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Sliding Scale Of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Anime & Manga
  • Most shonen works (particularly the action fighter types) tend to fall into the idealistic side. Yes, there are shonen series that fall into the cynical side (like Death Note), but they are mistaken as seinen due to the mood (see What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?).
  • Even though they have plenty instances of dark, cynical moments, Mazinger Z and its sequels - Great Mazinger and UFO Robo Grendizer- fall firmly into the idealistic side. When push came to shove, it was through courage, guts, faith and The Power of Friendship the heroes and heroines managed to prevail. It is a stark contrast to another work of Go Nagai, Devilman, that is completely cynical and dark.
  • Getter Robo slides back and forth due to its diffrent adaptaions and its heroic-anti heroes to outright insane ones. TV series is idealistic for kids, but New and Armageddon are dark, depressing, and gory. At the end, however, it comes to the same result: three Getter pilots piloting their Transforming Mecha and beating every evil up with their overwhelming willpower (and shouting volume.)
  • Sailor Moon is an excellent example of an idealistic series; the more cynical and ruthless Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune's plans to sacrifice themselves (and a few other, unwilling, folk) for the greater good failed (and had absolutely no chances of success, when they attempted it the second time), while All-Loving Hero Sailor Moon's determination to stop the Big Bad without anyone dying saved them all. Notably, Sailor Moon and two of the Big Bads actually get into arguments centered around this trope during their confrontations, with the villains insisting that the world is hopelessly rotten and Sailor Moon stalwartly refusing to give up hope and belief in people's goodness. The fact, that both of these Big Bads were somewhere between Brainwashed and Crazy and suffering a full-scale Demonic Possession at the time, says everything you need to know about the actual stance of this series.
  • Contrast to Neon Genesis Evangelion, an example of a very cynical series; many of the characters love or hate others (or themselves) for shallow and petty but realistic reasons. And in later episodes, many of the characters' backstories are revealed to be nightmarish and hellish. And don't even get started on End... The message of the show can be considered ultimately idealistic; that, if these characters could reach the togetherness and love that they yearn for, everything would be all right. Whether the events of the show bear that out is hotly debated. The show (and movie) intentionally don't bear that out because one of the prevailing points is that the above ideal is impossible to attain. "Hedgehog's Dilemma" and all that.
    • Your mileage will really vary on this one. Many people find the series cynical due to the brutality, the characterization, the Cosmic Horror Story implication, etc, but many others also find it rather uplifting. You can't say a series is 100% cynical with the lines "Anywhere can be paradise, so long as you have the will to make it happen" (or something to that effect). Even the last scene is debatable, as people debate whether or not Shinji and Asuka are the last humans alive, whether they'll get along, whether they'll become romantically involved, whether humanity would return, and whether they're both over their psychological trauma, especially when one considers Asuka and Shinji essentially had their entire world views uprooted and altered. In other words: Eva broke the scale.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, on the other hand, is as far towards Idealism as Eva is towards Cynicism. Kamina steadfastly believes in freedom, heroism, the Power of Friendship, and in never, ever giving up even beyond the very end. Although the otherwise continuous stream of pure Idealism is balanced every now and then by an occasional peak of Cynicism (usually by Shooting The Dog, as well as a huge Nice Job Breaking It, Hero), alongside a very down-to-earth conclusion to the overall narrative. Still, the series is such the opposite of Evangelion (from the idealism to the choices made by the protagonist) that it has been dubbed as the Anti-Eva. It helps that the show takes place in a universe where Idealism is an actual physical power source, although one that if left unchecked, will cause the The End of the World as We Know It.
    • Even better, both Eva and TTGL were both made by Gainax!
  • While EVA and Gurren Lagann are the poster children for cynicism and idealism in Humongous Mecha shows respectively, Code Geass uses the conflict between the two as one of the many clashes between its male leads. The protagonist, Lelouch, feels that The Empire is horribly corrupt and beyond redemption, meaning that in order to achieve peace he has to destroy it, start over from square one and generally act like Machiavelli's The Prince personified. His friend/rival Suzaku believes that destruction is never the answer and holds out hope that idealism and obstinacy can reform Britannia. Late in the series, the point becomes moot as Lelouch kills the Emperor and seizes power, with Suzaku as his knight/bodyguard.

    The conflict then slides from the one between Lelouch and Suzaku to the one between Lelouch and his older brother Schniezel, with Lelouch representing the idealistic side of the scale, namely that people aren't naturally violent and can be taught to be kind to each other, and Schniezel representing the cynical end of the scale, that people are inherently prone to conflict and true peace can only be achieved through the threat of overwhelming force in the present. In the end, sheer violence wins out, and the series suggests that Lelouch's idealistic, if suicidal, plan has changed humanity for the better. Ironically, both plans centre around threats and violence, it's simply the one believes that state needs to be maintained, and the other believes that people will learn from that experience.
  • In Humongous Mecha series, Real Robot series tend to fall more toward cynical, while Super Robot series fall more toward idealistic.
  • Despite this, Macross 7, a Real Robots series, is about as idealistic as it gets. During the first few episodes, the main character looks like a fish-out-of-water Actual Pacifist trying to end a space war by SINGING AT PEOPLE while they're killing each other and one side is eating the other's souls in order to fully awaken Eldritch Abominations that will bring about The End of the World as We Know It. And, at the end, it works in the best way possible.
    • The Macross franchise in general is very much on the idealistic end of the scale with its themes of how understanding, love and music can overcome all odds and convert the most alien of foes into friends.
