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Trippy Finale Syndrome
In long works involving some form of magic, many creators seem to decide that the universe they've so far established is much too prosaic for the big finish their project surely deserves, and as a result, send their heroes into some uncharted realm resembling a whacked-out dream sequence.

Overlaps with Gainax Ending when it gets particularly symbolic. Video games tend to make this an Amazing Technicolor Battlefield, hence the trope Final Boss, New Dimension. If the gameplay goes sour, it's Disappointing Last Level.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • AKIRA. Most of the movie makes sense enough, but good luck deciphering the ending on the first viewing once the plot jumps its ball hitch and takes off without you.
    • Somewhat justified in that the movie takes a manga that ran for 8 years and tries to cram it all into a 2 hour long movie. Read the manga if you want the whole story.
      • In fact, the manga's run was only halfway when the movie was made.
  • The last three or so episodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann - whenever that space ocean shows up.
  • The ending of Fullmetal Alchemist could be called an inversion of the trope. The ending takes place in what the characters see as a strange alternate realty, but it's our reality, the real world during World War II. It's the rest of the series that takes place in the world full of magic and monsters.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has its final battle in Michel's realm, which appears to be the dream of a drugged-up Evilutionary Biologist: the pillars in the sky are DNA strands, fish are flying, and everything has wings grafted onto it. There is evil genetic engineering involved, but Michel, being a Disc One Final Boss, is not aware of this.
  • Inverted in Futari wa Pretty Cure: after spending a couple of episodes in another dimension, the heroines return to the Garden of Rainbows (i.e. Earth) for the final battle.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. Not one, but two Gainax Endings. The End of Evangelion contains several minutes of images zipping by so fast they could be seizure-inducing, many of them vaguely disturbing (the series had already had much shorter sequences like this). The series ended with a lot of navel-contemplation, some of it trippy; the film basically had trippy graphics for most of the latter half.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha pulls out all the special-effects stops and headache-inducing magical locations for its Final Battles, despite the battle fields (in the first two seasons, at least) normally being pretty low-key.
  • The final battle of Outlaw Star borders on an action-packed Mind Screw, what with Big Bad Hazanko and protagonist Gene Starwind apparently merging with their ships to fight each other both physically and in Cyber Space. Of course, the final few episodes are made up of the characters basically running around inside what amounts to God, so all this isn't coming completely out of left field.
  • Shadow Skill ends with a bizarre near-death dream sequence involving giraffes and lions, with lots of Fauxlosophic dialogue. It's pretty clear what is going on, but the way they choose to illustrate it is decidedly trippy.
  • The finale of RahXephon had several characters running around inside Yolteotl (something approximately like Nirvana) with lots of trippy symbolism whilst Quon and Ayato tried to figure out how they wanted to retune the world.
  • The manga version of Chrono Crusade takes the heroes to the demon world Pandaemonium for their final battles against Aion. Pandaemonium is really a Cool Starship, so it's filled with demon technology that's completely anachronistic for the setting, architecture that's obsessed with hexagons, demons who've had their legion corrupted, driving them feral and making them look like mutant starfish and Pandaemonium herself, the demon's Hive Queen.
  • The Grand Finale of the first season of Darker than Black was very clearly inspired by Evangelion. However, unlike Eva, they had the decency to give at least a little explanation. It's possible to piece together all the groups' motivations, even if the Gate-induced Mind Screw is totally incomprehensible.
    • The second season, well... Let's just say that a Contractor copying the entire planet is one of the easier things to understand. If you think you know what happened, you're wrong.
  • Serial Experiments Lain's "End of the World" Special had shades of this.
  • The ending to Puella Magi Madoka Magica, especially the "space hugs" scene: while floating around in a freaky sparkly fog—probably God!Madoka's mind or something—Madoka and Homura have a heartfelt clothing-free conversation. Then the fog divides into two giant membranes, Madoka Disappears into Light, and Homura ends up back on Earth. Somewhat justified by the fact that Madoka literally destroys and rebuilds the universe, so venturing into an "uncharted realm" in the meantime was inevitable.

    Card Games 
  • The Invasion story arc from Magic: The Gathering ends with "enemy" colors (white/black, blue/red, black/green, red/white, green/blue) being allies, an alternate win condition where all you have to do is have one creature of each color and one basic land of each basic land type, and the essence of Dominaria itself forming a tribe called Kavu. Also, Rath has become one with Dominaria; don't ask how that happened.

    Comic Books 
  • Breakdown: One's character is brainwashed by a computer and sees himself where he was trained. Everything is now filled with a green haze, the steam shoots from random places, and the television screen is filled with static. He has to shoot all of his partners, then is attacked by large, half naked men while a light flies around him.

