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Doing In the Wizard

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You have no idea how easy it is to make yourself look like a disembodied head in a nebulous void.

Homer: Wha— Golf course? Did I dream that whole thing? ...Maybe the desert was just this sand trap. Oh, and I bet that crazy pyramid was just the pro shop. And that talkin' coyote was really just a talkin' dog.
Dog: Hi, Homer. Find your soul mate.
Homer: Hey. Wait a minute! There's no such thing as a talkin' dog.
[Dog barks]
Homer: Damn straight.

Removing a relatively poetic or mystical element (or possibility) and replacing it by way of retcon with a more "realistic" one, in a revision, sequel or other adaptation, or occasionally even just later in the same story. This is pretty common in a fantasy-to-Science Fiction situation, probably because the two aren't too different in the outcome produced — a magical invisibility ring vs. a technological cloaking device are functionally the same.

However, it tends to disgruntle fans of the original, especially when the explanation is less satisfying than the mystery. Amusingly, if the answer is in technobabble, its "reality quotient" is just as silly as the initial explanation, even if certain anti-magic Moral Guardians may like technobabble better. It can also demand a whole sequence of coincidental oddities, which (as observed by Aristotle) just makes it less convincing.

Another problem this trope might encounter is that, while fans only expect magic to have the same effect while used in the same way, the audience may be less willing to suspend disbelief when converted into hard science, unless it is prefaced with some kind of pseudoscientific material specifically stated not to follow standard physics (of course, doing this still keeps the stuff technically magic, just not, you know, magic).

When this is a External Retcon to an ancient mythology rather than the franchise's own mythos, it is called Demythification.

Compare and contrast with How Unscientific!, as well as Unscientific Science (when the "scientific" explanation is just as nonsensical as the magical one, or even more so). See also Sufficiently Advanced Alien, The Magic Goes Away, Magic Versus Science, and Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. Also compare Clarke's Third Law, which explains how the unexperienced could see technology and science as a form of magic. May overlap with All Just a Dream, Through the Eyes of Madness, and Lotus-Eater Machine, if used to reveal that the removed supernatural only existed in a character's mind; and "Scooby-Doo" Hoax and Masquerade, if it is revealed that the supernatural never existed but was faked by someone, or some group working to some end. Contrast Magic A Is Magic A and The Magic Comes Back. Has nothing to do with the execution of magic users, or with targeting them in combat situations.

The full inversion of this trope is a trope unto itself, Doing in the Scientist.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Chrono Crusade: Demons are really aliens who crash-landed in the Atlantic Ocean and are now living underwater in their mothership. So a lot of what seems 'magical' about them is really Bizarre Alien Biology or extremely advanced technology. However, this doesn't completely explain their more supernatural powers, and there's still plenty of other magical and supernatural elements that are never explained away with science. The reason why this happened, according to the mangaka BigCutieMiley at an anime con in Seattle, is that he was criticized during the manga's run for not having the demons be accurate to Christian mythology, so he pulled an Author's Saving Throw. Also, the anime adaptation didn't do this and played the supernatural elements straight the whole way through.
  • In Corrector Yui, the "magic" is actually a part of Dr. Inukai's Corrector software to counter and reverse Grosser's influence.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • When Dragon Ball gave way to Dragon Ball Z, the stories took on more of a sci-fi tone. Goku's previously inexplicable talents (and his tail) were retconned as the product of his alien biology. Him transforming into a giant monkey after looking at the full moon was given a delightfully preposterous "explanation" in terms of electromagnetic waves and hormones. Even Kami, who was for all practical purposes a god, was demoted to a strange visitor from yet another planet. Nevertheless, there were still plenty of fantasy elements, and the sci-fi aspect was downplayed in later stories.
    • In a 2017 interview, during the airing of Dragon Ball Super, Akira Toriyama did this to the Super Saiyan transformation as well, removing the mystical qualities and revealing the genetics behind it. According to him, it all comes down to something called "S-Cells" that all Saiyans naturally possess, but which are fostered by things that the average Saiyan would never achieve, like a calm heart and high fighting power. Goku was essentially the perfect combination of power, environment, and temperament to achieve Super Saiyan, which Gohan, Goten and Trunks also benefit from thanks to a relaxed lifestyle on Earth (in addition to their parentage). More high-strung characters however like Vegeta and Broly find the form much more difficult to accomplish, and no Saiyan from the time of Planet Vegeta ever canonically accomplished it.
  • When I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying adapted part of its Spin-Off series My Girlfriend Without Wasabi for an episode of its second season, it completely removed all the fantasy elements (as well as the entire supporting cast, due to episodes only being three and a half minutes in length).
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has two completely ridiculous, though ambiguous, examples.
    • The first is the mystical Stone Mask that turns its wearer into a vampire when exposed to blood, by piercing their face with spikes. The second series reveals that the mask was actually created by Kars, a member of the Pillar Men, an advanced race that eats vampires. The functionality of the Stone Mask was never truly explained though. Jonathan had a hypothesis that it worked by hitting key points inside the brain, but was unaware of the mask's supernatural qualities at the time.
    • The second is when it is revealed that Stands (Psychic Powers personified) are created through a magical Stand Arrow forged from a meteor, which grants a Stand to anyone it hits. This arrow is later revealed to be not magical, but instead contains an alien virus, and grants Stands by mutating the target's DNA. Although the true nature of the Arrows is left rather ambiguous (the less-than-accurate translation certainly didn't help the subject), while Polnareff claims it's an extraterrestrial virus that creates the effect of the arrows' material, it's made very obvious that they seem to have a will of their own and a more spiritual quality to them. The supernatural side is also present in Part 6, making the whole example controversial at best.
  • Time travel and bringing dead people back from the dead were both major plot points in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny. When the story was brought into the series' movie continuity as the Reflection/Detonation duology, it removed both of these elements (as well as the characters who showed up as a result of it) to bring it more in line with the established rule set of the main canon.
  • Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger: In the Mazinger versus Great General of Darkness, a prophet warns Boss and his gang -and later Kouji and his friends- about the imminent Mykene invasion. It turns out that in reality he was Prof. Kenzo Kabuto, father of Kouji and Shiro, who knew about the Mykene due to reasons that have nothing to do with prophecies.
    • And in episode 36 of Mazinger Z, Baron Ashura pretended being a witch.
  • An odd example occurs in Mega Man Megamix - while the abilities of the Robot Masters in the original games were all clearly technological, the bios given for them in the manga tend to rationalise them and ground them in something resembling reality. This is especially true for the more fantastical powers - for instance, Flash Man's Time Stopper is explained as a system that controls the speed of light, rather than outright control over time.
  • Naruto:
    • The Second Hokage calmly explains the actual process of causing a Sharingan to evolve. Whereas the standard method known for developing the Mangekyo is "kill your best friend", he explains that during moments of severe emotional anguish, the Uchiha's brain releases a special chakra that mutates their eyes.
    • Also, did you think Orochimaru's Curse Seals were blots on the afflicted's skin that magically empowered them at the expense of also cursing them, just like their Princess Mononoke inspiration? Nope, some 300 chapters after the Curse Seals were introduced it's revealed that they were actually developed by extracting a special enzyme from Juugo, and the power does not come directly from the Curse Seals, it's rather that the enzyme allowed Juugo to absorb energy from the surrounding nature and attain a kind of Sage Mode transformation.
  • One Piece is known for doing in certain cases once the Straw Hats reach the Grand Line. The mysteries of Skypiea and the Florian Triangle end up with SOME kind of rational explanation that makes them seem less supernatural than the readers originally thought.
    • Also, it was made clear that ships have been mysteriously disappearing in the Florian Triangle since long before Thriller Bark. At the end of the Arc in the anime, as the Straw Hats are leaving the now-abandoned Thriller Bark, a colossal shadow monster is seen watching their departure and looming over the island-ship, and has never been explained or mentioned again.
    • To date, there is exactly one supernatural occurrence that has not been given a logical or scientific explanation in-universe: The Klabautermann. It's described as a spirit that is attracted to a well-loved ship, such as the Straw Hats' Going Merry, manifesting when a ship nears the ends of its life. It's used to explain how the Merry was mysteriously repaired overnight during the Skypiea arc, but no explanation is given for the spirit itself beyond the legend.
    • Though it hasn't been talked about directly, Dr. Vegapunk, an extremely good scientist responsible for most of the world's technological revolutions apparently knows what Devil Fruits really are. The only thing close to an explanation so far is the myth giving the Devil fruits their name; being fruits of the Sea Devil, eating one will earn you the hatred of the sea itself, hence the inability to swim. As Vegapunk is almost certainly a man of science (it was his discovery that allowed weapons to "eat" devil fruits), it means that he probably knows the scientific reason behind how the fruits affect the eater's body. Ultimately though, this is Averted and the Wizard sticks around. Vegapunk does know what Devil Fruits are, and it turns out they're the manifestation of people's impossible dreams given a form that makes them possible, something that there's no way for science to explain away.
  • In Pokémon Red and Blue, Bill accidentally turns himself into a Pokémon using a teleportation machine. In Pokémon: The Original Series, he instead was stuck in a Pokémon costume.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyubey is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, not a magical creature, and he wants to prevent the universe's heat death by breaking the second law of thermodynamics. However, he does this by performing genuine miracles and drawing out real magical potential in human girls so he can collect energy generated by emotions; none of these are governed by thermodynamics or any kind of science and that's why they suit Kyubey's purpose. A rare case of also counting as Doing in the Scientist.
  • In Sailor Moon, the moon cats Luna and Artemis, who previously seemed to be just another magical element inherited from the ruined Moon Kingdom, are revealed to be from planet Mau, which seems to explain their ability to talk (and turn human). This being Sailor Moon, there's still plenty of magic behind almost any "aliens" that appear in the story, but it was still a noticeable retcon — an earlier side story The Lover of Princess Kaguya (basis for the Sailor Moon S Non-Serial Movie) where Luna falls in love with a human man has her lamenting being "just a cat"; while it seems to be implied that the cats can't randomly turn human at will, in this story Luna doesn't seem to be aware that she has a human form and only achieves it because of the Ginzuishou power.
    • Also, the Moon Kingdom was a powerful and unique piece of mythopoeia, and its Senshi were originally almost deities — their official group title is "Soldiers of the Four Guardian Gods". The last series replaces this with there being Senshi all over the Galaxy. It doesn't provide a scientific explanation, but since it destroys the poetic elements of the story, it counts. However, this is averted since the series reveals that the Soldiers all get their powers from magical objects known as "Sailor Crystals".
  • Scrapped Princess eventually reveals its "magic" to be lost, or rather confiscated, technology, and its religious mythos to be a front for Sufficiently Advanced Aliens playing puppetmaster behind the scenes.
  • One of the manga adaptations of Simoun (an anime about magical airplanes) transplants its character dramas to the setting of modern-day Japan, with the female leads (elite priestess-pilots in the original) becoming Office Ladies and similar mundane professions.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs has explanations all over the place, to justify it being Science Fantasy. Humans can use magic? That's because they're descended from a Transhuman offshoot of mankind. Fantasy monsters? They're Organic Technology Ambiguous Robots that are built out of particles that polluted the environment during Hostile Terraforming. A World Tree grants Power Tattoo to people? It consumes those particles like normal trees do carbon dioxide, to fuel the granting of powers, being the result of an experiment to Terraform the planet back to a liveable state.
  • Witch Hunter Robin ends with this, explaining all magical powers to be a result of genetic breeding from the original witch. Which is still really magic at its core, just mixed with science.
    • In a similar vein, Ellis of El Cazador de la Bruja turns out to be the product of a project to genetically engineer witches, but these witch powers are genuinely supernatural in nature. The main characters also meet a psychic girl and a harvest spirit disguised as a deceased writer along their journey, without any "rational" explanation given.

