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Cerebus Syndrome

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"What's the word for when something that started out being funny ends up depressing the hell out of you? Insert that word here."
Jenny Lawson, Let's Pretend This Never Happened

A Tone Shift towards Dramedy over the course of a comedy series' run, coined by Eric Burns-White on the now-dead webcomic Review Blog Websnark after the process undergone by the print comic Cerebus the Aardvark. It should not be confused with the slide from drama to Author Tract which happened much later in the same comic's run, due to Creator Breakdown. It's any story/series which starts out light, episodic, and comedic, and then assumes dramatic elements and a more coherent continuity. It chiefly occurs in works where parts have been broadcast/published before other parts have been written, as that means the older parts cannot be revised into conformity.

Often seen in media where artists are expected to write a few short stories first to see how the public will react, and then start writing longer and more serious story arcs once the magazine/tv channel/company gives the go-ahead. It can also be intentional, with the lighter mood at the beginning allowing readers to meet and become attached to the characters before the story arcs with the dramatic elements begin.

Many newspaper comics undergo the opposite process as a cartoonist puts some fairly serious storylines the first few years, then lapses into recycled gags.

This condition also has a temporary version. After a while, many shows will begin to get enough respect to be considered for awards, and will create a specific episode for this. Since there's a Comedy Ghetto in effect, an episode of a show made as Emmy Bait will have fewer laughs and will usually tackle a more intense theme. When watching a show on DVD or in syndication, these episodes can stand out.

If the series has previously been fueled by high weirdness, then the transition can be rocky. Some series tie themselves in painful knots trying to Retcon an accumulated pile of weirdness with invented physics. Others sweep the stranger things under the rug and try to present a more respectable face. More often, the weird is left in place, but retrofitted into a more dramatic role. In a good case, the combination of drama and high weird can be invigorating. In a less successful case, it can be excruciating.

An instance of Mood Whiplash. May be heralded by a Wham Episode. When this entire process happens in a single moment, it's a Gut Punch. If the change is only temporary, it's a Very Special Episode. When an introduction of a specific character suddenly makes the entire work become serious, then the said character is a Knight of Cerebus. A Sudden Downer Ending incorporates this by default, as downer endings are rarely seen as funny.

May be a case of Growing the Beard if it actually works. Otherwise, fans may respond with They Changed It, Now It Sucks! and Too Bleak, Stopped Caring.

This process may also involve Going Cosmic, with the work beginning to incorporate highly philosophical and theological themes.

NOTE: It's Cerebus, not Cerberus; not that the latter's reputation helps any.note 

Trope relations:

A Super-Trope to:

Tropes that relate to playing with this trope:



  • See Big Damn Movie for when this applies to The Movie of an otherwise episodic series.
  • When this happens to actors in Real Life, it's known as Tom Hanks Syndrome.
  • Please note that this doesn't automatically mean Darker and Edgier, though it often does. It is entirely possible for a work to get more serious, but still keep its lighthearted tone. Likewise, a work can get Darker and Edgier, but still be just as zany.note 
  • Not to be confused with the "Cerebus Effect", which refers to both the popularization of trade paperback format in comic book publishing and the effects it had on writing.

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Other examples:

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  • Comedian/singer Rodney Carrington, a longtime fixture on The Bob & Tom Show, underwent this starting around 2007. Known mostly for his mix of profane stand-up comedy and equally profane songs such as "Letter to My Penis", "Morning Wood", "Dancing with a Man", and "Titties and Beer". However, he began recording albums consisting largely or entirely of songs, some of which were considerably more serious in tone than before. This culminated in him getting a Black Sheep Hit on the country music charts in 2009, when the dead-serious Christmas song "Camouflage and Christmas Lights" got to #31.
  • George Carlin, in spades. His early stuff was pretty straightforward comedy bits and characters, such as "Baseball vs. Football" and "Hippy-Dippy Weather Man." Then moved on to a bit more satire and slice of life, such as "Seven Dirty Words" and "Stuff." After that, he put the pedal to the metal, and the general tone of his set was "You have no rights; you have owners." "You have no choice; you have the illusion of choice." "Fuck hope."

