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"Mysteries that are stretched interminably to fill time are not magically made more mysterious."

Arcs are good. They keep a series moving at a good pace, give it a greater sense of purpose, unity, and forethought, and generally help keep up interest in the story as a whole.

Unless they go on and on. And on. And on. For months, if not years.

Suddenly, the arcs stop keeping up interest and instead lead to fan outcry for a conclusion already! Eventually, the pace of a story may become so monotonously slow and/or repetitious that the fanbase at large basically give up on following the series directly, and instead rely on Reader's Digest versions of the stories, as told by their friends who still give a damn.

When this happens, a story has succumbed to Arc Fatigue. Possible reasons for this are:

Arc Stall: An individual story arc has carried on for an annoyingly long time, and yet there's still no end in sight. This usually occurs when the amount of time taken to tell an individual arc becomes horrendously disproportional to the amount of time that's passed in-universe (for example, taking several years to publish a story whose events supposedly happen within the span of a few hours), leading to a critical breakdown of Suspension of Disbelief. This form of stall is most common in "The Continuing Adventures of"-style stories, which chronicle the many exploits of a character or group of characters, rather than have a set end-goal planned.

Myth Stall: The story has been going on for a long time. A loooooooong time. Your teenager wasn't even born when the story began. And yet the characters are no closer to their final goal than they were five years ago. Mostly, the story is riddled with storylines which may be little more than a prolonged Monster of the Week story with no significant Character Development or Plot Advancement at all. In extreme circumstances, the series might "end" only when the author does... This is, naturally, most common in "quest" stories where the characters have an over-arching goal to achieve or MacGuffin to claim. See The Chris Carter Effect.

Note that in particularly ridiculous examples, a series may suffer from Myth Stall because it's laden with Filler Arcs suffering from Arc Stall.

The reasons for a series slipping into Arc Fatigue are many, but the most common are that either the author is stalling for time while trying to figure out where the series is heading, or that someone higher up wants to carry on the series for as long as it's profitable. Alternatively, the author may be Writing for the Trade.

Compare Four Lines, All Waiting, which moves at this speed by definition. Compare Ending Fatigue, Prolonged Prologue, and The Chris Carter Effect.

Examples of Arc Fatigue include:


Arc Stall

Anime and Manga

  • The Namek/Freeza Saga(s) on Dragon Ball Z. While not the most blatant examples, they are by far the most (in)famous. To the point that "Are they still on Namek?" has become the standard meme when referring to any story arc that seems to be dragging on for too long.
    • The Cell Games, too. Midway through episode 190, Cell starts to charge up a Kamehameha. Following a flashback, Goku telepathically tells Gohan that he can still win this, and Gohan starts preparing his own Kamehameha. The two launch their attacks right at the beginning of the next episode - and are deadlocked for the entire episode. Of course, this lasted one manga chapter too, only 14 pages aren't exactly the same as 22 minutes.
    • In the original manga, the Freeza and Cell sagas were of the exact same length and both the longest arcs. The Cell Saga, however, got off lighter than the Freeza Saga simply due to actually being able to change location/scenery.
    • The Buu Saga has the most chapters/episodes in both the manga and anime, although it's more fatiguing in the anime since, despite the high amount of chapters, the manga rushes through the plot pretty quickly.
    • Lampshaded in Dragon Ball Abridged when Krillin randomly notes at one point that "We're still on Namek!" For reference, that was the start of the eleventh episode where they'd been on Namek, while the entire Saiyan Saga was covered in ten episodes.
  • Bleach has a number of Arc Fatigue examples.
    • The Soul Society Arc (due to introducing a massive new cast and Filler ). Of course, this becomes less egregious when you realize that it's less than half as long as later arcs, and probably has more content to boot. A quick comparison; a main character fight in Soul Society arc takes about an episode to complete; in later arcs, a SIDE CHARACTER fight takes more than three times as long to conclude. Just goes to show that Arc Fatigue is contagious.
    • The Hueco Mundo Arc of Bleach. Ichigo, Chad, and Ishida entered Hueco Mundo in 2006. They finally got out in late 2010. The total amount of time that's passed has been maybe 24 hours. This and the theme of Hueco Mundo (Spain) led to the meme/question: "Are they still in Mexico?"
    • The Fake Karakura Town battle arc that HM basically bleeds into. The soul reapers fight off the first wave of minions. Then the second wave... and one final wave... then the Espada decide to join in. After an issue or five the captains start to overcome them. But wait; Your Princess Is in Another Castle! While it seems to be wrapping up soon, you just know that they are not going to take down the Big Bad just yet.
    • "Are they still fighting Aizen?" or "Isn't Aizen dead yet?" is/are the new "Are they still on Namek?"
    • How about the 'Bount arc' in the anime? Besides being filler which isn't even significant to the overall plot, it also drags for 48 episodes - and there are hardly as many antagonists as the previous arc. It's likely that the major grievance created by the arc (considered the weakest in both anime and manga) is that it takes too long for anything to happen, which makes it incredibly dull - at least the 'Hueco Mundo arc' actually has them fight their antagonists, even if there's an army of them.
    • Thankfully, the post-timeskip Fullbring Arc seems to have polished off this flaw; the pacing doesn't feel nearly as dragged out.
  • In the Enies Lobby arc of One Piece, the backstory of the main villain, Rob Lucci, is cut down from a full flashback to a brief summary. The author stated that this was because the arc was already running quite long, and a flashback in the middle of the climactic fight would have slowed the pacing down even more. The flashback was shown in full in the anime.
    • The Skypiea arc has also caught some flak for this, given its length compared to its at-the-time relative importance to the rest of the story. The real punch to the gut in the Skypiea arc was that Luffy's fight with the Big Bad essentially "ended" a full 17 chapters before the Big Bad was finally "defeated." The seven chapter-long flashback didn't help either, interrupting the arc's climax in favor of two months of exposition.
    • The Straw Hat Separation Saga and especially the Marineford arc were starting to feel like this, as the concept puts everyone but Luffy Out of Focus and the latter is largely one very drawn out battle. Thankfully, they finally got Ace out of the stockade before it got too dragged out then it hit a series of WHAM Episodes when Ace died, Whitebeard died, and Blackbeard made his entrance
    • To put this into perspective: When the Strawhats started heading for Sabaody Archipelago, that was chapter 490. After getting split up, Took a Level In Badass, meeting up again and then finally heading down to Fishman island, it is now chapter 602. For those keeping track, that's been exactly 112 chapters. That's not even including the month hiatus that the manga went on for the time skip.
    • There's also some Myth Stall going. The ultimate stated goal of Luffy's crew is to make it to Raftel, the final island in the Grand Line, and find the One Piece treasure. It's been over a full decade since One Piece began, and they're only now at the island which marks the halfway point on the Grand Line. However, the story is rarely criticized for its extreme length; only the arcs themselves are, most of the time.
  • Effectively every arc following the Orange Islands in the Pokémon anime is prone to this, due to the fact the series' source material (apart from a couple of Filler arcs) is a game whose installments are released three to four years apart rather than a weekly manga.
    • Johto: 160 episodes. Compounded by the fact that there was only one main quest (Contests and the like would not be introduced until the next season)
    • Hoenn: 132 episodes & Battle Frontier: 60 Episodes (Better mainly due to the addition of Contests, though Teams Aqua and Magma didn't fare as well.)
    • Sinnoh: 191 episodes. As much as the above above saga in total. It also holds the record for both the longest and second longest gaps between gym battles, with 31 episodes between Gardenia and Maylene and 52 episodes between Candice and Volkner. Granted, in these gaps we had the buildup and resolution, respectively, of both the Contest and Team Galactic arcs, and the first further justified by the distance between those two gyms[1], but that still meant that the main quest was demoted to C-Plot status twice.
    • The Best Wishes series is much faster-paced, with Ash getting three Badges in only 25 episodes. However, the distance between Castelia and Nimbasa City (the place where the next Gym resides) is ridiculously long, despite the two places being relatively close in the games. The writers even trolled with this, having the characters go to Nimbasa Town instead of Nimbasa City (Oops! Guess we're in for more traveling!)
      • Compensated by the material in-between actually having plot-related elements, either due to noteworthy development episodes (capturing new Pokemon, the Iris and Excadrill subplot, etc.), or multi-episode story arcs (the Don Battle arc and the Meowth as a Heel Face Mole arc). Those which are neither tend to be filler, of course, but compared to the previous seasons it's nowhere near as bad (even the first season had an inordinate drag between the sixth and seventh gyms, and it was mostly filler episodes there).
      • Given the production time for anime episodes, the longer delay appears to have been intentional - justified by geographic distance between Castelia and Nimbasa apparently being larger. Of course, even though no other Gyms are suffering this in Unova, the localized Myth Stall regarding a postponed two-parter thanks to the 2011 Earthquake is the current hot topic of debate. Still, BW delivers exactly as it promises otherwise.
  • From the beginning of the Battle City Finals in Yu-Gi-Oh! (the finals mind you) to the end took 63 episodes, including a twenty episode Filler Arc that could not have been placed worse.
    • The W.R.G.P./Z.O.N.E./Yliaster/whatever arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds takes this to a new extreme - unlike the fairly paced Fortune Cup arc (26 episodes) and Dark Signer arc (38 episodes), it drags on unbelievably - Episode 65 introduces the audience to the W.R.G.P. tournament, the actual tournament doesn't start until Episode 98, and it doesn't end until episode 137, 73 whole episodes from start to finish. Thankfully averted by the Ark Cradle arc afterwards, which is only 14 episodes from start from finish.
    • However, considering the Arc Cradle arc resolves the plot started by the W.R.G.P. arc, it's really 87 episodes from start to finish when you think about it.
  • The School Festival of Mahou Sensei Negima got amputated of the third day of "dates with Negi" in favor of the Battle For Mahora. At least in this case, there was a Tournament Arc thrown in the middle for variety.
    • Also notable in that the Myth Arc (revolving around Negi's quest to find his father) doesn't really start until around volume three, and even then it doesn't become the focal point of the series until volume 18 or so.
    • The Magical World arc may have dragged on more than needed as well. It finally ended, taking nearly half the manga's run to complete. It did solve a lot of loose plot ends at least.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle suffers from this. It doesn't help that the story is one gigantic Continuity Snarl with one of the most insanely interwoven plots ever attempted in anime (or all of... hell, anything, for that matter).
    • The most recent arc is perhaps the worst. It has been literally months since there's been a panel of Kurogane and/or Fai, with the entire arc devoted to Sakura and Syaoran.
  • Suzumiya Haruhi. Endless Eight. Eight episodes of the exact same events with minor variations, adapted out of a single short story. Especially since the novels' "Endless Eight" only concerned one particular time loop (the last one), and was about at most 30 pages. Eight episodes equals almost three hours. Yeah, that won't anger fans who wanted an epic six-episode Disappearance adaption (adapted out of a single novel)...The latter did come out as a full length movie however.
  • Fist of the North Star - "Is Raoh still alive?" Raoh's second battle with Kenshiro (which came after several near-death experiences for Raoh and several chapters' worth of what felt like padding) felt climactic and final, and Raoh's escape and continued survival for another ~10 chapters after that raised the story arc's Ending Fatigue to new heights. Then in volume 24. Big Bad's gone, everything resolved, story's over, right? Wrong.
  • Black Lagoon - The Baile de la Muerte arc. It wrapped up at 33 chapters out of 76 total. Not a new trend, however, because previously Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise did the same at 16 out of 37 chapters.
  • Two simultaneous battles taking place in Guyver last ten entire books with little else going on. For comparison, the first book covered the hero's birth, death, resurrection and initial defeat of the Chronos Corporation.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, the Future Arc, which lasted 146 chapters out of a total of 271 chapters. This means that arc is actually longer than the rest of the arcs combined! The storyline has been stretched to the point where battles have just been rehashed e.g. The choice battle which ended up amounting to nothing other than a bit of exposition at the end as well as introducing new characters that could have only been done to stretch the plot "Let me introduce you to the real 6 Funeral Wreaths!" Thus rendering all of the other battles utterly pointless. The introduction of the motorbikes also adds to the meaningless filler since they were only used for five minutes before being destroyed.
  • Kinnikuman Nisei is being horrible with this with the Time Travel arc. Said arc has been going on for over five years now and has gone on for more than 160 chapters. To put it in context, Yude has spent more time on one tournament arc than any other arc previously.
  • In Aoi Hana, there's this whole deal with Fumi's confession to Akira. Since the relationship between the girls is central to the story, this arc is stalled immensely, mostly by having a confused Akira run around in circles.
    • The first School Festival arc also drags on much longer than necessary.
    • And then there's the whole story about Kyouko and Kou's engagement, which mainly seems to serve to show that Kyouko is not lesbian after all.
  • The Chimera Ants arc in Hunter X Hunter, although it seems worse than it is due to constant Series Hiatus. The arc has lasted 125 chapters so far, but it's been over six years. Are they still in North Korea?
  • This began to happen to the Ah! My Goddess Manga; around the time it stopped being a Slice of Life series, it started to focus less and less on the series' old plot - Keiichi and Belldandy's glacial-paced relationship - and the series as a whole began to slow down significantly, taking four or five chapters to complete an arc that would initially be resolved in one or two. This also started to happen to the anime in the second season... and it was abruptly canceled.
    • Fortunately, the current Niflheim arc turns out to be a significant improvement: A lot of stuff is happening, many minor characters from the past make cameos and it looks like the main couple's relationship is finally moving forward.
  • The Asgard arc in Saint Seiya. One of the main appeals of Saint Seiya is that the fights, while epic, would last about one episode with a couple of exceptions. The problem with the Asgard arc is that every fight consisted of one of the Saints encountering a God Warrior, fight for about three episodes, the God Warrior gives a backstory and it repeats all over again. One fight in particular lasts four episodes. Ratings dropped so much that the series was Cut Short with the comparatively short Poseidon Saga and the no Hades Saga until years later. Unsurprisingly, this is the one arc that is 100% anime-only.
  • One single fight on the NEEDLESS anime takes nine episodes out of 24. To be fair, it was more like several mini-fights on a row, since both sides kept on getting reinforcements, plus there were TWO flashbacks from different people (Not that this helps any), but it was still awfully long compared to the much shorter battles on the rest of the series.
  • The Backstory arc of Kaze to Ki no Uta takes up six volumes out of a total 17. Usually, backstory arcs take up a few chapters and it does give readers some background to some characters, but that particular arc drags on way longer than it should have been.
  • Wolf Guy Wolfen Crest had a very, very, squicky arc fatigue when Ms. Aoshika was horrifically gang-raped by Haguro and his Yakuza for nearly 18 chapters... only recently has Inugami FINALLY reached her, but the damage has been done - for both the character and the reader.
  • Oh Naruto, the failed first attempt to retrieve Sasuke ended in 2005 after six volumes, well it's been 32 volumes and 7 years since then and they're still not anywhere near close to getting him back.
    • Not to mention the anime, where it has over 200 episodes in the first half and over 50 so far in Part 2, good luck trying to keep up.

