TV Tropes Needs Your Help
View Kickstarter Project
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here
and discuss here
"My machine allows your mind to inhabit a body in the past."
A form of Time Travel
where you don't physically go back in time. Instead, your body goes back to where it was in the state that it was, but you keep your memories from the future. The advantage is that, if done correctly, it neatly sidesteps many of the logical conundrums and paradoxes associated with time travel. The disadvantage is that your range of times to travel to is limited to the time your body can function for these purposes, a few decades at most. The other disadvantage is that it doesn't make physical sense.
A common variation is that the time traveler isn't going back to their own body, but to someone else's, maybe sharing their consciousness and having mental conversations or maybe a full Grand Theft Me
. This gets around the disadvantage of the destination being with a few decades of the starting point, while still avoiding some of the logical problems with paradox.
Depending on what point the writer is trying to make, it sometimes turns out that you can't actually change anything in the past
, and are forced to live through all your mistakes again.
"Groundhog Day" Loop
stories often (but not always) use this mechanism. Also see Peggy Sue
Unstuck in Time
is usually a version of this.
Impossible without a Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory
Contrast with Intangible Time Travel
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Rika and Hanyuu in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, though they're not always able to keep all of their memories.
- Most of the cast, actually, they just drop more memories.
- Tomoya from CLANNAD seems to undergo this.
- Combined with standard Time Travel in Katekyo Hitman Reborn!. After the Vongola return to the past, the Arcobaleno send the memories of the future versions of the non-time travelling characters to their present versions.
- In Konpeki no Kantai, when Isoroku Yamamoto's plane is shot down in 1943, he wakes up in 1905 on the cruiser Nisshin just after the Battle of Tsushima. He uses his knowledge to prevent Japan making the mistakes it made.
- The plot of Full Metal Panic! centres around "The Whispered", people with Psychic Powers that allow them to receive information from the distant future. This is how they can have various bits of supertech, most notably Humongous Mecha, being built in an otherwise Present Day setting.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica:This is how Homura's "Groundhog Day" Loop ability seems to work.
- Though the fact that she wakes up with her Soul Gem in her hand shows us that her time travel isn't wholly mental, since she didn't have any such thing in the original timeline.
- Hard to imagine it could work without her soul coming with her.
- One problem with it being just Mental Time Travel is the progressive change in her physical ability, which - given her ill-health in the original timeline - can't be down to practice alone. Though it could be Homura used her Soul Gem to fix more than her eyes.
- The Time Leap machine in Steins;Gate allows for this.
- Ore ga Doutei wo Sutetara Shinu Ken ni Tsuite employs this trope as a major feature.
- Part of the premise of Again!!
- In The World God Only Knows the Goddesses send Keima and Elsie to the past. Keima returns to his kid body but he and Elsie keep all the memories of the present. In an interesting twist, his younger self actually inhabits his older body; the minds were literally switched. The goddesses decide to try and use this opportunity to imprint young Keima with affections for their hosts.
- ''Bleach: Hitsugaya becomes trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, forced to repeat the same fight over and over again. Every time he kills his enemy, the loop resets to his original starting point with his memories of previous loops intact. After too many loops, he becomes paralysed. While the "time travel" is actually just a drug manipulating his memory and spatial awareness, the paralysis it causes is very real. Due to being an enslaved zombie, fighting on behalf of Giselle, Hitsugaya ends up fighting Mayuri, who's known for infecting his enemies (and allies) with weird concoctions For Science!
- In the original Days of Future Past storyline in X-Men, Kitty Pryde travels back in time by switching minds with her younger self.
- Alex Robinson's graphic novella Too Cool To Be Forgotten has the main character Andy Wicks relive a portion of his high school years during hypnotherapy.
- Professor Carter Nichols invented "time-travel hypnosis" in Golden Age and Silver Age Batman stories, although the stories were always vague as to whether the subject actually travelled in time or not. He inevitably returned in Grant Morrison's Batman.
- Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen perceives all moments of his life simultaneously, though his ability to comprehend the full story they form seems to be limited. He also claims that he can't change the events he observes: "I'm just a puppet who can see the strings."
- Star Wars fics involving time travel are surprisingly common, and a high percentage of them involve various characters being sent back to Set Right What Once Went Wrong after dying.
