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A Mature Animal Story is a work designed for and marketed toward adults and older teens featuring anthropomorphized animals as its main cast, and which contains content that is generally considered inappropriate for little kids.

Traditionally, cartoons, comics and other stories featuring animals as major characters are treated as light, whimsical entertainment suitable for small children. While adults may enjoy such works, they are primarily marketed toward young kids, and are careful to avoid material that is either too explicit or too serious and sophisticated for children to understand. While such works still might contain some conflict, or even a Disney Death, it is always at a level considered "Family Friendly" and "Safe for Kids".

Also, until recent advances in CGI, fictional animal characters, especially anthropomorphized ones, in visual mediums were mostly confined to rather silly looking costumes, cartoons and comics. These features were generally associated with less serious children's stories, and therefore weren't going to be all that big on more "mature" topics like violence. Talking Animals in particular are often considered kids' stuff.

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Believe it or not, animal-centered stories weren't always considered primarily for kids. Before, and even during, the Victorian era, animal-centered works were seen as being as much young adult and adult works as children's works. Ann Sewell's Black Beauty, written during the Victorian era, actually targeted young adults and adults. It is only after the Victorian era that the perception that animal-centered works and works with animals as Protagonists, Deuteragonists, and tritagonists are primarily for kids really came into fruition.

A Mature Animal Story, if it is made after the Victorian era, breaks away from this Newer Than They Think "animal stories are just for kids" perception. The primary audience is adults and/or older teens. Stories still might be comedic, but they will also often have a serious and dark side to them. Many such works are almost entirely drama instead of comedy. They often contain graphic violence, sexuality, and profanity.

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These stories typically involve animal characters ranging from Largely Normal Animal to Beast Man on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism, but can include non-anthropomorphic animals. They frequently, but not always, take place in a World of Funny Animals.

This is a Sub-Trope to Animation Age Ghetto and What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?. Compare Xenofiction.

Please note that if it is marketed as a work for children, it is not this trope.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • While not as dark as the other examples in this list, Aggressive Retsuko is still pretty mature and one of Sanrio's only properties specifically aimed at adults, despite being set in a World of Funny Animals that are drawn with Sanrio's typical cute designs. It focuses on Retsuko the adorable red panda's struggles with her dull life at a Soul-Crushing Desk Job working under her Mean Boss, along with other issues like workplace sexism, bullying coworkers, complications with romantic relationships, and the challenges of dealing with adulthood during your twenties.
  • Beastars explores a complex society of carnivores and herbivores, and the struggles of coexisting with each other mixed in with a murder mystery plot.
  • Cat Shit One involves cute rabbits as killing machines fighting in The Vietnam War against similarly anthropomorphized animals (rabbits are American, cats are Vietnamese, etc.).
  • Cat Soup is an abstract, existential short film based on the extremely dark comics of artist Nekojiru. But hey, all the characters are cats!
  • Chi's Sweet Home is seinen and thus aimed at adult men. Despite this, there's nothing "mature" about it. It's just a cute series about a kitten.
  • Oruchuban Ebichu is a comedy about a cute little hamster and her unmarried owner. Almost every joke is about sex.
  • Penguin Memories is a serious drama in which a Vietnam vet deals with his inner demons — and yes, all the characters are penguins.
  • Wolf's Rain is an anime about wolves. It's a violent and depressing seinen anime where in the first episode Kiba tears out a man's throat in front of a child.

