Broken Bird

"Oh! I have a heart to be stabbed in or shot in, I have no doubt," said Estella, "and of course if it ceased to beat I should cease to be. But you know what I mean. I have no softness there, no—sympathy-sentiment—nonsense."

These characters (often female) are coping with a Cynicism Catalyst, a Despair Event Horizon, or a Dark and Troubled Past by becoming as cynical, stoic, and/or badass as possible.

Her deep experience and emotional detachment almost always give the impression of competence, though she doesn't always live up to her own hype. Varying between Cool Big Sis, Emotionless Girl, Little Miss Snarker, and Snark Knight, she marks herself as more experienced and worldly than the other characters, even if the Competence Zone means she herself is barely out of her teens.

In fact, she can sometimes fill a mentor role for less experienced and more idealistic characters, all the while loudly expressing her irritation with said arrangement, so no one gets the impression she's softening up. Sometimes, this is to Jerkass levels; however, she is often a sympathetic Jerk with a Heart of Gold, giving an impression of independent toughness to hide a sincere affection for the other characters.

This character was a hero herself once and failed miserably, or maybe she was abused in some way as a kid; whatever the case, her cynicism undoubtedly stems from some traumatic event in her past that destroyed her faith in just about everything. This revelation is normally accompanied by a Freak Out, said past often delivered in a bitter diatribe towards someone who proved a bit too stubborn in their desire to know what it was. At this point, tears are guaranteed, probably more of them the less she's expressed emotion in the past. She also has a 65% chance of engaging in serious physical violence against whoever is closest at the time. This is always treated seriously and Broken Birds have a tendency to be both prone to violence and very good at it, therefore, potential Love Interests should always prepare to be at least slightly maimed during these breakdowns.

If she is cured of her emotional torment, expect any of a number of paths. At best, she will continue on as a deeper and less emotionally constipated version of who she was before...but she may also fall prey to Good Is Dumb or mutate into a Satellite Love Interest or Satellite Character. Expect Hope Is Scary on the road to recovery, unless she has an Adrenaline Makeover.

A number of Romance Novels lean on this trope when the love interest of the heroine is an Anti-Hero with a scar from the past for her to heal. Sometimes involves a bit of that one as well. Women want to Heal the Cutie instead of Break the Cutie.

This trope can be summed up as Troubled, but Cute + Dark and Troubled Past.

Popular with Byronic Hero. A subtrope of Troubled, but Cute, which sometimes they start as before becoming broken. Overlaps with Stoic Woobie and Jerkass Woobie. Also see Dark Magical Girl. The male counterpart is He Who Fights Monsters, though as implied above there is no shortage of male broken birds.


