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Flashback Echo

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An event taking place in the present triggers a Flashback of a very similar event that happened in the past, sometimes shown with a Match Cut. Resembles an Ironic Echo or Meaningful Echo except that the viewer often sees the current event first and the meaningful or ironic past event is only shown through the flashback. A series of these becomes a version of Flashback B-Plot, and a Flashback Cut can be similar but is broader and more comedic.

Common types of Flashback Echoes include:

  • If a character sees a large fire and starts having a Freak Out because it triggers a traumatic flashback of when they were a kid and almost got trapped and killed in a fire. Flashbacks of forgotten or repressed traumas may be incomplete, mysterious and foreboding.
  • As above, but with nostalgic or otherwise meaningful events.
  • A person reminds someone of a different person they used to know, and they flashback to memories of that person, sometimes represented by visually superimposing the old person's image over the new person's.
  • A flashback to That One Case or an event that was someone's Greatest Failure brought on by a similar event, may lead to My Greatest Second Chance.
  • Any flashback to an event because History Repeats.

And so on.

Compare Visions of Another Self, where the "Echo" part can be conveyed through a dream, an alternate reality side trip, a holodeck or other such literary device, usually in a way that teaches the character or the audience some lesson relevant to the present.

If you're thinking of the stereotypical echoey sound effect that often acompanies flashbacks, you should be looking at Flashback... Back... Back....

Could be considered having some Truth in Television, because people with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) have this type of flashback activated by a trigger. For instance, if a war veteran with PTSD heard gunfire, he could have a flashback to a traumatic event with the same weapon.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first chapter of Assassination Classroom, Koro-sensei notices a fragment of charred, sizzling gunpowder from Nagisa's failed assassination attempt, triggering a cryptic Type 2 flashback involving what looks like the remains of a destroyed, burning laboratory, a woman with a bleeding stomach, and a tentacled, human-like figure cradling her in its arms. Type 1 and Type 4 occur when the sight of Itona's tentacles sends Koro-sensei into a very brief but terrifying fit of anger. The scene then cuts to a quick flashback of a hand turning into tentacles and impaling the woman in the gut.
  • During the Conviction arc of Berserk, Guts has a combination of Type 1, Type 3 and Type 4 when the horse that he kidnapped Farnese on gets possessed by one of the demons after him and tries to rape her, reminding him strongly of the rape of his lover Casca at Griffith-turned-Femto's hands during the Eclipse. This proceeds to set Guts off in a serious way, with ugly results for the once-helpful steed.
    • During Guts and Casca's first time, Guts ends up having a Type 1 flashback to his traumatic childhood rape at the hands of Donovan, which almost leads to Casca getting strangled to death before Guts comes back to his senses. The rest of the scene sees the two more than making up for this.
  • Elfen Lied: When trying to stop Lucy from fighting Nana at Maple House, Mayu pleads to Lucy "No more! Stop it!" Lucy has a flashback to the day she killed Kouta's father and sister, during which a young Kouta tearfully said the exact same thing to her, and has an attack that leads to Nyu resurfacing.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist. Winry gets a type 2 in episode 22: as she hears rumors of the Elrics fighting Scar, she suddenly flashes back to her parents' retreating backs the last time she saw them alive, which is then superimposed with an image of Ed and Al walking the same way.
    • Also happens to Mustang in the manga: after Hawkeye drops the phone to engage in combat with Gluttony, a single panel shows Hughes' dead body lying in a phone booth, showing Mustang's fear of being unable to save someone again.
  • March Comes in Like a Lion has a Type 1. While Rei is treating Momo's arm for some bruises she received from falling down, he recalls the sight of the injuries and internal bleeding of the arm of his deceased sister's corpse and begins crying in response.
  • Type 3 is repeatedly used in the Search for Tsunade arc of Naruto, comparing the titular character to Tsunade's old flame and younger brother, both of whom Naruto echoed by saying that becoming Hokage was his dream. For bonus points the arc showed the old flame echoing the brother and the brother bore a great physical resemblance to Naruto to amplify the comparison.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi had Rakan going into a (one panel) flashback to show how closely Negi's group of friends paralleled his father's group.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: During Episode 3, Homura arrives to help Mami defeat a Witch, resulting in Mami — who had previously told her they'd fight if they ever met again — tying Homura up with her ribbons. Homura's reaction is the first time she ever shows emotion in the series. In Episode 10 we learn that Homura was tied up once before, in an Alternate Timeline by Mami, who was about to pull off a triple murder suicide after learning the Awful Truth about what magical girls are and what will ultimately happen to them.
  • In R.O.D the TV, the youngest of the Paper Sisters has a breakdown during a book-burning, since it gives her a very keen flashback to the incident that gave her a phobia against books in general — being trapped in a burning library.
  • During the first half of Space Pirate Mito, Aoi keeps having fractured flashbacks (maybe that should be a trope) from 11 years ago, when his mother took him into space and they were attacked by Ranban. The flashback is finally shown in full when he witnesses Mito and Ranban fighting in a similar fashion, and ends up subconsciously wounding Mito, due to not recognizing her true form all those years ago.
  • When Five successfully hacks into Nine's computer in Terror in Resonance, Nine has a somewhat traumatic flashback of Five playing hide-and-seek with him in the institution. For a friendly game of hide-and-seek, Nine seems to be running away rather desperately, as if his life were in danger.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! combines this one with "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight. Yugi tries to get through to a possessed Jounouchi by giving him Yugi's Millennium Puzzle, and Marik immediately commands him to throw it into the sea to keep it away from Yugi. Jounouchi promptly flashes back to the beginning of his friendship with Yugi, when Yugi defended him from a bully even after Jounouchi stole a piece of the Puzzle and threw it in a pool. Even the possession can't get Jounouchi to do that again.

