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  • In Assassination Classroom, Nagisa's androgynous appearance is at first played for laughs, often leading to him being cross-dressed. Then we find out that his controlling Abusive Mom forces him to dress as a girl. While she does not stop, Nakamura, who often teases Nagisa and forces him into girl's clothes, is horrified and apologises.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Ed's short stature gets used for comical characterization for most of the series. Then it turns out he hasn't grown since the disastrous ritual because Al's body on the other side of the Gate is drawing nourishment from him to survive. It's still played for comedy even after this reveal because his rants are so fricken hilarious. This doesn't apply to the 2003 anime, where Ed is just naturally short.
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  • Great Teacher Onizuka does this gradually. During one of his later admissions to the hospital, the eponymous character gets what looks like a serious nosebleed until everyone comes to the conclusion that it was only because he was turned on by the nurses' uniforms and got a peek under their skirts after "pretending" to fall down. Later in the same chapter, a panel suggests that the nosebleed actually is as serious as it first appeared. In the final story arc, the audience learns that Onizuka has had chronic internal bleeding and cerebral aneurysms in the head for quite some time, which shines a different light on some of the nosebleed gags throughout Great Teacher Onizuka as well as the various head injuries, comedic or serious, he has gained throughout not just this series, but its predecessor, Shonan Junai Gumi.
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  • "Tray King" Yuda from Toriko, while not intentionally comedic, his full of Narm catchprase that he "would not miss even a single millimeter" or any variation thereof. His Full Course are also revealed to be much weaker (capture level 0-20) compared to less experienced chef, defying the Power Level inflation that has been going Up to Eleven until now. Oh, and he's more than 100 years old and No.4 Chef in the human world. But why it's very important to him? In a Flashback, His master set him out on a journey, especially to learn the taste of failure. He arrived on a village that plagued by a disease, where he used his medicinal cooking to heal the whole village. He had a talk with a boy he met earlier... and then the kid died. Turn out there should be a slight difference when cooking the antidotal food when given to children. The difference? You guess it, 1 millimeter. And the weak full course? It's that child's full course and dream. Turn into Moment of Awesome when back to the present time, he chastises Condor Window of doing a 'megaton-class' mistake of overlooking the property of his environment. Yuda use a narrow world lines within the Multi-gravity space. Their width? 1 millimeter.
  • Medaka Box:
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    • Medaka has a habit of copying everyone else's poses, as part of comic relief. After the Genre Shift, it's revealed she does this since she doesn't have her own identity.
    • Shiranui, among other things, is known for her incredible Big Eater tendencies, as well as a rather comical opposition to the title character. Turns out that she's Medaka's double, designed to help her from the shadows, eating more than she needs to, and having no true identity.
  • At some point in Love Hina, Ken Akamatsu must have realized that Keitaro was surviving in too many instances where he simply should not have. With the choice between toning down the girls' Comedic Sociopathy and simply hoping the fans chanted the MST3K Mantra, he took a third option and made Keitaro's durability a part of the story, with at one point Kitsune ordering that it was alright to use lethal force while hurting him, as he was immortal. At a point near the end where the manga became serious, when Keitaro is dangling from a great height, he lets the audience know it's serious by even referencing his own ability to walk away from excessively violent slapstick injuries by saying that "at this height, I'll die, even if I'm immortal!" Later on, he yells at Narusegawa for her reckless behavior that put them both in danger, "Don't ever do anything this crazy again! I'd survive, but I doubt you would."
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Akamatsu's next series, the protagonist Negi was originally portrayed as something of an Inept Mage, despite being a child genius who graduated from the magical equivalent of university at age 9. As the story began moving in a more serious direction, it's said that Negi's early magical malfunctions were the result of the spells being performed on or around Asuna, who (unknown to herself at the time) has latent Anti-Magic abilities.
  • Shinobu in Urusei Yatsura is an example. She starts out with the comedic ability of super strength when she gets angry. After a while, characters become explicitly aware of it, and Ataru takes advantage of it to get the group out of a jam at least once. The series never stops being a comedy, though oddly enough in the third movie (Remember My Love) the aliens leave, and without the genre shift brought by the presence of aliens, Shinobu also loses her power.
