Bloodnok: Seagoon, look here, a right twit you made of yourself firing that photo of a dinner at the enemy. Do you know what they've fired back?
Bloodnok: The photograph of an empty plate.
Seagoon: Ha ha ha... An empty plate..! Well, there you are folks, the old anti-climax again!
is one of the oldest devices in storytelling. For those who don't know, the climax is when the story reaches its head, when the most important or exciting part occurs; in an action film, the climax is almost always a large, spectacular fight.
As a result, the subversion
of the climax, the Anticlimax, is probably almost as old. The anticlimax is when you're set up for a climax, such as a spectacular, battle-to-end-all-battles between the hero and the villain. It's built up more and more until the suspense is extremely exciting, and the reader/viewer can't wait for it...then the hero kills the villain in one hit, or the villain spontaneously drops dead, or some other random guy shows up
and destroys the villain before the hero does anything. Thus is the anticlimax. A Shaggy Dog Story
almost always features an anticlimax. Interestingly, however, cases of Shoot the Shaggy Dog
have a climax.
Not all anticlimaxes are intentional, though. Oftentimes, they are caused when the story writes itself into a corner. Other times, it's caused when the writer realizes that their planned solution just wouldn't make sense compared to the logical one. Sometimes, it's caused when there are teams of writers that don't communicate very well. The planned resolution of a Story Arc
is nullified by another writer, who might have written out the plot device intended. Sometimes, in the case of film and television, it's caused by budget constraints or unexpected cancellation. It's rather rare for unintentional anticlimaxes to show up in single works, usually popping up in long serials where there isn't a chance to unobtrusively go back and rewrite some pivotal moments to set up the proper climax.
Anticlimaxes can work well if it's clear that the subversion of audience expectations is the point, either for humorous purposes
(such as the Anticlimax Cut
) or as a more serious commentary on the genre of the work. If the Anticlimax is unintentional, however, or if the author's purpose just isn't sufficiently clear to the audience, the result is serious audience frustration. Use caution.
Compare No Ending
. For anti-climactic deaths, see Dropped a Bridge on Him
Examples, which are somewhat spoilerish:
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Anime and Manga
- The final episode of .hack//SIGN ends with the player-character heroes facing up to a Humongous Mecha-type monster, and it looks as if there's going to be a big climactic fight scene. Instead, the uber-hacker Helba just switches off the server and deletes the game. There was a real world ending that kinda makes up for it, though. The whole thing was a lead-up/prologue for the .hack games from one person's perspective (that person being Tsukasa). Considering the fact that Skeith, the monster, can't be defeated without subverting the physics of the game world with Data Drain, it would have been even more anticlimactic and a Downer Ending for everyone to die.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! essentially plays ping pong with this one during the Negi/Rakan fight, which starts off with an apparent anti-climax ( Negi K.O.ing Rakan), before having 3 or 4 climactic moments, only to keep going. Ultimately, Negi's final massive attack fails to knock Rakan out, but drains him enough that they resort to Good Old Fisticuffs before fainting from exhaustion in a tie. Whether this is an actual Anti-Climax, a subversion thereof, or some kind of combination is up for debate.
- The episode The Battle of the Badge. In the first act, we're treated to Giovanni luring Gary into a false sense of security and then pwning him with a thinly-disguised Mewtwo. If Gary can't beat Team Rocket's leader and his Big Guy, how is Ash, whom we know has to win the Earth Badge in order for the series to continue, going to beat him? Answer: Giovanni and Mewtwo just happen to leave the gym right when Ash comes in, and instead he has to put up with battling the Team Rocket trio once again, but this time for an actual prize; thus, the writers sit out on having Ash meeting Giovanni and facing Mewtwo.
- Interestingly, Ash would've met Giovanni because he got to the Viridian Gym first, but Gary cut in front of him. What's more, Gary didn't even need to challenge the gym because he already had all the gym badges he needed to qualify for the Pokémon League. Basically, it was all just an excuse to keep Ash from meeting the leader of the organization he has foiled time and again.
- Pretty much all the regional Evil Teams suffer from anti-climatic endings.
- In Kanto and Johto, Team Rocket never forced a final confrontation.
- In Hoenn, Team Aqua and Magma's two-part finale suffered from a rushed pace and horrid animation.
- In Sinnoh, Team Galactic had Cyrus disappear and had no actual final battle apart from Brock's Croagunk defeating Saturn's Toxicroak in one hit from out of nowhere.
- In Unova, Ghetsis never battles with Reshiram, who is brought back to his senses with one shot from Pikachu. The promised Reshiram vs Charizard battle never happens either, though that could be a case of Never Trust An Opening.
- Rumiko Takahashi seems to love these ones, ending a "will they/won't they" romantic comedy with an "I don't know" not once, but twice.
- School Rumble. Harima & Eri get engaged. He moves to Yakumo's house. Timeskip a couple of years. Harima has left a long time ago and nobody knew where he was.
