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So we have your Peggy Sue
Fic in which a character is suddenly sent back to his childhood with future knowledge and/or powers to Set Right What Once Went Wrong
Then we have your "Groundhog Day" Loop
Scenario in which a character is stuck in a repeating time loop, forced to re-live the same moments over and over again until a certain condition is met.
When you combine these two you get the Groundhog Peggy Sue
, in which a character is forced to re-live a significant portion of their life over and over again, always looping back to a certain point in their childhood if he dies or reaches a predetermined point in time. The protagonist tends to be a Failure Knight
if the loop depends on them saving someone or killing the Big Bad
. Sometimes the person looping is trying to avoid some kind of disaster
; however, no matter what they do, the future never changes
unless of course it goes From Bad to Worse
In some versions of this trope the characters live through each repeat of the loop fully
, while in others they make a change in the past and are instantly transported to the "present" to see what their actions had changed.
Subtrope of "Groundhog Day" Loop
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Anime and Manga
- Causing this is basically the result of Homura's wish in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Homura turns back time to the point where she and Madoka first met every time she fails to save Madoka (through Madoka either dying or turning into a witch). It turns out worse every time Homura goes back, because every alternate universe is focused on Madoka, and this makes Madoka's potential witch form, Kriemhild Gretchen, even more powerful than the last — but it also has the effect of making Madoka's wish in the final episode turn her into a goddess.
- This occurs in the manga Shin Mazinger Zero, with Minerva X the only one aware of it. She in fact causes the resets in order to find a timeline where Mazinger does not become a devil and destroys the world. It's shown she's gone through many of these resets since she began as the Minerva X in the original anime.
- At the end of Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader?, Batman is reincarnated as an alternate universe version of himself; it's stated that, in lieu of a traditional afterlife, Batman is destined to spend eternity being Batman, living out different versions of his life over and over again.
- Happens to Mach V in Thunderbolts. The eponymous villains turned heroes end up in the past through some Time Travel shenanigans. One of the villains' earlier selves took affront to what a nuisance his future self had become and struggles with him. Abe promptly gets shot through the head, and in order to make sure he reaches this point of time to prevent a Temporal Paradox. He gets genetically de-aged, mindwiped and inserted in his old self. Doomed to forever live through this course of the events until the end of time.
- Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time: Harry is stuck looping to the same summer before his sixth year whenever he dies. Having lived over a thousand lives this way, he still can't seem to outpace Voldemort.
- A similar story, Sisyphus, involves Harry stuck looping to the moment where he learned he was a wizard whenever he dies. He eventually after a hundred deaths, defeats Voldemort, dies of old age... and is still stuck.
- Again and Again is also similar. Harry has already repeated his life many, many times, often changing specific things with the intention to get it right, and thus be able to die for good. Having defeated Voldemort in every life in which he didn't kill himself early, he decides to try something entirely different this time around: siding with him.
- Chunin Exam Day, which is quite possibly the Ur Example for Naruto
- All is Relative Except the Stubbornness of a Demon: Because the Kyuubi refuses to die, Naruto is always sent back in time to the day before the Genin exam whenever he dies, whether it is in battle or of old age.
- In Myriad Ways: Naruto dies at the Valley of the End and strikes a deal with Death to save Sasuke and starts looping back to before the Chuunin exam.
- Rewind: Charmcaster uses Time Travel magic to trick the Tennysons, rewinding whenever she gets caught. It does not end well.
- The one-shot The Chosen from the Avatar: The Last Airbender collection The Ember Island Lighthouse. Ozai goes through his life with different allies each time.
- Right Moments: Due to meddling by Happosai, Ranma is stuck repeating the day after the failed wedding from the end of the manga, a repetition which won't end until Ranma himself is satisfied that the day he lived was absolutely perfect. Hilarity Ensues.
- Samsara: Shinji finds himself in a "Groundhog Day" Loop in which he keeps on living the same day over and over again, with nobody else aware of it. Though he fools around with it, he ends up upsetting Asuka when he becomes too reckless, prompting him to try to make her happy. He finally exits the loop when he succeeds.
