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- Mai-Otome. Apparently, despite the claim that the war 300 years ago left the world devastated, the desert extends to just the immediate surroundings of Windbloom, and everywhere else it is lush and beautiful.
- The final arc of Super Dimension Fortress Macross develops quickly into this, possibly because the post-apocalypse episodes (which take place two years after the end of the previous arc) were made in a hurry after the series was lengthened. The franchise explains this by stating that mass cloning was used following the war. Also, it's worth noting that, unlike in many other media, no critical technical knowledge was lost in the apocalypse, just industrial capacity, which was quickly made up for when the survivors began capturing Zentraedi Factory Satellites. However, there are some passing mentions of certain cultural information being lost due to the devastation of specific ethnic groups and the fact no one probably thought it overly critical to preserve copies of Lady Gaga songs, lolcats memes, etc. in hardened military databases.
- In fact, the Macross shows set after the original all take place either on reasonably well-off colony fleets, or on one of the thousands of hospitable planets up for grabs that were recorded in the Zentraedi databases.
- With regards to the state of Earth itself, the only part of it shown in the later series is the area in immediate vicinity of the original Macross itself, which does appear to be an arid desert even fifty years later. Scenes from the original series, however, show verdant jungles complete with wildlife only two years after the cataclysm, suggesting that the surface devastation was not as universal as it initially appeared.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Earth has gone through nuclear World War III, a meteor shower that destroyed portions of the upper hemisphere, and a Non-Nuclear World War IV in 2020. By 2030, Japan is shown to be a thriving 1st world nation, and modern day technology has become an integrated part of society itself. You wouldn't think by looking that at one point there were nukes flying around the world. Tokyo was destroyed, but "Radiation Scrubber Nanotechnology" has made the area safe to live in pretty fast, though the people that live there are most notably low-class citizens. This trope is best shown with Berlin, Germany. It was flat-out destroyed during both world wars, yet you wouldn't be able to tell that anything happened to it at all if that bit of exposition hadn't been revealed.
- It is also worth pointing out that Japan was one of the biggest losers during both wars. Then again, given that country's history with startlingly quick turnarounds following previous world wars, this isn't unprecedented.
- The world in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo supposedly got rocked by an apocalypse in the year 3000, but the worst it did was reduce the world to much fewer cities, and made snack foods come to life. Even places ruled by Hair Hunters seem completely fine. Of course, since the show is one big parody of Fist of the North Star, this is a gimme.
- The initial premise of After War Gundam X is that 99% of the Earth population was wiped out by the mass colony drops that marked the end of the last space war. And sure enough, in the first few episodes we see a few Fist of the North Star-style thugs and a deserted landscape that led to the rise of the Vultures, a class of scavengers wandering the Earth on cool land-ships. But, as the series goes on, more and more thriving city-states are encountered, and both mankind and the environment are seen to be recovering amazingly fast. The After the End angle is seemingly almost completely forgotten torwards the end when the characters get more and more tangled in main plot, involving both The Federation and the Space Revolutionary Army with almost fully restored forces (and the colonies housing the latter obviously intact) about to start a new devastating war all over again.
- At the beginning of Ghosts of Evangelion, Shinji and Asuka wander around ruins looking for food and potable water. As more and more people return from Instrumentality, civilization restores itself progressively. Five years after Third Impact the world seems relatively normal, although China and other countries are still struggling.
- The Mortal Engines novels suffered greatly from this, to the point that it seemed that the only thing that civilization had lost was the technology of the Wave Motion Gun and modern era CD-ROMs.
- Both played straight and subverted in the Dune series: Paul Muad'Dib establishes an environmental program to turn the originally hellish-desert planet Arrakis into a more verdant and fertile place to live... only to have his son disrupt the process, showing how a verdant Arrakis would create its own hellish political climate... only to, during his own reign over the universe, turn it into a verdant world with only a thin strip left of the original desert... only to turn it back into its original desert harshness as part of his plan for the continued preservation of the universe. Honestly, Arrakis goes back and forth from temperate to desert climate so often that it's impossible to tell whether a given situation is upholding this trope or setting it on fire and tossing it out the window.
