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Reverse Cerebus Syndrome
So you're following this story. So far, it's a very dark and edgy, tight and gripping thriller. Three main characters have died, the fourth is having an abortion in order to prevent the evil conspiracy from using her child to bring forth the apocalypse in a Crapsack World. Nobody smiles, ever.

Then you tune in next week, and find out that... the three dead guys have been resurrected thanks to the powers of a Magical Girl Bunny-Ears Lawyer who takes the form of a polkadot unicorn. The evil government conspiracy is actually a sham by The Man Behind the Curtain, who just wants to impress chicks. The heroine's pregnancy was just a hallucination brought on by overcooked chocolate-chip cookies. The real villain is a demonic dog from hell who speaks entirely in pig latin. There's No Fourth Wall any more, and the characters have a degree of Medium Awareness. Everyone smiles, always.

This Tone Shift away from seriousness and more towards humor can happen for any number of reasons. Maybe audiences weren't jiving with the more serious take. Maybe there was some Executive Meddling involved. Maybe the writers were just bored. In some cases, the story started funny, became serious, but then returned to its roots. And if it runs long enough, it may go serious again.

Inverse of Cerebus Syndrome, can be combined to get Cerebus Rollercoaster. Compare Lighter and Softer. See also Denser and Wackier when a series gets less realistic and zanier as it goes on. An instance of Mood Whiplash.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The original name for this trope was "Buu Syndrome," named after the Buu Saga of Dragon Ball Z, which brought the long-absent humor aspect of the story back in full force, featuring things such as Gohan trying to be a superhero only to be immediately found out, a tournament which quickly degrades into slapstick, villains who are initially so weak that the heroes aren't at all bothered by them, Goku getting favors from a god by offering to introduce him to Bulma, a sage who "brings out Gohan's potential" by forcing him to sit still while he reads comic books, and the world's most powerful coffee candy. To top it off, the villain of the story is an Eldritch Abomination from the dawn of time who resembles a fat creampuff in Arabian Nights digs, who kills people by turning them into candy and eating them. While it did have some very dark parts, these chapters are generally so over-the-top that you can't help but laugh.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry had most of its 4-to-8-episode-long arcs slowly turning from amusing Slice of Life to gory horror. An arc starting with a cute and hilarious card game will end with a boy killing two of his best friends. Then came the last arc of Kai was somewhat of the opposite, starting with a flashback showing a girls parents dying before being sent to an Orphanage of Fear where she was abused and possibly raped, yet ending in what was practically a shonen-style action-adventure story with Non-Lethal Warfare and Everybody Lives ending. Even the main antagonist survives.
    • Rei upped this with the funny variant, the first and the last episodes are siller than any arc-beginning episode ever, and they don't even end in tragedy. The arc episodes though is quite dark, being about Rika dying and entering a "good" world where Keiichi never shot up a girl, Satoshi's parents never died, etc. It climaxes with Rika killing her mother in order to get back to hers and an ambiguity on whether it was All Just a Dream or not.
    • Kira is just straight-up ecchi comedy.
    • Averted in the Kaku movie. It's pretty much Higurashi meets a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • While always humorous, earlier episodes of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei really presented the whole cast as deeply depressed and unhinged people, whereas later episodes rely on more self-referential and pop culture humor and the cast is generally better adjusted. For example, although it was always implied he never really wanted to kill himself, Nozomu's suicide attempts largely stop later on in the series. On the other hand, Chiri becomes increasingly murderous as the series progresses.
