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. 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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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, and Xros Wars/Fusion all take place in separate universes, not the one seen in Adventure and it's sequels 02 and Tri. Xros Wars did establish that this is a multiverse, however.

    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 reoccuring characters. Marvel has What If? and DC has the Else World series which was an imprint with many one-shots and miniseries.
  • Jeph Loeb had a series of Color Motif miniseries for Marvel Comics: Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Gray, Spider-Man: Blue, and Captain America: White.
  • 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.
  • 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 holidaya); All Seasons is only four issues, and goes by, of course, seasons.

  • The Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski features three movies (Blue, White, and Red) about three different women in modern French society. Each color corresponds to different French revolutionary ideals. Different characters have brief cameos through the films.
  • The Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy (aka Three Cornetto Flavours Trilogy) by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is named after Kieslowski's trilogy. So far, it consists of a rom-com-zom (red), a buddy cop film (blue), and an alien invasion movie (green).
  • Park Chan Wook's Revenge Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. All three movies deal with revenge and its tragic consequences. While they have the same writer/director and many of the same actors, there is nothing to suggest that they even take place in the same continuity. In fact, despite being an entirely South Korean series, Oldboy is an adaptation of a pre-existing Japanese manga.
  • The View Askewniverse movies (formerly The Jersey Trilogy) all take place in the same continuity, feature Jay and Silent Bob, and mostly take place in the same New Jersey town. Despite this, Clerks II is the only direct sequel (to Clerks). The movies all focus on different characters and plots, even crossing over into slightly different genres. Mallrats was more of a teenage Sex Comedy in the tradition of John Hughes,Chasing Amy was much more of a dramedy than any other installment in the series, and Dogma went into the realm of supernatural fantasy.
  • Guillermo del Toro has long planned a thematic trilogy of supernatural films concerning the Spanish Civil War: he began it with The Devil's Backbone in 2001, continued it with Pan's Labyrinth in 2006. The third installment has yet to be announced, but it is rumoured to be set in the present day.
  • Greg Araki made a series of movies dealing with teenagers in or around the Apocalypse called, appropriately enough, The Teen Apocalypse Trilogy. The Doom Generation is the most well-known but it also contains the films Nowhere and Totally F***ed Up. None of them share the same characters at all (although they have a few of the same actors) and due to the apocalyptic nature of the films, it's safe to say they don't even take place in the same universe.
  • The Halloween series was meant to be such after the second film. Originally, every sequel would tell a different horror story set during Halloween. This is the reason why Halloween III: Season of the Witch does not include Myers. This idea proved unpopular with fans so the series ended up being all about Myers.
  • The Dollars Trilogy consists of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Clint Eastwood is in all of them, playing The Man with No Name but there is no story connection. It's made all the more confusing by the fact that Eastwood's character goes by a different nickname in each film. To confuse things further, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the third and final part of the trilogy, has The Man with No Name acquiring the hat and poncho he wore in the first film, A Fistful of Dollars, leading to the theory that all three movies are about the same character, but with different aliases. And each film takes place earlier than the previous one: TGTBTU is in The American Civil War, Lee Van Cleef's character in For a Few Dollars More appears to be a Civil War veteran, and A Fistful of Dollars has fully automatic machine guns and a gravestone dated 1873.
  • Sergio Leone's second trilogy, beginning with Once Upon a Time in the West, continuing into Duck, You Sucker!, and finally ending with Once Upon a Time in America. All of them take place in different time periods, beginning with the Wild West (somewhere around the 1880's), the Mexican Revolution (just before World War I) and finally over the course of the early twentieth century. According to Leone, the connection was that these were all time periods which touched America, though there is also the recurring themes of lawless and chaotic society.
  • Lucio Fulci's "Gates of Hell" trilogy are three films linked by the theme of supernatural zombie apocalypse: The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and The House by the Cemetery.
  • Terry Gilliam
  • Eric Rohmer, a French director most famous for being part of the Cahiers du Cinéma group that was the core of the French New Wave, did this often. Most of his famous films come from one of several thematic series, which shared no plot threads, but were linked by a common theme. These series were:
    • Six Moral Tales, comprised of The Bakery Girl of Monceau, Suzanne's Career, La Collectionneuse, My Night at Maud's, Claire's Knee and Love in the Afternoon.
    • Comedies and Proverbs, comprised of The Aviator's Wife, A Good Marriage, Pauline at the Beach, Full Moon in Paris, The Green Ray, and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend.
    • Tales of the Four Seasons, comprised of A Tale of Springtime, A Tale of Winter, A Tale of Summer, and A Tale of Autumn.
  • John Carpenter has what he considers his "Apocalypse Trilogy" starting with The Thing (1982), going into Prince of Darkness and ending with In the Mouth of Madness. As the name implies, the connection has to do with each of the films presenting a Cosmic Horror scenario that could potentially result in the end of the world, by way of alien invasion, the awakening of an Eldritch Abomination that was the basis for Satan, and a crazy writer whose work has possibly been influenced by ancient Lovecraftian monstrosities. All three have the protagonists coming face to face with the end of the world, and they all end on a bleak note but open to interpretation:
    • The Thing: The two survivors are left to freeze to death, but there is the small possibility that one of them is the Thing.
    • Prince of Darkness: Satan is apparently expelled and trapped in another realm, at the cost of the Love Interest's life, but she starts appearing in the main character's dreams, and then he reaches for that mirror- we don't see what happens next.
    • In The Mouth of Madness: The protagonist learns he is a fictional character in a writer's story, he tries to stop the publication of the novel every way he knows how, but Sutter Kane is always one step ahead of him, and before long we can't tell if he's truly mad when other people seem to forget things. The book gets published, people go insane, and before long society is in ruins- and to add further Mind Screw, it turns out the film we've been watching is actually the adaptation of the novel.
  • The George Romero Living Dead Series of zombie movies (and most zombie movie franchises) never keep the same characters or setting but are all still a part of the same series. Part of the reason for this is because of the Kill 'em All plots.
  • Baz Luhrmann refers to his first three films — Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge! — as "The Red Curtain Trilogy". They are connected by common themes and cinematic style, not by any plot or characters.
  • The National Lampoon movies are essentially connected by the NL label and its writers. The only exception being National Lampoons Vacation movies, which forms a more standard series.
  • Nicolas Cage had an action trilogy of The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off, also known as "beige Volvo trilogy" due to said car being referred to or appearing in each.
  • Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula (aka Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Andy Warhol's Dracula) is a duology that was filmed at the same time with the same writer/director, the same principle cast, and the same crew. They are both set in rural Europe, have a tongue-in-cheek tone, share the same themes (sexuality and classism), and are both about famous horror figures. Their market based titles are also very similar, taking advantage of Andy Warhol's name even though he had little to do with the films outside of a producer credit.
  • Gus Van Sant had the Death Trilogy, which were all movies based loosely on true events concerning deaths. These films include Gerry (based on a hiking tragedy), Elephant (based on the Columbine shootings), and Last Days (based on Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain).
  • Lars von Trier had the Golden Hearts Trilogy, which consisted of The Idiots, Breaking The Waves, and Dancer in the Dark. All three movies are part of the Dogme 95 movement and involve Break the Cutie plots. His two most recent works, Antichrist and Melancholia, also form the "Depression Trilogy", to be concluded with Nymphomaniac, all starring Charlotte Gainsbourg.
  • Alejandro González Ińárritu referred to Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel as his "death trilogy".
  • Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or just bad movies in general) have considered the three movies directed by Coleman Francis - The Beast of Yucca Flats, The Skydivers, and Red Zone Cuba - as a trilogy.
  • Pier Pasolini had the Trilogy Of Life, which consisted of films of ancient anthology works celebrating life : The Arabian Nights, The Decameron, and The Canterbury Tales (which are all, in and of themselves, Thematic Series). This trilogy would have been followed up by another called Trilogy Of Death, which would be film adaptations of similar works focusing on death. He only made Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom before dying, leaving the series unfinished.
  • The Count Yorga films while sharing the same title character, are not connected to each other. In fact Yorga even dies at the end of the first movie. So it more or less is made of this trope.
  • Roman Polanski's Apartment Trilogy, made up of Repulsion, Rosemarys Baby, and The Tenant, is concerned with social alienation, dread, paranoia, and sexual issues. All three films largely take place in apartments, explaining the title.
  • Takashi Miike has The Black Society Trilogy (aka Black Triad Trilogy), which are three yakuza films with Japanese actor Tomorowo Taguchi playing a main characte rin each, although never the same character. These films include Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, and Ley Lines and focus on unlikely relationships within the Yakuza.
  • The Road to ... series with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope is a series of movies featuring the same actors in different roles, parodying a specific genre.
  • Dario Argento's The Three Mothers trilogy fits this. None of the films share any of the same characters. However, each film has been about one of the three mothers.
  • Uwe Boll's In The Name Of The King, In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds and In the Name of the King 3: Last Mission share no characters or plot continuity. They are linked only by name and by the fact that they're about fantasy worlds in a dispute over a kingship.
  • Oliver Stone has his Vietnam War trilogy, consisting of Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven And Earth.

  • 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 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story is definitely this. 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 downer 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 as well: the main character will have large bug-esque eyes in suit-form, they will kick things, and they will ride a motorbike. Apart from that, everything changes from season to season, with the exception of Black and Black RX.
  • The Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror consists of three films per season, all joined by dark and socially critical themes.
  • Anthology shows feature self-contained stories that involve a consistent theme (often the mysterious, macabre and gruesome), with a different story in each episode.
  • 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 with arguably little success.
    • 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, Soul Blazer, 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.
  • 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 characters, locations or plots; they do share several common themes, the most prominent is "hell comes to paradise".
  • The Fire Emblem franchise has six separate continuities and a crossover with Shin Megami Tensei in the works, but all of the games share major gameplay elements such as support conversations and various levels of Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors.
  • The Tales Series' main canon consists of 14 games. Two of these are direct sequels to others (Destiny 2 and Xillia 2), and one is a distant prequel (which is sufficiently separate from the game it is a prequel of for the two stories to stand separately). All the rest are standalone stories with their own distinct worlds and timelines.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series takes place in the same universe (though the cities' layouts are retconned with each generation), but each game stars a different protagonist and supporting cast. Though the protagonists of GTA 2 and 3 are named 'Claude', Word of God has not confirmed that they are the same person.
  • 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 spinoffs follow this pattern. Sometimes there are direct sequels, such as SMT 1 and 2 and the Raido 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.