  • Conversely, some of Yoshiyuki Tomino's entries into the Super Robot genre, namely Zambot 3 and Space Runaway Ideon contain elements that subvert the idealism and Black and White Morality of other Super Robot shows not to mention incorporating Kill 'em All endings, as per his nickname. For instance, in Zambot 3, the protagonists of the Jin family are not praised for their efforts for the majority of the series, but are instead condemned as the cause of the problem. Somewhat justified, seeing as the populace is rather uninformed, and Zambot 3, like any other Humongous Mecha, causes a fair bit of property damage and human casualties in its own right. Most series just choose not to address it. Additionally, it is implied in Ideon that the Ide was just using the crew that defends it in an Evil Plan to cause The End of the World as We Know It. Suffice it to say, while Ideon is infamously cynical, Zambot 3 could at least be seen as having a Bittersweet Ending depending on how one interprets the Gaizok being defeated at the cost of the lives of all but one protagonist, along with the populace coming around to recognize the Zambot pilots as heroes.
  • Cowboy Bebop has some idealistic aspects. For example, the young girl Ed is never around when things get really dangerous or serious, the hero Spike Spiegel lives through things that would have killed him in real life, and many episodes feature at least one bad guy who is irredeemably bad while others who change their ways or who are sympathetic. On the other hand, Cowboy Bebop is also quite cynical. Unlike most fiction, people go to the bathroom and wash their clothes. Bad things happen to good people, and the "happy endings" to the episodes usually have a catch, ex: In episode 2, Ein the dog is saved, and the bad guy is stopped, but our bounty hunter heroes got no money for their efforts, just a dog they think is worthless. Almost all of the main characters, and many of the other "good" characters have very negative aspects, and some of the "bad" characters are not quite as "evil" as you think. Ex: Jet Black is an ex-cop who left because he hated the corruption in the force, yet he is not above blackmailing his ex co-workers for info. Another example: The Red Dragon gangster Vicious is the main villain in the series, but he has good reason to be angry — Spike Spiegel stole his girlfriend, and then turned against the Red Dragon Syndicate. Even worse, his boss Mao Yenrai still would like Spike to come back, and wants to bargain with other syndicates instead of fighting them. Not to mention that many of these people are members of or associated with criminal syndicates, placing them in anti-hero territory at best. The ultimate message of the show seems to be both extremely idealistic and extremely cynical as it involves the main character's death. Cowboy Bebop is ultimately a show where people can be counted on to do the right thing... eventually.
  • Berserk is what happens when the cynical end of the scale forces the idealistic end down and breaks its arm. And then chops it into little pieces with a BFS. And then, for good measure, blasts whatever's left with an Arm Cannon. Underneath all the gritty medieval violence and Deconstructed Tropes, however, the series is actually rather optimistic. Camaraderie is a central theme in the series, as Guts learns to appreciate friendship after being a loner for several years (twice!). And while its been repeatedly stated that Guts cannot really effect any major change in the flow of Causality, he has been a positive influence on many people he's encountered, such as Farnese and the little girl Jill, and has changed the misanthropic viewpoint of Cute Witch Schierke to a more hopeful one. In fact, most of the cynicism is in the early chapters, and the endings of both the Lost Children and Albion arcs ended on positive notes, with the supporting characters from both going on to live better lives.
    • Berserk may be a subversion in a weird fatalistic way. If causality is absolute and nothing the characters do can make a lasting impact on the Crapsack World around them, that definitely tends toward the cynical. But on the other hand, a certain amount of idealism is consistently portrayed as being much better for one's own personal mental sanity if nothing else. The moral seems to be that if you ultimately have no control over your life anyway, you might as well spend as much time as you can being with your loved ones before either you or they or both inevitably get raped, killed, and eaten by demons (not necessarily in that order). But a lot will depend on the ending.
  • Kei Kurono and most of the other characters of Gantz are selfish and cynical, while Kato is more idealistic and tries to save everyone. Gantz generally retains its cynical edge throughout the course of the manga, though a few idealistic moments have cropped up briefly throughout the series, such as Kurono's development into more of a leader-figure, becoming less selfish and more heroic, as well as when most of the Gantz crew who had survived and attained 100 points at the time used their 100 points to resurrect one of Kurono's dead friends from the Gantz database. Like Berserk above, Gantz almost sidesteps the entire issue by being utterly fatalistic. Neither the cynical or the idealistic characters seem to have any particular advantage in the practical business of survival, but the idealistic ones at least tend to be happier until they inevitably get killed in the most gruesome way possible.
  • Dragon Ball is as a whole is definitely on the idealistic side: the good guys always win and all the damage done by the bad guys is almost always undone, and most bad guys come back as allies for the next fight, converted by the Power of Friendship.
  • Fist of the North Star is unapologetically idealistic and morally righteous in spite of being set in a post-apocalyptic Crapsack World. The heart and soul of the series seems to be "It is easy to do good in times of prosperity, but it takes a true hero to be a good person when the entire world is screaming for you to be otherwise." Not to mention several main villains reveal their tragic pasts and their good side when they are about to die... such as Shin, Juda, and even Souther and Raoh... Note that Toki leans on the idealistic end of the scale and Raoh on the cynical end, regarding the world laid in ruin by the nuclear war. We can see this story is literally the fight between the idealistic side and the cynical side.
    • The prequel, Fist of the Blue Sky, however, is more cynical in nature, in that The Hero is helping a drug lord take over Shanghai City where guns are prominent, even though there are mentions of building a Shangri-La right here. Almost no bad guys get redemption from their crimes, either.
  • In the Battle Royale manga, Shuya Nanahara is a very idealistic Rock n' Roll fan, even though the series itself is far at the cynical end of the spectrum. This causes Mood Whiplash between issues, or even between scenes, making you wonder if Shuya has the magical ability to make the plot more forgiving.
