A character who is dead or having a Near Death Experience
steps out of his body and observes what is happening with other characters in the story at that time. The events so observed are shown one way or another to be real and not the fantasy of a dying brain. Alternately, the character gets to review key events in his life, providing the justification for a Clip Show
. Either variant can turn into yet another version of Yet Another Christmas Carol
or Wonderful Life
The sequence usually ends with dead characters moving on to the Afterlife, and comatose ones
waking up (occasionally as a Mistimed Revival
). Reawakened and revived characters rarely remember the experience as more than a blurry dream,
although specific recollections are sometimes allowed for punchlines or An Aesop
Compare Fever Dream Episode
, Dream Spying
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Anime and Manga
- Giant Robo uses the narration version of this trope to pull off Anyone Can Die. Ginrei narrates the beginning of the first episode as if she's flashing back after the end of the story. After she dies in the last episode, her disembodied spirit says a few lines in a post-credits epilogue.
- Ash and Pikachu go through this in the Pokémon episode in which the team goes to Lavender Town in order to catch a Ghost Pokemon (which he does...kind of). Hilarity Ensues with Misty and Brock.
- The protagonist of YuYu Hakusho spends the first four episodes of the show as a ghost while trying desperately to get back into his body. (The arc is extended in the manga, but generally goes the same way.)
- In the manga version of Chrono Crusade, Rosette dies and has a vision (or perhaps goes to the story's version of the afterlife) of being on a train. While there, she looks into the glass of her watch to see Chrono saying that he still has hope for her to return. She does, and uses the surprise of her revival to shoot Aion's sword and destroy it.
- In Ranma ˝, an old man named Harumaki has a foot in the grave already, and he can leave his agonizing body temporarily to go and annoy female-Ranma. He takes advantage of his ghostly form (and wispy, snake-like lower "body") by floating everywhere and trailing spirals around her.
- Another Rumiko Takahashi story, the one-shot 1 Or W, shows the protagonist's girlfriend watching him mourn over her body after a nasty accident caused by his kendo team captain. Just as she's about to reenter her body and come back to life, the spirit of the kendo team captain outraces her and possesses her body, leaving her to fume angrily as a ghost for the rest of the story —unless the protagonist can defeat the captain in a match.
- Subverted in Zatch Bell!: Kiyomaro returns from the dead with clairvoyance-like Psychic Powers.
- Erza in Fairy Tail, after she attempts to sacrifice herself to stop the Etherion from killing Natsu.
- The Sixth Sense has a child who can see all sorts of Dead Men Walking. Including the protagonist, who is totally unaware he's dead. It's so old now as to have become a catch-phrase, but hey, a spoiler is a spoiler.
- According to director commentary on The Abyss, the sequence where Ed Harris's character tries to revive his love interest was shot with camera angles meant to evoke the "hovering over your body" idea.
- Lester (not a spoiler, he states that he's dead in the opening scene) in American Beauty.
- In What Dreams May Come, the plot pretty much revolves around what happens in the afterlife. After Robin William's character dies, he's shown what happens in the real world after his death.
- In The Orphanage, people who are close to death can see ghosts, and the main character can see ghosts because she is dying of cancer.
- Jacob's Ladder is about Jacob, a Vietnam vet, trying to find out why (in 1975) he's hallucinating (after coming back from the war in 1971). He eventually learns that he was covertly given a drug called "The Ladder" to increase aggression, along with his whole platoon. Instead of attacking the Viet Cong, they attacked each other. It's revealed to be a dying dream when his son, who died before he went to Vietnam, leads him up a stairwell into light, and he dies in a triage tent in 1971, of the wounds received in the battle.
- In Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, the title character is taken back to the early moments of his life while in a near-death state, starting with being raised in a whorehouse and leading up to the events that led to setting himself on fire.
- The main character in Enter the Void, upon dying, steps out of his body and observes what is happening with other characters in the story at that time.
- Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman, which contains a subplot of the ghost of Maeve Livingstone watching the investigations of her own murder.
- Setup of The Lovely Bones.
- The Christopher Pike novel Remember Me is about a girl who wakes up as a ghost after she is killed by one of her friends. She sees her family finding out about her death, her funeral, and then spends the rest of the book trying to figure out who killed her. After her murder is solved, she proceeds to the afterlife.
- In Moving Pictures, Gaspode is having one when rescued.
Live Action TV
- Thr M*A*S*H episode "Follies of the Living - Concerns of the Dead" is told from the point of view of a soldier's ghost, seen by Klinger while the latter recovers from a high fever.
- Desperate Housewives manages to kill off its Narrator at the start of the first episode. She continues narrating, giving us glimpses into the personal lives of her still-living friends that they don't get to see in each other. She actually appears to Lynnette in one episode.
- MacGyver spends an episode in spiritual limbo after the bad guys first put him into a coma, and then try to poison his bed-ridden body. He escapes through the aid of a recently-deceased relative.
