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Proper Lady my ass.

This is what happens when the story or themes behind a cartoon, Comics, or such don't match their art style. It can be intentional (a specific way for the author to get their point across) or unintentional, in which case it is often jarring. It is often used to portray a work of fiction within another, so the audience doesn't mistake it for "reality". In such instances, Stylistic Suck may come into play.

Can be a sub-trope of Mood Dissonance, and is itself the supertrope of Grotesque Cute.

Compare with Crap Saccharine World.

Examples of Art Style Dissonance include:

Anime and Manga


  • Maus. Holocaust memoirs—with the characters portrayed as Funny Animals. "Funny" absolutely not being the operative phrase.
  • Batman: Black & White, being all about the artistic experiments, had a few of these. One issue had a very dark, horrifying Two-Face story illustrated by Bruce Timm in the cartoony style he developed for Batman the Animated Series.
  • Much of Jason Shiga's comics have a serious tone that contrasts with his cartoony artwork. His characters are big-eyed and usually have Generic Cuteness; his plots involve searches for missing parents, gang wars, terrorism, over-the-top police action, or the death of every human on Earth.
  • Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog stories drawn by Jon Gray have this in spades, only the weird thing is, it works really well. Gray's hyper-exaggerated, hyper-expressive cartoony style makes comical moments (like Knuckles meeting his baby half-brother) all the funnier, but it also lends full emotional weight to more serious moments (Like Sonic and Sally's breakup argument).
  • The Unfunnies. A Hanna-Barbera-esque comic series with extremely dark subject matter. Eventually the corruption of this once idyllic world is explained, but the shock of seeing FunnyAnimals involved in child pornography, murders and drug abuse is hard to forget.

Video Games

  • Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. It's probably the darkest game in the entire series, dealing with some fairly deep thematic stuff (like aging, losing one's friends, cheating, etcetra). But it still has the same cuddly, Puni Plush aesthetic as the other games.
    • In addition, Harvest Moon 64 and Harvest Moon: Back to Nature qualify. They have simplistic, childlike character models and cutesy anime character portraits... which appear in games dealing with alcoholism, implied abuse, stagnating marriages, abandonment (parent abandoning child, in particular), and death.
  • Tales of Symphonia. Oh, look at the graphics! They're so cute! * Cue genocide, Fantastic Racism, Black and Grey Morality, and a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.*
  • Similarly, Chrono Cross. Brightly-colored, often hand-painted visuals, and come on, Chrono Trigger was so fun! *cue Darker and Edgier Mind Screw storyline featuring copious Nice Job Breaking It, Hero and Fantastic Racism, which also retcons the ending of CT into something a lot darker*
  • Cave Story features mentions of war (with implications that the protagonist was one of the "killer robots" involved), a Big Bad whose experiments are somewhat reminiscent of Mengele, and a boss fight that forces you to kill one of the cutest characters in the game. But just look at the robots! The in-game graphics just make it even more jarring.
  • Conkers Bad Fur Day could best be described as the video game equivalent to South Park. Death, sex, drunkeness, scatalogical humor, swearing...not a kids game. But Rare made it with the same adorable art style that characterized their family friendly fare like Banjo-Kazooie.
    • It should be noted that Conker: Twelve Tales was originally going to be a family-friendly game, not too dissimilar from Conker's Pocket Tales, but then Rare caught on that it would've been too similar to their own Banjo-Kazooie, so they turned it into what we now know as Conker's Bad Fur Day...while keeping the art style intact.
    • Banjo-Kazooie itself is quite prone to this at times, considering the truly titanic amounts of adult humor and dark storylines Rare snuck into their family-friendly game.
  • Mother 3 is a prime example. For the first 15 minutes, it's averted, but after that it takes a swan dive into the depths. Compared to the art style, the story gets so dark, you would need the light of a thousand suns to be able to see three feet ahead. Though, admittedly, there are comic relief sections, it's still one hell of a contrast.
  • Intentionally done in Yggdra Union, where Kiyuduki Satoko's Puni Plush art style helps to conceal the dark nature of the game until the player gets whacked in the face with it.
  • The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker introduced a cartoony and very brightly colored art style very different from the Ocarina of Time era's more realistic art. However, it is arguably even darker than Ocarina of Time; central to the plot is a Great Flood that reduced the world to a handful of islands that were once mountaintops—not to mention the fact that the final battle culminates in Ganon being stabbed in the forehead.
  • Raze's Hell features mostly cutesy art... since you play as a monster bent on fighting the cuddly Evil Army bent on destroying ugly creatures.
  • Bastion looks like a Sugar Apocalypse at first, but it eventually becomes clear that the world (or at least the main character's nation) was pretty messed up even before the Calamity.
  • This is one of the criticisms often aimed at the Battalion Wars games: Their art style is a little too cute for the combat involved, but not quite cute enough for the characterization of the units and commanders.
  • Pokémon, especially Pokémon Platinum and Pokémon Black and White. With the cutesy look and the bright colors who would expect such a series to be so darn right horrific and depressing? The Mystery Dungeon spinoffs are especially bad, as they center around the incredibly cute Pokemon in an apparently idealistic land but are in a league of their own.
  • Corpse Party is drawn with cutesy anime characters but the game itself is mostly about people being murdered in a gory, horrible and bloody way. Lets see, the characters in story can die from suffocated by a malicious ghost, forced to cut out their own tongue, buried alive, cut in half, have their ribs broken and their lungs pierced with them, have their eyes torn out, they can let their best friend drown, accidentally smash her to pieces with the pool drain, get stabbed with scissors, mauled to death, and best of all trapped in a time warp that forces them to relive the nightmare again and again!

Web Comics

  • The Perry Bible Fellowship.
  • Axe Cop uses a slightly-exaggerated but fairly realistic style a la most mainstream comic books. But since the plots are written by a six-year-old, the actual content of the comic is completely insane.
  • Kit N Kay Boodle is drawn in a cute cartoon style, yet features near constant furry sex. Many readers find this extremely jarring.
  • Sonichu. This incredibly-disturbing webcomic has art that looks like it was drawn by an elementary-schooler. Of course, this is because its creator is Giftedly Bad.
  • Kagerou starts out this way, with extremely bright colors and cartoonish art contrasted against the dark plot and tendency towards gore. Eventually, though, the art evolves into a more realistic but still brightly coloured style.
  • Nana's Everyday Life has very cutesy, somewhat chibi-like art. It is also based on Elfen Lied, starts out as a Dead Baby Comedy, then gets worse.
  • Purple Pussy is a super cutesy drawn webcomic for girls... featuring an unending supply of Cluster F Bombs and Toilet Humor that will burn your eyes out.
  • Wondermark is a Cut and Paste Comic made from sophisticated Victorian art. The jokes tend to be either very silly observations on modern neurotics to very silly poop jokes.
  • Niels has the same cutesy style as Scandinavia and The World by the same author, despite having much darker subject matter. The author's third comic is in a different style, so this is clearly a deliberate choice.
  • Come on. Married to The Sea, anyone?
  • Xkcd is surprisingly smart for its limited art style.
  • Romantically Apocalyptic. Its art is frighteningly realistic and grim. The actual comic? A hilarious Black Comedy.

Western Animation