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Cerebus Rollercoaster

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These strips ran within a month of each-other.

"This show literally starts with all of those darker underpinnings right alongside the zany humor, and all that really changes is what is at the forefront shifts."
Victor Mayboroda regarding Chrono Crusade

There are many reasons why the tone of a story may change. Sometimes a happy, joke-based show goes into a much more serious and darker direction. Sometimes a once dark and deadly serious series turns into a comedy. Sometimes the work completely changes its genre. Sometimes writers run out of ideas and just try to put out anything they can, or find what they really want to do. Sometimes Executive Meddling, Creator Breakdown, or Creator Recovery takes the story in a new direction and turns it into something completely unrecognizable from its source material.

And sometimes all of it happens at the same time.

Cerebus Rollercoaster is what happens when Cerebus Syndrome gets zig-zagged — the series goes back and forth through different tones, jumps from genre to genre or dances on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. If this ends well, the series can end up Growing the Beard by absorbing the best elements of all the phases it went through. If not, it may end up Jumping the Shark.

This may occur for different reasons. Sometimes creators just plain don't know exactly what tone they want to give their work. Maybe the story went too far into Cerebus Syndrome, and the writer is tired and horrified of the Crapsack World it has become, but while trying to reverse the process, he finds out that new, Darker and Edgier settings have a lot of fans, so he desperately tries to balance drama and comedy to keep both fanbases happy. Sometimes the new writer decides to take the series in a new direction, then into another direction, and so on, until fans who have grown to be writers themselves take the series back to its original roots. Some people may just Follow the Leader too much, and when the leader changes, so too does the direction of their story. And sometimes they just don't want to stick to one setting and are forced to discard all story ideas which are too dark or too light for basic settings. Tropes Are Tools — when played right, it may give a series a unique, recognizable style and keep it fresh. If done badly, however, this will pretty much turn the story into a train wreck.

Compare Mood Whiplash, which is a smaller version of this taking place within a single story rather than spaced out among multiple installments. Dude, Not Funny! may occur if one character is lagging between transitions.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach Has a tendency to be unable to keep up a serious tone during its darker story arcs, with characters making jokes and exaggerated expressions at each other even at times when things are looking extremely bleak for the heroes. Notably the beginning of the Deicide arc, where Aizen's cocoon form is revealed is peppered with multiple instances of characters goofing around despite the fact that they're supposed to be facing down the Big Bad, multiple characters have died or been maimed, and Aizen is so powerful nobody can figure out how to even damage him, let alone kill him. While the overall storyline remains dark, it does undermine the seriousness of the situation when nobody can decide if they'd rather fight or crack wacky jokes in the face of peril. This is also not the same as making jokes in dire circumstances to improve morale, tending more towards the kind of gags you'd see in omakes right in the middle of tense confrontations.
  • Chainsaw Man uses a lot of Black Comedy to disguise its cynical tone. The series is set in a Crapsack World where thousands die each month due to the attacks of powerful devils where most of the important side characters drop like flies. However, the main protagonist usually gets into silly antics saving people from the devils, and usually those side characters are very colorful, so it doesn't get too dark.
  • Code Geass varied wildly in tone, influenced by a lot of Executive Meddling and behind-the-scenes stuff.
  • Dont Cry Maou Chan is mostly wacky shenanigans broken up with some occasional drama... that is resolved by wacky shenanigans. Like the time the Western Hero turned out to be the head of a mafia family that kidnapped the title character's best friend and is defeated by criticizing her fashion choices (I swear It Makes Sense in Context).
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball started as a pastiche of Journey to the West. Then a few years in Piccolo Daimao became its Knight of Cerebus and comedic elements started to decrease in number. Stronger and crueler villains started to pop out and each next saga through Dragon Ball Z was darker than the previous one. Then the Buu Arc came, bringing back a lot of the off-the-wall humour and combining it with the epic fights and darkness, resulting in situations like Goten's mom getting killed by being turned into an egg and then stepped on. The anime version has also Dragon Ball GT, which swapped from a goofy humour-based Adventure Planets first half, to dark ultimate evil after ultimate evil second half.
    • The new series Dragon Ball Super also engages in this, thanks to its melding of classic DB humor with DBZ-style fighting amped-up to the next level. One episode had Vegeta staving off death by sucking on a pacifier, and then the last five minutes set up the next story arc by showing Future Trunks battling an Omnicidal Maniac who just so happens to look like an Evil Doppelgänger of Goku.
  • Gate Keepers go up and down with this, in both humorous and dark elements.
  • Gintama exemplifies this trope, flipping from hilarious to heart-wrenching in moments.
    • Best exemplified by the Yakuza Arc, which went from a story of trying to get a hikkimori heir to a Yakuza clan out to one of the more Downer Ending for an arc with most of their employers dead and nothing meaningful resolved. And it took one scene to jump from Comedy to Oh, Crap!.
    • The point, however, that the series became infamous for this is the first Yoshiwara arc, which not only had the fewest comedy bits but also advanced the story and lore, especially with Kagura's brother.
  • The Gundam franchise as a whole goes through this, with series varying from Zeta Gundam to Gundam ZZ, to Victory Gundam to G Gundam, from Gundam Wing to Gundam SEED to Gundam 00.
    • Zeta to ZZ is a miniature example in and of itself. Yoshiyuki Tomino himself said that Zeta was too dark and depressing, and thus made ZZ light-hearted because he felt that anime should make people happy. However, this seems to have resulted in over-correction, resulting in ZZ being very silly at the start before evening out later on, which has led some fans to apply Fanon Discontinuity to just the early episodes.
      • Tomino himself has this as applied to his whole body of work; It's been a common observation of his fans that Tomino tends to alternate between lighter works and depressing character dramas. Be Invoked, for instance, was directly followed by Xabungle, which was then followed by Aura Battler Dunbine. The tonal shift between Zeta and ZZ is a continuation of Tomino's established pattern, as ZZ was made directly after Zeta.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya, particularly the Anime, has this in spades, though it's all intentional. It starts out as a high-school harem comedy complete with fanservice shots, dips into some sci-fi, goes back to being silly, gets serious when we find out what Haruhi does to the world subconsciously and what it could mean if she ever got too upset... then someone pulls a KNIFE on the main character and comes within an inch of killing him before we're treated to some intense sci-fi fighting. And that's just the first five episodes! The rest of the series takes a light-hearted turn, but gets scary when someone or something stops Haruhi from having a good time or her imagination gets the best of her. We're treated to Fridge Horror with the Endless 8 arc, then the cast makes a funny (and terrible) movie... Then Haruhi Disappears, giving Kyon a mental breakdown, and just when everything looks like it's about to turn out fine... He gets stabbed TWICE and nearly bleeds to death all over the road. This series couldn't be any more bipolar if it were a magnet!
  • The Haunted House: The Secret of the Ghost Ball constantly switches between comedy, drama, Nightmare Fuel, and occasional heartwarming and heartbreaking moments.
  • Helck frequently goes into both ends of Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness in scenes or discussed topics. Though the overall tone remains optimistically comedic, many chapters can get extremely depressing or horrifying.
  • Higurashi has this in spades due to the weird time shenanigans. Basically, most arcs start off as Slice of Life comedy revolving around a handful of schoolchildren living carefree lives, but they reside in a Town with a Dark Secret, and each arc gradually spirals out of control, usually culminating in the death of several main characters, or even the entire town. Then the Reset Button gets pressed by an unknown third party, and it's back to lighthearted comedy, and if any of the main cast are still aware that something's horribly wrong, they do a great job at hiding it.
  • Hunter × Hunter is guilty of this. It starts out with the fairly grim but still lighthearted Hunter Exam arc, which precedes the dramatic (unofficial) Zoldyck Arc. It's followed by the mostly cheery Heaven's Arena arc, only for the Yorknew Arc to show off its considerable amount of death and gore. The Greed Island arc is serious for the most part but still manages to reach a happy ending. Then of course we have the infamous Chimera Ant Arc — filled to the brim with Tear Jerkers and Nightmare Fuel, to the point that anyone who hasn't watched the show might confuse it as seinen... and now the Election Arc! which is by no means not dark, but much less miserable than the last arc with a fair amount of comedic and Heartwarming moments. This is followed by the Dark Continent and Succession War arcs that manage to be more horrifying, gorier, and more political than the preceding arcs that the Kid Heroes have to be Put on a Bus.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo. Starts off with the 16-year-old protagonist running into a cute little boy robot, who wants him to help save the world. A few chapters later, we found out, that said robot boy is a Sociopathic Hero at its worst. Then more comedy and action scenes, which lead up to the protagonist's best friend being in love with him, and also being batshit insane. Then all the good guys are killed, and the world blows up. Which leads us right into part 2, with time restarted and everybody fine. They even threw in some more comedy just to reassure us that everybody is A-OK. Until the end of part two. Two of the original Good Doji masters are dead, and the others are out of commission. Part 3, managed to do this in single chapters alone. The only thing you can be sure of with the tone of this series is that by the end of each part, something bad is going to happen to somebody, if not everybody.
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! sometimes varies in tone quite noticeably from episode to episode. For instance, it's been known to jump from an escalating pie fight, to children being brainwashed by possessed teachers, to King Dedede formulating a plan to eat the villager's food because he doesn't like the food his servants cook, and from there to a girl with a Swiss-Army Weapon going after Meta Knight because he (supposedly) left her mother to die fighting a horrible demon while he ran off with the sword it had been guarding... over the course of four episodes.
  • This trope is one built-in feature of Kotoura-san and can be said as omnipresent. The number of comedy/drama flip-flops can be numerous within a single episode—and if it's not the case, the Stinger would be enough.
  • The Legendary Hero Is Dead! starts off being a light series where the protagonist has a fetish for knee socks, the legendary hero dies to the most unimaginative trap ever from the protagonist, and loads of hilarious hijinks ensue. However, the longer the series goes, the darker the series gets to where the trap that the legendary hero fell to was him actually being Driven to Suicide.
  • Lupin III may be the ultimate example of this, even by Long Runner standards. It's a franchise that can shift from being a wacky family-friendly Gag Series to a dark, gritty Seinen drama with little to no humor. For instance, Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, an extremely dark, violent, Nightmare Fuel-filled series, got followed up by Lupin III: The Italian Adventure, a Shōnen series with plenty of humor and a relatively light-hearted, adventurous plot. Then that got followed up with Lupin III: Part 5, which, while not to the same extent as Fujiko Mine, had a much darker, grounded, and more ominous plot, and a lot more violence.
  • Magical Project S starts off as an over-the-top parody of Magical Girls and stays that way for more than half the series. Then for about three episodes the plot suddenly abandons its silly and goofy elements in favor of a heart-wrenching story involving the Dark Magical Girl. Then the comedy comes back in for the remainder of the series, but now it is the very genre that it was parodying.
  • Musuko ga Kawaikute Shikataganai Mazoku no Hahaoya: The story repeatedly shifts between light-hearted comedy and serious drama, with when the shift will happen not always being obvious. The main system for it is having several light-hearted slice-of-life chapters, followed by a serious arc, followed by more slice-of-life chapters, so on and so forth. However, sometimes the seriousness will be intermingled with the comedy, such as the introduction and aftermath of the anti-demon mine in chapter 12. The chapters featured main character Lorem being seriously hurt after covering her baby son Gospel from the detonation of an anti-demon weapon she had hung on to for reasons even she can't explain. The following chapters are mostly comedic while interjecting scenes of Lorem being worried about her parenting abilities after the incident, with it only returning to full comedy after Chiharu and Merii help her work through her worries.
  • My Hero Academia tends to zigzag tonally — the initially lighthearted School Trip arc ends with a kidnapping and the dark Hideout Raid arc, which is followed by the lighthearted License Exam arc. This is then followed by the much darker Internship Arc, but that's eased off by the much lighter Culture Festival arc.
  • One Piece should be called Cerebus Rollercoaster: The Series. To put it simply, a given arc will typically start with lighthearted moments between the Straw Hats on the ship, which continues once they get on their current island, although there will be hints of darker action. Then trouble starts, and the Straw Hats are once again fighting for their lives against a gang of villains, who will typically be led by a Jerkass at best. Subjects such as war, racism, slavery or the death of one's loved ones may become prominent. After the end of the struggle, things go back to being lighthearted, even with occasional jokes about the life-or-death experiences. Even fights can rapidly switch from serious to silly, such as when Zoro accidentally ends up handcuffed to Usopp, and the two of them and their opponents (who refuse to work together) argue over how to resolve the situation.
  • Plastic Memories seems to follow a trend where each episode consists of eighteen minutes of comedy followed by a massive tearjerker moment, sometimes bordering on Sudden Downer Ending. For example, Episode 2 mostly revolves around Tsukasa getting to know his zany co-workers and getting used to Isla's quirks; The Stinger then drops the massive revelation that Isla has less than three months to live.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Adventures. The series' many arcs vary in intensity. The arcs of the first two generations are known to be pretty violent for kids' standards but future arcs tended to tone it down...but then the BW arc ends with arguably the biggest, most painful tearjerker in the entire series and the XY arc starts with the protagonist already broken and his hometown razed to the ground. Not to mention the bad guys are actively chasing and trying to kill him and his friends, further feeding into his massive trust and guilt issues.
    • To a lesser extent, this occurs in Pokémon: The Series as well. Overall, it's more lighthearted and less serious than the games, never really going into the deeper themes and focusing on the innocent adventures of Ash and co.; however, the show frequently has some darker episodes, especially if a villain other than the Rocket trio is involved. While every sub-series undergoes this to an extent, most notably the Pokémon: The Original Series tended to shift in tone dramatically on an episode-by-episode basis depending on who was on writing duty (mainly, anything Takeshi Shudo wrote had a good chance of being dramatic), so there are episodes where a Pokémon almost dies airing alongside ones filled to the brim with the early anime's rather wacky, bizarre brand of comedy, and Pokémon the Series: Black & White (aka Best Wishes) had characters with rather exaggerated personality traits, and an Ash who had Took a Level in Dumbass, but at the same time made the Team Rocket trio way more competent, made Team Rocket in general a looming Arc Villain, and later introduced Team Plasma and included N's tragic backstory. This also happened with entire generations of the show, with Pokémon the Series: XY and XYZ coming right off the heels of the Decolora Islands arc, and being noticeably more dramatic than previous series, especially a four-part series starring a teenage protagonist who becomes an Unwitting Pawn of the Big Bad, peaking towards the end of XYZ only to follow it up with the Slice of Life format, Denser and Wackier Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon, which also takes a turn for the dramatic when the mascot legendaries and Aether Foundation enters the picture. Another seasonal example can be seen within Generation 5 (Unova), with the aforementioned Decolora Islands season coming right after Best Wishes, even returning Jessie, James, and Meowth to their old incompetent selves and reducing the competence of their Pokémon by several levels with no explanation. Pokémon Journeys: The Series falls more in line with the original series, while far more lighthearted than every series prior? Still managed to those a few dramatic curveball episodes here and there.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has the infamous case of happy beginning, heart-wrenching middle and a controversial Bittersweet Ending. Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion manages to restore things to apparent Sugar Bowl again, only to deconstruct and partially reconstruct it again over the course of a single movie.
  • Reborn! (2004) started as a comedy manga, but from the Kokuyo Arc onwards it turns into a battle manga, with quite some violent and bloody stuff while dipping right back into comedy for filler.
  • Compared to the consistently more dramatic manga, the Sailor Moon anime always keeps a good balance between comedy and drama (until things get serious for the finale of each arc, that is). Yet, the show becomes much Darker and Edgier in the S season, then dives into more whimsical, childish, fairytale-like territory in Super S before getting darker yet in Stars.
  • Slayers switches from goofball comedy to world-threatening danger at the drop of a hat. A typical season of Slayers generally follows a formula of lighthearted adventures to introduce the characters, followed by a few more serious episodes to provide exposition for the plot, some silly filler episodes to lighten the mood, and an epic climax. Of course, even the more plot-oriented episodes still have plenty of comic relief.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie was an action-comedy for most of the movie. Just near the end, it gets a Sudden Downer Ending, with Metal Sonic sacrificing himself and Sonic being shaken up... only to return to wacky comedy within the last 4 minutes.
  • Sun-Ken Rock, all over the place, there's so much comedy, but so it's a LOT of serious yakuza-styled drama.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in a way mirrors the rollercoaster ride taken by the entire mecha anime genre through its history. Episodes one to eight are very optimistic and often outright comedic, taking a lot from classic 70's Super Robot anime like Mazinger Z or Getter Robo. The next episodes contain their share of angst and dark themes, and villains, while still evil, gain some depth. It mirrors the effect Mobile Suit Gundam had on the genre. Later episodes are post-Neon Genesis Evangelion era, being much darker than before, with varying moral values. Yet in both parts, the anime remains pretty captivating and the last part is especially awesome and Hot-Blooded, mirroring the effects GaoGaiGar and other reconstructions had on the mecha genre. It seems that what Gurren Lagann is trying to say is that it doesn't matter what tone or message your mecha show has - if it doesn't have its share of epicness, you're doing it wrong.
  • UQ Holder! The series can go from murder attempts, to high-school hi-jinks, to a zombie apocalypse, to fanservice-heavy bathhouse antics in a single arc.
  • Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina is primarily an episodic series consisting of standalone stories, and the tone of said stories varies between wholesome, disturbing, comedic, and depressing.
  • The fourth season of Yu-Gi-Oh!. There are some funny moments in between, even after Yugi sacrifices himself in the Pharaoh's place. But the humor dramatically lessens when Jonouchi, the series' Plucky Comic Relief, dies.
  • YuYu Hakusho plays this trope to the hilt. It begins at first as a bit of a Black Comedy about a dead teenager hilariously doing anything to come back to life, anything. Then he gets resurrected and has to hunt down criminals like a detective and the whole thing escalates with the Toguro Brothers and Yukina. Then comes the second season which although does have development, mostly is just shonen-style fighting,...then Genkai dies and it just keeps getting darker. That doesn't stop again until Yusuke proposes a tournament for the Three Kings.

