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Despair Event Horizon

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"It wasn't just the baby that died that day; something inside Sick Boy was lost and never returned."
Renton, Trainspotting

The line that, once crossed, destroys any last remaining sense of hope. It could be for a cause, a person, a situation, or simple survival. A character has given up on it, and there is no going back. It can lead soldiers to despair -- or even suicide. It can turn an Ideal Hero into an Anti-Hero or an outright villain, or even, in some cases, vice versa. It is a vital element of Tragedy.

Coming near this line is quite common in fiction; frequently, at the end of the second act or the 45 minute mark of a drama or the first hour of a film, the protagonist comes dangerously close to the edge before a Rousing Speech or Deus Ex Machina or the like comes along. It makes for a Downer Ending if the protagonist does fall over the edge. Frequently, this is when the What You Are in the Dark test hits him. Alternatively, many stories have a hero "Fighting the Good Fight" and meeting someone who'd been at it longer and lost all hope.

This is often a goal of some wars. You break the enemy's morale, and you can win even without military success. Related to Heroic BSOD and Heroic Safe Mode, except the hero usually comes back from those. A Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds is often a character who crossed this line long ago. It can result in the character entering an Angst Coma, being Dumb Struck, suffering Death by Despair, or becoming a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds (and subsequently crossing the Moral Event Horizon). Often a result of We Used to Be Friends. This is often the final stage of the Break the Cutie process. In a video game, often happens during a Bleak Level.

May be preceded with a Hope Spot, just to really twist the knife. And a Downer Ending might follow in really dark stories.

Compare Hope Is Scary. Contrast Heroic Spirit.

IMPORTANT: This is about a character losing all hope, not merely getting depressed, upset, or bored.

Examples of Despair Event Horizon include:


Anime & Manga Edit

  • Mazinger Z: The Hero Kouji almost, almost crossed it during the Mazinger-Z vs Great General of Darkness movie. After several Mykene Warrior Monsters have easily destroyed four major cities (Paris, London, New York and Moscow) they strike Tokyo. He launches Mazinger-Z to fight them... and he barely walks out of it alive. The Warrior Monsters easily rip his mecha apart and turn Tokyo into burning ruins as he is unable make anything to stop them. Back in the Home Base, he learns MORE Warrior Monsters have visited while he was away. His Home Base are in ruins, Love Interest Sayaka and victriolic best friend Boss' Humongous Mechas have been destroyed, and worst of all, his little brother Shirou got hurt cause collapsing ceiling and is in coma. Later, Kouji was sitting on -the remains of- his room, and he cried as he said he knew he could not win and he was going to die in the next battle; poor Sayaka, who was eavesdropping, also cried as hearing him.
    • It was way, WAY worse in one of the first chapters of Shin Mazinger Zero, where he did fully cross it. Straight after seeing his grandfather murdering his father and murdering Sayaka after raping her, and losing one of his arms he was thrust in Mazinger-Z and his body absorbed by the machine. Turned into a raging The Berserker, he began fighting Mechanical Beasts in spite of he not even knew what they were or whence they came, and his negative emotions -pain, rage, despair, sadness, loneliness- fed Mazinger-Z until its sleeping consciousness woke up, transformed into an Eldritch Abomination by poor Kouji's despair, and it burnt the world to ashes.
  • Shinji crosses this line in Neon Genesis Evangelion when he is forced to kill Kaworu. He's pretty much a Woobie for the entirety of The Movie.
    • Asuka is declining steadily throughout the series, specially after being on the receiving end of Mind Rape, but she gets better. Then It Gets Worse.
    • Ritsuko also hit this after realizing that she'll never be loved by Gendou (like her mom before her) and destroying the Rei clones.
  • Griffith of Berserk, broken in body and mind after a year's worth of torture, loses all hope of becoming captain of the Band of the Hawks again when it's discovered that he will never recover from his injuries. Then, just after he resigns himself to living a peaceful life with Casca, he discovers that she's moved on and is now in a relationship with Guts. Griffith loses it completely. This drives him to activate his Crimson Behelit, summon the Godhand, and cross the Moral Event Horizon.
    • Hitting one's emotional nadir this way is all but a requirement for mortal bearers of Behelits in general. It ensures that one is in the proper frame of mind to accept the offer of the Godhand to make the Sacrifice (and thus cross the bearer's personal Moral Event Horizon) to become a demon. And provided the Behelit comes into contact with blood, a member of the Godhand can also use it to manifest in the physical world, such as when Slan manifests in front of Guts using a pile of troll intestines.
    • Guts comes perhaps the closest that any mortal can get to the Despair Event Horizon at the end of the Eclipse, what with being horribly mind raped by being Forced to Watch the only woman he's ever loved get raped to insanity by what used to be his best friend. The only thing that keeps Guts going in the face of such despair is an undying hatred for the one responsible for it all and a desire for revenge that all but consumes him for two years and nearly destroys the man that he used to be.
  • This happens a lot in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, to a number of different characters. In fact, it's the reason for most of the murderous rampages on the show, if not all.
  • Judai of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX crossed this at the end of Season 3, and Season 4 saw the former Idiot Hero "jaded" into a stoic Ineffectual Loner.
  • Nozomu Itoshiki lives four leagues on the far side of the horizon. Constantly. Played for laughs.
  • "The Record of a Fallen Vampire" - Strauss crossed this when Stella was murdered. Then he goes on to totally redefine the meaning of "no hope" as he has make himself the target of hatred and is forced to fight Stella and his daughter's effective reincarnation, the Black Swan, over and over again, without being allowed to die because if he dies then the Dhampirs and the humans will probably destroy each other, and even if that doesn't happen, the Dhampirs will lose their hope of being able to turn into humans.
  • The plot of Elfen Lied is pretty much set off by Lucy crossing the line when she finds out that the cousin Kouta is going to a festival with instead of her is a girl. Not a good reason, but at that point she snaps and starts killing on purpose.
    • It should be noted that this is actually the conclusion of a 8 to 10 years old process that began when her father abandoned her as a baby in the forest due to her cat ear-shaped horns. She was found and sent to an Orphanage of Fear, where she spent day and night tormented non stop by the other children and emotionally neglected by the staff of the facility, again, due to her horns. Then, when she finally thinks she made a friend, said friend proceeds to betray the girl's trust by telling the bullies of a puppy she was caring for; after which the bullies proceed to beat the poor thing to death right in front of her. This was the breaking point for Lucy, who snapped, awakening her vectors in the process, and slaughtered everyone in the room. Then she met Kouta, and the whole cousin issue was interpreted by the girl as another callous betrayal, driving her to a psychotically murderous rage that would become her standard mood from then on.
  • In Ranma 1/2, Ryoga has developed a ki attack that grows more powerful as he gets more depressed. In a battle where he's using this technique to solidly pound Ranma into the ground, Akane tries to cut through Ryouga's depression with a cheerful "Don't be sad! I really like you, Ryoga!... You're such a great friend!" Since Ryoga is desperately in love with her and is horrified that she only considers him a friend, this unwittingly pushes him over the Despair Event Horizon and makes his attacks even stronger.
  • In Monster, Johann gains power over people by pushing them over the line, putting them completely under his control.
  • Paranoia Agent: This is the entire point of the series. Li'l Slugger comes to those who have reached this point.
