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Breaking Old Trends

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So you've got yourself a Long Runner, and one that's remarkably still popular enough to go on for some time to come. You couldn't be happier except... don't things seem to be a bit stale now? Sure, you've made some refinements here and there to the plot, the characters, and even the gameplay. But overall? The last major shake-up in your franchise or work was years ago, and the fans are starting to notice. Criticisms of It's the Same, Now It Sucks! are starting to be thrown towards you, and you aren't exactly fond of that. As a creator, what can you do the solve this problem? Why, change the series formula of course!


Breaking Old Trends refers to exactly that: when the creators of a work decide to reinvigorate it by rethinking some of the more long-standing elements in it and changing some of them to make it seem fresh again. If the main characters usually spend a book hanging around a City of Adventure, perhaps the reader picks up a new installment that has them suddenly Walking the Earth in search of action. If someone's favourite video game series has been getting more and more linear, they may discover the next entry to be a Wide Open Sandbox. If your favourite show has a penchant for ending each season in the same way, then prepare to be caught off guard by a Meta Twist. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but at the end of the day, the creators are trying something new (be it major or minor) while also trying to maintain what made their work well-liked to begin with.


While the presence of this trope can just as often be a one-time thing to surprise the audience, it can also lead to the new idea becoming a mainstay element of the series in its own right, resulting in the old trend it was breaking becoming an example of Early Installment Weirdness that could end up being revisited further down the line.

Due to its nature of breaking established, unspoken rules within a work, this trope should only apply to works within their third installments or further. After all, the creators are still trying to figure what the formula actually is when making the second entry.