    Comic Books 
  • Cerebus the Aardvark is Trope Namer for both this and Cerebus Syndrome; overall, the story fits the latter trope, but on a story arc by story arc basis, and many times on an issue by issue (or even page by page) basis, it fits this trope.
  • The superhero genre went through this. The Golden Age was pretty dark - Batman was a gun-wielding Vigilante Man, Wonder Woman liked to have her enemies Bound and Gagged and a lot of heroes had no problem with killing criminals, especially Those Wacky Nazis. The Silver Age was a result of Reverse Cerebus Syndrome when everything became Lighter and Softer, sometimes to ridiculous levels. The Bronze Age moved towards a more serious direction, which was taken way too far in the Dark Age. As a result, in the Modern Age, everybody said "screw it" and does whatever they want, so the same company can now publish the adventures of The Incredible Hercules and The Punisher, or Power Girl and Justice League: Cry for Justice.
    • Since the late 2000s, DC and Marvel have fallen into a recognisable pattern. Since they believe that True Art Is Angsty, every few years their entire universe starts to become darker, introducing more mature themes, increasingly flawed characters, and contrived conflict. This is divisive among fans but generally commercially successful and draws a lot of publicity and critical praise for the new, interesting direction. Inevitably they take it too far and the majority of fans turn on them or just stop caring, usually following a particularly bleak Crisis Crossover or string of unpopular creative decisions. The publisher stubbornly digs their heels in for a little while as fan backlash becomes more vocal, meanwhile the Lighter and Softer spin-off media and adaptations gain dedicated fanbases and are hailed as a refreshing respite from the oppressively grim source material. Eventually the publisher relents and launches a whole load of new comics boasting a return to lighthearted adventure. This is divisive among fans but generally commercially successful and draws a lot of publicity and critical praise for the new, interesting direction. After a couple of years, writers feel like the heat is off and are comfortable enough to start writing “serious” stories again and the cycle begins anew. Since 2011 Marvel has had three company-wide relaunches following controversial storylines, while DC has rebooted their entire multiverse three times in the space of ten years.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac started as a black comedy, went serious in its fourth and fifth issue, and then jumped back to black comedy.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The series became very dark during the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines, becoming Conan the Barbarian IN SPACE!, but the following Jeph Loeb run was much Lighter and Softer. When Planet Hulk's writer Greg Pak returned, he tried to restore the previous tone. The result was the Fall of the Hulks storyline, where Pak and Loeb tried to combine their styles, which didn't end well. Following that we had an increased number of more optimistic stories by Pak and then Mark Waid (and Jason Aaron's run in-between leaning into pulp action as Hulk clashed with an antagonistic Banner), only for it to end on Gerry Duggan's run, where Hulk's new personality, Doc Green, was a clear Villain Protagonist.
    • And what followed that? Pak's Totally Awesome Hulk, where Amadeus Cho took the Hulk curse from Banner and tried to show the world a more optimistic, heroic Hulk in fun-loving stories...only for it to get dark when Banner was killed in Civil War II. The tone then went up for a few stories only to get progressively darker, until a Bittersweet Ending. And then Banner returned in Al Ewing's Immortal Hulk, which is straight out a horror story.
  • Les Légendaires is a king in this art; take any album, you will most likely find both terrifying stuff and funny moments, sometimes right one after the other.
  • Transformers: Wings of Honor: Goes back and forth between the text stories and comics:
    • The original comic was light-hearted and made fun of the Unreliable Narrator.
    • The Coming Storm was more action-packed, but more violent, and funny up until the Sudden Downer Ending which kills most of the cast.
    • The Flames of Yesterday takes place in the middle of The Coming Storm and, bar a few moments, is a lot funnier and ends for the best.
    • A Team Effort focuses on another team and contains no character death, it's a space-adventure turned mystery.
    • Battle Lines had a more dark tone, with the survivors going to fight the Decepticons, and losing several of their members. The Hero Dies and it shows that the story did not really matter in the long run as the war sets in.
    • Generation 2 Redux: had the series go back into more light-hearted territory, with the cast considerably younger and more optimistic, the villains are either funny or naive and it ends with most people on the good guy's side.
    • The Machine Wars continuation is foreshadowed as darker, but the comic itself could be anywhere on the rollercoaster when it comes out.