  • Edward and Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist crossed this after their attempt to resurrect their mother went horribly wrong, traumatizing them both. It was only through the intervention of Roy Mustang, who told the boys that getting back their bodies was possible with the privileges of state alchemists, that they regained their will to live. Pretty much everyone else who has tried to bring those they love back from the dead with alchemy has reached this point.
  • Suzaku Kururugi in Code Geass crosses this twice. First, when his girlfriend Euphemia died in the worst way possible. Later, when he nukes Tokyo under the influence of Geass. For all his loathing of the wrong means, he realizes that it's impossible for him to live according to his ideals.
  • Darcia from Wolf's Rain hits this he discovers that his lover Harmona, who has been on life support for two centuries while he was out attempting to find a cure, has been murdered while he was away from home. (And just before he could bring Cheza to help Harmona). Although we don't see the full effect of it until later, this sets off a full fledged Start of Darkness that transforms Darcia into a Nietzsche Wannabe, Evil Counterpart, and the Big Bad.
  • In Black Butler, Ciel eventually reached this point after he was captured following his parent's murders.
  • In the Negima! (first) anime, Negi himself crosses the horizon after Asuna's death on her 14th birthday, when the Deal with the Devil she made as a kid takes effect. He splinters so badly that watching it almost becomes the DEH for a few of his students.
    • In the manga, Negi's mother Arika found herself on the edge of it when she was about to be executed under false charges of murder and treason, as well for taking the blame for Asuna's Anti-Magic powers going haywire and plummeting a Floating Continent to the ground.
  • Sasame reaches this point in Prétear when he realizes that no matter how much he tries to reason with Takako, she can't come back from the dark side. So he joins her instead. It doesn't help that she nearly killed him during a battle.
    • Himeno's stepsister Mawata also reached the point after the face heel turned Sasame rejected her feelings in front of her family, which tops on her loneliness and hidden emotional turmoil coming from her father's death. After that, she fell into such a despair that Takako easily turned Mawata into the Barrier Maiden for the Fenrir tree, and Himeno had to work VERY hard to bring her back.
  • Sheryl Formossa crosses this horizon in Ideon, after the deaths of her sister Lin and her boyfriend Gije.
  • This happens to Lord Genome from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in his backstory, when he realizes the truth of the Spiral Nemesis.
    • One could say that the Despair Event Horizon is the fighting style of the Anti-Spiral. His goal in battle is to eliminate the opponent's Spiral Power, which is defined as (among other things) fighting spirit and the will to live. As such, he intentionally fights just beyond his opponent's ability, and repeatedly gives them Hope Spots, only to cruelly crush their hopes at the last second, with the goal of crushing their will to fight altogether.
  • Flit Asuno from Gundam AGE wants to finish the fight against the UE so he could return to the Minsry Colony to live a peaceful life with Yurin L'Ciel. And then Desil forces her to fight for his side and brutally kills her near Ambat, and Flit loses it completely. This drives him to become a savior not for mankind, but for the corrupt Earth Federal Forces.
  • Saint Hakushin from Inuyasha was driven towards the DEH as he was waiting for his death. He volunteered to be buried alive so he would become a living Buddha and help his people, but as he waited to die he realized that he really didn't want to die, and horrifyingly despaired. Naraku used this to recruit him as his Barrier Warrior.
  • Tsubaki Kasugano aka the 6th in Mirai Nikki crosses this in her backstory, after she loses the Tragic Keepsake that kept her somewhat sane after being used as a sex slave by a Religion of Evil. By the time we meet her, she's a full-blown Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Yomi from Ga-Rei Zero. Yomi's adoptive father his killed by her Seishouseki-mind-controlled adoptive cousin, the cousin takes what was supposed to be her place as the family head and her inheritance, then lures her to a fight. When the cousin admits killing Yomi's father, she goes berserk and kills her. Then Mitogawa attacks Yomi, rendering her quadriplegic and mute, and she is accused of murdering her cousin. Her fiancee Noriyuki is too busy trying to prove her innocence to visit her in the hospital, his father breaks off their Perfectly Arranged Marriage because of her physical condition, and her best friend Kagura abandons her after she admits to killing her cousin. Then Mitogawa gives her the same Seishouseki, which heals her but its mind-control powers provide the extra push to send her Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and killing her former friends. Her Despair Event Horizon is such a Tear Jerker that even after crossing the Moral Event Horizon she is still a sympathetic Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Horo crosses this line early in season 2, after learning that her hometown is likely gone, and has been for centuries. Cue breakdown.
  • In Spiral, Kanone Hilbert crosses this upon realizing that the Blade Children can never be saved. His reaction is trying to kill as many of them as he can - including all of his friends ( and half-siblings) and himself. After he is stopped, he doesn't cross back to the other side of the line: in the anime, he just leaves the country, still sulking; in the manga, the way he finally finds to "save" himself is to have a meaningful death, which will give hope to the other Bla Chil and Ayumu.
  • Souji Mikage from Revolutionary Girl Utena uses tactics that arguably predate those of Celestial Being, approaching young people who are in their lowest with promise of a chance to change their worlds and end what's making them suffer by defeating Utena. Specially obvious in the cases of people like Wakaba, Keiko Sonoda, or Mitsuru Tsuwabuki; in fact, he rejected Tatsuya the Onion Prince because he wasn't despairing enough. Mikage himself also went past the DEH in his backstory, and is pushed even further in the last episode of the Black Rose arc.
    • Prince Dios and his younger sister also crossed this in their backstories, which is what shaped them into Akio Ohtori the Magnificent Bastard and Anthy Himemiya the Rose Bride.
  • Once upon a time, there was a German boy named Faust (who was a descendant of that Faust, by the way). He had a Victorious Childhood Friend named Elisa, a sweet and cute Ill Girl. Faust became a doctor and worked hard to develop a cure; after many years of research, he finally created the perfect medicine for her, and when she recovered they got Happily Married... and then she was shot to death by a thug. The despaired Faust began researching about necromancy to find a way to properly revive Eliza, but only managed to become a Shaman and have her as his spirit partner. Needless to say, It Got Worse...and specially for Faust's rivals.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Fate Testarossa had a rather nasty case of this upon learning that she was a clone, with all the memories of the original, and her mother hated her guts. Being cast aside, told she was never really loved, that her life was a lie, that she was truly despised, and told never to show her face again by the, admittedly abusive, mother she was completely devoted to will do that to you. Mind you, thanks to Arf's and Nanoha's companionship and combat therapy, respectively, she eventually snapped out of it in order to help and have one last word with her mother. Still counts, though.
    • On that note, so did Yagami Hayate in A's, when she was transported to the hopital roof to see Zafira and Vita beaten and subdued, and Signum and Shamal already gone. Then she see's what looks like her two new freinds erase the first two knights and taunted about it. All after being told that she would most certainly die in a short while due to the incurable condition of her body. Mind you, the people doing all this were purposely trying to set this off, in complete Break the Cutie fashion.
  • In Hunter X Hunter 305, Gon loses himself in rage and despair after being told that Kite has been Killed Off for Real and can't be revived. When he realizes that the person who strung him along with the promise of a resurrection lied to him, he decides to sacrifice his future potential to give himself enough power in the present to crush his enemy.