Comic Books

  • Spider-Man's The Clone Saga was originally supposed to be a six-month arc, but after initial sales were good, Marvel's Marketing Department forcefully stretched out the story by nearly three years. Not so bad as some examples until you consider that in US comics an arc is typically three or four issues (with "special events" and Crisis Crossovers generally going for a year). The hate for the Clone Saga didn't really spawn in earnest until the 12-month mark.
    • Plus which, Spider-Man had four separate titles at the time, and the Clone Saga was running in all of them. So the storyline as a whole consists of upwards of a hundred issues.
  • The "Thy Kingdom Come" arc in Justice Society of America. It's actually a rather well-written arc, but it's pretty padded out (the three specials towards the end could have easily been worked into the main issues). It took up almost all of (if not every) 2008 issue of the title.
  • Dark Reign, Dark Reign, Dark Reign! Hope you liked the patently ludicrous idea of America willingly giving Norman Osborn complete control, because EVERY issue of EVERY Marvel book in 2009 dealt with nothing but how Norman Osborn controls the world.
  • The Iron Dominion Arc. A saga that lasted well over a year, encompassing 17 issues, and left even die hard fans of the series and its writer screaming for it to end. Why? Two things are universal: it suffered from a grievous overabundance of Pacing Problems and Snap Backs.
  • The New Krypton arc in the Superman titles unfortunately went down this path. The introduction of a wholly new population of Kryptonians was a strong and daring idea. The entire status quo of the Superman family was reworked and people were pleasantly surprised that writers had actually done something with the eternal MacGuffin that was the Bottle City of Kandor. But at some point along the way, it became apparent that the story was literally not going anywhere, that the entire World of New Krypton title was in a holding pattern while the associated titles (Superman, Action Comics, Supergirl, later Adventure Comics) were engaged in crossover storylines. In the end, most of the arc served as setup for successive event stories.
  • Superman was killed off because Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman was in production and the executives wanted to have them marry at the same time in both media leading to a stalled marriage arc. This lead to the The Death of Superman which, if you include the return, ran over a year generating huge sales and leading the writers to run long event arcs for the remained of the decade at which point the fans were finally tired of it.
  • Many of the X-Men's outer space stories (with the possible exception of the original Phoenix Saga) feel like this, since they're always a departure from the book's mutant theme and are almost always economy-sized story arcs.


Literature

  • Larry Niven's novel The Ring World Throne did very little to actually move the plot of the overall series, but did manage to use its last couple of chapters to set the next novel up pretty handily.
  • The second book in the Left Behind series was based on the idea that the second year of Tribulation would be completely uneventful.
    • The worst part is that, according to the authors' eschatology, the tribulation doesn't even begin until near the very end of the book. The book is mostly spent on Romantic Plot Tumors and other pointless diversions.
    • The entire series has stretches of this, due to the fact that it was extended from 12 books to 16.