    Comic Books 
  • This trope takes its name from Cerebus the Aardvark, a(n) (in)famous indie print comic that began as a parody of Heroic Fantasy, but drifted into the genre itself. (And subsequently into far stranger waters.)
  • Spider-Man:
    • For a long time, it was generally lighthearted and exciting superhero adventures and humor which balanced the more depressing side of Peter Parker's life, troubles, and angst. In short, the superhero stuff was escapism both in the comic and out of it. (Nice, huh?) And then the father of Peter's girlfriend Gwen Stacy and regular supporting character, police captain George Stacy, got killed. Which was followed by Peter's best friend Harry Osborn becoming addicted to drugs. Which was followed by Harry's father Norman becoming the Green Goblin again, kidnapping Gwen, and knocking her off a bridge to her death. The stories only got darker from there....
    • The comics tend to bounce up and down in this and it's pretty easy to see when the comic is gonna hit the Darker and Edgier mark: watch and see how much Peter has. If he has plenty of stuff and is quite happy, then chances are he's heading for this.
    • That's not even getting into One More Day in which Spider-Man makes a deal with Mephisto to undo his marriage with Mary Jane Watson in return to save Aunt May's life. A bullet wound that not even the greatest scientists or Doctors (even with magical or alien technology) in the entire Marvel Universe could heal.
  • Bone does this intentionally. Over its 14-year run, it went from a cute, kid-friendly comic about sudden snowfalls, greedy relatives and stupid, stupid rat creatures to an epic fantasy saga about a rather horrific Sealed Evil in a Can with graphic violence and death, the threat of genocide, a Religion of Evil, and the aforementioned rat creatures going from harmless comic relief to a deadly threat (except for a Bumbling Henchmen Duo among them, who remain comedic.) However, it still managed to kick in humor every now and then, with at least one funny moment every issue. Jeff Smith apparently did this so that audiences wouldn't be "committed to an epic tale right from the start."
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • Scud the Disposable Assassin's first story arcs included a cult that worshipped "manliness and unnecessary explosions", a cyborg-giraffe crime lord, and a werewolf astronaut. The last few issues pretty much kicked humor to the curb, placing Scud literally in the middle of Armageddon, fighting against both Heaven and Hell. The 2008 4-issue re-launch Time Skips ahead 10 years and manages to make things even darker, but then pulls out to an upbeat ending involving The Power of Love. The author has noted that, if the series had finished as planned, it would have had a Downer Ending where Scud commits suicide and destroys the world, but between the original and relaunch, he moved away from his "angry young man" persona and rethought.
  • For the entire Super Hero genre as a whole, this is a Cyclic Trope. The Golden Age of Comic Books was darker and more dramatic than The Silver Age of Comic Books, and since the end of The Dark Age of Comic Books, Fun Comics have been on the upswing. It could best be said that comics today are a mix of Dark and Light. We have titles like Deadpool appearing alongside the Dark Avengers.
  • For DC in general, Post-Crisis, was this in general compared to the lighthearted Silver Age, and the slightly more grounded Bronze Age. There were many dark and depressing comic storylines. Hal Jordan going insane with grief and trying to remake the universe, Superman dying, and Batman getting his back broken and replaced by the Anti-Hero Substitute Azrael. The Bronze Age was also less silly than the Silver Age, especially for DC. Topics like drug addiction, racism, and other social issues were addressed.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac went through intentional Cerebus Syndrome, from the Black Comedy and Johnny's lewd justifications for killing sprees of the first three issues to an exploration of Johnny's depressing outlook on life in the fourth issue, The Reveal of the history of the Doughboys in the fifth, as well is an investigation of the characters of Tess and Krik, then back to Black Comedy in the sixth and seventh (though Reverend Meat and the death of Jimmy were far from funny... except when they were). Even Happy Noodle Boy went through (sort of) Cerebus Syndrome, becoming more and more incomprehensible as Johnny slipped further into insanity. Jhonen Vasquez mentioned in his commentary in the Director's Cut that all this was planned.
    • This may have been planned from the beginning of the serial, but the earlier stand alone comics that predated it had no ambition beyond dark humor.
  • While the initial issues of Archie's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures remained somewhat close to its cartoon source in tone, the series eventually got progressively more serious, with multiple deaths, more introspective stories, and even a scene showing Adolf Hitler's suicide, making it more closer to the original Mirage Studios version.
  • Empowered started as a superhero parody with a lot of Fanservice. The first three volumes are mostly comedy, with occasional hints at more dramatic plot developments and backstories. Volume four goes all out, opening with Ninjette apparently dealing with PTSD. Five sees Emp's achievements from the previous book being not only papered over by her Jerkass teammates but outright turned against her and the death of one (maybe two) main characters, plus a horde of C-listers. Volume Six is 60-80% dead serious. Volume 7 isn't much better
  • Superman:
    • Superman has gone through several "darkenings" through his decades-long history. At the beginning of the Golden Age his powers were more "grounded" and he fought criminals, corrupt businessmen and war profiteers. During the 40's and the Silver Age, though, his adventures gradually got more fantastic and more light-hearted. Then the Bronze Age brought Superman's social crusader status back, his comics became more serious and more introspective, and his universe got darker, culminating in Batman breaking off their friendship, Supergirl getting killed, and Superman losing his secret identity, his powers and most of his friends. When he was rebooted in the Dark Age, the tone was lighter than the 70's but also more serious and more depressing than the 60's, and it was not long before Superman was punched to death.
    • Most of Supergirl's early Silver Age stories had been innocent tales where Kara helped orphan kids until The Unknown Supergirl did away with the orphanage setting and introduced her first supervillain. From that point on, her stories started getting more serious, involving darker themes and higher stakes.
    • Superman & Batman: Generations does this deliberately, mimicking the comics of the era in terms of content. The first half of Issue 2 has Supes and Bats deal with Mister Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, while the second has each of them losing their respective sons; Dick Grayson is killed by the Joker, and Joel Kent dies in Vietnam though in reality Lex Luthor saved his life, but this only sets up even darker turns of events.
    • This happened to Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, of all things. The first four issues are mostly light-hearted, but the last two reveal that Mister Myxyzptlk has been behind everything, and may even have gone back in time and destroyed Krypton in the first place just to make sure he got everyone where he wanted them.
  • Wonder Woman was initially printed as an inspiring character for kids, young girls in particular, as part of Marston's agenda of prepping the next generation of US citizens to accept a matriarchy. It deliberately sanitized Classical Mythology and had her easily trouncing operatives of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, enemies who had declared war on the USA not too long ago. At the time of publication the general public only had a vague notion of how brutal Imperial Japan was and no clue of how vicious Nazis were, often refusing to believe stories of Jews and other undesirables being forced into ghettos and labor camps. In the bronze age of comic books, the long runing Wonder Woman (1942) got a lot heavier as it revisited earlier themes with the full knowledge of what the Axis Powers had truly been up to, gleefully showcasing false flag operations, unethical human experimentation and attempted genocide. Following Crisis on Infinite Earths Wonder Woman books became Truer to the Text regarding the Greek Myths on top of it, depicting most of The Olympus Twelves as casual murderers and Zeus as a full on rapist. Post Crisis Wonder Woman (1987) started delving into terrorism and racial profiling. On the other hand, the Post Crisis volumes tended to be slightly Tamer and Chaster than volume 1, but New 52 Wonder Woman (2011) threw that out as well, even depicting virgin goddess Artemis as an exhibitionist who wanted to get in her brother's pants.
  • New X-Men: Vol. 2 starts out as a low-angst (especially by mutant standards) romp of high school cliques and teen age personal interactions until M-Day, when most of the mutants lost their powers. The series then does a nose dive as the mutant-hating Purifiers start picking off regular cast members one by one and the students fight for survival, including scenes where kids not even old enough to drive are wondering which of them is going to die next, when they aren't literally being dragged to hell.
  • In the X-Men comics as a whole, this happened to the character of Magneto: First, he was just a former friend who did a Face–Heel Turn and believed in Mutant Superiority. Then, his backstory, especially his being a Holocaust Survivor is developed in depth and he goes from re-occurring Big Bad to Anti-Villain who is acting preemptively because he believes that it's just a matter of time until mutants are rounded up into Death Camps.
  • The Italian demential/slapstick comic book series Rat-Man by Leonardo Ortolani: it started as a Affectionate Parody of Marvel and DC superheroes, but after the first 10 issues, it started to develop darker and edgier stories. It now fits this trope so closely that it is almost an Italian Cerebus the Aardvark.
  • The first two Tintin adventures (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo) are outright comedies where the action is often surreal and played for laughs (for instance Tintin killing a rhino by drilling into its hide and dropping in a stick of dynamite.) The third adventure (Tintin in America) was transitional with a lot of off-the-wall comedy still mixing with the plot before the series finally found its familiar mood of exciting and suspenseful action with character-driven comic relief with Cigars of the Pharaoh.
  • Inverted in British comic Tammy's serial "Our Janie", which started out as a gritty kitchen sink drama with the titular Janie, a 15-year-old girl, coping with the responsibility of holding her family together after the death of her mother, and dealing with threats to take the children into care or problems finding the money to pay the rent, but soon settled into much more lighthearted episodic storylines about getting mistaken for a film star or rescuing kittens from a condemned building.
  • Daredevil had been a lighthearted adventurer in his first years. But at the very latest when Frank Miller took over, he was transformed into a depressed, lonely avenger, who had to witness his fiancée getting murdered by Bullseye and who had some terrifying foes like the Hand. It reached its highpoint in Shadowland, where he had a (allthough unwillingly) Face–Heel Turn and became the villain. After this, Mark Waid took over, and after many years of darkness, Murdock temporarily got to be lighthearted again. Even so, this light tone hid confirmed depression, and the villains were reinvented in some very horrific ways. And as soon as the run was over, DD went over the deep end again.
  • Marville went from a comic that parodied media and Marvel itself, usually in mean spirited or nonsensical manners, to a philosophical comic about life, the universe, and everything in its third issue. Linkara even compares it to the trope namer:
    "Look, if I wanted to read pseudo-philosophical garbage pretending to be a comic book, I'd read something by Dave Sim!"
  • Hawkeye: Hawkeye (2012) managed to do this in one panel. The first issue was sorta-slice-of-life, before delving into Hawkeye and his interactions with his neighbours, him trying to mentor Kate Bishop, and deal with some local criminals trying to operate in the area, with him comically repeatedly running into trouble and having to deal with it via quick wits and his impressive skills. After an issue of Clint dealing with the women in his life, including a messy breakup with his not-quite-girlfriend Spider-Woman, he talks to Grills before heading downstairs then Grills gets shot and killed by 'the Clown', with Matt Fraction confirming the series is now going to get darker.
  • The first couple storylines of Pocket God were more comedic and had the pygmies die often. Later storylines started to get more serious and the pygmies started to die less often. The story arc, "The Pygmies Strike Back", gets stone cold serious when Nooby is killed off for real.
  • Iznogoud: When the series was taken over by Tabary after Goscinny's death; while the stories remained mostly comical, they switched from eight to twelve page vignettes to 40+ page adventures more akin to Asterix, with Iznogoud occasionally switching from Villain Protagonist to Anti-Hero.
  • Superlópez: All of the post-Turn of the Millennium comics. They are more Anvilicious social commentary than comedic Action-Adventure.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: While already Darker and Edgier than other Disney comics, the series takes it up a notch during the sequel series where the some issues focus on abusive relationships and the main focus is on a complex family drama about revenge where the main character regarding that arc has a Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Sleepwalker started with relatively lighthearted stories for the first 11 issues or so. Then issue #12 featured Sleepwalker's human host Rick Sheridan being Mind Raped with nightmares of Sleepwalker killing humans in various gruesome ways. Issue #13 featured Sleepwalker suffering mind-warping hallucinations from a Fantastic Drug. The series permanently went dark from issue #19 onwards. Highlights include Rick being tormented by bizarre demonic monsters, Sleepwalker getting his throat slit on-panel, Rick's girlfriend Alyssa being turned into a NoodlePerson and being used as a seductive People Puppet to try and kill Rick, Sleepwalker's Evil Counterpart being created from a human serial killer who carved his victims' hearts out with a kitchen knife, and a demonic invasion of New York with several gruesome on-screen deaths.
  • Happens in the second, DC Rebirth, half of Amanda Conner's and Jimmy Palmiotti's Harley Quinn run. The comic is increasingly taken over by an overarching plot involving Harley's conflict with the Mayor of New York, who was initially depicted as comically corrupt but becomes truly, mass-murderingly evil, and it ends with Harley's on-off boyfriend Mason Macabre being murdered in front of her and Harley going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which is all played mostly straight.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County started out as a rural humor strip, but as time went on creator Berkeley Breathed started adding more and more political and pop culture satire, which would dominate the strip for the rest of the run. Strangely, its Cerebus syndrome coincided with it sliding down the Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness all the way to having No Fourth Wall.
  • Calvin and Hobbes started as a gag strip, and never devolved into true Cerebus territory, but two early stories ended up proving to its creator, Bill Watterson, that the comic could open up with more emotional stories. The first "Cerebus Story" was one where a big dog stole Hobbes from Calvin. The true "Cerebus Moment," however, was a story where Calvin found an injured raccoon, which later died.
  • Candorville ran into this by way of Genre Shift. Initially, it made a lot of jokes that came out of nowhere and made no sense in the context of the setting — for instance, one minor recurring character was the animated corpse of a slain al-Qaeda member. Then the strip started to comment on how unusual those things were, and how odd it was that only the main character ever saw them. And then other people started to see them too...
  • Doonesbury always had a political element, but in its first couple of years in national syndication it was mostly a light-hearted strip about college life (continuing where Garry Trudeau's work at Yale left off). Once Watergate happened it focused more and more on politics. On top of that it became more of a serial strip, and even introduced Anyone Can Die to the comics page.
  • For Better or for Worse slowly moved from gag-a-day territory into more serious fare, eventually becoming a serial drama with occasional mild humour. When the strip concluded, creator Lynn Johnston did a peculiar Continuity Reboot that took things back to the strip's original chronology, and the more gag-oriented formula therein. The idea was to use old strips, but create new dialogue and context for them, but fairly quickly the "new" material was dropped and the strip became straight reprints of 30-year-old material.
  • Funky Winkerbean may be second only to the Trope Namer in this category. It literally jumped (in the form of a 10-year timeskip) from a high-school based gag strip (with occasional dramatic Very Special Episodes) to a frequently depressing drama strip where Anyone Can Die. A second ten-year timeskip seems to have abandoned all pretense of zany (or should that be funky?) comedy, preferring a more down-to-earth kind (when, that is, there's any at all). Also, ghost voyeurs.
  • Luann used to be a light-hearted, Gag-A-Day look at the ups and downs of a 13-year-old girl dealing with friends and family. Now...
  • 9 Chickweed Lane started life in 1993 as a gag-a-day strip about 3 generations of females and their daily experiences. It slowly worked its way into a long, often repetitive "mega-arc" - encompassing the lives of many people over decades, across several continents - lasting several years. It then devolved into a polysyllabic, and almost ritually fetishistic, exploration of creator Brooke Mc Eldowney's limited range of obsessive interests: essentially a combo of All Women Are Lustful, Babies Make Everything Better, Eternal Sexual Freedom, Everybody Has Lots of Sex and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
  • An early example is Skippy, a comic strip from the 1920's through 1940's. It was originally a wildly popular comic about a mischievous kid, but it started getting more and more serious and political when creator Percy L. Crosby became convinced that President Franklin Roosevelt was a Communist. Eventually, a company with connections to the IRS used several "random" audits to successfully take over the rights to the name Skippy. The company was, of course, the maker of Skippy peanut butter. Crosby ended up suicidally depressed in a mental hospital. You can read the whole story here.
  • The strip which eventually became Steve Roper & Mike Nomad began life in 1936 as a wacky comedy starring a stereotyped American Indian named Big Chief Wahoo. Roper was introduced in 1940 and took over the strip, until by 1947 Big Chief Wahoo had been written out and the wacky humour entirely dropped in favour of action adventure. Mike Nomad appeared in 1956, by which time the original nature of the strip had totally vanished. Ironically, Big Chief Wahoo had not been planned to be the strip leader; he was supposed to be a supporting character to the Great Gusto, a traveling salesman/conman. Wahoo was instantly much more popular and Gusto, reduced to second banana status from the beginning, was gone by 1939.
  • During the 70s and 80s, Theophilus was a comic strip satirizing the hypocrisy and extremism of far-right elements of the Church of Christ from a moderate right point of view (though the Church of Christ in general are all extremely conservative from outside.) In the nineties, however, the author suddenly came to believe in Holy Spirit baptism, the use of wine (not grape juice) in Communion, and the extreme subordination of women. The comic's tone and structure underwent radical changes, and finally it was abandoned for an intensely anti-feminist retelling of Genesis.
  • Older Than Television: In 1929, Wash Tubbs went from "bigfoot" humor to high adventure with the addition of soldier-of-fortune Captain Easy to the cast.

