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Wistful Amnesia
There's not a word yet
For old friends who've just met
Part heaven, part space,
Or have I found my place?
Gonzo, The Muppet Movie, "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday"

Characters whose memories are wiped of certain events may retain the sense that they've lost something.

If that sounds unfulfilling, no worries. The character will often recall their memories through some token gift or heirloom left behind. They will then reunite with their lost comrades.

This is probably the most tolerated version of the Reset Button. The Aesop of this trope is usually that everything and everyone's connected, and even if you can't remember a friend, there will be a part of you that will never be the same without them.

For obvious reasons, this occurs in shows with a mystical or fantasy element, although science fiction shows can do this if they have memory-erasing Phlebotinum available. Compare Amnesiac Lover, where a present romance is forgotten.
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Examples

    Anime and Manga 
  • Rukia's existence is wiped this way when she is captured in Bleach — the only people who remember her are her True Companions. It is implied that Ichigo still vaguely remembers Senna at the end of the first movie.
  • Code Geass:
    • Lelouch uses his Geass to alter the memories of a classmate who happened to find out his role as the terrorist Zero. Psychological torture at the hands of one of his enemies left them emotionally devastated and very nearly homicidal/suicidal, so he erased all memories of himself from their mind (not just his identity as Zero). Humorously enough, everyone else at school can't seem to understand why Shirley has forgotten him, and Lelouch convinces them that the whole thing is an act the amnesia-ee is putting on because they're angry from an argument with him.
    • In the second season, the classmates all have their memories changed again: nobody remembers Nunnaly, and instead remember Rolo as Lelouch's brother. As an interesting side-effect, Shirley is back to relative normalcy- she forgot Lelouch was Zero and has a crush on him again. Another weird note is that they still remember the other missing cast members, and why they are gone.
  • In the first season finale of Keroro Gunsou, Fuyuki remembers Keroro after finding and building a Gundam model he left in the basement.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days, Kaworu is forgotten once the school year ends, and any sign of his existence disappears, but Shinji knows that someone very important was supposed to be in a certain place in a picture. However, he never remembers Kaworu, even in the Distant Finale in which Kaworu meets him one last time (or for the first time, as far as Shinji knows.)
  • In Petite Princess Yucie, Yucie gets struck with this when her friends sacrifice themselves to let her save Arc. She gets better.
  • Similarly, Kei remembers Mizuho in Please Teacher! by her trademark box of pocky.
  • The final minutes of Revolutionary Girl Utena indicate that this effect is overtaking almost the entire student body of Ohtori Academy, leading them to forget Utena ever existed. The positive changes she had on them, on the other hand, didn't seem to fade.
  • The first season of Sailor Moon ends with Usagi's wishing that she and her friends were just normal girls, and having it by the power of the Ginzuishou. This gets subverted soon after, thanks to Luna.
  • In Serial Experiments Lain Lain deletes everybody's memories of herself, and rewrites the world into a more mundane, less dangerous place. A few people almost recognize her, but decide they don't know her after all.
  • Tenchi Muyo!
    • This happens in Tenchi In Tokyo: at one point, all of Tenchi's classmates forget Sakuya ever existed, and her name is erased from the school catalog.
    • One short arc in The All-New Tenchi Muyo has Washu's Evil Twin force Washu to make the rest of the cast forget about her. Ryoko's clone, Minaho, was unaffected (due to the fact she was off-planet) and is able to get everyone to realize something's wrong. Washu restores Tenchi, Ryoko, Ayeka and Mihoshi's memories (though, Tenchi's very displeased she removed them in the first place), but Sasami remembers on her own.
  • The World God Only Knows revolves around the protagonist, Keima, driving evil spirits out of their hiding places within girls' hearts by making the girls fall in love with him. In order to maintain the Masquerade, the Underworld removes everyone else's memories of the seduction. The targeted girls retain the Character Development gained through their experiences, however, and tend to blush around Keima without knowing why.
    • Subverted in that not all of the girls have fond feelings for Keima — one thinks he ran away, while another is creeped out by this weirdo who acts like they've met before.
    • Another girl eventually gets over the amnesia and then thinks that Keima doesn't remember.
  • At the end of the Venus Versus Virus anime, everyone but Lucia and a few others begins to forget Sumire ever existed, even her family. It's unknown what happens after the end, though it's implied Sumire goes back to normal and everyone probably began recalling her existence. Averted in the manga though.
  • Although it's (probably) not intentionally induced, Yoji's amnesia at the end of Weiß Kreuz Gluhen functions in precisely this way, removing him completely from the underworld that Kritiker and Weiss occupy and allowing him to start a normal life in which he doesn't have to be an assassin. Sequel manga Weiss Side B makes the "wistful" part a little more overt with a flashback appearance: Ken visits Yoji before leaving Japan and finds that the only thing he remembers is his promise to return Aya's katana to him.
  • At the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka Kaname's mother and little brother show signs of this trope. Homura has full-fledged Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory.
    • At the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion Sayaka displays this trope when she sees Hitomi and Kyosuke in Homura's new world. She tears up and says that seeing them again has made her happy, even though she doesn't understand why. Later, an Amnesiac God Madoka says everything feels familiar when she "transfers" into her old school, but she can't help but think something has changed. She then realizes she's the one who's changed, and nearly regains her memories and powers before Homura stops her.
  • Sakura from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle contracts amnesia in the first episode, putting the whole series in motion. Although she gradually regains her memories over time, the one memory she can never recover is that of her childhood sweetheart, Syaoran. Nevertheless she still finds herself drawn to him, and the Time-Space Witch observes that "even if the mind forgets, the body still remembers."
  • At the end of Kannazuki no Miko, Himemiya is apparently erased from existence by the final ritual to seal Orochi and restore the world, but swears that she 'will be reborn'. She's disappeared from everyone's memories, AND from photographs. But when Himeko looks at several pages of herself standing alone in various locations, she starts crying without without knowing why. She also rejects a Love Confession from Oogami, because she knows that she's waiting for someone else, even though she can't remember who. It doesn't get much more wistful than that.

