The Planet's stronger than you think."
  • Amazingly, The Lady Inquisitor, Weiss, from A World Of Bloody Evolution thinks this about the Warhammer40000 universe. She has dedicated her entire life to refilling it, even if she has to tear it all down first.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic Build Your Wings on the Way Down Edward thought the military was a horrible place where alchemy is abused to its darkest uses and the likes of Shou Tucker are condoned. Only to find that the military does have some good people in it like Maes Hughes or Roy Mustang who oppose such actions and he does manage to save Nina and reverse her chimera transformation.

    Film — Animation 
  • Wall E:
    • The eponymous character's job is to clean up the Earth so people can live there again. It gets delayed a bit.
    • The Humans aboard the Axiom are a better example, even if it's done for comedy. WALL•E is just following his Directive, the Captain making the decision to return to Earth is this trope. The film ends without directly answering whether the Earth can actually sustain life, although the credits show the restoration was successful.
  • While Joss Whedon likes to use True Art Is Angsty, one can say one can view the world as either half empty or half full in his works. For example, in Titan A.E., Earth is gone and we have only begun to rebuild our lives after spending so many years in an inhospitable system mocked and slowly dwindling. Earth was eventually recreated and a new life begins. It will be a while before humanity becomes a superpower, but it is a start.
  • 9 might be this Up to Eleven. Everyone in the planet is dead, except for some little robots and a giant war machine that killed all the people. And in the end, life is back - in the form of bacteria, meaning that evolution might evolve intelligence again in a couple billion years.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Some of the background material to Avatar implies that the horrific environmental destruction inflicted on Earth might just be capable of repair by imported Pandoran lifeforms, and by learning environmental respect from the Na'vi.
    • This also implies that stopping or reducing the delivery of unobtanium might be for the better, since the RDA not only sabotages attempts to artificial create it but also uses it to create wasteful mega-projects which will ultimately drive Earth's economy into the ground. For example they plan to use it for a mega-monorail to get cheap workers into rich countries to do jobs and send them back into their slums at the end of the day, essentially destroying millions of jobs in these countries and dooming their economies.
  • Battleship Potemkin, which ended far more optimistically than the Real Life incident.
  • Dr Zhivago: A bourgeois doctor (Omar Sharif) chases the love of his life through Russia after the Revolution and nearly freezes to death in the process, in this David Lean film based on the book by Boris Pasternak.
  • Life is Beautiful. A cheerful and whimsical film set in the backdrop of the Holocaust.
  • The Postman: The world as we know it was destroyed in an apocalypse. The United States no longer exists. Yet Kevin Costner, in an accidental act of heroism, reignites the U.S. Postal Service, bringing hope to the hopeless and hap to the hapless.
  • Slumdog Millionaire: Sometimes, in spite of all the impossible obstacles, you get a Happily Ever After.
  • The Dark Knight Saga. Gotham is a horrible city to live in with violent criminals, corruption everywhere, and it's on the verge of economic collapse. But throughout the entire trilogy, it's shown that one man can truly make a difference and the average person will strive to do the right thing at the end of the day.
  • Unforgiven: The Wild West in general is a Crapsack World where killing is an everyday occurrence. Surprinsingly enough, this movie seems to be just another example... until we realize that Claudia has been dead for years and she still has influence over Munny... it could be said that the movie is her tale... how she still manages to be the only light in all the darkness that is The Western.
  • Elysium: Max's Heroic Sacrifice grants everyone on Earth citizenry of Elysium, and Med-Pods are flown out to Earth, providing everyone proper and adequate enough health care service.

  • Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife: There are life-sucking demons that surface with some frequency and can only be killed with human sacrifice; the Lakewalkers, who fight the demons, don't respect the farmers and the farmers don't trust the Lakewalkers. The heroes of the story don't believe they can eliminate the demons or even make the fight against them substantially easier, but they work to foster greater understanding between the farmer and Lakewalker populations so their society isn't undone by avoidable ignorance and mistrust.
  • Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion: The United States and Mexico are both Crapsack World societies, but Matt, now in charge of the nation of Opium, may be able to right many of the problems that have befallen them.
  • Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mice resembles a Crapsack Mouse World at first, with evil gods easily overpowering good, Ax-Crazy worshipers roaming the countryside to murder and devour anyone they see, death on a massive scale, and a villain who resurrects himself into a god right after his first defeat. Even the few "good" societies are either extremely insular and intolerant or on the brink of extinction. However, despite all of this, good always endures, and The Final Reckoning ends on a bittersweet note.
  • Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Over the course of the series, the entire supporting cast dies meaningless deaths, scheming bureaucrats sacrifice lives like pawns in chess while incompetent commanders vie to out do one another in how many casualties they can rack up, and the only person who has the balls to do anything about it is a self-confessed madman. But at the end, the protagonist has the following revelation: his superiors are literally too incompetent to stop him from deserting, meaning that he could have left anytime he wanted to; the only thing stopping him was his own inaction. He does so, and the story is given at least some semblance of a Happy Ending.
  • The Dark Forest ends on this note after Earth and Trisolaris make peace. Although the universe is still a terrifying hellhole where millions of space-faring civilizations prey on each other on sight, Ji Luo and his family get to live Happily Ever After and it's implied that the two worlds will one day work to broker peace with the rest of the galaxy.
  • A Scanner Darkly. The hero's brain is fried from Substance D but that allows him to infiltrate the drug manufacturing facility the rehab clinic he was taken to and gather the evidence needed to destroy the syndicate making the drug.
  • "Arda Marred", ie the fallen world in which most of J. R. R. Tolkien's works take place. This is especially notable in The Silmarillion, a long series of defeats and bloody infighting with some rare uplifiting moments and a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Stephen King's The Stand. A book in which almost everyone on the planet dies, including the main characters, yet it has a happy ending and the planet got better in the absence of all those humans.
  • The galaxy shown in the Star Wars Expanded Universe varies wildly Depending on the Writer, but in all of Matt Stover's books - Shatterpoint, the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Traitor - it's this. The galaxy is corrupt and messy and hostile, people are ungrateful, not everyone can be saved and those who were will die soon enough anyway, nothing will ever last - but it's still worth fighting for a better day, and a difference can be made.
  • Andrew Vachss's Burke books. Beneath the veneer of civility citizens see is a veritable cesspit of crime, the system is at best apathetic and at worst actively malicious and Burke can't stamp out all crime or save everyone - in fact, each book's villain invariably has quite a few notches on his belt by the time Burke gets to him - but every scumbag he manages to put down means a few more innocents who won't have to be victims.
  • Terry Brooks' The Word and the Void. The war between The Word and The Void will never end, the feeders and the demons will always be trying to corrupt people, and there's no real way for the Knights of the Word to do anything more than stave off Armageddon. Yet in the end, they can save a few people, and that's what really matters.
  • Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds. Things are actually worse at the end of the book than at the beginning, but the characters now know not only how to fix things, but also how to make the whole world better than before. It's a very long road, but they've taken the first steps.
  • The Harry Potter universe. While Harry might have been the one destined to defeat Voldemort, it's pointed out time and time again that he couldn't have done it without friends. And even if they've defeated the Big Bad, the world will need lots of support to reduce the power of pure-bloods, limit Wizards-First prejudice, reform the extremely screwed-up Ministry of Magic, and make a more peaceful place altogether.
  • For those who place the ultra-dark, ultra-depressing The Road on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, the characters of the novel move the world to this category. The victories they win are small and moral in nature, and tend to be along the lines of "not eating people." But the strength of spirit in the two protagonists is enough to keep a spark of genuine humanity alive.
  • The world of Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities is a dark and miserable one, and the protagonists (Nailer and Mahlia respectively) can't do much about that. But as of the end of his book, Nailer has managed to rid the world of his father and has a grateful Nita's promise that she will fix the Wretched Hive he lives in. Similarly, Mahlia can't stop all of the warlords from tearing the Drowned Cities apart—or even save her best friend Mouse. Yet through her efforts, the United Patriotic Front is destroyed and she leads a small band of soldier boys out of the cities and towards a hopefully brighter future.
  • Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt shows us that 1880s Sweden was this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. There were still many injustices to fight against, and yeah, the protagonists have to deal with three different villains. But still, things will eventually get better...