- It's actually even more complicated; Arrakis was originally a pleasant planet before the water-hating "sandtrout" arrived.
- The Death Lands action/adventure novels (by Jack Adrian et al), though they got around it somewhat by having the protagonists travel in time as well as space.
- A large part of the plot and theme of The Stand by Stephen King is whether or not this will happen to what remains of civilization after the superflu.
- The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga: The world's original state is notably Medieval European Fantasy so there isn't as far to fall. Likely millions of people die from the Fantastic Nuke that starts the whole thing and from famine and plague, but it takes less than a year for warlords to begin asserting control of the chaos and people to start rebuilding.
Live Action TV
- Jericho's first season focused on a small town struggling to survive after nuclear attacks destroy major US cities. Although the town itself isn't ruined, they increasingly struggle against typical post-apocalyptic challenges: finding food and medical supplies, fending off raiders, generating power, relations with neighboring towns. In season two, many of these challenges go away, as the focus shifts to adapting to life under a new government, with supplies and jobs provided, but with mysteries about this government's involvement in the attacks.
- In Rifts, Earth has been ruined by the apocalyptic return of magic; yet the world seems stuffed to the rafters with powerful, advanced cultures wielding incredible technologies or magics. This has to do with the Rule of Cool, the Fantasy Kitchen Sink and the fact that All Myths Are True.
- Technologically, perhaps, but with few exceptions, most places culturally are barely out of the "Me big man with gun! Me boss!" stage. And it only got more brutal as new splatbooks came out.
- In BattleTech, the Succession Wars destroyed much of the manufacturing base and personnel required to build higher technology. The most critical loss was the Kearny-Fuchida drive - all orbital shipyards capable of constructing them were destroyed. However, as the series goes on, much of the lost technology is rediscovered and put back into production through the discovery of memories cores, research, and finding lost factories, or retconned into being rare, rather than irreplaceable. BattleMechs, for example, went from being almost irreplaceable to being relatively common, albeit expensive.
- Warhammer 40,000 varies its GRIMDARKness by edition, which also changes how much technology has been lost, is irreplaceable, etc. Grimdark silliness reached its height in the third edition where almost everything was Lost Technology, but later editions went back and essentially stated that no, it's not lost, it's just difficult/expensive to produce and therefore rare. The Adeptus Mechanicus has also lessened the severity of their ban against new technology due to the severity of the threats against Man, allowing new or rediscovered technology to creep into production, such as the Centurion Meta Mecha armor.
- Arguably happens in Fallout 2; at the beginning, humanity seems to have reverted to Stone Age tribalism, and it's not until the second town that you even find an actual gun available for sale. By the end, all the Mooks have Powered Armor and energy weapons out the ass. That said, the fact that civilization has mostly rebuilt itself is explicitly stated more than once, and is actually a significant element of the entire setting. The quality of life in San Francisco and the New California Republic (NCR) is shown to have nearly reached prewar standards, and even poor frontier towns like Modoc generally have some sort of government.
- Invoked even more explicitly in Fallout: New Vegas. In sharp contrast with the crumbling urban wasteland of Fallout 3, the Mojave desert has clean water, vegetation, and plentiful (if unusually dangerous) wildlife. The primary reason the region still suffers is the conflict between its factions: the swiftly advancing Legion invests much (if not most) of its resources in warfare, and the New California Republic's outposts have overextended and unreliable supply lines to (the entirely rebuilt) California. For their part, the Followers are actually using their supplies to help other people, such as the poor around New Vegas, most of whom lost their money to organized crime, drugs, and gambling.
