Green Shirt: Are you waiting to get some punch?
Yellow Shirt: No, they're still setting it up.
Green Shirt: Then where's the punch line?
Yellow Shirt: I don't think there is one.The Climax 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 usually do 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 with 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. Not to Be Confused with a Gainax Ending: an anticlimax will train a pilot, build his jet, fuel his jet, prepare the runway, prepare the radio tower, prime the jet to launch, then cancel the launch as the pilot reads a book in the cockpit; a Gainax Ending will train the pilot, build the jet, fuel the jet, prepare the runway, prepare the radio tower, prime the jet to launch, then take the jet to its destination via the talons of a giant eagle. An anticlimax is a climax that isn't: a Gainax Ending is a climax that comes from nowhere. Compare No Ending. For anti-climactic deaths, see Dropped a Bridge on Him.
— A complete comic strip from Cyanide & Happiness
Examples, which are somewhat spoilerish:
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Anime & 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.
- 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.
- This actually happens pretty frequently in Bleach, especially toward the end of arcs. Kubo will normally set up a lot of battles to give whatever of the Loads and Loads of Characters are still standing something to do. Once the final battle is over, the resolution of the fights set up during this time oftentimes taking place off screen, some of them even going so far as to not even reveal who won.
- At the end of the Arrancar arc, Yammy becomes a Kaiju and demolishes Rukia, Renji, and Chad (in the manga, off-panel no less) and tanks everything Ichigo can throw at him and more. Once Kenpachi and Byakuya take over, they treat him as a joke and spend half the fight focusing on each other. Even after he transforms again into something even bigger, the end of the arc reveals that they simply killed him off screen.
- 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.
- The Big Bad of the first half, Aizen, is built up to be unstoppable, defeating the entire supporting cast with one blow on average. After the main character trains for three months/an hour (consisting mostly of him being stabbed) the enemy who has been hyped up throughout the entire series is defeated in three chapters with absolutely no effort on the part of Ichigo.
- Even worse than The Espada was Ginjo. After all the buildup after The Reveal about him being both the Big Bad of the arc and his talk of his strength, Ichigo proceeds to fight him for one chapter in bankai before one-shotting him.
- Due to the manga's early cancellation, the final fight with Yhwach goes shorter than it was likely originally intended. The last leg of it in Soul Society takes only a few chapters, ending with a last-minute power-up from Uryu turning his powers against him and giving Ichigo a chance to cut him down.
- 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 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 Apocalymon and then completely beating him in the next episode, right after he's been introduced.
- Digimon Adventure 02 has BelialVamdemon/MaloMyotismon defeated by the children simply preaching their entire dreams and goals instead of an epic battle with both universe at stake despite the fact that BelialVamdemon/MaloMyotismon should be at his strongest.
- 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.
- In the TV series of Hellsing, the final villain comes out of nowhere. While some of the craziest action takes place during the final battle, it was still short lived and not entirely tense due to the lack of buildup and plot value.
- In Devil and Devil, the characters arrive to prevent Satan's resurrection, only to find that he's already been dispatched by an Angelic Assassin Team
- The second time Kotaro shows up in order to face Yaiba he's bisected by Rokuemon Ishida's attack. Justified, because Kotaro was totally unaware of his plans.
- Laxus vs the Raven Tail team on Fairy Tail turned out to be this. Despite being hyped as having been trained to specifically combat Fairy Tail members, outnumbering him 5 to 1, and one of these five, Ivan, being the Guild Master AND Makarov's son, Laxus defeats the five of them without breaking a sweat. With one hit each.
- The Obsidian Lord in Mai-HiME, largely because the rest of the Himes have had their Most Important People revived (and a few were revived themselves) and are working together to defeat him After the Hime Star is destroyed, he gets incinerated in one attack from Kagutsuchi.
- 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.
- Hanzo from Naruto was seen as one by a large portion of the fanbase when he fought against Mifune, his perfect counter. Considering their battle only lasted a single chapter, when Kinkaku and Ginkaku got a three page battle and Kinkaku was demolishing two entire divisions with his Superpowered Evil Side, they do have a point, and Asuma got a two chapter fight with his team a chapter later, they have a point. However, Mifune was still his perfect counter and Hanzo did take down an entire division beforehand without trouble.
- Madara Uchiha, hyped as an Invincible Villain and apparently the Big Bad of Naruto responsible for the entire conflict, is disposed off and body-snatched in 4 panels by Black Zetsu who is later revealed to contain the will of Kaguya, aka the first human to ever wield chakra.
- Kaguya has officially qualified as this. It only took ten chapters after the character's official introduction for her to be sealed (again). It makes the above example of Madara even more disappointing, as he was supplanted by someone who did not even last a tenth of the page time he did.
- Of all the characters who got anti-climatically killed in High School D×D, it's Freed who gets killed in seconds by Kiba.
- Yugi of Tenchi in Tokyo is built up to be a very dangerous Tyke Bomb that has actively screwed with Tenchi and the girls for the entire series. By the end of the series, Tenchi restores his "family", gets back his BFS and confronts Yugi... by slapping her, then giving her a Cooldown Hug.
- Hody Jones in One Piece. Justified by two factors: first, the crew just came from two years of intense training in order to face the New World, and second, he basically was a Small Name, Big Ego without much experience.
- Beforehand, there was Bellamy, whose only justification is the latter reason. He got beat by Luffy with one punch, long before any of the Straw Hats got really strong.
- The next villain after Hody Jones is Caesar Clown, a sadistic scientist who ate the Gas-Gas Fruit who is taken down easily by Luffy who now has the ability to touch Logia in their Super Smoke forms. Justified in that that the Logia he had fought previously were much stronger than this one for two reasons, one they were some of the strongest characters in the series, and two they had back-ups to when their abilities are cancelled, while Caesar completely relies on his. So it is a case of Small Name, Big Ego.
- Caesar may have been the Big Bad of the arc, but to be quite honest, of the three main villains of the arc (him, Monet, and Vergo), it became clear that he was the weakest of them. Monet, asides from being a snow logia (meaning she has weaker and more smoke-like powers of Aokiji's), also used some icepicks as weapons, yet even she was somewhat of an Anti-Climax Boss, being taken down by Zoro by just fear, and then finished off by Tashigi. Vergo however was the only subversion during this arc — he was not only the most dangerous, he was also the most effective — he had Law's heart, allowing him take out one of the five people who could possibly beat him that were on the island (Smoker, Law, Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji). Sanji had tremendous difficulty with him and soon got distracted by Tashigi and the Marines of G-5, Law couldn't beat him until he regained his heart, and since neither Luffy nor Zoro had any personable desire to face him as they were too busy with the other two, that just left Smoker to take him on.
- The Zou arc features this in a way that manages to be both anticlimactic and epic. Jack the Drought, one of Emperor Kaido's top men, with the highest bounty revealed to that point in the series (one billion Berries), shown to be an incredibly powerful and insanely ruthless warrior that fought for days without slowing down, with a fleet of ships and monsters under his command...gets taken out in one shot How is that epic? Because the one who does it is Zunisha, an elephant taller than a skyscraper, to protect the citizens who dwell in the city on his back.
- The final Big Bad of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is Darkness. He's already pretty near this territory, given that he had a total of one onscreen win to his name, and lost to protagonist Judai no less than three times. But we're four episodes from the end, and all the other times were just warmups. It's time to see his real Deck... and it's a gamble deck. A gamble deck that takes up his entire Spell and Trap zone. Then he proceeds to give Judai everything he needs to bring out the superpowered Neos Wiseman. Then he finally brings out his ace, Darkness Neosphere... but before he can even use its effect, Judai copies it with Black Panther and proceeds to use it on him and ruin his entire strategy. All told, the progenitor of the World of Darkness goes down in one and a half episodes.
