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Prophets have No Fourth Wall whatsoever. Roy, however, does.

"Here's hoping for a few more decades! I'll get these jerks into college yet."
Dan Shive of El Goonish Shive on the comic's tenth anniversary

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Related to Comic-Book Time, Webcomic Time takes place when the events of a serialized story take place over a shorter (in-universe) time than the (real-life) time it takes for the story to be produced.

This occurs because it usually takes more time to create an artistically pleasing depiction of an event happening than it does for the event to actually occur. Drawing a twenty page comic book could take weeks, but all twenty pages of the comic could very well be spent on a single conversation. While this can be counteracted by skipping over large stretches of time between scenes (or, for prose stories, describing scenes very tersely), if events in the story mostly happen one right after the other (and are given any degree of detail) it can be hard to keep this from happening. It's especially common in Webcomics, hence the name.

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This can also happen due to the series missing deadlines or going on hiatus and being unable to make up for the lost time.

Over time, this slippage can add up to years; topical references early on may become incredibly dated later, even if it was supposed to take place on the same day. This especially affects Two Gamers on a Couch series, since technological progress can quickly make references to new consoles and top-of-the-line gaming machines obsolete. If Exponential Plot Delay gets involved, things can get really bad. Though remember, Tropes Are Not Bad as this can sometimes benefit the story.

There are several ways authors compensate for this:

  • Backdating stories to match up with the date they are supposed to have occurred.
  • Explicitly setting it in the time the story started.
  • After each Story Arc, explicitly skipping forward over "boring" periods of time.
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  • Implicitly skip forward, by mentioning dates every so often. This mostly applies to less-continuity-based stories.
  • Constantly use Lampshade Hanging on the idea, or outright parody it (sometimes with Medium Awareness).
  • Or, don't compensate, and just use a system similar to Comic-Book Time.

This doesn't (necessarily) apply to stories that are set outside of the present day, except for cases where it does, such as if an in-universe character decides to hang a lampshade on the relation to real time.

In yet another example of Tropes Are Not Bad, Webcomic Time really isn't a problem, just a fun little thing to hang that lampshade on.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Akagi has spent over a decade (200+ chapters) on the events of a mahjong game that's supposed to have taken place in the span of a single night.
  • Bleach:
    • The Soul Society Arc took place over two years and covered around three weeks of in-world time, mostly focused on the last few days.
    • The back-to-back Hueco Mundo and Fake Karakura arcs took over three years in real time, but in-story happened over the course of less than 24 hours.
  • Dragon Ball's sagas are sometimes (the Saiyan saga, and some of the Tournament Arcs are notable exceptions) set over the course of no more than a month. Major events which take a year or more in real-time to draw or animate last maybe one to three days in-story. In an inversion, the Time Skips catch up to the present and then some — 35 years pass over 10-11 years real time.
  • The climax of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, covering almost two years worth of chapters, takes place over a single day.
  • The Nurarihyon Alien Mission (also known as the Osaka Arc) in Gantz only takes place during one night in-universe, as any other mission. However, the 54 manga chapters which covers this arc took 2 years to be finished in the real world time.
  • Similarly, in Hellsing, the Millennium invasion of London and the following battle between Hellsing, Iscariot, and Millennium lasts from chapter 35 until the deaths of the Major and the Doktor in chapter 94 -and it all takes place during a single night.
  • Liar Game arcs are usually more than twenty chapters—five or six months in the real world. However, they almost always cover only a day or two. Most obvious in the back-to-back "Epidemic Game" and "Steal-a-Chair Game" arcs (the former game was intended to lower the player count before the latter) which took a year to cover three days of story time.
  • In Naruto, The Fourth Shinobi World War takes about two years in real time and almost a hundred episodes, by far the longest arc of them all. The whole thing was a couple days long.
  • One Piece:
    • The entire story in general is subject to both Webcomic Time and Comic-Book Time. It can be gathered that the Straw Hats spent less than 6 months together before the Timeskip despite about 13 years worth of publication at that point. However, even with the logical assumption that at least a few months must have passed, Comic-Book Time takes over as they don't age in the slightest until the 2 year timeskip.
    • Not long before the Time Skip, over a year of real world time was spent depicting a period of approximately 33 hours. Approximately 20 hours of which were mostly skipped while Luffy recovered from Magellan's poison, effectively making it a 13 hour period that was actually covered.
    • The Dressrosa Arc covers events of one day and lasted over two-and-a-half years real time.
  • Late in the Rurouni Kenshin manga, a subtle gag Leaning on the Fourth Wall slips in as Sanosuke tries (not too hard) to remember a pair of villains from the beginning of the series.
    Sanosuke: Yeah, I guess I remember that... four years and a half ago, wasn't it?
    Brothers: Half a year!
  • In Wandering Son nine years real-world years was only six years in-series. The series tries to stay contemporary for the best of its abilities though. A calendar in volume 11 clearly states "2010", though earlier chapters seem very early 2000s. Characters owning a PlayStation 2 are shown several time within the manga, but it's been a popular console throughout the 2000s so it doesn't date the series to any particular year.
  • The first 76 comics of The Word Weary take place over the course of one day even though they took six months to update.
  • The World God Only Knows took six months of chapters to cover three days.
  • The Battle City arc in Yu-Gi-Oh! lasts 88 episodes (covering nearly all of seasons 2 and 3). Said arc encompasses the in-universe Battle City Tournament, which lasts a grand total of less than 72 hours from Kaiba's announcement on the evening before the the tournament's kickoff to the tournament contestants parting ways on the evening of Day 3. Even more extreme: within this arc, Day 2 of the Battle City tournament, which encompasses about 16 hours of onscreen in-universe time (starting with the first duels of the day to the characters going to bed that night on the Duel Disk Blimp) lasts 35 episodes and is packed with a back-to-back conga line of kidnapping, brainwashing, repeated attempted murder, near-drowning, fisticuffs, dinner, partying, scheming, extensive flashbacks and exposition, death matches, getting struck by lightning, nervous breakdowns and transformations, torture and mindrape, ghost apparitions, personal drama, and soul-stealing. Fans understandably nickname Day 2 of the Battle City tournament "The Day That Wouldn't End." Within this arc, there is also a 23-episode Filler Arc at the beginning of Day 3 of the tournament that spans less than a single morning (the characters were trapped in virtual reality, making their perception of the passage of time not exactly in line with real time).
  • In one page of the YuYu Hakusho manga, at the end of the Chapter Black Saga, Yusuke remarks that he feels "like he's been fighting for a year". It's also used at the end of the Dark Tournament Saga, a series that takes place over the course of a week and lasts for over a year's worth of manga chapters.

    Fan Works 
  • Most fanfictions, if you think about it, are like this. Most of the stories take place over the span of a few days to a few months at most. With many of these stories, especially long ones, it takes the author over a year to fully complete it.
  • The Total Drama story, Courtney and the Violin of Despair inverts this trope. It consists of a series of loosely-connected vignettes that cover ten years (200+ years if you count the prologue), but the entire story was posted in a couple of months.
  • Averted, and possibly inverted, in the case of Gender Confusion, where the one year anniversary since the first published chapter in real-world time takes place approximately three years after the first chapter in in-universe time. This is likely due to the fact that the author has a tendency to skim over boring parts that she's fairly sure no one will read anyway, and the fact that she updates at least once a week.
  • The Legend of Total Drama Island gets new chapters bimonthly, but some chapters cover only a few hours' worth of events.
  • The Ranma ½ Elsewhere Fic Boy Scouts ½ started being written in 1997 as a contemporary work. As of 2013, the story has progressed as far as the fall of 1998.
  • Although taking about eight years to complete and involving characters from a dozen independent game canons, the third Ultimate Video Rumble had some flexibility here due to its premise. Namely, the participants could be pulled out of any point in their respective timelines to fight in the Rumble, and returned when done to continue their stories as before. As a result, official plot and character development from after the Rumble started could be ignored as "hasn't happened yet from their perspective" (though it would sometimes be acknowledged through foreshadowing). The writers played further fast and loose as the story progressed by introducing characters who didn't exist when the Rumble started, including one who was key to the finale, and by writing the fighters as using moves from their most recent games (while explicitly noting that the character histories were not also updated).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blood Over Water (viewable here) has a time span of no more than five or six days tops in which everything could have taken place. Mark vanishes on the first narrative day's evening, Aaron discovers the problem at dawn a few hours after, he interviews Chris either the next day or day after that at the very most, gets abducted the same evening, discovers the pond a few hours after that, gets abducted again that same day, and quite possibly discovers where Mark is one evening later. In that one week, however, the weather patterns seem to have shifted from summer to winter rather quickly, as can be evidenced by the actors wearing progressively warmer clothes in each episode. In real life, it took four months to shoot the entire production. Instead of one full movie, it was originally released as a mini-series by TV Practicum class students at Ferris in the fall of 2009. The clothing issue's strain on Willing Suspension of Disbelief is one reason that the video's current promoter has proposed a novel or graphic novel series to reboot the premise, thereby allowing plot elements to take time to develop, so transitions in what characters wear is a tad more believable.
  • Steps Trodden Black has a mild case of this. The movie takes place over the course of three days but took two years to film. Since the cast is comprised of high school aged actors, their facial features slightly vary in age over the course of the film. Other things, like weather and hair length mildly fluctuate, although extreme weather changes are averted due to the film being shot in the subtropics.

    Literature 
  • The first book of The Familiar was published in 2013, set in 2013. It's at book #4 (of the planned 27), which is set in 2014.
  • The first book of the Feliks, Net & Nika series was published in 2004 and covered one school year. However, a book whose plot happened during the 2004 holidays was published in 2005, and then the plots of the next six books (the last of them published in 2011) all happened during the 2004/2005 school year. Two final parts (published 2012 and 2013) happen during the holidays of 2005.
  • Worm is subject to this despite its rock-steady update schedule: the first story part was posted on June 11th, 2011, covering story events of April 8th, 2011; Chapter 16.7, posted on December 15th, 2012, covers the morning of June 19th.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Each season of 24, true to its name, takes place over a single 24-hour period, aired over a span of 22 weeks. The series as a whole avoids this trope by having Time Skips between seasons which are longer than the Real Life gaps; the first eight seasons took place over a course of 14 years.
  • The first four seasons of The 100 were broadcast from 2014 to 2017, but take place over the course of less than a year (most seasons covered the events of a single month, with a three month Time Skip between Seasons 2 and 3). By the last scene of Season 4, though, this is counteracted by another Time Skip, this one going six years into the future.
  • Breaking Bad: The first four and a half seasons ran from 2008 to 2012, but only covered a period of a little over a year. Lampshaded in the fifth season episode "51", where Walt has his first birthday since the one in the first episode and remarks that with all he's been through it "seems like longer" than a year. This trope ends up being averted for the last half season though, as it takes place over about a year by itself, ending right after Walt's 52nd birthday.
  • In the first couple of seasons of Doctor Who, each episode would end with a Cliffhanger leading straight into the next story — even ones finishing off serials (for instance, "The Edge of Destruction" ends with the TARDIS crew opening the doors to find a footprint in the snow outside, leading directly into the next serial "Marco Polo"), giving the impression of directly consecutive time. Even in places where there is a timeskip (such as the four-month timeskip in "The Romans" and the long timescale of "Marco Polo") it's done in such a way to establish that the crew couldn't have been travelling anywhere else (one of the show's rules at that time is that leaving a place and time means leaving it forever). Still, Ian complains to the Doctor that he's been trying to get him home for three years, the real time elapsed during his story - it is possible to arrive at that figure by Fan Wanking timeskips in certain stories which provide the room for it ("The Daleks" comes to mind), but the real time elapsed seems to be much shorter as most of his adventures take place over the course of a few hours. The Expanded Universe deals with the difficulty of shoehorning in extra adventures for Ian and Barbara by applying Broad Strokes.
  • The final season of Him & Her takes place on Beta Couple Laura and Paul's wedding day.
  • Holby City appears to take place over the course of a single day, but in Real Time it would take a week to shoot the scenes for location filming. However, it's murky about what timescale the show follows, yet Comic-Book Time does not apply here.
  • Lost has explicitly covered 108 days (not counting flashbacks and flashforwards) in four seasons. Michael and his son Walt were Put on a Bus in season two because the actor playing Walt was growing conspicuously (this is lampshaded at one point in season four when Walt, "but taller," appears to Locke in a vision). An even better indication of this trope: Aaron was played by 57 different infants between the character's birth and leaving the island, because of how quickly the babies grew out of the part. After the three year Time Skip between the fourth and fifth seasons, the remainder of the series consists of a couple of weeks which is a little over a year real-time.
  • Orphan Black's five seasons ran from 2013 to 2017. The most definite anchor for the internal timeline is Helena's pregnancy, as she became pregnant mid-season 2 and gave birth in the series finale. Combined with other statements, it seems the show took place over about 10 months.
  • Pretty Little Liars: Not counting the prologue and epilogue, the first season to the sixth season midseason finale runs from the girls' first day junior year to their senior prom. Particularly egregiously, season three's "This Is a Dark Ride" is set on (senior year) Halloween and season five's "Taking This One to the Grave" is set on Thanksgiving, with 46 episodes between the two, plus the entire run of spinoff Ravenswood. Attempts to fit this to an actual calendar fail spectacularly.
  • Every episode of True Blood takes place over about twenty-four hours with each episode picking up the minute the previous episode ends (with the exception of a two-week time skip in Season 1). The first two seasons take place over 43 days.

    Roleplay 

    Video Games 
  • The modern day story of the first five Assassin's Creed games take place from September 2, 2012 to December 21, 2012, but the games themselves were released over the course of five years between 2007 and 2012. After Assassin's Creed III, however, the story of the games begins progressing in real-time.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, dwarves only need to eat, drink, and sleep about once or twice per calendar season, and they can spend multiple days just traveling the fortress or fighting a goblin. Scale in general runs more on Rule of Fun than realism, though.
    • Subverted with werebeasts which only transform for a couple of days around full moon, which on larger maps this means they will change back before they even reach the entrance of the fortress and flee in their human/goblin/elf/dwarf form again from the map without any damage done.
    • Averted in Adventure Mode, in which you have actual day and night cycle. It takes less than a day to start getting hungry, thirsty, or tired.
  • Ensemble Stars! has been running and putting out four stories per month since 2015, but almost all stories are set within the same school year, because if the game moved on it'd mess with the complex web of characters and relationships already set up, sending away all of the third years (the most plot-relevant and usually most popular characters) and requiring a whole new year of first-year students.

    Web Animation 
  • The first three seasons of RWBY all take place within the same school year, while they aired from 2013 to 2016.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged took several months to get through the Namek arc, which canonically only takes three days. Of course this is lampshaded.
  • Played for Laughs in a Liar Town USA post depicting a fictional TV show called Cabin Pressure which appears to be about a single commercial airline flight, but has somehow reached its eighth season. (Of course, if the flight really is a week long, then it could be an example of Real Time instead.)
  • The Nostalgia Chick's Dark Nella saga was released over two and a half months but seems to only take place over one or two days at most, if that.
  • This was always bound to occur with PATHCO, being a once-weekly two-hour Pathfinder campaign - however, it became particularly glaring with the 'Sea Storms and Scum Ports' and 'Return to Arbelo' modules. They take up less than 4 or 5 weeks in-game, however, it's taken the players over a year to progress as far as they have.
  • Over ten years of The Saga of Tuck have produced one calendar year of plot where it is still canonically 1997.
  • Smash King started in 2008 not long after Super Smash Bros..Brawl was released. In that time it's managed to cover about a month worth of content including a 25ish day time skip.
  • Tales of MU has been running since June of '07, the protagonists first semester of college doesn't end until March of '11. Then there is a time skip to the start of her Sophomore year, the first semester of which doesn't end until October of '14. Her week long vacation over winter break still hasn't ended as of March of '15.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Since the series started in 2004 at an in-universe time of 2006, by 2015, they've gotten all the way to April 2007. With the first Esoteric story, released on March 1st 2016, the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year of Whateley Academy has been shown, and the 2006-2007 Graduations were shown in Pomp and Conspiracy, released on 02 May 2016.
    • Generation 2 (Gen 2), which starts around the 2016-2017 terms of Whateley, had its first release on 28 December 2015 with The Big Apple Comes With Calamari (Part 1), which, in-universe, starts on September 5th, 2016. The release on Halloween 2016, Following the Path of Cute, showcases some of Sept 17th, 2016, in-universe.

    Western Animation 
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy has its first four seasons take place over a single summer, with the fifth season taking place the following autumn. The Cut Short sixth season would have taken place during the winter, while The Movie that was produced in its place occurs during the next summer. The series aired over the course of ten years.
  • Gravity Falls is set during the summer of 2012, with the series itself airing from June 2012 to February 2016.
  • The first three seasons of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are heavily implied to take place over the course of a single year, which were about three years in real time.
  • Pepper Ann has all its events take place during the 1997-1998 school year, despite episodes airing over about four years.
  • While Recess ran from 1997 to 2001, it's firmly established in Recess: School's Out that it takes place during the September 1997 - June 1998 school year. Meanwhile, the two Direct-to-Video films in 2003, "Taking the Fifth" and "All Growed Down" take place in the autumns of 1998 and 1993, respectively.
  • South Park has events such as the kids going from 4th grade to 5th grade and Stan's birthday being celebrated. A very rough estimate would be one in-show year for every 10 seasons.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man starts on the first night of Peter's junior year of high school and was intended to last five seasons, ending when Peter and his classmates Graduate from the Story. As is, it was Screwed by the Lawyers after two seasons, only making it to spring of the first year after a year-and-a-half real time.
  • Steven Universe: The way the series airs roughly matches the time progression in the show. For example, Steven begins the series at age 12 and "Steven's Birthday", which premiered a little over two years later, has him turn 14. However, the show rarely has episodes occur during winter, and forty episodes (from "Catch and Release" in the middle of season two to "Onion Gang" near the middle of season four) take place over the course of two months. "Reunited" is apparently set eight months after "The Answer", which aired two-and-a-half years earlier.
  • The Venture Bros.: It is confirmed in season seven that between "Past Tense" (S01,E11) and "Arrears in Science" (S07,E03), only two years and 17 days have passed, compared to about fourteen years real time. That said, pop culture and mundane technology have remained contemporary with when episodes are written.

Alternative Title(s): That Night Felt Like Months

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