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For someone who became famous in 1938, he has aged well...

"Batman was roughly twenty three or so when he started crime fighting. Nowadays he's — uh —thir-orty-ish?"
Linkara, Atop the Fourth Wall reviewing the origin comic of Batman from 1939

The problem is this. On one hand, Superman is a high-selling, successful character with a lot of licenses and so on based off of him. You don't want him to age or die, because that means losing that successful character. On the other hand, Superman exists as part of a greater universe, and if all the stories in that universe are continuously frozen in time, that cuts off a lot of possibilities.

So what do you do? Comic-Book Time. You use the illusion of time passing. You never refer to specific dates if you can help it, and you let characters change, but only a little.

This can prove harmful to characters that are tied to a certain time period. For example, since the 1980s, Magneto's backstory and characterisation have been deeply tied to his status as a Holocaust survivor. This causes a particular type of aversion, the Refugee from Time where you just don't allow any Sliding Timescale at all or at least not for one character.


Another factor of Comic-Book Time is that it does not pass at the same rate for everyone; secondary characters may catch Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome and age from children to teenagers and then young adults while their adult counterparts remain roughly the same age. Or minor characters can drop out of the narrative, only to return years later, aged, while their counterpart heroes remain youthful. This concept was picked up on in the Fourth Wall-breaking She-Hulk series, in which a Golden Age character decided to hang around She-Hulk as much as possible to stay youthful.

Stories focused around youngsters are especially vulnerable to this, and even aging characters usually aren't allowed to progress to the point they'd be separated from their peers. The aged character's backstory may be tied to a certain event in history and might even make them impossibly old as more time passes.


One possible justification is that publication time does not equal the passage of time in the book. Particularly in recent years, comic book publishers have tended to adopt a model where each monthly issue of the book in question is a single installment of a longer story-arc; for instance, a six-issue story arc where Batman takes on the Joker may only equal one night in the actual passage of time. Despite this, the story has taken up half a year of "real time". This, naturally, is going to affect both how quickly you can develop the overall narrative and how contemporary you can make it. However, all characters in a universe tend to inhabit the same "present", despite when they first appeared or how much time has passed in their series.

Indeed, this is a valid point, because an open-ended series that wants to keep using the same characters and keep them in a given age-range for a long time pretty much must use some variant of comic-book time.

An adaptation of a series that has this can usually avoid it, as most of them only last a few years. On the flipside, non-comic series that last long enough also tend to use this.

Stories that take place in the future, naturally, are allowed to completely ignore this — unless the same future is referenced again later, in which case it'll have slid forward the same amount.

Webcomic Time is a similar concept, but instead of the illusion of time passing, time actually does pass over the course of the series, but at a much slower rate than its real-time publication or airing.

Compare Frozen in Time, Talking Is a Free Action, Not Allowed to Grow Up, Not Growing Up Sucks. Often results in Outdated Outfit. See Year Zero for a compromise, and Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome for similar peculiarities in live-action productions.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Sazae-san is the representative Japanese example, to the point where the Japanese term for this trope is named after it. It's been airing for decades but the protagonist still hasn't hit 30.
  • Pokémon in other media is all over the board on this; at least the ones running long enough to matter:
    • After over 20 years of Pokémon anime episodes, Ash Ketchum is (according to the official Japanese site) still 10 years old. On a 1:1 basis, he'd be 32 as of 2019. At an estimate, in order to still be 10 years old, out of over 1000 episodes, he'd need to be going through at the very least 3-4 episodes every day. To make things even worse, in the dub, they've acknowledged that a year or more has passed more than once.note  Apparently, time passes but nobody ages.
      • And just to drive the point home, the dub has Meowth telling Dawn in their first meeting that "We've been chasing Pikachu since you've been alive." Given Team Rocket's status as local fourth-wall breakers who have explicitly referred to the show's staff in the past, Meowth's in a pretty good position to be referring to actual production time that nobody else in the cast would know about.
      • If you count the day/night cycles and sunrises/sunsets/moonrises/moonsets, you'll find that as of the end of Best Wishes, a total of 5 years, 7 months, and 14 days have passed since the first episode. Roughly 2,054 days. This is only about a year less than the Fanon convention of "One Year per League plus Half-a-Year for Filler Arcs".
      • This trope was confirmed to be in place by one of the writing staff in an interview when asked about it.
    • The Pocket Monsters also uses Comic-Book Time. The protagonists stay the same age no matter how long it is, with the protagonist going various regions with his talking Clefairy and his Pikachu. It helps that this manga is unabashedly humor based; it also helps that it's not released in most of the West...
    • The Pokémon Adventures manga averts this trope. There are numerous timeskips, and save when characters are drawn chibi, every character ages correctly. They also tend to rotate main characters out when their respective games' plotlines are done; characters' reappearances usually correspond to Remakes of their respective generations, since they're getting pretty old off camera in arcs that they're not featured in.
      Of special note is Red. He starts his quest at the age of 11, but near the end of the FireRed/LeafGreen arc you can really appreciate that he is now 16. Really. As of his latest appearance in Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire he's about 20. But based on some math and how the series is not in chronological order, he should be around 28 during the events of Black 2/White 2.
  • Case Closed is a more extreme case, as it frequently references the current time of year, with some holidays celebrated more than once, yet after about two decades of episodes since 1994 (1996 for the anime), Conan is still in the first grade. This is necessary to the whole point of the series; if Conan aged in real time, he would be older than he was before the de-aging. Word of God even confirms it. Most fans assume that only the episodes relevant to the main plot are actually happening, and maybe a few other episodes important to character development. A clear example can be seen during the time Conan is investigating Eisuke Hondou. The "Shadow of the Black Organization" arc combines two cases that take place at New Years and Setsuban respectively, while his disappearance in the next plot arc happens at the end of December. The latter arc keeps things vague by referring to an event that happened a few hundred episodes before Eisuke Hondou even appeared as "several months ago".
    • Technology also keeps advancing in real-time. Old mobile phones are now replaced by cellphones, etc. In chapters 192-196, which were released in 1998, the concept of chatting on the internet was relatively new. But in chapters 1006-1008, released at the end of 2017, a rumor was spreaded fast and nation-wide through Twitter. Another extreme example is the flashback case in chapter 972-974, an event that occured 10 years prior to the story, yet the characters in that flashback were using image-sending cellphones with cameras and they could read freshly reported news on the internet.
  • While the first three shows in the Pretty Cure franchise aged characters in real time, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has instead made use of Comic-Book Time — all the characters are the same age now as they were in February 2007, despite clearly going through summer and Christmas. Part of this is may be because Karen and Komachi are in their last year of middle school.
    • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! also invokes Comic-Book Time - despite going through an entire season as well as a Time Skip, Erika states that they were "14 year old beautiful super heroes"... before and after the time skip which included a birth.
  • Likewise, the Ouran High School Host Club anime has Honey alluding to graduating from high school next year. Since the manga is still ongoing, the author tells us not to worry about stuff like that. The manga explicitly ignores the passage of time, except to give seasonal settings, keeping all the characters in the same year as when they started. However, it's been averted since they've finally graduated.
  • Serious discussion on whether the goddesses in Ah! My Goddess age mostly glosses over the fact that the manga has been running for 20 years; aside from Art Evolution and the characters learning and doing new things, nowhere near that much time has passed for them.
  • Lampshaded in One Piece's letter column, where the author explains that "The characters have their birthdays every year, but they turn the same age every time, those lucky bastards."
    • And yet somehow Coby became noticeably older when he reappeared. The author claimed he had a growth spurt.
    • Later comments made by the author indicate that they haven't gotten noticeably older simply because all the events of the series hadn't yet covered a year, making this more a case of Webcomic Time.
    • And then the Timeskip happened, and they actually got 2 years older.
  • Ranma ½ is a particularly nasty offender of the sliding timescale. When first introduced, the three Tendou sisters are stated to be 16, 17, and 19. Several seasons later, all characters looking exactly the same, it's stated that the characters are celebrating the three-year anniversary of the events of the first episode. THEN, in a later episode, the sisters' ages are listed once again as 16, 17, and 19.
  • Averted in Maison Ikkoku. While just about every other Takahashi series is entrenched in comic-book time, this series follows real time exactly (aside from a few issues that leave off on a cliffhanger, which are made up next issue by having twice as much time pass). Note that, despite this, nobody (save the two recurring children) visibly ages; however, this is most likely because all of the main characters (save the children) were in their early 20s to early 30s at the start of the series, and the series only ran seven years.
  • Averted and discussed in City Hunter, as people age and seasons go exactly in tune with the manga's release dates, and fourth wall jokes are made by the characters about how, in many mangas, people do not age, but "years are strictly counted in this one".
  • Inuyasha ran from 1996-2008. Kagome was exactly fifteen in the first episode (it was her birthday). She hadn't quite hit sixteen when the next to last chapter was published, then there was a three year Time Skip to the last episode. Given that multiple chapters (or even a whole volume) can cover a single day, not to mention given the handful of times Inuyasha turned human, something that explicitly happens only once a month, it's a bit more believable that Kagome's adventures lasted around a little less than a year in-universe despite its 12-year run.
  • The Kimagure Orange Road anime fell prey to this. Kyosuke (and, by extension, since they shared the day, Hikaru) only ever got one birthday that we saw on-screen. And what year of life it was for them never actually got mentioned. This makes things a tiny bit jarring when we can see that time is definitely passing, but there weren't any real clues to which year of school they were currently in — and then we jump ahead in the first movie, to Kyosuke and Madoka's entrance exams for college...
  • From the passing of seasons, which are clearly marked, ARIA spans the better part of three Martian years, or five to six Earth years in the anime and manga, respectively. Yet Alice, who we first meet at 14 years old while attending middle school, doesn't graduate from it until five Earth years have passed. The other main characters also seem to have aged little — most noticeably, in the anime, Ai.
  • Each chapter of Yotsuba&! takes place on a specific date, which in 60 chapters has run from mid-July to mid-October. However, Word of God is that each chapter is set in the year it's published, which allows the author to keep technology and pop-culture references current, instead of stuck back in 2003 when he started.
  • In Fruits Basket in other people's flash backs the three oldest members of the juunishi, Hatori, Ayame and Shigure, have a tendency to look younger, but not young enough. Or, in the case of Hatori, doing things he shouldn't be able to at that age — he is apparently already a doctor when he erases Momiji's mother's memory. To be fair it's not clear how old Momiji is at the time (and he probably looks younger than he is), but he couldn't really be older than 5 (people leaving his mother having a breakdown for 5 years is pushing it). If Momiji is five then it makes Hatori 16... and already a qualified doctor and not aging all that much for 11 years until the series starts. Hmm... In one of the fanbooks, it's made clear that Hatori was not yet a doctor at the time, and that while he also followed his father into medicine, the memory erasure is a separate ability also handed down in his family. Notably, Hatori was in his school uniform when he erased Momiji's mother's memory, so he clearly wasn't a doctor yet.
  • Glass Mask. The (still ongoing) manga started in 1976, and was set in then-present day. In later volumes, we're told outright that a little more than seven in-universe years have passed since then; the characters age believably, and the technology level is entirely compatible with the mid-80s... except cell phones and the Internet have been featured and discussed (as in, "in this day and age it's normal to talk to people you've never met over the Internet").
  • From Eroica with Love embraces this trope fully.
  • Lupin III has been around since 1967, and none of the characters look any older. This is fine, since the franchise clearly runs on Negative Continuity, but Lupin's grandfather is still canonically Arsène Lupin. Who was born in 1874. Assuming an average of 45+ years between each generation of the Lupin dynasty isn't impossible (especially considering their reputations), but gets a little less probable with every passing year. This makes Arsene Sr a Refugee from Time. The prequel series Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine has one episode that pretty clearly takes place during the Cold War, complete with all the anachronisms one would expect. While Negative Continuity is likely still in play for the franchise as a whole, this would make the timeline seem very odd if Fujiko were indeed meant to be chronicling the early years of the gang. Especially given that new Lupin specials (usually taking place in a modern setting) still debut every year.
  • Doraemon managed to outlive one of its creators, and yet poor Nobita and his friends are still in the fourth (fifth in the anime) grade.
  • Crayon Shin-chan sadly also outlived his creator. To give an idea of how bad this series is with Comic-Book Time: Shin-chan is 5 when the manga starts. His mother's friend Keiko marries, gets pregnant and has a baby. Later on Shin-chan's mom also gets pregnant and has a daughter, Himawari. Shin-chan's still five, but bizarrely enough, Keiko's baby actually aged a bit, as evident of him being able to speak simple words and even walk! Even better, an episode parodying Back to the Future aired in 2010 claimed Shin-chan's parents met "8 years ago". When they travel back to said 8 years ago, it's 2002. Apparently Shin-chan was born in 2005, nearly a decade and a half after the series started.
  • Episode 7 of Daily Lives of High School Boys anime downright declares:
    Hidenori: Well, this anime is like Sazae-san. We'll always be in our second year of high school.
  • The first 50 or so chapters of To Love Ru equate to about a year, and characters age and progress to their second year of high school. But afterwards, seasons begin to cycle and characters stop aging.
  • Golgo 13 has been active since the 1960s, but that doesn't stop him from shooting, screwing or looking like the 20 or 30-something he was when he started.
  • In-Universe, Chapter 61 of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun has mangaka Nozaki showing Sakura a Long Runner series where the heroine has only moved up one grade in 20 years of run. But during that "year" the technology moved forward from pagers to smartphones, though, which is the point of the gag.
  • Lampshaded in an extra in Kase-san Vol. 3, where the author notes how much technology has changed in the real world during the five years the manga has been going on (even though significantly less time has passed in-universe). It then cuts to a scene of Yamada being shocked to discover that all her friends suddenly have iPhones instead of flip phones.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura was originally written between 1996-2000 and it appeared to take place in contemporary times. The series ended with Sakura finishing her fourth year of elementary school. Its sequel Clear Card, created in 2016, starts two years later with Sakura starting junior high, and everyone uses touchscreen smart phones about five years before they would become commonplace.
  • The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. has a rare justified example. Saiki and friends are perpetually high school sophomores despite several years clearly having passed (eg. multiple Christmas and New Year's episodes). Saiki later reveals that once a year, he uses his significant psychic powers to "reset time" by a year, allowing everyone to keep their memories and experiences but preventing time from really passing.
  • Yo-Kai Watch lasted several years but the protagonists never aged at all. They're always in elementary. Eventually, the sequel Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside aged up everyone thirty years and starred Nate's daughter.

