"They were kids that I once knew, they were kids that I once knew, now they're all dead hearts to you..."
— Stars, "Dead Hearts"
This applies when a villain or other dark and troubled/troubling character was not so as a child: the trope name also tends to appear as a Stock Phrase
in these cases. Works, and audiences, may vary considerably as to what point they consider a character to be past the adolescent stage here, but post-adolescents in general need not apply.
Aversions will usually be notable here, given expectations that Children Are Innocent
, or that there's at least some Ambiguous Innocence
even when Kids Are Cruel
, so people will tend to assume a Start of Darkness must
have happened, and that there will
be a Freudian Excuse
that will explain (if not excuse) all. By extension, this trope frequently applies through subversion
etc. where an Enfant Terrible
, Creepy Child
, or Axe Crazy
junior initially manages to get past everyone's radar but is actually a little horror from the start
. ("And he seemed
like such a nice kid"). Often, it is not clear which a character fits under, which in turn often leads to a Flame War
, especially if the character is also a Draco in Leather Pants
Generally, the trope tends to be reserved for villains near the Big Bad
end of the villain spectrum, but can also be played for What Measure Is a Mook?
. Also, while this is most commonly a villain trope
, it can apply to characters who are not so much aligned with evil as troubled
or differently sane. Or an Anti-Hero
. Or just going through puberty
. (In the latter case, expect the parents to invoke the trope name.)
When played straight, this trope tends towards Rousseau Was Right
, though if other villains and darksiders in the same work do not fall under this trope, Rousseau may have only a partial victory, and the trope is sometimes used as the exception that proves the rule in Hobbes Was Right
or Humans Are the Real Monsters
scenarios. Also frequently used, straight or otherwise, to make more or less anvilicious
points about free will, destiny, individual responsibility, or the moral version of Failure Is the Only Option
Handled well, this trope can really add depth and complexity: handled badly, especially by combination with a poorly executed Freudian Excuse
, it tends to cause Badass Decay
and Villain Decay
Often related to From Nobody to Nightmare
, though the character may be of some prominence from an early age, or even from birth. This subset of the trope can be heart-breaking, as when a long-awaited Chosen One
turns bad. Also often the precursor to Break the Cutie
and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds
. In these cases, expect it to be Played for Drama
with extra Tear Jerker
moments. It's also often invoked to make the audience Cry for the Devil
. If they weren't just a sweet kid, but a Kid Hero
, they may be a dark version of Kid Hero All Grown Up
Sometimes, the "used to be nice" stage may be revealed only retrospectively, often by a third party, and the villain himself/herself may treat the "sweet kid" stage as an Old Shame
their Villain Cred
. This last one may be Played for Laughs
, as the villain furiously denies their Pet the Dog
past, often complete with stomping on cutesy childhood toys and memorabilia. Or it may be Played for Drama
in an "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight
with the good guys.
Compare to She's All Grown Up
, in which the character may have been a sweet kid, but is now a very attractive woman. Compare Used To Be More Social
in which the character used to be a social butterfly, but has become introverted and withdrawn.
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Anime and Manga
- Magneto from X-Men. Had the Holocaust not happened...
- The Joker, Depending on the Writer, and to the extent that he gets a childhood backstory at all (and which may or may not be true), and possibly Batman himself, when given a Darker and Edgier interpretation.
- Batman. He's not evil, but he sure is dark.
- There are a couple of Star Wars Expanded Universe webstrips set between the original and prequel trilogy. They cameo Ysanne Isard, Big Bad of the X-Wing Series, as a little girl. She idolized her father, Director of Imperial Intelligence, back then, although her innocence was in doubt even then, since he brought her to see his work, which involved hunting down and killing Jedi. As she grew up she was groomed to be a field operative, and started cultivating connections, which worried her father to the point that he sent her on a suicide mission. She survived, came back, trumped up a treason charge, executed her father, and took his place.
- Herr Starr, a Big Bad note from Preacher was this, until a bully-induced trauma that cost him an eye, his hair, and a good chunk of his humanity, before he'd even hit puberty.
- The Garth Ennis penned tale "The Tyger" shows a snippet of the childhood of Frank Castle before the days The Punisher MAX. He's a quiet, thoughtful young man who does well at school and is quite close to another girl his age. Events of the one-shot however show that Frank was surrounded by the refuse left by mobsters from an early age, and it left its mark.
- Chris Genovese/Red Mist/The Motherfucker from Kick-Ass. Volume 3 reveals that as a child, he used to be a fan of X-Men to the point where he would dress up as Wolverine on a daily basis.
- X-23: The entire plot of The Killing Dream, the first arc of her solo series, revolves around an apparition that may be the Enigma Force showing Laura that she wasn't born an emotionless killing machine, but that the Facility consciously destroyed her innocence. That she is inherently a good person despite the evil she's done is critical in helping her throw off the demon attempting to recruit her to his service. Innocence Lost actually shows what was done to her, as well as small glimpses of the sweet and innocent child she was before the Facility tried to break her. Much of Laura's life after escaping the facility is spent trying to repair the damage that was done to her.
