So, a pet peeve of mine lately is people will when describe a series will describe it simply as bright or far more often dark and say nothing else on the matter as if it's self-explanatory. The reason why this is a pet peeve of mine is because I literally do not know what they mean because the terms have been used to describe a variety of unrelated things.
Let's get this out of the way first, bright and dark are not synonyms with good and bad. I like series that are bright and I like series that are dark and I like series that are both. Likewise I dislike series of both. I generally prefer bright series to dark series, but that's just my preference. However the thing is that when I say series that bright and series that are dark, I am using my own definition which seems intuitive compared to the general understanding which seems confused and not demonstrable.
Originally it seemed like people were using bright simply to mean comedic and dark to simply mean serious. This is very clearly not though what bright or dark mean either literally or intuitively. We can all understand easy the idea of something being darkly comedic, and if you thing of stereotypical "inspirational motivation" videos it's pretty easy to imagine something that is bright and serious.
See when I say a series is bright or a series or dark what I am talking about is the themes and the worldview of the series. A bright series is a series that is optimistic or hopeful in it's themes and worldview. Does it portray humans or other special as generally noble and competent or does it portray them as generally as ignoble and incompetent? When bad things happen, do people act like heroes or unheroic? Does our common humanity bind us or divide us?
To me that seems only intuitive, that a bright series is one with a bright worldview, and a dark series is one with a dark worldview. Some examples with some series that are pretty umabigious between my understanding and the common understanding.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Highly bright, there are no true villains in the series, everyone has a good center deep down, and problems can always be solved
LittleBigPlanet: The Imagination has unlimited power, and our ability to create will and imagine save us from depression
On the other side of things
Cthulhu Mythos: Highly dark, humanity is pointless, everything is the mad dream of a sleeping montrosity at the center of existence that the next strongest beings are trying to keep from waking up, humans are basically selfish irrational weak creatures
Dead Space: Not quite as dark as above because humanity has more control and agency but similar to above humanity is just another species to fall to the Markers and the Necromorphs
Yet I have seen a half-dozen series already that I really love and I consider bright be considered dark, and more specifically bad (and sometimes dangerous) because they are dark and I have no idea what people mean by that. If I was to look into my 6 favorite series, CCS is clearly bright, and 5 of them I consider bright series (the exception being Magicka), but I legitimately have no idea how bright or dark people would consider most of them. Take Sailor Moon for instance. What happens in the Manga of Sailor Moon for instance:
In the ancient past we learn of the destruction of the beautiful peaceful kingdoms of the Silver Millenium. A demon queen of darkness awakens again and causes all of Earth to be plunged into savagery. Also Minako literally kills Beryl by shanking her with a radioactive holy sword. And at one point Usagi is forced to kill her true love Prince Endymion and commits suicide.
That's the first arc! By the fifth arc we have learned of Sailor Chaos who will destroy the cosmos beyond repair and will never be destroyed continuing to plague the universe with evil and suffering for all eternity.
Is Sailor Moon dark? It got called too dark for young girls back in the 90s but is it really?The Themes of Sailor Moon are as bright as you can imagine, that love and the bonds between people will never die, can never be destroyed, and that someone who loves the cosmos can save it from the greatest evils. I take the fact that it was willing to show such events to teen girls as a sign it trusted them to be able to handle mature themes.
It seems like people are using "dark" to mean the depiction of bad things happening to people, just, in general. And to me that seems counter-intuitive. The depiction of negative things is...necessary for story to occur. I would imagine the reaction to negative things, the depiction of people's ability to fight them is what makes something bright not dark. In fact the highest the negative occurrence, theoretically, the greater the ability needed to stop it.
Thing about all this is, bright and dark are not even generally helpful descriptors of what a series is like, and often like here it creates confusion, false assumptions are needless semantically argumentation. If you are going to say something is bright or dark explain what about it makes it bright or dark, but for the most part you don't even have to, just explain why you like or don't like something. I really just can't stand what I view as out-dated criticisms like "cheesy" or "edgy" (which I view as being opposites) because they don't really tell me anything about the series in question. Talk about characters, or plot, or themes, or anything substantial, please.