  • Code Geass underwent this likely as a side effect of Executive Meddling. Instead of continuing Zero's attempted hostile takeover of Japan after a genocide, the Reset Button is pressed via Time Skip and the show once again goes back to the wacky hijinks of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council. The English dub even hangs a lampshade on it. Then the clown shooing begins. Fans can only guess at what season 2 would've been like if the first several episodes hadn't essentially rehashed season 1, but it's been implied that C.C.'s real name (which was implied to be significant somehow, if only because they went out of their way to hide in in season 1) and the source of Suzaku's Charles Atlas Super Power would've been among the things revealed.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! started as a surprisingly dark, bleak manga about a kid who had an evil alter ego that inflicted punishments on bullies that ranged from psychologically crippling, to killing, to eternally damning in limbo forever, but then that card game came along. Cue a Lighter and Softer progression, to which kid and alter ego start changing via The Power of Friendship. There were also several instances, pre-and-post Duelist Kingdom arc, where the games featured were very cutesy on the surface. And the manga itself begins with an I Just Want to Have Friends motivation on Yugi's part.
  • City Hunter started as a gritty series set in Tokyo's criminal underworld, albeit keeping some shade of humour, but after the first Union Teope story arc the tone became much lighter.
  • The first series of Cats Eye was fairly serious and action-driven, albeit with a lot of lighthearted comedy moments in-between robberies. The second series was a borderline Romantic Comedy, with increasingly absurd heists and a larger amount of focus on the Dating Catwoman relationship between Hitomi and Toshio.
  • When The Castle of Cagliostro was made by Hayao Miyazaki, he put his own spin on the Lupin III character. He had already toned him down from the raunchier, more manic version depicted in the manga while working on Lupin III (Green Jacket) series with Takahata, and made him even Lighter and Softer here. As a result, it flopped in Japan when it was first released—the people who liked Lupin III for what it was were turned off, and the people who didn't like Lupin III didn't have any reason to watch the movie. It was only in later years, when Miyazaki gained recognition for his original works and more people watched the movie without any prior Lupin III experience, that it belatedly gained a reputation as a classic.
  • While still darker than many of the other Pokémon adaptations, Pokémon Special isn't quite the gritty, violent mess it was in the Kanto and Johto arcs anymore. The only exception is the end of the Ruby and Sapphire arc, which had a fair amount of onscreen deaths, but Ruby had a Celebi and was able to undo everything.
  • Berserk, after the infamous turning point in the manga where Guts is defeated and his love interest is raped, begins to introduce less grim elements and humor, such as a brat who serves as a parody of samurai and Kid Hero, mermaids fighting pirates, and so on.
  • Hohzuki Island starts off having the adults being evil and taking out life insurance on the children so that they could kill one of them whenever they were running low on funds, leading to the kids attempting to go to the other side of the island and escape. All deaths that take place are undone except for one adult despite at least onenote  revoked "death" being blatantly lethal and it turns out that only the Complete Monster is actually evil and the adults are actually good.

    Comics 
  • Comics in general during/after the late 90s. Following the Dark Age Of Comic Books, a number of dark turns were changed, and some but not all, superheroes recovered from the darker nature of the 90s, with more light hearted characters gaining popularity. Similarly, thanks to the Comic Code Authority, the Silver Age was essentially this for the, comparitively darker, Golden Age, with bans on open murder meaning superheroes now had to operate with strict no-killing policies and plots shifted from pseudo-crime noir to straight-up fantasy.
  • In an overlap with Denser and Wackier, the comic strip FoxTrot started out relatively down-to-earth and realistic. There was no shortage of Story Arcs and Very Special Episodes; e.g., Peter trying to give up chewing tobacco, or Paige and Jason finding a hypodermic needle on the beach. Some story arcs took as long as two months, such as the 1997 arc where Jason attends summer camp. Sometime around the late 1990s-early 2000s, the comic became much looser and more comedic, often deconstructing comic tropes, breaking the fourth wall and exercising the Rule of Funny as often as possible. What little story arcs existed in the 2000s were often very off-the-wall, such as Jason dreaming that he's become a mini-Paige.
