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Innocence Lost

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For the comic about X-23's Superhero Origin, see X-23: Innocence Lost.

"None of this was mine any more ... I was followed by a darkness of which this world of home knew nothing. How many secrets I had had, how often I had been afraid — but all of it had been child's play compared with what I brought home with me today. I was haunted by misfortune, it was reaching out toward me so that not even my mother could protect me, since she was not even allowed to know."
Hermann Hesse, Demian

A plot where an innocent person, usually a kid, is exposed to true evil, or the uglier and darker side of the world, for the first time, usually through being exploited by a criminal or suffering something traumatic like abuse or the loss of someone they love. However the story pans out, the character's innocence is gone forever by the end, with much regret by all involved.

Compare Harmful to Minors, Defiled Forever, and Troubling Unchildlike Behavior. See also Coming of Age Story.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The child protagonists of Bokurano undergo this after Waku dies as a result of piloting Zearth, and they realize that they'll all die soon. Chizuru "Chizu" Honda in particular has already suffered this as of the start of the series having been gang-raped and impregnated by her teacher and lover's accomplices, and being blackmailed with the video footage, turning the fairly sweet and innocent young girl into a murderous and vengeful Yandere.
  • Dragon Ball: This has been a recurring theme throughout the franchise, first with series protagonist Goku, and then with his son Gohan. Although given the idealistic nature of the series, neither of them completely lose their innocent nature despite the hardships they've faced.
    • Goku started the series as a naive Country Mouse who lived in the mountains. But he gets with this trope full force in the King Piccolo saga when his best friend Krillin is murdered. For the first time in his life, Goku is uncharacteristically blinded by rage that he cuts ties with his friends and blows off his mentor's warnings and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to avenge Krillin's killer. Fortunately he succeeds, and he's back to his old self again.
    • Gohan arguably has it worst than his father as unlike him, Gohan is a Reluctant Warrior who doesn't like to fight at all. Unfortunately, Gohan is in a series where the planet is constantly under threat by would be conquerors and destroyers and finds himself thrown into the conflict. This trope reaches its head in the Android saga where Gohan is the only one strong enough to defeat Cell and it takes a Rousing Speech from Android 16 and Cell murdering him for Gohan to finally reach his Rage Breaking Point and ascend to Super Saiyan 2. And just like his father, Gohan becomes uncharacteristically sadistic and takes delight in torturing Cell.
  • Naruto: Some of the series' major antagonists go through series tragedies that shaped them into what they ultimately became.
    • Obito Uchiha Used to Be a Sweet Kid who was the very image of what it meant to be a selfless and kind-hearted shinobi in a dark, crooked world. His goofy yet genuine demeanor led to the older villagers liking him, and his selfless heroism led to Kakashi Hatake, one of the lead supporting characters of the series, abandoning his ways of cold indifference and his embracing of heroism and love for his comrades. Unfortunately, the loss of his childhood love interest — which he witnessed himself after a series of tragic events — led to a Broken Pedestal, and the once sweet and good-natured child became one of the ninja world's most violent, apathetic, and evil individuals of all time.
    • Nagato was once a shy albeit good-natured child who had dreams of saving the world from darkness and empowering members of his village to stand up for themselves. Then he fell hard after his best friend and most of his accomplices were coldly killed by the leaders of his village. This loss amidst others activated Nagato's Berserk Button and the child used his Rinnegan, a kekkei genkai that he and his friends swore would save the world, to decimate his opposition in an emotionally intense outburst.
    • Kabuto Yakushi was a sweet orphan child who could have become one of Konoha's shining stars in terms of his proficiency for medical jutsu and natural tendencies toward heroism. Unfortunately, one of the village elders manipulated him into joining his sect of special forces and, after witnessing the death of his foster mother during a covert operation, lost his innocence and began transforming into one of the series' key antagonists.
    • Sasuke was a sweet, happy boy until his older brother, Itachi, slaughtered his entire clan, leaving both the sole survivors of the Uchiha (or at least Sasuke thought for several years). This tragedy made Sasuke the repressed, sullen boy he's known as and drove his entire personality. Even as a much happier adult, he hasn't fully recovered from his childhood.
  • A major theme of Gundam is the young being forced to face the reality of war as it breaks into the world that they inhabit. And there is perhaps no greater example of this in the franchise than in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury; for most of the early part of the series, the story was notably Lighter and Softer than its predecessors with a focus on non-lethal duels between teenagers and a school-based setting. Most of the major political and social conflicts were mostly out of sight of the main characters, with the primary focus being on their interactions at school. And then Episode 12 brutally forced the cast to confront death and violence with the terrorist assault on Plant Quetta: reforming Jerk Jock Guel accidentally kills his father in the confusion of the battle, Miorine watches her own heavily-estranged father take a near-lethal blow for her and spends the rest of the episode trying to save his life, and the protagonist Suletta is manipulated by her own mother into becoming a killer, with her first kill being a terrorist she squashes into paste with her Humongous Mecha in front of a horrified Miorine.
  • This is an ongoing theme in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and actually invoked by Kyubey. It's hard not to name a major character, all of which are between thirteen to fifteen-years-old, who hasn't gone through this trope in some way or another, as being a Magical Girl in this setting involves your wish possibly not turning out as planned, losing your humanity by having your soul transformed into your Transformation Trinket, and then eventually becoming one of the monsters you have been fighting once you cross the Despair Event Horizon. According to Kyubey, this is necessary as emotional energy from despair helps stave off entropy.
  • Ringing Bell: The protagonist Chirin was a baby lamb who lost his mother during an attack by Wor the Wolf King. Chirin first loses his innocence when he finds his mother's body and and realizes that his mother isn't waking up. He becomes a vengeful sheep, driven to avenge his mother's murder, which ironically pushes him to seek guidance from the very wolf who killed her. It gets worse from there. Eventually, he turns into something that's far removed from his innocent origins, and the ending cements this when he is rejected by the sheep herd of his childhood, making him realize he will never be at home anywhere ever again.

    Comic Books 
  • The third tome of Dungeon: The Early Years starts with Hyacinthe killing a man and losing his virginity back to back on top of finding out about venereal disease the next morning. By the end of the story, Hyacinthe matures up a bit and the next stories have him as leader of the assassin's guild instead of an idealistic swashbuckling vigilante.
  • Double Subverted in the Harley Quinn series - the child in question was already pretty jaded, having been hunted by crooks her whole life, but hanging out with Harley she almost got her innocence and faith in the world back from being with her... until Harley's conscience fails and she cashes in the kid anyway. Ironically, after the villains take what they want from her (her eyes), the now blind girl has a feeling of peace for the world and a new lease on life (and nothing but pity for the crooks that used to come after her), while Harley is completely unable to look herself in the mirror.
  • X-23's origin story is even called X-23: Innocence Lost, as it depicts in disturbing detail the pain and suffering intentionally inflicted on her by the Facility and the incredibly monstrous Dr. Zander Rice to strip her of her humanity and turn her into an emotionless killing machine. Although they failed, the emotional damage that was done to her was still severe. Laura continually struggles to form relationships with others, and her desire to find a life as something other than a weapon and killer is an ongoing theme for her character.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has Harry undergo this thanks to his experiences in the first book and the first 20 chapters of the sequel. While he wasn't totally innocent to begin with, and certainly not blind to a darker side of life, it is noted sadly by a friend of his that he used to not only look almost exactly like Clark Kent, he used to be a lot like him, too. However, despite all the phenomenally brutal traumas he goes through (extensive Mind Rape, near-death experiences, actual death experiences, and worse), and he remains a Knight in Sour Armor at worst and a hero at heart, becoming a Knight of Faith (an Anti-Nihilist) instead.
  • Essence: This occurs to 10-year old Ash in chapter 4 when Team Rocket attacks the S.S. Anne while he's on it. After the events that occurred, including a similarly aged boy being murdered, his view on the world is tainted.
  • In the Pokémon anime oneshot Innocence, ten-year-old Ash learns about homophobia when others bully his flamboyant friend Cilan.
  • Letting Go Of Hate: Zira considers that her innocence was lost when the rogues took over her original pride. It led to her life being turned upside down and most of her loved ones dying.
  • A Loud Among Demons: While Lincoln continues to be nice and idealistic, being trapped in Hell surrounded by its incredibly cynical inhabitants slowly causes his naivety to diminish. Particularly, as he grows desensitized to the violence his co-workers at I.M.P actively engage it, Lincoln also becomes less hesitant to be violent himself. This comes to a head in the story's retelling of "Truth Seekers", where Lincoln activates a demonic side of himself and comes dangerously close to claiming his first murder victims.
  • Not Old, Alone or Done For: The childhoods of the Darling siblings ended when their parents died. The eldest, Wendy, was only sixteen but had to mature quickly.
  • After remembering her parent's death, Charlotte in Paint It Green, Blue, Black loses her borderline-delusional innocence. This depression eventually leads to rage.
  • In Rabbit of the Moon, Bell's once pure soul has been tinged red after he unwittingly forges a contract with the Moon Presence and is subsequently exposed to the horrors of Yharnam. This enrages Freya, who swears vengeance upon whichever mortal, god, or monster tainted the object of her desire.
  • The equivalent of Volume 3 is this in RWBY: Scars, especially so for Ruby and Pyrrha. Both were well-aware of the horrors of the world but they were still optimistic teenagers with heroic drive. Then Beacon fell and a large number of people were slaughtered, including Ruby's girlfriend Penny (who was accidentally murdered by Pyrrha) and Pyrrha's boyfriend Jaune. Ruby carries on as a Stepford Smiler while Pyrrha snaps and goes straight into "angry Broken Bird" territory.
  • Scars of War: The war has changed several of the ponies. Even foals like Baby Glory are somber and distant now.
  • Somnium:
    • Until Giselle was pushed through the well, Giselle was an innocent and naïve woman who almost literally didn't know fear, anger, or sadness. She became trapped in a different world where everything wasn't chipper and fun. She had to work for food and shelter, but even then she was given the bare minimum until people had no more extra food to spare for her. Giselle's innocent was finally lost when she was reunited with her love Edward, only for Edward to go into a death-like sleep when he accidentally ate the poisoned apple his Wicked Stepmother was trying to give Giselle.
    • Aurora lived a blissful life in the forest until her sixteenth birthday. On her birthday, she fell into a sleep due to Maleficent's curse, only to be awoken by her One True Love Phillip, who promptly died in her arms. When she went around the castle, everyone else was in a magical sleep. Aurora later found Maleficent's decaying body nearby and then her adopted mothers' bodies, turned to statues. Aurora left the castle a changed girl, with only Phillip's horse Samson.
  • Happens frequently in Nuzlocke Comics, almost always when the trainer experiences their first Pokemon death.
  • Still Stand in the Sun: Katara, at the tender age of eight, is taken away from her home by the Fire Nation and locked up in an inhumane prison for waterbenders. There, she watches the rest of her brethren perish and resorts to learning about bloodbending all by herself to avoid sharing their fate.
  • The Palace in With Pearl and Ruby Glowing, which is a support group for rape survivors, has members who are children that were exposed to sexual violence for the first time. Most of the time, they went through it themselves, but some of them are there because it happened to someone they know.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Lion King (1994), Simba crosses the Despair Event Horizon while still a cub when he watches his father Mufasa fall to his death while trying to escape a stampede. It traumatized him to the point where he became an overprotective father towards his own daughter Kiara in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, not wanting history to repeat.
  • In Pooh's Grand Adventure, Pooh experiences this rather painfully since it's not as if Pooh doesn't want to accept that Christopher Robin could leave, he can't accept that Christopher Robin could leave. The concept of "forever" is something that Pooh believed dogmatically. As the journey goes on, he recognizes that forever is too good to be true and feels very lost with this realization. He comes to terms with this by the end but this realization was still world-shattering.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Caged is a women's prison film that follows the doe-eyed Marie Allen. She gets sent to prison only because she was an unwitting accomplice in her dead husband's crime. She's sent while pregnant with his child and said child is put up for adoption when her mother refuses to care for it. She's exposed to the harsh realities of the prison environment at the hands of the cruel matron. By the end of the film, she cheers bloodthirstily when another inmate stabs the matron to death, and leaves the prison with debts to the criminals who bailed her out. The warden's final words are "she'll be back" as Marie leaves.
  • In L: change the WorLd, Maki watches her father kill himself violently in direct defiance of the threats of the bio-terrorists. This prompts her to want to murder them in revenge.
  • Prime Cut: Poppy spends her childhood in an orphanage, and is sold into prostitution by an abusive madam.
  • Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan is a desk clerk who has never fired a weapon in combat and is taken on a dangerous mission to find the titular Private Ryan. Along the way, he witnesses comrades die horribly as well as come close to executing a German POW in cold blood. During the climactic battle he becomes too terrified to intervene when one of his comrades is being attacked, and he later shoots another man when the fight is over.
  • Tricky People: Carmen feels this way after being sexually abused by Reginald Charming. While she grieves over the loss of her innocence, we're shown a montage of the actress's actual childhood photos. As she tearfully tells Yello Dyno, "I'm not a little girl anymore."
  • The very title of Trust refers to this trope, as it refers to Annie's unshakeable, childlike trust in the world and in people being lost after she gets groomed and sexually abused by a much older man she met online.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Diana's character arc in the film. She starts off believing the best of humanity, but this naive view is soiled by her experiences during World War I.

  • 2666: Lalo kills a man, and sees the corruption of the police force firsthand.
  • The Alice Network: Although Eve's childhood could hardly be called sheltered, she still comes out of the war much less innocent than she was before. Some of the things she first experiences during the war (smoking, cursing, etc.) later become lifelong habits. Eve Lampshades her loss of innocence when she sleeps with Cameron.
  • An invoked form of this is a major plot point in the Amber trilogy in Dragonlance. To destroy the Beloved of Chemosh, they must be physically touched by an innocent child. The experience is so horrific, said child will lose their innocence, making dealing with them a Sadistic Choice for the good guys.
  • Alice Walker's (very) short story "The Flowers" has this as its central theme. A young African-American girl named Myop goes out to play on a beautiful summer's day; she sings, explores the woods near her home, and gathers flowers. On her way back, though, she (quite literally) stumbles upon the decaying corpse of a black man. As Myop goes to pluck a pink rose near his head, she notices the remains of a noose around his neck, and a similar piece of rope dangling from a tree branch overhead. Realizing that the man was lynched, she lays down her flowers to mourn him. The story then ends on the line "And the summer was over," signifying both the end of the season and Myop's own loss of innocence about the world.
  • Lolita. Despite portraying Dolores Haze as a Fille Fatale, Humbert Humbert realises by the end of the book that he has destroyed her childhood.
  • Frodo goes through this in the The Lord of the Rings. The burden of the Ring alone is enough to drive him to despair and make it difficult for him to return to the peace of the Shire. Add the pain of his injuries (the Witch-king's knife, Shelob's sting, and losing his finger) and the suffering he endured on the journey, and it becomes impossible, prompting him to depart into the West to be healed.
  • This is referenced in the original Peter Pan; It's noted that every time Peter is exploited (e.g., by Captain Hook) or similar, he reacts with shock and the typical apparent sting of the loss of innocence, but he continues to fall prey to these tactics because he never will actually 'grow up' enough to lose this childish naïveté altogether. He also forgets traumatic events magically, so that he never matures via suffering.
  • The Rose Gardener: Happens to 11-year-old Beatrice quite rapidly in 1940, when the Nazi Germans take over the Channel Islands. She is separated from her parents by bad luck, and left in the care of a German officer who has requisitioned her house. She realizes that she has lost her innocence as she contemplates the stuffed animals in her room.
    "Her childhood was over. It had ended abruptly....Never again would Beatrice find comfort in holding a doll or a teddy bear."
  • An important theme in A Song of Ice and Fire, with the whole "Winter is coming" theme. Especially important in the storylines of Arya and Sansa, who both start the series fairly naive but very quickly lose any illusions they might have, in addition to more or less having any part of their old personality beaten out of them. The result is a somewhat manipulative and highly deceptive Sansa and a full-on child soldier Arya.
  • Plucky Cheerful Child Pouncequick from Tailchaser's Song decides to tag along with Tailchaser on his dangerous journey. It's relatively easygoing (bar a scare with Pouncequick falling ill and a few other mishaps) until they both get caught by the Nailguard. Tailchaser ends up forced into slavery while Pouncequick is jailed, with his fate uncertain. While kidnapped, Pouncequick ends up meeting the legendary demigod Whitewind who lends him wisdom and visions that will lead him to be a far-senser. When all is done, Pouncequick has lost much of his kittenish charm and is now Wise Beyond Their Years. Tailchaser even comments at the end of the book that he feels Pouncequick has lost his innocence. To go along with this, Pouncequick had his tail torn off in an attack.
  • These Words Are True and Faithful: Sam's reaction on learning that Ernie has been cheating:
    That evening, as Sam reflected on what had happened, it seemed to him that the entrance to the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world had been sealed or that perhaps it had never existed at all.
  • Truth or Dare (2000): Joanna and Paul both consider the day they saw William die, which they mistakenly thought was the fault of their brother Patrick when they were ten and eleven to be the end of their childhood. They lost interest in make believe games, and everything they'd previously interpreted as a sign of UFO activity, they now realised had mundane causes.
  • Warrior Cats: Almost all kits are portrayed as bright-eyed and sweet children. It's only upon becoming adolescent and becoming apprentices that this innocence dwindles.
  • It's mentioned that the wolf-dog protagonist of The Wolves of Paris lost his puppy innocence at one month. He began to realize that anything strange could be dangerous and he pushed himself down into complete canine villainy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Lorne, a peaceful Nice Guy and Actual Pacifist, is instructed by Angel to assassinate Lindsey in the series finale. Lorne goes through with it, but bows out of Angel Investigations after doing so; his last scene in the episode, and thus the show, is of him dropping the gun he used to kill Lindsey and walking off into the night, disgusted and broken.
    Lorne: Goodnight, folks.
  • In Kung Fu (1972), Caine remembers a time when he was tricked out of a precious scroll by a con man. Eventually, the con man is caught and the scroll is recovered, but Master Po and Caine have a disappointed conversation that ends with:
    Caine: But Master, the scroll was returned!
    Master Po: But your innocence, how will that be returned?
  • Subverted in Mork & Mindy when Mork is talked into freeing an escaped criminal who claims that he just needs to visit his sick mother and will return to turn himself back in afterward. Sure enough, Mork is arrested for freeing him and Mindy tells him that it is obvious that the crook took advantage of him and won't be back. In a genuinely moving moment, Mork tearfully agrees that he can't trust anyone again until the crook suddenly returns as promised to turn himself in and get Mork released. With that, Mork's innocence is restored with his naive belief in the goodness of humanity vindicated.
  • Once Upon a Time: This is Ursula's backstory. She was an innocent young girl who only wished to use her beautiful singing voice to make people feel at ease. Her father Poseidon forced her to use it to distract sailors to their deaths on the rocks. When Ursula escaped to live on land and made a deal with Hook, her father tried to bribe Hook with a shell that would steal her singing voice to prevent her from leaving. Hook double-crossed both of them, stealing Ursula's voice so that Poseidon could never use it to sink another ship. This betrayal broke Ursula and caused her to transform herself from a mermaid into a tentacled creature, and become the famed sea witch.
  • Queen Sugar: After the murder of George Floyd, Ralph Angel has to give his young son Blue a difficult talk about racism and police brutality because as a black boy in America, he can't afford not to understand that people might target him because of his skin color.
  • On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick responded like this to getting mugged. He had tried to politely explain to the mugger how "this three hundred dollars is mine" and when that didn't work, he ended up losing his faith in humanity for the rest of the episode: "What kind of place is this where you can't wave handfuls of money around in the middle of the night?"
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Kick the Can", Charles Whitley regrets that growing up means having to let go of childhood games and beliefs, recalling that Ben Conroy once believed in magic. He thinks that people start to grow old as soon as they stop playing these games.
  • The Underground episode "Cradle" has this as a central theme. Boo has recurring flashbacks of her father getting shot by arrows and dying right in front of her. Ben learns that his mother had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. James is sent from the big house to pick cotton in the fields. On his first day, his hands get horribly bloodied and his older brother opts to take a lashing for him. This causes him to break off his friendship with the master's son, T.R. In a darker example, T.R. gets so angry over James' rejection that he snitches on James' brother for trying to escape, hinting that he may become as callous as his father. And to highlight all the ruined childhoods, the episode cinematography features many close up shots of candy.

  • "Maybe Sparrow" by Neko Case is a metaphor for this. The sweet but naive sparrow, representing childhood innocence, is warned of the hawk, representing the evils of the world. The sparrow refused to listen, and is killed instead. The music video also follows this theme, with a little girl finding a dead sparrow, then witnessing another sparrow being killed by an owl. At one point, the girl is seen dressed in a sparrow costume, to draw comparisons between these two innocent beings encountering the world's cruelty for the first (and, in the sparrow's case, last) time.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Randy Orton was the youngest and most idealistic member of Evolution. He originally debuted as a face, and even after turning heel and joining the stable, he still had his optimism. All those traits died when Evolution turned on him, and paved the way for him to become the sadistic monster he is today. This would come to haunt Triple H years later, when Orton completed his transformation into the Viper and finally took the initiative to avenge his lost innocence.
  • Stephanie McMahon was initially the White Sheep of the evil McMahon family, a kind and gentle young woman who managed to stay as a face despite her father's constant villany. Being Vince's daughter made her a huge target however, and she was kidnapped by The Undertaker as part of his takeover of the WWE. Heavily implied to have been sexually assaulted by the Deadman at a seedy motel, she was saved at the last moment by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin during a "dark wedding" between her and Taker. She would later learn that it was her father that ordered Taker to kidnap Stephanie, shaking the young woman to her core. By the time she aligned herself with Triple H to take revenge on her father, all traces of her previous personality were gone and the premier Alpha Bitch of the WWE was born.

  • Doubt has an adult character go through this. Sister James is a Wide-Eyed Idealist who unfortunately has her idealism put to the test by the scandal that the school's priest could be molesting a young boy.
  • In Jasper in Deadland, Agnes reveals near the end that she lost her innocent worldview after her mother died and her father became physically abusive.

    Video Games 
  • Dare to Dream: The overall plot is essentially Tyler processing his grief at his father's recent death in a car crash. The "story so far" report in the third episode has Tyler's psychiatrist describe it directly as innocence lost, with the episode consisting of Tyler confronting his darkest thoughts so he can finally overcome them, and the ending reinforces this, saying Tyler's grown past needing the mental constructs of his issues featured in the game.
  • The quest that starts the Dark Brotherhood questline in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is actually called "Innocence Lost". The innocent children in question get a double helping of this. Their innocence has already been shot to Oblivion by being orphaned and sent to Riften's Honorhall Orphanage where the very ironically-named Grelod the Kind makes their lives a living hell. Aventus Aretino flees the Orphanage and tries to contact the Dark Brotherhood through the Black Sacrament (using his own dead mother's remains) to kill Grelod. What's left of the orphans' innocence dies a nasty death when you kill Grelod, since you show them that Murder Is the Best Solution. Aventus even tells you that he wants to be an assassin like you when he grows up so he can "help" people too. Depending on how you interpret your Dragonborn, this could be their loss of innocence, too. Grelod is awful, to the point that not even the city guard will lift a finger to stop you even if you murder her in broad daylight, so it's easy to rationalize her death - but if you stick with the Dark Brotherhood after this, you'll be jumping off one hell of a slippery slope.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Tomb Raider is to show Lara's innocence being forcibly stripped away by her experiences on the island in one long Break the Cutie ordeal. Unlocking the model gallery even calls Lara's pre-shipwreck model "Innocent Lara."
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the Dead Horses and Sorrows tribes. Honest Hearts has you decide whether you should defend Zion Valley following Joshua Graham at the cost of their innocence, or protecting it by following Daniel and helping them escape the valley.
  • Gorogoa is superficially about a boy seeking to appease a dragon by offering a bowl of fruit. However, this trope kicks into full force after the dragon rejects the offering and casts down the youth. Afterward, the boy spends the rest of his life losing his innocence as he struggles to recover from the injuries of his fall, survives a great calamity that hits his town hard, and becomes disillusioned from trying to atone for the sins he thought he committed. Only as an old man does he finally understand the meaning behind the bowl of fruit as a metaphor for the experiences and hardships of life.
  • This can be seen in The Walking Dead with Clementine, who is only eight when the Zombie Apocalypse begins. She goes from a sweet, kindhearted Cheerful Child to a hardened survivor as the years go on, having been exposed to the horror and loss of a world After the End. It's especially evident after the Time Skip between the first and second seasons.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Volume 3 could be called this trope: for Yang Xiao Long, Ruby Rose and Pyrrha Nikos this hits them as Mercury Black plays possum and turns public opinion against Yang and Beacon Academy when they think she broke his leg followed by Pyrrha splitting Penny Polendina in half via her magnetism Semblance and Ruby watching helplessly, unable to stop her from doing so. Pyrrha was hit worse with this, as the Big Goods talk with her and all but pressure her into accepting her newfound destiny as one of four superpowered beings. Things then get worse for her when she accidentally kills another student due to the villains' interference in a tournament match. To complete the Trauma Conga Line, she is murdered by Big Bad Cinder in an incredibly brutal and painful fashion (just after finally getting together with her love interest) while Ruby comes to her rescue just seconds too late and is again forced to watch helplessly as Pyrrha dies.

  • Everyday Heroes, in the chapter entitled "VilAnon". Jane tells the story of her criminal past, how she was lured into a life of crime by easy money and the high-rolling lifestyle, how she was betrayed by her treacherous boss, and how she ended up in prison, with her best friend killed.
  • This is a major theme in Joe vs. Elan School. Joe gets hauled to the abusive and cult-like Elan School at 16 and loses three years of his teenage life there; when he gets out at age 19, he realizes that his friends have moved on with their lives normally, and that he missed out on experiences — like socializing or talking to girls — that a normal teenager would've and should've experienced.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: During the debut of Episode 60 Part 2, Kaiser and Lani explained that they see Gohan's ascension to Super Saiyan 2 as this, since he was forced to grow up at metaphorical gunpoint, abandon his childish ideals, and then lost his father due to his own hubris all in the span of a single day. They cited this as the reason for their soundtrack choices: while the Bruce Faulkoner score presents Gohan's transformation as heroic and epic, "Unmei no Hi" is a sad song about becoming evil in order to fight a greater evil. To hammer it in: a Running Gag is that the disclaimer that precedes each episode is sometimes read by a character who will die that same episode. Despite the fact that Android 16 is destroyed in this episode, it's Gohan who reads the disclaimer because this is the episode his innocence dies.

    Western Animation 
  • Played literally in the Christmas special of The Amazing World of Gumball. When Nicole tells the kids that Santa isn't real, an aura of multicolored light, representing their innocence, escapes their bodies through their mouths.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang used to be incredibly innocent, having spent much of his childhood in a peaceful society. However, after spending a whole century in suspended animation, the horrors of war have become real. Everyone he knew is gone (except one), his people were wiped out by the Fire Nation, and worst of it all, he found the charred remains of his teacher and father figure, Monk Gyatso. By then, whatever innocence he might have had is officially gone.
  • Over the course of Liberty's Kids, the titular trio, particularly James Hiller, learn that The American Revolution is actually not a black-and-white affair.
  • The Season 2 finale of Moral Orel has Orel realize his father Clay is a drunk who hates his family and himself, gets shot by Clay (and is promptly blamed for getting shot), is forced to shoot a bear to save himself and Clay, doesn't get medical attention for a whole day because Clay had passed out from overindulging, and then is taken to a doctor who 'will keep his mouth shut' (and ends up with a limp for the rest of his life). These episodes, notably, mark the shift of the series from Black Comedy to dramatic character study. To double down, Animal Motifs are used to emphasize this trope. Orel is represented by a blue bird, and by the end of the episode the bird is surrounded by flies.
  • Pibby: Pibby begins as an innocent character in a children's cartoon. After an Eldritch Abomination destroys her world and assimilates her friends, however, she is forced to grow up and take action against it. One scene in the trailer emphasizes this in particular: after receiving a gruesome eye injury, she wonders what the "red water" leaking out of her is, completely unfamiliar with what blood is.
  • After the Season 1 finale of Steven Universe, Steven Quartz Universe starts to understand how serious the missions for finding Corrupted Gems and the Crystal Gems' rebellion against Homeworld really are. Over the course of Season 2, the revelations about the horrific Body Horror they'd done to Gems shattered in the war for Earth to form the Cluster slowly chip away at his enthusiasm, coupled with the near-betrayal by Peridot before she turned on Yellow Diamond. Season 3 really hammers in his Break the Cutie status when he's swarmed with the thousands of fragmented minds crying out in pain, fused together in the Earth's core for the last five thousand years, helping Lapis Lazuli cope with complicated PTSD and a mutually abusive relationship from her fusion with Jasper, entrappment in the mirror and deep self-hatred and depression, Centipeetle's traumatic backstory with the corruption bomb from the Diamonds, the Crystal Gems' various cases of grief and self-worth, his own confidence issues and fears that he can't possibly measure up to Rose Quartz's legacy, being forced to seal away Bismuth after she proved to be too dangerous to keep her conscious form while still raising good points about the brutality of war, and lastly being unable to save Jasper from Corruption, the knowledge that Rose had to shatter Pink Diamond for the greater good and stranding the Rubies in space, calling into question if he'll one day have to compromise his strict non-violence like she had. He's still keeping an upbeat mindset and optimism despite everything, but he's a far cry from the slightly obnoxious kid who was sad that his favorite snack was discontinued in the first episode. And then he finds out his mother is Pink Diamond.
  • Ahsoka Tano's arc in Star Wars: The Clone Wars takes a little girl relatively sheltered from the world and exposes her to the horrors of war, leaving her utterly broken by the end of it.
  • While Ezra Bridger from Star Wars Rebels wasn't that innocent to begin with, having spent half his life as a Street Urchin, the Malachor arc destroys whatever what was left. His Honorary Aunt Ahsoka is supposedly killed right in front of him, his master and father figure Kanan is blinded, they barely escape with their lives, and it's all his fault for trusting Maul. In a darker take on the trope, this event also triggers his association with the Dark Side.

    Real Life 
  • This is unfortunately, though also inevitably, something that every person must come through while growing up, since sooner or later someone will learn about the harsh things that happen in the real world, hence the popular saying about life not always having Happy Endings and not being like fairytales (or, well, the modern versions of them, anyway). On the bright side, it helps to be aware about the world's dangers and not be lost on fantastical thoughts, though it's not healthy to go to the other end, either.
  • An even sadder case occurs to people who suffered from rough younghoods, be it because of Abusive Parents, bullying, or any other traumatic event.