Woah, is it me, or does the sky look really dark and ominous? As if it's foreshadowing events which will have a negative impact on our lives."
The sun and sky, wind and clouds, ocean and rain, the very earth itself
will echo the mood without prompting or control. They feel
If a character needs to look pensive and tragic, there will be a hair-whipping wind
. If there's an important funeral being held, there will be rain
, or at least the dimming of the sun.
If characters are feeling blue, we often see them exposed to Gray Rain of Depression
. The Mother of All expresses her sympathy for the strife of an epic battle with violent thunderstorms
, chasms spontaneously opening in the earth — even horrifying holes ripping the very fabric of reality!
And, when it's all over, the Empathic Environment responds with calm. The air stills and the clouds part...at the same time
. The sun shines down
as the people turn their faces up, and the rain stops just as the tears of joy start to flow.
On a larger scale, the Ill Girl
's case often worsens in the autumn as the leaves start to fall, and spring brings about courtship not only among birds but among humans.
Almost always this phenomena is caused by The Law of Conservation of Detail
. After all, if the scene you're describing (or showing) doesn't fit the mood of the moment, why do you describe it in first place?
It's known in literary criticism as the pathetic fallacy, and is well-explained by this strip
of Dinosaur Comics
See also Fisher King
and Environmental Symbolism
. For a living, even sapient environment see Genius Loci
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Anime and Manga
- Rurouni Kenshin describes the increased wind during Kenshin's fights as "the swordsman's spirit" affecting the environment. Appropriately, when Shishio gets intense, any nearby flames respond in a similar way.
- At the end of Trigun, Vash's defeat of Knives seems to allow Meryl and Millie to finally strike water, resulting in a reasonable facsimile of rain.
- At the end of episode 8 of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, it starts raining in response to Kamina's death. It rains continuously for seven days, then stops the very moment Simon meets Nia.
- Averted yet invoked in Fullmetal Alchemist with Hughes' funeral. It takes place on a bright, sunny day, yet Mustang tells Hawkeye, "It's raining." When Hawkeye remarks on the contrary weather, Mustang insists, and that's when she realizes that he's crying and attempting to hide it; she then relents and says that yes, it's raining.
- The Naruto-verse is pretty much an empathic universe. Its many instances of Dramatic Wind aside, if it's overcast or starts raining in the otherwise perpetually sunny Fire Country, it usually means someone we're supposed to root for is either dead or being mourned.
- In School Rumble, it tends to rain whenever a character is feeling the blues. Most notably Eri Sawachika, when her father has to cancel their dinner for a meeting out of country.
- Bleach is practically made of this trope. So much so that rain has become an integral part of the fandom.
- In Hare+Guu, it starts raining whenever Hare has a breakdown.
- .hack//SIGN has one of these which starts out as a "sanctuary" for the protagonist, and changes with his state of mind.
- Being set in a Crapsack World, the environment of Claymore is almost always cloudy, complexions ranging from gray to even sickly gray-green.
- In Fist of the North Star, hail suddenly appears during the climax of Kenshiro's battle against Souther. Raoh notes that "the heavens are agitated" as they both take their stance.
- The Oniisama e... anime invokes this via the very frequent rainstorms that take place at the start of the series, coinciding with some of the worst parts of Nanako's Break the Cutie days and with several of Rei's Ophelia incidents.
- During the "Brief Lives" story arc, Neil Gaiman's Sandman series shows the protagonist being mopey after the end of his latest romance, and his kingdom — the Dreaming — responding to his mood by raining for weeks on end. He's so entrenched in his misery that he fails to notice the flooding of his subjects' homes.
- Lampshaded by Marv the Pumpkinhead when he says "And here comes the rain, right on cue."
- Storm of the X-Men quite literally has an empathic environment; the weather shifts based off her moods due to her power over weather. In fact, she has to control her moods in order to prevent them from affecting the weather adversely.
- The best way to tell if things are getting dramatic in Sin City, is if it begins to rain.
- In Scott Pilgrim, it rains the whole time that Envy is in Toronto, and the rain ends the moment she gets on the cab to the airport.
- Lampshaded aversion in an early issue The Walking Dead. A character comments that up to that point, the weather was always sunny with blue skies, largely unfitting with the whole Zombie Apocalypse cenario.