  • Dragon Ball:
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Goku's tail is revealed to indicate he is actually a Saiyan, an alien from the planet Vegeta, rather than just a boy with a tail during the original Dragon Ball series, and the giant were-ape form he turns into on a full moon is revealed to be a trait of all Saiyans that he never learned to fully control. His kindly nature is also revealed to be the result of brain damage; if he'd never injured his head, Goku would have grown up to be a Blood Knight. Or a more sociopathic one than he already is.
    • In Dragon Ball Xenoverse, late in the story it's revealed that the Supreme Kai of Time strong-armed Future Trunks into joining the Time Patrol because using time travel to change the past in the Cell Saga broke a sacred taboo...only to quickly admit that she was lying and just wanted Future Trunks to stick around because she was lonely. Come Dragon Ball Super's Future Trunks Saga, however, it turns out that the time travel taboo is very real, and Beerus and Whis are infuriated when they learn what Future Trunks did and the only reason they don't punish him is because of the threat Goku Black and Zamasu present.
    • The fandom often made jokes about how often Krillin has been killed, and how Death Is Cheap in general thanks to the Dragon Balls. Super, however, officially acknowledges Krillin's multiple deaths in an episode where he and Goku fight the illusions of previous villains, showing that Krillin is outright traumatized by what's happened to him and that he's terrified of the villains who killed him. Even if he never showed it, Krillin still knows what it's like to die, and just because those deaths were undone doesn't mean the experience just went away.
  • Ah! My Goddess: Early chapters show "the system" preventing anyone from interfering with Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship. Chapter 285 gives this a rather dark spin. The system is also preventing their relationship from advancing, and it does so by altering Keiichi's feelings.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena:
    • The fact that Nanami gets constantly chased and/or attacked by all kinds of animals is hilarious, of course until The Reveal that Anthy, whom Nanami constantly bullies, is actually a witch and is strongly hinted that she cursed her because of it. Nanami's awful luck with animals takes on additional significance after it's revealed that years ago, she drowned her brother's kitten out of jealousy. Those animals have a good reason to hate her, even without Anthy's influence.
    • Anthy herself has this in the form of some of her more subtle backhanded comebacks with her otherwise Extreme Doormat personality, which tend to be pretty funny the first time you hear them. Then you find out her Manipulative Bastard brother has emotionally anaesthetized her through years of emotional and sexual manipulation leaving it so that the only way she can fight back is passive aggressively.
  • Tamahome of Fushigi Yuugi was initially portrayed as a huge mercenary, even charging people for rescuing them. This is later revealed to be because he is giving the money to his huge, impoverished family. Once they've been slaughtered, he still makes reference to this trait.
  • Haiyore! Nyarko-san has the character Ato-ko Shirogane, first introduced in the Gag Series Remember my Love(craft-sensei) as a Covert Pervert who browses porn sites by the hundreds simultaneously and drops a Cluster Bleep-Bomb when describing what she would do to Cuuko. Her only "appearance" in the main anime is near the end of the second season, when she sends a box of Love Potion-laced chocolates to Nyarko, causing hilarity to ensue. When Ato-ko pops up in the novels, however, it turns out that she steals other womens' boyfriends/lovers because she literally feeds on the emotional pain it causes. This effect also extends to all the friendly, polite interaction she has with the show's stars Nyarko and Mahiro, since she's trying to steal the latter away from the former, and makes the chocolate incident darker by implying that she was trying to artificially speed their relationship along so it'd be "tastier" to destroy.
  • Josuke in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure getting irrationally pissed whenever someone makes fun of his hair just seems like a funny Berserk Button gag, until it's eventually revealed that Josuke was saved as a child by a mysterious stranger with the same hairdo. He eventually grew up to adopt the same hairstyle out of respect, and considers any insults towards it as an insult toward the man who saved his life. The hair gag is never used again after that.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • In one chapter, Kaguya is shown looking for fireworks in her bedroom while delirious from a fever, and in a later chapter is shown to go starry eyed when the possibility of going to a fireworks festival with Shirogane comes up. At first, this just seems like a fun little quirk, but then we get to chapter 44 and find out that fireworks represent the summer memories that she's never had due to her overbearing and emotionally neglectful father.
      I want to see the fireworks with everyone.