- After being filled with all sorts of cool, awesome fights, the final battle of the X1999 movie between Messianic Archetype and the Dark Messiah, built up over about two hours, lasted literally all of five seconds.
- There's a decent amount of complaints that the Chrono Crusade anime's final battle between Chrono and Aion is much, much too short, particularly after all the build up. The fact that the ending is a Downer Ending in the end probably doesn't help. (Parodied amusingly in this fanart.)
- Maria†Holic ends almost every episode by introducing some dangerous situation or even a monster, only to have it resolved within the first two minutes of the next episode and never mentioned again.
- Quite a few fights in Bleach have gone this way recently.
- 3rd Espada Tia Harribel is about to take on Hiyori, Lisa, and Hitsugaya at the same time. Before we see a single exchange of blows as the two Vizards prepare to fight seriously for the first time, Aizen attacks Harribel for no reason.
- Tousen reveals his One-Winged Angel form, only to get stabbed in the head and killed by his ex-lieutenant.
- The final episode of the anime ended with the Lost Substitute Shinigami arc, where the final battles were very one-sided in favor of the Soul Reapers, more so than any other arc so far ( Kenpachi's battle against Giriko Kutsuzawa is quite possibly the shortest "fight" in the series' history). Ichigo didn't even have a hard time defeating Kugo Ginjo. What a way for the anime to end. The Bleach fans who don't bother with the manga and watch the anime exclusively must be pissed.
- Irresponsible Captain Tylor: epic use of the William Tell Overture heralds what is both an Anti-Climax and a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the titular character: having been given command of the entire UPSF fleet, Tylor gives one order: advance. Eventually, he gets so close to Ru Baraba Dom's ship that the two can see each other; he raises his hand, as if he was giving the order to fire (Dom does the same), and then instead of ordering the attack he salutes the Raalgon commander. The fleets pass each other and the conflict is resolved with no losses.
- The first half of the third part of the Chuunin Exam in Naruto consisted of a series of knockout battles to halve the contestants. The penultimate three battles were Naruto vs Kiba, Hinata vs Neji and finally Lee vs Gaara (which lasted three episodes, caused several minor earthquakes and ended with the grievously injured Lee being carted off to hospital). The final battle was between Choji and Dosu — so short it was embarrassing.
- Lee had hoped that he would not have to go last, and was thus overjoyed when his turn came because he, through reverse psychology, hoped that it would not to make it happen, providing some justification for the most intense battle being the penultimate one.
- The ending to the animé adaptation of Chobits drastically differs from the manga and many anime fans feel that it was anti-climactic.
- The Aincrad arc in Sword Art Online is based on the premise of a death game, but aside from few early casualties noone of importance dies, and the final boss battle is over in blink of an eye and the big bad is forgiven without suffering any consequences. Besides dying.
- The finale of Digimon Adventure ends up being this due to the characters finally meeting the Big Bad of the series and then completely beating him in the next episode, right after he's been introduced.
- In Hunter × Hunter, Gon spends the entire series searching for his father Ging. When he finally makes his first present-day appearance, he's just shown talking with the fellow members of the Zodiac with no build-up or fanfare whatsoever.
- Even better, the Zodiac itself gets a huge build-up, culminating in a two-page spread of them walking towards Hunter HQ. Except that they're all facing away from the reader, so it's impossible to tell that one of them is Ging.
- In Umi Monogatari, there is no final battle, as Sedna's nature and the accompanying sorrow is accepted by the islanders rather than sealed away. There is, however, an emotional battle to save Urin.
- The final fight in Tenchi in Tokyo. It looks like Tenchi's about to throw down against Yuugi... only to watch him slap her and hug her when she finally succumbs to her Villainous Breakdown.
- In the The Superman Adventures issue "Jimmy Olsen vs. Darkseid". Seconds after Jimmy breaks Superman out of Desaad's bindings and reverses the body swap, the lord of Apocalips himself shows up. The two heroes brace themselves for a battle, only for Darkseid to tell them he doesn't want to fight Superman now and let them go home.
- Watchmen: "Do you seriously think I'd explain my masterstroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it 35 minutes ago." Long story short, without giving too much away: the way things end up going, none of the characters you've really been following constantly for the entire run end up having any kind of impact at all.
- This is the case with the penultimate issue of Superior Spider-Man as Doc Ock just gives up and gives Peter back control of his body when things go belly up.
- An all-too-frequent occurrence in the post-Vaughan Runaways arcs. "Dead End Kids" builds up to a huge battle between the Upward Path and the Sinners that the Runaways choose to flee, while "Rock Zombies" ends with the Arc Villain disappearing, his second-in-command stealing Nico's Staff of One and then immediately dying from its new magical anti-theft enchantment, and Molly somehow figuring out a way to undo the enchantment that has turned most of the population of LA into zombies. And then the final arc got cut off halfway through, leaving the series on a cliffhanger that was later halfheartedly resolved in other series.
