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- Adventure Time:
- Past the post-apocalyptic backstory and severe psychological issues of many of the cast, the show is full of sexual innuendo, thinly veiled references to rape, murder, abuse, suicide, and genocide, and some viciously brutal violence. There are episodes with everything from dealing with a mentally ill loved one to abusive relationships, all wrapped up in the silly adventures of a boy and his dog, with innumerable serious, mature, or just horrifying themes slipped in without technically moving past what is appropriate for children.
- An-universe example in the episode "Jake The Dad", where Jake starts reading a Black Comedy picture book he loved as a child to his own kids, and is shocked at how violent it is.
- The Amazing World of Gumball has humour that's more accessible than some of the others on this page, but it still gets extremely dubious at times, containing scenes laden with sexual implications and violence. There aren't many kids shows with a dead baby joke or characters constantly dying for a Running Gag.
- Code Lyoko: Tons of tentacle mind rape. Once case of actual tentacle rape from vines. All of the times Aelita died, nearly died, attempted suicide, or had a clone die. All the cursing in Evolution. All of the Fanservice. Aelita seeing her mother kidnapped and her father murdered, on screen. Aelita suffers from flashbacks and hallucinations. Then there was the time Jeremie started acting suicidal and reckless to further his work. X.A.N.A. made so many murder attempts on screen that it can be turned into a drinking game. Franz Hopper went completely insane, as shown through a video diary. And a ton of other horrors.
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers could get shockingly dark at times for a show with such a Narmish concept. There are episodes centered around drug abuse, gang violence (no less than four episodes), civil war, nuclear war, and AIDS. The show also wasn't afraid of showing graphic images of death and destruction.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog is packed to the gills with scary scenes, like the screamer girl from "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City", and the blue...fetus thing from "Perfect". Probably the most controversial episode was "The Mask", where the villain was clearly a pimp who cruelly beat his two charges.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy is somewhat of a more mild example. Despite the fact that every character on the show are children and/or preteens, it's still replete with enough adult humor to qualify for this, such as the episode with Eddy's magazines, and the Kankers "making love" to the Eds. It is also worth noting that the show is also created by the guy who made The Brothers Grunt.
- Johnny Bravo is as goofy as most other Hanna-Barbara cartoons, but it's about an Elvis Presley-sounding Casanova Wannabe trying to score with women. Seth MacFarlane (the crown prince of black, cringe comedy) worked on this show as a writer, so this should surprise no one.
- The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: G Rated Drugs in the forms of candy and maple syrup, stories full of bizarre, dark events that would make A Series of Unfortunate Events look like a Bowdlerised Grimm's fairy tale, and animation that makes Ren and Stimpy's look sane, on-model, and beautifully animated (as in "Disney during the 1950s", "Disney when it got good again in the late 1980s thanks to The Little Mermaid" or "anime" beautifully animated).
- The Powerpuff Girls: Word of God says it originally wasn't intended for kids (after all, its working title was The Whoop-Ass Girls), but the Animation Age Ghetto struck and he was forced to change it.
- Regular Show. More sex jokes, frequent lethal use of weapons and mild profanities ("crap", "sucks", even "pissed") then you can shake a yardstick at. It's is based on two short films J.G. Quintel made in animation school called "2 in the AM-PM" and "The Naive Man from Lolliland", and while the latter is safe for family viewing (a single use of "hell" wouldn't faze most viewers), the former isn't — at least, by Cartoon Network's already selective standards. Finally paid off as by the 42th Annie Awards it was put in the "General Audience" category along The Simpsons and similar shows.
- Robotomy: Excessive violence, a lot of Comedic Sociopathy, some sexual innuendo, some mild swearing (mostly words like "crap," "sucks" or "screwed"). One of the show creators worked on Superjail! and it has the look and feel of a Superjail spin-off or companion show.