    Film 
  • Perhaps the archetypal example: the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as astronaut David Bowman goes to "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite". Do not pretend to understand it.
  • The otherwise conventional western Blueberry (aka Renegade) ends with the hero and villain taking peyote and entering the spirit realm to do battle. The hero then has an epiphany that is visualized with trippy abstract images and Native American chanting. It has to be seen to be believed.
  • Busby Berkeley's movie musical numbers often border on the surreal, but the finale of The Gang's All Here, "The Polka Dot Polka," is easily as bizarre as the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its kaleidoscopic patterns will make your eyes bleed in Technicolor.
  • In Brazil, the climax of the film is a sort of fever dream. It's ultimately revealed that the hero has actually gone insane under torture and is hallucinating it all.
  • The 1979 Disney science fiction film The Black Hole ends with the main characters passing through a black hole; the villain appears to merge with a robot who then becomes Lord of Hell, whilst the heroes either ascend to heaven or simply pass through a white hole into another part of the universe. And then the film ends.
  • The 1974 ant thriller Phase IV ends with the surviving human characters - a man and a woman - apparently being captured by ants and forced to become the next stage of human evolution, or something along those lines.
  • John Boorman's deranged post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Zardoz ends with the main character and his wife growing old in timelapse, as their child grows up to adulthood, to no discernible cinematic purpose.
  • The Quiet Earth (1985), a rare post-70s example, ends with the main character seemingly transported to the moon of a distant ringed planet, or possibly the afterlife, or perhaps he remains where he is and the universe changes around him. It makes no sense. It wasn't meant to.
  • At Play in the Fields of the Lord. Moon gives the Indians the flu, they all die, Randy dies, and in the novel, Moon is (metaphorically) the only man on Earth. Gainax Ending indeed.
  • The Tree of Life
  • Enter the Void
  • In Labyrinth, Sarah's final showdown with the Goblin King Jareth takes place in a room that looks like it came out of a painting by M.C. Escher. Toby is there, too, crawling around happily. As for the Race Against the Clock, the hands on the clock are now spinning wildly out of control... then again, the whole movie was rather strange.
  • Danny Boyle took the final 20 minutes of Sunshine in a decidedly unusual direction, with the soundtrack reaching a screeching cacophony and the camera struggling to focus on what's going on. No doubt meant to signify the laws of physics breaking down due to the ship's proximity to the sun, which was predicted earlier in the film.

    Literature 
  • The King's Cross sequence in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Also, earlier in the series, we have the Battle of the Department of Mysteries at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
  • Dragon Ultimate, the seventh and final volume of Christopher Rowley's Dragons of the Argonath series, sees heroes Relkin and Bazil transported to the Sphereboard of Destiny, an abstract representation of the multiverse, to inhabit a pair of giant constructs (reminiscent of the piloting of giant Japanese robots) and battle a golem for the fates of all oppressed peoples in all realities. Needless to say, it's a bit of a departure from the series's usual, relatively traditional, fantasy setting.
  • In Perfume, Grenouille finally uses his perfect perfume at his execution. Overcome by the beauty of his fragrence, the crowd universally proclaims him innocent and then falls into a massive orgy. Unsatisfied with the perfume's hollow effects, Grenouille kills himself by dumping the remainder of the perfume over his head, causing a nearby crowd to devour him out of overwhelming love.
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years (previously called The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, which is altogether more preparatory for the madness) spends its first two acts as a reasonably diverting fusion of Doyle, Kipling, and the sentiment of a Tibetan exile. Then it abruptly introduces bona fide magical powers, and once that can of worms is opened, said magical worms manage to crawl all over everything else in the story with alarming speed. Once you find out about the ninja with the levitating swords, you will probably be shouting "what the fuck" at least once a minute until the very last page.
  • The Book of Revelation in The Bible.
  • The "Great Dance" sequence at the end of C.S. Lewis' Perelandra, a trippy and colorful spiritual vision which takes a year and shows the protagonist the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. (No, not the Douglas Adams book.)