- Every fight scene in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Especially the way that The Dragon and the Big Bad were killed. The Dragon practically just lets her kill him, then the Big Bad shows about as much skill with a katana as a drunk sloth before he also gets killed in an anticlimactic way. While both were ostensibly played for comedy, it makes one wonder why the other slayers have been completely incapable of killing them.
- Not that the tv series didn't have this problem from time to time. Perhaps because of Girls Need Role Models, as the show goes on, it actually starts to become surprising when a villain actually manages to land a good solid hit on Buffy. Indeed, the shock of some episodes ( especially "School Hard", "Fool For Love" and "Dirty Girls"/"Empty Places") comes entirely from how rare it is for Buffy to meet anything close to her match in a fight.
- The horror-comedy Idle Hands has a hilarious Anti-Climax ending. The plucky teen heroes are trying to save their friend from demonic sacrifice, when the Action Girl suddenly arrives and skewers the possessed hand with her magic knife. It writhes for a second then disappears in a little puff of smoke. Seth Green lampshades it, saying something like, "What, that's it? No explosions? No hellfire? No WRAAARGH? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad everyone's okay, but... that was weak!"
- The ending of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The heroes are about to storm the castle and take the holy grail... and then the budget for the movie ran out. They never shot the epic battle that was intended. Instead, everyone gets arrested.
- The ending of the film Next. It is revealed that half of the movie was a vision of the future, where the nuclear bomb did go off. The film ends with Cris joining up with the FBI to stop the events of his vision from happening. To say audiences felt cheated by this would be an understatement.
- Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare would have been a lot more climactic if Freddy hadn't just walked away from Final Death five films in a row without so much as even a flesh wound. Of course, it was kind of Vindicated by History in the sense that they didn't continue the main franchise, but still...
- The ending of the 1993 Michael Crichton novel adaptation Rising Sun sets up a great climax, as Lieutenant Smith (Wesley Snipes) and Captain Connor (Sean Connery) finally confront the man who murdered a high-priced call girl in an office tower. They confront the suspect, a sleazy lawyer, who manages to escape and run away. The detectives follow him, setting up either a great fight scene or a shocking twist where one of the pair dies...then the audience learns that he's been thrown into a pool of wet concrete by low-level Japanese thugs. Offscreen.
- It's also suggested by Connor that he may not have been the one who did it but merely took the fall, as expected in Japanese culture (except the lawyer was American).
- The apparent "climax" of Spy Kids 2 is a Professional Wrestling style fight between Antonio Banderas and Mike Judge, complete with everyone else shouting advice from the sidelines. Seriously.
- No Country for Old Men: The main character gets killed offscreen, the other main character retires, the villain gets away with just a broken arm, and we never find out for sure what happens to the money.
- A few of the Hammer Dracula films have this problem. The worst offender is probably Taste the Blood of Dracula, which ends with Dracula stumbling into a chapel by accident and collapsing to dust because of the holiness surrounding him, rather than the usual uber-violent burning or impaling scene that most of the movies opted for.
- The ending of Kill Bill. While there was some great dialogue between the Bride and Bill, many people were expecting a kick ass fight scene. Blink for a second, Bill is dead.
- It's usually interpreted as highlighting the emptiness of revenge - The Bride's journey to Bill was exciting and full of brilliant fight scenes, but the actual act of taking revenge was unfufilling, over too quickly and didn't provide a neat finish to her struggle.
- The 1993 movie Wizards set up an epic conflict between the armies of darkness and the forces of good, building up to the fight between the heroic wizard of light and his arch nemesis when the good guy pulls out a hand gun and shoots the bad guy, avoiding the promised epic magical duel.
- At the end of Diggstown, after "Honey" Roy Palmer has beaten "Hammerhead" Hagan in the climax, it is revealed that he must now fight Menoso Torres, who is "tough as nails" and "dirty as they come." Of course, it turns out that "dirty" in this context means in the pay of Palmer's manager, who immediately order Torres to take a fall.
- Most of the plot threads in Mulholland Dr. have no conventional payoff.
- In the movie Equilibrium, the battle between Taye Diggs and Christian Bale has been led up to the entire movie. In a previous training sequence, they've been shown to be an even match. Taye Diggs dies in a Single-Stroke Battle. It's actually pretty awesome, though.
- Apparently they were going to have a proper final duel, but Taye Diggs had a scheduling conflict and wasn't able to be around to choreograph and film such a fight, so they went with the above solution.
- The 2005 Fantastic Four movie is often criticized for seeming like this. Dr. Doom is now a metallic being with lightning energy surging through his arms. How do the Fantastic Four stop him? Surely they would have to do something to put this power mad villain through hell. Using their all of their powers, the heroes... freeze him by turning him into a big metal statue. Movie over. Roll credits.