- V in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL was heavily hyped as the most powerful of the Arclight siblings, and his two brothers both demonstrated substantial skills in their respective duels. When he finally Duels Kaito (supposedly his apprentice), he brings out the largest monster in the entire series, Dyson Sphere... and that's basically it. He uses no complex tactics or intelligent plays; he just sits on Dyson Sphere and uses it to tank Kaito's first few attacks. When Kaito proceeds to pull out Neo Galaxy-Eyes, which V knew he had and had seen him use to defeat the other two Arclights, he had absolutely nothing to counter it.
- The Lifemaker in Mahou Sensei Negima!. He showed up (flashbacks aside) for less than a dozen chapters, did pretty much nothing but oneshotting Negi and Fate and immobilizing Ala Rubra, literally did nothing else as Class 3-A freed Asuna, on whom his plans hinged, and then he was vanquished away by Negi and Asuna in a single chapter. And his final defeat after that happened out of panel and only mentioned away in passing in the final chapter.
- The rivalry between Ash and Gary is set up in the show's very first episode and establishes that a victory over Gary is one of Ash's important long-term goals. After "Showdown at the Po-ké Corral" has Ash promise Gary that they would finally fight during the Indigo League, Gary is eliminated in a fight against a different trainer during the first round of the tournament.
- Team Aqua and Magma's two-part finale suffered from a rushed pace and horrid animation.
- In Diamond & Pearl: Galactic Battles, Team Galactic is thwarted by Cyrus disappearing into a portal after he nearly succeeds in his plans to remake the universe. There is no real explanation as to why this happens and no climatic battle to lead up to this, he just up and vanishes.
- In Black & White: Adventures 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.
- Sgt. Frog: All through the Episode 101-103 arc, it was being set that there was going to be a huge epic showdown between Dororo and Zoruru. Of course, right when it was going to begin, Dororo revealed that he didn't remember Zoruru, and well, Zoruru just left. HE JUST LEFT.
- Events in Volume 17 and Season 7 correct this error.
- This gets played for laughs too, several times. In the fourth movie, the climax sees Keroro willingly undergoing the ritual to evolve himself into a dragon, and Shion starts reciting from the spellbook, as Keroro starts to glow and the music slowly builds up — so slowly that Keroro catches a cold first.
- 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.
- Runaways (2015) continues this grand tradition, with Team Puce being allowed to run away after Sanna defects and Bucky agrees to take the fall for their escape. He is killed by the Doombots, and Valeria, disheartened at the loss of her favorite minion, decides to shut down the Institute.
- An issue commonly cited about the Mega Man comic was how easily Mega Man took down each of the first six Robot Masters, wiping them out in two issues with relative ease, making Mega Man look like an Invincible Hero. It may be justified in that Mega Man was using their weakness weapons and gaining more combat experience while the original six were meant to be maintenance robots. This was remedied by later foes like the fortress bosses, Oil Man and Time Man and the second game Robot Masters being much tougher.
- In Scott Pilgrim, Lucas Lee is defeated when Scott goads him into an impossible skating trick and he fails. Also, Roxanne is beaten with a Single-Stroke Battle, but there's plenty of buildup.
- Mr. Rictus in Wanted. At least one character told Wesley that Rictus would eat him alive if they fought, and Wesley kills him in less time than it took for me to write this sentence. Add to that the mass of supervillains which Wesley takes down just prior to this and just as easily and it's a rather disappointing climax.
- Ultimate Spider-Man: Kraven the Hunter, although it comes immediately after a genuinely intense fight. Spider-Man has just beaten Doc Ock when Kraven arrives (after promising to kill Spidey on live television) and demands they fight. Spidey would rather Kraven helped him get someone out of a trashed car, has no idea what his deal is, and eventually gets fed up and one-shots him.
Huh. I thought he had super-powers or something. Showbiz phony.
- Kraven does gain super-powers later on. And is taken down, if anything, even -swifter-.
- Sin City does this from time to time:
- The Yellow Bastard is pretty ineffectual in battle and the final scene is no different. He is quickly stabbed, dismembered, castrated, and beaten to death.
- Manute is set up as the main villain in A Dame To Kill For but it turns out he's more of a Mini-Boss. When it comes time for his first battle against Marv, a similar Made of Iron character, he's beaten senseless and gets an eye torn out. He does get to come back for the climax, however.
- The Colonel, the Big Bad from Hell And Back ends up captured off-panel and we see him briefly before he gets a bullet through his head. The protagonist, meanwhile is rescuing his love interest and relegates himself to diving for cover with her in his arms while his friend blows up the attacking Black Helicopter that had caused him trouble earlier. This was all orchestrated by the main character but it serves as a little anti-climatic considering how Bad Ass the story had been up until that point.
- Jackie Boy in The Big Fat Kill combines this with Disc One Final Boss, formerly named Decoy Antagonist. He shows up with a few of his friends to menace Dwight's girlfriend Shelly and then leaves for Old Town. Dwight decides to follow with the firm belief that he and his friends were going to harm more women that night. This seemingly sets Jackie Boy up as the Big Bad of the story until he and his friends are slaughtered by Dark Action Girl Miho mere moments after entering Old Town. The conflict occurs when they realize Jackie Boy was a cop and his murder might start a mob war.
- Pete Blute in Jennifer Blood is built up as the smartest, toughest, and all-around deadliest of the eponymous antiheroine's uncles, so much so that she repeatedly says she's not sure if she can kill him. Issue seven begins with her already having given him a mortal wound. Of course, she then proceeds to taunt him as he lies dying by giving a major anti-villainous monologue, so readers spend the issue waiting for the other shoe to drop....
- The return of Deacon Blackfire was built up huge in Batman Eternal, his rise from hell being one of the story's longest running subplots. How does it conclude? After being sufficiently beaten, The Spectre awakens within Jim Corrigan, gives Blackfire a big fat "nope" and boots him and his legions of hellspawns right back to the other side like it's nothing.
- The second Old Man Logan series involves the titular character traversing across Battleworld during the events of Secret Wars, where he gradually begins to learn that God Doom, the supposed Big Good and ruler of Battleworld, is actually the Big Bad. The final issue has Emma Frost inform him that a massive revolution against Doom's regime will soon be at hand, and that Logan will be the one leading the charge. Before any of this can occur, Logan blacks out and wakes up on the newly restored All-New, All-Different Marvel Earth, with the (seemingly successful) final battle against Doom long over.
- In Aeon Natum Engel the Israfel-equivalent of this fic gets owned by Asuka, avoiding the dancing. Not without consequences, though. In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion what was presumed to be a Harbinger-4 was actually a false alarm.
- Swing 123 is quite fond of this trope when writing for the Calvinverse:
Calvin: You mean to tell me that I wasted a perfectly good drama scene while Camp Pine wasn't even a mile from here!
- A scene near the end of Calvin and Hobbes: The Movie lampshades this:
- While Calvin and Hobbes fend off a giant octopus in Calvin and Hobbes II: Lost at Sea, Hobbes gets it to leave by telling it that there's better prey elsewhere.
- In the beginning of Chapter 11 of Calvin and Hobbes III: Double Trouble, the duo are about to face a group of aliens, only for the lunch bell to sound, attracting all of them
- Subverted in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series. When a tornado that the two have been dealing with all episode appears to get sucked back up into the sky, Calvin remarks on how easy it was. Then it turns out it merely landed elsewhere.
- Played straight in "Pug" - after a lengthy sequence where the duo attempt to find the titular dog and the MTM, it turns out the MTM was in one of the holes Calvin and Hobbes had dug, and Tug had come in the house earlier.