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  • Chihaya Kisaragi from The iDOLM@STER: Chihaya Kisaragi, known to be gifted with the talent to sing, at 15 years the young songstress cares about nothing but singing, spending almost all of her time devoted to singing only. She is considered to be "Cool and Serious", yet also has a very hard time deciding her emotions or what to say at certain times. Because of this, the other idols consider her to be "cold and heartless"(see Ice Queen) in some situations. She is also a difficult person to socialize with, sometimes shutting herself away from people to practice singing and to exercise. Despite these facts, Chihaya does have a soft spot for others, especially for people whom she cares about, even though she may never show it. Chihaya's family consists of herself, her father, her mother, and Yuu, her deceased little brother, who died in a car accident. After his death, her parents began fighting constantly, causing Chihaya to despise them. It is due to this that she became a "cold" person and devoted her life to singing.. Her image songs can mirrored in this trope as her song lyrics usually deal with her emotional undertones that compliment this trope as well.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Isuzu/Rin Sohma is a Stoic Woobie who has gone through lots of heartache thanks to her Abusive Parents and the head of the Sohma clan, but hates herself for even wanting to cry on Tohru's shoulder and pushes away her boyfriend, Hatsuharu, to not get him hurt any further.
    • Said head of the family, Akito, too - though it isn't clear until pretty damn far into the manga why. Her grief manifested less as hypercompetency or great worldliness, but rather through wild mood swings, crying at the fear of abandonment, and physically abusing family members - including blinding Hatori in one eye, pushing Rin out of a window and later locking her up until she almost dies, repeatedly thrashing Kisa, and stabbing Kureno (one of her lovers, and the most loyal to her). All of which springs from a really bad childhood with a loving Disappeared Dad who died when she was a little girl, a very cruel and arguably crazy Evil Matriarch of a mother, and being forcefully raised as a boy to avoid being seen as a threat by said mother, who poisoned her with hatred and insecurity.
    • Kyoko, Tohru's mother, used to be one in the past, also thanks to Abusive Parents who left her as an emotional wreck. She became a sukeban to ease the pain, and was then healed by becoming Katsuya's wife and Tohru's mom.
    • Saki Hanajima as well. She had a loving family, but everyone else outside the Hanajima household hated and bullied her due to her emotionlessness and Psychic Powers. It took Arisa and Tohru LOTS of effort to help her get better.
    • Tohru herself, in the manga, is shown to have severe self-esteem issues hidden under her eternal smile. She gets better. Akito also tries to Break the Cutie in regards to her but fails.
    • Kana, Hatori's fiance, went through this when Akito injured Hatori's eye after Hatori asked Akito for permission to marry Kana and Akito blamed Kana for Hatori's injury. Kana was so mentally broken by Akito's abuse that ended up agreeing, and became consumed by grief, falling into madness as a result. Hatori had to wipe her memories of their relationship.
  • The Mazinger series:
    • Mazinger Z: Minerva-X. She was a Fem Bot (or rather a Humongous Mecha-sized Robot Girl) fully autonomous, capable to think, feel and act on her own was meant to be Mazinger-Z's Battle Couple. Rather being a Humongous Mecha was a humongous Robot Girl and a living being was even capable to cry. Unfortunately Dr. Kabuto never got around to build her, and her plans were stolen by Dr. Hell built her to destroy Mazinger-Z. However when she met Mazinger, her programming activated and she started acting like his partner. However she got hurt for a Mechanical Beast, went berserker and Sayaka was forced to kill her. However, according Shin Mazinger Zero, after dying in the original timeline her soul traveled to another timeline where Mazinger-Z became a demon and destroyed the world. Minerva sent Kouji back in time to prevent both disasters from happening, generating so an alternate timeline. However, Kouji has failed every time so far, and she has gone through hundreds of different worlds, reincarnating over and again only to see Mazinger becoming a demon and everybody dying horribly over and over and over and over and over again... so far she has gone through at least 2798 cycles of death and rebirth and she is so broken she is scared of allowing herself hope the current timeline will not end up with all people she cares for dying.
    • Great Mazinger: Female lead Action Girl Jun Honoo lost both of her parents when she was still a little girl. She was adopted together with Tetsuya by Professor Kabuto because he needed training two kids to become Humongous Mecha pilots and fight in a war, and she was trained in mecha and physical combat. Since she was a little girl she has constantly got to put up with insults and contempt for being female, half-foreign and half-black. Her adoptive father tends to treat her like a soldier rather a daughter, and she is in love with her loud-mouthed, arrogant, jealous, tactless, oblivious, annoying adoptive brother who is an Idiot Hero and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with an Inferiority Superiority Complex. Thus, she is a Tsundere suffers of mood changes due to many tensions she endures daily and has developed a very nonsensical attitude. At the same time she is patient and understanding with someone else's flaws but she has little tolerance for bullshit. She also acts like a Cool Big Sis to Shiro ironically proper since he IS Prof. Kabuto's son, a fact neither Jun nor Shiro are aware of, and she encourages him to be grow up, be a strong boy and not depend on someone else.
  • Sailor Moon: Every one of the inner scouts feels like this or is this to different degrees.
    • Ami's parents are divorced and she's shunned for being too smart.
    • Rei's mother is dead, her dad is a Workaholic, and she's shunned for having Psychic Powers.
    • Makoto's parents are BOTH dead and she's shunned for being a Delinquent.
    • Minako's past depends on the the version, though in each version, she has the worst past of the Inner Senshi. Even in the anime, she was shunned because she was too busy working as Sailor V to have any kind of a social life AND she had to defend the world alone for about a year at the tender age of 13. It's taken Up to Eleven in the live-action, where not only does she have to deal with a terminal illness on top of everything else, she doesn't even try to hide behind a Stepford Smiler facade, and is a blunt, cynical Anti Heroine.
    • As for Usagi, while she's normally an All-Loving Hero, she approaches this in the live-action show and the manga. She kinda comes close in the Stars season of the anime as well, being a mild Pollyanna who acquires shades of Stepford Smiler because she doesn't want to make her friends worry over her. Ultimately, things get worse, but after a huge Heroic BSOD, she ultimately overcomes this.
    • Even more so, in the live-action series Moon has a Superpowered Evil Side named Princess Sailor Moon, who was this. Cold, ruthless and full of grief over the destruction of the Silver Millennium and the death of Endymion, PSM was determined to get her beloved Prince back, and destroy the world if she had to do so.
    • Subverted by Black Lady aka the Brainwashed and Crazy, aged-up Chibiusa. In the anime, she claims that her parents abandoned her and that Luna-P is her only friend ever, and joins the Big Bad due to her pain over it. This is because Wiseman has not only forcibly given her an age and powers upgrade, but has given her Fake Memories enhanced by his dark energy. She ultimately reverts to her original and non-broken self after either: an I Know You Are In There Somewhere Fight with Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon, who has temporarily transformed into Neo Queen Serenity (anime) or via witnessing Pluto's Heroic Sacrifice to stop Prince Demand from destroying the universe (manga).
  • Reki in Haibane Renmei, complete with wings. Fred Gallagher, the man responsible for MegaTokyo and the title of this page, is an admitted Haibane Renmei fan.
  • In Kodomo no Jikan, Sae Shirai is this because of how emotionally stunted she is. She's extremely cynical, near-emotionless, and has the saddest backstory of all four teachers. She's been defrosting a bit, though.
  • Naruto:
    • Hinata's cousin Neji a male example. His father was sacrificed in his uncle's place, he grew up hating and resenting the main family for all they had done (and hadn't done, in the case of saving his father) and thus became a haughty, stoic bastard who had to take a beating from the aforementioned Naruto to see the truth (plus a lecture from Genma)
    '''Genma Shiranui: When captured birds grow wiser, they try to open the cage with their beaks. They don't give up, because they want to fly again.
    • The earliest example of the trope in this series: Haku. Broken after seeing his mother murdered by his father and having to kill said dad in self-defense, he then became a Street Urchin and wandered aimlessly until he was found by Zabuza Momochi. From then on Haku considered himself merely as a weapon for Zabuza's plans, and that ended up in tragedy.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: A lot of the female cast from Eva fits. The only ones who don't are Maya and Mari.
    • Like most of the cast, Misato has a traumatic past, which she hides behind a cheerful Hard-Drinking Party Girl demeanor.
    • Asuka Langley Sohryu. When she was four-years-old her mother got crazy and mistook her daughter with a doll. Meanwhile her father cheated on her mother with her nurse. Asuka knew and they knew she knew but they did not care. Shortly after her mother hung herself and Asuka was the person found the dangling corpse. Her father remarried with his lover and both of them treated Asuka like a nuisance or an imposed burden. Meanwhile, NERV remainder workers demanded Asuka behaved like an adult as they treated her like a little girl. Thanks to this lovely environment, Asuka learnt to put up a mask of arrogance to hide she was a frightened, broken little girl full with self-esteem and abandonment issues, and pushed everyone away because she was frightened of caring for someone and being hurt and abandoned again.
  • Madoka Ayukawa from Kimagure Orange Road. This is especially evident in both the next-to-last manga chapter and the first movie, but arrived at in significantly different ways.
  • Black Lagoon:
    • Revy from is the Sociopathic Hero version of this. She also hits every single button on the trope (tragic past, cynical attitude, mentoring a more idealistic teammate, such as Rock, etc.). Revy is unusual in that she's usually brimming over with emotion (usually visible boredom or annoyance when there's nothing to shoot at and unrestrained glee when there is), but goes through the below speech in complete stoicism, foreshadowing her lapse into Whitman Fever later on in the arc. In one Don't You Dare Pity Me! lecture during the first season, she says:
    Revy: God? Love? Don't make me laugh. Back when I was just a brat, crawling about that shithole city, it seemed like God and love were always sold out when I went looking. Before I knew better, I clung to God and prayed to him every single night. Yeah, I believed in God, right up until that night the cops beat the hell out of me for no reason at all. All they saw when they looked at me was another little ghetto rat, with no power and no God.
    • Balalaika. Oh God, Balalaika. Thanks to the Afghan War and the subsequent collapse of her country, the cute teenager who wanted to become an Olympic marksman and make her family proud ended up as a cynical, scarred, and stylishly brutal Mafia queen.
    • Yukio Washimine sets out on the path to Broken Bird-dom in the "Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise" arc. Once she reaches it, she ends up crossing the Despair Event Horizon and kills herself in the end.
  • Zakuro Fujiwara from Tokyo Mew Mew rejected a band of True Companions that offered to include her, because she "didn't want to join anything". Someone she cared for died many years ago, her fame and beauty made people only want to be around her for shallow reasons, and on top of that, she'd become a half-animal Magical Girl. She eventually saw that the girls were sincere and became their close friend, even going as close to returning Fangirl Aizawa Minto's affections as they could show on TV. (Maybe)
  • Interestingly subverted in Digimon Tamers. At first sight we have Ruki Maiko fitting in due to her cynical attitude, No Social Skills, and living up to the mentor role of this trope with a sweet, innocent girl her age named Juri Katou. However, we then learn that Ruki's past is sad yet not super troubled: while her parents are divorced and her good-intentioned yet childish mom pushes her rather hard to follow in her footsteps, her home life is otherwise quite normal and healthy. Juri, on the other hand, is much closer to this trope and has the prerequisite troubled past: her bright, cheerful demeanour would appear to be a mask to hide her inner pain due to her mom's death and her inability to relate to her dad and her kind stepmother, a mask that shatters after the brutal killing of her partner, Leomon. In fact, Ruki has an inner monologue in which she acknowledges that she may be hard on others and all but still has loved ones that support her unconditionally whereas Juri's emotional/mental problems run terribly deep, and finishes with Ruki feeling useless as she cannot help Juri as much as she wants to.
  • Angel from The Big O - right down to the scars on her back where her wings were plucked. It's hard, learning that your memories were fabricated and being told that you're not human; little wonder she ends up piloting a Deus ex Machina Humongous Mecha in order to erase the world. There is some debate over whether or not this is what really happened.
  • One Piece:
    • Nico Robin. The reason why she's so distant and why she was introduced as an antagonist working for the Big Bad from two seasons is because of The World Goverment that took everything from her, including her mother, her only friend, and, eventually, her home island (yes, you read that right, her home island was annihilated by the World Government), because the archaeologists there stumbled on an Ancient Conspiracy, from reading tablets which were illegal. Since then, she experienced 20 years of people taking her in, claiming to help her if she helps them, and then selling her out when the agents come knocking, since she has a tremendously high bounty and the World Government lied about who she is and what she's capable of. Since her whole life then had been about betrayal, when Admiral Aokiji, who was one of the Marines who took part in her home's annihilation (then as a Vice-Admiral) met her again, and a secret government organization made themselves covertly known, she decided to turn herself in, if they agreed to let her friends go. Luffy decided nuts to that by raiding Enies Lobby with a vengeance. This caused Robin's heart to mend and she tearfully reunited with her crew when she learned they would not abandon her for anything.
    • Nami is shown to have been spectacularly broken as a little girl in the Arlong Park arc (due to the brutal murder of her adoptive mom and her years in Arlong's crew). Luffy made sure Arlong got his dues for that horrific treatment, and Nami, after a great deal of crying from all she had gone through, finally healed and got back on her feet. However, it took her a while to feel she could start trusting Fishmen in general after the devilish impression she got from the Arlong Pirates, which Hattchan found out the hard way.
    • Hancock was utterly destroyed in her pre-teen years as a child slave tortured into almost insanity (alongside her sisters, Marigold and Sandersonia) by the World Nobles.
  • In The Prince of Tennis anime, Tezuka's tennis coach in Germany is a beautiful ex-professional player named Hannah Essenheimer. She had her dreams trashed five years ago, traumatized by the bullying of other players who even came to steal and destroy her tennis gear before a very important junior tournament. She becomes embittered, cynical, and borderline alcoholic, but Tezuka and Echizen help her regain faith and return to the professional circle.
  • Layla Hamilton from Kaleido Star has a distant relationship with her well-intentioned but work-a-holic father and acting very exigent towards Kaleido Stage newbies, specially Sora Naegino and her friends. Slowly, the story reveals the events that shaped her into who she is...
  • Rue in Princess Tutu. In fact, she has been raised to believe she's the daughter of a monstrous raven (who's also incredibly and horribly abusive to her), which is where a lot of her angst comes from.
  • Code Geass:
    • C.C. initially treats Lelouch with detached interest, repeatedly claiming that she's only helping him because it's part of their deal and chiding him for any little mistake. Her backstory, partially revealed in the first season finale and completely unveiled in episode 15 of R2, shows that she's an ex-slave girl who first had a Geass of her own, later was made immortal by the nun who gave her her Geass, and then spent the next few centuries in pursuit of her "one wish", which has left her a shattered wreck who doesn't even consider herself a human being any more. Whenever Lelouch learns a new part of her story and reassures her that he's on her side, it sets the stage for a slightly warmer relationship in the second season...which results in her being broken differently (after Lelouch learns the rest of the truth), losing all of her accumulated memories since she got her Geass. And later, she gets her memories back and her emotions become even more apparent. In the end, the time she spent with Lelouch was enough to restore her humanity, and she grew out of her boredom with life.
    • Kallen Kozuki is another case, given the divorce of her biological parents and the loss of her brother, Naoto, to the war that led to Britannia's occupation of Japan. On top of that, her father is now married to a Gold Digger who treats her like dirt for being a half-breed, and her biological mother has been reduced to live with them, serving as a maid. Even though she has the luxury of living with her dad in nobility and attending Ashford, Kallen does so while secretly fighting as part of the resistance group that eventually becomes known as the Black Knights, in hopes of freeing her homeland from Britannian tyranny. At first, she also has a healthy grudge towards Britannia, though she softens up after saving the lives of her fellow classmates during the Lake Kawaguchi incident. Fortunately, Kallen is shown to be better in the end of the series. She lives with her mother in an apartment in Tokyo and still attends Ashford Academy. Her mother is out of prison and it's implied that her father is still with her Britannian stepmother.
    • Lelouch himself is a rare male example in his backstory. From his troubling childhood that started with the murder of his mother, the crippling of his sister, and being in a country bombarded and occupied by the nation that discarded him forced him into hiding and craving revenge. In the following years, he felt like he was merely existing, but not truly living. That is, until he got his geass, which gave him the chance to change the society he detested and deliver the payback he so wished for.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing:
    • Once you see through her Magnificent Rich Bitch facade, you see that Dorothy Catalonia is a really broken bird who has suffered a lot after the loss of her father, General Catalonia, in the last war.
    • The Frozen Teardrop novels give us main character, Kathy Po, and especially Treize's maddened mother, Angelina Khushrenada, who was completely broken after her and her husband Ein Yuy's Star-Crossed Lovers deal was cut off horribly.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam:
    • Iserina Eschenbach from becomes this after her boyfriend's death.
    • Amuro Ray watches his father get sucked into space during the Zeon attack on Side 7, only to meet him later in the series and discover that he suffers from oxygen starvation and is clinically insane due to his prolonged exposure to vacuum. After the White Base reaches Earth and travels west to Ireland, Amuro meets his mother at a small village where she is a nurse. After certain events play out, she tearfully disowns Amuro when he refuses to leave the Federation and continue fighting Zeon forces in the Gundam. Lastly, after Lieutenant Matilda Ajan sacrifices herself to protect the Gundam from the revenge of Gaia and Ortega of the Black Tri-Stars following the death of their friend Mash. Amuro had deep feelings for her, but never got the chance to tell her.
    • Kai Shiden from is another male example: after the White Base is ambushed over the Atlantic Ocean after leaving Ireland, he uses the Gunperry transport plane to defend the ship with Miharu Ratoki. Miharu previously hid aboard the White Base as a spy for Zeon, but met with Kai in Ireland before the attack to explain that she takes jobs she does not want to do in order to take care of her little brother and sister after their parents abandoned them. Kai develops feelings for her and understands why she chose to be a spy, but convinces her to leave Zeon and find another way to live; Miharu helps Kai fire a missile that had malfunctioned during the battle over the Atlantic, but it pushed out of the Gunperry from the exhaust and dies falling to the ocean. After the battle is won and the White Base safe, Kai realizes what happened to her and is heartbroken for a LONG time throughout the remainder of the war.
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam:
    • Haman Karn, of all people, is revealed to be this in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, as meeting such an honest and friendly person as Judau Ashta is beginning to reawaken some of her old softness. She says, right as she dies, that she was glad she got to meet Judau because of this. Prequel manga Char's Deleted Affair confirms it by showing a teenaged Haman as a cute and earnest Genki Girl. The switch is... jarring, to say the least. Throughout the manga, she gradually changes into the cold and ruthless Haman the viewers are familiar with.
    • Roux Luka becomes this at the end of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ after she kills Glemy Toto during their battle. Roux knew Glemy was in love with her, but she never returned his feelings because he had some serious parental issues that he constantly mentioned and also was a Zeon soldier.
    • Puru-Two, after Elpeo Puru sacrifices herself to save Judau from the Psyco Gundam Mk.II becomes one after Judau and Puru's spirit reason with her.
  • After War Gundam X:
    • Ennil El, if not one of these at the start of the series, is most certainly one after the end of the Estarde arc. She does admittedly go through a weird, "kinda" Yandere phase after she tries to genuinely reach out to Garrod and let him know he's not alone, only to get shot at because his people skills were crap at the time and he got scared, in which she just wants him to die at someone's hands, but she eventually just gives up. Cue a Ramba Ral-esque conversation with Bridge Bunny Toniya and an attempt at a normal life, and then... stuff happens. Thankfully, she resolves to help Garrod and company out and gets a happy ending.
    • Garrod's mentor and Team Dad for the Freeden crew, The Captain Jamil Neate, counts as one of the rare male Broken Birds, as an ex Kid Hero who is left physically and emotionally scarred after he used his Gundam X to fire the lethal shot that brought about the disastrous Colony Drop.
    • Garrod's partner and love interest, Tiffa, has some traces of this, manifested in her pathological shyness and inability to connect with others. Starting to trust the Freeden crew (aside from her adoptive father, Jamil) and learning that her horrible visions aren't set on stone are big parts of her Character Development.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • Yumi Komagata was once a very well-known, beautiful, and intelligent oiran (courtesan), she fell in despair during the Meiji Restoration as she saw the uglier side of the Japanese high society and experienced many hardships. Fed up with this new world, built on lies and injustice in her eyes, she turned towards a man who offered her dignity and solace: Magnificent Bastard Makoto Shishio.
    • Other broken birds in this series are Shura the Pirate (forced to reject her femininity to lead her men without fear), Tomoe Yukishiro (hardened and depressed after her fiancé's death, learns to love again thanks to Kenshin...and dies), and Sayo Magdaria (a lonely Christian Ill Girl who closed herself since her parents' violent deaths).
  • Basilisk:
    • Kagerou is a beautiful woman whose powers kill through sex, she's forbidden from marrying the only man she's ever loved, despite possessing all other requisites (beauty, noble blood, Action Girl skills, etc.), thus, she becomes very embittered and sad as time passes and loses all hope of being happy with Gennosuke...
    • By the end of the series, Princess Oboro has become so utterly broken...that she ends up killing herself both to save her beloved Gennosuke and free herself from the Gambit Pileup she's trapped in. This makes Gennosuke cross the path into broken bird-dom, and he kills himself too, Oboro's lifeless body in his arms.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr. from Tiger & Bunny fits the trope perfectly as a rare male example, haunted by his past and a good number of emotional issues stemming from it, eventually heals somewhat thanks to the presence of his partner- Kotetsu.
  • Chobits:
    • Takako Shimizu hides her pain so well that only Hideki's best friend, Shinbo (and the rest of the main cast, by extension), ever discover it. No one else had a clue that she had become invisible to her husband due to his infatuation with a persocom. Shinbo's a big believer that The Power of Love can heal her and succeeds.
    • Yumi, but for a different reason. She'd found out that her boss, the owner of the Chiroru Bakery, had once been married to a persocom who, entirely by coincidence, was also named Yumi, who tragically died after sacrificing herself by pushing her husband out of the way of an oncoming car. This made Yumi feel inferior and afraid of being compared to his wife. She forced herself to quit her job at Chiroru to avoid the pain of having to see him. This also eventually works out, thanks to Hideki.
  • Princess Charlotte, aka Tabitha, from Zero no Tsukaima. Root cause: emotional trauma of being a family member on the losing end of a royal power struggle which resulted in her father getting killed and her mother being driven insane, complete with near impossible "tasks", attempted murders and poisonings.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Haruhi. Think of the 'breaking' event as the baseball game, and the aftermath when she realized she was really nothing special turned her into a total jerkass cloudcuckoolander for three yearsnote . The SOS Brigade is formed and she has a small, reflective moment where she describes the above ("being angry and cynical wouldn't stand out!") but gets no real emotional resolution because Kyon doesn't know what to say. Kyon also notes that she's coming out of her shell and he thinks she's not becoming a better person, but returning to being a good person.
    • Yuki Nagato lives out 2 weeks repeatedly for more than 15,000 times in Endless Eight. That's nearly 600 years, according to Kyon's calculations in the anime and in the novels. In both versions, Kyon sees her sadness easily, and worries, because she is usually The Stoic turned Up to Eleven. That experience gave her emotions, and made her steal Haruhi's powers and create an alternate universe where everyone is normal and Haruhi is Put on a Bus. It also nearly led to her deletion by her boss. If you thought 8 episodes of Endless Eight was bad, just imagine going through the whole thing more than 15,000 times, with no breaks, and each episode lasting 20,160 minutes instead of 23 minutes.
  • Welcome to the N.H.K.:
    • Hitomi from appears to be successful despite her constant ravings about conspiracies. However, in the middle of the series, it is shown she is a bit of an outcast at work and unhappy in her relationship, even to the point that she joins a suicide pact and seems intent on jumping off a cliff over the ocean, until her boyfriend asks her to marry him, thus saving her.
    • Misaki, despite also being the Token Loli of the series, also has some very apparent Broken Bird tendencies as well. She flinches noticeably when she presumes another character is going to strike her because of the fact that she was forced to live with her abusive stepfather who constantly beat her, and she also attempts suicide by throwing herself off the same cliff her mother did years before.
  • All of the Orochi (male or female) in Kannazuki no Miko. The qualification for joining the Orochi is having a troubled past, and all of the characters in the original Orochi have either been through wars (Miyako and Girochi), sexual abuse (Corona), medical testing (Nekoko), or other violent situations. Many of the characters compensate by acting strong or confident, however, it is revealed in later episodes how destructive their pasts all were.
  • Ah! My Goddess:
    • Urd, the elder half sister of Belldandy in has had a great deal of trouble coming to terms with her part divine, part demonic heritage, though she's made significant progress with it over the course of the series.
    • Morgan Le-Fay from The Movie, a fairy who was very embittered and sad due to having failed to go through the Gate of Judgement with her loved one, who eventually abandoned her. As a result, she became the local Dark Magical Girl.
  • Maron Kusakabe/Jeanne from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne became this because of Parental Abandonment. Because of their work, her parents often left her alone as a little girl, and it is implied that, even when they were home, they fought a lot. Before Maron was even in grade school, they moved overseas for their jobs, leaving Maron behind, and at the start of the series, Maron hasn't gotten a single letter or phone call from either of them since. She hides her sadness most of the time, but the only reason she's anything resembling okay when the series begins is because Finn's around and she doesn't have to spend every night alone in her apartment any more, though having her best friend, Miyako, and her family right across the hall probably helps. (What has social services been doing this whole time?)
  • Miyuki Asaka of Game X Rush, before going right over the edge into Crazyville. Yuuki occasionally has moments of vulnerability, which cast him in this light.
  • Mai Valentine/Kujaku from Yu-Gi-Oh!, an ex-Lonely Rich Kid who had lived by and relied on herself since her parents had passed on, acting cynical and disenchanted until Jounouchi calls her out on her treatment of her opponents, Yugi wins back the star chips she lost due to the Player Killer, and (in the anime) Anzu duels her for Yugi's sake. After she defrosts, she reverts because Yami Marik put her into a coma where she was trapped in an hourglass, slowly forgetting everyone who ever loved her. Then, she has recurring nightmares about the experience. She winds up joining the villains for Season 4, because they have a magic thing called the Orichalcos that helps her cope.
  • Deadman Wonderland:
    • Minatsuki Takami invokes this in people so that they will be unwilling to fight her. Then she tears them apart. She may be getting better. Emphasis on may.
    • It turns out that Shiro is this, too. In fact, it's because of this that her Wretched Egg personality was created through the sheer trauma of being subjected to endless, brutal, torturous experiments. Wretched Egg herself can easily be called this as well; the reason she went from 'screwed up' to 'downright insane' is because Ganta, one of the few good things in her life, disappeared when she needed him the most, and then forgot she even existed after witnessing her gory destruction.
  • SHUFFLE! has three of these:
    • Kaede Fuyou, greatly broken as a little girl due to her beloved mother's death and not being able to cope with it. Made worse because Rin blamed himself for the accident that killed Mrs. Fuyou and his parents, which drove Kaede to abuse him as revenge — and it's only when the whole deal is cleared up that she can start living again. And then he falls for Asa and Kaede mentally splinters again...
    • Asa Shigure's mother, Ama. Her past as a normal demon woman chosen as the first test subject experimented on by the gods and devils was really, really bad. She still cries from all the trauma..
    • Ama's daughter, Asa, also has a period in which she behaves as one. Asa has huge demon powers and they start awakening, but Asa refuses to accept them, despite how the Power Incontinence is killing her. This is because Asa clearly remembers how Ama cried when she once used them accidentally, and she doesn't want to make her beloved mother relive her past life. Once Rin reaches for her, she gets better, but it takes him lots of effort (and having to deal with Kaede getting broken and unstable as well).
  • Anri Sonohara of Durarara!!. Her father's abuse and the witnessing of her mother murdering her father and killing herself left her without the ability to love.
  • Utako from My Lovely Ghost Kana is introduced as this. The first hint she has moved into the apartment is sobbing from the shower. She comes to live there with nothing but her guitar and a suitcase, previously having been living on the street. In a bit of expository dialogue, Daikichi narrates "Apparently while looking for work, she was led to an office and made to sign some contract written in some foreign language she had never seen before. And she hated it because she feared the big men and the cold showers and the dark little room..." However, she is trying her best to not dwell on her past, and it's never brought up again other than a later thought that, because of her new friends Kana and Daikichi, she's "not afraid to live anymore."
  • Suito Kusanagi from The Sky Crawlers. Being the only one who both knows that the Kildren never die, no matter how many times they are killed, and are condemned to follow the same meaningless actions forever, and actually cares, being one of them, has really screwed her up, despite her cool, professional demeanour.
  • Blue from Pokémon Special just barely averts this, which is a refreshing change, given that she has every right to Wangst. She managed to stay reasonably upbeat as she spent a lot of time carefully planning to take down the Big Bad responsible for all her misery. (Admittedly, there are a few cracks now and then, especially when confronted with the crippling fear of birds that he had instilled in her.) After spending most of her time getting over everything (doing so in almost complete solitude), she finally found her parents and headed off for a joyous reunion... only for them to vanish right before her eyes. Ouch. Angst Coma was immediate, though she did wake up quickly enough to keep fighting.
    • X is a male version. Hyped as a battling prodigy as a little kid, he was constantly hounded by the press until he couldn't take it anymore and became a complete shut-in. With Team Flare now chasing him down for his Mega Ring and clearly having no qualms about killing him and his friends, his trust issues are through the roof.
  • Bleach:
    • Jackie comes from a very poor family. Her father made ends meet by turning to criminal activity. With the money he made, he bought Jackie her first pair of boots, but also got himself and the entire family murdered. Jackie was left alone and alive with her baby brother's blood staining her new boots and a Fullbring power (called "Dirty Boots") that constantly reminds her of everything she lost.
    • Riruka was a Spoiled Brat as a child, using her Fullbring to steal anything she found cute and lock it away inside her treasure box. One day, she decided to lock away her first crush in her treasure box, hoping he would come to like her back. Only when it dawned on her that he was traumatised and frightened, did she release him. She became very bitter after that.
    • As a teenager, Ryuuken was expected to protect the Quincy future. Aizen's Hollowfication experiments accidentally ruin his ability to do that; crushed by failure, he attempts to walk away from both his family and the Quincies and is stopped only when his Ninja Maid insists on joining him in exile. Sometime after they Marry for Love, she's eventually murdered by the Quincy King, cementing the bitter, cynical, anti-Quincy attitude that his son Uryuu has grown up frustrated with, but has not been allowed to know the truth about.
  • In D.Gray-Man:
    • Lenalee Lee turns out to be one of these, hiding a lot of bitterness behind her sweet and cheerful exterior. She outright hates the Black Order, the Innocence, and God, because of what she went through. It takes her a LONG time to get better.
    • Miranda also had some shades of this before joining the Black Order, mixed with Butt Monkey. Even now, her self-esteem is badly damaged because of that.
  • Almost all of the magical girls in Puella Magi Madoka Magica fit this trope to some extent.
    • Homura Akemi, having gone through a "Groundhog Day" Loop to keep trying (and failing) to save Madoka from dying or turning into a witch, turned from an Adorkable young girl into a cynical, jaded Ice Queen. In particular, one loop ended with her having to Mercy Kill Madoka to stop her from turning into a witch; this traumatizing event was the Cynicism Catalyst that caused her personality to mutate for the worse. Even after Madoka's wish and apotheosis, which allowed Homura to escape the loop, Homura still keeps her Ice Queen image - probably because she failed to fulfill her promise to save Madoka.
    • Mami Tomoe was in a car accident that killed her parents. When Kyubey contracted with her, she wished for her life to be saved but didn't wish for her parents to come back to life, and has felt guilty about it since. This has turned her into an insecure Stepford Smiler who tries her hardest to be a Cool Big Sis to the other girls.
    • Kyoko Sakura was the daughter of a preacher whose radical ideas caused people to shun him. Because her family starved due to lack of funds, Kyoko contracted with Kyubey and wished for people to listen to her father. However, as Kyubey pulled the Literal Genie card, this caused Kyoko's father to develop a mind-control ability where the masses would blindly obey him. Once he found out about the wish, he killed their family and then himself. Since then, Kyoko has taught herself to no longer help anyone else.
    • Sayaka Miki was originally an idealist who contracted to heal the hand of a boy she had feelings for... but when she eventually learned that she essentially and impulsively gave up her humanity for someone who didn't reciprocate her feelings and was unable to adapt herself to the horrifyingly harsh life of a Magical Girl, she began to slip into despair and disillusionment as her view of the world ended up completely tainted, eventually becoming a Witch.
    • And in regards to Madoka herself... she comes DAMN close, specially in the third timeline. And then she gets better Much better.
    • In the prequel Puella Magi Oriko Magica, we have Yuma Chitose, an eight-year-old who was constantly abused by her parents before they got munched on by a Witch, and the Hero Antagonist Oriko Mikuni, who was ostracized by everyone due to her father's seedy under-dealings.
    • Kirika. She thought so little of herself she chose to use her wish to destroy everything she was to become Oriko's willing slave.
    • And from Kazumi Magica, we have Nico Kanna. Accidentally killing her friends in a shooting accident as a child devastated her so much that when Kyuubey arrived, she used her wish to create a double of herself who never experienced the accident and promptly gave up her family, friends, and original name to. The guilt was so pervasive that when her witch manifested, its arrival was shown as holding a gun and saying "I don't want to hurt anyone anymore. Please kill me." Its made even worse when its revealed what her double became...
  • Detective Conan:
    • Ai Haibara is an interesting variant due to her apparent age. However, her Little Miss Snarker attitude masks serious issues before she took the local Fountain of Youth, starting with the murder of her beloved older sister and the constant fear of being found by the The Syndicate. This is underscored by her choice of a pseudonym that means sorrow, instead of the common, homophonous love.
    • Considering how long the series is, we meet many other broken birds as time passes. Some of them are: Akemi Miyano aka Ai's older sister, who dies while trying to escape of the organization; Asami Uchida ( badly depressed after learning exactly how much Love Hurts, since Shinichi turned her down and later someone else tried to kill her to impress her); Miyuki Hyuuga ( broken after losing her parents and seeing her love interest, who doubled as one of her parents's killers, commit suicide out of guilt); Natsuki Koshimizu an Amateur Sleuth turned Sympathetic Murderer after her bst friend's suicide; Sakurako Suzuka an orphan who was Drivento Suicide after being falsely accused of drug trafficking; Eri Akechi aka Sakurako's long lost sister, who murdered the real drug traffickers to avenge her; Hidemi "Kir" Hondou/Rena Mizuhashi ( a double agent forced to kill her father and then one of her friends to keep her cover); and many, MANY others. Sometimes even Ran Mouri gets close to broken bird-dom, thanks to all the Break Thecutie around her, but she manages to bounce back sooner or later. For a male broken bird, look no further than Seiji Asou - though, as he's been under a Harmless Lady Disguise and known as Narumi Asai, people mistake him for a female.
  • Loveless:
    • Soubi from is a male version, filling the more cynical and experienced mentor role to Ritsuka and having a traumatic background that he doesn't talk about.
    • Ritsuka himself becomes dark and hides any form of emotion, doesn't allow himself to make friends and keeps everyone at arm's length after having to deal with his brother's death, which he was a witness to, has an abusive and mentally unstable mother, and has to deal with the trauma heaped on him not only by all this, but by his hunt for his brother's killer and warped, terrifying dreams sent to him by his own brother, who faked his death.
  • Kurumi Akino from Haou Airen thinks that Reilan is one of these, but how much of her attitude is broken bird-dom and how much is a pure bitch is up to the reader. ( Though if we delve in her past, we see that it's half and half: she had an horrifying past, but it does NOT justify her later utter bitchiness.) And by the end, for all of her Love Martyr tendencies, poor Kurumi either barely averted becoming one, or did turn into a broken bird and then set on the path to recovery.
  • Happens to Yomi Isayama from Ga-Rei -Zero-. Because it's a prequel to the manga, you get to see her break down as things seem to go From Bad to Worse. Particularly heartbreaking when she's in the hospital recovering, and is unable to communicate at all, and although she goes through the motion in one scene, she is unable to cry due to losing her voice, which ultimately helps her to make her Face-Heel Turn. Also counts as Yomi's fall.
  • In Tsukigasa, Kuroe goes from idealistic and righteous to purely cynical after the person he loves cuts his arm off and he runs away from home, ending up dying in a ditch only to be saved by robbers (whom he hates).
  • Riyoko Ikeda's Claudine:
    • Claudine de Montesse is a female-to-male transsexual so utterly broken that the poor dude shoots himself dead. WAH!
    • Rosemarie, Claudine's Unlucky Childhood Friend. Specially obvious after she gets heavily scarred and thus is seen as unfit for marriage, which was a big deal in the France of the early XX century and after Claudine kills himself.
  • Seine Miyazaki from Hekikai No AION. She was abandoned by her biological parents, her first foster father sold her to her second foster father who turned out to be an abusive man, who made her work, steal and traumatized her until being unable to swim. Her third foster father was loving and caring ( and she loved him and wanted to marry him) but he ended up eaten alive by the mermaids in front of her eyes and since she decided to follow the You Killed My Father path, she became target of the mermaids and Brainwashed and Crazy people for centuries and counting. All this combined make her an Ice Queen Action Girl.
  • Renge from Tenkuu Senki Shurato already had self-esteem issues due to being the only girl in the Royal Guard, but falling in love with her Face-Heel Turn-ed mentor Indrah as well as the death of the Unlucky Childhood Friend whose love she simply couldn't return push her over the edge and to her own death at the hands of her other friend, Hyuuga. Thank the Gods that she gets better.
  • Kaede Kunikida from Blue Seed. As one of the two Barrier Maidens of the story, the Terrestial Administration Center (TAC) used her abilities to fight the Aragami but never really saw her as a person - specially in the case of her adoptive father, Daitetsu Kunikida. As a result, Kaede grew up VERY embittered and faked her death, going through a Face-Heel Turn. Or so it seems. Her twin sister is the main character Momiji, and when she learns about Kaede being alive an with the enemy, she decides to try redeeming Kaede instead of killing her.
  • In Sangatsu no Lion, Rei Kiriyama's complicated childhood has left him with a strained relationship with his adoptive family, socially reclusive, and thrust into adulthood and out own his when he's not truly ready for it.
  • Fasalina from GUN×SWORD is an Affably Evil, Aloof Dark-Haired Girl ex-prostitute/pole dancer that had no parents growing up. She so resents and wants to redeem her unclean body that she joins up with The Claw and helps him bring his plans to fruition. It's pretty apparent that her past has left her a very broken individual that truly sees The Claw's plan as her best and only way to redeem herself. Even though she's a villain that can be VERY provocative, it's hard not to feel sympathy towards her at times.
  • Yuri Tsukikage AKA Cure Moonlight of HeartCatch Pretty Cure! is introduced as a somber, lone, cold, occasionally harsh but straight-to-the-point girl who seems to not have any friends except Erika's sister Momoka (and they don't hang out together 24/7). Over time, her identity gets exposed and it's revealed why she became so broken: She used to work solo even without the help of her Fairy just to carry all the burden of battle herself, doing all those with a smile in her face. Thanks to that, her Fairy died protecting her, in front of her, she lost the important battle and unable to transform to a Precure anymore. She gets better eventually, then temporarily down again, then better for good.
  • Captain Tsubasa is uncommon in how the three broken birds in the cast are actually males, while the (very few) girls are much better-adjusted and cheerful. (It's a Cast Full of Pretty Boys, but still). Said male broken birds are: Roberto Hongo (orphaned in tragic circumstances, found solace in soccer, became a Self-Made Man, then lost his career and almost committed suicide), Carlos Santana ( former Doorstop Baby, lost his grandparents, was a victim of massive abuse from his sponsor, grew up very embittered, only started to get better when Tsubasa defeated him and when he found his mother, and Stefan Levin (who lost his girlfriend Karen in an accident, throughly blamed and hated himself for it, and the soccer obsession born from that made his problems worse.) In the latter's case, it's openly lampshaded: Levin says that he is like "[a bird with] only one wing" in an inner monologue, complete with a panel that shows him as a winged humanoid with a single wing.
  • A Certain Magical Index has a male example in Accelerator, who at the beginning of the series is a violent sadist who has no faith in goodness or other people. As the series goes on he very slowly has his faith in humanity restored bit by bit, primarily by his relationship with Last Order, the first person in years who has treated him with unconditional love and kindness.
  • Nearly all of the women in A Cruel God Reigns.
    • Vivi had her heart broken when Jeremy admits that he slept with a man twice, although he was forced to do so.
    • Sandra, whose first husband died and was then dumped by her boyfriend, resulting in a Bungled Suicide. Her marriage to Greg starts to slide downhill toward the end as well.
    • It was heavily implied that Valentine was sexually abused, resulting in her Dumb Struck status for most of the series.
    • Nadia is dedicated heart and soul to Ian, and get her heart broken when Ian starts to fall in love with Jeremy, and eventually cheats on her with him.
    • Liliya, Greg's first wife was Mistaken for Cheating and pressured by Greg into committing suicide.
    • Jeremy also applies to this trope as a male version. The whole series is about his Dark and Troubled Past, how his life gets destroyed, and is slowly repaired (sort of).
  • Berserk:
    • Guts is a rare male example, especially during the Golden Age Arc right down to lashing out physically during his breakdown. Still completely fucked up after the Golden Age Arc as well, but tends to express it differently.
    • And it's not like Casca doesn't exactly fit, either, always struggling with her past and her feelings for Griffith, and later for Guts himself. Then the Eclipse goes down, she loses all her men, including Judeau, who personally shields her from a demon, and then she gets horrifically raped and tortured by her former commander turned demon lord — right in front of Guts, no less — resulting in her becoming even more broken.
  • Riki from Ai no Kusabi is another Gender-Inverted Trope example as man who was Made a Slave but tries to hide this fact when he returns home to his friends. They notice something is wrong almost immediately because he went from being a Hot-Blooded Badass Biker to a passive, alcoholic loser.
  • By the time Haruka starts at the new school in the beginning of Kotoura-san, she has become cynical enough to use her telepathic powers to drive others away so she wouldn't hurt others.
  • Sekirei has several among the older Single Numbers, especially those in Minato's harem.
    • Kazehana is the Cool Big Sis of the main group, and a Hard-Drinking Party Girl. One of the oldest Sekirei, she once served on a death squad and had her heart broken by the man she loved. Minato becomes her Second Love, helping her to recover from her past heartbreak.
    • Homura was a prototype, causing him to suffer from unstable powers and No Biological Sex. He requested a male body, but over time it begins to take on female characteristics. As a result of this, he believes himself to be broken and plans to murder Minaka or die trying. His suicide attempt is interrupted by Minato, who convinces him to go on living. He's very slowly beginning to get better.
    • Akitsu is broken beyond broken, thanks to being a "Scrapped Number". She's considered a failed project, and was thrown away since she can't be winged — as a result, she considers herself "trash" and comes across as an Emotionless Girl.
  • Gilbert Cocteau from Kaze to Ki no Uta is a male version of the trope. As a child, he was neglected by his parents and later in his life, he was kidnapped and raped by Bonnard and does his first of several suicide attempts, and he suffered constant abuse by his father who poses as his uncle, which includes, among other things, rape and sexual abuse, and it turns him into a antisocial loner who gets around in order to cope with the trauma.
  • This is what Soichiro Arima from Kare Kano actually is, due to horrible child abuse in his first years and the massive issues coming from both this and his other relatives's treatment of him.
  • Tenjou in Murasakiiro No Qualia. As a child, Tenjou fell off a jungle-gym, getting her body fatally wounded. And that's when the traumatizing part begins. Completely conscious, she then watches her best friend replacing her "damaged body parts" with jungle gym parts. This trauma is the main reason she ended up as this.
  • Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine: Subverted with Fujiko. Not only is her Dark and Troubled Past a bunch of Fake Memories, but she's not a ruthless Femme Fatale because of said past; it's just how she rolls.
  • Misa Amane from Death Note is an interesting example of this trope. Rather than be aloof and cynical as most examples on here, she acts like a bubbly and childish Genki Girl. Very rarely do we see glimpses of her true insane nature, a product of narrowly escaping death at the hands of a crazy stalker, having her parents murdered right in front of her by a burglar and facing the possibility of their killer walking out on the charges, falling in love with Light who killed the guilty party and gave her closure, becoming a serial killer herself and teaming up with Light no matter how poorly he treats her, and at one point getting tied up and tortured for several weeks by the detective that's looking for him. At the end, it's implied that she kills herself after Light dies.
  • Quite a few characters in Attack on Titan. The most prominent examples are Mikasa and Annie, who both deal with their dark pasts through being stoic and insanely capable soldiers. Ymir is also one, having embraced an extremely aggressive personality to survive.
    • Krista Lenz, formerly Historia Reiss, also had a pretty awful past. She had been born to royalty out of wedlock, then she and her mother were banished to live on a farm because she was an illegitimate child, where her father abandoned her and her mother openly despised her, and the other children hated her. Then, her mother was decapitated in front of her, with her dying words being that she wished Historia was never born, and her father handed her off to the military as Krista Lenz so that the Military Police wouldn't kill her.
  • Sankarea:
    • Rea starts out the series as a Stepford Smiler and Lonely Rich Kid, extremely miserable due to her father's overprotectiveness and sexual abuse. When she discovers Chihiro's zombie experiment, she entertains the idea of becoming undead as a form of escape; later, when her father stops her from leaving their estate, she drinks Chihiro's elixir in an attempt to poison herself. However, once she does become a zombie, Rea abandons her father, and, with Chihiro's help, strives to live a normal life and starts becoming happier as a result.
    • Rea's mother, Aria, is a jerkass who cares more for her career than for her daughter, but it's later revealed that she acts this way because her husband doesn't give her the affection she deserves, rerouting it all to Rea. Also, she's not Rea's birth mother, so Dan'ichiro never loved her from the start.
    • Darin is a sardonic zombie expert and Mad Scientist who likes to see Rea more as a lab rat than as a person; it's eventually revealed that her father shunned her so that he could focus on his zombie work, so Darin shunned any sense of normality she had and dedicated her entire life to work with zombies and win her father's affection.
  • Fujimaru from Snow White And Seven Dwarfs is a male example, between being a human experiment who was cruelly sold by his mother and presently being Trapped In Villainy. He starts the series off as deeply cynical with no hope for a better future, and even after his Heel-Face Turn, it takes a while before he honestly starts to have faith that the heroes can win.
  • Lucy, the Villain Protagonist of Elfen Lied. She's been scorned, kicked, and trampled by humanity for most of her childhood, suffered horrific bullying from her peers, and almost everyone who befriended her either turned out to be a fake friend or killed, with the exception of Kouta, Yuka, Nana and Mayu. Seriously, she's just about as broken as it's possible for a bird to get. (But unlike her fans say, it does NOT justify the actions she'll take...)
  • A rare male example can be found in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle's Fai. Watching his twin die at the hands of Fei Wang Reed and thinking it was his fault after being trapped in a corpse filled valley for years is already bad enough. After that Ashura brings him to Celes where he learns that his smiles make people happy. Ashura then starts losing his mind and killing people because he wants to make sure Fai's curse activates on him (but Fai doesn't know that). He puts Ashura into a deep sleep and runs away, joining the Travelers as The Mole. And that was before the story even started. But Wait, There's More! In Tokyo he loses an eye to the kid he thought of as a son and is then turned into a vampire by his Love Interest. He turns cynical and cold until his curse activates and he stabs the girl he considers his daughter. Then Ashura wakes up, Chii is destroyed and they have to go to Celes. There his life is put on display, Ashura is killed, Love Interest Kurogane is almost killed, his other curse shuts down the whole dimension with him trapped in side, Kurogane hacks off his own arm to save him and almost dies again. Surprisingly enough the last is what gets him to feel better, finally.
  • From Fairy Tail, guildmates and Badass Action Girls Erza Scarlet and Mirajane Strauss were badly broken in their childhood, leading them to become respectively aloof and bad-tempered youths. Erza's parents were killed by the same people that enslaved her. After befriending Jellal, she attempts to have him escape from the Tower of Heaven. Her plan fell through and she was tortured, leading to her losing her eye. Jellal was also tortured and turned evil, and he'd banished her from the Tower of Heaven, telling her that her friends left behind would suffer in her place. She also witnesses the death of her grandfather figure Rob. Mirajane lost her parents, and after using her Take-Over powers to defeat a demon rampaging her home village, she and her siblings Elfman and Lisanna were horribly scorned and exiled by the townspeople who thought that Mirajane was possessed. Both of them Took a Level in Kindness over the course of the story.
  • Rosario + Vampire:

    Comic Books 
  • Jessica Jones from Alias (no relation to the Jessica Garner series.) She lost her parents in the accident that gave her superpowers, and her initial career as a superheroine ended with her being kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Purple Man. And the worst part was, even though she had friends in the superhero community at the time, it was months before any of them even noticed that she was missing.
  • Empowered:
    • Ninjette, who describes herself as a professional drinker/ninja, is haunted by her father's alcoholism, an abusive past, and her clan's plan to use her as breeding stock
    • Sistah Spooky, who sold her soul for her looks, but hasn't worked out any of her issues with beautiful blonde girls. It Makes Sense in Context.
    • Oh, and Mind████...Between the telepathy she can't turn off, her horrible break-up with Sistah Spooky, and being forced to gouge out her eyes and cut out her tongue by her older brother, it's no wonder she can get a bit cynical. The only reason she seems well adjusted, aside from self-imposed regular isolation? She's forcibly re-edited her own psyche to suppress certain...problematic impulses in order to be as unlike her older brother as possible. That's right, she's so broken she brainwashed herself into faking un-breaking.
  • Katchoo from Strangers in Paradise is outwardly tough but a frightened little girl inside, probably because of her terrible childhood and all the years she spent running from her Mafia Princess ex-girlfriend. She's very dependent on Francine and David (and later Casey), but can be very abusive of them as well, and she tends to hit the bottle after every serious fight with them.
  • Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, after her spinal injury at the hands of the Joker. Complete with hypercompetence, mentoring of other heroes (though Huntress and Black Canary were really Broken Birds themselves, rather than cheery optimists), the requisite explosive teary breakdown early in her story when her partner learns a bit about her horrible past, and a slow evolution into a happier, less bitter, and more open person...only to be promptly reverted two decades back to her immediate post-shooting self when her series was cancelled. Expect a second boilerplate Broken-Bird-evolves storyline, with the third Batgirl in the 'cheerful mentee' role, over the course of the new volume of that series. Then, post relaunch, Barbara Gordon is back to suffering trauma over TKJ. This plot is on repeat.
  • Still in Marvel comics, there's Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew. On top of her already broken and screwed up past, she gets caught by the Skrull and impersonated, and when she's rescued, almost everyone hates her, which makes her grow even more cynical than she was in the past.
  • Following the reboot, Solstice in Teen Titans is this. Despite seemingly taking her shift in appearance (she now looks like she's made of charcoal and has deep black smoke for hair) graciously then most would, Kiran has stated that she was forced to do horrible things in order to survive after N.O.W.H.E.R.E. kidnapped her. She also broke down and started crying when she realized Red Robin already knew well beforehand about what the organization was doing to teen metahumans but waited to make a move because he needed more tangible evidence.
    • It gets even worse from there. We learn the catalyst for Kiran's new form involved being set up as bait by another N.O.W.H.E.R.E. prisoner whom she had come to care for, and then later on when the team is sent into the future, she refuses to depart from Kid Flash's side. So she ends up condemning herself in the prison Kid Flash is being sent to by killing someone.
  • How many readers of Red Hood and the Outlaws see Starfire. It's not certain at this point if this was Lobdell's intention. She gets really snippy and hostile whenever anyone tries to talk to her about her past, and we eventually find out that her most precious memory is killing the only Citadel member who showed her sympathy in all her time as a slave. It's even lampshaded how screwed up the team must be.
  • All of the kids in Marvel Comics' Runaways but special mention goes to Karolina, Nico and Chase who deal with issues of identity, love and the loss of it.
  • X-23's life is loaded with things that any one of which would make her a broken bird, including horrific medical experimentation, a stint as a child assassin, and a stint as a teenaged prostitute. And after finally making her way to the Xavier School, which should have been a safe haven, she was quickly pushed into the black ops division.
  • Hazmat of Avengers Academy lost everything because of her powers. Mettle, similarly, lost almost all tactile sensation and is now unable to do what he loves: surf. They find some solace in each other.
  • The cast of Avengers Arena is filled with these, including X-23, Hazmat, Mettle, and Nico, as well as space-farer Cammi. Cammi lives in the shadow of Drax the Destroyer and desperately does not want to be "normal" again. The series then proceeds to put them through hell.
  • Sharon Ventura, the second Ms. Marvel, had a miserable childhood, then got gang-raped early into her superhero career, and then, just when she was starting to get over that and develop a healthy relationship with Ben Grimm, she was mutated into a horrible rock-monster form. And then, just as she was finally getting over that, Grimm dumped her. And then Doctor Doom mutated her into an even more horrible form. She eventually had her form stabilized, but it required her to make deals with the Wizard, which cost her many of her friendships in the superhero community.

