Ambiguous Time Period
universe as ours, except for the story elements added by the author, but doesn't state anything specific. This is either because the time period is completely unmentioned, or because it's mentioned but elements of the story or Word of God state that the fiction uses a different calendar than ours. Sometimes Anachronism Stew will unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) confuse viewers into wondering when the work takes place. This can still happen in works that take place in a completely different universe to ours when there's an overarching timeline, but it's very difficult to pinpoint where in that timeline the events currently being described take place. When the ambiguous time period is obviously not long ago, it's an example of Present Day Past. Could also be an unofficial form of a Retro Universe. This trope is the temporal version of Where the Hell Is Springfield? Contrast Period Piece and Unintentional Period Piece.
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Anime and Manga
- Gundam takes place in the future, but thanks to their excessive use of Alternate Calendar (several, in fact) how far in the future is impossible to pinpoint.
- Although we do get a few clues. In Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket it's mentioned January 14th, U.C. 0080 falls on a Monday, while Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ mentions 0088 is a leap year. Apparently somebody once did the math based on this and found 2047 to be the earliest possible date for the changeover (technically, the earliest date would be 2019. The 2047 start date much touted in Fanon is based on some sourcebooks that give 2045 as the last AD date mentioned but don't specify when exactly the switch happened. Sunrise has since declared all timelines that mention the AD era non-canon, though, so now it's anybody's guess).
- Gundam Wing seems to take place in the mid- to late 23rd century, based off of two pieces of information: the novelization of the series mentions that the circus where Trowa Barton hides out is about to celebrate its 600th anniversary, and the circus' logo (seen in artbooks) has "Since 1667" written on it.
- There's a split in the fandom as to whether Naruto takes place in a modern day Alternate Universe that lacks certain details (like guns or cars) or in a past that is modern. Rock Lee's Springtime of Youth lampshades this.
- Inazuma Eleven seems to take place some time in the present to it's release, however in the follow up, Inazuma Eleven GO which takes place 10 years later, the technology is still how it would be in 2008. This is especially jarring whenever you see a character use a cell phone, the show's cast using cell phones actually being the theme of one of the show's endings. And they're all using flip-phones you'd expect to find in 2005.
Film — Animated
- The Lion King gives no indication of what time the story takes place. There are references that hint it is set in present day. The series confirms this. (On the other hand, since we never see any humans, it's still plausible to depict the setting as taking place in very ancient or even prehistoric times.)
- The original Toy Story obviously takes place in an unnamed Southern California suburb, but timewise it is deliberately vague about its setting. Assuming that Andy is an average little boy and not a nostalgist, it is tempting to take the film's central plot - wooden cowboy toys being suddenly eclipsed in popularity by science-fiction toys - as evidence of a late 1950s setting (and, indeed, the sequel briefly lampshades this possibility). Despite this, though, the world of the movie also features color TV sets, digital readout screens, Heavy Metal music, pizza as a favorite food of non-Italian-Americans note , and the modern version of Mr. Potato Head.
Film — Live Action
- Batman loves this trope. Reporters use very old fashioned cameras and a lot of the film's elements seem to be from The Forties, and yet Batman himself has very modern technology; far better than anything that existed when the movie was made! The closest the franchise comes to explicitly addressing this is in the 1989 original, when a character is shown reading a newspaper from 1947 - but the scene is also set in a newspaper office, where archived newspapers are certainly not uncommon.
- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: Word of God has it that the movie was supposed to take place in the early 1990s, but the case of Anachronism Stew (including Peter renting Mona Lisa Smile on DVD, as well as the existence of digital cable) would suggest otherwise; it pretty much looks as if it could have been set in the present day.
- Most of the time, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking seems to be set around the 1940s (when the first books were written). However, the characters are shocked when a local man "invents" a flying machine and Pippi's sailing adventures with her father seem to be out of the 17th century.
- 10,000 BC appears to be set in prehistoric times, with the main character encountering both a wooly mammoth and a saber tooth tiger. However, he ends up somewhere that appears to be ancient Egypt or at least Mesopotamia (an emperor is having a large pyramid built).
- Based on the hints in the story, the civilization is meant to be an Atlantis-like place that gets destroyed in the events of the movie, but inspires the later, historical civilizations.
- Brazil deliberately invokes this. It's set "Somewhere In The Twentieth Century"- whilst genre convention would normally dictate a dystopia of this type, it's also very Zeerusty and could just as easily be a twisted version of the then present-day world. It's left deliberately ambiguous, and in a way the precise setting isn't meant to be that important.
- It is hard to pinpoint exactly when Final Girl is supposed to be set. The cars and the dresses the women wear all point out to The Fifties, but the television in William and Veronica’s motel room is in color with a digital display and the guns they use are far more modern than that.
- A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night: Each character seems to exemplify a different time period in their clothing and demeanor: The Girl, in her striped shirt, short hair, and love of records, seems '60s, Arash loves his '50s clothes and car, Atti looks like she walked out of the 1930s, etc. The actual set looks modern, with oil drills and powerplants in the background.
- The 1993 film adaptation of The Fugitive plays with this, and not just because it's an updating of a 1960s TV series. The movie does a very good job of not tying the story to any particular time period, partly because the early 1990s (the filming date of The Fugitive and ostensibly its time period) was a fairly conservative era with very few particularly glaring fads or peculiarities and partly because a few subtle retro touches are slipped in, such as a Slavic immigrant who can barely speak English and The Dragon of the evil plot being made up to look like a grotesque Film Noir villain. The most specific technology the movie ever calls attention to is computers - specifically, P Cs with MS/DOS screens and dot-matrix printers, apparently putting the action sometime between 1980 and 1995.