- This is generally very common in Evangelion fics, as variation upon or deconstruction of the even more common Fandom Specific Plot of Shinji going back after third impact. Other examples include:
- Infinite Corridor looks like it's going to be this.
- Time Braid has Sakura going back to the beginning of the Chunnin Exam over and over again, with the timeline usually resetting with her death, failing the test, or not preventing the later attack from Orochimaru. Eventually, she finds out that Naruto, Sasuke and Hinata are also going through their own personal groundhog loops, each with various states of sanity.
- Hard Reset is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic example where Twilight relives the three hours that culminate in a changeling attack and the destruction of Canterlot trying to stop it. Unusual in that story continues after the loop ends and spends the last third of its run examining what the psychological ramifications of this might be.
- And Again sees Naegi relieving the Deadly Game of Danganronpa, trying to ensure that more of his classmates survive.
- There's a growing sub-genre of this kind of fic called The Infinite Loops, the format of which was first codified by Innortal on fanfiction.net. The basic idea is, one character (the Anchor, usually the main character of a fictional setting) is looping back to the very first moments of their parent series every time either they die or some kind of time limit expires. They of course end up monumentally stir crazy given enough time. Eventually others start to loop as well. The reset is not always perfect. Sometimes a loop's history will be different to the "prime" loop, or canonical plot. "Crossover" or "Fusion" loops also occur, randomly. These can involve the home loopers having a guest, or the anchor for one universe spending time in another, or replacements of one character by another. Vacation Loops are where the Anchor (or others) decide/s "screw it" and lets off steam by doing whatever comes to mind. There's little or no attempt to maintain the original timeline in such loops.
- If this sounds like a generic description for the majority of all timeloops, with the addition of crossovers for no reason, bear in mind the Framing Device for these stories is that the loops were started as a safemode/debugging tool for the multiverse by the gods after a Time Crash. All of these stories are happening all at once within the same shared setting, which serves as a Genre Deconstruction for this trope by virtue of scale alone.
- The Piper at the Gates of Dawn: a ASOIAF/Game of Thrones fic in which Rhaegar is given a second chance at life after dying on the Trident. He then decides to change history and stop the impending attack of theOthers, but, being an ASOIAF fic, things are... bittersweet, to say the least. Rhaegar ends up in a time loop, stuck with his crazy father, his perfect wife he doesn't love, and the knowledge that the world is ending and he's the only one who can save it. Then he finds a way...
- This is the premise of The Butterfly Effect.
- Works as a subversion, too, as everything he does to try and fix things just actively makes it worse.
- This happens in Primer, but we don't know for how long.
- Replay, by Ken Grimwood, revolves around the protagonist and a few others going through the eponymous Replays which take the replayer back to an earlier point in his/her life, to relive the time period until his/her death (the same date and time in every loop, although the exact date and time differ from person to person). Problem is that each replayer finds that his/her replays are beginning later and later...
- The short story Spring Fever implies this. Having married a conservative businessman, the protagonist is bored with her comfortable-but-bland lifestyle, and daydreams about her first love, Ray. Her daydreaming seamlessly melts into the past, where she chooses to "go all the way" with him... Back in the present, she is now unhappily married to Ray, and the ending heavily hints she's about to repeat the loop again.
- Played with in The Time Traveler's Wife. Henry constantly goes back in time to his mother's death, but cannot do anything.
- It's revealed at the end of The Dark Tower series that the whole series was just one iteration of a loop that is implied to have been looping for countless iterations. However, the final passage is one of hope, and implies that finally, this next time around, things will be different.
Live Action TV
- That Was Then: A short-lived 2002 series in which the protagonist repeatedly goes back to his High School years in an attempt to make things better. Similar to The Butterfly Effect.
- Happened to the SG1 in Stargate SG-1 when they were trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine that forced O'Neill to relive a failed Special Ops action, and Daniel to relive the death of his parents.
