A Rashomon-Style story is where the same event is recounted by several characters. The stories differ in ways that are impossible to reconcile. It shows that two or more people can view the same event quite differently. The author invites the audience to hear them all out and then compare and contrast these divergent points of view. Sometimes the work provides no definitive answer as to what actually happened. Basically, it's a cast full of Unreliable Narrators.
More often, the audience will get the definitive true version of the story at the end of the episode. One or more of the points of view will be obviously false and/or a transparent attempt to make the teller of the story look good. By the time a show does this plot, we often know which characters are less trustworthy.
Inspired by the famous Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon. This influential early example is a sophisticated use of the trope and provides no definitive answers as to the truth.
A Sub-Trope of Separate Scene Storytelling. See also: P.O.V. Sequel, Self-Serving Memory, Simultaneous Arcs and Perspective Flip.
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Anime & Manga
An anime-only episode of Ranma ½, "The Case of the Missing Takoyaki" features the residents of the Tendo household giving various recounts of how the contents a box of takoyaki were pilfered. The accounts are incomplete, and slanted to cast whoever they accused as being the villain. In the end, Sasuke Sarugakure reveals that everything happened in the order the other cast members describes; they just each ate one takoyaki, which is how the box was emptied by the time Kasumi got back.
Akahori Gedou Hour Lovege's 11th episode has comedy duo Love Pheromone recapping how they came to be while in the middle of preparation. Aimi's view of the events is centered around her and filled with romantic clichés. Kaoruko's view of the events reveals that Aimi's always been a bit self-centered, even as a kid.
An episode of Love Hina has the gang trying to figure out how the rent money was stolen, even though everyone seems to have an alibi.
True Tears has this for the conversation when Shinichiro entered Hiromi's room.''
Tenchi Universe does this at least twice, with Ryoko and Ayeka telling wildly different versions of the same event, each one altering the story to make the teller seem morally superior to the other.
In The Kindaichi Case Files, one case seemingly was connected to a story told about an insane doctor who butchered injured soldiers in his care and tried to sew the body parts together to create an ultimate warrior. Later, another person remembers the same doctor as a kind person who was arrested for refusing to do unethical work. Kindaichi later realizes that the "butcher doctor" story was a red herring, leading him to realize that the murderer was the person who told him the false "butcher" version.
A rather touching case in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Simon tells about the time they were trapped in a cave-in, and he was only able to keep digging to get them out because Kamina was there to encourage him. Later we hear (via Yoko) Kamina's story about the time they were trapped in a cave-in, and he was only able to keep his cool because Simon kept digging.
There are three important factions interested in Haruhi from the beginning in Haruhi Suzumiya. Those are the espers, time travelers and aliens. All of them offer different explanations for what exactly Haruhi is and what she did three years ago, as well as giving different explanations of their origins. The esper says Haruhi created all three groups, is possibly a god and remade the world three years ago. The time traveler says time travelers came to investigate a problem Haruhi caused, that she's just a normal person with an odd ability and that she broke the time plane three years ago rather than remaking the universe. The alien spews a lot of big words that Kyon can't really understand, then later says she's not going to offer any more explanations because Kyon has no way of knowing if she's telling the truth while pointing out all three groups have good reason to lie to him. The implication is that all three are partially correct, but also either withholding information, mistaken or outright lying. It only gets more complicated from there.
The prophetic dream in the beginning of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is from Madoka's point of view. She sees Homura struggling against a powerful witch and crying out for help, Kyubey tells her she could save Homura by becoming a Magical Girl, and she wakes up on the verge of deciding to do so. Near the end of the series, we see the same event from Homura's perspective, and learn that it happened in the past, not the future, and Homura wasn't crying for help. She was trying to tell Madoka not to listen to Kyubey, who was tricking her into becoming an overpowered witch so he could collect a huge dose of energy. She turned into a witch almost immediately after making the contract, explaining why the dream ended at that moment.
Episode 12 of Simoun, in regards to the sexual encounter between Kaimu and Alti. Each of them claims that the other initiated the act.
In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog there was the story "Total Re:Genesis", in which a battle against an enemy robot is told four times, once by each of the heroes and once by Nicole (a computer, who reports on what really happened). Not only does each of the heroes make themselves out to be single-handedly responsible for defeating the robot, but each version of the story is drawn by a different artist.
There is a Spider-Man story by Peter David, called Eye Witness (Spectacular Spider-Man #121), where Mary Jane, Peter, and J. Jonah Jameson tell the story of a bank robbery where they were present. Mary Jane describes the robber as a menacing thug, Jameson acting bravely, and Spider-Man as a hero. Jameson describes the robber similarly, himself as the hero, and Spider-Man as a coward and a criminal. Peter tells the truth (apart from him being Spider-Man); the robber was an amateur with a BB gun, Jameson acted cowardly, and he (as Spider-Man) didn't have to do much.
The Question: Quarterly #5 is one of these. It starts with The Question punching the mayor in the face. Then several characters speculate on why he did it, with each version drawn by a different artist. Izzy O'Toole tells a standard Film Noir story, a pair of crackheads claim that The Question was a disfigured psychopath, and the Mayor herself finally explained that he knocked her out to prevent a desperate deal with a group of gunrunners to bring in some money to the city. The Question finally shows up, and tells them they're all wrong. It turns out he went against his uncompromising nature and made the deal himself. He just didn't want Myra to meet the criminals face to face for fear they would double cross her.
The first issue of Wildstorm's Resident EvilComic Book Adaptation attempted to reconcile the contradictions in Jill's and Chris' respective scenarios by depicting them as different accounts of the same events by both of them.
In Hero Squared, the superhero and supervillain from the destroyed comic book universe briefly recount to other characters how the universe was destroyed from their perspective. In the superhero's narrative, he's attempting to save reality from an evil Omnicidal Maniac who ends up destroying all of creation out of spite. In the supervillain's story, she's innocently going about her business when the superhero and his cronies burst in in a fit of self-righteous violence and ham-fistedly smash up her lab despite her protests, destroying reality through blundering incompetence. Curiously, we never find out the truth, but while the supervillain's protestations of innocence are clearly unreliable based on what we've seen from her, the superhero is also an Unreliable Narrator, as he's blinded by an overly simplistic Black and White Morality viewpoint and issues with the supervillain he'd rather not face up to.
There was one Donald Duck story where Donald was called a hero for saving Daisy. Daisy, Gladstone and Huey, Dewey and Louie tell their own versions of the story.
In Daisy's version, all six were canoeing when suddenly some bees attacked Donald, causing him to lose control of the canoe and crashing into a rock. Bad things happen and Daisy ends up getting on a log, directly aiming at a waterfall. Donald tries to save her by catching her at a nearby tree, but fails. Then he comes up with another plan — just before they are about to drop at the fall, Donald makes a particularly epic jump on the ground, holding Daisy.
In Gladstone's version, there are no bees, but Donald crashes into a rock because he is an idiot. Then he doesn't run into a tree to save Daisy, but to escape a lynx. And they are not saved from the waterfall by Donald's jumping abilities, but a particularly ridiculous Deus ex Machina; a ROCK SLIDE that stops the log.
In the first Sly Cooper comic, there is a part that talks about the night Carmelita and Sly first met. The tent poles of the story: Carmelita was on her first case for Interpol; Sly shows up, Carmelita ties up Sly, Sly gets away, a jewel that Carmelita was supposed to be guarding was stolen, then the thief (a stage manager) is found tied up. Everything else, well, let's just say it's your typical Sly-Carmelita conversation (during the Sucker Punch era, anyway).
Subverted in the Ponies Of Olympus series — Ran Biao and Rarity both tell very different versions of what happened between Rarity and her first Love Interest Razorwing, but it's strongly implied that Ran Biao completely made her version up in order to paint Rarity in a negative light and drive a wedge between her and Spike. Ultimately double subverted. As it turns out, Rarity's version wasn't entirely accurate, and there was some truth to Ran's version.
In A Cure for Love there's an instance where Light/Kira has a big Pet the Dog moment when he calls up his Astraea contacts and chews them out for their attempt on L's life, obviously being very protective of L. Matt who is present for the meeting later relates to Mello that "Kira is bad news," that he's totally evil and compares him to Nazis. Makes sense since Mello and Matt ran away from Wammy's House, Matt may not care about L anymore and Kira was threatening Mello's mother.
In The Monster We Made, each chapter is from the P.O.V. of a different character. The last chapter is from Twilight Sparkle's P.O.V., and shows her view of the events narrated in all the previous chapters.
Films — Animation
Hoodwinked goes into Rashamon territory for Red and the Wolf's accounts of their meeting in the forest. In Red's version, the woods are dark and shadowy, the Wolf appears quite suddenly behind her, and when she refuses to answer his questions he lets out a wild roar. In Wolf's, it's as clear and brightly lit as every other scene, he walks out casually from behind a bush, and his "roar" (which was actually due to his sidekick catching his tail in the camera he was winding film into) is a high-pitched squeal of pain. We also discover Red left out the part where she beat Wolf up using her karate skills. It's strongly implied Wolf's recollection is more accurate, as Red's memory is tainted by the fear she was feeling and view of the wolf.
The short Have I Got a Story for You. Each of four kids recounts a sighting of Batman, giving different portions of the same events, while also giving different descriptions of what he is. The first kid makes him a Living Shadow creature like Ebon; the girl an actual humanoid bat creature; the third a Ridiculously Human Robot. At the end they see the reality; he's a guy in a suit. Which was based on the Batman: The Animated Series "Legends of the Dark Knight" which itself was based on a 1970s story from the comics called "The Batman Nobody Knows", by Len Wein. One of the kids' story was what happened (according to his uncle), which was told in the style of comic book artist Dick Sprang and the '60s Batman show, while the others are their own theories on what Batman looks like (with one of them being a retelling of The Dark Knight Returns). The other kid thought Batman was a bat-like creature that snatches criminals, similar to post Post-Zero Hour interpretations of Superman's first encounter with Batman, whom he thought to be some kind of metahuman.
Interestingly Batman: Gotham Knight has the same effect overall, with different artists portraying the Caped Crusader in different ways — contrast Bruce Wayne's muscled Lantern Jaw of Justice-look in Deadshot with his Bishōnen appearance in Field Test.
Films — Live-Action
Rashomon is both the Trope Namer and the Trope Maker. In medieval Japan a husband and wife are accosted by a bandit. We see the story of the encounter only in flashback. Facts common to all stories: 1) The husband is overpowered and tied up by the bandit, 2) there is a sexual encounter between the bandit and the wife, and 3) the husband ends up dead. At the murder trial each principal tells a different story of the incident that puts him/herself in a good light, but each confesses to the murder, so we don't believe anyone is outright lying just to conceal his/her own guilt. For the sake of getting the husband's story first hand, we are asked to believe that a local Shrine Maiden is able to summon his spirit to testify.
The wife claims that she was raped. When her husband demonstrated a sneering contempt for her helpless submission to the bandit, she killed him with a knife in her shock at his betrayal.
The bandit claims the sex was consensual and the wife wanted to leave her husband for him. He killed the husband in a spectacular sword fight between highly skilled warriors over possession of the woman.
The husband also claims the sex was consensual. In his story the unfaithful wife leaves with the bandit and there is no fight. Overcome with sorrow and shame, he takes his own life (his story is told through a medium).
A woodcutter claims to have seen the whole thing. In his story, the sex is consensual. The wife wants to start a new life with the bandit, but urges him to kill her boring husband. This disgusts even the bandit, who releases the husband; neither of them want the woman now. As she's about to be abandoned, the wife taunts the two into fighting for their own honor, if not for hers. The fight is a messy, comic brawl between ill-prepared cowards ending in the husband's death. Even the woodcutter's story is suspect, however. When his audience asks what happened to the wife's ornate dagger, he's accused of stealing it and looks guilty.
The Outrage is a foreign remake of Rashomon with Claire Bloom, Paul Newman, and William Shatner. Almost a scene for scene remake, the only improvement on the original was that it made the husband's cause of death merely an accident: he falls on his own sword during the fight with the bandit.
In Courage Under Fire, Denzel Washington investigates the circumstances surrounding Meg Ryan's character's death in battle, and each member of her platoon has a different story about how it happened. One of the first people he asks later gives him the disturbing real version.
This happens in Narc where the protagonist first hears one version of how an undercover cop died from his partner, who is also investigating it and the protagonist was brought in to help wrap up the case. Along the way, things are not as they seem and when they supposedly catch the real killers, they tell a different version of what happened. In the final confrontation, the surviving partner is shot and gives what appears to be a deathbed confession of what really happened.
Elephant explores this trope so that the audience can know absolutely everything relevant to a school shooting except why it happened.
Basic centers on a pair of military investigators trying to figure out what happened during a training exercise in which all but two of a team of special-forces operatives died or disappeared, with both survivors telling conflicting (and frequently changing) versions of the story. It's an interesting version of the trope, as none of the stories are true, and we're never shown what happened. While the very end of the movie does have some reveals, exactly what happened to set up the opening scenes remains a mystery.
He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not, a French film, plays with this by having the first half or so of the film follow a girl who a man is apparently cheating on (and going to leave) his wife with her. However, he repeatedly fails to show up at all to their arranged meetings. Growing increasingly distraught, she finally attempts suicide. In the second half, it's from the man's point of view, and it's revealed that he isn't even aware that she exists, and the entire relationship was the product of her being insane.
In One Night At McCool's, three different male characters relate their often conflicting impressions of Liv Tyler's character Jewel, revealing the particular brand of misogyny present in each one.
The movie Hollywoodland features a detective investigating the death of actor George Reeves. He goes through the many possible (and ultimately conflicting) theories on what happened.
Gossip plays with this trope. The viewers think they know what happened at college party. Only as the movie progresses is it made clear that no character is entirely reliable in their account of things.
The Hole made use of this, but very early on in the story it is made abundantly clear that one of the two accounts of the events in the titular hole cannot be accurate, and is not believed by anyone.
The Jet Li film Hero used a variation of this trope. It opens with a Qin soldier being granted audience with the emperor to tell him of how he killed three notorious assassins. The emperor, however, doesn't believe the details of the account, so he tells what he thinks happened. The soldier admits that he wasn't telling the truth, and tells what actually happened. Meanwhile there are a few other stories going on, and they all fit together in the end. The really cool thing about the film is that each account is color-coded (part of director Zhang Yimou's Signature Style is the rich and symbolic use of color) — that is, all the clothing, fabric, paper, etc. in the soldier's story is a shade of red, in another story they are all green, in the emperor's rendition everything is blue, in the background storyline (the one where the soldier is visiting the palace) everything is black, and in the actual storyline everything is white.
Happens in Jackie Brown. The money exchange at the mall follows several viewpoints, each seeing different events and revealing what happens to each character in the same time frame.
In The End of the Affair, several events can be seen in a very different light after Maurice reads Sarah's journal.
The entire premise of Vantage Point. The events leading up to an attempt to assassinate the US President, told from eight perspectives, each revealing more information than the last. Only in the last telling do we have the whole story and the aftermath. Though in this case, none of the perspectives are objectively wrong; it's just that most of them are operating with incomplete information.
The song "Summer Nights" in Grease is this, with both Sandy and Danny recounting the events of their summer romance. While Sandy's version is less outrageous, the likelihood is that both of them are being equally untruthful.
Wonderland depicts a true-life example, in which two different parties, one of whom is porn legend John Holmes, give detectives accounts of the events leading to a brutal multiple murder. Each party places the greater share of blame on the other, and as in real life, no definitive conclusion is reached; although a third account is introduced (again true-to-life, though it did not surface until after Holmes' trial) that indicates that not only was Holmes lying, he was (involuntarily) involved.
Played for laughs and set to music with Gene Kelly and Les Girls (1957). One of the titular Girls of Kelly's troupe writes a scandalous Tell-All book which another insists is a twisted version of what actually happened; the third Girl says neither one is telling the truth; Kelly untwists the tangled skein, or does he?
Flipped shows the events in the movie from the perspectives of both Bryce and Juli, which are quite different, especially at the start.
Once scene in La Piel Que Habito: At a friend's wedding, Robert finds evidence that his daughter was dragged into the dark and raped. Much later on, Vicente's flashback shows that (although his actions were heinous enough) he didn't go all the way.
French movie L'Appartment and its English remake Wicker Park make heavy use of this trope.
Marco Denevi's Rosaura a las diez (Rosaura at ten o'clock).
Santiago Gamboa's Necropolis has the life story of a speaker who killed himself during a writer's congress retold three times by himself, his partner, and his wife.
The Akutagawa short story that Rashomon is based on, In a Grove. Two people confess to the same murder, three if you count the dead man since he claims to have stabbed himself and would have bled to death anyways. Confusingly, "Rashomon" is also the name of an entirely different Akutagawa story, which is very creepy but rather less of a mind screw. Rashomon shares a theme with In a Grove — Self-Justification: An Old Retainer has been fired from his job and is under the Rashomon Gates contemplating suicide. Then he sees an old hag who is seemingly doing unspeakable things to some dead bodies. He feels so much fear and revulsion that he is willing to die before letting the hag do whatever she is doing. When he tries to stop her, the hag reveals she is robbing the corpses because she needs the money and they not. The Old Retainer realizes that he was thinking first of suicide, then of dying for a good cause, and now he understand that his feelings are nothing more than a way to justify his acts, so he chooses to do the act that benefit him the most, and steal the goods from the old hag.
The Christian New Testament begins with the four Gospels, each credit as being "The Gospel according to" a different author. This makes it Older Than Feudalism. To non-Christians, there appears to be several contradictions between them, most notably, seemingly conflicting accounts of the Resurrection.
Paul's recollection of his own history and that of the Church is slightly different to Luke's too, though both of them were summarizing a little. In discussing the possible discrepancies between the Gospels, those of Matthew, Luke, and Mark are called the synoptic gospels (i.e. the possibility disparity in the accounts of most of the events are fairly minor). John's, on the other hand, seems to be quite different from these accounts. For example, Jesus carries out none of the famous miracles, only seven "signs".
Also contains a combination of this and Perspective Flip: as you progress through the Gospels, the portrayal of Judas grows steadily less inclined towards sympathy, until by the time you get to John he's a literal monster.
Matthew had Jesus as an Expy of Moses and cited a myriad of Old Testament prophecies to really drive the whole Messiah thing home; the intended audience was probably Jews. Mark's gospel was Darker and Edgier and puts emphasis on Jesus' miracles because his audience was Christians persecuted by the Romans. Luke's gospel is Lighter and Softer, portraying a Nice Guy version of Jesus because he was targeting Gentiles who had/were considering converting. John's gospel is the most mystic-like of the four and writes a Higher Self version of Jesus to emphasize His divinity to committed Christians.
The Old Testament features two different stories of Creation, one immediately after the other: the first being the famous "And on the Xth day, God Y." Which has humans created last, while the second account has humans created before animals, and has the whole Garden of Eden story. A likely reconciliation is that the second one starts with a summary before going into Eden; Chapter 1 was "He made X and then He made Y and then He made Z" while Chapter 2 was "Look at all the stuff He made, like Ys and Zs and Xes!"
Many other stories have hugely conflicting problems in them, such as the story of David, and anyone from David to Saul to someone else to some random Israelite killing Goliath. The confusion about Goliath probably stems from there being two Goliaths. Goliath the Philistine whom David killed with the sling, and Goliath the Gittite who was killed by Elhanan at Gob.
The Lover, a novel by Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshua, is told from the viewpoints of the six major characters.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is told from the heads of something like fourteen narrators, and the only half-sane one in the entire book gets sent to an insane asylum for trying to burn his mother's steadily-decaying body in someone else's barn and while inside the asylum, goes crazy. Major points (and potentially a Ph.D) to whoever can actually figure out who's reliable and what's going on.
Absalom, Absalom! - The true story of the Sutpens is pieced together from information given by three different tellings. Each of the tellers doesn't know the whole story, and may be changing or making up some of what they say. They don't call it a precursor of the modern mystery novel for nothing.
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears is an excellent Rashomon. It features four Unreliable Narrators, all with his particular take on the same intricate series of events. As an added twist, each subsequent narrator is moved to write his own version after reading the earlier ones, so each subsequent testimony also includes clarifications, annotations, comments, criticism, refutations and fillings of the blanks. There's no "definitive version of what really happened" either.
Waved in the plot of Chronicle of a Death Foretold: the narrator is trying to reconstruct the weird circumstances surrounding the honor murder of a childhood friend, so he investigates the surviving witnesses and the court records. While not made in the traditional way, only the main facts remain with each retelling, as people can't even remember what weather was that day, and it goes down from there.
Dumbledore and Trelawney both tell different versions of the story of Trelawney's first prophecy, neither of which turns out to be exactly true.
Another interesting example features a Rashomon-style retelling twice from the same character. In The Half-Blood Prince, Professor Slughorn is so ashamed of something he did in the past, that the first Pensieve Flashback of his memory is edited to what he wishes he had done. When he is convinced to reveal the truth, the scene is replayed (magically again) without any censoring. The "edits" in the first version, however, were so obvious that Harry noticed them, even without knowing memories could be edited.
The time when James saved Snape's life crop up several times, from a few perspectives. In the first book, Dumbledore mentions to Harry in passing that James saved Snape's life and Snape never forgave him for it, because it meant he had to repay the debt before he could go back to "hating [Harry's father's] memory in peace". In the third book, when Harry calls out Snape for not being grateful to his father for saving him, Snape replies that James was only saving his own skin because the cause of near death was a prank James was playing and, had it been successful, he would have been expelled. At the end of the third book, Lupin explains that Sirius convinced Snape to enter the Shrieking Shack while he (Lupin) was transforming into a werewolf. Snape didn't know about the werewolf bit and James kept him from going all the way in. However, Snape believed that James was in on the plot the whole time.
Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion makes heavy use of this trope, weaving together the narratives of several warring family members and townspeople to illustrate the interpersonal conflicts surrounding a town-wide lumber strike. For added fun, sometimes POV shifts happen mid-sentence.
Jeff Rackham's The Rag & Bone Shop tells the story of Charles Dickens' relationship with Ellen Ternan from three different points of view: those of Ellen, Dickens' sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth, and his friend and colleague Wilkie Collins. All three suffer from various degrees of self-delusion, especially Georgina.
The first half or so of the Star Wars novel I, Jedi is one of these for the Jedi Academy Trilogy. It gives a contrasting point of view of the events of that series without actually contradicting any of it, while simultaneously filling in a variety of Plot Holes. The second half of the book tells the conclusion of the conflict that Corran Horn went to the academy to learn to deal with, which is related to, but separate from, the story of the happenings at the academy. Most consider it better than the trilogy
An odd variation on this concept is used in Quills Window. Events are portrayed objectively as they happen- the important change, however, is that different characters interpret these events in different ways. We'll see the event in question from the point of view of one character in the book, but later on it will be referenced by other characters as having had entirely different personal connotations.
Hoot has a variant. It's narrated in the third person, and as the story jumps between three main characters - Roy Eberhardt, Officer Delinko, and Curly Branitt - there are occasional narration overlaps. For instance, when Curly encounters the guard dog trainer Kalo trying to round up his dogs after the snakes are placed out, Delinko stops by and the event is described from Curly's point-of-view. In a later chapter that follows Delinko, a small summary of the same scene (from his perspective) is shown.
Used in The Bartimaeus Trilogy. All the narrators are unreliable, with Kitty being the closest to a reliable one.
Nathaniel's Badass Longcoat outfit at the beginning of the second book. Whereas Nathaniel thinks that it is, well, badass, Bartimaeus finds it completely ridiculous and Kitty proclaims it kind of stupid, though it is not clear if she just says this because she hates magicians in general or because the outfit really is stupid.
Bartimaeus' illusions of grandeur are dashed by the third-person (and therefore more accurate) narration of Nathaniel or Kitty, though of course he's always damn cool, whether he calmly asks the whiny boy to "please be quiet" or shrieks at him to "shut up!".
The Spoon River Anthology has this as one of its main conceits. Unusually for this trope, we generally get an idea of what's true — for instance, a former mayor and moral crusader is clearly a Knight Templar and murderer.
"The Moonlit Road" by Ambrose Bierce. Like Akutagawa's "In a Grove," which it may have inspired, it contains testimony from both the living and the dead.
This is explored in the Scottish novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. The story is divided into two main sections: one first-hand account of the life of a religious fanatic, and an editor's attempt to piece together relevant events a hundred years later. Essentially, both are unreliable narrators, but the Sinner's account is especially skewed towards portraying him as more noble and righteous. For instance, according to eyewitnesses, he killed his brother by stabbing him in the back from the shadows. He himself claims he shouted a warning and engaged in a duel.
This is parodied in Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing.... The characters briefly discuss how they got out of a particular jam. One remembers getting world leaders together to save the planet. Another remembers unicorns flying to their rescue. None are correct; their escape was only a simulation, and they're actually about to get blown up.
The prologues to each book of Belgariad are an excerpt from an in-universe document that gives a piece of history relevant to the book in question—for the most part these are in accord, but the last one comes from The Book of Torak, holy text of the Religion of Evil authored by (or possibly ghostwritten for by one of his Disciples) the Big Bad. It retells many of the same events but puts a radically different perspective on them- and one that Torak seems to actually believe, which really hits home just how crazy he is.
The biographies of Belgarath and Polgara disagree on exactly how a lot of things went down.
In Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, where the same story is told in 99 different ways, we have the subjective points of view of two protagonists.
The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Lucifer Rising has a version involving a futuristic surveillance system that makes only a basic record of what happens, relying on computer extrapolation to fill in the details when it's played back. It becomes both sides of a Rashomon Style dispute about what really happened in a certain conversation, producing two different extrapolations in which the speakers perform the same actions and say the same words, but the way they do it makes the difference between the version where one speaker was trying to help the other and the version where he was deliberately making matters worse.
Carrie by Stephen King contains many versions of the same events by different characters, and, in some cases, by newspapers.
Only Revolutions has one side of the story by one protagonist, the other side of the story by the other protagonist. Given the sheer length of time that the story covers, it makes sense for there to be discrepancies. However, there are more than just discrepancies, as both sides tell it in a way to make themselves look good at various points and have different recollections altogether of certain events.
The Egyptian novel Miramar (by Egypt's only Nobel Laureate for Literature, Naguib Mahfouz) is told four times in the first person from the perspective of four lodgers at a pension (a kind of boarding house) in 1960s Alexandria: the aging intellectual and former journalist Amir Wagdy; the young, wealthy, well-connected, and self-destructive scion of a once-noble family Husni Allam; the elegant broadcaster Mansour Bahi; and the factory manager and Party functionary Sarhan al-Beheiri. All four men pursue the young, uneducated, but plucky peasant woman Zohra, newly arrived from the countryside. All four stories end with the death — probably by suicide — of Sarhan. The narrators are biased but not really unreliable; they differ in their interpretation of character and motives, but don't disagree about facts.
Mahfouz used the same technique in Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth, which tells the story of Pharaoh Akhenaten's short reign and scandalous behaviour from the POV of more than a dozen different characters. Most of them agree on what happened, though why is another matter... The only thing most of them agree on is that this monotheism business died with the Pharaoh.
In his memoir Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchensdiscusses Rashomon Style when recounting an event he shared with good friend Martin Amis, who had recorded his version in his own prior memoir.
In Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, the two girls involved give their sides of the stories and their narratives overlap as the book's twist unfolds.
When Don Quixote enters the Sierra Morena at chapter XII, First Part, he hears the account of the love of Chrysostom to Marcela from the shepherd Pedro. It seems Marcela, an orphaned rich girl, in a whim decided to be shepherdess, and she is so beautiful all his City Mouses suitors have become shepherds only to woe her. She never give anyone any hope, so the Sierra Morena is full of Love Martyrs, and they are going tomorrow to the funeral of one of them, Chrysostom. Pedro describes Marcela as a good person. At the funeral, Ambrosio, Chrysostom’s best friends, accuses Marcela of cruelty against Chrysostom. When confronted by his listeners about Marcela’s character, he admits this was an Informed Flaw. Later, they read one of Chrysostom’s poems and he claims to be a Love Martyr and Marcela being cruel to him. At last, Marcela appears at the funeral and claims that she is So Beautiful, It's a Curse and, as a free, decent woman, she had the right to reject anyone. Nobody says, but everybody implies, Spurned Into Suicide.
Not present through the whole text, but events in Dirge for Prester John are sometimes told from different, and conflicting, points of view. Namely John and Hagia's narration. And Sefalet's two mouths.
Professor Mmaa's Lecture is written from the termites' viewpoint, but the epilogue has the ending (and the backstory) presented from the viewpoint of humans living near the termite mound.
Done in a subtle way in The BBC's horror MockumentaryGhostwatch. The same footage of apparent paranormal phenomena gets replayed with small differences in order to undermine the viewer's sense of reality - being broadcast in the pre-DVR days, the audience couldn't rewind and replay their own recording to check whether they really had seen what they remembered seeing.
Coupling: This trope is used to great effect. Occurs a couple of times per season. They tend to take one of two forms: each re-telling gives only fragments of the story and the big jokes are not revealed until all the pieces are fitted together, or the classic Rashomon-style subjective viewpoints, such as the party episode mentioned below in which Sally's version of events completely omits the fact that she was staggeringly drunk.
In one episode Patrick recalls his first meeting with Sally, in which they had a conversation that didn't entirely seem to make sense. Sally's recollection is that Patrick was staggeringly rude to her overweight friend, who didn't even appear in his version; the implication is that he's such a JerkassKavorka Man that the existence of unattractive women doesn't even register. Likewise, Sally's recounting has her and Patrick making out to something from Madame Butterfly, whereas Patrick's account - somewhat more accurate - has them making out to the Spider-Man theme.
The episode "The End of the Line" is another brilliant example of French bitches, lost cell phones and various Australian lovers from multiple points of view.
The episode "Nine and a Half Minutes", shows a 9.5 minute period from Sally's, Susan's and Oliver's points of view.
This happens in the Ugly Betty episode, "Crimes of Fashion" where Betty interrogates Christina, Amanda, Marc, Claire and then Alexis in order to find out which one of them pushed Christina down a staircase. Each suspect supplies a piece of the story which helps Betty build up to the final conclusion that it had to have been Daniel however, later on Betty discovers it was really Alexis who had done it, which also explained her noticeably vague and shorter story.
In the All in the Family episode "Everybody Tells the Truth" Archie, Michael, and Edith recount different versions meeting the same Italian American plumber and his black assistant (a hilarious young Ron Glass). To Archie the plumber acts and dresses like a Mafia Don while the assistant is a menacing, Black Power sign throwing street thug with a giant afro and chip on his shoulder. To Michael the plumber is a submissive blue collar flunkie while the assistant is a modern-day Stepin Fetchit; an archetype of Uncle Tomfoolery. Naturally, Edith tells the real story.
Perfect Strangers had an episode involving an encounter with a thug at a camping lodge. There was a minor subversion in that the first two stories were so over the top, nobody believed them. The police officer then asked if someone could tell him what happened without trying to sound like Indiana Jones. Everyone pointed to Balkie.
Diff'rent Strokes had an episode like this involving a burglary. Appropriately enough, the episode title was "Rashomon II".
Also used in The X-Files, usually as the basis for a comedic episode.
In season 3 episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", a famous author attempts to find out the truth behind an alien abduction by interviewing the abductees, witnesses, and FBI agents on the scene.
Notable in that the story somehow gets more confusing with each successive version of the story, and every detail added not only fails to clarify anything but actually manages to make things even less clear, and by the end of it all that's been established is that absolutely nobody involved has even the faintest idea what actually happened, up to and including the audience... and its beautiful.
Likewise, in the season 5 episode "Bad Blood", Mulder and Scully have to corroborate their stories on what to tell Skinner about why a guy who most certainly wasn't a vampire (but turned out to be anyway) got staked through the heart — by Mulder.
In Happy Days episode "Fonzie Gets Shot", Roger, Fonzie, and Potsie provide differing accounts over how the Fonz was shot in the ass.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: "The Night the Roof Fell In." Rob and Laura recount two different versions of a marital spat that ends with Rob storming out. Oddly, we get the real story from their pet goldfish.
Used in a March 2004 episode of Alias, (in which hilarity does not ensue - only ass-kicking).
Farscape, "The Ugly Truth", in which Crichton, Aeryn, Zhaan, D'Argo and Stark have to give their testimony of a conversation with Crais that ended up with a Plokavian merchant ship being blown up- each one being distorted for one reason or another. Hilariously enough, all the characters in Crichton's recollection refer to Plokavians as "Plokavoids." Not so hilariously, the judges don't comprehend the distortion and sentence all the witnesses to death until Stark takes the blame. All Plokavians perceive things in exactly the same way, with a Photographic Memory and no personal colouring of memory or false memory syndrome. To them, subjectivity is a foreign term.
"Perspectives on Christmas". In this example, the characters' perspectives differed mainly in what they were able to see and how they interpreted certain lines of dialogue (as is the norm for misunderstandings on this show), rather than blatantly skewing things in their favor as in most comedic examples.
"Shrink Rap", in which both brothers undergo 'couples' counseling and outline the events which have led to their most recent relationship collapse. In general, they have a tendency to present themselves as being a bit more wise, thoughtful, and put-upon than they probably would be in the real situation — and the other immediately calls them on it. There's also a rather amusing bit where Niles recounts a story Daphne told about a couple who would frequently experience The Immodest Orgasm right next to her bedroom wall at night, and her over-the-top efforts to show them up, culminating in this exchange:
Frasier:Hold it! Niles, you know full well that Daphne merely told us that story, she did not act it out! Niles: (genuinely confused) ...Didn't she?
Everybody Loves Raymond had an episode in which Raymond and Debra both retold the events of an afternoon. The most notable thing about this, is none of the events were actually changed in either retelling - both characters used the same lines, and the same things happened, albeit with different severity in both (example: In Debra's retelling Ray opens a can of tuna and overreacts to a small amount of spillage - in Ray's, the can almost explodes and he's rather nonchalant about it). The tone used by the characters in each version gives the exact same lines entirely different contexts.
Empty Nest: Harry and Laverne recall their first meeting at her job interview in a dispute over whether she ever promised to wear a nursing cap. In Harry's version, Laverne is a naive country bumpkin, in Laverne's she is competent and professional (perhaps overly so) and a weak and indecisive Harry defers to her.
Another episode has the characters having dinner together and reminiscing about the time the oven caught fire. They begin discussing the incident from their own perspectives. Laverne recalls Carol upset over a recent breakup while Carol recalls the same breakup left her happy. Charlie recalls he was the life of the party that night, but doesn't remember the oven catching fire. Eventually, we see what really happened from the perspective of the real culprit: Dreyfuss the dog.
The Mash episode "The Novocaine Mutiny" has Hawkeye court-martialed when Frank Burns accuses him of mutiny. While testifying, Frank speaks (and narrates) his version of events, in which he struggles heroically to treat the wounded while the other surgeons mewl and cower. During the scenes accompanying Frank's narrative he is shot in soft-focus, gleaming and white while shots of Hawk and Beej are dingy and unflattering. Hawkeye gave his version of events (which more or less, falls in line with the way the characters normally act).
Hawkeye: The Major's version of what happened was, to say the least, fascinating. It was, to say the most, perjury! No, to be fair, I have no doubt that he remembers it that way. More's the pity. And there was some truth to the story. It was October 11 and we were in Korea. Other than that...
Boomtown was built entirely around this concept, although it was abandoned shortly before cancellation. The hook was you needed everyone's perspective to know what happened, but once you had that there was no argument over what really happened. Boomtown would be better described as objectively following various characters in overlapping timelines rather than showing their subjective perspectives on a single event, as in Rashomon.
ER: "Four Corners" was hyped as being in the style of Rashomon, but ended up being more of a Perspective Flip, as rather than subjective perspectives on one event, the episode followed four separate characters (Kerry, Benton, Greene, and Carter) in separate storylines that happened to overlap at certain points. The different viewpoints were literal — if Kerry saw something from one angle, Mark saw it from another.
Smallville used this trope in the third season episode "Suspect". Lionel Luthor is shot at the Luthor mansion and the prime suspect is Jonathan Kent. After investigating a lot of people, Clark finds out that Sheriff Ethan did it.
The episode "A Trip to the Dentist", the penultimate episode of the season, was about Veronica hearing differing accounts of the party where she was date-raped.
Likewise the episode "An Echolls Family Christmas," in which Veronica gets a different perspective on the events of a poker game from all the participants.
In an episode of Magnum, P.I., Magnum listens to Rick, T.C., and Higgins explaining the events of a robbery at Rick's nightclub. Each gives a different version of the events. Magnum focuses on the details of the robbery that don't change in the retelling, and cracks the case. Played for laughs: they each tell Magnum a different version of the holdup, with many argumentative interruptions by the others and more than one Self-Serving Memory. Magnum then recounts a fourth version based on what he's heard and what he knows of his friends before revealing the bartender let the thieves in.
Power Rangers S.P.D. "Perspective" did this very poorly, showing the same three minutes of Stock Footage six times with the ADR changed, the changes limited almost entirely to the name of the character everyone else was praising. There were some slight (but implausible) edits: Jack's re-telling has Syd saying "Jack's so brave!", while Bridge's has him shooting the last of the Krybots he was fighting. A funny part is when Bridge complains how he keeps losing count of his kills in everyone's stories (this is the one scene everyone tells the same way). When it's his turn to tell his story, guess what happens...
The last Small Wonder episode (by production sequence) had Brandon, Harriet, and Jamie telling different versions of a foiled robbery. Although she can no longer talk, Vicki provides the real story when Ted connects her to the hotel TV set.
Thunder Alley: Gil and his daughter argue over who owns some rare baseball cards. Their respective flashbacks to when Gil supposedly gave them to her contradict each other.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: "Rashomama". This was a hilariously well-done episode. Nick's car is stolen — and with it all the evidence collected at a wedding where the groom's mother was murdered. The CSIs recount events to get their stories straight for when Internal Affairs questions them. Each start from listening to David the Coroner make a joke about the deceased and walking through an arch of flowers, and from there, things diverge. Sara injects her irritation with marriage, Nick thoroughly enjoys the atmosphere, Grissom waxes poetic about the floral arrangements, and Greg recalls events in film noir style.
In My Name Is Earl, one story tells how four main characters tricked each other on some stolen silverware, each "part" told from a different character's view. Interesting in that none of the accounts conflict with each other, only differing in events that the character telling the story couldn't have known about. They form one long storyline with each account following the previous instead.
Creator Greg Garcia's next series, Raising Hope, did a similar episode, where the family recall the story of how Burt was kidnapped. Each person's story isn't so much changing the perspective as adding on facts that only they could've known.
In Lizzie McGuire, Lizzie, Kate, and Tudgeman all give their P.O.V.s of a food fight. For good measure, the episode starts with the very end of the food fight. Kate and Tudgeman's stories featured ridiculous Mary Sue versions of themselves. Kate, being the Alpha Bitch, imagines herself walking around the school on a red carpet with a spotlight shining on her while everyone else gushes about how perfect she is. Tudgeman, a dorky nerd, sees himself as the star of some cross between A Beautiful Mind and The Matrix. Lizzie's version seems to be reality apart from the depiction of her parents blatantly favoring her brother.
On NewsRadio, Catherine Duke decided to leave the station, but nobody was paying attention when she was telling why she decided to leave. The station owner, Jimmy James, wants to know why Catherine left, prompting about five different versions of the story, culminating with Jimmy's impression of what happened, a nonsensical sequence combining elements from each story.
The Odd Couple has an episode that describes a party where Oscar and Blanche's marriage went on the rocks: first Oscar tells how Blanche was a drunk and Felix was a meddlesome whiner; then Blanche tells how Oscar was a lecher and Felix was a meddlesome whiner; then Felix tells how he was the life of the party and valiantly tried to save Oscar and Blanche's marriage.
Highlander: "Through a Glass Darkly" features a Rashomon-style historical flashback.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Matter of Perspective" was a holodeck-aided version of this trope. Riker has one story; the people who think Riker murdered one of their scientists have another; and Deanna Troi tells Captain Picard that both sides are telling the truth, or rather what they believe is the truth. The actual truth does come out, but only because the holodeck recreates the crime scene almost exactly and is left on "crime scene." Also, all versions of the story have common threads that are consistent between them, and those threads also help lead to the truth. Riker is absolved of the murder, however, exactly what happened between Riker and the scientist's wife is left nebulous. The possibilities left open are her seducing him, him trying to rape her, and them mutually throwing themselves at each other. Sure, we know Riker as a ladies man, but you never know... Or Riker and the wife simply misunderstood each other due to each perceiving the other's body language through their alien cultural viewpoint.
Star Trek: Voyager episode "Living Witness". We see an alien race's holographic simulation of their contact with Voyager seven hundred years ago. A combination of cultural bias and historical distortion results in the crew being portrayed as violent, immoral thugs responsible for slaughtering innocents, including a heroic leader. It falls to a copy of the Doctor to set things straight.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: "Will Goes a-Courtin'", where Will and Carlton refuse to pay Uncle Phil his rent because the air conditioner was broken. They end up having a pool party without Uncle Phil's permission, and Uncle Phil takes them to court about the whole ordeal. In court they tell outrageously different versions of the pool party:
In Will and Carlton's version, the pool party is a classy, innocent affair where everyone is in old-style bathing suits and they dance in a circle holding hands. When Uncle Phil enters, a glass of water shakes à la Jurassic Park and he rips the head off of Carlton's duckie inner tube. He also yells at the 15-year-old neighbor girl who "wandered over, crying" as Will says. ("Hit the bricks, you little tramp!")
In Uncle Phil's version, Will and Carlton are thuggish, and everyone is wearing revealing swimsuits, including the 15-year-old neighbor girl who wandered over, cheerfully saying "To hell with my parents! ...Will taught me that." Uncle Phil himself is just a meek, quiet man who accidentally steps on Carlton's inflatable duckie inner tube. He told his story second and, when stopped, pointed out the others had been allowed to tell their cock-and-bull story.
Of course, we saw the real pool party beforehand, where the party was not thuggish (but certainly not innocent), the 15-year-old neighbor wanders in on her own (not crying and not wearing a revealing swimsuit), and Uncle Phil pokes a pin in Carlton's duckie inner tube.
In one episode, Ted is dating a woman who he introduces to his friends. At first we see it from Ted's point of view - Said woman says a sentence, then one of his friends seems to interrupt her with a thinly veiled 'Shut up!'. Then, the other characters reveal that she talks a lot (something an enamoured Ted hadn't noticed), and we cut back to her talking and talking and talking...
The St Patrick's Day episode had a subtler version: we see Ted go out with Barney and have a fun, carefree night, but the following day Marshall calls him out and shows that Ted spent the entire night acting like a selfish jackass.
In "As Fast as She Can", Barney claims that when he was pulled over by a hot female officer, she asked him to get out of the car so he could do her. Robin and Marshall know that he was lying, but he denies it, and Future Ted interrupts saying that what really happened was that same cop arrested Barney for numerous moving violations and he and Stella had to bail him out.
And another episode has Marshall on the phone the entire time with different characters, learning how recent events transpired. Every scene is covered multiple times from different perspectives. At the end, he sets up a storyboard so he can go over everything with his mother and brother who, at different times, had been listening in.
In "The Ashtray" Ted, Robin and Lily tell the others about running into "The Captain" (KyleMcLachlan) at an art gallery and going to his apartment. In Ted's version the Captain is still angry at Ted for dating his ex-wife and threatens him with a harpoon gun. In Robin's version the Captain comes onto her the whole night. In Lily's story, which is the truth, Ted is stoned and Robin is drunk and the one coming onto the Captain. In all three Barney tries to inject himself in the story even though he wasn't there. Though oddly the Captain seems to corroborate Barney's story that he pulled a play on the cute art consultant that worked for the Captain.
In "Zoo or False", there is a self-contradicting example. Marshall recounts the story of how he was mugged. When Lily starts talking about getting a gun, he changes the story to say he was actually mugged by a monkey. He goes on Robin's show to tell the story, but when the zookeeper also comes on and reveals that the monkey is to be released into the wild and be separated from its mate, Marshall says he was mugged by a human. When Lily reacts to this, he waffles back and forth several times before clamming up, and the truth is never settled. Though it's worth noting that the monkey story is not at all credible.
"The Rural Juror": Liz has a series of flashbacks where a flighty Jenna glows after receiving random compliments from Liz. Later on, Jenna recalls the same events, but in her version Liz was being deliberately condescending.
"Reunion": Liz discovers she was not quite as lovable in her High School days as she thought.
Mamas Family also had an episode called "Rashomama", where Eunice, Ellen, and Naomi tell three different versions of the same story how Mama got hit on the head with a pot. The framing narrative takes place in a hospital, and at the end, Vint asks her what went on in the kitchen, and she says, "I've never seen any of you people before in my life!"
Supernatural had an episode, Tall Tales where in Dean's version of events, Sam is much more effeminate, whiny, and much more deserving of his "Captain Empathy" nickname and in Sam's version of events, Dean's sluttiness, massive appetite and stupidity are all exaggerated.
Sam (from Dean): Dean, this is a very serious investigation. We don't have time for any of your blablablablah. Blablablablah? Blah, blablablablah. Blah, blablablablablabla. (pause) Blaahh? Real Sam: Right. And that's how it really happened. I don't sound like that, Dean! Dean: That's what you sound like to me.
Later on, from Dean's POV...
Sam: But I want you to know... I'm here for you. (pause) You brave little soldier. I acknowledge your pain. Come here. (hugs him) You're too precious for this world! Real Sam: I never said that!
An episode of My Secret Identity involved a bank robbed by a singing man in a gorilla suit. Everyone told their own story to the cops, varying details like the style of music the robber used to announce his intentions, and often playing up their own role. The actual story, involving the protagonist's superpowers, was told at the end by the perp, but dismissed as a hallucination.
Series 2, episode 5 of Life on Mars has a scene told from a vindictive and sympathetic point of view. Of course, the sympathetic one is eventually portrayed to have been 100% accurate.
In the episode "Seeing is Believing", three of the main characters witness a murder and each tells the story from their preconceived ideas. It takes Fraser hypnotising them to find out the truth.
And a more subtle, easy to miss example in "Victoria's Secret": Fraser sees his old flame holding an open hand to him. Ray sees Victoria pointing a gun at Fraser. We only see Ray's perspective for a few moments, and at some distance away, so it's easy to miss.
The YTV program Radio Active does this in one episode — one student tries to find out what happened to cause a CD to get damaged, and so asks the other students. Each one had a different report on what happened in the room, how everyone acted and what happened to the CD (one student claims he caught it in his teeth after another threw it at him). The only constant in any of them is one of the students reading a comic book wearing a hat (which changes depending on who's telling it). That student's retelling consists entirely of a shot of a comic book while the voices of the other cast members can be heard babbling incoherently in the background.
Living Single does this with Khadijah and Regine. Regine is creating a raisin cookie recipe for a contest, and Khadijah shares that the secret to her grandma's famous raisin cookies was prune juice. Later, when she tastes Regine's prize-winning cookies, she accuses Regine of stealing grandma's recipe. Regine denies the theft. Regine's story paints Khadijah as a gruff, bellicose, thug, while Khadijah's story makes Regine out to be a snooty, conniving Rich Bitch. Both ladies pretend they themselves were perfectly innocent and agreeable. The one constant in both stories is that Maxine comes over in the middle of the baking, says, "I'm too lazy to cook for myself, so I'm gonna mooch off you guys," and helps herself to plum sauce for her Chinese food.
Not only is Max the one constant in each story, but she turns out to be the culprit all along; when she came over to mooch Chinese food, she inadvertently spilled plum sauce all in Regine's cookie dough, thus lending the cookies a pronounced prune flavor.
That '70s Show does this when Jackie and Hyde were explaining how they got together. In Jackie's version, Hyde is a perfect gentleman, and even calls her "my lady." Hyde's version is...simpler:
Hyde: (voice-over) I'm hangin' out in the basement like I usually do, when Jackie showed up. It was obvious she wanted me. Jackie: I want you. Hyde: It's obvious.
At the end, Donna says mutters that he wonders how the hell all this happened, and the screen blacks out and the words "What really happened" appear. It turns out the two were watching TV together when they started talking and realized they were both bored and lonely... and then they jumped each other.
Somewhat used in The Philanthropist. Every episode takes the form of a story being recounted, usually by Rist.
Subverted in the sixth season of Grey's Anatomy: after a patient death, the chief interrogates a dozen doctors about the events of the night... and it turns out that all of the accounts are perfectly consistent with each other - even the crucial distraction and oversight is shown openly (although played for laughs) all along. The episode is named "I Saw What I Saw". The facts are consistent, but the opinions are often at odds (pointed out repeatedly via Ironic Echo Cut). For instance, Alex appeared to be shaky after donating blood, but it was later revealed that he left before donating, and was actually shaky because of a phone call from Izzie.
Used in the A Different World episode "The Cat's In The Cradle", in which Dwayne and Ron are arrested by campus police for brawling with three white students from another college. There is a twist on the Rashomon style in that audience gets to see what happened right away — both Ron and two of the white students said and did things to provoke each other, while the third futilely tried to keep the incident from escalating. The fight began when one of the white students spray-painted a racial slur on Ron's car, at which point Dwayne showed up and jumped in to help. However, each party's version of the event pairs this with Self-Serving Memory — in Ron's version of the event, the attack was completely unprovoked. He downplays his antagonistic comments, unfairly depicts the one innocent student as just as aggressive as his friends, and when Dwayne arrives, he is seen meekly pleading for the attackers to "stop, stop". Similarly, the white student who tells his story claims that THEY were the innocent victims, portrays Dwayne and Ron as stereotypical street thugs and conveniently neglects to mention vandalizing Ron's car.
The television series Fame has an episode involving a student being injured during a stage performance, and the teachers of the School of the Arts questioning different eye-witnesses. Toward the end of the episode, two of the teachers are standing near a movie theater, questioning if they would ever know the truth. The theater marquee clearly shows, "Now Playing, Rashomon".
Players, "Rashocon". Before SVU, Ice-T was in a 1997 Reformed Criminal, Boxed Crook series about con men using their talents for good. This episode self-consciously used the Rashomon multi-perspective narrative structure to conceal the truth of what was happening until the surprise ending.
Dawson's Creek features this device in the episode where Dawson first discovers that Joey and Pacey are together, retelling the same day from each of principal characters' perspectives until the audience has seen the whole story of the day and how all three stories intertwine.
Hannah Montana has an episode where Miley and Jackson's dad spent the whole morning being surly and upset. Each described the same events of the previous day, portraying the other as a selfish Jerk Ass and themselves as perfect little angels. Turns out he was mad at the both of them because they forgot his 40th birthday.
Good Times: The couch catches fire. JJ, Michael, and Thelma each tell Willona what happened. Of course when each tells their story, they paint themselves in an extremely flattering light and make the others look bad. In the end, Penny tells Willona that she is the one who burned the couch and the flashback shows how she tried a cigarette and drops it into the couch when JJ says that he did not like smokers.
The Wayans Bros.: In the episode "Fire!", Shawn's newsstand burns and everyone is a suspect. Each character accuses someone else and tells the police what they think happened. Hilarity Ensues as all the stories are so over the top, especially Marlon's. He accuses Shawn, but his entire story is about him having sex with multiple women at the same time. In the end, it turns out that no one is to blame because the fire was caused by faulty wiring.
The Leverage episode "The Rashomon Job" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a news broadcast on a famous antique dagger leads Sophie, Eliot, Hardison and Parker to realize that they were all at the museum on the night it was stolen five years earlier. Hilarity Ensues as they each recount their version of events, and their recollections of each other on the night in question are somewhat skewed (Hardison seems to remember "Dr." Eliot as a psychopathic killer, and no one is able to get Sophie's accent straight), but they all ultimately agree on the sequence of events, and in the end, none of them came away with the dagger. Nate then reveals that he was there on the night in question as an investigator for the insurance company; the dagger literally fell into his hands by accident, and it provided the evidence he needed to prove that the museum owner was committing insurance fraud. The dagger had been reported stolen so the fence he had been using wouldn't spook and run. (And the tenacious security chief who threatened to bring the Leverage crew's efforts to ruin was actually a lovestruck buffoon upset with himself that he missed his chance to confess his feelings to the disguised Sophie.)
One twist used in this version is that the actor playing each character doesn't appear in any of the retellings until that character tells his or her version of events. So, for example, there's a blonde waitress who appears in every version of the story who turns out to be Parker, but before Parker tells her version the waitress isn't played by Beth Riesgraf. They also all have different perceptions of Sophie's accent — Sophie herself remembers using her normal RP; Eliot has her doing an exaggerated Cockney; Hardison remembers a mad Scotswoman; and Parker's version is... well... the best guess is an extremely mad 80-year-old Duchess who has just finished a couple of bottles of sherry. Also for extra credit, consider the order in which the stories are told and the dagger's location determined. Sophie explains that she had the dagger sent to her safe house in London, but never got it. Eliot explains that it never got there because he was driving the truck it was supposed to be on, but also never got it. Hardison explains that he had the dagger moved to storage, but never got it himself. Parker then explains that she snagged it from storage, but lost it while duct-crawling. Then Nate explains that it dropped into his hands, and he also proved that the dagger was never there to begin with. Nate also manages to spin the fact that they all foiled each other as an Aesop about how his crew is better working with one another than against, as the team was starting to crack under the larger Story Arc.
In The Invisible Man episode "Going Postal", Monroe, Hobbes, and Fawkes all tell different stories in different styles to a Psychiatrist to determine why Hobbes has snapped. Monroe's is raw documentary footage, Hobbes' is Film Noir with a Bullet Time action sequence, and Fawkes' is a Hollywood Action Movie (He tries to narrate his story the same way he narrates the show, but gets cut off by the psychiatrist when he starts quoting William Butler Yeats). When the psychiatrist points out the only thing that all three versions agree on, Fawkes uses pure Genre Savvy to conclude that it was the cause. While we figure out what more or less actually happened, several minor points are left unclear.
In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode, "Who Got Dee Pregnant?" the characters put together pieces from a Halloween party that none of them were sober enough to remember. Each version of the story makes Dee out to be more and more bird-like (she was dressed as an angel but everyone thought she was dressed as a bird), culminating in Mac's story, where she's been replaced by a live ostrich.
Done in Kenan & Kel, in the episode "I'm gonna get you Kenan", where Rigby's gets robbed. Chris tells the story with himself as the hero, Kenan tells the story with himself as the hero, and Kel...tells a story about orange soda.
In an episode of That's So Raven, Raven student-teaches Cory's class for Career Day; at the beginning of the episode, we see that Raven has a juice stain on her shirt, Cory had thrown candy on the ground, Cory's sleeve is ripped, and a painting of the teacher happened to have Raven's head through it, causing the teacher to faint. In Raven's story, she's an absolutely perfect, kind, calm person while Cory is a horrible delinquent who throws candy, purposely sprays juice on Raven's shirt, pulls away from Raven as she hugs him, ripping his shirt, and ends up smashing the portrait over Raven's head out of malice. In Cory's version, Raven's an evil monstrosity while he's a perfect angel, and everything he did was in self-defense or Raven attacking him. Larry comes in and tells the real truth: a trophy falls onto the juice and stains Raven's shirt, Larry opens the bag of marshmallows badly and it explodes, Cory's shirt gets snagged on a hook, and Raven slips, causing the portrait to fall and Cory catches it. When Raven stands up, her head goes right through the picture.
On Victorious after Trina's harness is cut in Who Did It To Trina, the cast are questioned about their motives for doing it. Tori, Jade, and Robbie give differing accounts, while Cat relays the Drake & Josh episode "I Love Sushi". Then in the end, the culprit is revealed to be Rex.
House episode "The Mistake". A patient's death caused by Chase's mistake is investigated by Stacy, the hospital lawyer, as the story is told through conflicting narratives by House and Chase.
An episode of Maude featured a party in which Maude's prized punch bowl was smashed. The next day, Maude demanded to know how it happened. Each character told the story in a different way, but despite the obvious differences, each version was heartily endorsed by the maid, Mrs. Naugatuck, with "And that's the God's honest truth!" It turned out the punch bowl had been smashed by an equally smashed Mrs. Naugatuck.
In an episode of Thirtysomething Elliot and Nancy had an argument after visiting Michael and Hope. During the visit Nancy, who had been a cheerleader in high school, was asked to perform an old routine. When analyzing the argument later, in Elliot's flashback, Nancy was being blatantly sexual toward Michael while performing the cheer. In Nancy's flashback, when Elliot led her by the arm toward the door, he was brutally grabbing her, twisting her arm. Neither of those things had actually happened during the original scene.
A Fox Kids PSA (from the pre-Power Rangers years) had two kids on the verge of a fight over a skating collision/lunch mess because each one perceived the other's actions as more belligerent than they actually were (bringing about An Aesop about looking at the other person's point of view).
MythQuest: One of the characters, Cleo, enters a Welsh myth as Blodeuwedd, but doesn't know anything about the story. She is accused of killing the king, and the trial features three versions of events, with a common dialogue. What differs mainly is the tone, mood, and timing of the conversation, indicating different motives.
The kids' series Wimzie's House uses this to teach kids that no one can remember something exactly as it was, as people tend to have bias or remember facts wrong, especially if it's over something like "whose fault it is".
Played with in Doctor Who stories featuring Omega, who blew up a star and gave the Time Lords the power source for time travel but was lost in the explosion. In the "Official" version Omega was lost accidently. However other versions imply Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society, was responsible. In Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama "Omega", it is claimed by Omega and others that Omega's assistant Vandekirian was responsible for the sabotage but unclear whether or not he was working for Rassilon. Omega himself is unsure of this. Another story is Omega claiming he murdered the Citellians due to his experiments. The 5th Doctor reveals he accidently murdered the entire Citellian race and due to Omega using his bio-data he attributes this to himself.
The Drake & Josh episode "Foam Finger" has Drake and Josh recounting their first meeting and fight as children trying to buy the last foam finger at a Padres game. Josh remembers Drake deliberately buying the last foam finger to prevent him from buying it and then thumping him over the head with it. Drake remembers Josh as an obnoxious jerk who tackled him for buying the last foam finger. Near the end, Megan brings in the guy who sold them the foam finger to tell them the real story: Drake and Josh got along really well when they met and there were no hard feelings when Drake bought the last foam finger, but Josh tackled Drake, thinking he had thumped him over the head, not knowing it was actually a toddler-aged Megan who threw a cookie at his head.
In the Masters Of Horror episode "Imprint", a single character variety is used — the disfigured prostitute tells different versions of the same tale as Christopher continues to dig deeper for the truth. Subverted at the end when it turns out that Christopher hallucinated all the prostitute's stories and is just insane.
Tom the Dancing Bug parodies this trope in "Roshomon Comics". Max's Tale and Doug's Tale disagree. The Bird's Tale is no help, because the bird only saw the top of the speech balloons, matching both previous tales. The Toaster Oven's Tale provides nothing.
The Dark Angel Chapter's history in Warhammer 40,000 has two distinctly different perspectives. From the Loyalists' point of view, the Fallen betrayed their Primarch Lion El'Johnson, and the Emperor, by staging a Traitor rebellion on their home planet while Loyalists were away fighting in the Horus Heresy. Having come home, El'Johnson was furious at seeing his planet seized from him, by his own forces no less, and bombed them into submission before a freak warp storm sparked into existence (probably sent from the Traitor's daemonic masters), and destroyed the besieged planet and whisked the surviving away.
In the other version, some of the Fallen claim that they uncovered evidence that their Primarch wasn't as loyal to the Emperor as he appeared, and was deliberately holding back his forces to join the winning the side. The Fallen were then subsequently attacked and nearly exterminated in order to keep them quiet. The freak warp storm rose up, perhaps by chance or divine intervention, and saved the lives of the true loyalists.
An independent theatre piece called The Wedding Pool. Various scenes are reenacted a couple of times, often with only minor variations in what's actually said and done, but with radically altered pacing and tone of voice.
Noises Off is a variation on this. First we see them performing ''Nothing On'' during rehearsal. Then we see the play again from back stage as everything starts to fall apart between the actors. Finally we see Nothing On on its final day as the burnt out performers start to forget the lines and blocking until the whole thing descends into chaos.
The Norman Conquests is similar — three separate plays (on three separate nights) about the same party, each set in a different place in the house.
Used in The Master Builder. Ten years before the play takes place, Solness (the title character) finished building a church tower in Hilde Wangel's hometown. After its dedication ceremony, something happened between them. Hilde says Solness basically made out with her (she was 12 or 13 at the time); Solness says he doesn't remember anything like that happening. He later agrees that it happened, but it's not clear if it really happened, or if he's just agreeing because she's a Yandere.
There is an improv game that involves characters acting out a scene multiple times. Once normally, and then from a "character's perspective". The character will be portrayed as sympathetically as possible, while the others become caricatures.
Used in The Merchant of Venice to play with the Greedy Jew trope. Launcelot, Shylock's servant, complains to his father that he's so starved in Shylock's service that his ribs are visible. However, Launcelot just spent the whole scene practicing deceptions on his father's blindness—which means that nothing he says about his appearance can really be trusted. (This is open to interpretation, since actors of all sizes have played Launcelot over the years—but even if he is skinny, you could chalk that up to a high metabolism.) The way Shylock tells it, Launcelot is a "huge feeder" who was eating him out of house and home. Of course, Shylock is a miser, so he can't really be trusted either. And so it goes... Bear in mind that it is likely that Shakespeare himself cast William Kempe in the role, who, shall we say, was not thin (he probably also played Falstaff); of course, which actor played which part in the original productions of Shakespeare's plays is not known for certain.
The first non-Visual Novel game to use this trope was arguably the 1997 Role-Playing Game hit Final Fantasy VII, much of which revolves around the Nibelheim Incident five years ago. Cloud narrates the event to the other characters, but his narration later turns out to be unreliable, and the real version of the event is finally revealed later in the game. The prequels Last Order, Before Crisis and Crisis Core also each offer greatly differing accounts on what took place, from several different perspectives.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep uses this both as narrative device and gameplay mechanic. We get the different versions of the story from the three main characters, who interpret the events of the story differently. Also, each one of them ends in an ambiguous manner. Only when we complete the three arcs we can comprehend the story as it is and get to see the true ending. Unlike most versions though, their stories don't contradict each other, they just lack all the information.
Need for Speed Carbon uses this one to tell how the character's career got suddenly cut off.
Sonic Adventure does a watered-down version. It has six different main storylines which intersect every so often, and at every intersection point the dialogue is slightly different between the versions used in each character's story. Sometimes this is used more like other examples, in which multiple characters are present at the same event, and whichever character you're playing as ends up being the one to take charge. (Example of this: The battle against E-102 Gamma. In Sonic and Tails' storylines, the character you're playing as is about to beat Gamma but Amy steps in to stop him. In Gamma's storyline, Gamma is about to beat Sonic but Amy stops him instead. Amy's storyline goes with the Sonic storyline version of events.)
This happens in Knights of the Old Republic whenever anyone talks about Darth Revan. Especially Kreia, who has her own agenda, and is an extremely Unreliable Narrator. The first game has you solve a murder mystery that plays out like this.
In Sky Gunner, the game is told from the points of view of three main characters, with two unlockable ones. The missions vary in each character's game, as they all have different tasks to take care of in each stage.
In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Dagoth Ur, Vivec, Azura, the Tribunal Temple (which worships Vivec), the Ashlanders and the Dissident Priests all have differing accounts of the last days of Lord Indoril Nerevar, placing most of the blame on his death on either the Tribunal or Dagoth Ur. Interestingly, one of the versions given by Vivec contradicts the Tribunal Temple's official stance by claiming that although he didn't kill Nerevar, he broke a vow to him and was summarily cursed for his dishonesty and impudence by Nerevar's patron, Azura. That isn't the only version given by Vivec to contradict the official stance: another of his version have him claim that he didn't kill Nerevar... but Vehk the mortal, who became Vivec the god, did.
The Dissident Priests alone have several differing accounts — that is, one of the things they criticize the Temple for is being so sensitive about different accounts of the events at Red Mountain, so they've taken it upon themselves to gather as many different accounts as they can. They don't make any claim to know which account is true, though they phrase things in a way that make clear that they find something off about the Temple's story.
In Jade Empire, early in the game you receive a cinematic narration from Master Li of the events leading up to your becoming an orphan and the destruction of the Spirit Monk temple. Later in the game, pretty much the same movie is shown from the perspective of another character....but with enough new details added to let you know what really happened.
This is particularly egregious in Imperishable Night, where, presumably, nearly the same events have to happen at least twice in a row for the Big Bad to be truly defeated (since you have to play one game being diverted first).
Scarlet Weather Rhapsody is built around this, where playing different characters is not mutually exclusive plotlines, but apparently sequential plots that merely repeat similar battles over and over. It is because Tenshi seemingly goes out of her way to repeatedly get defeated in No Holds Barred Beatdowns that she is often called a masochist. The timeline for Scarlet Weather Rhapsody shows that all routes, fights and endings happen together. And in the end, Tenshi beat everyone.
Odin Sphere toys with this. The game has five separate main characters who interact at various points throughout the game. That said, the game's presentation of events does not change with a different character, but in learning their story you often discover reasons for seemingly inexplicable actions.
Virtually the entire middle of Grand Theft Auto IV has turned into this, with two expansions telling side stories about the characters Niko meets. Interestingly, as all three protagonists are killers, the Player Punch deaths in one game are missions in the other.
Escape Velocity: Nova has an interesting method of this. By the time the player arrives on the scene, a good amount of the story has already happened, and the only way to learn all of it is to play every faction's storyline... But since you can only play one faction per playthrough, the only way to learn the full story is through Alternate Universes where the player chose different paths, resulting in wildly different outcomes and effectively making the player have different accounts of the backstory. Throwing a spanner into it is the fact that not all facts learned during a storyline applies to all the other storylines.
Override (Nova's predecessor in the series) has a more standard version — though in a twist it isn't apparent in the game itself, and it took Word of God to reveal it. Several of the storylines are mutually exclusive to do, but all of them happened (it just wasn't the same human that was involved in all of them, obviously).
One of the more hilarious quest lines to come out of World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion is "The Day That Deathwing Came," concerning the dragon's attack on the Badlands. After asking some NPCs about it, you play through three reenactments of their stories: a dwarf claims that he punched his way through a rain of burning boulders to sock Deathwing right in the face, but a gnome interrupts and describes how he used a device to make himself big enough to snatch the dragon out of the sky and hurl him all the way to Kalimdor. And then an orc explains that he was showing off his motorcycle to a bunch of lovely ladies (and a blood elf male) when the dragon arrived, so he rode his flying motorbike to the top of a mesa to duel Deathwing in a knife fight, at which point the other characters interrupt and it all dissolves into chaos.
One occurrence happens in Neverwinter Nights during the judge quest in Charwood. You are asked to find out what really happened that fateful night the children were murdered. Both lords, Jhareg and Kharlat, will tell slanted accounts of the event absolving themselves of the crime and blaming the other fully, unless you have found their respective diary, which lets you force them into telling the truth, that they were guilty in part of the crime. However, to find the real truth, you must force a confession from the demon who manipulated them both.
What makes it an example - as well as interesting - is that soon after you split you start getting odd accounts of the other side being needlessly violent - killing, destroying, and generally being evil. In Mission 39, both sides collide into one massive fight, the aftermath of which having your team realize that BOTH accounts they heard were false - they were both being manipulated into fighting the other (Incidentally, the main reason they realize this is due to timely intervention of Banjo Haran, who managed to not only save both teams from destroying each other but also freed Orson from his somewhat-captivity. Upon realizing they were tricked, the teams come together and enter the third arc - a massive Roaring Rampage of Revenge on everyone who tricked them, as well as the villains to the galaxy.
The 1995 game Eve Burst Error may have been the first video game to use such a trope. The player can switch at any time between two different characters providing different perspectives of the same events.
The Sound Novel games Machi (1998) and 428 (2008) do something similar, but with larger casts of characters.
Fate/stay night has a bit of an interesting take on this trope. Due to the Second Magic and the way the Nasuverse works in general, ALL endings, even the ones that aren't in the game, are canon.
Ever17 has two protagonists, The Kid and Takeshi. Each one appears highly competent in their own route while the other is a scared kid or a Butt Monkey. There are also some subtle differences in the way events happen and are perceived. Or so it seems. They're actually narrating two entirely different stories, and the protagonists of each route aren't whom they appear to be in the other's route.
The HentaiVisual NovelGloria does the unintentional version of this, having three separate storylines each affected by the focus character's limited perspective. The protagonist's storyline has his girlfriend acting strange and eventually leaving him; in her storyline we see that the Jerk Jock is sexually abusing her (hence the strange behavior) and she chose him over the protagonist due to Loving Force.
The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series, and its spinoffs, all base themselves off this trope. In a series of games where you need to make sure your client isn't found guilty, and find a substitute killer/kidnapper/thief/etc., you find that your client's testimony is very different from that of any witness or supposition by the prosecutor.
Homestar Runner: The Strong Bad Email "couch patch" asks where the patch on the couch in Strong Bad's basement came from. Strong Bad and several other characters then relate widely divergent versions of what happened.
Every storyline in Khaos Komix (except, of course, the first) starts with a side character recapping the events so far, which become the beginning of his or her own plot. The events and timeline remain the same, but the character interpretations vary depending on the narrator.
In the Con Screw storyline Seven Stories, Gavin tries to find out what happened at Rashocon by asking the seven major characters that had been there.
Discussed and used in a strip of Joe Loves Crappy Movies. Ironically, it was used to describe the premise of Vantage Point, which wasn't a true example: the movie has several P.O.V.s but these are completely objective and merely follow certain characters.
The Heroes of Middlecenter begins with the four main characters each showing their very different memories of the events leading to their first meeting.
The Sluggy Freelance story "Ten Minutes at a Party" jumped in and out of this mode, following different points of view alternatively and showing the occasional event according to how a given character saw it rather than how it actually happened. The real version was generally given later after the mistaken one, and the only thing that was really left ambiguous in the end was whether Broadman was shouting "Who owns you guys?" or "Who owns you cows?" after beating up two guys in cow suits.
In Blip, this is deliberately invoked (and lampshaded) by Liz, regarding the original falling out between K and Mary. Hester conjures up a replay of the event, but she was only there for the very end. Liz gives a deliberately exaggerated version, goading Mary into setting the record straight. As Mary's a cyborg, her memory is accepted as the definitive version of what happened—and Liz is hoping that an objective review of these memories will convince Mary that she wasn't completely blameless. Funnily enough, there are some details that are consistent throughout, such as K's use of Country Matters.
Wondermark, "In Which a Tale Is Recounted for Posterity". Grandpa Herschfeld uses his granddaughter's record of family history to complain about that time his wife put an empty bag of carrots back in the icebox. Grandma Herschfeld comes in to set the record straight. The Alt Text notes that "The final published account of the carrots-in-the-icebox incident reads like Rashomon."
Exiern has a sequence where the characters are visiting Tiffany's former village, and Peonie, Denver and Niels hear three conflicting accounts from the villagers on who killed her parents and the reason for her exile. None of them are correct or actually lying about what they saw, but make assumptions based on their limited information, and Tiifany herself later explains what really happened.
Rashomon is played with in the video The Season 4 Finale. In it, the usual characters are gathered as old men at the site's 30-year reunion. None of them can agree on what happened in the Season 4 Finale, each of them proposing their own self-interested version that the others claim is erroneous.
"Eyewitness Accounts," where this is played straight in which dozens of characters are recounting what happened at a mall incident.
In the stories of the Whateley Universe, several events have been told from more than one perspective, but the perspectives are usually in different stories by different authors with different main characters. A good example is what happened the night that Solange sicced hitmen on some of the main characters.
Another example shows up in Agents Of Cracked, where four major characters are trying to claim responsibility for increasing the site's traffic. Dan's version is very dark and melancholy, while Mike Vision looks like "Term-O-Vision" on LSD. Mandy's is closer to reality, but Dan is completely absent, or played by someone completely different. Sarge's version is a merge of the same office scenes and his flashbacks. It eventually turns into a bit of a mess when they all start narrating at the same time.
A few years ago, Salon.com featured an article (both links probably NSFW) written by a guy who once dated a stripper, only for the relationship to fall apart. From the guy's perspective, the woman seemed sexually adventurous on the surface but soon revealed herself through various events to be clingy, jealous and hypocritical. Then, Salon published the response from the woman, giving her perspective on the same events, which depict the guy as being emotionally-stunted, socially-inadequate and borderline deviant.
A certain 4chan thread◊ recounts the (almost certainly fictitious) story of a mugging averted by a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic keychain giving the would-be criminal second thoughts. Soon, we get the mugger's viewpoint. And then the ATM's. Things proceed to get somewhat more surreal than usual.
Oktober is a webnovel that is based around this concept.
The Codename: Kids Next Door episode Operation: R.E.P.O.R.T.: The operatives of Sector V must report a failed mission, and each point of view is done in a different style; Numbuh One's mimics TRON, Numbuh Two's is styled after superhero comic books, Numbuh Three's is told through crayon drawings, Numbuh Four's is a spoof of Dragon Ball Z, and Numbuh Five's is modeled after old cartoons, and drawn in the style of series co-creator Mo Willems.
King of the Hill episode "A Fire-Fighting We Will Go" has Hank and his friends working as volunteer firefighters and being investigated when the firehouse burns down. Each of them tries to implicate someone else for the fire:
In Dale's version, he's muscular and dedicated while Hank's a Drill Sergeant Nasty, Bill is gorging himself on pizza bagels, and Boomhauer is lazily tanning. He claims that Boomhauer knocked over his tanning lamp in the rush to leave... and then remembers throwing away a lit cigarette onto the carpet.
In Boomhauer's version everyone acts pretty much normal, but for added hilarity they all speak in his usual Motor Mouth fashion... except Boomhauer himself, who's perfectly intelligible for the first and only time in the series. He blames the fire on Bill leaving the toaster oven on after making a french bread pizza.
In Bill's version, he depicts himself as even more pathetic (ludicrously fat, completely bald); he remembers shutting off the toaster oven, but accidentally left the regular oven on after toasting marshmallows. He also mentions that he saw Dale fiddling with Hank's air tank though... Dale admits that he saw Hank's tank was low on air and swapped it with his own, because he knew Hank was the only competent one of the bunch and would need all his oxygen to save the other three when they inevitably screwed up.
In Hank's version, all of them (himself included) are depicted as children doing their usual things, but "age up" to responsible adults when the alarm bell rings. He remembers personally taking care of the cigarette, oven, and tanning lamp before leaving, but then realizes the fire must have been caused by a faulty Alamo beer sign owned by the recently-deceased Chet Elderson. Though Dale was the one who actually plugged it in, Hank shifts the blame to Chet and convinces the fire chief to just call it an electrical fire so as not to sully his name.