    Fan Works 
  • A Growing Affection has Hanabi become one after Madara's attempt to Body Surf into her.
  • Miko in Dirty Little Secrets is definitely one- She's just good at covering it up. It's a wonder she's not worse then she is- she was born from a long line of prostitutes and raised to join the 'family business', starting when she was 12... and both children she became pregnant with were aborted against her will. Is it bad to wish this were cannon?
  • Racer and the Geek features Sunny Breeze, a stallion who knows nothing but war, isolation, violence, and betrayal. He's suitably messed up to match, having problems with both post-traumatic stress disorder and severe alcoholism. Even worse is that, despite his vague age, it's readily apparent that he's so young most ponies see him as a colt. His own inability to see the good in himself is his tragic flaw. It's evident in every chapter, although chapters three and four showcase it best.
  • The Aladdin fanfic Antiphony portrays recurring villain Mozenrath as one, in a rare male example; he used to be a sweet, excitable child who just wanted to help people and had a strong devotion to his god. Fast-forward fourteen years of what was essentially slavery and emotional-psychological torture, and he's become a sarcastic Social Darwinist who scorns any form of faith and seeks power for himself.
  • Beth Lestrade gets this twice in Children of Time:
    • Having to watch the man you love slide down the slippery slope, then running for your life for nine months, then finding out that said love interest has done a Face-Heel Turn, then committing a Heroic Suicide... will do that to you. The timeline in which most of the above happened is retconned into never having happened, but the main players, Beth included, still retain the memories. She later tells Sherlock that she was considering shooting herself.
    • The beginning of the next season seems to imply that Season 2 might ultimately be about her Character Development, just as Season 1 was ultimately about Sherlock's. Initially after Sherlock's rejuvenation, she seems okay, but future episodes prove that she's not to the point where even Professor Moriarty was concerned about her. (She spent a year thinking that her husband was irretrievably dead and became a Death Seeker.)
  • The pro wrestling story A Ring Of Their Own portrays Molly Holly as one of these, that getting her head shaved at WrestleMania 20 and her subsequent losing streak caused her to lose all confidence in herself and retire from wrestling.
  • In Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox, Tenten is shown to be this. After all, losing both of your parents during a year-long rampage by the Kyuushingai, having no other living relatives to take you in after the fact, bouncing about from place to place without a stable home for a long time following said orphaning, and being driven to learn how to fight just so you can take revenge on the people responsible for said orphaning can't be good for one's psyche.
  • The Naruto Continuation Fic White Rain has one in Lucia Van Alstyne. She witnessed her mother's murder as a child, and married into an abusive relationship. The readers can easily tell how broken she is when she regards both Ino's friendship with Sakura and Hinata's genuine love for Naruto with curiosity.
  • In Gensokyo 20XX, we have this with Yukari, who is the most noticeable than the others and became bitter towards her experiences during the course of the series.
  • In Origin Story, Alex Harris's conversation/therapy session with Doc Samson reveals just how much psychological trauma she's experienced over her young life. Alex's partner Louise also qualifies. The pair of them use their relationship to help each other heal.
  • From Kill la Kill AU, we have this Ryuuko, who is a bit young for one, however, she seems to have a rather cynical view of the world, especially when it comes to her poor health, having been in and out of the hospital, along with the fact that she was separated from her mother when she was two, meeting her again fairly recently. Apparently, due to the aforementioned poor health, she counts how much time she might have to live, considering death to be a release.
  • In Angel Of The Bat Cassandra, after learning homosexuality is sinful to the Catholic church and questioning if God hates her for loving Stephanie, temporarily backtracks on all the progress she made on getting her life together. Thankfully, she gets better. Stephanie has some quiet tendencies regarding this as well, though she is usually The Pollyanna.

    Film — Animated 
  • Mittens from Bolt. Being abandoned by her owners made her snarky and abrasive.
  • Megara from Disney's Hercules. After making a Deal with the Devil and becoming a slave to Hades to save her boyfriend's soul, only to have said boyfriend dump her for another girl, she's more than a little cynical, particularly towards Hercules.
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
  • Queen Elsa from Frozen used to be a happy kid until one night when she hit her little sister in the head with her ice powers. After that incident, she refused to use her powers, detached herself from her sister, and locked herself in her room. She's pretty much lived the past thirteen years of her life in isolation and fear of herself and hurting others.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Hatter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Mercury poisoning is only part of what drove him mad.
  • James Bond: More than one Bond Girl.
    • Countess Tracy Di Vincezo (Diana Rigg) from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. She's barely recovering from a traumatic divorce (and her ex husband's death), drug addiction, and her child's death. And once she and Bond are Happily Married, she's shot to death.
    • Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) from For Your Eyes Only, who joins Bond to avenge her parents' deaths with her trusty crossbow.
  • Maggie in Escape from New York has the attitude, although the audience learns very little about her past.
  • The Bride and O-Ren Ishii, in Kill Bill.
    • The plot revolves around The Bride on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to murder the assassins who crashed her wedding, killed her fiance, and ruined her life.
    • As for O-Ren: when she was seven, she watched her parents be brutally murdered right before her eyes, leading her to avenge them by hunting down their killer. At age eleven, she found him and stabbed him to death.
  • Annie Newton in The Invisible. Call her that, and she'll beat the tar out of you. Half the movie is spent learning how she was broken.
  • Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie) in The Hustler is this both mentally and physically.
  • Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be here. In Thor, we see that he is actually a relatively nice person deep down, who loves his brother and looks up to him immensely. Sure, he's manipulative and a little shit most of the time, what with ruining Thor's coronation to be King just because he thought Thor wasn't ready (he wasn't, but not the point), but learning his whole life and family is a lie and that he's actually part of a race he's been taught to hate his entire life is still pretty devastating, and is what ultimately makes him snap and go about violently trying to prove his worth in the exact wrong way. After this, the downward spiral only continues… though he does seem to get some redemption in Thor: The Dark World. Or does he?
  • Theodore in Her begins the film isolated and withdrawn. He's a writer who has always been inside his own head, but completely caves in after his wife divorces him.
  • Time and events have really taken their toll on Young Charles Xavier in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He lost Raven and Erik, Sean disappeared several years prior (and is later confirmed dead at the hands of Trask), then his teachers and students were drafted, leaving Charles alone except for Hank.
  • Selena in 28 Days Later has already seen society crumble around her and everyone she knows killed or infected by the time we meet her, and as a result maintains that "staying alive is as good as it gets". She ruthlessly kills her companion Mark when she suspects that he is infected, and assures Jim she would do the same to him "in a heartbeat".