    • At one point, Ishigami says that all of the sports teams should get reduced budgets based on how many of the players have girlfriends, shouting that if they had girlfriends it should be more important to them than sports. It comes off as him being jealous due to being disliked by his female classmates, until it's revealed that the reason all the girls hate him is because he was accused of being a Stalker with a Crush when he attacked a guy that was cheating on his girlfriend.
  • Naruto:
    • Kakashi’s chronic lateness and horrible excuses (combined with Naruto and Sakura’s shouts of “Liar!”) were played entirely for laughs, but then we find out that Kakashi’s real reason for being late is that he visits the memorial stone every day in honor of his dead best friend. He stays there for HOURS lost in thought, and even talks to it like he’s talking to Obito. Oh, and those lame excuses? They were Obito’s. Using them is Kakashi’s way of keeping Obito’s memory alive. This becomes even more depressing when Kakashi finds out that Obito is still alive, and is evil, since Obito is the reason Kakashi is the person he is today… so in effect, everything in Kakashi’s life that he believed in has become a lie.
    • In Sasuke's flashbacks of the days leading up to the Uchiha Clan massacre, he gets up to go to the bathroom and overhears a conversation between his older brother Itachi and their parents about how Itachi is unable to go to a clan meeting because of a mission he has. Before long, Itachi notices Sasuke and tells him to go back to bed if he's done in the washroom. Itachi's Story reveals that Itachi had known Sasuke was there all along, and since the conversation with his parents was getting increasingly heated, he deliberately called out to Sasuke to distract their parents and cut the conversation short. On top of everything else Itachi is dealing with at the time, he ends up feeling somewhat guilty about using his brother that way.
  • In the first season of Ojamajo Doremi, Doremi casually talks about how she used to play the piano a few years back but didn't have the talent for it. This turns out to have darker origins in the following season, as it had more to do with her mom Haruka forcing her own shattered dream on her daughter. Doremi ended up crying on stage in her first recital, and Haruka tearfully apologizes for pushing her too hard.
  • One Piece has a few examples, turning otherwise cute gags into tragedies when examined closely:
    • While more heartwarming than serious, the reason Genzo, a father figure to Nami from her home village, wore a pinwheel on his hat was because his face scared Nami as a baby, but wearing the pinwheel made her laugh. Once she departed with Luffy and was finally happy, he placed the pinwheel at Belle-mere's grave, saying he didn't need it anymore.
    • Speaking of Nami, you know about her greedy personality? Yeah, it turns out in the Arlong Park Arc we find out her hometown was taken over by pirates and she struck a deal with the leader to buy back the town from him if she gathered enough money. Ultimately subverted, when this arc was over, Nami is still obsessed with money and treasure. Even in the flashback to Nami's past, she was stealing things before Arlong showed up. It likely has more to do with her poor background.
    • Kokoro, an older Gonk introduced in the Water 7 arc, is introduced as a Lady Drunk played for comic relief. Then you find out that she used to have a thinner figure and didn't drink until the day Tom, her friend and employer (and the mentor of Franky and Iceburg) was sent to Enies Lobby to be executed. Since then, she hasn't stopped.
    • Portgas D. Ace has the word ASCE tattooed on his arm, with the S crossed out. It was obviously a mistake on the tattoo artist's part, right? Much later on, we learn that when Luffy and Ace were kids, they were friends with a boy called Sabo, who was apparently killed by the World Nobles. Ouch. The pain is lessened even further afterwards, when it turns out Sabo survived and is ready to pick up Ace's metaphorical torch and avenge him.
    • During the Fishman Island Arc, ever wondered why the two princes, Ryuuboshi and Mamboshi act goofy by singing and dancing in scales and mambo respectively?? It turns out it's a way to cheer their sister up… right after their mom was murdered, right in front of them.
    • Baby 5's Extreme Doormat tendencies were initially played for laughs, but a brief flashback showed that when she was a toddler, she was abandoned by her family for being useless. Her crewmates never corrected this Freudian Excuse, as they found a person who would do anything to feel needed was too convenient.
    • A guy called Senor Pink who dresses up like a baby and rejects all women around him? Hilarious. A guy called Senor Pink who dresses up like a baby not only because he hopes his late wife will find it funny from heaven as it was the only thing that made her smile when an accident rendered her comatose, but as a tribute to his own infant son who died at a very fragile age and rejects all women around him because his heart belongs to said late wife? Not so funny.