 Gon: This is it. I don't care if it's over. So I'll use everything. I'll kill you!

  • Jyu-Oh-Sei brings us Third/ Heiser, who, after learning that Earth, which he had dreamed of visiting for his entire life, was destroyed. He collapses in despair, spends a good few minutes staring blankly at nothing, and eventually shoots himself in the head. Admittedly, his suicide was more to save Thor than a result of his Despair Event Horizon, but it still counts.
  • Subverted in Bleach when Yumichika Ayasegawa and Charlotte Cuulhorne fight. Cuulhorne's final technique takes the form of a single white rose inside a pitch-black rosebush, the idea being that someone who revels in being the most beautiful person in a crowd will be terrified of dying alone, unnoticed and unmissed. It fails because it allows Yumichika to reveal what he's really capable of when no-one is watching.
    • Played straighter in the backstory of Kaname Tousen, who decided to have his Face Heel Turn when the best friend he was in love with died at the hands of her own abusive husband, who wasn't punished.
    • The backstory of Maki Ichinose, who had a Face Heel Turn out of despair when his beloved Captain was killed by Kenpachi in his Klingon Promotion stage.
    • 5th Espada Nnoitra Jiruga hit this at some point in the past and just kept on going. He's convinced that all of the Hollows are damned and that they might as well act like it. "None of us is finding redemption Nel."
    • As of the X-Cution arc, Tsukishima seems to actively want to make Ichigo cross it. What's his method? Modifying his family and friends' memories, which renders Ichigo desperate since they're his reason to fight... and yet they're defending Tsuki and believe that their dear Ichigo somehow has gone mad. it takes a MASSIVE gambit from Urahara, Isshin, and several Shinigamis to fix him.
      • Jackie Tristan is all but stated to have crossed the DEH in her backstory, as one of her flashbacks shows a child Jackie in tears and her (almost) Famous Last Words are a wish to have been rescued by a good person. This is confirmed as we learn said backstory: she crossed it in the moment when she found her family slaughtered and she took her brother's lifeless body in her arms. She survives these deals, however, and starts getting better.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica is about young girls that approach this as they become Magical Girls, fight Witches and see how their lives are torn as a consequence, thus being very likely to become Witches themselves. The most straight up example is Sayaka Miki, who as of episode 8 crossed this due to both her romantic woes and the side-effects of Witch fighting, and becomes a witch.
    • Another good example is Mami Tomoe in the third timeline. Learning the Awful Truth did not mix up well with her issues on loneliness and abandonment and, after seeing Sayaka turn into a witch and having to be killed by the group, she freaked out majorly: she then killed Kyouko by destroying her Soul Gem and was about to do the same to Homura (And presumably to Madoka, before eventually killing herself), so Madoka had to mercy kill her and put her out of her misery - almost crossing it herself in the process, but she manages to come back. And then she dies.
    • Kyoko's Jerkassery in her first few episodes is revealed in episode 7 to be a case of despair event horizon crossed. The Pater Familicide she alone survived pushed her over in nothing flat... or did it? All hope she had before that incident gets promptly restored after Kyubey lets slip the Awful Truth, thus inverting Mami's situation in the third timeline on its head.
  • The Madoka sort-of Alternate Universe Oriko Magica plays this straight and subverts it:
  • Animal X: Yuuji crosses the Despair Event Horizon when he finds out what happened to his first child: she was subjected to vivisection, died, and then her remains were kept on ice in a research facility. After that, Yuuji is quietly broken and makes remarks that show that he's reached a point where he doesn't much care if he lives or dies.
  • Ken Hidaka and Youji Kudou from Weiss Kreuz end up crossing this horizon at different times. The first does it when he realizes that he's become a textbook Ax Crazy Blood Knight, actually asking to be locked up in jail to try calming himself down; the second hits it in Gluhen, when his Honey Trap work takes way too much of a toll on his mind.
  • Jose in Gunslinger Girl crosses it when he loses an eye in a botched attempt to kill the terrorist who killed Enrica, and cyborg girl Henrietta is reset to factory settings, destroying her personality so she'll never be able to take Enrica's place. By the nuclear power plant strike, Jose was so far beyond the Despair Event Horizon that after getting fragged, he has Henrietta finish the job and, as she does so, shoots her in the eye, killing her.
  • Most of the main plot of Trigun that made it into the anime (the manga had all this backstory stuff and Knives going One-Winged Angel and staying that way for over a year while he slowly killed off the human race) was a Break the Cutie-slash-Break the Stoic plot aimed at pushing Vash over this, probably in hopes of inducing Face Heel Turn, but possibly just to punish him for being a disloyal brother. It works insofar as he is pushed past his (admittedly impressive) limits on a couple of occasions, which variously result in a two year retirement and brief catatonia.
    • Meanwhile, the greatest one in a series full of them is when Vash and Knives were one year old, and found out about Tesla. Two boys--physiologically around eight--read the documentation and looked at the corpse, and then shut themselves up in the lab where it had happened and didn't move for over a week. Rem didn't manage to break in to save them until after they'd passed out half-dead from thirst.
      • And then, Vash tried to kill himself with a fruit knife at the first opportunity, and laughed somewhere between hysteria and mania upon thinking he'd accidentally killed Rem when she interfered. Knives, on the other hand, pretended to have Easy Amnesia and then proceeded to methodically enact a plan to Kill All Humans. The kicker is that Knives was always the nicer, more trusting one, before.
    • Legato Bluesummers appears to have spent enough of his childhood in this that when he started developing his mind-control powers he prioritized 'killing everybody connected to my life' over getting the fuck away, and was consequently in the process of being raped to death when Knives happened to come along and slice up the building and...save the day. And not kill Legato, and even ask him his name. Nicest thing that ever happened to the kid.
    • Several of the Gung Ho Guns have this in their backstories. One in the manga notably is in this omnicide gig because he was a deformed beggar in July when Vash inadvertently blew it up, and the one good thing in his life (a lovely waitress who was kind to him) was killed, and his whole life since has been Training From Hell to get revenge on Vash.
    • Since the point of Trigun is a Broken Bird Wide-Eyed Idealist Technical Pacifist Gunslinger confronting a Crapsack World full of murder, this trope is bread and butter to Yasuhiro Nightow.
  • In chapter 115 of Medaka Box, Zenkichi collapses on his hands and knees in despair after he realizes he isn't special to Medaka anymore. Chapter 116 reveals that Ajimu masterminded this Despair Event Horizon to make Zenkichi receptive to joining her Flask Plan as its first test subject.
  • The Idolmaster - Chihaya got very close to crossing the line during her Heroic BSOD.
  • In Chobits, We see that Freya has crossed the horizon when she begins to physically malfunction from the incredible emotional strain of being in (and being unable to tell anyone about) an unrequited love situation. In the anime, we are even shown the exact moment this happens. Depending on whether one is reading the manga or watching the anime, she is either Driven to Suicide or dies from despair, respectively.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, Princess Esmeraude plowed through this when her beloved Zagato was killed by the Knights, believing him to be the Big Bad. She already was unstable after having to send her brother Ferio away after giving him Laser-Guided Amnesia, then keeping her love for Zagato bottled up, seeing that since she couldn't devote herself 100% to Cephiro, her Pillar work wasn't effective as it should be, and being kidnapped by a desperate Zagato who doesn't want the Knights to release her from Pillar-dom through death... and once Zagato kicked it in battle, the poor broken person reacted by unleashing her powers on the Knights and trying to kill them, calling them out on his death. The girls have to give her an I Cannot Self-Terminate, and the Downer Ending of the first season kicks in.
  • In Shuffle Kaede lost the will to live following her mother's death but Rin managed to snap her out of it.
  • In One Piece, Luffy came dangerously close to crossing it after Ace's death. Fortunately, Jinbe managed to snap him out of it.
    • Several characters were actually very close to this, as well. Nami, Robin, Zoro, Hancock, etc.
  • One half of Yu Yu Hakusho's innovativeness. The other being it's take on Hard Work Hardly Works that is rarely replicated in other battle manga.
    • One line involves Kuwabara who's growth has often been linked to Despair Event Horizon only for him to mature in the end and decide to give up fighting with the three other main characters after he was manipulated by one of the Big Bad, Sensui to slice the gate for demons to enter the human world.
    • Another involves younger Toguro who, again, goes through multiple Despair Event Horizon, each time seeming happier than the last despite the fact that he should be sadder. His last Despair Event Horizon arguably pushes him to Buddha status.
    • Kurama goes through another line of Despair Event Horizon being that his human mom is extremely important to him. He starts off just being a reluctant villain into the worst torturer in the entire series. It's safe to say he's the one good guy that is more evil than the most evil beings in the entire series if you piss him off. This guy is like a walking Despair meter just waiting for you to give him an excuse to not despair over you.
    • Sensui's Despair Event Horizon led him to saving and powering up the entire cast for the next arc despite his gambit backfiring. Interesting to note is that his Despair Event Horizon might have made him sane when everyone considered him having gone insane after watching something forbidden.
    • YYH is just littered with this. One guy's Despair Event Horizon made him choose to be eaten alive. Another guy made him sink totally into videogames. Someone decided to restore their youth and be mocked and killed by their lover. It's one series where you really have to be strict on which one is a Despair Event Horizon and which one is just a Despair Power-up Horizon even Power-ups that include being killed/turned into an Eldritch Abomination. The villains are also notorious for being pitiful of anyone who could surpass their Despair Event Horizon and would kill people who have lost all hope. Then YYH would avert this trope and this was lampshaded by one of Older Toguro's stories about Younger Toguro where he still killed his opponents despite them overcoming their Despair Event Horizon.


Comics Edit

  • A Villain Protagonist equivalent (though more an Anti-Hero by this point) with Jackie Estacado of the Darkness, he can handle the mob life, the killing and the people trying to kill him but after he realises what a scumbag Uncle Frankie is and offers to testify against him Uncle Frankie responds by killing Jenny, of course the Character Development between the two at this point takes hold and the only 'rational' way for Jackie to get revenge is by blowing himself, Frankie and Frankie's mob straight to hell in a flaming Inferno. Of course, YMMV.
  • A curious Anti-Hero version occurs in Kingdom Come; throughout the story, Superman is wary of encountering Magog, the Nineties Anti-Hero who in many ways replaced him in the public's regard, until he and the rest of the Justice League encounter him in the ruins of Kansas... only to discover a broken man torn apart by guilt and anguish over his actions and the disastrous consequences they resulted in.

 Proud? Proud?! Proud of being the Man of Tomorrow?!?