    Comic Books 
  • Chapter Two of All Fall Down revolves around heroes (and Sophie) remembering the last time the Pantheon was truly heroic, involving a mission on the moon.
  • In the Batman Confidential storyline "The First League", various events trigger Bruce Wayne having flashbacks to a meeting with a Chinese superhero group when he was travelling the world before taking the Batman identity. His first encounter with the Justice League leads to a Let's You and Him Fight situation that exactly parallels a training exercise with the Chinese team.
  • Green Lantern: The Lost Army: Throughout the miniseries John has little flashbacks to his time in the army that echo his current predicament.

    Fan Works 
  • In Mutant, this is combined with Happy Flashback to wrench all the pain she feels out for the reader.
  • Waiting is worth it: Type 4. During Bakugo and Izuku's fight in the Tournament Arc, Bakugo accidentally hits Izuku in the head too hard. This leads to Izuku losing partial consciousness and briefly cancels out the gravity in the entire stadium. This reminds Bakugo of the first time he saw this - when they were kids at the moment when Izuku's quirk first manifests and when he became disabled - and has a minor freakout, trying to comfort Izuku and get him to regain control. He then spends the awards ceremony chained to a post, not because he had an easy victory like in the source material, but because he feels like he needs to be there for Izuku.

    Films — Animated 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem: During the climactic battle, Splinter is lying on the ground when he sees a man walking toward him, triggering memories of the angry mob that terrorized him and his sons on the surface fifteen years prior. Fortunately, thanks to April's reporting, the man actually came over to help him.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Sgt. Calhoun has a Type 1 after Fix-It Felix calls her a "dynamite gal", causing her to flash back to several instances of her deceased fiancĂ© calling her the same thing... including right before he was killed by Cybugs.
  • Zootopia: At the press conference, Nick photos of the "savage" animals being muzzled, causing him to flash back to when he was muzzled as a child.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • After Kal-El's ship lands in Smallville, Man of Steel skips ahead to an adult Clark, so these are used several times to show his growing years.
  • The killings start in Pieces when the killer witnesses a girl crashing through a mirror, as it reminds him of his mother breaking a mirror in the past before he killed her.
  • Fatal Instinct, in a parody of Sleeping with the Enemy. Twice when Laura Lincolnberry sees some disarranged towels, she has a flashback to her abusive husband getting angry at her because of his obsessive need for everything to be perfectly arranged, including towels.
  • In A Fistful of Dynamite, John witnesses Dr. Villega betraying the resistance and pointing out members for the firing squad. He instantly recalls a similar event involving his friend Sean Nolan betraying him in Dublin.
  • The ending of Saw 3D gives us Lawrence Gordon closing the Bathroom door on Mark Hoffman in the same manner as John Kramer in the first film, complete with the "game over" Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
  • Someone Great: Because the breakup is so fresh, seeing things in the present will cause Jenny to flash back to significant moments with Nate. For example, a stroll by the Washington State Park fountain reminds her of how Nate declared it "their spot".
  • In We Are What We Are, Iris reads from the family diary (see also: Posthumous Character). Like Iris, the diary's author is the oldest daughter of the Parker family's pioneer ancestors. The girl's mother dies early on (similar to Mrs. Parker), and the father slowly loses his mind (similar to Mr. Parker gradually succumbing to Kuru). The father ultimately forces the eldest daughter to butcher her mother's body for food (similar to Mr. Parker forcing Iris to carry on the "family tradition" of cannibalism). The flashbacks are interspersed with present-day events: the pioneer family eating their "lost" uncle cuts to bacon frying in a present-day diner, and both fathers stumble around unsettlingly.