    • Numerous funny events regarding Sanji such as his bounty, Mr Prince gag, as well as freakin' Duval. All of these come back in the Whole Cake Island Arc as major traumatic events for Sanji. In order:
      • His original bounty poster was a crude drawing by the Marine officers, which made him a Butt-Monkey by various characters. Turns out that all this time, the crude bounty image was protecting him from his father who literally left no stones unturned in finding him, so as to force him into an Arranged Marriage to one of Big Mom's daughters. And Big Mom planned all along to kill them all.
      • In Alabasta, Sanji went by the alias 'Mr. Prince' as he was the only one not identified by Crocodile. Some of his plans made during the arc saved the day, as well in numerous other arcs. We find out later that Sanji is not only a literal prince, but is a blacklisted prince as well, as Judge, Sanji's father, enforced upon the kids severe military training, ranging from physical as well as mental training. And due to Sora's Spanner in the Works moment, Sanji came out normal, and only learnt the mental training properly. Sanji was literally beaten to shit by his brothers and father for being 'weak'.
      • And finally, Duval. Even he was unintentionally protecting Sanji, as the bounty picture of Sanji was actually Duval's. Even the funny moment before the Face Reveal, where Duval was introduced in the Iron Mask, made Sanji angry because his own father disowned him and faked his death, and starved the hell out of him for being weak, even going as far as to put a literal Iron Mask on his son so that he doesn't get reminded of his 'loser of a son'.
  • Pokémon:
    • Team Rocket is subject to several of their humorous quirks stemming from tragic backstories. Jessie's vanity and desire to lead the group is due to the fact that her mother was an operative that went missing, presumed dead on a mission and was subsequently shuttled around in foster care before enlisting herself. James' goofy persona and cowardice were the result of him running away from home to avoid the pressures of his aristocratic upbringing and a controlling fiancé. Meowth's desire to be "top cat" instead of Giovanni's Persian came from the his having scrounged for food under the tutelage of a Persian in Hollywood. Furthermore, his walking upright and human speech were to impress a rich Meowth that didn't appreciate what he did.
    • A Running Gag in the Sun and Moon series is the character of Lillie not being able to touch Pokémon, which she slowly gets better with her time with her classmates. The gag stops being funny as of episode 47, which reveals that she has repressed memories of an accident involving the Ultra Beast Nihilego, making her fear of Pokémon much more understandable and the desire to overcome it much stronger. This is further proven in episode 49, which not only has her regain those memories; but it also adds the detail that Faba is responsible for the accident and tried to keep her from regaining her memory. Lillie is shocked when she realizes this after Faba kept this from her all this time and deliberately drew out Nihilego from Ultra Space to prove his theories.
    • The franchise-long joke about Ash's Pikachu not wanting to go into his Poké Ball takes on a much darker context after Pokémon: I Choose You!. During the final battle, Ash successfully gets Pikachu into his Poké Ball right before he's obliterated by the attacks of a bunch of Brainwashed and Crazy Pokémon to protect him in a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • In Pokémon: The Power of Us, the character Harriet is the subject of a Running Gag with her dislike of Pokémon, until the film's final act reveals that her Snubbull died in a fire 50 years before the story took place; and that she's unwilling to get close to them again ever since.
  • If one takes the game Sands of Destruction as the original, and the animenote  and manga as Retcons instead of Alternate Continuity, this trope is firmly in place as regards Morte's motivation. In the game, she merely wants to destroy the world because it's already ending itself and she can't come up with a better use for a dying world than assuaging her own boredom. Naturally, the moment she realizes both that the world can be saved and falling in love is even more fun than blowing stuff up, she changes her mind. She's incredibly upbeat throughout the game, rushing into things without a thought. In the anime, her motivation changes to revenge for the deaths of her parents and brother: she doesn't know who is responsible, and feels that the world is worthless, so killing everyone is her solution; she only changes her mind at the last minute when she realizes that revenge isn't going to bring her family back and that the world actually does have its good points as well as its problems. She's also more serious, fitting her grimmer motives. In the manga, she's just as upbeat as she was in the game but her motivation is instead changed to being now the one who wished for the state of the world a thousand years ago, but she was tired and forgot to wish that humans and beastmen would be friends, so everyone's racism is all her fault and the only way she knows to fix the world is to wipe it out and start again from scratch; she's killed before she fully changes her mind, but Kyrie manages to bring her back at the end of the story - which, being the end, doesn't allow us time to know what she's really thinking.