    Live Action TV 
  • "Fall Out" in The Prisoner, which was massively controversial. The creator has gone on recording stating that he did this specifically to piss people off. Expanded Universe states that, yes, it was an LSD trip.
  • Battlestar Galactica was infamous for its Distant Finale that attracted as much anger as The Prisoner.
  • "Forever Charmed".
  • Legend of the Seeker, the television adaptation of Sword of Truth, pulled a time travel stunt in the first season finally, then had a rather anticlimactic... grappling sequence for the previously Dismantled MacGuffin between Richard and Darken Rahl.
  • LOST, somewhat inverts this: it ends in a mysterious imaginary realm whose events are far more prosaic than the supernatural ones on the Island. Yet it contains a few mindscrews of its own with its inconsistent timeline and trippy memory flashes.
  • In the finale of the series "Twin Peaks", the Black Lodge is represented exclusively through trippy dreamlike sequence, complete with strobe lights, maniacal screaming and a doppelgänger chase scene.
  • The finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "All Good Things...", has a modest version of this, featuring Q, and involving Picard being thrown back and forth between timelines from the past, present, and future. Of course, given that it's Star Trek we're talking about, trippiness is a relative concept, but it's particularly notable for the scope and complexity of its trippiness.

    Theatre 
  • In the climactic number of Jesus Christ Superstar, "Superstar," Jesus descends into Hell and is reunited with Judas, who sings at him in an explicitly modern voice; although the depiction of ancient Judea is generally Anachronism Stew, the departure of even the veneer of that time and place tends to be taken as license to go all-out.

    Video Games 
  • The Final Fantasy series suffers from this, in general.
    • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon of Final Fantasy I is a past version of the castle ruins in which the party originally fought Garland at the beginning of the game. Not so trippy, until you realize that you're unable to leave the castle (which is probably stuck in a time loop).
    • Final Fantasy II involves traveling to the capital of Hell. Though it makes sense, as the final boss has used his own demise as a stepping stone toward dethroning and replacing the Devil as King of Hell.
    • Final Fantasy III finds the player's party in the World of Darkness, a dark temple floating in an endless void.
    • Final Fantasy IV, of course, during the final boss fight against Zeromus.
    • Final Fantasy V has the Interdimensional Rift, a twisted landscape of everything that has been trapped between the worlds for a thousand years, as its final dungeon. Part of it is a town that phases in and out of time and space. The final battle itself takes place in the very heart of the Void where the villain consumes and regurgitates himself as a horrible mishmash of creatures that declares 'The Laws of the Universe mean nothing!'. Also, the world ends, but that can be reversed by leaving the area before the actual fight begins.
    • Final Fantasy VI has a relatively tame final dungeon constructed from the wreckage of an empire, but the end boss is preceded by an enormous tower of vaguely Renaissance-esque statues(?) of nude men and women, usually in bizarre positions, which all want you dead. Fighting your way through them looks like you're ascending towards heaven to confront God above the clouds.
    • Final Fantasy VII has the party traveling through a crater down into the heart of the planet, through strange and varied underground landscapes. The strangeness hits a fever pitch towards the bottom, which is just a series of floating rocks surrounded by flowing Lifestream. Cue final fight with an Eldritch Abomination, One-Winged Angel, Ominous Latin Chanting, a supernova that destroys the solar system every time it's used but can't kill you (since it takes 9/10 of your HP, rounded down) but does give you time to make a sandwich, Clipped Wing Angel... And once the heroes return to the normal world, something spectacular happens, but you can't really be sure what it was just by watching the end movie(s).
    • Final Fantasy VIII involves the party being sucked through time to the far future, where the main villainess' castle waits floating ominously over a destroyed world. The rest of the world as the party knows it becomes like this as well due to Ultimecia's "time compression".
      • The actual battle against Ultimecia is plenty this as well. She conjures an imaginary creature, wields planets, and begins to merge with the universe. Defeat her and time decompresses into a bad trip.
    • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon of Final Fantasy IX is a collective mishmash of ancestral memories, taking the party to locations from the entire world's history and ending with the origin of the universe. And for some reason, after you win, there's a play.
    • Final Fantasy X sends the party into the innards of Sin for the final dungeon. The first section is basically a bunch of tubes filled with shallow water and floating magical symbols (which maybe makes sense because Sin is a creature created by magic). The next section is the ruins of an ancient city that is inside Sin... for some reason.
      • The city is probably some part of the original Zanarkand.
      • Or it's part of dream Zanarkand, the construct of the Yu Yevon, who creates and possesses Sin and has been explained a few minutes before arriving
    • Final Fantasy XI has the Chains of Promathia expansion end in the Celestial Capital of Al'Taieu, conveniently located in another freaking plane of existence.
    • Even the first film loses coherence by the end.
    • The finale to Crystal Chronicles takes place in the Nest of Memories, an abstract realm that's home to the memory-eating demi-gods Mio and Raem.
  • Marathon Infinity. The first two games were straightforward enough, albeit with a fair amount of ambiguity. Infinity goes balls-out, featuring multiple timelines, dream levels, some of the most surrealistic text terminals in the series, and an ending over which fans still speculate nearly 20 years later.
  • In Chrono Cross, the Final boss is fought in The Darkness Beyond Time - the place where things go when they no longer exist. The finale also seems trippy just because all the dialogue on Disc 2 is dedicated to explaining the back story of the game... and even after reading it all, you still need a Master's Degree in Strange Back Story-ology to understand it. If you don't use the eponymous item, Lavos just respawns from another timeline. If you do, cue Gainax Ending.
    • Even its predecessor, Chrono Trigger, doesn't escape from this. Once you enter Lavos' outer shell and initiate a battle with the "real" Lavos (The Core), the background graphics just goes all hippie on you, occasionally combined with semitransparent images of places you've been to in the past, present and future.
      • The trippiness of Chrono Trigger's finale begins sooner than that; the Black Omen sequence is very bizarre by the standards of an otherwise pretty straightforward game, what with the dream/waking duality and the your-party-floating-in-jars and the Zeal's-a-mask-and-gloves-in-space.
  • Kingdom Hearts. Especially noteworthy because of the escalating levels of trippiness the closer you get to the end.
    • The first game's final world is the End of the World, a strange mishmash of various dead worlds surrounded by a violet ocean.
    • Kingdom Hearts II's final world is called the World that Never Was (more accurately, it's a world that never should have been) and is on the edge of the realms of light and dark. It's a huge, completely empty city with an enormous castle and a heart-shaped moon hanging over it.
    • Kingdom Hearts Coded ends with Castle Oblivion, where half-baked memories spend their time in White Void Rooms.
    • Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] ends with the World that Never Was again, but this time it's even worse. Many areas start off making no sense architecturally, and are only slightly more intuitive as pathways are assembled from cleany sliced skyscrapers. One set of buildings warps and breathes, while others move up and down to serve as trampolines. Even the cutscenes are weird, thanks to a Dream Within a Dream. Also, Time Travel.
  • Xenoblade ends with the party entering "Space Memory", which is essentially outer space, except they can walk through it. Seeing how they entered it through Prison Island, which was located at the top of the Bionis, and were therefore entering the Bionis' (i.e. Zanza's) skull, they're essentially entering his own memories, which hints at his background involving space. The final battle itself takes place in an Amazing Technicolor Battlefield, which occasionally changes to look like the party is in the sky.
  • The Legend of Dragoon has The Moon That Never Sets.
  • Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 3.
    • It's the same. Probably weirder than the original.
    • The final battle in 3 takes place in a river. A river in Hell. It doesn't appear to be Styx...