- The 1994 unreleased The Fantastic Four had Doom step into the room and start doing some Evil Gloating over his enemies, only to realize mid-sentence that they'd beaten all his goons and escaped and he was only talking to himself. He took it surprisingly well:
- Done deliberately in Gangs of New York: the epic showdown between the Natives and the Dead Rabbits is interrupted before it can even properly begin when the New York Draft Riots (which have been simmering in the background throughout the whole movie) finally explode and the Navy starts shelling Manhattan to quell them (yes, really). Amsterdam gets to kill Bill in the end, but since the latter has already been mortally wounded by shrapnel, it's more of a Mercy Kill than anything else.
- The Wild World of Batwoman: the "climactic" "battle" at the "end" resembles nothing so much as a hybrid of a Wimp Fight and a square dance.
- In Iron Man 3 the Mark 42 flies into save Tony, only to hit the side of a crane and fall apart.
- In The Avengers, Loki confronts the Hulk, and begins yet another long-winded monologue about his superiority, how everyone are bugs beneath him, and how he will not be "bullied" by HULK SMASH.
- Across The Nightingale Floor ended with the protagonist heroically fighting his way into the villain's inner sanctum, only to discover that he's already dead. Later, in Brilliance of the Moon, the climactic final battle is completely averted when the leader of the enemy army gets shot just as the battle is about to begin. Lian Hearn seems to be fond of this trope. It did show the Big Bad's death, and arguably the heroic fighting could be considered the climax anyhow. May count as a subversion.
- The climax of the big fight in American Gods is anticlimactic. Shadow says a few dozen words, then everybody leaves quietly.
- Good Omens: Just when it looks like the Apocalypse has been averted, a mighty rumble from underground signals that Crowley's boss isn't going to let this go easily. Crowley and Aziraphale arm themselves for the final battle, exchange speeches, change into their true forms, and the human characters decide to join them in the upcoming fight... then Adam waves his hand and suddenly there's no battle to be fought. Everything's back to normal now and the characters can get on with their lives! This is a deliberate form of Anti-Climax, as Adam using the supernatural powers given him by his own father to send him away and deny him even his Roaring Rampage of Revenge is part of Adam's own Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Ivanhoe ends with the big trial by combat to determine the fate of Rebecca. Brian Du Bois-Guilbert, the invincible Templar, is facing Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the only man to have unhorsed him (but who is suffering from a crippling wound that has laid him up for most of the book so far). The horns are sounded, the horses charge, lances are leveled... and Guilbert drops dead of a heart attack. Of course, in the book it's a thinly disguised metaphor for his guilty conscience at all the evil things he's done overcoming him—he would have obliterated Ivanhoe, dooming Rebecca to an unjust death. After this, the Templars grumblingly but freely accept the verdict, allowing Rebecca and Ivanhoe to go free. Not surprisingly, the movies play it straighter, with a brutal climactic fight to the death followed by Ivanhoe taking on all the Templars at once, thus Completely Missing the Point.
- Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. After an exciting sword/gun battle, the Protagonist, the heavily armed Mooks and cops pile onto their respective motorcycles, pickup trucks, and cop cars, and after that "it's just a chase scene." The next chapter has Hiro arriving safely at his destination.
- The conclusion of the Twilight series. The end of Breaking Dawn seems to be leading up to a violent confrontation that was set up two novels previous between the protagonist vampire clan, the Cullens and their allies, and the vampire authority known as the Volturi. Instead of fighting, the immortal vampires with dozens of superpowers between them choose to talk out their differences and come to a diplomatic solution. Quite a letdown, considering the genre.
- Meyer said she wanted the ending of Breaking Dawn to be a chess master-type battle, mental and not physical. The let-down is more that instead of actual battle of wits, the Volturi simply run off when Alice provides a Deus ex Machina, especially after about six or so chapters of the Cullens repeating how the Volturi would use any excuse possible to kill them and probably wouldn't even listen to their witnesses or evidence.
- The first book sets up a trend of anti-climaxes: Big Bad James kidnaps Bella and his cohort Laurent won't go up against the insane, genius hunter, even with seven other vampires. A big chase is enacted to save Bella, and she's thrown around a bit. Then, just as Edward arrives with his posse and it looks like we're going to get a kickass battle . . . Bella, the POV, blacks out and we don't see anything.
- This is nicely subverted in the movie. While the camera is focused on Bella, the audience can still see Emmett and Jasper subduing James in the background, while starting a fire and excitedly burning him. Also, we get to see Alice rip off James' head. Beautiful!
- The film adaptation of Breaking Dawn Double Subverts the above-mentioned Anticlimax by showing a long, brutal fight with heavy casualties on both sides, only to reveal that the whole thing was a psychic vision being shown to Aro by Alice. Horrified by the vision, Aro decides that his current course of action is not a wise one and leaves the Cullens in peace. (Understandable, since the vision shows him being mercilessly slaughtered.)
- The book Casino Royale has the villain Le Chiffre torture Bond, but before he can kill Bond off he is killed by a SMERSH assassin—at the end of the second act.
