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Shadow of Impending Doom

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"An increasing shadow... That's never good..."

If you're in a cartoon, an anvil, safe, or piano can fall on you at any time — often without warning. But when comedic effect demands, your imminent flattening can be several seconds away, portended by a Bomb Whistle and the slowly expanding Shadow of Impending Doom.

As this shadow — often circular — engulfs the soon-to-be-crushed (an especially large anvil or rock may darken the entire scene), it will be met or ignored with a number of stock responses (such as wondering why it got dark so early), a particularly oblivious flattenee clapping the dust off his hands in satisfaction of a job well done, while the merely stupid will watch in confusion as their partner or adversary flees the scene; if he does notice, there's a good chance the falling object is far too big to escape — expect him to simply stand there, resigned to his fate, perhaps looking to the sky in bug-eyed terror, perhaps producing a tiny umbrella or sign reading "Eep!" On rare occasion they might run back and forth within the shadow, too panicked to think to actually leave it. Note that this implies both that the object is falling down perfectly straight and that there's light directly above it.

Of course, the character could try to escape, at which point the anvil will either follow him somehow (with or without the shadow updating) or land on a sloped surface and slide toward its target. If the unlucky target can't escape, these frequently result in Amusing Injuries.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Ranma ½ villain Herb orders his super-strong minion, Lime, to crush Ranma with a boulder. There's an amusingly cartoony Beat Panel of female-Ranma, pig-Ryoga, and duck-Mousse looking up in shock while a gigantic round shadow is cast over them.
  • Occurs in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders during Jotaro's final battle with Dio. After Dio traps him in another time-stop and disappears, Jotaro casually prepares himself to counter whatever Dio has in store, he then notices a shadow appear from above and sees Dio... with a steamroller in hand.
  • This trope is used for seriousness in Naruto during the real Madara Uchiha's fight against the Allied Shinobi Forces' Fourth Divison, when Madara decides to clear the field by summoning an utterly gigantic meteorite into the sky and drop it on the entire Division. The first hint that it's coming is a massive shadow that darkens the entire battlefield.
  • In Gundam Build Fighters Try: Island Wars, the heroes have just managed to stop a massive attack from the Scramble Gundam firing three Superweapons at them. When Minato laughs at the Gundam's failure to stop them, he fails to notice the stage shifting to Sydney, Australia, until the sky grows dark...

    Comic Books 
  • Preacher: At the destruction of the Grail's secret base Masada, Herr Starr has just dumped Allfather D'Aronique out of a helicopter. Standing underneath is Marseille, Starr's adjunct, who has kidnapped the retarded descendant of Jesus as a bargaining chip to escape. As the shadow of the colossally fat D'Aronique looms closer, the Messiah: gives one last "Humperdido!" before turning to tell Marseille: "Today thou will be with me in paradise". Marseille, right before they're both squashed, merely deadpans, "great".

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Avatar, the Leonopteryx, a flying apex predator, is known to the Na'vi as Toruk, which translates to "Last Shadow" in English, due to it’s preferred hunting tactic of dropping down on prey from above.
  • The literal shadow of Death follows a car being driven dangerously on a mountain in Death Takes a Holiday. Death then decides to hang out with these people.