- In Robo Bando every single fight is one expect for Chapter 4 and 6.
- In Sight While at school, Ichigo senses the Grand Fisher at the Kurosaki Clinic and runs off to take care of it once and for all. Isshin kills it off-screen before Ichigo could get home. Ichigo lampshades the anticlimax, remarking that the lack of resolution has him feeling disappointed and numb.
- A Delicate Balance: After six chapters of buildup, Twilight finally gets the nerve to ask Applejack whether or not she's willing to go out with her. Applejack's answer? "I don't know". It isn't for two more chapters that Twilight actually gets a definite response.
- In the Total Drama story, Legacy, the show's producers scrap the final episode's scheduled jury vote in an attempt to avert a major anti-climax, as they can see that one finalist has only token support at best. A winner-take-all final challenge is substituted.
- In The World's Greatest Chunin Exam Team, Team Terumi faces a "super-powerful" team from Kiri who was hiding their abilities in order to get revenge on the Fourth Hokage for killing their parents in a border skirmish years before Naruto was born by killing his son. They boast about how they deceived their jonin-sensei and their peers, and how they are the genius users of extinct bloodlines. B... has them beat in fifteen seconds. This is lampshaded by Naruto and justified by Gaara, who points out how their deception worked against them, as because of their facade they were never given any tough missions or training. Self-training can only get you so far, causing them to lack any experience that would make them any sort of a viable threat to a team of three S-Class shinobi.
- Tirek Gets A Righteous Beatdown: The Mane Six spend most of the story trying to open the box from the Tree of Harmony so that they can defeat Tirek, and finally do, gaining the Rainbow Power as per canon... only to find that Tirek has already suffered the titular beatdown from Crystal Champion mode Spike and is literally begging to go back to Tartarus.
- The last shown battle in Christian Humber Reloaded is against Chaos, the forces of Chaos, the US Army and the President. Vash takes them down about as easily as most of his enemies, killing Chaos in three moves (Wind Scar -> Backlash Wave -> Hell's Warm Welcome) and the President with Hell's Warm Welcome alone.
- Those Lacking Spines gives us the Grand Master Fangirl. The fic is all about three members of Organization XIII going through tropes and settings of bad fanfiction in order to defeat the Seme versions of the characters to restore their... you know, and by doing so, restore the Uke versions of said members. The GMF attempts to use the Semes to take over Fandom Hearts. She is defeated by none other than Fanfiction.Net's Terms of Service.
- Robo Bando gives us Chris Chan who is hyped up to be one of Lucy's strongest insane followers only to be beaten by Robo Bando without even scoring a freaking hit on Robo Bando.
- Anthropology: Although reaching him proves rather risky, much like in the show, Discord doesn't even try to fight back or stop Lyra when she and her new human friends use the Elements of Harmony on him, turning him into a statue with no fuss other than his screaming.
- Friendship Contract: Tayuya, for Shikamaru and Tenten. A few seconds of teamwork does wonders.
- Families: Olive Branch is set up as the Big Bad throughout the story... but at the climax of the story, he turns out to be a Smug Snake whose plans fall apart completely and easily. His dragon Speedy Delivery turns out to be much more of a threat.
- Wizard Runemaster: While Sapphiron manages to overwhelm both Onyxia and Ysondre and requires Harry to use a Dangerous Forbidden Technique to defeat, Kel'thuzad is immediately destroyed by Onyxia's and Ysondre's dragon fire.
- Zero 2 A Revision: After Shaun managed to get the upper hand against Demon and kick him out of the typhoon of fire and promptly get blasted by the entire marine army, Demon decides to throw away his clothes and unleash his full power, quickly overwhelming Shaun. Just as the Digidestined decides to join Shaun and confront Demon to an epic battle, 'Piedmon' aka Myotismon decides to swoop in and kills of Demon with just a simple Soul Banishment. The entire Digidestined are appropriately shocked by this revelation.
- Sonic X: Dark Chaos: Venus's death in Episode 66. Tsali and Venus had been hunting each other and battling for three decades; when Tsali finally finds and kills her, she's half-dead and completely insane thanks to Dark Tails possessing her. Tsali himself lampshades this and muses his disappointment that they couldn't have a climactic final battle.
- Episode 63 subverts this. Sonic, Shadow, and Eric end up defeating Tsali fairly easily thanks to their Super forms. Then Tsali summons Maledict himself for aid, beginning the actual climactic fight.
- The ending is a lesser example. Sure Sonic and friends get their Planet Egg back and save the galaxy, but none of the villains get any sort of retribution for their crimes. Instead, they all make tenuous cease-fires with each other and leave quietly.
- Guardian has Lulu and Wakka join Father Zuke's pilgrimage after Lulu takes the step of retraining her black magic, fully intent on dying so that Yuna won't have to. But nothing much happens; the journey itself is short and uneventful, and Zuke calls it off in the Calm Lands.
Films — Animation
- 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.
- Despicable Me 2, had this big time. When the final boss, El Macho, injects himself with the serum, and becomes a huge monster, you are expected to believe that shit is going down. The fight lasts in less than a few minutes, and is defeated by something as simple as an electric shock from a lipstick compactor.
- Zigzag from The Thief and the Cobbler. After some fistfighting, he is defeated by having his clothes sewed.
- Tuma from BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn. Even accounting for his Badass Decay compared to his portrayal in the comics/novel/online serial, his defeat was truly pathetic, considering how the characters previously reacted to him.
- In Kung Fu Panda 2, the final fight between Po and Lord Shen is over in about fifteen seconds. Though this is somewhat offset by the large and appropriately climactic battle that took place just before.
Films — Live-Action
- 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.
Hailey Hatred:And how about the plot for the 2nd one? Darryl Hannah is the hardest one to kill out of all the girls? I mean I like her as much as the next person, but shes like 46 and has one eye in the movie...
- 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.
- Most of the fights with Deadly Viper Assassination Squad aren't very climactic once The Bride actually gets to fighting them.
- 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.
- Though The Dragon does get sliced in two sword moves, the Big Bad, however, puts up a much better fight.
- 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:
- Adaptations of the Fantastic Four comics must be cursed to have anticlimactic battles, as it happens yet again, except even worse, with the 2015 film. Thanks to a combination of Josh Trank not knowing what he was doing and the team Fox put together to replace Trank having little time to fix the mess Trank had left, the final (and only) battle in the film takes less than five minutes, and pretty much consists of Doom curbstomping the four when they fight individually and then getting curbstomped himself when Reed realises that teamwork would be a more effective tactic.
- 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 in to save Tony, only to hit the side of a crane and fall apart.
- Subverted because Tony uses it to trap Killian, then tells Jarvis to blow it up.
- Similar to Iron Man 2; when Rhodes brings the War Machine armor to Hammer for upgrades, Hammer installs a bunker-buster weapon he calls "The Ex-Wife" ("It takes everything!"). During the final battle with Vanko, Rhodes launches the Ex-Wife, which promptly bounces off Vanko's chest and lands sputtering on the ground.
Tony: Hammer tech?
- Vanko himself at the end. It takes all of two minutes to take him down with a Chekhov's Gun.
- 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.
Hulk: Puny god...
- In the first Thor, after Thor recovers his powers he winds up taking down both the Destroyer and Loki within the span of five minutes.
- The Dragon in Banlieue 13: Ultimatum ticks all the boxes on the Fight Scene Buildup Checklist; Leave Him to Me, Knuckle Cracking, Pre-Asskicking One-Liner... and is promptly finished with a single kick to the 'nads.
