He also has a file of maps to bad guy labs.
: I need a report on all the walls ever made ever
. Tech Guy:
I'm on it... According to this, this particular model of wall is of an excellent quality. It doesn't creak. Unless... there's a body behind it
No matter what sort of clue the Crime Scene lab has found (blood, wire, rope, oil, perfume, etc), somebody
has manufactured a database designed to search through them all. Not only that, our heroes at the crime lab have purchased a copy of this software, the interface devices to input the data in question and have acquired the expertise to use this software (which has so far never been used in another one of their cases) with 100% accuracy on the first attempt.
It should be noted that some of these "magical databases
" actually exist, and are
in use by various agencies, though they aren't quite as stunningly accurate or omniscient as the Police Procedural
suggests. In real life, "Data Mining" is a time-consuming task that has to be practiced. Does each agency host a different server? Which ones pull from each other? Are all servers identical? Are there delays in updating the databases? These are all questions the searcher needs to be aware of, and there is no single database that stores 100% of the information.
A key aspect of this trope is that there must be a pre-existing compendium of all possible samples of whatever is being identified. In Real Life
, forensics can indeed match samples of, say, paint or glass not only down to manufacturer but even to a specific batch, but this requires two samples: one sample from evidence, and another sample to compare against. This also means that in real forensics, the implications of this evidence are different; while crime dramas typically use the Magical Database
to find a new lead from trace evidence, real forensics usually confirms identity after the police have already gotten a lead (i.e. the police already suspect the glass came from the suspect's house or workplace and can prove it by comparing them, as opposed to identifying where the suspect lives with no prior knowledge just from the glass sample).
Forensics labs also have an out
for many of these magical databases
, since it's generally believable that they would have a database of common murder weapons or components of weapons.
Magical Databases almost always have a Viewer-Friendly Interface
. If it's on paper or supernatural, it's a Great Big Book of Everything
. See Akashic Records
for a related but older
trope. These are a special Applied Phlebotinum
used primarily in Police Procedural
dramas, sometimes ones with a supernatural element.
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Anime and Manga
- Somewhat justified in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex considering the heavily cyber-ized world, although it's averted in that it doesn't work all the time.
- Inspector Runge from Monster keeps an absurdly expansive encyclopedia on practically everything in his head by constantly making a typing motion and saying that he's just calling up the memories as he needs them, or something along those lines.
- The titular character of To Aru Majutsu no Index is quite literally one of these considering the database itself is about magic. It should also be noted that in this series, in Magic at least, knowledge quite literally equals power.( There are some spells and such that aren't chronicled in the 103,000 grimoires that are kept in her mind, most notably ones of angelic (or otherwise non-human) origin.)
- Almost every depiction of Batman has this, whether it's his own vast knowledge (a la Sherlock Holmes), the Batcave computer, or a combination of both. In one Justice League of America issue, it is shown that Batman's database of fingerprints looks at the magical databases of the Batcave, the GCPD, AFIS, JLA Headquarters and Superman's fortress of solitude. This allows him to determine the identity of a 31st century superhero because Superman had been friends with him the past... err... future...
Oracle has taken on the role of database for the hero community at large. She serves as information retriever and disseminator, as well as offering mission-specific hacking and guidance.
In an issue of Gotham Central, which focused on the members of the Major Crimes Unit of the Gotham City Police Department, Renee Montoya was attempting to track down the history of a sniper rifle that had been used in several high-profile assassinations. She is seen accessing numerous government databases, including the FBI and ATF, but none of them can give her any useful information. When she mysteriously gains access to a system named "Oracle," which neither she nor her partner can identify, she is shocked (But happy) when it suddenly gives her the complete history of the gun, including the gun shop where it was sold.
- The Flash: Impulse is the only Flash able to permanently remember what he reads at super-speed. Once, he read an entire San Francisco public library. It came in less handy than you'd think.
- In The Sandman, Dream has a library of all the books that were never written. Including some famous real-world classics whose authors died before they could finish writing them. It also has the books that you might dream of writing some day. Trippy.
- Subverted in Queen & Country - when trying to identify a man on a video being used to blackmail a well-known telecom industrialist, the technicians mention to Crocker that they ran his face through a visual database to match him to someone on file. Crocker asks if that actually worked, and one of the techs says it never does, mentioning that the database always wants to match the subject to the late Queen Mother.
- The Bourne Identity
- The US government can identify a German citizen and everything she's done her entire life and her family history within moments from a blurry picture. Of course, she was first introduced trying to get something from an American embassy which required her giving them her personal information, and is seen driving a car, which, if it's hers or a rental, would require more personal information. We can assume that the search time was reduced for Rule of Drama.
- In the 2008 film Iron Man, Tony Stark, having been frozen out of his company by villain Obidiah Stane, asks his assistant Pepper Potts to hack into Stark's office computer to retrieve some critical files from the company mainframe. Not very magical until Potts stumbles across a video file of Stark's earlier having been taken hostage by a terrorist group. In the video the terrorists are making their demands in some foreign, Arabic-like language. Potts simply clicks a "Translate" button on the video viewer interface, and the audio is translated into perfect (and appropriately accented) English.
