"This was a happy story. But... it could still be a whole lot happier..."Victory, at last! The Big Bad has been vanquished, the day has been saved, all the damsels in distress and innocent bystanders have been rescued and the heroes are ready to reap their reward, kiss their Love Interests and walk away toward the setting sun... ...victory, really? Then why does no one feel like cheering? Why is the atmosphere so heavy with melancholy? Why do you find yourself counting your losses as well as your gains? Somewhere between the Happily Ever After and the Downer Ending, the Bittersweet Ending happens when victory came at a harsh price, when, for whatever reason, the heroes cannot fully enjoy the reward of their actions, when some irrevocable loss has happened during the course of the events, and nothing will ever be the same again. A Bittersweet Ending is still ending on a high note, but one that is mixed with sadness and nostalgia. Often, such endings are the result of the plot making a completely happy ending impossible. (Looked at objectively, some Happy Endings have more things lost or irrevocably broken than some Bittersweet Endings. This trope relies more on the mood than on such objective weighing of matters.) Some specific cases of Bittersweet Endings are:
— Kubo, Kubo and the Two Strings
- Did Not Get the Girl: When the Official Couple is broken for the right cause.
- When the hero fades into obscurity, gaining nothing in exchange for everything they sacrificed.
- End of an Age: When an irrevocable loss happens, which removes the innocence of the hero or of the world forever.
- When the victory is only achieved at the sacrifice of people dear to the heroes (if not the heroes themselves) — or perhaps was attempted to be won at this cost, and the heroes had to soldier on to victory without any benefit from it.
- When Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending, and everyone else is still in a state of despair.
- The bad guys get away now, but their current plans have fallen through. The heroes will have to face them again, and know it.
- The good guys feel unsatisfied and uneasy because they feel that they put on a poor showing and won by dumb luck.
- The good guys accomplish what they set out to do, but at the price of compromising their integrity to win.
- Some endings include the heroes lamenting to the effect that they had no choice but to use violence or take life in order to get the job done.
- The protagonist or protagonists are the only ones left alive at the end. Even the likeable guest or supporting characters get mercilessly killed.
- And occasionally, you will get a straight up Happily Ever After, but then the story will keep going, which leads to the inevitable conclusion of all the characters dying.
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- Animated Films
- Live-Action Films
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
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- Visual Novels
- Web Animation
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- Real Life
- A match seven years in the making (pretty much unheard of in wrestling) was "wrestled" at WWC Aniversario 2011, The Universal Champion Carlito Caribbean Cool taking on the main he'd been teased as too scared to fight, Abyss, in a monster's ball. Carlito won but was left lying prone after Abyss put him through a steel chair with a choke slam.