      • This is after traversing a road that assembles itself before your very feet, a giant chessboard, a roomful of stairways that would make M.C. Escher's head hurt, a lake of blood, a broken time space warp connected via mirrors made of mercury, and a chamber made of purple flesh that is situated at the feet of a statue of a godlike figure so tall you can't even see its knees.
    • And the final battle in 4 takes place in the normal-by-comparison, surprisingly-squishy innards of a giant demon made of animate marble.
    • The final levels of Devil May Cry takes place in the Underworld, which looks like the innards of a giant monster, complete with a giant pulsating heart, which you enter through a mirror and the broken window roof of an upside down cathedral.
  • Stage 18 of Devil May Cry 4 is an apocalyptic battle, held on floating platforms, against a mobile statue and a combination of animated suits of armor and superpowered knight templars in the same armor.
  • Technically, you are in a different world by the end of Drakengard, and it definitely shows. This trope applies most literally to the fifth ending however.
  • The final area of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask takes place inside the monstrous moon itself. Which, in fact, appears as a vast and beautiful green field with a single large tree in the center, surrounded by children at play.
    • And then Link goes to fight the boss in a room painted like an acid trip... and in its second stage, Majora's Mask runs around very fast making clucking noises.
    • As the "Perfect Guide" writers put it: "Calling the next part of the game 'surreal' would barely be scratching the surface."
  • They were already established outer planes in the Forgotten Realms setting, but Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark has its final chapter in the frozen hell of Cania, and Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer has its finale in The City of Judgment on the Fugue Plane.
    • And in Planescape, well... you skip around a bit, and end up in the negative energy planes. Evil Tower of Shadows.
  • The final stages of Mega Man X5 are some sort of unexplained crystal holographic disco thing.
  • The final part of Lands of Lore 2 involves Luther entering the Chamber of Voices in the Huline Temple, there raising the city of the ancient gods and travelling through Belial's mother beast to the rebirth chamber.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: The Colonel makes insane comments like "I hear it's amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with the tuning fork does a raw blink on hara-kiri rock! I need scissors, 61!" He then reveals that he is within the A.I. that is actually the collective consciousness of the spirit of American freedom that controls the White House. Raiden's girlfriend is also a part of the A.I. but she appears in reality. Then things get weird.
    • And in Substance, one of Snake's missions is an outright parody of this aspect of the original game, as well as Raiden's status as a Replacement Scrappy.
  • Half-Life goes from a somewhat realistic physics lab with No OSHA Compliance to the alien world of Xen, a bunch of Floating Continents of trippy, organic space.
  • The R-Type series' final stages got progressively trippier as the games went on. Most notable of all, a Bydo dimension filled with crystal-encased human fetuses, strands of DNA, free-floating sperm the size of the ship, and fertilized ova... And that's not even mentioning the neutral ending of Final, in which the screen-filling silhouettes of a man and a woman embrace and make love in the background.
    • The first alternate ending of Final has you trapped in a really trippy dimension, fighting a space slug thing, and mutated by the Bydo, then forced to fight your allies. You can see the mutant ship from this ending fly past in the first stage.
  • Eternal Sonata had the Elegy of the Moon zone. In contrast to the bright, colorful, and vibrant zones previously seen, the Elegy of the Moon is a rather... odd zone which is essentialy purgatory for the souls lost to the mineral powder.
  • Wild ARMs 3 has its final battles literally take place in a trippy dream sequence.
  • Baten Kaitos: Origins: The final boss is pretty standard, but if you went back in time and killed Wiseman on the Battlefield of Atria, then Wiseman's spirit shows up, assimilates Verus and the afterlings in the core, and turns into a monstrous demon in a starscape. Then, the rest of Malpercio shows up to help you defeat Verus-Wiseman. Then, afterwards, you're back in Tarazed Core, like all that never happened. Granted, it does make for a hell of a boss fight.
  • This is basically a requirement for Shadow Hearts. In the first one, set before World War I, the heroes head into space for the final battle.
  • Earthbound's final area before the final boss battle looks like a giant bizarre vagina, leading into a maze of tentacle-like pathways over a void. If that's not bad enough, said final boss battle sure is. The battle's inspired by an old-fashioned CSI-esque movie that starts (well, not immediately, but you get the point) with a close-up of the soon to be victim's face, which the creator walked saw as a child when he entered the wrong theater and mistook for a rape scene.
    • The sequel, Mother 3, does this as well. You're in a cavern miles below the city, when... whoa! What's the deal with the dropoffs? And the animate crystals and balls of electricity flying around?
  • The last race of every Mario Kart game, Rainbow Road.
  • Most Kirby games end this way, usually with Eldritch Abomination Final Bosses.
  • Phantasy Star IV features an ethereal crystal world inhabited by a disembodied voice named Le Roof who arms you before sending you off to a huge hole in the ground, where you enter a twisty-backgrounded epileptic-rainbow maze to fight the personification of evil. PS Online does a shorter version by having you arrive in a flower-filled field that quickly turns into a desolate wasteland when the Big Bad arrives.
  • In Robopon 2, the final battles take place in an unexplained, creepy location called the Robopon Graveyard. All you know is this is where the souls of Robopon go when they're scrapped, and the graveyard is totally filled.
  • In the finale of Prince of Persia 2, Jaffar warps the Prince into a weird otherworld with giant chess pieces, Kryptonite crystals, and an M.C. Escher-esque battleground.
  • The finale of Ys V: Lost Sand City of Kefin is quite mind-screwing, especially if you don't know Japanese.
  • If the trippiness of Psychonauts wasn't already high the last level presents the Meat Circus.
  • Fear Effect. It seems normal enough at first, and then suddenly it starts turning into a precursor to Eternal Darkness...
  • Solatorobo's true final boss fight takes place inside Tartaros, which is full of floating squares in various shades of pink or purple.
  • Pretty much every single Super Mario World hack ever to some degree. Examples include VIP 2-5 (which have a ridiculously psychodelic looking rainbow coloured final level filled with random gimmicks), Brutal Mario (second part of Bowser's Castle especially), An SMWC Production's void level, ASMT's void level and probably a whole lot of others.
  • The finales of Hellsinker are noticable for being incredibly surreal and wierd even by the game's standards.
  • The final track of both the story and racing modes of F-Zero GX take place in Phantom Road; think of it as Rainbow Road on LSD. Made even worse by the fact that the pattern on the track is moving and can actively disorient the player, which can cause a lot of screwing up on Slim-Line Slits.

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