Aww! Cute animals! Junior'll love this!
A Mature Animal Story is a work designed for and marketed toward adults and older teens featuring anthropomorphized animals as its main cast, and which contains content that is generally considered inappropriate for little kids.
Traditionally, cartoons, comics and other stories featuring animals as major characters are treated as light, whimsical entertainment suitable for small children. While adults may enjoy such works, they are primarily marketed toward young kids, and are careful to avoid material that is either too explicit or too serious and sophisticated for children to understand. While such works still might contain some conflict, or even a Disney Death
, it is always at a level considered "Family Friendly" and "Safe for Kids".
Also, until recent advances in CGI, anthropomorphized animals in visual mediums were mostly confined to rather silly looking costumes, cartoons and comics. These features were generally associated with less serious children's stories, and therefore weren't going to be all that big on more "mature" topics like violence. Talking Animals
in particular are often considered kids stuff.
A Mature Animal Story breaks away from this perception. The primary audience is adults and/or older teens. Stories still might be comedic, but they will also often have a serious and dark side to them. Many such works are almost entirely drama instead of comedy. They often contain graphic violence, sexuality, and profanity.
These stories involve animal characters ranging from Largely Normal Animal
to Petting Zoo Person
on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism
. They frequently take place in a World of Funny Animals
This is a Sub-Trope
to Animation Age Ghetto
and What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?
. Compare Xenofiction
Please note that if it is marketed as a work for children, it is not this trope.
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Anime and Manga
- Cat Shit One involves cute rabbits as killing machines fighting in The Vietnam War.
- Similarly, Penguin Memories is a serious drama in which a Vietnam vet deals with his inner demons—and yes, all the characters are penguins.
- Ginga Nagareboshi Gin and its sequel, Ginga Densetsu Weed are about talking dogs. Kid-friendly, right? Hardly — there's some very disturbing stuff (including a dog who castrates his enemies) in Weed, and Gin is even more violent, and that's not even counting the manga.
- Oruchuban Ebichu is a comedy about a cute little hamster and her unmarried owner. Almost every joke is about sex.
- Cat Soup is an abstract, existential short film based on the extremely dark comics of artist Nekojiru. But hey, all the characters are cats!
- Wolf's Rain is an anime about wolves. It's a violent and depressing seinen anime where in the first episode Kiba tears out a mans throat in front of a child.
- During the 1930s and 1940s the Tijuana Bible phenomenon began to blossom. These were pornographic comic strip parodies on famous franchises like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck,... drawn by anonymous artists. As Art Spiegelman has correctly said: "These were the forefathers of the Underground Comics of the 1960s and 1970s."
- Fritz the Cat and its two Animated Adaptations, Fritz the Cat and The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. Graphic sex, graphic violence, drug use and satirical social commentary, all set in a World of Funny Animals. Robert Crumb continued making comic strips with antropomorphic animals doing adult stuff ever since, such as Those Cute Little Bearzie Wearzies where a fuzzy bear couple that looks absolutely cute act more like a typical Real Life couple by having foul mouthed arguments and having sex with each other.
- Omaha the Cat Dancer: An adult comic strip with antropomorphic animal characters who engage in sex, but is otherwise not vulgar. It's more about relationships between people and also touches sexual topics, but in a tasteful and thought provoking way.
- Usagi Yojimbo involves adorable anthropomorphic animals, the main character being a rabbit. The setting, however, is Feudal Japan with all of the cultural baggage thereof, including kirisute, the traditional right of the samurai to kill any commoner who offends him. There is exploration of death, relationships (including forbidden relationships, illegitimate offspring, widowhood, etc.), various extremely nasty monsters from folklore, political intrigue, crime and punishment, and a very messed up judicial system.
- Maus is a retelling of the author's father's experiences during the Holocaust, including his stay at Auschwitz. Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Americans are dogs, and Poles are pigs.
- While later iterations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were relatively kid-friendly, the original comic was rather gritty and featured plenty of violence and death.
- Benoit Sokal's Inspector Canardo is about a detective duck in a world of talking animals. The protagonist is a drunk, people get killed, prostitutes and rapists are commonplace. Definitely not for children.
- Swedish comic strips Arne Anka and Rocky are filled to the brim with funny animals. They're also filled with alcohol consumption, sex and deep, deep cynicism.
- We3, by Grant Morrison, is about three talking animals trying to find their way home; the covers feature "missing pets" notices written in childlike style. Kids'll love it, right? Sure! Except for the scenes featuring the cybernetic animal soldiers literally tearing apart the soldiers meant to come kill them, the part where the rabbit explodes while hurling itself at a car, and all sorts of graphic violence in between. Oh, and it's being adapted into a movie directed by the guy who made Kung Fu Panda.
- Blacksad is a Film Noir style series of graphic novels about a black cat private detective named John Blacksad and his various cases set in a World of Funny Animals version of 1950's America. It doesn't hold back from showing blood, fatal injuries, wounds, controversial topics (e.g. racism), and sex.
- Grandville - the main character is an anthropomorphic badger who is a private investigator. It's set in a Steam Punk fantasy setting, and features plenty of sex, violence, and politics.
- The characters in the Sandbox comics by Swedish artist Joakim Pirinen are antropomorphic teddy bears, while their plots often deal with sex, drugs, violence, and disturbingly psychedelic visions.
- The infamous Air Pirates Funnies was a short-lived underground parody comic which featured Disney characters in adult situations, such as having sex and taking drugs. Disney sued the makers of the comic for copyright infringement, which apparently was exactly what they wanted.