- This only seems strange after the later tradition of grand Bond vs. villain plots. The central conflict in the first novel is whether Bond will decide if being a spy is "worth" the torture, solitude, pointless involvement, etc. The (traditional) climax is actually Vesper's double-agent betrayal and suicide.
- Lawrence Watt-Evans uses this trope very, very deliberately in The Annals of the Chosen—as usual for Watt-Evans, This Is Reality, and the death of the first book's villain is less an honorable battle than an execution.
- The Left Behind series has an anticlimax ending for the ages. The only two heroes left are dying, Carpathia's armies are storming the walls of Jerusalem, resistance is rapidly crumbling and there is no chance of turning the tide. Suddenly, Jesus! The stage is set for a titanic showdown between The messiah and the Antichrist and his armies. Then Jesus opens up a hole in the ground leading to a fiery pit of eternal damnation and Carpathia jumps right in with a devil may care attitude. Presumably saying something like, "Alright, good game, guys. Time to pack it in. We had some fun the last seven years though, didn't we?". On top of this, Carpathia's Dragon jumps in right after him, plugging his nose as if jumping into a swimming pool.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The final battle between Harry and Voldemort: The fight is literally just Voldemort throwing one killing-curse at Harry (after Harry gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech), and Harry throwing a disarming-spell at the same time which causes said killing-curse to backfire and kill Voldemort instead.
- Stephen King's The Dark Tower has dozens of storylines which almost all end in anticlimax. The most notable is the fight between Roland and the Man in Black. Their conflict is resolved when the Man in Black is eaten by Mordred near the beginning of the final book. He is never mentioned again despite the fact that Roland spent the entire first book chasing him.
- Charles Palliser's The Unburied. The solution provided by Courtine to the mystery is so elegant that it deserved to be investigated further and either proved or disproved. The whole book is an account of how an innocent man went to the gallows, sent to his family to explain what happens, but the novel itself promises a lot more in the way of an Exotic Detective story and fails to deliver. The Framing Device just feels like an afterthought, and the Romantic Plot Tumor, probably pretty irrelevant to the intended recipient of Courtine's account, is also left unresolved.
- In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, just before the Universe ends, the Church of the Second Coming of the Great Prophet Zarquon excitedly greets Zarquon as he makes his prophesied appearance:
Zarquon coughed. He peered round at the assembled gathering. The stars in his eyes twinkled uneasily. He handled the microphone with confusion.
"Er..." he said, "hello. Er, look, I'm sorry I'm a bit late. I've had the most ghastly time, all sorts of things cropping up at the last moment."
He seemed nervous of the expectant awed hush. He cleared his throat.
"Er, how are we for time?" he said. "Have I just got a min—"
And so the Universe ended.
- In the novel version of The African Queen, the protagonists' plot to destroy the German gunboat Königin Luise fails when the eponymous river barge is sunk by a storm. Instead, the pair is captured by the Germans and — given their pathetic condition — released into the custody of their countrymen, who have already contrived to bring their own gunboats to the lake, and sink the Königin Luise on their own.
- The poem "A Perfect Afternoon" from The D- Poems of Jeremy Bloom by Gordon Korman. The narrator talks about how he's feeling very creative today and all the wonderful things he could do. For example, he could hollow out a tree to build a kayak, carve a nearby rock into a famous sculpture, write an opera, or create a blown-glass masterpiece. Then in the last line, he reveals that he won't actually be doing any of these things because his father is making him mow the lawn instead.
- Jaws ends with the shark dying of wounds it sustained during the battle with the heroes, and Great White Hunter Quint being pulled overboard by loose rope and drowning. The Film of the Book decides to change both of their deaths.
- Dying of the Light is an interesting case. After a frantic chase through Challenge and the forests and the destruction of Kryne Lamiya, the main characters essentially hide out in Larteyn getting Cabin Fever while the bad guys all die off in an Enemy Civil War. However, Dirk's internal conflict is arguably the main one in the novel and that is resolved in Larteyn.
Live Action TV
- Played with to a ridiculous extent by Five Iron Frenzy at their final live show. In the middle of the show, Reese Roper went into a long monologue about how he hated the practice of bands saving their best song for the encore, then announced instead that FIF would play the best song they ever wrote, right then in the middle of the show. It would be all downhill after that, and the fans could all go home early. And then "the best song they ever wrote" turned out to be this.
- The old Swedish pop song Balladen om det stora slagsmalet pa Tegelbacken. (The title means "The ballad of the huge fight at Tegelbacken.") It tells the story about two gangs of young hoodlums from Stockholm, who meet in the middle of the city to have a huge fight. The two gangs spend four hours standing there, yelling at each other and waving their fists. Then, after four hours of nobody having the guts to actually start fighting, everybody turns around and goes home again.
- Obviously, any Anticlimax Boss (and many instances of The Man Behind the Curtain), as well as A Winner Is You, is an example of this.
- Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer has a staggeringly bad example of this for good-aligned characters. Throughout the entire campaign, you are told about how the Wall of the Faithless represents everything that is pointlessly cruel in the Gods' grand design. Slowly but surely you go about an epic quest to cast down the wall and rescue the tortured souls trapped within, culminating in an assault on the realm of the dead itself. Upon tearing apart the God of the Dead's city and making your way to the wall, the God of the Dead himself appears before you... and reveals you only got that far because he secretly pitied you. What's more, he's decided you've done enough damage and won't let you destroy the wall, despite admitting how evil its existence is and he just says But Thou Must and sends you away. There is absolutely nothing you can do to stop him. Intervention on the part of Wizards of the Coast also meant that no major canon-altering changes could be present in the end-game, even if the canon is poorly thought out in this respect (discussion of the Wall in most fora is basically Flame Bait).
- The only way to fight him would be to take the ultra-evil ending where you become a world-devouring monstrosity. You may be evil but you actually get a good ending!
- The GBC Video Game Remake of Dragon Quest III when you finally get all of the medals from all of the monsters, the Grandragon, the ultimate critter.... falls asleep.
- The Scout Tournament in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker. You face three adversaries, one stronger than the other, and eventually face off your rival in a fight that made itself wait for the whole game up to there...and she gets disqualified for hitting your monster... victory is yours, no sweat broken.
- Fable II. The hero spends a great deal of time gathering other heroes and preparing to defeat Lucian. When the player expects a final battle of epic proportions, Lucian is defeated simply by holding the A button and letting a magical music box kill him, and then pressing either B, X, or Y to finish him off with a single hit. (Or not, and letting Reaver shoot him instead)
- Cave Story: This can happen in the first fight with Balrog. When he asks you if you want to fight him with "that pea shooter of yours", one would think you would have to say "yes", but if you say no, he just leaves.
- Fallout 3 (just the game itself, not the expansion packs) does this in spades. The final mission (where you have to reclaim Project Purity) starts with a glorified escort mission, where you stay behind a giant robot as it guns down Enclave soldiers outside the Jefferson Memorial. The game then becomes a joke, as you find yourself facing a final boss (Colonel Autumn) who can either be put down in just a couple of hits, or persuaded (if your speech skills are high enough) to stop what he's doing. The entire game wraps up with a But Thou Must-style decision, wherein you have to decide whether to kill yourself in a radiation-soaked control room or have your partner sacrifice herself for you. Despite the fact that you have a mutant that's immune to radiation, you can't use him (as he explains it's "your destiny") unless you have the Broken Steel DLC. The game finishes with a 60-second cut scene that doesn't explain very much about what happened, and if you really want to know more, you'll have to buy Broken Steel.
- To add insult to injury, Broken Steel retcons your Heroic Sacrifice into severe radiation poisoning that causes a short term coma instead of death. Sending your partner in, on the other hand, will actually result in her death. Additionally, Broken Steel allows you to use the mutant, but the resulting cutscene still calls you a coward for doing the smart thing.
- Spore: Steve, the Precursor who lives at the center of the galaxy, after an impressive-looking intro, turns out to be a cute Flying Saucer with a squeaky voice.
- A romhack of Earthbound known to most everyone as Radiation's Halloween Hack pulls this off in a frustratingly well-done manner. After spending a large chunk of the game in the hellish Magicant of the insane Dr. Andonuts and finally facing off with him, you suddenly snap back awake in his lab to find the recently deceased man sitting before you. Completely unfazed, you return home to go make out with hot chicks and get drunk. You're a bounty hunter, after all.
- F.E.A.R. actually subverts this when you encounter Paxton Fettel. The confrontation ends with you putting a bullet in his head, and then that's it. No huge boss fight, no giant final battle, nothing particularly....wait, what's that laptop....is that Harlan Wade.....what's he doi- OH SHIT ALMA'S LOOSE!
- Pokémon: Every legendary Pokemon fights ends in 4 seconds with the Master Ball, though it is that entire point of its existence. Not so if you want to capture it with a weaker ball, though.
- In two of the final missions of Supreme Commander, you get fire control over Black Sun at the end. Literally, a button appears on the interface saying "Fire Black Sun: End the Infinite War". Clicking it causes you to win. By this point, it should be noted, you've already wiped out all the enemies on the map.
- The manga adaptation of Kingdom Hearts pulls this full force at the end of the run. In the game's penultimate level, you fight Riku, Maleficent, Dragon!Maleficent, and Ansem!Riku, then you move on to the final level and fight Ansem, Darkside, Ansem again, then Ansem aboard his battleship. The manga adaptation of the game has absolutely none of these fights: Riku runs from the first fight, then he kills Maleficent himself, the possessed Riku then hands Sora the dark Keyblade so Sora can release his heart, and once they track down Ansem, he gives his speech, unveils his huge battleship, and is then destroyed by the light of Kingdom Hearts without Sora and friends doing a damn thing. The game had a total of eight boss fights in its final two levels and the manga skips all of them—so not only is the manga an anti-climax, it's a lot worse for anyone who played the game first and was expecting some epic fight scenes.