  • One of the running themes throughout Trigun is the clash between Vash the Stampede's idealism and the cynical viewpoint of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Vash doesn't want to kill anyone, but when forced to choose between the lives of his friends and that of a major villain, he does ultimately shoot to kill. This gets him deeply depressed. Nicholas, though a priest, admits that killing is necessary. In the end, Nicholas finally agrees with Vash, which is what gets him killed. Even better example is the clash between Knives who believes humans are scum and need to die in order for plants to survive and Vash who believes humans and plants can co-exist. In the end, Vash turns out to be right as humans decide to help plants even though those plants were previously fused with Knives for Knives's scheme to Kill All Humans. Soon after the final battle, Knives, like Nicholas, dies but acknowledges that Vash is correct to put faith in humans. The ideal vs. cynic is echoed between Millie and Meryl, and between Vash's indomitable idealism and the Crapsack World at large.
  • The Gundam franchise is all over the scale with Zeta Gundam, Gundam 0080, Gundam 0083, Victory Gundam, MS Igloo and Gundam Age as the most cynical, G Gundam, Gundam Wing, Gundam X, ∀ Gundam and Gundam 00 as the most idealistic and rest like the original Mobile Suit Gundam, The 08th MS Team, Gundam ZZ, Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny somewhere in the middle.
    • In general, the Universal Century is widely regarded as the most cynical, affected by Tomino's battle with depression, conflict with Sunrise, and hatred of Japan's actions and attitude towards World War II. It's a continual cycle of From Bad to Worse and Kill 'em All, though it has a tendency to flip-flop to idealistic from time to time, as evidenced best by the massive Tone Shift between Zeta Gundam and Gundam ZZ and the ones in some of the OV As and Compilation Movies.
    • The Future Century is a Super Robot show, which predisposes it for idealism. Although it takes place in a Crapsack World with plenty of corruption and Scenery Gorn, it is also the only timeline that actually found a way to end mass-casualty warfare; the problem is fixing the system used to replace it.
    • After Colony features heavily damaged Child Soldiers. It proceeds to break the pilots who didn't come pre-broken, and then breaks the Child Soldiers again for good measure. There are twisted politics that leave the heroes as continual Unwitting Pawns, and the destruction of many colonies and nations but does not Kill 'em All and ultimately presents an idealistic message about pacifism and the ability of people to heal.
    • The After War era starts off as a Crapsack World in the culimination of an apocalyptic war and a mass Colony Drop leading to the death of 99% of the human race, and everyone trying to survive by whatever means necessary, however it gets much better. In the end, the Frost Brothers are defeated, the Satellite System is destroyed, the myth of Newtypes as weapons of war or the next step of human evolution, which drove the world-ending war in the first place is refuted, the warmongering leaders of the New Earth Federation and the Space Colonies are both wiped out(by the Frost Brothers) and the remnants of the governments finally making peace with each other, and the various protagonists all survive in a world that is gradually recovering, making this one of the most idealistic series in the franchise to date.
    • The Cosmic Era is pretty much the darkest of the non UC Gundam universes, with Kira, Lacus, Athrun and their friends being the only thing that kept humanity from destroying itself. When they weren't there, well as Rau Le Creuset summarizes life in CE:
      "It's like we're walking through a maze of sorts. There are always so many paths to choose from. We pick a path, and we follow it. You people walk your path believing that something you desire is waiting for you. I walk it to confirm that there is nothing there."
    • The first season of Anno Domini starts as cynical. The heroes are part of what is arguably a terrorist organization trying to end war by brute force, and all of them are deeply scarred in one way or another. Governments are corrupt and the first part ends on a decidedly unhappy note. In the second season, idealism begins to triumph over the angst episode by episode, followed by a cautiously upbeat ending. The Movie moves this timeline firmly on the idealistic end, showing that even the most war-weary of soldiers can find true understanding, even if it takes a long time to do so.
    • The Advanced Generation slides down towards cynical over the show's three-generation timespan, with Flit Asuno going from Wide-Eyed Idealist to Knight Templar, Asemu deciding that the only way to keep both sides from destroying each other is to keep things at a stalemated Forever War, and Kio's attempts to connect with his foes meeting with repeated failure. The Vagans, meanwhile, see-saw from enigmatic villains to legitimately aggreived and then back to unsympathetic with The Reveal of their leader's true goal and ultimately all perishes for it. Although at the surface it seems to slide back into idealism at the end, it is at best a Bittersweet Ending for the finale.
    • And finally the Correct Century displays White and Gray Morality, with a conflict largely stemming from misunderstandings and confusion between two societies rebuilt after a world-ending war. The Hero is also an All-Loving Hero, and both sides are portrayed as not being evil. The reason it's at the end? The Correct Century is the Distant Finale to every other Gundam timeline.
  • The sliding scale plays an important role in Fate/stay night. The protagonist, Emiya Shirou, is a dedicated idealist; he talks about his desire to be a hero who can save everyone. A contrast is drawn with Shirou's father, who compromised his ideals in the previous Grail War to win the larger battle quickly - and, more important, with Archer, who is Shirou's future self, grown bitter and disillusioned. Archer has come back to kill Shirou and spare him the realization that his ideals can't be lived up to. The progression is shown more in depth in the Visual Novel, based on how much of his ideals Shirou abandons; the Fate route is idealistic, Unlimited Blade Works more in the middle, and Heaven's Feel, cynical.
  • Explored by Anime//Martian Successor Nadesico via the Show Within a Show Gekiganger 3, which as an old-school Super Robot series is pretty much set all the way towards idealism, while Nadesico itself is a great deal more cynical. Certain characters in the show try to emulate the worldview of Gekiganger, and it never goes well. "The Evil Empire [of Earth] must be destroyed! This is the true meaning of Gekigangar!" Poor, Poor Tsukomo Shiratori...