    Eastern Animation 

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: This story's mood and tone shift constantly due to the length of the chapters and the author's desire to blend waff and comedy with the darkness of canon. In a single episode, you can go from wacky teenager antics to mecha action to a character considering committing suicide to two children in love snuggling up on their bed.
  • Ask King Sombra rapidly fluctuates between being comical and funny and serious and frightening. Sometimes within scenes of each other.
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series downplays this quite a bit, though it's still kinda jarring.
  • Child of the Storm starts off Lighter and Softer, then gets darker and much more serious with chapter 11. Then there are a few lighter chapters, interspersed with a lingering threat, until chapter 21, which is pure unbridled Nightmare Fuel.
    • After that, the horror takes a step back, and it gets lighter again... then there are several chapters in which it becomes very apparent that Harry's something of a Stepford Smiler, then he deals with his issues. Then he and some new friends get kidnapped by some utterly horrific creatures. Then Harry manages to Indy Ploy his way out of trouble. Then it quietens down, with a little revelation or two about Harry's godmother of the Parents as People variety, looming threat mingled with Fudge having rings run around him and followed by the bad guys facing their first significant setback. Then we see London nearly overrun by an army of the undead, one of the secondary protagonists nearly eaten alive on screen, and Sif has her heart ripped out and Harry Dresden uses his Death Curse. Both get better courtesy of Doctor Strange.
    • Things calm down, we get to meet a couple of new characters and it's all a bit lighter... then we find out in Chapter 50 that Lucius Malfoy has executed a coup d'etat and gained control of the Winter Soldier, making HYDRA more dangerous than ever, before chapters 53-58 deal with milder Harry related sub-plots, then chapters 59 and 60 have the kids fighting for their lives and the Winter Soldier struggling for his soul.
    • Chapters 61 to 68 have some pretty heavy fallout, before chapter 69, a quite literal Hope Spot, before delving into the three darkest chapters in the story, then a light Christmas special, then a chapter quite literally entitled 'The Darkest Hour', before a Hope Spot in chapters 75 and 76, things getting darker in chapter 77, then darkness is finally banished at the end of chapter 78, and the good guys all have a massive party and a fairly relaxed epilogue.
    • And then, in chapter 2 of the sequel, Ghosts of the Past, Voldemort turns up again and starts wreaking havoc. Then things quiet down as the fall-out is managed, until the end of chapter 7, when the long-anticipated Sinister/Red Room arc, Forever Red kicks off, which promptly turns out to be the darkest in the series so far, being largely composed of an absolutely brutal 8 chapter Trauma Conga Line. The details are too long to get into, but Harry is left with a monumental case of PTSD, leaving him - at the age of 14 - a semi-functional emotional wreck with a Hair-Trigger Temper. And that's not even starting on the Dark Phoenix, or Maddie's story, which is arguably even worse (short version: Jean's twin sister, stolen at birth, raised to believe she was artificial, never shown real kindness 'til she met Gambit, and believed she existed to be Sinister's Living Weapon.). However, interspersed with all the horror is Maddie steadily shaking off the conditioning of a lifetime and pulling a Heel–Face Turn - underlining it by briefly wielding Mjolnir - and meeting her family, as well as learning how to make a life of her own, while Lorna (another Red Room prisoner) gets to know her father and has her mother's memories of her restored, Harry coming out of his dark funk and dealing with his issues, and other such heartwarming things, and as of chapter 22, the roller coaster seems to be on an upward swing... but with ominous hints of further darkness to come.
    • In short, while it's rarely sudden, this is a series that specialises in Mood Whiplash.
  • A Different Medius:
    • The first chapter's fairly lighthearted... Then Chapter 2 has the revelation that Azurai murdered Buwaro's birth parents, and Thornwood's destruction. Then they visit Barracalo and have a great time... Until Buwaro finds Azurai
    • A particularly harsh example is when Sam gets transported to canon!Medius, prevents loads of angst, and even convinces canon!Iratu to join canon!Rhea's party. canon!Iratu's head is bitten off right in front of Sam, which she knows wouldn't have happened had she not been there, and goes on to blame herself.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fifth Path will swing back and forth between comedy and somberness, sometimes within scenes of each other. Possibly the best examples are Chapters 18 and 19 which switch between sadness and humor often within the same scene.
  • In Gender Confusion, the author outright states her intention to do this to the series, even referencing the trope, after the main couple finally gets together in Chapter 13:
    THE MOMENT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR! But of course, the story isn't quite over yet. No, the romance was not the main point of the story. It was minor, a mere half-dozen chapters to whet your appetite for the true narrative. The humor is coming, and after that, the power, the pain, the sheer insanity that results from a grave loss, and the humor shall never leave even when the world seems ready to collapse. I'm taking you on a rollercoaster called Cerebus, and I'm not letting you get off.
  • A Growing Affection has this in spades. Book one starts off with Naruto and Hinata getting to know each other better, with a few darker hints. Then it ends with a major, if short war, and some life-changing events therein. Book two returns to the light and fluffy, focusing at first on Naruto and Hinata's relationship now that they are officially a couple, and their growth as ninjas. Then in the second half Naruto gets kidnapped, and his friends go AWOL to rescue him. Several major characters die, and other are irrevocably changed. Then the first novella of book three goes back to Naruto and Hinata's relationship, having them deal with some interference from her grandfather. The rest of the novellas in book three are much darker, killing more major characters and pushing others to their breaking point. Then book four is about the Fourth Ninja War. Again there are a few lighter moments early on, but in general, the tone is the most serious, even if it is not quite as dark as the last two parts of book three. And then it has a happy, fluffy ending.
  • Halloween Unspectacular is an anthology series that alternates between comedic stories (on even-numbered days) and darker action/drama/horror entries (on odd-numbered days). This pattern was apparently unintentional early on in the first HU collection, but once it was pointed out to the author E350, he decided to codify it.
  • Its Just A Light Rain But The Storms Still Comin, a Persona 5 fanfiction centering on the Butterfly of Doom of Joker not entering the Metaverse with Ryuji on April 11, leans heavily on the Cerebus Syndrome side of the roller coaster. The story starts with a Downer Beginning and time skips to when Kurusu Akira is discovered to develop a Palace where things are also taking a turn for worse with how tough the Phantom Thieves handle their heist without Joker in the helm and their attempt to solve Akira's palace only made things worse due to their mistaken first impression that Akira is just as evil as his fake criminal record makes him out to be due to being last seen speaking to Shiho, causing the group to assume the worst that Akira is somehow responsible for Shiho's suicide. While the story establishes a few hopeful moments to show that the situation might be looking up for Akira and the thieves, the story just as quickly takes that hope away in the following scenes. Though the story does away the light-hearted and comedic moments of Persona 5 in favor of focusing on the Butterfly of Doom in effect, it still had its own hopeful and heartwarming moments that prevent the story from being considered a Dark Fic.
  • Mike's New Ghostly Family loops back-and-forth between being a lighthearted fluff story about the ghosts of Fazbear's tragedy victims finally being able to relive their lost childhoods thanks to the efforts of their new adoptive father Mike Schmidt, and, given that it's a Five Nights at Freddy's fanfic, being dark, dramatic, and even scary story, especially involving the ghost kids' personal tragedies and anything regarding William Afton.
  • Paradoxus: Downplayed. The prologue has Altalune waking from a Flashback Nightmare from when she found her mother and Stella's corpses and her sister's unconscious body at the brink of death. She then promises herself she shall Screw Destiny and save them and is comforted by a friend in a heart-warming moment. The next three chapters are more light-hearted and have their fair share of comedy — Sylvanas is saved from the Jailer by Galadwen and later we follow Bloom's antics when she is forcefully teleported to Azeroth and befriends Sylvanas and Galadwen. Some chapters later, the narration jumps back to Altalune and the present and the signs of Magix not being a Sugar Bowl world get more nuanced. However, the reader is still sheltered from the worst of it because the characters travel to a time when there was still peace. The ugly truth is only thrown in the reader's face in all of its Crapsack World glory when Altalune gets trapped into the past (she will eventually fade out) and the characters return to the present to fight a Hopeless War against the Burning Legion. From there onwards, the mood doesn't recover. The story hits its darkest point when after being tortured by the Trix, Trisha gets an overdose of angst, bites back, and starts her Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Parentheses Anti Fluff Drabble is pretty inconsistent in tone. Although given its format, it's to be expected.
  • Pokémon: Nova and Antica: The fic generally maintains the lighthearted nature of its source material, which makes the deviations all the more evident. Generally speaking, you'll have all sorts of friendly battles and warm moments in one instance, and in another, allusions to death as well as personal drama and strife.
  • The Reading Rainbowverse has lots of relationship drama... interspersed with lots of ridiculous questions from the anons and Fluttershy getting drunk. Just as an example, After Lyra broke up with Bonbon, Bonbon proceeded to host a ludicrously Animesque food fight with Pinkie Pie in order to get her to teach her how to travel through the multiverse. And meet other Lyras.
  • RealityCheck's Nyxverse has done this consistently with each story so far in the series — a few chapters of light and fluffy stuff, the development of a more serious plot (still intermixed with light stuff) that comes to dominate the story, and after the climax, a few more chapters of lighter material to tie everything off.
  • For the first half of Shadows Over Hell the tune of the chapter varies from chapter to chapter. You could get either a very sweet and fun outing of Loona & Octavia with some angst and the brief bits of horror, or it could be a Lovecraftian Horror chapter, filled with actions, scares, and nightmarish imagery, that will chill you to the bone. This last until Chapter 25, when the Uproar happens, throwing all of Hell into chaos and causes the rest of the story to have much more of an Eldritch Apocalypse Horror with political drama and devastating angst, with a few moments of levity on occasion.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos starts out lighthearted like the original series. Starting with Episode 55, it slowly gets darker and darker until the lighthearted Episode 65. Then the gloves come off and it gets really, REALLY dark. Although the tone is rather consistent from that point, Episodes 67 and 73 are easily the most violent and horrific chapters in the saga.
  • Son of the Sannin is this at least during the Part I timeframe. The story begins in a rather lighthearted tone, focusing on Jiraiya and Tsunade's relationship as they raise Naruto together. Then, the story dives into the Uchiha's Coup d'etat, shifting into a darker tone and with consequences that are still felt afterwards. The following arc follows Naruto and his peers at the Ninja Academy, culminating in their graduation. After this, Naruto and his team venture into the Land of Rice Fields, discovering that Orochimaru has taken it over and turned it into the Land of Sound. Next, the Chunin Exams, focused mostly on friendly competitions and romance. Part I then ends with the Konoha Invasion arc, spearheaded by Orochimaru.
  • Total Drama Do Over started as an Alternate Universe Fic of Total Drama, with a few serious character moments, but generally very lighthearted like its source material. The fourth installment, All Stars Do Over, takes a shift for the dramatic about halfway through, largely due to the presence of Mal, who brutalizes and harasses contestants in a manner that is purely Played for Drama, capping off with a Freudian Excuse about his history of abuse and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Revenge Do Over swings back around to a wackier tone, introducing cartoonish characters from both canon (Max, Sugar, etc.) and fanon (Krystal, Adam, etc.). However, the end of that season becomes a high-stakes drama with more tragic backstories and explorations of morality. Pahkitew Do Over starts off a bit more seriously than its predecessors, with an early arc tackling emotional abuse and slut-shaming, but gets quite heavy near the final five, introducing both another high-stakes premise and a storyline themed around family drama, grief, and sexual assault — though even these episodes are not without humor. Finally, Ridonculous Do Over returns to a tone closer to that of the canon series, with some slightly more serious arcs (such as Alejandro and Heather's breakup near the finale), but nothing as heavy as All-Stars Do Over or Pahkitew Do Over.
  • Total Trauma alternates between comics that deconstruct the serious impact of Total Drama on the characters' mental health, and comics where the characters just hang out and quote memes. While it shifts more towards the former around Volume 2, the author still frequently slips in comedic moments.
  • Weiss Reacts has entered this lately with the third volume. One can go from romantic drama to off-the-wall hijinks and pranks and back again within the space of a chapter, as one example.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Animorphs as a result of being both very long, and highly episodic. Besides a serious run between books 15 and 23, and the increasingly bleak last arc, the series would have an over-the-top Literal Split Personality plot followed by "book-length torture scene", and plot-heavy or dark books alongside ones where the climax involves morphing an annoying poodle, a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot, or those infuriating Helmacrons.
  • The Aunt Dimity series as a whole can be characterized this way. The novels have many elements of comedy and Farce, and some of the solutions to the mysteries are simple and largely non-threatening. In other portions, tragic and horrific elements appear, and the answers (e.g. terrorism, suicide, survivor's guilt, murder) are far more grim. Interestingly, the opposites tend to reinforce one another: Characters can take things so seriously that they jump to dire conclusions that are dispelled by relatively innocuous explanations, and everyone has a good laugh afterwards. Alternatively, they can go blithely forward in a misplaced confidence that nothing bad will happen until something does. There are additional benefits in avoiding saccharine extremes and keeping the audience guessing.
  • The Death Gate Cycle can veer into this; Elven Star, the second volume, has a particular tendency to veer sharply between downright farce (any of Zifnab's interactions with the Quindiniars) and a bleak Hopeless War against the tytans, though the two plotlines end up converging together. Zifnab's presence still keeps much of the book relatively lighthearted - but the next volume is Fire Sea, which is utterly and relentlessly bleak, culminating in a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Discworld has been going through this in later books, starting with the book-long tearjerker Night Watch and cynical Monstrous Regiment, but the next book, Going Postal, introduces us to a Lovable Rogue and a lighter tone. Next is the Nightmarish Thud!, followed by Making Money and Unseen Academicals, both of which are a lot more fun. This is then followed by the pitch-black I Shall Wear Midnight. Snuff is somewhere in the middle being darkish but basically optimistic and heartwarming, and Raising Steam is another Lipwig romp. Note that all the "dark" books are still comedies, and all the "light" books have moments of darkness and serious villains.
  • Shadow of the Conqueror. The book has a ton of light-hearted humor and all of the main characters can be distinctly juvenile at times, as Daylen himself admits. It's also an unrelentingly dark World of Ham that addresses topics like genocide, rape, trauma, regret, and self-hatred.
  • The A Twisted Tale series is often inconsistent with the violence levels among its installments. In general, most of the books are varying degrees of Darker and Edgier compared to the Disney Animated Canon movies they are based on. The violence reaches its peak in the books A Whole New World and Once Upon a Dream, featuring gruesome deaths, blood, and ruthless villains. Part of Your World is near the middle, with a more serious tone and darker themes than its base movie, but not outright gruesome. At the opposite end of the scale, Conceal, Don't Feel is Lighter and Softer, a stark outlier from the other dark Twisted Tales. It is the only Twisted Tale that does not show any blood whatsoever. what little violence in this installment never exceeds what is already in the movie it is based on.
  • The Wings of Fire series. The first book is a straightforward, dragon-centric adventure story, with a fairly dark plot, a villain who's actively insane, and serious Character Development moments. The second book is a much more lighthearted romp, with a less serious plot, a goofier antagonist (who is, at heart, an overprotective mother), fluffy relationship drama, and its hero is the fairly stubborn Tsunami (who doesn't change much). The third book swings back around to having Glory as its protagonist, who may have one of the darkest psyches ever explored in a children's book (a highly abused dragon girl with deeply ingrained Boomerang Bigotry), as well as the series' most unsettling plot yet. The fourth book brings back the relationship fluff and introduces a new Plucky Comic Relief in the form of Fatespeaker while keeping the dramatic plot. And the fifth book stars Sunny, the local cutie and eternal optimist—so naturally it has some of the heaviest character moments yet.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Avengers (1960s) began as a relatively gritty spy-adjacent crime series before the second series added Honor Blackman and moved firmly into Spy Fiction. When Diana Rigg was added as the legendary Emma Peel, the supra-realistic settings, whimsy, and comedy were dialed up even more... in most episodes.
