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Kudzu Plot

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Coyote: How is that for an enigmatic answer?
Ysengrin: Very enigmatic. It barely answers anything at all.
Antimony: In fact, it raises more questions than before.

A Kudzu Plot occurs when a story leaves so many tangled Plot Threads that it's extremely difficult to follow and ridiculously complicated. A story arc may be resolved, but it will usually create more unanswered questions in the process. This can also happen multiple times within the same story.

It's a common result of very heavily planned and lengthy Myth Arcs; if a writer can't adequately resolve everything he's set up, it will become too difficult for him to resolve everything to the audience's satisfaction. Also, because of the First Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics — the more stuff that is happening, the slower it all happens — there's only a limited amount of energy in any given plot to go around to all the little plot threads, so the more plot threads there are, the less attention will be devoted to any of them.

However, Tropes Are Not Bad; even though a story may be confusing or intricate, a Kudzu Plot can be well executed and rewarding in the hands of a skillful author. An author may do this deliberately to confuse the audience or add an air of chaos or mystery to the story (i.e. the characters don't understand everything, so why should the reader?). A good way to keep such plots in line is with an overarching Driving Question. That said, they are extremely hard to execute well and many authors fail or create them by accident. But the satisfaction when a Kudzu Plot comes together well is a rare and special enough event that many of the works that did do it well are considered some of the greatest works of fiction in human history.

See also The Chris Carter Effect, where fans lose patience with a plot like this and give up on a story before the author has a chance to end it and Plot Archaeology, for when a plot appears abandoned only to suddenly return for a resolution.

The Trope Namer is a plant, one of Japan's top exports to the Deep South. It was initially imported as a way to improve the soil, but it quickly gained a reputation for growing all over the place, being very hard to rein in, and choking out other plants. Named after the same plant as Alien Kudzu, but the two tropes are unrelated.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baccano! and Durarara!! both fall into this, though they tie up most of their loose ends. This is in part because their storytelling makes a mockery of chronology and in part because they are both adaptations of ongoing light novels (though the extra episodes clear up some lingering questions). They're still positive examples of this trope.
  • The Big O: Although the series explains quite a few things in the last few episodes, none of the fundamental reasons behind these other reasons are ever given. This wasn't meant to happen; the series was forced to end its Myth Arc earlier than planned.
  • Bleach has a couple of examples of this, though the final story arc had many of the major loose ends tied up at a surprising pace.
    • Orihime has a couple of unresolved references, including the implication that she can do something to destroy the Hougyouku (and her resolving to do just that).
    • The mysterious research Szayel was engaged in that both Aizen and Mayuri seemed to find so fascinating (which included two mysterious bodies that were finally identified as former Privaron Espada, Dordoni and Cirucci after nearly 290 chapters).
    • Why Kaoru's dislike of Ichigo culminated in a scene full of darkness and shadow where he was spying on Ichigo and Ikumi's conversation through his bedroom door. It was dropped after that in favour of the main plot and hasn't been revisited since.
  • Code Geass ran into this problem due to the last-minute changes and rushed production of its second season. Fans were frustrated by all the things left unexplained, including the nature of Suzaku's superhuman abilities, C.C.'s life before the show started, and Kallen's backstory (and her dead brother who might not be dead after all).
  • The more D.Gray-Man's plot progresses, the more complicated it gets with the new reveals only complicating what is already known. As the fandom says "everything we learn raised 6 more questions".
  • Darker than Black does this for both of its seasons, then leaves most of it completely unexplained. Which is probably for the best, making it into its own form of riddle.
  • Digimon Adventure 02 suffers from this. It introduces many plot elements out of nowhere. Many of these also stop appearing just as suddenly as they were introduced. Good examples are the Dark Ocean, Blackwargreymon, the Daemon Corps, and the sudden twist that Myotismon from the first season was behind all the events of the series.
  • Digimon fans outside of Japan may be left wondering why Ryo is in both seen in a flashback in Digimon Adventure 02 and as character who eventually joins the main cast in Digimon Tamers.
  • This is the primary complaint directed towards Karas. It doesn't help that a minor (but important) character speaks in un-translated Japanese subtitles.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes is so complex that it basically requires multiple viewings to be able to get everything.
  • Naruto has shown more and more evidence of falling into this category as the series progressed. However, the Fourth Shinobi World War took a stab at wrapping up all unresolved plot threads, helped by some Adaptation Expansion in the anime.
  • Negima! gained several levels of complexity once the Magic World arc started, the massive Backstory started to come into play, and minor characters kept picking up additional subplots. It's generally kept under control until the series' finale, where most of the subplots are either left hanging or explained away in a single panel, several important questions about the main Myth Arc are never addressed, and the protagonist's main motivation is resolved entirely off-panel.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion invokes its infamous Mind Screw in this fashion. For the first half of the show, the plot seems straightforward. Then "Adam" is introduced, and from there it keeps getting worse. Good luck if you know what the hell anyone's talking about by the last episodes. For the record, Hideaki Anno (the show's producer) has on one occasion stated that he isn't even sure what the hell is actually going on! And he created the show, for crying out loud!
  • One Piece, as it is a ridiculously Long Runner at over 1000 chapters with tons of characters— and thus a ton of plot threads that will take a long time to come together. It's a common expression among fans that "Oda never forgets" because it's extremely common for characters or plot devices to be introduced, forgotten about, and then become relevant again hundreds of chapters later.
  • A common criticism Ookami Kakushi faces is that while the main mystery of the series is solved, several others — such as Kaori's mysterious illness and her eventual role as a White Wolf Kanon — are left to the imagination of those who did not read the Visual Novel.
  • RahXephon suffers a wee bit from this. The nature of the Mulians, the secret conspiracy, the nature of the world, why the main character is The Chosen One, and exactly what the chosen one does aren't particularly well-explained. The Movie helps tidy up a few things, but it is an Alternate Continuity. Fanon resolves the rest, as seen here (major spoiler warning).
  • Robotech suffered from this in the end. Most things were left unanswered, like the location of the SDF-3 and what the heck "Shadows" were. Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles resolved most of them but left many more plot threads hanging because it was an attempted launch of a new series in the franchise that's now basically in Development Hell.
  • Sweet Blue Flowers (which is by the same author as Wandering Son below) is a jumble of romantic entanglements, intrigues, and problems with family and friends. Several plot points have been either ignored or cut off abruptly. The author is also not above setting up important story arcs just to halt them and concentrate on a seemingly irrelevant subplot.
  • Wandering Son introduced various plots in the span of a few chapters, and few of them get explained for a while, if ever. The mangaka juggles various parallel plot points, giving each only a few panels of attention before moving to the next, leading you to reread chapters just to keep a handle on what is going on. It works somewhat better in the manga than in the anime, but only just.
  • Naoki Urasawa is known for works like this, like 20th Century Boys and Billy Bat. Although lighter on the confusion aspect of this trope, he likes to introduce dozens of twisted and complicated plot threads and challenges himself to wrap everything up in a satisfactory manner. So far so good.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou introduces a number of different elements without any intention of addressing their nature, including a literal anti-Chekhov's Gun. However, it's sufficiently well executed that it adds to the nature of the story.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has a tendency to introduce plot points that slip into Red Herring twists: the Abandoned Dorm in Season 1, the war between the Light of Destruction and the Duel Monsters in Season 2, Yubel being stuck in Judai's head in Season 3, and the entire ending of Season 4 all give hints of being explored and resolved at a later date, but none of them actually are. Season 4's problems in particular could be attributed to the main character's voice actor suddenly leaving, which left a rushed production and half a season.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V introduced many arcs, plot elements and ideas from the dimensional counterparts, the existence of four dimensions, the bracelets and Four Dimensional Dragons, the Dragon Boys' special powers, the inter-dimensional war, Leo's obsession with the Bracelet Girls, where Yusho has been. It adds to the story as the main characters have no idea what is going on and many times they uncover the story with the audience. By the end, pretty much every mystery has been answered, though opinions vary on how well some of those threads were resolved.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: Every Big Finish plotline spawns sequels, prequels and spinoff series. These in turn may get their own spinoff series. Standalone arcs have prose sequels, Perspective Flip special releases (which aren't available from Big Finish at all), and links to other Doctor Who media. The Doctor will merrily take a vacation in Doctor Who Magazine comics locations, meet up with Iris Wildthyme, and reference future events from the new TV series — which only serve as fuel for new plotlines. Every trilogy has at least four parts, and villains or companions from the early 2000s have a tendency to return a decade later for an entirely new story. In short, every little piece of Big Finish is connected and constantly growing.

    Comic Books 
  • The Clone Saga started as just another Spider-Man plot, but when it became the only decent seller for Marvel Comics in the mid-1990s, Marvel decided to keep it going, sanity be damned. Editors and writers kept coming and going, each one with his own idea on how the plot should twist, including constant flip-flopping over which character was the real Spidey and which was the clone. It took about two years to kind of finish off the saga.
  • Countdown to Final Crisis was basically killed by this. Four Lines, All Waiting was taken Up to Eleven, resulting in a story so bizarre and convoluted that even the characters themselves would get frustrated trying to explain their situations to each other. It was so bad that when Final Crisis itself came around, the writers agreed to Let Us Never Speak of This Again, shunted off Countdown to Canon Discontinuity, and left a ton of Aborted Arcs hanging in almost every regular DC title.
  • The early 1980s series DC Challenge was a miniseries in which every issue was done by a different writer and artist, none of whom could use any characters they usually worked on. Each issue was supposed to end with a cliffhanger or puzzle for the next team to solve. It reached Gordian Knot status by about the third issue and quickly became a confusing mess; it's uncertain if this was by design.
  • G.I. Joe: Larry Hama pulled off almost as much complexity as Claremont's X-Men with his run on the comic series for Marvel.
  • The Sandman (1989) is a notable aversion, what with all the characters in turn being a Chekhov's Army, and how what seem to be one-shot stories at first feed back into later plotlines.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) had a ton of dangling plot threads that wouldn't be resolved for the longest time. Writer Ken Penders is often blamed for all this, but part of the blame also goes to Karl Bollers, who replaced Penders as head writer briefly and started a ton of story arcs that he would never get around to finishing. After Penders and Bollers left Archie Comics, new writer Ian Flynn spent almost a year just writing comics that tied up all the loose ends.
  • The last few story arcs of Strangers in Paradise suffer from this, as Terry Moore originally planned a completely different ending but decided to change it after 9/11.
  • Vampirella's 2010 Dynamite series. After the relatively straightforward plots of the first twenty issues, the series gradually started returning older elements of the series without bothering to explain where they came from or who they were. It climaxed with Vampirella journeying 100 years to the future with a cameo by The Jetsons (!) in order to have an apocalyptic battle with Professor Quartermass and her adult son who is King of Hell. Oh and all from the perspective of her Nice Guy stalker Thomas Criswell with the help of a gigantic talking rabbit. This sets the ground rules for the comic's eventual Gainax Ending.
  • X-Men: Chris Claremont is famous in the comics community for the truly epic number of dangling plot threads he amassed as a writer. He basically planned out many of the stories thinking he would be in charge forever, and he took his sweet time getting to a resolution. The end result is that fans got impatient and stopped reading the comics altogether. They even came up with a formula, dubbed the "Claremont coefficient", for a plotline's complexity: divide the number of plot points introduced in an episode by the number of plot points resolved, and if the result is over 1 in most episodes, you have a Kudzu Plot.
    • Uncanny X-Men was infamous for how far in advance Claremont planned things out, with some plot threads set up that he planned to get back to over a decade later. Notoriously dropped plots include: Wolverine devolving into a noseless dog creature, Cannonball being revealed as an immortal "High-Lord", and Shatterstar being a comatose boy in a mental institution (and in a relationship with Rictor). The nadir of this trend was probably the Onslaught Saga, in which he dropped dozens of hints about the villain's identity before anyone — including the other writers — had decided who he actually was.
    • Sovereign Seven was not an X-Men comic, but it was perhaps Claremont's worst offender. It was nothing but an interconnected web of mysteries which was canceled after three years without a single plot point resolved. It was eventually resolved by showing that the whole thing was fanfiction written by citizens of The DCU.
    • Claremont himself poked fun at this in X-Men: The End, an Alternate Continuity miniseries where he attempted to resolve every dangling plot thread in the entire X-Men meta-saga in a single stroke. As one might expect, the story grows exponentially more incomprehensible in every issue, culminating in a duel between Jean Grey and Cassandra Nova for control of the Phoenix Force.

    Fan Works 
  • The Chase by kudzuhaiku: Given the author's name, this shouldn't be surprising. You have characters introduced left and right, some stay, some don't, and others that you thought were gone weren't really gone at all, and others that you thought would never go end up changing forever. There is foreshadowing everywhere, especially when you're not looking for it. A good rule of thumb is that if you think you understand something, then you're likely mistaken.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Nimbus Llewelyn tap dances on the edge of this trope, particularly with this fic. It started out as a fairly straightforward fic (Thor was James Potter, this is discovered, everything goes from there) which was intended to hit 150,000 words at most and cover all seven Harry Potter books. Over a period of four years, it evolved into an 820,000-word juggernaut, with a 30,000-word spinoff, that only covers Prisoner of Azkaban. The sequel and second spinoff are even worse — at the time of writing, they haven't reached the Second Task, and they're another million words. The series total, as of March 2021? Over 1.8 million words. It is the only work to have its own Gambit Pileup page for very good reason. Whenever a plot twist is resolved, at least three more are seeded. There are also supposedly plans for up to fifteen more books in the series.
    • The only reason that it hasn't careened into this trope full on is that plot points seeded do usually boomerang back at some point, with apparent side characters staffing a vast Chekhov's Army armed with the contents of an even larger Chekhov's Armory. However, it's been going on so long that the author has admitted that even with his excellent memory and careful plotting, he does occasionally forget about plot points entirely.
    • What complicates this trope even further is that the author has stated that he's creating an entirely new universe in the Middle Superhero Prevalence Stage, shading towards Late. Therefore, when a new hero is mentioned or introduced, the reader doesn't necessarily know whether this is a cameo, after which they'll become the Hero of Another Storynote , or whether they will go on to become an important part of the plot.note 
  • Dark World Role Play (Deltarune, Undertale) has many different Plot Threads going on at once at basically all times. It's become a common joke that in one channel, characters will be having light, wholesome fun, while in a nearby channel, the stakes are dramatically higher.
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami throws in so many bizarre plot twists that it's nigh-impossible to figure out what the plot actually is. But given the kind of story it is, that's not a bad thing.
  • My Immortal's plot goes all over the place, from Ebony's sex life, to Voldemort tasking Ebony with killing Vampire Potter, to battling Voldemort, to battling ephebophiles Snap and Lupin, to more sex, to time travel, and back to sex.
  • Stories in the Nyxverse have a tendency to start off simply, then undergo Cerebus Syndrome and become increasingly more complicated. This is especially true in the case of Nyx's Family, which was originally meant to be a oneshot but ended up over thirty chapters long, with a plot that bore no resemblance to what it started as.
  • Royal Heights has a multitude of dilemmas and hidden secrets that deal with the school and the city it exists in. Even the antagonist is trying to figure out a broader mystery about the Universe and if it does have some form of caretaker that's normally addressed as the Mother. The main cast tends to be annoyed by this, as they try to solve one problem only to have it linked to something else that's completely different from the original problem.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos quickly becomes this trope as the Gambit Pileup becomes larger, the characters become more fleshed out, and the story begins to focus on the very complicated politics and conspiracies behind the Metarex War. Episode 74 basically revolves around explaining and revealing what is going on; it's the longest chapter by quite a large margin and even it doesn't fully explain everything. This trope is also part of the reason for the author's frequent Schedule Slip for the rewrite — he is trying to organize everything together. There's a rewrite that ditches and retcons quite a bit of expository material from the original, specifically to keep a clear central story arc and to avoid The Chris Carter Effect.

    Films — Animated 
  • Played for Laughs in Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters during the second half of the movie, particularly during the last ten minutes, as a pile-up of revelations concerning the characters' origins occurs to the point where the only one left remotely excited about anything in the end is Meatwad. To clarify, it's revealed (or claimed) that:
    • Dr. Weird invented the Insaneoflex to build up someone's muscles, so he could steal them and use them to fight Frylock.
    • Frylock created Dr. Weird, despite thinking vice versa.
    • Dr. Weird created the rest of the Aqua Teens.
    • Frylock is implied to be a Transgender lesbian, trapped in the body of a talking box of fries/VCR. (Although this is subtly hinted at throughout the series, making this twist a Rewatch Bonus.)
    • The mooninites created Frylock, or rather claim to.
    • Everyone was the offspring of a talking slice of Watermelon living with Neil Peart called Walter Melon.
    • The mother of the Aqua Teens was a talking burrito that shows up out of nowhere. This is the twist where almost everyone stops caring.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Partway through being Hands, Lilith (as herself) addresses the audience and explains that she's lost the plot, as the film is unscripted, and there are multiple subplots. She then proceeds to walk backwards through layers of improvisation until a resolution to the film's main plot is reached, while opening new plotlines through the film's completion.
  • Done intentionally with The Big Lebowski. The film's directors, The Coen Brothers, stated that they wanted "a hopelessly complicated plot that's ultimately unimportant." Several characters are introduced out of nowhere, have nothing to do with the overall narrative, and disappear just as quickly as they showed up. Even some characters that are crucial to the story, like Jackie Treehorn and Bunnie Lebowski, only show up for a handful of scenes. Even though protagonist The Dude figures out everything in the end, it still means nothing, as the Big Bad gets away scot-free, and the one character who dies in the movie does so for reasons completely unrelated to the plot.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and its sequel, At World's End in particular, are infamous for this. In addition to both films being over two and a half hours long, almost every one of the seven or so main characters has their own goal or agenda which they are working towards, resulting in numerous instances wherein they either revise said agenda, betray one of their allies or compromise with one of their adversaries. To boot, Deuteragonist William Turner wants to rescue his father from The Flying Dutchman by obtaining the key to the titular dead man's chest and killing his father's captor, Davy Jones (the chest itself contains the disembodied heart of the latter, and is the only means by which Jones can be killed). The Big Bad, Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company seeks to rule over the seven seas by exterminating the various pirate factions that occupy them, while heroine Elizabeth Swann seeks to avenge her father's death at the hands of Beckett and settle down into a normal life with Will. Meanwhile, Nominal Hero Jack Sparrow seems to be juggling three separate albeit interconnected agendas at once — get Cutler Beckett off his back, settle his debt with Davy Jones, and gain immortality (the latter of which might even involve killing Jones and taking his place as ruler of the high seas). A considerable amount of screen time is also devoted to a Love Triangle between Jack, Will, and Elizabeth that feels completely unnecessary after the first film already made it perfectly clear that Will and Elizabeth were the Official Couple. Nearly half-an-hour of the third film is then devoted to the protagonists' efforts to rescue Jack from limbo (which has its own fair share of Mind Screw and Big-Lipped Alligator Moments), while an entire subplot revolves around their quest to recruit an esteemed pirate lord, only for him to be killed off so that Elizabeth can take his place as captain. The lattermost of these ties into the broader, overarching plot which sees many diverse factions of pirates (whom also have their own political structure and codebook that they must adhere to) reluctantly banding together to fend off the British Empire, which also involves a lot of blackmailing and lengthy negotiations between each of the parties involved. James Norrington is also shoehorned into the story at essentially no consequence other than to steal Davy Jones' heart, thereby allowing Beckett to blackmail Jones into doing his bidding and thus setting up a cliffhanger between the two films. As if all of this wasn't bad enough, another significant plot thread involves the pirates deciding to release a sea goddess from her human confines (which also requires an incantation ritual involving nine MacGuffin pieces) for seemingly no other reason than to have a maelstrom take place during the climactic battle sequence. This is without even mentioning the kraken (which is anticlimactically killed off between the two films), the failed romance between Davy Jones and Tia Dalma/Calpyso, Barbossa's return from the dead as per Calypso's will, the gradual loss of sanity in Will's father as he becomes evermore bound to The Flying Dutchman, or the numerous occasions at which the characters incrementally relay all of this information to each other so that their later behaviours can be adjusted accordingly. Suffice to say, many if not most viewers were left thoroughly exhausted by the end of it all, while others had already long given up on trying to follow the characters and individual story threads altogether (or simply ignored the plot and only stuck around for the humour and action sequences).
  • Primer generates miles of kudzu out of the simple plot device of having an original time traveler and a double exist simultaneously on the same timeline for a period of six hours. Things eventually get so complex that an entire cult following has developed just to try to untangle the plot lines.
  • The Room (2003) is extremely guilty of this, throwing in several subplots and never resolving them, including Lisa's mother offhandedly mentioning that she has breast cancer, a character's drug-related debt culminating in a violent confrontation, and the male characters playing football in tuxedos. These events are never mentioned again, but they also don't impact the plot in any way either.
  • Saw:
    • When the first film ended, only a few plot threads stuck around, but nothing worth hurting over. Once Lionsgate released the film theatrically after its premiere, the original creators decided to make two more films, with Saw II pulling off a Sequel Hook very well. However, during the development of Saw III, Executive Meddling hit hard, forcing the creators to leave another sequel hook that was somewhat cohesive. With the departure of the creators from writing, the executives wanted the writers who came afterwards to make an endless string of subplots and character histories to interconnect with the overall timeline, mainly to create one sequel hook after another (in order to make sense of the ensuing chaos, no matter how increasingly illogical it got). The new writers got crazy about this for the next four films; Saw IV was almost Lost-like with its Mind Screw chronology and the reveal that it's synchronous with III, and Saw V was largely a Whole Episode Flashback that went back as far as scenes from the first film (as well as before it) to explain how one character (Hoffman) was involved in past events. At least Saw VI neatly wrapped up most of the previous subplots from IV and V, and Saw 3D, the original Grand Finale, wrapped up almost everything in the timeline with its ending.
    • Later on, Jigsaw was released, which, while involving a Time Skip from 3D, adds more past events before and between the previous films that are left without much explanation. While its ending certainly involves a sequel hook, the film's events haven't been followed up yet, as the next film, Spiral, did another time skip without even leaving any small details as to what happened afterwards. Spiral doesn't build upon previous events any further, but it ends with another sequel hook.

  • Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber series: The first five volumes tell a reasonably self-contained story that ties off tolerably well. The second five introduce enough new characters to double the size of the cast, retcon numerous elements of the first series, doesn't end so much as run out of steam. They are then followed up by some short stories that mostly serve to complicate things further. Apparently Zelazny planned to write another five volumes, but died before he had a chance to tie everything up.
  • The Cosmere:
    • The Cosmere and the works that take place in it have one large Kudzu Plot based around the Shards, although part of the confusions comes from a huge number of unpublished books. As of 2018, The Stormlight Archive and Mistborn are planned to have more than double their current number of books, plus several other books are intended to get sequels and an entirely new series called Dragonsteel has been mentioned.
    • Individual series in it, in particular The Stormlight Archive and Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, can feel this way, though Brandon Sanderson generally is skilled enough in communicating his ideas that readers seldom feel overwhelmed by how complex it is. It helps that Sanderson has done extensive planning and puts a lot of effort into maintaining consistency, largely averting The Chris Carter Effect.
  • The Dark Tower suffers badly from this. In telling Roland's history, a good four hundred something pages is dedicated to a love interest of Roland's and how it helped start what is undoubtedly the most catastrophic war in the history of everything, yet only one chapter is devoted to its final battle, one sentence describes how it ended, and one sentence describes how Roland survives. Roland's parents only make one or two appearances, John Farson never shows up, and the fates of Alain and Cuthbert are practically Hand Waved. In the main plot, Continuity Drift is blatant, anticlimaxes are everywhere, and there are so many flimsy explanations and Plot Holes. Much of this can be attributed to Stephen King changing up the plot of the last three books following his near-fatal car accident, and an original plan to write ten books rather than seven. He claimed in an interview that he might write another book taking place in between Books 4 and 5 to resolve the loose ends.
  • The first Dexter novel never really explains how Dexter had "visions" that told him about the murders. The murderer turns out to be his brother, and their shared experience in the shipping container could explain why he was compelled to look there (albeit in a loose and sloppy way), but how on earth did he know to randomly go outside in the middle of the night, just in time for the murderer to throw a head at him?
  • The Hyperion Cantos turns into this at the end of the first book. It starts off strange when the nature of the Time Tombs is explored in greater detail. It gets a bit weirder when it introduces the Technocore, the way it functions, and its ambitions. It goes right off the deep end when every single plot element from the entire book is linked together in a matter of ten pages. Have fun with the next one.
  • Harry Stephen Keeler's "webwork plots" are built on this, consisting of different threads(characters or objects) engaging in complex interaction with several other strands until a reveal clarifies it all. Like the pure plotiness of The Man With The Magic Eardrums.
  • Admirably downplayed in The Licanius Trilogy. Despite introducing time travel, multiple POV threads across different time periods, and alternate dimensions, the story never sprawls out of control and almost everything is neatly wrapped up with solid answers by the story's end.
  • The many spin-off novels based on M*A*S*H tend to run to about 205 pages long. The plot starts out complicated, and gets more and more convoluted, in order to involve as many of the established characters as possible, up to somewhere about page 187. Then the author starts tying off loose ends with wild abandon, and very little sense, until hey, presto! everything is resolved.
  • The Maximum Ride series suffers heavily from this, especially in the later books. Pretty close to everything in the entire series is still unresolved, and each book creates more mysteries at a furious pace. It would be a lot easier to list what actually has been resolved, or at least handwaved.
  • The Neverending Story has some loose threads deliberately in it ("But this is another story and shall be told another time.") And at the end of the book the snakes won't let Bastian return to the real world because of the many unfinished plots he left behind. Bastian protests that every story necessarily has SOME loose ends, even if very minor, and could be expanded upon indefinitely, so he would never be done with it. Atreju volunteers to take care of it.
  • The New Jedi Order books had a ton of dangling plot threads, including a space station that could destroy stars, Han's cousin who's out of prison, Luke denying the very existence of The Dark Side, and Han and Leia's son Jacen becoming a God-Mode Sue who's adopting a "broader" view of the force. Legacy of the Force tries to resolve all this, and it mostly does, but it also led to an entirely new series Fate of the Jedi, which introduced a bunch of new plot threads which will now likely never be resolved after the Disney takeover, which essentially mooted most of the Expanded Universe.
  • Thomas Pynchon is infamous for this. It contributes to the Mind Screw of his books, but at the same time, is part of the reason they're so lauded. Case in point: Gravity's Rainbow, where the first part (of four, and the second longest, and did we mention this is a Doorstopper?) is dedicated merely to introducing all the characters and their own stories; the plot doesn't really kick off until Part Two.
  • Remnants is a major offender. Why do some of the survivors have superpowers? What happened to the five missing people? Why did the Shipwrights abandon Mother, and why did they try to get it back later? What is the Ancient Enemy, and how is it connected to Billy and/or the Troika? What vision did D-Caf and Rodger Dodger have when they were dead? All these questions are brought up in the first ten or so books before we then get a new arc about the characters back on Earth; after that, the previous storylines are pretty much gone, with the Gainax Ending only touching on a few of them.
  • The Salvation War has at least half a dozen subplots going on at any one time so that some story threads just peter out after seeming like they would be much more important. Particularly obvious is the resistance movement in Hell of dead ancient Romans; the author admitted soon afterward that he'd planned far more for them but didn't have any room for it. A big part of the problem was that The Salvation War contained contributions from a number of authors and integrating these contributions presented a major editing problem. A major weeding exercise was in progress when the project shut down.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events has a fairly large Kudzu Plot in the later books (the Ancient Conspiracy that was abruptly introduced after Book 5 remains fairly inscrutable), although the Lemony Narrator explicitly tells us that some mysteries can never be solved. The End made good on this, so to speak, by pointedly not answering almost everything.
  • On the face of it, A Song of Ice and Fire can, at times, give the very strong impression of kudzu-overgrowth. For instance, Daenerys' arc sprawls across books, bogging itself down in the law of unintended consequences meeting a Chronic Hero and snowballing from there. Which gets it a lot of stick from the fandom. Yet, time and again, seemingly lost characters and throwaway events come back to trip apparently more important arcs up in their progression, shunting them down different routes and tying other aspects of the plot together. Even Brienne's gift of adopting many a "Shaggy Dog" Story feeds into the series' lesson that it doesn't matter who you are or what your background is: you can't control everything, you can't know everything, you can't predict everything... and, you can forget actually understanding everything that happens to you. Life is dynamic and huge.
  • Several Warrior Cats books work this way. The second series makes you wonder who was working with Hawkfrost, and what exactly was going on with Brook and Stormfur coming back to the Clans, and the state of Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw's relationship, as well as a few minor things. The third series was worst about this: they still don't know why they have the prophecy, it wasn't clear where Sol went, we don't know what exactly Tigerstar was up to, and we've just learned that Hollyleaf isn't the Third after all. We didn't even know if Leafpool had stayed with the Clan because the authors forgot to mention her again for the several chapters after she leaves her den. The fourth series wraps things up a bit better but still left a couple things open because the authors thought it would break the mood to say "so-and-so chose this cat as her mate" after the battle
  • The Whateley Universe, since the storyline (about a hundred short stories and novels to date) has only really covered the first term of school. Although they did eventually explain what really happened to Cavalier and Skybolt.
  • The Wheel of Time, with the side effect of grinding the later books to a halt as the same (admittedly huge) amount of book is split across a massively increased number of plot threads. Author Robert Jordan outright admitted to not wanting to resolve all the plot threads, thinking that it was more realistic for things not to be so self-contained. He did plan to resolve many of them in the twelfth and final book, but then he died. The author who replaced him needed three books to do the job.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400 did this. Probably intentionally, as with an ensemble cast, you never know which plot hooks you'll have the opportunity to follow up next. It did get pretty annoying, though, when the biggest teaser at the end of season 2 didn't show up until halfway through season 3.
  • American Gothic (1995) has a number of dangling plot threads, most of which can be attributed to it being Screwed by the Network and Cut Short; the show never got to address whether Buck will ever be stopped, or whether Caleb will turn evil, or whose side Selena is really on. But there were some real head-scratchers, such as whether Sutpen in "Damned If You Don't" is really a ghost Buck summoned, whether Buck drove his girlfriend to suicide, or whether Selena would ever reconcile with her father — and what happened to him in the first place. That last one is particularly distressing, as the episode in question was never aired, so very few people even know it exists.
  • The ill-fated TV adaptation of Animorphs was forced to condense an entire season's worth of plots into a 90-minute three-part episode. The result, while superior to anything else the second season produced, is deeply confusing and disjointed, and the episode (and series) ends with many of these plots still unresolved.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) managed to be pretty good about this for its first two seasons, hinting at potential answers to its questions but rarely confirming anything, and only adding new mysteries slowly. But then the kudzu exploded in Seasons 3 and 4, the show collapsed under the weight of all the shit that the writers were making up as they went along, and ultimately they couldn't come up with a better ending than "God did everything, the characters are angels, and Earth wasn't really Earth".
  • Coronet Blue was a '60s show about a guy with no memory except for the titular Arc Words. The show only ran for a single season, and they never got to resolve anything.
  • Doctor Who, being a Long Runner with a number of different showrunners with a penchant for this sort of thing, has long been victim to this:
    • There are some plot threads still left dangling from the old series, including the "Doctor is Merlin" thread ("Battlefield"), the war between the Time Lords and the Great Vampires ("State of Decay"), and whatever really happened in the 51st century. It took six seasons just to reveal the name of the Doctor's race.
    • The Cartmel Masterplan was an Aborted Arc attempting to explain many classic series plot points, but it just left further questions unresolved. They were eventually explained in the Expanded Universe, but much of that material isn't canon thanks in part to the revival series.
    • Showrunner Russell T. Davies tied up many of the loose ends he left but there's still a lot unexplained from his tenure, including the exact means by which Rose came back from a parallel dimension, and pretty much anything to do with her in "Turn Left". (Though Big Finish does cover her dimension-hopping in a spin-off series).
    • Steven Moffat's era, Series 5-10, quickly gained a reputation for this. For instance, Series 5 left all sorts of dangling plot threads, like who the Silence is, who took control of the TARDIS in "The Pandorica Opens", who River Song is, and why the TARDIS blowing up would destroy the Universe (which even the Doctor admits he's not sure about). He resolved almost all of these in Series 6, only to raise even more questions. This pattern continued throughout his tenure with each series bringing in more outlandish situations, some of which will likely never be answered — such as how, post-Series 9, Clara Oswald returns to her final death. Sometimes he would take the opportunity to resolve something that's been dangling for several series out of the blue. The Christmas Episode post-Series 9 explained the circumstances of River's last night with the Doctor on Darillium, which had been hanging since Series 4. The Series 10 Season Finale revealed what happened to the Harold Saxon Master after "The End of Time" and how he regenerated into Missy from there. And then that same episode left dangling the fate of Nardole and the solar farmers (apparently doomed to forever fight Cybermen on a giant spaceship caught in a black hole), whether Missy survived being killed by Saxon, whether Bill ever meets the Doctor again, the fates of those she knew on Earth, what became of the Vault and the Doctor's teaching job, and of course the origin of the spaceship that left the fuel puddle that transformed Heather back in the season premiere! Twelve's Grand Finale, "Twice Upon a Time", only wrapped up three plot threads: what became of Rusty the Dalek, the Doctor's inability to remember Clara, and his guilt over Bill, though the Novelization also revealed the (happy) fates of Bill and Nardole.
    • Chris Chibnall's three seasons (11-13), aka the Thirteenth Doctor's tenure, went crazy with this trope in its second. First off it's revealed that there's another incarnation of the Master to deal with, but not whether he comes after Missy, and he's destroyed Gallifrey. A few episodes later in "Fugitive of the Judoon" Thirteen meets an earlier incarnation of herself whom she cannot recall (and had not previously appeared in the show). The season finale "The Timeless Children" explains this with the reveal that the Doctor is not actually Gallifreyan but rather an infinitely regenerating being who became the template for the Time Lords' existence, and has potentially thousands of forgotten previous lives. Thirteen's final season has the Doctor dealing with an old adversary that, again, she doesn't actually recall facing multiple times and trying to find the means to recall all this while the universe is half-destroyed. When her tenure is said and done, she still doesn't remember her past ( albeit by choice), Gallifrey is still dead, and the questions these revelations leave for the rest of the series (i.e. why Clara never met the earlier Doctors when she was in their timeline, how the TARDIS really ended up in the form of a police box, why there's a grave for the Doctor on Trenzalore, etc.) remain unanswered.
    • The spinoff series Torchwood is not much better. It's raised a ton of strange, unanswered plot threads and characters (like the possibly immortal tarot card reading girl to whom Jack owes a favour, Bilis Manger, Cell 114, and this guy "Storm" the former leader of Torchwood 3 mentioned). The Timey-Wimey Ball adds more complications to the mix regarding Captain Jack's past (or maybe his future), which has all of its own unanswered questions.
    • Mark Gatiss pokes fun at Doctor Who's tendency to do this in the comedy sketch "The Pitch of Fear", where he imagines someone trying to pitch the show to a BBC executive in the 1960s — having already planned out everything that happens from that point on, totally unaware of how absurd it sounds when you realize much of it was Writing by the Seat of Your Pants in Real Life. Just the description of all the different Doctors is ridiculous.
      Mr. Borusa: How long do you envisage the show running?
      Sydney Newman: Um. Er... [Beat] Twenty-six years.
    • At this point, there are some huge questions the fandom has by and large accepted will/can never be answered, despite occasional hints/teases in the new series. These include the identities and fates of family members of the Doctor (his first wife in particular) besides Susan Foreman, the ultimate fate of Susan herself, the reason he ran away from Gallifrey in the first place (he usually claims it's boredom, but "Heaven Sent" has him saying it's fear of... what?), and his birth name.
  • The I-Land: It starts off as a fairly standard survival mystery, but after several episodes of not really doing anything, the characters start wandering off at random, conflicts are either not resolved or just abandoned, and culminating in multiple instances of Dropped a Bridge on Him. Even the final reveal of Chase really being an old woman who was brainwashed to think she was still the same age as when she was locked up just seems mean-spirited after everything she's been through.
  • The short-lived series John Doe headed into this territory as well. Cut Short after the first season, this show left off its Kudzu Plots before it had a chance to even try to explain them.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Kabuto starts suffering from this around episode 30. The series already featured many Kamen Riders, with each their own plotline, but kept introducing new plot elements, rather than resolve existing ones. Some of these, like the Red Shoes system, weren't even referenced anymore after their first appearance. Near the end of the series, it felt like the writers finally realized how crowded the series was and suddenly killed off multiple characters to give their plotlines some solution.
    • Kamen Rider Ghost really does not know where it wanted to go after its first arc was completed. The first arc featured a Gotta Catch Them All plot, in which multiple parties were trying to unite the 15 Eyecons note  to receive a wish. Takeru/Kamen Rider Ghost, being a ghost, was searching for these, in order to wish himself back to life. He has to do this within 99 days, otherwise he'll cease to exist. Makoto/Kamen Rider Specter wanted them to do the same to his sister and the villains were looking for them for...evil stuff. But after the first arc, everyone simply forgets about the Eyecons, followed by the introduction of many new plot elements, of which none received a satisfactory conclusion. Examples are: The Rival suddenly being plagued by clones, the Big Bad trying to master a race of A.I.-controlled beings known as the Ganmaizer, and The Hero trying to befriend all the historical figures inside his Eyecons. This can be traced back to a severely Troubled Production, as Toei was prioritizing the simultaneous production of Kamen Rider Amazons (resulting in plot-important suits not being ready and the budget for Ghost being diverted), the head writer's absence for much of the show (resulting in other writers having to pick up the slack...and when said head writer returned, not only did his new stuff contradict the other writers' episodes, it largely consisted of filler), and Toei mandating they meet various mandates for movie events, resulting in a confused, muddled mess.
  • Lost had a huge number of bizarre twists and turns; some of them were designed to explain things, but as the show became more and more fantastic, these became fewer and crazier. By the finale, there were — to quote CollegeHumor — some teeny-tiny loose ends yet to be tied up.
  • Merlin (2008):
    • This is especially true of the complex but still murky Back Story of Camelot's first generation, namely what the heck went down between Uther, Igraine, Nimueh, and Gaius when Arthur was conceived. Apparently Uther approached Nimueh (brought to the court by Gaius) to cast a spell to help his wife Igraine conceive, resulting in her death, Nimueh's banishment, and Uther's crusade against magical creatures. Every character who lived through those events tells a slightly different version of what really happened, but whether this is a variation of "Rashomon"-Style, or whether there's something more that the writers haven't told us yet, remains to be seen.
    • There are also plenty of unanswered questions about the Druids (especially Mordred) and how much they know about Merlin (who they call "Emrys") and what they expect from his destiny.
  • Once Upon a Time ran for three and a half seasons without suffering from too much of this. Then the writers decided that it would be fun to juggle six villains simultaneously (Maleficent, Cruella, Ursula, Rumple, the Author, and Regina) and completely rewrite the show's internal logic, and everything quickly stopped making any kind of sense.
  • Season 2 of Revenge quickly devolved into an incomprehensible mess involving a Nebulous Evil Organisation whose ultimate goals were never clear, nor exactly how much or little they were involved in the various plot points going on. Notably, this actually led to the show's creator being fired, and season 3 starts with a mass burning of the whole thing, abruptly revealing that the entire group had been arrested between seasons.
  • Soap suffered from this; it had a whole complex plot set up after just the first episode. Creator Susan Harris had written the show as a five-season story arc before it began. When ABC opted to cancel the show after four seasons, however, it ended on an episode full of cliffhangers, with several main characters facing seemingly imminent death and several plot threads left hanging. The show's spin-off, Benson, did at least somewhat clarify Jessica's fate.
  • Supernatural unfortunately ended up with a Kudzu Plot, likely a result of minimal planning and continuity changes over time. Unanswered questions include whether or not Sam really was corrupted when brought back to life as Azazel said and why all of Mary's friends and acquaintances were killed off, which wasn't justified by her eventual backstory.
  • The X-Files ended never having cleared up half of what was going on. Revivals continue the tradition.


  • The pinball machine WHO dunnit (1995) is about a Private Detective investigating a murder at a hotel. Normally, pinball machines have either Excuse Plots or none at all. With Who Dunnit, however, the suspects can be interrogated, and there is so much dialogue from them and various bystanders, as well as the evidence the detective finds, that with enough effort, one can piece out all of the major events in all of the suspects' and victims' lives and how they are connected to each other. The timeline as agreed upon by pinball fans dates back at least 18 years prior to the events of the story. That being said, everything does wind up wrapping up nicely and logically.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard has gained some very complicated lore over the years. For the first few years of its existence, it was relatively simple. Then the storyline corresponding to the anime's forth story arc introduces time travel, and it only gets weirder from there. The "G" Era (the era corresponding to the original anime's sequel spin-off) introduces alternate dimensions, a temporal "cloud" that stores the memories of beings summoned from different points in time (and oh yeah, you can summon beings from any point in the past or future now), and the later storylines even make the anime canon to the game's lore. Not helping matters is that the game's lore is published in a monthly publication that's only sold in Japan. It gets even worse when they stopped publishing official lore altogether in the 2018 reboot. The need for official lore is alleviated somewhat because the card game branches off into a separate card pool with many units that are AU versions of cards that already existed. However, the 2018 reboot's forth and fifth story arcs introduce many prominent units that have no original universe counterparts with only single lines of flavor text to explain who the hell any of them are. Then Overdress brings us back to the Cray from the first two anime, but the Earth is a completely different Earth from an alternate universe (and remember, the anime is canon to the game's lore so this is important). Fortunately, they started publishing official lore again in Overdress.

  • BIONICLE branched into this more and more as the story went, due in part to the story being told across multiple formats. While the main novels (BIONICLE Chronicles, BIONICLE Adventures, and BIONICLE Legends) covered the central story (and even that was pretty complex due to sheer length and the fact that any minor plot thread or character could become vitally important later on), for the most part, there was a number of short stories, video games, web videos, audio dramas, and online serials that explained important backstory and worldbuilding; so while you could get the main crux of the plot by just reading the novels, you'll never have the full context for it, and some characters and plotlines drop out of the novels entirely only to be carried on in some other format. By the time the series ended the primary Myth Arc (defeat Makuta, awaken Mata Nui) had been pretty well resolved, but there were any number of subplots happening at the same time that were Left Hanging. Part of the reason the line was Cut Short is that LEGO felt the line had grown too convoluted for its target audience (6-16-year-olds).

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed definitely has shades of this trope present when it comes to the Assasin-Templar Conflict which forms the main core of the story. And that's not getting into the Isu subplot, which looms over the entire franchise in the form of the Pieces of Eden and the occasional cameos from them.
  • The plot of BlazBlue is infamously complex, in part because every single contradictory version of events, across every arcade and story mode in the first three games, is broadly "canon" thanks to a "Groundhog Day" Loop with a side-order of Timey-Wimey Ball and All There in the Manual. This is partly because it was originally envisioned and world-built as a JRPG — a much more story-friendly format than the Fighting Game it eventually became.
    • By the time of Chronophantasma, the third game in the core series, plot elements from manga and drama CDs were so numerous that the "Teach Me, Ms. Litchi" series was dedicated to explaining plot threads from all of it, plus the previous two games. The fifth episode is loaded with such abstract and unconventional plot elements that Makoto is driven insane and left catatonic for the entirety of the sixth (and final) episode. By the end of the sixth episode, the same fate befalls Noel as well.
    • By Central Fiction, the fourth game in the core series and the Grand Finale, the plot had grown so complex that at the start of the story mode Kokonoe offers to recap events to her teammates. This recap concerns only events that happened on the "true" timeline, and only as they directly pertain to main character Ragna. The game warns you in no uncertain terms that this "recap" will take half an hour.
  • Chrono Cross is so confusing it's best described as Masato Kato taking a plucky, fourth-generation console game about saving the world from space termites and turning it into Immanuel Kant set to music and psychedelics.
  • This is one of the most defining aspects of Dark Souls's story. There are so many aspects of the lore, characters, character motivations that are left up in the air, including what effect the end of your journey has on the world.
  • Deadly Rooms of Death: The creator actually stated that an unnecessarily complicated story is exactly what he was going for.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • The Five Nights at Freddy's series is infamous for never revealing any answers without raising many other questions in the process. It doesn't help that throughout the entire series (especially the first two games), the player is directly told almost nothing about the plot, and the only hints of any sort of deeper story are only revealed through well-hidden Story Breadcrumbs. The games' very limited level contact with non-hostile characters and the Anachronic Order employed by the series have left many, many questions about who certain characters are or may be connected to each other completely unanswered.
  • Ghost Trick has shades of this later on in the story. Nearly every character you meet in the game is important, even down to the most insignificant NPC. An excitable puppy early on, a cat held by a murdered man, and even a weirdo obsessed with a "Rock of the Gods" he saw once are all very important characters, among many others.
  • Guilty Gear, the predeccessor to BlazBlue, is tied up in several ongoing plot strands at once with multiple factions and backstories that need to be understood in order to keep straight the current conflicts. Part of this complication is due to the fact there is a large importance on certain NPCs (particularly "That Man", one of the individuals responsible for the creation of the living weapons known as "Gears"), which can be hard to track in a fighting game where the focus would normally be placed on key playable characters each with their own agendas and goals. The main plot is arguably simple enough (mankind created Gears as the next step in human evolution > the Gears Turned Against Their Masters and began the nearly century-long Crusades > humanity tries to recover as the protagonist attempts to track down That Man while dealing with both a post-war Government Conspiracy and his own dark past as another contributor to the Gear Project), though even that can get bogged down as each new game adds more details and context to the overarching story. Guilty Gear 2: Overture is infamous for a Magi Babble-heavy narrative that seems to be only tangentially related to what's shown in GG1, X, and XX, whereas Xrd took these same elements and welded them together with the events of the previous games while adding even more revelations to the pile. This put anyone who was introduced to the series via -STRIVE- in a bit of a predicament, as that game assumes you're generally up to speed with what happened in the Xrd saga, which in turn had its fair share of Late-Arrival Spoilers (including those for an interquel pachinko title many players were not aware of). Much like BlazBlue, Xrd and -STRIVE- do at least feature rather comprehensive glossary entries on pretty much every notable character and concept within the setting.
  • HoloFunk started as a fairly simple and linear tribute story not unlike other Friday Night Funkin' mods: graduated talent Mano Aloe decides to get back into music with her friends, and Hilarity Ensues despite some prodding from the Dearests trying to ruin it all as they always do in FNF mods. Then it's revealed that in this world, Aloe shouldn't even exist due to being a loose end from a gang war in the Yakuza. Then the influence of the rest of the original FNF cast is revealed which continues to raise some questions, and then the Original Generation characters with their own slew of problems show up. Did we mention Kazuma Kiryu factors into all of this?
  • The Kingdom Hearts series slowly became infamous for this.
    • The original game had a very clear plot: monsters are coming from the darkness of people's hearts and invading Disney worlds, and the current wielder of a giant key that cuts hearts has to fight them, while he looks for his missing friends. Then came Organization XIII, a new enemy that raises some questions. These are answered in Kingdom Hearts IIwhile raising many more questions in the process. It all kept snowballing from there. There's a whole web series on YouTube designed just to try and explain the games' plot. Series director Tetsuya Nomura has admitted to basically Writing by the Seat of Your Pants.
    • No Export for You makes it even more annoying. For example several plotlines in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep were introduced in the originally Japan exclusive Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix: Xemnas and the Chamber of Repose, the Lingering Will's origin, etc. Not to mention Kingdom Hearts χ, a now-defunct mobile game that not only acts as a prequel to the entire series, but became crucial to the current storyline as of Kingdom Hearts III. Thankfully, the Final Mix version of II (as well as the ones for I and Birth by Sleep) later became available internationally through a series of Compilation Rereleases, and the cutscenes and other story information from χ are easily available to look up online.
    • The prequel game Birth by Sleep was an extended Mind Screwdriver that explained the origins of the Big Bad and Castle Oblivion and added backstory about a few characters. Then Dream Drop Distance came along and added Xehanort time-traveling to set up his own rise to villainy, and Nobodies manifesting hearts through friendship, and other such plot elements in addition to cranking the Mind Screw Up to Eleven. At this point, there are so many connections in the plots of the games that 3D needed a Memento feature in an attempt to prevent Continuity Lockout... and many opine that this still didn't work.
    • As an illustration of all this; in one episode of Jimquisition, video game critic Jim Sterling critiques the Kingdom Hearts series for precisely this problem and the resulting Continuity Lockout it causes, and made a point of trying to sum up the entire series pre-Kingdom Hearts III from beginning to end in what, as best as could be gathered, was chronological order. According to time stamps on the (many) clips that appear, it took Sterling ten minutes just to get through enough prequels and spin-offs to actually beginning summarising the first canonical main game, and almost a full half-hour before they eventually lost patience and gave up, having made it up to at least Kingdom Hearts coded.
  • Another shocking example of a Kudzu Plot is the Kirby franchise.
    • The first few games were pretty simple, but with the introduction of Dark Matter in Kirby's Dream Land 2, everything began to fly out of control. An interesting wrinkle here, however, is that for a time after Kirby 64, the series mostly abandoned Dark Matter-focused plots for more loosely connected, one-off adventures much like at the beginning of Kirby's lifespan. For more info, watch this video.
    • Once Shinya Kumazaki took the reigns as director beginning with Super Star Ultra, more focused lore ended up being added in-game thanks to boss pause screen descriptions. Over time, the stories slowly became harder and harder to keep up with, with Return to Dream Land marking the beginning of an intricate Myth Arc that can only be fully appreciated if one is knowledgeable of pre-Kumazaki titles due to the many, many Continuity Nods. Star Allies in particular links back into the aforementioned "Dark Matter Trilogy" while also shedding light on Kirby's implied connection to not only Dark Matter and Zero but what is essentially that setting's God. None of this was helped by some details being left in the now defunct Miiverse and most of the lore descriptions suffering from poor translations, making some crucial bits of info locked behind translations of the Japanese releases of the game. The series has since been saddled with a reputation of having complex lore, but unfortunately most of the info remains underexplained with the series pushing much more of a "Tell, Don't Show" approach to its storytelling with each passing game. If that wasn't enough, the amount of What If? content in each new title typically overshadows the main story in terms of size and scope despite of most of these scenarios being non-canon.
  • Legacy of Kain: A vampire lord is trying to save the world by restoring the destiny of himself and his son to their rightful paths. It's pretty simple until you add in all the false gods, Time Travel, multiple paradoxes, fate/destiny vs. free will, Amnesiac Dissonance, resurrections, all the characters having secret motivations and trying to manipulate everyone else while simultaneously being manipulated themselves, and on and on and on. Basically it's the king of Gambit Pileup. Defiance has finally started tying up the loose ends, killing off a time traveller or two for example, but the franchise has been stuck in limbo since then.
  • The Legend of Zelda obviously had its plot made up as the series went along. First, it was the original, a sequel, and a prequel, which then got its own sequel. Then it was a prequel to the prequel and sequel to said prequel-prequel. Then came a sequel in an alternate timeline to the prequel and another sequel to the first prequel and a side-series and kind of tied in to the original prequel and a pair of games sort of sitting around with nothing to do with the others. And so on and so forth ad infinitum; we had to give up on this summation part way through and they're still making more games. Fans will debate endlessly exactly what order the Non-Linear Sequels are supposed to go in. Most fan-constructed timelines will resemble family trees more than linear timelines. Hyrule Historia finally gave an official timeline of the games, but the directors themselves have said they only care about making a single self-contained game while working. It wasn't till much later that fan outcry made them finally look back and give any real connection between them.
  • Marathon. You have implications that the precursors were at Tau Ceti. Then there are hints that the main character is a Jjaro. Hints that he is a battleroid, Beowulf/Roland/everybody else, and the protagonist of Pathways into Darkness, all at the same time! This is before the third game turned into a Cosmic Horror Story that abused the multiverse and Timey-Wimey Ball to no end.
  • Max Payne and its first sequel gave us Address Unknown, a TV show from the 90s that was canceled after six episodes, but developed a cult following. There's more than a little Twin Peaks about it.
  • The Metal Gear games are very well-known for this. In the end, though, they manage to tie everything up pretty well after numerous retcons and Mind Screwdrivers, but even then one or two holes are left open.
    • The original Metal Gear Solid had a tight script while subtly leaving a door open for sequels. The following title, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, exploded with triple-crosses, Xanatos Gambits, fevered conspiracy theories, and individual cliffhangers for every character still left alive. The long-awaited Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (released three years later) flashed back to the 1960s to expose the origins of this conspiracy but wound up being (mostly) self-contained, leaving Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots with the dubious honor of explaining all these plot entanglements and twists with over nine hours of cutscenes, as the final main game chronologically. Even then, the later-released prequels Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain filled in some gaps in the backstory and expanded on the pasts of important characters, while Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance continued the story of a major character (Raiden from MGS2 and 4) in a spin-off sequel, which is also the chronologically last game overall.
    • Revengeance, by virtue of being greatly distanced from the Snake(s)-centric Myth Arc of its predecessors, arguably manages to sidestep this issue completely. There are Continuity Nods to previous events, mentions of Raiden's backstory that play a role in his actions over the course of the game, and one character from previous titles (Sunny from MGS4) who appears late in the story (and in turn provides some insight about the current status of another character, her adoptive father Otacon), but these details are largely glossed over, often relegated to Codec calls, and can be mostly ignored without consequence. As such, it's very common for people who never played any of the other games to jump right into Revengeance with little issue. Had the original plan for the game, an interquel between MGS2 and MGS4 titled Metal Gear Solid: Rising, not been scrapped due to development difficulties, however, this might have been a different story.
  • Oni wound up with a Kudzu Plot when Bungie rushed its release to prevent it from falling into Development Hell before their merger with Microsoft. The main plot is wrapped up by the end, but there is so much story and information that was left on the cutting room floor...
  • Piggy. Yes, even Piggy has a Kudzu Plot now. While the first chapters were pretty simple in lore, ever since the introduction of The Insolence, the lore began to spiral out of control with several new plot points and reveals happening with each new chapter. (At least in the Savior Continuity; you don't get all this in the Survivor Continuity.)
  • Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends do very, very little to actually explain anything that's going on over the course of the game. There is a plot, yes, but (in an absolutely rarity for games released by 2010), it's mostly a case of All in the Manual. The opening cutscenes do explain the inciting incidents (albeit Origins better than Legends), but anything after that is a complete headscratcher. Not that it matters too much, as most players are probably having too much fun platforming to care.

    Web Animation 

  • 1/0 thrived on this. Rather impressively, most of it did eventually get resolved.
  • Adventurers! doesn't have one, but it's lampshaded with the Plot Computer.
  • Captain SNES: The Game Masta started in 2001. This strip is from 2003. The sprawl has increased since then. Uniquely, there are actual in-story reasons for the sprawling plot; the entire story is a flashback being narrated by the protagonist to a mysterious captor who demands answers from him, so to spite him, the protagonist is being as obtuse, misleading, and meandering in telling the story as he possibly can. Also because the world they're in has a sense of drama and will manipulate events to bring it about. Specifically, while the protagonist has done absolutely nothing but talk the entire time he's been in his cell, several of the base's robotic guards have been destroyed, and some shield generators have been disabled, by a thieving, min/maxing ordinary Earth cat. Against the protagonist's wishes. The protagonist is 100% convinced that as soon as he's freed, events will occur that will force him and his captor to attempt to kill each other; something neither of them wants. He's also convinced that the only reason he hasn't been freed already is because he hasn't finished telling his story yet, and he's trying to buy time while he attempts to figure out how to Take a Third Option.
  • Concession was ended because of this. The plot just went completely out of hand and nothing made sense anymore.
  • El Goonish Shive started out as a series of simple, nonsensical plots (fighting a goo monster, a male character being stuck as a girl) with something more serious brewing in the background. 2,000+ strips later, we have alternate dimensions, vampires, a race of supernatural immortals, secret government agencies, magic-eating space whales, the proliferation of magic, prophetic dreams, and even superheroes. While some plot threads have been resolved (or ignored to the point where they might as well not have existed), new ones pop up and existing ones get more complicated.
  • David Gonterman loves this trope to pieces. Almost all of his stories will set up plot points just to abruptly cut them off, refer to past events that never happened on screen, and otherwise just pad the story without giving satisfactory explanations or conclusions. This becomes a problem when these extraneous plot elements start conflicting with each other (for example, he might set up a Masquerade in the first couple chapters of a story, then just throw it away in order to start having plots about other members of the so-called "masquerade"). It's rather impressive that within the span of 240 strips over about two years, the original FoxFire probably has more dangling plot threads than Sluggy Freelance has in its eleven-year daily tenure.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Every answer we get just seems to raise more questions. However, Tom Siddell assures the fans that he doesn't introduce any mysteries without already knowing their resolution; barring a premature ending, everything will be explained.
  • Henchgirl had a bad tendency to do this with certain plots such as the whole Time Baron deal, more emphasis on Mary relationship with her family (the parents who seem to ostracize her just for not having flashy superpowers), Consulo just randomly popping into the story for no reason, plots with the Butterfly Gang, if Amelia's parents ever came looking for her when she ran away from home and how she even got her magical powers in the first place. It feels like the writer just came up with concepts but wanted to get to the next part as quickly as possible and just strung them along the best she could but leaving more questions in her wake. To say nothing of how the comic ends.
  • Andrew Hussie has been known to write by the seat of his pants:
    • Problem Sleuth has impenetrable Solve the Soup Cans puzzles, alternate dimensions, various bizarre game mechanics introduced at random, Time Travel, a Geodesic Cast, and a Chekhov's Armory that would probably be better described as a warehouse, all contributing to its year-long sprawling plot. However, the series was meant to be more of an Affectionate Parody of Kudzu in adventure games and JRPGs, and the author actually manages to wrap up the plot in a satisfying way when it finally all comes to an end.
    • Homestuck is known for its ridiculous number of plot threads, some of them suggested by the readers. Incredibly enough, Hussie (despite his usually terrible memory) can keep track of many of these plot points, so maybe he has a handle on it after all. note  As he puts it:
      Homestuck is both a story and a puzzle, by design and by definition. If asked to define it, "a story that’s also a puzzle" is as close to true as any answer I'd give.
  • The final arcs of It's Walky! are almost unfollowable. There were government conspiracies and evil aliens, and other, eviller aliens that battled the first aliens, and a mystery character that was one or more of: an alien, a robot from the dawn of time, the protagonist, or a tertiary character from three years ago. There was at least one invasion of the Earth, characters were dying and other characters were trying to bring them back to life, and something about Illuminati from another universe, clones, hybrids, and ow my brains. All this from a comic that started out as college-based gag strip. Perhaps it was best that the story ended then before it took a team of Talmudic scholars just to follow the updates. Then the author made a spinoff: Joyce and Walky, featuring many of the same characters in a domestic comedy strip with no reference to any of the weird plotlines from before. The rest of the characters wound up in Shortpacked!, which is another comedy with (almost) no reference to the weirdness.
  • The Mansion of E: Almost every time known characters venture into a new area and meet somebody there, those somebodies get their own plot thread. Sometimes one for all, sometimes one for each of them. Even mentioning a character (like Ace, the brother of two central characters) may create a separate thread for him. Which leads to Four Lines, All Waiting. The story does seem to have set goals, but with its insane amount of characters and worldbuilding the progress is glacial. 6669 strips in, it's still day 2, and there are events scheduled 2 weeks later.
  • MegaTokyo: Ever since one of the creators left, the comic (and its update schedule) has slowed down and sprawled sideways. This carried on for so long that people were honestly shocked when the latest chapter suddenly revisited the zombie invasion and began to drop enormous clues as to the true nature and powers of Epileptic Tree-bait Miho.
  • Parodied in The Order of the Stick with a character named Kudzu. Specifically, Durkon's son with Hilgya, who shows up long after one could be forgiven for forgetting the setup.
  • Scary Go Round, surprisingly for a comic without many vast mysterious conspiracies, left plot threads hanging all over the place. In one case, a villain's comeback was left hanging for so long that she was physically almost unrecognizable when she finally reappeared because the comic's art style had changed so much in the meantime. It's later lampshaded when they try to explain what's happened already to a new character:
    Roy: Defeating Xykon is the only path [to saving the world]...It's a winding road with no guardrails and some deeply stupid cul-de-sacs, but it's still a path.
  • Sluggy Freelance has been known to bring up weird plots and abruptly drop them, at least some of which (such as the "outside time" arc) were A Day in the Limelight plots that fans weren't particularly keen on. This kudzu plot eventually became a problem in-universe, in that the Web of Fate is so tangled that the Spider maintaining it is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Ironically enough, the author has been know to criticize how Chris Carter had clearly been making up the plot of The X-Files as he went along. Here are just some of the things waiting to be resolved:
    • The origin and nature of a reincarnating knife-throwing acrobatic assassin with wild red hair who alternates between normal and insane with every incarnation
    • The origin and intentions of a talking sword fueled by the blood of the innocent
    • The intentions and plans of at least one vampire clan
    • The actions of at least two separate cults of demons bent on causing the end of the world, and the fate of the original world-ending demon that those cults worship
    • The intentions and fate of the obligatory shadowy corporate conspiracy
    • The fate of a character who was seemingly Put on a Bus but is continually referenced
    • The plans of the inhabitants of the dimension of pain, who have recently acquired a new leader who goes by the name Psykosis
    • The origins and intentions of a certain switchblade-wielding, superstrong mini-lop rabbit with a bad attitude
    • The fate of the inhabitants of a dimension stuck out of time.
  • Sonichu suffers from this horribly. A lot of the Kudzu Plot problems lay in creator Christine Weston Chandler, who kept shifting plots around to suit her needs (from wooing video game companies to wooing potential love interests to just getting rid of detractors). Each shift would leave more questions than answers, leading to Issue 10, where she plowed through those loose ends with a machete, leaving the reader feeling very empty. Even then, many plot points are just never brought up again. In particular, Metal Sonichu being stuck on the moon yet still alive really seemed to be setting up something later on down the line, but the whole thing is just never mentioned again.
  • S.S.D.D. takes place in two different time periods, and frequently jumps to new characters in each to serve the overarching Myth Arc of averting the apocalypse that occurs between the two. However the new characters don't always have their storylines tied up at the end of their strips, and this combined with frequent switching between the many, many storylines going on at the same time, and the fact that the Myth Arc's been going since 2001 makes it incredibly hard to follow even reading through the archive.
  • Tower of God is kind of full of these, interlaying stories with other stories and patiently keeping a lot of interesting questions unanswered until later.
    • It starts with the big question: Why was the protagonist Bam trapped in a cave with no memory of how he got there? Who the heck is he? Who's Rachel, the only person he knew for a long time? What kind of a place were the two in before they entered the Tower? It takes over 300 episodes and quite a few years to get a partial answer about who Bam is.
    • Many other characters' backgrounds are revealed slowly piece by piece at great intervals leaving further questions when others are answered. What exactly happened to Khun before he left his family, and why does he hate his father? What are Hansng Yu's goals and motivations?
    • What's going on with Emily, a chat bot who seems to be a real person? What does FUG want to do with her? The latter question may not have been entirely answered even by the end of Season 2.
    • What does Yura Ha want on the Hell Train? It takes almost the entire Hell Train arc to find out — not a short amount of time.
    • Fighting Hoaqin and preventing him from getting his powers was the big deal after the characters entered the Hell Train, but eventually he got half-defeated and was turned into a supporting character for a while, in between having a go at reclaiming his powers on the Floor of Death but being denied again, until at the end of the second season things got so Godzilla Threshold bad that letting him regain his powers to use them in an Enemy Mine situation was the lesser evil. Then, going into Season 3, the story picked him up as a temporary ally indefinitely, just waiting for when he might have a bigger and more antagonistic role again.
  • Wapsi Square is a Long Runner that started as a Slice of Life comic with a big cast, developed a supernatural plot with new cast members, and then introduced the Timey-Wimey Ball. As such, minor plotlines and characters are known to be shuffled off, only to appear years later.

    Web Original 
  • The Wyoming Incident is a long-running ARG that started out simple enough — with a creepy broadcast hijacking by some unknown group and a forum, the Happy Cube, with people engaged in and discussing the practice of "cubing". But as the forum grew, it introduced more and more threads like a malicious god that was responsible for the hijacking, black-eyed children stalking anyone who participated in a mysterious ritual in the forum, a power struggle among rotating moderators resulting in a forum Civil War at one point, and the Wyoming Incident itself becoming an in-universe ARG with its creators becoming major characters. Combine this with the thousands of threads on the forum, and it became more trouble to follow than its worth. Night Mind attempted to explain it here but eventually gave up after finding the whole thing too hard to follow.

    Web Video 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall has an absolutely labyrinthine plot, with huge crowds of characters entering, leaving, dying, and resurrecting, and that's not even getting into the various Outer Gods manipulating the story. Which is kind of appropriate, given that Linkara's remit is reviewing comic books; by the standards of DC Comics or Marvel Comics, his show's plotline is straightforward.
  • Marble Hornets is pretty much built on this trope. Actual answers are few and far between anyway, but any time one is actually given, it's guaranteed to be accompanied by a half-dozen new questions. Marble Hornets' Spiritual Successor Everyman HYBRID has also been accused of this; it's even spread out over many websites (more than Marble Hornets). This has led to a Broken Base among the fandom.

    Western Animation 
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes rarely has an arc that doesn't branch off into at least two more by the time it finishes. Probably the most important example involves Loki's invasion of Asgard early in Season 1; its resolution results in a veritable army of criminals being released, each with their own story, which provides the impetus for the founding of the Avengers, which in turn leads to a Gambit Pileup that keeps Thor distracted long enough for Loki to seal him out of Asgard; this in turn directly leads to the Avengers foiling Loki's grand plan.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Claremont Coefficient


Blazblue's Lore

In his Top 10 Worst Cartoons Based On Video Games videos, Nick Cramer tries to explain the complicated plot of Blazblue in his seventh entry (BlazBue: Alter Memory) only for it to drive him into a mad rant, about it's overly complicated storyline.

How well does it match the trope?

4.57 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / KudzuPlot

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