  • The emperor's first major edict on Rurouni Kenshin was to move from realism (the "realistic" OVA) to idealism (the more lighthearted series) This is why so many of the more violent characters are upset: all the idealism keeps the body count low.
    • Both the series and the OVA are based on the same manga, which manages to juggle both extremes (yes, even in the flashback the OVA is based on, making it less angsty and more humane than the anime version), though as a shounen fight manga it leans toward optimism.
    • Kenshin himself plays with this trope right in the first episode, when stating that Kaoru's idealistic views on the art of the sword are childish and naive, and that weapons are for killing and nothing more. He ends his commentary by stating that he actually preferred Kaoru's way of thinking and would love nothing more than if it were reality.
    • The OVAs came after the TV series (in Japan at least).
  • Planetes often contrasts Tanneries' idealism with Hachimaki's cynicism (taking a downward spiral into outright pessimism after a while). Idealism wins in the end. Even with the terrorists.
  • Monster makes a major point about exploring the contrasts between the characters regarding morality. Idealistic Doctor Tenma never gives in and loses his belief in the good nature of all people. His direct counterpart is murderous and downright evil Johan, who uses people without second thoughts just to prove Tenma wrong. Caught between them is Nina, who is generally a kind hearted person, but over the course of the story becomes more and more willing to resort to methods of increasingly questionable quality. Last are Inspector Lunge and embittered Eva, who really can't decide on which side they want to stand.
  • In Princess Tutu, Ahiru/Duck stops most of her "enemies" by dancing with them and making them understand the feeling that is disturbing their life. And she eventually manages to befriend the unprepared villain Kraehe/Rue. Mind you, it does take a kickass swordfight in an atmosphere of apocalyptic gloom to triumph over the Big Bad. Then again, it's not so nice an ending for Ahiru herself, who has to return to being a duck and thus lose her humanity and her true love for good. Apparently the Power of Love has limits after all.
    • Still, she seems perfectly happy with how things work out. Being a duck isn't all that bad — it's what she really is, and she gets to be with Fakir anyway. Plus her friends get to live happily ever after — really, what more could she possibly ask for?
    • And she can still dance!
  • In Zipang, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force vessel Mirai is sent back in time 60 years. They try to stop World War II in the Pacific without having to kill anyone. But besides 60 years back, they have also slid well towards the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, so that plan does not go well.
  • Bokurano and Narutaru are series so cynical that you could use their sliding scale as a trebuchet by putting what you wanted to throw in the 'idealism' end of the scale and tying a rope to it - and even then the cynicism side is so weighted down with dead children you'd have to add all the 'happy happy' content of several idealistic shows to pull down the throwing arm before cutting the rope. Bokurano is the slightly more hopeful of the two; even though it's a very screwed-up story with a Dysfunction Junction cast, most of its main characters are good, well-intentioned people, and many of them have their wishes granted in some small part, like Maki getting to see the light that represents her newborn baby brother before she dies. Narutaru, on the other hand, with its Humans Are the Real Monsters mentality and Diabolus ex Machina levels of angst and tragedy, could use the sliding scale to fling small planets with its sheer pessimism. Nothing ever goes right in that manga. The manga ends with the protagonist finally snaps, deciding to wipe out humanity by using her shadow dragon which is goddamn planet earth itself. Gigantic hands as big as skyscrapers sprouts out of earth and literally bitchslap everyone to death sparing only ruins of destroyed cities and leaving the fate of humanity to two pregnant teenagers.
  • Windaria (the unbutchered version) starts out appearing to be a relatively happy and idealistic fairytale full of magic and adventure, with characters that on the surface appear to live a simple life full of love and a sense of community. The further Windaria gets, the darker and more cynical it becomes until there is no denying that Humans Are the Real Monsters who will without hesitation screw one another over for their own personal agendas and only come to realize the horror of their deeds when it is too late to back out of it.
  • The Magical Girl genre is idealistic. Super Robot Wars, as mentioned under Video Games, is idealistic. Put them together and you get Lyrical Nanoha, where villains who can be redeemed will be redeemed after they get beaten around a bit, anyone who acts human will be treated as a person regardless of how they were born, all orphaned and artificial children will eventually find a loving family they can go home to, and all Smug Snakes will receive a well-deserved (and painful) end.
    • However, Force takes a shift to a much more cynical end. The main character Touma goes through something similar to what Nagi went through in Tenjho Tenge (being an Unwitting Pawn). The Huckbein need to kill to keep The Corruption at bay and Mysterious Waif Lily is a source of said corruption? Also the first battle against the Huckbein does NOT go well for the heroes.
      • The first battle never goes well for the heroes. During the first encounter in As, both Nanoha and Fate get their weapons destroyed and Nanoha gets hospitalized. If the heroes always won, there'd be no chance for growth.
      • Which is why Il Sole penetra le Illusioni which is directed by the same person who directed Nanoha is on the firm end of cynicism, the Monster of the Week are created from a Deal with the Devil and killing them also means killing the innocent human soul who don't even have a pleasant afterlife but instead just coldly put down. The group that fights it views any deserters as threats and there is seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel like Madoka. It only barely edges out an idealistic end at the end of the tunnel but still brings out a lot question about the nature of monsters.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica starts out on the far cynical side of the scale, with the brutal deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre coupled with a general theme of Be Careful What You Wish For. It doesn't matter what the Magical Girls who are liches fated to become the same abominations that they have been fighting do, they are doomed from the very beginning especially if they find out that they were deceived into a Deal with the Devil. It then quickly veers onto the more idealistic side of the scale when Madoka, who could be said to be one of the most idealistic characters shown, performs a Heroic Sacrifice and Abstract Apotheosis, making sure with her own hands that no magical girl in the past, present, and future ever becomes a witch, up to and including herself. But wraiths have replaced the witches as the bringers of grief, though supplemental material indicates that their only strength is in numbers, with each individual wraith being weaker than a single witch; Magical Girls vanish once their Soul Gems completely darken, though it is implied that Madoka takes them to what may be some sort of afterlife.