  • Walter Kovacs in Watchmen starts out a rather messed up, right-wing, but functional man, with a fairly normal life outside being a masked vigilante. Then he investigates the kidnapping of a little girl, and ends up finding her dismembered and mostly-eaten corpse, suffering a complete psychotic break and burning her killer alive. From that point on, he's insane, murderous and barely capable of (or interested in) taking care of himself, having completely abandoned all identity outside of Rorschach.
    • The Comedian is a straighter example: When he discovers that reality is actually much worse than his dark parody of it, he breaks into Moloch's apartment to tell him about it, but the Comedian's already so far beyond the point of no return that he only manages to confess to his sins before he realizes how ridiculous it is that his nemesis is the closest thing to a friend that he has.
  • In the "Emerald Twilight" tie-in to The Death of Superman storyline, the destruction of Coast City by Mongul serves as the DEH for then-Green-Lantern Hal Jordan. He then goes on to cross the Moral Event Horizon pretty quickly. Even after the city is eventually rebuilt, it's more or less a Ghost City as nobody wants to move there because of what happened.
    • Then in Sinestro Corps War, Sinestro declares his intention to invoke this in Earth's population by razing Coast City again. But this time it's defied, as those who did live there, when warned of the coming danger, refused to evacuate and instead shined green lights out their windows in support of the Green Lanterns. This show of courage ended up having the exact opposite effect from what Sinestro wanted.
    • In "The Secret of the Indigo Tribe", Hal meets Natromo, one of the creators of the eponymous Indigo Tribe. Natromo explains how he and Abin Sur created the tribe both in preparation for the Blackest Night and as a test run for the Indigo Rings, which were planned to be used against the Guardians of the Universe when they come to destroy the tribe. When Hal informs Natromo that Abin Sur is dead, Natromo declares that there's no chance in defeating the Guardians, and destroys the tribe's Central Power Battery, not only deactivating the Indigo Rings, but also releasing the tribe from their influence. In other words, he undid the entire tribe's Heel Face Brainwashing.
  • After being savagely beaten to death by The Joker, Jason Todd is resurrected, only to find that not only did Batman not avenge him by killing The Joker, he has also been replaced by Tim Drake as Robin. At this point he completely snaps, and becomes the Anti-Villain Red Hood.
  • Happens to Nuke in the Squadron Supreme limited series.
  • Tony Stark after Steve Rogers is killed at the end of Civil War. He suffers a Heroic BSOD over Steve's death, and it also makes him even more reckless with his life than he's been in almost his entire history.
  • In Secret Warriors #24, badass super-agent Nick Fury finally breaks after he has let two teams of young agents die on his watch. Even worse, the second team was led by his own son Mikel Fury. While standing at the graves of the second team, the agents of the Russian spy organization Leviathan come for him. He doesn't even try to resist.


Fanfiction Edit


Films -- Live-Action Edit

  • In Braveheart, this trope hits William Wallace after he found out one of the Scottish nobles he trusted betrayed him. His anger immediately turned into distress and he seemed to simply give up, which also later caused the noble to suffer from My God, What Have I Done?.
  • Perhaps the most heartwrenching example of this trope is the focus of Its a Wonderful Life, in which Jimmy Stewart's entire life is a spiral of quiet desperation which is slowly winding him up...until he finally SNAPS. And it is terrifying.
  • In The Dark Knight, the Joker gets Harvey Dent to cross this, but doesn't succeed in getting the rest of Gotham City to follow, thanks to Batman winning the escalation war with Joker.
  • The soldiers in 28 Days Later, had apparently crashed over this line before the events of the movie had even taken place.
  • In Lawrence of Arabia, the turning point of the movie is the capture, torture (and implied rape) of the protagonist by the Turks. The cocky, bemused Warrior Poet who believed to be invincible turns into a bitter, grim Anti-Hero after that.
  • In the Monty Python film Now For Something Completely Different: Parodied in the "Marriage Guidance Counsellor" sketch. At the end Mr Peuty, in despair because his wife is making out with the counselor, walks out of the office, whereupon a 16-ton weight drops on him and the caption reads "So much for pathos."
  • In Trainspotting, Sick Boy, while morally ambiguous, still has his good points. That changes when Baby Dawn, now revealed to be his daughter, dies.
  • Red Dawn. Things are going well for the American guerrillas until several of their group get killed trying to get a downed pilot across the front lines (the pilot also dies). Then one of their group turns out to be a traitor and has to be executed by his friends. A change in Soviet tactics leads to more of them getting killed in an ambush, so they're down to only four people. The leaders of the group, the Eckert brothers, decide to head into their Soviet-occupied hometown and go out in a Bolivian Army Ending, drawing troops into the town so the last remaining two can escape to the US lines.
  • Hitler's reaction upon hearing "Steiner didn't have sufficient forces" in the movie Downfall, complete with an epic Villainous Breakdown.
  • Penn and Teller Get Killed. The ending. Played straight then Played for Laughs when a prank turns fatal, setting off a string of never ending suicides.
  • In Cloverfield, right after the main character's brother dies on the bridge, you can see the exact moment that his mind breaks and self preservation stops mattering.
  • Gettysburg showed General George Pickett cross this after the failure of his charge.
  • Oh Dae-su of Oldboy crossed his DEH after learning that his lover was actually his long lost daughter, and his mortal enemy had the means to reveal the truth to her with a simple phone call.
    • His reaction to his DEH is hard to watch.
  • The President of the United States in Mars Attacks (Film) has apparently crossed this line by the time he finally gives in to his General's request to fight back against the Martians using nuclear weapons.
  • In Full Metal Jacket, Private Gomer Pyle is driven into a psychotic breakdown both by the original Drill Sergeant Nasty, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, and by the rest of his platoon, which ultimately leads to Hartman's murder and his own suicide. The moment when Pyle hit the Despair Event Horizon was probably when Hartman found a jelly doughnut in his foot locker just when things were starting to go well for him and proceeded to punish the entire platoon for it, which was then followed by the platoon taking it out on Pyle in the harrowing "blanket party" scene.
  • In the spirit of one upmanship and outdoing the rest of this list, A Serbian Film has Milos have one after learning that he was drugged and made to rape and kill people, including his own son, he was raped himself, and all of it was filmed for a snuff director's entertainment after which we get a Shower of Angst shot with him in the fetal position in the shower. Eventually this leads to him killing himself.
  • In Fourteen Oh Eight Mike Enslin's child daughter is brought back to life just to die in his arms and THEN THE BODY CRUMBLES INTO ASH! You can tell he is losing it as he tries to put Katy's "pieces" back together then his face afterwards is just a total emptiness inside, and the room keeps going.
  • The flashback scene in Tron: Legacy. Clu takes over, the Sea of Simulation is poisoned so no more life can come from it, Tron is thought dead, but it's much worse, the Iso Cities are destroyed, and the portal back to the human world flickers out. The brash and cheerful protagonist for the first film clearly died at that point, leaving behind a hollowed-out Zen Survivor.
  • In Black Death, Osmund certainly suffers one of these as a result of his journey.