    Comic Books 
  • This was extremely prevalent in episodic stories from the Golden Age: a villain appearing to have supernatural powers would usually be revealed to be faking it in some fashion. Even in series where the hero had real supernatural powers.
  • Blaze of Glory: If you never read an issue of Carter Slade!Ghost Rider, you might not guess that there's nothing supernatural about him at all. It's just a phosphorescent costume.
  • The early 1960s Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, gained superpowers from a magical beetle-shaped amulet from Ancient Egypt. The third Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, also gets his power from the Scarab, but about seven issues in, it's revealed to actually be a long-lost bit of Imported Alien Phlebotinum. Justified in that the alien race behind it, the Reach, have disguised many of their plans and weapons as "magic" so that no one would ask questions. And of course, since this is The DCU, nobody denies that magic exists; in fact, Garret used magic to activate his, since it was broken when he first got it. This was inverted in DC Rebirth, which seems to have decided it really IS magic, after all.
  • In the superhero parody The Boys, all superheroes receive their powers from being injected with a substance called "compound V". Homelander (Superman Substitute) and Jack from Jupiter (Martian Manhunter expy) are no exceptions, but claim extraterrestrial origin as a marketing ploy. Alien lifeforms are further implied to be non-existent when the superheroes claim to leave Earth to fight off an alien invasion, but it's actually a cover for A Party, Also Known as an Orgy, called "herogasm".
  • Daredevil's original origin story stated that he got Super-Senses that compensated for the loss of his sight after getting radioactive waste in his eyes. Realizing the implausibility of getting superpowers from radioactive waste, many later writers have suggested that his enhanced hearing and sense of touch are just the result of years of training under his sensei Stick, which he underwent as a way of coping with his blindness. This would be further overturned by an arc where Bullseye schemed to track down this same radioactive waste and refine it into a serum that grants the same level of enhanced senses while also allowing the retention of sight.
  • General comic book example: when DC jump-started the Silver Age by reinventing a number of their once-popular characters, they tended to replace mystical origin stories with scientific ones. For instance, the new Green Lantern got his powers from being a space policeman with an advanced technological weapon, rather than finding a magical lantern. This is probably largely because of the influence of Editor in Chief Julius Schwartz, who was also a major editor in the field of prose science fiction.
  • Parodied in Ghostbusters (IDW Comics): a friend of Egon dies in a car crash, and The Grim Reaper comes for his soul. Egon, in a laughable effort to make it sound scientific, insists on calling the Reaper "an entity that siphons excess psychic energy from our dimensional plane". It’s quickly noted that this is just a fancier way of saying "Grim Reaper" rather than a legitimate "explanation".
  • Hawkman's powers are ever-changing in nature: He's either the reincarnation of an Egyptian Pharaoh, or an alien. Or the reincarnation of an alien pharaoh. For example, the mystic that gave the third/fourth Hawkman his powers was retconned into being a Thanagarian scientist. Also, the nature of the "Nth Metal" that gives him his powers keeps changing; from a simple anti-gravity material, to all-purpose Green Rocks, either scientific or magical or even angelic in nature and naturally or artificially originating either from Earth, Thanagar or Heaven. Pick one from each column.
  • Lanfeust: In the sequel Lanfeust des Étoiles, the magic power of the inhabitants of Troy is retconned as Psychic Powers.
  • Officially, Mephisto is not literally the devil in the Marvel Universe; he just gets off on convincing people that he is. Magic is a very real, very prominent force in Marvel stories... sometimes. Depending on the writer and the tone of the series, seemingly magical elements may be written off as fantastic technology and demons may in fact be interdimensional aliens... or not. It's all quite confusing, really, but the go-to solution seems to be simply not to worry about it too much. Mephisto is one of several evil extradimensional beings who claim or have claimed to be the Devil, Satan Merkratang. They all rule their own Hell dimensions, and all claim to be the real deal. Canonically, they're all liars and know it. The real Satan hasn't been seen in so long, even in Hell, that many (even among the rulers) don't believe he actually exists. It doesn't mean they're going to take the chance and sit on his empty throne.
  • The Mighty Thor:
  • The Avengers: Writers have forever been going back and forth on whether Scarlet Witch a literal witch or not. It's mutant probability-altering power! It's "Chaos Magic!" It's both! No, it's not! And on and on and on.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) did this with the Chaos Emeralds. In the games and most continuities, they're treated as a set of legendary magical gemstones, with official sources even stating that the Master Emerald was created by the gods. The comic explained that the Chaos Emeralds arrived from space to land on Mobius and apparently gained their powers through being irriadiated by the Xorda aliens' gene bombs (this backstory was deliberately ignored by later writer Ian Flynn, who wanted to preserve their mysticism).
  • Supergirl:
    • "The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor": Subverted. Supergirl's friend Lena believes she has developed new psychic powers when stuff start randomly floating and exploding around her home. It turns out that a criminal gang was using high-tech devices to gaslight her into believing she has out-of-control telekinesis.
    • "The Super-Steed of Steel": Biron becomes free from Vostar's mind-control when he is briefly transformed into human, but he needs to warn Supergirl quickly but subtly about Vostar's scheme before he turns back into a horse and the villain reasserts control over him. Taking advantage that Linda and her boyfriend Dick Malverne are visiting a fair, Biron pretends to be a fortune-teller to give Linda hints that her friend Comet is being controlled by a super-villain.
  • In the original Teen Titans comics, Mal Duncan's horn was a celestial artifact given to him by the archangel Gabriel. In the Post-Crisis continuity, the horn was instead a technological device built by Mal and his girlfriend Karen.
  • Tex Willer often meets apparently supernatural phenomenon... And has developed an uncanny ability to expose them as fakes (to make one example, Hamatsa the Cannibal God was apparently a man-eating giant, but when Tex faced him he shot him in the tight and killed the guy that was moving the leg of the giant puppet). Thus his insistence he doesn't believe in the supernatural until he can stick his finger in it, even after meeting legitimate magic users.
  • The Transformers (IDW) is known for its firm stance on giving mundane explanations for the more fantastical elements of the Transformers franchise.
    • Primus and the other Transformers gods are revealed to be not actual gods and just the first generation of Transformers, whose memories were wiped, and they were mythologized by history. Although the idea that Primus divided himself into five members of the Guiding Hand is never touched upon in that story and exactly how Vector Sigma ties into all this was never explained.
    • The thirteen original Primes aren't the powerful and mystical progenitors of Cybertron, they were just normal Transformers who led Cybertron in its early years.
    • Near the end of the series, it's revealed that every myth and legend in Cybertronian history was created by a time displaced Shockwave to further his plans to make a perfect Cybertronian society.
    • Unicron is revealed to be a doomsday device created by an ancient alien race threatened by Cybertronian expansion rather than being the archenemy of Primus and the "devil" equivalent to Cybertron.
    • Sparkeaters are ordinary Transformers that were affected by a Sparkeater weapon that Brainstorm invented and as such he knows how to cure them relatively easily.
    • Oddly, this universe avoids the "built by Quintessons" origin and never provides any concrete explanation for where the Transformers came from.
    • Averted by the zombies (that aren't Sparkeaters), vampires, and Eldritch Abominations that have appeared in the IDW Shared Universe. They're all real and haven't been scientifically explained away.
  • Ultimate Marvel is a grounded and realistic reimagination of classic Marvel characters. There is magic in the setting, but not to the outlandish degrees of 616, and is always met with skepticism. Most characters who have magic in their backstories do not have it here.
    • In 616, mutants are the product of the Celestials messing with the human evolutionary process a million of years in the past. Here, the mutant genome was created in a lab by Weapon X around the time of World War 2.
    • In addition to the radioactive spider, Spider-Man got his powers because of a "Spider totem" thing (long story). None of that is ever mentioned in Ultimate Spider-Man.
    • The mainstream version of Black Knight is a mystical knight with an enchanted sword from the time of King Arthur. The Ultimate Black Knight is a quadriplegic Cyborg with Artificial Limbs and a suit of Powered Armor.
    • Valkyrie from The Ultimates started off this way (she was just a Thor Fangirl rather than an actual Norse deity), but ended up being given magical powers by Loki.
    • Ultimate Captain Britain was just a guy in a superpowered costume, unlike the mainstream Captain Britain, who was actually granted magical powers by Merlin.
    • Black Panther is completely divorced from any mystical or ceremonial overtones, and instead is a mortally-wounded African teen who was rebuilt into a super soldier by Weapon X.
    • As explained before, the Scarlet Witch's powers come and go between being from her mutation and being actual magic. Here, they do not: it's just her mutation, magic is never mentioned.
    • Subverted by Thor, however. The Ultimate version of him often teased that he wasn't really a deity, leaving conflicting hints that he was actually just a man with super-powers that suffered a mental breakdown and was now under the delusion he was a Norse God. Then revealed that he's a deity after all and all the hints to otherwise were planted by Loki to fuck with him.
    • Also subverted with Ghost Rider. Hawkeye refuses to believe he is actually from Hell, and instead thinks he's just a mutant who happens to have a flaming skull. Turns out that yes, he's really a creature from hell. You'd think after disbelieving Thor for the longest time he would've learned to be more open-minded.
  • Early Vampirella comics had vampires as aliens from the planet Drakulon. This was later retconned as fake memories that Vampirella was given through hypnosis before Drakulon was brought back as a region of Hell instead of a planet.
  • A lot of Silver and Golden Age comic stories ran on the premise of someone discovering some mythic figure really existed and their legendary abilities ran on scientific principles that could be replicated from study. Usually, things went wrong as an object lesson on not making these discoveries common knowledge.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Appears sometimes in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction.
    • The Writing on the Wall has Adventurer Archaeologist Daring Do working on excavating an ancient, imposing building constructed deep in the desert. Daring Do dismisses the metallic thorns constructed around the ediface as something meant to deter tomb robbers, and the eponymous writing inside the building as an attempt to scare people away with a nonexistent curse on anyone who disturbed the sanctity of the place. Too bad she was Wrong Genre Savvy and Right for the Wrong Reasons; the words and the thorns were both meant to deter tomb robbers, but the building isn't a tomb, and the "curse" was a warning of the very real, but entirely non-magical danger which lay within: nuclear waste.
    • One of the appendices to Act II of the alternate continuity Legends of Equestria models magic as an imperative programming language, composed of elementary instructions that unicorns have over time abstracted into personal "libraries" that allow them to cast more complicated spells with less effort. It even points out that magic is almost-provably Turing complete under this model.
    • Frigid Winds and Burning Hearts effectively destroys most of the magic of Equestria. The Everfree Forest is just a nature preserve (it even has poachers), Discord is just a mundane tyrant, the retelling of Equestria's founding doesn't have Windigoes, and almost everything out of the ordinary is because of deliberate meddling, not because of any magical nature of the place. Even "The Stare" is just something that ponies who work with animals learn!
    • While generally inverted in Diaries of a Madman, the elementals are actually a race comprised of nanomachines, rather than beings of magic.
    • In Fallout: Equestria, the zebras believe that the stars are The Fair Folk and that meteorites are evil stars that have been banished from the courts of their kindred for their malice. One such fallen star is believed to have corrupted Princess Luna into Nightmare Moon, and her taking Celestia's place as The High Queen of Equestria only intensified the war, as the zebras were convinced that Princess Luna was destroy them all unless defeated. 200 years later, and a zebra named Xenith learns that the zebra's myths were completely wrong: the meteorite fragments are radioactive, but they're not possessed. Ironically, Recursive Fanfiction Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons makes the zebra myths true instead.
  • Downplayed in Hunters of Justice. After studying the DNA of Teams RWBY and JNPR, the Justice League discover that all native life on Remnant has an active metagene that grants them the power to generate Aura. While the power of Aura is explained through the metagene, the power of the Semblance is still an unquantifiable manifestation of the soul.
  • Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox is set in a High School AU setting, and as such it's made clear from the outset that there won't be any ninja jutsu, summoning magic, bloodline abilities, or any of the Bijuu present in the story.
  • Twelve Red Lines does this to Manga Effects, explaining many of them away with quirks of biology.
  • Realistic Pokémon: Some Pokémon's abilities are given realistic, or at least Techno Babble-ish, explanations, such as Zoroark's apparent shapeshifting being due to it excreting a hallucinogenic chemical. Others just don't get explained, however. This is also the reason Ghost-types aren't portrayed as actual ghosts in the series— RJ claims it's impossible to do this with ghosts.
  • Downplayed in Tiny Sapient Ungulates; While the creature anatomy is mainly based in reality, magic still exists in the world.
  • Deconstructed in the Distant Finale of Eugenesis, in which Star Saber's corrupt and fascistic government engages in this as part of attempts to rewrite history and control the populace. State-supported "theoscientists" regularly publish decrees about how Primus and the creation of Cybertron is just religious propaganda, or how Unicron's attack was really mass hysteria. Anybody who publicly disagrees "mysteriously vanishes" and any evidence to the contrary is destroyed or confiscated.
  • In Kir-Ben 10: Poyo Force, Pufferzine's effects gain a more scientific explanation: it affects the victim's satiety and renders them unable to feel full by targeting the hypothalamus and adrenal glands, reduces the rate of fat burning, and releases large amounts of dopamine into the body to make their victims utterly addicted to Pufferzine-laced food.