- TONS of Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics use this trope. Usually Shinji is the one who goes back from the time of Third Impact and goes on to prevent it without alerting NERV's higher-ups (e.g. Misato, Ritsuko and his father).
- There is one fic where Shinji discovers that not only the other pilots are parts of the rewinds too (humorously shown when he and Rei abuse the rewinds for training while Asuka ends up face first in a door every time a rewind occurs), he can rewind at any time by killing himself. It eventually desensitizes him to the prospect of death so much that even Asuka is freaked out.
- A remarkably high percentage of AU fics for Harry Potter are like this. Usually it's Harry that does the rewind, sometimes the 'Golden Trio', occasionally Ginny to mix things up, and at least once it was the Trio, Ginny, Neville, Luna, Sirius, and Lupin, and maybe a few more in addition.
- After the seventh book there were fanfics with Snape going back to the "Snape's Worst Memory" scene right after his death. Usually with the purpose of him getting the girl.
- The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Days Of Future Smurfed" has Empath flashing between his present-time self and his future-time self at various points in time after he received visions of the future from his great-grandson Traveler.
- Hogyoku Ex Machina contains this form of time travel for Aizen and Ichigo. However, due to the nature of how they go back, Ichigo keeps all his power-ups from the final battle, while Aizen does not. This has advantages and disadvantages for both of them.
- Caspian and the Keepers in the second entry of Astral Dawn accomplish this by travelling through time as ethereal beings. They also take temporary residence in physical bodies along the way.
- Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
- Timequake, also by Vonnegut, features the entire world — and, it's implied, the entire universe — being mentally sent back 10 years and completely unable to change anything until that period is over.
- Replay, by Ken Grimwood.
- The Time of Achamoth by M.K. Joseph.
- The Power of Un: A boy meets a mysterious stranger who hands him a giant calculator-like thing and says it's for going back in time and making sure that — wait, dang it, the guy disappeared before he quite finished the instructions. And the boy isn't impressed by the odd machine. But his flippant attitude turns serious when his little sister ends up getting hit by a truck, and he figures out how to use the device to replay the day so he can save her. Of course, it's not that easy...
- HP Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time twists this trope by combining it with Grand Theft Me in a very Fridge Logic-appeasing way.
- And Lovecraft got the idea from a 1933 film called Berkeley Square, which had a similar setup but lacked H.P's usual unimaginable horror angle. Lovecraft saw the film four times.
- Time and Again by Jack Finney, and its sequel Time After Time. Born in the Wrong Century, the protagonist goes back in time mentally by imagining himself to be in The Gay Nineties and surrounding himself with items from that period until he becomes temporally dislocated. Partly averted in that he does not travel back into his own memories, but that of an alternate self.
- The plot of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps novel The Cuckoo Clock of Doom is based around a cuckoo clock which causes this to happen to the protagonist.
- in Eric Nylund's A Game of Universe, Germain possesses a powerful bit of magic that can rewind time, but only for seven seconds (and it can only be used once).
- Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time has an entire species who use this ability regularly: "The Yeti is able to save its time at a certain point, and then venture forth knowing that if it dies, it can just resume its life from the point it saved at with the knowledge it acquired before death. It is effectively a highly evolved, albeit slightly painful form of foretelling." This is, in all likelihood, a direct reference to saving in video games.
- This is how Charles Wallace time travels in A Swiftly Tilting Planet: he is able to enter the minds of people in the past and, though he has very little control over what they do, he still influences them in tiny ways. The fact that he has a time-traveling unicorn helps a lot.
- "Unsound Variations", a short story by George R.R. Martin has an antagonist who utilises this repeatedly and obsessively to wreck/steal the successes of his former college buddies.
- Used by Tolkien in The Notion Club Papers, combined with mental space travel (astral projection). The effects of time passing at a much more rapid rate means that the traveller in question looks down on what he initially thinks to be some sort of fetid anthill, but turns out to be his home city of Oxford through the ages...
- The book A Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan has a main character who has (among other powers) the ability to look into the past. It comes in handy, because her grandmother had the ability to look into the future, allowing the two of them to "meet" on the day the grandmother died.