- At the end of Diggstown, "Honey" Roy Palmer has fought his way through nine boxers in a row, including the seemingly invincible ringer "Hammerhead" Hagan. Then it is revealed that he must now fight Menoso Torres, who is "tough as nails" and "dirty as they come." So dirty, in fact, that when Palmer's manager Gabriel Caine orders Torres to take a fall, he immediately does so. This only partially counts, however, since Hammerhead is actually treated as the final boss until Torres's surprise appearance.
- James Bond
- Dr. No. He gets punched. Fight over.
- Blofeld in the beginning of For Your Eyes Only. In previous films he was established as Bond's arch nemesis, responsible for the death of his wife and master of disguise. So how does the final confrontation between him and Bond play out? He plays RC with Bond's helicopter before Bond gets back control and promptly drops Blofeld down a smoke stack. End of rivalry.
- This was necessary after Blofeld became off-limits due to the legal dispute between Kevin McClory and Eon Productions over the Thunderball copyrights, because Disney Owns This Trope. Also note that the bald villain is never named in the movie or credits.
- The Bond vs. Nick Nack fight at the end of the The Man with the Golden Gun. Of all the Post Final Boss fights Bond has had, this was, by far, the easiest.
- This could certainly be argued with the final stand against Auric Goldfinger. He essentially has Bond on the back foot throughout the second half of the film and comes closer to defeating him than Blofeld ever did... and it ends with him being sucked out of an aeroplane window after spending too long posturing how great he is.
- The start of Casino Royale (2006) has Bond on a mission to take out a Section Chief leaking MI6 secrets. The chief's contact provide one of the more intense one-on-one fights in the series, but the chief is defeated simply by having his bullets stolen by Bond before he even makes it to the office.
- Frog One at the very, very end of The French Connection II. This being The '70s, when Doyle catches up with the Frenchman - after being humiliated and tortured for two long films - he calls out his name and shoots him. Twice. Cut to credits. It takes all of four seconds.
- Goro from the Mortal Kombat film. He's set up as a major threat but it's hard to take him seriously after Johnny Cage easily defeats him by punching him in the crotch and dropping him off a ledge.
- The Jason Statham film, Safe (2012), has its final conflict between Statham's Luke Wright, a One-Man Army who came out on top in the middle of a three-way war between Chinese gangsters, Russian gangsters, and a squad of dirty cops, versus his Evil Counterpart Adam, The Dragon for the corrupt mayor. Before a single punch can be thrown, Mei, the little girl that Wright had been protecting throughout the film, picks up Adam's gun and shoots him in the leg. Wright then quickly picks up his own gun and finishes it with a few shots to the head. Mei justifies it by pointing out that she'd seen Adam single-handedly slaughter a group of Triads and knew that if they actually fought, Wright would be in serious danger.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does this for laughs. Scott has just defeated his girlfriend's seventh and final evil ex, and it seems like all of the action is finished, until Nega-Scott shows up out of nowhere and with only the vaguest of foreshadowing. Scott and Nega-Scott get into position for an epic final battle, but the scene suddenly cuts straight to Scott and Nega-Scott leaving the building, laughing like old friends and planning to get together for brunch the following week. When pressed for details, Scott shrugs and says they have a lot in common.
- The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. In a film pushing 3 hours, the final battle between Optimus Prime and the Fallen lasts about 45 seconds.
- The Silver Samurai in The Wolverine. Most complaints are about his overhyped feature in the film yet his single fight scene did not last long in the climax. And he's the modern Powered Armor version, to boot.
- The Goblin King in The Hobbit. Enormous and intimidating enough to warrant a similar threat level to a troll, and he is hyped up for an epic fight with Gandalf. Glamdring ensures that the fight lasts a few seconds at most.
- Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty. Justified, since he is an unarmed old man defended by only three goons going up against a team of Navy SEALS, and that's more or less exactly what happened in real life.
- Django Unchained, One half of the Big Bad Duumvirate, Calvin Candie is shot through the chest without seeing it coming.
- The other half, Stephen is knee capped and left to die with a stick of dynamite. Elaborate yes, but Stephen's men don't put up a fight and Stephen is more or less a Non-Action Big Bad.
- American Mary has Ruby's husband. There is no confrontation, he and Mary don't know each other, so there is no emotional context. As for the "fight" itself, Mary gets stabbed and and she bites his throat out. Fights over.
- In each of the Burton/Schumacher Batman films, all of the major villains except for Mister Freeze were physically weaker than their henchmen and not quite intelligent enough to make up for the deficiency. Particularly pathetic were the Penguin, who is defeated by a small flock of bats, and the Riddler, who is defeated instantly when his brainwave-sucking machine is blown up.
- The final battle with Selena and Claudio Perrini in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Collateral Damage consists of a very short fistfight that ends with Selena getting electrocuted and Gordon throwing a firefighter's axe toward Claudio's chest.
- In The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, the Skeleton (just a skull at this point) finally meets the monstrous Magraclop, and zooms towards it announcing "Prepare for the battle of the century!" He/it barely manages to finish saying this before the Magraclop crushes him to dust between its claws.
- The 47 Ronin: So, the movie, which is 4 hours long, is about The 47 Ronin, and their efforts to exact revenge on Lord Kira for the death of their master, Lord Asano. One might imagine that the end of the film would be the ronin getting their revenge and taking out Lord Kira. Nope. First, the attack on Lord Kira's estate and the ronin murdering Lord Kira takes place about 3/4 of the way through. Second, the attack is not even shown, being instead recounted after the fact in a letter. Third, as noted above, the film meanders for nearly an hour after the killing of Lord Kira. The ronin bring Kira's head to Asano's grave. They wait around for a while at another lord's house. After getting flowers from Lady Asano that are a signal that they will be forced to commit harakiri, the ronin proceed to—put on a variety show. (One of them dances). There's a subplot in which Mino, a character who is neither seen nor mentioned until the last half-hour of the movie, sneaks into the compound to find out if the ronin that romanced her really loved her. Then the ronin commit harakiri. Then the film ends.
- 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 Volturi from The Twilight Saga. After four books building them up as the ultimate unstoppable vampire force, they basically run away from the final battle with their tails between their legs because they're afraid of a fair fight (made possible by Bella's psychic-ability-nullifying shield power).
- 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 same occurs in the third novel when Sword ambushes and kills Artil with little difficulty.
- 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.
- The Dark Tower: The Crimson King. After all that build-up, that's the big confrontation with the Big Bad?! A few pages of horribly written taunts and a quick erasure from reality?! The physical form that the Crimson King turns out to take doesn't exactly help. After being built up as the ultimate embodiment of evil, eclipsing even Randall Flagg, it turns out that he's actually just a doddering old man. A doddering old man whose entire final strategy against Roland amounts to hiding at the top of the Dark Tower and throwing hand grenades at him.
- The Man Behind the Man in Kitty Takes a Holiday is about to attack when he sees the protection charms Ben and Kitty got from his granddaughter, realizes he can't win, and just lets them go. Arguably leads to the book being Hijacked by Ganon, since the remaining chapters are spent on the Kitty/Ben romance that drove the first third or so.
- Just about every Redwall Big Bad whose fight is a short Curb-Stomp Battle. But the biggest one would be Slagar, who falls down a well before the protagonists can even touch him.
- Bèbelle from Malevil. For all the talk of how dangerous and frightening he is, he gets taken down with a single shot in the night.
- Arawn from the Chronicles of Prydain is swiftly dispatched in the last book with barely any lines and little fanfare or attention afterwards. More attention is spent on the final moments of Arawn's last victim Achren. The way he dies underscores the fact that, for all his evil and fearsome reputation, Arawn was just a man.