- In Dungeon Keeper Ami Empathic Environment is both a power all keepers posses, and a side-effect of dungeon hearts. Keepers can bend it to useful applications, like Mercury's corruption-storm-powered wind generators, and the vampire-emperor Zarekos' perpetual night.
- The sudden thunderstorm at the tail end of the Siege of Crassus, the first rain in a decade.
- To establish the goffik tone of the story, every time the weather is mentioned in My Immortal, it is snowing and raining. At the same time.
- In the Pony POV Series, Dark World!Twilight, who just went through a Vision Quest to realign her soul, awakens to find her room overgrown by the plants Discord turned her parents into (who are wrapped around her as if hugging her), the roof torn through to allow the sky to be visible, and birds singing outside the window.
- Played with in ''A Posse Ad Esse'; rather than the whole environment, Dolly's superpower involves only the air or ground in a select radius around her changing to fit her mood. Played conventionally straight in Chapter 8 when Kroko is alone, when the sky is beset by rainclouds just minutes after he had an aquaphobic scare.
Films — Animated
- In Kung Fu Panda, when Shifu faces Tai Lung, it's all dark and gloomy and there are storm clouds as far as the eye can see. When Po shows up two minutes later the clouds and lightning are gone, replaced by a warm ambient glow and the usual bright and cheery colors of the rest of the movie.
- In Kung Fu Panda 2, when we are shown the Kung Fu Council training, it is a normal warm sunset outside. Then Lord Shen walks in, and the sky near-instantly turns blood-red, like it is prone to be around him in general.
- Disney is notorious for this in their animated canon. It happens in every one of their films! Seriously!
- Justified in Frozen, where the sudden outburst of snowy weather in the middle of summer is explicitly caused by Elsa's fear of her own powers leading to Power Incontinence. The worse Elsa's fear gets, the worse the weather gets. Thankfully, it also works the other way around; when Elsa learns that despite all that's happened between them her sister Anna still loves her, she realizes "love will thaw" and is able to fully control her powers and reverse the curse of endless winter.
Films — Live-Action
- It is a trope essential to Gothic literature and the Romantic movement. You can find it in all sorts of works, from Caspar David Friedrich's bleak, moody landscapes to Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher.
- Even O. Henry got in on the trope with the short story "The Last Leaf" ... but if you're familiar with O. Henry, you know there's a surprise in The Stinger.
- Some Stephen King novels have a tendency to display fearsome weather patterns that parallel the steady build towards whatever climactic conflict will finish off the story. Examples include the cataclysmic thunderstorms of It and Bag of Bones and the blizzard in The Shining.
- The Discworld country of Überwald is noted for this. Experienced residents pause before saying portentious words to give thunder time to roll or wolves to howl mournfully.
- To balance this out, whenever Lord Vetinari wants to demonstrate the Wonders of Urban Development and other benefits of living in Ankh-Morpork, there is either thick fog blocking the view or a pissing dog, graffiti, or a drunken dwarf nearby. Apparently this man generates an anti-Emphatic Environment field — when he is being assaulted, it's either a beautiful day or merely a little cloudy.
- Also, in The Truth, Otto Chriek, Vampire (but he swore off the sticky stuff and now much prefers a mug of cocoa and a singsong, my vord yes.) mourns this fact — he always makes dramatic pauses, used to Uberwald's environment, but Ankh-Morpork does not care. When it does, however, he uses it whilst it lasts and is overjoyed.
- Granny Weatherwax's ire is known to cause any and all natural noises to stop in their tracks and can, indeed, cause empathic weather on top of it. Even though Granny's a witch, these events seem to occur without her consciously making them so. (Being skilled in headology, that's just what she wants you to think.)
- There's also the "gnarly ground" mentioned in Carpe Jugulum, a patch of magically-altered land in the Lancre mountains which actually changes its appearance to match the mood of visitors. A person who's nervous or angry will see the small field as a brambly moor, the stone over a brook as a flimsy stone bridge over a deep canyon, and the hollow in the side of the mountains as a system of deep caves, while someone in love will see it completely differently, such as the field as a meadow filled with flowers.