Live Action TV

  • The X-Files has got to be the worst offender. Mulder's sister, Cancer Man's relationship to Mulder, etc.
    • It could be argued that important arc progress occurred throughout every season. Except maybe seven.
    • Though many frequently argue that the myth arc is properly tied up in mid season six two parter "Two Fathers/One Son" where in the conspiracy is more or less unraveled and a great many of the villains killed off. As such Arc Fatigue may set in at full force whenever the Myth Arc more or less begins anew.
  • Most soap operas do this on a daily basis, if only so that the "climax" of a particular segment will happen on a Friday. Full story arcs are sometimes drawn out for weeks when in any other media they'll be resolved in hours. A conversation between two characters on General Hospital back in the 1980s took two weeks in real-world time to finish, despite having an in-show length of only a couple of hours.
  • The second half of season three of Battlestar Galactica. After the dramatic escape from New Caprica, the show lapsed into a series of filler episodes with little development. This was from two apparent factors: Executive Meddling and budget restrictions. 'Dropping The Bucket' in "Exodus Part Two" wasn't cheap.
    • Gaius Baltar's character arc in Season Four. Even if we grant that the focus was not 'turning him into a good person' (which many fans already believed him to be) but rather into a full-fledged hero, he manages this feat by the end of the season premiere when he offers his own life for that of a young child who he's seen maybe twice in his life. Later episodes in the season pose questions such as "Does Gaius Baltar have the courage to get hit by a guard?" and "Does Gaius Baltar have the courage to shoot enemy Cylons from a safe distance?" usually to be answered with a resounding and nonsensical 'no,' when he'd already committed himself to far more dangerous things in the past. The entire arc could have been concluded in the episode it was introduced.
  • Season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Every plotline and character arc seemed stretched out without any developments or changes. It took Buffy literally the whole season (21 episodes) to get over being dead and resurrected. The last time she died and was brought back to life (in season one) it took one episode of angst before she was back on her feet. (In all fairness, though, the first time she merely flat lined and was revived. The second time she was literally yanked out of Heaven against her will and brought back to Earth.) Season Seven with the First Evil storyline suffered in a similar way.
    • Even Season Five suffered from this. The Glory arc was slow and plodding with whole episodes going along without anything progressing in the plot. Glory isn't introduced until the fifth episode, is forgotten about for another three episodes and if you cut out all the filler from that season you have about twelve episodes where the plot progresses normally. The penultimate episode of the season was just complete filler because they needed to wait another episode until the finale.
  • The Sopranos often get these complaint about Vito's Gayngst, Tony's coma, and Carmela and Furio's will they or won't they dance.
  • The telepath colony arc in Babylon 5 went on and on. And on. And on. And on. (The story was originally intended to only last three episodes but due to behind-the-scenes issues ended up taking up all of the fifth season's first half -- see below in "Myth Stall" for why.)
    • Another reason for it is that JMS had several other plans for how to fill up the season, but his notes were thrown out by a hotel maid before he could properly memorize them. The telepath story was the only one he still had a firm idea of, so he clung to it harder than it deserved.
  • The Dahak Saga that dominated the fifth season of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and simultaneous third season of Xena: Warrior Princess. While his daughter Hope was an endearing villainess, Dahak annoyed fans for being a generic God of Evil whose true form is never seen, and whose plans were less Magnificent Bastard than just plain convoluted.
  • For many Glee fans, Kurt leaving the club and transferring to Dalton Academy counted as this, since it was supposed to be temporary from the start, but had been extended due to high ratings, even though there were many episodes where Kurt added nothing to the story and the Dalton scenes felt like Big Lipped Alligator Moments.
  • Addressed on True Blood by the Time Skip at the start of Season Four, which sped up some of the slower-moving plotlines like Arlene's pregnancy, Lafayette's romance with Jesus, and Jason becoming a cop.
  • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: The Lights of Orion saga. The reason for it is Troubled Production.
  • Sons of Anarchy Season 2 has the plot of the first couple of episodes resolved in the last three of the season, thus first time viewers will wonder if it ever gets resolved at all.
  • In season two of The Good Wife, the storyline of Blake investigating Kalinda's secret past was only supposed to last through the season's first half. Scott Porter, who played Blake, turned out to have a more demanding schedule than they realized, so they were forced to progress the story in random fits and starts until it ended up dragging on through almost the whole season.
  • The second season of The Walking Dead as explained in this Cracked article.
  • How some felt during 24's fourth season in regards to Marwan's Gambit Roulette, a plot originally intended for five or six episodes that instead got expanded into seventeen for the remainder of the season. Many people got tired somewhere around the third or fourth time he made an illogical escape just to start another plan.


Newspaper Comics

  • The Phantom is one of the biggest, and most famous, offenders. A single story arc, told daily, may take up to a year to tell, and this isn't including the unrelated Sunday strips.
  • Perhaps an even worse offender is Prince Valiant, which is only printed on Sundays, and each issue represents maybe a few seconds of time in the story. It doesn't help that the size of comics has been steadily shrinking since its first issue in the 1920s, from half-page size to maybe 1/8.
  • Dick Tracy arcs are also notoriously slow-paced. Sometimes two thirds of a comic retell the contents of a previous comic with one new panel. One day of Dick Tracy's life takes several months of comic strips.
    • The new creative team is moving a much quicker pace of about one case a month.
  • Mary Worth, as The Comics Curmudgeon is fond of pointing out.
  • Candorville suffers from this trope. Big time.
    • To point it out, Lamont got Roxane pregnant around 2003. It took six or seven YEARS of strips, including the revelation that Roxane's a vampire, for them to break up and even then it was only after It was revealed that all of the vampire stuff and a giant monster destroying Mexico were just Lamont's delusion while he was in a mental institution. He then promptly prepared to sue her for custody of his child.
    • It gets even worse when you get to Lamont and Susan, who spent years of Will They or Won't They? finding out they have feelings for each other, but besides the Roxanne thing another thing has come up. After pretending to date coworker Dick Fink in order to teach Lamont a lesson about the Roxanne thing, Lamont seems to think it's real and it becomes the cause of his Heroic BSOD and that he would be horribly betrayed if he found out the truth, stalling it LONGER. And now Lemont's in a Facebook relationship with a woman he had a crush on in college, who's also married with kids but says her husband's abusive. And people say the Ross and Rachel thing went on too long!
  • Apartment 3-G was like this, at least according to a throwaway bit in an episode of The Golden Girls when Blanche mentions wanting to see the latest strip.

 Dorothy: I haven't read "Apartment 3-G" since 1972!

Blanche: Oh, let me bring you up to speed! It is later that same day.