- New Vegas itself, which is already considered to be relatively civilized, could have avoided destruction entirely if it wasn't for a stroke of bad luck: Mr. House saw the apocalypse coming, and actively prepared to defend the city from missile attack, but missed the deadline by one day. His defenses weren't running at full capacity. Regardless, he shot down every missile heading for Vegas except 11 (out of hundreds), and none of those hit densely populated areas. If his upgrades had finished, he would've had them all.
- The Commonwealth presented in Fallout 4 is even better off than New Vegas. During the Great War, in contrast to the utter carpet bombing Washington DC received, only a single nuclear missile was fired at Boston, and said missile missed, landing several miles southwest of Natick instead of hitting the city proper. Skyscrapers are mostly intact and quite a few places even have running water and electricity, making the city and surrounding area a bastion of civilization rivaling the NCR on the west coast. However, the regional flora and fauna were still horribly mutated by the Black Rain, and the area the missile hit is now this nasty bit of irradiated wasteland called "the Glowing Sea", where exploring without some serious radiation protection is ill-advised.
- Despite the intact infrastructure, however, the Commonwealth is still a relatively Downplayed example as much of Boston are still empty ruins populated by raiders, super mutants and other ne'er-do-wells. Despite environmentally being Apocalypse Not, order and society in Boston gradually collapsed in the weeks following the nuclear exchange, and most survivors of the riots and civil strife migrated to the surrounding countryside. It should also be noted that the Institute constantly monitors the Commonwealth and actively prevents attempts at forming any regional government by force. If the Minutemen succeed in defeating the Institute and the Brotherhood, it is implied that they will eventually form a new government on par with the NCR, bringing it closer to this trope.
- At the end of Deus Ex, JC Denton shuts down global communications, triggering the Great Collapse and throwing humanity into a Dark Age. Twenty years later, a number of cities have not only been rebuilt, but are once more engaged in cutting-edge research into emergent technologies. However, most of the world is either a) devastated or b) the same Illuminati-controlled dystopia the first game started with.
- Borderlands Pandora is a complicated example. In Borderlands 2 the planet is arguably more of an environmental disaster area, featuring even more dangerous bandits, a mutated human subspecies, and 2-3 times the amount of deadly creatures. However, in the first game, most of the Crapsack World-iness came from the fact that the planet was a backwater's backwater's backwater, with only few (if any) attention from outside the planet. By the beginning of Borderlands 2, however, it's made clear that five interplanetary and even intergalactic megacorporations have (or had) holdings and major settlements on it, one of which even has an ongoing business selling wood, and the world actually has some semblance of normal life there besides survival. And the rest of the human population in the Borderlands world knows about Pandora by now. Although, it's debatable whether or not the increased attention from the various Mega Corps has actually improved life on Pandora at all or just made it worse.
- Without explanation, the Crapsack World of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun has somewhat improved, in contradiction of what the backstory says, by the sequel Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.
- Somewhat justified. Around the time in Tiberian Sun, GDI had little means of stopping Tiberium spread and not even the most advanced cities were protected from Tiberium spread or Ion Storms. In addition, GDI had not yet assumed the role of government, leaving most civilian services crumbling and national governments barely keeping control. When the situation got too bad, GDI would simply mass-evacuate citizens to its un-touched arctic colonies. The change we see in Tiberium Wars is the combined result of discovery of sonic weapons' effectiveness against Tiberium, the decision to wall cities up (blue zones) and GDI assuming the role of government, and the aid of the Tacitus' secrets after Firestorm.
- However, the non-canonical novel Tiberium Wars shows that, for most people, it's still a Crapsack World. Only select few get to live in the tiberium-free Blue Zones. A reporter in the book goes to a Yellow Zone and sees people desperately struggling to survive and blame the GDI. The blame is partly justified in that that particular Yellow Zone was originally supposed to be turned into a Blue Zone. However, at the last moment, they discovered that tiberium has contaminated an underground stream and chose to cut their losses. Food is scarse, and anything growing in the wild is likely contaminated by tiberium. Hospitals get daily terminal cases of hungry people throwing caution to the wind and eating berries from a bush or something similar, and painfully dying hours later.