- Ivar Ragnarson, Manipulative Bastard and utter sociopath is the cause of almost all the misery in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Last Light of the Sun. Yet he's killed about three quarters of the way through, when Bern stabs him in the back mid-speech. The political ramifications of what he did, on the other hand, last far longer, and lead to the deaths of a whole lot more people, so in a way, Ivar's legacy lived on.
- In Keys to the Kingdom, the battle with Superior Saturday is over in one page.
- The Wheel of Time has a couple:
- After five books worth of build-up, Sammael (a member of the Forsaken, the de facto ruler of a powerful nation, and a noted millitary leader and channeler in his own right]] gets eaten by Mashadar after a short, not particularly spectacular fight with Rand. Word of God, however, is that the author thought Sammael was a "louse" of a character who didn't deserve a dramatic death, so this trope can be safely said to have been invoked.
- In the last book Padan Fain/Mordeth/Shaisam, recurring villain from the first book on and all around horrifying Humanoid Abomination, thanks to running straight into Mat, who's immune to his powers from previous exposure and is therefore able to easily kill Fain's relatively frail, still mortal human body.
- In The Chathrand Voyages, though there are much bigger villains out there, the Shaggat Ness is consistently portrayed as a seriously nasty piece of work, and one of the most hated and feared people in recent history for a reason. He's an Ax-Crazy berserker with a god complex who intends to take over the world using an Artifact of Doom and is scarily good at convincing people of his own divinity. He dies in chains, killed by a single well-placed kick to the neck by a girl barely out of her teens. However, this makes sense on several levels- not only did the heroes have much scarier things to worry about by this point, but the Shaggat was too arrogant to see death coming and make any effort to defend himself. Furthermore, the fact that she offed the most infamous monster in the world with so little fanfare- and in a way that left the body easily identifiable- cemented Neda Pathkendle's reputation in-universe as a certified badass.
- Invoked and Played for Laughs in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Near the end of the third book, the characters begin a quest to find God's Final Message to His Creation, written in thirty-foot-high letters of flame on the side of a mountain on a distant planet, which they have been warned is guarded by "the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob." In the next book, they meet the Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob—and it turns out he's a small man in a ticket booth, selling tickets to tourists wishing to see the Final Message. They pay their admission fee, and he leaves them alone.
- Tywin Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire, despite being, more-or-less, the Big Bad of the first three books and a powerful Magnificent Bastard, he gets a quick, painful, and humiliating death where he's shot in the groin and dies on the toilet.
- In Clariel, the prequel to The Old Kingdom, Guildmaster Kilp and his son Aronzo are the main villains for most of the book. In the end, though, the Free Magic-powered Clariel finishes both men off in less than a page of fight scene only to face her real challenge when her bound Free Magic spirits decide now is a great time to turn on her.
- The Amazing Race has had this happen four times:
- The Season 1 finale's final fifteen minutes were mostly filler, as the top two teams got on two different trains, fifteen minutes apart, to the Finish Line, while Joe & Bill were still stuck in Alaska.
- Despite being one of the more memorable seasons overall, Season 17 had an Anti-Climax over the last few episodes. Nick and Vicki wound up so far behind due to a six hour penalty that there was pretty much no suspense that the final three would be anybody but Brook & Claire, Jill & Thomas, and Nat & Kat. Then in the final leg, Jill & Thomas get lost halfway through the episode, while Nat & Kat so thoroughly dominate the final leg, it became pretty obvious that they were the season's winners.
- They suffered from this in the last episode of Season 19. Of the three teams who arrived in Atlanta on the same flight, third-place Amani and Marcus effectively eliminated themselves immediately by taking far too long on the first task. Jeremy and Sandy suffered from a miscommunication with a local who inadvertenly directed them to the suburbs instead of the correct destination downtown. As a result winners Ernie and Cindy had an enormous lead by the midpoint of the episode, completing the last task and leaving for the Finish Line before Jeremy and Sandy even arrived to start the last task. This robbed the finish of all suspense.
- Season 22, Bates & Anthony got so far ahead they did not see another team after the midpoint of the episode.
- Typical problem in the championship rounds of robot-fighting shows, specifically BattleBots. Tournament rankings are such that the most favored to win will only meet late in the tournament... when the overall damage of fight after fight after fight severely limits their awesomeness.
- A scene in the series three finale of Doctor Who shows a mysterious hand with red nail varnish picking up The Master's ring, accompanied by a sinister female laugh. Fans went into overdrive speculating who it could be, most suspecting The Rani, a fellow renegade Time Lord (or Time Lady). It was finally re-visited two whole years later, and the identity turned out to be a character we had never seen before, and who died moments after her introduction.
- Still, at least nobody guessed the identity. For obvious reasons.
- Savvily averted in Frasier. The writers intended for Maris to be shown and/or heard at some point in the series, but after realizing that the character they had built up was so outlandish and monstrous that no writer or actress could do her justice and would just end up as a big letdown for the audience, they decided to keep her offscreen to the end instead.
- The final battle in the first season of Heroes. Over half a season was spent teasing the audience for an epic showdown between the lead villain, Sylar, and main character Peter Petrelli. In every case leading up to the finale, the writers either ended the interaction between Sylar and Peter suddenly (during their second altercation, Peter is stabbed in the head after a few seconds) or takes place offscreen (as seen in "Five Years Gone"). The NBC promos hyped it to no end. A lot was riding on the epic showdown at Kirby Plaza.... until it happened. Everyone took turns whaling on Sylar (including Nikki/Jessica, who beats on Sylar with a parking meter). The fight ends with Hiro teleporting in, with his sword stuck out in front of him, landing the final blow. Sylar and Peter had a complete assortment of powers at their disposal, and never used them. A complete letdown.
- Still better than the season 3 finale, in which the over-hyped battle between Peter and Nathan vs. Sylar takes place behind closed doors and all you see is Claire's eye!
- in Power Rangers Time Force, Ransik's entire army has been destroyed, his last giant robot has been destroyed, and the rangers move to face him. He blows them away, then goes after the last standing member Jen. So how does the series end? Not in a hopeless and brave final battle between the wounded rangers and Ransik, but when Ransik realizes he almost killed his daughter, and surrenders to the rangers. On the flip side though, Linkara commented that though it's "rather anticlimactic for this whole big series, but I give it points for being something other than just a big battle." And lord knows, we always get those in Power Rangers.
- Smallville hyped for its season 8 finale a battle between Clark and Doomsday with lots of tension about how Clark could die. The battle was 3 or 4 minutes, mostly off screen and Clark was just fine afterwards.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Twisted," the Negative Space Wedgie that is warping the ship and everything and on it (and incapacitating the crew) is really a bunch of aliens trying to say "hello." And there is no harm done and no reference to these events ever again.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Sacrifice of Angels," the heroes have been defeated and a fleet of enemy warships is about to come through a wormhole. Sisko appeals to a group of godlike beings who inhabit the wormhole, and the enemy ships mysteriously vanish.
- The finale of Star Trek: Enterprise, a series which had been building towards the founding of the Federation throughout its run, is really just a Holodeck program being run by Riker in-between scenes of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Pegasus" and splits its focus between Riker's conflict in that episode and a relatively minor sub-plot in the Enterprise timeframe. Viewers never even get to see the legendary speech that Archer gave which was played up by the characters. Made worse by the fact that this was the the last episode of a Star Trek television series for the foreseeable future.