- Xander Rice is first introduced in Innocence Lost as a wide-eyed toddler whom Martin Sutter has to tell his father won't be coming home. He grows up with such deep-seated loathing of Wolverine as a result, that he takes it all out on Laura just because she's Logan's clone. And then he doesn't so much jump off the slippery slope as he does take it with a rocket-powered toboggan and keep going.
- In subsequent books, even Kimura, of all people, is revealed to have been the product of an abusive upbringing and didn't used to be the Ax-Crazy psychopath Laura was introduced to by the Facility.
- In certain versions, Lex Luthor of Superman used to be a sweet, extremely intelligent kid - and in some cases, a friend of Clark's. What exactly happened depends on the writer.
- Iznogoud: Amazingly, Iznogoud. Iznogoud's Childhood reveals that he actually once was an adorable, good tempered, sweet kid who got along pretty well with Haround and Dilat.
- Magik was Colossus' sweet kid sister. Then... stuff happened, and she is now the franchise's main Designated Hero / Villain Protagonist / Nominal Hero / Anti-Hero, Depending on the Writer. Regardless of that, she's always her team's Token Evil Teammate and a Sociopathic Hero.
- Huntress, Helena Bertinelli, started out as a sweet, adorable little girl who, granted, had been born into a mafia family, but had not a bad thought for anyone. Then, when she was eight years old, her family was murdered in front of her at dinner. Then the Gotham police sent her a "condolence" card that read "Many Happy Returns!" Then she was taken to Sicily to be raised by her cousins, who turned out to be mafia assassins. They raised her to believe that the mafia were good-guy Robin-Hood types, and to believe in omerta, and to avenge her family, and, to that end, they trained her as an assassin. Then they were arrested by the Italian government as part of a crackdown on organized crime, and she was sent to boarding school in Switzerland, where she learned the truth about the mob. After an upbringing like that, it's hardly a surprise that she became a borderline-sociopath vigilante killer.
- Unsurprisingly, Frieza's backstory in Savior Of Demons shows that he was, as a child, not the psychotic killer he is at present. However, there are a few hints that he was manipulative and self-interested, as when he lied to his father about going with Kooler to see the Saiyans. He was not an Enfante Terrible from the very start, though.
- In The Swarm of War, Alena (the new Queen of Blades) was taken into the Swarm when she was five.
- Mare of Steel; Princess Celestia mentions that Prince Blueblood used to be much more respectful when he was younger. This is a plot point, as it turns out that General Zod replaced Blueblood several years prior to the story's beginning.
- As flashbacks in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic The Twilight Child show, the main character was an almost painfully cheerful foal, a far cry from the emotionally broken teenager she's become when we first see her.
- The whole point of Of Ramen and Wooden Skates is showing Orochimaru from the perspective of someone outside his team who knew him before his Start of Darkness.
Film - Animated
- Tai Lung of Kung Fu Panda was such a cute kid in the flashback sequences that he got a lot more sympathy from audiences than the filmmakers expected.
- The Incredibles: As an adolescent, Syndrome aka Buddy Pine was an adoring fan of Mr. Incredible until he was seemingly brushed away by his idol.
- In Toy Story 3, Chuckles said of a young Lotso "He used to be such a good toy." That is, until their owner Daisy accidentally forgot about them while on a picnic. After a grueling journey, Lotso returns with Chuckles and Big Baby to see Daisy with another Lotso-Hugging Bear and becomes cold and bitter, convincing the others that Daisy never loved them.
- Eight Crazy Nights: Davey was a teen basketball star and liked by practically everyone. Upon learning that his parents died in a car accident on the way to one of his games, he grew up to be an alcoholic jerk.
- Monsters University: Randall Boggs and Mike were friends in college. Randall himself was a very introverted Adorkable nerd who got encouragement from Mike and frequently helped Mike study, even letting him have first pick of the beds in their dorm. When Mike gets into a conflict with Sulley, then a Jerk Jock, Randall plays the rational friend and tells him to let it go. As the film goes on, Randall goes to the popular kids, and slowly loses his nice demeanor, blowing off Mike, who needed his help, and later helping to humiliate Mike's fraternity. By the end of the film Randall let rivalry, and implicitly ambition, get in his way and when Sulley accidentally ruined his chance of victory at the Scare games, swears to never be beaten by him again.
- Frozen: Elsa used to be a happy child, in addition to being a Cool Big Sis to Anna. Then, after an incident where she accidentally hit Anna in the forehead with her ice magic while trying to save her from falling, she was told to hide her powers from the world, especially from Anna (whose memory was altered by the trolls to erase her knowledge of Elsa's powers). Afterwards, Elsa avoided any interaction with Anna, becoming more of an Aloof Big Sister, remaining mostly in her room while brooding over her powers. By present day, she had become emotionally distant from everyone. However, she refrains from crossing the Moral Event Horizon, and even returns to being a good sister to Anna by the film's end.