  • Charmed (1998) had a pretty dark first season. Season 2 was Lighter and Softer, downplaying most of the magic and focusing more on a Love Triangle and Melodrama in the sisters' love lives. Season 3 became more action-packed, with Season 4 getting really dark (involving a character being Killed Off for Real and a subsequent Face–Heel Turn for another character). Seasons 5 and 6 became Lighter and Softer, with more fantasy-themed standalone episodes. Seasons 7 and 8 are closer to Season 1's level of tone.
  • Doctor Who does this all the time, both within the context of individual seasons and on a larger level.
    • The classic series had a lot of wild shifts in tone, particularly whenever new people took over behind the scenes. The best example might be the tenure of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor since it lasted so long. It began with the comical "Robot", which established Four as much sillier and more alien than his predecessor. Soon it was doing far darker stories like "Pyramids of Mars" and "Genesis of the Daleks". Moral Guardians complained, so we got a Robot Buddy and much more comedy with serials like "City of Death" (written by comedic author Douglas Adams). Baker's final season, however, was comparatively grim, and death and decay was a recurring theme.
    • Due to the production difficulties of the time (several producers, tortured budgets, and plots that had to be written around the lead actor's failing mental health), Season 3 (with the First Doctor) definitely qualifies. "Mission to the Unknown", a Bottle Episode without the Doctor in it where a bunch of people get miserably slaughtered by Daleks, is followed by "The Myth Makers", a lighthearted Bathos-based social comedy set in Troy which suddenly becomes very dark and bloody when the Greeks invade in the final episode. "The Daleks' Master Plan" is a Space Opera Arc combining an extreme body count (including the deaths of two companions) and brutal violence with the intentionally goofy villain the Monk and a ridiculous comedy episode halfway through where they get stuck on a 1920s film set and then go off to celebrate Christmas. "The Massacre" is another unusually dark episode with a Downer Ending where the Doctor is forced to ignore a genocide and has a Heroic BSoD, interrupted in the last five minutes by a giggly Cloud Cuckoo Lander Manic Pixie Dream Girl companion accidentally breaking into the TARDIS. Then we get the somewhat less relentlessly negative "The Ark", the absolutely ridiculous "The Celestial Toymaker", a comedy Musical Episode ("The Gunfighters") which again has a suddenly dark and bloody ending, and it's only by "The Savages" and "The War Machines" that the series settles back down into monster-based adventure serials.
    • Series 2 of the revival era alternates between an invasion which the Doctor can't help stop and he may be dying and to a madcap body-snatcher romp to a tale about humans losing their humanity to cold steel shells, to a somewhat tongue-in-cheek 50's piece with a hammy villain, to demonic possession on board a lonely Sanctuary Base, to an offbeat episode commenting on ''Doctor Who'' fandom itself to all-out war between the Daleks and the Cybermen.
    • Series 5 and 6: Matt Smith was originally a much more madcap and alien Doctor, who met a girl and took her away to see the universe. In the middle of the season, Rory gets erased from time. However, two episodes after this, [the Doctor is passing off as a human and playing football. The episode after that has the Doctor trapped in the Pandorica; Rory returning, albeit as an Auton and shooting Amy, while River is inside the TARDIS and it's exploding! And then the finale has this in spades in one episode. Chameleon Circuit summed it up quite nicely in this song.
    • As for Series 6? It begins with The Doctor being Killed Off for Real and only gets worse from there. Other episodes in the season include a madcap pirate romp, a sinister clone saga, a horrifying "What Do They Fear?" Episode and a buddy comedy. "The Doctor's Wife" is as much of this as possible squeezed into one episode: it includes a sweet, whimsical, romantic main plot about the series' origin story, a gruesomely dark and depressing subplot about the dead Time Lords, quirky Cargo Ship-riddled bantering and shenanigans between the Doctor and the TARDIS, and a sadistic voice trapping and psychologically torturing Amy and Rory For the Evulz.
    • Series 7 had "standalone adventure" style episodes, many of them with an at-face-value goofy, funny or gimmicky plot idea. And though there is a lot of comedy and charming moments throughout the series, it also deals with war-weariness (the Doctor and Kahler Jex), moral ambiguity (the Doctor's confrontations with certain antagonists and his inner demons rearing their ugly head), loss (the Doctor having to part with River and losing his companions in a traumatic manner), grief and depression (the Doctor retreating into himself and noting that "the universe doesn't care", though he eventually gets better), death (the deaths of Amy and Rory, the deaths of Clara's echoes, the Doctor's eventual revelation that he's out of regenerations and will probably die on Trenzalore, the death of Clara's mother hanging like a shadow over her future, Kahler Jex's bitter self-sacrifice), issues of trust (between the Doctor and Clara, due to the odd mystery surrounding her), and facing one's past (the Eleventh showing his darker side more often, and eventually revealing the existence of the War Doctor). Though the two different halves of the series prove a pretty big comedy-drama rollercoaster in virtually every episode, the 50th anniversary special that follows on from the finale is one of the most optimistic episodes in years: Even if the Doctor has to acknowledge and face some of the sadder moments of his past and legacy, there is always room for redemption, as long as one doesn't give up on hope, mercy, kindness, and the courage to set right what once went wrong.
    • The Twelfth Doctor's tenure continues this trend. Series 8 is mostly standalone stories while Series 9 prefers multi-parters, but it's common for light adventures to suddenly swerve into tragic territory and dark ones to indulge in whimsy as the much-changed Doctor's relationship with Clara is tested again and again. "The Caretaker" has Clara trying to hide her two relationships with Danny and the Doctor from each other when the latter poses as a human at her school... but it also addresses Danny's concern that Clara will come to a bad end traveling with the alien. "Last Christmas" has brain-eating, Dream Within a Dream-weaving aliens...but Santa Claus himself helps our heroes escape them. It Makes Sense in Context. "The Girl Who Died" has the Doctor help a village of Viking farmers defeat hammy aliens... but when the cost of victory is too high to bear, he makes a rash decision that haunts him for the rest of the season. The intense "The Zygon Invasion"/"The Zygon Inversion" has cheeky comic relief and a Surprisingly Happy Ending. The tragic, massively-scaled three-part Series 9 finale starts with what could be a whimsical adventure, but certain villains are out to get the Doctor and Clara makes a well-meant choice... After that saga's Bittersweet Ending comes "The Husbands of River Song", a Christmas Episode that outstrips just about every other revival episode for wackiness then becomes a tender romance that has its own Bittersweet Ending — albeit one more sweet than bitter. Series 10 starts out episodic by way of introducing lighthearted companion Bill Potts to him, but it has a dark undercurrent in the background that moves to the forefront in episode five, "Oxygen", which ends with the Doctor blinded, leading into the Monks Trilogy mini-arc that fully reveals the season's Story Arc ( the attempted redemption of Missy). The happy ending of the trilogy leads into two lighter episodes, but the arc still holds sway and the two-part Season Finale sees sweet Bill converted into perhaps the first true Cyberman and ends with the Doctor nearly being Killed Off for Real with all his hopes for those he cared about in tatters. AND THEN a "Ray of Hope" Ending leads directly into his Grand Finale "Twice Upon a Time". Conceived only because a Christmas Episode for 2017 was needed and the incoming showrunner didn't want it to be Thirteen's debut, it's a much Lighter and Softer team-up with the First Doctor in which there's No Antagonist, Everybody Lives, and he gets positive resolution to lingering issues regarding Bill and Clara, ending Twelve's Myth Arc on a note of hope just before the traditional regeneration Cliffhanger.
    • In the Chris Chibnall era of the show, the stories seem to alternate between rather lowkey stories in his first season, to an epic myth arc in his second. Yet even the epic myth arc has more lighthearted fare sandwiched in it, and though the lowkey stories had no world-ending stakes, the story's subject matter often spoke of racism, corporate greed, and misogyny in appropriate severity. Flux goes full serialized Myth Arc, and the two specials after that are more lighthearted than the Grand Finale seems to be.
    • All of the Short Trips books do this due to their anthology structure. Short Trips and Sidesteps follows up the first part of a traumatically dark story where the Doctor has no powers and is just an old man abusing his granddaughter and Barbara is struggling with schizophrenia with a short story about the Fourth Doctor and Romana landing on a planet made of sweets and having a conversation with a talking cake.
  • In "Don Matteo "a dark Moment(like a dying child) can be shown in the same episode with a goofy moment(like Checchini's wacky antics).
  • As with many tropes it played with, Farscape took this and ran with it for all it was worth. Not only would it alternate between highly dramatic and comedic episodes (for example, a drama-heavy two-parter that ended with the death of one of the main characters, being followed by an episode that was largely animated as an homage to Chuck Jones, and then was followed once again by an episode dealing with the aftermath of that character's death) but would have heavy Mood Whiplash within the individual episodes, especially as Crichton's mental state was variably played for laughs and drama. This even extends from season to season, as the series gets progressively darker over the course of seasons 1 and 2, before taking the plunge outright in season 3. Season 4 then backpedals into a somewhat lighter tone, before things get pitch black in The Peacekeeper Wars.
  • Glee for sure. Often episodes can start off with an upbeat cover of some top 40 hit, but by the end of the episode can have dealt with, among others, attempted suicide, almost death and temporary paralysis of a teenager, unwanted pregnancy, a bully assaulting another teen verbally, physically, and eventually sexually - all this between episodes surrounding choosing between Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, weddings, and puppets. Especially notable is the start of season five when we jump from a Beatles tribute to the Cory Monteith memorial - the writers wanted to start the season on a positive note.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street frequently alternated between dark and tragic storylines, and character-based comedy and Black Comedy. Even singular episodes alternated between the two, often starting with lighthearted comedy and ending on a deeply gut-wrenching note.
  • How I Met Your Mother, with its dedication to showing both the ugly and delightful sides of life in equal measure, has been a mild version of this trope ever since season 1. Often combined with Mood Whiplash.
  • Kamen Rider as a franchise also alternates a lot between silly and serious. You have darker series like Amazon, 555, and Blade, and less serious ones like Black RX and Den-O. Within each series, most start as being comedic and episodic, and then eventually focusing around mid-season into something more serious, while still having several gags and enemies like Starfish Hitler and a muay-thai boxing chicken who constantly dances in the background.
    • Fourze has to take the cake when it comes to the rollercoaster. We can have our Large Ham protagonist kicking ass and then go to finding out the school board are creating this year's monsters before going to a Christmas-based episode and then it brings out one of the worst monsters in the show and then we have the High-School Dance. Then we get our hero dying at the hands of the Second Rider and that's when it takes corkscrews and loop-de-loops around this thing.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim is an even bigger rollercoaster than Fourze. While the main plot is overall very dark Alien Kudzu is threatening to devour the planet, and the MegaCorp that has the means to fight it is led by power-hungry backstabbers who don't give a damn about saving humanity, there's still plenty of humor to be found both in the premise (the Riders' armor is fruit-themed) or the cast (which includes Those Two Guys and a Badass Camp Gay pastry chef). This gets Lampshaded late in the series during a dark portion when the chef and one of the two guys the other having been killed much earlier lament that it feels like they have nothing to do anymore.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is a zany medical drama about a pediatrician battling a computer virus that brings video game characters to life, with one of the most over the top scene-chewing and crazy villains in the franchise. It also has some serious themes revolving around the importance and value of life, particularly once said villain shows how deadly and dangerous he is.
    • Kamen Rider Build is half a gritty and dramatic story about the horrors of war and later, a Cosmic Horror Story about the heroes trying to stop an Omnicidal Maniac from destroying the worl, half a wacky sitcom about the eccentric personalities of its six protagonists bouncing off each other and the other characters around them. It isn't a bad thing though as it means you'll care a lot more when they start dying.
  • NCIS rolls with this; the show starts off with some gruesome murder, then it kickstarts with the crew's antics (mostly Tony's), then in between and at the end, it can go either light and humorous or dark and dramatic depending on how the plot goes.
  • Power Rangers always has been, and always will be, a franchise nobody can take without a lot of Willing Suspension of Disbelief. It's campy and awesome in its own way, but the tone of each season varies. Back in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Lord Zedd was its Knight of Cerebus and set a much more epic arc than the original Rita arc. Both Power Rangers Zeo and Power Rangers Turbo were a step down from serious towards lighter tones, only for the series to turn into epic space opera during Power Rangers in Space and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. The tone of the series can vary from dark, like Power Rangers Time Force, to completely comedic, like Power Rangers Ninja Storm. Even checking out the Super Sentai source material isn't any indication of which route the next series will take, as proven by the darkest series of all, Power Rangers RPM, which was based on a self-parody of Super Sentai — but even then RPM is one of the funnier seasons, relying on humor from The Comically Serious and the Meta Guy in the cast instead of going through the requisite Hilarity Ensues.
  • Primeval: New World always fluctuated with its tone. The series started off being Darker and Edgier than its predecessor but started to lighten up, until "Undone" aired. From that point on, the series flip-flopped between being dark, to being light-hearted (and even humorous at times) until the show ended the same way it started: dark and grim.
  • The Prisoner (1967) has this to some extent. Many episodes were quirky and surreal and filled with 60s sci-fi elements, while others were darker, more realistic, and often psychologically unsettling. It became even more noticeable in the last few episodes: the most lighthearted episode of the whole series ("The Girl Who Was Death") came right before the strikingly dark "Once Upon a Time" and the infamously bizarre "Fall Out".
  • Psych used this to its advantage for a multi-season story arc. By keeping the show episodic and lighthearted during most of each season the Yin and Yang episodes they used for the finales seemed much darker in comparison.
  • Scrubs is best described as a collision between a medical drama and a slapstick comedy with great big dollops of tragedy, Gallows Humor, surrealism, and Lemony Narrator thrown in for good measure, and it's a complete toss-up as to what each episode will give the viewer. And it's not just across the show or across seasons, it can be across a single episode: one storyline might be a Zany Scheme filled with sex jokes, pratfalls, and wacky shenanigans, while another storyline might be a gut-wrenching, savagely dark tragedy about the death of patients and the psychological fallout from one or more of the doctors, while the camera merrily Whip Pans between the two.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series could be bad for this within some individual episodes, starting with lighthearted humour, then going into the dramatic main plot, but still ending on a joke and a whimsical woodwind solo on the soundtrack, even in episodes where multiple crew members had been violently killed or entire starships destroyed.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine took the cake however, especially in season six which had all-out war for the Federation's existence, Ben Sisko injured and at the mercy of a major antagonist having a complete mental breakdown, and an episode implying the entire show is being dreamed/hallucinated by a Black sci-fi author battling systemic racism in the Fifties — interspersed with Bashir befriending a quirky gang of (autistic-coded) genetically engineered folks, a Ferengi spin on Weekend at Bernie's, and a runabout being shrunk to the size of a Hot Wheels toy. Yes, folks, the same season that introduced Section 31 also has Quark forced to dress in drag.
    • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has been dealing with this in its second season. It is noticeable from the fourth episode onward. The tonal shifts have gone from harrowing memory loss, a comedic episode where Spock becomes fully human, a horror-themed episode where Uhura suffers from hallucinations, a Crossover with the comedy Star Trek: Lower Decks, an Unexpectedly Dark Episode involving M'Benga suffering PTSD from the Klingon War, complete with a Downer Ending, but that's okay because the episode after that is a Musical Episode. And, finally, the Gorn return, and Enterprise goes into battle with hundreds of innocent lives and potentially the fate of The Federation at stake. To Be Continued...
  • Skins appears to be falling into a pattern of letting things get lighter with the premiere of each new generation, then taking a turn for the Darker and Edgier in that generation's second season.
  • Z Nation: The show varies a lot between comedy and drama, and you're often not entirely sure how seriously you're supposed to take some parts of the show (ie the characters react realistically to glowing radioactive zombie).