- Walker, Texas Ranger often has anticlimactic endings to episodes, and in many ways the final episode itself was. Many villains are built up to be very sinister and frightening, only to be beaten with a punch or two. One villain was even defeated off screen, only referenced with a throw away line. The final episode tried to build up the villains' evil by having them kill off a few characters (only one of those characters was a main character, and it was a retcon anyway, as he had been dead for most of the season,) but the parallel story being told about Hayes Cooper not only made the main story quite short, the villains still didn't have anywhere near the setup many other recurring, multi-part episode, or even some one-time villains did. After the dream episode in which Trivette and Walker are killed before the cavalry arrives to presumably end the threat, a biker gang isn't very epic for a final episode.
- The West Wing brilliantly subverts its tendencies for its characters to go on epic speeches in "Gone Quiet".
CJ: Can you answer it?President Bartlet: "Why do I want to be President?" *sighs* I've been thinking about it for a couple of hours. I almost had it.CJ stares blankly; episode ends
- A few seasons of Survivor have had an anti-climax:
- Palau: When Ian was voted out, it seemed pretty obvious that Tom had that season in the bag.
- Exile Island - The two obvious winners (Terry and Cirie) finished third and fourth, respectively, leaving us with a final two of Aras and Danielle. This is a more subjective example - as the season wouldn't have been as predictable if the final two consisted of Terry or Cirie and one of the other two.
- Redemption Island - About halfway through the season, it becomes practically a Shaggy Dog Story that Rob has the game in the bag because everyone else is too stupid to vote him out.
- One World - About the time Toryzan is voted out, you can pretty much guess that Kim's going to win. The final episode was pretty much an Anti-Climax, since anyone can guess that Alicia and Christina are going out next, with only a legitimately interesting final immunity challenge and Christina's Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass moment to carry the episode.
- Mythbusters tried to redo the JATO rocket myth, having a huge build up (both literally and thematically) till the rocket car was slowly approaching the ramp... at which point it just blew up on the ramp. The looks on everyones faces was so deliciously tragic.
- Season 10 starts with another attempt at the rocket car. This time we get a result! The first car rolls after hitting the bump, the second car goes about 70 feet before hitting the ground and spiraling.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- The show has a big one in its season 4 episode "Fear, Itself". At one point of the episode, a fear demon is accidentaly summoned ... but it turns out the demon is barely the size of a hand and poses no thread at all.
- There is lots of build-up over the enigmatic Anointed One, Collin, his mysterious powers and his role in Buffy's battle with the Master. In the end, it basically boiled down to Collin escorting her to him. While he was supposed to take a more active role in season two as the Dragon Ascendant, the child actor was starting to hit puberty which wouldn't work for a character who couldn't age in-universe so he was killed shortly afterward.
- Played with in the Season 5 premiere with Dracula. Though he demonstrates powers no other vampire in the series has, he's still treated like a bad joke by Spike, and easily defeated. Subverted on his return in season eight.
- The first two seasons of Longmire built up the fact that Walt would have to fight for reelection as sheriff against his younger, slicker and more political deputy Branch Connally. The election day finally arrives, both men give their final speeches and then Cady is in a serious car accident and both men forget all about the election to rush to her side. We only find out that Longmire won when the other candidate is told that he forgot to give his concession speech. The election is barely mentioned after that as the real climax of the second season begins.
- The Season 5 finale features the Titans getting released after years of imprisonment. They're able to turn Paige to stone, kill most of the Elders and Leo has to give the sisters powers of Greek Gods to stop them. They're easily beaten by Piper in one fight scene - and the last ten minutes of the episode instead focus on Piper having to deal with Leo becoming an Elder.
- Subverted in "Charmed and Dangerous". The episode opens with a big battle with the Source of All Evil - the Big Bad of the show. After trapping him in a crystal circle, he dies when one of his own fireballs is deflected onto him. However this turns out to be just a vision of the Seer's - and the eventual battle is a bit longer.
- After Darkseid was being built up for all of the final season as the ultimate unstoppable personification of evil, he goes down fairly quickly. His Unholy Trinity (Godfrey, Desaad, Granny Goodness) also go down easily to Green Arrow, from one arrow each.
- Doomsday from Season Eight, though at least his encounter with Clark can legitimately be called a "fight." Having arguably the two most powerful Superman villains taken down so quickly is part of why the later seasons aren't looked upon so well.
- Season 3 of The Shield had Margos Dezerian a ruthless assassin for the Armenian mob sent to wipe out the Strike Team who after being built up as a ruthless psychopathic badass is dispatched rather easily at point blank range in a hallway by Vic Mackey.
- Isaak Sirko in the Season 7 of Dexter. A mafia boss, physically strong, charming, deadly, a perfect Big Bad. Except he is neither this Season's Big Bad or climax Boss. He gets killed by an enemy gang after spending half of the season chasing Dexter (who killed his lover) and befriending him.
- 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.
- In "The Battle of Epping Forest" by Genesis, there is an epic battle between rival gangs, but at the end of it everybody's dead except the rival bosses, so they just toss a coin to settle it. Played for Laughs, more or less.
- Subverted at ROH Nowhere To Run in 2005 when Roderick Strong set up Jack Evans for an elevated double stomp on former Generation Next leader Alex Shelley only for Evans to completely miss Shelley and scream "Chicago isn't worth it!" Instead of getting the easy cover they expected the last minute pairing of Shelley and Delirious started to gain the advantage, causing Evans to come off of Strong with the stomp without hesitation at the next opportunity.
- KENTA was known for his aerial offense early in his Pro Wrestling NOAH career, which makes sense considering his "learning trips" tended to be to South American promotions, but after being pushed into the heavyweight division(in spite of hardly qualifying as one) he became known for making impressive leaps at his opponents...only to land next to them and deliver offhand kicks.
- 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.
- Firewatch has creepy events taking place in a national park with the protagonist trying to get to the bottom of them. It turns out that the stalker was just a grieving father who's son died in a caving accident, and was trying to scare people away from the body, all of the games choices won't impact the ending either which has caused a rift on forums discussing the game.
- 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 multiple companions immune to radation, 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 send in the radiation-immune companions, 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 has the series' famous Gotta Catch Them All goal. Achieving it nets you... a certificate.
- 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 I 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, successfully enslaved your friends and committed 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 repercussions 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.
- The climax of Left Alone is this. Instead of Joel being killed by the murderer or saving his friends, he finds an underground lair where a Government Conspiracy is kept.
- 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 Borderlands 2, 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.
- Played for Laughs in Grand Theft Auto V. Trevor's rampage side-missions have him fighting members of factions that increase in threat, starting with rednecks before moving to the two major gangs of Los Santos and then climaxing with the US Army. The final group faced are Hipsters.
- Far Cry 4 does this with its secret ending. If you choose not to escape from the palace at the beginning of the game and simply wait around for a little while, Pagan Min will eventually return and take you to Lakshmana's tomb, explain the entirety of the plot, and allow you to complete your objective and the game without firing a single shot.
- In Pimp Lando, the Cliffhanger ending of "Pimp 2K" (episode 6) is completely resolved before the titles roll in "Love Changes Every Pimp" (episode 7).
- Subverted in The Gaston Trilogy. It looks like the third video is going to end with Lefou and Gaston giving up on their Taco Bell plans, but then that's just a Credits Gag right before the episode's intermission.
- Red vs. Blue: The finale of the Blood Gulch Chronicles, high drama and an exploding bomb on an escaping ship...
Andy: 3... 2... 1!
(Pelican transport goes pop)
Grif: Boo, no explosion. That sucked!
- Immediately followed by a massive fireball when Grif's back is turned, but the climactic moment is still lost.
Donut: Whoa! What a cool explosion!Grif: What explosion?! What explosion!? I missed it! Do it again!!!
- Supernormal Step sets up an epic battle between Van and a monster who has kidnapped two women. However, when it turns out that the women are... working with with the monster, Van points out that the fight has been rendered pointless and walks off.