  • Hester from A Prayer for Owen Meany. After Owen's death she becomes a provactive rock star, obviously shattered with the lost of her one true love.
  • Number Six from I Am Number Four. Especially in the sequel book, when she is promoted from an Eleventh Hour Ranger to one of the central characters.
  • Melinda Sordino from Speak is very much depressed during her Freshman year in High School, and eventually, we find out that she has a very good reason to be so. Not only have her old friends drifted apart into different groups, leaving her to become a school outcast, but she also is a recovering rape victim.
  • In the Fingerprints series, Yana Savari does a good job of pretending to be a Genki Girl, but her backstory is revealed to be one big Break the Cutie. In the final book, her Broken Bird nature finally comes to the surface.
  • Hirsent from The Reynard Cycle is one of these. By the end of Defender of the Crown, she's endured the deaths of her husband and two of her children (one due to miscarriage, the other due to murder), and a rape. Hermeline refers to her as the "queen of ice."
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
  • Vivienne Michel, the heroine of Ian Fleming's novel The Spy Who Loved Me titles one chapter of her fictional memoir "A Bird with a Wing Down". See also Honeychile Rider from Dr. No and Teresa "Tracy" Draco from On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  • Winterhart from Mercedes Lackey's Mage Wars trilogy starts out as a classic example of this trope, right down to the tragic backstory, repressed emotion, and the Epiphany Therapy courtesy of the protagonist.
  • X-Wing Series character Dia Passik is a textbook example. Sold into slavery as a dancer, harbored a polite hatred for others of her species, generally ruthless, and sort of hostile to her teammates. Then she does a Shoot Your Mate (he seems dead, she tells us she thinks he was dead, but it's ambiguous) and has a Heroic BSOD in which she tries to commit suicide. The teammate who stops her ends up, eventually, in a relationship with her, and she defrosts.
  • Lessa in Dragonflight. She was 11 when her family was killed; she's first introduced at the end of ten years disguised as a drudge and living solely for revenge. Needless to say, she has a lot of issues. Impressing a dragon and an eventual romance do a lot to allay them, though, and in later books, she's a lot more stable and one of the most badass authority figures around. When F'lar asks her what she wants to do after her revenge is achieved, she has no idea because she was never able to think past that point.
  • Éowyn of Rohan, in The Lord of the Rings, has been forced to nursemaid an ailing uncle and endure the sexual harassment of his Evil Chancellor for years. Plus her cousin dying in the war, and her beloved older brother being imprisoned (or banished in The Film of the Book) for trying to protect her...Even the Witch-King's terror aura didn't seem worse to her than that. Thank God she gets better and befriends, and then marries, Faramir, the local Wise Prince.
  • Rían, daughter of Belegund from The Silmarillion. Lampshaded in Unfinished tales when it is told she was quite unlucky to be born in a hard time like the First Age. She married Huor after fleeing Dorthonion with the remnants of her family, and had only just conceived when the call came in. Then, she had to see her husband go away, and when she learned that he and everyone else from her people was killed and her country overrun, she gave her infant son to fostering among the elves, and went to die on her husband`s grave.
    • Morwen, Ríans cousin, fared even worse. When Húrin, her husband, finds her again after many years, she has been well and truly broken, and dies in his arms. Húrin spares her the suffering of knowing how their children met and what happened afterwards.
  • Susan Rodriguez in The Dresden Files after she becomes a half-vampire.
  • Vin from Mistborn, especially near the beginning. She was raised by her abusive Jerk Ass of an older half-brother to trust no one and be continually suspicious of people's motives- as the author puts it "she's not a bad person- she just thinks everyone else is." Learning how to trust and form meaningful bonds with others is the central thrust of her character development throughout the trilogy.
  • Leitha from The Redemption of Althalus is emotionally detached, very snarky, and traumatized by having to hear the thoughts of everyone she meets. Nearly getting burned at the stake didn't help. And on top of that, very, very good at hiding just how much she's hurting. Luckily, like most examples, she gets better.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • Thalia Grace. Her mother was an abusive alcoholic who neglected her and her brother, Jason. Eventually, she ran away, only to find herself constantly being attacked by monsters and having to fight to survive. She sacrificed her life to save her friends, and spent seven years as a pine tree. As a result of all this, she's sarcastic and cold. She gets better after the third book.
    • Annabeth, due to the trauma from losing Thalia, and later Luke.
    • In the sequel series, Reyna becomes one in Mark of Athena. She already had a Dark and Troubled Past, losing her home and being captured by pirates. In the third book, it gets worse; a war breaks out between the Greeks and Romans, destroying her hope of anything good happening ever again.
    • Nico is a male example of this trope. His mother died, he was stuck in the Lotus Hotel and Casino for sixty years, his big sister Bianca died, his crush Percy fell in love with Annabeth, he believes nobody likes him because he's a son of Hades and therefore pushes everyone away... by the last book he's absolutely shocked and can't understand it when Reyna, Coach Hedge, and Will are still willing to sta friends with him.
  • The heroine of The Sirantha Jax Series (Sirantha Jax) was involved in a tragic accident that left her lover and scores of people dead. It broke her rather badly, and she's in the beginning stages of recovery at the start of the story.
  • Sinai from Black Dogs. She blames the tragic fate of her cousin on herself and becomes a Death Seeker bent on revenge.
  • Olive Nolan already starts out as this in Tranquilium, being a rather world-weary Lady of Adventure. She becomes this even more so after going through at least two different Mind Rape sessions and a prolonged period of utter insanity, though she did eventually get better from that last one, at least. Svetlana becomes this too, by the end, but to a much lesser extent.
  • Lily Bard in Charlaine Harris's Shakespeare series, due to her having been gangraped, tortured (leaving her body permanently scarred), then left for dead.
  • When we meet Rochalla in the first of the Shadowleague books, she fits this trope perfectly, though she (oddly enough) gets better when she is forced to flee for her life with a bunch of strangers.
  • All K-named reincarnations (It Makes Sense in Context) in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt. This starts with the very first, Kyu, who is abducted from his home as a child, castrated and horribly disfigured on a boat in the middle of nowhere, and finally mobbed to death by an enraged populace (one of the other characters remarks, after he comes out of his fever after said castration, that he's a different person altogether), and continues on with all sorts of unpleasantness. In fact, much of the overarching conflict is based on this particular soul's Broken Bird status.
  • Talia (Sleeping Beauty) from The Princess Series is an almost textbook example of this since her tragic past causes her to have a very stoic, sarcastic, and violent attitude.
  • Abigail Tillerman in The Tillerman Family Series, big time. Luckily, for her, her naturally sharp personality hides it well.
  • Mira's group of university friends in Marilyn French's The Women's Room are varying degrees of this trope, except possibly Iso. Chris becomes one after her rape, and Mira herself is one by the end of the book.
  • Susan Jagger of Dean Koontz's False Memory. She's crippled by agoraphobia so severe she can't even look out her apartment windows, and is completely convinced somebody is somehow breaking into her apartment at night and raping her. She's right, too. Her agoraphobia was planted by her psychiatrist, who puts her into a hypnotic trance so he can get into her apartment and not just rape her, but Mind Rape her into playing whatever sick games he devises. These are all calculated to make her cry, because he gets off on her tears. He breaks her for his own amusement...and she's not the first person he's done that to, either.
  • Miranda in L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter, it turns out. Her Back Story actually did turn her into the Emotionless Girl.
  • The In Death series: Eve Dallas starts out as this before meeting Roarke. In fact, the series can be considered her journey to healing from the damage she received from her Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Sword of Truth:
    • Nicci's abusive and bafflingly-misguided mother and Brother Narev turned a nice, sweet little girl into a Sister of the Dark and servant of the Imperial Order. Her backstory lingers a lot on how much she's actually this under her armor of unfeelingness, in lurid, horrifying, and tragic detail. An unusual example because she spends most of a year trying to fix herself, but being so broken, goes about it in a completely ridiculous way. Despite that, she manages to get healed, but not at all how she expects.
    • Richard himself after being tortured by Denna for a month. So that "no mental damage" thing he appeared to escape captivity with? Heh. He had actually become insane, but kept it under wraps except for certain triggers that would immediately break him down. It took a lot of Fridge Logic and growing up for him to snap out of it. He does end up healing himself, too (This is historically before the Nicci example, but hers is much more prominent).
    • This is actually how you make a Mord-Sith. It's actually more horrible than it sounds. Richard humanizing his Mord-Sith detachments is one of the most heartwarming moments of the series.
  • Both Arpazia and her daughter Coira in White as Snow. After her rape, Arpazia goes into lengthy trances where she forgets reality and her face is often described as an eggshell when she is being particularly stoic. Coira's only strong emotion was love for her mother until Arpazia wounded her. After that, she refused to feel much of anything.
  • Lucy in Someone Else's War, a young woman who has been with the LRA since she was six and has had at least one child born of rape.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • Johanna Mason was a victor of a previous Hunger Games, and because she refused to go into prostitution, she lost everyone she loved. She appears cold and nasty, but is simply hardened from losing everyone.
    • Katniss Everdeen herself has shades of this after her father's death, but gets much worse as the series goes on, especially after her trip to the arena. She becomes a more literal example during the events of Mockingjay with her role as the Mockingjay for the rebellion.
    • Her mother, Mrs. Everdeen. After her husband's death, she went into a near-catatonic depression. She eventually got better, but then her oldest daughter becomes a tribute in the Games, twice, her District gets blown to ashes, and her youngest daughter dies. Not at all hard to see why she never returned to District 12.
  • Dieda from Forest House is repeatedly confused with her niece, Eilan, whom she resembles almost identically. She is chosen by a priestess by the High Priestess when mistaken for her niece, despite being in love and soon to be engaged to Cynric. When Eilan is pregnant despite having made a vow of chastity, Dieda is required to take her place to alleviate confusion. Cynric is killed after slapping Eilan when Eilan is High Priestess, and most of her family is killed and Dieda kills herself
  • Attolia of the Queen's Thief series is renowned by foreigners and her own subjects, who are all dog-loyal, for being cold, ruthless, and unlovable. It’s heavily implied throughout the second book that this is due to her shattered childhood when her parents were killed—she was abruptly placed on the throne, humiliatingly forced to submit to a war between her power-hungry barons, driven into an arranged marriage with a man she hated, and earned the terror of her entire country by poisoning him at their wedding feast. She’s spent the years since unable to trust anyone, and the one person she does actually trust to some degree (Relius) ends up betraying her. By the end of the third book, however, with her marriage to Gen, she’s started to undergo defrosting.
  • A couple of these in the Aunt Dimity series:
    • Lori herself is somewhat subtly depicted this way. Mostly this comes out in her retellings of the "Aunt Dimity" stories in the introductory book. Under the terms of the will, Willis Sr. has her recount several of the stories, first to identify herself as the rightful heir, then as proof that she's researching the correspondence Dimity Westwood and her mother Beth left behind. She begins to notice that the versions she recalls have some telling differences from the tales as originally told in the letters—differences which reflect her own bitterness over her divorce and poverty, the robbery of her humble apartment, and the loss of her mother while she was living in another city.
    • This is Bree Pym's backstory as it unfolds in Aunt Dimity Down Under. Her grandfather recently died, her abusive alcoholic father went on one last bender, and she fled the situation, only to find her long-lost mother had remarried and started another family (in part to forget her own sufferings at the hands of Ed Pym). She finds and quits a couple of jobs, gets several tattoos and numerous piercings, and is so upset when the tattoo artist advises her to slow down she trashes his studio and breaks his glasses. Of herself, she tells Lori:
    "Ex-cons have trouble adjusting to life after prison. I disappointed my teachers by not going to university. I haven't been able to hold on to a job since I left Takapuna. I attacked Roger for no good reason, and I expect I'll do the same to Holly. I don't know how to behave around normal people." She pressed her hands to her eyes. "I've given up hope of learning."
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Mara Jade. Taken from her family by the Emperor, who probably had them killed, and indoctrinated and turned her into his personal assassin. The one mission she fails, killing Luke Skywalker, comes back to bite her hard when Luke subsequently triggers Vader's Heel-Face Turn and killing of the Emperor to protect his son. Oh, and the Emperor was in telepathic contact with Mara at the time and showed her a false vision of what happened (Vader and Luke turning on the Emperor together) to say "This is all your fault," with the vision tormenting her practically nightly for five years to ensure that eventually she kills Luke as vengeance on Vader from beyond the grave. She loses her power and prestige, her home and sense of purpose, and spends five years bouncing from meaningless job to meaningless job, often having to take off when her latent Force abilities awaken and the visions of the Emperor return, and she fears to let anyone get close. Then she meets Luke Skywalker and discovers that her existence has been a lie, and everything she ever believed was wrong. Timothy Zahn picked her name for a reason.
  • Song at Dawn: Poor Alis. She's lured into Raymond de Toulouse's clutches with a marriage proposal he never intended to keep, chained in his bedroom, raped, and then put on display before his vassals. After that she's a nervous wreck with failing health and her jealousy of Estela goes Up to Eleven because she believes herself to be Defiled Forever.
  • The Chalet School, of all places, has a resident example in the form of Grizel Cochrane, the bitter, sarcastic music teacher. Her mother dies, her father marries a woman who treats Grizel like dirt, her grandmother - the one relative she had who really loved her - dies, and she ends up being forced into doing a job she hates by her parents, when she'd rather be teaching PT. She takes her unhappiness out on her pupils, many of whom are terrified of her, and Joey can't reform her. To cap it all, when she moves to Australia to start a new life with an old school friend (who nearly killed her with a stone in their school days), said friend runs off with her fiance. She does get a happy ending, but not until late into the series.
  • Angel in Redeeming Love is deeply embittered and cynical as a result of being raped as a child and then forced into prostitution until she was in her early twenties. The novel’s main premise is one man’s divinely-appointed attempt to reverse these effects via The Power of Love.
  • Elisandra in Summers at Castle Auburn has to maintain her perfect calm at all times, because going along with the machinations around her is the only way to keep it together.
  • Rephaim from The House of Night is a male example. For starters he's a Child by Rape and never knew his mother due to Death by Childbirth. Destined to be Overlord Jr. or possibly redeemed by Love?
  • Dolores Price of She's Come Undone. Abusive father, raped at thirteen, lost her mother to a truck accident, bullied for her weight, attempted suicide, institutionalized for seven years, and married an abusive idiot who forced her to have an abortion.
  • In "De skandalösa" by Simona Ahrnstedt, Magdalena Swärd becomes this after she was betrayed by her fiancé. She becomes very cynical and reluctant to trust a man.
  • A large part of the prequel novel Children of the Night deals with Diana trying to recover emotionally after note  nearly being killed by a mystic being.
  • The Red Vixen Adventures: Salli at the start of Captive of the Red Vixen, having shut herself away after divorcing her abusive husband. She gets better later in the series with therapy, but she still suffers from depression and panic attacks when off her meds.
  • In different ways, both Glynn and Ember from The Legendsong Saga. Ember is dieing from a brain tumour and has completely devoted the rest of her life to accepting this fact; Glynn is struggling with having been The Unfavorite, and the fact that everyone she cares about (her sister, her parents, her mentor/friend/dream-boyfriend)are all dead/dying. Glynn, at least, gets better through her love for Solen and link with the He-feinna.
  • Pact: Blake and Rose Thorburn. Blake is a runaway from a family that was torn apart by infighting over an inheritance from his grandmother, has severe PTSD and Hates Being Touched because of unspecified traumatic experiences while he was homeless, and thinks of himself as a flawed, broken person. Rose, his magically-generated Distaff Counterpart, has a different backstory-when the family fell apart, she stayed with her parents, enduring the escalating pressures of her cousins, death threats, and a Friendless Background due to a lack of connection with anyone outside of her immediate family. Both are thoughtlessly manipulative of others, as their parents trained them to be, and continuously hide things from each other, which is a problem because as the heirs to their grandmother everyone magical and a few that aren't want them dead.
  • Snow White in Six-Gun Snow White is pretty emotionally broken after years of physical, verbal, emotional, and borderline sexual abuse from her stepmother.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • One of the many interpretations in fandom of why Amy Pond acts how she does is that she's one of these. Though, let's be fair, you'd be broken too if your parents had been erased from existence and even from your memory, except you had a constant nagging in your head that you can't remember who they were or how you lost them. If Amy really was a Broken Bird, by the end of series 5, she's definitely fixed after having her parents restored. And then she was broken again in Season Six when she was kidnapped by Madame Kovarian, tortured, separated from her newborn daughter and later discovered that she could no longer conceive the children she knew her husband wanted. In her mind, she was doing Rory a favor by divorcing him; he may have been the Boy Who Waited, but she was convinced by this time she wasn't worth the wait.
  • Ace seems to fit this well as part of the badass type. That girl had issues. And guidance councilors.
  • Elena from The Vampire Diaries has been through much pain and tragedy at a young age, especially the tragedy of losing both of her parents.
  • In Person of Interest Finch is one of the few male examples of this trope. He is constantly paranoid (due to him being legally dead), walks with a limp caused by an explosion which killed his Only Friend, set by men trying to kill them, causing him to also fake his own death, has a major Guilt Complex over the deaths of innocent people which his machine alerts him about, who he couldn't save due to being a cripple, before he could hire John Reece and lives as a social recluse in an abandoned library (his only friend being a man he hired to save the numbers and a dog. It doesn't stop him being a Deadpan Snarker though...)
  • Veronica Mars is indisputably a Broken Bird, it being the key character point which defines her in the first series - she's cynical about the world and much older in her mind than her seventeen years because her life went to hell within the space of a few months less than a year before we meet the character (her best friend is murdered, her dad (the sheriff) loses his job and they lose their house, her mother leaves her and her father, she is drugged and raped at a party (and laughed at when she reports it), and becomes a social pariah (in a school where money makes the world go round). But she takes the new kid under her wing and maybe it will all work out?
  • Once Upon a Time thrives on this trope. We have Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, Regina Mills/The Evil Queen, Killian Jones/Captain Hook, Zelena/The Wicked Witch Of The West, Ingrid/The Snow Queen, and Cora, in whose lives the Dark and Troubled Past figures prominently and explains their recurrent badassery. Then there's Greg. Everyone who functions as a villain is a textbook example of the badassed type of Broken Bird; all of them started out as heroic and/or morally sound people and were traumatized into an endless quest for vengeance. Emma Swan, the heroine of the series is another example of this trope, but strictly the cynical/stoic variety.
  • Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly is a rare male version. Being on the losing side of the war has clearly affected him greatly. Adding his Doomed Hometown, it's no wonder he's so emotionally distant.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent has Alex Eames, an extremely good police detective who is still suffering from the fact that her husband Joe was killed in the line of duty years before the show began.
  • Farscape: Aeryn Sun has been through dead parents, dead friends, dead ex-boyfriends, torturing people, killing people, being tortured, killing more people, her own people hating her...she's very, very broken. Her repair is fittingly epic.
  • Heroes:
    • It seems like they tried to write Kate as this, but made her so selfish and dislikable that she just comes off as a Jerk Ass rather than genuinely hurt.
  • Lily from Privileged, Megan's younger troubled sister. Over the course of the series, she takes Sage out to a bar, despite Sage being sixteen, steals one of Rose's tennis bracelets (and almost gets away with it, except she wears said bracelet to dinner in a later episode), and ends up spending time in jail because she was set up by her drug-dealer husband. Towards the end of the season, she appeared to be improving, but since the show was cancelled, we'll never really know.
  • Dr. K in Power Rangers RPM. She spent her entire childhood in a government research facility, being told she was "allergic to sunlight" to keep her from leaving, so she could devote her life to doing advanced science for them. Her one attempt at escape worked, but only because she accidentally unleashed a sentient computer virus that nuked the world. For some odd reason, she...doesn't get along with others very well.
  • Dr. Temperance Brennan of Bones has been shuffled through a dozen or so foster homes from age 15 on (after both her parents went out on Christmas Eve and never came back) doesn't do nice things to one's psyche, to put it nicely. It's no wonder she deliberately acts as emotionlessly as possible as an adult.
  • NCIS:
    • Ziva David has been brought by her father her up to kill people, up to and including directly ordering her to kill her own brother, Ari, which she does, and then never really gets over. Most of her close family members are dead (and not of natural causes), and the two men she's fallen in love with have both died, one of radiation poisoning and one was shot by her partner, Tony. Ziva is consistently unemotional: while she does get angry, she is unlikely to show sadness or hurt; this is directly referred to by other characters. She is a skilled assassin and normally shows little or no remorse for killing.
    • Ducky, the NCIS medical examiner, had an episode titled this, where a painful event in his past is brought up. It ends in him breaking down weeping, if that tells you anything.
    • Gibbs isn't the most emotional either.
  • Olivia Dunham in Fringe for a good part of season 1. The pilot episode sums up why. There's also the experimental drug trials she participated in as a child, and the abusive stepfather she almost killed in self-defense when she was eight years old. She's back to being this as of the season 4 premiere. That is, until the return of her memories from the previous timeline.
  • Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke, protagonist of Revenge, who had been broken ever since her childhood when she was forcibly estranged from her father, went from psych ward to abusive foster home to juvie ward, and led to believe her father was a terrorist. Flash forward to her release on her 18th birthday, when she learns her father, recently murdered in prison was innocent via message, and betrayed by many of the people he trusted. Her father urged her to seek forgiveness. Having lost everything she held dear, and true to the series' name, there is only one thing she wants.
  • Isabella from Robin Hood. Her parents died in a fire, she was sold to a sadistic rapist at age thirteen, and her relationship with Robin does not end well. (This was a controversial character, considering she was such a sympathetically Broken Bird and yet the writers eventually chose to kill her off as an irredeemable villain.)
  • Detective Kate Beckett in Castle, who has had to live with both her mother's brutal murder and, due to what she considers the lack of imagination of the investigating officers, the fact that her killer was never caught.
  • Most of the female characters on Deadwood are at least slightly crumpled around the edges — rather understandably, since the show's set in a frontier mining camp where about 98% of the women in town are prostitutes. Special mention has to go, though, to Joanie Stubbs — suicidal, lesbian incest survivor/brothel madam whose first tentative attempt at independence ends up with three people dead after her business partner sells her out — and Calamity Jane, a self-destructive, alcoholic fuckup who's an outcast in a town made up almost entirely of self-destructive alcoholic fuckups. (Incidentally, the two wind up together.)
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Kira Nerys grew up under the Cardassian Occupation, witnessed her entire family killed, and learned that her mother was the (willing) lover of the arch Big Bad in order to keep her family alive and relatively safe. And that's not counting all the crap that happens to her during the series. It's been mentioned elsewhere that while O'Brien had the annual "O'Brien Must Suffer" episode, the writers didn't need a "Kira Must Suffer" Running Gag because something horrible happens to her roughly every other week.
    • Worf's family was killed when he was a kid and had to live amongst humans, who can't understand him. Then, he kills a boy, since he underestimated his strength. He vows never to lose controll again. Then, his family gets dishonoured. His first love and the mother of his son gets murdered. He regains his family-honour just to lose it again. His brother gets suicidal, so they have to erase his memory for good and he loses the last of his family. His son hates him, and his wife and great love gets murdered. Poor guy can't get a break
  • Tess Mercer of Smallville. She's a Corrupt Corporate Executive, Misanthrope Supreme, and Well-Intentioned Extremist, who's driven by a need to escape her past with her alcoholic, abusive father. The cynicism, sarcasm, and Zen Survivor attitude are all there, as is the desire for a Heel-Face Turn. Her desperate gravitation towards Clark as a Messiah figure is quite hearthwrenching. Finding out who her biological family is didn't do her any favors. An Alternate Universe shows that if she had been raised by her blood family, she would have been even worse in this trope.
  • On Supernatural, Dean and Sam Winchester are rare male variants. They're both such incredible Woobies, but Dean is more repressed, stuffing down his real feelings for the sake of his family and the hunt.
    • Dean throughout seasons three and four particularly, where he is a Death Seeker with little hope and less of the humor he started with. And no wonder, after learning he broke the first seal for the lead-up to the Apocalypse and being unable to protect his brother from himself. In season five, Dean was seriously considering accepting Michael and becoming a major force in the Apocalypse because he didn't trust Sam, Bobby was crippled and contemplating suicide every morning, Castiel was disillusioned with God and had lost his angelic powers, and Sam was operating under the guilt from giving in to the Dark Side above his brother for a chance to kill the Big Bad that turned out to free Lucifer and start the Apocalypse.
    • By the end of Season 5, Sam was in a worse condition even though he seemed to be hiding it better than Dean. On top of everything above, the only hope to get rid of Lucifer and prevent the Apocalypse turned out to be for Sam to let Lucifer possess him so he could condemn himself to an eternity in the fallen angel's cage with Luciferduring the season finale, and he had to guzzle gallons of demon blood to do it after resisting his addiction for almost the entire season. And not even Sam believed he was strong enough.
    • The demon Meg - who hates emotionality and poetry, spent so long being tortured that she lost her humanity, and seems split between being wanting to hurt everybody else and wanting to be loyal- is the key female example, but this is the trope that defines many of the show's female characters (for example, Amelia, Bela and Ruby). And given how much the show likes to torture all its characters, this is an extremely common trope for males as well as females. Castiel, Bobby and Benny also fit this trope to a tee. Especially Cas- Watching him get broken over and over again has been one of the show's key advertising draws.
  • Morgana from Merlin. If she had not been hurt, lied to, and ignored by the people she called friends, then she would not be where she is now. Deconstructed with her behaviour with Gwen, a guard and innocent people only (played straight for everything else, mostly in season 4), with which this trope is subverted. While Morgana hurts the poor Gwen, her former best friend, because it is an easy way to attain her goal, Gwen is continuously generous to everyone, and only betrays Morgana after the latter tried to kill her (a thing she suspects because Morgana smiled when she was dragged to the cells where she should be imprisonned by Uther) to save her lover and her buddies. Gwen is tortured/looked down upon/neglected by everyone except Merlin (who remains oblivious to her crush on him), Gaius (who keeps her out of the way as much as Morgana when serious matters concerning her that Merlin must resolve arise), Arthur ( who repeatedly breaks up with her because he thinks he must marry a princess and otherwise a noblewoman and thinks she cheated on him and banishes the poor innocent Gwen) and some minor characters, being lacking power because of her low social status. Yet, unlike initially kind and powerful Morgana, who arguably can only be furious and traumatized because of Merlin, Uther and (indirectly) Arthur, plus two minor characters and punishes poor people who were indifferent/neutral in the conflict, and a guard who probably did horrible things, but was kind to her, she insists that killing Uther would make her as bad as him, even after he menaced to burn her at the stake and condemned her father to be imprisoned.
  • Sara Sidle from CSI. Although she falls more into the badass version than the non-emotional one sometimes.
  • The Inspector Lynley Mysteries' Barbara Havers had any semblance of optimism ground out of her with extreme prejudice after her little brother's death from cancer tore her family apart and her parents succumbed to mental illness and lung disease right before her eyes. When combined with the fact that she has No Social Skills (which have left her alone and misunderstood her entire life), a Hair-Trigger Temper (ditto), and massive class resentment issues, it's no wonder the poor thing was on the verge of being kicked off the force, Bunny Ears Detective or not, before she teamed up with Thomas Lynley. Although the show proceeds to further Break the Cutie (and also the haughty - her partner isn't spared), she softens and blossoms when paired with the one man who refuses to give up on her no matter how much she tries to drive him away. The result is a far more likable - but still snarky - Havers, in a rare case of a show helping put the bird back together again. Sort of.
  • Sue Ellen Ewing of Dallas; even if she hadn't married JR she probably would have ended up that way. But the cheating, drinking, and emotional abuse over the course of two insanely dysfunctional marriages seem to have done the trick.
  • Abby Maitland of Primeval became this after spending a year stuck in the Cretaceous. At some point there, she hit the Despair Event Horizon and gave up any hope of returning home. While she was wrong, she retained her new, tougher, colder attitude. The only person she opens up to much anymore is her boyfriend, Connor, who was with her in the Cretaceous.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyles The Lost World. Despite the fact that Marguerite grew up alone because her adoptive parents did not seem to want her, her guilt over the death of her best and only friend before she came to the Plateau, her involvement in the war and her dealings with more than shadowy business contacts, she also has never seen her own birth certificate and sports abilities (like being able to read and speak any language no matter how old it is) that she doesn't understand and seem to frighten her.
  • The Mentalist:
    • Starting in season 4, Grace van Pelt has taken a cynical turn following having to kill her fiance, The Mole for Red John, in self-defense.
    • Teresa Lisbon loses her mother in a car accident and has to raise her brothers after their abusive and alcoholic father killed himself. She also has major trust issues.
  • Carrie Mathison from Homeland. Troubled past, due mostly to her mental illness, but also in part to what she went through in Iraq—check. Frighteningly badass, hypercompetent spy—check. Emotional detachment—check. She becomes ever more broken over the course of season one, to the point that, by the end of the season, her life has gone to pieces, even though she has also saved her country.
  • Cersei from Game of Thrones might be a sociopath, but she's so broken that a lot of viewers are willing to forgive or excuse her actions. First she was trapped in a loveless marriage with an implicitly abusive man who would always hate her for her family affiliations, she grew up without a mother and with a controlling and manipulative father, and lost all control over her terrifying son years ago. She's not exactly hypercompetent, and a lot of her problems are her own fault, but she just radiates damage and pain, and exhibits the emotional detachment and cynicism typically associated with this trait.
  • As a Teen Drama, The O.C. just *has* to angst over this trope from time to time.
    • Kirsten Cohen is probably the most traditional version, born into a wealthy, emotionally-detached family with a cheating, power-hungry father and an alcoholic mother who dies long before the series begins. She channels this trauma into becoming a Well Done Daughter Girl and eventual Lady Drunk.
    • Marissa Cooper is a less consistent example, starting off as a privileged do-gooder whose family falls apart, and is then forced to deal with her conniving mother, all of which tracks pretty well. However, her subsequent behavior bounces between lashing out, self-destructing, clinging to any remotely available teenager in a two-mile radius, and generally whining about all of the above. This makes her a little too emotionally spastic to qualify as a true example, though she might work as a teen soap version.
  • Downplayed with Sarah Walker on Chuck. While she is more emotionally well-adjusted than Casey, Sarah has a laundry list of issues getting in the way of expressing them, particularly where her family is concerned. (parents divorced, her father an unreliable con-artist who used her in many of his scams, while she had to cut off contact with her mother entirely to protect her from her rogue former handler Even more recently is the pain over the apparent betrayal and death of her ex-partner and lover Bryce Larkin. A substantial part of her character development is breaking down the emotional barriers she's established.
  • Two thirds of the cast of Arrow, it seems like. Oliver got broken on the island, and Thea didn't fare too well in his absence. The fact that Oliver cheated on her with her sister meant that Laurel was quite bitter, especially at first and it would seem that Tommy's death has had an affect as well. Dig's dealing with his own past (including a murdered brother), and the Huntress had a murdered fiance.
  • Julianne Simms from Breakout Kings. She is extremely shy and awkward, and although a large part of this is due of mental health issues like social anxiety, it is revealed in season 2 that she still harbors guilt from her childhood, when she witnessed her cousin get kidnapped, presumably to be murdered, and couldn't do anything to stop it. It makes her character seem even more damaged than before.

  • Take all of the mixtapes and albums of Lupe Fiasco and listen to them in order. If you notice the gradual change into darker, cynical and politically charged lyrics and stories, then congratulations, you've seen what a combination of social issues, executive meddling, and personal loss can do a person.
  • The Tori Amos song "Me and a Gun". The fact she throws some really bitter snark into it just makes it more so.
  • More than one Ayumi Hamasaki song has shades of this, made even worse by the poppy, energetic tune.
  • The Lady Gaga album "The Fame Monster" definitely qualifies, particularly tracks like "Monster" (in which the narrator becomes as bad as her "monster"-boyfriend) and "Speechless" ("I'll never talk again [...] I'll never love again"). Plus Gaga's more overt use of her more gothic stylings.
  • Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It", which is practically the Broken Bird anthem. Not far from this is Tina Turner herself, who left a violently abusive marriage with Ike Turner in 1978.
    What's love got to do, got to do with it?
    What's love, but a second-hand emotion?
    What's love got to do, got to do with it?
    Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
  • Evanescence lyrics are made of this trope. A particularly good example is the (very infamous) "My Immortal", from the perspective of a person who once had a broken bird lover and has become a boken bird themselves after losing them:
    These wounds won't seem to heal, this pain is just too real.
    There's just too much that time cannot erase...
    When you cried I wiped away all of your tears
    When you screamed I'd fight away all of your fears
    And I held your hand through all of these years
    But you still have all of me...
  • Pain of Salvation's albums "The Perfect Element I" and "Remedy Lane" both feature broken birds, the former a male and female and the latter just male. TPE even has the line "A wind-beaten bird/for reasons unheard" when introducing the female broken bird of the concept.
  • Pick a Katatonia song, preferably from "Tonight's Decision" or "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" (one track in the former is titled "I Break", for example). Broken. There's even a meeting of the broken birds in "Passing Bird" (one is faking it, though.)
  • Savage Garden's "To the Moon and Back" depicts the mindset of a Broken Bird in all details. "Gunning Down Romance" to an even deeper extent, though this time, it's the male singer experiencing it.
  • Mr Mister's "Broken Wings" is about someone trying to help a broken bird pull themselves together
  • Demi Lovato's album "Unbroken" is about a recovering broken bird.
  • City And Colour:
    • "Fragile Bird" talks about one who keeps having Bad Dreams, who the singer promises to comfort throughout the night.
    • "O' Sister" is about the singer's sister, who is suffering from depression.
  • Marianas Trench has "Porcelain", which describes a recovering Broken Bird, who the singer sympathizes with and wants to help.
  • A few of Ingrid Michaelson's songs have this:
    "Open me up and you will see/I'm a gallery of broken hearts/I'm beyond repair, let me be/And give me back my broken parts"
    • "Locked Up" is about being emotionally guarded and cynical about love after growing up and being hurt in the past, but trying to get over that and be able to trust again.
    "Should I show them all my scars?/Cherry red, bleeding burn ... Like an angry apple tree/I throw my apples if you get too close to me"
  • Suzanne Vega's "Luka" is about a battered wife/girlfriend (or an abused child), and sung in a toneless, unemotional voice indicating how the titular character has totally given up on life.
  • Boyce Avenue's "Broken Angel" has shades of this; the subject is a perfectionist young woman who suffers lasting damage from an emotionally neglectful father, and blames herself—her shortcomings are the reason he was distant.

    Myth and Legend 
  • Older Than Dirt: Ereshkigal, the Mesopotamian goddess of the Netherworld, is the mythological variant of this trope to a tee. While she mainly shows up as the bitter, lonely, and adversarial older sister of the Genki Girl goddess Inanna/Ishtar, Ereshkigal's character is more elaborated elsewhere through her unhappy backstory and her encounter with the Troubled, but Cute plague god Nergal. In a rare happy ending in a mythological love story, the two outcast gods eventually resolve their differences and resolve to rule the Netherworld together. (Scholarly opinions are divided on whether this resulted in Badass Decay of her.)
  • If the Romans are to believed, Queen Dido of Carthage from The Aeneid is this. She is happily married, then her brother kills her husband and forces her to flee her homeland. Then, she has to start a new city from scratch with a few men, and then Aeneas turns up. He has a love affair with her that ends badly (he leaves her because of the Jerkass gods). Later, she loses her sanity and kills herself. To show just how badly she is broken when Aeneas leaves her, Vergil stretches to its limits the inherent flexibility of Latin word order (an effect lost in translation)—the word order and grammar are so horribly broken that the subject and direct object can be several lines apart.

    Tabletop Games 

  • Aldonza in Man of La Mancha. "Aldonza" (the song) is a great portrayal of anger and cynicism overlaying a very unhappy backstory.
  • The Witch in Intothe Woods consistently embodies the cynical and badass qualities, warning Rapunzel, "the world is dark and wild." It never becomes entirely clear where the Witch's brokenness stems from, but she is persuasive enough in pointing out the failings of others to make us suspect that her ruthless and misanthropic ways came from somewhere.
  • Meg Giry in the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, due to a combination of her falling for the Phantom, who still pines for Christine, and too much time on the Casting Couch over the ten years separating the two shows. She ultimately tries to kill Christine's son; she winds up actually killing Christine.
  • Niobe from The Love of the Nightingale. Procne and Philomele become birds after their Break the Cutie.
  • In The Little Foxes, Birdie married twenty years ago into a Big Screwed-Up Family, who took her cotton plantation and sired on her an unlikable twit of a son. She spends a lot of time drowning her sorrows in her own room, which they try to hide by lying and saying she has a headache.
  • Blanche Dubois of A Streetcar Named Desire is strictly the badass type. She is definitely not emotionless, but she does tend to put herself in charge.
  • Depending on the interpretation, Joanne from Company could be a cynical example: She is an alcoholic who has been twice divorced and is currently on her third husband. She is rather different from Bobby's other friends, spends most of the scenes making occasional snarky remarks, and is shown being extremely critical of both her husband, who clearly loves her with all his heart, and of Bobby. However, Bobby describes her as "warm", and her husband says that her behaviour comes from her being "wildly conceited" with "no self-esteem", and in the end, she also plays something of a mentorly role to Bobby, as she is the one who makes him question what he wants from a relationship.