Film - Live Action
- Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker. Innocent bright eyed mother's boy who builds robot buddies turned into well... Darth Vader.
- Shown mostly in the novelization, but Boba Fett turned from a sweet kid who idolized his father into a bounty hunter who had to be reminded to curb his penchant for disintegrations.
- Subverted, or possibly entirely inverted, with Eddie from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, if we are to believe his dodgy scientist uncle, Dr. von Scott: "From the day he vas born, he vas trouble/he vas the thorn/in his Mutter's side"
- The titular Kane from Citizen Kane.
- Chaz, from Air Heads, used to be called 'Chester' and play D&D.
- Red Skull from the infamous Captain America (1990) movie. Before the Super Soldier experiment - nice kid playing on piano. After the experiment - crazy nazi with super-strength who wants to rule the world.
- The live-action movie of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! does this to the Grinch, complete with a Freudian Excuse.
- Judging from the flashback, Loki from Thor had a good relationship with Thor and his father and had a penchant for mischief before the jealousy settled in.
- Loki was much the same in original Norse Mythology, sans the jealousy issues. Thor and Loki were frequently involved in mischievious pranks, and nobody thought too much of Loki's shenanigans until one of them got Baldr, the incredibly popular god of beauty, killed.
- Godzilla Junior is a subversion. On the one hand, he did start out as a bubbly, friendly and docile baby mutated Godzillasaurus. On the other hand, while he's not downright malevolent as a teenager, he is still a Godzilla and will utterly thrash you if you dare harm humanity. (Too bad that didn't work too well against Destoroyah.)
- Godzilla Final Wars even originally was going to show (and the final cut even heavily implies) that incarnation of Godzilla is Junior. While still not a villain, this incarnation is definitely playing at Good Is Not Soft at absolute best
- Erik in X-Men: First Class until, well, the Holocaust and the death of his mother. And Raven, who is still rather innocent for the majority of the film and is absolutely horrified when she sees Charles get shot, yet that doesn't stop her from going over to the dark side.
- Maleficent does this for both the title character and King Stefan, the latter of whom is the Big Bad. Yes, the self-proclaimed "Mistress of All Evil" was once a friendly, loving girl, who was in love with a human - but their love was destroyed by political feuds between their kingdoms. In the end, Maleficent does a Heel-Face Turn.
- In Jonathan Carroll's novel Bones of the Moon, the main character's husband comments that the boy who lived in the apartment above them, dubbed "The Axe Boy", was always such a good boy before he was arrested for chopping up his mother and sister.
"He seemed like a good kid, didn't he Cullen? 'Axe Boy'? Jesus, what a thing to call someone!"
"Danny, our young friend 'Axe Boy' Alvin Willians chopped his mother and sister into pieces exactly one floor above our apartment. A good boy he is not."
- The protagonist of Vernon Scannel's poem "Incendiary"
- The Indian Prince's boy from Raymond E. Feist's Faerie Tale, who we are told was once a nice boy.
- The long-awaited giant children in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are this, until they get possessed and Axe Crazy.
- Also, from the new chronicles, Roger Covenant. Probably.
- Kevin from We Need to Talk About Kevin was a full-on aversion of this trope from birth - or so his Unreliable Narrator mother claims.
- Harry Potter:
- Subverted in two ways with Sirius Black: he's been a pretty nice guy all along and he was also an immature, arrogant, bullying rebel as a teenager, averting the cliche that all good people are flawless angels as children.
- Snape seemed to have been about as good as a kid raised in an abusive and poor household could be expected. And while he eventually did a Heel-Face Turn to Dumbledore in his twenties, there was a period of time when he served Voldemort and remained bitter enough that many people believed he still was evil into his thirties.
- And Peter Pettigrew must have been at least a good and moral person, for the Marauders to both be friends with him and to trust him with their lives as adults.
- Quirinus Quirrell was apparently a very gifted wizard who, like any true Ravenclaw, loved to learn and study. However, years of abject bullying by his peers drove him to try and become a great wizard to show them all and be remembered. However, before he could do so, he happened to meet Voldemort on a trip to Albania...
- Averted with Voldemort. Tom Riddle was rotten to the core even as a small child.
- Francis Dolarhyde, aka the Tooth Fairy, from ''Red Dragon''. Played for one of the more selective instances of Cry for the Devil in the first film version, Manhunter:
Jack Crawford: You feel sorry for him.
Will Graham: As a child, my heart bleeds for him. Someone took a little boy and turned him into a monster. But as an adult... as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy. As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks.
- In John C. Wright's Titans of Chaos, Amelia thinks that the maenad she is working out how to shoot was once a sweet little baby. She braces herself by defying A Million Is a Statistic.
- Warrior Cats: Tigerstar, big bad of the entire series, is seen in the prequel Bluestar's Prophecy as a sweet, innocent, adorable kit who loves his mother and grows into a well-meaning but aggressive apprentice thanks to his Axe Crazy mentor. Same with Scourge, who in his backstory was an inquisitive, cute little kitten who had bad things happen to him, turning him into a crazy killer.
- Same for Brokenstar/kit; "Look! I'm a tree!"
- In "A Song of Ice and Fire" the Stark Kids, before they were all broken and put on their Jade Coloured Glasses. An example that is easily missed are Catelyn Stark's memories of Petyr Baelish as a mischievous, bold and sweet-natured little boy, who believed in all the songs and started out as idealistic as Sansa
- The general response to Sefalet with regards to her left-hand mouth in Dirge for Prester John.
- From Aunt Dimity Down Under: The expat Americans Angelo and Renee Velesuonno knew Broken Bird Bree Pym since she was ten years old, and Angelo hangs this lampshade when they meet Lori and Cameron for dinner in Ohakune, New Zealand. His description of Bree: "Nice kid, good manners and sharp as a tack." The Velesuonnos go on to say they were shocked at the recent changes in her appearance, particularly the choppy haircut.
- The Mord-Sith from The Sword of Truth series. Every year, six of the kindest, sweetest girls in the entire country are chosen to be trained as Torture Technicians. The kinder they are, the better.
- In Torn by Cat Clarke, it's revealed that Tara used to be an extremely sweet, kind young girl until when they were younger, Alice, then Tara's best friend, grew irritated with how she and Tara were the least popular girls in school and purposefully started to avoid her in an attempt to join in more with other kids. Of course, it backfired horribly.
- In More Than This, Regine the Scary Black Girl tells Seth she used to be a nice person, before her mother married an abusive man.
- Carrie White, from Carrie is described this way in an interview with a woman who met her during their childhood. She specifically points out the dramatic difference between the girl she knew and the tortured soul who appeared on the cover of a news magazine after massacring several teenagers and turning a city into a ghost town and wonders what Carrie's mother could have done to her to mess her up so badly.
- The short story "The Diary of Luke Castellan" shows this off with the titular Luke, a villain-turned-hero who used to be a very sweet kid. Or, as in this chapter of history, a sweet teenager. He's brave, protective, caring towards his little adopted family, to the point that he closely resembles the later hero of the series, Percy.
- Alice Cooper, "No More Mr. Nice Guy". First person, too.
- "I used to be such a sweet sweet thing till they got a hold of me..."
- Although he's a pretty nice guy as an adult. The song's arguably about the way the media painted his character based on his stage appearance.
- Averted in "Only a Lad" by Oingo Boingo.
- The Decemberists' song The Shankill Butchers:
They used to be just like me and you,
They used to be sweet little boys
But something went horribly askew
Now killing is their only source of joy
- Morrissey, "Used to be a Sweet Boy" and "The World is Full of Crashing Bores."
- The song "Junge" by German band Die Ärzte:
And you were such a sweet child
- Played for Laughs in Joe's Garage by Frank Zappa. Joe's neighbors viewed him as this ("He used to cut my grass, he was a very nice boy."), until he discovered rock 'n roll.
- Used in Lordi's "The Kids Who Want To Play With The Dead", which is a blasting of the the old media's hatred of the new media and love of blaming them ("The must have been some dangerous toys, and the music sings of murderous ploys...")
- The sweetest Girl by Nicki Minaj. "She used to be...(Yeah, she used to be the sweetest girl!) When a good girl gone she gone forever."
- Yu-Gi-Oh!'s monsters tend to have their own stories. In the case of the charmer monsters, Eria is hinted to grow up into Gishiki Ariel. It is unknown whether or not this was of her own free will or if she was brainwashed like other Gishiki monsters. However she went from sweet little girl into ruthless warlord.
- Her friend Gagagigo started his carrier as the little and cute Gigobyte and fights along with Eria. As the grown-up Gagagigo he eventuelly left her and someday he fought Freed the Brave Wanderer, ended up being trapped in another dimension. He met Marauding Captain and fought against Inpachi, who later appeared again as Blazing Inpachi; the Marauding Captain took the bullet, which inspired Gagagigo to do the same for one of the Captain's men during the war against Invader of Darkness. Later, in hope to defeat Invader of Darkness, he asked the Mad Scientist Kozaky to make him stronger who rebuild his body to the corrupted Giga Gagagigo. When he fought against Freed the Brave Wanderer again in his native dimension, he got an own attack reflected and lost. Obsessed to continue gaining strength to defeat his rivals, he continued his rampage and eventuelly transformed into Gogiga Gagagigo and truly lost his soul.
- The following story (which is "written" many years after his transformation) inverts his dark development as he fought Freed the Brave Wanderer again, finally overpowering him, but Marauding Captain appeared and protected him, before Gogiga Gagagigo gave him the finishing blow. Instead of following his corrupted instincts, Gogigo Gagagigo understands Marauding Captain's actions, and forsakes his quest for power. Thus, he finally becomes the strong warrior of justice he once sought out to be, Gagagigo the Risen.