- There's another great moment when Jim reveals a Big Secret. Fiona reacts very rationally given the revelation.
- 8-Bit Theater is full of these. Indeed, Brian Clevinger has stated that his favorite jokes are on the audience. He even faked an ending twice (though the first was kind of exempt due to being on April's Fools).
- Of the four fiends, only one was not killed by someone who entered the scene in the same panel in which they killed the fiend and two of those had been presumed dead.
- In fact, the comic's ending turned out to be an especially epic Double Subversion. After delaying things for several months while assembled heroes and villains bicker pointlessly, we finally get what looks to be a suitably dramatic fight of the remaining Light Warriors squaring off against Villain Protagonist and apparent Final Boss Black Mage, followed by The Reveal of Sarda as the real Big Bad and a resultant Curb-Stomp Battle leading to an apparent last-minute victory by Zany Scheme. All very awesome. But then: Sarda turns out to have survived, only to be almost immediately killed by Phlebotinum Overload and Hijacked by Ganon. The last arc is a slow-paced Shaggy Dog Story centering around the Light Warriors trying and failing to amass enough power to beat the True Final Boss. In the end, they fail, and he's instead disposed of- offscreen- by a secondary character and a Brick Joke from one of the very first comics. All amidst several months fraught with drama-defusing Schedule Slip. "The best joke is played on the reader", indeed.
- The ending of Bob and George.
- Hedge of El Goonish Shive pulls this enough for it to be considered a Running Gag. Some examples can be seen here, here and here (complete with Lampshade Hanging via the titles).
- The ending of the miscarriage arc in Ctrl+Alt+Del. Seriously... weeks of exposition, then cue to Happily Ever After.
- "Blink" from College Roomies from Hell!!!: All of the main cast are at Vernon's mercy, two of the six are technically already dead, another two are dying, one is suicidal, and...suddenly we cut to Dave's Easy Amnesia-induced hijinks two months later, when he's living idyllically with Blue and everyone else is at least physically safe.
- Collar 6: Well, what else would you call this?
- In Tales of the Questor, the stolen sword arc ends with an epic battle between Quentyn and two gangs of street punks—- or it WOULD have...
- Done amusingly in Cheer! when Agent 32 and Alex (transformed into a centaur for the occasion) fight off a horde of gnome-creatures. They burst into the gym to finish them off...to find it empty. "Well this sure is anticlimactic!".
- Koan Of The Day uses this for comic effect in this comic, where the most important truth in the universe is alluded to but never revealed.
- Kuu-Drahc is played up as a major antagonist and personal rival to Emily, culminating in a Combat by Champion scene. A random rockslide crushes Kuu-Drahc before the fight even begins. All Emily can say is, "Oh, come onnnn..."
- Much later, one of the unclamped Eebs is revealed to have survived. He's found and disposed of within five pages and without any fanfare.
- The Order of the Stick hilariously lampshades this trope in its 600th strip.note In fact, Anticlimax is deliberately invoked by Elan in dealing with Tarquin. Rather than fighting him in a climactic father-and-son battle as Tarquin wanted, Elan chose simply to strand him in the middle of the desert, thereby leaving their story arc with no real resolution, and Tarquin screaming about how this isn't how things are supposed to end.
Tarquin: "Elan! This arc isn't over yet! Where's the growth? You didn't lose anything! Nothing has changed! YOU GET BACK HERE AND GIVE THIS PLOTLINE A SATISFYING RESOLUTION THIS INSTANT! ELAN!... ELAN, THERE'S NO SENSE OF CLOSURE! ... I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! ... THIS IS A TERRIBLE ENDING!"
- Dragon Ball Multiverse: After nearly 700 pages of build-up, XXI appears on screen for the first time. And then, the chapter ends with a bad gag before heading into a special.
- The writers of Ménage à 3 like to keep a number of story options and character developments in hand at any time, some of which never come to much; they are also inclined to go for the quick joke rather than any sort of intricate long-term plot. As a result, some of their stories come to less climactic, faster resolutions than some of the dedicated readers expect. For example:
- Amber mistook DiDi for Yuki, and was forming some kind of plot to save Gary from her. Then Gary showed up at her front door, so she just jumped him. Later, Zii simply corrected the DiDi-Yuki confusion in casual conversation.
- Yuki, Zii, and Sonya woke up naked in bed together. Zii jumped to the conclusion that they'd had sex (which many readers guessed would be wrong), then discovered that their clothes were missing, then found the clothes in the bathroom with a smell on them that made her think "Oh gawd!". Then it turned out that she was remembering that they'd jumped in a swimming pool fully dressed (so presumably the smell was chlorine), and the three of them had simply dozed off after hanging the clothes up to dry.
- In Persona 3 FTW, Strega are even more easily disposed than in the original game. In fact, the Protagonist beats both Takaya and Jin by pushing them off a bridge while on the way to defeat the Hanged Man shadow.
- In Homestuck, it looks like a Mêlée à Trois will occur among God-Tier Vriska, Eridan, and sober!Gamzee. Before any of them can do anything, Kanaya, resurrected as a rainbow-drinker, runs over and kicks Gamzee straight in the bone bulge and punts him off a cliff. Earlier, Gamzee effortlessly garroted Equius with a bowstring and clubbed Nepeta to death and is the strongest in the trio, but was easily defeated by a bone bulge kick.
- And then it happens again when Karkat, Terezi, Kanaya, and Sollux all get ready to fight Gamzee but then Karkat shoos away the others and then proceeds with Talking the Monster to Death.
- In the second episode of The Fantastic Favio Bros, The Horrors of Ecstasy, the two Evil Twins who believe that Everybody Must Get Stoned try to merge together into an "unholy combination" which embodies the evil powers of ecstasy. MaCavio gets on LeTony's back, they prepare to fight, and then they fall down and are defeated.
- Being attacked by an ancient and powerful halfling lich in Nodwick:
- Artax: Get back in your box and we won't step on you.
- Sonichu has this between Chris and Slaweel the Witch. One of the big events culminating a few issues worth of animosity... ends in one page.
- Gunnerkrigg Court has a number of anticlimaxes and Troll moments, as Tom Siddell likes to subvert expectations and play with the readers, but perhaps the greatest is the entirety of chapter 55, where Annie sets up a gigantic confrontation to get Reynardine back — which is resolved in one page by Annie simply making her wishes clear and her dad giving her the doll.
- Early in The Sanity Circus, Posey makes a great reveal to Attley about her true nature - forgetting to consider that Attley never realised there was anything up in the first place.
Posey: I suppose I should put your suspicions at ease, hm? (Turns around with Glowing Eyes of Doom) I am not human!Attey: Suspicious? I wasn't... I wasn't suspicious of that...?(Beat panel)Posey: But- But surely, that spell you saw me use on the demon! You must know that is far too advanced for a human to use!Attley: No!Posey: ...Oh. Do you know anything about magic?
- Done as a fakeout in Atop the Fourth Wall. The threat of Mechakara had been building for a good thirty or so episodes and Linkara takes him down with a single pistol shot before continuing his Youngblood #1 review. And then Mechakara gets back up at the end of the review. And then the fun starts.
- In That Guy With the glasses 2ND year anniversary event, Kickassia when Santa Christ arrives to bring harmony to everyone but the Nostalgia Critic accidentally kills him, the Critic gets people all over the world (including the user) to say "I believe in Santa Christ". Increasingly uplifting music is played as it gets closer to what might be a climax. In order to add to the comedy, Santa Christ stays dead and is thrown into a skip.
- "Stay tuned for more exciting Tales of Disappointment!"