  • Despite their reputation, this was actually averted in the James Bond films up until A View to a Kill: all characters aged consistently, and callbacks to events of previous films would correctly identify the year. This changed with Timothy Dalton's first Bond film The Living Daylights, which de-aged Bond (and Moneypenny) and acknowledged the previous history (such as Bond's loss of his love in On Her Majesty's Secret Service) only in Broad Strokes; Pierce Brosnan's first film in the role, GoldenEye, was explicitly set in a post-Cold War world and yet had Bond about the same age as in Dalton's last film Licence to Kill from six years earlier. Of course, this was mainly a matter of circumstance: if Bond had been recast with a younger actor earlier, as nearly happened several times, then Comic-Book Time most likely would've come into effect earlier as well.
    • Arguably averted with the new continuity begun in 2006 with Casino Royale (2006). The film's official website gives a comprehensive official biography of Bond, stating that he was born in 1968 (the same year as actor Daniel Craig). Skyfall, released six years later, makes frequent references to how Bond is a veteran 00 agent and isn't getting any younger. Word of God says that future Craig Bond movies will continue to deal with Bond's aging.
    • In the novel Moonraker, published in 1955 and with a 1953 setting, Bond is 37. That would have him born circa 1916. The early novels also mention Secret Service assignments occurring before World War II. You Only Live Twice, published in 1964 and set in 1962-63, definitively states that Bond was born in 1924 and entered the Royal Navy during the war at age 17.
  • X-Men: First Class is definitely marketed as a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy, but the timeline used in the film is very wonky. First Class takes place in 1962, which would put Xavier and Magneto in their 70s in the first movie (Patrick Stewart was only 60 when the first film was released, and Ian Mckellen was around the same age). It's best not to think about Beast's age, either.
    • In addition, in the first film Xavier states that he was seventeen when he first met Magneto, but in First Class he's clearly shown to have been alive in 1944, eighteen years before the two first meet. Though for the movieverse, a thing like that being only one year off is very good.
    • The new cast introduced in First Class hasn't aged by the time of Apocalypse, 20 in-universe years later. Somewhat justified for Mystique, who can presumably appear as any age she likes, but why Xavier, Magneto, Beast, Moira and Havok don't appear to have aged much isn't answered.
      • Havok is, following the timeline, at least in his late 30s by Apocalypse, but his younger brother Cyclops is apparently still school-aged.
    • The real timeline buster is X-Men Origins: Wolverine. How about Emma Frost being younger there than in The '60s? Even the permanent changes Days of Future Past caused can't make a woman born decades before the changes take hold thirty or so years younger than she should be. Officially she's a different girl with similar powers.
  • Superman Returns is set five years after Superman II which is set in or shortly after 1978 and, unless it's one hell of a typo or some Daily Planet editor played a prank, a newspaper clearly dates Returns in 2006. Don't think about this too hard.
    • Especially problematic thanks to the casting of Kate Bosworth who was 23 when the movie was released (22 during filming) and looked at least that young. She must have gotten a really early start at the Planet (and a really early start at some other things, considering the age of her son). Brandon Routh, 26 during filming, was a little less noticeable. Jimmy Olsen looks older than Lois (and in fact Sam Huntington is about a year older than Bosworth), despite being about a decade younger in most continuities.
  • Averted in Godzilla; the Godzilla films actually do not follow a sliding timescale, since most human characters in the Showa and Heisei films who have returned were portrayed by the same people. Raymond Burr returned as Steve Martin in The Return of Godzilla. Momoko Kouchi, who was also in the first film, reprised Emiko Yamane in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah in 1995, and Hiroshi Koizumi resumed the role of Professor Shin'ichi Chujo from Mothra (1961) (which did not actually feature Godzilla) in 2003's Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. The films have recast the Shobijin with younger actresses, however. Kenji Sahara played someone named Segawa in both Terror of Mechagodzilla and his Heisei era films, but since Terror of Mechagodzilla does not form part of the continuity of the Heisei series, it is unclear whether it involves the same personage.
  • George A. Romero's Living Dead Series depict the breakdown of society over a handful of years, but they reflect the wildly different times they were made in. Night of the Living Dead (1968) shows the zombie apocalypse beginning in its release year, while Dawn of the Dead (1978) begins a few weeks into the apocalypse despite obviously occurring in the late 1970s. Day of the Dead (1985) is perhaps a year or two into the apocalypse but is clearly set in the mid-1980s. Land of the Dead avoids the issue completely by simply making it clearly that a long, long time has passed (though Romero, himself, stated that the film was canonically set 3 years after the events of Night), and the P.O.V. Sequel Diary of the Dead moves the events of Night to the late 2000s.
  • The third story of Trilogy of Terror II presumably picks up a few hours after the third story of the first film. The first film was from 1975 and the sequel was from 1996, and it's a bit hard to reconcile how different things look between the two films.
  • Tarzan underwent constant recasting, from Johnny Weismuller (who played Tarzan from 1932 to 1948) to Lex Barker and further (Mike Henry served as the last series Tarzan in theatrical film in 1968). Since Brenda Joyce stayed on as Jane from the last Weismuller film to at least the first Barker film, this represents a case of a sliding timescale. It's most noticeable with their son Boy, who ages from infancy to childhood (about ten, in the movies) in the space of a cutscene, while his parents haven't aged a day.
  • Lampshaded in The LEGO Batman Movie, which posits that the character's entire 78 year history really did happen (with the exception of anything involving Robin), all involving the same guy, and no one finds the slightest thing odd about this beyond a line that he's aged phenomenally well for a guy who's been active since (at least) 1966.

