"This is not The Greatest Song in the World, no.You are one of the Big Damn Heroes. You've stormed the Evil Stronghold, rescued the Distressed Damsel, killed The Dragon, defeated the Big Bad, and even put the Sealed Evil in a Can they were worshiping in its place. Too bad you won't be aware enough of your own faculties to enjoy your victory. For some reason, one of the common rewards for a hero's victory is a one-way, all expenses paid trip to the Land of the Empty Mind, courtesy of Applied Phlebotinum Airlines. Maybe the Powers That Be decided they became too powerful during their journey to remain as they are, or they discovered some Earth-shattering secret about life, the universe, and everything that needs to be kept under wraps, or maybe they did it to themselves, in an ill-fated attempt to just live a normal life or realize their dreams, but whatever the case, shortly after their final victory over the Forces of Darkness, they become amnesiac derelicts who can't even remember their own name. ... in extreme cases, that is. Most of the time, it's just a form of Brought Down to Normal that can also undo any Character Development. Now that's a reward for saving the world! If Time Travel or Reality Warping is involved, victory may mean the past was rewritten so that the threat never existed in the first place, and neither did the struggles against it, even for the heroes. Sometimes, to add insult to injury, whatever they did to stop those forces in the first place is only temporary, requiring them to regain their memories so they can put an end to it, once and for all. If the mind wipe was self-induced, Always Need What You Gave Up. As with its supertrope, The Greatest Story Never Told, this is sometimes a component of a Bittersweet Ending.
This is just a tribute.
Couldn't remember The Greatest Song in the World, no.
This is a tribute."
This is just a tribute.
Couldn't remember The Greatest Song in the World, no.
This is a tribute."
— Tenacious D, "Tribute"
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Anime and Manga
- In episode 17 of B-Daman Crossfire, Riki and Dracyan defeats Basara in Break Bomber, but Basara and Double Drazerous forcing them to use their special move SIX TIMES in order to win resulted in Dracyan losing his memories.
- A variant occurs in Fullmetal Alchemist: Ed deconstructs Pride and reconstitutes him as a helpless human baby. In the epilogue, he's grown up to be a seemingly ordinary child, with no memory of the horrible things he did as a homunculus.
- In the 2003 anime version, Al gets his body back at the end and is happy - but has no memory of the events of the series.
- At the end of Pokémon: The First Movie, Mewtwo erases all memories of him and the clones he created from the protagonists, to both protect himself from Team Rocket's boss and maintain some semblance of continuity.
- Unfortunately the former doesn't take, as seen in Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns. At the end of that movie, he lets the protagonists keep their memories at their request He does get the one he missed the first time around, erasing all memories of the incident except for the fact that he lost.. Later movies don't even try the latter.
- Rave Master: Elie saves the whole universe from being destroyed in a massive explosion. Her second case of amnesia was induced by either repressing her memories because she also 'killed' Haru, the boy she loved, in the process or using so much etherion.
- Usagi does this in addition to a Reset Button at the end of the first season of Sailor Moon. This was the classic way to end a Magical Girl series; that the show was popular enough to undo this was actually quite subversive at the time. But then, Sailor Moon both made and broke Magical Girl tropes. Oh, and this doesn't happen in the manga, where the girls simply keep their memories.
- Tekkaman Blade. After finally beating down the Radam forces (or at least his family-turned evil), D-Boy ends up getting amnesiac for real. In the sequel, though, he got better
- He had actually been amnesiac for a while before that - since right about the moment he set off for the Final Battle. He won the entire fight with Omega because the one thing that was left after his memory, personality, and even skills like speech were broken down was Unstoppable Rage.
- Happens in Wedding Peach, which isn't surprising given how similar Wedding Peach is to Sailor Moon. The OVA series gives the girls their memories back, too; and, again, the manga doesn't do this.
- That's rather misleading and wrong. Technically Wedding Peach for the most part averts this trope since unlike Sailor Moon it was not used in the TV series. It was actually created for the OVA series and then promptly retconned for the girls in the very same episode it was introduced.
- Kudou Yoji in Weiß Kreuz Gluhen ends the series with a case of Victory Guided Amnesia following a Disney Death - arguably the best-case scenario, given the character's state throughout the series.
- Pharaoh Atem in Yu-Gi-Oh! wiped his own memory and all existence of his very name from history after his initial defeat of Thief King Bakura and Zorc, only to have to scramble to regain both millennia later after both baddies return.
- A borderline (And very depressing) case of this combined with A Fate Worse Than Death at the end of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam : After the defeat of Big Bad Paptimus Scirocco, the dying Scirocco, impaled on the nosecone of the Zeta Gundam's Waverider mode, uses his last bit of Newtype power to completely shatter Kamille's mind, making him not only forget everything that's happened up until then, but basically putting him in a greatly diminished state of mind that is somewhere between vegetable and a young child. He gets better by the end of ZZ Gundam, though. And not before he spends several episodes of ZZ's second half as a Rare Male Example of The Ophelia, either.
- A Certain Magical Index has a subverted example at the end of the series' very first arc. When Index goes Brainwashed and Crazy on her friends, she casts the spell "Dragon Breath" that causes feathers to fall from the sky. Coming into physical contact with just a single one is instantly fatal. When Touma undoes her brainwashing with his Imagine Breaker, he gets distracted by relief and one of the feathers graze his head. He survives due to Plot Armor but as a result of brain damage, all of his memories are destroyed permanently. He's fully aware of what happened but he can't undo it so he keeps it a secret and pretends nothing's wrong to keep his True Companions from worrying. He's so good at it in fact that neither of his primary Love Interests figure it out until very late into the novels.
- Another features this as a natural side effect of successfully breaking class 3's curse. The cause of the curse is the presence of a student who is, in fact, Dead All Along. The protagonists learn that if you find and kill that student, the curse goes away for that year. However, because memories are implanted to hide the "Extra", those false memories go away instantly. How fast depends on how aware you were of what had happened. As the first one to do it and our protagonists are able to leave behind a message for future students of class 3 to try and make them aware.
- The 3rd movie of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion) has this in an ominous sense; in fact it might even be an inversion depending on the viewers perspective. Homura takes over the God position of Madoka and creates a new world where both Madoka, Sayaka, and possibly other former witches are still alive. The new world, essentially, is one that every magical girl says they want. Sayaka and Madoka's memories are bound too; with Sayaka slowly getting Wistful Amnesia. However, Madoka's eyes still flicker gold indicating her power is still there. The whole thing is a Sequel Hook.
- Humanity as a whole gets this in the finale of Dragon Ball. The human race spent the arc being terrorized, then killed by Majin Buu. In the final battle, the whole of Earth contributes its power to Goku's Spirit Bomb to destroy Buu once and for all. When the dust clears, all that remains is Fat Buu, a part of Buu that had befriended Mr. Satan and turned good. Because of this, protagonists use their next chance to wish on the Dragonballs to make humanity forget about Buu, so that Fat Buu can live peacefully on Earth.
- In a Retcon to explain the amnesia of Namor the Sub-Mariner in his first post-Golden Age reappearance, it was later said that in his final battle with the powerful psychic Destine, Namor was hypnotically commanded to fly as far as his little wings could take him, and simultaneously to forget his own identity. He wound up spending nearly a decade (or several, after the Sliding Timescale got through with him) as an amnesiac derelict in the Bowery with a fear of water.
- Marvel Comics' The Sentry - the world's greatest hero - saved the world from The Void, then makes everyone forget they ever heard of or met him, and he forgets he's a superhero. It takes The Void returning for him to remember, and slowly others do too. Note that is entirely Retcon... The Sentry was created with this Back Story already in place.
- Occurs when Zach and Jenny return from the Door At the Edge of the Universe in the first volume of Scott McCloud's Zot!
- Tintin and his friends didn't so much save the day in Flight 714 as save themselves from the bad guys, but either way their memories (as well as those of the bad guys) are wiped by aliens at the end of the story, leaving only Snowy in the know.
- Gaara after her brush with death in the Naruto fanfic Echoes.
- In the Lilo & Stitch fanfic Starlight, Dulmer and Lucsly are worried that Lilo, Stitch and Nani keeping their memories of their trip to the future will corrupt the timeline, considering the lasting effects they had on each's personality, so they wipe the events from their minds.
- Slade in the Ranma ˝/Van Dread/Tekkaman Blade crossover Tekka Dread, when he died for a second time, then revived, pulling off a Big Damn Heroes moment. His revival came with the price of losing all memory of who he is and what had happened. Everyone tried their hardest to help Slade Remember who he is, but fail. He does get better, though.
- The good aliens do this to the protagonists of Dude, Where's My Car? and all the innocent bystanders who watched them save the universe. This has the side effect of completely undoing all of their Character Development.
- And then they send them gifts thanking them for doing what they don't remember doing, prompting yet another "How wasted were we last night?"
- This happens to any Man in Black from Men in Black once they leave the service.
- In the backstory of the movie Hook, Peter Pan got this after he left Neverland. Much of the plot hinges on him (now grown up) needing to relearn his basic heroic abilities (fighting and flying) in order to defeat a vengeful Captain Hook.
- After the protagonists finish playing Jumanji, time is reset back to 1969, before Alan and Sarah started playing the game. They remember the whole thing but Judy and Peter apparently don't remember, presumably because time was reset to before they were born.
- Used once or twice in the original Oz books by L. Frank Baum, where the heroes tricked the villains into drinking from a fountain containing the Water of Oblivion — an amnesiac formula so powerful, it left the drinker still able to walk and talk...but not much else.
- In Kristen Britain's The High Kings Tomb, the heroine saves the day by suddenly becoming the avatar of the god of death and dealing a supernatural smackdown to a bunch of Mooks. Then said god of death wipes her memory to allow her to go back to a normal life.
- Michael Crichton's Sphere. Doubles as a Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
- The ending to Sphere is open to interpretation. I always thought the one chick that seems to be more in control of her manifestations decided to keep her power and use it to make the others forget. But it's hard to tell exactly what's going on because of the fact that the narrator gets/claims amnesia.
- At the end of Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, the Lady chooses that John Rowlands forget everything that happened so he will not have to remember that his wife Blodwen was the evil White Rider. Merriman wipes the memories of the Drews and of Bran Davies.
- In Will Eliot's The Pilo Family Circus, ex-clown protagonist Jamie uses some of his wishing powder to erase his memories of the circus. It doesn't work too well, as the Eldritch Abominations imprisoned below the circus - along with Jamie's boss, Gonko- keep trying to remind him of his experiences. And since he still has half a bag of wishing powder left, it's implied that he will one day use it to restore his lost memories, with catastrophic results.
- In The Chronicles of Narnia, the four Pevensie children apparently entirely forget their lives outside of Narnia in the years that they rule (where do they think their parents are, then?). Then they're yanked back to our world. Susan rationalizes that it was all a fantasy after her last trip since she is told by Aslan that she'd never return to Narnia, so the alternative was too painful for her.
- In at least two of Andre Norton's novels (Android at Arms and The Crystal Gryphon) one protagonist wins the day by calling forth a powerful force that acts through them - but since they weren't in control at the time, they can't remember exactly what they did, or how. The latter had a sequel, in which the hero eventually learned to use power himself, without losing his own identity in the process.
- In the fourth book of the Sword of Truth series, Temple of the Winds, Richard is only allowed to leave the temple by losing all the knowledge he gained from entering (which is to say, quite literally, everything there is to know about being a War Wizard; it's perhaps the only part of the series where he is in full control of his abilities). Perhaps an odd example, as he does remember the events that happened.
- In Stephen King's IT, the children (except for Mike Hanlon) begin to forget almost as soon as they beat IT and most of the as-adults portion of the novel is spent with them trying to remember. Once they beat IT the second time, their memories fade again (including Mike's) within weeks.
- At the end of Brave Story, Wataru can still remember his journey... but it's stated that he will forget slowly, instead of all at once. This is especially sad, as he used his wish to keep all of his friends in Vision safe.
- In The Eternity Code, Artemis Fowl comes up with a scheme that will let him reclaim the stolen C Cube, but he requires fairy technology and the only thing he can offer in exchange is his own memories of them (which they long wanted to erase to maintain The Masquerade). Of course, being the Magnificent Bastard he is, Artemis finds a workaround...
- In The Hounds of the Morrigan, the Dagda erases the memories of the two Kid Heroes—presumably because they saw an absolutely horrifying Gorn-tastic battle. However, he favors them always afterwards, and gives them back gifts from their journey—such as the Hidden Valley's daisy-patterned china, their ship kite, and, best of all, their friend Cooroo the fox.
- In Passage to Dawn, the 10th book of The Legend of Drizzt, Harkle Harpell uses a spell called "The Fog of Fate" to help the heroes solve a riddle. He ends up giving them too many hints, straining the limits of the spell, and as a result, is catapulted back home, having lost all memory of his participation in the quest.
- In Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom novel Magic to the Bone, Allie throws around a lot of magic at the climax. It has already been established that using magic can cause holes in her memory.
- The last book of Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series ends with Roland finally reaching the Tower after years of questing, only for it to show him a sort of presentation outlining his many failings as a person, then sending his soul back in time to the start of the first book. He has just enough time to be horrified before his memory is reset, and is offered only the possibility that events might unfold differently next time around. King realized that
it was a bad endingnot all readers would be satisfied by the ending, so he included a message right before Roland enters the Tower, telling them it was OK to stop here if they wanted to preserve the mystery.
Live Action TV
- Both the classic and the new series of Doctor Who have used this trope.
- In the fourth season finale of the Doctor Who revival, companion Donna Noble gains the Doctor's memories and brain power and uses it to defeat the Daleks. Afterwards, the Doctor reveals that the mind of a Time Lord is too much for a human brain to handle and, to save Donna's life, he wipes her memory of everything she experienced since meeting him. He warns her family that if she ever finds out about her adventures her mind will destroy itself.
- The classic series used this in "The Invasion of Time", where an aftereffect of the super weapon he'd just built erased his memory of said weapon, as well as The Plan he'd just executed (and screwed up).
- And at the end of "The War Games" too; after calling down the Deus ex Machina - the Time Lords - companions Jamie and Zoe have their memories of all their adventures (bar the first) with the Doctor wiped and are sent back home.
- "The Day of the Doctor" has this for the past versions of himself the Eleventh Doctor interacted with. Due to their meeting throwing their Timeline out of sync, the past Doctors will not clearly remember what happened once they came together. Until the Doctor reaches that point via The Slow Path, he'll never know that he was able to save Gallifrey instead of being forced to destroy it.
- Happened to Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1 both times he returned from Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence. But not completely; he was left with a certain degree of knowledge he had gained whilst ascended, and the potential to remember more of it (later becoming a major plot point).
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Clues" deals with the crew realising they've lost an entire day, though they didn't really win or lose the "battle" fought during that day - they just reached a stalemate for which one of the requirements was a mind wipe. The first attempt failed because Data was immune; the second time, the crew agreed to it (and Data agreed to help cover it up), but they missed some details. The third time, they fixed those details and it finally worked.
- Set up ahead of time in one episode of Dollhouse. Echo and several other Actives are given their original functional memories (without any declarative ones) and allowed to do as they please so that they can fulfill the desires that are causing trouble in brainwiping them later. As soon as they finish whatever it is they set out to do, they black out, leaving them ready to be put back in the chair.
- On Twice in a Lifetime recently deceased people would be granted a chance to go back in time and convince their past self to make better choices in life. Once they succeeded they were returned to the present where in the new timeline they were still alive and leading a good life. They would briefly remember both timelines but then the memories of their time travel adventure would disappear and they would only remember the new version of events.
- The Outer Limits (1963):
- In "Fun and Games", a random man and woman who have never met get abducted by an alien and forced to complete in Gladiator Games against two similarly abducted aliens, and the losers get their home planet destroyed. The human team bonds and eventually manages to win, saving Earth. Their captor rewards them for their victory by returning them to Earth, but erases their memories of the whole experience, including of each other. The final scene shows the two perfect strangers passing each other with barely a glance.
- Played With in "The Premonition". A test pilot and his wife have an adventure while Just One Second Out of Sync with the timestream, including rescuing their daughter from being run over by a truck. Since they return to normal time at the same moment they left it, they seem to forget the entire experience... but somehow they remember enough to make sure their daughter is all right, leading to the episode's Title Drop.
- As quoted above, the Tenacious D song "Tribute" is a tribute to the "greatest song in the world" that Jack and K.G. performed to defend themselves from the Devil. After they win, the actual song fades from memory, but they know it wasn't anything like "Tribute" itself.
- The actual song eventually appeared at the climax of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.
- In Promethean: The Created, when a Promethean reaches the New Dawn, they make a roll that basically determines whether they've been acting more human than Promethean (bonuses for fulfilling Vice or Virtue, penalties for using Transmutations). If they succeed, they've been leaning towards human and remember everything; if they fail, however, they've been leaning towards Promethean, and everything pertaining to the Pilgrimage is boiled away. Leaving them with a strong case of amnesia and likely no record of existence... but the universe no longer hates them.
- In Pokémon Live!, Mewtwo wipes Ash's memories of his appearance and the fight with Giovanni; it may have been accidental given he hit MechaMew2 with enough of Ash's memories to make him faint.
- BIONICLE: After successfully summoning the Toa in Quest for the Toa, Takua is thrown across the island and forgets everything. However it's not permanent, and Takua regains his memory in the first Mata Nui Online Game, which picks up immediately after Quest for the Toa.
- Castlevania: Julius Belmont promptly became amnesiac after he defeated Dracula and sealed him up "for good" in 1999. It took a tour through Dracula's castle 35 years later for him to regain his senses.
- Time Travel is a common cause of this. Just ask the protagonists of Final Fantasy I! Oh wait, they don't remember...
- Except they do if you're playing the GBA release; according to the scrolling text at the end, they're the ONLY ones that remember what happened.
- The NES version, on the other hand, makes it clear that the only person that will remember their victory is the player.
- Except they do if you're playing the GBA release; according to the scrolling text at the end, they're the ONLY ones that remember what happened.
- In Metal Gear Solid Mobile, Philanthropy's first mission is revealed to be a VR simulation, with a kidnapped Snake locked into the sim and taking orders from an artificial Otacon, while the real Otacon was on the sidelines, attempting to hack Snake's brain out. Eventually, he was forced to complete the simulation to get out, but, as he failed to provide the data his captors needed, his mind was wiped of the event and he was returned to Otacon. Gets especially glaring when you realise Otacon would still remember. Gets even more glaring when you realise it wouldn't even cause a real continuity problem if Snake remembered the events and would even help justify his seemingly irrational distate for VR in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
- Near the end of Overlord you discover that the Villain Protagonist Player Character was actually one of the 8 heroes who defeated his predecessor and lost his memory after being left for dead, said villain had been the Man Behind the Man and you his unwitting Dragon all along.
- Occasionally happens in the Persona games. A major problem arises when one of the crew of Innocent Sin doesn't forget in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.
- The bad ending of Shadow Hearts 2 has Yuri lose his memories and identity as a result of a curse literally wiping his soul clean. In the good ending, he commits suicide before that can happen. This lets him retain his personality (if not his memories) and his love for Alice, which lets him travel back in time to be by her side again.
- After saving the world in Soul Blazer, the Blazer (who was created by God to save the world) has returned to heaven as his work is done. A year later he misses life as a human and the girl he had met early along the way. So God turns him back into a human at his request, but with the cost of losing his memories. He pops back into existence next to the girl in a field, who remembers him and starts their relationship anew.
- This is the ending of Chrono Cross if you end the final boss battle correctly. Kill the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, save the multiverse, integrate the timelines, free Schala... and hit the mother of all reset buttons for your entire party and everything you went through, since the Gambit Pileup that led you all together never needed to occur anymore. You end the game waking up on the very beach where you first started, when you first started. With a faint memory of things you should no longer have encountered, like a fading dream.
- You pass one of these in Baldur's Gate 2. In the Spellhold asylum, one of the inmates is a former bard of repute who, in his search for the answers of the universe, is mentioned to have gotten too close to something that didn't like him poking around. You have no way of knowing what really happened, but his mental faculties are now at the level of maybe a 5-year-old, he talks about little except his "many many pretties, piled high beyond the skies" and has an infinite and inexplicable supply of precious gems.
- All over the place in Kingdom Hearts.
- At the beginning of Chain of Memories, Sora loses all recollection of the events of the first game. At the end, he gets them back, but only if he gives up his memory of this game in return.
- Done twice in 358/2 Days, where beating the second-to-last boss costs Roxas all his memories of his best friend in the world. Beating the final boss costs him every other memory.
- Also at the end of Birth by Sleep, where Terra's ultimate triumph ends with him possessed by the villain and both of them mind-wiped.
- And in the secret movie "Blank Points", where it's revealed that Ansem the Wise survived going down with his ship at the end of Kingdom Hearts II, but the end results gave him near-total amnesia.
- And once more in Coded, where Data Sora finally succeeds in rebooting the journal's data... but since he's technically part of that data, he's rebooted, too. When we see him one last time, he doesn't remember a single thing anymore.
- Both the supposed Big Bad and supposed Big Good of Arcanum, due to voluntary or involuntary isolation, are shadows of their legendary power.
- Implied in Final Fantasy VII, albeit in a very screwy way: Zack manages to achieve victory (protecting Cloud from Shinra), but Cloud is the one who ends up with amnesia.
- This is a source of trouble at the ending of Devil Survivor 2. It is possible to restore the deleted world through the power of the Akashic Records, but the problem is, you need to prove yourself stronger than your past, leading to a series of battles with shadowy monsters created from each characters' past files.
- Gage has his memories wiped in The Journeyman Project 2 at the end of the game after proving his future self's innocence. This prevents him from accidentally causing a paradox by changing his behavior when the events leading to his arrest take place.
- In 3 future Gage reviews the video of his exploits in 2 and wishes he had been allowed to remember Arthur.
- The good ending to Manhunt 2 shows Daniel waking up on a roadside not even remembering his own name. Fortunately he has an envelope on him that gives him a new identity and tells him the address where he lives. After he's had a malfunctioning microchip in his brain containing the personality of a remorseless serial killer which lead to him killing his best friend and his entire family, forgetting everything and being given a fresh start is pretty much the best ending you could hope for.
- Futurama, "The Why of Fry": Nibbler wipes Fry's memories after he saves the universe from the brainspawn.
- This is repeated several more times to the point of parody; Bender's Game shows the characters unfazed by Nibbler's speech because he forgot to erase their memories last time.
- Also, everyone on Earth (except Fry) forgot about the Brainspawn after Fry foils their invasion.
- At the end of It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown doesn't remember that he worked up the nerve to kiss the Little Red-Haired Girl at the Homecoming dance and subsequently was the life of the party.
- At the end of the Kim Possible movie "A Sitch In Time", none of the characters remember saving the future from being taken over by Shego thanks to Ron breaking the time traveling monkey that caused the whole mess to begin with.
- Transformers Prime, after Optimus Prime stops Unicron from reviving with the Matrix of Leadership, he loses his memories of the Autobot-Decepticon war. And thinks he is still Orion Pax as well as friends with Megatron.
- Codename: Kids Next Door: Monty Uno (a.k.a. Numbuh Zero) defeated the villain of The Movie by using a device created to erase the memories of decomissioned KND operatives.
- Double-sided subversion: he and his wife get better BECAUSE his son is getting a promotional transfer to another planet, with little chance of coming back.
- Dexter's Laboratory: the original final episode "Beast but not Least" has Dexter hitting Mom and Dad with a gun that erases their memories as they learned of his laboratory in order to help save the day. Monkey, then, hits Dexter with it when his mask falls off. This leads to Mandark declaring himself the winner and Dee Dee just letting it happen.
- Both Lampshaded and defied in "Ariel", an episode of Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Zachary Foxx, Nico and Nico's mentor Ariel have just saved Xanadu, a world of beings with Psychic Powers, and its leaders (the Circle of Thought) from an Eldritch Abomination. We get this exchange as the episode ends:
Zach: Will the Circle let me remember all this when we get home?
Niko: Well, one's mind belongs to one's self, Zachary. That's our strongest law.
Zach: Good, 'cause there are a few million questions I'd like to ask you!
Niko: And I might even answer some of them!