- H. Beam Piper's first published story (1947), "Time and Time Again" (no relation to Jack Finney's book): The main character, dying in World War III in 1975, awoke in his thirteen-year-old body in 1945. Being a trained chemist with the scientific knowledge of 1975, he'd have an advantage going into the chemical industry; he also had quite a good memory for horse-race winners. He planned to build a fortune and use it to prevent the war he'd died in by, among other things, getting his father elected president in 1960. Two of Piper's later stories, set in the '60s, imply that he was successful in that part, at least.
"All right, son, I'll do just what you tell me, and when you grow up, I'll be president...."
- In the Suzumiya Haruhi novels, this is true for Yuki Nagato and only for Yuki Nagato. In the "Groundhog Day" Loop short story Endless Eight, everyone's memories get reset, although they start experiencing déjà vu. Apparently, Yuki is not affected by this because time is not an obstacle for her.
- For King And Country, by Robert Asprin and Linda Evans, features what seems to be a Terminator Twosome of an IRA agent traveling back to Arthurian times to change history in Ireland's favor or simply punish England, and a British soldier trying to stop it. They go all the way back to around 500 AD or so and share the bodies of people close to King Arthur. It seems like a Stable Time Loop and/or Tricked Out Time, but the ending is a little ambiguous. Meanwhile, in the Future, their bodies remain in a comatose state while they are in the past.
- In Cube with Blurred Edges by Vladimir Ilyin, this is the only possible method of Time Travel. Originally used exclusively by the special forces-like Harders with brain implants called Iscapes, which throw their consciousness back a few seconds at the moment of death (how death is determined is not clear). To an outsider, it looks like a Harder is impossible to kill, as they look like they can dodge bullets and have a sixth sense. In reality, the Harders are just using the foreknowledge to avoid the same deadly outcome. Later on, a rival organization obtains an Iscape and builds a similar-functioning device called a Regr that works by thinking of the time you want to go back to. This is one-way, however, as the timeline is changed by this action. They then start selling the devices to the general public and eliminating anyone who tries to investigate them (easy when you can always go back to fix a mistake). The knowledge of the original timeline quickly fades if any changes are made.
- The protagonist (a Harder) starts suspecting the existence of these bootleg devices when a space liner explodes. While it looks like a typical malfunction (and it is), he does find it strange that a full third of the passengers have cancelled their tickets several days before boarding. It turns out they all have these devices.
- He also finds out that a Harder was on the same flight but managed to survive. The Harder reveals that he spent countless iterations trying to stop the explosion. Eventually, though, his traumatized mind forced him to board an Escape Pod moments before the explosion. He ends up having his Iscape removed and committing suicide.
- A member of the rival organization is a criminal psychiatrist who has installed a static version of the Regr device in order to try to rehabilitate criminals in the most direct way possible. After convincing them not to do it, he sends them back to a few minutes before the crime that got them to him in the first place. If successful, he only has a vague notion that he helped someone, no longer remembering the details. If not, he remembers that he tried before. He normally gives a criminal three tries before giving up and handing him back to the justice system.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's A Lord from Planet Earth, the main character finds himself on an alien planet in the middle of an invasion. He is given a pair of Seeder artifacts with an unknown function. During the first confrontation with the Big Bad, one of his new friends is brutally killed, and the Big Bad is an inch away from slicing the protagonist open. In desperation, he breaks one of the pencil-shaped crystals and time freezes, while he hears a voice telling him of a "temporal event" of some sort. He then finds himself several hours prior with full knowledge of things to come. The only difference is he only has one artifact left. He also finds that it's pretty difficult to try to change things, as the universe keeps trying to maintain continuity. He does manage to save his friend (twice, by using the other crystal) and alter the final fight with the villain to strike him while the Big Bad is moving in for the kill. Also, physical time travel is possible as well.
- We Are Tam by Patricia Bernard features a form of mental time travel that allows a person to visit other times if somebody in that time period is their genetic double.
- Sherman Alexie's novel Flight has the protagonist inhabiting various people's bodies, ranging in time from the Indian wars to present day.