    Eastern Animation 

    Films — Animation 
  • The original Kung Fu Panda was a mostly light-hearted comedy with some occasional dramatic moments thrown in. Kung Fu Panda 2 keeps the comedy, but cranks the drama waaay up, as Po faces the villain who committed genocide against the other pandas, including his biological parents. (Except that his father and some others survived.) Kung Fu Panda 3 is largely a return to the first film's tonal balance, though does still deal with some hangups from the previous two plots and has arguably the series' most dangerous (if still comedic) villain who steals the souls of (essentially killing) half the main cast.
  • Compare the first Toy Story (a film about two unlikely pals bonding while escaping a Jerkass with an overactive imagination) to the third (a film about a group of friends escaping a totalitarian Crapsaccharine World, with part of the plot being arguably an adaptation of The Inferno).
  • The Madeline series is normally a downplayed Sugar Bowl type with wacky villains such as Captain Graybeard. However, the first two animated films have darker themes compared to the Specials. While the series survived the first's take to this trope (Madeline: Lost in Paris), the former (Madeline: Lost in Paris) spelled the series' doom: Madeline is kidnapped and enslaved by some crazy lady who captures orphans for a lace factory in the former and suffers Disproportionate Retribution in the latter. The latter (My Fair Madeline) has Madeline sent to a finishing school in London after being accused of misbehaviour, and almost lets the main villains win.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was largely a very laid back anthology of Slice of Life stories roughly adapted from the original books. Following The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh TV series however, the franchise delved into more adventurous and emotionally striving plotlines. The sequel films followed this direction with Pooh's Grand Adventure and The Tigger Movie which have much more of a Big Damn Movie direction and deal with more serious personal quests, more life threatening situations and have lots of heartbreaking scenes (while still retaining a similar whimsicality as the first). Piglet's Big Movie and Pooh's Heffalump Movie are more lighthearted but still have more dramatic issues than the first film. Only the 2011 sequel is a full return to harmless wacky antics.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom starts out in typical Indy fashion, fast action, high adventure and a fun sense of humor. However, once you witness a man being sacrificed by the Thugee cult in a ritual involving tearing his heart out and slowly lowering into a pit of fire, the movie gets real bleak real fast.
  • The Adam Sandler film Click starts off as a wacky comedy about a man who can pause and fast forward his life with a magical remote control. It eventually shifts from him making a hot blonde jogging go in slow motion to him fast forwarding through his life, becoming more and more of a jerkass, alienating his entire family, and influencing his son to become like him. It's also revealed that Morty, who gave him the remote, is actually the angel of death. Michael reaches his end when he suffers a major heart attack when his daughter calls his ex-wife's husband dad. He finally dies shortly afterwards after running into the parking lot of the hospital that he's at, after disconnecting himself from life-support, to beg his son to not become like him. Luckily for him, Morty gave Michael a second chance.
  • For much of its length The Great Waldo Pepper is a seemingly lightweight story about barnstorming pilots during the 1920s until a wing-walking attempt goes horribly wrong and the tragic incidents start piling up.
  • Big Bird in Japan is a Sesame Street spinoff in which Big Bird and Barkley get lost in Japan and must find their way back with the help of a young Japanese woman. While there are a few sad moments earlier on, this trope really kicks in when we learn that the girl is actually the legendary Bamboo Princess, and her destiny is to return to the moon, where her memory-and the memories of everyone on earth who met her-will be erased. Big Bird seems largely oblivious, up until the heartbreaking BSoD Song "Moon, Moon".
  • The Harry Potter film franchise is relatively light-hearted until the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Voldemort is finally resurrected proper.
    • Though this was arguably both foreseeable and intended, given the fact that JK Rowling wanted her readers to "grow" with the characters and the level of maturity of the books.
  • Three Kings starts out as a madcap comedy/heist film until about a third of the way through, when we see a Republican Guardsmen execute a begging Iraqi civilian woman (in slow motion, no less).
  • Bicentennial Man starts off with kid-friendly hijinks of Robin Williams playing an android before gradually turning into a Rom Com when the android tries to woo a human woman and then going full sci-fi drama by the end when the android has fully transcended into a human being.
  • Pleasantville starts out on a pretty light-hearted note, until the darker aspects of the movie version of 1950s start showing up. Both halves of the movie are very anti-Fifties, though, so if you're a fan of that decade the whole thing's arguably pretty dark.
  • The Cable Guy. One of the reasons it failed at the box office was that fans of Jim Carrey were not prepared for how dark the film gets in the third act.
  • Hancock starts off as a parody of the superhero genre, then devolves into a serious, straight superhero film during the second act.
  • The Hobbit: The first film is relatively lighthearted, focusing on Bilbo's Fish out of Water scenario with the action scenes being fairly slapstick and a couple of songs, including one from the goblins in the special edition. The second film focuses more on the dwarves' situation and is much less whimsical. The third continued this slide into seriousness, beginning with Smaug's harrowing of Laketown and depicting Thorin's descent into madness and paranoia from Gold Fever, a descent that is not played for laughs at all. And all of this is before the titular battle that takes up most of the runtime of the film, a long harrowing conflict that kills off many of the main characters before Bilbo gets a Bittersweet Ending that sets up the War of the Ring yet to come.
  • The Marrying Kind: What starts as a Comedy Of Remarriage with a divorcing couple, becomes a serious look into a broken family after the midpoint.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe seem to be going towards this path with every new phase, with Infinity War killing off many beloved characters, and Endgame sealing the fates of some.
  • The first of the Pirates of the Caribbean films was a fairly light-hearted romp, especially in comparison to the sequels. By the third movie, Will is nearly killed off only to be saved at the cost of never setting foot on dry land (or being with his wife) again except for one day every ten years. Norrington also gets the axe and the series feels a lot more bittersweet than the first film alone might have suggested. To the point when the Trilogy Creep kicked in, parts four and five tried to be more comedic even as some dark moments remained.
  • Lord of War: The black comedy portions of the film end when Yuri decides to start doing business in Africa.
  • Played straight in Juice. The film starts out as a coming of age tale about four late-teen boys and their city life experiences. Then Tupac Shakur gets access to a gun. Likes the thrill of having a gun. Things go bad very quickly.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful: Starts off as a whimsical fantasy romp. But then it delves into The origin of The Wicked Witch of the West and it becomes psychologically tragic.
  • The Ruling Class is mostly a light, if somewhat cynical, comedy in it's first half, about an English lord who believes himself to be God. Then in the second half of the movie, after he's "cured" he starts believing himself to be Jack the Ripper, commits murder and manipulates everyone around him. The climax of the film is absolutely nightmarish as he hallucinates the House of Lords as a dark cobwebbed room full of skeletons.
  • Underground: While the film begins with the bombing of Belgrade, the tone is lighter, mostly centering on Blacky and Marko's fight against the Nazis. As the focus turns more on the disastrous love triangle, the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the underground dwellers' confusion upon returning topside, the tones turns markedly more tragic.
  • The film adaptation of Ghost World starts out as a lighthearted coming-of-age story for the two outcast protagonists, but gets darker in the second half, eventually ending with main character Enid and her love interest Seymour worse off than they were at the start of the film.
  • The Italian movie Life is Beautiful/La Vita e Bella is the perfect example of this. The first half of the film is a Romantic Comedy between Guido, an eccentric yet charming Cloudcuckoolander, and Dora, his love interest, set in 1930s-40s Italy. The second half is a brutally realistic Holocaust film as Guido, who is an Italian Jew, is sent to a concentration camp, along with Dora, his now-wife, and his son Giosuè. Ultimately, the only aspect of the first half of the film that remains are Guido's charisma and antics, which entertain and protect his son and give his wife hope that he and Giosuè are still alive. However, they cannot save him, and he is shot when the guards are rounding up prisoners shortly before American troops storm the camp.
  • BAPS starts off as a screwball comedy about two girls from the ghetto, Nisi and Mickey, hired by a con artist to bond with a dying millionaire by having Nisi pretend to be the granddaughter of his long-lost black girlfriend. The third act takes a decidedly serious turn by having the girls grow a conscience and turn down the con money to become the man's primary caregivers as his health fails.
  • Exam: While it's never an outright COMEDY, it's hard to deny that the film was a lot more light-hearted before Brunette accidentally disqualified herself. After that point, the film takes a darker turn into sadism, torture and attempted murder, although there are moments of humor here and there.

