Surprisingly Happy Ending
Towards the end of a work, it seems like the ending coming up is going to be bittersweet
if not a full-blown downer
; but a sudden plot-twist comes around that yields a happier ending than one could have logically expected.
Writers should take into account that when used badly, as the result of an especially jarring Genre Shift
or Deus ex Machina
, this trope is more annoying than heartwarming, and should be written carefully.
Note that, while the happy ending is logically a surprise to the characters, it might not be one for Genre Savvy
Contrast to Ray of Hope Ending
, which is a mainly bad ending that has some glimmers of hope on it.
Since this is an Ending Trope, beware of spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
- Tiger & Bunny managed to pull this trope twice in the final two epsiodes. In episode 25. Kotetsu gets up after his heroic sacrifice to reveal he hadn't died and had only passed out from the pain. A few minutes later, him and Bunny tell their friends they are going to retire from the hero-life, only to Time Skip a year forward with them both returning to the Hero business.
- The Xenosaga anime (and the first game it's been adapted from) ends with KOS-MOS seemingly sacrificing herself to save Shion and the rest. Then, however, she comes back, battered but otherwise fine. It's still a Bittersweet Ending, since Kirsche died by Heroic Sacrifice earlier on, but not the Downer Ending it could have been.
- In Zero no Tsukaima, this happens at least twice:
- In the second season of the anime, Saito makes a Last Stand while Louise is taken aboard a refugee ship. Cue Louise's Heroic BSOD when she realizes Saito is dead. But later, he reappears, claiming that faeries brought him back to life.
- In the third season, it appears the heroes have successfully escaped a Fate Worse Than Death... except that they've taken refuge back in Tristain, where they are wanted criminals. At the trial, Queen Henrietta sentences them to wear mantles, which for all practical purposes is a pardon.
- Late in Mai Hi ME, the main characters are turned against one another, resulting in all of them losing their Childs, and with it, their most important people. Even Mai, who stays in the carnival until the end, ends up losing her brother and the boy she loves when the Himes closest to them are defeated. However, as a result of a plan set in place earlier, Miyu shatters the pillars, resurrecting the dead and enabling them to take down the Obsidian Lord together.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
- After many deaths over the course of the series, and a seemingly hopeless final battle in which Madoka either perishes against Walpurgisnacht or becomes a witch even more powerful than Walpurgisnacht, Madoka chooses to become a magical girl, making a wish to destroy all witches before they are born, including the one she will eventually become. As a result, she rewrites the world into a more hopeful one, at the cost of vanishing forever and becoming hope itself.
- The Rebellion Story gives us a rather...creepy variation. Homura alters the entire system by overthrowing Madoka and taking her place. A rather unsettling notion to be sure, but in doing so, she brings the death count into the negatives: Madoka and Sayaka restored to life, as is newcomer Nagisa. Kyubey's fate is the cherry on top: after even Madoka's sacrifice failed to gave him his comeuppance in the series, Homura does...something to him that reduces him to a quivering, raggedy mess. The only problem with the whole deal is the "Homura becomes the devil" thing.
- The final episode of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS is a non-stop Tear Jerker, but after trying so hard to get the audience to break down in tears from all the tragedy and noble sacrifice, the show actually goes out on a positive note. Ririka succeeds and survives. The only question is if her friends remember her.
- Sugar Dark is a horror story about a young man who was imprisoned for the murder of an Asshole Victim that he didn't commit. He meets a girl Blessed with Suck and is faced with Nigh Invulnerable Eldritch Abominations. Even so, the story ends with the heroine having her First Time in the Sun and living with the main character to be Wealthy Ever After.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's leads up to a massive downer ending (Hayate's knights are killed, she herself is consumed by the Book of Darkness, which proceeds to destroy the Earth, along with the entire Team Nanoha), which is averted in the last moment by Hayate managing to assume full control over the Book — and by firepower, lots and lots of firepower. In the end, only one life is lost (Reinforce, the benign will of the Book), but the majority of the damage is averted. Throughout the subsequent seasons and other sequels, this event is universally seen as a miracle.