- In Eric Norden's novella The Primal Solution, an elderly Jewish scientist - a Holocaust survivor who had lost his entire family - discovers a means of mental time travel, which enables him to project his mind into the past and take over the body of the young Adolf Hitler in the Vienna of the early 1910s. Resolved to force Hitler into suicide, the vengeful professor can't resist humiliating him first and forcing him to drink sewer water in front of surprised passersby, before making him jump into the Danube - but in the moment before drowning, Hitler regains control of his body and returns home shaken. The Professor is trapped inside Hitler's mind, but is able to "hear" him think "The Jews? Why did the Jews do this to me? I have never harmed them!". Able to access Hitler's memories, the trapped Professor suddenly realizes that until this moment the young Hitler had not at all been an anti-Semite and was in fact on good terms with some Jews. Only because something inexplicable had entered Hitler's mind - something which totally hated him and was implacably bent on his destruction, and which identified itself as being Jewish and acting on behalf of all Jews - did he become the genocidal Hitler known to history. Never daring to tell anybody of this presence in his mind, for fear of being considered insane, Hitler would gradually develop the idea that only by killing all Jews would he be free of that haunting presence. In short, the very act intended to avert the Holocaust ends up being its direct cause.
- Used by Allan Quatermain to visit past lives in The Ancient Allan and Allan and the Ice Gods.
- In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, Ziantha is sent back by the artifact into the body of Vintra, entombed with the corpse of Turan — which is revived by another mind sent back. After they hunt for the artifact's other element, Ziatha is sent back again into the body of D'Eyree of the Eyes. She apports the other eye back to that time, and they return to the tomb, which allows her to apport them both back.
- The premise of Future History is the protagonist suddenly receiving memories from her own future and trying to figure out why.
- All You Need Is Kill. The protagonist is trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where he gets killed in battle, then wakes up 30 hours before his death. He's later told that he's not actually going back in time, but when he dies a tachyon pulse of his memories to that moment are sent back in time, and he perceives the events that led to his death as an extremely detailed dream. The alien invaders he accidentally got the power from have been using it to adapt to all human strategies; he uses it to become a One-Man Army by learning from experience over and over in the course of a day.
Live Action TV
- This is your primary power as a eponymous achron in Achron. Do note that all other players can do this too, so be prepared for some very interesting multiplayer battles...
- Save Scumming in probably the closest thing to a Real Life example
- The second Prince of Persia trilogy allows you to rewind up to ten seconds. Near the end of The Sands of Time, the Prince uses it to kiss a girl without her knowing it.
- Ten seconds? Right before the end, the Prince rewinds time all the way to prior the start of the game.
- Warrior Within also has physical time travel.
- Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army has the Time Tourists visiting the Akarana Corridor, who prefer using this method instead of risking getting Unstuck in Time.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link can use the Master Sword to travel back and forth between his child and adult selves. Unusually for this trope, despite not actually physically travelling anywhere, he still managed to create two alternate branched-off timelines in the process.
- It's also pretty much the whole point of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
- Debatable: After every loop in Majora's Mask, Link keeps all of his equipment with him. However, all Ammunition, Rupees, Potions, and Sidequest Items are lost at the beginning of a new loop. You the player obviously keep everything you know about the plot, and Link can record information in a Journal given to him that will not be erased, but Majora's Mask does not play this trope straight.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, this is a supernatural ability of Ellone. Those who travel back in time this way cannot affect the past, but they can watch events occur from a first-person perspective, and grant the people of the past all their modern-day powers. Ultimecia is the exception to this rule, being so powerful that she can fully possess the bodies of those who she inhabits in the past. This ability is the crux of her plot to cast Time Compression.
- When the party goes to Shion's ruined home planet Miltia in the third episode of Xenosaga, it is revealed that the recurrence of the disaster is entirely mental and similar to an encephalon dive.
- Many modern racing games have a Rewind feature that similar to the Dagger of Time in the Prince of Persia series, allows you to rewind time for a few seconds to correct a crash or bad turn and thus be less punishing on the player.
- In Second Sight, there are moments where the psychic player character, John Vattic has flashbacks that allow him to change events in the past which in turn alter the present (for example, saving the life of someone who had died). Subverted when it is revealed that you're not traveling to the past at all. The "past" is actually the present and the "present" is actually Vattic seeing into the future.
- Braid's rewind feature.
- Radiant Historia involves you jumping through time to points where you already existed. While your body technically still ages as you go through time, you replace the "you" that would've been in that moment of time, so that paradoxes are avoided.
- One ending of Shadow Hearts: Covenant sends Yuri back to the beginning of the first game looking exactly like he did in the original's opening cinematic, but apparently with all his memories of the future, while the other heroes are shuffled through time the regular way.