    Comic Books 
  • Albedo: Erma Felna EDF kickstarted much of this trope as a deadly serious Military Science Fiction series where the furries usually follow up on the action with serious discussions about the sociopolitical ramifications.
  • Animosity is the story of a world where animals around the world suddenly become sapient and able to talk... and a dog and his girl get caught in the crossfire of a war between humans and animals.
  • Swedish comic strips Arne Anka and Rocky are filled to the brim with funny animals. They're also filled with alcohol consumption, sex and deep, deep cynicism.
  • BB Wolf and the 3 LPs uses the characters of The Three Little Pigs in an allegory about racism in 1920's America. It's quite violent - the wolf protagonist's family is killed when the pigs burn his home, and he graphically tears open two pigs as part of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Beasts of Burden, which pits adorable pets against all manner of supernatural terror.
  • Blacksad is a Film Noir style series of graphic novels about a black cat private detective named John Blacksad and his various cases set in a World of Funny Animals version of 1950's America. It doesn't hold back from showing blood, fatal injuries, wounds, controversial topics (e.g. racism), and sex.
  • Circles is a story about the lives of a group of gay men, going through the standard issues of the time (homophobia, relationship dramas, AIDS, grieving people dead due to all of those incidents, et cetera), with the main characters depicted as rather fuzzy mammals. Notably, however, the characters are actually contextually human beings; we're only seeing them through a Furry Lens, and the illustrated novel that concludes the comic does in fact describe them as such rather than the anthropomorphic animals they are in the visual art.
  • Fritz the Cat and its two Animated Adaptations, Fritz the Cat and The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. Graphic sex, graphic violence, drug use, and satirical social commentary, all set in a World of Funny Animals. Robert Crumb continued making comic strips with antropomorphic animals doing adult stuff ever since, such as Those Cute Little Bearzie Wearzies where a fuzzy bear couple that looks absolutely cute act more like a typical Real Life couple by having foul mouthed arguments and having sex with each other.
  • Grandville: The main character is an anthropomorphic badger who is a police inspector. It's set in a Steampunk fantasy setting, and features plenty of sex, violence, and politics.
  • Howard the Duck: The original comic strip was about a cigar chomping wisecracking duck and not intended for children at all.
  • Benoit Sokal's Inspector Canardo is about a detective duck in a world of talking animals. The protagonist is a drunk, people get killed, prostitutes and rapists are commonplace. Definitely not for children.
  • Maus is a retelling of the author's father's experiences during The Holocaust, including his stay at Auschwitz. Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Americans are dogs, and Poles are pigs.
  • The Mice Templar is filled with lots of cute mice and other small, adorable critters. But the story itself is heavily religious and contains a plethora of Gorn, and is essentially about a young hero trying to stop a tyrant while also trying to figure out who he can trust.
  • Omaha the Cat Dancer: An adult comic strip with anthropomorphic animal characters who engage in sex, but is otherwise not vulgar. It's more about relationships between people and also touches sexual topics, but in a tasteful and thought provoking way.
  • The infamous Air Pirates Funnies was a short-lived underground parody comic which featured Disney characters in adult situations, such as having sex and taking drugs. Disney sued the makers of the comic for copyright infringement, which apparently was exactly what they wanted.
  • Pride of Baghdad has blood and at one point a lioness flashbacks to being gang raped (It's not shown, but still.) Also, they all die at the end.
  • Rover Red Charlie by Garth Ennis depicts The End of the World as We Know It through the eyes of some domesticated dogs who don't quite understand what's happening to "the feeders".
  • The characters in the Sandbox comics by Swedish artist Joakim Pirinen are anthropomorphic teddy bears, while their plots often deal with sex, drugs, violence, and disturbingly psychedelic visions.
  • Sherlock Fox is as kid friendly as you would expect the novel-series it was based on to be. Towards the end of the first volume there is a case of a secret society eating flesh - now remember, the comic is set in a World of Funny Animals, so eating flesh there is pretty much cannibalism and is considered as such in-universe.
  • Tom Poes is about the adventures of a bear and his friend the little white cat. It's a children's comic strip, but has very Antiquated Linguistics and gentle adult satire that will be understood by adults better than children. Creator Marten Toonder used it to openly poke fun at the Nazis when they were at their most powerful (and right on his doorstep). The series is still considered one of the most mature and "literary" European comic strips.
  • While later iterations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were relatively kid-friendly, the original comic was rather gritty and featured plenty of violence and death.
  • During the 1930s and 1940s the Tijuana Bible phenomenon began to blossom. These were pornographic comic strip parodies of famous characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, drawn by anonymous artists. As Art Spiegelman has correctly said: "These were the forefathers of the Underground Comics of the 1960s and 1970s."
  • Marvel Comics' Earth-14094, as featured in Ultimate FF is a version of the Spider-Ham universe where the characters aren't cartoony, and all the Grimdark stuff associated with the Ultimate Marvel universe happened to them. The only survivor of its horrific demise was Miles Morhames, the Ultimate Spider-Ham.
  • Usagi Yojimbo involves adorable anthropomorphic animals, the main character being a rabbit. The setting, however, is Feudal Japan with all of the cultural baggage thereof, including kirisute, the traditional right of the samurai to kill any commoner who offends him. There is exploration of death, relationships (including forbidden relationships, illegitimate offspring, widowhood, etc.), various extremely nasty monsters from folklore, political intrigue, crime and punishment, and a very messed up judicial system.
  • We3, by Grant Morrison, is about three talking animals trying to find their way home; the covers feature "missing pets" notices written in childlike style. Kids'll love it, right? Sure! Except for the scenes featuring the cybernetic animal soldiers literally tearing apart the soldiers sent to kill them, the part where the rabbit explodes while hurling itself at a car, and all sorts of graphic violence in between. Oh, and it's being adapted into a movie directed by the guy who made Kung Fu Panda.
  • Xanadu by Vicky Wyman was a fun and playfully erotic Swashbuckler that is a daring combination of Disney's Robin Hood and The Princess Bride.