- This is what happens in Stepping On Roses: Souichirou crashes Sumi's forced wedding to Nozomu and takes her away, while Eisuke and Mr. Ijuuin explain the Brother-Sister Incest deal in public, destroying Nozomu's intentions. Souichirou and Sumi re-declare their mutual love, and they get together again. In a not-so Distant Finale they're still together, Sumi works as a teacher while Souichirou is starting to rebuild his company (with Eisuke taking care of Souichirou and Sumi's newborn child alongside their adoptive siblings), and a back-to-sanity Nozomu has gotten back together with Miu, and they're both expecting a child of their own.
- Arc The Lad II had one of the most crushing video game endings of all time, with the Dark One destroying 9/10ths of the world and Arc and Kukuru dying to seal him away. The anime of the game keeps many of the dark moments, but the ending is far happier than the game's. In the anime, Arc and Kukuru live, and the Dark One is defeated without destroying the world.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: Most of the main and supporting cast members had died leading up to the series ending and it looked like some were gone for good...but the Numeron Code brought back EVERYONE, including people like Kaito who had a regular death as opposed to a "transformed into energy for Barian World" death. And to make it even better, Yuma and Kotori become a true item at the end; this is the first time in the franchise ever where the hero actually gets the girl.
- Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de aru seems like it could only end in a Downer Ending at the end of episode 11. In the middle of the final episode Yuuna saves everyone and their Sange-induced disabilities are reversed however it cost her, as she's comatose. Even the Bittersweet Ending is averted when she comes to and it just goes into Happy Ending territory.
Films — Animated
- Disney's Aladdin. Under the laws of Agrabah, Princess Jasmine had to marry a prince. At the end of the movie Aladdin was no longer a prince so Jasmine couldn't marry him. But wait!
- Lilo & Stitch. Just after Stitch saves Lilo, the Grand Councilwoman arrives to take him away. Even after Stitch shows signs of being reformed, the Councilwoman points out that the law is absolute. Then Lilo points out that she bought him at the shelter, and that taking him away would be stealing. The Councilwoman then declares that Stitch will serve the rest of his sentence on Earth, under the care of Lilo and her family, and as an added bonus, because of this, Lilo's family is under intergalactic protection, meaning she can't be taken away by child services, which she was initially facing.
- Monsters, Inc. seems like it's about to have a Bittersweet Ending in the form of Sulley having to part ways with Boo, but it turns out that Mike recreated the door that leads to her room, so Sulley can at least still visit her.
- In WALL•E, although EVE manages to repair and reactivate WALL•E, his memory and personality seems to have disappeared for good... until EVE kisses him.
- In The Princess and the Frog, it looks like Tiana and Naveen will be stuck as frogs, only to discover that them marrying makes Tiana a princess, thus giving her kiss the power to turn them back.
- In Tangled, Flynn actually dies after cutting Rapunzel's hair, which prevented her from using it to heal him. That is, until it turns out that Rapunzel's tears still retained some of her healing powers.
Films — Live-Action
- The Japanese schoolgirls' subplot in The Cabin in the Woods ends with the girls singing a magic song that transforms the vengeful spirit into a happy frog.note
- Crush has a wonderfully surprising one for the side-plot: Bess being revealed as simply a sweet, romantic teenage girl with an obsessive streak that she can and anyway will keep in check. She realizes that what she did came close to stalking, that Scott's girlfriend is a Good Bad Girl deserving of his love, and he might be a Jerk Jock, so she gets better. She unfriends him on Facebook, throws away all her memorandums of him, and has her first kiss with another boy, who already liked her and was a little bit stalky too. Too bad the real stalker is out there and she was the only one able to help him...
- In Two Brothers, two tigers have escaped back into the wild, but the two main human characters are afraid that the tigers will become man-eaters if they never learn to hunt animals. At the last minute, the two tigers reunite with one of their parents, so now they have a tiger to learn hunting skills from.
- 28 Days Later — After fighting off zombie-esque infected humans throughout the entire movie, Jim, Hannah, and Selena barely escape a military base gone mad, with Jim being shot in the stomach in the process. Hannah and Selena rush Jim off to a deserted hospital, where he falls into a coma. In brief flashes, Jim is shown struggling for life, one wonders how long Hannah and Selena can survive given the constant threats surrounding them, and at one point you see Hannah and Selena spell out in bed sheets on a hillside what appears to be, "HELL," leading the audience to believe it is a dire situation. However, the mood ultimately turns cheerful when it is revealed the words being spelled out is actually, "HELLO," an airplane spots them, and a rescue helicopter is ordered to take Hannah, Selena, and a recovering Jim to safety.