- The Unfunnies is this trope all over: Hanna-Barbera-style characters start talking about pedo-pornography as soon as the second page, and it goes further downhill from there. Of course, the Hanna-Barbera element also includes the occasional cartoony humans thrown in for good measure, but the comic still counts.
- Albedo Erma Felna EDF kickstarted much of this trope as a deadly serious Military Science-Fiction series where the furries usually follow up on the action with serious discussions about the sociopolitical ramifications.
- Pride of Baghdad has blood and at one point a lioness flashbacks to being gang raped (It's not shown, but still.) Also, they all die at the end.
- Tom Poes is about the adventures of a bear and his friend the little white cat. It's a children's comic strip, but has very Antiquated Linguistics and gentle adult satire that will be understood by adults better than children. Creator Marten Toonder used it to openly poke fun at the Nazis when they were at their most powerful and right on his doorstep). The series is still considered one of the most mature and "literary" European comic strips.
- Howard the Duck: The original comic strip was about a cigar chomping wisecracking duck and not intended for children at all.
- BB Wolf and the 3 L Ps uses the characters of The Three Little Pigs in an allegory about racism in 1920's America. It's quite violent - the wolf protagonist's family is killed when the pigs burn his home, and he graphically tears open two pigs as part of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Garfield was aimed at adults early on but as it grew more popular it became more kid friendly.
Films — Animated
- The oldest example of this trope may be the Reynard The Fox stories from the 13th century. It's a medieval poem about a Karmic Trickster fox character who brutally murders, rapes, steals from other animals and has to be brought to court. The story has a lot of adult content, with even a Catholic priest who is apparently married and has his penis bit off by one of the animals.
- Many fairy tales who are kids' entertainment nowadays weren't originally intended that way. In earlier centuries these stories were told to children and adults alike and often featured content that would not be considered child friendly today. A good example is Little Red Riding Hood where the wolf character was mostly intended originally as a seductive man lusting for young girls.
- Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty as a lengthy social commentary on animal welfare, politics, religion, and social justice, including living conditions for the working-class poor. While there's probably not anything that's inappropriate for younger readers (aside from a couple rather gruesome depictions of dead and suffering horses), much of it would probably go straight over their heads. Versions of the book are frequently marketed to children, but these have typically been heavily edited or rewritten entirely.
- Animal Farm is more or less a breakdown of Josef Stalin's part in the Russian Revolution, portrayed via animals throwing a farmer out of a farm and then running it themselves. The pigs are the communists, they raise dogs as their police, and the sheep pledge their full support to everything said to them without thinking about any of it. All sorts of Fridge Horror ensues, such as the horse being sold to a glue farm while the pigs periodically read letters they claim the horse wrote to them from his retirement pasture. Fortunately, nobody really thinks of it as a book for children, although it is often taught at middle school level (13/14-year-olds can usually grasp what's going on, and if you teach it alongside the actual history of the Russian Revolution and Stalin's regime, it makes for a good introduction to the concepts of allegory and satire).
- The third book in The Wicked Years series is about the Cowardly Lion. In true Wicked fashion it's a Darker and Edgier, very adult retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Watership Down and The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, as noted above under film.
- Felidae by Akif PirinÁci, the basis for the animated feature also mentioned above under film, and the eight subsequent books in the series.
- Lackadaisy is a webcomic about a bootlegging gang in Prohibition-era St. Louis, with plenty of gunfights, killings, and several sociopathic characters. There is painstaking attention to period-appropriate detail, with one exception: all the characters are anthropomorphic cats.
- Jack is a Furry Webcomic about a rabbit who is also The Grim Reaper. Most of the stories take place in the afterlife or involve death in some form. This comic can get very NSFW at times.
- Exterminatus Now features a comedic World of Funny Animals based on Sonic the Hedgehog... mixed with Warhammer 40,000, with all the blood, gore, death, and Eldritch Abominations that implies. Thus, it largely deals in adult-oriented Black Comedy, with plenty of profanity to go with it.
- Drugs & Kisses features the misadventures of several pot-smoking, vodka-swigging anthropomorphic animals.
- Tasakeru is a series about cute, fluffy talking animals like squirrels and rabbits... which involves bloody warfare, racism (speciesism?), religious intolerance, Mind Rape, and not a little innuendo.
- The Cat Piano may qualify, being about Petting Zoo People / Anthropomorphized cats who were being kidnapped in order for the titular piano to be played (it stabs a nail through a cat's tail every time a key is struck, making the cat yowl the note). Particularly the ending, where the catnapping human slips in his own blood and falls off a tower to his death.
- Arguably a lot of furry online roleplays end up this way. Darwins Soldiers is a good example. It features intense violence, cursing, sexual activity and some pretty heavy themes.
- Happy Tree Friends, an internet TV show about cute animals getting into bloody mishaps and I do mean bloody!
- Ruby Quest and its Spiritual Successor Nan Quest both use minimalist drawings featuring characters with animal aesthetics to narrate stories about grotesque Body Horror, Cosmic Horror and Survival Horror set in Eldritch Locations. Unsettling stuff. Once the blood starts spewing, the stories' target audience becomes a bit clearer.
- Father of the Pride was a short-lived CGI cartoon featuring cute animals living in Siegfried & Roy's private zoo. It features plenty of adult humor.
- Alfred J. Kwak, aimed at children, but alluded at very adult topics such as racism, Nazism, apartheid, AIDS,... in a way that is sometimes subtle, but other times very direct.
- Duckman: An underground comic strip adapted to a TV adult animated series starring mostly anthropomorphic characters and topics such as politics, sex, drugs, society issues,...
- Many of the older Looney Tunes works were aimed at adults. The series is associated with children nowadays though.