  • Played with in Animorphs. Early books in the series had the Unreliable Narrators worry about how they would adapt in winter, which implies that their adventures are taking place in Comic-Book Time prior to the first winter after receiving their powers. By the end of the series it turns out that It's Always Spring because of the setting, the worries about winter playing up the Literary Agent Hypothesis that they could not give away their location, and about three years pass from beginning to end of the series.
    • Especially hard to nail down timescales because they pointed out over and over that they were changing details so the Yeerks couldn't figure out who they really were. Maybe they were trudging through the snow when they said they were, maybe that's a lie to convince you they're in a colder climate than they are. Only the meat of the story is known to be true; some of the rest is known to be false.
  • Remarkably common in mystery fiction.
    • Nero Wolfe appeared in over 30 novels and more short stories published between 1934 and 1975. Each story is set in the year it was written, but Wolfe, Archie, and the main supporting characters don't age, even though Archie celebrates more than one birthday.
      • One client appears in two books about twenty years apart; he and his son age, while the residents of the brownstone do not.
      • The 2000-2001 television adaptation runs with this. Each episode is set at roughly the time the story it was based on was originally published (with some minor adjustments for what works for the plot or what looks best), but the stories that are adapted aren't done in any particular order or with any real chronology in mind. As such, while the brownstone set doesn't really change, the clothes and settings outside the brownstone can vary from mid 1950s one week to late 1960s the next and early 1940s the week after. The use of a regular 'repertory company' cast of actors magnified this, as last week's flapper could just as easily be this week's flower child.
    • Hercule Poirot is introduced during World War I as a retired policeman. By the 1960s, although he has taken to dyeing his moustache, he still doesn't appear to be much over sixty. Similarly, Miss Marple, originally presented as a subversion of the "Victorian Aunt" stereotype in 1920s fiction, is described as having had a Victorian Aunt of her own in At Bertram's Hotel (published 1965). Each series ends with one novel in which the protagonist has aged and in fact Poirot dies in his novel; both books were written during the Blitz and were originally intended to finish the series if Christie was killed. They were instead published in the 1970s as is, which makes them somewhat anachronistic.
    • Jim Qwilleran of the Cat Who novels is 46 years old in the first novel, written and set in 1966. He's 50 years old in the last novel, written and set in 2007.
    • Robert Parker's famous PI Spenser fought in Korea and fought Jersey Joe Walcott (who retired from boxing in 1953). He's still in business and in something of his physical prime. While Parker allows Spenser to age, he's taken on something of a "timeless" quality as a character.
    • Not only does Mike Hammer not age from 1947's I, the Jury to 1997's Black Alley, New York City doesn't age either.
    • Ellery Queen goes through numerous changes during his run, but he stays at about the same age from 1929 to 1971.
    • Dalziel and Pascoe, who debuted in the days when men walked on the moon, are still in harness and haven't aged nearly as much as the elapsed time would suggest. When the series reached its 20th year, Reginald Hill wrote a brief essay on the issue, noting that if they kept it up the two detectives would still be on the job when men walked on the moon again — and published it as the foreword of a story, "One Small Step", depicting just that.
    • In the Adam Dalgliesh novels by PD James, the first novel is set in 1962 and has Dalgliesh a Detective Chief Inspector, a rank he surely has to be at least thirty years old to attain. Dalgliesh is still active in the police force in The Private Patient, which is set in 2008, and would make him at least 76.
  • The first of the Young Wizards books by Diane Duane' book was published in 1983, and the most recent in 2005, but only a couple years have passed for the characters. Despite this, each book takes place in approximately the year it was released. The usual fan response to questions about this is "Just go with it." Diane Duane has released new Millennium Editions of the series in order to update them, especially the earlier ones. The old editions remain available in the major on-line bookstores, and as "International Editions" on Duane's own e-book store. As it stands, "You don't even have a colour TV!" was changed to "widescreen TV" (or possibly "cable TV"?) in later printings. One of the books actually contain an author's note to this effect, basically shrugging and admitting it's easier that way. The books are good enough that most readers are willing to roll with it, though the impetus behind the New Millennium Editions was that an increasing number of new readers weren't.
  • Antonia Forest's "Marlow" books (published between 1948 and 1982) featured schoolgirl characters, who only aged a few years throughout the series, experiencing post-war rationing, colour TV and punk-style make-up. Her comment in an interview was similar to that of the Young Wizards author Diane Duane: setting the books in a consistent timeline would be more work for her and irritating for the readers.
  • William Brown of Just William is always eleven. He was eleven in the early stories between the wars. He was eleven during the stories set in World War II. In one, he says, "Mother, I don't seem to remember when there wasn't a war on." His mother replies, "Don't be silly, William, the war's been going on two years and you're eleven now." He was eleven when he celebrated V-E day. He was eleven when he tried to copy the pop stars he'd seen on colour TV. He experiences three birthdays during the books, none of them numerically identified.
  • Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins are known for doing this.
  • This was retro-fitted into The Boxcar Children series. In the original 19 books by Gertrude Chandler Warner, the series took place in the 1930s — and the Alden children have aged several years. When the series has been picked up again, the Alden children went back to their original ages, and the series was set in the modern era.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club books, the characters started the series at the end of seventh grade and moved to eighth, but stayed there for the rest of the series, leading some to suspect the author originally intended to age the characters but didn't once the series proved to be so popular. Similarly, the books originally covered a month each while being published once a month, but later moved to covering only a week each. The series began in the 1980s and ended in the 2000s.
  • Beverly Cleary's books tend to take place around the time they were written, so Ramona Quimby goes from being 4 or 5 in the 1950s to just turning ten in the 1990s. In Ramona and Beezus (1955), she is 4; in Ramona the Pest (1968), she is 5; in Ramona the Brave (1975), she is 6; in both Ramona and Her Father (1977) and Ramona and Her Mother (1979), she is 7; in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981), she is, um, 8, and stays that way in Ramona Forever (1984); and in Ramona's World (1999), she starts out 9 and turns 10.
  • Characters aged similarly in Judy Blume's FUDGE books, though later editions of Superfudge changed a few details to catch up with the times: Fudge watches Cartoon Network instead of The Electric Company (1971), and Peter asks for a laptop instead of a pocket calculator for Christmas.
  • The Judy Moody series plays this trope straight. Although many assume all the books could take place in one year, the book Judy Moody: Girl Detective is stated to take place the October after the Christmas Special book Judy Moody and Stink: The Holly Joliday. Although there should have been a summer vacation (and a change in grades) between those books, both books (and all the other books) show Judy as being in the third grade and aged eight.
  • It looks like the revived Goosebumps series is heading this route too. A few protagonists from earlier books have appeared, all still the same age as they were over ten years ago in real time.
  • The original editions of the first few The Bobbsey Twins books took place in a clear timeline that affected the characters. The first book took place over most of a school year, with the older twins eight years old at the beginning and the younger twins four. The second book was set in the first half of the summer, the third tied up some plot threads from the second, and the fourth opened the following autumn, with the older twins "nearly nine" and the younger set "almost five". Then someone at the Stratemeyer Syndicate apparently realized that the characters would soon age beyond their readership; so in short order Nan and Bert aged to twelve and stayed there, with Freddie and Flossie stuck at six.
  • Similarly, Nancy Drew appears to have solved most of her seventy-three original mysteries the year she was sixteen years old.
    • This was even more weird in the 80s-90s updated series The Nancy Drew Files, in which Nancy was 18 (as in the revised editions of the original series). With the modern setting, it becomes increasingly unconvincing that the bright daughter of a lawyer wouldn't be either working or at college.
      • And in the games. Time passes, as made clear by calendars with dates spotted in the games, along with various references to recent events in history (such as the revelation that Pluto is no longer a planet), yet Nancy is still referred to as a "silly American teenager" by game 18.
    • The series has lasted long enough that this now applies to its House Pseudonym. Are we seriously meant to believe that the Carolyn Keene currently writing Nancy Drew books is the same Carolyn Keene who wrote The Secret of the Old Clock in 1930? Even if Carolyn Keene were a hundred years old now, that would still make her a preteen when she wrote The Secret of the Old Clock.
  • Archer Mayor's Joe Gunther is a Korean War vet; the novels are always set in The Present Day, making him at least 75 years old and still a working detective for a state police agency. Mayor's website gleefully lampshades this:
    Joe Gunther, who has the additional affliction of being arrested in time (please, no puns.) Having lived a full and interesting life, and achieved a position, both physically and emotionally, in which he is relatively comfortable, he has stopped the clock, and ages no more. As a man in his early to mid-fifties, therefore, and yet as a veteran of the Korean War, we all have to simply take for granted that when he was a combatant, he wasn’t three years old.
    Okay. So much for self-serving excuses. Without further ado, and with as little specificity as I can escape with, here is Joe’s story as I presently recall it.
  • One of Kim Newman's short stories, "Coastal City", featured a Commissioner Gordon-like character for heroine "Amazon Girl", on the edge of noticing that, among other paradoxes created by the sliding timescale of the universe he lives in, his war-hero past was being repeatedly updated, shifting from World War II to The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and now The Gulf War. Fortunately for him, a fresh crisis distracted him from the potential existential breakdown.
  • Leslie Charteris' The Saint has flitted back and forth in print between period pieces and a sliding timescale. In the introduction for Catch the Saint, published in 1975, Charteris notes that these stories took place before 1939, since "literary detectives sharper than Inspector Teal" would realize that, based on topical references in earlier adventures, the Saint would have grown too old to fight crime, and only a rejuvenation out of science fiction could deal with this situation. (While some Saint stories did feature the paranormal, which later collection in the anthology the Fantastic Saint, Charteris declined to pursue such an approach for the Saint's aging.) However, later books did not follow this trend. In 1997, Burl Barer wrote a new Saint novel that, in his blog, Barer stated took place in contemporary times. Viola Inselheim, a young child in 1934's The Saint in New York, has aged to adulthood in Capture the Saint, but Barer otherwise sidesteps the issue of time. Film and TV versions of the Saint have never gotten down as period pieces. The Roger Moore version took place in the then-contemporary 1960s. Post-Roger Moore TV versions such as those with Simon Dutton, Andrew Clarke, and Ian Ogilvy also eschewed the period piece approach.
  • P. G. Wodehouse wrote stories about Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle from the 1910s to the 1970s. The characters don't seem to age, although it's hard to specify the time period the novels are set. There are generally a few references in each novel to new technology or cultural events in the time period it was written, but otherwise the setting remains in a fantasy (in the sense of "the world never existed this way", not in the wizards-and-unicorns sense) version of Edwardian England. For example, one of the very late books (published in the 1970s) has Bertie complaining about anti-war demonstrators causing traffic congestion.
  • The Executioner action-adventure series was created by Don Pendleton in 1969, and after being purchased by Gold Eagle is still going strong. The series starts with the protagonist Mack Bolan as a Vietnam veteran (early novels even mention service in the Korean War), a fact that's not even mentioned now as it would make Bolan seem too old.
  • Averted in the Honor Harrington series. Characters age as the books cover about 30 years of conflict. However due to quasi-magical 'prolong' therapy, the vast majority of characters will live for about 300 years and be at peak physical state for most of that.
  • The 87th Precinct series started in the 1950s and continued for over forty years. In a clear sign of a sliding timescale, the children of the police officers never grew up, with references to their ages not lining up to the amount of publishing time between entries in the series.
  • Some Spider novels from the 1930s and 1940s appeared in redacted versions in the 1970s, with Wentworth's military service changed from World War I to the Korean War. Another redaction; a collapsing building in The City Destroyers called the Sky Building replaced by the World Trade Center.
  • Richard Stark's Parker initially did not require a sliding timescale. Parker's series initially ran only eleven years, from 1963 to 1974. Westlake did not revisit Parker for another twenty plus years, till the second wave from 1997 to 2008. In The Outfit Parker states that he had been in the Army from 1942 to 1944. In The Outfit Parker also does state he had already been a thief for 18 years, and refers to a heist he committed in 1949.
  • Mary Stolz did it with her three Barkham Street books. In A Dog on Barkham Street (1960) Edward asks his dad if he could get transferred to Alaska, now that it's a state. The Explorer of Barkham Street (1985) is supposed to take place about a year later, but Martin reads his library book through a M*A*S*H rerun.
  • In The Fine Art of Murder, on page 214-215, Ed McBain admits to using the sliding timescale. In the section "On the Eternal Youth Syndrome", he says "I think I am going to have to inch Carella's kids toward puberty. That was a conscious decision I had to make a while back, to freeze the ages of the characters". McBain admits to having read comic strips when younger, noting that he had read Gasoline Alley (no sliding timescale), Little Orphan Annie (sliding timescale), and Terry and the Pirates (McBain recalls "little Terry grows up and has an affair with the Dragon Lady"). "The detectives in my books were originally veterans of World War II, or later the Korean War, but that got awkward later on. I tried to put that all to rest in one of the books by saying "Every male of age in America is a veteran of one war or the other". Now I just say "He was in the war". Maybe soon people will think of that made-for-television war-Desert Storm".
  • Repairman Jack follows a sliding timescale. F. Paul Wilson only wrote two novels about Repairman Jack before 1998; 1984's The Tomb and 1992's Nightworld. When Wilson wrote Legacies in 1998, he decided to have it as the start of a series of novels about Repairman Jack, and set it just after The Tomb. However, to do so, he decided that the amount of time since Jack's first appearance in 1984's The Tomb would serve as a constant snag, so he rewrote The Tomb to update various topical references. In the 2000 novel All The Rage, on page 82, Jack notes, when someone says he cannot operate as a mercenary for much longer, "I'm thinking maybe four or five more years and I'm out. I'll be forty then", and he says at age he would not feel sure of himself in combat. That places Jack as 35-36 in the present day of All The Rage, which would make him roughly nineteen in 1984, probably a tad too young for the way The Tomb presents him. Wilson notes that Legacies and subsequent Repairman Jack novels will serve as interquels between The Tomb and Nightworld.
  • In Harry Dickson's Adventures, the titular hero and his young sidekick have lived over 100 adventures, covering, it seems, the late Twenties and the Thirties. However, the hero is always described as being in his late forties, and his assistant as being a young, hot-headed, immature young man.
  • Sexton Blake's adventures ran from the 1890s to the 1970s. They feature the usual signs of the sliding timescale, particularly due to the presence of Tinker, Blake's younger sidekick.
  • Possibly averted to a degree by Nick Carter, which ran from 1886 to 1990, as the Nick Carter of 1964 to 1990 referred to himself as Nick Carter III, suggesting him as the grandson of the 1880's Nick Carter.
  • Most of the "pulp heroes" such as the Shadow, the Spider, Doc Savage, etc. did not run into this, as few of them lasted in the 1950s (though the Black Bat and the Phantom [Curtis Van Loan] did, and the Black Bat returned for 700 adventures in Germany). However, in the 1960s, Walter Gibson wrote The Return of the Shadow, and Dennis Lynds continued from there with stories of the Shadow set in contemporary times.
  • John Putnam Thatcher, protagonist of Emma Lathen's mystery novels, spends the entire series (from 1961 to 1997) "a youthful 60". Slightly averted with recurring character Kenneth Nicholls — while he doesn't appear to age and remains a junior trust officer, he goes from single to married with two kids.
  • The Alex Rider books supposedly take place over the course of a year (if that), but technology has kept pace with reality. Alex's gadgets are the most obvious example - in early books, they were hidden in Game Boys or a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but they've since moved on to iPods. Anthony Horowitz is fond of this; the first Diamond Brothers book came out in the eighties, while a later book features the London Eye and is stated to be set in 2004.
  • Madeleine L'Engle appears to have scrambled her own timeline in her "Chronos" books. The original edition of Meet the Austins (1960) was five chapters long: the sixth chapter, "The Anti-Muffins", was removed at her publisher's request for length. The action in Meet the Austins is not specifically dated, but its direct sequel, The Moon by Night (1963), is very definitely set in 1959: Vicky goes to see West Side Story, her father mentions having met Princess Grace "back when she was plain Grace Kelly", and the family are in the Hebgen Lake earthquake. "The Anti-Muffins" was published separately in 1980, and has been included in the text of all printings of Meet the Austins since 1997: it includes a mention of the Kenny Rogers song 1978 "The Gambler". (Not to mention the hobbyist-spacesuit reference buried at the beginning of Meet the Austins, which sounds like a nod to the 1958 novel Have Space Suit – Will Travel. L'Engle justified this in a letter by noting that she was more interested in kairos, the "appropriate time," than in chronos, rigorous clock time.)
  • The books in the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries series by Rita Mae Brown follow the seasons.
  • Patrick O'Brien did this for the Aubrey-Maturin series: around book nine or so, he encountered the problem of running out of Napoleonic War years. To get around it he had to fudge an "1812a or 1812b" to allow for the long sea voyages. Since he's pretty meticulous about Doing The Research, he admits this fact in the forewords of the books affected. Because he's so good, almost everybody forgives him.
  • Averted in Ephraim Kishon's satirical short stories. We see Kishon's kids age in Real Time, from toddlers to teenagers.
  • Junie B. Jones was created in 1992. From 1992 to 2001 she was a kindergartner, with everything else taking place in first grade. It doesn't seem like she'll ever become a second grader. A book released in 2009 states the title characters mother was a first grader in 1983 to 1984, despite the fact that she should have been a first grader in The '70s or even The '60s if the series still took place in The '90s.
  • The first book in The House of Night is implied to take place in 2007, by Zoey's mention of having gone to see 300 with her friends. Each book takes place over at most about 2 weeks, which would place the most recent book in 2008 at the latest. However, the books often mention pop culture popular at the time the book was published, such as Game of Thrones in Destined.
  • The entire Vampire Academy series doesn't even cover a year. Including Bloodlines, the 10 books published so far cover a year and a half.
  • Unfortunately averted in the Book Within A Book Amazing Amy series in Gone Girl. Amy (the real one) notes sourly that no one particularly wanted Amy (the fictional one) to grow up, and that it makes the books faintly disturbing since she still thinks and talks like a ten-year-old despite being in her thirties. The success of the series has declined drastically as a result.
  • Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note may start off as an aversion of this trope as it involves the main cast moving on a grade in the first three novels, but thereafter the cast have always been seventh graders.
  • In Clive Cussler's NUMA novels, Dirk Pitt has been an eternal thirty-something (and Kurt Austin an eternal forty-something), even though roughly four decades have passed in-universe, where the fictional timeline approximately mirrors that of real life. Subverted in the later Dirk Pitt novels, where his age was advanced by approximately a decade, he discovered he had some kids that he never knew about (now college-age), and he got promoted to the head of his organization.