Literature Edit

  • High Lord Kevin falls into despair in the Backstory of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and renders most of the continent unlivable for centuries with the Ritual of Desecration. Think of it as the fantasy equivalent of a huge nuclear bomb. This solved the problem of the Complete Monster Dark Lord that was winning the war but at the cost of everything Kevin was supposed to preserve. And the Dark Lord turned out to be only temporarily inconvenienced, being immortal and all...
    • Later on the Giants of Seareach meekly let themselves be murdered out of horror over what had happened to some of them.
    • Still later Trell despairs also and commits his own Desecration luckily on a much smaller scale than the original, so the damage is limited. His sanity doesn't survive it.
    • This is a central theme in the Chronicles; it's the chief weapon of the villain, Lord Foul, whose whole objective seems to be pushing every single person in the world over their personal Despair Event Horizon. Indeed, every inhabitant of the Land swears an Oath of Peace which amounts to saying, "No matter what, I will not cross the Despair Event Horizon."
    • Covenant himself comes very close to the Despair Event Horizon at the end of The Illearth War, when High Lord Elena, his daughter, dies in the struggle with High Lord Kevin's specter under Melenkurion Skyweir. Fortunately, Foamfollower is there to pull him back from the edge.
  • In The Great Gatsby, George Wilson goes over this line after Myrtle dies.
  • Denethor in JRR Tolkien's The Return of the King has been sinking into despair for a long time, and finally snaps when Faramir is critically injured during the Siege of Gondor. In his madness, he proceeds to try to immolate both himself and his son on a funeral pyre, but Gandalf and Pippin stop him before he can put Faramir to the torch and Denethor is subsequently burned alive. The book is more explicit than the movie in mentioning one important factor in Denethor's despair: he had long used his own Palantir (seeing-stone) for gathering information, but the Palantir also provided a direct channel for Sauron to break Denethor's originally-formidable determination by showing him the military power of Mordor and (something that's rarely noted) making Denethor believe that Sauron had obtained the Ring.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40000 Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim, Fulgrim's is when, having murdered Ferrus Manus, his sword lets him realize what he has done. His despair is so great that his sword persuades him that suicide is too noble for him -- and tricks him into accepting possession.
  • In Warhammer 40000 Daemon World by Ben Counter when the daemon prince who he thought was Deus Ex Machina betrays him and kills his entire army.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: In A Storm of Swords, Catelyn Stark goes into the Red Wedding, having lost her husband, her two daughters hostage, and believing two of her three sons are dead. So, when eldest son Robb is cut down before her, she completely fucking loses it, clawing at her face and laughing hysterically even as her treacherous bannermen round on her. When she's later brought Back From the Dead, well... she hates. Constantly.
  • 1984 is an entire world that has fallen below the horizon, even if the protagonist doesn't realize it until he is pushed over his own personal rat-related line.
    • Room 101 in general is designed to make someone cross the Despair Event Horizon, by using whatever the person fears most to make them betray whatever is most important to them after first wearing them down with a long period of torture.
  • In Nick Kyme's Warhammer 40000 novel Salamander, the obviously suffering Fugis confesses to having lost faith at the death of their captain.
  • The ghosts of all his murder victims attempt to do this to Shakespeare's Richard III before the Battle of Bosworth, conveniently Lampshading it with the phrase "Despair and die." It doesn't really work because Richard is such a Magnificent Bastard as to be beyond all shame.
  • The Warhammer 40000 Grey Knights novel Hammer of Daemons has an Imperial Guardsman say that many of his comrades "finally lost the will when they" saw Alaric fighting as if a Chaos warrior.
  • The titular hero in Devdas loses all hope after Childhood Sweetheart Paro marries someone else. Made worse by the fact that it wouldn't have happened if he'd been able to stand up to his father. And It Gets Worse.
  • Most of the 12th Book of The Wheel of Time is about Rand Al'Thor reaching this point. When he does reach it, he comes within seconds of just wiping out all existence (or as much of it as he can manage, which is a lot as he was enhancing his power at the time) as it is all pointless, in a lovely Nietzsche Wannabe rant. He gets better, and the wise, calm and near saintly Rand that emerges at last seems like The Chosen One to hope for, rather than the only option.
  • From Oleg Divov's Night Watcher, with a strong helping of Tear Jerker: Igor Dolinsky's lover was turned into a vampire. He didn't know it, and so, vampirism being basically a STD, he became a vampire himself. This led to a series of strange uncontrollable outbursts on his part, during one of which he raped his wife and tried to start a chainsaw massacre in the town (he was stopped in the nick of time). Realizing that something strange had happened to him, he resolved to combat it by tying himself up in the basement during full moons - and his amazingly dedicated wife helped, causing him to appreciate her more than ever. Only, as his condition got worse, he became alternatingly lethargic or dangerous - and thus tied up - for months at a time, and so wasn't there for her when his wife inevitably became a vampire from the rape too. Eventually, he successfully overcame his vampirism, only to discover that his wife had irrevocably embraced the vampire lifestyle and the only way to save her was to make her a Master, which meant that they would never see each other again, not that she could bring herself to care about him in her present state anyway. "Luckily", he had just enough connections to pull it off, but at that moment he hit the Despair Event Horizon hard and spent days contemplating suicide methods before coming to the horrible realization that he is simply too sane to kill himself, which made things even worse. So in the end he dedicated himself to saving his town from the vampires.
  • In Memory Sorrow and Thorn, this is embodied in the character of Cadrach, who is introduced as a Dirty Coward and thief, but later turns out to have played a critical role in delivering the Tome of Eldritch Lore to the Evil Sorcerer who kicked off the entire "summon the evil Storm King back into the world" plot. He knows this, knows he did the whole thing out of cowardice, and admits that he'd do it again, thanks to his will having been broken by the knowledge contained in that evil book.
  • In Otherland, the suffering endured by the Other, the quasi-AI operating system of the titular network, comes to a peak after Psycho for Hire Dread takes over the system, torturing it to the point where it gives up all hope of preserving itself or its secret, and instead hatches a plot to destroy itself along with all of its tormentors.
  • In Use of Weapons, happens in a rather nasty way to the original Cheradenine in one of the flashback chapters when he discovers what Elethiomel did to his sister, complete with Title Drop for emphasis. It's strongly hinted that the same happened to Elethiomel as well which led to him becoming The Atoner and thus the events of the rest of the book.
  • Before the events of the novel, Ista has already been driven over the DEH by an Accidental Murder, the death of her husband the king, and the weight of the family curse. In Paladin of Souls, We are catching her on the way back, as her madness was (literally) miraculously cured at the end of the previous book.
  • Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero suffered from this in his backstory. Similar to Archer, he was driven to despair by his ideals because he kept getting betrayed by them.
  • Darkness Visible has two notable examples. Most importantly, this is the reason why the leader of the Dark Tide is trying to end the world. He crossed the event horizon when his wife died. Badly. Lewis crosses his own despair event horizon in Hyde Park, when he realises that he will never survive the mental strain of closing all the rogue Thresholds. Being British, he gets on with it regardless, but quite without hope for his own survival. It is only thanks to Marsh getting him to a doctor immediately after his collapse that he lives.

  "The disordered ranks of dark portals went on and on before me, stretching into the grey distance like an unending army. I kept my eyes on the sky, and knew with a crushing certainty that I faced my own destruction."


Music Edit

  • The Wall by Pink Floyd is just one colossal DEH; the entire album is about a rock star who is constantly hurt within his life, and the mental "Wall" he builds between himself and society. Summed up in the aptly titled 'Goodbye Cruel World', as Pink is having a mental breakdown and going catatonic:

 Goodbye cruel world,

I'm leaving you today.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

Goodbye, all you people,

There's nothing you can say

To make me change my mind.

Goodbye.

  • Rammstein's song "Wo Bist Du" has the narrator crossing the Despair Event Horizon after the death of loved one.
  • Jethro Tull's song "Locomotive Breath" is about a man who has just crossed the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Supertramp enjoys these. Lord, is it mine?, Rudy (arguably), and If everyone was listening are about someone who's on the edge of that horizon, and in danger of going over.
  • Many country and western song, especially Johnny Cash songs Folsom Prison Blues, which is about a man sentenced to life imprisonment and 25 Minutes to Go, of a man who is about to be hanged.
  • "Scarsick" by Pain of Salvation follows a man who grows increasingly frustrated by the various facets of modern society shown to him through television. Eventually, he decides he's had enough and jumps off the roof of a building in an attempt to shock the people around him back to their senses... whether or not this works is left up to the listener.
    • Also, in the same vein, the extra track off "Entropia," Never Learn to Fly, a song where one of the characters decides that dreaming and striving for anything great will only lead to unbearable pain... hell, at least Plains of Dawn had a hopeful point, however brief.
  • Roger Miller's "One Dying And A Burying": One man contemplates suicide to forget the pain of lost love.
  • "21 Guns" by Green Day.
  • The entire premise of Depressive Suicidal Black Metal.
  • "Exitus" by E Nomine.
  • Many of David Gray's songs are either written from the other side of the horizon or are about trying to keep from crossing it, in particular "Holding On".
  • The title track from Black Sabbath's Paranoid.
  • "Dance with the Devil", by Immortal Technique. The protagonist rape a random woman in a dark street to be deemed "worthy" to integrate a gang, then is asked to shoot her as witness. It's his own mother... And they suddenly recognize each other.
  • Van Der Graaf Generator's "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" seems to be the self-narration of a man who cross the horizon, and then commits suicide.
  • Radiohead seem to have built their whole career on this.


Live-Action TV Edit

  • Malcolm Reynolds lost all idealism, along with any faith in God, at the battle of Serenity Valley.
    • Though not as overt, River's dialogue indicates that she has no hope of ever being "normal" again. At one point, she even rails against the drugs Simon is giving her, saying that she hates being able to think clearly because she knows she'll just slip back into madness sooner or later. You can actually see the very moment River breaks in the R. Tam Sessions, in the third video where the "counselor" tells River that her brother "is very busy." She stops, silently nods, then whispers "Yes...." and starts crying. (crack)
  • Halfway through season four of Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, the fleet discovers that Earth has been destroyed, causing borderline cases of this for many characters, and a full-blown case for both Dualla and Number Three.
  • Series 3 of Torchwood has multiple Despair Event Horizons - as you would expect from a plot that involves the governments of the world caving into an alien race's demands for 10% of the Earth's children. Obstructive Bureaucrat Anti-Villain Frobisher is told by the Prime Minister that, for PR purposes, his daughters will be among the 10% given to the aliens - so Frobisher takes a gun home and kills his wife and children, before turning it on himself. Then Jack, who has just had to watch his boyfriend die pointlessly, realises that there's a way to defeat the aliens after all... but it will mean killing a child. And the only child close to hand is his own grandson, who he is forced to murder in front of his screaming daughter. Safe to say, Jack doesn't hang around on Earth for very long after that.
  • Dead Set. Space agrees to unlock the Diary Room so Kelly can make a futile attempt to fight her way out only after seeing a zombie Pippa (his former girlfriend) hammering on the glass outside.
  • In Spooks,[2] Lucas North pretty much shuts down when Harry tells him that "Albany", the biological weapon blueprint he betrayed all his friends over, getting his New Old Flame killed in the crossfire as he did so...is a fake. The "express elevator down" option off the top of the building they're on soon follows.