- If there's a heat wave (or other unpleasant weather pattern) at the start of a crime wave, it will be relieved when the crime is solved.
- Subverted and lampshaded in the Warcraft Expanded Universe novel Rise of the Horde, in which the protagonist Durotan, who is about to take an old friend as a hostage, contemplates on how the weather is all sunny and the land is so lush when it so utterly fails to reflect his inner conflict and sadness.
- In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Jennifer complains of the lack of this: when Prince Rupert observed that Parliament might order him executed, it was in a raging storm, but the next morning is a bright sunshiny day, although he is still in mortal danger.
- The final battle of David Eddings' The Belgariad took place under a storm. As the same band of True Companions approaches the climax of the sequel series, The Malloreon, Lovable Rogue Silk notices the clouds gather and wonders aloud why these things can't be allowed to happen when it's nice out.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, the dying Solomon Demeter watches the sun setting and explicitly feels as if the world was marking his passing.
- As the ten characters are whittled down by the murderer in And Then There Were None, the worsening weather coincides with the worsening situation on the island.
- Used in The Great Gatsby, where the climax between Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby takes places on a brutally hot day, but the chilly weather on the following day represents the end of Gatsby and Daisy's romance.
- In A Night in the Lonesome October, a non-stop thunderstorm lingers above the Good Doctor's farmhouse, and only goes away after the place burns down. Lampshaded when Snuff notices how soggy the ground there has gotten, thanks to a month's constant drenching. Note that this must be the Empathic Environment at work, not a result of deliberate occult weather-control, as the Good Doctor isn't really a Player and has no magical skills.
- In the Shadowleague books, the weather in Callisoria mirrors the state of the Curtain Walls, which the heroes are trying to save. Hence, it ends up mirroring their moods almost exactly.
- In John C. Wright's The Phoenix Exultant, Daphne is in a Red Manorial room when her Laser-Guided Amnesia is revoked. It is specifically designed to do this. The entire room goes dark with her misery, flowers wilting. When she manages to turn off the feedback loops that exaggerate her woe, she ends up with a Tearful Smile because she, and it, look so ridiculous.
- In the Star Shards Chronicles, this is applied rather literally: Michael's superpower is that he can actually control the weather based on his emotions.
- Used frequently in Raymond Chandler's works. (The rain in The Big Sleep, the wind in "Red Wind", etc.)
- In the Warrior Cats series, the night sky tends to cloud over and become stormy at Gatherings when there is arguing. The cats believe that their warrior ancestors are controlling the weather and expressing their displeasure, but one medicine cat does point out that sometimes a storm is just a storm.
- In Count and Countess, during one particularly harrowing but cathartic scene, it begins raining when a teenage Vlad Dracula has just escaped a grueling life as a child soldier and is on his way home for the first time in years.
- Played entirely straight for most of The Dark Is Rising series, with the rising of the Dark accompanied by blizzards and cold, a tornado, and a great deal of storms, shadow, and lightning in general. But on at least one occasion, this is subverted: in The Grey King, the day on which the harp must be played to wake the Sleepers, when the power of the Grey King is at its height and crushing Will with his malevolence...it's the most beautiful, peaceful, sunny day you could imagine.
- The rain at the end of Someone Else's War.
- In Jane Austen's Emma, the protagonist is experiencing a major crisis while there is a very severe and very long summer storm near the climax of the novel. When the storm is over and lovely summer weather is restored, she is determined to know herself better and behave accordingly, and moments later she is reconciled with her friend as well. Though such a beautiful use of this trope seems tailor-made for film, only the 1996 ITV telefilm utilizes it in adaptation.
- At the end of the book Mortal Coil of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, the assassin Tesseract is finally killed after the Skeleton Detective hunts him down and accidentally leads him into a surprise attack by the recently resurrected Lord Vile and is mortally wounded. The assassin, who was centuries years old and only kept alive by a mask that continuously pumped a sort of preservative/anti-toxin into his body, asks the normally pragmatic detective to bring him outside so that he could see the sunrise before he dies. He dies trying to smile as the two watch it together.
- Inverted in The Edge Chronicles, where the weather is known to actually change people's moods.
