Cartoons often star a young protagonist as they take on the world, learning and growing along the way. Well, they don't physically grow, since most cartoon characters are eternally young. Heck, some characters have been the same age for so long, their young voice actor was replaced with an even younger one to match the character's appearance. However, there are some cases in which a young cartoon character has been seen as an adult, usually via some sort of dream sequence, an end-of-series epilogue or a sequel series. These instance are... well, let's just say they can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes a cartoon character looks WAY cooler as an adult, and sometimes they are much better off as a kid, and the same goes for the story surrounding their grown-up selves.
What instances are we talking about? Everything from western animation to anime have examples of young cartoon characters growing up in their respective series. Some of them are compelling, cool and visually interesting — much more than the original, younger versions — while others feel like a cliched "what-if they were older?" set-up that we could have done without. So, which cartoon grow-up was a glow-up and which was a NO-up? Which adult versions of your favorite cartoons ruined the characters and which were a huge improvement? Which series-ending flash-forward was the ending we deserved and which was a flop? What characters were better in the sequel series and which thrived in the original? CBR has a definitive list of 10 grown-up cartoons that were cooler than their younger selves and 10 that were better off as kids.
20 COOL: GOKU
It goes without saying that Dragon Ball Z is much more popular than the original Dragon Ball series, partially because it aired earlier and more frequently in America, and because the second series marked the full shift from a comedy/adventure to an action-packed martial arts anime/manga. To this end, we also believe that Goku as an adult is much cooler than Goku as a kid.
Adult Goku still has his child-like goofiness and general naivety, but he's a much more hardened warrior, one who learned of his alien heritage and the legendary transformation that came with it. Plus, a full-grown Goku looks much better fighting than a little kid ever did.
19 UNCOOL: TEEN TITANS
In the Teen Titans episode "How Long is Forever?," Starfire is thrust into the future where she finds her former teammates to be much different than when she last saw them; Beast Boy let himself go and was working as a sideshow circus act, Cyborg's cybernetics had deteriorated beyond repair, Raven went insane, and Robin moved on from his old team and took up his Nightwing identity.
Suffice it to say, these Titans were a shell of their former selves, and as cool as Nightwing is, there's no denying that these older versions of the young heroes represented a grim future. In fact, it was a future that the team wished to avoid upon learning of their alternate timeline fates.
18 COOL: NARUTO
Right off the bat, we knew that Naruto Uzumaki had a dream, a dream to become the greatest ninja in Konohagakure; to become the Hokage, the leader of the village. That goal was clear, and through countless perilous trials, Naruto became stronger and stronger, eventually achieving his dream of becoming Hokage by the end of the series.
The fact that Naruto was able to accomplish his life-long goal makes his adult self much cooler than his childhood self. Furthermore, Naruto was a bit of an annoying jerk as a kid, with good reason for sure, but seeing him fully matured as an adult and as the Hokage was a satisfying end to the story.
17 COOL: BULMA
Bulma has always been a cool character — a brilliant billionaire scientist with a fiery drive and a take-no-guff attitude — but when she first started out, there was a bit more of a, shall we say "comedic" aspect to her character. We are, of course, talking about how often she was the target of some sort of provocative joke and/or the target of Master Roshi's "antics" throughout the original Dragon Ball series.
And yet, as time went on, Bulma became far more respected; we got to see her as the brilliant scientist she is, she went through countless awesome character designs and we got to see her assert herself in situations where she was once on the other end of things, all of which is definitely an improvement.
16 COOL: TEAM AVATAR
The Legend of Korra did a good job of ensuring that the series was about Korra and her journey to become a fully realized Avatar, making sure not to shoehorn in too many appearances and storylines regarding the original Team Avatar. Perhaps this is why the small number of appearances the original team actually made were so effective.
On top of looking way cooler as adults (especially Police Chief Toph), the story they were involved in — the pursuit and trial of Yakone, a bloodbending mobster — was pretty great as well. It was also awesome to see Katara, Toph and Zuko still kickin' it as old-time benders.
15 UNCOOL: THE POWERPUFF GIRLS
This idea alone should be all we need to check this off as an "uncool" entry, but it gets so much worse with context. In a clip show episode of The Powerpuff Girls, the girls "recall" the time where they sped up time to when they are teenagers, which is just really hard to look at since their designs do not work when aged up.