 Harry: Who are you Lucas? Who are you?

Lucas: ...I'm nothing.

  • Joseph Bede crosses it in the final episode of The Shadow Line. His wife, whose Alzheimer's treatment he intends to pay for with the proceeds from his drug deal, tries to kill herself and is hospitalised. This prompts him to leave his gun behind when meeting Jay, who he already know intends to betray him, which leads to his death.


New Media Edit

  • Played for Laughs in the Riff Trax of Twilight. Two girls are having a discussion in the high school's cafeteria, when one mentions, "We're talking Olympic sized." Mike Nelson is right on top of it, chiming in, "High school girls discussing wang sizes. We have officially hit rock bottom, gentlemen."
    • And in the 'Trax for the Star Wars Holiday Special, while watching Harvey Korman debase himself in a miserably unfunny sketch, Mike sighs and says, "Well, Nietzsche was right; dead as a doornail."


Professional Wrestling Edit

  • Bret Hart's heel turn and reformation of the Hart Foundation was largely based on his growing disapproval of America's failing family values in the wake of Steve Austin's new wave of popularity. It got worse when Shawn Michaels and HHH formed D-Generation X.
  • Austin Aries and Jimmy Jacobs took each other down all because of Lacey. Aries persuaded Lacey to leave her boyfriend and the Age of the Fall, only to have Jacobs lose even more of his mind and take Lacey out of ROH for good.
    • The real damage to Aries was done after he won the feud with Jimmy Jacobs and moved on to Age of the Fall Lieutenant Tyler Black. The fans began to get behind Black after a series of matches against Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson to the point where some of them began to boo A-Double.


Tabletop Games Edit

  • Warhammer 40000
    • This is the Chaos God Nurgle's modus operandi: prey upon those who have succumbed to despair and cynicism, especially if this anguish comes from a hideously-disfiguring disease. His victims wallow in self-pity until they fully embrace decay and entropy, find themselves perversely enjoying the experience, and begin worshiping him. In other words, through Father Nurgle you can fall past the Despair Event Horizon and end up Affably Evil.
    • For another Warhammer 40000 example, this is a significant chunk of the Soul Drinkers' fighting style - you break the enemy's will to fight, and then you can just kill them with ease.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Investigators (a.k.a. the PCs) wage a never ending war against the Elder Gods, slowly learning more and more of the Mythos. At one point or another, they get a view of what they're fighting, a clear unobstructed view. Those who don't Go Mad From the Revelation typically loose all motivation to fight out of finally understanding how small they really are in this fight.
  • It's implied in some articles about the Dirigible Engine Daystar in Exalted that the Unconquered Sun has crossed it at some point after his Chosen crossed the Moral Event Horizon and the whole world went to the dogs. This is a sign of how bad things have gotten in Creation; the cosmic embodiment of virtue is caught in a spiral of despair and denial.
  • Being that they're both settings about personal horror, crossing the horizon is horribly frequent in The World of Darkness games -- so much that many have mechanics for it.
    • Mages use their beliefs and sheer willpower to shape the reality around them. Pushing them over the edge and sending them into utter despair, naturally, has some terrible consequences... If lucky[3], their mind (and magic) breaks and the mage becomes a Marauder, who enforces their shattered vision of reality upon the world by existing. If unlucky, they might decide that it is better for reality not to exist at all and join the Nephandi. Mind that this process involves ripping their soul inside out.
    • In a world full of unwilling monsters, Prometheans probably have it the worst. The universe does not want them to exist. The very earth rejects them and the people are supernaturally urged to hate them. Learning to become human is a very difficult and bitter task, but many see it as a worthy goal to fight for... But many still fall to despair and pursue a very different goal: to become monsters. A Centimanus revels in their inhuman nature and uses their alchemical powers to dissolve and disintegrate.
    • In Changeling: The Lost, crossing the despair event horizon is the reproductive cycle of the True Fae.