- This is a problem with the manga in general. If boss battles appear at all, they tend to be really lame Single Stroke Battles.
- In Yo-Jin-Bo, if you are paired up with them, Jin and Muneshige will get in a fight. Then Kasumimaru will show up and interrupt them before a real victor is decided. Presumably, this is to keep the player from knowing who is the better fighter (and thus being persuaded by it). Additionally, the Big Bad of the story is only confronted and defeated in the Good endings; in most of the Bad and Forgotten Dream endings, he's still at large at the end, although there is one instance in which he's simply captured and imprisoned offscreen.
- In The Ball, after the protagonist braves a myriad of deadly traps, fights off hordes of mummies and a handful of gigantic, vicious monsters, and explores a massive, terrifying, practically Lovecraftian factory at the center of a volcano, the aliens take their ball and go home. This is not a metaphor.
- In World of Warcraft, the goblin starter story. At the end when you and Thrall finally defeat Trade Prince Gallywix, who has so far screwed you out of your life savings, tried to enslave you, successfuly enslaved your friends and commited various other atrocities, you stand there intending to lay down some righteous retribution, right? Nope, Thrall has other plans for him, like letting him remain the trade prince without any real reprecussions for what he's done.
- In the Super NES version of Shadowrun, after a boss battle with The Dragon, the final dungeon essentially consists of several floors of enemies before a hacking sequence as the final playable part. Jake then guns down the Big Bad and his two bodyguards in a cutscene.
- Peasant's Quest involves you to try and defeat the evil Trogdor the Burninator from destroying Peasantry. When you get to Trogdor's cave, he's huge. You throw a sword, he wakes up from his sleep, explains that he's "kinda invincible", and burninates you. The game then congratulates you, saying "You didn't defeat Trogdor, but you got closer than anyone else! You win!"
- Shin Super Robot Wars: After the final scenario, Ryuusei speaks for you all when he hopes that this really was the end, and that you're not going to hear the beep of another message calling you to battle. You do in fact hear a beeping, but it's just Watta's watch telling you all that it's time for tea. Ryuusei gives him a mostly good natured clunk on the head, which Watta's butler finally responds to in kind on Ryuusei's noggin.
- Invoked in the "Sir Hammerlock" DLC for Borderlands2, having finally fought your way through hordes of savages to Professor Nakayama's hideout and defeating the Mad Scientist's ultimate creation, Nakayama himself emerges, and trips, falls down a flight of stairs, and dies without ever fighting you. At least you get to loot his lab afterwards.
- In the "Heaven's Feel" route of Fate/stay night, Shirou confronts Kotomine in the final battle. Revelations are made, lines are drawn, and the two engage in a brutal fistfight with the intent of killing one another. Just as the intensity is reaching a peak Kotomine, having dominated the fight, abruptly stops mid-punch as he finally dies due to a pre-existing injury.
- Level 100 of Ball Revamped says, "Get ready for the Master Ball...". This is the last level of the game. There's no fight against the Master Ball.
- In Pimp Lando, the Cliff Hanger ending of "Pimp 2K" (episode 6) is completely resolved before the titles roll in "Love Changes Every Pimp" (episode 7).
- In the final episode of The Animals of Farthing Wood, the confrontation between the rats and the other animals is brought to a conclusion when the rat's leader has his tail bitten off, and everyone laughs at him. Which, considering the rather darker battle that takes places in the books, is a little off the mark.
- Codename: Kids Next Door: Some episodes were about Cree's plan to detach the KND moonbase from the moon and send it to the sun. In fact, the first of those episodes was about Cree stealing what she believed to be vital data for her plan but actually being fake data planted by her younger sister Abby. After finally reaching the moonbase, she was discouraged by Chad telling her he had recently tried (and failed) to do so and we never learned how the fake data would have ruined her plans.
- The Fairly OddParents: In "Wishology", Timmy needed Crocker's help to defeat the Darkness and Crocker would only help if Timmy admits he has fairies. Timmy complied. Crocker felt it was anti-climatic but, since he was "a man of my word", he helped.
- The fourth season finale of Winx Club had the Winx beat the remaining Fairy Hunters relatively quickly and easily. But since one of the Fairy hunters had been killed off earlier, in addition to the fact that their magic was weakening, it makes sense somewhat that the final battle between them and the fairies was finished off rather quickly, with the Fairy hunters being frozen and then falling into a chasm. There were also several sub-plots that had to be settled.
- In one episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, Johnny and Nick managed to get Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster together, and get them to fight to the death. The fight lasts precisely six seconds.