- Played straight twice in Melusine, the first book in Doctrine of Labyrinths series. Meeting a blood witch in a cemetery? Surrounded by millenia-old ghosts who need your insane brother to put them to rest? You're about to get drenched.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire rather than reveal a tough character is weeping, George R. R. Martin has the rain flowing over their face instead.
Live Action TV
- In Smallville, at the end of the episode appropriately named Turbulence, heavy rain pours as Davis Rage Against the Heavens, Jimmy sinks into drug abuse, and Chloe sobbing alone after Jimmy says marrying her is the biggest mistake of his life.
- In All My Children had a tornado occurring on a day when about six major storylines came to a climax.
- Soaps like this one. In February 1999, at the same time ABC Primetime premiered the miniseries Storm Of The Century, ABC Daytime started its own "storm" hype by having a massive blizzard strike all four ABC soaps (easy to do, as one was set in upstate New York, which is frequently pummeled by snowstorms while the remaining three were in set in suburban Pennsylvania and presumably in close proximity to each other) and kicking several front-burner storylines into high gear.
- The Downer Ending of Doctor Who episode "The Pandorica Opens" takes place at night, with no visible stars above. Stars are, however, clearly visible during the Stonehenge speech, in spite of all the space ships whizzing about.
- In an episode of Hannah Montana when Miley lost an anklet her mother gave her, the weather in Hawai'i promptly turned sour. When Robbie Ray gives a speech telling her how her mother is always with her, anklet or no, the weather promptly turns gorgeous again.
- In Red Dwarf, "Terrorform", a psi-moon that Rimmer and Kryten crash into latches onto Rimmer's personality and emotions, creating a world with frogs that croak "useless", places that have names to run away from really fast, beasts named after his negative attributes... not to mention a graveyard for certain of his positive attributes. Rimmer's colleagues have to put him in a happy and self-confident state, which is then reflected in the environment, long enough for them all to escape — after which they cheerfully admit that they were lying about how likeable he was.
- Justified in an episode of Stargate SG-1. While the team, having recently lost Daniel (again) stood around looking pensive and sad, an odd, comforting wind blew past. They were inside. They all agreed that it must have been a malfunctioning air vent, but we (and O'Neill) know better...
- A classic episode of The X-Files "Rain King" had Mulder and Scully investigating a swindler who claimed to be able to make it rain (and sold this skill to drought-struck communities). Soon enough, they discover the man's ex-wife believes she has a sort of antagonistic version of this trope in effect (the sky seemed to cry on her wedding day, and the clouds laughed at her when she got divorced) and that is behind her ex-husband's apparent abilities. In fact, she has a nerdy secret admirer who actually has this relationship with the weather, it reflected his moods when she married another man and when she finally left that guy. He had been affecting the weather for her ex's business out of guilt.
- In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, as Spartacus, known in the arena as the Bringer of Rain breathes his last, a gentle rain begins to fall.
- Sometimes jokingly discussed regarding either Lilith or Bebe.
Niles: Strange, I usually get some sign when Lilith is in town - dogs forming into packs, blood weeping down the wall.
- Done in an episode featuring Lilith's brother:
Frasier: The Beast is among us!
- In the Dungeons Dragons 3.0 Manual of the Planes'', one of the dream realms described in the appendix is literally this way. This permanent dream realm held a child who was eternally young, and the land responded to her desires, turning bright and sunny when she was happy, stormy when she was angry, windy and wet when she was sad, etc. The only other permanent resident was a large dragon who knew the truth: the girl was the last survivor of a doomed space colonization effort. Her ship had crashed, and her stasis pod was left running on the surface of some unknown, airless, alien world forever. Or at least until the power fails.
- The play 12 Angry Men begins with all but one juror agreeing to a guilty verdict on a very hot day in a courthouse with no air conditioning. But as the show goes on the environment becomes more and more bearable finally culminating in a rainstorm when the jurors decide on a not guilty verdict.
- The script of Little Shop of Horrors calls for a dramatic sunset to add "Wagnerian splendor" to the scene in which Seymour feeds Audrey's dead body to the plant. Further environment empathy is implied by the line "Feel the sturm und drang in the air" in the title song.
- The sky in inFAMOUS takes colour depending on your karmic path. Good gives you a nice sunny day, evil results in Red Sky, Take Warning.