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged has the Garlic Junior arc begin on episode 31. It also ends the Garlic Junior Arc on episode 31, due to the fact their plan relied on outmatching Mr. Popo. Like that was going to work.
- The Ultra Fast Pony episode "Stay Tuned!" demonstrates how much a climax or an anti-climax depends on the context. It's an abridged version of the MLP:FIM episode "Party of One". In the unabridged "Party of One", Pinkie Pie thinks all her friends have abandoned her, and she grows increasingly unhinged until she discovers that her friends were actually organizing a surprise birthday party for her. That is a satisfying conclusion. In "Stay Tuned!", Pinkie Pie is a police detective investigating Applejack's massive criminal empire, and she grows increasingly frazzled as it becomes clear that all of her friends are in on the conspiracy. When Pinkie storms into Applejack's barn and demands an explanation... she discovers that her friends were actually organizing a surprise birthday party for her. That is an anti-climax.
- Numerous joke Creepypasta will build a dark and spine-tingling atmosphere, then end with the phrase "...and then a skeleton popped out."
- The first three parts of Michaels Dead Book Of Solomon Jizz chronicle Older Michael Rosen's quest to go to "The Shop Downstairs" to rescue a girl named "Eileen Ogle". In the final part, he gets there and confronts the owner, Rob, the Donkey Kong Country music gets tense...and she was just a voice from Rob's television, ending the conflict in less than two seconds.
- Fire Sensei in Club Penguin. After winning all of the fire suit in Card Jitsu Fire, which can be very hard, you have to fight the Fire Sensei to get the fire gem. You expect Sensei to be quite hard, but when you fight him he suddenly starts using weak cards and gets beaten very quickly.
- In the Feast Master run of Banana-nana-Ninja!, Shomaru Domatsu kills himself in lieu of having to face Baninja, who had just defeated the Feast Master Champion.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition, most of the endgame is much easier than it was in Sonic 2. The boss of Wing Fortress Zone is the same, but this time it's plot-mandated that you fight it as Super Sonic. In Death Egg Zone, Silver Sonic doesn't fight at all—he simply points out where the final boss is, then tells you to have a nice day. Said final boss (not Robotnik, but "the last piece of logic left") goes down after a single hit.
- Roll to Dodge Princess Celestia can very well have the best Anticlimax bosses.
- Discussed in this Cracked article of 7 Movie Badasses (Who Completely Fail To Deliver)
- Used as a Running Gag in Kingdom Paf, where almost every boss is defeated easily by some nonsensical Deus ex Machina, thus preventing the protagonist from gaining XP and leveling up.
- The Happy Harmonies short "The Old Pioneer" ends with a very jarring anticlimax; during the battle between the indian tribe and pioneers, when the Indian Chief is just about to attack the eponymous pioneer, he finds out from the little indian kid (who they were trying to rescue) that they saved his life just beforehand, and at the drop of a hat, he changes his attitude and instantly calls off the battle. However, given it's a story told from the perspective of an old man to a kid, he may have just been embellishing.
- 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 within the first five minutes. 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. Still, it was so badly done that fans were disappointed and it's usually agreed to be not only the worst season finale, but one of the worst episodes of the entire series.
- Chimera and Cassandra from the third season. Even if they were just minor antagonists, Chimera turned Stella into a powerless an ugly monster, and Cassandra mind controlled Stella's dad, and made him to disown Stella and appoint Chimera as princess of Solaria. When the episode in which Stela was finally going to set things straight, everybody expected a huge brawl between Stella and Chimera. Well, Chimera went down after one hit, and Cassandra surrendered without putting up a fight.
- 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: In the episode Spike at Your Service, we get this cool buildup to a huge timberwolf as it slowly reassembles itself from pieces of the timberwolves that were killed at the beginning of the episode. After an entrance like that, you'd expect some epic showdown right? Wrong. Spike throws a pebble down it's throat, and it dies. That's it. It isn't even on screen for thirty seconds.
- 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!
George Liquor: "Thou hast besquirted me, O leotarded one! (falls over backwards, then raises his head) The maiden be thine! (passes out)"
- Used and Played for Laughs in the episode "Robin Hoek"; before Robin (Ren) can rescue Maid Moron (Stimpy), he has to fight The Sheriff of Dodge City (George Liquor) who he quickly defeats by whipping out a turkey baster and smothering him in a shot of gravy. Liquor immediately collapses and surrenders Maid Moron.
- 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.
- Batman: The Animated Series: While Mr. Freeze is more than a match for Batman throughout "Heart Of Ice", after a brief fight during the climax, Batman quickly defeats him by spilling a thermos of hot chicken soup (which Alfred had given him to aid his cold) over Freeze's containment suit helmet, which cracks it open and leaves him powerless, struggling and gasping for breath on the floor.
- Ben 10: Alien Force:
- Vilgax cements his Badass Decay during the finale. With his ship crippled and flooding, and Ben in one of his new ultimate alien forms, Vilgax decides to reveal his true form...a giant squid. Yes, Vilgax, feared throughout the galaxy, conqueror of worlds Vilgax, morphs into a squid. What's worse, the fight wasn't even shown onscreen, as it immediatly cut to Ben escaping before the ship explode.
- For most of the season, Aggregor was unstoppable, easily manipulating the heroes and defeating them when forced to fight. Yet, in the finale confrontation, he is easily beaten up and depowered by Kevin, who then replaces him as the Big Bad for the remain of the season. When the heroes defeat Kevin in the finale and bring him back to his sane state, his powers are stolen by Darkstar... who immediatly loses then when it turns out Ben saw it coming and was ready for it.
- A seizable portion of the villains in the Hero Factory TV show. Worst is the first season's Big Bad, Von Nebula, who was defeated without an actual fight — the Heroes simply snatched his weapon away, and that was it. Most of the "regular" bad guys are also beaten through very simplistic means.
- In the first 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.
- In "House of Villains", a special episode of Mickey's House of Mouse, the villains (Led by Jafar) take over the eponymous nightclub. After Mickey manages to get back in the nightclub, an anticlimatic battle ensues between Mickey (In his sorcerer garb) and Jafar, basically playing baseball. Then all of a sudden, Aladdin sneaks out of the kitchen (The other friendly Disney characters were trapped) and throws Mickey the lamp, which Mickey just uses it to trap Jafar. What happens next? A long and epic battle? NOPE! The villains just flee. Yep, flee.
- Mal in the finale of Total Drama: All Stars, all it took was a push of a button.
- It's easier to list episodes of The Dreamstone that didn't end on a incredibly handy victory for the heroes. Those that weren't from a Curbstomp Battle usually involved some random twist of fate bringing down the villains' plans entirely. While this was somewhat expected against Harmless Villains the Urpneys, not even Zordrak was allowed to put up much of a showy fight most of the time.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
- In "Blood Moon Ball", with Tom enraged by his plot having been thwarted, he starts screaming and the whole room bursts into flames, making it seem like an epic battle with the demon will ensue. Then Star nonchalantly freezes him in a block of ice, with less effort than it takes to beat Ludo's notoriously incompetent mooks.
- 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.
- Probably any championship in sports between two great teams that ends up being a blowout.
- 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.
- The Third Secret of Fátima is infamous for this. It was built up to be the most shocking vision in recorded history; so much that Pope John XXIII is supposed to have fainted and a few others (including, supposedly, John Paul I) reportedly died upon hearing it.note It was finally released to the eagerly waiting public in 2000; it turned out to be a set of surrealistic images that anybody could interpret however they liked. Even Joseph Ratzinger (who was to become Pope in 2005) admitted that it was pretty underwhelming considering all the hype.note
- 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.