  • The Savage Dragon started off as a byproduct of the Darker and Edgier period of comics. After about a year or so, the comics began to show some humorous characters, making the comic more fun. Once the 00's came around, the comic was turned into more of a Shout-Out to classic Marvel Comics and is a lot goofier.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark itself had this happen at least twice
    • The first instance occurred all the way back in Issue 3. The first two issues were - in all honesty - straight-up fantasy adventures that happened to star a Funny Animal and had some comic relief thrown in here and there. Issue 3 was where the series started to overtly parody the Heroic Fantasy genre rather than imitate it.
    • Later on, after years of progressively-darker and more-serious plot developments, Dave Sim gave readers Guys, Rick's Story and Going Home: three very comedic and light-hearted (although definitely not kid-friendly) story arcs.
  • Justice League International started off as more of an action-comedy hybrid, which still had plenty of fight scenes and drama to balance the humor. However, as time went on, the writing became more and more focused on the jokes and the heroes themselves began acting very out of character for the sake of comedy. To put in into perspective, the cover of the first issue has the phrase "A Return to Greatness!" emblazoned on it, while by the end of Giffen and Dematteis' run, the League is considered a massive, ineffectual joke by everyone in-story. Even Aquaman of all people refuses to join the Justice League on the grounds that they're all a bunch of idiots and jokesters.
  • Deadpool; started as a typical Rob Liefeld 'creation inspired by' Deathstroke, but had a tendency to snark (something added by Fabien Nicieza, Liefeld never intended such). Joe Kelly then made him insane.
  • This became the fate of W.I.T.C.H., dumping the episodic and action-packed storylines that drove the first seven storylines in favor of episodic slice-of-life stories with a few action-packed multi-parters in between.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Land Before Time. What makes this obvious is the fact that all the films in the series except the first one are musicals.
  • The sequels to An American Tail go through this. While the original was heart-wrenching yet whimsical, Fievel Goes West was heavily comical in tone; The Treasure of Manhattan Island was Darker and Edgier than FGW, but still not much like the original except for the setting; and Mystery of The Night Monster was rather silly.
  • The Ice Age movies. The first one, while still humorous, is much darker and more violent and serious than the following three.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A major offender is the A Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise. The original movie was a very dark and spooky horror masterpiece featuring a mysterious and sinister Freddy. As the series went on, the plotlines became ridiculous, the deaths more over the top, and Freddy became more of a Large Ham who flung witty banter and product placement like nothing else.
  • The same could be said for the Friday the 13th films, which became more tongue-in-cheek as the years went by, eventually ending in space.
  • Leprechaun series began as a relatively straight horror... And then came parts four and five: Leprechaun 4: In Space and Leprechaun 5: In Da Hood.
    • While it was slightly straighter than the sequels, the first movie had the title character making bad puns and riding a tricycle at superspeed. There was also a random kid sidekick in that one.
    • "F—k you, Lucky Charms!"
  • The Evil Dead franchise. The first film is straight horror, the sequel is a horror/comedy hybrid, and Army of Darkness is almost a pure comedy.
  • The Child's Play series as well. While the concept of a serial killer in the body of a hybrid My Buddy/Teddy Ruxpin/Cabbage Patch Kid was never entirely serious, the earlier films were played much straighter than the later ones. In particular the fourth and fifth are definitely better classified as horror-comedies.
  • The James Bond film franchise. While there are still some dramatic character deaths, once it was out of The Sixties there was a lot more self-referential humour and lampshading of the Strictly Formula aspects. The Craig movies continue to play with the formula, but are far more serious.
  • The Godzilla franchise started off depicting the horrors of a nuclear holocaust. The first movie was very dark and, even by today's standards, frightening. The series gradually shifted from allegorical horror to a children's movie series best known for goofy rubber suits and ridiculous plots. The titular monster, originally a metaphor for the atomic bomb, turned into a proud national icon and the source for cartoons, toys, video games, etc. It wasn't until 1984's The Return of Godzilla (and, to a lesser degree, the previous two movies, which preceded it by ten years) that the series took a partial turn back to its serious roots, and it's been wavering back and forth between both extremes ever since.