  • Hector Berlioz pulled off an instrumental one with his Symphonie Fantastique, which started off melancholically, going through all kinds of extreme love-related emotions, and concluding with an Ending that combines Downer Ending, Gainax Ending and Dance Party Ending.
  • Joe Diffie started out primarily singing ballads on his first two albums, and his early up-tempo releases such as "New Way (To Light Up an Old Flame)" still had mostly serious content. Starting with his third and fourth albums Honky Tonk Attitude and Third Rock from the Sun, the novelty factor pushed to the forefront, giving him big hits in lighthearted, silly fare such as both albums' title tracks, "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)", and "Pickup Man", with "So Help Me Girl" being the lone ballad success from either. Once the novelty wore off, he began releasing more serious material again, culminating in 1999's A Night to Remember, which was praised for its serious tone.
  • Eminem's music veers between three settings: Goofy Subverted Kids' Show novelty songs riddled with Take Thats at various pop cultural figures and offensive shock content; earnest Boastful Rap where he expresses pride and anguish about his success and skills, often with comedic wordplay or beautiful Constrained Writing; and hyper-earnest songs documenting his personal issues, or expressing unironic sentimentality about his children or love for his fans. Often, he switches from one mood to another within the same verse. Within Eminem's mythology, this is the result of his trio of personas - Slim Shady for Heroic Comedic Sociopathy, Eminem for bragging and storytelling, and Marshall for confessionals - which he switches between with subtle changes in voice, lyrical style and content.
    • A notable feature of Eminem's album Encore! is that, instead of integrating the comedic songs and the serious songs, the album starts off wry and semi-serious, gets increasingly dark over the first five tracks, then breaks for eight incredibly goofy comedy songs incorporating Toilet Humor, stream-of-consciousness rapping and silly voices and accents. Then it snaps back to serious ballads, slowly lightening until it ends with Lightmare Fuel Horrorcore. The idea had been to think about it as a vinyl double album where each 'disc' would be split between Eminem (on one side) and Slim Shady (on the other), with both personas getting a Side A and a Side B to themselves each. (Annoyingly, when Encore was released on vinyl, the sides didn't end up split this way.)
    • Parodied in The Key Of Awesome's spoof of "Not Afraid", in which 'Eminem' says, "my rapping is hilarious or completely serious" as clips play on a TV screen showing recreations of the music videos for "My Name Is" ('hilarious') and "Lose Yourself" ('completely serious').
  • Green Day's career is frequent with New Sound Album shifts to either "Darker and Edgier" or "back to snarky". After breakout Dookie, came the heavier Insomniac (partly due to Creator Breakdown), followed by two lighter albums, then two Punk-Rock Opera albums, and then a trilogy that tried to go back to the old sound.
  • Musical duo Trout Fishing in America recorded two albums of children's songs in their earliest years. Then they did an album of mostly dead-serious folk-rock. Ever since then, they've gone back and forth between the two, even splitting the difference with sillier folk-rock songs and albums that contain a little of both.
  • Weezer began as a radio-friendly power-pop band with hits like "Buddy Holly" and "Undone — The Sweater Song" until they took a Darker and Edgier approach for their follow-up Pinkerton which featured harsher production and lyrics that explore isolation and sexual frustration. When Pinkerton was bashed by critics, The Green Album which came afterwards was a Lighter and Softer "return to roots" album that went back to the radio-friendly power-pop sound with simpler lyrical themes. Then they followed that up with Maladroit which while maintaining the lyrical simplicity of the Green Album returned to the harsher, heavier sound of Pinkerton. Then the next album Make Believe returned to the emotionally vulnerable lyrics that defined Pinkerton. The tone of their music continued to fluxuate with Raditude, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, and Pacific Daydream.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance has a sort of fractal Cerebus Syndrome, in which each individual story arc starts out extremely light and ends dark and dramatic. The very first arc, Here There Be Gerblins, starts with three guys making dick jokes and fighting a Laughably Evil villain that poses little threat and ends with said three guys accidentally nuking an entire city and killing thousands of people. The arcs progress in this manner (Eleventh Hour starts with a goofy shopping montage and ends with a main character finding out he's a brainwashed villain that created an Artifact of Doom, Stolen Century starts with an easily-won bar fight in which two of the heroes con some drunk guys out of their shoes and ends with the entire cast being either killed off or brutally Mind Raped, et cetera). Even the finale is largely funny and lighthearted interspersed with a few truly disturbing moments.