  • Quiller repeatedly says he's "getting old" in the first novel, written in 1965. His last mission is in "Quiller Balalaika", written in 1996 — as Quiller was a secret agent during the Second World War this would put him in his seventies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Malcolm in the Middle: It's implied that each of the seven seasons covers one school year, with Malcolm starting out in sixth grade and finishing in twelfth grade. However, the timeline remains extremely vague throughout, with only occasional clues coming from the plotlines and very rare seasonal clues. Given the vague timeline, there are also several inconsistencies. Two years apparently pass between "Goodbye Kitty," Season 5 episode 3, and "Kitty's Back," Season 6 episode 5. Even if this was just a slight Continuity Snarl, Jamie apparently ages 2 years within the season while Malcolm and Reese advance only one year in school. Dewey also appears to reach middle school by season 5 despite being in first grade at the show's start, meaning he should still be in fifth grade around this time. TL;DR version: Even though the starting point and ending point match up with the IRL timespan of the series, the events of the series still follow an extremely vague and sometimes contradictory timeline throughout.
  • Inverted in Heroes. The first four seasons have taken place over about a year in-universe, but Product Placement marches ever on so characters have lots of gadgets and cars that weren't out in late 2007 (Although they managed to almost avoid it with a reference to Guitar Hero 3 instead of 5, although they were still off by about a month). More explicitly, the fourth season/fifth volume says season one happened three years ago even though all the time that's passed up would be about 11 months since the beginning of the series.
  • Greek, when it's all said and done, will cover the time between Rusty's enrollment at college to his sister Casey's graduation in about 3 1/2 years (the span is actually about 2 years, as Rusty enrolled at the start of Casey's junior year.) It helps that It's Always Spring in the Ohio of the Greek world...
  • iCarly averted this in the first and second seasons, with them clearly moving up a grade, as well as the cast clearly entering puberty and growing up. They also explained how their school was a combined Middle and High school as they moved to a grade, that in almost all US education systems, means moving from a Junior or Middle school to a new High School. After season 2 however, it gets hazy. It's likely they are now in grade 10, but it's possible they could still be in grade 9, or have moved ahead to grade 11.
    • Definitely applies by the time of the spinoff, Sam & Cat. Even going by the most generous estimates, the iCarly cast have to be at least one year above the Victorious cast. Cat has clearly started Senior year by the middle of the season at least (the show features a Halloween episode, indicating a new school year, and the final season of Victorious had the characters in Junior year) and yet Sam is stated to still be taking online high school classes and is stated to still be under 18 years old.
  • In M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972 to 1983, the series lasts longer than the actual war, which started 25 June 1950 and was paused on 27 July 1953. Also, in the series, if one uses the few references to the actual war, the first three seasons must take place over a few months, although Hawkeye mentions several times they've been there for years (1-2). This is using the involvement of the Chinese in the war starting on 2 October 1950, which started in the fourth season, and Hawkeye's statement that he lived with Trapper for "over a year" at the beginning of season four when Trapper left. There are many other time issues, such as the Battle of Pusan Perimeter, where Hawkeye and BJ are surprised to hear a replacement surgeon's experience was in that battle and they say they heard "horror stories" about it, when in reality, that battle took place August-September 1950. Also, the fact that the MASH rarely moves, and seems to be located quite close to the 38th, we can only conclude that MASH 4077 is in a time displacement bubble, immune from outside influence. Using this, we can conclude that the MASH 4077 only existed for a few days, as it must have been after the Battle of Pusan which ended in September 1950, and it went through three seasons before the involvement of the Chinese, which started in the beginning of October 1950. It gets even more confusing if you recall what happened during the first three seasons. They experience at least one winter, one spring, a Christmas, an Orthodox Easter, and an Army-Navy game (which normally occurs in late November or early December). No less than three children of American soldiers and Korean women are born, all presumably at least 5 months premature.
    • At least one season 4 episode (shortly after BJ's and Potter's arrivals) made mention of Nixon as Vice President. Even if you push it back before the inauguration and have it be after the election of Eisenhower and Nixon in November 1952, it doesn't explain numerous references to Truman being President later on and the episode that spans the entire year of 1951 with BJ and Potter there from the beginning.
  • Breaking Bad teeters on the edge of this. In the fourth episode of the fifth season it is confirmed that it has been one full year since Walter was diagnosed with cancer. This would mean that Walter starting to cook meth with Jesse, Walter meeting Tuco, Tuco hiring Walter, Hank killing Tuco, Hank getting a promotion and going to El Paso and deciding to leave that job, Walter meeting Saul, Saul introducing him to Gus Fring, Walter's daughter being born, Fring hiring Walter, Walter causing a plane crash indirectly, Hank beating the hell out Jesse, Hank getting shot, Hank recovering, Hank getting a promotion despite his earlier bad behavior, Gus killing the entire Mexican Cartel leadership, Walter killing Fring and destroying his empire, Walt, Jesse and Mike starting a new partnership, Mike's share being bought out by Declan who is now Walter's employer and Mike getting killed by Walter all happened over the course of one year along with many other events. It's possible and the show's episodes and seasons due tend to flow directly into one another creating a somewhat shorter timeline but it also gives you a headache trying to reconcile that timetable with all these events AND how much Walter has changed from the pilot till now. More explicitly, in Season 2 there's a reference to the Phoenix lander recently finding water on Mars (2008), but in a Season 5 episode there's a reference to Bin Laden's death (2011).
  • Despite being a Superman show, most of Smallville is assumed to have taken place at the same time the episode aired (save a couple of Continuity Snarls like Chloe's birthday).
  • Sesame Street has a sliding timeline. For example a 2006 episode had Bob introducing his deaf niece to two characters and teaching them about deafness despite the fact that they had previously known a deaf character, Linda. There was also a season 35 showing three characters as teenagers in The '70s when they were all adults when the show began. As mentioned on the Not Allowed to Grow Up page, human characters age but Muppets stay the same unless a plot point is needed. It's especially noticeable in a wedding anniversary episode where Elmo speaks as if he wasn't at the wedding, but in the actual episode he's clearly in the scene.
  • Misfits was shown across five series (2009-2013) but the in-universe passage of time was suddenly established in the final episode as just over a year, with the events occurring on the first anniversary of the mysterious storm that imbues all the characters with superpowers. This causes some real retrospective problems, as some of the episodes take place over several days, and some of the gaps between seasons were clearly implied at the time to be months in length.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of The Golden Girls. Blanche mentions how she reads the comic Apartment 3-G every morning. When Dorothy mentions she hasn't read Apartment 3-G since 1961, Blanche says, "Well, let me catch you up. It is later the same day..."
    • However, in one episode Dorothy is asked if she has trouble getting to some things, and she says, "I can't even reach New Jersey on MCI." MCI didn't start offering long-distance telephone service until 1984.
  • A similar lampshade joke happens on The Nanny regarding a soap opera. When soap-neophyte C.C. is pulled in to a show's cliffhanger, she asks if they'll find out what happened tomorrow. Fran scoffs, saying, "Please, this is a soap. Six months from now, we'll be lucky if that coffee she's making will be ready."
  • In season one of City Guys, the characters are implied to be in their senior year of high school, if not in their second semester of junior year (it is mentioned in the pilot that Jamal was expelled from his last school during junior year). However, the characters' grade levels are never explicitly mentioned until season five. The ages of characters are rarely mentioned as well; though in "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," Ms. Noble states Cassidy's age as being "barely 17". NBC didn't help matters for viewers trying to figure out which grade they're in by merging halves of two different seasons into one beginning with season three (which is comprised of episodes produced during the second half of season two and the first half of season three); this is particularly glaring with "Frisky Business", which is set on the first day of a new school year but aired midway through season four. Against logic, Chris, Jamal, Al, Dawn and Cassidy stay at Manny High for all five seasons (this is excuseable with El-Train, as his lack of intelligence resulted in him having been held back a grade multiple times).
  • In the case of Hang Time, this is subverted in that the series has some characters graduate off-screen, with "Graduation on Three" centering on all of the characters graduating from Deering... but before then, it gets hazy. Even though it's established each season is set in a new school year, the characters' grade levels are never explicitly mentioned (although the ages of a couple of them are); against logic, Julie and Mary Beth stay at Deering for all six seasons (despite Mary Beth stating in "Mary Beth's Parents" that she is 17, and therefore should have graduated after season three at least). Even though, earlier episodes imply they're a couple of years short of college age. NBC didn't help matters any more by splitting season five into two separate seasons.
  • When it comes to Marvel's Netflix shows, it can be hard to determine how long exactly the time gaps are between each of the shows because of this trope. Especially considering that the shows take place around the time they're filmed.
  • Orange Is the New Black falls into this, since it is Very Loosely Based on a True Story. In real life, Piper's prison sentence only lasted 15 months, therefore technically the show (which started in 2013) should at the absolute latest be in the year 2015. However, the show has been on for over 5 years and the characters sometimes reference current events taking place at the time the seasons were filmed.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Characters from Calvin and Hobbes never age, although years are quoted, and Calvin frequently compares his summer vacations and Christmases to prior ones. In one late strip, Calvin tells his perpetual classmate Susie that her treatment of schoolwork as "fun" is one of the "ten signs of hopeless dweebism", to which she replies "I bet another is moving to the next grade each year." It gets lampshaded in another strip where Calvin's dad says "Yeah, I know, it feels like you're going to be six forever."
  • Garfield has a strange zig-zagging of this. Garfield's 'birthday' is celebrated every year and he constantly complains about getting old... but none of the characters ever age physically. Also, Garfield is stated to be as old as the strip itself, even though he's already an adult cat in his first appearance.
    • It got even weirder when, in 2003, Garfield met himself—that is, his "former" iteration from 1978, when the strip debuted; the Art Evolution was promptly lampshaded. The June 19th strip, referred to as Garfield's official birthday, also featured the original models of Odie and Jon standing with their contemporary counterparts.
  • This happens in pretty much every newspaper strip, including most of the serious, "soap opera" ones, so listing exceptions is probably a better idea.
  • The storyline of For Better or for Worse ran in real time from its inception to 2008. Then it rebooted to the early days, using a combination of reruns, modified reruns, and new strips drawn to look like the old ones. Word on the street is that this was the syndicate's idea.
    • This was alluded to in a post-9/11 episode of FoxTrot (which rigidly enforces this trope) when Jason found out that his father—afraid of needles (and of most things)—just gave blood.
    Mom: Sometimes we have to grow up, kiddo.
    Jason: Whoa. Did I just stumble into For Better Or For Worse?
    Mom: You can stay 10, sweetie. I don't mind.
  • Cathy more or less has operated in real-time. Irving, for example, has slowly gotten balder. Justified in that the main character is an Author Avatar for Cathy Guisewhite.
  • Gasoline Alley, one of the oldest strips still in existence, also operates in real time (though temporarily halted and then restarted); Skeezix was an infant during the first year of the strip and is now an elderly man, old characters die off eventually, including the family dog and many of the original characters from the Alley. Walt Wallet is still hanging on, though, and the fact that he is now technically over 120 means that things are getting fudged.
  • A really weird example occurred in Toots and Caper, specifically with their son Buttercup: After being a baby for twenty years, in the early 1940s he grew up to be a 6-year-old kid. As cartoon historian Don Markstein noted, he was born a few months before Skeezix, but he entered grammar school at the same time the Wallet kid was a young man enlisting in the war.
  • Blondie averted this for twenty years, chronicling not only the courtship and marriage of Blondie and Dagwood, but also depicting the birth and growth of their children Alexander (born in 1934 as "Baby Dumpling") and Cookie (born in 1941). Alexander stopped growing up around 1950-51, but Cookie kept on until late that decade, finally having the same age as her brother.
  • Baby Blues has a slowly sliding timeline: Zoe started out as an infant and grew into a toddler as the need for new material arose. Since then, she has been given siblings as necessary to keep the strip's title accurate. Zoe is around 10 years old now (born in the January 7, 1990 strip), Hammie is around 7-8 (born in the April 29, 1995 strip), and Wren is 1 year old (born in the October 26, 2002 strip). Wanda's pregnancies have both taken place in real time, however, without any noticeable aging from the other siblings occurring in the meantime. Kirkman and Scott state that they age around a "Three to one Ratio". It was two to one during Zoe's infancy; apparently having two siblings means simply a lot more storylines to deal with. They've also stated on record that "your children are always your babies" and the title has nothing to do with Wren's slow development.
  • First played straight and then averted with Doonesbury. From 1970 to 1983 the characters were always college students. Then the creator took a hiatus, improved his drawing style, and produced a play in which the characters finally graduate. Since then they have grown up in real time, and the original characters are now all middle aged. Oddly, this doesn't apply to Duke, who appeared to be in his forties when introduced over thirty years ago and still does. According to the Word of God, Uncle Duke isn't a normal person. His age was unknown when he was introduced and remains so to this day.
  • JumpStart follows a similar formula.
  • Luann and company have been in high school since 1985, approximately thirty-one years. Brad has since graduated high school and become a fireman. Starting in 2010, Greg Evans and his co-writer, his daughter Karen, have made a concerted effort to push Luann and her classmates forward in time. As of 2014, Luann, Bernice, Delta, Gunther and Tiffany have graduated high school and are now college freshmen.
  • Many of the characters in Peanuts aged somewhat since their introduction. Schroeder and Lucy started out as toddlers, then grew to Charlie Brown's age; Lucy's "baby brother" Linus grew to one or two grades below Charlie Brown (and has been seen in the same classroom as him on occasion). Sally also started as a baby and later caught up to Linus. Rerun also was born during the strip's run and ended up as a toddler. Charlie Brown himself also aged somewhat over the course of the strip; he stated that he was four in a 1950 strip, six in a 1957 one, and eight and a half in a 1979 one. The strips and animated adaptations are set in the year created, and thus we've had stuff like the incredibly 80s "Flash Beagle" song in the animated specials and references to Harry Potter in the comics.
  • Funky Winkerbean started off this way. The comic began in 1972 and the characters remained in high school for the first 20 years of the comic's existence. Then, in 1992, it was established that the characters had graduated high school in 1988, and the comic picked up in real time from just after their college days. In October of 2007, there was another Time Skip, and the comic is now presumably taking place about 9 years into the future (The Other Wiki says that the original main characters were to be 46 years old after the time skip, and based on graduating in 1988, they probably would've been born during the '69-'70 school year and should therefore have only been 37 just before the time skip.) So far, it's been impossible to tell the difference between the two eras. (It's not clear whether the current setting is circa 2020, or the pre-Time Skip era has been retconned back 10 years, keeping the strip in the present day. Most of the evidence suggests the latter. Confusing matters further, however, is the Shared Universe with Crankshaft, which also runs on Comic Book Time, but didn't have a timeskip. Crankshaft shows every signs of also being set in the present day, but when its characters appear in Funky Winkerbean they age ten years, and when FW characters appear in Crankshaft they appear as they did shortly before the timeskip.)
  • Long-running Scottish comics The Broons and Oor Wullie both make heavy use of this, having kept all characters at identical ages since they were first published in the 1930s. While the setting progressed around the characters for the first few decades, the comics seem to have settled into a sort of temporal limbo that darts back and forth between the 1950s and the present day at will, shifting from a "present day" setting to a nostalgic yet nonspecific "good old days" one.
  • Dykes to Watch Out For is another exception: the story is set in the present day with constant references to topical events, and characters, both adults and children, have aged at pretty much chronologically accurate rates. The few exceptions, for a long time, included Mo's cats, who'd survived the strip's entire 20-plus year run; however, in the last year or two of the strip's run, they were shown increasingly frail and one of them finally died.
  • Dick Tracy's strip acknowledges his wartime activities against spies such as Pruneface without dealing with the question of why Tracy still works as a policeman decades later. For example, Max Allan Collins wrote a storyline (later collected by Ken Pierce books as Tracy's Wartime Memories) to a hitherto untold story where Tracy battled Flattop, Shaky and Mr. and Mrs. Pruneface during World War II. Tracy appears in the modern era looking the same, while characters who appeared in the flashback story having aged decades. (Flattop stayed dead, as did Mrs. Pruneface, but Pruneface underwent revival from his hypothermic death due to the efforts of a sympathizer to the Third Reich.) Some of Tracy's children have visibly grown. In July of 2009 he visited his daughter Bonnie Braids. Sparkle Plenty has also grown into adulthood.
  • The characters in Heart of the City don't age, but their pop-culture references remain current. In 1998, Heart was an elementary-age girl swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio; by 2008, Heart was an elementary-age girl swooning over The Jonas Brothers. Also worth a mention is the fact that Heart and Dean have a new school teacher every year despite not getting older.
  • Little Nemo would actually lampshade this from time to time. It was a once a week strip, and a lot of times when a plot was taking too long a character would complain about it seeming to take weeks.
  • Heavily lampshaded in long-running British strip The Perishers, where one of the titular kids noticed that they never seemed to get any older from year to year and concluded that "something funny's going on!"
  • Big Nate had this bit of Lampshade Hanging:
    Nate's Gram: Nate, we're really looking forward to Grandparents Day at your school!
    Nate: Yeah, but why? I mean, when I'm eighty, I'm not going to want to hang out at a middle school!
    Nate's Gramps: Son, from what I hear, when you're eighty, you might still be in middle school!
    Nate's Gram: Oh, Vern! Honestly!
  • Beetle Bailey: Current events form a vaguely acknowledged background for what's going on (with the exception that the strip is always about peacetime army even if there is a war going on), but if anyone really ages (which has happened to about two characters, Ms. Blip and General Halftrack), it's more of a Retcon reimagining their character concepts than anything else.
  • Lampshaded in Sally Forth (June 26, 2014): "It doesn't feel like people ever age around here. It's like a "Twilight Zone" episode but with wi-fi." In another strip, Hillary remarks on the fact that her baby cousin is a year older, while she herself is the same age and in the same grade at school. She is then quickly admonished not to talk about it.
  • Phoebe from Phoebe and Her Unicorn has been in the fourth grade for over four years now, and shows no sign of aging, even though she should be thirteen as of this writing.
  • Retail is another exception to this trope, albeit rather subtly. One example is when a fired employee returns years later, stating that his ban from the mall only lasted 5 years, which was the amount of time he was absent from the strip.