- Arguably, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict goes like this halfway through. The beginning of the game implies worldwide destruction, with few survivors and no hope. However, we later see functioning cities, functional industry and many soldiers on our way, implying there isn't such a shortage of people after all. It's mostly Gameplay and Story Segregation though, since the cutscenes still give the apocalyptic feel.
- The Sims 2 Self-Imposed Challenge "The Apocalypse Challenge" actually has this as its goal: your starting sim has survived a nuclear meltdown that wipes out Sim City, and must establish a dynasty that rebuilds civilization. This is represented by the player following a harsh set of gameplay restrictions for the neighborhood, a few of which are removed every time a sim from the family reaches the top of a career path.
- Happens a few times in the Warcraft series:
- The world of Draenor was already on its way to become a completely barren planet when it exploded at the end of Warcraft II:: Beyond the Dark Portal. The largest of its chunks went on to become the Floating Continent called "Outland" stuck in the Twisting Nether. In Warcraft III, Outland is a barren wasteland and an easy target for demons and other interdimensional threats. But in World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, several regions of Outland apparently survived relatively untouched. Nagrand is particularly noticeable as lush Ghibli Hills full of life.
- After Warcraft III, the Lordaeron subcontinent was presumed to have been completely destroyed by the Zombie Apocalypse and The Plague. In World of Warcraft, about half of the regions there are completely safe from the Scourge.
- WoW's third expansion pack, Cataclysm, had the world being changed forever by cataclysmic events. In reality, apart from a volcano, some tectonic rifts and the odd sunk zone, most regions stayed almost the same. A few even got better than before the Cataclysm.
- The above mentioned Draenor is now also available in a completely intact version in the Warlords of Draenor expansion, courtesy of a Timey-Wimey Ball. Note that it does not replace Outland but exists in parallel with it, in a different timeline.
- Arguably part of the background for Terinu, as five hundred years previous to the story's start the Varn Dominion destroyed human civilization and scattered them to re-education camps among the stars. Things Got Better and humanity eventually took the Earth back, after the Varn were nice enough re-terraform it and remove all the nasty pollution.
- Unfortunately works in the Celestial Bureaucracy's favor in Demon Fist: Opening Pandora's Gate combined heaven and hell with earth, destroying all civilization and most of the population in the process. 3,000 years later, the Corrupt Church controls half of the world through advanced technology and mass propaganda, while the other half is controlled by various demons ranging from Noble Demon to total evil. Humanity has never been so technologically progressed and the Earth has almost fully recovered from industrial pollution, yet the average human is now stuck in their lot in life while demons and angels plot world domination with unexplained and dangerous artifacts that threaten the planet, if not the solar system.
- Bikini Atoll represents this trope on a small environmental scale. Today, mere decades after several apocalypse-level nuclear tests, it is a thriving wildlife habitat.
- It's still dangerous to land mammals, however, since the edible plants have absorbed radioactive minerals.
- The Chernobyl exclusion zone is by no means a safe area even decades from the disaster, but the destruction of everything living that many foresaw would happen through horrible mutations never took place. There have been mutations, and certainly many animals have died from the radiation in their food, but through natural selection vegetation and wildlife in the area has grown more resilient to radiation damage, and has been reclaiming the area with fervor.
- Radiation has quickly fallen to levels where it takes years to kill a large animal. Considering that wolves, beavers and ungulates survive in the wild up to 10-15 years and breed every year from the age of 1-2, they proliferate faster than die out. Natural causes tend to kill them before the radiation does. Humans, on the other hand, live long enough to suffer from it.
- The fact that humans tend to avoid Chernobyl exclusion zone helps a lot.
- The DMZ that divides North and South Korea. Due to mines and the armistice boundary, wildlife and plantlife thrives in the area. There are no hunters, only UN observers and the few people allowed to live in selected areas. Though only for anything light enough to not set off one of the many, many landmines in it. Every so often a deer gets too heavy and sets one off.