  • 9 Chickweed Lane's decades-spanning Whole Arc Flashback involving Gram/Edna and Juliette's before-unseen father, Bill. [2] Brooke McEldowney's taste for Purple Prose did not help in this instance. Nor did it help that the readership hadn't really gotten over the hangover of the last endless arc: Edda and Amos's six month-long Will They or Won't They? adventures in Brussels.
  • Gasoline Alley started as a daily-gag strip but only became popular when main character Walt Wallet found an infant boy on his doorstep, providing a springboard for serious story arcs. The boy (named Skeezix) grew to manhood without ever learning who his parents were. About 80 years later, with Gasoline Alley still running, and with Skeezix Wallet now well into his eighties, the strip's latest artist/writer finally decided to reveal who Skeezix's parents were.
  • Sister strips Judge Parker and Rex Morgan MD run at such a glacial pace that readers who have been reading for years may realize that, at tops, a week has actually gone past. The comics themselves don't seem capable of keeping track either. For one example, in Judge Parker, while in the real world, it had been several years since Neddie went off to school in France, the comic internally moved ahead roughly a month of time. Yet when Neddie returned in mid-2010, the characters acted as if she'd actually been gone a significant period of time. Rex Morgan, meanwhile, spent the better part of a year on a weekend cruise.
  • The "Tiger Tea" arc in Krazy Kat, which went on for ten months without stopping. Not as big as some of these other examples, but when you realize that it's a humor strip, unlike most of the strips mentioned here, which are serious strips...


Professional Wrestling

  • Though some fans found the original Finger-Poke of Doom hard to swallow, it basically reset the nWo storyline back to where it was in 1996. No wonder it was the beginning of the end for the WCW.
  • Similarly, the "Higher Power" story from WWE was disliked since it revived the Austin-McMahon rivalry which had long since stopped being fresh and interesting.
    • At the expense of the far more interesting Ministry of Darkness storyline at that. Even The Undertaker admits that was when it Jumped the Shark in a later interview.
  • Many fans have grown tired of the Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole feud, believing that it should've been resolved by Wrestlemania XXVII
    • Made worse by Cole frequently getting away with his villainy and constantly gaining the advantage over Lawler. Not even the King humiliating Cole at Over the Limit (along with an assist from both Jim Ross and Bret Hart) brought a satisfying ending[3].
  • The fifth season of NXT is starting to become this, given that it's been over a month since the last elimination.
    • Season five has in full entered arc stallness. Since June 28 2011 there has been no eliminations, one of the "rookies", Darren Young got a suspended for a month, served his time and came back. Instead of straight up challenges like there used to be, various lower midcarder, who are not even pros on the show, have found their way there and are feuding with each other. It also had a random Daniel Bryan vs Heath Slater match at one point. As of December 18th, there as been 41 episodes! In perspective, season one had 15, while season two through four had 13 episodes.
    • It's over... kinda. Derrick Bateman became the unofficial winner on April 18th (2012) when the other two contestants both moved to Smack Down full-time. The show, however, is still calling itself season 5 of NXT. Good news, though, they've announced it's changing to "WWE Superstar Showdown" on May 17th.
  • And lest you think that the original ECW gets a clean slate from this, it doesn't. Two notable feuds that went on way past their expiration date (even if they did result in some still good matches) were Mike Awesome's ridiculous amount of "We got nothin' else booked so just go out there and wrestle Masato Tanaka with tables and chairs again" matches, and the absurdly long standing Tommy Dreamer vs Raven feud that still never actually did quite end.
    • Technically, the storyline between Tommy Dreamer and Raven did end at some point, it just got revived when they both went to TNA.
  • The "Anonymous GM" of Raw might be this, might be a Myth Stall (since it's supposed to be the overarching essence of Raw itself), or something altogether different (since WWE is making no effort to explore the identity of this GM, meaning it's not even a storyline). A few wrestlers have interacted with the laptop that the GM sends emails through but no one since Chris Jericho has actually demanded the GM reveal themselves. The "character" is disliked by the viewers not because it's Heel (it has a track record that skirts the line between heel and Face), but simply because people are just tired of it. It's almost like a vehicle to make Cole look bad.
    • This may be because there isn't supposed to be a storyline there. They may have at one planned one involving the GM's identity, but it really doesn't matter who's sending them. Besides, it's pretty widely accepted that Michael Cole is, at the very least, sending some of the emails to himself ("Michael Cole is the epitome of manhood," indeed).
    • Thankfully, ever since Triple H took over as COO, the GM seems to have vanished.
  • WWE's controversial Invasion arc lasting from the summer of 2001 through to November of that year likely counts, largely due to how the majority of former WCW and ECW talent weren't pushed. The initial concept seemed somewhat meaningless towards the end, where Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kurt Angle, The Rock and Chris Jericho were feuding with each other, all of whom were with the WWE at the start of the arc.


Web Comics

  • Achewood recently entered this realm. Creator Chris Onstad has never been a stranger to long, doublewide strips, but as of late most of the strips have been this way, with week-long waits between many of them. Everything came to a head as the strip entered one of its patently surreal arcs that might have been better received if it moved at a better pace only to get halted prematurely for an indefinite hiatus, with strip standards "Fuck You Friday" and "Roomba Cinema" filling in. This was also around the time Onstad renewed a plea for donations. Needless to say, the fandom was not amused.
  • The MS Paint Adventure Problem Sleuth has the interminable Demonhead Mobster Kingpin fight, which lasted for longer than the rest of the story. Lampshaded when he seems to fully regenerate and the view pans to the comic reader considering suicide.
    • The Hivebent arc of Homestuck got some flak for taking too long, especially since the End of Act 4 immediately before it ended on a Cliff Hanger with the kids. Then Act 5 Act 2 began and showed no signs of stopping. It grew so long that it may have inspired the "damaged disc" arc where Terezi accidentally scratches Homestuck Disc 2, prompting Doc Scratch to narrate the story while the disc is repaired. At first Scratch says his narration will be abbreviated, but A LONG time (just over three months) later, Hussie himself is so fed up that he breaks through the "fifth wall" and attacks Scratch with a broom to put a stop to his "condescending self indulgent narrative style". Finding that the disc had been repaired for quite some time, Hussie comes to the conclusion that Scratch "Likes the sound of his own voice" All Played for Laughs.
  • The "Oceans Unmoving" arc from Sluggy Freelance attracted a lot of this sentiment, largely because it focused around a brand new cast, with most of the main characters stuck off-screen for months at a time.
    • The "4U City" arcs did this as well, as Riff is the only major character present for them aside from all the alternate reality versions of other characters. The entire arc took place over several years, started and stopped randomly to return to the antics of Torg and Co. in the prime universe, and was particularly annoying since it not only kept Riff out of the main plotline for all this time, but also refused to resolve the dangling plot thread about Zoe's fate until, literally, the last panel of the last arc.
  • The B Movie Comic is still in its second "movie", Attack of the [Description withheld in order not to spoil the surprise].
  • El Goonish Shive spent well over a year of updates covering a single party. The reaction amongst fans was mixed. Some liked the Character Development, especially for Justin, Susan, and Nanase, while others felt a year-long arc with few wacky antics and no action sequences was not what they signed up for.
    • The "Risen Reaper" arc was pretty much the same thing, only replace "Justin, Susan, and Nanase" with Ellen, Nanase, Mr. Raven, Magus and Pandora/Chaos. Again, reactions were mixed.
    • The reaction to the last few strips of the Q&A (which only lasted about a month) was so hostile that the author actually left his own forums for a few days. Evidently the fans had enough.
    • The fact that El Goonish Shive had been riddled with Schedule Slip for years didn't help. All of these fatigued arcs would probably have been easier for insufficiently patient fans to put up with if the comic didn't miss so many updates.
  • Chapter 2 of Captain SNES began in 2002. It ended on the day of this edit, November 13, 2009. That's over four years after this comic right here
  • The March Across Maltak storyline from Dominic Deegan. Said arc started January 2009, with an accompanying blog post wishing everyone an "epic new year", and wrapped up at the very end of January 2010.
    • The Storm of Souls was also accused of this, but that was more forgivable since it was the culmination of everything that had come before.
  • The massive Castle Heterodyne arc of Girl Genius, which have all been about Agatha trying to get into Castle Heterodyne to fix it, or Agatha trying to fix it, or other people trying to reach Agatha while she fixes it. Agatha entered the castle proper on February 8th, 2008, and didn't set foot outside again until November 2, 2011, three and a half years later.