  • Open-themed live call-in shows with a wide thematic tolerance become this, for example Domian in Germany.


  • BIONICLE's story went pretty steadily into the dark, but some of the franchise's later additions make it into an example. For instance, the book Raid on Vulcanus is one of the darkest and most violent entries in the entire franchise, with its many gray-morality protagonists, brief discussion of complicated moral questions, and graphic, sword-to-flesh violence (and yes, this is still a LEGO franchise we're talking about) and tragic war stories. Its direct sequel, the animated feature The Legend Reborn is meanwhile a fairly light-hearted action-adventure film with moments of slapstick and goofy cartoon sound effects. The novelization, however, averts this completely and more or less keeps the previous book's tone. Which then clashes with the purposely light and tame stories of the easy-level reading children's books.
  • The Transformers Aligned Universe has this big time, when you take into account the works set in the universe include three T-rated video games, two TV-Y7 cartoons, and two more cartoon aimed at pre-schoolers.

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands 2 contains moments that switch from silly and humorous to dark and back again. For example, at one moment Tiny Tina was singing an adorably creepy song or making a cute attempt at street slang. The next moment, she's torturing a psycho for ratting out her parents and getting them killed. Tina continues the trend in her DLC campaign, which is a wacky parody of RPG and fantasy tropes for the most part only to veer into the revelation that the whole campaign is her way of coping with the trauma of Roland's death in the main story.
  • The Diablo series seems to be riding on this.
    • Despite its immense popularity, Diablo II was sometimes derided for not being as dark and edgy as the first game.
    • In the books as well, the mood can range from as dark and edgy as the first game to surprisingly goofy. On the other hand, whatever funny moments the series has can prevent it from getting too dark.
    • Diablo III regions start out at the mid-fantasy level, troubled but beautiful, and grow progressively grim-dark until you're slaughtering abominations in burning torture chambers or walking on the flayed skin of giants. Some fans derided the bleakness water-down, others liked the progression of Cerebus with grace periods for contrast. But ultimately, this is a game where you unlock a bonus level full of rainbows and unicorns after your Mission Control is brutally murdered.
  • I=MGCM starts as a normal Magical Girl Warrior genre with comedic and vivid Demon Slaying adventure. Then it escalates into Darker and Edgier Science Fantasy, Multiverse and mind-screw after Kaori's death and her subsequent corruption into a demon. Don't worry, the heroines get better and their status quo is maintained as Chapter 7 Episode 2 reveals that Omnis' ability is to create new realities/universes and merge the old universes where he previously screwed-up with universes he recently created (depending on his wishes and intentions), which means both alive and dead heroines (except ones who are corrupted into demons, who are replaced by copies from new universes instead of being merged) are merged with new ones from those new universes, resulting all of them alive. Despite the desperate situations in some battles against sexy demon Eldritch abominations, they managed to win their battles and end them in a much positive manner, after Tobio learns that his ability has a risk of creating more demons from his slain heroines. Tobio and the heroines also encounter their various alternate selves from alternate universes. Despite the dark aspects, some hilarities and mood whiplashes ensue. Some event scenarios tend to have Lighter and Softer than the main story.
  • Kingdom Hearts, being a massive crossover between loads of Disney Animated Canon properties and Final Fantasy, jumps around in tone like crazy. You can go from fighting an intense battle against Sephiroth to hanging out with Winnie the Pooh. You can summon Genie or Stitch or even Chicken Little to fight against a horrible Eldritch Abomination. You can go from walking through the Keyblade Graveyard with this music to walking through Disney Town and playing a mini-game involving Huey, Dewey, and Louie, an ice cream cannon, and It's a Small World.
  • The universe of The Legend of Zelda is this. One moment you meet a serious character in anime style who tells you about your sacred quest to save the world, and the next you run into some eccentric caricature that looks like something out of a really zany cartoon rambling about random stuff. Sometimes the characters themselves are Cerebus Rollercoasters, as exemplified by Zant and Ghirahim.
  • MadWorld and Anarchy Reigns each do this purposely. The gameplay is insanely violent to a comedic degree, but all the cutscenes are usually deadly serious and deal with tragic subject matter. It's done a bit less in Anarchy, but the story present is actually much more personal and tragic since Jack is trying to kill someone who failed to rescue his daughter and has gone mad because of it.
  • Metal Gear:
  • The Dead Island series had seemingly had a miscommunication between programmers Techland and developers Deep Silver in that when it was first revealed in 2007 it was basically a zombie outbreak on a tropical island. Then when the game was revived in 2011 it went a much different route that seemed to want to outdarken The Walking Dead based on the trailers and some of the in-game content. Titles such as Riptide or Escape play up the horror or psychological themes, but at the same time, there is humor in the game if you look for it, goofy elements and the games can very much be an action-filled case of Play the Game, Skip the Story for those who aren't interested.
  • The entire Mother series does this beautifully, but especially the third entry. Quirky party members, clever pop-culture references, bright comic-book style colors, potty humor, goofy aliens, dancing monkeys, birthday presents filled with music for no particular reason, your mother being brutally murdered, the apocalypse, a villain that represents humanity's sins, acid trips, animal abuse, and your brother killing himself before your very eyes. Not necessarily in that order.
  • Ni no Kuni, for great justice. The game begins with Oliver's mother tragically dying, and then segues almost immediately into Drippy being brought to life, who actively berates Oliver and by extension the player for crying over his mother's death. Things are roughly lighthearted from there on out... until Hamelin, which, especially in the PS3 version, contains the most actively tragic scene in the game since the mother's death. And then it's back to cuteness and happiness until the next Drama Bomb comes along...
  • The No More Heroes series does this constantly and completely on purpose. Mixed in with all the self-awareness and wacky villains are played straight moments of the main character foaming mad over his best friend's death and scenes that slowly reveal just what a dark hole you got yourself into.
  • Persona 4 plays out this way, compared to the rest of the games in the series being consistently dark throughout. The game begins with two murders, one of them being a teenager, and a generally unsettling atmosphere as a serial killer is on the loose and the police are useless at dealing with their supernatural methods. Your first venture into a dungeon results in the comic relief best friend's hidden fears and insecurities manifesting themselves as a Shadow and trying to kill you. From that point on though, you're able to rescue the killers' other targets in advance, the Shadow bosses gradually become more comedic, and by mid-game, the story has shifted to light-hearted high school Slice of Life. Until the last months of the year, where the murder/kidnapping plot comes back in full force, the latest victim being the protagonist's 7-year-old cousin, who comes very close to dying, and the protagonists (who are teenagers) come dangerously close to murdering the guy responsible, and if you get the Bad Ending they succeed and Nanako dies for real. This is followed by the reveal of the true killer. Turns out the goofy detective you've met all game was a sadistic, misogynistic attempted rapist who had no motives for doing what he did. After their capture, the story goes back to being lighthearted with Christmas and Valentine's Day, especially in the Updated Re-release, before lapsing back into darkness with the True Final Boss before ending on an unambiguously happy note.
  • Puyo Puyo Puzzle Pop: Enforced, as characters' stories are fractioned into "Main" and "Sub" stories depending on how relevant they are to the overall plot. The sub-stories are naturally more comedic in nature, featuring sub-plots such as Feli getting Easy Amnesia and becoming a lot friendlier (and sporting a Scottish accent, for some reason), whereas the more dramatic main story has Sig strangely leaning more into his demonic side out of nowhere and potentially be on track to suffer a Death of Personality.
  • The Ratchet & Clank series tends to run on this trope, though whether it plays it straight, downplays it, or outright goes into Cerebus Syndrome territory depends on the game in question. But mostly it tends to shift between being a light-hearted space opera with humor not unlike something you'd see in a DreamWorks movie, to clashing with villains that have a history of destroying planets, committing galactic genocide, or enslaving other galactic heroes into becoming gladiators... then moves back to the light-hearted stuff again.
  • Senran Kagura has an issue with this. The constant bouncing back and forth between Fanservice-heavy Slice of Life between cute, busty girls, and the morally gray world of Shinobi work where characters are frequently trying to kill each other leads to a very inconsistent tone. The developers have acknowledged this, and plan to have individual titles focus more on one tone or the other in future.
  • Shadow Hearts: Covenant gets into this pretty heavily. In one scene, you'll help a flamboyantly gay French tailor find softcore porn so that he'll make dresses for one of your party member's animated doll. Then there'll be a quiet scene in which the protagonist reflects on his time with his now-dead girlfriend, and tries to come to terms with his own impending death. Then another of your party members will demonstrate his 'found art' approach to fighting by wielding an inexplicably miniaturized nuclear submarine as a bludgeon. Then you run into the Plucky Comic Relief from the last game, who has developed from a klutzy goofball sergeant into a grim and ominous Colonel Badass after the woman he loved was assassinated in front of him immediately after he finally worked up the courage to tell her how he felt.
  • Due to the relaxed nature of its story progression, Solatorobo: Red the Hunter can feel all over the place in terms of tone. We have the main plot, which goes from light-hearted, if somewhat dramatic adventure story to sudden talks about human nature, World War III, who deserves life, and mass genocide in the second half alone, all of which are broken up by unlockable sidequests that involve Red rushing to deliver a pie, getting hit on (and creeped out) by a Drag Queen, collecting fish to make stew, or having to publicly admit to wetting the bed as a child without actually admitting it.
  • The first Sonic the Hedgehog game was lighthearted and cartoony with some shonen elements. Then the sequels increasingly upped the stakes and expanded on the shonen elements. This eventually led to the Sonic Adventure duology, with the first installment culminating in an ancient god of destruction flooding a city while a dramatic rock song plays, and the the sequel involving the murder of a terminally ill child whose grandfather was forced to make weapons for the military. Sonic Heroes briefly went back to a more cartoony tone (apart from the Last Story, the game was largely a lighthearted romp with heavy emphasis on The Power of Friendship), only for the series to reach the epitome of its Cerebus Syndrome with Shadow the Hedgehog (which expands on the aforementioned murder backstory) and Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) (where Sonic is temporarily killed off, among other things). Due to complaints about this, Sega decided to go in a more lighthearted direction, starting with Sonic Unleashed (despite still taking itself somewhat seriously, there's still a decent amount of silliness to be had), and culminating in the comedic and trippy Sonic Colors. This eventually led to complaints about Sega going too far in the opposite direction. Possibly as a response, the series started to wander back in a more serious direction, with Sonic Lost World having some dark moments sandwiched by comical moments. Sonic Forces further toned down the comedy and upped the stakes, resulting in one of the darkest installments in the series. And then we have Sonic Frontiers, who is even darker than the previous game, especially thanks to its main villain: THE END, an Omnicidal Maniac Eldritch Abomination who is basically responsible for all the bad stuff that happened in the Sonic Universe.
  • Super Mario Bros. games are generally light and comedic but there will be times when the series will take an unexpectedly dark turn. In Super Mario 64, all the worlds are colorful and mystical but then you have Big Boo's Haunt which has a dark atmosphere, eerie music, coffins that smash you, and a killer piano with razor-sharp teeth. The DS remake adds a maze-like level where maniacal laughter by King Boo can be heard throughout the area. Another example is the Crumbleden in Super Mario Odyssey. Contrary to other kingdoms in the game, this one is dark and lifeless with destroyed buildings and no survivor in sight. The possible cause of this? The boss of this world, which is a gigantic purple dragon sporting a design one would expect from Dark Souls.
    • The Mario RPGs are also often like this. The Paper Mario series goes from light-hearted and comedic to dark at almost a moment's notice (just compare the somewhat cheery Petal Meadows, Excess Express and Fort Francis sections of their respective games to the rather morbid Twilight Town, Palace of Shadow, and Sammer's Kingdom return ones). And the Mario & Luigi series? Same. Superstar Saga was mostly comedic, Partners in Time was arguably the darkest Mario game ever released, and Bowser's Inside Story went back to being somewhat comedic again. Although they all do have their dark moments (like the Hooniversity in the first game, Dark Bowser/Dark Star in Bowser's Inside Story, or Bowser's Dream in Dream Team).
  • This trope is what makes the Yakuza series so effective at what it does. On one hand, you have a main story with several layers of traditional crime drama tropes full of betrayals, conspiracies, death, and the like, but once you're let out in the world you can forget about all that and indulge in some of the silliest side-content in gaming. One example in 0: One minute you're beating your way through an entire building just to prove your innocence and your best friend is forced to kill you for your sake only to break down before he can do it. Immediately after, you could win a chicken in a bowling game, who somehow has a 3 star rating as a real estate manager. There's a reason why "Yakuza is a serious crime drama" is said both as a straight and ironic descriptor for the series.