  • Chrono Crusade is a really interesting example of this: the original manga is fairly idealistic (although quite dark at times), while the anime starts off following the manga closely, then plunges into a Gecko Ending that is notoriously dark. The messages of the two series seems to work out something like this: In the manga, "Never give up hope, we're not fated to fail. We can keep fighting." In the anime, it's "As long as Humans Are Flawed, evil can't be killed for good."
    • The scale also plays a part in the story itself, particularly in the manga—Rosette's practically a mouthpiece for the idealistic side of the scale, while Aion is an unabashed cynic. When Chrono was on Aion's side, he fell in with Aion's cynical beliefs, despite his own misgivings...but after going against Aion and meeting Rosette, he starts to go in line with her way of thinking. At the very end of the manga, Chrono's been so affected by Rosette that his last conversation with Aion almost sounds like the two sides of the scale in a debate.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is firmly idealistic, which is only natural for a manga that takes place ...After the End.
  • ARIA practically floats by on a massive ocean of idealism.
  • Texhnolyze, on the other hand, practically sinks to the very bottom of a big ocean of cynicism.
  • For a shounen series, Death Note is extremely cynical. People are either corrupt in some way or incompetent and the few likable characters either end up dead or broken. Despite his perverse sense of justice (though some might disagree), Light is a Villain Protagonist who not only is willing to kill criminals that may or may not deserve to die, but anyone else who gets in his way regardless of their guilt and innocence, and is even willing to kill members of his own family to further his own ends, even if he'd prefer it not come to that. L, the guy who is assigned to the Kira case, isn't much better either.
    • Near, who ends up defeating Light with Mello's help, is somewhere around the middle; better than Light, yet a bit worse than L. Mello, his rival, by contrast, is even more evil than Light.
    • The anime also plays with the imagery of idealism and cynicism. Light, the villain, is perhaps the greatest idealist of all, and he's shown in a far more traditionally heroic light than L, Near, or Mello. The intermezzo episode after L's death is almost a traditional Shōnen epilogue for Light; he gets the girl, achieves his life's dream of joining the police force, and is well on his way to creating his new world, while the last episode is even named New World. It's a lie, by the way. Meanwhile, L, Near and Mello are all obvious Anti Heroes who unashamedly and unapologetically do what they have to do to catch Kira, use Light's methods against him, and are motivated more by stopping Light himself than by trying to help anyone.
      • The title of the last episode isn't really a lie - more a clever use of irony and misdirection. After all, it does end in the creation of a new world, as Kira's tyranny is overthrown.
    • In contrast, the Alternate Continuity film L: change the WorLd is surprisingly idealistic.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh is thoroughly idealistic. The idealistic Yuuri is always right; the bad guys can always be redeemed, and everything turns out for the best. The more cynical Wolfram is always proven wrong.
  • Black Lagoon fiercely stays at the end of the cynical side of the Heroic Bloodshed genre to such an extent that it actually comes back around the other side and behaves somewhat idealistically. This is perfectly demonstrated at the end of the series, when the protagonist admits that there is neither justice nor morality in the world, but that he still intends to help people entirely For the Lulz. He then proceeds to talk the Big Bad out of killing him and his friends (something which the protagonists of even the most idealistic series generally have trouble doing).
  • Saint Seiya is interesting in that its characters are all over the scale. Among the main five, with Dragon Shiryuu representing the pinnacle of idealism and Phoenix Ikki the pinnacle of cynicism, and the rest falling in between (Adromeda Shun, for instance, hates violence and is quite idealistic, but suffers often doubts himself and wonders if this idealism makes him weaker). The series itself does end up landing on the side of idealism; for instance, Cancer Deathmask's belief that "history is Written By The Victors" is challenged by Roshi ("Evil will always be evil") and proven to be false when Dragon Shiryuu defeats Deathmask.
    • Which of course could be taken to mean that Cancer Deathmask was right.
  • Diamond Daydreams is very idealistic without becoming too unrealistic. The girls in the stories still have to face their fears and have to deal with hardship, but it only helps them to become stronger.
  • At first it seemed One Piece is overwhelmingly positive, but soon it was revealed that it was actually more along the lines of a world existing firmly on the cynical end of the scale while the story itself rotates around a group placed about as solidly as possible on the idealistic end. So, it's actually on both ends of the scales at once, in a sorta in-universe meta way. Of course, after the recent chain of events it still remains to be seen if the things stay this way. And if they don't, they almost certainly will be sliding towards the cynical end. Actually, definitely, given that there's no more room left on the idealistic side to slide towards...
  • One of the recurring themes in the Mahou Sensei Negima! manga is the contrast between Negi's idealism and Eva's cynicism. They eventually start rubbing off on each other.
    • As a whole, Negima starts out with a very idealistic tone, but becomes more and more cynical as it goes on, mirroring Negi's growing maturity and his realization that the world isn't always a nice place, and that while you can be idealistic, you had better be willing to fight for it. And with the recently revealed stakes of that fight, boy is it on now!