  • Alien: Although the xenomorph was always described in scientific terms, in its original, definitive appearances it was portrayed as a malevolent, Lovecraftian entity. An infection from beyond the stars that defies human comprehension—something completely alien to human sensibilities and sensitivities. It appears mysteriously on a derelict spaceship with no explanation and no backstory, and it exists only to spread and cover the universe in secreted resin, like a biological Grey Goo apocalypse. Flash-forward to Prometheus and Covenant, and it's retconned that a crazy robot with a god complex caused by his daddy issues took bits of animal DNA and glued them together with black goo created as a bioweapon by nine foot tall blue people who want to kill humanity because we executed their comrade, Jesus Christ. And no, that's not a cry of exasperation; according to the director himself, Jesus Christ was part of the alien race that created the xenomorphs. Not only do they do in the wizard, they do in the Messiah too!
  • Attack Force was originally an Alien Invasion movie called Harvester, but some unexplained fallout between producers and star Steven Seagal resulted in the film being hastily recut and redubbed to change the aliens to Eastern European gangsters who want to drive people crazy by contaminating the water supply with a superdrug.
  • The unproduced adaptation of Batman: Year One by Darren Aronofsky and Frank Miller would have a young, and comparatively poor Batman who lived out of a garage owned by a black mechanic named Little Al (the script's version of Alfred), and MacGyvered up all his crime-fighting gear from parts he bought at a local hardware store. As in the comic, Batman battled non-superpowered gangsters only. It ended with Bruce inheriting his fortune and moving into Wayne Manor with Little Al, though.
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari had "it's all in the patient's head'' Bookends attached on the insistence of the movie's producers.
  • Child's Play (2019) changes Chucky into a robot toy whose safety protocols were deactivated as a last "fuck you" by the dissatisfied Vietnamese sweatshop worker who built him. Of course this is a big change from the classic movies where Chucky is a doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer.
  • Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice posits the idea that all the supernatural stuff happening in that installment and the previous movie might have been hallucinations caused by contaminated corn. "Might have been" being the keyword, since some of the stuff seen by characters who have been exposed to the corn for a very short while is very similar to what others who have been exposed for years are seeing. The next film throws this possible explanation out of the window.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy strips the world of Batman of fantasy elements, although this is as often accomplished by keeping fantastic backstories vague or leaving them unexplained, instead of actually coming up with alternate, mundane explanations.
    • Instead of being a single man who uses Lazarus Pits to extend his life, Ra's Al-Ghul is but the latest successor in the long line of leaders of the League of Shadows, all calling themselves Ra's Al-Ghul, and any fantastic abilities are chalked up to a hallucinogenic flower.
    • The Joker is given a Mysterious Past instead of having him becoming discolored and insane after being dropped in a vat of chemicals. His white face and green hair is very obviously makeup, and one scene shows him without them. His perpetual smile are two crude scars on his cheeks.
    • Instead of pumping him with the Super Serum "Venom", Bane's mask pumps him with unspecified painkillers, and his strength presumably derives from Training from Hell only. He is also implied to have been raised in a brutal foreign prison like his comic counterpart, but this origin is then attributed to Talia Al-Ghul, and Bane's own is rendered a mystery.
    • In the comics, Harvey Dent became the monstrous Two-Face after mob boss Sal Maroni threw acid at him during his trial. In the movie, an unnamed henchman of Maroni tries to shoot Dent during Maroni's trial, but Dent disarms him. Instead he is disfigured later by being dosed on fuel and set on fire by the Joker, and loses his sanity due to a combination of the Joker killing his fiancée and his own refusal to take painkillers.
  • Doom changes the monsters from demons to aliens/mutants.
  • Not a single one of the three attempts at making a Fantastic Four film franchise have included Doctor Doom's sorcery abilities, instead always opting to make his powers a side effect of the scientific accident that disfigured his face.
  • Godzilla (1998) tries to make the monster more realistic by dialing it back from the 100 meters height of the Toho Heisei era to "only" 50 meters (still double than the original from the Toho Showa era, however), giving it a body plan similar to a theropod dinosaur instead of a man in a rubber suit, changing its origin from an ancient monster awoken by an atomic blast to an iguana mutated by an atomic blast, making its attack on a city the actions of a Non-Malicious Monster migrating to lay its eggs, and taking out its 'atomic breath' ability entirely (unless you consider its roar being able to send cars flying a down-to-Earth allusion to it).
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) does this with Mothra: in the original series, Mothra is explicitly a magical, divine goddess in the form of a moth, while in the Monsterverse, she is a natural, prehistoric creature. Her magical energy rays are re-interpreted as bioluminescence, her connection with Godzilla is explained as a "symbiotic relationship", and the iconic twin fairy priestesses are instead identical twin Monarch scientists that have formed a connection with Mothra. However, it does stretch into Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane territory at times, because the twin Monarch scientists have a mother and grandmothers who were also identical twin Monarch scientists and one of them has identical twin daughters (the chance of this happening naturally is astronomically low), with twin statues in Mothra's temple suggesting they also existed in prehistoric times, and how Godzilla's symbiotic nuclear pulse can also somehow emit Mothra's wings and screech. In addition, Mothra also seems unusually intelligent for a kaiju to the point of knowing how to communicate what she wants to the humans and the novelization has her implied to have flat out brought Madison back to life.
  • Halloween (2007) ignores the idea that Michael is a supernatural being (the result of an ancient curse placed on him by Druid cultists or literally being Made of Evil), instead opting to portray him as a very violent, deranged young man searching for his sister. If the ending of the sequel is any indication, he lacks the supernatural Joker Immunity of his pre-reboot counterpart.
  • Zig-Zagged in Hellraiser: Hellworld. The Lament Configuration? An online puzzle. Pinhead? Literally called a franchise icon. Hellworld? An exclusive, debauched party. It's all just a game, until things get real and cenobites start showing up and the bloodbath begins. Then the wizard is done in a second time, as it's all the means a mundane killer uses to pick off the protagonists after drugging them with hallucinogens so they'd see what he put in their heads. But then the wizard rises from the grave to kill the scientist, as the original killer opens the Lament Configuration and the franchise icon puts in his obligatory appearance.
  • Highlander II: The Quickening reveals that Immortals are aliens from the planet Zeist. The director's cut has them as time-traveling precursors from the prehistoric past. Both explanations met with Canon Discontinuity due to unpopularity.
  • In HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami, the typical cartoon eyes of the titular critter (small black iris, big white sclera) are changed to small, realistic non-human eyes with no exposed sclera, that are surrounded by white hair instead. Likewise, Marsupilami is deprived of human-like eyebrows in favor of cat-like whiskers.
  • House of Dracula sweeps aside the supernatural elements of The Wolf Man's curse, gives it a Techno Babble explanation and has it ultimately cured in the ending.
  • The Illusionist (2006):
    • In the original short story ("Eisenheim the Illusionist"), the tricks are more fantastic and seemingly supernatural, as well as left unexplained. In comparison, the movie strips off any wonder by showing how Eisenheim accomplishes everything with a mix of mechanisms and his own ability.
    • The big gig that gets Eisenheim in trouble with the government is also changed from a disappearance trick inspired by The Pied Piper of Hamelin, where a child comes back claiming to have been in Hell while disappeared (obvious implications given Eisenheim's name and the Austro-Hungarian setting); to a séance where Eisenheim summons the spirit of the dead fiancée of the Crown Prince and she accusses him of her murder. Then the ending reveals how Eisenheim did it, by having him leave notes where he explains all for Chief Inspector Uhl to find.
    • As for Uhl, the story speculates that he was faked by Eisenheim as part of his final disappearance trick, while in the movie he is obviously a separate, independent character, and a real person.
  • One of the reasons the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were so poorly received by long-time fans was that, by revealing that aliens (or "interdimensional beings") existed in the Indiana Jones' universe, had created this MacGuffin, and had been worshipped as gods by an ancient people, it opened the door for the artifacts found by Indy in the previous three movies to have been also manufactured by aliens, along with their religions (even more so considering that the Alien treasure room at the end had artifacts from cultures all over the world).
  • Other than a few names and the recreation of Bruce Wayne's parents' deaths, Joker has little in common with the Batman mythos, depicting the Joker's origin as a failed '80s stage comedian with pseudobulbar affect, a medical condition that makes him laugh incontrollably when he gets upset. Superpowers and high tech vigilantism are completely absent from the story.
  • The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is essentially an example of this. In the original Marvel comic book continuity (or at least in some iterations of it), some of the superheroes' abilities were left without a plausible scientific explanation, or were outright billed as magic or sorcery (e.g., Doctor Strange, the "Sorcerer Supreme of Earth"). In the MCU, by comparison, the tone of the entire continuity is that "everything is explainable by science", even if this is not often stated outright.
    • Perhaps the most explicit example is in the Thor movies. In the first Thor, the source of Asgardians' abilities is left mostly to the imagination. The Asgardians themselves refer to them in terms usually associated with magic and claim to fail to see the difference between magic and science when asked by the human protagonist. By Thor: The Dark World, Asgardian equipment is more obviously technological (e.g. the rather pedestrian shield generator for the main palace), Odin states outright Asgardians are regular mortals (with Loki putting their lifespan at some 5,000 years, thus making it possible for the Asgardian characters to be present on Earth in the Dark Ages), Thor pilots an obviously technological Dark Elf ship with familiar ease, etc. Perhaps the most direct example is when Jane Foster asks an Asgardian physician whether the device they're using to scan her (for the presence of the Aether, a parasitic MacGuffin), which the Asgardians call a "soul forge", is a "quantum field generator" (itself technobabble, but of the "plausible" kind). The Asgardian fails to answer, but does confirm that the device "transfers molecular energy from one place to another", which apparently, according to Foster, is what a quantum field generator does. This is as close as the MCU comes to saying that all Asgardian abilities are either natural (such as their lifespan and their mooks' physical strength), or technological.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man posits that the "worthiness enchantment" on Mjölnir (Thor's hammer) functions on the principle of a biometric security system. Thor replies calling it an interesting theory, but offers a better one: That the hammer can only be wielded by the "worthy." Later in the film, The Vision being able to lift it causes Thor to instantly trust him completely.
    • Averted with Doctor Strange (2016), wherein it's shown that not only is magic a real force, but it specifically doesn't need to follow the rules of scientific law.
    • Somewhat averted or muddied with Thor: Ragnarok. It would appear the average Asgardian is a long lived mortal. But Odin, Thor, and Hela are something else entirely. Loki is explicitly said be a magic practitioner. His illusions are not tech, but rather, a magic spell he learned from his adoptive mother Frigga. Meanwhile, despite prior indications that Asgard existed in another dimension, the movie reveals that it's actually possible to reach it by spaceship.
    • Happens in Black Panther with his sister Shuri. In the comics, she's a Magic Knight who incorporates shamanism into her fighting style in contrast with her Gadgeteer Genius brother. But in the movie, Shuri's magic abilities are completely omitted in favor of splitting Comic!T'Challa's personality between the two siblings: Film!T'Challa retains his social and political savvy, while Film!Shuri is Wakanda's lead engineer who supplies T'Challa's gadgets. The film also averts this trope, however, as the Heart-Shaped Herb allows T'Challa to enter the spirit realm and convene with the souls of past Black Panthers.
  • Planet of the Apes series:
    • In the source novel Planet of the Apes, the titular planet is a different one, 300 light years away from Earth, and humans and apes identical to those of Earth just came to exist there, 10,000 years ahead of schedule at most. In the films, the planet (famously) is Earth All Along.
    • Neither the novel nor Planet of the Apes (1968) explain how humans lost their intelligence and speech and apes gained theirs; the former simply 'degenerated' and the latter 'evolved'. The sequels Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes show that the apes were trained and altered by the humans in some way to serve them as slaves before the apes rebelled, ambiguously helped by their leader Caesar being an already Uplifted Animal from the future brought in by a Stable Time Loop. The apes are portrayed as a bit of a Hive Mind, with Caesar claiming that the next day the apes "in all five continents" will imitate his group and also rise against humanity. But the mental fall of humanity is still unexplained, and is still yet to happen even after the nuclear war prophesized since the first film takes place between Conquest and Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
    • In the Planet of the Apes (2001) failed reboot, the apes were genetically altered by humans to help them in space exploration, then Turned Against Their Masters. The humans never lost their intelligence and speech, but the apes wound up more technologically advanced, persecuted and enslaved the humans.
    • In the second rebooted continuity starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the apes become intelligent and learn to talk after being exposed to an artificial virus designed by the humans as a failed cure for Alzheimer's disease... which coincidentally also kills most humans exposed to it. Then, another variant of the virus appears in War for the Planet of the Apes that doesn't kill the humans, but makes them mute. The villainous Col. McCullough thinks it also takes away the infected's intelligence, but this is ambiguous.
  • Quarantine (2008) removes the demonic twist from the [REC] movies by turning The Virus into a hyper-virulent strain of common rabies that was created by an Apocalypse Cult, resulting in the (now Technically Living Zombie version of) infected being much easier to kill.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) redesigned Sonic's body and face in a more realistic manner for a humanoid sprinter. However, the overhelmingly bad response to the first trailer convinced the studio to change Sonic back to his traditional proportions.
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace does this to the Force, or more specifically, why some people can and can't interact with it and the biology behind it. In the original trilogy, The Force is described as an energy field that interconnects all living things, and the ability to use and be guided by it could be passed down through a family, and sensed by other Force users. Then in The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon explains that life itself is the result of a symbiotic relationship with organisms known as midi-chlorians that reside in all living cells, and is what Jedi and Sith use to interact with The Force. Having a high concentration of midi-chlorians increases one's ability to commune with the Force, and thus how "strong" they are with it. Despite the careful wording to explain only the interaction and not The Force itself, many fans objected to this because it gave an unnecessary scientific explaination to the story's most mystical element (being a physical property of the body rather than an abstract talent), and being able to measure them boiled down one's strength in The Force to Power Levels and Scouters. Several Star Wars Legends sources such as Darth Plagueis treat the organisms as vessels of the Force rather than the Force itself more clearly, and the core stories have never brought it up directly again.
  • Street Fighter changes M. Bison's psychic and telekinetic abilities to a special suit that gives him electromagnetic powers.
  • Jon Peters' infamous failed attempt at a new Superman movie in The '90s included his request that Superman shouldn't fly, but use an invisible vehicle, and that he should get his powers from his suit rather than from being an alien from planet Krypton.
  • The 1929 horror film The Unholy Night ends with a "rational explanation" to all the supernatural horror elements, which was common in American films at the time.
  • The Village (2004) is a movie about a 19th-century community living in fear of some terrific monsters lurking in the surrounding woods, until the Mandatory Twist Ending reveals that the movie is actually set in the present day and the Village's "elders" founded the community in order to flee from the depravities of the modern world, faking the monsters to keep their children from leaving the community. This was a subversion of M. Night Shyamalan's formula in previous films (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), all of which had a twist ending that hinged on a supernatural element, but didn't invalidate it.
  • In X-Men: The Last Stand, The Juggernaut never has his origin given, and is at least believed by the populace to be just another mutant. In the comics, he gets his powers and armor from a mystical gem. The Phoenix is just Jean Grey's alternate personality, rather than a god-like cosmic entity (this was actually the original comic version, before the Phoenix was retconned into being a creature from space).