  • Final Destination. The first two films were genuinely dark and unpredictable with some nice Character Development and well written death scenes (except maybe for that one in the first movie). Then the third and fourth films upped the gore, nixed character development and became Bloody Hilarious.
  • The two Buttercream Gang movies by Feature Films for Families experienced this. The first one was a straight drama about growing up, drifting apart from friends, and the pain in trying (and failing) to keep said friendships intact. The second one did a complete 180 from that and was an adventure-comedy complete with buried treasure and inept mooks. Which one is better? It depends on what you're in the mood for.
  • The third The Neverending Story movie was widely criticized for having goofy depictions of characters like Falcor and the Rockbiter who spew pop culture references as opposed to the far more serious mood of the first movie.
  • This happened to the classic Universal Horror: Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man (1941) started out in genuinely frightening movies, and their monsters wound up being outwitted by Abbott and Costello.
  • The Superman film series hit this with Superman III, starting with the choice to cast comic actor Richard Pryor as a bumbling-but-brilliant computer programmer in the employ of the Corrupt Corporate Executive villain. General wacky hijinks include an opening credit sequence focusing on Disaster Dominoes tumbling on the streets of Metropolis and a temporarily evil Superman causing trouble by straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa and blowing out the Olympic flame For the Evulz. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace mostly reverses this, with the exception of a Totally Radical nephew/sidekick for Lex Luthor.
  • Joel Schumacher's two Batman films are supposed to be canonically tied to Tim Burton's, but Jim Carrey as The Riddler, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, and nipples on the batsuit make it hard to swallow.
  • Gremlins. The first film was a hybrid of horror and Black Comedy, but with the sequel, the director decided to parody aspects of the original and give the film a feel like a feature-length Looney Tunes sketch.

    Literature 
  • The first two stories featuring Retief were serious in tone. But by the third story, it had focused more on satire and humor, which the series is widely known for.
  • Dean Koontz's Frankenstein's series. The first two books are considerably darker than the last three.
  • The Xanth series by Piers Anthony began as relatively straightforward adult fantasy novels set in a virtual Death World, with many common fantasy elements like centaurs and dragons, characters undertaking serious quests with significant, sometimes world-altering consequences, and a few pun-derived creatures and objects thrown in occasionally to lighten the mood. As the series progressed a Hurricane of Puns took over the narrative, the characters' quests became progressively lighter and sillier, and most of the obstacles they faced devolved from genuine threats to amusingly inconvenient nuisances. Anthony eventually gave up even the pretense that a major character's life would ever be seriously threatened, to the point of lampshading it with Okra Ogress, whose entire quest is literally to become a main character because she knows that main characters are guaranteed to live happily ever after.
  • Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology is organized this way: the earliest and most famous poems in the cycle focus on the characters who are criminals, Driven to Madness, murderers, and so on, but as the cycle continues, the characters are more prone to looking beyond the world's ugliness. However, the Spooniad at the end slides back towards cynical.

    Live Action TV 
  • Angel went through something similar at the beginning of Season 5, although it'd be more accurate to say that the show suffered from permanent comedy-drama dissociative identity disorder. This was not new to season 5; the series radically shifted in focus several times, starting all the way back in season 1. The ending of season 5, however... not so much.
  • The X-Files had a few comedy episodes here and there since late season 2, which was part of what made the show work so well: they gave the viewer a brief, amusing break from all the darkness and edginess. In seasons 6 and 7, this went too far. For a while, it seemed like every single episode of the formerly dark, creepy drama was a comedy. Season 8 returned the show to a high creepy-to-silly ratio.