  • The main premise of Black Cat involves two scheming organizations, one evil, one morally grey, a living weapon resulted from an unspeakably unethical human experiment and a couple of guys who try to do good but is constantly strained by the evils of the world. The morally grey organization has taken over a good portion of the world's governments, sometimes with the use of force, violence and deceit. The evil organization tries to take over the whole world by killing a lot of people and making its insane leader immortal. The living weapon is a little girl without feelings, raised by a Corrupt Corporate Executive; her first scene in the manga was her killing a bodyguard. One of the good guys had a shady and troubled past. So you think this series is lodged way into the side of Cynicsm? Wrong, actually it's the complete opposite. Many of the morally grey organization's members are actually nice and benevolent characters. Some of the evil organization's members are actually very humanized. The little girl who is a living weapon is one of the cutest and most lovable protagonists in the story. And the good guys are downright goofy. The audiences were made to believe that Anyone Can Die, it turns out that many of them survive, sometimes making a Heel-Face Turn. Even the insane Big Bad ends up being taken care of by The Dragon in a peaceful rural cottage so he could return to a normal life so he can do good. Black Cat is kind of a Double Subversion of an idealistic fighting Shōnen series, as though the whole premise looks Cynical, it is actually a very Idealistic manga.
  • Blame! is a difficult series to categorize, as despite its largely bleak and cynical appearance, is actually relativity idealistic. The protagonist's ultimate goal is to save humanity, even if he has to be very violent about it. He succeeds in his mission, but whether humanity was ultimately "saved" or not is purposely left ambiguous. We could just say that Blame! deliberately plays see-saw with the scale, and leave it at that.
  • Despite being set in a heavily militarized world full of deception and some of the fandom's wishes to the contrary, Naruto is quite clearly on the idealistic side, as emphasized by the "Will of Fire" held by the protagonists and most associated with them. The spirit that is able to turn about any creature in the world from cynical towards idealistic, by just talking to them! Though, of the few who have so far proven to be immune to it, such as Danzo, who believes that people are bastard coated bastards with bastard filling and that the only way to protect Konoha is to make Konoha stronger. Problem is, his reasoning is pretty faulty, since a lot of the crap the idealists had to go through were the direct or indirect result of him also acting like a bastard...
    • On the cynical side, we have Sasuke, who believes that murder and more murder is the only way to solve your problems and make everything better. No matter whether or not they had anything even remotely connected to those problems, or even whether they're your teammates or not. If Danzou thinks people are bastard coated bastards with bastard filling, then Sasuke thinks everyone and everything is meaningless before his wants and desires.
    • The sliding scale is an important part of Nagato's backstory. When he was younger, Nagato was a member of an organization that tried to end the wars that devastated their homeland without resorting to violence. The leader of their village views this group as a threat, so he leads Nagato, Konan, and Yahiko, who is the leader of the group, into a trap under the guise of peace talks. He captures Konan and forces Nagato to kill Yahiko to save her. This incident causes Nagato to abandon his idealistic beliefs and turn to a more cynical solution for bringing world peace that involves creating a weapon that will cause immense destruction so that people will be too afraid to go to war. Nagato's cynical views come into conflict with Naruto's idealism when he invades Konoha. Ultimately, seeing Naruto's beliefs reminds Nagato of how he used to be, and he chooses to sacrifice himself to undo some of the destruction he caused.
    • This is ultimately the core theme in the battle between Naruto and Obito. In a series with a focus on parallels and Generation Xerox, Obito is arguably the biggest parallel to Naruto, with characters such as Kakashi and Obito and Naruto themselves noting the similarities between the two in their youth. However, Obito eventually gave up on the world due to how much pain and suffering it causes, whereas Naruto continues to fight for a better world. Obito, believing that Naruto will grow to become like him, even tries to speed up the process. In the end however, it is ultimately Naruto who wins and reminds Obito of the good person he once was and to be that person again.
    • You could say that Naruto's conflicts always come down to this - his idealism vs. his opponents' cynicism. Naruto vs Haku (though he didn't even have to try with him), Zabuza, Neji, Gaara, Sasuke, Nagato... All the major opponents end up with Naruto either succeeding or failing in changing their lives. This is probably the real reason why he wants to beat Sasuke: because he tried and failed to do this.
  • Kino's Journey has the tag line, "The world is not beautiful, therefore it is." Kino's world is full of wicked people living in harsh conditions and under bizarre and even insane and oppressive laws. Yet at the same time these dark and cruel parts of the world make the few good parts seem all the better. Kino meets idealists and cynics all throughout her journey, each one with their own thoughts and opinions on the state of the world or more often the country they live. The most prominent example of the series' contrast between cynicism and idealism is the episode "Her Journey -Love and Bullets-" in which a young woman and a man traveling together cross paths with Kino. The woman claims to be on a quest to bring peace to the world and proclaim the glory of pacifism. Kino asks how she could have survived this journey so long without encountering any danger that would have to be solved with violence. To which the woman responds that she doesn't know, she has always assumed that they've just been lucky. The truth is the man traveling with her has quietly killed off anyone in their path who might make themselves a problem. He kept this a secret because he loves her and doesn't want to shatter her vision of an ideal world.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry is surprisingly idealistic once you have finished the series. Rika is doomed to repeat the same few weeks over and over again, during which time her friends go mad and slaughter one another, always for different reasons though. It always ends with her being killed. This has been going on for hundreds of years so she is firmly on the Cynicism side and accepts the fact the world will continue to go to hell all around her. When Keiichi proves you can 'defeat fate' though by changing fundamental things during one of these periods, Rika resolves to fight for her life next time around and succeeds, with the Power of Friendship no less. Even the Big Bad Miyo Takano is made redeemable in the end and redemption didn't even equal death.
    • Umineko: When They Cry on the other hand lies on the other side of the spectrum which is not that surprising with all the deconstructions of the tropes used in Higurashi. For example Beatrice's fight against Battler is later revealed to be her trying to make him remember who she is and understand her. In the end he does but only after she dies. Similar to Rika, Ange tries to Set Right What Once Went Wrong in order to bring her family back. But unlike Rika, Ange fails because no matter what happened did happen and she can't do anything to change it. Also unlike Takano, Yasu thought that Redemption Equals Death and seemingly succeeds by commiting suicide. In the end though, the fantasy ending in ep 8 is slightly less cynical while the mystery ending is a bit more.