Video Games Edit

  • Oersted in Live a Live. After being tricked, he finds that everyone has now abandoned him and considers him a demon, his only remaining ally is dragged away to be tortured, and is blamed for the death of said ally who expends the last of his power to set Oersted free. Oh, then he finds out that his best friend betrayed him to this fate because he was jealous. Oh, and the 'Aesop' which has been so far in the game? "Don't lose hope as long as somebody believes in you". That went well. The last person who he hoped believed in him, the princess? After Oersted duels his traitorous friend and kills him, she asks why he didn't come to rescue her (ouch. He did. Straybow only got there first by faking his death and ruining Oersted's life), declares that she loves said traitor, and kills herself. That was the absolute last straw, the severing of his last tenuous tie to sanity.
  • After spending a year in coma and seeing the destruction of the world firsthand, Cid's death in Final Fantasy VI proves to be Celes' final straw, driving her to toss herself off a cliff. She survives by a miracle, and seeing Locke's bandanna tied around a pigeon's wing gives her a new reason to live. This event can be prevented by successfully playing a Mini Game, but the path of failure is much better written[4].
    • Several other characters get dangerously close as well. Strago, believing Relm is dead, allows himself to be brainwashed by the Cult of Kefka, although he snaps out of it once he sees that Relm is alive. Setzer, after losing his beloved airship, is found drinking at the bar in Kohlingen, and it takes a Rousing Speech from Celes to bring him around.
  • This is Seymour's motive in Final Fantasy X. After a fairly crappy childhood he hits when his mother (the only person who ever loved him) sacrifices her own life to give him the power to defeat Sin. His despair drives him to plot the destruction of all life in Spira because he sees it as the only way to bring an end to all suffering.
    • It also turns out to be the motive for why Yu Yevon originally created Sin a thousand years ago. Seeing that his beloved city of Zanarkand would be destroyed, he killed every living being in it and used their souls to create an eternal Dream Zanarkand, as well as an all-powerful destructive force (Sin) to provide the power needed to keep Dream Zanarkand alive.
    • And in the sequel Final Fantasy X 2, a Despair Event Horizon is the main motive for its Big Bad, Shuyin, who wants to destroy the world which let him and his beloved die a thousand years ago. To put it in perspective, Shuyin's concentrated despair literally festered in a hole for a millenia after his death until it reached a point where the only way he could think to end his pain would be to end the world itself.
      • Oh and the whole being forced to watch his beloved die on repeat for a thousand years might have also had something to do with it.
  • It isn't clearly shown onscreen, but the backstory of Tales of Symphonia makes it apparent that Mithos, Kratos and Yuan all suffered this upon the death of Martel, Mithos' sister and Yuan's fiancee, leading the heroes of the ancient world to become villains instead.
    • Kratos arguably claws his way back out of the Despair Event Horizon when he becomes disillusioned and meets his lover, Lloyd's mother, falls back in when he thinks they're both dead, and then claws back out again when he encounters Lloyd later.
    • The sequel has Alice fall into this when Decus is killed protecting her.
  • Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology has Kanonno, after her home world, Pasca, was consumed by war and mana abuse despite her efforts as its Descender. She even committed genocide, which led to Pasca's rapid decline.
  • Devil Survivor's Yasuyuki Honda crosses this in the Escape ending. He spends the whole week trying to escape the lockdown so he can see his hospitalized son, only to discover he's too late, and because they broke through the blockade, the whole world's gone to hell. This sends him completely over the edge, and he calls out the 'heroes' responsible in a nightmarishly backwards way, complete with Slasher Smile.
    • Earlier on, Keisuke, already destabilized by a whole childhood of witnessing and suffering bullying, finally snaps when he sees Midori being nearly lunched to death to the people she was trying to save.He spends the following days going Knight Templar and killing anyone that commits any kind of injustice.
  • Kratos from God of War, when Athena tells him that though they implied they would do so, they never actually said they'd let him forget killing his family. They only promised to forgive him.
  • This is the entire premise behind Knights of the Old Republic II, as Revan is revealed to have deliberately subjected his Jedi Knights to brutal, dehumanizing battles until their spirit breaks and they turn to the dark side. Your character is the only person who managed to undergo this treatment and not succumb (you can still be as light or dark as you wish).
  • Before Digital Devil Saga starts, Angel crossed this when her boyfriend died in her arms from injuries sustained in a terrorist attack on his hospital, all due to fear of the new, possibly not even infectious disease she'd been working on finding a cure for.
  • Breath of Fire IV has this in spades.
  • Kane and Lynch revels in this.
  • Hunter, in Darkness, an interactive fiction, plays this one and plays it hard. An early segment has you crawling, cut and bleeding, through a tight space with hundreds of feet of rock above and miles and miles of rock below. The game assures you repeatedly, even as you struggle ever closer to freedom, that this is it--your final resting place. This is where you die. Your light has flickered out and the invisible narrator insists that you will never leave this place, until finally you tear yourself away from the stone gullet and stumble blindly to freedom.
  • Wild Arms 2 has what could almost be an Incredibly Lame Pun. A certain Eldritch Abomination was sealed away "beyond the Event Horizon" in the backstory, and happens to be the source of the protagonist's Super Mode. Said protagonist is pushed to the edge of the Despair Event Horizon midway through, and teeters there for the entire game. After defeating the supposed final boss which involved his Magnificent Bastard commander sacrificing himself to give an Eldritch Location a physical body to kill, he suffers a Heroic BSOD that almost releases the demon. In other words, his despair literally formed a bridge across the Event Horizon.
  • Dwarf Fortress has this as a fundamental aspect of managing your dwarves. They can become unhappy through a variety of reasons from simply not having any alcohol to drink through to the deaths of close friends or family. Getting a dwarf depressed enough will push them over the edge and cause them to lose their sanity. Depending on several factors this can be anything from a minor nuisance to extremely dangerous. If you're lucky, events can contrive to make this game-ending depending on your fortress design and how close other dwarves are to being over the edge themselves. Indeed, events can (or more usually, do) spiral out of control until your entire fortress is over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Hiroki in Canvas 2 in regards to painting. Many of the routes actually deal more with helping him get over his problems than helping the heroine.
  • In Dragon Age II, the player can push Fenris over the Despair Event Horizon by agreeing to give him back to the blood mage who had previously enslaved him. He's so gutted by the betrayal that he doesn't even get angry, just bows his head and leaves with the slaver without a fight.
    • implied with Orsino at the end of the game, who seeing his fellow mages cut down one by one with no hope of surrender, finally gives in and uses blood magic in a 'taking you with me' type deal, this can seem to come out of the blue if you side with the mages and this happens right after you mop the floor with any templar that comes in.
  • Happens many, MANY times in the Fire Emblem franchise:
    • Seisen no Keifu: Lord Sigurd can hold himself up as well as possible when his wife Diadora is kidnapped, his father Byron is falsely accused of threason and dies, he himself is accused of treason, and bth his sister Ethlin and her husband/Sigurd's Lancer Cuan are murdered. However, the moment he sees that his kidnapped wife was actually mindwiped into marrying Alvis, who once was his sort-of ally, he can only scream in utter horror and betrayal right before Alvis himself burns him to death, and Sigurd's army is decimated shortly afterwards.
      • Sigurd's old friend and companion Tiltyu doesn't fare much better. In the second part of the game we learn that she crossed the DEH after not only being separated of her son Arthur as she and her daughter Teeny are kidnapped back into Freege, but also after being subjected to endless abuse from her sister-in-law Hilda, which finally drove her to sickness and death.
    • Thracia 776: Evayle once was close to this horizon. So much that whatever happened to her ( the Basttle of Barhera), robbed her not only of her husband and children, but of her memories of having ever been Bridget, the lost princess of Jungby and a member of Sigurd's troops. Much to our relief, at the end of the game we learn that some years after the second war of Grandbell, she recovered her memories and reunited with Patty and Faval.
      • Olwen and Misha also were pretty close to it, once they learned about the horrifying child hunts conducted by the Grandbellian empire. They both pulled through it via Heel Face Turns.
    • Fuuin no Tsurugi: The biggest example is King Mordred of Etruria, who completely lost the will to reign and left the government to his advisors (many of them treacherous) after his son and heir, Prince Mildain, died in an accident. And then this is subverted in the end: Mildain actually reappears, having survived the ambush that almost killed him, and is reunited with his father, so we know that Mordred ultimately got better.
    • Rekka no Ken: Eliwood and Nils were both pretty close to cross this, once Eliwood was tricked by Nergal into killing Nils's beloved sister Ninian with Durandal when she was forced into her Dragon form by Nergal himself.
      • Renault did cross it several years ago, when his partner and best friend was killed in battle. He was so utterly shattered that he threw himself into battle blindly (and killed Lucius's dad in the process) and collaborated with Nergal in hopes to have his friend revived, among other things. He recovered a part of his sanity, however, and became The Atoner in the end.
      • Don't forget Harken, an Ace who was throughly broken after being the Sole Survivor of Lord Elbert's decimated crew. We meet him as a powerful enemy whom the Pherae charas must recruit as soon as possible lest he fights them to death, and his supports reveal how the horrors he witnessed and the helplessness he felt drove him into becoming an Empty Shell of the man he once was. For worse, some other supports (pecifically, with marcus heavily imply that he had severe self-esteem and abuse/abandonment issues before the whole Break the Cutie deal.
      • When we meet Lord Hausen, the old man has crossed the DEH since he has learned that his long-lost daughter (Lyn's mother) is dead, his health is failing more and more (and he's being poisoned), and his Complete Monster brother Lundgren is taunting him endlessly about all of it. He's just about to succumb to Death by Despair by that point. But when Lyn reaches for him, he manages to come back.
    • Fire Emblem the Sacred Stones: Prince Lyon never was the most self-assured person, despite his Badass Bookworm status and being the Imperial Prince of Grado. (His weak health didn't help either.) But then his beloved father and idol Emperor Vigarde died of illness, so the poor guy's mental health took a BIG nosedive. And soon, It Got Worse.
      • Lyon's advisor, Knoll actually managed to return from the DEH, having witnessed Lyon's fall into despair and then having been slated for execution. Ephraim and Duessel reach for him in the nick of time, and Knoll decides to join them and do what he can to help save Grado.
  • Persona 2's Nyarlathotep actively attempts to force everyone in the game who raises a hand against him over the edge. Eldritch Abomination + A Form To Actively Horrify You + Hannibal Lecture + "The Reason You Suck" Speech = this trope. Of course, the heroes' actions might make all his effort worthless...
  • In Dantes Inferno, Dante's will is steadily broken as he goes deeper in Hell and he is forced to face the many sins he committed in life. When a corrupted Beatrice calls him out on his misdeeds and betrayal of her trust, he falls to his knees and gives up on trying to redeem himself, deciding that he deserves to be trapped in Hell.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Gabriel crosses it right after a moment of utter triumph when he kicks Satan's ass when he sees that Marie is about to leave for the afterlife forever and that he cannot go with her. Realizing that the hope he believed in was hollow, Gabriel collapses and cries silently. Even centuries later, he has not recovered. As the immortal Dracula, all he does is hide in shadows while longing for a death that may never come.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog can fall into this during certain endings of his titular videogame (i.e. discovering he is an android, believing he is an experiment gone wrong). However, other endings he'll completely avert it. Ironically, no matter what happens, he will always end the story by saying "This is who I am."
    • Besides the Last Story, which he says "Goodbye, Shadow the Hedgehog."
  • King's Quest III explains that King Graham passed this when Rosella (his remaining child) was picked for the annual Human Sacrifice to the dragon plaguing Daventry. This is why it falls to "Gwydion" (aka the lost Prince Alexander) to rescue her and the kingdom.
  • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend: During Makoto's bad ending, Relius Clover's prolonged and precision-guided Mind Rape slams Makoto Nanaya across the despair event horizon at terminal velocity - the earliest symptoms of this are her lack of will to move or even speak, and she eventually fades into oblivion as he begins to rewrite her soul for his own use.

 (I... need to save... Tsubaki... but... I feel like I... like I don't... have... anything...)