- Samurai Jack was perhaps one of the darkest shows of its era in Cartoon Network, starting with the very fact that the villain is a malignant demon who turned the world into a bleak, dark, gloomy dystopia and commits genocide, carnage, presumed animal cruelty, torture (both physical and psychological) and slavery on a regular basis. And for bonus, some episodes were entirely built around Nightmare Fuel; even the episodes not revolving around horror have scenes that are traumatic. Yup, it's frankly astounding it did not wind up in [adult swim] during its days. Ironically, the series' revival was aired on [adult swim]. The revived series could likewise fall under What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is pretty much Scooby-Doo if it wasn't so campy and 1960s. Despite being rated TV-Y7-FV, the show includes moments of death, extreme violence, Black Comedy and the season one Big Bad being revealed to have kidnapped Fred from his birth parents and threatening to harm him if they ever came back for him. To make things crazier, the Greater-Scope Villain is an Eldritch Abomination that the gang had to kill in order to save the universe. Not to mention an abnormally high amount of Stuff Blowing Up very realistically, up to the point where near the end of the series, roughly half of Crystal Cove is gone.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars was originally criticized for being too childish and kid-friendly throughout most of its first season. It more than made up for it from the end of the first season and beyond. Brutal depictions of War Is Hell, Family Unfriendly Deaths abound, and a good amount of morally questionable moves by the traditional heroes turned it into one of the most fearless family-friendly animated programs in recent memory.
- Time Squad: Here's an apt description of the show: on the outside, it was a funny, unassuming edutainment cartoon (that was more entertainment than education) about an orphaned history whiz taken in by a Timecop and his Robot Buddy to the future where, each episode, they go back in time to fix history. On the inside, it got away with more adult jokes than Rocko's Modern Life, played up the Hilariously Abusive Childhood trope for laughs more than The Simpsons and South Park combined, and seemed to indulge in more homoerotic subtext than anything Oscar Wilde has written. Is it any wonder that Cartoon Network aired it at five in the morning during its final years?
- Young Justice is rife with Getting Crap Past the Radar, including implications of Twincest, many references to and depictions of murder, and doesn't shy away from the severe mental strain that is put on Child Soldiers. One of the protagonists' favorite tactic is Mind Rape, and it is played out for maximum shock value. The subplot in "Beneath" heavily implies that the mother of one of Jaime Reyes' friends is being physically abused by her boyfriend. The same episode also reveals that Queen Bee is essentially running a child-trafficking ring, where innocent teenagers are kidnapped and sold to aliens who use them for experimentation.
- Steven Universe doesn't push the boundaries of the radar as much as shows like 'Regular Show'' in terms of innuendo, although it definitely has its moments.note
- What really gives this show a spot on this list is anything involving fusion. Two characters perform a literal Fusion Dance, and more often then not it's blatantly sexual. We've had metaphors for rape, abuse, abstinence, and consent.
- This show features some dark and deep themes similar to Adventure Time (just about every gem and some humans on the show suffers PTSD), however, there is less violence (although the violence can reach the same brutality when it wants to). And then there's the attempted murder. Several gems have tried to straight-up murder Steven for little reason, including one chasing him with a knife in the middle of space. And then Ronaldo feeds Lars to a gem beast giant mouth. Not to mention Steven killed his mom in childbirth, which is brought up a lot in the show, and first mentioned in the second episode. And then it turns out said mom also assassinated an important figure during the war.
- Then comes the little fact of adult characters playing a major role that doesn't always involve causing Steven problems. They do cause problems often, mostly be withholding information, but you'll also find plenty of times where they're doing a fairly good job of looking after a kid. This goes against the number one rule of children's media. Either keep the adults out completely, or make them conflict, and let the kid solve his problems on his own.
- This show also includes one of the most brutal deaths in a kids show to date. Lars gets blown up, slammed into a wall with an audible crack, hits the ground with another crack, then stops moving. No Famous Last Words, no intention of pulling a Heroic Sacrifice, just a teenager whose life just suddenly ends.
- Over the Garden Wall is very dark for this network, with a villain that essentially embodies despair and possibly suicide, a shadowy being stalking two young children, hoping they'll give up so he can turn them into Edelwood trees and harvest their souls. It's stock full of Nightmare Fuel creatures that makes even most Cartoon Network shows look tame.
- Gravity Falls really stretches its TV-Y7 rating. The show is positively rife with Nightmare Fuel, bizarre imagery, and touches subject matter that is normally taboo in children's programming, whether it be for the sake of drama or for a joke. Adult jokes are prevalent and the show can get quite violent, compounded by the fact characters visibly shed blood in multiple episodes (though in the case of non-humans, it's not necessarily red). The show's characters are shown to be quite flawed for Disney protagonists as well; Stan and his brother are far from ideal role models and even Dipper and Mabel have engaged in unsavory behavior (although they usually learn from it). The show's a lot more mature than one would expect from it, especially considering it aired on Disney. The creators have joked about traumatizing children on occasion.
- The series suffers from Serial Escalation as well. It started off as a relatively innocent cartoon about twins exploring an apparently sleepy city while staying at the tourist trap of their mysterious Grunkle Stan. Cue Season 2, which opened with the monsters being zombies, and then continues to evolve possessed brothers, a videogame girl wanting to keep Soos forever, a missing family member who's been traveling 30 years through different dimensions, dark pasts, Mabel losing hope and locking up in a Lotus-Eater Machine, and finally the end of the world. That escalated quickly.
- Some specific scenes fall into this trope so thoroughly that they've been removed from some re-airings: the scene in Northwest Mansion Mystery where the animal heads on the walls start bleeding from their eyes and mouths and chanting "ANCIENT SINS", for instance.
- The second season takes more liberties than the first season. The comedy is blacker, the jokes are more cruel and there is nobably more violence. The symbolic villain shift from Li'l Gideon to Bill Cipher is prominent.
- Notably in regards to Nightmare Fuel, as of "Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future", the world has ended, an extra-dimensional demon-God has taken physical form, and the last thing we heard in the episode was the hysterical screams of the townsfolk as a dimensional rift to what is essentially Hell opened above them. In the next episode ("Weirdmageddon Part 1"), we find out that Dipper apparently went around during the apocalypse for three days without knowing if anyone he knew was still alive, a character gets the functions of all the orifices in his face rearranged (causing him to fall to the ground gurgling/screaming), and group of demons play a variation of Spin the Bottle called Spin the Person, where they spin a dead body and the spinner has to eat whomever it lands on.
- Daron Nefcy's Star vs. the Forces of Evil takes a similar route as Gravity Falls, starting out as a sugar-coated parody of the Magic Girl Anime genre. By the second season it's started to become far darker though, with similar points made by the former; discussing Racism, Demonic Possession and Deals With The Devil, toxic relationships (with a boy whose literally the Prince of Hell, mind you), and a plethora of examples of Vile Villain, Saccharine Show.
- Resident Knight of Cerebus Toffee takes the cake, being up there with cartoon villains such as The Lich, Him, Aku, and Bill Cipher in terms of how seriously he is portrayed. Crimes include murdering Queen Moons mother in cold blood and during the signing of the Monster/Mewman treaty no less, threatened to crush Marco to death if Star didn't destroy her wand, possessed Ludo, turns Mewni into an even bigger crapsack world than it already was, and has a thing for dressing in the bones of what seem to be dead Mewmans! His death is, while fitting, hardly anything better◊.
- Star Wars Rebels, in the same vein of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Some fans thought, based upon the early trailers and especially the character shorts released on YouTube and partially just because the show was produced by Disney, that it was going for a Lighter and Softer direction to the point it might become Denser and Wackier. Instead it got Darker and Edgier as the first season progressed and when Tarkin showed up it got really dark, to the point of the trope question being sometimes asked without irony and a few complaints that some of the content really does exceed the show's TV-Y7 rating. The second season kicked off with Darth Vader rolling into town and reminding everyone why he is the terrifying ultimate badass of the Star Wars Universe. Then it introduced two new Inquisitors, both of whom are real pieces of work. And guess what? This show does not shy away from tropes like The Bad Guy Wins. Then there's the final episode of the second season, in which a much-loved supporting character performs a Heroic Sacrifice and (possibly) dies, not to mention the return of Darth Maul himself, who kills the female Inquisitor in a very violent way and slices off Kanan's eyes with a lightsaber.
- Gargoyles is a good example, with surprisingly mature themes such as gun violence. In the first episode, Goliath performs an on-screen Bare-Handed Blade Block that leaves visible bleeding wounds on both palms. The episode primarily regarding Gun Violence hinged on explaining proper gun safety and pulled no punches as to what could happen even to a trained officer of the law was irresponsible with her service weapon (not storing it properly in this case). It likewise gave an excuse as to why the bad guys (and only them) have laser weapons, namely that they were stolen test weapons and were more military grade than police weapons grade and are more destructive and dangerous than service weapons (the series never once gave a police character a laser weapon as a service weapon).
- Fans of The Lion Guard have debated on why it is a preschool aimed show and why it has a Y rating ever since its' premiere. None of the fans deny that it's for kids, but the fact its aimed at preschool kids is stunning, given that the violence is sometimes very unfriendly to that target audience. There are some suggestive jokes, and we even see a dead body, along with some of the aesops being quite mature for children of that age.
- TRON: Uprising might just be the king of this trope. The Programs' unusual way of dying (shattering into little decaying cubes) allowed them to get away with stuff that would definitely exceed the Y-7 rating otherwise. At least Once an Episode, someone ends up being smashed into cubes in some horrible way (shot, impaled, one Program bisected at the waist and still trying to crawl before "bleeding out"). We see Tesler's troops commit mass murder in a hospital. There's also the Iso genocide, nasty brainwashing, The Game Grid, and plenty of Cold-Blooded Torture (Dyson took a buzzsaw to Tron's face). Add a Big Good that is Covered in Scars, deeply messed up psychologically, and almost kills his apprentice for trying to talk him out of revenge. It's saying something when the animated series makes the discredited first person shooter look downright fluffy by comparison.
- Pickle and Peanut, like Gravity Falls, really stretches its TV-Y7 rating, with lots of Getting Crap Past the Radar moments that are right on par with Cartoon Network's Regular Show. For instance, in the first episode, they get away with saying "skinny dipping". That alone makes you wonder how Disney could allow this show to air on their network.
- Handy Manny is a preschool cartoon, but the episode "Felipe's New Job" had one of the main characters try to commit suicide. We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried.
Felipe: Maybe Manny should just melt me down and use me for scrap metal.
- Inhumanoids, a Merchandise-Driven horror series about monsters from Hell — we mean, "the fiery depths of the earth where nightmares begin" — attacking humanity. It was basically a Lovecraft Lite cartoon aimed, nominally, at kids, despite featuring such charming and innocent scens such as dismemberments, people dying constantly, some turning into zombies and some gruesome imagery. The monsters in particular were very horrid, and one of the three main monsters called Tendril looked quite similar to Cthulhu.
The Hub/Discovery Family
- Dan Vs. is a Black Comedy that would likely feel more at home on Adult Swim with the occasional themes of martial problems and murder (even rape once!) and a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as the protagonist. Yet swearing and blood are non-existent in the show. That being said, Dan Vs. originated as a live-action adult sitcom, and was actually pitched to Adult Swim at first.
- Transformers Prime was touted by a director as a "adult transformers series he wanted to make". When you get down to it, it's a miracle they got by with the main combatants all being robots, as this series features a number of themes on War Is Hell and would be pretty graphic if done with people. Other events and themes include kidnapping via internet spying, a near aversion of Infant Immortality, references to chemical warfare, named characters being dissected or beaten to death by a protagonist's bare hands, and other serious issues like drug abuse or suicide via Heroic Sacrifice.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show about a war that has lasted for a hundred years, tearing apart families and nations and was begun with the genocide of an entire people. The protagonist, the 12-year-old last survivor of said people, assembles a team of Child Soldiers and trains to overthrow the Evil Overlord (who happens to be a shockingly abusive parent) that seeks to subjugate or kill anyone who isn't Fire Nation. And the "Southern Raiders" episode in general, for its portrayal of murder, revenge and forgiveness, which doesn't go the way one might expect.