- Shakes the Clown: The city of Palookaville appears to be stuck at some blurry point between the 1940s and 1960s, with certain characters in suits and fedoras and clowns still hosting children's TV shows - if not for references to Madonna and the Watergate scandal, and cocaine being a recreational drug.
- Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories take place sometime between 20,000 B.C. and 9500 B.C. Or as his short story "The Phoenix on the Sword" puts it, "Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas."
- Warrior Cats appears to take place in the present day. However, nobody knows how long in the "past" the background lore goes back - Word of God has flip-flopped on whether the Clans have been in the forest for 50 years or 30 years, both of which are considered to be too short by fans considering all the leaders and generation gaps we know about. When you go all the way back - before the Clans were formed, before the Tribe was formed, back when their ancestors lived by the lake - there seems to be modern construction equipment; it describes yellow vehicles. Most people accept the series as taking place slightly in the future because of this, but it's not clear exactly when.
- In Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, the time period is never mentioned. Word of God has said that she knows when it is set, and the location of the island it's set on, but she will not say.
- Based on the hints, The Quantum Thief seems to take place approximately 300-400 years to the future, but time has become almost irrelevant in a world where most human beings have been uploaded into immortal computer systems that can alter their subjective sense of time by increasing or decreasing processing cycles. The oldest Sobornost Gogols that work in the Deep Time are believed to be at least tens of thousands of subjective years old.
- It's hard to nail down exactly what period A Series of Unfortunate Events is set in, as "advanced" computers lie alongside telegrams and early mid 19th century automobiles and fashions, as well as practically medieval outlooks on child labour, medicine and the law.
- It's hard to pinpoint exactly when the stories featuring The Berenstain Bears are taking place. The action never leaves Bear Country, which features very few technologies aside from cars and telephones. Shopping malls and color television appear to be fairly new, suggesting an approximate date of 1970; however, one book shows what looks suspiciously like a Rubik's Cube, which was invented around 1980.
Live Action TV
- Pryors Place falls victim to this: the basic format of the show is Richard Pryor reminiscing about various childhood experiences, however his stories show his childhood friends in obviously 80s attire, not to mention such things as break dancing and arcades exist. It could all be justified, however, in that his stories are fictionalized versions of his life.
- The U.N.I.T. stories in classic Doctor Who take place sometime in The '70s, or Is it The '80s? Not even The Doctor knows for sure. Not even UNIT itself knows for sure.
- Similar to the above-mentioned Batman and the below-mentioned Batman: The Animated Series, Gotham's version of its title city has an tons of Anachronism Stew going on. The intent seems to be that Bruce Wayne is Batman in The Present Day, therefore this is The Past, but making it clear when in the past would tie down how long it's going to take Bruce to become Batman.
- Ask the average person when Peanuts takes place and they'll state the The Sixties, maybe The '70s. The fashion especially seems to pin the series as averting Comic-Book Time.. Except it doesn't. It's subtle but there are still references that pin strips at certain time periods. Harry Potter was referenced in a late 1999 strip putting the kids at modern day.
- In Paranoia the year is always 214 since Friend Computer likes the number. This means that the players have no idea how long Alpha Complex has been a hellhole.
- Several time periods you visit in Final Fantasy XIII-2 are labeled simply "??? AF" in the Historia Crux, meaning these episodes take place After the Fall but how many years after is unclear.
- Nigel from The Lost Crown never does get a straight answer when he asks what year is it in Saxton, a region filled with anachronisms due to its numerous hauntings.
- Live A Live avoids specifying dates at which chapters occur (although the timeframes are much clearer). Logs in the Science Fiction chapter even go so far as to hide dates with X's (although the "copyright" text in Captain Square minigame makes it clear it takes place no earlier than 22nd century).
- EarthBound takes place in "199X". Its sequel is even less helpful.
- Double Dragon 2 goes even further, placing the game in "19XX".
- The Famicom in Madotsuki's room suggests that Yume Nikki takes place at least as far back as The '80s, but it could otherwise be set anywhere between then and the Turn of the Millennium (when the game was made). Just one of the many ambiguous details this setting has to offer.
- A Running Gag in Archer is the Anachronism Stew, which is lampshaded often.
- Batman: The Animated Series (and by extension the DCAU) has tons of Anachronism Stew and no dates at all.
- In the Grey Ghost episode there is a TV Guide with him on it that dates the episode in late 1992.
- "Paging the Crime Doctor", however, begs to differ. If the dates in Thomas Wayne's yearbook are to be believed, the series' "present day" is in the late 1940s.
- Hanna-Barbera's series of The Little Rascals is supposedly set in the late 1930s, but they have microcomputers, commercial television and push-button traffic controls.
- Rugrats could easily be mistaken for perpetually taking place in the early 1990s - especially since the successor series, All Grown Up!, takes place ten years later and was created after the Turn of the Millennium - but later episodes imply the late 1990s due to the Internet playing a large role in the second movie's plot.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy was created with this in mind so it can appeal to a varying amount of age groups. The series could take place in The Noughties just as easily as it could take place in The '70s. Small references here and there, especially in later seasons, heavily imply that it takes place in the 2000s, though. The fact that it crossed over with Codename: Kids Next Door and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy further imply it taking place in the 2000s.