  • The Fourth Doctor's tenure in Doctor Who underwent this shift. After a debut season that included such unsettling serials as "Genesis of the Daleks", seasons 13-14 had many violent horror-inspired storylines ("Pyramids of Mars", "The Seeds of Doom", "The Brain of Morbius"), to say nothing of the truly dark "The Deadly Assassin". Complaints from Moral Guardians poured in. When new producer Graham Williams took over for Season 15, the show quickly started to lighten up with the addition of Robot Buddy K-9 and the Doctor's humorous side had more airtime; in general, stories in this period were less gruesome and violent if not verging on comic ("City of Death" being the epitome of this). When John Nathan-Turner came on board as the producer for Season 18, he dialed back the humor and had K-9 written out of the show; the season ended with the Fourth Doctor's regeneration in the very serious "Logopolis".
    • The contrast between the Sixth Doctor and the Seventh's Doctor's tenure is also thought of as this. The Fifth and Sixth Doctors had increasingly dark and convoluted stories involving parallel universes, and the Sixth Doctor in particular was batshit insane and more violent than most preceding doctors (perhaps except for some of the early stories with the First Doctor). Executive Meddling caused him to be abruptly replaced with the Seventh Doctor, who had much fluffier stories such as "The Happiness Patrol", which, while being a satire on Margaret Thatcher's Britain, is mostly remembered for having an evil version of Bertie Basset killing people with fondant.
  • Scrubs, which started off as a contemplative drama punctuated by zany comedic moments in the first season. Each successive season veered the show more and more into completely zany comedic territory with sillier and sillier hijinks and characters. Post-move-to-ABC, though, it's almost played straight, as the show turned back toward what it was the first season.
  • The first episodes of Passions tried to incorporate horror elements a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Charmed, leading to much Narm. Eventually, the show gave in completely to the witchcraft, complex death plots and total absurdity it's known and loved for.
  • Speaking of Charmed, the show zig zagged through this twice. Season 1 had many horror elements to it with demons such as werewolves, mirror ghosts and hell fiends. Cue the start of season 2 where the we have cupids, girls turning animals into men for dates and a bland love triangle as the main arc. This was fixed in season 3 but then season 6 went down this route again adding a surplus of fairies, leprechauns and woodnymphs as well as a nauseating episode with a magical "Mr Right". The seventh season fixed this.
  • Lost in Space began seriously, but the tone had given way to camp by the end of the first season.
  • While it had always been a highly optimistic comedy, How I Met Your Mother's first four seasons never shied away from emotional moments and tough, grim, even Tear Jerking storylines (Marshall and Lily's temporary breakup, Ted and Barney's fight, Ted getting left at the altar, Barney's unrequited feelings for Robin). Come season five however, it was all thrown out the window as everyone experienced Flanderization, the show underwent Denser and Wackier, and episode after episode revolved around pointless goofy filler. Even Robin and Barney's breakup had no emotional depth and no fallout until late in the season. The show reacquired some seriousness in season 6, however, and subsequently went too far in the other direction with extreme Cerebus Syndrome in season 7.
  • Ugly Betty shifted from a dramatic-comedy to focus solely on comedy during Series 2, hence the reason Alan Dale asked that his character Bradford Meade be killed off. Indeed, by the third series the show devolved into a farcical parody of itself, struggling along by rehashing the same tired plotlines. Unfortunately the show only managed to shift back into drama in the last few episodes, long after the cancellation had been announced.
  • Tokumei Sentai Go Busters started out as a dark and serious Super Sentai about a possible apocalypse at the hands of an A.I. Is a Crapshoot Big Bad if he were to be released and possible Robot Terrorism, however around Episode 15-16 when Jin Masato the Sixth Ranger and his Buddyroid Beet J. Stag showed up, it seems as though the darker tone of Go-Busters has dissolved and much more comedy has been applied. Although considering who it's written by....it's safe to say that around the last few episode the series may become even Darker as time progresses.
    • Called it. They stopped the bad guy from taking over the world, but were not able to save their parents, the researchers, or Jin. The ending really doesn't feel like a victory at all.