- This increases in Magic when you realize that the only justification for this would be that Stane somehow already had it translated, a process which likely took some time - a believable handwave, given the level of technology Stark surrounds himself with. But, as an earlier scene showed, Stane is fluent in several of the Ten Rings' spoken languages.
- Subverted in Mr. and Mrs. Smith: When the eponymous female character commands her subordinates to "search the database!", she gets rebutted with a snarky "For what? John Smith?"
- Sherlock Holmes:
- It might be observed that Holmes kept such databases in his head, being able to identify, for example, varieties of tobacco after examination of the ash (he had "written a monograph" on the subject). He also had a substantial collection of home-made biographies, which were usually spoken aloud by Watson for the reader's benefit. So, despite its modern-tech dressing, this is a pretty old detective-story trope.
- Sherlock's older brother Mycroft actually made a living out of this, being a living database for the British Government.
- Lord Peter Wimsey series: Wimsey is a living magical database. He also had a home-made "Who's Who" of the underworld, and once managed to identify the maker of a hat which had had its label removed, purely from the style. (Parker remarks that if he hadn't got the hatter, they'd have tried him on the man's dress suit, similarly de-labelled.)
- Discworld series
- Death's library in sometimes functions like a Magical Database, instantly delivering books on very obscure subjects when he requests them, or writing out fresh text if his query doesn't require a long answer (the "some of the sheep" response from The Last Continent).
- Hex does this as well since he is basically a sentient, magical computer. As long as he has his teddy bear he'll find out what you want to know.
- The Dresden Files
- The Archive in is a being that holds the knowledge of everything ever written down, ever, in the history of mankind.
- There's also Bob, Harry's knowledge spirit in a skull. Bob doesn't have the extensive knowledge of the Archive, but he is Dresden's go-to guy for magical knowledge, and he instinctively knows the current rules of magic.
- The Secret Histories: The Karma Catechist is a living database of every spell, ritual and magical concept conceivable in his universe.
- In Aristoi, all human knowledge is contained within the Hyperlogos. The database is so big, in fact, that the Moon has been entirely converted into a dedicated server farm, and it's only one of many such farms throughout the known galaxy.
Live Action TV
- The eponymous Guide of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy may be a subversion of this, as it contains data on almost everything in existence but a good deal of that data is either made up on a whim or wildly inaccurate.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, the criminal dispatching minigame starts by looking up a perp from a stolen cop car's laptop. This gives an exact, updating location of the criminal for you to chase down.
- ARI in Heavy Rain is connected in some way to the FBI database.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora seems to think that Ansem's computer is one of these. Because the computer belonging to the guy you killed last year will have info on where your friends are right now, right?
- Patchouli Knowledge (It's in her name, duh!) of Touhou fame is an effective Human(oid) Magical Database, thanks to her centuries of study and self-made Great Big Library of Everything. In Subterranean Animism, she is capable of spilling out the histories and powers of every youkai Marisa meets in her adventure... with the slight problem of taking until after the yokai was defeated to look up any relevant information.
- She also applied her knowledge to other tasks, such as constructing a spaceship from plywood, duct tape, and a whole lot of Functional Magic.
- To push the point home, the only character who probably trumps her in intelligence might be Eirin Yagokoro, the Brain of the Moon. Very few humans know anything significant about the advanced Lunarian society and their technology (for their own protection, to some extent). In Silent Sinner In Blue, Patchouli not only makes remarkably accurate predictions regarding the timing of their rocket's flight to get to the Lunar Capital but she also immediately identifies the Lunar Veil, a Lunarian device that allows flawless travel between the Earth and Moon, that Eirin had covertly attached to the rocket. The ever-collected Eirin's first thought is stab this person now.
- Uplink is a game basically built in databases, it features a Social Security Database, a Criminal Database and an Academic Database which store all the important people in the game and every life you'll ever need to ruin (including yours). And the Inter NIC, a database containing every public website in the world, which is to say a few hundred in the actual game.
- The Junior Woodchuck's Guide from Disney's DuckTales. It has a chapter on defeating dragons, for crying out loud.
- From a Western Animation: From Jem episode, "In Search of the Stolen Album" in which Synergy, Jem's super-computer is able to scan clues that "Misfits"'s treasure hunt joke on the Holograms in a matter of moments—and even the reasons behind the places.
- Wade from Kim Possible has more or less everything in the database, which of course comes in handy very often. Somewhat justified that he is a highly skilled hacker using Rapid-Fire Typing with his Magical Computer.
- It should be mentioned that the examples below are not "magical" since otherwise every criminal and enemy of the USA would be known and every crime solved. But they can help.
- The FBI keeps records on all typewriter keys (Type that ransom note? They can tell what make and model), fingerprints (been arrested or served in the military?), paper (ransom note, etc.), bullets, mug shots, and many more things.
- The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is the United States' central database for tracking crime-related information. Since 1967, the NCIC has been maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, and is interlinked with similar systems that each state maintains. Data is received from federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as tribal law enforcement agencies, railroad police, and other agencies, such as state and federal motor vehicle registration and licensing authorities.
- The United States Secret Service keeps records of every counterfeit US currency bill ever discovered, so they can match ones they find to see if it is a "new batch". Every written threat to the President (and other officials) is kept to see if the person has made a threat in the past.
- CIA, NSA, you name it, they have massive databases.