- The Legend of Korra is a weird example because its content limitations are its biggest concession to its kid audience... and that's not saying much, given how disturbing its violence can get. Its characters have, at various points, committed Murder-Suicide, had a spirit ripped out of their eyes and throat, been graphically suffocated on-screen, accidentally blown off their own head, suffered mercury poisoning, been electrocuted to death, and crushed by a mecha, but that's not what makes it seem like the kid audience was an afterthought. Instead, the themes are what really makes it feel like adults and teenagers were the real target — not only does it tackle such controversial topics as child abuse, social inequality, terrorism and the less-than-helpful totalitarian governmental responses it can spark, anarchy and the dangers of revolution, political assassination (including depicting a successful one) and depression, it also gives a ton of focus to the 50-year-olds in its cast and their mid-life family issues. There isn't even a real kid perspective, because Korra's much more young adult than teenager (even if she's only 17).
- Hey Arnold!. The show features adult themes like an overkill (by Nickelodeon standards) of cursing and the darkest backstory of any Nickelodeon character (Helga, who is considered the unfavorite in her family in favor of her Stepford Smiler sister, has a verbally abusive father, and a mother who is clearly a depressed alcoholic).
- Invader Zim was more grotesque than most of Nick's other works, featured things like children summoning demons and a disturbing amount of body horror (including one kid getting his eyes plucked out), and was created by a man who wrote a comic series about a homicidal maniac. It's kind of in between this and its sister trope, very clearly meant for a young teen audience, but for whatever reason Nick shoehorned it in a block that was otherwise targeted at a different demographic that the show was completely inappropriate for. That said, it's still questionable for even the intended demographic - while it's toned down from JCV's comics, it's basically a hair away from Squee! in terms of content, which is very solidly meant for adults.
- Miraculous Ladybug has a pretty fair amount of fanservice for a cartoon aimed at elementary schoolers. It could be due to Values Dissonance, as it's a French-Japanese production. It could also be because it wasn't originally aimed at that young of an audience but due to the Animation Age Ghetto they lowered the demographic. Also, the main forces of antagonism are represented through what basically boils down to the possession of innocent bystanders by the Big Bad.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show was the Trope Codifier for Grossout Show and was filled to the brim with horrifying Gross Up Close Ups, Family-Unfriendly Violence, and sexual references, yet was one Nickelodeon's flagship series.
- Rocko's Modern Life, while tame compared to Ren & Stimpy, still has its moments. Social satire runs rampant throughout the series, some of the adult humor is flat out extreme and ridiculous, a few of its worst innuendos got banned from even the DVDs, one of the episodes was banned for being too sexually sleazy, a lot of crazy and disturbing stuff happens in general, there is often serious abuse going on between characters, and the theme song shows what a sick mockery Rocko's childhood was.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: There's a huge amount of disgusting violence (most notably from episodes like "The Splinter" and the infamous toenail scene from "House Fancy") and Nightmare Fuel, especially in the post-movie seasons, as well as all kinds of dirty references ("Patrick, your genius is showing!" "Where?") as well as Spongebob and Patrick raising a child like a married couple in one episode. As well as another episode where they think they murdered the health inspector and try to hide the body from police. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- Pig Goat Banana Cricket: It's basically The Ren and Stimpy Show for a new generation, containing varying levels of Family-Unfriendly Violence, Black Comedy, and radar-dodging. Though it's a fairly tame example of this compared to some of its fellow shows.
Canadian animation targeted toward kids tends to fall in this category from time to time, usually due to Values Dissonance between Canada and its southern neighbour.
- Fred's Head goes one step further than the above shows with things like swearing, handling of mature situations outright, and other non-kid friendly material. Unsurprisingly, the show wasn't renewed for a second season.
- Jimmy Two-Shoes is a Black Comedy cartoon with the implication that its setting, Miseryville, is Hell. Surprisingly, the hellish themes are played down in the show but still seen through the setting's monster populace, excessive amounts of heat and lava everywhere, and misery as the stand-in for torment. The setting being Hell would have been outright stated, too, had the creator have his way, but you still have to wonder what sort of twisted mind would try to make a kid's show about Hell.
- It's almost unbelievable that Total Drama is for kids, with all of its swearing, sexual references and nudity (both male and female) and the fact that all the campers are underage and yet act and sometimes even look just like adults.
- Super Noobs: At first glance, this show does look and seem innocent with its light tone and setting and has a U.S TV rating of TV-Y7-FV. However, the show features a lot of violent battles in almost every episode not to mention a lot of Nightmare Fuel. The starting premise even has a group kids accidentally dragged into an intergalactic war and fight in it. In addition there are references to war, murder, genocide, and bioterrorism laced all over the show (and the main alien characters are implied to be suffering from PTSD).
- Franklin and the Turtle Lake Treasure is this. Granny's home, parents, and items were scorched to oblivion? Granny herself falling terminally ill before her seventieth birthday? Snail being treated as an eagle-hatchling snack? (With implications that he would have been devoured if it weren't for Franklin and Samantha to save him) This movie seems to be aiming for Franklin's Periphery Demographic.
- Animaniacs (and its brethren Tiny Toon Adventures, Freakazoid!, Histeria!, Taz-Mania, and even non–Warner-produced Earthworm Jim) gets this a lot, with its near-ubiquitous use of Getting Crap Past the Radar. It's a completely different show through an adult lens, as many current adults who first saw it as kids in the '90s can attest.
- Ready Jet Go! likes to stretch its TV-Y rating. A lot. It has quite disturbing undertones to itnote , and tons of Getting Crap Past the Radar. Not to mention that one of the main child characters was almost killed by a weather balloon in an episode, as well as implications of self-loathing in another episode.
- On Wild Kratts, so far, we've heard talk of cannibalism, seen a Secretary bird kill a snake (complete with minor blood spillage), saw a coyote marking Martin-the-Tree as his territory (although we just saw the wet spot and not the genitals nor the stream), seen animals frozen alive with full consciousness still intact, saw T-Devils eating an ambiguous dead thing… are we sure this is on PBS?
- The brothers actually ended up naked in one scene, though their modesty was covered up by gigantic leaves.
- Redwall is based off the books of the same name, and it has deaths in almost every episode. And yes, this show did air on PBS in the United States.
- Liberty's Kids covers topics such as war, and several characters are killed off, including one of the main character's cousins.
- Jem begins with the funeral of the main characters father and not too long later their foster home full of little girls gets bombed. Despite being aimed at little girls and being made to advertise toys, Jem featured many dark and mature themes. Infidelity, drug use, abusive parents, parental abandonment, suicide, depression... That's even ignoring the fact the characters are put in life-and-death situations essentially every episode.
- Kaeloo was never aired in the USA, and for good reasons. The show has extreme violence (the characters own guns, bazookas and the like), drugs and alcohol, plenty of references to sex and rape, tons of Black Comedy, and religious references.
- Kulipari: An Army of Frogs is a Netflix exclusive title with a TV-Y7-FV rating, yet there is a lot of depictions of violence, war, and death as a lot of the recurring characters were killed in the first season, not to mention the lack of clothing that the male frogs had.
- From Dutch children's television comes the obscure series Purno de Purno. Its target age group is children aged 11 to 15 years old, and yet it contains characters such as the "Kietelaar" (a Dutch word for clitoris), politically incorrect gags about sex, homosexuality and bodily functions, political commentary and very suggestive imagery. Most likely Dutch TV shows back then were very good and Moral Guardians feared that they would get flamed if they attacked those shows, so they flamed anime instead.
- Wakfu, there's probably a good reason why the show wasn't picked up across the Atlantic until Netflix picked it up. Ranging for all the really dark themes, (like genocide, the loss of families, some of the more Nightmare Fuel-filled moments), and all the Getting Crap Past the Radar moments in regards to Fanservice and Does This Remind You of Anything?; in fact, the show is used for the main image of the Mating Dance trope. The English dub even makes liberal use of the word "Hell" rather than Gosh Darn It to Heck!. Part of it can be attributed to Values Dissonance, due to looser broadcast restrictions in France. (Same goes for Code Lyoko above.)
- Shadow Raiders is a nihilistic Cosmic Horror Story aimed at kids. On top of that, worlds get destroyed regularly, Never Say "Die" is downright averted, plenty of characters do die, the Beast Generals are awful villains (one of them even Mind Rapes Tekla with the image of her planet being destroyed), the heroes kill as many innocent people as the Beast Planet and are completely incapable of ever beating it, and the CGI falls into Uncanny Valley territory.