  Agatha: "NO! I said: NO MORE DELAYS!" Definitely speaking for the audience there... and naturally, it's right before a holiday break.

    • Girl Genius has always been slow moving comic with lots of detail and development, but just to put this in more perspective, the comic launched online April 18th, 2005, although the date given on the first comic is Nov 4th, 2002. Given the 2005 launch, more than half of the comic has been spent in the Castle. On top of that, the Foglios have said that everything before Volume Nine, which started in January 2009, is the first season of the comic.
  • Played for laughs in Irregular Webcomic's "fantasy" arc. As of 19th of December, 2009 they're not far from where they started (surely the GM would have pulled something by now? That said, de hasn't been seen since August 2007) and they started the quest on 25th of June 2004, over five years ago! (To be fair, they did meet the person they were meant to find in March 2009, but the Universe undestroyed itself at precisely the wrong moment.)
    • This arc finally finished on 31st August 2011 - seven years, two months and six days later.
    • In a daily webcomic.
  • Goblins. The Brassmoon arc took two years and eleven months to complete, not counting Fumbles' arrival. Made worse by the fact that, as always with Thunt, the battle scenes go into completely unnecessary detail on the same one-three-pages-per-nineish-days schedule that everything else does.

 Forgath: Um, okay. I guess my first question would be, how did Brassmoon get a talking wall?

Talking Wall: Oh geez, you don't want to know that. The answer is a story arc that goes on for, like, ever. Ask me something else.

  • Bordering between this, Myth Fatigue, and likely Ending Fatigue is Eight Bit Theater's latest arc, which was getting really long if not drawn out before it spent several months on the Light Warriors' failed attempts to get strong enough to defeat Chaos in 24 hours. However, this turns out to have been completely intentional, just for the sake of making the Anticlimax that much bigger.
  • With almost a hundred pages coupled with sporadic updates, episode four of The-FAN took almost two years to complete. In fact it was so long, that the the author had to part it halfway. Even he was glad when it finally ended.
  • Collar 6's initial story-arc has been going on for over a year, and is only now reaching its climax (no, not that kind). This isn't really Myth Stall, since it hasn't fully developed a Myth Arc yet. The stall is starting to get better, however, now that the update schedule has moved from twice a week to three times a week. Furthermore, unlike many example of this trope, the author has been consistent in his updates.
  • Clan of the Cats beats all of the above by a long shot, with its current "Vengeance of Dracula" arc, which started in August 2003 and is still going on, over 600 pages later (not counting Filler).
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja began getting complaints of this when the progression of storylines started slowing around "D.A.R.E. To Resist Ninja Drugs and Ninja Violence." By the end of the many connected horror storylines, even the authors admitted their plots were taking too long. More recently, after another extremely long plot wrapped, the comic barreled right into "Judie Gets A Kitten" - which ran for one week. Many fans have considered the shock brevity a slight jab at the complaints over this trope.
    • The kitten arc was filler before a crossover with Axe Cop, and the ending was retconned.
  • The muffin arc in Original Life went on for almost half a year, which is a lot for a comic that doesn't usually go over three pages before moving on to a new topic. According to most fans, it long overstayed its welcome.


Western Animation

  • The Search for Splinter storyline in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • The Avalon World Tour arc in Gargoyles. The creators weren't pleased about that, however, and when it was coming to a close, made some clear hints that the end was indeed in sight.
    • Note that it didn't have so much to do with episode count, but airdates. Due to production issues, episodes couldn't be aired one after another. Hiatuses had to be endured, stretching twentysome episodes over several months rather than weeks.
    • By the way, this story arc? Longer than the entire first season.
  • In the Secret Invasion adaptation in Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes, it takes the Avengers six episodes longer than the viewers to realize one of their members became replaced by a Skrull, and another five to discover which Avenger fell victim. This wouldn't feel as bad if not for Disney XD taking inexplicably long breaks in between certain episodes, or the possibility that this arc contains more filler than any from the first season.