Compare Retool and Genre Shift. Contrast Strictly Formula.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Daily Life with Monster Girl: Out of all the girls, Lala does the least fanservice, doesn't have a nickname for Kimihito, and doesn't try to pursue him because she's fine with the fact that she'll have him forever once he dies.
  • The Pokémon anime, for all its tendencies to patterns, if not above breaking them from time to time.
    • In both Kanto and Johto, Ash caught the three regional starters. Starting with Hoenn, the starters were divided between him and his companions. Though he did end up catching all three starter Pokémon again in Unova.
    • Hoenn is the first series where the core cast is made up of more than three people by adding a Tagalong Kid.
    • The Hoenn arc was the first arc that Ash only starts off with just Pikachu instead of bringing over his current team from previous arcs, as in the Orange Island and Johto arcs. Starting with Unova arc, it would be the standard procedure from then on once a new generation of Pokémon is launched.note 
    • In Japan, the series would actually begin to change titles for each generation starting with Hoenn, after being just known as Pocket Monsters for the Kanto, Orange Islands, and Johto arcs.
    • Sinnoh has Ash finally catching a pseudo legendary Pokémon, or at least a member of its line.
    • The Unova arc broke some notable trends. In particular:
      • Ever since their introduction in the 2nd episode of Kanto, it was a given to have the Team Rocket trio make an appearance in every episode, even if it's just a small 30-second cameo. This trend is finally broken in the 16th Unova episode where they don't make any appearances whatsoever.
      • Since Kanto Ash either had Misty or Brock traveling alongside him, with Johto being the only other region he had both. Unova was the first region where neither of them were his amongst his companions.
      • Unova was the first region where Ash doesn't encounter the regional villain team until after completing the league, where they got a short arc dedicated to them.
      • Usually there's a few breather episodes between major arcs/series. However, after finishing the Unova League and taking care of Team Plasma, there is twenty episodes long filler arc about Ash getting home from Unova and setting up his journey to Kalos.
    • Kalos broke several Ash streaks.
      • First region where Ash doesn't catch the Grass-type starter.
      • First evolution of a Water-type starter, as well as a Water-type Pokémon finally evolving ever since way back in Kanto when Krabby evolved.
      • First generation where Ash doesn't cross-dress.
      • Talonflame did not learn Flamethrower like all the rest of his Fire-types.
      • First region where all of Ash's Pokémon (save for Pikachu, of course) fully evolve.
      • First region where Ash does not reunite with an old companion from the previous region's journey. Cilan did appear, but it was in a post-epilogue episode meaning he only met Clemont and Bonnie.
      • Kalos also broke a trend involving the villains, namely that they didn't target either one of the initial cover legendries, but rather the third Legendary Pokémon connected to them.
    • Alola also broke several streaks.
      • Alola changed up the overall series formula where instead of being an ongoing adventure around the region, it's now more of a Slice of Life series where Ash goes to school.
      • After six regions, Alola is the first where Ash doesn't catch the regional bird Pokémon.
      • Alola is the first region where Ash doesn't catch a Water-type Pokémon.
      • Ash's outfit is also different from all previous versions. Shorter pants, no jacket/sweatshirt, and no Fingerless Gloves.
      • First region where Ash catches a Mythical Pokémon.
    • Then there's the numerous movies for the Pokémon anime. The first nineteen are essentially big screen adventures of Ash and his friends, depending on the season the movie debuted in. The twentieth movie isn't a movie for the Sun and Moon seasons, but instead an Alternate Continuity version of the series' first ever episode, namely it due to being a Milestone Celebration. The following movie would stay in that continuity and the movie after that will be a CG remake of Pokémon: The First Movie.
  • Most Time Bokan series share the same kind of situations, but the fifth series, Yattodetaman, changed around multiple things:
    • First, for the first time the main character actually transforms into the titular hero while becoming stronger and braver than usual, rather than just donning different clothes and a mask like the other Time Bokan main characters did.
    • Second, it's the first time there is a single hero: while there's a female main character, she doesn't transform when fighting the bad guys.
    • Speaking about the bad guys, the two male members of the Terrible Trio look completely different than the usual: Julie has a smaller nose, lacks a moustache and stands more upright compared to Boyacky and all his expies, while Alain, instead of being a short hunch with broad shoulders with a five o' clock shade like Tonzura and his derivatives, is a tall, fat guy with a prominent beard.
    • As a last difference, instead of a bunch of different Funny Animal mechas, Yattodetaman has a single Humongous Mecha. This change was kept around in the subsequent series Ippatsuman, only to come back with the old style in Itadakiman.
  • Related to the above, Yatterman Night is the first direct sequel to a previous Time Bokan series, as well as the first to have a Terrible Trio be a heroic Power Trio. This is also the first series to not have a trio serve as recurring villains, instead opting for a singular entity and his robot army.
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5 switched from the original two-girl team of the previous Pretty Cure seasons to a a Sentai-styled Five Girl Band, along with each member being capable of a Finishing Move, rather than requiring both Cures to be together to finish off the Monster of the Week. After later installments adopted this as standard procedure, Maho Girls PreCure would break the new trend by returning to the two-Cure format.