- This was done because test audiences hated the original Downer Ending. Originally, Jim dies of his injuries, and it ends with Selena and Hannah walking down the hall into the light of the outdoors. Although it was meant to symbolize their will to live, the test audience took it as a symbol of their hopeless inevitable death.
- Another zombie movie example: State of Emergency. After an entire movie following four survivors holed up in a rural warehouse surrounded by 28 Days Later-style fast zombies created by a biochemical accident, the aversion of nearly every Downer Ending trope we've come to expect from a zombie film is downright surprising. Despite some earlier arguments, the survivors don't turn on each other. The one who was dying is cured by medicine recovered from an air drop. All four of them survive, and lonely protagonist Jim, who lost his girlfriend at the beginning of the film, realizes that he can finally consider the other three to be true friends. And on top of that, the military proves to be neither malevolent nor incompetent. They let the survivors go, and it even looks like they've got the zombie outbreak under control.
- In the 2012 Three Stooges Movie, just as it seems the Three Stooges have failed to save their orphanage from closing down due to their incompetence, they notice that a second one has been built next to it that has everyone in it that use to work/live at the old orphanage. As it turns out, thanks to Moe's work on Jersey Shore, the writers and producers used Moe's money to buy a new, better orphanage while he was working.
- Bad Santa, despite being a very cynical and bitter Black Comedy ends on a happy and optimistic note, with the Jerk Ass main character surviving his apparent death and becoming a better person thanks to his friendhsip with one kid.
- Wallstreet Money Never Sleeps has Gordon Gecko play everyone like a harp and make a billion dollars during the worst financial crisis in US history save the Depression. He then, more or less, plays Santa Claus to his estranged daughter and the film's protagonist—buying back their affection.
- In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch has been defeated, but Edmund is mortally wounded and dying. Then Lucy remembers she has a magical cordial that has an unlimited supply of cure-all Healing Potion.
- In The Silver Chair, it looks like Eustace and Jill will be left to deal with the bullies chasing them. Then, Aslan gives them and Caspian swords and a riding crop and sends them to smack sense into the bullies. That fight also leads to the incompetent headmistress getting fired, because of her trying to find a lion seen on the school grounds.
- In the last book of The Roman Mysteries, Flavia is exiled from Italia and must leave behind the place where she has grown up all her life. However, at the last minute, her love interest shows up and says that he is going to go into exile with her, leaving behind a promising political career and faking his own death just to be with her.
- The book The Saddest Little Robot appears to end with the eponymous robot's Heroic Sacrifice, complete with the words "The End". What follows is an additional chapter where Snoot comes back to life.
- The Black Company - through the final tomes of the saga, the last characters that still remember the first book get killed off or simply die of old age. Croaker is once again the Company chronicler, but he keeps lampshading how old he is. Then other narrators of the story get killed. To save the world, they need to kill a sleeping Physical God, but even if they succeed the Lady will lose the rest of her magic, as she is currently leeching it from Kina. Their child, "Daughter of the Night", turns out beyond redemption, and as the ending approaches, it looks more and more like the story will end with all the characters dying while the new Company marches on to forge its own destiny. Then the two witches that Croaker jokingly "adopted" develop actual feelings towards him. And then he becomes the new guardian of the Plain of Glittering Stone, getting an immortal golem body with an ability to observe all 16 worlds, a dream of any historian, and with enough magic to fuel the Lady's powers to boot. As the two girls take over as the chroniclers, it might still be somewhat bittersweet, but by the world's standards a shockingly happy ending.
- One of the short stories in Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is about a down-on-her-luck woman traveling to see a man she believes is in love with her when in fact he doesn't even know she exists and his love letters to her were all sent by a pair of teenage girls who didn't want her to be crushed by never receiving a reply from him. This can only lead to disappointment and heartbreak for the woman, right? Nope; the man turns out to be lonely and glad for the company and the woman decides that it would be best not to bring up the letters with him, and it ends with Babies Ever After and one of the girls in on the love letter plot wondering at how everything turned out all right in the end.
- A surprisingly happy ending for a subplot happens in The Night Circus. It looks as if Chandresh has been left mentally destroyed from the years of being brainwashed by Marcus into not noticing the strange things going on in the circus. When Poppet meets him at the end though, she kisses him on the cheek and helps him get started on a new project. It's implied that her odd power helped fix him up enough that he at least can continue onward with the same energy he once had.
- Secrets & Lies: Once Roxanne gets over the shock of finding out about Hortense, she actually starts to warm up to the idea of having her as her half-sister.
- In the eighth novel of the Outlander series Written In My Own Heart's Blood, after all the fighting and death, the end sees Jamie, Claire and family(Jaime's sister Jenny, Jenny's son Ian, his wife Rachel, Jaime's grandson Germain and new adopted addition Fanny) ensconced contentedly back at Fraser's Ridge, with the assorted families left behind(the Higgenses, the Beardsleys, and the Weymess') all doing quite well. Then as a literal last scene, Jamie and Claire are sitting outside and down the road come their daughter Brianna, her husband Roger, and their children Jem and Mandy, back from the future presumably to stay.
- Doctor Who
- The ending of Series 6, "The Wedding of River Song". Time is no longer going to unravel, but it happened at the expense of the Doctor's life. Except that it wasn't the Doctor who died, it was simply the Tessalecta disguised as the Doctor. Although none of the viewers actually expected it to happen.
- At the beginning of "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe", Reg is presumed dead and Madge hasn't told the children. Near the end of the episode, Madge has saved the lives of the tree spirits and brought herself and her children back to the correct time and place. The audience gears up for a Bittersweet Ending as Madge starts to tell the children about their father... and it turns out that Reg survived, thanks to Madge's actions.
- Also, in "Forest of the Dead", after River Song's Heroic Sacrifice, Just as the Doctor is about to leave the library (and the viewer expecting the episode to end), it turns out the sonic screwdriver River left him can be used to save her inside the computer, saving her life. It's still bittersweet, but less than it would have been should the episode have really ended in the former note.
- Star Trek: Enterprise: The two parter "Augments" episode ends on an unusually positive note. Although the Augments are defeated, Arik Soong (grandfather of Dr. Noonian Soong) is simply incarcerated. But while in prison, he changes his research interests to artificial intelligence. He also remarks that the fruits of his research may take a generation or two. That research, whatever it is, is implied to lead to the 24th century's Soong creating the android Data. This is significant as the episode made no indication that he had fathered any children previously. So it is possible that sometime before his death, he will be released from prison.
- Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger: The final arc involves the team mentor Doggie Kruger seemingly perishing and giving a final speech for the Dekarangers to move on, combine their strengths, defeat Agent Abrellar, and retake the Deka Base. They eventually succeeded in doing so, deleting Abrellar, but their happy cheering came to halt after they realize that regardless, Doggie would still be in heaven... Cue "Who's in heaven?" from Doggie himself, having survived off-screen and hiding in the shadows to see how his rangers fared on their own (with full trust that they will succeed), and cue ALL Dekarangers hugging him in tears one by one, And the Adventure Continues (They still got other crimes to apprehend!)
- Kamen Rider Double: When it seems like Philip is gone for good and Shotaro has to move on without him, Wakana sacrifices herself to restore Philip.
- In the original Peter and the Wolf the story ends by revealing that the duck that had been eaten was swallowed alive by the wolf, creating only the vague possibility that the duck would be recovered. However, it also allows for the possibility that the duck would simply die a slow death inside the wolf, which is the interpretation that "Weird Al" Yankovic gave to it. Because of this, many adaptations add the wolf vomiting the still-alive duck back up at the ending.
- Some of J.S. Bach's minor-key works end with the chord of the parallel major (e.g. C major, for a piece in C minor).
- This is called a "Tierce de Picardie" and was an extremely common feature in music of the time period.
- In Crysis 3, you've killed the Alpha Ceph, but the wormhole has already opened, the continent-sized Ceph battleship is coming through, and you have been flung into space. It looks like it's going for a downer ending, when Prophet gets a surge of willpower and leaps to the Archangel Satellite and blows the ship to hell.
- In Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, it appears that the Hero has succeeded in saving the world from the Sinistrals, but has lost Lufia in the process. However, Lufia reappears during the ending, alive but suffering from Identity Amnesia.
- The same happens in Lufia: The Legend Returns. Before her death, Seena promises Wain that they'll meet again, and she gets revived because of such promise, since as her last bit of Sinistral Erim's omnipotent fortune telling power grants her her wish before it fades away.
- Super Mario Sunshine had FLUDD destroyed, while everything else about the plot reached its resolution. Then, in the final scene, the Toads present a repaired FLUDD.
- The normal ending of Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 looks like it would be a Bittersweet Ending thanks to the four CPU goddesses (Neptune, Vert, Blanc, Noire) who sacrificed themselves to destroy Arfoire. Only for the four of them to show up after Nepgear makes her speech about becoming the new goddess of Planeptune.
- Mass Effect 3: After a massive fan outcry centered around the original ending (which was felt to be too much of a Downer Ending regardless of the player's actions), Bioware released the "Extended Cut" DLC, which adds an epilogue sequence showing the fate of the galaxy in the aftermath of the Reaper War. If the player accumulated enough War Assets, it can be surprisingly hopeful; though casualties were heavy, the lion's share of humanity and the other Council species are still alive, galactic civilization is being rebuilt, and the alliances forged during the war usher in a new era of peace and mutual cooperation (possibly bolstered by Shepard, the Reapers, or the newfound connection between organics and synthetics, depending on outcome).
- Platypus Comix has pulled this a few times:
- In True Believers, Joe Quesadilla's attempts to break up the Happily Married Spider-Man and Mary Jane climax with MJ undergoing a Disney Villain Death. When he goes down to collect MJ's body, though, she springs back to life, pulls out a Retcon stamp that she stole from Quesadilla earlier, and uses it to Retgone Quesadilla. Once she reunites with Spidey, she explains that she managed to return because Death Is Cheap in the Marvel Universe. Additionally, the disappearance of Joe Quesadilla and his Executive Meddling cause the comic industry to flourish.
- Electric Wonderland has a story in which a cyberspace superhero known as the Nettropolis Narvel finds his life to be a mere simulation. In the "real" cyberspace, he falls in love with a selfish young woman, Vicky, who he mistakes for his crimefighting partner, Girl Friday. Unfortunately, Vicky deems herself too sinful for an incorruptible boyfriend like Narvel, and sends him to get treated for his delusions of superheroism. Narvel continues to insist to remorseful Vicky that she is Girl Friday, and gives her a kiss. They suddenly both find themselves back in the lives they led as superheroes, revealing that the world in which Narvel and Friday had no superpowers was nothing more than a simulation created by their enemy.
- Ruby Quest is en Eldritch Abomination story that ends on a happy note. That in of itself is extremely surprising.
- Most of Worm is very dark, and it's a very rough ride for the characters, especially the protagonist. But in the end, the world is saved and Taylor survives with a chance to start her life over.
- The ending of the two-part premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Protagonist Twilight Sparkle has completed her assignment in Ponyville and expects to return home, despondent about leaving her newfound friends in the process. As it is a series premiere, Genre Savvy viewers won't believe it for a single moment.
- The series finale of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. After Scooby destroys the Evil Entity (whom has just torn Crystal Cove to pieces and threatened to do so to the rest of the world), the results of doing so wind up re-writing all of the series's pre-history, transforming their home into a perfect utopia of peace and happiness. Initially, the gang is down on their luck because in doing so, there are no more mysteries to solve. Until Mr. E offers them admission to his school, which specializes in solving mysteries.
- It seemed like the Grand Finale of Codename: Kids Next Door was going to end the series on a bittersweet note at best. Numbuh One apparently had to leave the Earth and his friends behind forever, and now it looked like he and kids in general in the universe at large might be in more trouble than before, due to the information Father had gained from the interview. Until the final scene, that is, when a call revealed that the adult members of Sector V had been playing Father for a sap all along, and Numbuh One was finally coming back home.