  • 17 and Gone eventually reveals that all the paranormal elements are the products of schizophrenic hallucinations and aren't actually real.
  • Subverted in The Apocalypse Door. Over the course of the novel, the protagonists piece together the evidence that the "demons" they're fighting are the spearhead of an extradimensional alien invasion — but then, at the end, it's suggested that they really are demons.
  • Area 51: A number of artifacts from religious and mythical lore get shown to be alien technology. The effect of this upon religious belief is not shown, even though it includes many very important ones like the Ark of the Covenant and Holy Grail.
  • Black Castle Olshansky, a mystery novel by Vladimir Korotkevich, has an in-universe example. Everyone, and the protagonist himself, feels nothing but frustration when he finds the scientific explanation of the haunting in the titular black castle.
  • Blindsight does this with vampires. Rather than supernatural beings, they were a subspecies of solitary predatory hominid that hunted (and interbred with) early humans. Their famous traits are explained as various adaptations: not only were they stronger, faster and nocturnal, but they were "omnisavants", capable of levels of problem-solving and pattern-matching that humans couldn't hope to match. To cut down on energy demands and avoid hunting their prey to extinction, they were also capable of aestivating for long periods. However, a broken pathway meant they could no longer synthesize PCDH-Y, a protein necessary for neuron development that's only found in hominids, meaning they had to include humans in their diet. Their biggest weakness was the so-called "Crucifix Glitch", a neural miswiring in the visual cortex that caused fatal epileptic seizures when near-perpendicular lines took up too much of their visual field. This wasn't much of a problem in nature, but once humans invented architecture, it spelled doom for the vampire species. However, some semi-functional vampire genes still exist in clinical sociopaths and savants.
  • In Chasing Shadows, eventually it becomes clear that the supernatural occurrences are part of Holly's illness, not reality.
  • In the Coldfire Trilogy, the magic system actively prevents technology from arising (beliefs and fears are made manifest and honestly, who really believes that their car will start each day?). Except... as it turns out, the inhabitants of the planet are descendants of earlier space travelers, and the "magic" is the result of injured psychic aliens.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley:
    • Darkover: Laran, the setting's word for magic, is a word for psychic abilities that can be amplified through matrix crystals. Bradley does a good job of showing how most native Darkovans call it sorcery, but those who actually work with it treat it as a science. Although the science behind the psychic abilities boils down to "It's magic but not!"
    • To a lesser degree, her Avalon books and Firebrand also have some magic and some elements explained by more mundane factors.
  • Darth Plagueis lampshades this trope in-universe with respect to the midi-chlorians. The titular Sith Lord was a materialist that sought to explain the Force through rational means as opposed to the mystic reverence the Jedi bestow to it. With this knowledge, Plagueis attempted to manipulate the midi-chlorians to create a living being that would serve the Sith. However, the trope is ultimately subverted as it turned out the Force had a mind of its own and rebelled by creating Anakin instead.
  • The Descent: The source of many cultures' concepts of demons and Hell comes from what turns out to be a subterranean offshoot of humanity called hadals, with their own civilization and culture. Their ruler, however, is every bit as supernatural as might be expected.
  • The Doom series changes the video game's demons from hell into genetically engineered alien monsters. They were created to resemble demons because the aliens had last reconnoitered Earth during The Middle Ages. Fly was raised Roman Catholic and knows that man-made weapons shouldn't be able to destroy real demons. Some monsters have organic weaponry and others have cybernetic weapons installed. Not that it makes them any less deadly.
  • Dracopedia: The books attempt to remain fairly grounded in real-life biology, so a lot of the more magical powers of dragons and similar creatures are explained as more mundane biological quirks or simply in-universe myths. Additionally, in Dracopedia: The Bestiary, monsters that have human-like features in the original legends are made more animal-like; for instance, the Jorogumo is changed from a half-human, half-spider to a Giant Spider with a pattern resembling a human face on its abdomen (which itself is approximately the size of a human head).
  • According to the (pretty strange) rules of magic in The Dragon Knight, this is how technology develops. Magicians invent a new type of magical technique that runs on magical energy and share it amongst each other. If they share it too much, it stops being magical and starts being technology and running without mana. The only way to replenish the world's supply of magic is with new magical techniques: the main character invents the theater and special effects in one book which helps replenish the world's supply of magic.
  • Dragonriders of Pern begins with fire-breathing dragons, telepathy, and teleportation, all believed to be a form of magic. By the third book in the series, the dragons are genetically modified lizards with Technobabble explanations for the telepathy, teleportation, and telekinesis that let the massive dragons fly with wings too small for their bodies.
  • Funny Business is about a girl who can basically do anything. For the first half, this is treated as something akin to magic, but in the second half, a quasi-scientific explanation is offered; namely, that the whole setting is just a computer simulation, so the main character can do impossible things like in a lucid dream, and every other character is just a figment of her mind.
  • An interesting variation appears in the Incarnations of Immortality series. Magic exists in this world, but it has clear and researched rules and is treated as a mundane natural force — listed alongside nuclear and electromagnetic forces. The Incarnations themselves — Death, Time, War, Fate, Nature and even God and Satan — do use very strong supernatural powers, but they themselves are not really supernatural entities but normal people filling an office, and the powers are derived from that role.
  • Gerald's Game features a superfluous last chapter that establishes that everything had a rational explanation. Not the usual from Stephen King, but that may have been the point.
  • John Dies at the End has malevolent living shadows, demons, and ghosts, all actually the product of hostile extradimensional biotechnology. This gets subverted in the sequel. A Man In Black shows up, and, among other things, he can turn invisible and "sit" in midair as if in an invisible chair. The invisibility trick is just that—it takes years of practice, but there's nothing supernatural about it. The invisible chair? That's magic.
  • In The Last Illusion, a short segment notes that Harry D'amour was haunted by the rape and murder of his friend Father Hesse by the "Lazy Susan Demon" during the attempted exorcism of Mimi Lomax. This led to Harry going hard Christian, with much of his body tattooed with religious motifs as a means of protection against the supernatural. When Harry went through the events of Everville, he learned that the "Lazy Susan Demon" isn't some Biblical devil out of hell. It was just a creepy pervert from the Quiddity world and nothing special. After learning the "demon" had returned to the old Lomax house, Harry gets into a fistfight with the monster and slaughters it with a Finishing Stomp. Harry still lives in a supernatural-haunted world complete with Hell and all, it's just that "Lazy Susan Demon" was little more than an animated puddle of poop from another world and not some Prince of Darkness.
  • The Laundry Files follows on this point; the secret agency that deals with Eldritch Abominations, the Laundry, was founded after Alan Turing discovered a math equation that simulated magic. A Hand of Glory is described as specific variables that form a complete circuit with an extradimensional source, and the traditional "gaze of the Medusa" turns out to be triggered by a very rare form of brain tumor and can be replicated on a circuit board.
  • In an unusual variant, the Lord Darcy mysteries take place in a world where sorcery exists and is very explicitly treated as a science; Darcy's associate Master Sean O'Lochlainn mentions that one of the reasons he has an M.S. (Master of Sorcery) degree rather than the Th.D. (Thaumaturgae Doctoralis) is that he "couldn't handle the math" required for the latter. However, the solution to his cases usually turns out to be non-magical. Indeed, Darcy must often prove the culprit used mundane methods so as to exonerate an innocent magician, thus doing in the wizard to save the wizard.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Galadriél states she never quite knows what mortals mean by "magic," since people tend to use it both for her abilities and the "deceptions of the enemy." Elf-magic (and by extension, wizard magic) is more like sufficiently-advanced science the elves learn over the course of their aeon-long lifespans, or straight from the Valar (read: Arch-Angels; ie, the guys who wrote the laws of the universe), if they're old enough (and wizards ARE minor angels). Of course, it's kinda hard to explain "a water-basin type mirror that shows the future" or "a ring containing the soul of a fallen angel" as pure science.
  • One of H. P. Lovecraft's signature tropes was describing magical incantations as mathematical formulae, and explaining demons and antediluvian gods as aliens, interdimensional beings, time travelers, or time-traveling aliens. He was a staunch atheist, and this was part of the message of his works.
    • Lovecraft's novella At the Mountains of Madness was a wholesale demystification of his own mythos. It explicitly described Cthulhu as an alien, not a deity, which "The Call of Cthulhu" itself did not do.
    • In-universe, legend has it that Abdul Alhazred, the Mad Arab, was killed in broad daylight by an invisible monster. Most mythos material that draws strictly from Lovecraft runs with this, but August Derleth later expanded on it, explaining that that whole thing was simply a hoax to cover up his even more painful death by torture.
    • Lovecraft's story "The Dreams in the Witch House" starts with the protagonist moving into the titular building because his curiosity is aroused by rumors that it is haunted by the ghost of the witch who once lived there. In a way it is, but it is heavily implied that the "haunting" is not actually supernatural but an extremely sophisticated science based around the manipulation of space and time.
  • Apparently, David Weber plans to release a sequel to his Out of the Dark novel that will involve this trope: Dracula isn't really undead. He merely stumbled on a nanotech experiment abandoned by an aggressive species. Thus all his powers are science-based.
  • Ann Radcliffe, a late 18th century Gothic Horror novelist, loved this. Most of her books have a big section in the denouement explaining how each and every seemingly supernatural element was really just trickery. Or the wind. This is especially interesting because the supernatural was a hallmark of the Gothic genre, and Ann Radcliffe was one of its foremost writers.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Rough Draft duology has the protagonist become into a superhuman being called a "functional", meeting other functionals with supernatural abilities. While parallel worlds are key to the duology, the nature of these powers are kept ambiguous for much of it. It's clear that someone is behind all this, but how this is done is not described. However, shortly before the end of the second novel, the protagonist claims that all this has to do with advanced knowledge of quantum physics. Why do functionals have these abilities? They "borrow" them from a parallel version of themselves that exists in a world where this is natural.
  • Some of Dean Koontz's works prefer to settle for a paranormal solution over a supernatural one, and The Servants of Twilight is a particularly heavy-handed example. The main character's son is pursued by the followers of a religious fanatic throughout, who's had visions that paint the child as The Antichrist. In the final confrontation, the fanatic is attacked and killed by a horde of bats, and this, along with other strange occurrences, lead the mother to think her kid might really be the Anti-Christ. And that's when the fanatic's top mook — who has been mostly silent throughout and shown no signs of higher thinking — goes into a two-page explanation about how the two characters were most likely psychic and picking up on one another, before walking out of the book entirely.
  • The original Sherlock Holmes stories. Pick any story (or novel) with a seemingly supernatural element and that element will be given a rational explanation by the end. The most obvious example is The Hound of the Baskervilles, where the story revolves around the legend of a spectral hound. There is a hound, but it's a real, flesh-and-blood dog that has been painted to glow in the dark and trained as an Attack Animal (in case you needed any more indication that the villain was a real asshole) as part of a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • Played with in "Spell My Name with an S": Dr Zebatinsky goes to a numerologist, someone who can predict people's personal futures by using numbers. The numerologist insists that he's not using pseudo-magical techniques, but following statistical analysis to predict the future. Then it turns that the numerologist isn't human, but an Energy Being trying to prove that it can manipulate global events on Earth with minor efforts.
  • Jules Verne's The Sphinx of the Ice (a.k.a. An Antarctic Mystery) is a sequel to Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym. In it, Verne attempts to explain the earlier novel's bizarre, mystical elements with some (fairly implausible) physical science.
  • Done somewhat blatantly in the Sword of Truth series and can mainly be ascribed to the Sisters of the Light. In the first few books, magic is described as being one's "gift" and prophecies in-world were very traditionally vague. Once the good Sisters are introduced, they bring along their own descriptions, describing the gift as one's "Han". And beyond the fourth book, the previously well-written and plot-relevant prophecies disappear and are replaced with quantum physics technobabble meant to sound more scientific than mystical, going beyond Magic A Is Magic A (this is also, not coincidentally, when the story becomes an Author Tract). At this point, the evil Sisters of the Dark also start stealing the "Han" of male wizards and using it for themselves, apparently through the power of spiky demon penis.
  • Titus Crow: Titus Crow and Henri decide that all magic in the world is actually just Psychic Powers and misunderstood Elder God science.
  • The end of The Turn of the Screw implies that the ghost story that comprises the entire plot is actually the hallucinations of the Unreliable Narrator.
  • The Warlock of Gramarye book The Warlock in Spite of Himself has the "witches and warlocks" of the Lost Colony of Gramarye revealed as having inheritable mutations that give them Psychic Powers... until the fourth or fifth book, when it is revealed that the main character is an actual magic user, not a psychic... except that it's then (later in the same book) revealed that he is a psychic. The reason he can use 'actual magic' earlier in the book is that he's been transported to an alternate universe where there is actual magic. Once he gets back home, he can't do magic, but he keeps the psychic powers that he's now unlocked. (Hence the title of this book — The Warlock Unlocked.)
  • In the Wolves of Mercy Falls Series, lycanthropy is a disease that causes people to transform into wolves when the temperature drops. While curable through mundane means, it is still treated as supernatural and unexplainable. In the second book Linger, a scientifically-minded werewolf puts his blood under a microscope and determines that lycanthropy has a physical, if somewhat pseudoscientific, cause. Werewolves transform as an immune response to a toxin spread by bites, and such transformations are more affected by brain chemistry than the actual temperature and can be induced with drugs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow zig-zags this trope constantly.
    • In the beginning, the show would allude to superheroes like The Flash, Superman, etc. but Word of God said that they planned on keeping the series realistic, taking all superpowers and aliens out of the equation. Then that went out on Season 2, with the introduction of The Flash and finally granting Deathstroke his powers.
    • Solomon Grundy is a normal guy who becomes mutated by a Super Serum. In the comics, he was a zombie who was resurrected by supernatural means.
    • Most superpowers are explained as a result of the particle accelerator explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs, caused by a meta-human from the distant future in an attempt to find a way back, but that also goes out the window when it's revealed there are metahumans who were nowhere near the explosion, the Lazarus Pit appears in season 3, and the existence of magic is recognized in Season 4 when John Constantine shows up. It goes even farther out the window with the addition of Vixen (magic), Legends of Tomorrow (time travel, immortality, reincarnation), and Supergirl (aliens are real in another reality) to the Arrowverse. Oh, and aliens then go ahead and invade Earth-1 anyway.
  • Bar Karma: The bar patrons regularly use the TV to observe events which, from their perspective, have not happened yet. Initially, this just seems to be part of the bar's mysterious magic, but the final episode reveals that there's actually a TV station in-universe devoted entirely to predicting future news stories and reporting on them as though they were taking place in the present.
  • Dexter drops the demonic elements from the books. The protagonist refers to his "dark passenger" at one point, but only in a figurative sense, and there is no actual Demonic Possession.
  • Fans complained about the Doctor Who episode "Silver Nemesis" when Lady Peinforte's magic worked and was actually called magic. The show did an Author's Saving Throw a few episodes later in "The Curse of Fenric", claiming her powers had been derived from a Sufficiently Advanced Alien. Though it is unclear exactly what Fenric is...
  • Zig-zagged in Grimm with some of the powers of the Wesen. For example, the Grimms' ability to see Wesen is, apparently, explained by them having more cones in their eyes (i.e. they have a broader visual spectrum). Then completely averted with some creatures who are not Wesen but are just plain supernatural (such as a ghost lady, a volcano being, or a Golem). There is also no attempt to explain the telekinesis and spells of the Hexenbiests. The final season throws that completely out the window, with Nick actually travelling to Wesen Hell and meeting the Wesen Devil. Oh, and in the final fight, he fights side-by-side with his dead mom and aunt and then magically jumps back to a few days before.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: In one episode, the Szalinskis encounter someone that claims to be a leprechaun after they find a pot of gold. The leprechaun appears to use magic, but Wayne proves later that all of it were parlor tricks. Then it turns out that, while the guy that claimed to be a leprechaun was just a normal guy, there really are leprechauns - and they want their pot of gold back.
  • The iZombie series tries to do that with zombies, unlike the original comic book. There are (so far) no other types of supernatural beings present in the comic book either. In the show, zombieism is spread by a virus through fluid contact, although the original cause appears to be a tainted drug (with the possible addition of a certain energy drink).
  • Joan of Arcadia once suggested that Joan's visions could be due to Lyme's disease.
  • Kamen Rider Amazons to the series it's rebooting, Kamen Rider Amazon. In the original, the title character was a human augmented by mystical means and powered by a magical artifact called the Gi-Gi Armlet, which if removed would kill him. In the rebooted series, all Amazons (or Amazonz) are just people implanted with parasitic and cannibalistic cells only held back by an armlet that injects them with a pacification chemical...that looks EXACTLY like the originals Gigi Armlet...only edge-y.
  • While the original Life on Mars (2006) effectively did in the Scientist by changing the main character's Time Travel from Adventures In Coma Land to the Afterlife and retconning Sam and Gene Hunt of all people as angels/spirit guides, the American remake's finale did a 180º by revealing that both Sam's police careers in 1973 and 2008 had been All Just a Dream of an astronaut in hypersleep as he travels for Mars's first manned expedition. Even Gene Hunt's name was given an explanation as the expedition's purpose to hunt for extraterrestrial genetic material on Mars' surface.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
      • In the original Secret Warriors comics, Hellfire's powers were supernatural in nature, and were the result of him being a descendant of Carter Slade, the original Ghost Rider. In the series, Hellfire is simply an Inhuman.
      • The fourth season, however, notably averts this. Not only is there a Ghost Rider who is explicitly magical (even though no one believes him), there are ghosts created by a Tome of Eldritch Lore who can curse people with a touch. The scientists repeatedly fail to come up with non-magical explanations, but they do find non-magical solutions. The message is that even if magic itself is beyond the realm of science, its effects are parallel the norm enough that they can be accounted for by mundane means.
    • Runaways (2017): Following the example of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show tries to explain magic away as science with varying levels of success.
      Tina: An electrical current just traveled from your neural pathways into the staff and made that happen.
      Nico: Explain it however you want, but it needed my blood and it read my mind. It's just like Wicca.
      Tina: It is science, Nico.
      Nico: If by "science" you mean high-tech magic, then sure.
      • Ultimately subverted, as the Staff of One is indeed magic just like the comics, as revealed in the next season.
    • In Cloak & Dagger (2018), D'Spayre is changed from an outright demon to a man who was granted powers after being exposed to the Darkforce and Lightforce energies Roxxon had been researching.
  • In Smallville, Mister Mxyzptlk is a teenager with Mind Manipulation abilities, rather than a Reality Warping Imp from the Fifth Dimension like in the comics.
  • An episode of Stargate SG-1 had Daniel attempting to do this with a group of villagers. Every time he tried to tell them that there was no such thing as magic, he would be "beamed up" by an orbiting ship, which did not help his case any. In universe examples/attempts of this happen fairly often as the Tau'ri are always trying to explain to other humans that the Goa'uld/Ori are not gods and the that they wield technology, not supernatural powers.
  • The finale of the American remake of Wilfred effectively kills the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane nature of the Australian original, by establishing that Wilfred was a real dog all along and Ryan hallucinated him as a man in a dog suit as a result of his mental breakdown.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This trope is played in-universe in Mage: The Ascension. The Technocratic Union is a group of magical scientists who are attempting to do in the wizard, while Traditions are more "wizard-like" and try to do in the scientist. In short, the Technocrats (at their best) push for a scientific, rational worldview and the Traditionalists (again, at their best) push for a mystical, spiritual one. Both of the major factions are, to a great degree, trying to influence human society into accepting their point of view in order to solidify reality with their own vision. The irony in part stems from a serious case of Grey-and-Gray Morality.
    • As stated on Doing in the Scientist, in Mage, the Wizard and the Scientist are metaphorically the same person, whom we could call Humanity. Humanity uses the lab coat, the abacus, and the computer some days, the cloak, the chicken entrails, and prayer the next, all in a pointless argument with itself. The most common resolution to the game's Meta Plot is that the Wizard and Scientist got it together and Humanity ascended to a higher plane of existence.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Done in-universe in the Horus Heresy series. The series opens with the Emperor of Mankind doing this as he builds the Imperium. The galaxy just came out of a millennia long dark age marked by superstition and worship of dark gods. As the Emperor's influence spreads across the galaxy, so does the state ideology of the Imperial Truth, which is devoted to pure science and rationality and is dedicated to erasing gods and mysticism entirely. Unfortunately, the Imperial Truth is a lie, gods are real, and they are pissed. Much of the series thus far has dealt with how the Imperium is coming to grips with living in a galaxy of horrors.
    • This was inverted with Psychic Powers. Psychic powers work by mutated minds being able to draw physics-defying power from the Warp to work it for specific effects. This sounds fairly reasonable, if a rather soft science explanation to explain away how psychic powers work, but seeing ritualized and even damning advanced uses, like Eldar and Chaos enacting Ritual Magic and Necromancy, quite simply does away with any pretenses that it's thinly veiled magic, if not outright magic.
    • The Tau have little to no Warp presence, meaning they have no psychics and therefore no way of being influenced by the Warp. Unfortunately, early information on the subject was interpreted to mean that the Warp doesn't exist, and that everything humans have to say on the subject are the fevered delusions of madmen. (The fact that the forces of Chaos who are much more at home in the Warp are universally madmen doesn't help.) They once vanquished a Chaos army containing a Greater Daemon of Slaanesh and prided themselves on the propaganda value of having killed one of the Dark Gods. Much the way destroying the treads on an Abrams tank means the U.S.' total military capacity has dropped to zero.
    • One of the appeals of the setting is that a lot of things are Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. The giant Awesome Personnel Carrier with several batteries of laser cannons and twin gatling guns as support, which transports 12 Super Soldiers in ancient Powered Armor may be able to work even after its crew is dead due to a magical "machine spirit"... or the machine spirit may just be a highly advanced AI from another, more enlightened age and simply poorly understood due to the regression of society and technology over 10,000 years of galaxy-wide war. The factions that are explicitly stated to use AI (and no magic) are the aforementioned Tau and the Necrons, the latter of which are stated to have mastered all physical science the normal universe has to offer. For everyone else, it might be this trope, it might be pure magic, Magitek or something else entirely.
  • BattleTech did in its sole canonical mystical element, the Phantom Mech ability, with Word of God stating that there isn't really a supernatural ability to evade fire that only affects the Kells, but rather a powerful Lostech ECM package that the Kells have very much not told anyone about. While this raises several questions, particularly in regard to the way certain battles were known to have progressed, this, as well as the decision to ignore the sole canonical instance of sapient aliens in the setting, have firmly established the Battletech universe as one where technology, not mysticism, is a central tenet.

  • BIONICLE started out as a deeply mystical story with biomechanical beings bearing Elemental Powers living a tribal life on a strange Patchwork Map island, based on prophecies told by their legends of the Great Spirit.
    As the story progresses, this is all flipped on it's head. It's revealed that their whole culture (and sentience) is the result of a glitch in their AI and the lies told by their elders, the island was formed by a malfunctioning Humongous Mecha who had been put into stasis by a virus, and said robot was their Great Spirit all along, whose mission wasn't to protect them and be their god, but to go on an inter-planetary travel, and they were in fact supposed to keep him running. The Great Beings, hailed as ultra-powerful figures of legend were actually a bunch of geeks/politicians, blinded by For Science!-Rule of Cool far too much.
    All sorts of other sci-fi-ish elements also found their way into the story, like Alternate Universe-traveling, a mystical star turning out to be a giant booster rocket, as well as more and more techno-terms and expressions.
    Interestingly, some elements of the story are still mystical in nature even after the theme's expansion, including Elemental Powersnote  and the concept of "Destiny".note 
    • Elemental powers turn out to be created/activated by the series' villain behind the scenes, energized protodermis itself. How it can give out or activate these powers is never explained, but it is the source of them.
    • Another element explained away, is the land of Karzahni, supposedly a hellish place of torture and imprisonment named for its ruler. When a group of characters find themselve in Karzahni's realm, they discover that Karzahni is actually meant to be a repairman and healer, but has no concept of how to treat mental health, so started doing thing like treating phantom limb pain with multiple replacement arms, or similar experiments. When people started coming back wrong from his workshop, patients stopped being sent, and his treatments got more and more unhinged.

    Video Games 
  • In the The Conquerors expansion of Age of Empires II, the Aztecs implausibly find some Korean Turtle Ships abandoned in Lake Texcoco, ask themselves if they are a gift from their gods, and use them to defeat the Spanish siege of Tenochtitlan. In the Definitive Edition, these mysterious ships are changed to cannon galleons abandoned by the Spanish during the Noche Triste.
    • The fan expansion Forgotten Empires added a fire-breathing dragon unit to the Editor, but it was taken out when it was officialized as The Forgotten. Later on, the Rise of Rajas expansion added Komodo dragons, which may kill people but don't breathe fire and are much easier to kill.
    • The Forgotten and Rise of the Rajas also included ambiguous, or demythified versions of the Nagas (Snake People in Indian mythology) in the Prithviraj campaign, and Le Loi receiving his magical sword from the turtle god Kim Quy. In the Definitive Edition, the Nagas are substitued by the unambiguously human Paramaras (a historical Rajput dynasty), and the sword side quest is deleted altogether.
  • Age of Empires III broke with its history-based predecessors in featuring a single fantasy campaign revolving around a fictional family finding the Fountain of Youth and fighting a Dan Brown-esque worldwide conspiracy. After accusations of They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, the expansion The WarChiefs had two campaigns following the same family, but based on the American Revolution and the Sioux Wars with no mention of the Fountain or the secret society in the base game. However the same expansion had Native Americans being able to tame wild animals with magic and gaining units and technologies by dancing around the fire, and the following expansion The Asian Dynasties had a campaign based on Gavin Menzies's pseudohistorical 1421 Hypothesis. In the Definitive Edition, the fire pit building was changed to a "community plaza", the Native Americans could only recruit human units, and standalone single player scenarios based on historical battles were added instead of a new campaign.
  • The final ending of The Binding of Isaac strips away any of the vague religious magic with one final Once More, with Clarity sequence; literally everything is a Dying Dream of Isaac's as he suffers a slow, mundane death of asphyxiation in an old chest filled with family mementos. No god, no devil, even his mother trying to kill him after being commanded by God was all in his head. Repentance replaced this with the different, though still totally mundane explanation that the whole game is just Isaac playing a very dark game of make-believe, though Word of God implies that it's not quite that simple.
  • The Condemned series: The original game suggested that a supernatural force was causing the outbreak of violence, and the main character's own apparent insanity. The sequel revealed that it was a cult which was using sonic technology to drive people mad by causing hemorrhaging in the brain. However, this particular killed wizard is replaced by a much larger, much stupider one, so to speak - in particular, every single named character in the game except Rosa and maybe Pierce is involved with them in some way. Even the President is revealed to be one of them in the ending. Hell, even the protagonist is secretly involved with them, as he turns out to be "the Remedy" who can naturally do their (not-)magical-sound thing to blow people's heads up with his voice.
  • The climax of Death end re;Quest introduces the Observers, a divine group that can rewrite reality using a primative language. The Observer that Arata interacts with explains their powers in programming terms and compares their role to that of a "debugger", since Arata is a professional coder and is thus familiar with these concepts. Death end re;Quest 2 reveals that said Observer was not being metaphorical: Arata's world is one of many virtual worlds created as a potential escape for the people of a hellish dystopia, while the Observers are actually prisoners forced to maintain these worlds under the threat of televised execution. All of the supernatural things that Arata encounters are in fact glitches in his reality.
  • In Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, Bulma explains that all of the Funny Animals, like King Furry, used to be human but turned into animals using a Fantastic Drug called Animorphaline. However it's Played With by the fact that it was manufactured by a company called "Magical Pharmaceuticals".
  • Final Fantasy XIV has an In-Universe example. The Monks travel the world looking places of great energy with which to open their own Chakras and grow stronger. One character in the Monk job quests is a scientist who condescendingly insists this is actually just garden-variety aetherial manipulation (the same energy source many other disciplines tap into) and he can even pinpoint the locations the monks seek. He's actually completely correct, and with enough data can explain how the two sets of nomenclature line up and exactly where a monk could go to open the seventh chakra. He's just such a loquacious asshole about it he can't explain his conclusions to an actual Monk without the Player Character acting as a go-between.
  • In Grandia II, the gods Granas and Valmar were originally scientists who made what could only described as an ascension-to-godhood machine.
  • GreedFall: The Naut's aquatic dominance is attributed to nature magic on par with that of the islanders. The truth is that they just have better navigation equipment that they're not allowed to share. Notably this story wasn't all that implausible in the setting, as real magic does exist and is well known, this just wasn't an example of it.
  • Horizon Forbidden West features this in an in-universe sense. While Aloy and the audience are aware of the truth, that the world is post-apocalyptic and that the various Gods are actually A.I.s and machines, this is a rather troubling revelation for other characters.
  • The world of Iconoclasts is dominated by a totalitarian theocracy preparing for the return of its god, an Eldritch Abomination known as the Starworm. The "god" turns out to be a Space Trucker's big rig, only here to gas up with the planet's store of Ivory and then hit the road.
  • The Stinger at the original ending of Infinity Blade in which the Warrior activates the God King's iPhone and brings up a holographic display of Earth and the bonus content in which the Warrior faces a clone of his Ancestor that is piloting a Mini-Mecha in the God King's cloning facility reveal that the setting is science fiction and not fantasy.
  • The Jackbox Party Pack: Split The Room appears to take place in a surreal, nebulous void hosted by an omniscient Reality Warping Funny Animal named Mayonnaise. However, the game's credits show him painting the player avatars, filming his head through a cardboard hole for the "waiting on answers" screen, and hanging the doors for the Decisive Dimension. Turns out that the whole thing is just a TV show with an elaborate presentation!
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (the ultimate king of correcting itself) does this forwards and backwards. Fortune has luck-based powers that cause every shot fired against her to miss (Hint: Don't stand next to her). It then explains much later that she merely has a "sufficiently advanced" bit of technology (that she didn't know about) which makes her Immune to Bullets. This is demonstrated by the owner of the device shooting her in the chest, proving he controls the device and she is powerless. Shortly after this he tries shooting rockets at her, and she deflects them with her mind. note  Seems in this case, the wizard was Not Quite Dead.
    • Then there's the character of Vamp, who is to all evidence an actual supernatural vampire. In a milieu with psychics, an immortal woman and a man COVERED IN BEES, this isn't so strange it couldn't be pulled off with sheer chutzpah. Instead Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots goes well out its way to explain how his powers are granted by nanomachines and other technology.
    • In general the series plays with this to different degrees depending on the entry, with pretty much every entry containing different balances of sci-fi vs. Magic Realism or other symbolic elements, and characters discuss Magic from Technology and Clarke's Third Law in-universe. Metal Gear Solid 4 is infamous for going hard on doing in the wizard, but it includes implications that the magical explanations might have been real after all, brushed over by the main narrative.
  • Used halfway; the Might and Magic universe never attempted to explain away the Magic spells or the elves and such. On the other hand, it is implied that all the Gods are only Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and the demons and devils (called Kreegans by themselves) are also aliens, who invade worlds through meteors (they extinguished the halflings (hobbits) this way). There's a significant amount of lost technology behind every plot. Although, there are also actual demons which look almost identical to said Kreegans. They are only seen in Heroes Chronicles: Conquest of the Underworld.
    • However, there is nothing particularly magical about those, considering that a completely human army can go into the Underworld freely. These demons seem to be nothing more than native species that live in that particular area, while the identical looks can be explained by Heroes Chronicles using the same engine and sprites as Heroes of Might and Magic III.
  • No Man's Sky: Waking Titan shows that the Atlas Stones you find aren't relics placed there by a divine being like the Traveler assumes, but are actually from the Atlas Company, the guys running the simulation the NMS universe is in.
  • In Generation VI of Pokémon, you can participate in inverse battles where type matchup effectiveness is reversed. The trainer you battle, Inver states that his psychic powers are responsible for the inversion in Pokémon X and Y. In Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the cause of the inversion is explained as a the product of a machine called the Inverse-o-matic.
    • Throughout most of the series, the Dragon type is described almost poetically, and given almost exclusively to extremely rare, endgame-level Mons. The introduction of the Fairy typing gives it one of its two weaknesses, with a basis in fairy tales. Then Generation 8 introduces the legendary Regidrago, which is described as being comprised of "crystalized dragon energy," meaning that the majesty inherent to the dragon type might be actually an inherent, measurable quality, although with what has been shown, it is still clearly magic.
  • In the first Psychonauts game, Raz reveals his family was cursed to one day die in water, represented in-game as a watery limb called the Hand of Galochio dragging Raz under. The sequel reveals there is no curse. Ford Cruller planted the idea in Lucy's head as a means of keeping her from rediscovering her hydrokinetic abilities and she passed that fear onto the rest of the family. The Hand of Galochio is just Raz's psychic abilities acting up out of fear, and after he learns the truth, the Hand no longer tries to drown him, instead pushing him back onto dry land.
  • In the Golden Ending of The Reconstruction, it is revealed that Tezkhra isn't actually a god and the Watchers aren't actually angels/demigods/things; it's all just because Tez and his pals are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Magic is still magic, though. Probably.
  • Sonic Frontiers finally provides an origin for the Chaos Emeralds as being relics drawn to Earth by the Ancients, aliens who were fleeing the destruction of their home world by an Eldritch Abomination. The Master Emerald's presence on Earth (which was the very thing that drew the Chaos Emeralds and thus the Ancients to Earth), as well as the Super Emeralds, remains unexplained and presumably mystical, though Sega has stated that magic doesn't exist in Sonic's world.
  • Splatoon: The first game states the ink left over after a Turf War match simply vanishes after the battle ends. Splatoon 2 later explains that, rather than just disappearing, the ink is actually rapidly disintegrated by airborne microbes. This is framed in-universe as a scientific discovery that took place between games.
  • Always happens in the Star Ocean games, the natives of a planet will use magical terms to describe a villain or phenomenon. Any alien or member of The Federation who is in the party will have a technobabble explanation. The funny thing is how the natives in the party more or less ignore these.
    • So very egregious in Star Ocean: The Second Story, where main-character Claude is well-acquainted with science and technology, and tries to explain certain things away in scientific terms, only to fail miserably. He gets better as time goes on (i.e. he learns to stop questioning everything and just accept that he's not that smart.)
    • The wizard finally gets done in once & for all though in the 3rd game, when it turns out that their entire universe is a computer game & the "magic" is just computer code that temporarily overwrites the physics engine. That the code works outside the game is hand waved by saying that the parents of the protagonists created a special kind of science/magic/code that would make their special powers work outside their VR world. In other words, they cast a spell to make magic work in a world with no magic to make spells work. Star Ocean 3 is A.I. Is a Crapshoot written from the other side.
  • At the end of the Fek'Ihri arc in the Klingon campaign of Star Trek Online, your science officer suggests after the fact that the battle in Gre'thor, the Klingon version of Hell may have been All Just a Dream and that the Fek'Ihri, The Legions of Hell, were created by biotech, possibly by the Abusive Precursors, the Hur'q. Nothing came of this... until the Victory is Life expansion, years later, which revealed the Fek'Ihri are biotech creations — specifically, Dominion biotech; they are a renegade precursor to the Jem'Hadar designed to look like Klingon myths and based on Hur'q biology.
    • Similarly, in the Federation campaign, there's an adventure that has you fighting ghosts in a spooky basement. Turns out the ghosts are just aliens who are only partially phased into this reality, plus one malfunctioning hologram. They're still dangerous, just not supernatural.
  • Tekken 4, in general. Most soft sci-fi and blatantly supernatural elements are downplayed or eliminated entirely. For example, the Mishima Clan's Devil powers seem to be attributed to a genetic mutation. Ogre, instead of being an ancient god, is a "bioweapon." The Ridiculously Human Robot, Jack, was replaced by the Clockwork Creature, Combot. Neither Angel nor Devil or Devil Jin are playable characters. No Beast Men. And the final boss, like the first game, is simply Heihachi rather than some sort of Humanoid Abomination. Whatever the reasons for this change, though, it didn't stick. In subsequent games, it's pretty clear that the Devil Gene, a supposed genetic fluke, does have a supernatural origin. Jack not only returns but is joined by the even more ridiculously-human-looking (and very anime-esque) Alisa Bosconovitch. The final bosses of Tekken 5 , 6 and 7 (a dead man possessed by an evil spirit, an outright demon and the ghost of a woman with the Devil Gene, respectively) are definitely supernatural. Roger makes a return (without Alex), and now has an equally anthropomorphic family. Tekken Tag 2 even brings back Alex, Angel, both Devils, Ogre, and Unknown. In short, the Wizard Came Back Strong.
  • Occurs often in the Wild ARMs games, where the villains or Precursors will Technobabble away magical events. Some of these are justified, and some are ridiculously silly.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the Architect is really just a scientist looking to atone for his mistakes, and is more than willing to do in his own wizard by explaining the science of how he made an entire world from scratch.
  • In the comics (and the original Algonquin myths), the Wendigos are the result of a supernatural curse. In the video game adaptation of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Wendigos are reimagined as the W.E.N.D.I.G.O.s, a group of prototype Super Soldiers created by Weapon X.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Oyashiro-sama's curse is neither supernatural nor the product of a conspiracy by a Town with a Dark Secret — it's a disease. But despite that, magic still exists, and so does Oyashiro-sama.
  • A weirdly inverted version in Umineko: When They Cry: While the witches and their magic seem to be blatantly real, if Battler can explain all the deaths away as the work of normal humans, he'll Do In The Wizard and Retcon them away. While it's never stated whether everything is magic or mundane, it's still eventually made clear that from a mundane perspective, the "magical" characters aren't real at all; they're either meant to be symbolic or the product of a human character's imagination. There's also "Our Confession", a side material that shows how Yasu used trickery and bribery to commit the murders.
    • To put it simply (which is not easy, since the story of the series is wrapped up in about five layers of meta-narratives): There is actually not "magic" in the setting. The actual events on Rokkenjima all happened without any supernatural influence and were committed by Yasu, Kyrie and Rudolf. All the Episodes of the visual novel are in-universe fiction written by Yasu (Ep 1-2) and Battler (Ep 3-6), with only the "present time" parts with Ange taking place in reality (unless they also involve magic... it is pretty complicated). Battler's struggle with Beato, the witches and other supernatural entities thorough the episodes is in practice nothing more than a clash between looking for the truth (the mystery perspective, finding the ultimate culprit and their motives) versus surrendering to deception (the fantasy perspective, accepting magic and giving up the search for clues and motives in order to protect oneself from accusing their loved ones). One could even say Umineko is one gigantic allegory for solving the core mystery, and doing in the different magical characters is about defeating the mysteries/obstacles they embody.
  • Anghel Higure in Hatoful Boyfriend at first appears to be an eccentric Daydream Believer from the Manga Club who claims he's a cheesy JRPG-style Fallen Angel, and then, at the end of his route, we find out that he's actually telling the truth. In the BBL route, it's then revealed that Anghel was not actually a fallen angel, but a bird with a mutational ability to induce hallucinations in others when physically agitated. Possibly a parody considering the source material, although not definitively. However, he does also know things he should not be able to know, and then there's what happens in his story in Holiday Star, making it lean towards Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.
  • The final stretch of Raging Loop involves main character Haruaki making some truly amazing leaps of logic to explain away the supernatural events during earlier runs of the Feast as entirely grounded in real-world logic and entirely man-made phenomena For example... , and somehow being right every time. This despite other aspects, like the setting's central conceit of a time loop and the sheep that allows Haruaki to keep his memories when looping, being clearly supernatural and never explained away. It's implied Haruaki might actually have a superpower that turns his Arbitrary Skepticism into reality, and the entire setting and its looping is due to it being a dream created by a powerful Reality Warper. Given that both said dreamer and the sheep are personally fond of Haruaki, it's possible their interference somehow retconned the supernatural events away during his final loops, just to prove him right.

  • Flipside: Magic is actually nanotech called "qualia". Some characters are aware of this but do not understand how it works.
  • Unicorn Jelly begins as a Dungeons & Dragons-like world with witches who wield magic and fly on brooms, unicorns, elves, ogres, slimes, jellies, and other monsters. Eventually most or all of this gets explained away as being due to a combination of the physics and chemistry of the alien universe, Bizarre Alien Biology, Ancient Conspiracy, Schizo Tech, selective breeding and mutation, and hallucinogenic plants.
  • Tales of the Questor starts off using the word "Lux" as just the Racconans' technical term for their medieval-era world's Force Magic version of Functional Magic, complete with constant uses of terms like "spells," "magic," and "wizard." After over a hundred pages of this, the fundamentalist Christian author devoted a text-heavy side arc to explaining that the force that looked like magic, acted like magic, sparkled like magic, was treated like magic, and was frequently called magic wasn't really magic. Another side arc, much later in the comic's run, went further and showed the tragic consequences of Racconans referring to their magic-like powers as magic, implying that they weren't even going to use magic-related terminology anymore.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court attempts this In-Universe with the Ether, to minimal success. Anja Donlan refers to the "etheric sciences", mentions older "magical" phenomena that have been absorbed by scientific thought, and explains how some of the Court teachers' powers are generated by a Magitek computer that she designed. Subverted when she admits that while they can use etheric power, they still have no way to explain it.
    Tom: Etherial Tenet can be summarised as "It just does, okay?"
  • El Goonish Shive falls somewhere between this and Magic A Is Magic A. While magic is an accepted and integral part of that universe, Tedd's transformation technology (which was given to him by aliens) as well as Grace's own transformation abilities are said to be more scientific in nature (although they do rely on an alternate form of magic energy to function, to the point where they give a false positive to any magic sensing devices). The way it works is so complicated that it took an arc to explain.
    • Though it's not like magic and inner demons weren't mentioned in the first three months. Look! It's a demonic duck of some sort!
    • The "Hammerchlorians" arc does this on a somewhat meta level, explaining that the ability of some characters to summon Hyperspace Mallets is the result of a specific enchantment, rather than a generic comedy convention inherent to the comic's universe. The strip hangs lampshades by comparing this revelation to the "midi-chlorians" explanation in Star Wars. Ultimately, this is more like bringing in the wizard to replace a more esoteric explanation.
    • In a way, this strip, and the following one, do in the wizard. Though not in the usual way.
  • In an early Full Frontal Nerdity strip, the players in Frank's most recent campaign discover that the 'origin of magic' is actually Magic from Technology and that benevolent aliens are responsible for channeling these 'miracles' to humans. They react much as expected. A later strip some eight years later implies all the campaigns end that way.
  • Errant Story does this in a Wham Episode late in the comic. It's revealed in an Apocalyptic Log-style expository page that the Elven Creator Gods were actually Sufficiently Advanced Aliens whose entire species had coalesced into three "collectives" - superpowered Energy Beings. After one of them died/disappeared and the others began to destabilize, they made the Paedagogusi, Dwarves, Elves and Trolls in a failed attempt to create a replacement collective and restore their stability. The whole setting changes in one page from High Fantasy to Science Fiction.
  • Homestuck has this subverted. A functionally omniscient character says there is no such thing as magic, but there are such things as unexplainable technology, superpowers, gods, and quasi-magical pure forces of the multiverse. Several characters continue to refer to their powers as spells anyways.
    • A rather long Running Gag in MS Paint Adventures was pumpkins disappearing, usually accompanied by some form of the phrase, "What pumpkin?" In Act 6 of Homestuck, it's revealed that the cause behind Jade's disappearing pumpkins was mostly caused by Jake English fooling around with his transmaterializer too much.
      • It's later mentioned by Roxy that pumpkins are somehow unhinged from spacetime, and as such, are easier to teleport than anything else. Which is somewhat understandable: in Homestuck, all teleporting devices are built with failsafes to prevent time paradoxes, and pumpkins aren't destined for much.
  • Parodied in an arc of Schlock Mercenary involving a "haunted" spaceship. There proves to be a scientific explanation, but it's actually profoundly less likely than the ship simply being haunted, to the point that the ship's AI actually went insane trying to figure out how it could possibly happen.
  • Most of the main cast of Alice Grove has superpowers. But while two of them get their powers from nanomachines, the others go unexplained for a long time, leaving fans to wonder if there is an explanation at all. Turns out there is: They are Powered by a Black Hole and can control entropy, making them a kind of Reality Warper.
    "We are Maxwell's Demons. We are powered by black holes, and the laws of physics are optional for us."
  • The "magic" of Collar 6 is described with rational, clinical terms to describe how they're actually Soul Powered Psychic Powers that use rituals to impress the practitioner's desire on their subconsiousness through the link of sexuality (it's one of *those* webcomics). It's latter revealed that just calling it "magic" comes in and out of vogue, and it's just become mainstream again after the first story arc is finished.

    Web Original 
  • This happens to a lot of the more fantastical elements from Red vs. Blue once the Genre Shift began occurring in "Reconstruction". How are Church and Tex able to come back as ghosts when no one else who dies ever displays that ability? Because they are both AI programs who are possessing people/robots to give themselves physical bodies in the same way O'Malley/Omega does. What is the afterlife that Sarge visits early in season 1 when he is shot by Caboose? It is the recovery mode installed in all Project Freelancer armor that keeps the body in a lucid dream like state until they are fully healed. The strange time jumping shenanigans that Church goes through in season 3? It is actually a complex torture scenario by Gary/Gamma in order to manipulate the Alpha AI.
  • Shandala, the heroine of Urban Fantasy series Broken Saints, has a variety of Psychic Powers, most notably healing wounds with a touch and unleashing loads of Mind Rape on hostile persons, courtesy of her perpetual hyper-empathic state. In the Grand Finale, it is revealed that she was genetically designed and bred by her father to be in a perpetual hyper-empathic state, and then hit with a Trauma Conga Line to turn her into the ultimate conduit for the broadcast of emotion (esp. fear) part of his Evil Plan to collapse civilization.
  • SCP Foundation: The Foundation attempts to find scientific and rational reasons for how the various objects they contain with minimal success. Objects that have been successfully explained get the special -EX designation. However, one of the more popular methods of explanation (that a "Hume field" affects how attached to reality something is) was put into question, which made it Doing in the Scientist.
  • Subverted in The Demented Cartoon Movie. A whole segment is devoted to finding the reason Zeeky Boog—er, The Zeeky Words cause a nucular explosion.note  Eventually the source of the explosions is found and destroyed, but when the explorers use the Zeeky Words again, they still blow up.

    Western Animation 
  • In Super Friends, Apache Chief got his Sizeshifter powers from stereotypical "Apache magic". In Young Justice, he was born with a metagene that activated after he was experimented on by aliens.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force. Gwen's magical powers are explained as alien powers inherited from her alien grandmother. The episode with this revelation goes on to say that there is no such thing as magic, despite previous episodes and the prior series having things such as spells read from incantations, a fountain of youth, and soul-swapping. Oh, and what powers Gwen's abilities according to the same episode? Mana.
    • Then Word of God claims that both Hex and Charmcaster are in fact magic users. Maybe coming from another dimension has something to do with it...
    • The next installment, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, makes it clear that "magic" and "mana" are just two different terms for the same thing. Gwen's half-Anodite heritage just makes her really good at raw magic usage - Anodites are Energy Beings made of the stuff - but its entirely possible for humans like Charmcaster and her people to use it too, with a bit more effort, and use it in more creative ways thanks to the development of different spells and such. Spellbooks naturally make their return around this same time, but whether this all was a case of Unreliable Narrator muddling things up (the character who said magic isn't real had never dealt with magic of non-alien origin before) or an Author's Saving Throw is up in the air.
  • Played with in one episode of Batman Beyond. Terry recounts the rumors from his high school that a ghost is haunting it to Bruce, expecting him to reply that there's probably a rational explanation to it, because there's no such thing as ghosts. Bruce turns around and says he's met ghosts, demons, wizards, and aliens. He doesn't believe this case, he says, because it sounds too "high school". Terry eventually discovers that it's not a ghost behind the bizarre happenings, but rather a telekinetic teenager who got his powers when a robot's remote control malfunctioned.
  • In Justice League, it is stated that Cheetah was once a biologist who gained superhuman abilities after being forced to use herself as a test subject when her funding ran out. This is in contrast to the comics, where Barbara Minerva's Cheetah was originally an Adventurer Archaeologist who was given superpowers by an African plant/Fertility God via Blood Magic and Human Sacrifice.
  • The Flight of Dragons:
    • The main character got his mind stuck in a dragon and received a lecture about dragon-ness from an older one, upon which he deduced the dragon abilities of flight and firebreathing as possible due to hollow bones, empty spaces in the body for holding gas, and eating limestone (calcium carbonate) - which mixed with stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) produces hydrogen gas that is lighter than airnote , and ignitable with a spark from the scaly dragon tongue/roof of mouth. The mechanics of the dragons' physiology were taken from the speculative natural history book The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson, and the film's main character was named after the author, though the story and many of the other characters are loosely based on Gordon R. Dickson's The Dragon and the George.
    • More than that, however, in-universe, Peter Dickinson was chosen because he is ultimately a man of science. He unmerges himself from Gorbash by declaring that two objects can't occupy the same space at the same time, and he literally does in an evil wizard by countering every one of his spells with scientific formulae. Rejecting magic also sends him back to his own time.
  • It is a Running Gag on Futurama to adapt supernatural Twice Told Tales with robots, making them a unique mix of Demythification and in-universe Defictionalization of mythical creatures. The trope proper is parodied in "The Honking", when Professor Farnsworth offers a "mundane" explanation for the robot ghosts encountered by the gang previously in the episode (human ghosts are said to have died out in the early 2800s).
    Farnsworth: Just as I suspected. These robots were buried in improperly shielded coffins. Their programming leaked into the castle's wiring through this old, abandoned modem, allowing them to project themselves as holograms.
    Hermes: Of course! It was so obvious!
    Farnsworth: Yes, that sequence of words I said makes perfect sense.
  • In Beast Wars, Starscream's "ghost" from Transformers Generation 1 is explained as an almost indestructible Spark.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Mystery of a Thousand Moons", the residents of Iego have come to believe that "the curse of Droll" is responsible for the destruction of any ship trying to leave the planet. The Jedi are skeptical and discover it's actually a prototype superweapon installed in the moons.
  • Transformers: Animated plays with this. While the AllSpark is shown to have an almost supernatural appearance, Word of God states that it operates on scientific principles (albeit principles neither human or Transformer has cracked). The Magnus Hammer is also given a vague origin. Primus exists as a god, but not many Cybertronians believe in him, save for the Church of Primus. Word of God states that older Cybertronians were primitive, and took billions of years to reach their current level of technology. Exactly who their creators are is a mystery, but it is heavily implied that they were Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that modeled Cybertron and its inhabitants (including beast-type robots) after their own world. Additionally, there are no Thirteen Primes in Transformers. Derrick J. Wyatt has also revealed on Formspring that the inner workings of Cybertron contain a "giant robot factory." Of course, a lot of this is writers giving their own, sometimes conflicting interpretation of what they didn't get to make canon, and comes together to get pretty confusing. Transformers is the work of far too many hands to consider anyone "god" enough to give absolute Word of God about how it all works.
    • The shows themselves have a strange relationship with "the wizard," where things we'd call "magic" are described in sciency terms because, well, they're robots. Gods, demons, Ki Manipulation, Psychic Powers, Battle Auras, and The Lifestream all exist, but don't expect them to ever be called that or explained to death in a 'midichlorian' sort of way.
    • Though even the "not calling it magic" bit isn't always consistent; Transformers: Prime, especially, sometimes came within a hair's breadth of stating that certain things were explicitly supernatural.
    • When it comes to the Allspark in Animated, the writers explicitly mentioned "midichlorians" as the kind of overly complicated and unsatisfying origin they're trying to avoid; where it comes from and how it works gets no mention at all. (This fits with the movies as well: "Before time began, there was... the cube." is all you're getting.)
  • The Simpsons:
    • The page quote is from the episode "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)", where this trope is parodied. Homer's visit to the spirit world is actually a hallucination induced by excesive ingestion of chili peppers, and he recognizes the objects around as the real inspiration of those he met in the spirit world.
    • The trope is parodied again in "Don't Fear the Roofer". Homer makes a new friend, a roofer named Ray, that no one else can see. After being hospitalized and treated with electroshock, it turns out that Ray is indeed real and that people could not see him because he was coincidentally hidden from their POV. When Bart points that he still saw Homer talking to nobody while in the open, Stephen Hawking randomly enters and explains that Bart's vision was coincidentally obscured by a brief mini-black hole forming between him and Ray.
  • In X-Men Evolution the Juggernaut got his powers through mysticism like the comics, except it turns out the Gem of Cytorrak he used in them actually emits a form of radiation that activates and amplifies mutant powers.
  • In Wolverine and the X-Men (2009), the Wendigo was S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attempt at recreating Captain America's Super Serum, rather than the product of an ancient Indigenous curse like it was in the comics.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man (2012), the Venom and Carnage symbiotes are products of genetic engineering, rather than alien parasites like they are in comics.
  • It is stated in Iron Man: Armored Adventures that Dormammu is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien rather than a satanic Dimension Lord like in the comics.
    Doctor Doom: Our witless ancestors would have called them "demons."
  • Some gags of Family Guy and Robot Chicken draw their comedy from 'revealing' the mundane, often awful 'truth' behind fantastic childrens stories, like explaining that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer's shiny red nose was the result of a brain tumor-induced mutation that would eventually kill him, or that Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and Little Orphan Annie were actually schizophrenics who hallucinated all their adventures.
  • Attempted In-Universe by Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, where throughout "Feeling Pinkie Keen" she is intent on proving that Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie Sense" has a rational explanation as it violates the universe's Magic A Is Magic A principle. Hilarity Ensues and it ends badly for Twilight Sparkle who ultimately accepts that some things just can't be explained.
  • Steven Universe: In the first season, not only are Gems repeatedly referred to and treated as being magical beings by other characters, but even Pearl herself calls their powers "magic" in "Lars And The Cool Kids". Season 2 onwards quickly establishes that Gems are aliens, with all the magic now having sci-fi explanations behind them.

    Real Life 
  • Some famous magicians, such as James Randi and Penn & Teller, specialize in debunking the supernatural with scientific explanations. Harry Houdini was also interested in debunking mediums of his age. He even established a secret phrase with his wife that he would use if he should die and she should try to contact him through a séance. He did die fairly young and his wife tried for many years after his death to contact him through mediums, who all failed to deliver his secret phrase (except for Arthur Ford, who claimed success in 1929, only to be exposed as a faker later... Another debunking by Houdini posthumously, so to speak).
  • Revealing the secrets of sleight-of-hand illusions and such takes the "magic" out of the magic tricks.
  • The scientific method has done in a small army of wizards, djinn, dragons, and the like. For example, death certificates from pre-scientific England list such causes of death as comet, the king's evil (a real disease, but one thought to be specially curable by the touch of a king), and sorcery.
  • Pseudoscience is arguably a straighter example than regular science. Pseudoscience's only goal is to come up for an explanation for something that sounds more plausible to the modern ear than sorcery—whether it's right is not a consideration.
  • Cryptozoologists occasionally come up with more natural explanations for the creatures they're seeking. The Thunderbird, for example, is often thought of as simply a large, undiscovered bird of prey, or an extinct one, rather than a titanic, lightning-shooting weather spirit. Likewise, the Kraken is thought to have been an exaggeration of sightings of giant squids, which were thought to be mythical themselves until the body of one was actually recovered.