    Video Games 
  • Sarah Kerrigan from StarCraft ran away the memory wipes and torture of Ghost Training mandated by the corrupt Terran Confederacy to join a rebel group—only to be betrayed by its leader and left for dead in the middle of zerg attack. And then being experimented on, until becoming a Tragic Monster.
  • The titular character of American McGee's Alice and its sequel Alice: Madness Returns is quite the cold snarker - then again, considering that her sister was raped and murdered, she was the only survivor of a fire that killed the rest of her family right before her eyes, and she was incarcerated into a Victorian asylum where she underwent horrific treatments, you can cut the poor thing some slack.
  • Neverwinter Nights:
    • Over the course of the game, Aribeth gets quite thoroughly shattered. By Hordes of the Underdark, what with her whole failed revolution and crisis of faith, she is definitely one.
  • Alex from the fan-made module The Bastard of Kosigan has her childhood boyfriend exiled from their homeland, getting involved with his insane older cousin, getting pregnant and having him and his soldiers beat her until she looses the child, being considered an embarrassment to her family, and being forced to work for the same man who got her pregnant and dropped her like a hot brick?
  • The point of A Dance with Rogues is to turn your character into one.
  • Baldur's Gate:
    • Viconia, as revealed by her romance backstory.
    • White Magician Girl Aerie could almost be called a literal broken bird: she had wings, but they were cut off. However, her personality is generally far less snarky than this character type.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: It's unknown exactly what caused Alice's Broken Bird personality (possibly the killing of her supposed best friend Margaret), but she certainly acts like one.
  • Almost every major female character (and some male characters) in the Dragon Age series. To recount:
    • Leliana: former Orlesian assassin, betrayed, tortured, and raped on the orders of her beloved mentor (and lover) before the game begins. The sweet, pious Chantry sister started out as an act. She manages to actually subvert this beautifully: as her own narration and, more importantly, Leliana's Song DLC reveals, she has suffered enough traumatic experiences (betrayal by a loved one followed by brutal torture) to break another woman many times over; however, just as she was about to crawl into a hole and die, she got religion and started having prophetic dreams, one of which directed her to the Warden. At the end of the day, Leliana is easily the most cheerful and caring person you will ever meet in the game, strengthened by her ordeal rather than broken by it.
    • Morrigan: raised alone in the wilds by Flemeth, with little to no human contact of any kind and no experience relating to others in any way. Sent off by her mother to bear a child to a Grey Warden she may not even like. Granted, she's less broken than twisted, and there is little evidence that she ever had a more cheerful personality that changed as a result of a traumatic experience, making her a possible subversion.
    • The Warden: depending on your Origin, many, many possible nasty things happen to the Warden, all leading to long-term exile from home, though you can choose to play the angst as much or little as you please, and the Warden will always be some flavor of The Stoic.
    • Velanna: bears all the hatred of her people for past wrongs done to them by humans. The Warden first meets her attacking caravans after she was manipulated into believing the humans wiped out her entire clan and took her sister captive. Turns out, it was darkspawn, yet her people hold her responsible for the diplomatic mess that followed, so she ends up exiled and with the Grey Wardens. That she's a bit cranky is not much of a surprise.
    • Merrill: banished from her clan for trying to help them restore their former glory, she starts taking on more and more traits of this trope as the game goes on and her efforts get more desperate. Depending on Hawke's actions, her continued attempts may be destroyed; later, she is forced to watch her estranged mother figure pay the price for her trafficking with demons.
    • Isabela: as revealed by her romance backstory, she was sold off by her own mother at an early age to a merchant captain, and ended up sleeping with the assassin who killed her 'husband' to thank him, starting a long train of piratical activities and lots of sex to disguise her severe troubles with emotional intimacy.
    • Bethany: ...where to begin? Though this is largely only if she ends up a Grey Warden. If she ends up in the Circle, she retains much more of her stability.
    • Hawke: Forced to Watch Kirkwall and his/her family disintegrate around her. Most of it is his/her fault. Averted if you play Snarky!Hawke or Paragon!Hawke the whole way through, aside from a brief period of depression after his/her mother is murdered, though plenty have pointed out the possibility of Sad Clown and/or Stepford Smiler at work.
    • Fenris actually fits the trope description very well, despite being male. Most of his conversations with Hawke are just laying out how much of a mess his life is.
  • Knights of the Old Republic 2:
    • Visas Marr in was spared by Darth Nihilus when he killed every other living thing on her homeworld, and was raised by him as a Sith. For a light side character, turning her back involves restoring her hope that Nihilus can't kill every living thing in the galaxy.
    • Meetra Surik, aka The Exile, despite being the only one to return from the events of Malachor V alive or not fallen to the dark side. The destruction of the planet accompied with the countless numbers of Mandalorians, Republic soldiers, and Jedi being annihilated—all of it she could feel through the Force to the point it was so overwhelming she had to cut herself from the Force otherwise die or fall prey to the dark side; and consequently made her a wound in the Force. Since then she had become a broken figure as the pain of all the destruction of Malachor V stayed with her. Numerous times within the narrative she is called a "broken Jedi". Given the events they both suffered, it easy to understand why Visas and Meetra could so easily relate to one another.
    Visas: To see everything around you extinguished... it... was as if I was blinded. It was as if the Force had... been bled from the world...
    Exile: if everything suddenly went silent.
    Visas: I imagine there are worse deaths, worse pain, but if there are, I do not know them. I was the only living thing remaining on the planet of Katarr... and my life, my agony was a flicker in the darkness that was the planet.
  • The Legend of Dragoon:
    • The reason Rose is one is because she's actually the black monster, and has committed countless atrocities simply to keep the Big Bad from getting his way. It fails.
    • Miranda was abandoned by her father and abused by her mother, until the point that she ran away from home and became adopted by the queen of Mille Seseau. She serves as the First Sacred Sister, and slapping someone tends to be her default reaction.
  • Karen of the Harvest Moon games is, in most of her appearances, a generous and compassionate Hard-Drinking Party Girl. However, the game that introduced her to the series had her as a cynical drunkard with daddy issues.
  • Raven Rune Factory 3, who you eventually learn has had every single person that she's ever become close to disappear, and she's positive that it's because she's cursed. So, she's vowed never to have another friend. She definitely has the violent part of a Broken Bird, what with her semi-accidentally shoving your character off of a cliff at one point, and in her later requests, she's very prone to tears. She's also about as literal an example as any Broken Bird can get.
  • In Fire Emblem Akaneia, we have Princess Minerva (forced by her evil brother Michalis to fight for him to protect their sister Maria) and Princess Nyna (last descendant of the Archanea family, plagued by how much Love Hurts. The remake adds Katarina aka Eine, a badly-abused Tyke Bomb who can get better if you manage to recruit her. (And Eremiya, the person who made Katarina the person she is... but we only learn about it when we see her tragic backstory.)
  • Fire Emblem Jugdral:
    • In the first game, Seisen No Keifu, there's Bridget of Jungby, Ishtar of Freege, Altenna of Thracia (or, better said, of Lenster); either Tiltyu or Ethnia of Freege (by the end of their Kill the Cutie years); Sylvia's daughter Leen, her expy Laylea, Lakche's expy Radney (but not Lakche herself) fit in as well. In the meantime Tiltyu's daughter, Teeny/Ethnia's daughter Linda, mix this with Shrinking Violet, but ultimately they get much better.
    • The fifth game gives us, aside of Lady Evayle aka the amnesiac!Bridget, Misha, Sara, Amalda and specially Fallen Princess Miranda of Alster:
    Miranda (to Leaf): "It all started when you fled from Lenster. My father was a kind man who loved peace. He had no reason to go against the Empire... But...but...! Just because he hid you, we were caught by the Empire and attacked! My father was forced to turn me over as a hostage and lost his right to his throne...he died a miserable death. I will never forgive you, Prince! If only you hadn't come to Alster...this never would have happened...”
  • Fire Emblem Blazing Sword:
    • According to Pent and Louise, Louise's cousin, Queen Hellene of Bern, is one as well. She used to be a sweet ojou who wanted to be happy in her married life, but her Arranged Marriage to King Desmond turned out to be a really crappy one, and she ended up as a cynical and manipulative Hot Consort Rich Bitch.
    Pent: "She and the King were ill-matched. She has suffered much. (...) Such a sad life"
    • Believe it or not, Serra is one of these too. Yes, that Serra, the Genki Girl Rich Bitch who is actually a Stepford Smiler with a childhood full of abandonment, poverty, and pain.
    • When we meet Florina's Proper Lady sister, Fiora, she's dangerously close to broken bird-dom due to having lost all of her wingmates... Flori has to quickly talk her out of going into a suicidal Foe-Tossing Charge, even! In her supports, though, we see her slowly getting better thanks to people like Florina, Farina, Kent, Sain, and Eliwood.
    • White Magician Girl Ninian. Well, you can't expect less from a woman who is a half-Dragon, survived the Scouring as a little girl, had to run away with her little brother Nils, lived for centuries in another world, and once she and Nils tried to come back home, were hit with misfortune by the bushel.
    • Female Dragon Rider Vaida and Lady of War Karla. The first was treated as a traitor, demoted, humiliated and had to work for the Black Fang; the second is the sister of Karel the Sword Demon and has dedicated her life to defeat other fighters and look for him after he murdered their family.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening
  • Jakuri from Ar Tonelico 2 is not only a perfect example of this trope and its sub-traits, being simultaneously Tsundere and more than a little goth, but is known for singing hymns in which she uses the imagery of a little bird as a metaphor for herself, a theme first seen in EXEC_HARMONIOUS/., the song she crafted when she was better known as the first game's antagonist, Mir.
  • Planescape: Torment's Annah is an orphan, a distrusted descendant of fiends, raised by a money-grubbing corpse-seller, trained as a thief, and has the rather interesting experience of seeing one of the corpses she sells walking around again later—and not as a zombie. Then, the only father she's ever known is killed while she's off helping said "corpse", against her will, except said parent ordered it, all before she's even really an adult. She hides her issues well, but occasionally, they'll slip out.
  • Sniper Wolf from Metal Gear Solid, although this tends to be overshadowed by the Femme Fatale and Dark Action Girl aspects of her character. At least, until she dies.
  • In the finale of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Big Boss is revealed to have been one since the day he had to kill his mother figure The Boss.
    Big Boss: Ever since the day I killed The Boss, I was already dead.
  • Mass Effect: As with every other character trope in the book, you can play Commander Shepard as one of these. The prize for Broken Bird, though, has to go to Talitha, the slave girl you can rescue in the Colonist's optional sidequest "I Remember Me".
    • Mass Effect 2:
      • Jack: "Turns out, mess with someone's head enough and you can turn a scared kid into an all-powerful bitch." Besides undergoing the training to be a Biotic Tykebomb, she's revealed the times she's been sexually abused. When the sexual assault is the least traumatic aspect of a character's backstory, you know they've had it hard.
      • Liara becomes one by "Lair of the Shadow Broker", especially if she was Shepard's love interest in the first game.
      • Miranda Lawson to a large extent, though she hides it well at first.
      • And some of the men, Kaidan. (Admittedly, it's been years since he killed that turian...) Garrus in the sequel as well, given the whole Archangel thing.
    • Shepard has definitely become this by Mass Effect 3. Everything that s/he's experienced through all three games and his/her attempt to suppress those emotions for the squad's sake really begin to take their toll on him/her. Beyond that, in the From Ashes DLC, it's clear that Colonist Shepard hasn't completely dealt with all of his/her demons from seeing his/her family murdered and Mindoir destroyed when s/he was a teenager.
      Shepard: They rebuilt Mindoir. (Quietly) It wasn't the same.
    • If Kelly Chambers survives 2, you can encounter her in 3, but the trauma of nearly being melted down has left her extremely fragile. If you react to her confession that she was spying on you for the Illusive Man with anger, she will kill herself.
  • Anna Lin from Bliss Stage: First and Final Act can be forgiven for her more Tsundere outbursts, given that she saw her first crush die when that crush's ANIMa shattered as soon as it was manifested — and THEN her first requited love made a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. It helps that her encounter with a literal broken bird becomes a turning point for her character.
  • There's a few of them in the Tokimeki Memorial series:
    • Mira Kagami of Tokimeki Memorial 1, who, after having been dumped by many boys in Junior High because they didn't find her pretty enough, went the Revenge of the Nerd route in High School, by constructing herself as a beautiful and haughty Alpha Bitch, and gaining satisfaction at crushing the feelings and hopes of all the boys who fawn over her.
    • Kaori Yae of Tokimeki Memorial 2, who, after having been betrayed and ostracized by her friends at her former High School after Taking the Heat for them, grew cynical and extremely distrustful of the others, isolating herself from them.
    • Hotaru Izumi of Tokimeki Memorial 3, who became distant after having lost her childhood friend and lover in a bus accident.
  • In Brutal Legend, Ophelia is broken by certain events (in addition to her dark heritage) so badly, her sublimated pain and sorrow become the second strongest boss in the game. She is fixed by the end of the campaign (though not quite, it seems).
  • Touhou is generally known for being fairly upbeat to the point of employing Non-Lethal K.O. and Defeat Means Friendship on a scale that the series is gradually coming to redefine Loads and Loads of Characters. Fujiwara no Mokou, however, gives off plenty of Broken Bird vibes with her tragic backstory (her father was Driven to Suicide by Kaguya, largely just because Kaguya was bored), and her willingness to murder Kaguya's adopted parents to become fully immortal to seek eternal revenge against the also fully immortal (and loving it) Kaguya. Centuries of pointless conflict where neither one can truly die, but both can feel the pain and humiliation of being torn to shreds repeatedly if one ever loses a fight, until the victor just gets bored of torturing the other, have left Mokou largely just a dispirited loner who seems to have given upon on her Roaring Rampage of Revenge as pointless. She helps others when she meets them, guiding the lost out of the dangerous forest she lives in, but is a reclusive hermit who wants little to do with others, with the sole exception, apparently, being Keine.
  • Samus Aran from Metroid, even before her portrayal in Other M. Family and friends murdered before her eyes in childhood, adopted family either extinct or vanished from the universe. Where other people saw a cold, relentless bounty hunter carving a path through aliens, this Troper always saw a terribly lonely woman with nobody and nowhere to turn to, fighting an endless, solo war against the infinite evils of the universe with no end in sight.
  • Male version: Fei Fong Wong from Xenogears. The theme song "Stars of Tears" even lampshades this in the lyrics.
    The waves of time take me deeper into you
    A haze as blue as summer skies
    And turn to find the key will not unlock the door
    This broken bird away it flies
  • Haru from Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is tough, edgy, and very, very fragile as a result of her childhood. If the player does not choose her event to save her, she commits suicide halfway through the game. She was already broken even before the Tokyo Lockdown began. A musician who came from a troubled family, her mentor went overseas and she thinks that it's her fault when she was actually kidnapped by a Religion of Evil, and to top it all off, she's being hunted by demons because her songs are the key to summoning them to the real world.
  • Lulu from Final Fantasy X, who starts off as a Deadpan Snarker, although she later becomes a Defrosting Ice Queen.
  • Playable Caster (Tamamo-no-Mae) from Fate/EXTRA. She is extremely cheerfully, more Genre Savvy than most otakus and her insanely cute 'mikuuun!' verbal tics doesn't help. However, has one of the saddest backstories in the entire Nasuverse: she was divinity, but humans fascinated her so much that she threw everything away so she could go join them and help them in the mud, she lived to serve, to love them. What does her husband do? He sends an army to kill her when he finds out she isn't human. She spent three days fighting, killing and being bathed in blood in the field where she made her last stand. Every second of it was spent crying and shouting for her husband's forgiveness. Her biggest wish was to be the best wife in the world. That was thousands of years ago. It still is.
  • The King of Fighters:
  • Riven of League of Legends, who saw the ideals she dedicated her life to get shattered during the wartime atrocities between Noxus and Ionia. She fights using a broken sword, and as she herself puts it, "The sword mirrors its owner." Even her signature move is called "Broken Wings"!
  • Lana Skye from Phoenix Wright 1, she is extremely cold to everyone Lana locked away all her emotions, because she believes her little sister accidentally committed a murder which only she and the Chief Gant know of. Gant then blackmails her to be his puppet to do whatever he says without question, she can't tell her ((Innocent)) Sister the truth and thus locking away her emotions was the only way she felt she could keep her sanity
  • Yelena Fedorova, a boss of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, saw her entire family die when she was only a little girl. The experience was traumatic enough to render her nearly mute, even when she dies. It also causes her to become an Ax-Crazy, dual SMG-wielding assassin with the ability to become invisible.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Sapphire, a member of the Thieves' Guild, had to go through Parental Abandonment and Rape as Backstory in her past. As a result, she's very caustic.
  • The Quest for Glory:
    • Erana is a half-faery woman of remarkable magic power, who spent her life traveling the world creating places of safety and healing and fighting evil wherever she could find it, as Rakeesh calls her "a Paladin in all but name." And then the Hero learns that her wanderings were often because the Faery Folk rejected her because of her human heritage, and humans didn't accept her because of her fey parentage. This led to significant issues with her self-worth that feeds her self-sacrificing nature, and led directly to her death fighting Avoozl. If the Hero chooses to rescue her from Hades and does not successfully court her, she'll sacrifice herself to the Dragon in Quest for Glory V, as well.
    • Katrina is a human woman who also has very powerful magic, which many of her superiors and contemporaries at W.I.T. found threatening. By the time of 'Video Game/'Quest for Glory IV, Katrina was now the Dark Master and a vampire. She was turned against her will by the previous Dark Master, who lured her in with promises of great power but instead bit her and made her his slave. The game hints that Katrina had been used and hurt by men in the past, though the details are left obscure. She has long feared being powerless and vulnerable, which drives her plans in Shadows of Darkness''. If the Hero tries to tell her he loves her, she accuses him of lying and claims the only person who genuinely loved her was Tanya, the daughter of the local innkeeper whom she took in and turned as her own daughter because she believed the girl's parents mistreated her and didn't truly love her.
  • The purpose of the plot of the 2013 Tomb Raider is to break Lara down. By the end of the game she's been forced to kill, watched friends die sacrificing themselves for her, been subjected to serious personal injury on several occasions, (and sheer terror and exhaustion) and is heavily implied to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Survivors Guilt. It's only her desire to survive and save her friends that keeps her going by the finale.
  • Mitsunari Ishida from Sengoku Basara is noted by many characters to be a sad and angry revenge driven man who's lost his purpose in life after the death of Hideyoshi (his lord) at Ieyasu's hand in the third game. Granted, he's not any less angry in the fourth game in which Hideyoshi's still alive, though his emotional instability is a major plot point for other characters, even Ieyasu himself, who is willing to let Mitsunari believe that he killed Hideyoshi so that he has something to live for.
  • Avra Darkos from WildStar. She was born into a rich family of aristrocrats, lead a loved, problem free life, and happily married the love of her life. Then the Fall of Grismara came, her family were all killed by ravenous psychopaths or turned into ones themselves, and her husband was shot dead when he tried to beg for help. Today she serves as the ruthless, calculating, and emotionless head of the Black Hoods, the Exiles's spy network.
  • Dead or Alive: Ayane shows signs of it due to her rejection by her village. She's very committed to her lifestyle as a shinobi but comes across as cold and unfriendly compared to Kasumi or Hayate. She also drove herself to become a worthy master of her clan's fighting arts in order to gain recognition (another trait of the trope). The scene in Dimensions where she tries to kill herself after a fight with Hayate just goes to show how broken she really is.