- In the Supernatural episode "Mystery Spot", Sam was stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop which reset itself to the moment he woke up on Tuesday morning every time Dean died. Sam spends several hundred Tuesdays trying to prevent Dean's varied and bizarre deaths, convinced that if he can just keep Dean alive until Wednesday, then the loop will be broken. Once he deduced The Trickster was behind the loop, Sam convinced him to end the spell. It was Wednesday, and Dean still died. Sam had to live through a whole year and track the Trickster down again before he managed to get sent back to the correct Wednesday. This time, Dean lived.
- One episode of Eureka sees Carter stuck looping through the day he has to watch Allison marry Stark. Not particularly pleasant in itself, but each time he loops he ends up with increasingly severe injuries. Also, if he doesn't fix it, the universe will explode or something.
- In the Skin Horse chapter 'Choose', Jonah Yu finds himself in one of these, with the loop reset whenever he dies. It also happens to be in the middle of a place where death is common and frequently very silly. What makes this a Peggy Sue? The ending makes it rather unclear whether this will happen again after he's lived a long, full life.
- In a meta way, a lot of the experience of Save Scumming revolves around this. For example, loading your game repeatedly until you manage to beat that one boss battle.
- The plotline of BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, from the perspective of Rachel Alucard. There's an interesting twist on this trope with her, however. On the one hand it is thanks to her being an Observer that she is a Groundhog Peggy Sue; on the other hand, as an Observer she is not allowed to actively Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but can only nudge the other characters in the right direction.
- The Reveal at the end of Calamity Trigger reveals there is a second one at work. Unlike Rachel, Terumi has been trying all long to make things even worse.
- The When They Cry franchise—both Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (though we're not told who the Peggy Sue is until the end of the first season) and Umineko no Naku Koro ni (in an odd meta way).
- You can turn your companions into this in Ephemeral Fantasia; until you bring them out of their "Groundhog Day" Loop, they're unaware of the repeating five-day cycle.
- The plot of Shira Oka: Second Chances is that the protagonist must repeat high school over and over again until he can snap out of it. He may be forced to restart again if he dies or makes the wrong decision that ends up in an unhappy ending.
- Majora's Mask features Link in a three day time loop trying to stop Skull Kid from dropping the Moon on Clock Town.
- A particularly horrifying and tear jerking one is the fate of Jyoji Hijiri in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. He is essentially trapped within the endless cycle of death and rebirth that Kagutsuchi has imposed upon the worlds. He witnesses the end of one world, suffers within the Vortex World and dies, and then is reborn in the new world just in time to watch the end once more. Furthermore, he is cursed so that he can never influence these events, essentially making him a spectator for all eternity. And to cap it off, it's heavily implied Hijiri is a reincarnation of Aleph from Shin Megami Tensei II, whose sin (killing God) was commited solely in an effort to save the world.
- Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle revolves around this trope... Or Does It? Duchess' strange ability to go back and continue her life from just before an ending so as to allow the player to experience other endings is All Just a Dream, but a prophetic one; Duchess is using a precognitive vision to explore possible futures.
- In Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Alan's Evil Counterpart, Mr. Scratch, attempts to create a no-win situation for Alan by capturing him in a time-loop; even if he survives the deathly trials of the loop, he will still have to go through them again. However, as Alan and the three women stuck with him in the loop retains memories of the previous cycles, they eventually become Dangerously Genre Savvy and begin to coordinate their efforts to drive the loop Off the Rails.
- A good part of Stein's Gate revolves around this. Okabe's messing around with D-Mail leads to SERN mooks come crashing through his door, lead by Moeka, and ultimely killing Mayuri. So he sets up the recently assembled Time Leap machine to leap to the point in the past before that happened, in order to avoid it. Unfortunately, every time he goes back in time, no matter what different idea he tried to save her, her death was always the result.
- In Amnesia (Otome), It is a unintended consequence of Ukyo's wish to save the Heroine from death and for him to be able to be with her again at the cost of her not remembering him. As long as the two conditions are not fulfilled, the wish cannot be granted and Ukyo is forced to remember every parallel world the Heroine dies by his hand, dies in an accident, or fell in love with another man. He dies in her place because their existence in the same timeline is an anomaly the world is trying to eliminate.