Thematic Series

Unlike a typical series, a Thematic Series does not follow the same characters or story; instead, it follows the same themes. For instance, a series may focus on themes of war, but with each installment centering on completely different people being affected by completely different wars. One might recognize a few nods to past installments here and there. If the installments share any characters at all, they will be side characters or it may be in the form of a cameo by a former main character of a different chapter. This is assuming the installments take place in the same universe at all. Otherwise, expect Negative Continuity.

This is different from a Spiritual Successor in that the installments are all made by the same creator(s) for the purpose of an interlocking series. Considering the nature of this series, audiences never have to worry about Archive Panic or Continuity Lock-Out and can even see them out of order. What these two tropes do have in common, however, is that they are sometimes Enforced due to the creators lacking the rights to make a regular sequel or series. Often, these series end up being trilogies.

Not to be confused with a Non-Linear Sequel, which is a videogame trope concerning a series that still follows a set group of characters and game elements, but plays fast and loose with the timeline or continuity.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Gundam franchise takes place in multitudes of different timelines other than just the original Universal Century timeline. The reason is because, ever since the UC timeline grew too over-saturated with TV series, OVA's, and movies, Sunrise created a series of alternate timelines — starting with the Future Century timeline with Mobile Fighter G Gundam — to keep the series fresh, so as to invite newcomers to Gundam while still inviting long-time fans who enjoyed the UC timeline series. Even while taking place in different timelines, though, most of the different series would still involve a teenage protagonist falling into the cockpit of a Super Prototype Gundam, thus being thrust into a war with irreversible, long-term negative repercussions, whether physical or psychological.
  • Jewelpet has a different setting, plot and human characters for all of its seasons, movie and light novel. The only things any of these have in common are the Jewelpets, Jewel Land and a few minor human and non-human characters.
  • Blood: The Last Vampire, Blood+ and Blood-C, each have one similarly named character with only superficial resemblance to each other, and no continuity in common. They're all about a katana-wielding vampire girl hunting the more monstrous of her kind.
  • Pretty Cure is about teenaged girls called upon by mascots from a magical kingdom in another dimension to fight evil. All seasons (excluding the sequels to the first and fourth seasons) have different characters and are set in different universes from each other. However, the characters do unite every year in the All Stars movies, in which all of the different Pretty Cures fight as one team.
  • Science Adventure Series Includes the series of Chaos;Head, Stiens;Gate and Robotics;Notes and all spin-offs. All these Anime take place in the same world, however they rarely ever refrence each other, and the only thing the really have in common is The Big Bad, which is the committee of 300.
  • Ghost in the Shell has been portrayed numerous times with the Mamoru Oshii films Ghost in the Shell and Innocence, the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and its sequels 2nd Gig and Solid State Society, the OVA series Ghost in the Shell: Arise, the 2015 Ghost in the Shell movie, and the original manga that inspired it all. All of them have different storylines, character origins, visual animation and character styles, but none of them are connected to each other. Motoko's origin story in Arise and Stand Alone Complex makes it impossible for them to be connected. All of them focus around the central theme of technology integrating with humanity, prosthetic bodies, cyber crime, and maintaining the individuality that proves your existence. Most of them also feature a cute Spider Tank with child-like voices and an AI eager to learn about the world.
  • Digimon: Tamers, Frontier, Savers/Data Squad, Xros Wars/Fusion, and Appmon all take place in separate universes, not the one seen in Adventure and its sequels 02 and Tri. Between the Wonderswan games bridging Adventure's and Tamers' universes, and Xros Wars's Crisis Crossover, however, a loose multiverse has been established.
  • The Time Bokan series of anime sets its primary tone as lighthearted and its theme centered around time travel. Quite a few of them have to do with stopping certain characters from altering history.