    Visual Novels 
  • Every one of the girls in Air.
    • Kano deals with her memories of a past life where she killed her own child, to the point that the personality is physically killing her.
    • Minagi: her Mother spends half the day either confusing her with her stillborn sister Michiru, or flat out not acknowledging her existence at all.
    • Misuzu, between being cursed for wanting to see her Mother in her past life and experiencing excruciating pain, for herself, the cast, and the audience, whenever she gets emotionally close to someone, and we won't even start with her Mother... Her pain is best summarized with one word... Gao~!
    • Yukito fills this role as well, from losing his Mother, the only person who he ever cared about, to being forced to complete her, and, by extension, his entire family line's, mission of helping the winged girl.
  • The heroine, Aida, from Ascension is the Stepford Smiler version of this trope. She was born a Half-Human Hybrid, exiled from her home kingdom, isolated from people, and was being hunted down by the Silver Order. When found by the Silver Order, her grandmother was murdered in front of her, and Aida herself was maimed and left for dead.
  • Esperia in Eien no Aselia. She has great difficult in treating Yuuto consistently because of this. She's always nice, but she can be oddly standoffish and distant.
  • Tsugumi from Ever17 is infallibly cold and unpleasant to all the other characters and repeatedly brushes off questions about why a slight young girl is stronger, tougher, and faster than the rest of them put together. Alongside merry japes with nail polish remover and blowtorches, she also manages to fit in suicidal tendencies and, in one scenario, uses her superior strength to very nearly rape Takeshi. As a result, the point where she finally breaks down into tears and abandons all previous Jerkass tendencies is extremely satisfying, indeed. So much so that it happens twice, when the even more bitter and twisted Tsugumi from Kid's route is revealed to be the same character 17 years later, who has since lost everything she gained in the first scenario. She gets better, though, and at the end, returns to being the Tsundere that she had become after warming up to the main character.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Rider is Medusa, the Gorgon who earned Athena's envy and was cursed to become a monster exiled onto the Shapeless Isle, constantly fighting heroes intent on slaughtering her. She eventually degenerated into a monster herself, and was eventually put down by the hero Perseus.
    • Caster is Medea, who was cursed by Aphrodite to blindly love the hero Jason and betrayed her family to do so; eventually, she was rejected by Jason himself, and was forever branded a witch, a title that she sadly chose to embrace.
    • Once Archer's own past is revealed, it becomes apparent why he's thoroughly sardonic and cynical. He is an alternate version of Shirou Emiya who was betrayed by his lifelong wish to be an All-Loving Hero. In order to save a group of people, he sold his soul to the World in exchange for extra power and so he could be a savior in death, but he was eventually double-crossed, framed, and put to death by one of the people whom he personally saved. In death, he was not the savior he thought he would be, and was forced to spend an eternity as the World's janitor, where he had to kill scores of people to save mankind as a whole. Archer's motive in the game is to kill his past self, in the hopes that the resulting Temporal Paradox will remove him from existence.
    • Saber aka Arthuria Pendragon, a sovereign who truly wanted to be a good ruler but isolated herself from her subjects in the process, which caused her death in the end.
    • Sakura Matou was given away by her family in hopes that her magic potential wouldn't be wasted, but she was horrifyingly raped and abused by her adoptive clan, and in her route she completely snaps.
  • In Fate/Zero, Saber's former master Kiritsugu Emiya is revealed to be a rare male example. And we get to see exactly how poor Sakura got broken. Graphically so.
  • Kanon's nickname when it first came out was Sad Girls in Snow. Word of God has it that this was the Trope Namer's favorite Visual Novel at the time.
  • Several girls in Katawa Shoujo:
    • Rin Tezuka, in particular, sets the records. While her poker faced Cloud Cuckoo Lander antics are fun enough at first, you quickly realize that her inability to understand or be understood by others have left her alienated her entire life. She paints since she can barely put her thoughts into words, but when high expectations are suddenly placed on her art, she tries to change herself to match what's expected of her. She spends the next week alone in an atelier specifically outfitted for her use, painting nonstop: when Hisao decides to drop by despite how she has asked him to not do so... he finds Rin mostly naked, weak with exhaustion, and barely lucid from the attempt.
    • Hanako Ikezawa is a close second. Severely disfigured in the fire that took the life of her parents, she spent years in an orphanage and later alone in Yamaku High, with Lilly Satou as her only friend. If Hisao pursues her affections, he shall be careful: she'll sooner or later notice that he's trying to patronize her, and well-intentioned as he is, Hanako will only feel worse, and her Bad Ending has her bitterly and heartbreakingly tell him that she hates it.
    • Shiina "Misha" Mikado. A young girl who was bullied for being a lesbian and then came to Yamaku, she deeply fell in love with her best friend Shizune — only to be rejected. To not fully lose Shizune, Misha settled for staying by her side and stay friends: as a result, she became a massive Stepford Smiler, hiding her pain from her unrequited love constantly... and subtly talking about how she'd like to kill herself in Shizune's route.
    • A milder and non-romantic example is Lilly's sister Akira, a beautiful and tomboyish lawyer who actually hides the pain of being given a Promotion to Parent at age 19, when the Satous move to Inverness and their two girls (one of them being a blind 12-year-old) stay at Japan. Akira resents her and Lilly's parents quite a bit since she believes they did it because they couldn't handle Lilly's blindness, and she also feels guilty of not having done enough to raise Lilly as well as she could have done. (Though Lilly loves her and they get along well).
    • All the heroines are this to one degree or another. Emi lost her father in the same accident that resulted in her legs being amputated and still has major issues regarding letting other people get close to her to the point where her Genki Girl persona is a mask for her pain. In Shizune's case she has to deal with an Abusive Dad that forced her to spend much of her childhood taking speech lessons in an attempt to "fix" her as well as having major issues communicating and forming relationships with others due to her deafness, resulting in her being extremely lonely.
  • Tsukihime
    • There's a pair of twin sisters, one an obvious Genki Girl, the other an apparent Broken Bird Emotionless Girl. However, it turns out that Kohaku's genkiness is a mask for a completely shattered, emotionless psyche due to years of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of Shiki's stepfather/Akiha's father Makihisa Tohno, while the cold-looking Hisui is a Shrinking Violet who hides her feelings to keep Kohaku stable and honor how Kohaku took the brunt of Makihisa's abuse to keep Hisui as safe as possible.
    • Ciel was the previous incarnation of the vampire Roa, who has Born-Again Immortality. Once Roa manifested within her, she was forced to slaughter her town and commit unspeakable atrocities to the citizens. Although she was hunted down and killed by Arcueid (like all of Roa's other incarnations), Ciel survived due to her unnaturally high number of Magic Circuits. This piqued the Church's interest, so they took her and killed her repeatedly and in different gruesome ways to test the limits of her immortality. Eventually, once they found themselves unable to kill her, the Church decided to use her as an Executor. Ciel's entire motive for killing Roa for good is so that she can die for good.
  • Silviana, an anthropomorphic dog, from Wanko To Kurasou. In this game, anthropomorphic dogs are regarded and treated as regular dogs, even if people do know that they're much more intelligent and self-conscious. Her owner not only mistreated her and had her permanently locked up in a room, but also tried to play backyard breeder and make her breed before she even had her first heat. That resulted in her becoming an Emotionless Girl until she was rescued by the main character. She got better, fortunately.
  • Lily in Duel Savior Destiny adopts a cold, tsundere attitude because she came from a world that was destroyed by Ruin. She's initially genuinely unhappy with Taiga because she thinks he's not taking his role seriously on top of his other personality flaws, but she warms up eventually. Or possibly heats up would be a better word considering she's still quite tsundere.
  • Little Busters!
    • Mio, who uses her quietly snarky, Emotionless Girl facade to hide the huge guilt complex she has about forgetting an old friend of hers, to the point where she doesn't feel any reason to stay in this world and is okay with swapping places with her permanently - at first, anyway.
    • Kurugaya - Cool Big Sis, Action Girl, and all around Ace extraordinaire. Except she's constantly bullied and treated as a freak and has no-one in the world she can truly rely on (at first, anyway) and created a whole other world just so she could finally feel something.
    • Haruka, one of the Genkiest of Genki Girls you'll ever meet covering up an incredibly depressed and insecure girl with one of the most fucked up families you'll see, even by Visual Novel standards. Or so it seems... at first, anyway.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • Rena - the series' own embodiment of Adorkable cuteness - is heavily implied to have been one prior to the series, what with her mommy issues and heavily implied Rape as Backstory and Bungled Suicide. Her personal arc even has her cheery mask slip as she gives in more and more to despair.
    • Satoko, the series' punching bag also shows shades of this when her lingering problems with the rest of Hinamizawa are brought into the limelight. Mostly it stems from being ostracized by the rest of the village. Killing her own parents and having her brother disappear on her didn't help either.
    • Rika. Being Really 700 Years Old and being murdered every few weeks doesn't exactly make for a healthy mindset. It's very well hidden at first, but towards the end of the question arcs, she shows glimpses of this behavior. When she finally gets an arc centered around her, it becomes apparent that she's been broken every which way, and is frankly just waiting for it to happen all over again.
    • Shion. She is the second-born twin, and according to tradition shunned by her family (which itself is a step down from the normal tradition of drowning the second born - an uncomfortable fact she is well aware of) and eventually carted off to boarding school. When she returns, not only does she have to hide this fact from her family, but she has to hide her budding romance with Satoko's brother Satoshi, due to the stigma attached to their family. Eventually, she's found out, and the consequences are... nasty. Then Satoshi disappears; she suspects the family. In her arcs, these past traumas, set her on a murderous spree that ends with her own suicide (in the anime, it's an accident) when she realises what she's done. Oh, and she's not even the actual second-born. Her twin sister Mion (the real Shion) was mistaken for her on the day she received the Oni-tattoo, branding her as first-born.
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • Ange Ushiromiya. Many years ago, she was a cheerful little girl, but losing her family at a young age and a miserable relationship with her aunt and caretaker Eva made a stoic and lonely Deadpan Snarker obsessed with the truth of the Rokkenjima incident.
    • Bernkastel, known as "The Cruellest Witch" for good reason, then you find out that she is actually a personification of all the "Rikas" who were brutally murdered repeatedly and gave up on fighting destiny in Higurashi: When They Cry. She now wanders between the fragments doing whatever she can to ease the pain, revelling in the suffering of others.
    • Finally, Sayo "Yasu" Yasuda, the true identity of Beatrice, Shannon and Kanon, who is possibly the most broken character in the series. S/he is a Child by Rape, born as a result of Kinzo forcing himself on his own daughter Beatrice II, being just a few months old his/her mother dies by accident and his/her adoptive mother throws him/her off a cliff. Yasu survived the fall by a miracle (but with the implied mutilation of his/her sexual organs) and was made pass off as an orphan at the Fukuin house so s/he could work for the Ushiromiya family as a servant. Suffering bullying from his/her fellow maids due to his/her clumsiness and young age, Yasu creates the Beatrice persona to cope with it and play pranks on them. S/he finds some happiness by falling in love with Battler, who makes a careless promise to "come to take Shannon away in a white horse", which Yasu takes way too seriously and becomes desperate when Battler leaves the family with little chance of returning due to some issues with his father's remarriage. S/he gives up on keep waiting for Battler after he forgets to send him/her a letter and creates the Kanon persona to make "Shannon" company and cope with his/her body and gender issues. Then, Yasu decides to solve the epitaph and discovers the horrible truth of his/her origins and his/her broken body, making Yasu think of him/herself as a "furniture". For the following two years, this "furniture" complex and his/her conflicting feelings for George and Jessica make Yasu more and more unstable. The final nail in the coffin is when s/he hears Battler would return exactly the same year George was going to propose to Shannon. Yasu then decides to take everything down with him/her and plans the murders.
  • Yuka Otowa from Crescendo, since she was horribly broken in her Dark and Troubled Past. First, her parents were Driven to Suicide after getting in debt with the yakuza. Second, she was taken in by her uncle and aunt but her cousin started to sexually abuse her, with drove her to try killing herself. Third, her uncle and aunt did not believe her when she told them about the sexual abuse that their son was subjecting her to. Fourth, she was forced to live in a foster home where the other kids were scared of her due to her suicidal tendences. As a result she's the local Hooker with a Heart of Gold, pretending to be a Blithe Spirit when she's not...

  • Hayasaka Erika from MegaTokyo is cool, calm, sarcastic, and quick to inflict violence on anyone violating her personal space. At first thought to be the only person in the cast who wasn't awash with neuroses, she eventually turned out to be possibly the most damaged of them all. And it was the title of one of her albums.
  • Erfworld:
    • Jillian Zamussels turns out to be a Broken Bird, among other things, due to being the princess of a destroyed kingdom that she never wanted in the first place, in addition to massive amounts of torture, Mind Rape, and failed attempts to Screw Destiny.
    • Her lover and torturer (yeah, it's that kind of relationship) Wanda isn't better: her backstory, explored in the "Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower)" stories, reveals just how much she was broken, repeatedly, during her first turns of existence, slowly turning her into the ruthless and Fate-abider character she is nowadays.
  • Questionable Content
    • Faye — though she subverts the Freak Out, she makes jokes about it while she's in obvious pain from bringing it up, and chooses to tell Marten beforehand. Still counts, though, because she is pretty broken. After finding out the whole story, Marten is careful to explain the situation to her next potential boyfriend.
      Angus: Wait, how do I know any of this is true? Maybe you're still holding a torch for her!
      Marten: Dude, when a park ranger warns you about bears, it's not so he can keep all the bear hugs for himself.
    • More recent issues indicate that Dora may also be one, particularly regarding her relationship history and trust issues with Marten.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Considering recent developments with her character, Tsukiko from might be this - or she might just be crazy. She says that she "likes" the undead because she thinks that living people are the real monsters and therefore the undead, as their inverse, must be good. It is, however, unclear whether these opinions come from personal experience or not - if they do, she's probably this trope, and a good deal more sympathetic than she had been previously. Which wouldn't be surprising, as a lot of villains tend to have a dimension of sympathy. (Except the Big Bad himself, by admission of the creator.)
    • Miko Miyazaki could be interpreted as such as well; she was orphaned at a young age, is severely socially awkward, and her only friend is her horse. One could imagine a lonely young girl with poor social skills adopting a rigid black-and-white view of the world as a means of emotional defense - only making things worse, as her narrow-mindedness and arrogance drives people even further away from her.
  • Galatea ("Golly") in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. is much less of an emotional disaster than she once was, but she still tries to project an air of competence and experience far beyond what she actually has (even if she is a genius).
  • In Homestuck. Aradia Megido. The poor girl is so broken by the time the game starts that she's forgotten what emotion feels like, which makes her ascention to God Tier all the more heartwarming.
  • Bathory of Crepuscule seems to be this, as revealed in more recent chapters: For hundreds of years, she's been searching for a surviving relative from the extermination of the pureblood succubi. Thankfully, she finds Angela, her aunt, and seems to be getting better because of it.
  • Sinfest:
    So much cynicism in your voice — masking untold sorrows.
  • The title heroine of Glorianna is carrying heavy angst from some as-yet-unspecified childhood trauma, as well as guilt over her unplanned pregnancy and subsequent abandoning of her baby.
  • The Fox Sister: Yun Hee might be warming up towards Alex, but overall she's still quite brusque and closed off.
  • Murai in Digger is a variant— her Establishing Character Moment is her collapse during the bandit raid, meaning the broken side of her was shown before the facade was.
  • Lei'ella if Inverloch puts on a ruthless facade and uses Spock Speak to intimidate people in her capacity as a thief-catcher, a job which she admits usually results in her killing someone. She's cynical about Acheron's motives, and refuses to believe the thief Varden has any capacity for goodness. This is because she's an elf "afflicted" with mortality and exiled when she was twelve; since then she's had to hide her race because she's invariably been rejected by prejudiced humans.

     Web Originals 
  • Iriana Estchell of Ilivais X lived a life that amounted to abusive rape followed by even more rape, which given her condition meant more like being tortured for 15 years. By the time the story starts, she's desperately trying to cover her mushy, fragile core with stoic badassery and indifferent sadism, but isn't as good at that as she'd like. When she meets someone that loves her (or rather, manipulated into doing so), she's so confused at how she's treated that she tends to respond by hurting her even more.
  • The Nostalgia Chick:
    • In a far lighter example, Nostalgia Chick is a twisted Cute and Psycho girl with a big drinking problem.
    • The Makeover Fairy is also pretty bad, trying so hard to be happy and girly and cheerful, but always showing in the end that she's just a Nervous Wreck.
  • Survival of the Fittest: Thanks to the premise, there are a fair amount of examples of this trope due to how many cuties are broken in each version. It's either that they started out this way and only get more scarred and/or Ax-Crazy, or that they become this way due to the amount of trauma they've suffered. Either way, the island doesn't do well for mental and emotional health.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Agent Carolina, in the present, is one of these, having built up a cold, callous exterior that covers her sadness concerning the fates of her Freelancer comrades.
    • Agent Washington was once an Adorkable and friendly Nice Guy, Wash had the memories of a tortured AI unit uploaded into his head. This, combined with the betrayals of various friends and allies later in life, led to Wash becoming cynical and no-nonsense. After the Blues help him escape custody, however, Wash begins to recover and becomes something closer to his kinder self.
    • In Season 12, it's implied and later confirmed that Felix's experiences in the Great War against the Covenant have kind of broken him and reshaped him into the cynical, sort of-Sociopathic Hero he is today. Nope, that's his cover story. He did fight in the war, but he's a total sociopath and isn't broken in the least.
    • It's implied that Locus' experiences in the Great War have also left him with some form of trauma, which he hides with his One-Man Army and Consummate Professional mask. Unlike Felix, it appears to be genuine.
  • In Worm, Vista, the youngest member of the Brockton Bay Wards, becomes this after Leviathan's attack on the city kills two of her teammates-including one that she had a childhood crush on-and then seeing the rest of her team slowly collapse, eventually becoming The Fatalist and accepting what she viewed as her inevitable death while still doing everything she could for her teammates.

    Western Animation 
  • Helga Pataki from Hey Arnold! is the badass variety. She mentions in one episode that she would probably go crazy if it weren't for Arnold.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Raven, though she does gradually open up in the last two seasons.
    • Terra, though she tries to hide it behind a Fun Personified façade. Stick around her long enough, though, and it becomes obvious the girl has serious issues with people.
  • Karai from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles becomes one of these during the show's fourth and fifth seasons, after the turtles and Utroms exile her father to an icy asteroid.
  • Meg of Family Guy. Although it's Played for Laughs and she's a pretty big Butt Monkey, some episodes depict her being both emotionally fragile and disturbed, derived from a desperation for love and attention.
  • Mrs. Krabappel from The Simpsons is The Snark Knight variety. In her case, it's Played for Laughs.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender,
    • Mai. Her parents neglected her and forced her to be a "perfect child", causing her to be cynical and apathetic. Unsurprisingly, she ends up with the resident Troubled, but Cute.
    • Azula as well:
    “My own mother thought I was a monster. *Beat* She was right, of course, but it still hurt."
    • Zuko could definitely be considered a male example. His father burned half his face and banished him, sending him on a Snipe Hunt to find the Avatar, all when he was only thirteen. And that's only the beginning. Luckily, he gets better.
    • In the sequel series The Legend of Korra, three seasons of various kinds of trauma have made Korra herself into one. After a three-year timeskip, she's gone into hiding as an earthbender, getting beat up in fight clubs for cash. None of her friends know where she is, and even her parents thought she was in Republic City.
  • Artemis from Young Justice comes from a broken home, with her mother having spent years in prison, her father being a supervillain, and her older sister, Jade, being the notorious assassin Cheshire. This has understandably made Artemis very cynical and abrasive.
  • Both Rogue and Wanda from X-Men: Evolution.
  • In "Sad About You" on Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot, the human girl Joy was a broken bird who had sworn off friendship and happy feelings after her best friend moved away, but the Care Bears managed to fix it, in large part thanks to Grumpy Bear, who helped them to see that they need to empathize with and acknowledge her feelings rather than simply try to cheer her up.
  • Marceline from Adventure Time. No sign of her mother ever appears, her biological father ranges from "neglectful" to "abusive", her father figure has magical curse alzheimers and doesn't remember her (but still sticks around, just to twist the knife), her boyfriend sold her most cherished possession, and she's had a millennium of other miscellaneous such events. Is it any wonder she plays up her vampirism to drive people away for their own good?
  • The widow Kelly Deegan in Holly Hobbie And Friends Christmas Wishes, until Holly manages to help restore her happiness by contriving to give her the solo at the Christmas pageant.
  • Enrique on Dragon Tales. According to his bio that was posted on the parents section of the show's official website, much of his general mopiness at times as well as his wariness of making new friends and trying new things came from the fact that he and his family had moved several times in his young life.