    Video Games 
  • Not a cartoon use per se, but several boss encounters in World of Warcraft feature plummeting meteors or other forms of messy death that must be avoided by players; this is usually advertised by an obvious visual effect on the targeted area several seconds before anyone within it goes splat. Players who die repeatedly due to failing to move out from under the Shadow of Impending Doom tend to get laughed at by those with sharper reflexes. Some memorable examples include Kael'thas Sunstrider's Flamestrike, Kil'jaeden's Armageddon, Kel'thuzad's Shadow Fissure, the Twilight Fissure used by Sartharion's drake minibosses, Flame Leviathan's multiple Kill Sats, Hodir's ice stalagmites, Freya's solar beams, Mimiron's rocketsnote , General Vezax's shadow crushes, rocket launchers during the battleships encounter, viscous goo thrown by Putricide during Festergut's hardmode encounter, sudden lack of markers for same goo thrown by Putricide in his own battle and exploding cluster slime bombs during Rotface battle, back to visible markers for vortexes of the Blood Princes, ice geysers during Valithria encounter, Sindragosa's frost bombs and Lich King's Shadow Traps.
  • The Legend of Zelda's Wallmasters show the shadow of their hand before they strike from above and take you back to the dungeon's start.
    • Interestingly, you can normally roll out of the way if you're quick enough, or if you can find a ladder, the shadow disappears entirely.
    • When climbing Death Mountain, volcanic rocks fall around Link, with the occasional larger one employing this trope.
  • One of the minigames in the first Rayman Raving Rabbids game involves walking a blindfolded Rabbid around a small landscape full of cartoonish instruments of pain, and scoring points for every misfortune that befalls the miserable protagonist. The target score is 51,000 points, and the player might soon discover that this is a tall order indeed, for the scores awarded for blundering into a cactus, or for stepping on a rake or perhaps walking into a beartrap, are generally a matter only of a few tens. It's then that the player notices the Shadow of Impending Doom at the centre of the game area, which is gradually growing larger and larger. The payoff comes when a colossal 50,000 ton weight crashes down covering the entire arena, awarding 50,000 points on the spot...
  • In the 2D GBA Duke Nukem Advance game, one cutscene has an alien guard standing outside the secret base Duke is being held in when it blows it up. He finds himself in the shadow (though due to poor graphics, it looks more like he turns black) before a chunk of the base falls on him.
    • Later on, when Duke drives a jumping tank around, he can run down alien soldiers, or jump on them, cloaking them in shadow as they look up at Duke's falling tank.
  • This is becoming a common mechanic for third-person perspective 3D games to warn you of impending danger. The Sly Cooper series, for example, warns you of everything from eagle attacks to giant sea monster tentacles by showing a (shaped!) shadow where they will strike. Of course, these shadows have no bearing whatsoever on where the approaching objects are, when you consider the sources of light which would be casting shadows.
  • The Toy Kingdom boss from Sonic Advance 3 had several attacks like this.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In the Final Boss fight of Luigi's Mansion, after King Boo thrusts Luigi onto the roof of the mansion, an enormous shadow drops from above him, revealing to be Bowser.
    • In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, a shadow appeared when something huge was about to fall on Bowser. First it was his castle controlled by Midbus, then it was a giant mecha tower's foot (whereupon Bowser tries to recall what happened last time the shadow appeared, but got squished before he figured it out), and then a remodeled Peach's Castle (where Bowser had no time to react before it stomped him). Whenever Bowser gets squishinated into a pulp, he goes giant and kills whatever squishified him.
    • Happens in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, where in the 'escape' from Dreamy Mount Pajamaja, you see a huge shadow appear with an ominous falling sound as Mario and Luigi run past the shop at the bottom. That shadow? The mountain/volcano, which is alive and has leapt off the top of the mountain after the bros. Thankfully, it just about misses them.
    • Any and most flying enemies from Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 usually had a shadow when they were preparing to attack. Most notable may be the Bowser fights in Galaxy 2 in which you're on a small planetoid, and as Bowser is preparing to punch the living daylights out of you, a bright orange shadow appears under his fist.
  • This is actually the name of one of Peacock's attacks from Skullgirls. Activate it, and a random object will start falling. The size of the object and shadow depend on how long you hold the button. In the Medium and Hard versions, you can actually move the shadow by walking around.
  • In Super Adventure Rockman, once Mega Man reaches an inner area of the Moon Temple, a shadow covers him and he sees Hard Man getting the drop on him, leading to a Quick Time Event.
  • Pikmin 2: In the hardest dungeons, there are boulders that fall from the ceiling, and any Pikmin that it lands on are crushed. Possible a subversion of the Bomb Whistle; not because of the factually inaccurate pitch change, but because there are actual explosives that can also come from the ceiling...without the shadow or whistle. The only advantage is that you can run away from them after they fall.
  • The Binding of Isaac: Isaac's mom casts an impending shadow before she tries to stomp him with her foot.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Road Runner's Death Valley Rally, based on the classic Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons, naturally features this as a regular feature for end-of-level humiliations for Wile E. In fact, his final humiliation is this: that fat lady that he shoos away after the first four boss fights? Well, there's a reason she doesn't walk on in the finale.
    • In Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, anvils' shadows appear occasionally, and stepping on them obviously prompts them to fall. Also happens with safes, carrot juice cans or anchors, depending on the level.
    • Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage features this in several levels. Most notably, the second level allows Bugs to weaponize the trope — he can throw bullseye targets on the ground, and an enemy that walks on one will get crushed by the inevitable falling safe. These are also potential obstacles for Bugs in later levels.
  • Henry Stickmin Series: In "Fleeing The Complex", Henry has to get past a guard on a catwalk, and Charles offers a few ideas while watching the scene from his helicopter. The player can choose to have Charles help directly, in which we see Henry watching the shadow of Charles' helecopter approaching. The game immediately cuts before we see the resulting crash.
  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: The Mook Maker cannonballs in Scuttle Town Main Street have a circular shadow at their landing spot for at least a second before they land.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss features this at the end of Episode 4, where a broken board on an opera stage launches a piano into the crowd, right at I.M.P.'s target - a suicidal trillionaire who just regained his will to live. Noticing the shadow, he attempts to get out of the way, only for the shadow to move back onto him immediately before he's crushed to death.