The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Once Upon An Ed" featured each of the Eds giving his skewed explanation of how the three of them wound up in Johnny and Plank's bedroom wall. Eddy's is basically a Marty Stu fanfic where everyone worships and grovels at his feet, Edd's is so precise you can still see the angles and guide lines for the art and has everyone being nicer and smarter than normal, and Ed's is a surreal affair where the Kankers turn into a giant monster by eating radioactive mashed potatoes and Ed fights them off with superpowers.
Eddy: Ed, your story's gettin' weird!
Cartman from South Park, with himself regarding the invention of the joke, in "Fishsticks."
An episode of SpongeBob SquarePants has Plankton and Mr. Krabs tell SpongeBob conflicting stories about how they had a falling out over the Krabby Patty secret formula. Both try to make themselves look innocent and the other look rotten. Finally Karen, Plankton's computer/wife shows footage of what actually happened.
The Simpsons did its own Rashomon, in the sequence in "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" where Bart and Mr. Burns both describe a car accident. Both, however, are exaggerating deliberately in order to get the case on their side - Bart describes Mr. Burns weaving all over, deliberately trying to run him down, and Mr. Burns describes Bart as a madman riding wildly all over the road while he desperately attempts to get out of the way. After he hits Bart, he gets out and has a Big "NO!". (Bart's story is more factual: Burns did hit Bart accidentally, but showed no remorse and instead became frustrated because now he would be late.)
An episode of Garfield and Friends, "Twice Told Tale", involved John and Garfield both trying to blame the other for a disastrous attempt at homemade yogurt. They stopped arguing when Odie refused to confirm either version as the truth.
The Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Curling Flower Spaces" has each character recounting the previous week's show (not actually aired) in different ways: Space Ghost claims he "did sex" with Sarah Jessica Parker, Zorak says he traveled through space with the rock band Boston, and Moltar recalls a profound encounter with a talking car. Space Ghost's "battle" with a loose ceiling tile is also highly disputed.
Zorak: Well, that ain't how I remember it — AT ALL! Space Ghost: What was that? Oh, the lying machine just turned on!
The only constant in each story is that Space Ghost was in fact hit by a falling ceiling tile.
Batman: The Animated Series, "P.O.V." While the actual events play out "straight" for the audience, each of the three officers narrating the events gives a different take. Bullock makes himself come off as the competent hero and says Batman screwed everything up (we know who really messed up). The rookie cop makes Batman come off as a supernatural being. Montoya more or less tells what really happened, and believed Batman was killed in the fire.
The Powerpuff Girls used this one in "The Bare Facts", where the three girls tell The Mayor their versions of what happened while he was blindfolded and kidnapped by Mojo Jojo: Blossom tells a version that focuses almost entirely on her, Bubbles tells a cutesy version depicted with crayon drawings, and Buttercup tells an action-packed film noir version. None of their versions explain that The Mayor is naked because Mojo stole his clothes when he kidnapped him.
Kappa Mikey episode "Splashomon" presents an utterly and hilariously absurd version of this. Especially silly are the stories presented by Gonard and Mikey. Gonard's story features him as a cowboy fighting an evil lobster bandit, while Mikey's is a spy epic that's so disconnected from reality it barely has a passing resemblance to what happened.
In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, "The Great Divide", both the Gan Jin and Zhang tribes have different reason to why they have been feuding for so long. The Gan Jins claim that the forefather of their tribe, Jin Wei, was attacked while transporting a sacred orb during their redemption ritual by a thief, Wei Jin, from the Zhangs. The Zhangs claim that their ancestor, Wei Jin, saw Jin Wei passed out on the ground and was returning the sacred orb to Jin Wei's tribe when they wrongfully imprisoned him for twenty years. Aang goes on to claim that Jin Wei and Wei Jin were actually two twin brothers playing a game, when Wei Jin got a penalty and spent two minutes in the box. In the end, Aang admits that he made his version up to stop the dispute.
Rugrats episode "The Trial" in which the gang tries to figure out who broke Tommy's clown lamp. It was Angelica, because she hates "that stupid lamp".
In one episode of Sushi Pack, Tako and Maguro, finding themselves on an asteroid hurtling towards Earth with no memory of how they got there, go back and recount the day's events. Both remember things happening differently, and in the full disclosure denouement, Ben tells them that they were both right and wrong.
The Boondocks, from the episode "The Story of Catcher Freeman", how the slaves were freed from Master Colonel Lynchwater's plantation:
Grandad tells a stereotypical action movie plot, with escaped slave Catcher Freeman as The Hero and "a black-ass-Batman"; Thelma as a vapid but attractive Damsel in Distress; Master Colonel as an ass; and Tobias, as a generally useless race traitor house slave who wrote the world's first film script... before films were invented.
Ruckus tells a backward Card-Carrying Villain story, with "Catch-A-Freeman" as a superhuman, slave-catching slave/attack dog; Thelma as a cackling, scheming "hi-yella mulatto Jezebel hussy"; Master Colonel as a normal, well-intentioned man attempting to civilize the slaves harassing him; and Tobias as Master's favorite slave, and most definitely not the Colonels son and... a generally useless race traitor.
Huey finally sets both of them straight with the true version, from the internet, which shows: Catcher Freeman and Tobias were the same person, Master Colonel's illegitimate slave son, a Fake Ultimate Hero, a writing genius, and... a generally useless race traitor. Thelma was The Hero, and Master Colonel was a fairly decent slavemaster leaving Ruckus and Grandad in an agreement to disagree with each other, but moreso Huey.
The episode ends while Riley tries to tell his own, intentionally inaccurate story.
Happens in the Johnny Bravo episode "Rashomoron". Interestingly enough, the first story is the closest to the truth (except for the unicorn), and the episode ends with Johnny's account, which is barely even the same plot. It then turns out that there really WAS a Unicorn.
In the Invader Zim episode "Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mystery", Dib and Zim ends up on the title Show Within a Show to give their viewpoints on a piece of footage by Dib catching Zim and GIR out of costumes on tape, and end up bringing in Gaz and an anonymous bystander called "Stacy" (who is definitively not GIR with his face blurred by the programme) who also give their viewpoints. Dib presents the footage as a dramatic 'human foils alien's sinister ploy' with Gaz as a Neutral Female, Zim's version has Dib being a bully who blackmails Zim with fake footage for his lunch money. Gaz presents the entire scene as Dib and Zim being drooling morons incapable of anything but grunting noises (but most likely presents the real reason why the tape ended prematurely; she kicked Dib in the shin). And "Stacy"... Tells a wonderful tale about a giant squirrel. We'd tell you how it ends, but you wouldn't believe us.
Presenter: ...What does that have to do with anything?! "Stacy": Me and the squirrel are friends.
The Arthur episode "Arthur's Family Feud". Also, "D.W.'s Snowball". The snowball one is especially interesting, because the most outrageous version of events (Buster's story that D.W.'s snowball was stolen by space aliens) actually turns out to be the correct one.
In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Speaking Terms", Rocko and Heffer are on a trashy talk show discussing how Heffer forgot Rocko's birthday.
Clerks occasionally features Randall recollecting how the duo gets into a certain situation, usually involving Randall dressed as a gentleman, or being absurdly intelligent, while Dante is in a diaper, swinging a cat around by its tail, saying things like "I'm the biggest idiot ever!"—even for an event that had just happened some minutes before (the two getting locked in the freezer) and which, without exception, would be Randall's fault in the first place.
In one episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters the viewfinder the Gromble uses to read the students' memories of their scares breaks down, so he just tries asking the Power Trio how they managed to scare everyone at the opera. Ickus recounts the story as a Film Noir (with him as the hero) while Oblina recounts it by casting herself as an imperturbable Mary Sue superheroine. The Gromble, annoyed by their blatant fabrications, asks the less egotistical Krumm what happened, but he narrates a childish, simplistic set of events that only clearly indicates that Ickus and Oblina spent most of the assignment arguing. Finally the viewfinder is fixed and he forces all three of them on it to determine the true course of events — it turns out that the three kept screwing up the basic parts of the plan until they accidentally landed in the middle of the concert floor, at which point they panicked but fortunately so did the humans they landed in front of and soon the entire building was evacuated. Needless to say, the Gromble was only too happy to punish them for lying.
One episode open with the Trio and Irwin dangling from a rope over a pit. Irwin asks how they got into that mess and the others conclude that it was due to them meeting Grim. Billy and Grim's versions are radically different with the former's portraying him and Mandy as Space Rangers who go on an adventure across the earth to gather Grim's skull, robe, and scythe to fully summon him who then agrees to be their friend for summoning him. Grim's is sympathetic and portrays himself as a hotshot in the underworld who lost to an evil Mandy in a duel and had to be her friend/servant as a result. Mandy gets fed up with their tall tales and briefly sums up the pilot episode as it happened while clips play. Everyone dismisses this story, with Grim saying "Oh please, that didn't even look like us". Irwin is amazed at the stories but then says he was asking how they ended up hanging on the rope. It acts like a lead in to another Rashomon-style story, but the episode ends as they fall or get eaten by whatever they're hanging over.
A variation in the pseudo Picnic Episode has Billy preparing food to leave for it, though each other character in the house (Grim, Mandy, and Billy's mom) rejects his idea by recounting what happened last time: Billy, Mandy, and Grim have their picnic, Billy asks for the egg salad, then a sasquatch jumps out from a bush and runs off with the screaming Billy. Billy's dad then comes in, but his recounting shows him putting on the sasquatch costume before jumping out.
In one of the "Slappy Squirrel" shorts on Animaniacs, Slappy is on trial for the assault of her perennial nemesis Walter Wolf. The three witnesses called are Slappy's nephew Skippy (who portrays Slappy as an angelic Friend to All Living Things and Walter as a horrible monster), Walter (who portrays himself as an angelic Friend to All Living Things and Slappy as an evil, child-hating hag), and Slappy (who freely confesses to not only the initial accusation but a lot more screwball antics, including blowing the plaintiff to smithereens).
In an Alvin and the Chipmunks episode, each chipmunk has a different version of how Dave's piano got destroyed and had instant pudding in it. Alvin, Simon, and Theodore notably each paint themselves as an innocent, unwilling victim of the situation while their two respective siblings are portrayed as more bullying figures.
One episode of The New Adventures of He-Man revolves around the Battle of the Quagmi Swamp. Good guys Hydron and Flipshot, as well as bad guys Flogg and Slushhead, each have their own version of what happened during the battle. Naturally, in every case, the one telling their version exaggerates his role and makes himself look like the hero. Unlike a lot of examples (but like Rashomon), the real events are never revealed, and the audience has to draw their own conclusions regarding what parts of whose story are true.
Camp Candy combined this with How We Got Here in one episode. The episode opens with John putting out a fire where the mess hall used to be and openly wondering what happened. We then see one of the campers writing a note to her parents taking the blame for the fire and explaining why she's leaving the camp. We then see another camper doing the same while exonerating the previous camper. This goes on until John finds them all waiting for the bus to take them home and explains that he saw and fixed all their mistakes. His assistant finally reveals what really happened: a meteorite hit the gas line.