  • The Kamen Rider franchise, from 2000 on. First, we start with it Darker and Edgier than its pre-revival self; Anyone Can Die, the manner of deaths can be Nightmare Fuel, sometimes monsters are people too and some must die anyway, sometimes Humans Are Bastards, and "good guys" can sometimes do things that are downright unheroic - though rare, it can even extend to the main Rider (see Kabuto.) As of the so-called "Neo Heisei Era" (2010 onwards), it's easing off - not to the point of no longer being dramatic, but on the Batman continuum, maybe it's gone from The Dark Knight to Batman: The Animated Series. Fewer heroes with an F in good, better chance of being able to save the guy who didn't want to turn into the Monster of the Week, better chance of being able to save the first poor shmuck the bad monster takes a shot at, and the Dangerous Forbidden Technique isn't actually guaranteed to kill you, and more Large Ham characters. It mostly starts with the new decade, but even then, compare Kamen Rider Faiz to Kamen Rider Kiva. Similar in construction, same showrunner, monsters kill civilians left and right, monsters are all transformed humans... but Faiz ends with one general still plotting and the Big Bad not completely defeated, half the cast dead, and main hero Takumi hasn't long to live. Kiva ends with a new peace between humans and Fangires, the resurrected original Big Bad defeated, the new one redeemed, a wedding, and a new adventure with the main hero's Kid from the Future about to begin.
    • Likewise, each series in the Neo Heisei era has a common trend with a member of the main cast dying in the penultimate or final episode; of the four, two come Back from the Dead (Doubles Philip and Fourzes Kengo), while the other two stay dead but it's still treated positively (OOOs Ankh dies happy knowing that he had real friends, his spirit continues to watch over Eiji, and The Movie suggests that he will eventually be revived, while Wizard's Koyomi was Dead to Begin With and the show ends with her spirit being put to rest).
  • The U.S version of The Apprentice became this when it changed its format to become an all-celebrity show. The birther opinions from Donald Trump don't help the show's possible view of itself as a paragon of solemnity either.
  • Lexx is a textbook example of this trope. The first TV movie has a little levity, but is unmistakeably a drama. The next three have mostly the same tone, but with sequences of incongruous silliness slotted into the drama. The second season settled on Star Trek-like episodic drama blended with low-level humor. The humor was cranked up in season 3, and, for the first time, meta-humor started appearing. The fourth and final season seemed almost like a comedy, with frequent self-parody and references to the show's fandom.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy IX. After the angstfests of VI, VII and VIII, IX brought back some much-needed humor. It's still a dark game (its main theme is genocide), but it's significantly cuter and sillier than the previous installments.
  • Team Fortress also underwent this change—compare the original Quake mod and its Valve Software remake to its sequel. The more realistic and less goofy-looking designs in Team Fortress Classic compared to Team Fortress, on the other hand, could be interpreted as regular Cerebus Syndrome.
    • Team Fortress 2 itself has been undergoing a variation of Reverse Cerberus Syndrome; while the story hasn't gotten less serious, the design process certainly has. When the game was launched, the art style stuck to a strict "Eagleland during The Sixties" theme, and each character was boiled down to a series of instantly-recognizable traits, in terms of both design and game balance. Compare that to today, with over 300 increasingly-wacky unlockable hats and weapons inching further into Rummage Sale Reject territory. A Scout armed with a fish fighting a Heavy wearing a Dodgy Toupee was unthinkable in 2007, but is rather commonplace today.
  • The first Shadow Hearts was a dark, almost entirely serious game inspired in large part by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It has occasional comic interludes, but they're very rare, and overall the story is pretty Grim Dark. The sequel, Covenant, dials up the comic relief considerably, and is generally a lot more over the top, but for the most part the explicitly comedic elements stay in the side quests. The main storyline focuses primarily on the protagonist's lost loved ones and impending death, and if anything is even gloomier than the first game's. In the third game of the series, From the New World, the story becomes mostly about comedy in the form of anthropomorphic cat mafiosi, Brazilian ninjas, vampiric obesity, and an intrepid boy reporter protagonist who inexplicably possesses a cell phone in 1929. There are still some serious moments, especially near the end, but they're barely more common than comedy was in the first game.
