Going Cosmic is when a work of fiction that was ostensibly about something else starts delving into deep theological and philosophical issues. Frequently for Western works, this entails the introduction of a monotheistic deity with a strong resemblance to the Judeo-Christian God.
In some cases, the work may have really been about something else to start with, but the writers ran out of ideas and so decided to explore the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. This type of Going Cosmic is usually fairly sudden and/or the result of a Re Tool
. The other form of Going Cosmic is when the Cosmic ideas which were always in the background start shoving their way to the foreground and overshadowing everything else. This tends to be a more gradual process.
Usually indicates a Writer on Board
. Expect a lot of Rule of Symbolism
and Contemplate Our Navels
. Often results in Jumping the Shark
. Sometimes a symptom of Cerebus Syndrome
. Compare Big Damn Movie
, where a film adaptation of a mundane series is given an epic storyline. Compare What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?
Doesn't have to do with SpaceX
or having gone to plaid
, or other tropes that actually deal with space.
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Anime & Manga
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure starts a noticeable shift near the end of Part 5 when it starts taking on themes of fate, gravity, power, and so on, whereas before it involved mostly simple good vs. evil stories.
- The manga version of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind goes this way towards the end.
- The level of mystical, philosophical weirdness caused by the main characters' Psychic Powers tends to escalate towards the end of most Gundam shows, though gods or anything like that are never mentioned.
- Outlaw Star started as a campy Space Opera filled with Fanservice, cat girls and some Magi Tech, it ended with wizards dueling in a massive space library that can grant wishes and a gigantic Battle in the Center of the Mind.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion is, at the beginning, a show about teenagers battling aliens in Humongous Mechas. Then they delve into psychology and apocalyptic transhumanism, and the last two episodes are exclusively spent psychoanalyzing the main characters and trying to formulate a way to end human suffering. The movie acts as a supplement finale and has a Physical God manifest through Evangelion Unit 01- or at least through human eyes, it becomes a being on a tier of existence that could be considered a god.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica is, at the beginning, a show about Magical Girls battling monsters as a payment for having their wish granted. Then suddenly it's about morality and how your actions reflect (your lack of) it. Then it's about eschatology and the efforts to stave it. And then the main character becomes God, with all the (mostly-unenviable) responsibilities of such position.
- One Piece nudged this territory with the Sky Island Saga, introducing Enel as a being that the residents believed was God. When he was revealed to be brutally cruel, hedonistic, and an all-around Omnicidal Maniac interested in shipping off to the moon, people quickly learned to direct their prayers toward another higher power as he demolished everything... and got their prayers answered from the real God.
- Robotech, as a result of welding a Myth Arc out of three separate anime, develops a far more mystical tinge as it goes along.
- The first series sticks to a synthetic Artificial Human race having to deal with contamination from human culture, but by the third series the world is not only post-apocalyptic, but the enemy alien is Sufficiently Advanced and focused on Evolutionary Levels as an explicit metaphor for enlightenment (or the other way around, it's kind of hard to tell sometimes). Similarly, the "protoculture" energy source in the first series is revealed to be from the "Flower of Life" in the second, which is the main factor driving the plot of the third.
- The novelizations take all the brakes off on the series' mystical aspects, as "the Protoculture" is often described as an actively plot-guiding force, being responsible for the miraculous and otherwise-impossible birth of the half-Zentraedi Dana Sterling and the enlightenment of Dr. Emil Lang. The Sentinels novelizations, being partially created out of whole cloth, deal with actual alien wizards, more talk of evolution as it relates to the Flowers of Life, another race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens not even involved in this evolution thing, and discussions of childbirth among the alien Zentraedi. And then there's The End of the Circle, a finale taking place mostly outside of time and space that takes the whole thing to outright Mind Screw levels; an alien deity trying to comprehend sexuality and despair is just the start.
- The Phoenix Force serves this purpose for X-Men. Being the force of all sentient life in the Multiverse, it is basically an avatar of God. It has a complicated relationship with the X-Men through Jean Grey.
- The first two issues of Marville are a lousy parody of Marvel and DC. The last three are about God taking the main characters on a tour of philosophy, and they're completely serious.
- Promethea has the frame of a superhero story but most of it is rooted in the exploration of symbolism. The protagonist spends many, many issues traveling through the Sefirot and the Tarot cards on a spiritual journey.
- Ultraman Moedari started out as a comedic series about a young ultraman playing truant and picking a host at random... and turns into a series about fate and becoming a god, where the entire omniverse is merged and Time and Space are living beings themselves. To be fair, there was a tiny bit of foreshadowing..
- Latias Journey starts out as a story about Latias chasing her crush, Ash Ketchum, after the Ghost King destroys her home. By the end of the story, the ENTIRE MULTIVERSE was destroyed (except not really), and we get several chapters full of navel-gazing on the nature of life, death, and the universe that turned out to be part of a simulation run by an evil computer program who wanted to take over the universe for himself. At least the sequel starts off cosmic, and keeps going back and forth from there.
- Orson Scott Card is prone to Going Cosmic. The Ender series started with the tightly written sci-fi classic Enders Game, then getting more and more Cosmic with each successive sequel, as it expands into speaking for the dead, xenobiology, virology, philosophy, inter-dimensional travel, and inter-personal struggle. Note that Philotes, as the third book was called when it was a mere draft, wasn't originally intended to be part of the series. Card's publisher forced him to add a third book to the series, and he figured that adding Ender to the existing story would both fulfill the requirement and add life to a story that wasn't very interesting as it was.
- The Chronicles of Narnia were always a Christian allegory, but the "allegory" part got lost somewhere along the way, with the final book being pretty much a direct stand-in for Revelation.
- Something similar happens in His Dark Materials, a counterpoint to Narnia. The Golden Compass is a fantasy-adventure story with an evil church as the bad guys. The following books in the trilogy go cosmic by extending across various universes including Heaven and the Underworld and the Big Bad being God (or an angel claiming to be God; still, it gets very theological and unsubtle).
- Joe Haldeman's classic The Forever War is a science-fiction allegory for the Vietnam War that uses relativistic "time travel" to great dramatic effect. The sequel, Forever Free, involves discovering the true purpose of life in the Milky Way and meeting (essentially) God.
- Frank Herbert's Dune - The first novel is a measured study of the interplay of ecology, science, religion & politics, but is positively action-packed compared to the fourth book, God-Emperor of Dune.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld has done this over time, moving from the parody of fantasy and roleplaying games of the first books into some quite deep "Stealth Philosophy" later in the series. Although the tendency was there from quite early on (the feminist critique of Equal Rites being the first major outbreak), it's become much more prevalent in later books.
- The remake of Battlestar Galactica. The show started out as the story of a bunch of human survivors on the run from renegade robots bent on genocide, with occasional hints at a theological basis for the whole business. In later seasons, the episodes of divine intervention became more and more blatant.
- Supernatural started out as a Monster of the Week show focused on urban legends. Now it's about the impending Apocalypse, with angels and demons duking it out, Greek and Egyptian gods showing up, Lucifer sermonizing on the evils of humanity, and the protagonists caught in the middle. The monster legend adaptations also got less accurate.
- Star Trek did this with Deep Space Nine. The god-like entities are explained as being non-corporeal life-forms that exist inside a wormhole, but they differ from gods only in title, and sometimes even that distinction is eliminated as one of the focal points of the series is an entire planet that religiously worships the wormhole aliens. Captain Sisko at many times tries to provide scientific explanations for what goes on, but later on the series is forced to admit that the universe holds things queerer than we can fathom, and that the religious followers might actually be right about a lot of things. The Prophets' role in the story and Captain Sisko's role as their "emissary" increases steadily every season. This was an interesting genre shift, because previous series has been packed to the rafters with Sufficiently Advanced Aliens since Star Trek: The Original Series. Some of these, such as the Q, have powers far beyond those of the Prophets. Thus skepticism about the divinity of the Prophets was quite logical since Starfleet had encounters with "godlike" beings on a fairly regular basis.
- Stargate SG-1 always had themes of faith and religion, as many plots revolved around powerful religious artifacts and toppling false gods, but the last two seasons saw the Goa'uld and classic science fiction themes being replaced by the Ori, who bear a much stronger resemblance to actual deities, and brought a lot of philosophical conundrums with them. This case is a result of the Re Tool, as they weren't expecting another season.
- There was a lot of this in the later seasons of Xena: Warrior Princess.
- Being Human. The existence of Hell, or somewhere like it, was implied right from the pilot episode, and there were occasional hints at the existence of Heaven from the first series, but the plots were all very-much grounded in the physical realm at first. Then series two had a sub-plot about The Men with Sticks and Rope trying to lure Annie to the afterlife. Series three had Mitchell venturing into Purgatory to rescue Annie. Series four had some Mind Screw implications that the afterlife could be used to time-travel, as well as the existence of half-demon succubi and mention that vampires only exist because of an ancient Deal with the Devil. Series five finally gives up on attempting any semblance of ambiguity on the matter and outright summons Satan in the first episode. In a flashback.
- Fringe started out as a series about the FBI division devoted to Paranormal Investigation and Weird Science, and the amusing personalities contained within. By the end of the first season, it's become clear that there are Alternate Universes at play. By the end of the third season, a war has broken out between two parallel universes, and time travel and questions of pre-destination have taken over the plot. By the end of the fifth season, the characters are caught up in a cross-temporal invasion by Sufficiently Advanced Future Humans and formerly completely unrelated characters are revealed to have always been tangled up tightly in a web of destiny.
- Season one of True Detective is a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane variation. Throughout the series, Rustin Cohl's visions and ramblings get more and more unhinged, and yet also more and more coherent, centering on a Cosmic Horror-tinged hybrid of Nietzche's Eternal Recurrence and Flatland that should be familiar to anyone who's read Dreams In The Witch House. By the end of the finale, Rust has a vision of either just a hallucinatory Swirly Energy Thingy or else an actual glimpse of something truly cosmic, faces down what is either a hillbilly serial killer or else a devout cultist of an elder god, and declares that the starry night sky illustrates the battle between "light versus dark": The dark has more territory, but once upon a time, it was all dark.
- The Beatles gained their fame as an exceptionally good pop boy-band with songs like "Please Please Me," "She Loves You," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." By the time they broke up, they were psychedelic, avant-garde musical groundbreakers with philosophical songs like "Revolution," "Mother Nature's Son," and "Across the Universe."
- Many games of Unknown Armies have this as the explicit goal. First you start off learning about how weird and twisted the world really is. Then you move among the people who embrace the weirdness, and maybe pick up some of it yourself. And then you start competing in the game to remake the universe...
- Xenogears. What starts out as a game about using giant robots to overthrow an oppressive technologically advanced empire steps off the edge of the pier at the start of the second disk and quickly turns into game about killing "god" and stopping a madman with a Messiah Complex from ending human existence as we know it. The game starts throwing out Old Testament biblical references like they'd just gone bad to the degree that you either need to be well-versed in Biblical lore or play the game with a decent encyclopedia close by for it to make sense. Or just read Perfect Works.
- Xenoblade continues the tradition, but to a lesser extent. You don't start fighting god until the last ten/twenty hours, depending on how many sidequests and how much grinding you did.
- Pokémon started out with a variety of animalistic creatures that at times show relation to certain concepts and natural forces, but weren't really considered to be rulers or representatives of said forces; the rarest monsters were much more scientific in orientation (Mew being the genetic ancestor to all Pokémon, his clone Mewtwo being genetically engineered). Since then, we've had Pokémon that have been able to revive the dead (Ho-oh), Pokémon that rule over land, water, and air (Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza, respectively), Pokémon that rule over time, space, and other dimensions (Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina), Pokémon that rule over elements of the human mind (the Lake Trio), God (Arceus), what seem to be representations of Dark Yin and Light Yang (Zekrom and Reshiram), who themselves turn out to be the personifications of Ideals and Truth, and Pokémon that rule over Life and Deathnote itself (Xerneas and Yvetal), respectively.
- Marathon 1 and 2 were a basic first-person shooters ala Doom, and were known for having fairly advanced and complex stories for their time, but nothing too complex. Then the third game (Infinity) pops up, and suddenly the plot is about an Eldritch Abomination named "The W'rkncacnter" attempting to eat all of space and time, having long, complex passages about the nature of the human existence, multiple timelines, and a hell of a lot of weird, terrifying dreams. It got so complex that fans are still debating over the symbolism.
- The World Ends with You initially seems to just be about playing a game for the main characters to get their lives back, but upon reading the Secret Reports, a lot of background is given to the world, with gods, fallen angels, and alternate realities. being thrown into the mix.
- Dragon's Dogma starts off as the adventure of a random fisherman going on a quest to kill a giant Dragon. Then, after you kill said Dragon and the game is seemingly over, a hole to the center of the world opens in the middle of the largest city in the world opens, you jump into it and eventually meet who may or may not be god, a previous Arisen just like the protagonist, who has gotten tired of existing forever, then kill him to take his place, in a series' of fights that are less Boss Fight and more exposition discussing life, the universe and the cycle of life in the universe, all while you're stuck between universes. And then you die. And then you're not dead but your pawn is you. Suffice to say, it gets cosmic.
- Themes of cosmology and divinity were always present in the Baldur's Gate series, with the first game's revelation that the protagonist is the child of Bhaal, the dead god of murder, and your final showdown with Big Bad Sarevok being in a forgotten temple to Bhaal. These themes are ramped up in the sequel, however, where the climactic battle with the new Big Bad, Jon Irenicus, happens in Hell, and the campaign on its expansion pack gives you a segment of your father's hellish domain to use as a headquarters and ends with a battle at his very throne, giving you the opportunity to succeed Bhaal as a god at the end. All the series' Big Bads have had divine aspirations, and they come progressively closer to meeting that goal.
- A lot of Shin Megami Tensei games start off with your Ordinary High-School Student's day getting irrevocably ruined by demons popping up everywhere, and everything going to hell. There are sometimes fairly mundane early enemies to deal with (a conspiracy to nuke Japan in SMT1 to contain the sudden emergence of demons, an evil corporation in the first Persona) and then things swiftly move up from there, usually with the revelation that the cosmic forces were manipulating early events. Shin Megami Tensei II is quite infamous for having you fight and kill God, while the Persona games all end exploring Jungian ideas of the collective unconscious and fighting manifestations of primal aspects of humanity's self-destructive drives. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, meanwhile, goes for broke right at the beginning with the apocalypse, and puts you in the middle of the fight to create the next universe before you even get your first combat tutorial. (The "True Demon" ending takes it Up to Eleven by having you join Lucifer as his general, preparing to break the apocalyptic cycle of the multiverse and defeat God permanently.)
- Touhou started out with paper-thin Excuse Plots, then expanded on the characters and setting with slightly more complicated stories and various Expanded Universe material. But with the "Moriya arc" it started delving deeply into the metaphysics of Gensokyo, the moral and practical complications of humans and youkai living together, three different religions arrived preaching their ideals, and a whole Universe Compendium was devoted to the leaders of said religions having a debate over what philosophy is best for Gensokyo's continuing stability.
- Guilty Gear pulls this off rather gracefully. Various religious concepts like sin and redemption are used as underliers for the main conflicts of the series, and features heavily in the backgrounds of the characters. Ky Kiske of is a devout Christian who finds his idealism, views on justice, and personal integrity repeatedly tested by his ordeals. Sol Badguy was once a genius scientist who worked on a Transhumanism project only to be turned into one against his will, and, in some mission for personal atonement, has vowed to hunt down and destroy every last one of his creations for being a bunch of human-killing Jerkasses. Other heroic characters include Millia Rage, Faust, and Chipp Zanuff, a former assassin, a former serial killer and a former drug dealer, respectively. Deeply spiritual and existential matters crop up frequently in the plot as well.
- Homestuck starts off with a group of friends who play a game on the protagonist's birthday. 7000 pages later, the author was killed by the metaphorical representation of Fan Dumb, the kids are adrift in the void between worlds, the comic's reader in another dimension contemplates suicide and the protagonist starts traveling through canon with the power to Retcon reality. It got weird.
- Sinfest started out dealing somewhat with philosophical themes, but also focused a lot on gritty adventures, and the philosophy consisted largely of subversive jabs at traditional religion and morality. But over time, it started focusing more on social issues like feminism, and less on subversiveness and grit. It became less of a sinfest and more of a political fest.
- Beast Wars was about small groups of Maximals and Predacons fighting a relatively small war with big consequences on prehistoric Earth, but towards the end brought in the Transformers' religion. The sequel show, Beast Machines, was all about identity, consciousness, and the balance between freedom and chaos. Oddly for the metaseries, religion was dealt with exclusively from the perspective of the faithful, arguing over interpretation of their holy text. Usually, when a Transformers series goes religious, it means Robot God Primus and Robot Satan Unicron are at it again in a cosmic battle for the fate of the universe. Considerably more awesome, but less philosophical.
- The Unicron Trilogy dealt heavily with Primus and Unicron, with long, epic stories surrounding the Autobots and Decepticons being caught in the battle of the two gods. As those series were considered lukewarm at best, and horrible at worst, the two series following those (Transformers Animated and the Transformers Film Series) kept Primus and Unicron out of the limelight. While the films' Expanded Universe hinted at the two existing, they were never shown to be proactive in the present. Meanwhile, Animated decided to be rather ambiguous about the Transformers' origins, though Word of God says that, as far as he is concerned, Primus doesn't exist, though Unicron might. The main reason for leaving the two out of the equation is that, when one boils down to it, having an ultimate force for Good and an ultimate force for Evil in a story usually ensures that the Good will undoubtedly win (at least when applied to a children's show). Transformers Prime, and the Aligned Continuity as a whole, brought Primus and Unicron back, however; but since this is now more or less an Ultimate Universe for Transformers, it's only natural that the two be included in some form.
- In Transformers Prime, we go the Devil but No God route: "By the Allspark" is the go-to "Oh My Gods!" exclamation of choice as seen in some other series, but that's all we get on the creative side of things. Unicron, however? His blood is the "Dark Energon" that is used to basically perform Black Magic without calling it that, and Megatron's been pretty Badass since jabbing a chunk of it into his Spark. What's it doing on Earth? Unicron is the Earth's core, under our feet the whole time, that's what.]
- The Legend of Korra starts out featuring the same supernatural and spiritual elements as its predecessor, but the second season takes an unexpected turn into the cosmic when an unspeakably ancient and powerful spirit of darkness escapes from its prison in the Spirit World and merges with a human to become the Dark Avatar, a kaiju-like Physical God, in order to go on a rampage through the Human World. To fight back, Korra similarly merges with the spirit of light that provides all Avatars their powers and becomes a god-like being herself. Nothing else even remotely close to this in scope or weirdness happens during either show.