    • Terumi literally feeds on others' despair to survive. He happens to be very good at causing this to extraordinary levels in almost everyone, and does exactly that, even if it's just for his own amusement. Every single ending, except his own, ultimately is a Heads I Win, Tails You Lose situation for the character. He uses his abilities to turn Noel, the girl who is loyal to him and falsely believes him to be a force of good, into a sobbing wreck of self-loathing and hatred.
    • His Motive Rant, which is delivered after said Heads I Win, Tails You Lose situation basically sums up that he thinks everyone who have crossed the Despair Event Horizon are the only honest people, everything else are lies, those who believe them are liars and he's damn willing to make his own brand of truth of "Everyone, cross the Despair Event Horizon" to become the accepted truth in the world.
  • Gerald Robotnik crosses this hard in the Last Story of Sonic Adventure 2 when he finds out about Maria's death.


Visual Novels Edit

  • Fate/stay night has a couple of primary examples:
    • In the backstory, Kotomine crossed the Despair Event Horizon after the death of his wife, abandoning his attempt at living a 'good' life and fully embracing the fact that he can only feel happy through hurting others.
    • Archer crossed the Despair Event Horizon after being betrayed by everyone he ever knew and finally, his own ideals. This leads him to try to kill Shirou, his past self and living embodiment of his misguided ideals, at any cost. In the end, he is beaten by Shirou despite being the superior opponent, his acknowledgment that those beliefs were not so mistaken after all.
    • Finally, Shirou goes through this in the Heaven's Feel route. He gives up on his ideals to save Sakura, who happens to be eating people and is about to turn into a world destroying monster. He's not one to sit around, though, so he just takes up another cause with gusto.
    • Sakura also crosses this line somewhere in the final battle against Rin, most likely around the time when she gives Rin her speech about how much her life had sucked. Rin then responds with, essentially, "tough shit", sending her totally nuts. Depending on the player's choices, she either follows this up by capturing and torturing Rin via making her experience the HELL she went through, or by being saved by her utter despair at (seemingly) killing her sister immediately after Rin finally realised that she couldn't bring herself to kill Sakura after all, and instead hugged her.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, this is hinted to have occurred to Yasu / Beatrice after realizing that Battler will not come back to the island. S/he instigates the murders that occur on the island and throws away everything for a chance of a miracle and make Battler realize his sin.
  • Kohaku of Tsukihime also crosses the Despair Event Horizon after being raped several times by SHIKI and his father in order to stop their inversion impulses and becomes utterly broken, as revealed in the Far Side routes.
  • Keisuke's death in Togainu no Chi is this for Akira on Shiki's route. Even though he still puts up a bit of a fight against Shiki, it's nowhere near the same defiance he had before. He also doesn't care whether he lives or dies and decides that whatever happens to him is punishment for killing Keisuke.
  • Thee Bad Endings of Katawa Shoujo imply that, if the player takes the wrong choices, the girls might reach this extreme. Some examples are: Rin's bad (where she and Hisao have a terrible fight and she ends up alone in her atelier) and neutral (in which she accepts a scholarship in Tokyo but at the cost of breaking all bonds with Hisao and everyone else) endings, Shizune's bad ending (with Misha reaching it first via asking Hisao to sex her up due to her hidden loneliness, and then Shizune following when she breaks up with Hisao thinking that she is ruining his and Misha's lives -- and the last view of her that he has is Shizune sitting all alone in the stairs), and Hanako's bad ending (with her blowing up at Hisao as she realizes that he and Lilly only view her as a child whom they have to protect, thus breaking her already smashed self-estreem and making her totally splinter)
  • Junpei goes through this in most of the Bad Endings of 999, but none more so than in the "Submarine Ending," right before he gets killed.

Webcomics Edit


Web Original Edit

  • Surprisingly enough, Ganondorf went over this in There Will Be Brawl upon finding the pure evil that is Ness and Lucas. He questions how heroes can even exist when such evil does.
  • As the end of Pokecapn's legendary Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 Let's Play approaches, the players themselves slowly slip towards and eventually cross the Despair Event Horizon; this is signified by Kung-Fu Jesus chanting song lyrics in monotone.
    • "Because it's Thriller. Thriller night. And no one's gonna save you from..."
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible crosses the Despair Event Horizon after his death ray backfires in Captain Hammer's hands and the shrapnel kills Penny.
  • Happens a lot in Survival of the Fittest, more often than not later in the game, but given the premise, is it really that surprising?
    • For example, Jacob Charles quickly shoots into this zone after his girlfriend is killed right in front of him, leading to him attempting suicide. Read it here.
  • Happens to cup in Channel 101's "2 girls, 1 cup the show". Unlike most of the cases in this page, the result is hilarious.
  • Oancitizen of Brows Held High is driven to this in his Ken Park review. Genocide ensues.
  • Discussed in Freemans Mind.

 "But yeah, I was expecting to look down there and see this giant eyeball looking up at me, angry at me because I blew off its eyelashes or something, then the whole building starts shaking and I guess I'd… ball up and cry, because what do you do when something that big wants to kill you?"


Western Animation Edit

  • An Alternate Universe in Superman: The Animated Series showed a demoralized Supes enslaving Metropolis alongside Lex Luthor because he couldn't save Lois Lane from a car bomb.
    • Similarly, in Justice League, Flash's execution by President Luthor led to another alternate universe's Justice League becoming the Justice Lords.
  • In Batman Beyond, after getting a second chance at living a normal life, Mr. Freeze is betrayed by Derek Powers when his body begins to deteriorate back to requiring sub zero temperatures. It's around this point that he's crossed the line and eventually chooses to stay behind when the building is collapsing on top of him. His last words in the episode? "Believe me, Batman, you're the only one who cares..."
    • Also, in the "Return of the Joker" movie, we learn that Tim Drake aka Robin was kidnapped, disfigured, and tortured into utter madness by The Joker and Harley Quinn, only revealing something similar of his original Robin personality after shooting the Joker dead (in the uncensored version, that is). After the Joker and Batman's last battle, the broken and insane Tim had to go through intense therapy for years, and when we find him in person he's an embittered, sad man in his 50's who has grown sick of his past. And then, It Gets Worse...
      • It's not quite that bad. Tim did make a life for himself with a good career and a family. It's really only when he sees The Joker on the television that he shows signs of trauma and the Joker chip in his neck might be part of it as well.
  • Moral Orel. Nature. Clay shoots Orel in the leg and leaves him bleeding in the woods for a day. It's when the show officially shifts from comedy to a massive character study.
  • Danny Phantom saw his friends and family die right in front of his eyes. What comes as a result? A completely psychotic ghost who goes on a literal roaring rampage (not of revenge). He's the only villain on the show to have been seen to commit murder.
  • Hardy Har Har the hyena from Lippy The Lion And Hardy Har Har was pretty much born like this.
  • Twilight Sparkle in the pilot episode and season 2 premiere of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic.
  • During the Time Skip in Young Justice, Aqualad went through this when Tulla, the girl he loved, died during a mission with the team as Aquagirl and when he discovered Black Manta was his biological father and that Aquaman knew and hid it from him. Feeling betrayed by everyone in his life, he went to the only place he felt he could belong: at his father Black Manta's side.


Real Life Edit

  • The Imperial Japanese military became increasingly desperate as the Allies began to draw the noose around the Home Islands. They recommended a Last Stand on a national scale, and began training schoolchildren to fight with sticks, but when the Emperor supported the decision to surrender, many military officers chose seppuku as an alternative, inclusive of those officers who tried to stop the Emperor's broadcast and continue fighting without his Majesty's approval only to be arrested.
  • Theodore Roosevelt, when his son Quentin died in World War One. His health, held together for most of his life solely by sheer unfettered willpower, began failing almost immediately, and never recovered. His Death by Despair followed less than a year later.
    • He had already come close to this thirty years earlier when his wife and his mother died on the same day: Valentine's Day 1884.
  • Many of "the Projects" in the US from the 1960s fell into this. Now many of the people living in them have no hope of ever improving their lives. The sad part is there are now up to 3 generations who have lived this way.
  • Jason Russell dealt with massive amounts of criticism from Ugandans and internet goers of the viral video "Kony 2012" for his organization's handling of finances and purpose of helping Ugandans. Then personal attacks against his Evangelical Christian background came to light and he completely lost it.
  • This is essentially what depression is (the feeling that there is no hope).
    • Also why many people commit suicide or want to commit suicide.
  • Ravens usually mate in monogamous pairs for life. If one of the pair dies, it isn't uncommon for the other member to become despondent, sometimes even to the point of deliberately starving themselves to death. "Quoth the raven, 'nevermore.'"

Notes

  1. Technically, Mach's mind in Bane's body. Long story.
  2. Serious series 9 spoilers, FYI
  3. for everyone else, that is
  4. The developers seem to think so too, because the 'right thing' to do is willfully obscure, and the remainder of the plot tacitly assumes the character is dead.

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