Myth Stall

Anime and Manga

  • Inuyasha. Ten years long, and from years three-nine the story progressed... well, it didn't progress. Character relations changed, somewhat, but every time the story finally seemed to be coming to a climax, a Diabolus Ex Machina on the part of the Big Bad, Naraku, would set everything back to square one. It's generally accepted even by fans of the series that over two thirds of the chapters could be removed entirely and nothing would be impacted at all, as most of what wasn't just repeating itself is relatively brief.
  • The D.N.Angel manga. The manga started November, 1997, and the only closure we have as-of-yet is the anime, which completely branched out into it's own after it ran out of source material. But the fangirls are still waiting. Oh, yes, we're still waiting. As a matter of fact, Yukiru Sugisaki is infamous for her habit of starting another manga before finishing the one she was working on. The only manga she's ever actually finished is Rizelmine, which was a one volume series.
  • Berserk has its first two volumes In Medias Res, with an insane Casca, Griffith turned to The Dark Side as Femto, and an enraged Guts. Several years and volumes of flashback later, and Guts begins setting off on a quest to restore Casca to sanity. This was in 1997. He's still not there.
    • Of course, that's not nearly as long as it sounds chapter-wise, but an insanely detailed-artstyle has led to a very slow and irregular release schedule. There have been only about 300 chapters total since the series started back in 1990.
    • Likewise, the journey to Elfheim. The first time the place was mentioned as a possible destination for Guts and Caska is in a volume released in 2002 (the chapter itself being even older). Fast forward an entire decade, and they still haven't gotten there.
  • Vinland Saga seems to be heading this way. Chapter 54 ends with the line "End of Prologue." If 54 chapters of a weekly-turned-monthly-comic being a "prologue" doesn't give you an idea of how long the author plans to write this, I don't know what will. Guess he's living up to the name Vinland Saga.
    • The so-called Farmland Saga arc certainly exhibits this. Since the author wanted to separate Thorfinn's life in slavery from his former life as much as possible, the pace is veeeery deliberate, and it takes several chapters for anything significant to happen. Stuff has started happening, however, and the pace has quickened once again.
  • The entirety of Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita: Last Order qualifies as a Myth Stall. More specifically, there's the infamous "vampire" flashback arc that lasted two volumes, and the "Zenith Of Things" Tournament Arc has been going on since volume 4 of Last Order, and has yet to finish despite the sequel now being longer than the original manga.
  • One Piece Especially since it was supposed to be five years long, but Oda having fun with the plot stalled the bigger story's progression. A lot. It's no wonder so many people have Commitment Anxiety when it comes to this series.
    • The infamous case of Fishman Island, probably one of the most anticipated arcs of the story. Around 2001 or so, a fan asked if it would ever feature in the story. Oda's response: "Soon". Six years later, the Straw Hats set sail with Fishman Island as their next destination[4], only to spend a year's worth of story on what boils down to a side trip. Then, they're finally one stop away from the elusive underwater island, all they need to do is finish preparations...and the story gets epically sidetracked yet again, and after another year, the focus has still not returned to the Straw Hats' travels.
    • As of late 2010, they've finally made it! Though, as of the latest chapter, they're only in the mermaid part of the island. They're on their way to the Fishmen, though!
  • Regardless of which you consider the myth arc of Hajime no Ippo, Ippo fighting Miyata again or Ippo becoming the world champion, the series has reached its 900th chapter with no signs of progress with either. In fact, the rematch with Miyata has been steadily delayed for over five hundred chapters or in other words, a decade. Not to mention how Ippo and Kumi have been dating for about as long and haven't even kissed yet.
  • Glass Mask has got to be some kind of record holder - despite the fact the comic started in the 1970s, we still have yet to find out who will be cast as "The Crimson Goddess". Oh, and on top of that, the Love Triangle hasn't actually resolved either. That's thirty years folks. The severe bouts of Schedule Slip haven't helped any either. There have been three different anime that have come out in that time, none of which even attempt a Gecko Ending to provide some semblance of resolution.
  • The Wallflower. 28 volumes and counting, and Sunako and Kyouhei still haven't confessed seriously or even admitted they feel romantic love. That drumming sound you hear is the fans' heads banging against the wall.
  • The manga version of Neon Genesis Evangelion, particularly past volume 9. It started in 1995, and it still hasn't concluded yet.
  • Sora no Otoshimono is treading into this territory. Basically you have two or three chapters with the plot moving ahead, albeit not very fast, and then four to six of Filler that can range from "pretty funny" to "What the hell did I just read". Add to that it's a monthly manga and the fact it's taking forever to get answers and, well, it deserves being here.
  • Detective Conan is as of writing this at +70 books and +800 chapters, although if you removed all the cases which don't progress the main or side plots, the numbers would likely be closer to 20 and 250.


Comic Book

  • A common criticism of X-Men is that the mutants are no closer to their dream than when they started. And whenever they do come close--say, the time in the early 2000's when an influx of mutants went public and the books started to explore what it actually means to be a minority--the Reset Button gets hit hard.


Literature

  • The Wheel of Time. The plot kept getting slower and slower and slower over the course of ten books, and then when the eleventh suggested that things were looking up... the author died. They're piecing together an actual ending from the notes on his computer, though, so at least the fans will get some sort of resolution.
    • Book 11 had as much actual plot development as the previous three combined, and book 12 (the first part of what was intended as the final book but was split into three), continued at a similar pace.
  • Warrior Cats. The Story of the three, was extended to two miniseries, which means The Three's story will take twelve books, while the other stories took six each. Some fans are not happy.
  • Moby Dick, arguably, suffers from a bit of myth stall. The full book lasts 135 chapters, with only nine of them being critical to the plot-- the rest are just the main characters reflections on whaling and... stuff. The book, however, effectively captures what it would be like to be on a ship in the middle of the ocean for a year, though.