- The action of Max Payne happens during one of the worst snowstorms that New York City has ever seen, a storm that only abates after Max takes down the one behind the murder of his family.
- Kingdom of Loathing opens a boss battle with this as part of the narration:
"Very well, then," he says. "It'll be a fight to the death for control of the island. But don't you think the weather's a little inappropriate for a climactic battle royale?" He gestures as if to encompass the bright, clear day, chirping birds, and humming insects.
"Oh, yeah, man, you're right," Wisniewski says. He glances at a nearby Elder Shaman who isn't quite dead yet. She closes her eyes and chants.
Storm clouds fill the sky, roiling and churning. The landscape grows dark, illuminated only by near-constant flashes of lightning, as rain pours from the sky in improbably quantities.
"Much better," the Man says. "All right, you little commie, let's get to it."
- World in Conflict multiplayer maps have a sort of Empathic Environment: if the match goes for too long (and especially after the teams exchanged a few nukes), all colors become dull and grayish, the clouds gather and the sunlight dims slightly.
- In Katamari Damacy, all of the cutaway scenes when you haven't made a big enough katamari feature rain and thunder coming down as the dejected prince kneels before the King Of All Cosmos. Justified because, well, he's the King Of All Cosmos, and in one of these sequences he even mentions that he's making it rain to make his speech about how disappointed he is in you more dramatic.
- Shing kicks off the second half (the actual plot) of Tales of Hearts with a somewhat justified Heroic BSOD, which only deepens when he meets the next Mr. Exposition. The outside world is still fairly bright and sunny, but after Kohak snaps him out of it, another character tries to shoot him (long story). Shing uses his sword to deflect the projectile, and with a flash, it flies into the distance, and right there, the game's heroic theme starts up, and the clouds part, revealing the sun.
- Mitsumete Knight loves this trope. Going on War Battles? Welcome to an arid setting with gloomy and sinister weather! Fighting the fearsome leader of the Enemy Generals at the end of the game? You'll be met with a hurricane which is even more violent, with rain pouring hard and strong Dramatic Wind, when fighting him in his unmasked version! Going on sinister-looking places for dates, such as the Ruins, the Catacombs, or the Sieger Cannons? Cue the lack of music and Dramatic Wind!
- Your final decision at the end of Mass Effect 2 will influence the giant glowing globe behind the Illusive Man's office. If you choose Paragon, it's blue; if you choose Renegade, it's red.
- The sky is dark and overcast for the last few missions of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, which looks odd because it's supposed to be about noon. Of course, this being a flight simulator, and the first mission of said sequence pitting you against an elite squadron, it's possible and almost expected for the player to fly above the clouds and witness a beautiful blue sky once more, right before you have to fly underground.
- Played with in Touhou Fighting Game Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, where characters begin manifesting localized weather that represents a poetic interpretation of their personality.
- The very minute the Shadow Queen in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is revived the entire world instantly becomes night, even above the clouds. Same thing happens with the Dark Star in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, ominous blue/purple storm clouds form over the castle and a creepy fog descends over the battle field.
- In Jak 3: Wastelander it rains during the last mission in Haven City, combined with occasional flashes of thunder (which barely ever happens in-game). At the end of it, Damas dies.
- In stealth game Dishonored the final level's forecast depends on how much chaos you've caused during the game. High chaos equals a stormy, overcast cast while low chaos creates a calm, clear day (which makes it slightly anti-climatic).
- In Shadow of the Colossus the final colossus is fought dramatically during a raging storm, complete with infernal tornadoes in the background marking where you killed the other colossi. It's jarring as it starts and stops as you walk in and out of the colossus's stadium. Justified in-universe as it references the fact that the Forbidden Land is awakening from its timeless phase, thanks to the completion of the ritual.
- Sometimes occurs incidentally with The Elder Scrolls weather effects randomly providing curiously apropos weather. Also done deliberately; when approaching Ash Mountain in Morrowind and Oblivion gates in Oblivion, the skies become cloudier and ruddy, and will temporarily clear to blue skies with few fluffy white clouds after defeating Dagoth or closing Oblivion gates.
- During a "dream" in Hatoful Boyfriend, the more upset one character gets the more it rains, which risks washing away Mount Pudding.
