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Backstory Horror is when something that seems harmless or is marketed as harmless has something horrible embedded in the Backstory. This backstory is Word of God - it's All There in the Manual in full horror for anyone who bothers to read. It's a fully intentional hidden well of Nightmare Fuel on the part of the creators, almost like a creepy Easter Egg for the fans.
Unlike Fridge Horror, which is made up of the audience extrapolating horrible things from given evidence without any confirmation from the creators, in Backstory Horror the creators have said it themselves and the horror is an (at times neglected) part of Canon. Unlike Fridge Horror, this trope is not founded on implications or Fanon and doesn't require any extra thought to "get", all the horror is right there in black and white via Word of God.
For example, let's say we have a story about fluffy bunnies, the story sets them out as being cute and cuddly good guys.
If the author's Web site explicitly states that the reason there are no guinea pigs running round is that the bunnies rounded them up and murdered them as a form of "cleansing" - it's this trope. The creators came out and said it, and it's all out in the open for those who feel like reading; no extra thought is needed to figure it out.
If, on the other hand, you read the bunny story and later realize (without Word of God saying so) that the bunnies killed all the guinea pigs, then it is Fridge Logic or Fridge Horror. The creators did not say this happened and the audience may have guessed wrong. It also required extra thought on the part of the audience to figure out.
Note: To be this trope, examples must be canon in some way. Fanon and dreams generally don't count! If it's implied but not confirmed canon by any source, it's Fridge Logic instead.
Works that do this very regularly
- Cubone's mother was killed by Pokémon Yakuza from Team Rocket. Cubone (originally named 'Orphan', or more accurately, 'Orphon') is portrayed as pining for its mother and wearing her skull as a helmet and carries her femur as a club.
"It pines for the mother it will never see again. Seeing a likeness of its mother in the full moon, it cries. The stains on the skull it wears are from its tears. It wears its mother's skull, never revealing its true face."
- Likewise Mewtwo is well known as the victim of "years of horrific gene splicing".
- Gengar steals the life out of people
- Gengar's pre-evolved form Haunter's “tongue is made of gas. If licked, its victim starts shaking constantly until death eventually comes.”.
- Lampet, who swoops in afterwards to steal their soul
- Duskull who if "it finds bad children who won't listen to their parents, it will spirit them away--or so it's said" and "loves the crying of children"
- Drifloon who "tugs on the hands of children to steal them away. It is whispered that any child who mistakes Drifloon for a balloon and holds on to it could wind up missing"
- Driftloon also carries souls away to the underworld, sometimes by accident.
- Shedinja "It is believed that this Pokémon will steal the spirit of anyone peering into its hollow body from its back"
- Alakazam "Its brain cells multiply continually until it dies. As a result, it remembers everything." In short, they all die of brain hemorrhages if their heads don't explode. Another way to interpret this, though, is that it continues to produce neurons throughout its lifespan, like a tree continues to grow throughout its lifespan. The cells keep multiplying, but they aren't necessarily the cause of death. But then again - why didn't they say "throughout its life" instead of "until it dies"...?
- Unnacurate translation?
- Pinsir, who “grips prey with its pincers until the prey is torn in half. What it can’t tear, it tosses far.”
- Hypno feeds off of nightmares. He has been known to kidnap children and then feed of the nightmares of the children and their parents. There was an episode on this!
- Banette is an abandoned doll that sprung to life. They are not happy they were abandoned.
- The reason Farfetch'd is rare is because people are hunting them to the brink of extinction. Apparently they are really good roasted with leeks.
- Ninetails, while usually gentle, is said to be highly intelligent and vindictive. According to legend, it will place a thousand year curse on anyone who pulls one of its tails as a joke. Another states it can cast a sinister light from its eyes and take control of its foe's mind.
- Yamask. They are the spirits of people, who carry mask was once their human face. Hilariously lampshaded here.
- Pokémon: James from Team Rocket is an escapee from a Gilded Cage. Becoming a criminal was his only way out.
- Your conversation with Lt. Surge in Pokémon Red and Blue/Yellow reveals there was a war not long ago and that humans used Pokémon in this war. Yes, Pokémon is a post-war recovery story.
Nowadays it's all about the card game, but the original manga Yu-Gi-Oh! was based on was a lot darker. Eventually, of course, the series became all about the card game, but some references to the darker past still exist, mainly in the earlier parts of the series.
- Shadow Games were underground events.
- The first ever Shadow Game had high stakes and involved the players putting some money on their hand, then stabbing the money with a knife, keeping the money that ended up on the knife but risking stabbing themselves in the hand in the process.
- Losing was very nasty in the manga.
- Yami often either killed the loser or drove them insane.
- There was no "Shadow Realm" in the manga. It was the world of the dead. All those characters died.
- Kaiba was much nastier, outright trying to kill Yugi and his friends more than once.
- His men were hired thugs and were armed with guns.
- He even tormented his brother Mokuba by locking him in a room full of terrifying holographic monsters after he lost to Yugi.
- Mokuba, who is quite nice in the better-known anime, once tried to poison Yugi and Joey in the manga.
Animé and Manga
- Monster Rancher is actually a rather dark and edgy animé masquerading as a light and happy children's show. This is mainly due to the censored English release, which contains none of the blood and throat-ripping in the original but retains numerous on-screen and implied deaths as well as plenty of actual (though massively toned down) violence. It's is actually, still, a pretty dark post-apocalyptic animé and has one of the biggest downer endings of any children's show (if you ignore the tacked-on Series 3).
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: In the original comic they are raised with one purpose: to murder Shredder, which they do in issue one.
- The Mask: In the original comic, the Mask was a psychotic killing machine similar to The Joker, but with horrific supernatural powers.
- Casper the Friendly Ghost: Though it is sidestepped by the creators of the original comic and later cartoon, Casper is actually about a dead, lonely and suicidal child.
- The Wizard of Oz: The directors tried to make the book, which is actually rather dark and disturbing, seem friendly, bubbly, and non-threatening without actually removing many of the dark elements.
- The Tin Man lost all his body parts one by one. They were replaced by metal so he could survive long enough to see his love again. By the time he was whole, she had already fallen in love with a man made out of the Tin Man's lost body parts.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer it is revealed that the vampires and Sunnydale may or may not all be in Buffy's head....
- Portal. On the surface, it's a puzzle game with the player as a tester of a Cool Gun. Beneath the layers though shows an incredibly dark place caused by Mad Scientists, the player had her entire life robbed from them, many were murdered For Science! - there's no way of know how many people have died in the facility before you, the entire situation with Cave Johnson, and that the A.I. is guides the player through each test area unfolds throughout the first game as rather homicidal with a fatally cavalier approach to human life.
- Grace in El Goonish Shive is a Keet squirrel-girl who was bred as a Super Soldier and grew up under horrifying conditions. Hugs?
- Adventure Time. It may look all cute and cudley, but when you take in the fact that the show takes place after a Nuclear War, then the innocence wears off, and you will never get it back.
- Relatedly, the Ice King may seem a humorous ineffectual villain... then you find out the Body Horror Loss of Identity that is his origin story.
- Whatever we know of Lemongrab's backstory is horrifying if pondered for too long. Because he's such a funny character, it's difficult to take him seriously, it's easy to forget that he's a failed experiment born in the laboratory of Princess Bubblegum, who abandoned him some time after that. It's easier to think of him as a weird thing than as a perpetually traumatized person.
- The Flintstones. The first thing Fred does in the morning is hit the 'snooze' button on his alarm clock. Since the alarm clock is actually a small talking bird, this means bashing it unconscious. If you treated animals like that nowadays, you'd be arrested.