- King Zephiel, of Fire Emblem: Fuuin no Tsurugi, was a Well-Intentioned Extremist whose dealings with his father had destroyed his faith in humanity. In the prequel, Rekka no Ken, he's The Wise Prince who just wants his father's love.
Stupid King Desmond!
- Konnan of Dragon Fable, who used to be Yulgar's apprentice and used to look up to heroes. Then Akriloth happened.
- Cyrus of Pokemon Diamond And Pearl, according to an elderly couple in his hometown of Sunyshore City. Even they, however, had to admit that even from the beginning he was a little bit funny...
- Utterly inverted by Jade Curtiss, who, when you get to know him, is actually a pretty nice guy. Then we learn about him as a child...
- Alternatively, Played Straight by Van Grants, as Guy Cecil mentions remembering Van serving him on Hod and how he was like a big brother to him.
- Geldoblame, the leader of the Evil Empire, is shown in the prequel Origins as the assistant of the local Reasonable Authority Figure, and helps the heroes out on a number of occasions. Near the end, we see what caused his Start of Darkness, and it ain't pretty: said Reasonable Authority Figure turns out to be only acting as such, and informs Geldoblame that You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. He doesn't take it well.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep includes glimpses into the lives of several Organization members before they became Nobodies. Ienzo was a cute Child Prodigy who followed his elders around in an oversized labcoat, and Lea and Isa were best friends with them having the dynamic of a Keet and Kuudere flavored Red Oni, Blue Oni. Isa is probably the worst, given how Saix is one of the most cruel Organization members.
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has Lea and Ienzo regain a little of their childhood sweetness upon the return of their hearts... Isa however? The game reveals that Isa / Saix has been slowly turning into another Xehanort vessel, which makes it unclear how much control he's had of his own actions.
- The Dept Heaven series spends a game showing us firsthand what a sweet person Gulcasa, the Hero Antagonist of Yggdra Union, used to be before his life caved in on him just when it had started to go right. Granted, side materials and Yggdra Unison, the Gaiden Game where he's one of the main characters, go to show that he's still an incredibly nice guy off the battlefield, but given that the Sympathetic P.O.V. is kept away from him for most of the main game, you'd never know it.
- Porky Minch of EarthBound may not have ever been a "sweet kid" by any stretch of the imagination, but he was certainly a normal one. Throughout the course of the story, events slowly dragged him in and corrutpted him, to the point where he became The Dragon to Giygas, and may actually have been pulling Giygas's strings by that point. When that fell through, he disappeared into time, later resurfacing to invade and corrupt the Nowhere Islands, dismember and reassemble its wildlife, and slowly suck the soul out of Tazmily Village until everyone left for his city. All of this was done out of sheer boredom and shows absolutely no remorse for anything, believing himself to be victimised and in the right.
- In the end, it's shown that Giygas and/or the Mani Mani Statue were playing on his desire to be liked, when he states one of his main motivations for destroying the world to be so that "...everyone who won't like me is gone."
- The trope is almost said word-for-word by one of the characters in Soul Nomad's New Game+, right before you stab her.
- Darion Mograine of World of Warcraft, as a child, loved his father and hoped to become a paladin. After sacrificing himself to save his father's soul, he became a Death Knight agent of the Lich King's will, and later, a ruthless Anti-Hero willing to do whatever is necessary to defeat the Lich King.
- For that matter, the Lich King himself. The child we see early in his novel is something of an idealist, loves animals, and is kind even to commoners to a point he's said to spend more time with them than is appropriate for royalty, including being best friends with one. One dead horse, zombie plague, and a few questionable war decisions later, and Arthas has become first the champion and then ruler of death itself. Special attention is even brought to this with the five-year perpetual dream he had during his long sleep after taking up the crown, in which he finds two figures battling to influence him: Ner'zhul (the previous Lich King) and his own innocent child-self. Eventually, he kills them both.
- Ayane of Dead or Alive, according to Dimensions, used to cheerfully play with her sister Kasumi all the time, before circumstances related to Kasumi being favored, then leaving the village to get revenge for her brother caused her to become embittered and hostile toward her.
- Inverted in Dragon Quest V; Harry is a vile, abusive spoiled brat as a boy, but years of hardship and suffering turn him into a kind, honorable and selfless young man.
- Played straight with Terry in Dragon Quest Monsters and Dragon Quest VI. Life between the two was rather harsh between the two games (highlights include an evil king forcing his beloved sister into prostitution), turning him from an adorable heroic figure into a darker antihero.
- Here's a fun one for you. In Kingdom of Loathing, once you Ascend, you can gain access to a Temporal Rift and visit the past version of several Nearby Plains areas. One of them is Fernsworthy's Hut, the past version of Fernsworthy's Tower. Fernsworthy himself is still alive at this point, and is teaching an Ethics of Magic class. You know that cute schoolgirl who winks at you as you're leaving that scene? If only the Naughty Sorceress had paid attention in that class...
- In Shadowrun Returns you're investigating your friend Sam's murder. You can find a photo of him and his twin sister Jessica as children. In the present, he was a drunken loser (who, in his own words, probably deserved whatever killed him) and his sister's become a cold, Corrupt Corporate Executive who had Sam and several other innocents murdered because she wanted to bury their mother with the organs they'd had transplanted from her.
- In NieR Replicant, the eponymous protagonist is initially a kind, optimistic, and selfless 16 year old (though even then he was hiding severe issues, like the fact that he went into prostitution to pay for his sister's medicine and developed a fear of people touching his hair as a result of the sexual encounters with a rough customer). After his sister is kidnapped by the Big Bad, his entire world falls apart. Cue the 5 year timeskip into the second half of the game, and you see he's become an irreparably damaged, murderous and bitter young adult.
- In Skullgirls, Peacock was a friendly, cartoon-loving child before being captured by slave traders and horribly mutilated by them. While Dr. Avian and the Anti-Skullgirls Labs were able to repair her body, her mind remained scarred, leaving her an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight using her love of cartoons as the basis for her attacks. Her friend, Marie, is also an example of this trope: she was captured by the same group of slave traders, sending her on a quest for revenge by tracking down and using the Skull Heart.
- Meanwhile, Carol was an innocent, kindly teenager before being captured by Valentine and Lab 0, who transformed her into the horrific Painwheel. She's Brainwashed into tracking down the Skull Heart for Lab 0.
- Soul Series
- Siegfried Schtauffen was a kind child and the son of a proud esteemed Knight of the Holy Empire, until his father went away on a mission and started hanging with the wrong crowd and formed a gang of bandits. One night, Siegfried and his gang raided a tired group of knights and murdered them all. To his horror, Siegfried realized that one of the knights he killed was his father and was driven insane. He eventually convinced himself that someone else had killed his father and heard of Soul Edge, the esteemed "Sword Of Salvation" seeking it out hoping to take down his father's killer. Soon after gaining Soul Edge, he becomes the new host for it, becoming the demon knight known as Nightmare.
- Ivy Valentine appears to fit the Trope; the family portrait◊ hanging in the Valentine Mansion on her SCIII stage seems to suggest it, as she looks to be about 11-12 years old, sports a cute (platinum) bob and has a hand placed lovingly on Earl Valentine's shoulder.
- Jin Kazama from Tekken. Jin was a kind, sweet, boy who has a lived a rather happy life with his mother Jun Kazama until he was told by his mother at the age of 15 that his father was Kazuya Mishima (who was dead at the time) and that something bad might happen to her and should anything go wrong, that he should go to his grandfather Heihachi, the head of the Mishima Zaibatsu. One night, an entity known as Ogre attacks their home and in the aftermath, Jun is missing. Respecting his mother's wishes, Jin goes to his grandfather Heihachi and asks him to train him to avenge his mother. At the age of 19, Jin enters the 3rd King of Iron Fist Tournament and makes it all the way to the final contestant, Ogre. After he defeats Ogre, he is then gunned down by Heihachi and his soldiers. Jin reawakens and becomes Devil Jin (thanks to the Devil Gene he inherited from his father) and smashes Heihachi through a wall and flies off into the night. Since then, he has nothing but hatred for his paternal side of the family and will do anything to be rid of them and his curse, even if it means putting the world in danger.
- Before Jin was his father, Kazuya, who used to be gentle in nature. After having endured his father Heihachi's abuse for years, he finally snaps when the old man tosses him down a ravine as part of a do-or-die trial to see if he was worthy of inheriting the Mishima Zaibatsu. That event both drove him to hatred and awakened the Devil Gene inside him, allowing him to survive to get revenge and try to take over the world.
- Wirt, the unfortunate peg-legged boy from the game Diablo. He wasn't always the Jerkass he is in the game: he was a normal kid from the city of Tristam, until he was abducted by demons and pulled inside the Cathedral. Griswold managed to save him, but not only Wirt lost his leg but also a big part of his sanity.
- Juri from Street Fighter is a sadistic hedonist who revels in bloodshed, but even if she doesn't make a big deal out of Shadoloo having killed her parents when she was younger, it obviously played some part in the twisted person she became. The OVA mentions that she was once a promising taekwondo fighter, and the UDON comics portray her as a somewhat reserved, innocent girl who is eager to please her parents; five months later, after her father has been executed on live TV, her own feelings of weakness transform into an obsession with becoming a pure embodiment of death.
- Archer from Fate/stay night, though in a subversion he's just as broken inside now as he was when he was younger — he's just grown more outwardly cynical and self-aware towards his inner failings. Fate/hollow ataraxia shows this to be the case with Gilgamesh, and Fate/Zero with Kiritsugu as well.
- Ace Attorney: 9 years old Miles Edgeworth◊ was idealistic and adorable to the max. Then, his father was murdered. Before his eyes. Edgeworth was embedded with a severe phobia of elevators and earthquakes, and a hatred for criminals, defense attorneys, and himself after this. Even after his eventual Heel-Face Turn he still has trouble relearning the social skills he lost due to this trauma and always comes across as blunt, insensitive and cold to others◊.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Miyo Takano used to be a cute, sweet girl who liked to collect flags and go eat outside with her parents. A car crash, which causes the death of said parents, results in her getting send to a horrible foster home where she spends "not so nice" moments. Much later, she's out murdering children to release an illness that'll kill hundreds, all while laughing maniacally and spouting self-glorifying lines.
- In Ryukishi07's other famous series, Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the main antagonist, the seemingly Axe Crazy sadistic Beatrice was once a timid young servant named Yasu who wanted to learn magic to spice up his/her not really nice life. While Beatrice isn't actually as sadistic as she seems, she still has a lot of issues.
- Akane Kurashiki, aka June in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. She used to be a sweet girl, but the trauma of the first Nonary Game turned her into a person willing to do anything for the sake of ensuring her survival and later, saving the world - whether that means sacrificing her life (for the latter) or someone else's. Her childhood friend Junpei Tenmyouji remarks at the end of Virtue's Last Reward that the Akane he knew is gone.
- "Player Two is red. He's a quiet sort of lunatic. The type everyone always says "was such a nice kid" after they find like, twenty human faces in his freezer."
- The Order of the Stick
- Averted in the case of Xykon - the whole point of the Start of Darkness prequel book was to show that he had no redeeming features whatsoever, and never did- in the creator's words, not only is he thoroughly evil, he's also sort of a dick. While he may not have been evil when he first discovered his gift for Necromancy at the age of 4, by the age of 12 he's killing a Captain Ersatz of Professor Xavier (granted, one who was being an incredible dick about how wizards are inherently better than sorcerers), zombifying him and siccing him and his zombified grandma on his parents.
- Played straight with Redcloak and his close-knit family, though.
- Richard from Looking for Group may qualify.
- Trace Legacy from TwoKinds was an OK guy, untill he tried using Necromancy to ressurect his recently-slain wife.
- Vriska Serket may play jump-rope with the Moral Event Horizon, but as a kid she was positively adorable.
- Rose Lalonde started off as a mature yet sweet 13-year old who just wanted to play a game with her friends so she could see her dead cat again. Once the game got started, she started communing with the Horrorterrors and wielding dark magic. She eventually turned into this. She gets better, though.
- Aradia can count as an example, being a cheerful Adventure Archaeologist before dying. She becomes the kind of person who enjoys breaking things for amusement and claiming there is no free will. She gets better during the course of the story.
- Averted with Lord English. His younger self Caliborn is almost as bad as he is now, just smaller and constrained.
- Kurloz Makara seems to have been a pretty nice normal teenager until he had some kind of Eldritch Abomination nightmare, mutilated his own mouth, and started working for the abovementioned Big Bad. His dancestor Gamzee similarly was fine until he ran out of sopor slime; it's likely he would still have turned to working for Lord English, but would have done so more subtly and without murdering Equius and Nepeta, had he never been on the drugs.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Fructose Riboflavin used to be a nice little larva on planet Butane. But his dad was a highway bandit. And then his dad got killed...
- In Sinfest, an appeal on the grounds she wasn't always a devil girl. Neither was Lil' Evil always evil
- Sometimes used in Chick Tracts. Examples include Bruce in "Fallen" and Harry in "Fairy Tales".
- Brian and Angelo are revealed to have shades of this in Our Little Adventure. Brian and his empire originally assisted followers of The Angel of Justice making a large part of the main Manjulias continent safer from savage creatures. Angelo was originally a member of The Angel of Justice's clergy, but eventually turned away from his goddess due to his bad experiences with many of the people he helped.
- Setz from Crepuscule is shown to be a bright spirited young boy in the prologue chapters but is later shown to be a fairly apathetic, uncaring guy after the Time Skip.
- Done tearjerkingly in The Nostalgia Critic's "Commercials Special". When he's on the edge of a Despair Event Horizon, he picks up a photo of himself as a kid and angsts about how he had so much promise and dreams back then. So that sweet, "perfect" child went through a Break the Cutie (parental abuse, date rape, bullying and stalkers) and became a cynical, depressed man who has nothing left in his life but reviewing. He gets a Crowning Moment of Awesome right after, but still... ouch.
- The Nostalgia Chick used to be an adorable girl who wanted a fairytale wedding when she was six, had quite a few friends and fell in love with a dragon because he was honorable. Then bullying, abuse, becoming a Bratty Teenage Daughter and turning to alcoholism happened, so now she's a lonely, psychopathic Broken Bird. Again, ouch.
- Happens frequently in Survival of the Fittest if you read pre-game. Many characters come off as likable, friendly people, only to be broken once the game starts, in a good portion of cases turning Ax-Crazy. As a result, you will be seeing this trope a lot, especially if the character showed up in pre-game frequently or there are any flashbacks involving the character.