- In another episode, Genghis Khan is brought back from the dead to fight. However, it turns out he had his brain swapped with that of Mahatma Gandhi, so he just sits there looking scared instead of actually fighting.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- The second season finale had Shining Armor and Cadance using a powerful shield to knock back the Changelings rather quickly after the latter proven themselves to be a threat by defeating Celestia and the main characters. It's pretty anti-climatic considering it came after an epic battle sequence. Even the episode doesn't know what to do next so it suggested "Uh... dance?" and after that climax, the ending turns back into your typical My Little Pony episode, without almost any acknowledgement that a wide-scale invasion happened, even when one character (a very important one at that) pops in and asked if they missed anything.
- Equestria Games. For an episode that's been foreshadowed since Season 3 with numerous episodes building up to it, the end result is not exactly an epic.
- In the Hero Factory cartoon's 1st season finale, Big Bad Von Nebula is defeated when the Heroes ask him to guess which one of them is holding the device that can destroy Nebula's black hole — his old teammate Stormer or the rookie Furno. Nebula picks Stormer because he thinks he's selfish, but when Furno reveals that he has the devices, the supposed mastermind acts so shocked that he lets Furno chug the things into the black hole and then the Heroes simply snag Nebula's Magic Staff out of his hand and trap him in a pocket dimension. No fight occurs, and the other villains are also defeated very easily, despite coming off as near-unbeatable in previous episodes.
- The climax of BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn, handled by much of the same team as the Hero Factory show, is often seen as this, with the dreaded Tuma turning out to be a stupid dragon, and the real Big Bad and the combined Bone Hunter and Skrall army being powerless against Mata Nui's Mask of Power and the other heroes' Elemental Powers. The novelization at least rewrites Tuma's defeat (Mata Nui used his size against him, instead of a battering a conveniently flashing and unprotected wound on Tuma's back) and gives some justification for the Skrall's sudden incompetence.
- An episode of Ren and Stimpy named "A Visit to Anthony" features our heroes (here, treated as famous cartoon superstars) crashing at a young fan's house. Anthony's father, a very large, very emotional fellow, hates cartoons. He warns the boys of what he'll do if Anthony gets hurt on their watch. When the boy gets beaten by a bully, the angry dad takes Ren and Stimpy to his den for a chat. It's a tense, quiet scene: The fireplace reflects in the man's eyes while he sweats profusely and switches from simmering rage to near madness and back again. After accusing Ren and Stimpy of being pampered, snobby, celebrity punks, he decides to ask them a question. Just ONE...SINGLE...SOLITARY THING: "So, what makes you guys move, anyway?" Stunned by the sudden change in tone, Stimpy promptly vomits on Ren. Anthony and his father share a hearty laugh at the two cartoons' expense. The end!
- The reveal of Lin's dad in The Legend of Korra. After literally waiting four seasons, we get to know his name. Instead of the epic bruhaha surrounding Zuko's mom, it is revealed his name is Kanto and that it didn't work out between him and Toph. That was about it.
- The first "real" loss of MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko; After 32 wins and generally being considered unbeatable, he tapped out on the second minute of the first round against Fabricio Werdum.
- Australia's Donald Bradman is widely considered to have been the greatest batsman in the history of cricket. He entered his last Test Match in an Ashes series with a test career average of 101.39. Unfortunately, he was bowled for a duck in his first innings in that match. Still, he only needed four runs from his second innings to ensure a final Test career average of 100 — to this day nobody else has come close. England promptly collapsed to an innings defeat so that Bradman never got to bat again. He ended his Test career with an average of 99.94.
- After cutting a bloody swath through Europe, breaking the back of the Western Empire and the Eastern's purse, Attila turned back after a chat with the pope, and died of a nosebleed a while later.
- At the end of World War II, everyone expected to see Hitler pay for his war crimes. Instead, he shot himself. Though in the long run, the other part of the climax was, well...
- Almost everyone thought the United States would win the Vietnam War easily. Instead the US troops left after over 10 long years of fighting and with the reputation of warcrimes outraging the international public. Only 2 years later after US withdrawl, the Vietnamese communists redeclared war on South Vietnam and won with practically no resistance.
- The War in Afghanistan also is appearing anticlimatic. After occupying Afghanistan for 10 YEARS to find Bin Laden, it was discovered that he was actually in Pakistan. Even Bin Laden's death seemed anticlimatic for some because it took too long to find and kill him, AND AMERICANS ARE STILL IN AFGHANISTAN.
- Every doomsday prediction (so far) has been met with this, with Y2K and the 21st of December 2012 being the biggest examples in recent history.
- Nearly everyone expected Richard Nixon to be impeached because of Watergate. Instead, he just resigned.
- The infamous Geraldo Rivera hosted a live broadcast of the opening of Al Capone's vault: after hyping it up massively, claiming that it could contain everything from bodies to compromising photos, the safe turned out to contain... nothing.
- Comet ISON, after being hyped by the medias as being the comet of the century that could be brighter than the full moon... just disintegrated near the sun and disappeared.