     Comic Strips 
  • Garfield was aimed at adults early on but as it grew more popular it became more kid friendly.
  • My Cage is a formerly syndicated comic strip featuring funny animals in a Work Com situation that refers to adult situations like death, infidelity, suicide, and dissatisfaction with one's work, especially after it was dropped by newspapers and moved onto Patreon and Gocomics.

     Fan Works 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a large number of fanfics which are targeted at older audiences.
    • The Writing on the Wall exploits this trope for its impact. The story starts out like a lighthearted bit of pulp fiction about Adventurer Archaeologist Daring Do exploring an ancient tomb with her crew, with the only dissonant note being that the ruin is 71,000 years old - far older than any civilization known to have been able to use masonry, with a series of warnings written in increasingly ancient, indecipherable languages. This leads to a case of Wrong Genre Savvy not only of the characters in the story, but also of the reader, as people in the camp begin to get sick, with the true nature of the "tomb" - and the true genre of the story - only revealed after the ominous writing on the wall is deciphered at the end of the story.
      You should not have come here.
      This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here.
      Nothing of value is here.
      What is here is dangerous and repulsive.
      We considered ourselves a powerful culture. We harnessed the hidden fire, and used it for our own purposes.
      Then we saw the fire could burn within living things, unnoticed until it destroyed them.
      And we were afraid.
  • The Harmony Trap is an M-rated fanfic with an Alternate Universe version of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!.
  • Memoirs of a Master is a Kung Fu Panda story where Po and the Furious Five read the personal memoirs of Master Shifu; a tale of trials and profound loss experienced by a martial arts master who found redemption where he least expected it through Po.
  • Warriors Redux is a Fix Fic that takes a kid-aimed but still violent and mature series like Warriors and tweaks it into being both less anthropomorphic and more adult-aimed.
  • What Lies Beyond the Walls is a Redwall fanfic that not only contains explicit sex scenes, but also focuses on the brutality of war and how it can easily corrupt others. It also shows how gray the world really is, and doesn't waste time revealing that everyone on both sides isn't 100% good or evil.
  • Apprentice and Pregnant, another Warrior Cats fic, is based on a kid's series but isn't aimed at the target audience. It deals with darker topics like rape, Teen Pregnancy, and Domestic Abuse.

    Films — Animated 
  • Felidae. To quote the entry: "Despite being an animated film, it is definitely not for kids. The film contains graphic violence, disturbing images, adult language, and cat sex. Yes, cat sex." It's basically a noir drama with cats. It has the language, sex, and violence but instead of humans in fedoras we get cute cats.
  • As noted above, Fritz the Cat is probably the Ur-Example in history of American animation, produced back in 1972. It revolves around the Pornomancer Fritz hanging out with stoners, having sex with everyone and...forget it, there is not much plot, aside from emphasizing the movie's X-rating.
  • Isle of Dogs is a stop-motion film about some dogs helping a boy, but features enough violence to give it a PG-13 rating.
  • The South Korean All-CGI Cartoon Padak is about a bunch of fish living in a restaurant aquarium, just waiting for their fate of being served as food. Padak is a newcomer who tries to rally the fish into escaping. This is Played for Drama and horror, and the film includes some very disturbing images.
  • The Plague Dogs is an animated film based on a book by Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. It's about two dogs that escape from a research lab and attempt to live in the wild. It starts with a dog drowning as part of an experiment involving how long it can tread water. The tale highlights the cruelty of animal research and vivisection. In America, the film was rated PG-13.

