This material is separated from the main continuity, usually in the form of special episodes or even Bonus Material
. It's not out of canonicity
, but it's not treated as if it was fully in canonicity either. Its continuity status is not quite accepted, and not quite rejected. None of this will be referenced in the canon, but it will not be contradicted outright either.
As opposed to the Canon Discontinuity
which was explicitly removed from Canonicity
later, this "Optional Continuity" implicitly was not firmly tied into Canonicity
to begin with. Unlike Big-Lipped Alligator Moment
, it's not just a random throwaway gag that pops up unexpectedly only to sink forever, it's a complete piece of continuity not thrown away, but still set aside. While it cannot participate
in over-arching storylines
, it serves to highlight characters or setting that do
belong to the Canonical
continuity without interrupting the main story flow with expositions
, up to becoming dedicated Exposition Bonus Material
If the events are not inconsequential, such an episode may contain Reset Button
, Or Was It a Dream?
or Perspective Flip
to Unreliable Narrator
, forming a weakened link with the Canon
. If the main continuity or Word of God
eventually acknowledges this material as canon despite previously labeling it as this, then you have a case of Ret Canon
. Compare Broad Strokes
. Unrelated to Cowboy Cop
. Compare Schrödinger's Canon
Anime and Manga
Collectible Card Games
- The Bleach anime:
- While the Bount, Forest of the Menos, and several other filler arcs do fit in to the anime's timeline where they're set and the former is even referenced in later episodes, the The New Captain Shūsuke Amagai and Zanpakutō Unknown Tales arcs are separated from the anime's main continuity and the ambiguous place of the former in the timeline is even lampshaded. Despite not being referenced after their conclusions, they are not removed from the anime's continuity either.
- As with the later filler arcs, the place of the movies in the anime's canonicity is unknown.
- Darker Than Black: OVA is a Deconstructive Parody on the series... with a Reset Button at the end.
- Detective Conan has an ongoing spinoff manga series called Detective Conan Special Edition that is going on on a children's manga magazine. While it agrees with most canonical elements of the main series, it's not drawn by the original mangaka (and hence has some Off-Model issues) and The Syndicate never appeared outside of the First-Episode Spoiler. Its lack of firm link with the canon can be demonstrated by how, despite being a Long Runner itself (>30 volumes), its story were very seldom adapted into the anime, even though such a thing would be very helpful in preventing Overtook the Manga.
- Many Pokémon movies - while a few of them are shown to be part of the canon, one wonders how the Victini movies would fit in, due to them being the same movie, but with different twists.
- The Evillious Chronicles franchise has four comedy bonus stories that were e-mailed with the Waltz of Evil databook, each of them too self-referencing to actually be considered canonical. Even so, nothing contradicts that the events of the stories happened and fans tend to take the world-building assertions in them as true.
- In the early days of Magic: The Gathering, a number tie-in novels were published by HarperPrism and a comic series was published by Armada. When the Weatherlight saga began and Wizards of the Coast started its own novel line, the continuity was revised (This is commonly referred to as "The Revision"). Any material in the old publications is considered Canonical unless new material directly contradicts it.
- This is the status of the Vertigo Comics line of DC Comics: it started as part of the DC Universe, with most if not all characters simply being mature readers takes on existing characters, but has grown progressively more separate (and also began introducing new titles with no connection to the DC Universe). Basically, a Vertigo story featuring a DC character only applies to the main universe IF a story in a DC comics says it did. For example, we know that Dream of the Endless exists in the DC Universe because he (or rather his replacement) has appeared in issues of Justice League of America and Justice Society of America. However the versions of Hell from those universes do not match.
- Though even those interpretations of hell remain as Loose Canon due to the fact that the Sandman series posits that there are multiple parallel afterlifes. In addition, for the most part, Vertigo depicts Hell as subjective; DC depicts Hell as objective.
- When the DC Comics multiverse was defined as fifty two worlds, the Elseworld stories that were not explicitly assigned a world were considered just stories, and not alternate realities. With the multiverse restored, these stories are likely still realities in the DC multiverse, as some have been revisited and expanded.
- Intercontinuity Crossover stories between companies are usually ignored as alternate versions of characters interacting with each other rather than the true versions of the characters from the main continuity. But you'll never know for sure unless you directly ask one of them and they remember the crossover having occurred. Even so, there is dimensional amnesia and other factors to consider, such as rebooted characters who wouldn't even know if they had a crossover because the context of the older crossover represents a past that doesn't quite exist any more for the present version of the character.
- Pretty much all comics set in the DC Animated Universe have this status; they aren't necessarily Non-Canon, but you can watch the entire TV-franchise and at the same time ignore the comics if you please.
- Given how most Sam & Max comics usually only last three pages and how most stories (including the cartoon and video games as well) are mostly standalone, an official canon for the overall franchise is a really hard thing to decipher. The only time continuity really comes into play these days is in the Telltale Games Sam & Max series and tiny references to past cases (like Jesse James' severed hand from Sam & Max: Hit The Road appearing in recent episodes of the Telltale Games Sam & Max.
- In Marvel Comics, the What If? stories are a strange case, since the events are meant to depict what would happen in different timelines based on a different set of choices. Any new elements introduced in those stories should still be there in mainstream continuity, or at least in the background. But more often, unless those elements are explicitly mentioned in the main continuity, the stories are considered alternate realities that do not have to effect the main Marvel continuity.
- The Simpsons comics could be canon to the The Simpsons TV series, not that the show would tell you.
- With Ratchet & Clank, while the non-Insomniac games are generally not referenced, this trope is averted in regards to the comic books, which were written by the main writer of the games and has certain elements either referenced or present in All 4 One, such as Captain Qwark being president of Polaris, or the characters Zogg and Vorn.
- The 2003 film Hulk essentially is this to the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk. The latter picks up with the hero where we left off with him at the end of the previous film, but 'adjusts' certain elements of the back-story...although the specifics of that back-story have very little bearing on the plot of the film itself.
- Superman Returns also uses this regarding the first two Superman films, particularly as despite being set a few years after Superman II, it is seemingly set in contemporary times instead of during the eighties.
- Each film in the Evil Dead series streamlines and slightly alters the general events of the previous film before continuing the story from where it ended. Army of Darkness even replaces the closure of Evil Dead 2 to make its plot work better.
- In Star Wars, the films contain elements that are expanded on in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and previously, in Star Wars Legends. To some, only the films count, but there are appearances of EU elements like Aurra Sing in The Phantom Menace, Dash Rendar's Outrider in the Special Edition of A New Hope, and C-3PO's red arm in The Force Awakens, explained in the comic Star Wars Special: C-3PO. Further, the All There in the Manual details of aliens, ships and technology suggests the supplementary materials count unless they are contradicted by the films.
- Logan applies this to the other X-Men films, overlapping with Broad Strokes. Events at least vaguely similar to the previous films happened and are referred to (Logan mentions the fight on the Statue of Liberty from the first film, the adamantium bullet from Origins figures into the plot, etc.) but only in vague terms and sometimes in ways suggesting they may have happened differently. Word of God has said that Logan is effectively "separated" from the rest of the X-Men movies; it doesn't contradict anything else (yet), but future films won't really take it into account.
- The Pony POV Series has several chapters which Word of God has specifically said are optional for readers to consider canonical or not, depending on their personal preference. This includes Luna's sidestory and the "Battle Pros" chapter. The former is refrenced somewhat in the actual canon, but never truly confirmed.
- Pinkie Pie's Side Story, detailing the end of the G3 universe through her witnessing the Cosmic Retcon that must be done or the universe ends. Word of God has pretty much left it up to the readers rather it's a prequel, a non-canonical standalone story, or just a fever dream of Pinkie Pie.
- The Getting Back on Your Hooves sidestory "Another Happy Mother's Day" is said to be this by Word of God, being one valid possibility as to the fate of Checker Monarch. Ironically, it's actually a Recursive Fanfiction written by Alexwarlorn, the writer of the above Pony POV Series, the two authors being good friends.
- The Lost tie-in books and video game aren't canonical (except for the Incident Room in the game...) but they don't interfere with canon by involving background characters and just mentioning the canonical events as happening elsewhere. (The one trip-up spot here is really the part right before the end of the video game where you have to save Jack and Kate from the Others. There's no reason why that wouldn't come up again in the series...)
- Very common with TV series tie-ins in general. Most of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel tie-in novels are this way, as are the CSI franchise tie-ins.
- The third-season The West Wing episode "Isaac and Ishmael" was specifically intended to be canonically vague - it opens with the actors telling us not to worry about where it fits into the show's chronology (which is wise, given that it falls in the middle of a cliffhanger and its resolution), but no one ever actually says that it isn't canonical.
- Doctor Who has a sort of slow, evolving continuity based mostly on the bits people remember, allowing huge changes in continuity points, characterisation and the show's entire genre. Due to the BBC destroying many tapes, episodes that can't actually be watched are sort of treated like Expanded Universe works - for obvious reasons they're never required knowledge for later episodes, though sometimes things that occurred in them get sneaky references.
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have this for almost everything. Major events get retconned all the time, and it's up to individual writers what they consider canonical for their story. Due to the sheer size of the setting and suspect in-universe sources of background info (which is generally presented as propaganda for one faction or another, making its reliability conveniently dubious) things they don't like can usually just be ignored and left ambiguous.
- The Drowsy Chaperone: In-Universe, Man-in-Chair never elaborates on the actors playing George and Trix. However, the booklet that comes with the 2006 Cast Recording contains fake liner notes from the record of the Show Within a Show, naming both of them.
- Metal Gear:
- Metal Gear Solid Mobile. It hits the Reset Button at the end by erasing Snake's memory so it doesn't interfere with canon. (Though that doesn't explain why Otacon doesn't remember any of the events either...) It doesn't help that it's so hard to get hold of that it's virtually a Missing Episode.
- In the Darkness of Shadow Moses and The Shocking Conspiracy Behind Shadow Moses, in-universe backstory documents included with Metal Gear Solid 2, were both intended to be canonical at the time, but have been ignored for convenience (particularly the plot point regarding Metal Gear possessing only a dummy warhead, the background information about "the real Naomi" who went missing in the Middle East and the fate of the main Naomi). That said, not much is specifically contradicted between the games and the books and some of the things that are contradicted are likely intentional. The stuff that isn't contradicted (like the background details of Nastasha and Ames' relationship) is presumably canonical.
- Some of the "Snake Tales" shorts included with Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance - the stories are certainly not part of the main continuity, but some fill in background information that is probably canonical:
- "Confidential Legacy" is the most obvious one - the story about Meryl working with Gurlukovich is definitely non-canonical, but it also goes into a lot of detail about Meryl's family situation which is regarded as canonical, naming Meryl's legal father for the first time and delving into his military position and job. It also contains the only explanation thus far for why Snake and Meryl are not a couple in Metal Gear Solid 2.
- "Big Shell Evil" shows Snake demonstrating a photographic memory talent to memorise a long computer password. He never actually uses this ability in the canon, but there is still a very sad Call-Back to it in Metal Gear Solid 4 in a sequence where the player may have him forget a computer password, demonstrating he has lost this ability. In addition to this, it elaborates on Snake and Otacon's friendship circumstances and interpersonal quirks, along with "External Gazer".
- "Dead Man Whispers" fills in a lot of detail about Vamp and Scott Dolph's relationship. The canon has Snake mention in an optional radio conversation that "rumour has it" that they were lovers. "Dead Man Whispers" makes it very clear that they both deeply loved each other, as Vamp is shown to sacrifice himself in order to protect Dolph. It also gives some characterisation to Jackson, the original leader of Dead Cell and Fortune's husband, and goes into detail about what exactly the financial corruption scandal he was involved in was.
- "External Gazer" is a goofy Crack Fic about Philanthropy fighting a Kaiju, but explains details about Philanthropy's living situation and Mei Ling's role in the organisation.
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, not being made by Kojima, is canonical only insofar as it doesn't contradict anything else.
- Metal Gear: Ghost Babel adds some detail to Big Boss's backstory (such as his student Augustine Eguabon) that was presumably supposed to be canonical at the time, and gives a lot of background information and worldbuilding to Galzburg/Gindra, the country where Outer Heaven was located.
- Half-Life: Opposing Force (note that the expansions were made by a different company than original producers Valve) introduced the main character (marine Adrian Shepard) who proved quite popular among the fanbase; and the mysterious "Race X" from another, unknown world who happened to arrive at Black Mesa during the events of Half-Life and made a weak attempt to conquer Earth. Their canonicity is pretty much a gray area: it was never completely exiled from canon, but they did not appear in the series again. Same goes for Blue Shift; though Barney Calhoun made his way into Half-Life 2, the supporting characters (Dr. Rosenberg) and the exact events are semi-canonical at best.
- A generic, unnamed guard in Half-Life offers to buy Gordon Freeman a beer if they leave Black Mesa alive. While Barney Calhoun appears in Blue Shift, he comments in Half-Life 2 that he still owes Gordon that beer. Calhoun never directly encounters Freeman during the course of Blue Shift, though it is conceivable that many guards (perhaps even all guards) owe Gordon Freeman a beer for some reason or other.
- The only detail from expansions that the writer of Half-Life, Marc Laidlaw, has explicitly declared canonical is Black Mesa's nuclear destruction in Opposing Force's ending.
- It is somewhat unclearly stated whether the Team Fortress 2 tie-in comic “Loose Canon” is in fact Loose Canon or not.
- Later comics and in-game updates build off of this comic as though it was canonical, so it's only an example of In-Name-Only.
- In the Tales Series, the Tales of Fandom games are treated this way, at least by the parts of their audience that don't speak Japanese, due to No Export for You. Details may gradually trickle through the fandoms as Fan Translations are made, but since these can be unreliable, most fanfic writers consider them optional at best.
- The Elder Scrolls series has this in the form of "Obscure Texts", supplementary items written by the series' developers and former developers. They're essentially treated as canonical by most of the fanbase (or at least the equivalent of the series' famous in-universe Unreliable Canon), but Bethesda has no official stance either way. Most prolific is former developer Michael Kirkbride, who still does some freelance work for the series. Most of what he writes about are the more obscure aspects of universe's cosmology which don't get expanded on in the games, as well as lore figures the games never touch upon or that Bethesda is simply finished with (like Vivec). As of Skyrim, some of the concepts in his works have been officially referenced in game (the idea of "kalpas," Ysgramor and his 500 companions, and some of the motivations of the Thalmor), moving them to Canon Immigrant status.
- RuneScape has some Spin Off novels which are loose cannon due to the inconsistencies it has with the game. Some of the events of the novels have been referenced in the game and one of the main characters has also shown up in the game. They officially are cannon except where contradicted by the game.
- The Batman: Arkham Series has this with both Batman: Arkham Unhinged comics that tie into Batman: Arkham City and the self-titled it in comics to Batman: Arkham Knight, with many of the comic stories clashing with the events of the games.
- In the Ratchet & Clank franchise, this is how Insomniac Games treats the games not made by them, specifically Going Mobile, Size Matters, Secret Agent Clank and Before the Nexus. While they fortunately haven't contradicted anything thus far, they aren't seen as being very important to the story at large and are never referenced.
- The Fine Structure story "Marooned" is Optional Canon by Word of God. A number of details, mostly Alternate Character Interpretation on the Big Good, are left to the opinion of the reader.
- I Love Bees seems to exist as this relative to the rest of the Halo-verse; elements of it have been incorporated into subsequent Halo media (including the games), but several other aspects, most noticeably the existence of a second class of Spartan-IIs, heavily contradict the rest of canon. This is probably because the ARG wasn't even meant be canon when it still was ongoing, which caused a lot of complications later on when Bungie and 343 Industries decided to change their minds and "embrace it as canon".
- The SCP Foundation as a whole is one huge loose canon made up of many smaller canons connected together and sharing the same setting. This is because SCP is written by many different authors who may just as easily ignore each other's writing or incorporate it into their own stories. Readers are encouraged to decide for themselves what is canonical, which is called "headcanon." For example most of the pages listed as "Joke SCP s" are actually not even meant to be taken as being canonical but many readers and even some writers take some of them as being canonical anyway. This is also partly justified since a lot of it is told by Unreliable Narrators, and due to usage of Alternate Universes, alternate timelines, Reset Buttons and Multiple Choice Pasts.
- Zuko's Story is a tie-in Prequel comic to The Last Airbender, the live-action film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, the writers went out of their way to incorporate details from the animated series. Except for Zuko and Iroh being drawn as their movie counterparts, the story would fit right in with the animated series, which was in fact the authors' intent. There is however no word on whether the series considers it to be canonical.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- The Equestria Girls movies unclearly fit into the continuity of the television show. While the first three explicitly take place after certain canonical momentsnote , nothing that happens in the movies has ever been brought up in the series proper. There have been two cameos by Flash Sentry (otherwise an Equestria Girls-exclusive character) in the show's fourth season, but he served a very minor role in the story both times and was the Equestrian-version of the character rather than the Earth one in both cases. The comic books provide some more supplemental details on the characters, including a mini-issue dedicated to the backstory of Sunset Shimmer, but that being said...
- The comic book spinoff of the show is also of ambiguous continuity. Very little of what happens in the comics is referenced in the show, leaving it ambiguous whether the events of the comics are considered to have happened. Word of God states that the comic is considered canonical until the cartoon says otherwise. A major example of this are the Daring Do series of novels. The comic started to hint that the Daring Do series was written by Twilight Velvet, the mother of Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor, and one story has Daring appear in reality in an incident where fictional characters and actual ponies in Ponyville exchange places by magic. The episode "Daring Don't" revealed differently.
- Friendship is Magic also has some chapter books and picture books aimed at younger readers than the comic that are ambiguously canonical, especially since the writer of said books later joined that show's writing staff during season six.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures has been described as "canon paraphrase"; think a kid reenacting things through their toys. The specifics of each episode are likely non-canonical, but the basic events due have some degree of canonization.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars is canon for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, while the old Expanded Universe, Star Wars Legends, is stated to no longer be canon. Still, there are plenty of elements still being used from the old Expanded Universe, including the Nightsisters.
- Æon Flux likely has the loosest canon ever. The only things that stay the same between each episode are Aeon, Trevor, the weird future setting and Aeon failing to accomplish her mission. A graphic novel tie-in did explain the backstory, but who knows if anything about that is canon? Even Aeon and Trevor's relationship is deliberately kept ambiguous—one short has Trevor killing Aeon, another has him giving her a mission.