- The astral projection ability in Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse could be explained this way.
- The obscure 3DO First-Person Shooter Immercenary features an odd variant: the player's consciousness is projected into the future and directly into a virtual reality game in which much of humanity will eventually become trapped, in the hopes of shutting it down from within.
- no-one has to die.'s TEMPEST machine. The way it works is actually quite different from other examples: Forward time travel works like normal, but travelling backwards destroys your body and takes your consciousness to any number of alternate universes.
- Mabinogi invokes Mental Time Travel for many of the "RP" quests-the Player Character(s) experience the memories of other characters after placing items personal to those characters on dungeon altars. An early example is a party of three characters experiencing the memories of the Three Missing Warriors, which puts the players on the path to saving a Goddess.
- Implied in the Roguelike The Consuming Shadow, where the main character retrains the experience he has gotten over the playthroughs, and sometimes mentions the he dimly remembers that he has seen or dreamt about similar things before. This being an lovecraftian story, he of course thinks it is a sign that he is going insane.
- In the Visual Novel Yo-Jin-Bo, the protagonist ended up traveling through time via a magical pendant and put her in a body of a princess.
- In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, June/Akane Kurashiki has this ability, and can in fact explore multiple possibilities. All the game's Multiple Endings are essentially just her Save Scumming in the future, trying to find the sequence of events that leads to her own life being saved in the past/present.
- The sequel, Virtue's Last Reward takes the concept even further, The entire Nonary game exists to train Sigma and Phi in mental time-travel so they can go back in time and stop an outbreak of a virus.
- The Phone Microwave (name subject to change) in Steins;Gate is eventually upgraded in such a way that it allows to send a person's memories back in time, effectively letting the person in question relive a set period of time while retaining the memories from the future. The mechanics of this are tied to Okabe's cell phone, so in theory, anyone who picks it can receive the memories, even if they didn't originally belong to the receiver. This is frequently used by Okabe, and once by a future version of Nae.
- Narbonic has "Dave Davenport Is Unstuck on Time" (a Shout-Out to Slaughterhouse-Five), with Dave bouncing between childhood, middle age, and his teenage years. At first, it seems like he wasn't able to change anything; he angsts, and decides to have a cigarette. Then Mell asks, "Since when do you smoke?"
- Bob and George, "All Good Things" (a Shout-Out to the Star Trek episode).
- The "rewind device" in City of Reality uses this method to allow characters, in the story, to retry their actions until they get them right.
- Used by Mizkit in Breakpoint City in an attempt to tarnish Ben's reputation in one arc.
- Othar Tryggvassen's twitter adventures had this at one point. Quite a Tear Jerker, too.
- In The Dreamer, Beatrice travels back in time to the The American Revolution when she's asleep.
- The final strip of Arthur, King of Time and Space reveals that the world hasn't been transforming around Arthur all this time, his consciousness has been shifting to other incarnations.
- In Spes Phthisica, this is all that is possible. Information (in the form of dreams, images, messages...) can travel back in time, but not physical objects.
- Code Lyoko's Returns to the Past.
- Although Jérémie retaining a picture taken before one of them caused massive speculation among the fanbase.
- Also the fact that it can't retcon out someone's death.
- South Park lampshades this with Eric trying to induce a temporal coma so he can travel back into the past and learn about the Founding Fathers. By dropping weights onto his head.
- Notably, this averts the limit to one's own life; apparently, a Cartman-body just magically generated in the past when Cartman's mind needed it. (Or it was All Just a Dream, the episode was kind of ambiguous.)
- This is also how the "Go God Go!" two-parter ended, with Cartman (having been stuck in the far future) being transferred back in time to "fuse with his past self."
- The Batman features Francis Grey, who discovers he can "turn back the clock" 20 seconds, allowing him to relive his past and relearn his mistakes. He discovered this power through his obsession with time
- Inverted in Rugrats, during the Poorly Disguised Pilot for the spinoff, All Grown Up!. Granted, there is no logical reason why what they did should have worked, suggesting that it may have been All Just a Dream, but it was way too consistent with the actual plot to discount. At the end, the babies emerge from the closet they fled into at the beginning of the episode (apparently only moments later), and Tommy says, "Well guys, only ten more years until Angelica is nice to us."