    Literature 
  • The Ur-Example of this trope may be the Reynard the Fox stories from the 13th century. It's a medieval poem about a Karmic Trickster fox character who brutally murders, rapes, steals from other animals and has to be brought to court. The story has a lot of adult content, with even a Catholic priest who is apparently married and has his penis bitten off by one of the animals.
  • Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty as a lengthy social commentary on animal welfare, politics, religion, and social justice, including living conditions for the working-class poor. While there's probably not anything that's inappropriate for younger readers (aside from a couple rather gruesome depictions of dead and suffering horses), much of it would probably go straight over their heads. Versions of the book are frequently marketed to children, but these have typically been heavily edited or rewritten entirely.
  • Animal Farm is more or less a breakdown of Josef Stalin's part in the Russian Revolution, portrayed via animals throwing a farmer out of a farm and then running it themselves. The pigs are the communists, they raise dogs as their police, and the sheep pledge their full support to everything said to them without thinking about any of it. All sorts of Fridge Horror ensues, such as the horse being sold to a glue farm while the pigs periodically read letters they claim the horse wrote to them from his retirement pasture. Fortunately, nobody really thinks of it as a book for children, although it is often taught at middle school level (13/14-year-olds can usually grasp what's going on, and if you teach it alongside the actual history of the Russian Revolution and Stalin's regime, it makes for a good introduction to the concepts of allegory and satire).
  • The Duncton Wood books are not intended for kids. They concern many mature themes, with lots of graphic depictions of death, sex, rape and violence. The later books even have a villain who is a necrophiliac!
  • The Redwall books tend to feature rather bloody conflicts between the titular abbey of small forest mammals and "vermin" warlords.
  • The third book in The Wicked Years series, A Lion Among Men, is about the Cowardly Lion. In true Wicked fashion it's a Darker and Edgier, very adult retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, as noted above under film.
  • Felidae by Akif Pirinçci, the basis for the animated feature also mentioned above under film, and the eight subsequent books in the series.
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The author, Richard Bach, always had trouble with publishers and librarians on what genre they should label the novel. They couldn't label it children literature due to the contents being too adult (without being violent or sexual), but also they felt reluctant to label it adult due to the characters all being talking seagulls.
  • Most of Kyell Gold's output.
  • Tailchaser's Song is about a young feral cat named Fritti Tailchaser as he goes on an adventure trying to solve the mystery of why cats in his clan are suddenly disappearing. It sounds like a kid's book (and is inspired by Watership Down), but it's a lengthy fantasy novel with deep lore and Conlang. It isn't aimed at children.
  • The Spellsinger novels. Tom-Jon's first thought on meeting a talking otter is that he's stoned, and over the course of the first novel he's regularly taken aback that Mudge's world contains much the same horrible stuff as the one he left, which isn't how he expects a World of Funny Animals to be.
  • Doglands is a xenofiction book aimed at teens. It's about a lurcher dog as he tries to find his absentee father and save his racing Grayhound mother. The book features quite a sum of sexual humour compared to other similar books aimed at Middle Grade audiences. There's also a significant amount of violence, like some disturbing animal abuse. Then there's the dogs' attack at the end, which includes shooting, the Gambler being eaten alive, and Dedbone falling in a pit and being impaled on sharp bones. The book lets you know this from the start - two cute, talking puppies are shot to death within the first 45 pages.
  • W. Bruce Cameron:
    • A Dog's Purpose is about a dog with Past-Life Memories as it goes through several reincarnations. It's predominantly clean but does contain some sex references, some violence, and dark themes. Its sequel A Dog's Journey ramps everything up with eating disorders and suicidal characters being present. Both books have Lighter and Softer kid's spinoffs focusing on protagonist's puppyhoods.
    • A Dog's Way Home is about a dog named Bella as she journeys back home. It has some adult-aimed elements to it. She's a seizure dog to a former Junkie Parent, on her journey she is taken in by a homeless, mentally ill drug addict who dies of an overdose, and a character attempts suicide in the final chapters.
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain is from a dog's POV but it includes dark topics, such as a False Rape Accusation. It has toned down versions for younger audiences.
  • Stray is about a stray cat called Pufftail who tells his grandson about his life. It features some cursing, sexual references, and violence towards animals.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman is set in a Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My! world where every so often puns are made at the expense of species, has large absurdism themes and can be extremely silly. It's also a no-holds-barred deconstructive take on the dark side of celebrity and fame, the question of happiness as a destination or a path, how the world can be large and meaningless especially compared to how small scope we are, depression, drug addiction, the true meaning of life, how shallow and self-destructive existentialism can be on the face of practicality and even does the unthinkable: it directly addresses Carnivore Confusion in a world where anthropomorphism is a thing. Needless to say, the result is not too dissimilar to how animals are processed and consumed for humans to eat.
  • Duckman: An underground comic strip adapted to a TV adult animated series starring mostly anthropomorphic characters and topics such as politics, sex, drugs, societal issues...
  • Father of the Pride was a short-lived CGI cartoon featuring cute animals living in Siegfried & Roy's private zoo. It features plenty of adult humor.
  • The short film When the Day Breaks is about an anthropomorphic pig lady having an existential crisis after seeing her rooster neighbor killed by a reckless driver.

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