  • Maria-sama Ga Miteru is famous for being the most idealized all-girl high school setting ever. Almost everybody is well-meaning, conflicts are mostly settled by communicating and there are no bullies for miles around, when in reality it's rare to find 16-year-olds who are both that responsible and still that fun-loving. Heck, even acne seems to have been mostly abolished. It also lacks any actual Gayngst or homophobia.
  • Weiß Kreuz is heavily cynical for a shoujo series. The only way to deal with the monsters who are beyond the law's control is to give them an equally brutal death as they have inflicted upon countless innocent lives. It's not completely at the cynical end of the scale in that innocence is depicted as being worth protecting, the main cast are portrayed sympathetically, and the first anime series has a cautiously upbeat ending... but the main characters hate what they do, hate themselves for doing it, and have no hope of being able to stop because there will always be more monsters trying to prey on the defenseless.
    • It's also made clear, especially in later installments of the series, that their line of work is very bad for Weiss's mental health. The villains of the Dramatic Precious Radio Drama, members of an earlier iteration of the team, are directly presented as what the current members of Weiss are likely to become if they don't find a way out... which only one of them does. The only thing that keeps the series from being all the way at the far cynical end of the scale is that the protagonists do believe that they're helping to make it possible for normal people to live in a brighter world. Youji's probably the best example of this contradiction in the series: calling him a jaded, hardened cynic is just as accurate as calling him a hopeless romantic.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist is an interesting example as the first anime and the manga/second anime end on different sides of the scale. The first anime is fairly cynical, ending on a note that seems to say that even if you try your best, while you may make some progress, you'll never get exactly what you want. The manga is much more idealistic, with the message that if you work hard enough and overcome your pain, you can make anything possible except for bringing back the dead.
  • Stellvia of the Universe is an extremely, unstoppably idealistic Space Opera where Science Is Good and Rousseau Was Right, so much it is considered the Poster Series for the latter trope.
  • Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor is a Real Robot version of Evangelion and even more cynical than Evangelion (the Festum view the humans as bastards and are right in their judgment). The Super Robot Wars K that served as its debut where you can save the pilots who died in the series is done through a Sadistic Choice style unlock (you can only unlock one set of units).
    • Meanwhile Heaven and Earth and Right of Left is pretty much day and night of idealism and cynicism.
  • Gankutsuou takes a nosedive off the cynical end very early on, doing its best to crush the Wide-Eyed Idealist main character into tiny bits. Then in the last few episodes, Franz pulls the whole series up into the Idealistic end by its bootlaces.
  • Despite the fact that children should never watch this series, Baccano! is a very idealistic and light-hearted series. The overlying theme seems to be that love, whether it's complete batshit love or love that takes a long time to develop or completely platonic, is the most powerful force ever.
  • Like Gantz and Berserk, the works of Yoshiki Takaya such as Zeorymer and Guyver falls into the cynical side. How despite wielding an indestructible weapon against the enemy is fighting what amounts to be a Hopeless War against an alien threat.
  • School Days's infamous anime adaption is completely cynical and it is a very subtle Utsuge to boot. The ending involves having the jerkass main character entrapped by his love interests and in the worst ending has his lovers (and maybe even him) murdered horribly by the jilted lover.
  • FLCL, confusing and over-the-top as it is, seems to favor a cynical standpoint. There's really no good or evil in the universe (only chaos?) because both sides are equally corrupt. The only real escape is Naota's childish innocence, the one he tries so desperately to get rid of but basically ends up sticking to through everything.
  • Kagerou-Nostalgia is what happens when you take typical shonen archetypes, and drop them off in a Crapsack World. So far, the heroes have achieved absolutely nothing, beyond getting their leader killed, the villain's plans are moving closer to fruition, and the miserable status quo is firmly in place. To quote The Hero, Kazuma: "In the end we were powerless. Again. We fought like mad, but all that's ever left is the devastation."
    • The main cast only achieved victory in the first one by sacrificing themselves, only to be reincarnated along with their foes in the sequel, without the help of the princess this time around.
  • Welcome to the NHK definitely falls on the cynical side of the scale.
    • Debatable. The light novel ends with some of the characters' lives restored. The anime pretty much goes straight into Earn Your Happy Ending territory with all the main characters and even a good deal of the supporting characters improving their lives from where they were at the beginning of the series. So even if it starts off very cynical, it's more idealistic by the end.