    Web Comics 
  • 8-Bit Theater provided us with: "That's odd. The thief's almanac didn't say anything about there being a total eclipse of the-"
  • Homestuck: John tosses his newly-acquired boonbuck (worth a million boondollars) into his ceramic porkhollow. The porkhollow is sadly aware of the growing shadow.
    • Used in a less comedic fashion with Jack Noir; if you can see his shadow, people are about to die.
    • The shadow of a Colonel Sassacre book is later seen looming above Alpha Jaspers / Frigglish.
  • Touhou Nekokayou Used in this strip. Everyone except Komachi failed to notice.
    Namazu: I am big and ugly.
  • Girl Genius has one cast on Prof. Tiktoffen right before he's crushed by a pillar.
  • Erma: During the third part of the "Family Reunion" arc, the head of the yokai village, who happens to also be Erma's grandfather, returns and casts a gigantic shadow over the land, completely eclipsing the village. Considering he's likewise The Dreaded among many of the village inhabitants, including his family, this arrival brings any activity to a screeching halt and the lookout even sound an alarm via a bell. But the real kicker, the man is only in a small form at the current, showcasing just how imposing he truly is.

    Western Animation 
  • Just about every classic cartoon made back when violence was the plot (Looney Tunes et al.)
    • Probably Wile E. Coyote's specialty, especially the tiny umbrella and sign gags.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Musclebob Buffpants", a referee at an anchor tossing contest keeps getting hit by anchors. At one time the shadow actually follows him around as he scrambles for cover.
    • In "Spongeguard on Duty", SpongeBob claims to be as cool as lifeguard Larry, "and if I'm not, may I be struck by..." he is interrupted by a roll of thunder, so he switches to "... a flying ice-cream truck." A shadow then appears over him, accompanied by chiming.
      • Also, right before the truck was about to hit him, Spongebob played it safe and shouted "AND LIVE!" The truck conveniently stopped in mid-air right above him as he said this, then fell on him.
  • Family Guy contains a nice subversion/variation of this. One of the cutaways shows a man on the 6th of August 1945 in Hiroshima. He first gets a parking ticket and then a car speeds by, causing him to get stained by mud. He then asks "How can this day get any worse?" We then see a shadow falling towards him together with the noise and the man proclaims: "Oh my God!" The shadow turns out to be a baboon which lands on the man and attacks him. Great example of Crossing the Line Twice.
  • In an episode of Code Name Kids Next Door, when the government sends missiles to destroy the moon, Number 3 averts the situation by re-directing all the missiles, to the fake moon where everyone is. The episodes ends as the groups looks up as a shadow starts to land down on them.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Warriors of Kyoshi", Aang is surfing on a giant koi fish, until something suddenly stops it and he is thrown off. Aang soon learns why this happened when the world darkens around him because its predator's dorsal fin breaks the surface.
  • Invader Zim: In episode "The Wettening", Zim gathers a majority of water into his own water balloon, that is at least the size of the entire city before firing it towards Dib as its shadow envelopes the area with Dib's expression of absolute horror.


Video Example(s):


This is the greatest PLANNNN!

Charles' attempt to help Henry get rid of a guard in his way can involve him trying to help Henry directly... it doesn't go well.

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