    • Go back a step further to the oft-overlooked Koudelka, which Shadow Hearts is a sequel to. This game is dark and deadly serious, as is fitting for a Survival Horror RPG, and makes Shadow Hearts look like a laugh riot high adventure in comparison. Roger Bacon is the only real source of humor in the game, while everyone else is depressed and soaked in tragedy and horror. The bad ending is the canonical ending for this one.
  • As this article about Sonic Colors says, Sega aims to invoke this trope for the Sonic the Hedgehog series, starting with Sonic And The Secret Rings, after the Darker and Edgier games of Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Sonic Generations appears to continue in the same vein.
  • The Persona series went this route with Persona 4, which despite its plot about serial killers and the sublimation of humanity's consciousness into the sea of shadows as orchestrated by the embodiments of self-destructive desire, is just so darn cheerful and optimistic its signature color scheme is sunshine yellow, its mascot is a colorful and pun-spewing teddie bear, and it ends with an unambiguously happy ending. After its predecessors' soul-crushing "Good" endings, and especially within the greater Megaten franchise, this was quite the Mood Whiplash.
    • This might be because the story was apparently changed during testing, with the original culprit being Dojima, with his motive likely related to his wife's death. Testers apparently found the idea of living with a serial killer too intense, requiring the rewrite. If true, this trope was invoked deliberately.
  • The Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series gives us this. The first installment is fairly serious, with you either leading the Soviet Union's attempt to conquer Europe or the heroic Allied defense in an alternate World War II using mostly-realistic weapons. The second game features out-of-place technology (well, more of it than the first game), Psychic Powers, and attack squid. The third game includes, among other things, bear cannons and Tim Curry.
  • Saints Row began as a relatively straight gangster story that some would say took itself too seriously. Even the breakout sequel still maintained multiple serious storylines and was closer to a dark comedy in terms of tone. Then the third game took the franchise into full-on Denser and Wackier territory with very little in terms of serious drama. The fourth game added superpowers and aliens. Reaction to the shift has been met with either full on embracement, reluctant acceptance, or a downright sense of betrayal.
  • The original LEGO Star Wars was a fairly straight retelling of the prequel trilogy with some added jokes along the way. Later LEGO Adaptation Games were full-on over-the-top parodies that only nominally followed the events of the films they were based on.
  • The Harvest Moon franchise has gotten Lighter and Fluffier over the years. Recent titles Tastes Like Diabetes compared to the original game, Harvest Moon 64, and Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life.

    Web Comics 
  • xkcd. The earlier strips are very avant-garde and philosophical, and often not meant to be funny. Eventually the comic shifted to being primarily a nerd humor Gag Series. This change is the main reason for its Broken Base.
    • "Outbreak" depicts an ad for a fictional film that starts with the beginning of a zombie outbreak... that ends five minutes later, quickly transitioning into a Romantic Comedy instead.
  • Occurs several times over the course of Shortpacked! as the comic returns to wacky hijinks mode after each "Drama Tag" episode, though the reverse is not invoked, parodied or lampshaded like the Cerebus Syndrome that preceded it.

    Western Animation 
  • While Batman: The Brave and the Bold, being the epitome of World of Ham, was always Lighter and Softer than Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond or The Batman, the later seasons played this up more.
  • Slight in-universe example in The Simpsons: the Show Within a Show Police Cops is changed from an action series to a comedy and, to Homer's dismay, changing his namesake character Homer Simpson from The Hero to the useless Plucky Comic Relief.
    • The "Treehouse Of Horror" episodes, on their own, encapsulate this trope perfectly - the early ones were dark, murderous and were morbid at best and downright terrifying at worst (the one in which teachers are gradually eating through students is a perfect example). The modern ones tend to keep the bloodiness but have become much sillier. (How many horror stories have you heard of that start off with a Media Watchdog getting murdered by a media classification?)