  • As it starts off as a parody of Death Note, Onani Master Kurosawa begins extremely cynically, with the first few chapters starting off as a showcase for all of the jackassery that goes on in middle school—protagonist Kurosawa is a misanthropic, misogynist creep who spends his time masturbating in an unused bathroom, local Alpha Bitch Sugawa is quite shockingly cruel, and even the most sympathetic-seeming character, Kitahara, quickly proves to be a Jerkass Woobie with a hugely vindictive streak. Then into the story walks Magister Takigawa, a sweet, intelligent girl without a hateful bone in her body. Her reveal of her backstory, of how she found the power within herself to become who she wanted to be, and the changes this inflicts on Kurosawa, is just the first sign that the manga is headed on a non-stop collision course to becoming one of the most unflinchingly and unapologetically idealistic manga out there. And it's idealist in the traditional sense, in that although the road to personal growth and happiness is often fraught with hardships, friends, and the satisfaction of being the person you always wanted to be, make it worth it.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena plants itself in the middle of the spectrum, refuses to budge, and lets the characters and plot (and audience) fight over it to whatever extremes they please.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex may seem like a rather cynical show at first, placing its characters in the middle of a Crapsack World and forcing them to make difficult moral decisions almost daily. However, the show seems more idealistic when it's taken into consideration that these people are the only force protecting society from complete destruction and ultimately their intentions are good - even if their methods are sometimes questionable.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya plays around with this quite a bit. The dual protagonists Haruhi and Kyon both start out cynical, since they haven't been able to find anything "interesting" (supernatural or otherworldly). Haruhi soon decides to make the world interesting through sheer hyperactive charisma, and becomes much more idealistic; Kyon continues acting aloof and cynical, but he still hangs around with Haruhi because she really is making his life more interesting, even if he won't admit it. The whole situation is pretty ironic, too, because Haruhi becomes idealistic without finding any of the things she was looking for (as far as she knows), while Kyon remains cynical even though he's in exactly the position he fantasized about in the beginning of the first book (the snarky sidekick to a group of superpower-equipped characters). Kyon eventually admits his idealistic leanings in the fourth book / The Movie by choosing to recreate Haruhi's unstable and "more fun" world instead of keeping the simplified and realistic world Yuki created, but he remains externally cynical so he can keep his role as a foil to Haruhi.
  • Much like its Spiritual Predecessor Berserk, Claymore tends to tip on the cynical side of the scale, making it another rare Shōnen example to do this, along with Death Note. There ARE times when the good guys win and the bad guys are defeated (and even during those instances, it's ruined when you feel bad for the defeated villain), but those times are usually few and far between or they're just setting the audience up for [something worse to come. A good example? Try the Northern Campaign, where in the first battle all twenty four warriors sent on the mission (which was actually a purge to get rid of them) survived, and we see them conversing and giving each other pep talks and emotional strength the following night. Next day, next battle: only seven of them survived. A most surprising twist when compared to a seinen such as Berserk is that Claymore has very little comic relief in it, to maintain that always serious atmosphere.
  • Say hello to Petit Eva: Evangelion @ School, Neon Genesis Evangelion as taken, kicking and screaming, over to the "Idealism" side of the scale. While seeing NGE characters in a lighthearted Gag Series is a bit jarring, it's certainly not a bad lighthearted Gag Series.
  • GUN×SWORD is a cynical look at revenge plots. Unlike the usual shounen storyline where the main character gets over his desire for revenge. Van goes through with his revenge plot against the Clawed Man. On the other hand, it is also more idealistic look at revenge plot as even though Van goes through with his revenge, he holds onto his kind nature and gains a group of friends who support him. This is contrasted with Ray, another person with the revenge plot against the Clawed Man, who pursues his vendetta with no remorse, alienates everyone else around him, and ends up getting himself killed.
  • The final series of Shakugan no Shana boils down to this when The protagonist Yuji defects to the enemies they are fighting up until then in order to form a plan that will put an end to their hidden war by creating a new world. The Flame Haze believe the plan is too risky making them come seem very cynical to not give it a second thought since the thousands of years of hidden war clearly isn't working. The Crimson Denizens also follow Yuji and the Snake of the Festivals very devoutly without any doubts that the plan will work making them seem quite idealistic.
  • AKIRA, both the manga and the movie, are an interesting example. The story starts out very cynical but over the course of it, things slowly get more idealistic, moving away from the incredibly bleak opening. The transition is complete at the end where it's implied things are going to be falling squarely on the idealistic side of things from now on.
  • Attack on Titan and Terra Formars are both hopelessly cynical plots about fighting giant mutant threats made by humanity for some purpose. Only to watch it backfire horribly as waves of humans are sent to fight a Hopeless War against them. The death count is often horrific for both sides and there isn't even hope for a better tomorrow for anyone still alive.
    • Attack on Titan even has Eren suffer for trying to be idealistic at one point: by having faith in the more senior recon corp members and not transforming to fight they end up crushed by the female titan. Armin starts to crack and break and believe that only by making sacrifices can you make any progress and it's heavily implied that Erwin came to similar conclusions when he was younger. Jean is arguably the most idealistic of all the main cast, recently admitting that he had wished that Levi's cynical and brutal methods would prove to be less effective than refraining from killing. He still tries to avoid killing and find better alternatives but still...
  • Elfen Lied tends to fall pretty heavily on the cynicism side of the scale given that it believes that Humans Are Bastards and the protagonist is an Ax-Crazy killer who believes her only purpose in life is to destroy the race that is so cruel to her and her species.
  • Eureka Seven weighs both ends of the spectrum but ultimately comes to idealistic conclusions. Yes, War Is Hell and people can be very easily mislead by desire for revenge, misplaced trust in authority, or simple fear of the unknown, but looking for the best in people (and other species) and understanding that most of them have good intentions at heart can help you overcome the odds and Earn Your Happy Ending. This is well illustrated by the final conflict with the Big Bad:Dewey Novak has no sense of empathy, but his heinous actions are partly explained by his belief that he has to make a Sadistic Choice of either destroying humanity or allowing the entire universe to come to an end. The protagonists refuse to accept that these are the only options, however, and manage to save the world when they Take a Third Option that was only made possible by The Power of Love.
  • Several idol anime over the last couple of years had it all over the scale
    • The Idolmaster is idealistic one, mostly consisting of slice of life antics as they impress the audiences constantly.
    • Despite taking place in a universe where the government had banned entertainment and the idols have to fight the corrupt government. AKB0048 at heart is an idealistic series as the group is portrayed as a heroic resistance who fights for entertainment.
    • Wake Up Girls is a story about a struggling idol group who goes through rejection, failure and the unpleasant facts of life that plague the idol industry, very cynical.

Animated FilmsSliding Scale of Idealism Versus CynicismComic Books

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