    Films — Animation 
  • Pixar has several examples:
    • Ever since the release of their one and only movie sequel with Toy Story 2 back in 1999, Pixar ended up obtaining a fan reputation as an animation studio that only went about making original IPs. This was finally broken in 2010 with their release of Toy Story 3, and other sequels outside of the Toy Story franchise was then broken a year later with the 2011 release of Cars 2.
    • Normally one of the curiosities that this animation studio uses to distinguish their films from Disney Animated Canon is them not making musicals, but then they made Coco, the first to be such, though as a Music Story rather than a full-on, randomly-bursting-into-song musical.
    • Cars 3:
      • Unlike the first two, this exchange is absent.
      Old character: If there's anything you need, just let me know.
      Main character:: I sure appreciate that. Thank you. [beat] Actually, there is one thing... [Gilligan Cut to the request, usually a Brick Joke from earlier, being fulfilled]
      • Same with this:
      Lightning: You know who you're talking to, this is Lightning McQueen. I can handle anything. [Gilligan Cut to the random request he's asked to do]
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Forgotten Friendship, Wallflower Blush is the first Big Bad in Equestria Girls to not be transformed into a monster by the magic they wield.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the first installment in the series to not have the Book-Ends of starting with "This is Berk" as the first words spoken in the beginning and have it again near the end in a monologue about Berk, and also the first movie to not end with the words "our dragons".
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part marks LEGO's fourth theatrical movie, and the first one to lack a father/son conflict, or a redemption arc for the main villain.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Captain America: Civil War, Zemo becomes the first main villain of a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie since Loki from the Thor movies to not be killed off at the end of the film. Civil War is also the first film where the villain's overall plan doesn't outright fail in the end. Zemo set out to break up the Avengers, and was able to accomplish that.
  • The 6th film in the Mission: Impossible Film Series franchise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, is the first that has the main villain of the previous film (Solomon Lane) make a return for a 2nd film.
  • The Fast and Furious franchise starts off as a film series that show off car racing for its first 3 movies. By the 4th film onward, the franchise transforms itself into heist films that involve the use of cars.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Britain's Got Talent: 2016 was the first year that David used his golden buzzer on a performance where none of the judges buzzed the act.
  • American Horror Story: Hotel:
    • This is the very first season without both Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy, the latter of which could not return due to a prior commitment.
    • This is the first season where Sarah Paulson's character is killed. She previously survived all four seasons. Though, this is also downplayed. Paulson plays two characters this season. One was killed before the series started, and one survives. So, she's still never been killed during the series.
    • Despite the casting of Lady Gaga, there's no musical number in this season.
  • Burn Notice spent six seasons with a familiar pattern; Michael and company face an overriding arc for the season which they make incremental progress on during each episode while most of the episode is spent dealing with a Villain of the Week criminal or whatever. The final season dumped this pattern, became much Darker and Edgier, and focused almost entirely on a single long arc of Michael working for the CIA. There were some occasional side issues to deal with, but they were generally quite brief and quickly resolved.
  • For over 54 years, the Doctor of Doctor Who was traditionally cast as a man. However, the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor heralded the first female incarnation of the character.
  • Power Rangers:

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • Generation V (Pokémon Black and White)
      • Most games have the final battle with the villainous team occur at some point around the 7th or 8th Gym, and Pokemon League Champion as the Final Boss. Generation V's Pokémon Black and White, however, has Team Plasma interrupt the Pokemon League challenge before you get to fight the Champion, resulting in their leader being the Final Boss and the League Champion being a post-game Bonus Boss.
      • Technical Machines are now being infinite use rather than single-use items. This would remain the case for all future games, including remakes.
      • The Unova Elite Four can now be battled in any order, rather than the player being forced to combat them in a specific arrangement. Future regions would follow suit.
      • The Unova region is the first region not to be a counterpart of a region of Japan, being based on New York City instead.note 
      • Traditionally, after the first two games of a generation were released, an Updated Re-release is made to act as the "definitive" version. However, in lieu of a Pokémon Gray, this generation got direct sequels instead. Gen VI didn't get any sort of follow-up for its pair of games, and while Generation VII did get a third version, it was was split into a pair of games as well.
    • Generation VI (Pokémon X and Y)
      • The Gen VI games not getting any third game or sequel, as previously mentioned, makes it the only generation where a third Legendary Pokémon related to the main duo (often seen as a postgame Bonus Boss in the initial games) doesn't headline said title with a major role (and often a new form or two).note  Emerald had Rayquaza, Platinum had Giratina, Black 2/White 2 had Kyurem, and Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon had Necrozma. Zygarde did receive a major role in the XY&Z season of the anime and a minor appearance in Sun/Moon, however.
    • Generation VII (Pokémon Sun and Moon)
      • Gym Battles were replaced with the Island Challenge Trials and Grand Trials. In addition, Hidden Machines have been replaced with the Ride Pager, with future installments also replacing HMs with similar mechanics.
      • Sun and Moon introduced Legendary Pokémon capable of evolution, while Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! introduced Mythical Pokémon that can do so as well.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location, rather than hiding in one room and fending off hostile animatronics until 6 A.M. for all five nights, the player has to do night-specific tasks to progress, rather than waiting out a clock. At least, not until Night 5's fake ending... In addition, Bonnie is only Funtime Freddy's handpuppet, Chica is nowhere to be found, and the animatronics are almost entirely brand new.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition has been a departure from many traditions established by the previous two and a half installments of the Dragon Age series, such as a Wide Open Sandbox replacing previous tightly-scripted levels, a complete removal of healing magic, and the artsy blood red-saturated covers being ditched for a green-dominated palette.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild combines this with Revisiting the Roots. The game features a lot of aspects that used to be Early Installment Weirdness, such as it being an open-world game with RPG Elements, as well as completely new elements, like equippable weapons and armor, and the ability to jump and climb.
  • Assassin's Creed: Unity has the first player character in the main console series not to be an ancestor of Desmond Miles. He is also the first since Altair to have only one Hidden Blade, and isn't a Walking Armory.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance features Ike, the first protagonist in the series who is not some form of royalty.
  • Mario & Luigi:
    • In various Mario role playing games where there is a brand new villain and Bowser is either overshadowed or forced to team up with Mario. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team was the first Mario RPG to have Bowser team up with the new villain. Not only that, Bowser usurped the villain spot in the endgame.
    • Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the first game in the Mario & Luigi series to not have characters original to the game. This is especially notable on the villain side, where it is just Bowser and Paper Bowser teaming up, and all the bosses and enemies are all brought over from the mainline Super Mario Bros. platformers, in both normal and Paper variants.
  • Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt Of The Necrodancer is the first official Zelda game to be made by third party that isn't Japanese, but an independent Western game developer. The gameplay is no less unusual, as it features the rhythm-based roguelike design of Necrodancer itself.

