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Amnesia Missed A Spot
Uh-oh. The Masquerade that you've worked so hard to build and maintain has suddenly been broken. Now a bunch of Muggles know that you and your entire family are vampires/werewolves/witches/what-have-you. But no problem. All you've got to do is whip up some mojo and give them a handy case of Laser-Guided Amnesia, right?

Well, no. See, turns out your spell/hypnosis/whatever, didn't work the way you'd intended. Sure, maybe it wiped the memory of a few, but there was this one guy whose memory remained intact. (Probably The Hero or someone close to him, but most certainly a character who has relevance to the plot. This trope is not wasted on minor characters.) For another a variation, the character in question may have their memory mostly wiped, but retain some crucial piece of information relating to The Masquerade. (Which they may not immediately recognize the significance of.)

Fake Memories usually have similar problems, someone always finds the holes.

The "partial erasure" version can result in a "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight attempt by a friend who tries to get the amnesiac to remember.

Compare Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, which may overlap, and Glamour Failure. Contrast Laser-Guided Amnesia, which is when the mojo works.

Examples

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     Anime And Manga  

  • In RahXephon, the Mulian mind control is shown to be imperfect when Hiroko realizes she has forgotten something really important when she meets Ayato again after his disappearance.
  • Some of the girls from The World God Only Knows remember stuff after Elsie erases their memories. They usually come up with their own version of what happened to explain. This is explicitly because New Hell has power issues, and only erases the absolute minimum. This can bite Keima in the ass; for example, he took a girl to an amusement park for a date, which ended in a kiss. According to her memories, he ditched her halfway through for no reason whatsoever.
  • When Albert Maverick Unpersons Kotetsu before framing him for murder in the 20th episode of Tiger & Bunny he slips up and misses mind-wiping two crucial individuals, Kotetsu's former boss Ben Jackson and judge Yuri Petrov/vigilante Lunatic. Both turn out to be vital in helping Kotetsu avoid capture by his former friends.
  • In Code Geass, after having her memory wiped twice (once by different people) Shirley regains her memories after accidently being hit by Jeremiah Gottwald's new Geass Canceler.

     Comic Books  
  • The ending of Crisis on Infinite Earths shows that only the Psycho-Pirate remembers the multiverse or the details of the Crisis itself. Everyone else only has vague memories of a big battle and the skies turning red. He apparently attempted to inform people of what actually happened, only for people to assume he's insane, so they sent him to a mental institute.

     Film  

  • Men In Black: When J meets Dr. Weaver in the Morgue, they vaguely notice that they may have met before, but dismiss it as Deja Vu. In the beginning of the movie, they had met, but K had wiped both of their memories.
    • It's mentioned previously that a neuralizer leaves one feeling a vague sense of deja vu.
  • X-Men: First Class: At the end, Xavier wipes MacTaggert's memory to keep the mutants safe from the CIA. All MacTaggert remembers is a few glimpses of leaves and Xavier kissing her.
  • The protagonist of Paycheck has glimpses of what he was supposed to forget, along with the envelope full of notes, apparently because his last job used chemicals instead of the usual neuron-zapping, which is apparently complete.
  • Jack in Oblivion (2013) has dreams of New York before the Scav invasion, despite his memory wipe to maintain secrecy. It's actually Genetic Memory, he's a clone.
  • After his transformation to RoboCop, what remains of Officer Murphy's mind experiences flashbacks of his prior life despite his memory being wiped.
  • Finding Nemo: When Dory is swimming around the chain in the Sydney harbor, having lost grip on her memories again, she remembers almost nothing except that she "lost someone". She could either be referring to Nemo, who she has been watching Marlin frantically track down for the last few days, or Marlin himself, who has just left her behind - the reason she's now lost and confused in the first place. The memories return when she hears the name "Sydney", which she has been repeating to herself the whole movie. A bit of a different example, since Dory has a fairly accurate case of real-life anterograde amnesia; her memories simply fell apart because she lost the social connection she associates with them. The Sydney address, another connection she has to her friend, repairs them.
  • The French sci-fi film Chrysalis features a memory-manipulating machine (capable of erasing and adding memories) which is used on the hero cop when he comes too close to a criminal conspiracy. He retains some flashes of information (and all of his fighting skills), which is enough to continue investigating. On the villain's side, the Big Bad implanted the memories of his raped and then torched daughter on a Replacement Goldfish young woman... and no matter how much he tried, he's unable to erase the memories of the rape (The Hero enters the memory manipulation room just as the doctor is in the middle of yet another try, and the man is having a Villainous Breakdown because the memories are doing a Rewind, Replay, Repeat of the rapist's face).

     Literature  

  • In The Heroes of Olympus, Percy's memories of the events in the previous series are almost completely wiped at the beginning of Son of Neptune. The "almost" is his memory of his girlfriend, Annabeth, though it's dim.
  • Mind-wiping in Artemis Fowl leaves "residual memories" which can be used to trigger total recall.
  • In Matched by Ally Condie, witnesses to an event are ordered to take a mind-wiping pill, but the main character only pretends to and keeps her memory.
  • In Spindles End by Robin McKinley, the two main adult characters try to hide attention from their young ward (the princess) by altering the memories of the entire village such that everybody "remembers" her coming to live with them a month earlier than she did. It's an almost perfect spell... and when the person it missed figures it out, all heck very nearly breaks loose.
  • In Melissa Marr's Graveminder, Amity keeps a notebook to try to get around the town's magical amnesia. It is suggested, however, that she has trouble remembering to check the notebook.
  • Chronicles of Prydain novel The High King. Arawn Deathlord created the Cauldron-Born by putting dead bodies inside his Black Cauldron. They are mindless zombies completely under Arawn's control with no memories of their previous lives. When the defenses of Caer Dathyl were breached and the Cauldron-Born prepared to enter they saw King Math standing before them.
    The deathless warriors of Annuvin halted as if at the faint stirring of some clouded memory. The moment passed and they strode on.

     Live Action TV  

  • Coincides with Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory in The 4400. The people who originally took the 4400 come back and capture a large number of 4400 children, stating that the future has not been changed as they had hoped and that they must place these children into new parts of history so that they can alter the future. One of them, Maya Skouris is wiped from all memory, with the exception of Agent Tom Baldwin, who continually sees her when his wife Alanna uses her powers on him. (She can psychically construct alternate realities for people.) He doesn't recognize Maya, but Alanna says that he must know who she is, since the alternate realities are created out of the subject's memories.
  • This kicks off the main plot of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Who Watches The Watchers"
  • Twice on No Ordinary Family with the same characters.
    1. Daphne uses her newfound idea push powers to tell her inquisitive boyfriend not to ask about the family's special abilities. It works, but then a few hours later he broaches the topic again. So she pushes again, which works for a few hours again. Etc. She finally ends up telling him.
    2. Jim convinces Daphne to mind-wipe BF of his knowing about the family, so she gives him the instruction to "forget about when you learned I was special." This time it works too well, as he forgets their entire relationship.
  • The memory drug in Torchwood, called 'Retcon', can sometimes leave nagging little details in the victim's mind. If they're distanced from all the weird things they've seen, it won't be a problem, but if something triggers it the memories come back. This is how Gwen re-learns of Torchwood in the pilot after Jack wipes her mind.
  • Played with on House of Anubis, When Fabian gets his amnesia curse. At first, he is still able to remember enough, like who Nina is, even though it does take a little work to trigger these memories. Though, eventually he does lose his entire memory, including his name.

     Video Games  

  • In Persona 3, ordinary people who don't experience the Dark Hour have their memories revised afterwards to explain anything strange that occurs during the Dark Hour. (Which they might notice after it passes). In one scene, Mitsuru mentions that so many people are coming down with Apathy Syndrome that the memory revision can't keep up.
    • At the end of the game, either the protagonists (in the bad ending) or the entire world and the protagonists (in the good ending) have their experiences of the Dark Hour, as well as all the bonds of friendship and Character Development that occurred because of it, erased from their memories. Everyone, that is, except for Aigis, who explicitly remembers everything. Depending on which ending it is, the character's situation is either wistful or downright Fridge Horror, because in the bad ending she knows that The End of the World as We Know It is hours away from happening but there's absolutely nothing she can do to stop it, and she can't even tell her former friends about it because they don't even remember who she is.
    • It's also implied to have missed to the Main Character in the good ending, since he/she can speak to Aigis about it in the last two days before graduation. However, since the narrative skips from the aftermath of the Final Battle to the day before graduation, it's ambiguous whether he/she retained all memories along with Aigis and simply kept quiet about it for three months, or whether the memories came back on that specific day.
    • Also in Persona 2. At the end of Innocent Sin, Philemon recreates the world at the catch that everyone will forget everything. Tatsuya Suou, The Hero of Innocent Sin, keeps his memories out of sheer willpower, but is forced to give them up at the end of Eternal Punishment. Big Bad Nyarlathotep, of course, remembers everything due to his supernatural status and restored the memories of the Ax Crazy Pyromaniac Tatsuya Sudou.
  • The first Knights of the Old Republic had this as the backbone of the plot. Revan's fragmented memories, as spied on through Bastila via the Force Bond were supposed to lead the Jedi to the Star Forge with your Player Character being none the wiser.
    • Of course, in this case the amnesia might or might not have been accidental. Depending on which it was, the trope is either invoked ( if the Jedi deliberately wiped your memories, the intention must have been for it to miss spots so that they could be used to find the Star Forge) or exploited ( if the amnesia was an accidental result of the circumstances of your capture, the Jedi took advantage of this at least as soon as they realized what was going on, and potentially as soon as they realized the possibility of this trope).

     Web Comics 
  • In Genocide Man Joey reveals that his tweaked augments make him immune to the Lethe Protocol they use for discussions of things so terrible that plausible deniability isn't enough. He takes advantage of that immunity to jog Jacob's memory of voting to use the Guyaquil Complex that killed a billion people.

     Western Animation  

  • In X-Men: Evolution, an entire sports stadium of people learn about the different mutants among them and their powers. To maintain their secret identities, Professor X tries to erase everyone's memory of the night, but blacks out before he can finish erasing Principal Kelly's mind. Principal Kelly later goes on to be very anti-mutant. The episode in question can be seen here.
  • In one episode of Futurama it looks like Fry was ground up into sausages and Leela goes to a memory erasure clinic to relieve the pain of his death. She is told before the procedure starts that it only hides memories, it doesn't remove them entirely and she might accidentally remember again. Meanwhile Fry is actually living among a Neanderthal tribe with blunt trauma-induced amnesia. Naturally, they both regain their memories upon meeting one another again.

Amnesia LoopMemory TropesAmnesiac Dissonance

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