  • The writers of Adventures in Odyssey have openly admitted that the passage of time in Odyssey doesn't really make sense. The best known-example is how Connie was sixteen for an extraordinarily long time, which they didn't hesitate to poke fun at, although she gradually made it to twenty-ish. Meanwhile, Whit, Eugene, and assorted kids have all aged at different rates.
  • The original two series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were broadcast from 1978 - 1980, and were intended as a contemporary piece. While the narrative quickly left Earth and there is not much to date the series, it can still be a bit jarring when the later three series, produced in 2003 and 2004, have scenes on or in reference to Earth that make more modern cultural references, or include as common technology things that would not yet have been common or even have existed. Of course, when dealing with possibilities such as different versions of Earth existing across multiple planes of reality, one supposes that such things may be relative. The most noticeable example is that "novelty ringtones" have replaced digital watches as the thing that primitive ape-descendants still think are a pretty neat idea.
  • Gallifrey follows Leela, who is human, and Romana, who does not return from E-space until the time of the Eighth Doctor, over 200 years after Leela first arrived on the planet, even though she has hardly aged a day.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Specifically subverted in the Spanish role-playing game Superhéroes, Inc. Rules are provided so that experimented super-PC's lose points everywhere (probably to avoid Godmodding), so that he should consider retirement and replacement.
  • Furthermore, depending on your group and how your GM handles time, it can lead to some problems when the characters seemed to have gone from low-level n00bs to walking gods without aging a single bit. Although, in Dungeons and Dragons at least, a party that gets four level appropriate encounters a day every day will go from level 1 to 20 in about six months.
  • Even though the two "storybooks" in the Mice and Mystics game series have been published over two years, and even though each campaign can take 15-20 hours to play, only two weeks have passed in-universe.