    Visual Novels 
  • New Danganronpa V3:
    • This is the first main series game to not have an Ultimate Lucky Student in the main cast.
    • This is also the first game where Megumi Ogata doesn't play a character. At least, not one introduced in this game, anyway.
    • Unlike Leon Kuwata and Teruteru Hanamura, the culprit of Chapter 1 is prepared to be executed. And unlike Mondo Owada and Peko Pekoyama, the culprit of Chapter 2 tries their hardest to escape execution.
    • The Big Guy dies in Chapter 4, but as the culprit, not as the victim.
    • In the main series, this game is the first one to allow you to play as a female protagonist.
    • This game is also the first game in the franchise's history where not only does the player character die, but they are also the culprit! However it turns out they were actually successfully framed by the mastermind. Which means that this is the first game of the franchise where a character successfully gets away with murder in a class trial.
    • This game is the only game to have more than three playable characters, even if it's temporary.

    Web Original 
  • Chorocojo used the male trainer during his Pokémon Black 2 LP, as opposed to the female trainer he was using in his previous LP's. However, by this point he was tired of doing female characters, viciously lampshading it the last two times beforehand, but during Pokestar Studios filming he used the female trainer.
  • The Hobo Bros' "Hobo Theater" videos originally had Kevin read a list of words relating to the video's theme, with Luke having to work each word into the story. However, this eventually led to Kevin saying phrases, or even full sentences, instead of single words, and they seem to have abandoned the idea of using single words despite doing it for many videos.

    Western Animation 
  • In Archer, the running gag of shouting "Phrasing" after a line of dialog that could be taken the wrong way was broken in Season Five, when after a long string of lines that would provoke the gag were said without anyone saying "Phrasing," it was lampshaded and the gag is now wondering out loud if their Phrasing gag was still a thing.
  • South Park would famously kill off Kenny Once an Episode for the first four seasons or so. Then Kenny got Killed Off for Real for one season before reviving him. Since then, Kenny has only been killed occasionally, usually with a huge lampshade hung on it.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Starting in Season 4, much of the series formula was changed drastically, such as the Mane Six giving up the Elements of Harmony, and of the Aesop changing from the "Dear Princess Celestia" format to a diary format, which was then abandoned by Season 5.
    • The season 8 episode "Friendship University" marks the first episode where the Flim Flam brothers prominently appear, yet Applejack , their rival in a sense, doesn't appear.
  • Total Drama: The third season, Total Drama World Tour, was the first one to introduce new contestants: Sierra and Alejandro. It also featured songs.


Example of: