Stories thrive on Conflict
, and to have conflict, a story must have at least two combatants. Typically, although the moral distinctions between one combatant and the other can be as clear and simple or murky and vague
as one likes, we in the audience will be inclined to take sides and wish for one combatant (the hero) to prevail over the other (the villain). If the hero wins, we'll usually consider this a Happy Ending
, and if the villain wins, we'll usually see this as a Downer Ending
Conflict, however, does not always turn out to be a simple zero-sum game where someone has to lose in order for someone else to win. Sometimes, though a hero and villain's goals are seemingly irreconcilable, they can work out a compromise to their mutual benefit. Sometimes, heroes and villains can find a way to bypass each other on the way to achieving their goals. Sometimes rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, and both manage to bring in a good harvest. In short, some stories end in victory for the heroes and villains alike.
In many ways, this ending is likely to qualify as one of the happiest versions of the Happy Ending
. Compare Sweet and Sour Grapes
, which may contribute to this ending for either or both combatants. It may also be especially common in stories where both sides are Only in It for the Money
and there's more than one way to get paid. This might also be the result of Cut Lex Luthor a Check
if it happens because the villain decides to cash in on his legitimate (or not-so-legitimate) talents.
Needless to say, this is an Ending Trope
, so expect spoilers.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- At the end of Macross7 the Protodevlin discover that by singing they can create Spiritua, rather than needing to steal from humans.
- In Naruto, the very long-running villain Pain realizes that his and Naruto's goals are the same but winds up preferring Naruto's approach over his own. He ultimately sides with Naruto and dies happy by sacrificing his own life to resurrect everyone he just killed.
- Many villains in One Piece end up being even more well-off than before they took on (and got clobbered by) the heroic Straw Hat Pirates. The most prominent case is Wapol, who was previously an oppressive king in a failing kingdom and, indirectly due to the Straw Hats' meddling, became a CEO for a toy company and now makes weapons-grade metal for the World Government's military (that only he can make). Both positions make more money than he ever made as king.
- Er subverted somewhat as he goes on to rebuild his own Drum Kingdom after the two year Time Skip with a much more evil motif. Yeah seems Wapol didn't learn diddly squat during his exile.
- Irresponsible Captain Tylor has this. Episode 23 features the conflict between Earth and the Raalgon coming to its climax... and then Tylor, the leader of Earth's forces, refuses to fire on the enemy, instead opting to pass through their lines peacefully. His unnatural luck, paired with his counterpart Dom's sense of honor (both of them repeatedly countered orders to fire from subordinates, believing in the other), caused the great conflict's final battle to end without bloodshed - a sympathetic retired admiral on Earth sent a message to both commanders congratulating them for both achieving victory (by going for peace).
- In Girls und Panzer, the final confrontation between Miho and her sister Maho's schools ends this way. Miho, in winning the tournament, saves her school from being shut down, enabling her to return for her third year with all her friends, and validates her own style of tankery. In doing so, she also makes this also a victory for Maho, whose greatest desire and reason for serving AS Nishizumi heir is for Miho to be able to live and do tankery her own way, and be happy doing so.
- Shakugan no Shana ultimately ends this way. A god named Fu Xi was awakened by the prayers of his followers, the Crimson Denizens, and planned to create a new world for his subjects to live in, away from the conflict with the Flame Hazes. Under the impression that the amount of Power of Existence that this plan would require would damage the Earth, the Flame Hazes fought back, and, in the end, sealed the god away. Cut to the present, and Fu Xi is released once again by Bal Masque, the antagonists of this series. This time, however, Fu Xi enters a contract with Yuji, and is renamed as 'The Snake of the Festival'. A second great war breaks out between the Flame Hazes and the Crimson Denizens, but Yuji and the god succeed in creating Xanadu, and were even able to do so without disrupting the fabric of reality around Earth. The conflict between the the two warring factions was now over, as the Crimson denizens relocate to Xanadu (alongside Shana and Yuji, to boot).
- Cardcaptor Sakura has this ending, as befitting a series with no real villains. The Clow Cards, antagonists of the first arc, end up with a new loving master who can sustain their power. Eriol, the antagonist of the second arc, only created conflict to help Sakura succeed, and took as much pleasure in her victories as she did. By the end of the series, with all the new relationships forged and old fences mended, everyone ends up better off than they did at the start.
- In the ElfQuest Holiday Special episode there's a major grudge fight between Cutter and Rayek where they almost end up killing each other. The win-win part is that it lets Cutter burn out his (admittedly justified) aggression toward Rayek, allowing them to become allies, if not actual friends just yet.
Folk & Fairy Tales
- In Bearskin, a soldier successfully escapes the Deal with the Devil he made out of desperation with a tidy profit, and gets a loving wife too. As for the devil, he proudly announces at the end that although he lost the soldier's soul, he gained the souls of his two new sisters-in-law in exchange: they had commited suicide out of envy when they saw what they had rejected.
- The tale of Peter Ox is an even better example: The Bad Guy Wins, but an odd brand of Hilarity Ensues and the farmer and his wife and their new step-son all end up living together Happily Ever After to the end of their days anyway. In this case, it's also win-win-win, as the titular Peter Ox is basically a bystander who just happens to reap great benefits when he gets caught up in the cover story the bad guy fed the farmer and his wife.
- Interestingly, Win Win only sort of has a Win Win Ending. Sure, Leo gets to stay in his own house, Kyle gets to stay in New Providence and Cindy is out of the immediate picture - but she gets $1500 a month for nothing while Mike has to take a second job and Kyle may have blown his chance at a wrestling scholarship.
- A version in Thor: The Dark World Thor gets to do what he wants: travel the worlds righting wrongs, fighting evil, and being with Jane Foster, without worrying about being king of Asgard which he doesn't want anymore. Meanwhile Loki gets what he wants: the throne of Asgard—which even Odin and Thor came to believe he was better suited temperamentally to occupy than Thor—no one the wiser, his adopted mother's killer dead, and Thor out of the picture). Even better, everyone else thinks he died a hero's death.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! ended with the Grinch being reintegrated into Whoville to everyone's benefit.
- Both the animated and live action movie adaptations of this story heavily implied that his thieving in some ways opened the Whos' eyes to how overly materialistic they'd been about Christmas, such that the moral reformation was a two-way street.
- In Treasure Island, the heroes did finally get their treasure. So did the villain Long John Silver, who escaped justice with several hundred pounds of it. In the words of protagonist Jim Hawkins, "I think we were all pleased to be so cheaply quit of him."
- Disney's Treasure Planet, being a straight IN SPACE! adaption of Treasure Island, has the same 'everybody goes home happy' ending, including Silver escaping with a bit of treasure and his freedom.
Live Action Television
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Nog and sometimes Jake's recurring subplots about a Chain of Deals usually end this way, with everyone getting what they want or ending up better off than at the episode's start. Most apparent in the episode "In the Cards", which ends with a montage of everyone in a better mood while the Captain's Log voiceover remarks on the sense of renewed energy.
- In Dilbert, the much-despised Pointy-Haired Boss often comes into conflict with his workers over their efforts to do as little work as possible and still get paid—but not always.
- This Bloom County strip, which also demonstrates an upside to Book Burning: as long as the burners are buying their kindling, the customers are satisfied, the stores that sold them their materials get paid, and the offending creator of the works destroyed gets another big fat royalty check.
- In the Firestorm extension for Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, both GDI and Nod are better off at the term of their Enemy Mine situation.
- Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish ends with everyone getting his and her wish.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the two-part series opener, the heroines save Equestria from Nightmare Moonís attempted eternal night. In the process, Nightmare Moon is reverted to her pre-villain identity as Princess Luna. After she asks forgiveness for her wrongdoing, the episode ends with a celebration in honor of Princess Lunaís return. (And the entire reason Luna had turned to villainy in the first place was because she thought the ponies didnít love or respect her.)
- Almost the definition of commerce if it works as intended (note the qualifier). For instance the Chinese had a great craving for jade and The Roman Empire had a great craving for silk and after a Chain of Deals through the Silk Road by relays of Intrepid Merchants, each managed to get it. A little more complicated then a simple trade, as Romans didn't have jade but they did have gold, with which could buy jade in central Asia.