What made it worse was the story that went along with it, which turned the distinct, diverse and layered personalities of the girls into cliched, shopping-addicted, boy-crazy teenaged girls who retired from crime-fighting. Wow... we're glad this was just a short segment and not an entire episode.
14 COOL: DEXTER
Before it came back for two more seasons, Dexter's Lab concluded with a TV film called Ego Trip. The film followed Dexter in a time-traveling adventure featuring future versions of himself as they battled against Mandark and his future counterparts.
While the scrawny, frightened adult Dexter and the old man Dexter are definitely downgrades from his younger self, Dexter's buff, post-apocalyptic warrior self, known as Action Dexter, is an awesome upgrade that turned the nerdy little scientist into one of the coolest characters of all time. Even cooler is this Dexter's background as a warrior who builds machines to fight against Mandark's forces, possessing the strength and skills to fight them himself, as well.
13 UNCOOL: RUGRATS
Rugrats was great; a classic of '90s cartoons that will go down in history as one of the best series that Nickelodeon has ever produced. The spinoff series, All Grown Up! was, on the other hand, not quite the classic that the original was. This isn't to say it didn't have it's merits — the initial TV special that spawned it was a fun "what-if" and some of their grown up designs are interesting — but overall, these characters were better as babies.
See, the whole point of Rugrats was that the adventures they got into were exciting, crazy and full of imagination because the characters were babies, but when you take away that plot point, the only plots that All Grown Up! was able to muster were run-of-the-mill tween drama.
12 UNCOOL: PEBBLES AND BAMM-BAMM
Spinoffs can really go either way, in the case of, say, The Flash, it was a show that did better than the series it spawned from (Arrow). But, not every spinoff is a winner, especially not in animation. One example is the short-lived Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, which, as you can guess, followed Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm in their teen years, serving as a continuation of the original Flintstones series.
While the designs of teenaged Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are somewhat appealing, the spin-off itself didn't have the same spark as the original cartoon, which is probably why it only lasted 16 episodes.
11 COOL: BEN 10
Props to the original Ben 10 series, but the sequel series definitely seemed to be more popular, especially with how well they were written, mostly thanks to the contributions of Dwayne McDuffie. The original series focused on the child fantasy of being a superhero, much in the same vein as Shazam, and in that regard, it is superior to the latter Ben 10 series.
That said, the designs that came out of the sequel series were a lot cooler, and the stories that were told through Ben's public superhero identity and teenaged ego ended up making for some great episodes that were superior to the original.
10 UNCOOL: DIGIMON
Digimon had quite the following in America; in fact, it was so popular that it flushed out other Fox Kids programming due to how big it got and how cheap it was to produce. Yet, with all its popularity, the fact remains that the ending of the series (and even the subsequent sequel series taking place before the series epilogue) was kind of strange. Not bad... just strange.
The reason we say this is that the future depicted in the series epilogue is a bit cliched in how it wrapped everything up; the couples paired off, everyone has kids, the kids have Digimon, etc. Again, not bad, it just could have been better, and the same goes for Digimon Adventure Tri.
9 COOL: DARIA
In the Daria episode "Write Where It Hurts," Daria was assigned to write a story using people she knew as the characters. After some trial and error, the story she settles on is a look into what her future might be like, depicting her family meeting to catch up on things. While this is just a fantasy sequence, the future that Daria depicts is rather interesting.
Admittedly, "cooler" might not exactly be the way to describe the grown up versions of Daria and her sister Quinn, but they're definitely interesting, heartwarming even. While Daria was already the epitome of that "don't care" kind of cool, seeing her settle into herself as an adult was just plain nice to see, and well written at that. (Image by S-C)
8 UNCOOL: ED, EDD N EDDY
Here's another fantasy sequence episode featuring older versions of the show's characters... or is it? This episode of Ed, Edd N Eddy, "Take This Ed and Shove It," took us into Eddy's dream after getting a bump on the head. In that dream, Eddy and all the other Cul-De-Sac kids were wrinkly, old and mostly senile, and even after Eddy wakes up, it's never made clear what is and isn't a dream sequence.