- When you summon a Wither In Minecraft, the sky darkens and turns to a redder shade.
- Kind of justified on several occasions in Final Fantasy IX. Burmecia is introduced as the "Realm of Eternal Rain" which wouldn't fit as an example were you not only visiting it after it's totally devastated and almost all of its population killed. You have Freya in your party who laments the fate of her home, and the city stays in the same condition till the end of the game. Simirally but to a lesser extent Treno which is forever shrowded in darkness (apparently, being geographically located this way) and is all about night life of nobles and thieves.
- In this strip of Erfworld, watch the color of the sky in the panels that isolate a single character.
- Inverted in Gunnerkrigg Court: most of the plot occurs in a dark, drab school, but the two tearjerker scenes (Annie crying over her mother's death, and Kat's final minutes with Alistair) occur in bright, sunlit environs.
- Going one further, the character Zimmy projects some sort of reality-warping field as a result of Power Incontinence which gives her a ghastly appearance and subjects her to constant, nightmarish hallucinations which at their worst may even supplant reality, pulling her and those around her into her personal Dark World. So, when is the one time when her power cools off, she starts to look like a normal human being, and she appears to experience genuine happiness? While getting soaked to the skin, standing in the pouring rain during a thunderstorm at night.
- Subverted by "Power Station". The titular experiment creates an artificial rain, and Zimmy stops suppressing her power, but the rain doesn't suppress it. "It's not workin'... it's not workin'!" By the way, Zimmy's internal world is dark and drab, but the area where Gamma waits for her is brighly colored and lit with sunshine.
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Galatea experiences her lowest emotional point and eventual redemption while caught outside in the rain at night.
- Bob and George: X agrees to try ice cream -- the panel flashes to darkness
- Wooden Rose: When they kiss, roses sprout from the ground and flower. Given that he's a god of the forest, probably justified.
- In El Goonish Shive there is a running gag of a crack of thunder (and lightning if the character is near a window) whenever someone says something particularly ominously as can be seen here, here and here.
- In The Cyantian Chronicles whenever Vincent feels sad (fairly often) it rains, when he found out his mother had died it poured for days. Turned out to be because he has latent weather control powers, first confirmed when he got angry and fried the Big Bad and two mooks with lightning
- In Sinfest Squigley comments on how it gets dark when Monique goes emo.
- A disturbing variation from Adventure Time. After it's been revealed (through an old video tape diary) that the Ice King was once a young human named Simon who was mind-raped into becoming the insane, blue-skinned sociopath he is now by a crown he acquired, the tape shows Simon sitting at a table next to a window. As he says, "My skin is beginning to turn blue," the sky outside darkens. As he says "My body temperature is lowering at a supernatural rate," snow starts to fall. And as he says "I don't know when it will end... I'm really scared," the sky darkens almost completely, and a violent snowstorm begins.
- Justified, as the crown also turned him into An Ice Person: he was probably subconsciously causing the snow to fall.
- In the episode "Mysterious Mare-Do-Well" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash is moping over being upstaged by the titular superhero by lounging around on one grey cloud in the middle of a sunny day. Justified in that moving clouds around is actually Rainbow's job, and she presumably found a raincloud and dragged it into place just to mope on.
- In "Testing Testing 123" Rainbow Dash lands on a white fluffy cloud to mope, and the cloud immediatly turns grey and starts to rain, mirroring her mood. This is assumed to be a pegasus trait.
- Another episode, "Hearth's Warming Eve", features a literal Empathic Environment - the mysterious blizzard is created by giant horse-creatures called Windigos that feed off of anger and hate.
- Parodied with Native American John Redcorn in King of the Hill. Whenever he starts talking about his culture, his hair moves as if there's wind, even when he's inside.
- An episode of Aladdin: The Series has the gang go to a kingdom where the land reflects the mood of its young king.
- Arguably, the containment wall from ReBoot, which always reflects the current mood of the episode: The sky is usually an optimistic, bright blue; on days when the plot gets darker, it takes on a steel gray color; and then, as the series gets progressively darker, it switches to sunset, to emphasize the changing nature of the show, then darker and cloudier before finally looking like storm clouds to symbolize the raging war against Megabyte.