  • The Lassa Ward appears to portray Sierra Leone as this trope. Yes, the country is ravaged by a decade-long civil war that resulted in it having the lowest life expectancy of any place on the planet, yes, the majority of Sierra Leoneans live in poverty and have no access to the education that would get them out of it, yes, Ross's mentor Dr. Conteh gets a bridge dropped on him at the end, and yes, medical science knows no more about Lassa fever at the end of the book than when it started, but Ross gets to see that there are kind people everywhere, and that he personally saves at least two lives, and, in real life, Liberia, which started the conflict in the first place, appears to finally be stable again, more than a decade later.
  • Jessica Darling tends to conclude that she lives in a world like this, at least during the end of each book when she's calmed down from whatever drama it was about. Life Isn't Fair, death is at once inevitable and random, nothing ever goes as planned and nothing quite lives up to the hype. But at the same time - supposed disasters usually turn out to not be as disastrous as all that, people frequently turn out to have unexpected redeeming features, and there's some fun to be had in between the bummers.
  • The world of The Hunger Games series is extremely crapsack and cynical; Panem is what would happen when a real-life dictatorship turned Up to Eleven, especially since it seems to be the only state left in Earth. However, there is a saying: a dictator suppresses the people not because they are intimidating and brave, but because they are scared that the people would assemble and topple them in a rebellion. When Katniss decides to spare herself and Peeta from the Hunger Games, a flame of hope is ignited in the people, and, though it goes through an extremely complicated and screwed-up process showing the best way to completely break the mind of a 16-year-old teenager, both the dictator and potential dictator are toppled, and Panem manages to finally rebuild in the end.
  • Similarly, the Literature//Divergent series, though the world is admittedly less bleaker than Panem. The society conforms you into living in one of the five factions; if you don't fit, you're either expelled and forced to live in the streets, or worse, being outright killed. The same is true outside this society, except that it's reversed: if you only have one "inherent" personality corresponding to the faction, then you're flawed and have to prepare for a heavy discrimination that screws your mind enough into planning a deadly coup. Tris, one of those people who can't conform to one of the factions, proceeds to Screw Destiny and goes through a process to end this Fantastic Racism, while her faction-fitting friends attempts to stop people from killing each other, especially due to the situation outside the society mentioned above. Both succeed, but Tris has to lose her life.
  • The Maze Runner series features an After the End world in which everyone, sans a few hundred, are susceptible to a virus that breaks their mind while they undergo a slow death. To find a cure, some scientists put a few dozen teenagers who are immune to the virus so they can study their genes, while the outer world continues to crumble. At the end, it's certain that all of these experiments are very much egotistical, uncaring, and ultimately a futile one, and the elders, instead of continuing to torture these immune youngsters, have to entrust the Earth to them.

    Live Action TV 
  • Firefly/Serenity: The series starts with the protagonist powerless to prevent the destruction of his home world by the Lawful Evil Alliance and the final defeat of the Independents at Serenity Valley. His faith in humanity and God shattered, he abandons his cause and flees to the edge of colonized space, where begins life anew as an outlaw space pirate/mercenary. Over the course of the series, The heroes face many hardships, and even their few victories cost them dearly, but ultimately, they are able to find it in themselves to carry on. And when the dust clears, they're still flying. They may not be able to save the galaxy, but they can at least save themselves. And that's a start.
    By the end of the movie, they've actually unveiled and broken a government human-experiment conspiracy, unlocked River Tam's hidden Badass, inadvertently brought about the decimation of the Reavers, and given the tyrannical government two black eyes and a bloody nose. Dozens of their friends and two of their crew have died, and they're now on the run for their lives from the government's vengeance, but that wasn't much different from what they had before so it's all good.
    It is indicated that any government vengeance may very well be passive at worst. From the Alliance point of view, the crew of Serenity has done all the damage they possibly could. Indeed, their (implied) victory over the Reavers' fleet could even let them spin this into a huge victory and come out in an even better position than before. It looks like they even helped repair Mal's ship, though that might have just been the Operative using his unquestionable authority to pull strings. That's not to say they probably aren't still wanted criminals, with a number of enemies even amongst the outlaws, but they're still flying. Which is enough.
  • The Buffyverse, especially Angel, tend to bounce back and forth on whether they live in a half full or half empty world. Angel himself expresses an existential take on the whole matter; striving for a living in-the-moment application of Good Feels Good despite the bleakness of the big picture.