  • BIONICLE averts this by having its "main" story progress much slower than real-world time. Although the storyline lasted about a decade, in-universe, only one year and a few months have passed; no matter how many wild adventures the characters have gone through or how many world-changing events have happened since then. Also, even the mostly organic characters don't seem to visibly age, at least physically. In fact, most major characters have lived through a very decent chunk of the backstory, which is at least 100,000 years long...not that anyone is bothered by this much.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing: Bizarrely played with. Despite the fact that time flows at the same rate it does in the real world, none of the characters in-universe never seem to age a day. When celebrating a character's birthday, no mention is ever made to how old said character is.. As of New Leaf, it is possible to change the date so that up to 38 years can pass (the limit is 2050 before it loops back to 2012), yet the characters don't age. At most they'll just comment on how much time has passed since you last talked to them.
  • In the Street Fighter II series, all the main fighters were given dates of birth and ages that coincided with the release of each installment. Cammy, for example, whose date of birth was originally January 6, 1974, is said to be 19 in Super Street Fighter II, which was released in 1993. Once Street Fighter Alpha came, Capcom started using vaguer dates. Sakura's date of birth is given as March 15, 197X, placing the events of the Alpha series (where Sakura is a 15 year old high school student) somewhere between as early as 1985 or as late as 1994. The Street Fighter III series had no dates of birth for any of the new characters and whenever the year that the series takes place is mentioned, it's always "199X" and never a specific year. By the time Street Fighter IV came out, the dates of the birth for returning characters have the years omitted and most of the characters are seen using relatively modern computers and cellphones from the late 2000s.
  • Final Fantasy XI has had an in-game clock and calendar running since its servers first went online. It doesn't do anything remarkably odd with this trope, but the real kicker to it is that it continues to track the in-game year. Literally thousands of years have passed in-game, but no PC or NPC has ever aged, no construction project has ever been completed, no city or civilization has ever changed risen or fallen. It's a stagnant world but time continues to flow.
  • Final Fight was originally set in 1989, the year it was originally released for the arcades, but since the game came out practically at the end of year, it was changed to 1990 for the export versions, which is also the date used in the later Super NES version. It was changed again to 1992 in the Sega CD version, Final Fight CD, which also updated the main characters' ages by three years to reflect the time that has passed since the arcade version's original release. The GBA version, Final Fight One, goes back to the original 1989 setting, turning it into a period piece.
  • All the characters in The King of Fighters series have remained the same age since KOF '95, even though each game is supposedly set a year after the previous one. Oddly enough, the only other game where the characters were allowed to be aged by one year was in KOF EX, an Alternate Continuity Gaiden Game set after the events of KOF '97. In contrast, the Fatal Fury series from which KOF originally spun off from have maintained a real time continuity throughout the entire series up until Garou: Mark of the Wolves (which was released in 1999, but is set in the year 2006note ).
    • Art of Fighting was a prequel to the Fatal Fury series, taking place in an unspecified time period somewhere around the late 1970s/early 1980s with a younger Geese eventually showing up as the True Final Boss in AOF2, while Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition featured an older Ryo as a hidden boss. In KOF, the AOF cast has essentially been transported a few decades into the future with no change to age or personality.
  • The original Rolling Thunder was a period piece set during the late 1960s. For some reason, the two sequels moved the setting to the 1990s, even though the Albatross and Leila from those games are implied to be the same characters from the original (rather than being legacy characters).
  • An interesting example is found in The Idolmaster where each of the characters has a birthday. However over the course of a year they never celebrate their birthday or age. In the end, Iori is still 14, Haruka is still 16, and the twins are still 12 even if you pass their birthdays. This is most obvious in One For All and Platinum Stars, which both have a continuous gameplay timeline instead of a fixed-length campaign, so several in-game years can pass as the player progresses. The iDOLM@STER 2 permanently aged the characters up one year, but otherwise retained this trope.
  • The characters in Sonic the Hedgehog never age. Sonic's age was not set in stone (ranging from 16 to 18) until it was codified as 15 in Sonic Adventure. He has stayed that age since, even though he had a birthday in Sonic Generations. This all is made even more painfully obvious by the aging of characters like Amy (who went from 8 in Sonic R to 12 in Adventure while Tails stayed 8). In Sonic Forces, Infinite remarks that Sonic has beaten Eggman "for decades".
  • Dead or Alive had this going for a while. The series debuted in 1996, but the characters remained the same age; for example, Kasumi and Ayane remained only 17 and 16 respectively. As of Dead or Alive 5, however, the entire cast has been officially aged two years.
  • The cast in the Super Mario Bros. series never seem to age at all. New Super Mario Bros. Wii starts the story off by having the Mario Bros. celebrate Princess Peach's birthday, but her age is never revealed. The entire series constantly references past games but none of the characters get any older. Now let's stop for a second and discuss Mario's age. The Japanese trophy description for Mario in Super Smash Bros. Melee states that he's 26 years old. Let's be generous and say that he ages one year with each new generation, putting him at 28 as of the Wii U/Nintendo 3DS era. That would place his birth at around 1986-1987, rendering any Mario game that took place before Super Mario Bros. 2 non-canon. That's how long Mario has been around people! Eventually, Miyamoto stated that Mario has been 24-25 years old throughout the entire series.
    • This only becomes weirder when you consider that Mario and Donkey Kong share a universe and that Donkey Kong and crew do age. The "original Donkey Kong" that Mario fought in his debut game has been confirmed to in fact be Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong's grandfather, which means that the very-clearly-a-child Donkey Kong Jr. from the old arcade games has an adult son now even though his enemy is still in his twenties.
  • Snatcher was originally released in 1988 in Japan, with the date of the Catastrophe set in 1991. For the English version, which was released in 1994, the date was changed to 1996. This actually caused all the dates in the story to be bumped by five years, changing the present date of the story from 2042 to 2047.
  • The Nancy Drew books have their own set of problems, but the Nancy Drew PC games have another, namely this. There's a steady implication that the stories occur in quick succession (the first game, Secrets Can Kill, ended with a sting about a soap opera and death threats, directly leading to Stay Tuned For Danger, and more recent games such as Shadow at the Water's Edge, The Captive Curse, and Alibi in Ashes, are explicitly said to be one right after the other, with the only time passing between them being the plane rides between Japan, Germany, and River Heights). However, while this could imply only a few weeks or months in-universe, justifying the fact that she's still 18 years old, the games have been made for 15 years in real life, and they keep the tech up with the times, meaning in the span of less than a year, she's gone from finding clues on floppy disks and VHS tapes to super-powerful smartphones and thumb drives.
  • Despite being active for nearly 4 years as of the time of this writing, Star Trek Online is still, according to Word of God, in 2409. This is after having two holiday events. According to the developers, they're in "very late" 2409. The Season 9 Featured Episode "Surface Tension" finally moved the game up to 2410. It'll probably be another four-and-a-half years before we get to 2411.
  • Samus Aran in the Metroid series doesn't seem to age a day at all, even though every single game is placed on a single timeline so that they all follow each other. It is never explained how much time has passed between games and the only passage of time that gets mentioned is in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption where Samus wakes up 3 months later after being gravely injured by Dark Samus. At least she's genetically-altered to explain it.
  • Ace Attorney has its characters age in between arcs and they age realistically. However, the Judge, despite being an old man who admits to using dentures, never seems to age one bit and the games uses a singular timeline with specific dates for each trial and event.
  • The Neptunia series doesn't have its human characters age at all, despite each game usually opening with one of the characters mentioning that "years" have passed in-universe since the previous game. If IF and Compa were in their early teens when they met Neptune and Nepgear for the first time (as seen in a flashback in mk2), they should be in their mid to late twenties as of VII, yet they don't seem to have aged a day, if you ignore Art Evolution. At least the CPUs have the excuse of canonically not aging. Victory features an Alternate Universe where IF and Compa are aged through Time Skips from toddlers barely able to speak to about five or six to their usual something-teen age, yet all the other human characters, like Abnes and Mr. Badd, remain the same age.
  • Stardew Valley has the townspeople reference time passing over two years but after that, nothing changes and the dialogue gets very repetitive. The two townspeople children never age, though your character can have children and they can become toddlers.
  • Unlike the anime, the Pokémon games do not follow this trope, as time has explicitly passed between Black/White and Black 2/White 2, as well as between FireRed/LeafGreen and Sun/Moon, where you meet the characters Blue Oak and Red at the Battle Tree.

    Web Animation 
  • Retarded Animal Babies hangs a lampshade on this in episode 21: Cat mentions that they're only six months old but can somehow go to two annual 4-H fairs in a row. (Assuming the previous one was the one briefly shown in episode 2, several years have also passed in Real Life time in that period.)
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: In an example of Webcomic Time, Seasons 1 through 4 take place over a single school year (less, as the series began with the year already in progress) but were produced over the course of four calendar years. What makes it also qualify is that whenever a character mentions the current year, they say the current Real Life year, meaning it went from 2012 to 2015 during that single In-Universe year.

    Web Comics 
  • Avalon averted this for the most part, with the majority of it taking placing in real time and with timeskips after long storylines. It was played straight near the end of its run when the ugliness that is Schedule Slip reared its head and caused week to month long delays.
  • El Goonish Shive is consistent with character ages and suffers from the usual Webcomic Time, but technology matches whatever era the current comic was written in (in one early comic a character from a rich family complains about her pay-per-text plan and now everyone has smartphones, etc), with the author refusing to acknowledge the time period beyond taking place in the year "20XX" to the point of being a Running Gag.
  • This is parodied in Supermegatopia, in which Mongoose Lad really was Ferret Man's boy sidekick for decades, due to a mutation that caused him to age far slower than normal.
  • Achewood characters age normally... except for Phillipe. Phillipe is five. He will always be five.
  • APT Comic, though some of the characters (including the resident Author) have 'ranges' instead of a set age.
  • From PvP:
    Cole: It could be worse...Bart Simpson has been ten years old since 1989.
    Francis: This blows.
    Cole: You'll appreciate it when you're in your thirties.
    • Two years after that strip, Francis and Marcie lose their virginities to one another and immediately age three years.
    • This is done inconsistently, though, as this strip implies that less than four years have passed since the comic's launch, modern pop-culture references notwithstanding.
    • On the other hand, Cole's daughter (Born 1999/2000) dropped out of the strip for a decade and is now in college.
  • Averted in Kevin & Kell (and also in Bill Holbrook's other strips). Coney was born and is growing up, Lindesfarne graduated and went to university, and even Rudy has grown up and matured. A little.
    • And yet, initially it was played straight as Coney who's now growing up, was born around when the webcomic began in 95 and didn't progress to being a toddler until a full 10 years later with time still being acknowledged as progressing.
    • The tags under the strips note strips in which Rudy's age is mentioned. He's aged six years between 1996 and 2012. Interestingly, Coney looks about six in the latter strip as well.
    • The 20th anniversary featured a week of comics set 20 years ago in strip time: Kevin was still married to Angelique (with a baby Lindesfarne) and Kell was pregnant with Rudy.
  • Done in Alice, in which the characters were in 7th grade until around 2005, and have gone to several Halloween parties, fall dances, and Thanksgiving Weekends. The later strips show them progressing to Grade Eight.
  • Averted in Deviant Universe, where almost every story event takes place in the month they were drawn in.
  • In this Shortpacked!, Ethan considers some of the effects of Comic-Book Time with respect to Batman.
  • A year of Dumbing of Age strips will usually cover an in-universe week, but the comic has a sliding time-scale to prevent it, in the author's words, slowly turning into a period piece.
  • While Sluggy Freelance does note holidays (And the strip's anniversary) and some events (Such as Zoe going through and eventually graduating from college) that indicate the passage of time, nobody noticeably ages. By rights, Riff and Torg should be close to 40 by now if they aged in real time.
  • Originally played straight and then abruptly averted in Least I Could Do, by means of a memo from the cartoonist informing the assembled characters that they would henceforward age normally. The missive was received with ... more than a little distress, especially by Rayne, and the following years saw the major characters trying to get a handle on maturity and planning for the future.
  • Ménage à 3 has been running since 2008, but only a few months — perhaps a year — have passed within its universe. Mostly, the dates of events in the story are unstated and ambiguous, but there are occasional hints that the current date is close to the real-world date. For example, Gary is a "brony" — a fan of comics that weren't being published yet in 2008 — while one 2018 strip features a Donald Trump joke that only really works if one of the characters knows that he's U.S. president.