Live Action TV

  • Monk has been looking for the man who killed Trudy since the series began. This was six years ago, and he has only an inkling of a clue to lead him in any real direction. In this respect, much of the series can be seen as filler - entertaining filler, but filler nonetheless. The show's final season was specifically advertised with the fact that it will finally wrap up Monk's hunt for the killer, delivering on that promise in the final episode.
  • In How I Met Your Mother there have been six seasons and there has not been even a hint at the mother or who she might be. Just the yellow umbrella (see Chekhov's Gun)and meeting her room-mate, seeing her ankle, and knowing they meet at a wedding where Ted is the best man.
  • Babylon 5 has its principal myth stall completely in the middle of season four, when the Vorlon/Shadow war comes to an end. There follows a slow grind to tie up loose ends like President Clark, and in Season five nothing happens except Londo becoming emperor (one episode). This would be understandable at the end of a season intended to be the last, but seven episodes in??
    • Elaborating on what actually happened behind the scenes: the show was pitched and accepted as a five year series, but then partway through season four it became apparent the network (PTEN) would fall apart, meaning there couldn't be a fifth and last season. To give the show a proper ending, JMS had to cram all the conclusions and resolutions which had been planned for early season five into the last four episodes of season four -- so he wrote three Wham Episodes which contained most of the fifth season's planned first half, plus a Distant Finale. Then, at the last minute, cable network TNT picked up the show for a fifth season; there was time to write and shoot a new fourth season finale (so the Distant Finale could be postponed a year), but the three preceding Wham Episodes still went to air -- meaning that there was now a huge gap in early season five which could only be covered by stretching a planned three-episode arc out to eleven episodes. Hence a serious case of Arc Stall which universally gave Season Five a bad name.
  • Smallville to the nth degree. They ran out of material from before Clark was Superman, so he was currently a member of the Justice League, works with costumed superheroes, and had fought most of Superman's Rogues Gallery (including friggin' Doomsady) long before the end of the show. Clark started working with Lois Lane at the Daily Planet in Season 8, and was well known as a superhero in Metropolis (under the name of "The Blur"). But no, he still couldn't fly or be Superman until the very last scene of the very last episode of Season 10. Because that was a rule the head writers had imposed on the show A DECADE earlier.
  • In a similar vein as Smallville, the show Merlin works on the same "before he was famous" idea, and has Merlin's magical abilities remain a secret from all of the cast. Three seasons in, and the writers' determination to stall and stall and stall this reveal has resulted in Merlin's co-stars looking like complete idiots.


Video Games

  • Dragon Quest VII suffers from this. Much of the game is spent saving villages filled with completely helpless inhabitants from monsters, and, after each village is saved, you find can find puzzle pieces that unlock portals to yet another village in which you do exactly the same thing. You end up doing this over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, until it goes way beyond the point of tedium.
    • Just to let you know how long this takes, your average clock time after liberating the winged people (the last instance of this before the real plot begins) will read on the order of 80 hours...and that's if you're not trying to twink jobs during that time.
  • Those who criticize the premise of World of Warcraft often cite this. In each expansion, the Alliance and Horde have faced enemies that threatened both of them, and instead of working together to end the threat, they bring their war with them everywhere they go. The fact that both factions are currently lead by a couple of belligerent warmongers does not help matters, either.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series seems to be doing this with "the Xehanort arc", which is essentially nine games on five different consoles and fans are still waiting for the last three out of nine installments, including Kingdom Hearts 3 (Kingdom Hearts 2 was released in 2005.)
  • Shin Megami Tensei is now most known for the Persona sub-series, which had it's last installment in 2008. As of writing, the series has not had a full new game in the line for four years and there is still barely any news beyond possible concept art. This can be blamed that Atlus is a small group and they needed half of the team to work on Catherine, a surprise hit. That said, the stream of remakes of the series are welcome but feel like salt rubbed into a wound.
    • While we're on the topic, the main SMT storyline had it's last game in 2003. Since Nocturne, we've only had Strange Journey in the main line, and even that game is debated as a spin-off.
  • It sucks being a FFXIII fan. The oh so major important remaining chapter of the saga, Versus, has yet to see the light of day or any indication of progress since it was first announced in 2006. The fact that Type-0 managed to get finished is almost impossible to believe. Oh, and there might or might not be a FFXIII-3, no one is quite sure.

Web Comics

  • Drowtales, via retcons and sidestories, has suffered minorly from this. Many fans were quite amused when one forum-goer noted that one character had been carrying around another dead character's body for the better part of three years.
  • El Goonish Shive has introduced a character called Lord (Alpha) Tedd in one of the first arcs, back in 2002. He gets a single appearance again in 2004, when one of his minions is introduced to pull what many consider a Deus Ex Machina. He's shown a completely different side than what we were familiar with. A little later, hints of his backstory were dropped, and he's forgotten. He was mentioned in passing in 2006 during the infamous birthday party arc (which suffered of slight arc stall in on itself) but nothing is revealed beyond what we already knew or guessed. He was last heard of in 2008 when it's made clear that he's NOT related to the current plot, which has been going on ever since then.
    • Acording to [1] this Q&A comic the author doesn't plan to focus on him anytime soon.
  • Order of the Stick: Nearly seven hundred comics in, and it took a LONG time to get there, and the heroes are officially no closer to stopping Xykon's plan than they ever were. Don't expect that to change, either, the evil Vaarsuvius subplot showed us that no amount of force the main characters will ever achieve is capable of bringing Xykon down, so all the levels the party is gaining might as well be for show. There have been hints (spoilers there) that there might be a new quest in the making, but no doubt it'll be a while before we see anything from that.
    • Word of God is that the story is a long way past the halfway mark. In addition, they have to stop Xykon at the fifth and final gate (as the world runs partly on storytelling conventions) and they are currently near the end of the arc about the fourth gate, so it probably won't be that long now. As for the evil Vaarsuvius subplot, what that actually showed us was that the Order will win by fighting smart, not by trying to repeatedly pound on Xykon - he's too good for that. The level of force the characters have will soon be enough if they fight smartly. And it led to the rescue of O-Chul, developed the Monster in the Darkness's character, and resulted in Xykons phylactery being lost and Redcloak recovering it while giving Xykon a fake. All of these plots will play out at the final gate. As for the Schedule Slip, the writer has a chronic genetic condition, so can't always update regularly.
  • Misfile, it has taken six years to cover about six months worth of story and there is still six months worth of story ahead. Three entire chapters (of about 120 pages each) of pure filler and padding and no plot advancement, which took about a year and a half to play. Even the hard core fans were beginning to rebel.
  • Sugar Bits which started off with an interesting premise and a trip to a nightmare world. Things came to a screeching halt once the protagonists meet Licorice and have since been in battle with her forces that, (as of this entry) is still going. Granted this is mostly due to the artist flip-flopping between this and his other comics. But one could cover three story arcs in the time it takes for the characters of this series to strike a blow.
    • As of 2012, this fight has finally ended, but the artist has fallen into this with another one of his own series, PPGD, which has been stuck on one fight scene for several months.

Notes

  1. the latter having no such excuse
  2. whom it turned out wasn't Juliette's biological father. It was the Austrian lover Gram left to honor a promise to Bill.
  3. It also hasn't stopped Cole from being an overbearing jerkass, unfortunately.
  4. it's revealed to be the last place in the first half of the Grand Line, which you pretty much have to pass through to get to the New World or else go through the freaking capital of the World Government
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