      • The comic book series based on it did the exact opposite, and now focuses on more straightfoward horror stories with some Black Comedy.
    • The Simpsons follows this trope itself. Season 1 was somewhat dark and gloomy, at times it even barely kept its elements of comedy, and elements that eventually meant nothing in the show were taken very seriously then. Episodes ranged from Homer attempting to commit suicide at the thought of being a hopeless loser, Bart and Lisa barely escaping death at the hands of a criminal babysitter, and Moaning Lisa was so depressing that it almost had the entire fanbase hating Lisa for glooming up the show. Season 2 did step up the comedy, but only a bit. In fact, in the premier for said season we even see the American bad boy Bart Simpson cry. Since then, the Simpsons rarely has any dark, depressing moments, and anything shown to be a downer is usually either played for laughs or treated like no serious problem. The darkest episode of the later seasons is The Boys Of Bummer, which disappointed many by ending a very dark episode with an unintentional snorefest.
  • Subverted in ReBoot's My Two Bobs. The first half of it features the return of S1's humor and Games as the main threat, which is far less dramatic than the previous Daemon Rising. Then Megabyte comes back and it all goes to hell, and The Bad Guy Wins.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic represents a borderline case when comparing the first two episodes to the rest of Season 1. The unleashed Nightmare Moon and her desire to bring about The Night That Never Ends represents a greater threat than pretty much everything else put together... and she's defeated in the second episode. The show then slips into a more everyday one-conflict-per-episode formula for the remainder of the season, until Discord comes along in the second season's first episode to flip it back by being much worse than Nightmare Moon; it is once again defeated in the second episode of the season, allowing the remainder of Season 2 (except the finale) to follow the example set by first season.
    • In Season 3, a huge, evil, nigh-apocalyptic villain who's defeated in the season's second episode ( this time by being Killed Off for Real), and the very next episode sliding back to lighthearted comedy.
    • The same occurred with the original cartoons. Originally there wasn't supposed to be anything after the first special, but it became so popular that they made another special, a movie, and a TV show based off said movie. The original special - called Rescue at Midnight Castle - has little humor and is mostly comprised of as much action and Nightmare Fuel that they could insert into such a short special. Its villain, Tirek, is the undisputed king of Vile Villain, Saccharine Show. The next special, while still dark, is considerably more cute and lighthearted. The movie is mostly on-par with the second special but with still more humor, and the series... it's still dark, granted, but also pretty fluffy.
  • Although the main plot of Beast Wars remained as dark as ever through the series, the third season played up much more slapstick than previous ones, and tended to exaggerate characters in general, resulting in a more surreal and comedic show.
  • The early episodes of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy were much darker and more morbid in tone than the wacky, nonsensical show that it later became. It's up to the viewer whether this was a good or bad thing.
  • The direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies that started being released in the late 90's follow this. The first two, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost, were Darker and Edgier than the television shows and featured genuinely threatening antagonists with real supernatural qualities who were trying to kill Mystery Inc. The next two, Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders and Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase feature the gang in a bit more danger than usual but were portrayed as a bit ligher, and the antagonists were human this time around. Legend of the Vampire goes completely campy and is done in the style of the old cartoons, and most of the movies have followed the style of this one since.

     Real Life 
  • This is often how people recovering from depression or a personal crisis feel like.
    • Depression has a way of coloring the way one sees the world, and it's also been noted that when you feel a certain way, other times you've felt that way stand out in your memory a good bit more. This means you can feel like the entire universe has shifted.
  • "History repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce." -Karl Marx


Lighter and SofterSeries TropesYounger and Hipper
Resurrection SicknessIndex SyndromeSamaritan Syndrome
Knight of CerebusCerebus SyndromeAnime & Manga
Revenge by ProxyExample as a ThesisRidiculously Similar Trope

alternative title(s): Buu Syndrome
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