     Comic Books 
  • In House of M, characters who used to be heroes are now mundane and struggle with a sense of loss. Doctor Strange, now a psychologist, spends time counseling Robert Reynolds, aka The Sentry, who doesn't know what he's lost but he's certain he used to be more...
  • Spider-Man: Brand New Day: This is why Mephisto agrees to swap Aunt May's life for Peter and MJ's marriage. His payment is the mourning of the small part of their souls that remember what was.
  • Astro City has a short story where a woman was retconned out of existence, however her lover still vaguely remembers her existence. Eventually, a spirit offers to completely wipe any trace of the memory, which he declines because as painful as it was, it's all that he has left of her.

    Fan Fic 
  • In Mega Man Reawakened, Robert remembers some details of his life as a human, but they don't really start to return until he runs into Tron Bonne.
  • As part of their deaging in Til You Feel It All Around You, Zoro, Usopp and Robin don't remember anything past their current physical age. Despite not recognizing Luffy and the others, however, they feel safe around them for reasons they can't quite name. In addition, Usopp's tall tales all reference adventures they actually had together.

     Film — Animated 

     Film — Live-Action 
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: "Meet me in Montauk..."
  • Agents who retire in the Men In Black series have their own memories erased via the same memory-wiping technology they use to keep normal folks from learning that aliens exist. We find out, though, that even mindwiped, Agent K made a mess of his life because he couldn't put aside the changes his MIB lifestyle had left in him.
  • RoboCop still retains some memories of his past life as Alex Murphy even though his memory was supposed to have been blanked when he was rebuilt. Images of his family only appear to him in flashbacks.
    I can feel them ... but I can't remember them.

     Literature 
  • At the conclusion of The Dark Is Rising series, this form of amnesia is inflicted upon the Drew children and Bran Davies, as their destiny is to live in the mortal world and leave memories of the (now concluded) conflict between the Light and the Dark behind. However, Merriman tells them that they may still remember the supernatural world in dreams, and they will always carry with them a sense of the wonder that is now past.
  • This happens in Dokkoida?! after the hero's memories of the series' events are erased.
  • The Mennyms books by Sylvia Waugh are about a family of life-size rag dolls attempting to live like normal humans without being found out. In the second book, the ghost of the woman who made them drafts in her nephew, an ordinary man, to help the Mennyms when their house is threatened with demolition. He falls in love with Pilbeam Mennym, but is given amnesia at the end of the book, the stated reason being that their relationship could never work since Pilbeam will never get any older. The family certainly could have used his help in the next three books. When he returns later in the series he is married to a woman who subconsciously reminds him of Pilbeam, but even though he sees the Mennyms again he never finds out that he knew them before or that they are alive.
  • The first Tennis Shoe Adventure book begins like this, then has Jim, the main character/narrator find an old story he wrote, which gives an explanation(in story) that if he ever told, he'd forget. the next book has him remember the story.
  • In the Young Wizards books, it's said that this is what happens to wizards who give up being wizards.
  • The Exorcist book and film have one of the most beautiful examples of this. Chris tells Father Dyer that Regan remembers nothing of her hellish ordeal. But when she meets Dyer a few minutes later: She was frowning at him, as at a sudden remembrance of forgotten concern. Impulsively, she reached up her arms to him. He leaned over and she kissed him. Then she stood for a moment, still staring at him oddly. No, not at him: at his round Roman collar.
  • In Those That Wake, Laura has this in the sequel. It's averted elsewhere in the series, where no one can remember anything about the forgotten characters.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who and the Whoniverse:
    • In the two-parter "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" the Doctor's personality and memories have been wiped, replacing it with that of average school teacher John Smith. Despite being decidedly average, Smith displays the occasional feats of bravery, and has strange dreams of "the Doctor" and a blue box, which he writes stories about. His love interest Joan Redfern speculates that this is the man he wants to be. Subverted, however, that when he realises the truth, he's absolutely terrified by it, and wants to remain himself.
    • Professor Yana in "Utopia", a man who is one of the most brilliant scientists ever, but stuck at the literal end of time, unable to truly realise his greatness. He's actually the Master, and regaining his memory also makes him regain his evil personality.
    • And Donna, in the end of season 4.
    • Amy's storyline for the last few episodes of her first season involved this. Even after her fiancé is wiped from existence, and she retains no memory of him, she still finds herself crying, unable to understand why. Before she brings the Doctor back into existence, she has a similar moment with him.
    • Gwen in the Torchwood episode "Everything Changes". She manages to piece together her memories though.
  • In the last scene of Kamen Rider Ryuki's Reset Button finale, Shinji and Ren accidentally bump into each other outside of Atori. They squabble a little, and presumably leave with bad impressions of one another, but before going their separate ways, take a short moment to glance towards the other's way.
  • LOST's season 6 flashes show the characters having forgotten one another after death. Triggers restore everyone's memory, and they reunite.
  • In Once Upon a Time, all the fairytale characters lose their memories and get sent to the real world, and several of them experience this.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling The Dreaming:
    • This is the result of a changeling succumbing to Banality or having their fae mien destroyed in a way that doesn't harm their mortal seeming; with their ties to the Dreaming severed, they have — at best — hazy memories of playing "make-believe" as children and generally don't remember anything at all. They often have a feeling that "something's missing," though, and are more prone to depression than one might expect. Those who are still part of the Dreaming remember them clearly.
    • This also applies to Bedlam, too, but only to in the first stage, where the afflicted will often self-treat by leaving the fae world temporarily, and taking up a very Banal existance; this is the only one that works in the typical Reset Button way, in that the character will remember and return to their friends after a while - being overcome by Banality generally requires large infusions of glamour to fix - if there's enough left to fix - and having their fae mien destroyed almost always leaves the character beyond recovery.

     Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts II
    • The beginning uses this trope on Sora regarding Roxas's friends in Twilight Town. Although he does have an item of Roxas's, in a small subversion, he never does remember them directly, although he does learn Roxas's story.
    • Roxas himself manages to avert this, though. He knows he doesn't remember his old friend Axel, but for the most part, he really doesn't care. He's more angry that Axel keeps butting into his new life and throwing it all into chaos. The old memories are only reawakened despite Roxas' best efforts. And it still takes a long and rocky time to rekindle the friendship.
    • On the other hand, Roxas plays it totally straight in the case of Xion.
    • This also applies to Sora's friends before he wakes up. Kairi in particular is living this trope: she knows there was a boy who was very important to her, but can't remember anything else about him, and this bothers her so much she refuses to return to the small island where they used to play until she can remember everything. Riku has the same thing to a lesser extent — only "fogginess" instead of outright amnesia, thanks to the exact mechanics of the magic involved.
    • Subverted in Chain of Memories: Early on, Sora realizes he has forgotten a second girl he was friends with on Destiny Islands, including her name, and struggles (and succeeds) in remembering more and more about her. It turns out that his memories of the "other girl", Namine, are all fake, placed in his mind as the story progresses by her according to the Evil Plan of the game's Big Bad. Also inverted in that he's also losing his real memories of Kairi and doesn't even realize the loss.
    • Xemnas gives the series a villainous example. He only recalls about a year of his human life, and one of his biggest goals — even as a ChessMaster and Magnificent Bastard of literally world-destroying proportions — is simply to find the old friends he can't quite remember.
  • The entire main cast of Persona 3 (barring Aigis, who is a robot and can't be magically mind-wiped) lose all their Dark Hour-related memories in both endings — which include basically most events of the game, including lots of Character Development, the true nature of the deaths of several significant ones and the cast's memories of each other as True Companions. In the 'good' ending, it even extends to the entirety of the Earth's population to erase the rather overt appearance of Nyx, but the main characters recover their memories on graduation day. In the bad ending... They don't. And at that point it wouldn't matter to them even if they did.
    • It happened before in Persona 2. When Maya is introduced, every party member except for Yukino, who was from the first game and has a different backstory, cries. Later, it's revealed the four of them were all close friends, which led to an incident so traumatic they all decided to repress their memories.
  • Partway through Suikoden Tierkreis, the entire Magedom of Janam gets retroactively erased from history so that only the Starbearers remember it. Talking to NPCs after it happens reveals that a lot of them are now very lost because the things they'd been doing no longer make any sense. The worst is probably the guy in Salsabil Harbor who was in town because of work and wanted to pick up a souvenir for his wife; talk to him afterward and he'll happily announce that he finally found it. He says he wanted it in case he ever meets someone really special to him. Then he wonders why he's crying.
  • At the end of Chapter 10 in Vindictus, a few extra missions reveal that while no one has any direct memory of Tieve or Keaghan anymore (along with most of the second half of the season 1 storyline), remnants of their existence (such as Brynn's photo of Tieve or an old friendship ring) stir up emotions in the Colhen NPCs.

     Visual Novels 
  • The bad ending for attempting to access the Unlimited Blade Works route too early in Fate/stay night is like this, with Rin forcibly erasing all of Shirou's memories that magic exists and breaking his contract with Saber. The ending features Shirou going about his daily life as usual but with the occasional feeling that there should be more people living with him; the only person close to him that knows the truth gently convinces him that he's just imagining things in order to protect him.
    • Happens somewhat often in Tsukihime as well. Kagetsu Tohya is based on it.
  • Several examples in Princess Waltz. But the biggest is when Riko, Chris and Liliana all magically disappear from the class and are essentially forgotten. Nodoka stresses a little bit about this as she can't remember them, but knows the class is smaller than it should be and has a small remembrance of the people who are gone. Two are competing Princesses who were defeated. Chris really ought to be Princess of Soldia but is instead the Prince. Kinda. The true end is the same, only Arata is gone as well, but people remember him and Nodoka seems to remember Riko, at least. She ends up sneaking into Eldhiland after that.

     Webcomics 
  • In The Wotch, a teacher is turned into a teenage girl by one of the many Annes running around, and when s/he runs after her (and into a different Anne who doesn't know what happened) and says s/he can't live as a man with the body of a teenage girl, this other Anne fixes it... by giving him/her the mind of a teenage girl. The "new student" joins the cast, never suspecting she used to be a different person with a different life, but joins the club that's researching the strange happenings around town because she wants "to remember." The other characters figure it's her shaky English and she meant "learn," especially when she realizes she doesn't know what she meant.note 
    • In an unusual subversion, when she finally DOES remember her previous life, she decides that she doesn't actually want it back. The teacher was unmarried, had no close friends or family, and was generally disliked by the student body. In his/her new life, she has lots of friends and gets to start life over from the teenage years - albeit, as the memories of the teacher puts it, with a COUPLE of specific memories from the former life. Like his bank-account password.

     Western Animation 
  • In American Dragon Jake Long, the original series finale, the episode called "Homecoming", remade the timeline so Jake's love interest/villain's sidekick Rose never joined the Huntsclan, and thus had no memory of him. When the series was extended by an extra 13 episodes, the plan was to have Rose be in school without knowing Jake or anything about the magical world, and to have Jake try to woo her again from scratch. Disney execs vetoed that as too confusing and too arc-based for reruns, and thus Rose's family packed off to Hong Kong immediately after she meets Jake for the "first" time. Jake wishes her the best and gets on with his life.
    • She finally remembers him in the 'new' finale, "The Hong Kong Longs", thanks to a photo Jake accidentally left behind at her apartment as he was being escorted away by the cops.
  • One episode of Darkwing Duck involves alien invaders whose princess needs help overthrowing the Evil Chancellor. Afterwards Darkwing and Gosalyn have their memories wiped. What about Launchpad? He and the princess are friends from way back, so they don't wipe him.
    • Earlier in the episode the aliens only take Launchpad and wipe Darkwing and Gosalyn's memories so they go on their vacation without him (they don't forget all about Launchpad, just that he was supposed to be on the trip with them) but figure out something is wrong when their room was booked for three people and they notice they still have Launchpad's luggage with them.
  • In Adventure Time, The Ice King is under the effect of an Artifact of Doom, giving him superpowers but robbing him of all sanity and memory. While he doesn't even remember that he's lost anything, he still knows at some very deep level that he misses his beloved fiance, Betty, and the identity/existence of his adopted daughter. Unfortunately, without the memory, he reacts to the forgotten longing by kidnapping any girl that subconsciously reminds him of his fiance and bugging (and trying to romance) his adopted daughter whenever he can on the basis that he's always romancing girls and he knows she's important somehow.

     Real Life 
  • This is central to the concept of Sehnsucht, which describes a sort of bittersweet longing for something one can no longer identify or describe.
  • This is often the case of good dreams. You wake up and remember you dreamed something wonderful, but you can't recall quite what or who it was about. Or, if you recall it upon awaking, you may lose the pieces as you get up and go about your morning routine, such that by the time you get a chance to talk to a friend at lunch, you can't remember anything other than the fact that you had an awesome dream that morning.


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