    Web Original 
  • Legion of Net.Heroes, due to being a superhero parody, has played with this many times. Probably the most explicit use of the trope is the Slide-Rule of Time, which can create and manipulate sliding timescales with elementary-level arithmetic.
  • In the Whateley Universe, time clearly moves more slowly than in the real world; Team Kimba arrives at the academy in early September 2006 (still in the future at the time the first stories were written), and by real-life early 2009 the storyline has advanced to begin to cover events in January/February 2007. On the other hand, the stories do provide plenty of concrete dates and times to help keep everything on track.
  • Averted so far in the LessThanThree-Verse, with actual dates matching those in the real world, and the core characters, The Brat Pack, less than a year from graduating high school.
  • Behind The Veil, being a Play by Post Game, runs by this trope out of necessity; the events of a eventful hour could take weeks to write out. Using some of the oldest characters on the site as a framing device, their first meeting which was written towards the end of 2007 happened roughly a year prior to current events.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: After seven years of air time, there have been in-show events said to be years apartLike , several characters have had birthdays, Christmas has come at least twice, Halloween three times, and dates always lists episodes as taking place in the year they're written note . Despite this, there are no signs of anyone getting older—except possibly Gumball's class graduating from 7th grade to 8th by the fifth season, but even that could just be a mistake. This becomes a plot point in "The Kids", as Gumball's and Darwin's voices are cracking due to their aging voice actors, yet they don't seem to be aging in-universe. The end of the episode, and several others, imply the universe itself is not allowing time to pass.
  • ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks: In "Family Spirit", Dave states he met The Chipmunks about seven years ago, relative to March 1st, 2015 (French airdate) or August 6, 2015 (US airdate), making The Chipmunks retroactively not exist during the times of the songs they have been covering. Or, this is an Alternate Continuity reboot.
  • Bugs Bunny: While Bugs Bunny celebrated his 50th birthday according to the TV special Happy Birthday Bugs: 50 Looney Years and the NES game The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, there has been no mention of a 75th birthday party.
  • Also from Looney Tunes: Sylvester, Tweety and Granny. Their character designs evolved in the 1940s and had all reached their current forms by 1950's Canary Row without noticeably changing in age, but The Looney Tunes Show (2011) shows Granny as a young woman during World War II.
  • The Simpsons is an example of an animated TV show lasting long enough for this trope to become apparent. The births of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, the year of Homer and Marge's first meeting, wedding, etc., all appear to shift as the seasons roll by so that the characters can constantly remain the same age (more or less). This usually manifests itself in the flashback episodes. Grandpa, however will always be a WWII veteran, even if this makes him unrealistically old. One egregious example is Apu and Manjula's octuplets, who they decide to have after seeing Maggie, and were conceived, born, and are now toddlers that have shown to be able to stand and talk, while Maggie is still the same crawling, teething, silent infant.
    • There is an early episode when Bart and Lisa likens watching the premiere of a movie to watching the moon landing. We then see a flashback of a 10-ish year old Homer completely ignoring the moon landing, listening to his records. They later had an episode focused on his mother and her hippie-background and had a toddler Homer showing up at Woodstock. The two events took place only 26 days apart!
    • How many episodes have Bart and Lisa beginning or finishing the school year, but they (along with their classmates) are always stuck in the same grade?
    • In season 8, Luann Van Houten tells Marge that she just can't keep up with the Go-Go Nineties.
    • The season 5 opener refers to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope all still being alive, working and successful. George Harrison cameos in the same episode (and not just the flashback bit).
    • In season 3, Sideshow Bob says that "You can't keep the Democrats out of the White House forever!" That was seven presidential terms ago, four of them Democratic, and Maggie hasn't aged a day.
    • Frequently lampshaded in the commentaries by Al Jean, who loves to bring up the fact that one of the show's current writers was born after 1980, and is thus technically younger than Bart.
    • When, exactly, the backstory to the kids' birth takes place has never been treated very seriously (notably in two separate episodes Bart was 5 in 1990, but was born in 1980, making him 5 in 1985) and is always floating at "10, 8 and 1 year(s) ago". This is lampshaded in another episode where Homer remembers his childhood as "The fifties, or the sixties, or... maybe it was the early seventies."
      • This could be part of the reason Homer's mother was written out of the series. She left her family in The '60s to escape the law but at this point, 40ish-year-old Homer would be too young for this to make any sense now.
    • The amount of Christmas episodes obviously suggests years passing, yet it never does. Doesn't anyone in Springfield realise Christmas only happens once a year? Two major events in the normally Negative Continuity show (Santa's Little Helper getting adopted and Lisa turning Buddhist) happen over two Christmases, and on one occasion Homer counts up at least a dozen family Christmases which he had saved and/or ruined, even though he's only been married to Marge for about 10-11 years.
    • In the episode "Lisa's Wedding", Lisa sees into the far future her first love in the far-off year of 2010, 15 years from the episode's 1995 airdate.
    • Lampshaded in "That '90s Show", where Bart claims he's never heard of the '90s. This was rather controversial, seeing as how past episodes depicted Bart interacting with major pop culture figures and trends of the 1990s, yet this storyline required he be born in 1998.
    • Lampshaded in "The Last Temptation of Krust" when Marge is taking Bart and Lisa shoe shopping for dress shoes. Lisa complains that the shoes are two sizes too big and Marge says she'll grow into them. Lisa then asks 'When?' and Marge says 'Oh you're overdue for a growth spurt.'
    • Major League Baseball catcher/later manager Mike Scioscia made guest appearances in 1992 and 2010 and aged normally. Although the events of the 1992 episode were mentioned, his physical appearance was not lampshaded, despite a great opportunity to blame it on his tragic illness in the former episode.
    • The episode "Angry Dad The Movie" has a very strange timeline, it is stated that Bart created Angry Dad in 1999, even though the original episode aired in 2002. Later in the episode Bart claims he became a fan of animation after watching the early episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants as a toddler.
    • "Ned-Liest Catch" references Edna Krabappel's relationship with Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer which took place in the 3rd season episode "Flaming Moe's" back in 1991. He has aged in real time since then and no one comments on this.
    • Also in "Behind The Laughter", Lisa states in her "Tell All Book" that she has been given anti-aging hormones to keep her 8.
    • Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have all either been depicted in office, or at least mentioned on the show, and three of them got re-elected. Not only that, but Richard Nixon was at several points mentioned, with Homer having been old enough to have developed a disrespect of Nixon while he was young!
    • In the first half-hour episode where the family gets Santa's Little Helper, Marge writes in a letter to her family that Maggie had taken her first steps, though she still fell down every so often. Maggie's been learning how to walk for more than thirty years.
    • Lampshaded by Sideshow Bob in the Treehouse of Horror XXVI segment "Wanted: Dead, then Alive": "24 years of trying to kill a ten-year-old child [Bart] have finally paid off."
    • Early episodes of the series characterized Principal Seymour as a Vietnam war veteran who has flashback about his tour of duty, with one episode (I Love Lisa) showing him still tormented by the death of a combat buddy. This aspect of Skinner's backstory gets downplayed as the series went on. As of 2013, The New York Times was estimating the average age of a Vietnam vet to be 75. [1]
    • The flashback episodes are particularly bad with this one. Homer and Marge met in the late 70s, conceived Bart in 1980, got married shortly after, with Lisa being born shortly before the 1984 Olympics.
    • Likewise, a season 7 episode shows Grandpa Simpson being older than Mr. Burns during World War 2 by at least a decade. Another flashback, in season 8's "Burns Baby Burns" states that Mr. Burns attended his twenty-fifth Yale reunion around the time Gone With The Wind came out in cinemas.
    • Another flash-forward episode features a fun lampshade hanging, where we meet the future versions of the rest of the family, but it seems Maggie is still a baby. Then it turns out this is actually Maggie Junior.
    • The 2017 Treehouse of Horror comic contains a parody of It. Notably, Krusty the Clown scares child versions of Carl and Lenny with the cancellation of ALF, despite both of those characters being introduced as middle-aged men the same year the show was actually cancelled in real life.
  • South Park: The characters don't age much. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny started out as 8-year-old boys in the third grade. In the 4th season, the boys move onto fourth grade and were 9 years old. By the season 15 episode "Crack Baby Athletic Association", all the boys were 10. None of the other characters in the series have aged at all either with the exception of Ike who started out as a toddler who could barely speak coherently; as of season eleven he is a bit taller, wears different clothes and he can now speak in full sentences. In the Facebook episode, "You have 0 Friends," first broadcast in spring of 2010, several of the boys' Facebook profiles were shown, listing their birth years as 2001 — four years after the show started airing (in fact Ike's gravestone in an early episode had him born in 1996).
  • Spinoff Babies shows like Muppet Babies, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Tom & Jerry Kids, Yo Yogi!, and Baby Looney Tunes are presented as Broad Strokes prequels to the original shows, yet the stories are set in a present time period that is in the future relative to the original shows, placing the childhood of younger versions of characters further ahead in time than the adventures of their adult selves. Either time doesn't matter, or these are Alternate Continuity and Discontinuity shows.
  • Arthur:
    • The series featured the terms of an anthropomorphic animal Bill Clinton and George Bush alike, yet Arthur and his friends are still in the third grade.
    • Similarly, technology has lurched forward with no comment from other characters: The earliest seasons made a joke about Muffy owning a cellphone, while a later episode had another character getting too attached to her new cell phone and even later episodes have characters owning smartphones like they're nothing.
    • D.W. has also turned five and baby Kate was born and aged to around nine months to about a year, yet Arthur is still eight. Kate has shown signs of entering toddlerhood but it's unlikely Arthur will move up a grade as that'd remove Ratburn as a character and change the class structure. Eventually they did graduate in season 19 and Mr.Ratburn would move up to Grade 4 with them... Only to remain in the third grade for seasons 20 and 21.
  • Lampshaded in Family Guy, twice:
    • During the first "comeback" season, Peter mentions that Bonnie has been pregnant for "like six years", and tells her to either have the baby or not. Stewie's age has been lampshaded a few times, notably when he reacts to Brian telling him it's about time for him to grow up and let go of his stuffed toy Rupert, "Brian, I'm one!", and Brian replies "Still?" In one episode, Bonnie finally gave birth after almost ten years of pregnancy.
    • On the other hand, one character, Bertram, has managed to be conceived, carried to term, born, and age enough to be allowed to play on the playground while Stewie remained one year old, all in one episode. Other episodes have also distinctly taken place over months of time with no change in Stewie's age. A good example of this was the episodes "The Perfect Castaway" in which there is a time lapse of a year, but Stewie (among practically all the cast) remaining the same.
    • Family Guy occasionally gives the main characters actual progression. There's the episode where Chris finally went to high school, several episodes regarding Meg's gradual aging (she was 15 at the beginning of season 1, and aged to 16 in a later episode of the same season, started another episode in a later season with her 17th birthday, and eventually aged to 18 by season 10), and another episode beginning with Lois' 41st birthday. However, it looks strange that Meg has aged somewhat normally while Chris only aged one year throughout the whole series.
    • Brian is always stated to be 7 or 8 years old in dog years and he is always mulling over about just how old he is getting, even though Brian never seems to get older at all. Lampshaded when Stewie asks Brian:
    Stewie: How can you have a teenage son when you yourself are only seven?
    Brian: Well those are dog years.
    Stewie: That doesn't make any sense!
    Brian: You know what Stewie, if you don't like it, just go on the Internet and complain.
    • Once again lampshaded in "Christmas Guy", the show's third Christmas special. Lois proudly announces that it's Stewie's first Christmas, to which Stewie replies, "Again?"
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • Scooby has celebrated his fortieth birthday. He's still alive and the members of Mystery Inc. are still teenagers. Also, their ages are always the same, despite the various series having had more than one Halloween Episode. That Halloween must have been a really busy day for the gang.
    • The continuity that begins with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island follows on from the original series, but has the teenagers growing into adults... and Scooby not aging at all, despite being a Great Dane — a breed which has an average lifespan of 8-10 years. Similarly, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo has him as a puppy when the others were in elementary school, which is the same problem from the other end. In addition, technology levels and fashion (outside the main characters, at least) are based directly on when the series aired, meaning A Pup Named Scooby-Doo appears to be set after any previous Scooby-Doo series.
    • This was lampshaded in Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! The Gang goes on a cruise to celebrate Fred's birthday. At the wharf, they ask him how old he is. His response? "37. *beat* 38... 39... Here it is. Dock 40."
  • King of the Hill has an interesting timeline. At the beginning of the series, Bobby was 11 years old and had a birthday. He turned 13 in the fifth season and hasn't really aged since. Even more odd is that his sudden lack of aging allowed for Joseph and several other characters from school to catch up and even surpass him in hitting puberty; the closest to an explanation this has received is claiming that Bobby is a late bloomer. In the fourth season, Luanne stated that she was 19½, then in season 9, she celebrated her 21st birthday. John Redcorn was said to be 36 in a season three episode and 40 in a season 10 episode.
  • Rugrats combined this with Not Allowed to Grow Up. Just from the sheer number of episodes, some of which specifically take place over the course of multiple days, one would think that at least a year would've passed, but it doesn't. (Add in the fact that they have holiday specials almost all the way around the calendar, including multiple Valentine's Day episodes, and this gets a bit ridiculous. Then there was that not real-time pregnancy that nevertheless tried to pass itself off as the right amount of time (it was explicitly autumn when the pregnancy was discovered in a season finale, and summer in The Movie in which Dil is born (released before the start of the following season), so nine months is to be assumed), yet no time actually passes for anyone else. Lampshaded by the anniversary special called "Decade in Diapers". Then they make up for it by applying all ten years of accumulated time at once. Chuckie seems to be the only one to develop over the course of the series, moving from a crib to a bed (and all the anxiety therein), and in the second movie, says his first word to grown-ups. The second film has Chas trying a dating site, which implies a mid-to-late 1990s setting (which would mean All Grown Up took place in Next Sunday A.D. when first released). Going by the date the show started the babies should have been born in the late 80s, however Charlotte herself has shown signs of being a teen in the early to mid 80s in certain episodes.
  • The main characters of Home Movies stayed 8 years old throughout its four year run.
  • Liberty's Kids: The show covered 1773 right up to about 1789, and the main characters never aged - although all the adults around them did! By the end of the series Sarah was still 15, James 14, and Henri only 8 - after about 16 years! Leading to weird scenes where they recall events that happened — that they participated in — eight, ten, twelve years ago, and marvel at how much things have changed in the meantime...
  • On American Dad! Steve will always be 14 and Hayley always 18 or 19, but the episode "Tears of a Clooney" alone takes place over the course of an entire year, with little room left in its chain of events for other events to occur. Though, since each of the Christmas episodes has involved time/reality manipulation of some sort, the Timey-Wimey Ball may be playing a role.
  • Reboot subverts and justifies this. Everyone in Mainframe doesn't age much, but when Enzo becomes a game sprite, he comes back an older, grizzled self, along with his girlfriend, both having started as children. Then when they make it back to Mainframe, Enzo is visibly as old as his sister Dot who had always been much older than him. However, the faster rate of time in the Games is supposed to justify this. It is worth noting that everyone is a program of some form and, as Enzo and AndrAIa show, age depends upon how much processing power is dedicated to them (games being CPU-intensive).
    • Things are also fudged a bit by the characters perceiving time much slower than in the real world, thanks to the high processor speed of the computer they're in. They regularly talk about nanoseconds the way we do hours.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Timmy Turner has remained ten for over ten years. It was assumed that he had turned eleven in one episode, "Birthday Bashed", but a later episode, "Manic-Mom Day", established that he's still ten years old.
    • He even celebrates two birthdays over the course of the show, and did celebrate the fact that he'd held onto Cosmo and Wanda for a year in the third season. The Comic-Book Time part was confirmed early on, because Timmy traveled back thirty years in two different episodes: to 1970 in the first season, but to 1972 in the third.
    • On that note, when "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker!" was created Timmy's birthday was dated as 1992. That should have been booted out of the continuity early on, making the episode non-canon, as Timmy never reaches an other age and there's no indication the show is perpetually set in 2002..However "Timmy's Secret Wish" makes it ever the more possible Timmy still is born in 1992, possibly averting the typical floating timeline. This makes the live action movies set earlier than people think. You'd think it's set in the 2020s when it could be set in the early to mid 2010s, which is still 20 Minutes into the Future but less so.
    • This is given quite a twist in the "Timmy's Secret Wish" special: Timmy once wished that everyone in the world would stop aging (and that Cosmo, the fairy granting the wish, would forget granting it afterwards). It turns out, by the time this is discovered, it's been 50 years! And apparently nobody in the entire world noticed.
    • In the movie Abra-Catastrophe!, Timmy celebrates his Fairy-versery for keeping his fairies a secret for a year, but he's still 10 - however, it was established that he got Cosmo and Wanda as his fairies when he was 9, a short while before he turned 10.
  • Strongly subverted in Young Justice, where there's a timestamp at least Once per Episode establishing the date and time when events begin. Word of God says that the Universe Bible has a timeline that's 149 pages long, giving all the major events in the show's history. The show begins on July 4, 2010 (which was originally Next Sunday A.D.) and the first season finale was set on New Year's.
    • T.O. Morrow built robots to destroy the Justice Society of America during World War II, and at the time of the show is still building them to destroy the Justice League. Of course, the real T.O. Morrow is an old man in a coma who built a robotic duplicate of himself to continue his work.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man averts this—we open the night before Peter begins his junior year and season two ends in the spring, with episodes set around all the major holidays between. It was intended to be a 65-Episode Cartoon that would end with Peter and his classmates Graduating From The Story, but it was Screwed by the Lawyers before that could happen.
  • This trope is actually averted in Recess. While the show began in 1997 and ended in 2001 (and two Direct to Video films in 2003), it's been established that the show only takes place over the course of the September 1997 - June 1998 school year. This is firmly established in Recess: School's Out, where the villain talks about how he was holding revenge for thirty years since 1968 (the movie was released in February 2001, but takes place in June 1998)
  • Averted in Pepper Ann, which did pretty much the exact same thing as Recess: started in 1997, continued past 2000, in-series calenders still say '97.
  • The Powerpuff Girls, having been first devised in 1992 as Craig McCracken's school project as The Whoopass Girls, were first depicted as five-year-old children attending kindergarten in their first Hanna-Barbera commissioned short "Meat Fuzzy Lumkins." They remained five years old through all six seasons of their show (plus specials and the movie) in spite of the fact they celebrated a birthday in the episode "Birthday Bash." A few early episodes of have the series taking place in 2000 according to some scenes, and it shows in their technology (such as several characters owning a Nintendo 64). By the special Dance Pantsed (which was released after the cartoon ended) the series takes place somewhere in the early 2010s as seen by the characters owning a Wii. The Continuity Reboot The Powerpuff Girls (2016) is a Stealth Sequel and takes place in the mid 2010s (but Princess just turns six on one episode).
  • Phineas and Ferb's theme song mentions "104 days of summer vacation"...but the show ended with well over 200 episodes, including specials. A few clues are offered about dates — the first season episode "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together" takes place on June 15, the season two episode "Summer Belongs to You" takes place on the summer solstice, and the series finale "The Last Day of Summer" takes place on the last day of summer vacation. The show's sliding timescale has been lampshaded several times:
    • Phineas answers (to a thought we never hear) in an episode: "You're right Ferb. It DOES feel longer than 104 days."
    • Buford at one point says "Are you sure it's only been three months? Because I added up the stuff we've been building and we're way over 115..."
    • In "Fly on the Wall," Doof laments that the summer seems to be going on forever.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head featured unaging characters, but the spin-off, Daria (which was still running after Beavis and Butt-Head ended) actually did have a progression of time and ended with its lead graduating from high school. When Beavis and Butt-Head returned for a single season in 2011, Daria have long since moved away and graduated. This is even subtly lampshaded. Beavis states that he used to have a friend named Daria who had died. Butthead immediately calls him an idiot and says that Daria moved away.
  • Double Subversion in Adventure Time: At first, Finn aged more or less in real-time: he began the show as a 12 year-old boy, and is 13 by the next season. However, the passage of time gradually slowed down to the point where Finn was just 17 as the show entered its eight and final year.
  • The Flintstones zig-zag this a little. The four principals never changed in appearance (apart from the usual art evolution such series goes through) through the birth of Pebbles and the adoption of Bamm-Bamm during the original six seasons and the movie (The Man Called Flintstone). They still don't in The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971) where the two infants are now teens and even those two don't change in the subsequent NBC shows later on (The Flintstone Comedy Show, Flintstone Funnies). Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm eventually graduate to adulthood in the 90s with three made-for-TV animated films (I Yabba Dabba Do!, Hollyrock-A-Bye Baby, A Flintstone Family Christmas) while their parents, on the verge of grandparenthood, still look the way they did when the original series aired its finale in 1966. The 2001 Cartoon Network special Flintstones: On The Rocks retcons this, designing the four main characters as they looked from the original series' very start.
  • The original cast of Total Drama have all been about 16 since the show first aired in 2007. The first two seasons attempted to avert this trope by casually mentioning it's only been a few days between seasons, but by the fifth season, they've taken to just dancing around ever stating the ages of the characters.
    • Word of God says that Noah and Owen, who were 16 in season one, are 19 by the events of Ridonculous Race, a Spin-Off which is sometimes billed as the "seventh season."
  • Futurama explicitly states the year pretty frequently, showing that most episodes are set about 1000 years after they air. The span of time from Fry arriving in the future to beginning of the last episode is about 14 years. This presents a few problems.
    • Outside of a few time travel episodes that show the characters through decades of their lives, none of the characters appear to age. Fry and Leela have gone from their mid-20s in the beginning of the first season to around 40 at the beginning of the last season and Hermes should be in his 50s or 60s by the end. However, characters are shown as able to live well into the hundreds, so maybe people age more gracefully in the future.
    • Dwight and Cubert are stated to be about 12 years old in season 3 and remain so through the show's run. By the end, they should be in their mid-20s, which is about as old and Fry and Leela were when the show started.
    • Amy is introduced as an intern and college student in the first season. The writers eventually saw this as a problem and she finally graduates in season six, where it's stated that she's been an intern at Planet Express for 10 years.
  • The Animated Adaptation of Franklin as well as its spin-off Franklin and Friends have used a very odd version in which Franklin and his friends don't really age at all throughout most of the original series. In the film Back to School with Franklin, they move up a grade. In Franklin and Friends, they're said to be about a year older, but still attend class with the same teacher. Bear's baby sister Beatrice is born in the first season of the original show, Franklin's sister Harriet is born in the film Franklin and the Green Knight, set between the fourth and fifth seasons. By the fourth season of the original series, Beatrice is toddler-aged. In the fifth season, Harriet is as well, and by Back to School with Franklin, Beatrice is attending preschool and Harriet is near that point. In Franklin and Friends, both seem to be about the same age they were at the end of the original television series.
  • This is averted in the DC Animated Universe; however, the indicators of how much time has passed are subtle and can be easy to miss (other than the fact that The New Batman Adventures takes place a few years after Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond obviously takes place 40+years in the future). Supergirl is probably the best indicator: she's 16 in her first appearance in Superman: The Animated Series, and it's mentioned to be her 21st birthday during her final appearance in Justice League Unlimited. Similarly, in another episode in the final season of JLU, Grodd's fight with the Flash (which happened in the first season of Justice League) is mentioned to have happened a "couple of years ago". It can be said that the first season of Justice League takes place 1-2 years after the end of S:TAS and JL/JLU take place over the course of 3-4 years.
  • The Boondocks has a lot of contemporary references however the brothers are eight years old and ten years old. This creates a situation where Huey was ten when Obama became president however in episodes set years later he is still ten; either he should have aged or he would have been very young during that presidential election. Lampshaded in one episode where an elderly man is friends with Huey and explains to Robert and Riley that he and Huey "go way back."
  • Hey Arnold! originally began in 1996 and finished production in 2001 (though new episodes continued to air sporadically until 2004). In 2017, a Big Damn Movie was produced to finally wrap up the series; it takes place about a year after the seriesnote , but with the setting switched to be closer to 2017, most notably with the characters having modern cell phones, though the fashion is still 1990s and Arnold keeps his signature walkman. The trope is lampshaded multiple times, since Helga's father owns a beeper store which is now going out of business.
  • Dexter's Laboratory began in 1996, and finished airing in 2003, but he has remained eight years old for the show's entire 7-year run. The only exceptions to this are when he's had a Plot-Relevant Age-Up explained away by Phlebotinum. This also applies to the Ambiguously Human characters The Justice Friends as well.
  • Although a pre-schoolers' show, Twirlywoos has its avian protagonists not growing up in any way with the kids Not Allowed to Grow Up.
  • Over fifteen years after The Venture Bros. premiered, only two years have passed in-series, while pop-culture and mundane technology have kept pace with real life.
  • Time in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is vague (made vaguer by the fact most of the main characters are adults). Season 4 implies that only one year has passed since season 1. As of season 8, the series has had five different Hearth's Warming episodes despite it being a yearly holiday. Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders have aged but only slightly. At minimum, only a few years at most seem to have passed despite the fact the series is over seven years old by season 8.