    Web Animation 
  • Dark Secrets of Garry's Mod was originally a Gag Series with varying degrees of surreal and Dark Comedy. But it slowly started to introduce many arcs with darker tones, at the same time it always came back to its original comedic form.
  • The Misadventures of R2 and Miku has a rare example of this occurring with a single installment of a series. While most of the series is a surreal Black Comedy concerning the titular two characters (one of whom is a callous ditz and the other being a straight man), "Miku Hits R2 with a Chair" opens with exactly that happening, followed by R2 chewing out Miku to such an extreme that the mood turns genuinely serious. This leads into a scene where a very hurt Miku has a heart-to-heart with her mother that's tinged with Black Comedy (because her mother is GLaDOS, and she's quite reticent to say she loves her daughter), followed by Miku tearfully attempting to make amends with R2 in a completely serious manner. After they reconcile, it switches back to comedy when Miku falls for a trap and ends up getting the two of them killed... before the episode concludes with a deadly serious PSA about suicide prevention.
  • Red vs. Blue eventually became filled with this, at times with comedy and drama following each other in the same episodes. For instance, there were three miniseries that established plot for the upcoming season: the first, Out of Mind, was serious but clearly still set in the series' World of Snark; the second, Recovery, was played really straight and bridged the point where the show became plot-heavy instead of just a zany comedy; and then the third, Relocation, was wacky and humorous, showing the following season would mostly be the same way. Two more miniseries were done connected to the humorous part of Season 9 - that was half throwback to the show's early military comedy, half dramatic flashbacks that were made with an Art Shift.
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers practically have this down to a science. Some days, Mario's adventures are mundane but chaotic events like "Mario goes to subway and purchases 1 tuna sub with extra mayo", and other days he's involved in a Story Arc where the fate of the universe rests in the hands of him and his friends, such as SMG4 Movie: Revelations.