- The last episode of season five of Curb Your Enthusiasm has Larry David (playing himself) dying and going to Heaven. He eventually proves so annoying that his guardian angels send him back into his body, much to the disappointment of his friends and family.
- Mr. Belvedere had the titular character experiencing this; at first, it seems that everything's going comedically wrong without him, but it turns out that life goes on.
- The bleak Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood tried Something Completely Different with the more lighthearted, sentimental episode "Random Shoes", in which a recently deceased character observes (and subconsciously influences) the protagonist Gwen as she investigates his death.
- Subverted in an episode of Scrubs: as various doctors are around a man's body (masking it from view) and finally saying that they lost him, a man walks up and begins to talk about how seeing himself die like that was strange. He even starts giving a speech about death itself...until J.D. comes up and angrily reminds him that he's not dead, just insane.
- However, there is also an episode that plays it straight: J.D. gets sick and has to undergo surgery where he has an out-of-body experience looking over Turk's shoulder as he's operating. Turk asks him (though "the ghost" isn't seen) to go away because he can't concentrate.
- The season two episode "Epiphanies" gave Battlestar Galactica's on-the-brink-of-death Laura Roslin the chance to remember The End of the World as We Know It. It was the day she got told she had terminal breast cancer, got dumped and fired by the former President, stopped a union crisis, listened as the Cylons nuked her homeworld, got sworn in as the new President, and left a whole bunch of people in the hands of the Cylons. Oh, and she figured out Gaius Baltar betrayed everyone because he was making out with a known Cylon. 'Cept she can't prove it. Luckily, she said Screw Destiny and woke the heck up due to some hybrid blood from the extra-special baby Sharon was carrying.
- Dean of Supernatural did this while in a coma in the season 2 premiere, and his brother used a Ouija board to communicate with him.
- In Stargate SG-1, episode "Meridian", Dr. Jackson lies dying of radiation poisoning. While the other characters take turns sitting at his bedside, he is in deep conversation with Oma Desala about whether he is satisfied with the life he led or not. Eventually, he makes himself visible to Jack to tell him to let him die. Then he walks through the active Stargate and ascends.
- An episode of House (Three Stories) involves him almost dying and having flashes of the other two patients he was talking about, as well as their eventual fates in regards to the legs they were worried about losing. Interestingly, he then claims that it certainly didn't make him believe in anything like God or the afterlife or even life flashing before his eye, just that his mind was creating a hallucination as he died to make him feel better.
- In Kingdom Hospital, Stephen King's Author Avatar spends nearly the whole series slipping in and out of a ghostly duplicate of the hospital, halfway between life and true death, while his body lies comatose.
- In the first season of Saving Hope Charlie falls into a comma and has an extended out-of-body experience where he wanders the halls of the hospital and interacts with the spirits of other dead or comatose patients. It is implied to be a standard experience and that most coma patients who wake up forget most of what they experienced. When Charlie finally wakes up, he remembers all of it and can still see the spirits..
- In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Staircase to Heaven" (set in the late 19th century), this is the aim of the "Metaphysical Society". Inspector Murdoch then experiences it for himself.
- Sin-Eaters who bear one of the Elemental Keys and the Oracle Manifestation get a fun variant of this — they're able to undergo an out-of-body experience and travel wherever they wish. Thing is, to do so, they must take damage in one form or another. Depending on the Key in question, this may involve being buried alive, setting yourself on fire, getting strangled, or drowning yourself in the bathtub. Mind you, if you successfully pull it off, you're healed of all damage once you "snap back."
- Similarly, Orpheus split the "Laments" between actual ghosts and living people who were able to project their soul out of their body. Skimmers could do it through meditation, but Sleepers required cryogenic tanks to bring their body to a state of "death" that would allow them to "vacate the premises." In fact, that's how Orpheus got into the "post-life management" business — they were doing extensive research into cryogenics, and discovered an interesting side effect...
- A routine event for the titular character in Nodwick.
- In Family Guy, Peter is struck by lightning and has a Near Death Experience. He proceeds to steal money from his own wallet and later tries to reenter his body through the mouth, having about as much success as a flesh-and-blood fat man would have trying to climb inside an unconscious person. Death (a recurring character) shows up to hang out with him for a while as part of his Near Death Experience, and when Peter asks when he's really going to die, he's told it'll be a few years after Lois divorces him. Peter tries convincing Death that'll never happen, and leads him through a bunch of flashbacks depicting their courtship, showing how deeply in love they were. In the process, Peter realizes that he's been taking Lois for granted lately, and has the epiphany necessary to save his marriage.
- While rare, this is Truth in Television: with some Near Death Experiences featuring what's known as an Out-of-Body Experience. During this time, they're capable of perceiving events out of their bodies with incredible accuracy.note While some people dismiss them as a trick of the mind induced by stimulation of the right-temporal lobe and REM intrusion, that explanation doesn't account for those who have perfect visual perceptions of events outside their bodies despite being blind from birth.