  • Luluco's desire for normalcy in Space Patrol Luluco starts making a disturbing amount of sense once we see what her childhood was like. This doesn't keep it from being funny though.
  • A major Running Gag in Soul Eater is the Viewer Gender Confusion regarding the character of Crona. Later on, it's revealed that Medusa Gorgon doesn't even consider Crona human despite being her child.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho: Koenma originally was Really 700 Years Old but looked like a baby, with a pacifier. He could occasionally become a teenager, but the joke was that he still has the pacifier. Later, the pacifier was "explained" as an energy storage device to give him a non-comedic reason for having it when not a baby (although this doesn't explain why such a thing would look like a pacifier to begin with).
  • Yugioh Arc V: Early on, the series poked fun at Yuya's mom's habit of taking strays animals into their house, first by Yuya realizing one morning there are more pets whose names he doesn't even know, then after taking in Sora. He tells her that she can't just pick up people the same as animals. It's all played for laughs both at Yoko's weakness for cuteness and Sora's antics in order to get what he wants. Fast forward to episode 127 where it's revealed that Yuya's existence is due to him being the fragment of Zarc's split soul and most definitely not Yusho's nor Yoko's biological son since the former realizes he has no memories of his son being born, meaning Yoko might have picked up Yuya long, long before Sora.
  • Date A Live: Reine Murasame, a Ratatoskr worker who assists Shido in his dates, carries a small teddy bear on her person. At first, the series just treated as a funny quirk of hers, but in volume 17, Reine is revealed to be Mio Takamiya, the First Spirit, who met Shido before the events of the story and fell in love with him. That teddy bear was a souvenir Shido won for her and she has kept it with her since.
  • My Monster Secret: In the first part of the series, there are a quite a few jokes about Akari's perpetual singleness, particularly her ridiculous fantasy of being swept up by a handsome prince riding a white horse. When part 2 rolls around, it's eventually revealed that even since she was a kid, she'd been teased and made fun of for being abnormally tall and strong and having a tomboyish personality, and the fantasy largely stems from her desire to be treated like a normal girl.
  • During the second volume of Accel World, Yuniko "Niko" Kozuki, aka Scarlet Rain, head of the Red Legion, goes through a lot of trouble to contact Haruyuki/Silver Crow in real life to get his and the newly reformed Nega Nebulus' help to stop the newest incarnation of Chrome Disaster, offering a nonaggression pact in exchange for their help. At the time, she seems desperate enough- the Armor of Catastrophe has taken over Rain's friend and parent, Cherry Rook, causing him to attack other Legions, so she's told there will be consequences if she doesn't deal with him. Eleven volumes later, Niko privately confesses to Haru that she also had an ulterior motive- she believed she wouldn't stand a chance against any of the other Level 9 "Kings," partly because she doesn't have an attack-type Incarnate ability, and so wanted to ensure that at least one of the rival Legions wouldn't go after her.
  • Yuri Is My Job:
    • The series stars Hime Shiraki, a girl who puts on a cute façade in the hopes of getting everyone to love her and one day marrying a billionaire. This is Played for Laughs at first, but over the course of the first volume, it's revealed that while virtually everyone adores Hime, she has virtually no real friends. Hime confesses that she has a compulsive desire to be loved by everyone and keep the façade up.
    • Hime's friend Kanoko is initially shown as so much of a Shrinking Violet that she's practically unable to talk to anyone besides Hime. Her flashback in the third volume reveals that she was once a somewhat misanthropic loner whose inability to stand up for herself resulted in her classmates pushing her around. She's also in love with Hime, and is so hurt by Hime's growing distance from her that she'd ask Sumika to abolish the schwester system for the salon, thus breaking up Hime and Mitsuki's relationship and possibly threatening the salon's continued existence.
    • When Mitsuki first meets Hime, she's outwardly polite towards Hime, hiding her growing irritation with Hime's incompetence while Mitsuki's still in character. In a flashback in the second volume, it turns out that Mitsuki was overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing her former friend again, and was quite disappointed that Hime apparently didn't remember her.
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