As for how "cool" these elderly Eds (Edlerly?) were, the answer is pretty much "not at all." Funny for sure -- the gags their advanced age result in are some of the series' funniest -- but that don't make these old-timers cool.
7 COOL: FINN
Cool future warrior versions of characters are always awesome, and Finn the human is no different. While the series is already post-apocalyptic, there is an even more wasteland-ridden future in store for Finn the human, at least in one of the series' timelines. First manifesting as a future fantasy of Finn's, this awesome adult version of the character ended up making appearances in some of the Adventure Time comics.
While we don't know if this version is going to be what Finn actually looks like as an adult, it does fit in the canon in a few ways — like with the robotic arm, which appeared before Finn actually lost his arm and gained a mechanical replacement.
6 UNCOOL: LILO
Bet y'all never knew there was an anime sequel to Lilo and Stitch: The Series; heck some people might have forgotten there was a TV series to begin with! How is the anime, you ask? It's uh... it's not great. It takes place pretty far in the future, after Lilo has left for college and Stitch has found a new friend in a Japanese girl named Yakone.
For a majority of the series, Lilo is only mentioned briefly, but she eventually makes an appearance later on, reuniting with her childhood best friend. While this is a heartwarming moment, and seeing Lilo as an adult is nostalgic, the poorly written series this all took place in sort of ruined the character and the franchise as a whole.
5 COOL: SIMON
At the beginning of Gurren Lagann, Simon is a quiet, meek digger who did his job without complaint or ambition. But along came Kamina to free him of his underground shackles and push both of them to the surface. However, even with the support and encouragement of his adoptive brother, Simon was still a bit on the timid side, though he does show great bravery and compassion as time goes on.
However, Simon's biggest change came after the series' time-skip, which showed the former digger as the leader of the new, free world, acting with the same great passion, courage, determination and strength as Kamina. Plus, his space-captain look was definitely a glow-up from his younger days.
4 UNCOOL: GON FREECSS
There are a lot of young protagonists in Shonen manga and anime, and sometimes they will grow up as the series goes on. This wasn't exactly the case with Gon Freecss of Hunter X Hunter, since he never actually grew up at the end of the series, nor did we see his adult life during an epilogue.
We did, however, get a peak into what Gon would look like as an adult when he used the Limitation Transformation, a power-up that pushed his power to peak performance, giving him access to all the power he has had and ever will have all at once. This of course gives him a huge advantage, but makes him look incredibly goofy with his Slim-Jim-guy-looking hair and ill-fitting clothes.
3 UNCOOL: MORDECAI AND RIGBY
It's hard to argue that Regular Show was for kids; sure, the series aired on Cartoon Network and didn't feature any explicit content, but it followed two twenty-somethings in a dead-end job as they goof-off and party their way through life, all of which sounds more like a college comedy movie than a kids' cartoon.
Regardless, the protagonists were not kids during the series, but that doesn't mean they didn't have any growing up to do, as evidenced by the ending of the series. In the final episode, we get to see how Mordecai and Rigby's lives ended up, and while it was fun, it was a bit strange and perhaps unsatisfying, especially Mordecai's ending.
2 COOL: PHINEAS AND FERB
Phineas and Ferb captured what it was like to be young and full of imagination, depicting the two characters as they created dangerous inventions with their vast intelligence and lack of proper supervision. While their creations got them into trouble with everyone, especially their sister, it was clear that the two kids were geniuses, which is what made the end of the series rather satisfying.
Regardless of wether or not you were a fan of the series, it was pretty cool that they ended it by showing the pair finding outlets for their intelligence, becoming brilliant scientists who never lost their childhood sense of discovery.
1 UNCOOL: STEVEN UNIVERSE
Perhaps "uncool" isn't the right word to describe the grown up Stevens we see Steven Universe episode "So Many Birthdays," since "sad" and "heartbreaking" seem much more apropos. If you haven't seen the episode, it follows Steven after realizing he is too old for kiddy birthday parties, leading his aging to destabilize due to his half-human/half-gem biology.
As a result, Steven starts to rapidly age until he gets close to death in an emotionally devastating climax. Specifically because of this emotional devastation, this instance of a cartoon character turning into an adult is one of the least cool and most depressing examples in all of animation.