  • Animorphs started out fairly dark, but it got so much worse as the series went on, until the final arc which was really more suited to a young adult series than to something kids would read. By the end, the protagonists became more and more ruthless, and the morality greyed.
    • Also, all of the prequel stories The Andalite Chronicles, The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, and The Ellimist Chronicles. Basic plot summary: main character is living their life, encounters aliens, technology, and powers beyond their comprehension, and ends up trapped in massive war with no clear end in sight, alone and forever alienated from the rest of their species (if there even is a "rest of the species" ).
    • While with the The Hork-Bajir Chronicles the end of the story is a Foregone Conclusion, The Andalite Chronicles actually starts out pretty light, until one character is trapped in the form of a giant cannibalistic centipede, another is trapped inside his own head with a Puppeteer Parasite pulling the strings, and the protagonist abandons his species for a new one, only to be pulled away from his family there and back into war.
  • The Book of Fred began as a sitcom-esque story when a girl, Mary Fred, having raised in a wacky cult (that, among other things, valued the color brown, fish, and the holy name of Fred) was put into a foster-care program and tried to adjust to normal life. By the end, the book had tackled rape, drugs, comas, and other crises—completely seriously.
  • Bridge to Terabithia started out as a light hearted story about friendship between the two protagonists Jess and Leslie, and their adventure's in their magical kingdom. Then Leslie dies, and it becomes Jess grieving for his friend and coming to terms with her death.
  • Joseph Heller's Catch-22 depicts from the beginning a hopeless and bleak world that the central character wants nothing more than to escape from, but as the book progresses it starts using the same things it played for laughs early on to a much more devastating and serious effect, such as the absurd and tongue-in-cheek importance of the mess hall officer leading to a few riots, multiple missing parachutes and a tragic bombing, all for the sake of manipulating cotton markets.
  • The Discworld series starts with The Colour of Magic: a raft of tropes, puns and SFX. Serious themes appear in later books, perhaps starting with Death in Reaper Man. A milestone in characterization is Vimes, the fallen idealist of Guards! Guards!. That said, it has remained comedic, albeit slightly more "realistically"; the author has said that the series has "grown up", and that, for instance, nowadays he'd never be able to just burn down the city for a cheap laugh like in the first book.
  • The Dresden Files, sort of. The first book, Storm Front, certainly had its dark elements; murder, drug addiction, etc. were all involved in the story, but there was a lighter background and Harry seemed to actually enjoy his life, Perpetual Poverty aside. The books have trended steadily darker since, particularly when the Wham Episodes of Grave Peril (Susan is half-turned by vampires, Harry flips out and starts a war), Dead Beat (much of the White Council is annihilated within two days), and Changes (which can basically be summed up as "From Bad to Worse").
    • In book one, Harry fends off a vampire with a handkerchief full of sunlight. By book six, he can't do that any more, because it turns out you need to be happy to fold sunlight into a hankie.
    • Turn Coat through Cold Days are where it sets in to a noticeable degree. At the start of Turn Coat Morgan is accused of treason against the White Council. By the end of Cold Days Morgan is dead, Harry has done things he swore never to do, including becoming the Winter Knight, killing his former lover Susan, and causing Molly to go insane and Harry is the only thing standing between a prison complex where one of the strongest non-affiliated monsters he has ever fought is in minimum security and Chicago.
      • Skin Game, meanwhile, seems to swinging a bit lighter. While there's no shortage of monsters and mayhem, there are more unquestionably "heroic" moments in this book than in the past few put together, Harry seems to back in control (at least partially) of his life, and there's an incredible amount of happy moments, including the Carpenters and Harry becoming rich, Butters becoming a Knight, and Harry getting to know his daughter. The Dresdenverse is still dark and scary, but Butcher appears to be taking the series in a bit happier direction. Or perhaps not, based on the Christmas short story released in 2018, set after the next novel...
  • The Fablehaven series takes a fairly dramatic turn for the, uh, dramatic after the first book. The first book has a light-hearted cover, an only-somewhat-threatening villain, and while there are certainly scary, tense, and at least one bona fide disturbing moment, there's a lot of comedy and sheer excitement it in at the same time. (It's got scenes like milking a giant cow and giving a troll a foot massage.) The second book gets a bit creepier, as it introduces just how unsafe the magical world is... and the third and fourth books are just out-and-out scary and disturbing. Up to and including a horrifying subversion of Strangled by the Red String. So much for the Official Couple...
  • Pierre Beaumarchais' Figaro trilogy. The Barber of Seville is a farce. The Marriage of Figaro delves into class issues, culminating into a lengthy monologue delivered by Figaro. Then there's The Guilty Mother, which is a more serious play along the lines of Tartuffe (the play itself was subtitled "The Other Tartuffe").
  • Flinx in Flux marks the transition of the Humanx Commonwealth series from a light-hearted and mainly episodic Space Opera to a battle for the fate of the entire galaxy when it introduces the Great Evil. It also marks Flinx's transition to full maturity by introducing his ongoing Love Interest, Clarity Held.
  • Forest Kingdom: Book 1 (Blue Moon Rising) is practically the poster child. The story starts out as a lighthearted Fractured Fairy Tale, but about halfway through the entire world becomes literally Hell on Earth.
  • From the New World starts off with teenagers learning to use their psychic powers and having fun with them. Then it hints at darker themes when the history of abuse of these powers is revealed. Towards the end, the inherent dangers are starkly shown as they are caught up in a war and much of the cast dies.
  • The Gallagher Girls series started out as basically a romantic comedy set inside a spy school, with Cammie Morgan wanting to date an ordinary guy without revealing that she's a spy-in-training, but later books involve a conspiracy involving the Circle of Cavan, who kept trying to kill Cammie and Cammie herself even kills someone. Cammie was even tortured at one point and the Circle of Cavan end up wanting to start World War 3.
  • Gosick has a case of this, with the tension and scale of the story underlying each mystery building greater and greater towards the climax, eventually dropping the romantic comedy scenes altogether.
  • Harry Potter had some dark material in its first few books, but the child characters always managed to escape from the worst perils, and Rowling kept the darkest material in the backstory or just avoided discussing it in detail. But from the moment when Voldemort says "Kill the spare" in Book Four, all of that changes. And from that moment on, grief, mortality, and survivor guilt become constant themes of the books.
  • Although it remains a satirical comedy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series takes a turn to the dark and serious with Mostly Harmless, written around the time Adams suffered some private personal difficulties that led to him writing an incredibly depressing ending to the series in which almost all the characters die and Earth is destroyed in every single possible timeline. He wanted to write a sixth book to counter the Cerebus Syndrome but died before then. Eoin Colfer wrote And Another Thing..., but everyone is certain it will never match Adams' own unwritten sixth Hitchhiker's book.
  • The Hypnotists: Dr. Mako recruits Jax to join a program to learn more about his powers, which he does while reassessing his life at school and dealing with unusual peers in the hypnotist community. Then Jax learns that Mako is seeking to use hypnotism to influence a presidential election, and Jax ends up fighting to do the right thing as his loved ones are threatened. He spends the next 2 1/2 books constantly uprooting his life and going through traumatizing losses and ordeals.
  • The Known Space books by Larry Niven tend to suffer from this, particularly the Ringworld ones .
  • Kyo Kara Maoh! starts with the hero being flushed down a toilet into a fantasy world where he's king, the novels get much Darker and Edgier than the anime ever does, ditto the manga, which is adapted independently from the original novels and makes everyone longer and prettier. A few books back, for example, Yuuri mistakenly attacked Wolfram in a dark room and nearly killed him.
    • The series has self-definition, personal responsibility, and war being bad as themes from the start, but it's generally very lighthearted and wacky, with Yuuri showing a certain amount of Medium Awareness, Gunter and Wolfram's lovesick antics being Played for Laughs when they're honestly pretty creepy, slapstick moments, and many humorous resolutions to dramatic situations. Then Yuuri gets summoned by someone other than Ulrike, and the last thing he sees as Conrad sends him home is his godfather's left arm arcing through the air as the church burns and the faceless knights close in...
    • Because he doesn't know quite what went down, Yuuri stays relatively lighthearted himself until Conrad reappears as an enemy. He is capable of being distracted and has hilarious hijinks like his sled race with T-chan, and even his angst Heroic BSoD when he sees the Shimaron Knights again involes a tidal wave of tea.
    • Wolfram, on the other hand, enters a hugely intensified phase of his Character Development arc beginning with his Skyward Scream at the burned church, and everybody makes some character progress, even Yozak who didn't really need it. The 'Conrad Arc' does its Cerberus thing. And then the nuclear-bomb allegory plotline begins. The manga also makes Wolfram a more prominent character from the start—instead of just Conrad's necklace after the first visit, for example, Yuuri's also got a brooch Wolfram chose for him, but that was removed partly because it lessened the impact of the necklace, which actually mattered, and because they'd planned out a Character Arc that involved Conrad steadily falling back as his most important Shin Makoku relationship as Yuuri bonds more closely with the others, allowing Wolfram to come into his own in a more meaningful way.
  • The The Last Dragon Chronicles starts off as a merry romp involving clay dragons and a student saving a squirrel. Then in the second book the Mind Screw-y stuff starts to set in, and by the third book the main character, David, is killed by being impaled with a spear of ice! And it just keeps going on from there...
  • The first volume of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! is pretty lighthearted, but the second starts becoming more serious when Rikka accuses Yuuta of being unfaithful and forgetting their contract, before running off. Then she gets kidnapped, and the kidnapper makes Yuuta play a game with Rikka at stake. This shift was played by an entirely different moment of drama in the anime.
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl starts out fairly lighthearted and comedic (at least, as lighthearted as a book about a girl with leukemia can be), but after Rachel chooses to stop chemotherapy, the jokes become less frequent, as Rachel's impending death and Greg's struggle to come to terms with it take center stage.
  • Moby-Dick starts of in a light-hearted style, as if embarking on a jolly romp around the Seven Seas in search of diversion and adventure. Then the obsession cuts in.
  • The Moomins never stopped being child-appropriate, but the last two or three novels became increasingly melancholy, and showed Moomintroll starting to become emotionally adolescent and no longer unconditionally idealising of his parents. The death of Tove Jansson's own mother had a good deal to do with this. Finally, she gave up writing the series saying that she "couldn't find that happy Moominvalley again".
  • The novel Nuklear Age by Brian Clevinger plays with this trope, mirroring the development of comics as a medium. It starts out over-the-top and cheesy, quickly becomes over-the-top and genuinely entertaining, but, near the ending, it becomes over-the-top yet heart-wrenching.
  • T. H. White's The Once and Future King starts off very light and playful, with Arthur as a child going on magical adventures under Merlin's tutelage. Then he pulls the sword from the stone and it goes downhill from there. White actually went back and rewrote the first novel to be more serious, so that the books could be read in order without experiencing Mood Whiplash.
  • From Book Three onwards, Percy Jackson and the Olympians gets steadily darker, with the deaths of major good-guy characters and more mature themes
  • Having started out really lighthearted, Qualia the Purple completely changes tone, getting more and more serious throughout the series, with several Wham Episodes intensifying the tone of this fast-paced change. Biggest turning points were Chapter 6 and Chapter 10.
  • Redwall was a novel about a heroic mouse saving his Abbey home from an army of rats. While the later books never changed in level of violence. They did create the standard setting, which wasn't present in the first few books. That the entire world is trapped in an endless war between two factions, and you can't even step outside without risk of getting slaughtered by bandits. As well as later books made the heroes attitude towards this more serious. As the earlier books, the mice and other animals depicted as good, would always try to make peace with the rats and other evil creatures and would even attempt to give them sanctuary, heal them, or even mercy save. Even giving main villains chances to leave and try to change their ways" (They never do), in later books the heroes will kill their enemies without question because "They are evil incarnate, as long as they live they will hurt others, so they should all die"
  • This is visible in Septimus Heap where the first book start out with a rather cheery atmosphere but progressively darken until the very existence of the Castle is threatened in Darke.
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. While it was always dark, it sort of edged into over-the-top black comedy and Baudelaires always managed to escape Count Olaf in a Pyrrhic Victory. The Vile Village is generally viewed as the turning point, when the Baudelaires are accused of for murdering Olaf and the Escape-From-Olaf plot was eclipsed by the larger Myth Arc. The sequel series, All the Wrong Questions, is perhaps a clearer example. The series begins with a relatively lighthearted mystery about a missing statue. By the end, it involves murder, serial kidnapping, child abuse, and even a good, old fashioned Eldritch Abomination.
  • The Spirit Thief starts as a series about wacky hijinks of a Gentleman Thief, a Master Swordsman and a demon girl, as well as the Inspector Javert wizard chasing after them, but grows steadily more serious as the main trio's Dark and Troubled Past is exposed, then jumps headlong into War Is Hell and wraps things up with a Cosmic Horror Reveal.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has a lot of this. In general, the Thrawn books and early EU are about on the same level of darkness as the original movies (maybe slightly more serious and adult, but not much so). There's darkness, but in a clean and epic way, and most of the mains survive the experience. Each of the three big series that follows chronologically, however, plays very dark in different ways. The New Jedi Order uses the same kind of darkness (heroes struggling against a seemingly invincible evil) upped to eleven, featuring casual genocides, an entire species of sadomasochists, graphic torture, and relatively high gore, as opposed to "just" Space Nazis, offscreen torture, and mostly "clean" violence. It does, however, end on a fairly optimistic note, with a positive outlook towards the future. Legacy of the Force backs off a bit on the violence but took a dive towards the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism that undercut the previous series' ending. It's also not devoid of its own issues: a startling lack of any true attempt to redeem the villain, a lot of dark retcons, and even a little bit of underage molestation. Fate of the Jedi isn't nearly as cynical (though it still suffers from the aftershocks of LoTF's cynicism), but the new Big Bad is an Eldritch Abomination who can be defeated temporarily but never completely destroyed all while having the Jedi Order become the most fractured and militaristic it's ever been.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium: The Hobbit was written for children and adults. It starts off pretty fun and silly, but becomes much more solemn by the end. The Lord of the Rings was written for a more adult audience. It starts off fairly light, in the vein of most of The Hobbit, and then gets much darker and more serious after the first chapter or two. This may be due to the fact that Tolkien incorporated The Silmarillion as the backstory of The Lord of the Rings in the middle of his writing. He had borrowed some characters and ideas from The Silmarillion for The Hobbit, but making it definitely part of the same story resulted in the sequel becoming more epic in scale and tone. Originally he had planned for The Lord of the Rings to be shorter than The Hobbit, but in the words of the author "this tale grew in the telling." The Silmarillion also gets darker over the course of the story, beginning with the flight of the Noldor and the First Kinslaying.
  • Toradora! starts out mostly comedy with a little drama on the side, gradually sliding the slider from comedy to drama as the arcs go on.
  • Books 7-9 of the Undead and ... series have taken a turn for the dark, with unexpected deaths of supporting characters, increasing evil behavior of Laura, who is the Antichrist and the main character's half-sister, and various depressing tidbits of info gleaned from time traveling 1000 years into the future, where things go From Bad To Worse. Word of God is that this change is deliberate, and even the cover art for the three books changed from it's original "chicks who love shoes & pink" theme to more of a "noir thriller" look.
  • P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files series started out as a subversion of vampire wangst, in which Jack Fleming's undead state was treated more like a superhero's abilities and weaknesses than like an occult curse. Basically, he was a detective who could turn invisible and walk through walls, the sort who'd literally use his powers to play pranks on gangsters. But things changed as the villains got nastier: Jack was tortured, his Horror Hunger intensified, his mortal best friend's horrific past was revealed, and the erstwhile subversion of Wangst was nearly Driven to Suicide. While the latest book suggests Elrod has reversed course, pulling Fleming back from the brink, for a while there things had gotten so grim that Lifeblood, the second book in which Jack argues in defense of his Vegetarian Vampire nature, has become Ironic.
  • The Warrior Cats series is normally very serious, but the third series starts off with one of the most lighthearted and optimistic books in the series, and then gradually became more and more dark until it ended with one of the most dark and depressing books in the whole series. Since the third series was mostly character driven, this was likely done to show the Three's loss of innocence and more mature outlook on their responsibilities.
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 begins with comedic vignettes in the protagonist Kenny's life, ranging from his newfound friendship with Country Mouse Rufus Fry to his older brother Byron's getting in hot water with his mother over lighting matches in the house. The Watsons' summer trip to Alabama causes the story to shift to the dramatic, culminating in the Baptist Church bombing.

  • The Exploding Girl: While the opening chapter is by no means a light affair, with the exploitation of a young girl for internet pornography and later an attempted rape, events soon become a LOT darker, gorier, and horrific, beginning with chapter 8.

  • The Breaker started out as a fairly lighthearted action manhwa with plenty of comedy thrown in, but gradually got more serious as a major character's Dark and Troubled Past (and its present consequences) comes to light. By Volume 10 the humor is entirely gone, and another major character has been killed off.
  • Yureka: While never the whacky tale of high school hijinks, its summary makes it seem like it could be, Yureka has definitely dipped deeper into the grim and philosophical over its run, concerned less with the quirks and nuances of playing an MMORPG and more with the Myth Arc of corporate corruption and its analysis of a Grew Beyond Their Programming -based Mind Screw. —The humor grows less dense, but retains the same tone throughout.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance started out as a zany, fairly light-hearted podcast about three brothers and their father playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons together. As the story went on, the plotlines became a lot darker and more intricate, especially during "The Suffering Game" and the arcs that followed. Most of the darkness can be attributed to the fact that, while Justin, Travis and Clint would joke around during earlier serious moments, they start to really take the campaign seriously after the reveal of the Red Robe's true identity, leaving a lot less room for goofs.
  • Wolf 359 starts as a semi-lighthearted sitcom in space, which suddenly becomes a lot darker after Hilbert mutinies and tries to kill the rest of the crew. After this, the podcast becomes a lot more focused on drama and mystery, ditching the sitcom-aesthetic almost entirely.

    Print Media 
  • Computer magazine MacAddict, one of the two magazines split off from the defunct CD-ROM Today in 1996 (boot, now Maximum PC, was the other). When it started out, MacAddict was unafraid to have fun: they often included little cartoons in the letters section and back page (even a stick-figure mascot, Max, who was also used in their reviewing scale); the pages were bright, colorful and rife with Running Gags (for several issues, they joked that each magazine was soaked in Downy before it was shipped out); the CD that shipped with every issue would include something funny like a video of the staff destroying a Windows computer; and so on. In the early 2000s, the magazine got a white, sterile makeover (replacing the Max scale with a normal five-star scale), and the tone gradually shifted to a far more serious and straight-laced approach. This shift culminated in 2007, when the magazine was renamed Mac|Life.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The year 2006 was, for the most part, a lighthearted year for WWE. Except for some lingering angst over Eddie Guerrero's untimely death the previous year, there were plenty of comic gimmicks (The Boogeyman, Hornswoggle, Vito wearing a dress) and even screwball storylines with D-Generation X reuniting to fight the villainous cheerleaders in the Spirit Squad, other funny heels such as "Mr. Kennedy", and the parodic "Rated-RKO" stable of Edge and Randy Orton. Also, this was before Maria Kanellis had shed her "bimbo" personality. All these comedic elements were even lampshaded by John Cena in a backstage segment with Kanellis. Then, as 2006 closed out and gave way to 2007, things started getting really serious. The Spirit Squad was disbanded; Rated-RKO beat Ric Flair to a bloody pulp; Triple H was badly injured and dropped out of sight; Shawn Michaels went solo and began displaying more heelish characteristics; and Orton left Rated-RKO and began his transition into the sociopathic "Viper", randomly attacking Legends in almost stalker fashion and then beginning a vendetta against Cena that culminated in kicking Cena's father in the head. And the less said about what happened to Chris Benoit, the better. Things got still darker in 2008, with Chris Jericho returning as a Dark Messiah who eventually turned completely heel; Ric Flair being retired by Shawn Michaels, who was then attacked by both Jericho and an almost heel Batista for it (with Batista all but murdering Michaels in an Extreme Rules Match during which he said he hated Michaels and he was not sorry for what he was doing to him); Kane becoming a psychotic heel again after several years of being a face; Edge being put in an angle with The Undertaker as punishment for betraying Vickie Guerrero on what would have been their wedding day and slowly becoming unglued before temporarily being sent to Hell; and Jeff Hardy becoming a much darker character in creepy corpse paint and being stalked by a mysterious assailant (who in 2009 would turn out to be his brother, Matt).
  • Braun the Leprechaun aside, the Dungeon of Doom's feud with Chris Benoit in 1996-1997 WCW was generally devoid of the cartoonish elements of the DOD's feud with Hulk Hogan in 1995-1996.

  • Let George Do It initially started out as a comedy about a soldier back from the war going into business as a professional odd-jobs man, doing things too silly or embarrassing for others to do, including occasional work as a private detective. He had a lovely young woman to assist him, with a gee-whiz little brother to get into light-hearted trouble. Over the course of several episodes, however, changes like the sudden disappearance of the kid brother and the music going from full orchestra to organ-only darkened the tone of the show to the hard boiled detective series that the show is known for being now.

  • TV Tropes Roll To Dodge: The game's scale got gradually larger as it went on. To put it in perspective, the first roll was Plumbum kicking a football at a wall. The situation at page 181 is Plumbum chasing down his Jetbus that was stolen by Makuta, with a Charizard flying about. Page 212, and everyone is fighting a character that can mess with the dice rolls (the GM) after Plumbum screwed up on messing with other peoples rolls.

  • Camelot starts out extremely lighthearted, with Camelot as a perfect fairy tale kingdom full of silliness and happy comedy. By the end, the kingdom has fallen, Arthur has been betrayed by the two people most dear to him in the world, and he is about to go meet his own doom. He instructs little Tommy Malory to write and preserve the memory of when things were good, to inspire the future.
  • The Fantasticks also has its Happily Ever After moment coming at the end of Act 1. Act Two begins with the characters discovering that their Happily Ever After... isn't.
  • Into the Woods is all wishes and dreams coming true in the first act, but then Act Two begins and the giant shows up.
  • Next to Normal is a lot of fun and jokes about a quirky family, until a one-two punch partway through the first act— Diana stops taking her medications, and her teenage son Gabe (who encouraged her to go off her meds) is revealed to be dead and Diana's hallucination. It only deteriorates more in the second act.
  • William Shakespeare wrote Measure for Measure while composing his greatest tragedies. Described as his "farewell to comedy", it ended in weddings (as all his comedies did) but had very little to laugh about. It was also the last one he wrote, except for The Tempest and The Winter's Tale.
  • Most of the first act of Wicked is a light-hearted story about a green girl trying to fit into school and becoming friends with her popular, ditzy roommate while also falling in love with the class clown. By the end of the Act, culminating in "Defying Gravity", Elphaba discovers the truth behind the Wizard and vows to right his wrongs, getting her labeled as public enemy number one and having her best friend choose fame and power over the side of good and truth. That's just Act 1; it gets much worse in the second act.
  • The first two-thirds of 1776 are, by and large, hilarious, though there are moments of seriousness. But after the song "Cool, Conservative Men", the musical takes a sharp turn for the dark, kicked off by the haunting tearjerker "Mama, Look Sharp". There are occasional moments of levity afterward, but they are few and far between as the play grapples with the true cost of revolution and the "original sin" of slavery.

    Visual Novels 
  • Aquarium: After the rebellion was continuously alluded to, Evil Uncle's forces suddenly attack the mansion in Chapter 3 in an otherwise Slice of Life story with no intent of leaving anyone alive. A cat dies and so do the protagonists.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend is an Affectionate Parody of Dating Sims where you date wacky pigeons as a wacky human female. It also has the grim Bad Boys Love route unlocked after obtaining every other ending that starts with the female protagonist being Killed Off for Real and having her body dismembered, with her part being scattered through the school; and it gets worse from there on with a series of genuinely shocking and heartbreaking Reveals that transform even the silliest and most lighthearted birds into massive Woobies or Big Damn Heroes.
  • Little Busters! is particularly notable - most summaries seem to be along the lines of 'A young boy is saved from depression from a group of friends who get into all kinds of mischief together!' as though it's just a fun, relaxing, comedy game. It isn't.
  • Songs and Flowers starts off largely upbeat, fun, quirky dating sim antics, all told from the perspective of Jazz, an often hilarious First-Person Smartass. Later, the story delves into topics like social anxiety, depression, social ostracism, and Jazz's search for her Missing Mom. All still with plenty of humor, but the issues are handled seriously. And then the game takes an even sharper turn when Jazz learns her mother may actually have been murdered years ago and her father has been taken into custody for questioning.
  • Although it starts rather dark, the Visual Novel Swan Song becomes progressively darker as it continues.

    Web Animation 
  • Alphabet Lore: The series started off as normal until it got to "D" when the Big Bad F showed up. This is further turned darker in "U", when C is ripped apart by F as the other letters watch in horror.
  • Animator vs. Animation originally started off as a rather somewhat comedic and episodic series with not much of a concrete storyline with the first three installments mainly a stick figure fighting its creator. That all changed with the fourth installment which saw the introduction of mainstay characters becoming the central protagonists of the series, as well as the introduction of the AVM and AVA Shorts where it created many new story arcs, saw the return of older characters, expanded the worldbuilding, and brought major conflicts caused by villains old and new.
  • Bonus Stage started as a funny, video game based, cartoon series, but took a turn towards serious right after Rya's death. The series was still basically a comedy after that, only much angstier and with more drama.
  • Chikn Nuggit: Early episodes focused on the titular character and his friends getting themselves into lighthearted and relatable situations. After the introduction of Bezel, episodes started to become more cryptic and existential, with some episodes even alluding to an apocalyptic event involving Chikn and Bezel.
  • Dingo Doodles: The Fool's Gold campaign starts as a wacky adventure staring a intelligent monkey sorcerer and his companions finding new ways to derail the DM's campaign through bad luck and poor decision making. Over time it goes from comedy to drama and gets violent enough that Dingo has to put a 14+ rating on the videos. It eventually gets so bad that Dingo introduces episode 15, a major Wham Episode, with this warning: "This isn't gonna be a rollercoaster anymore. This gonna be a free fall."
  • Chris Ushko's Ducktalez series got a massive dose of this. The original short was a crudely animated piece revolving around fart jokes, with the main story boiling down to Scrooge trying to kill Glomgold with a tank. While darker moments surfaced with Residuck Evil's horror imagery, Ducktalez 3 and The Duck Knight really saw this trope set in with Huey dying, Scrooge having and emotional breakdown and Quackerjack blowing up a gondola full of civilians. Vegeta acted very much as a typical Knight of Cerebus (though pretty much all his dialogue with Scrooge constitutes as a funny moment.) Let's not even get started with the rather morbid scene where Huey finds all the costumes of the sidekicks Darkwing got killed over the years, or Quackerjacks' gruesome death.
  • The Frollo Show started out like any normal YouTube Poop. It then started to develop a plot, and became more action packed. By the time of the sixteenth episode of the series Frollo Gets Flashed by a Gothic Lolita, about 1/3 of the cast is killed off with two being irreversible.
  • Glitchtale's first season wasn't all happy fun times, but it was still fairly lighthearted and ended on a high note, with the protagonists alive and happy, and Chara pulling a Heel–Face Turn before peacefully fading away. While the first episode of season 2 is on par with the tone of the previous entries, episode 2 ends with Sans dying by being impaled through the soul (involving a lot of blood, might I add) and having it devoured. It's all downhill from there. Highlights include Undyne killing her lover Alphys by accident, Cam having their soul ripped out right in front of their little sister, Sans returning as a hate-fueled puppet of the Big Bad, the appearance of said Big Bad as of "Game Over - Part 2", Frisk erasing themself from time and replacing themself with Chara, the list goes on and on.
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device starts with the Emperor commenting on the run-down state of the current Empire, focusing on different facets in each episode, and the videos are mostly thinly veiled Take Thats against numerous retcons Warhammer 40,000 got over the years. Then he orders the Inquisition to be disbanded and plot slowly starts to creep in, along with continuity, the Emperor's great plan for Mankind and the antagonist, Lord Inquisitor Karamazov. While it never stops being funny, it gets way more serious.
  • Inanimate Insanity started as a show with short, simple episodes about inanimate objects competing for money, but the post hiatus episodes gave the show a minor shift towards drama, but starting with the fifth episode of season 2 "A Kick in the Right Direction" the episodes slowly became longer and darker and are now riddled with broken relationships, emotional manipulation, dark and tragic backstories, and mental illness.
    • Inverted in Season 3, where the show takes on a more lighter tone.
  • Llamas with Hats started as a Black Comedy about a duo of llamas, but after Paul left in episode 6, it gradually turned into Carl's pitiful attempts to cope with his absence. In episode 9, Carl goes mad and begins hallucinating a mask speaking on its own, telling him to "finish his work" and destroy the world. In the final episode, Paul dies after Carl destroys the world and Carl commits suicide out of grief.
  • Minilife TV started out as a weekly Gag Series about Chris and Ian, their friends, and their show, but around Season 4, the series began to develop more dramatic elements and serious plotlines.
  • Mystreet started out as a silly Slice of Life counterpart to the creator's other main series, Minecraft Diaries. However, it started to get darker during the Emerald Secret arc, with the introduction of werewolves and Ein.
  • Neko Sugar Girls starts as a comedic series. Come episode 4, and it begins to get darker, with Raku-chan getting bitten by a squirrel and seemingly contracting rabies. The rest of the series features more Wangst until the last episode, which goes up and down in mood. Then comes the Sudden Downer Ending when Hitoshi has left Raku-chan for his kidnapper, which results in Raku-chan's Death by Despair.
  • ONE. began as a more comedic and satirical type of Object Show, with the starting contestants having little interest in competing, the host randomly adding MORE contestants, and the challenges being pretty easy and lackluster. The mood starts slowly changing at the end of episode 4, where Stone, before being eliminated, revealed that the viewer votes are fake. This event would later escalate to moments like the contestants' desperation in leaving becoming less and less subtle, Backpack drowning and seeing the afterlife for a brief moment, Airy mysteriously dissapearing for 7 months, and the plane revealing itself to be a planet connected by a plug.
  • Paper Puppets began as a lighthearted and fun show created using literal paper puppets. This begins to change once its second season, Paper Puppets Take 2 rolls around in the later episodes; around episode 3 where Journal encounters Mr. Hand for the first time. The show stays relatively lighthearted for a while, but leaves hints of lore. The show fully cements itself as one of the darker ones in episode 9; Picture Perfect, where it introduces some drama by Treasure Chest getting Malachite eliminated, angering Journal. Since that episode, the show has become drama-filled and dark, yet still sprinkles in moments of comedy along the way.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • It begins with a comedic and zany plot for the majority of The Blood Gulch Chronicles. It then becomes almost completely serious during Out Of Mind and Recovery One. Finally, in Reconstruction, the drama meets the comedy in a batshit insane mash-up of genres. This is one rare instance of the drama complementing the comedy. Wash's dead seriousness was entertaining in and of itself, and it also made Caboose's stupidity even more hilarious than it already was. The side stories similarly complement the main series; it is implied that the main characters are a source of comedy because they completely suck as soldiers.
    • Seasons 9 and 10 balance comedy and drama by splitting the time between the "past" of Project Freelancer (which we all know will turn out very, very dark) and the "present" of Blood Gulch in the capture unit (season 9) and the real Reds and Blues (season 10). The prequel stuff is a whole lot more serious than the present stuff, but there's still plenty of humor worked in, and there's still plot and drama in the present stuff.
    • Season 11 went back to the show's comedic roots, with lower values\stakes (after three seasons full of animated action scenes, it was again done entirely in Machinima) and almost no drama, however it ended on a very serious note with several character's lives in mortal danger (left stranded in enemy territory) which yet again set up the more serious storyline for Season 12. Season 13 even ends with an Heroic Sacrifice.
  • SMG4 has always been known for being a Surreal Black Comedy Gag Series about Mario, where (almost) everyone is stupid, and the Status Quo ruled, but during the Waluigi Arc, the series switched to Dramedy, falling into Continuity Creep with a story-driven approach, and started having genuinely dark moments that are Played for Drama such as in World War Mario with the infamous scene where Sephiroth kills Desti, and many Downer Endings, and 2021 made this syndrome even worse. Needless to say, fan opinions are divided as to whether this is a good change or not.
  • StarCrafts got more plotline heavy, with more recurring character interactions, as the series went on. Series 3 introduced defeating the derpfestor as a loosely organized plot, plus a few recurring character interactions, Series 6 added more character interactions, and series 7 was dominated by the derpfestor's return, with a very drama filled final episode.
  • Stupid Kids: From the first episode, the series centered around the titular trio; Bazsi, Boti and Dani going out on wacky misadventures spiced with some dark humorous satire. This changes in Gonoszabb mint egy mosómedve (Eviler than a raccoon) where Evil Raccoon is debuted who wants to Take Over the City. After the heroes defeat him, the tone gets even more serious and darker with tragic backstories, torture, emotional manipulation, loss and even higher stakes.
  • There she is!! by SamBakZa started out as a silly romantic comedy about a rabbit-girl pursuing a cat-boy who finds himself falling in love despite his own prejudices and those of society. Then a rock crashes through his window at the end of the third installment, and the fourth sees the world go into all-out Fantastic Racism, with bad things happening to both the cat boy and the rabbit girl, and with things rather firmly in the Darkest Hour by the end. It all gets better at the end, though.
  • Your Favorite Martian started out entirely comedic, with song ranging from stalking your mother to getting buzzed on orphan tears. "Friend Zone" was what got them to be serious at first, being a song about unrequited love played straight, and they had very few straight-up comedic songs since, most either being Dramedy or complete drama, such as songs about being bullied in school ("Alien") and being in a borderline-emotionally abusive relationship ("Complicated"). It was only until the 2022 revival that things started to become more comedic again.

    Web Original 
  • Ah, the Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. Started up by three British girls with way too much time on their hands, with enough crack to make Scarface jealous. Now? It recently hit the two hundred story mark, with maybe two dozen writers, has an actual, slightly epic, plot, and (depending on the author) angst. Puh-lenty of angst. There's still a copious amount of crack, though.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall started out as an average geek reviewing bad comics on his futon and eventually made its way to said geek grappling with self-doubt, dethroning a multiversal conqueror, and commanding a massive starship. He still reviews bad comics on his futon, though.
  • The Awkward Compilation starts off as pure grossout humour but turns quite dramatic and serious as the series progresses.
  • Board James, a board game-themed spinoff of The Angry Video Game Nerd, started off as a relatively harmless, light-hearted display of James Rolf's board game collection. While Episode 8, "Mr. Bucket" was the first in which darker themes were played with (with the titular bucket coming to life and trying to assault the characters), things really officially took a 180-degree turn in tone upon Episode 19, "Dream Phone." After the obligatory demonstration of the game, the plastic pink phone that comes with the game comes to life and brutally murders Mike and Bootsy. James destroys it, only for the police to arrest him for the murders. From there, subsequent episodes have played off this series of events in a very dark and surreal way, centering around James' heavily hinted insanity and homicidal streak (heavily hinting that James might have been the one to kill his friends after all, and that the phone coming to life and other similar instances were all hallucinations), and the crew's dealings with death... while still playing board games.
  • The Church of Blow does this deliberately and with great effect; it starts off as a light satire of youtube vlogging, religion and cults, with episodes about deciding on the Church's logo (smiley face or weird mouse creature?). Then Cornelius Blow, the protagonist, dips further into insanity, the comedy gets darker and darker, someone shows up at Cornelius' house wearing his face, Cornelius kills at least two people before finally having a breakdown and discovering he's a fictional character and going off to find the real world. The whole series turns into an intelligent and elaborate parody and Take That! of Youtube and everyone who uses it, raising questions about whether anyone's Youtube persona is actually the real them at all and if the very presence of a camera fictionalizes everything it records. Also it has lizard monsters, which may or may not be figments of Cornelius' imagination.
  • The most recent installments of the steampunk music podcast The Clockwork Cabaret are more dark comedic than the earlier ones, possibly due to the arrival of present co-host Lady Attercop whose persona is more anti-heroic than the previous ones.
  • The introduction of lore in the CPU Championship Series caused the series to become far more lore based than anything else on Alpharad's Youtube Channel.
    • Season 1 had very little lore. Nothing outside of a few offhand references to Vincent and the Tournament aspects of the series.
    • Season 2 introduced more Lore Aspects, like Toyconvict's arc, Sponsorships, The Rivalry between the Incineroars, Linus' arc, and Assist Trophies.
    • Season 3 introduces Dark Vincent and his alternate universe full of evil characters. He took over his universe and appears in our timeline to replace this Vincent.
  • Downplayed with Cracked. Though it is still primarily a humor website, since 2013, some of its list-based articles have been surprisingly serious, incorporating current events and "True Life" fact pieces from freelance writers far more often than they ever had before. Though the site's articles have always tried to be at least somewhat informative, many of the ones written since late 2013 have tackled such mature subjects as being homeless, working as a prostitute, the life of a Somali pirate, and the worst parts of growing up in a Scientologist family. One of their articles about the shady practices used by the producers of The Biggest Loser (published after an interview with Season 3 runner-up Kai Hibbard) was deemed "important" enough that the Huffington Post later wrote an article calling attention to Hibbard's claims. Not bad for a humor website that prides itself on the quality of its dick jokes.
  • Demo Reel got hit with this fast and on purpose. After the pilot — which focused half and half on movie parodies and brushing the surface of the characters — was released to mixed reception, Doug pulled the actual second episode and released the third in place of it. This one advanced the SWAG-as-Big Bad storyline and delved into the main characters' Dark And Troubled Pasts. The following episode, a bromantic version of Lost in Translation, was even heavier on the emotions and got mass praise.
  • Destroy the Godmodder: Began out as just a goofy game that was for fun and didn't have much of a coherent storyline. Act 2 of the second game hits and suddenly, *collective gasp* there's an actual plot. Complete with downers, sudden twists and the like. Admittedly it almost strayed here near the end of the first game, but it quickly went right back into light-hearted and silly. And it wasn't sudden, it happened gradually as several players started roleplaying and coming up with actual ideas. The Split Personality disorder craze didn't help any either.
  • Diary of a Tourney Kid begins normal enough with Greg & Gaster discharging their anger towards characters by putting them in a competition, but it starts to ramp up in intensity per round as Greg disappears with his friends & family searching for him while Gaster preforms disturbing experiments on those that are eliminated.
  • Oh, Doctor Horrible. The first act introduces the light-hearted tale of an incompetent supervillain, the girl of his dreams, and his cheezy superhero rival. Act Two starts with "My Eyes," Doctor Horrible's half of which at least is pretty dark, but really, it's just him bitching because Penny is going out with Captain Hammer instead of with him. The act then ends with "Brand New Day," which announces that Dr. Horrible intends to go through with Bad Horse's command: "There will be blood / It might be yours / So go kill someone! / (Signed, Bad Horse)" And then there's Act Three, which has Dr. Horrible trying to kill Captain Hammer, but getting Penny killed instead in the process. Of course, considering the short length, it was obviously planned from the beginning.
  • On the Dream SMP, the L'Manburg and Election Arcs, while they had their serious moments, were mostly lighthearted, with characters goofing off constantly, and serious moments comparatively few and far between. However, things started to take a darker turn during the Pogtopia arc, what with Wilbur's mental spiral, and after the Manburg-Pogtopia War, the series became much darker and plot-heavy. Plot points that were Played for Laughs in earlier arcs were now played horribly straight (for example, Wilbur's constant babying of Fundy causes a massive rift between the two), and the next few arcs included a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of Gaslighting and psychological abuse, the attempted suicide of a teenager, several characters reaching their Despair Event Horizon and lashing out horribly, Ranboo having several long, intense, and horribly realistic panic attacks on-screen, and so much Grey-and-Gray Morality that not even the fans can decide who the true heroes are anymore.
  • The Ed Stories start out in blog format, then continue as a more formal type of prose fiction with a fairly whimsical tone (cf. "An Admin Password for the Universe"), then suddenly takes a turn for "the dreaded continuity", turns a hinted-at running gag into a major plot point for a longer story arc, and culminates in a Downer Ending.
  • Filthy Frank started out with simple racist and grossout humor; as well as shenanigans from his various housemates. However, after Lord Chin-Chin appeared, there was something of a small plot about one of the characters getting kidnapped and Frank and co having to save him.
  • Downplayed. Although Folding Ideas was always more serious and analytical than comedic. Jokes were more frequent within Season 1. While jokes still pop every now and then, it's pretty rare.
  • Funny Business is written all as one chapter, note  but still undergoes this trope. The first part seems like one of those utterly forgettable children's books where the main character has magical powers. Once certain adults deduce the nature of the main character's powers, they interrogate her and she reveals that her cheery personality is fake and she has spent her whole life hating herself for something she did as a toddler, and which was easily fixed, to boot. The story of the main character's life then goes From Bad to Worse.
  • One of the running gags in the Chinese historical-fantasy web-TV series Go Princess Go is that the series' only sponsor is a fictitious herbal Viagra-equivalent named "Golden Armor" that is blatantly name-dropped and placed into scenes for no apparent reason because the show needed the money. With the onset of this trope, late in the series one of the king's concubines is caught in adultery, and Zhang Peng Peng uses the presence of Golden Armor as evidence to banish the concubine and sentence her lover to death.
  • The Massive Multi-Fandom RPG's Season One began as a silly free-form game with various characters from all over the multiverse hanging out in the strange City and interacting with each other, other with humorous results, amplified by the off-the-wall "curses" happening every day. Then increasingly deadly villains started popping up, and the tone became increasingly serious. The subsequent seasons had the plot and settings getting increasingly convoluted and dark.
  • Matt Santoro's videos started off being mostly comedic, but later became educational, with comedy being a secondary theme.
  • The Music Video Show is becoming this. Watch episode 6. Now watch episode 42. Though, it's still comedic, something has changed. And then there are Episode 49 and Episode 50. Brought back to Lighter and Softer by season 3.
  • The Minecraft machinima series MyStreet was originally conceived as a Lighter and Softer alternate series to Minecraft Diaries from the same creator. Then Ein and werewolf lore hit the scene, and it's just gotten darker ever since.
  • Both New Prime and The Last Scene by Olan Rogers undergo this. The Last Scene started as just a nonsensical dialogue parodying action movie cliche`s in against a white background. Soon this white background became a plot point, and eventually it (almost) starts to take itself somewhat seriously. More so with New Prime, as it has now included plot twists, a (kind of) serious plot, with characters being Killed Off for Real. However, this trope is not entirely played straight as the series never lose their humor. New Prime takes itself more seriously than The Last Scene, as the latter moves more towards an Indecisive Parody than the original straight Affectionate Parody. New Prime 5 pretty much goes all the way.
  • The progression of Noob can be summed up as such: Season 1: Affectionate Parody. Season 2: Knight of Cerebus. Season 3: First Wham Episode. Season 4: So far bottled up feelings coming out right and left.
  • For another Doug Walker series, there was The Nostalgia Critic, which started out with just the Critic being an asshole, and later got into heavy detail on the Critic's hatred of his job and himself. While still being funny, impressively.
    • The Un-Cancelled series focuses more on the story aspect of the sketches as a hold-over from the aforementioned Demo Reel, with more development for the side characters and their arcs, though the amount of legitimate plot in each episode varies. This can be seen in certain storylines like the earlier Hyper Fangirl episodes, and especially in each year's final Christmas episode, which are typically story-heavy and always involve a Tear Jerker and some sort of moral about the holiday spirit.
  • OnCinema: Apart from the occasional disagreement, the podcast and the first web video season of On Cinema lacked any generally dark subject matter and mostly solely focused on critics giving every film they reviewed a positive score regardless of its actual quality. Season 2 is when the series gradually begins with a more dark tone starting with Tim's health issues and later deals with matters such as abortion, child death, alcohol/drug addiction, and manslaughter
  • Rock, Paper, Anything downplays, then subverts this. The game started from silly to having a small subplot, but then a Reset Button is used, and the universe shenanigans is completely ignored thereafter.
  • The Saga of Tuck has been accused of this, though the dark points of the plot have been implicit since day one. This didn't stop some fans from jumping ship.
  • Not even porn is immune to this. Summer Camp by Nick Scipio started out as an episodic, sex-laden Coming of Age Story about a boy being initiated into sex by his mother's best friend; but now, 4 volumes and a million words later, most readers are onboard primarily to find out who he marries and who died. (The interesting bit is that Nick planned it this way: the very first words of the story are a Framing Device in which both the wife and "Aunt D" are introduced but not named.)
  • In Soylent Scrooge Inspector Bucket's final visit to Scrooge's home is the only thing not played for laughs, as he goes into detail over what he found in his investigations and tries to have him arrested, but Scrooge has more power than he does and has him killed.
  • Tales From Dev Null has the occasional serious story. Fortunately it displays a giant red warning if you're about to read one.
  • Although Team Starkid addressing real-world issues in their shows is in fact Older Than They Think, the Hatchetfield series is nevertheless a major shift toward Darker and Edgier storytelling that directly addresses unfunny issues like PTSD, Domestic Abuse, the decay of relationships under the pressures of late capitalism, etc.
  • Titan Academy is normally a Slice of Life comedy series. However, "I Am a Teacher" and "Welcome to Titan Academy" are emotional dramas that contain practically no traces of comedy and takes itself completely seriously. It's also as realistic and down-to-earth as one can get from a series that dabbles in Magic Realism every once in a while.
    • The syndrome hits in further with the introduction of The Organization, a capitalistic corporate organization that sought to abuse the students to further their own goals to create more profits, making the threats towards the students ranging from punishment to even expulsion more clear.
  • Subverted in Treading Ground. After a number of opening strips starting as a sitcom, it seemed to turn into a big story about assassins. Then that turned out to be an unrelated side story and the main plot continued unabated.
  • Ulti's Bar & Grill began as a simple hang-out roleplay, with no actual story-line or plot. However, it slowly became more and more plot driven as characters enlisted each others help and more stories took place outside the central location from the name.
  • Unwanted Houseguest: The process begins with the introduction of the Shadow Demon, who forces the Houseguest out of his home for a time, but is really solidified with the introduction of Litchfield Asylum.
  • The Veronica Exclusive starts out as a Black Comedy, but after Kurt and Ram die, a lot of the humor goes out the window. The last three episodes have barely any humor at all.
  • The Web Video series Le Visiteur du Futur begins as a succession of one-shot episodes where a time-travelling Cloudcuckoolander harasses the same everyday-guy, then quickly turns in a real plot, when antagonists (the Time Police) appears and the episodes lentgh increases. It makes the series become a bit more serious, although it is still comedic.
  • Welcome to Night Vale is today, as it has always been, a Mood Whiplash mix of off-the-wall social satire, Dadaist humor, and existential creepiness. But while the earliest episodes are almost entirely Monster of the Week stories with a breezy, matter-of-fact tone, by late Year 1 there was a much stronger focus on Story Arcs and Character Development. By the second half of Year 2, the series had even developed a recurring villain and Myth Arc.
  • Downplayed in World Domination in Retrospect. The story remains a hilarious Black Comedy, but since its inception has moved from barely-connected small stories to story arcs that even have legitimate moments of drama.
  • The introduction and the first arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! East Academy are both fairly standard Yu-Gi-Oh! fare, with rivalries and friendships developing and generally a fairly light-hearted roleplay. Then the second arc rolls around...


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): First And Ten Syndrome, Funny Series To Serious Series


The Symptoms

In his review for Helluva Boss, Saberspark brings up traits that fit the trope of Cerebus Syndrome.

How well does it match the trope?

4.52 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / CerebusSyndrome

Media sources: