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Year X

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And the previous year was 200X.

"Why is it always X? It's like they couldn't come up with an exact year, so just make it X."
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Setting is important in storytelling, especially when you want to tell what time period that story takes place in. The easiest way to do this is to simply state what year the story takes place in... However, being too exact may sometimes narrow down flexibility. So in order to pinpoint the time and keep it vague at the same time, writers like to give the century number, but replace the year and decade with X.

For example: 20XX. You know this takes place after the millennium, but when after the millennium? 2097? 2030? December 21, 2012? We don't know, and that's the beauty of it.

It also renders the setting somewhat resistant to the flow of Real Life time, since Real Life will take longer to cross that date and make fans start wondering why the future doesn't look anything like fiction depicted it. Of course, as the list below shows, years like 199X and 200X have been used and passed, and even 20XX will pass eventually. Inevitably, Time Marches On.

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Commonly seen in Science Fiction, but not limited to it. It is for example popular in older English literature as well, sometimes to add an air of realism to stories, as if to protect the characters' identities. Note that older examples such as Frankenstein or Treasure Island use — instead of X to denote the uncertain years: Both of the above works are set in "17—".

Not to be confused with Exty Years from Publication, which is about future dates or intervals being nice round numbers, often based on the work's own release date. Compare Spell My Name with a Blank, which is similar but with names or locations.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Crystal Triangle is set in the year 198X. The funny thing about this is that the OVA was made in 1987. They were really hopeful for those next two years.
  • Digimon Fusion starts in 20XX.
  • Parodied in Excel♡Saga during its Fist of the North Star parody episode, which begins with an announcer starting to declare the year as 199X before he's interrupted by a chorus of people telling him that "199X" has already come and gone (it was already 2000 when the episode first aired.) The next time the announcer states the year, he retcons it to "The year 2000...X!"
  • Fairy Tail: The story takes place in "X784". X791 after the first Time Skip, and X792 after the second.
  • Fist of the North Star is set a few years after a nuclear war destroyed the world in "199X". Series protagonist Kenshiro was born in the similarly vague year 197X.
  • Future Diary's dates are all shown in the form "29 JULY 20XX".
  • Ichigeki Sacchu!! Hoihoi-san is set in the year 20XX.
  • Initial D is set in 199X. Its successor MF Ghost is set in 202X.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, the year is revealed to be 20XX on Nikaidou's New Years postcard. Averted in the anime, where it's indicated to be 2007 and 2008 via background calendars.
  • New Mazinger: The action in this Mazinger Z spin-off begins in 220X.
  • Orange Marmalade starts in "Autumn, 20XX".
  • Gerald Robotnik's 50+ year old diary from Sonic X is dated to "20XX".
  • Wangan Midnight is set in the year 20XX to allow for the introduction of newer cars that at the time of the first publishing (1992) did not exist.
  • In Yuri is My Job!, the results for the Blume election were tallied on "May XX, 20XX." Somewhat unusually, even the day of the month is Xed out (although it's probably some time after Golden Week). Eventually, it's revealed that the year is 2017; Mitsuki was born on July 7, 2001 and turns 16 in Volume 6, with the date in question being shown as a Friday.
  • Zero In is set in 20XX.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers: The 2015 mini-series Ultron Forever introduced a Captain America from the year 20XX. This same future is sometimes seen in Al Ewing's other Avengers titles, with Cap seen fighting the Golden Skull. This trope is used presumably to ensure the sliding timescale never actually reaches the given date of 20XX (though given this Cap's an adult Danielle Cage, who was an infant in the modern day when the series was released, it logically takes place around twenty-plus years later).
  • The Image Comics Crapsack World Feudal Future series Lazarus is built entirely around this trope, with "Year X" having been the year that mega-corporations swooped in and took advantage of global political instability to divide the entire world up among themselves. The book begins in X+64, and as of the new Risen arc, has reached X+68.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Invasion of Astro-Monster took place in 196X.
  • The Last Days of Disco was set in "the very early 1980s."
  • Time Changer: When someone from the 1890's travels over 100 years into the future and looks at the newspaper, the last two years of 20XX were obscured. When he yells the date out loud, the 20XX gets cut off by a car honk. Later, at the end of the movie, an attempt is made to send a bible to the future but it will not go if the end of the world already happened by then, so the date keeps being changed to earlier years to see when the end of the world takes place, and the movie cuts off somewhere in the 2000s.

    Literature 
  • The first Bony novel, The Barrakee Mystery, is set in the late 1920s. The narration avoids mentioning a specific year, and a letter is dated "August 12th, 19—". (However, the first sentence of the letter refers to the events of "Saturday, March 5th", which pins it to 1927.)
  • In the Brazilian classic Captains of the Sands, the only temporal reference is the death of protagonist Pedro Bala's father, said to have been killed during the 191... strike.
  • The opening sentence of The Courts of the Morning gives the date as "the August of 192-".
  • In Frankenstein, in Robert Walton's letters to his sister, the date is given as "Dec. 11th, 17—," making this trope at least Older Than Radio.
  • Gate begins in summer of the year 20XX.
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, Ford and Arthur time travel from the prehistoric past to the year 198—.
  • John Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse" sets the date as 19__. This is after giving the main character's home as B____ Street in the town of D____, Maryland, then lampshading it, then lampshading that a young protagonist would be Genre Savvy enough to point this out. This is Postmodernism after all.
  • The Filipino novel Nínay literally opens with the sentence: "In 18… the cholera wrought havoc in Manila."
  • Kim Newman's "Richard Jeperson" stories (part of the Diogenes Club series) are all mostly set in the 1970s, but are fairly ambiguous as to the precise setting (although careful reading can give a few clues as to roughly when each one is set), and every time a specific year is mentioned it is presented to the reader as 197- (or 195-, in the case of the flashback in "The Man Who Got Off the Ghost Train").
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde happens in 18**.
  • Treasure Island takes place "in the year of grace 17—."
  • Vanity Fair often refers to dates in 18—.
  • Wylder's Hand has a variation in a scene where Larkin is laying out the key dates in the mystery of Mark Wylder's whereabouts. These cover a range from October of one year to March of the following year, preventing a graceful way of using the traditional "18—", so the narrator assigns them to the years 1854 and 1855 while making it clear that these are not the actual years in question. (Elsewhere, he says that over twenty years have passed since the events of the novel, placing them in the 1840s or even earlier.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: "The End of the World" takes place in "5.5/Apple/26", although this may be another term for exactly 5 billion years after the characters had left.
  • Power Rangers RPM was set in 20XX (between late 2040 and 2096).
  • The Pretender: In "Toy Surprise", when Miss Parker visits her mother's grave, the shot of the headstone is framed so that the last two digits of the death date are obscured by a floral tribute placed on the grave earlier.
  • Servant of the People features a subtle version of this, with a small poster that has the year on it, but the part with the last digit is torn off. The show is basically set in 201X.

    Music 
  • The Protomen open their story in 200X. The second act, a flashback, is set in 197X. Of course, it's a Mega Man (Classic) rock opera, so obviously it would be set in the same timeframe as the games.

    Radio 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Halt Evil Doer!, the Near-Future Dystopia (think Marvel 2099) is sometimes referred to as taking place in 20XX. Sometimes heroes from the present might learn the actual year, but then they return to the present and change things, and it's XX again. Similarly, the Future of Wonders (think Legion Of Superheroes) is sometimes called 2XXX.

    Video Games 
  • Parodied with 19YY, a Shoot 'Em Up Mini-Game from the Neo Geo CD ADK World.
  • 19XX, part of the 1942 Shoot 'Em Up series by Capcom.
  • 20XX goes so far as to put it in the name, just in case anyone didn't look at the blue platforming robot and think of Mega Man.
  • Bomberman Generation takes place in "cosmic year 200X".
  • The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy is an Indiana Jones-style adventure game set in the '30s, stylized as 193X in-game. That said, finding the true year isn't too difficult. The Japanese version explicitly states it's September 14, and a calendar is shown with that day as a Friday. The only year of the 1930s where Sep. 14 was a Friday was 1934.
  • The early Double Dragon games are set in a post-apocalyptic New York after a Nuclear War occurred in 19XX.
  • E.D.F.: Earth Defense Force (not to be confused with D3 Publisher's Earth Defense Force series) takes place in 20XX, except in the SNES localization which is set either in 4129 (by the manual) or the 23rd century (by the blurb).
  • Falsion, a 3D Shoot 'Em Up by Konami for the Famicom, is set in 21XX.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2 subverts this trope with several destination times. Whenever Serah and Noel change the future, the destination year is marked with Xs in place of zeroes in the Historia Crux. However, this is because the player retains access to the unchanged futures, and serves only as a differential. So 400 AF and 4XX AF take place in the same year; they're just in different timelines. Similarly, when Serah gets trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine where everything is perfect back home, it's marked in the Historia Crux as 00X AF, but is confirmed in dialogue to be 3 AF.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's takes place in Year XX, according to the PC's pay check. The sequel subverts this, taking place in 1987.
  • Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! takes place in "2XXX A.D."
  • Half-Life takes place on May 16, 200X (though it is commonly agreed among fans to be set in 2003).
  • While not using "Xs", Kirby Super Star 's final subgame in the original takes place in the year ??? (or some time after it). The Updated Re-release has it take place in ???? instead.
  • The Lab has the mini-game "Xortex", which is set in the year 26XX.
  • Mega Man: Mega Man (Classic) is a strong example of this trope, starting in 200X and later moving into 20XX (though Mega Man Powered Up posits that it's always been 20XX since the beginning). The sequel series and spinoffs are all set relative to this ambiguous date; the X series takes place in 21XX, and (possibly) drags on into 22XX, while Battle Network is in an alternate 200X. The later games in the main timeline starting with Mega Man Zero (which was assumed to take place in 22XX before Mega Man X: Command Mission came out) abandoned this and don't specify any dates, possibly because the world has suffered so many successive apocalypses by this point that people don't even remember what year it's supposed to be. According to the Perfect Memories sourcebook, the Legends series takes place around 6000 years after the end of the X series (which would put it circa 81XX or 82XX), but that's about all we know.
  • The events of the first Metal Gear was originally placed in the year 199X before the sequels decided to give it a specific year. The manual for Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was inconsistent as to whether the original game was set in 1995 or 1996 (with the in-game dialogue placing the events of the sequel three years later), but ultimately Metal Gear Solid went with the 1995 date.
  • Metroid is set in 20X5. Like Mega Man above, the other games in the series all take place relative to the ambiguous date of 20X5 in the original.
  • The Mother series indulges in this a couple times.
    • While EarthBound Beginnings was originally set in 1988, it was changed to an unspecified point in the early '80s in the English release, before then being listed as 198X in the eShop description for its Virtual Console release.
    • EarthBound is set in 199X. If you borrow a map from the library and then talk to the librarian again, you are told you don't have to return the map until the year 2001, a year which was in the past by the time most people played the game.
    • Former fan game and current Spiritual Successor Oddity is set in 197X.
  • Open Sorcery: The date the "blue", a.k.a "affected by the final foe" version of the Cherry Orchard Rest Home has is Oct. 666 20XX, but it's actually Nov. 1 2014.
  • According to the intro cinematic of Pikmin 3, the game takes place in "Galactic Date 20XX".
  • River City Ransom takes place in the year 19XX. The sequel, River City Ransom: Underground, takes place after a Time Skip of 25 years... in the year 19XX. Which pretty much just puts the first game in 1974 or earlier.
  • Hamumu Software's Robot Wants Series game Robot Wants Puppy had an Opening Scroll about rebels in the year 20XX plotting to liberate Zeta Sector from the iron-tentacled rule of the tyrannical Morgox the Unborn.
  • PS2 game Seven Samurai 20XX.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is set in Tokyo, 20XX.
    • There's also Shin Megami Tensei 20XX, which happens to takes place during the year 20XX.
    • Persona 5 doesn't give us the exact year other than "20XX", in contrast to the previous Persona games, but the in-game calendar is identical to the 2016 calendar, meaning the game takes place 4 years after the end of Persona 4. The nonspecific year can be likely attributed to Atlus originally intending to release Persona 5 in 2014 and presumably have it take place in 2016, which would fit the Next Sunday A.D. time frames of Persona 3 and 4. Schedule Slips led to 5 not actually releasing until 2016 — the year it takes place, rather than shortly in the future like previous games. In Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, when the female protagonist of Persona 3 Portable says she came from 2009, and the cast of Persona 4 say they're from 2011, the Phantom Thieves only say that they didn't come from either of those times.
  • The original Streets of Rage games for the Sega Genesis are set in 199X. Streets of Rage 4 jumped ahead ten years to partially reflect the Sequel Gap between 3 and 4 (which was almost three times as long at 26 years).
  • A popular in-joke about Super Smash Bros. Melee describes the year 20XX, where everyone plays Fox (the top-tier character, yet incredibly difficult to play well) to TAS levels of perfection. Because of this, the only way to decide matches is through port priority which can only be decided by rock-paper-scissors. A somewhat popular Game Mod of Melee is even named after this joke, called the 20XX hack pack.
  • Tonight We Riot is set in 20XX.
  • The opening cutscene of Undertale states that the year is 201X, as part of its many, many homages to the Mother series.
  • The WarioWare games take place in 20XX.
  • The events of World of Horror take place in 198X.
  • Xbox game Zombies and Pterodactyls 20XX.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation often redacts dates, but sometimes the century or decade is left uncensored, leading to a similar effect but with Censor Boxes instead of X's.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • In the Philippines the colloquial phrase "19-kopong-kopong" generally indicates "a long time ago". Precisely when is usually unspecified, but some online sources will make a more specific case by pointing out that kopong is an Old Tagalog word for "zero", hence, the year 1900.

    The Scottish phrase "nineteen oatcake" (or sometimes "nineteen canteen") means much the same thing. The non-number words seem intended to create the sound of "190X" or "191X".

    In Brazil there is a similar phrase, "mil novecentos e guaraná com rolha", roughly "19-soda with a cork".
  • The Extended Date Time Format used by the Library of Congress uses X to denote unspecified digits. The 2019 revision of the international standard ISO 8601 incorporates the same notation.
  • With X being the Roman numeral for 10, and XX meaning 20, people on the internet in 2020 sometimes joked (especially at the start and end of that year) that 2020 is the only year one could say it's 20XX and could be considered right, and yet not because of the vagueness 20XX is supposed to convey.

Alternative Title(s): Twenty Exty Six

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