- The Doomy Adventures Of Irken Doominess: Melissa as a smeet was a very fraile and kind irken, until she was abused by her classmates, lost her sanity, began killing lots of people, got a taste for human blood and over all became quite messed up to some degree.
- Gar who was normal as a smeet, got ridiculed by everyone, was singled out to be the tallests personal Chew Toy, started Hearing Voices, got a major Sanity Slippage which resulted in her trying to kill the tallest.
- Deef might qualify since Word of God states his mother cared about him up until the age of six when she decided he was able to take care of himself, he still lives with her but seems neglected by her, although Deef isn't insane or there isn't anything seemingly wrong with him, he's strange and has No Social Skills.
- Inverted with Nel who used to be a Homicidal jerk And is now a very nice human.
- In Worm, after Taylor has her secret identity exposed, news crews go around to talk to the few people who knew her, who are all astonished that the quiet, unassuming, bullied teenager they knew is now the single most powerful and brutal supervillain in the city.
- Adam from Arby 'n' the Chief is an 8-year old boy whose a member of Chaos Theosis, a group of cyberterrorists who wreck havoc across Xbox's Network. However, he is demonstrated to be the most cruel and volatile of of all its members. He always screams and shouts online, verbally abuses his mother and friends, gleefully enjoys killing people for fun, and stealing their account information to do what he feels like doing with it. During his final appearance though, when his mom finally breaks down asking what can be done to make him behave, she reminds him (and his friends) that was once a very happy young boy who would play nicely until playing Halo corrupted him into the monstrous child that he's become. Adam however coldly dismisses her yet again and continues acting the way he does. Needless to say, this comes back to bite Adam at his demise, HARDLY.
- In Thor: Tales of Asgard it was revealed that Loki was like this as a teenager. Its not until the betrayal of a family friend and the use of Sword of Surtur that his former outlook starts souring and he begins to think different.
- Monty Burns on The Simpsons was depicted as one in "Rosebud." A flashback showed him happily playing with his teddy bear Bobo, and being referred to by his parents as "Happy." He immediately abandons them, however, to live with a "twisted, loveless billionaire."
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- The Legend of Korra
- Noatak who eventually adopted the name Amon was described as being a kind boy who always strove to help and be fair to everyone. It didn't last... Or rather, it did, but in the Darkest Way Possible.
- Noatak's younger brother, Tarrlok, was a very sweet and timid boy. his adult version...Not So Much.
- Season 4 gives us an older example in Kuvira. In Season 3, she was a kind and caring person who rescued Korra's father from certain death and was devoted to Suyin. Suyin even claimed she was like a daughter to her. But the faithful fallout with her over how to save the Earth Kingdom and the subsequent 3 years would turn her into a cold, power-hungry tyrant.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 episode "Insane in the Membrane", it appears like this trope will be subverted when Baxter flashes back to his childhood and is seen about to pour some sort of chemicals on a bug in a jar. He changes his mind and lets the bug go. Through more flashbacks, it was clear that he was a good kid who was devastated by his mother's death, and the memories of her were enough for him to let the Turtles and April go.
- On The Fairly Oddparents, Denzel Crocker was a near perfect child who was loved by everybody as a child. However, losing his fairies was his Start of Darkness.
- Amazingly, Lucius VII on Jimmy Two-Shoes. He's Satan (albeit a mostly incompetent one), but what flashbacks we get of his childhood paint him as actually cute and rather sympathetic, being abused by his father or the people of Miseryville. Then again, given the place he lives in, it's probably no surprise he grew up the way he did.
- Zig-zag: In the 1993 cartoon Itsy Bitsy Spider (based on the animated short subject that played with Bebe's Kids in theaters), Leslie—the little girl who befriends Itsy—was a sweet, introverted kid in the short and first season. Many episodes in season two have her a head-slapping bitch.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Asajj Ventress, through a series of flashbacks, is shown to have first been a cute little girl who later turned to the dark side after her Jedi Master, Ky Narec, was killed.
- Archer: The title character was a fairly normal kid, but his mother wasn't around at all until he was 5, and messed him up even worse after she returned.
- Ricky Owens from Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated went from the Shaggy of the original Mystery Inc. to the devious bastard he's known as in the present. Mr. E.
- Although he had shades of being a Spoiled Brat especially after his mother's death and his father's initial refusal to hit him, Clay Puppington in Moral Orel was revealed to be this in "Passing." He was actually somewhat Orel-like.
- Nightmare Moon from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic used to be a Socially Awkward Heroine Princess Luna before bitterness and jealousy toward her sister twisted her into a monster. Subverted in that not only did she get better, but Word of God says that she was actually corrupted by outside forces and not acting of her own accord.
- Dan from Dan Vs.: In "Summer Camp", Dan is bullied and responds by telling the camp director. Contrast that with how now-a-days with his first response to anything fustrating, no matter what or how small the problem is, his first response is almost always to get revenge.