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Divine Misfile

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"In my defense, when I first arrived, and you said 'You — Eleanor Shellstrop — are dead, and you're in the Good Place', I had no reason to think that was a mistake."
Eleanor Shellstrop, The Good Place, "Most Improved Player"

Your character has suffered a terrible accident, they've shuffled off the mortal coil and they're headed into the light... But wait, who's that guy with a clipboard.

Oops, looks like there's been a mistake and the Celestial Bureaucracy has accidentally sent their soul to the wrong place, assuming they're supposed to be dead in the first place. Hijinks ensue as the characters attempt to rectify their situation.

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On rare occasions a misfiling might affect someone while they're still alive, though usually it involves their afterlife.

Supertrope to Rerouted from Heaven. May involve a Near-Death Experience.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Yu Yu Hakusho: The protagonist gets hit by a truck while shoving a kid out of the way in the first chapter. Because he wasn't usually that sort of person it catches the Shinigami off guard and he's given the opportunity to earn a resurrection through good deeds as a ghost.

Comic Books

  • Kid Eternity: The original Kid Eternity gained his powers after a freak accident of fate caused him to die over fifty years ahead of schedule. In order to restore him back to the living, the divine bureaucrats reclassified him as a superhero, which also gave him the ability to summon gods, heroes, and fictional beings.
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Comic Strips

  • The Far Side: In this comic, a man has been sent to Hog Heaven due to an unfortunate celestial error.

Film-Animated

  • Soul: The trailer shows two of the abstract line-figures discussing the number of souls going into the great beyond, right after Joe discovers his body is still alive in the hospital.
    The count, is off.

Film-Live Action

Literature

  • Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio: One story has the protagonist go to hell, be sentenced to reincarnation as a sheep by Yama, and is struggling to free himself from the sheep skin being forced on him when a clerk comes in and says he wasn't supposed to die yet. Causing him to wake up with a scrap of wool still attached to his arm.
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Live-Action TV

  • The Good Place
    • The premise of the first season involves "Arizona Trashbag" Eleanor Shellstrop being given a spot in the Good Place - the setting's -equivalent of Heaven - due to the fact that she shares the name of an accomplished humanitarian that happened to die at the same time and place as her. For over half of the season, Eleanor and Chidi work to make sure that this is kept secret so that Eleanor will not have to go to the Bad Place (Hell). Of course the season finale reveals that Eleanor was not misfiled; she (as well as Chidi, Jason and Tahani) are all in that neighborhood by design. The neighborhood is actually a carefully crafted torture-chamber in the Bad Place made to look like a Good Place by Michael.
    • In Season 3, it is revealed that the moral point system used to judge humans in the afterlife was not designed to take into account the interconnected nature of the modern world and thus there has not been a single person who had entered the Good Place in over five-hundred years, nor does it take into account that humans are capable of improving themselves if given ample opportunity, meaning that every human being being tortured in the Bad Place since the Age of Exploration has been a victim of a misfile-induced Morton's Fork and a gross-misunderstanding of the humans the afterlife is meant to cater to.

Mythology and Folklore

  • This tends to be a common feature of Near Death Experiences in people from East Asian cultures whose mythology includes a Celestial Bureaucracy. Usually they're told that a different person with a similar name was meant to die instead of them.

Visual Novels

Webcomics

  • Becoming Blizzard: In one arc, Blizzard dies during an appendectomy, gets sent to Hell, and spends some time reliving "Bear Trek" episodes until his guardian angel comes to get him. Turns out Richard Nixon had been put in charge of paperwork.
  • Misfile: The comic's story is set into motion when a less-than-competent angel left to oversee Heaven's bookkeeping accidentally loses two sheets from someone's life file and stores another person's in the wrong cabinet, deaging the first person by two years and turning the second from a boy to a girl.

Western Animation

  • Family Guy:
    • One episode sees Peter being claimed by Death after declaring himself dead in an attempt to get out of paying a hospital bill.
    • Another episode has Quagmire pretending to have died of a heart attack in order to escape his Yandere wife Joan. Death shows up at the funeral looking to claim him, believing Quagmire's death was legitimate, although Death always thought his cause of death would have been from rectal trauma.
  • Garfield: His 9 Lives: In the animated adaptation, Garfield ends up in heaven after his final life, only to be told heaven's computers are on the fritz and they've lost the record of which life he's on. He decides to fib and gets eight more lives for both himself and Odie.

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