  • Ctrl+Alt+Del has done this as well, going from gag-a-day strips to marriage to miscarriage, loss, and death. It eventually goes through this cycle again with new characters. Gag a day, then story arc, then gag a day again with a promise of another drama arc.
  • Cucumber Quest oscillates wildly between cute and funny and dark and emotional, though this is an intentional part of the comic's tone. The Nightmare Knight, the main villain of the series, is shown baking shortbread cookies, lamenting the fact that since his powers come from fear he has to pretend to be evil in order to keep his children alive, breaking into a television studio where live-action children's shows are filmed, and visiting Mistmaster, who was reduced to a constantly weeping shell of a person. This does blend with Cerebus Syndrome, as most of the darker elements are introduced later in the comic, but the tone still can be very light and comedic even in later chapters.
  • Drowtales effortlessly jumps between cutesy comedy and incredibly depressing drama, though most of the time it spends somewhere in between.
  • Electric Wonderland takes place in a Cyberspace world where literally anything can happen, allowing ample opportunities for both comedy (April Fools can disregard rhyme and reason more easily than ever before!) and drama (What should you do if a friend you made on the Internet stops logging in?)
  • El Goonish Shive has this problem - when it went through Cerebus Syndrome, it ended up being too dark in Painted Black arc, so the author took it back to being silly and fun, but decided to introduce serious elements from a completely different angle, adding a lot of relationship-driven plot points, teenage angst, and Slice of Life elements. Ultimately the series evolved into a combination of comedy and teen drama.
  • Homestuck: The main villain is a dog with sunglasses...who thinks only of killing everything in sight...and occasionally dog treats and is unable to kill the cutie of the group thanks to loyalty...but then ends up in a universe where he quickly finds other cuties to kill. And it all began as a young boy playing a game with his friends. The creator has picked up on this and the comedic elements now are usually situational or background events to the overarching drama.
  • I Don't Want This Kind of Hero: The series basically lives the Mood Whiplash life 24/7. One can expect humorous (or, at the very least, light-hearted) moments in between all the gruesome and depressing events that occur, or vice versa—casual moments of darkness in between the humour.
  • morphE: is already hitting the rollercoaster by chapter 2. An extreme example is that these two comics were released 5 days away from one another. Going from a gagged character screaming out in terror upon seeing his dismembered hands to a klutzy character rambling nonsensically out of sheer nervousness is certainly a shift in tone.
  • Roommates uses a premise where fictional characters are "real" and know their fictional nature. So what's free will? How binding is their Canon? What happens when too many storytellers mess with you? In practice, this goes like: The dramatic arc which dealt with Javert's dark past (canon) was followed by the Jareth vs. Misto story that was purely comedy, after that came a dramatic and romantic arc about Erik finding a new girlfriend (and giving the impression to have a crush on Sarah Brightman), intersected with a meta and hilarious outtake about the "Killed for canon meeting", which results in a carefully calculated and deviously executed Mood Whiplash "What does Friends with Benefits mean anyway?" and so forth.
  • Sluggy Freelance began as a Gag Per Day Fantasy Kitchen Sink comic, then gradually went through Cerebus Syndrome, at first with combination light comedy/dramatic arcs, and then with full-blown dramatic storylines such as "Fire and Rain" and "That Which Redeems," featuring Character Development, relationship angst, quests for identity, and tragic elements. Since then, the comic has alternated between such storylines and light, goofy ones such as a lengthy World of Warcraft parody. Sometimes, the tone will switch abruptly from comic to dramatic even within the same chapter.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall, while is always a deeply comedic series, has plot arcs toned to fit the main villain — funny villains are just for additional jokes, while serious ones tend to have other plans going on in the background. Comedic and incompetent Doctor Insano was replaced by the scary Mechakara. After Mechakara's defeat, his place was taken by Harmless Villain Doctor Linksano, to let fans catch a break. Linksano has been replaced by the far more menacing Lord Vyce. Each arc is full of episodes completely unrelated to its plot, which helps in keeping the main purpose of the show straight.
    • It's gone from Silent Hill: Dead/Alive (one of the most depressing arcs in the series, giving a nightmarish origin to the "Magic Gun") to "Secret Origins Month", where even the reviews are light-hearted and playful.
    • And again - from "The Entity" arc, that worked well to give the series more horrors for another "Secret Origins Month".
  • Everyman HYBRID starts out as a lighthearted fitness series/parody of The Slender Man Mythos, before some hints show up that the real Slendy might be getting involved, then there's a Wham Episode where he appears to the group in Evan's home...but in their next few videos and Ustreams they blow it off and take a step back into lighthearted territory, though Slendy still shows up if you look hard enough...until "Joke's Over", where all pretenses of fitness or hijinks are abandoned and the series takes a full step into Cosmic Horror Story territory.
  • The Nostalgia Critic does this a little differently to Linkara, as his show never has any battles or villains, and the only problems he has are of the "inner demon" kind. But he'll give you a long, easy road of funny, then exhausts everyone with Close to Home things like child abuse, domestic abuse, self-worth problems, feeling like a failure, etc., and after a while goes back to "hehe, just a funny review show". And so on and so on.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time just loves to do this. As it underwent Cerebus Syndrome, the episodes started getting more mature and character-oriented, but the show is still mostly a bizarre comedy. So, one episode we'll have nuclear warfare and a thinly-veiled Alzheimer's metaphor; the next, we'll have Finn and Jake treating a children's book like a Tome of Eldritch Lore and BMO talking to himself in a mirror.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball, a normally upbeat and wild cartoon, unexpectedly took a turn for the dramatic with "The Treasure" which gave an explanation for the Watterson's financial troubles and featured a rather dramatic and perilous climax (With the Watterson kids going into an unfamiliar area and nearly getting badly injured in the process). The series then went back to normal light-hearted fare...then came The Finale where the series Negative Continuity is deconstructed and the Wattersons discover that their various whimsical misadventures have left long-term effects on Elmore, ultimately resulting in the family getting lynched by just about the entire town.
    • The third season goes back and forth between sillier episodes and...some less sillier episodes that can go from Gumball and Darwin dealing with an obsessed fan and A Day in the Limelight for various background characters, to fighting an evil pet turtle, Mr. Robinson needing a life-saving operation (in way that isn't quite as played for laughs as usual), and the fact that the world Gumball lives in can just spirit you away to a nightmarish parallel universe if it deems you a "mistake". The season has both Denser and Wackier episodes, along with Serious-er and Wham-ier episodes.
  • The "Rita & Runt" segments of Animaniacs often have the typical humor of the show, but sometimes there will be some dark stuff. The best example would be the mostly serious "Puttin' On The Blitz", where Rita and Runt help a little girl reunite with her father on a train during World War II.
  • Beast Wars shifted its tones frequently. Season 1 was an episodic and fairly balanced series of semi-serious and humorous stories, while season 2 was serious-toned all the way through (with some amusing moments sprinkled throughout its run). Season 3, on the other hand, went from being serious, to half-serious and jovial, back to being dark again, but with some truly over-the-top comedic moments, which made not only the season but also episode tones shift wildly.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien went through this. Later episodes had the main trio being murdered (but revived later) and the return of an old villain who starts killing people in cold blood. So, the next episode was a fun romp with Dr. Animo and teradactyl people.
    • The whole franchise is a Cerebus Rollercoaster, from the light and fluffy original, to two Dark and Edgy sequels, finally going Lighter and Softer again for Ben 10: Omniverse.
  • Big City Greens started using this since the introduction of Chip Whistler, interspersing a largely family-oriented comedy with dramatic and serious moments now and then, and the occasional dark episodes tend to occur when least expected. "Chipwrecked" and "Chipocalypse Now" (especially the latter) completely dive away from the show's usual formula.
  • Bojack Horseman regularly ventures between lighthearted comic-relief episodes and dark, depressing ones. Like Rick and Morty it tends to switch between both sides within one episode. Occasionally it depends where you're looking on the screen, since even the dark scenes have the odd Funny Background Event. The show also loves to use the comedy to either set up the drama or deconstruct the comedy itself. Frequently the show will set up a standard comedy plot, only for it to be deconstructed in such a way as to highlight just how screwed up the characters are. In most comedies, a wild drug and alcohol binge by the protagonist might get them into a crazy situation that ultimately will have no long-term impact. In this show however one of Bojack's only true friends, one of the only people just like him, Sarah Lynn dies of a drug overdose because of it. Bojack impulsively uproots his life to join The One That Got Away? She's married with kids, but still lets him live in a boat in their yard as a member of the family, parodying the "weird character in a sitcom that's not technically part of the family but is anyways and lives a weird bachelor life". Then he tries to bang her 17-year-old daughter after getting her friends drunk because he has no idea how to act like an adult.
  • Family Guy has been doing this in its later years. Take season 10 for example. In order there was 1) The Griffins win the lottery; 2) Brian has a terrifying drug trip and Meg chews out her family for years of harassment; 3) a Very Special Episode where Domestic Abuse was Played for Drama; 4) Stewie takes Brian's car for a joyride.
  • Futurama is one of the few successful examples of a comedic series trying this. For example, four consecutive episodes of the fourth season involve 1) an elaborate Star Trek parody/homage; 2) global warming played for laughs (and guest-starring Al Gore's Head); 3) Fry's thousand-years-dead past tragically resurfacing; 4) a wacky escalating war involving paper routes. Gleesh.
  • Good Lord, Generator Rex. The ongoing story is incredibly dark, and just keeps getting darker... but the breather episodes are crazy funny.
  • Hey Arnold! tends to do this frequently throughout its run. One moment, you have several lighthearted episodes that detail the kids' adventures such as one episode where they are trying to break a world record and another episode where Helga accidentally leaves her declaration of love for Arnold on his answering machine. Then the next moment, you have some pretty depressing episodes such as the Pigeon Man episode and the episode "Helga on the Couch" where it explains about how Helga was neglected by her parents in favor of her older sister Olga.
  • Jem is quite guilty of this. Whereas it is mostly a soap opera (and therefore leaning moreso towards drama in spite of it being a Saturday Morning Cartoon), the Five-Episode Pilot were among the darkest of the series and involved mature situations such as multiple counts of kidnapping and attempted murder and a scene of male-on-female violence. However, there were several light-hearted episodes once it became a regular series, like "The Rock Fashion Book", "Hot Time in Hawaii" and "In Search of the Stolen Album". By the time of the third and final season, it came back to being this given the inclusion of The Stingers, who unlike the Holograms' other rival band The Misfits, qualified as No Nonsense Villains (particularly the bassist Rapture, who antics and attitude towards most of the characters veer dangerously close to sociopathy) and "Out of the Past" and "A Change of Heart" (which feature a vital Posthumous Character dying in a plane crash and another current character nearly being Driven to Suicide) once again showcasing how serious the show's subject matter can be.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is this by design, combining high-stakes adventure episodes (which have surprisingly dark points for a TV-Y show) mostly in the season premieres and finales, with lighthearted comedy and everyday life lessons in between. It should be noted that it still doesn't skimp on the jokes and lightheartedness in the 2-part adventure episodes, however, so it's not THAT big of a shift. With the exception of the first season, each of the others' Book Ends with darker or story-changing episodes.
  • Ready Jet Go! loves to do this as of the episode "What Goes Up..." One episode might have the light-hearted plot of the kids trying to build a tower on the moon, the next might be bleaker and focus on the kids struggling to prevent the local Deep Space Array from not getting funded.
  • ReBoot was mostly comical during season 1, but the season ended with a somewhat darker two-part episode. Season two went back to comical for half of the season, but kicked off a plot for the second half that ended with a Wham Episode. Season 3 got darker every four episodes, before spending the last ten minutes with a Musical Episode. Season 4 goes to the point of Cyberspace Annihilation, then swings back into comedy. THEN a previous villain returns, WINS, and we get a Cliffhanger. This series is a freakin' mood yoyo.
  • Rick and Morty is pretty much always dark. Whether the dark is utterly hilarious or depressingly serious is another matter. Race of man-made people taking a restaurant hostage, being held on trial for the death of a giant, or getting ready to bring Armageddon to start another Adam and Eve situation? Hilarious. Marital troubles, other versions of you from other dimensions causing trouble, and replacing yourself in another universe seconds after the you from that one died? Disturbing. And it's not uncommon to switch between the two sides several times in the same episode (e.g. what happens when you create a universe solely to provide you with power).
  • Samurai Jack uses this trope as darker and more serious episodes are interspersed with jarringly comedic ones. Because most episodes are in their own little bubble, there is no overall story to interrupt and in most cases, the darkest and grimmest episodes have the exact same impact on the show as the ones about absurd nonsense - that is, none.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated alternates between its largely-humorous episode stories and its very different story arc.
  • The Simpsons jumps between fairly grounded stories with low-key humor and dramatic stakes and completely off-the-wall cartoon anarchy at the tip of a hat. Watching "Homer's Triple Bypass", the plot of which revolves around Homer nearly dying from a heart attack and not being able to afford a transplant, then following it up with the completely wacky and surreal "Marge Vs. The Monorail" can be a hell of a whiplash.
  • South Park has plenty of episodes that deal with both lighthearted and serious themes, even at once. For instance, "Raisins" has a main plot of Stan being depressed after a breakup with Wendy, and a much more comedy-focused subplot of Butters thinking a Hooters-type waitress is actually his girlfriend. "Marjorine", a mostly silly episode about Butters going undercover as a girl to steal a fortune teller, has a very disturbing opening of him faking his death and his parents' subsequent grief.
  • Steven Universe is very fond of this, with its Myth Arc concerning the possible re-ignition of an interstellar war regularly being tempered by lighthearted episodes where the main character forms a band or hangs out at an amusement park. Some of these lighter episodes still manage to take 90-degree turns into dramatic and heartwrenching scenes, however. One notable episode from the show's first season has two characters role act out a children's book before transitioning into a reveal that one of them was literally grown to be a soldier on the opposing side of the war that her current family fought and that she constantly agonizes about this fact, worrying that the others see her as a lesser being because of it.
  • This is increasingly true of the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. It's a lot goofier than its 2003 predecessor, with the addition of a lot of Japanese visual humor. Despite that, the show can get very dark when it wants to, featuring, among other things, the Shredder beating the turtles to a pulp in a fight that almost completely lacks dialog, the horribly burned Rat King almost forcing Splinter to kill his sons, and a goofy heroic wannabe acquaintance of the turtles being painfully transformed into a feral blob monster.
  • Teen Titans (2003), especially in later seasons (season 1 was fairly tonally constant), bouncing back and forth from lighthearted action-comedy, to utter random goofiness, to some surprisingly intense darkness. Honestly, when you've got an episode centered around sentient omnicidal cow abducting space tofu that comes shortly after an episode where the local Woobie gets tortured by being shown a vision of the apocalypse at her hands in a scene strongly choreographed to suggest rape, your show has officially become the embodiment of this.
  • Transformers: Animated (much like Teen Titans (2003) and Ben 10: Omniverse), is mostly a lighthearted, wacky action-adventure show with a gazillion silly in-jokes, but it took every chance it got to dive into darker waters: Ratchet's recollections of the past war, Optimus' backstory, Omega Supreme's purpose, and especially Blurr's death are fully serious and dramatic. Even Waspinator, who retains some of his comedic persona from Beast Wars, has a dark origin and constantly switches from his goofy self to a horrifying, tragic re-imagining of himself.
  • The Venture Bros. is a black comedy that can veer into this when one considers the implications of what is happening. This is the series that in its relatively more lighthearted first season still was the Trope Namer for Powered by a Forsaken Child, based on the orphan's heart used for the Lotus-Eater Machine, and while that heart is implied to be only one of the morally questionable parts Dr. Venture used, it is also the only one he is willing to reveal.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) takes the Ben 10: Omniverse road. While it is Lighter and Softer and Denser and Wackier than the usual Spidey fare, its main arc plot is much darker than the comedic episodes. Season 2 seems to be going for a more mature arc plot too, while still maintaining humour.