    Comic Books 
  • Northlanders by Brian Wood. Each story arc takes place during the viking age but centuries apart and in locations as far apart as Iceland and Russia.
  • Sin City is about the eponymous city more than specific characters. While many stories share protagonists, they are all stand alone tales that deal with Film Noir elements.
  • Both Marvel Comics and DC Comics have a series devoted to taking familiar characters and placing them in alternate realities with little to no reoccurring characters. Marvel has What If? and DC has the Else World series which was an imprint with many one-shots and miniseries.
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Batman: The Long Halloween and Superman for All Seasons: both follow the DC icons through a year, very early in their careers. Long Halloween is a 12-issue story that goes month-by-month (on holidays); All Seasons is only four issues, and goes by, of course, seasons.
  • Loeb and Sale also had a series of Color Motif miniseries for Marvel Comics: Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Gray, Spider-Man: Blue, and Captain America: White. In addition to having color motifs, each story revolves around the titular hero reminiscing over a deceased loved one.
  • Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (re-released as simply Luthor) and Joker are this. They don't directly link to each other, but they're both dark, deconstructive takes on the main antagonists of Superman and Batman respectively as presented largely from their perspectives, with the heroes present only as dark, shadowy and ominous figures.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • The Dr. Seuss books are often considered a series. Certainly, they all share the same tone, writer, and artist. The characters and setting typically have the same design styles; the rhyming scheme is always present, as are the aesops.
  • Much like their films, the National Lampoon series of books don't form an interconnected series but rather, share the same writers.
  • William Hope Hodgson actually stated that three of his horror/fantasy novels - The Boats of the "Glen Carrig", The House on the Borderland, and The Ghost Pirates formed "what, perhaps, may be termed a trilogy" despite them not having the same settings or characters (and possibly not even the same continuity). Rather, they seem to all revolve around ideas, namely how little mankind really knows about the Earth - and even reality - and the mysteries and dangers that lurk just beyond our perception, sometimes in the midst of places and things that we take for granted.
  • Behold The Man and Breakfast In The Ruins by Michael Moorcock are a thematic duology - the only connection between the two are general themes and the same main character, Karl Glogauer, who even has slightly different backgrounds in each book.
  • Ray Bradbury published a collection titled "The Illustrated Man", consisting of a number of unrelated short stories that dealt with themes involving the nature of mankind and their relationship to technology, many of them also dealing with (somewhat dated) ideas of space exploration.
  • The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone is connected only by taking place in the same Magitek-fueled Urban Fantasy setting.
  • The Redwall series all takes place in the same universe and typically center around the eponymous abbey, but each book focuses on a different plot, different characters, and different set of villains. With the exception of Mattimeo (a direct sequel to Redwall) and The Bellmaker (a direct sequel to Mariel of Redwall), all of the books can be read in any order.
  • The book series of The Ring applies to this, with each entry following a different perspective on the ring deaths: Ring is reporter Asakawa investigating the tape deaths; Spiral is coroner Ando's finding the death patterns and explaining them; Loop is student Kaoru uncovering the "LOOP Project" that connects everything; Birthday explores secondary-yet-vital characters tied to the series; and S provides Sadako's perspective on things.
  • Isaac Asimov's original Foundation stories were tied together only by the overall theme of the Foundation making its way toward becoming the second Galactic Empire. With the sole exception of posthumous appearances by Harry Seldon, no characters were followed from story to story, as centuries passed between each one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story Each season explores the tropes of a different horror motif (haunted house, asylum, witches) but the themes of the supernatural, psychological and body horror are constant. So are bittersweet endings, and Anyone Can Die characters.
  • Super Sentai (less so for Power Rangers): In each series, the main characters are a team of (at first) 3 to 5 Henshin Heroes in color-keyed uniforms. They first fight the Monster of the Week on foot, and when the monster grows to giant size, they fight it again in their Humongous Mecha. Aside from that, there's no continuity between the individual series (with a few exceptions).
  • Kamen Rider: Most series in the franchise follow most or all of these themes: A hero with an insect-inspired costume, a prominent belt (which is usually their Transformation Trinket) and a Cool Bike fights Monsters of the Week (whose powers are connected to the hero's one way or another) and defeats them with a Diving Kicknote . Apart from that, everything changes from season to season since there's only been one direct sequel in the entire franchise, Black RX following off of Black; Agito has some allusions to to Kuuga, but the producers didn't make it a direct sequel to avoid Continuity Lockout and left it up to the viewers to decide if they're related or not.
  • Metal Heroes, even more so than Super Sentai or Kamen Rider. While most of the seasons share the Power Armor theme, each of them are different from the last. Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya is the most outler by not even having the hero using Power Armor.
  • The Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror, for the first two seasons, consisted of three films per season, all joined by dark, technology-focused and socially critical themes. It then upped to six films per season starting with its third season.
  • Anthology shows feature self-contained stories that involve a consistent theme (often the mysterious, macabre and gruesome), with a different story in each episode.
    • Tales of the Unexpected is a series of unrelated short stories revolving around blackly surreal horror behind everyday lives.
  • True Detective: Each season follows a different group of "true detectives" as they investigate a case.
  • Fargo. Each season takes place in a different time period with a different group of characters, but they all share a continuity that includes the events of the movie, as well as a common setting of rural Minnesota.
    Noah Hawley (Fargo showrunner): I like the idea that somewhere out there is a big, leather-bound book that's the history of true crime in the Midwest, and the movie was Chapter 4, Season 1 was Chapter 9 and [Season 2] is Chapter 2. You can turn the pages of this book, and you just find this collection of stories... But I like the idea that these things are connected somehow, whether it's linearly or literally or thematically. That's what we play around with.
  • Heroes: Was originally envisioned as an example of this trope. In the same vein as the aforementioned True Detective and American Horror Story each season would have its own cast of characters with their own stories. In the end the season 1 cast ended up being so popular that the NBC vetoed the idea of an ever-shifting cast forcing the writers to find a way to incorporate as many of the original cast as possible in the next seasons. It's due to be played straight with the upcoming revival, Heroes Reborn, which will feature an almost entirely new main cast, with only a single returning character in a leading role. Other characters will return in supporting roles.

    Video Games 
  • The Final Fantasy series has few actual sequels. Most games take place in alternate realities, although there is some small overlap. All the worlds do exist in the same multiverse, though, since Word of God confirms that Gilgamesh is the same person in (almost) every appearance. There's also a small pool of otherwise-disconnected games taking place in Ivalice, consisting of the Tactics series, Final Fantasy XII and Vagrant Story. Word of God also confirms that Final Fantasy X takes place in the same universe as Final Fantasy VII, but on different planets and thousands of years apart.
  • The Dragon Quest series has been this since Dragon Quest VII. (The first three games were a trilogy, and the second three games were another, albeit loosely connected, trilogy.)
  • Quintet's Heaven/Earth series: ActRaiser, SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma and The Granstream Saga all revolve around restoring a destroyed Earth and defeating the great evil that was responsible for destroying the Earth, with the main character disappearing after his job is done. The games also contain similar thematic ideas about human beings, their connections to nature, the human soul, and resurrection.
  • Soulsborne Series note : Though the series spans 5 games, 3 separate continuities and 2 different publishers, all of the games do share certain recurring motifs and thematic elements, most notably the cyclical Eternal Recurrence of some cataclysmic event and the chance for the Player Character to make a single choice towards the end of the game that decides the outcome of said event and if/how the cycle should continue.
  • The Team Ico Series consists of ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian which are standalone games that take place in the same universe, share visuals and gameplay, and are all connected by the appearance of horns on certain characters, which mark them as sharing the blood of a god.
  • The Silent Hill series has had one continuous plot line across three games (part 3 follows from part 1 and Origins precedes it), but otherwise all the games are different, self-contained stories that revolve around the eponymous town. Or don't revolve around it, for that matter, such as Silent Hill 4, which has the most tenuous connection to the other installments by far (it's based on a single document found in Silent Hill 2).
  • The World of Mana series by Square, include a mythical sword that all other famous Swords are based on (as in they are all the same Sword, just different name on different eras), also, the world commonly has its own Tree of Life, and there are various espers guarding the elemental forces of the world(probably orbs).
  • Each of the three entries in the Escape Velocity series uses the same mechanics (sprite graphics, lack of Space Friction resulting in Hit-and-Run Tactics and Air Jousting, etc.), but each one takes place in a different universe.
  • The Far Cry series is establishing itself as a Thematic Series. Spin-offs aside, no installment shares the same main characters (a few secondary characters from Far Cry 3 reappear in Far Cry 4 however), locations or plots; outside of the first game and Blood Dragon, they do share several common themes, the most prominent is men's descent into savagery in a wild environment.
  • The Fire Emblem franchise has six separate continuities, but all of the games share major gameplay elements such as support conversations and various levels of Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors. There's also the titular Fire Emblem itself, which appears in most games, but aside from being a royal seal its purpose and origins are never the same twice.
  • The Tales Series' main canon consists of 16 games. Two of these are direct sequels to others (Destiny 2 and Xillia 2), and two are distant prequels (which are sufficiently separate from the games they are prequels of for the four stories to stand separately). All the rest are standalone stories with their own distinct worlds and timelines.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series takes place across three different universes (called 2D, 3D, and HD respectively), with different generations having different city layouts, general setting, and characters.note  The games do have central themes regarding the life of criminals.
  • True Crime: Streets of L.A. zigzagged this. Though it was intended continue as a thematic series, due to Nick Kang's popularity with fans and developers, he was to be revisited in the installment following True Crime: New York City. But the series was cancelled, then later moved to another company and restarted as Spiritual Successor Sleeping Dogs.
  • Games under the Shin Megami Tensei label, including the main series, Persona, and about a dozen other spinoffs, generally follow this pattern. Sometimes there are direct sequels, such as with SMT I and II and the Raidou Kuzunoha series, but generally the only connections are demons and game mechanics, with possible themes of abuse of power and YHVH being a huge jerk.
  • Super Robot Wars, provided an installment is not part of an overarching series such as Alpha, Z or Original Generation. All standalone titles feature different Humongous Mecha series (with some consistent examples), but all deal with Massively Multiplayer Crossover elements.
  • The Xeno series has a history of both direct sequels and Spiritual Successors, but Xenoblade Chronicles X is the first to be part of the same official series as a previous game without having a related story.
  • Suda51's "Kill the Past", which revolves around characters having to confront their past in order to move on from it. Uniquely, there is no official listing of what games are actually part of the series, leading to it being mainly pieced together by fans.
  • Each Fallout game takes place at a different time after the War, features different characters, and is almost always in a different location. The most common theme is the terrible consequences of war (War. War never changes), and some characters (Mac Cready, Dogmeat, etc) and nations/organizations (the Brotherhood of Steel, the Enclave, the New California Republic, and so on) are carried over, but more often than not, the games are pretty separate and stand alone.
  • Most of the Assassin's Creed games take place in different time periods, and share very few characters. The present day framing narrative, however, share many characters, including the "main" character for the first three/five games, at least. The overarching plot of the series (Assassins vs. Templars) is what really connects the games, not the actions of one assassin. note 

     Western Animation 

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