  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore asks Harry, "Is there something you wish to tell me?" in such a way that it's suggested he knows whatever the "something" is and is trying to give Harry the opportunity to come clean himself. Later on he asks Tom Riddle the same thing in the diary flashback.
    • Both Harry and Tom respond with the same "No, sir, nothing."
    • The film takes this further and makes the exchanges word-for-word identical:
      Dumbledore: Is there something you wish to tell me?
      Harry/Riddle: No, sir. Nothing.
      Dumbledore: Very well, then. Off you go.
  • In Heart of Steel, Julia's blonde hair triggers the first of Alistair's flashbacks to another blonde woman he knew pre-amnesia. He doesn't realize they were separate women until much later.
  • Journey to Chaos: Kallen Selios will occasionally flashback to her mana mutation and that of her sister when seeing someone else mutate. The new monster will inevitably attack her and thus forcing her to kill it.
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation: While at Reva's mother's funeral, the protagonist starts recalling her parents' individual funerals.
  • Secrets Not Meant to be Kept: "I'll let you feed the rabbits ... if ..." Throughout the novel, seventeen-year-old Adri repeatedly hears this phrase in her head. It turns out that she is remembering a time when, as a toddler, she was offered the opportunity to feed rabbits as an incentive to cooperate with the people who were molesting her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a season 4 episode of Angel, "Ground State", electro-girl Gwen Raiden electrocutes and kills Charles Gunn. She immediately flashes back to an event in her childhood in which she accidentally kills a boy she was making friends with. Shocked with herself, she revives Gunn within twenty seconds or so.
  • Cobra Kai: In "No Mercy", a misunderstanding between Daniel and Johnny takes place when Daniel is looking for his daughter and arrives at Johnny's house. The two begin to fight each other as the scene repeatedly cuts back to their original final match in The Karate Kid, highlighting how their rivalry is still strong after all these years and even their more recent positive interactions.
  • CSI: NY: Dealing with Flack's injuries from the explosion in "Charge of This Post" takes Mac back to the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut:
    Smith: How did you know how to do that?
    Mac: I've lived through this moment before.
  • Dexter flash-cuts back to the moment Harry found Dexter more than once - most notably at the end of season four.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • In "Nora", when Barry tells his daughter how to phase (meaning, to make oneself and possibly other objects intangible) in order to stop a plane from crashing into a building, Barry flashes back to Wells teaching him how to phase in "Tricksters" and repeats Wells's lines as he remembers them. This emphasizes how Barry is becoming like Wells in the sense of teaching another, younger speedster.
    • In "The Last Temptation of Barry Allen Part 1", when Barry attacks the Speed Force appearing as his deceased mother by vibrating his hand through her heart, he realizes by quickly flashing back to his real mother's death that he resembles her killer and his archenemy, the Reverse-Flash.
  • Used often in Homeland to contrast Brody's time in captivity against his life at home. Since he's a Shell-Shocked Veteran, everyday events can trigger some very dark memories.
  • Forever Knight does this Once an Episode (or more) with Nick flashing back to a situation earlier in his life which paralleled his current predicament.
  • General Hospital: When he sees his then-lover Abby get nearly raped by her abusive ex Brandon, Michael has a Type 1 flashback to when he was raped in prison by an inmate and responds violently, nearly strangling Brandon to death until Jason shows up and pulls him off.
  • Highlander: The Series uses this every episode. Immortals have centuries of memories to draw upon, and will invariably flash back to an event similar to the present.
  • Kung Fu (1972) used it in almost every episode, with Caine remembering an incident or lesson from his time at the Shaolin temple.
  • Lost loves to do this. Nearly every episode of the first three seasons contains a flashback that usually has some relevance to what is currently going on in the episode, focusing on the central character for that episode.
  • Torchwood did this in the first episode where an odd looking knife sparks Gwen's memory and overrides the amnesia drug she was slipped earlier.
  • Dollhouse. A female doctor is doing a pelvic exam on Echo, causing her to flashback to kissing that same doctor when she was also one of the 'dolls' for the amusement of a client. Echo is understandably startled by the flashback, as all memories of what the girls do as a doll are (supposed to be) wiped from their memory after every session.
  • Drake & Josh: At the end of the two-part episode "Really Big Shrimp", Drake and Josh fight over a piece of shrimp. Then, rather than flashing to a previous episode, the scene fades to Drake Bell and Josh Peck's first appearance on The Amanda Show, where they also fought over shrimp.
  • In Stranger Things, Eleven and Hooper's dark backstories are gradually revealed through flashbacks triggered by events similar to their traumatic experiences.

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: In part IV: Gilded Cages, a combination of Type 3 and Type 4.
    • Nathaniel's resemblance to his uncle the Colonel means the former often makes Mrs. Hawking think of the latter, who is dead in the present but features in the flashback.
    • The failure of Mrs. Hawking's efforts in the past as detailed by the flashback is significant to how the case she's working on in the present time of part IV turns out.

    Video Games 
  • In Killer7, during the final phase of Chapter Smile, Garcian can stop by each floor of the Union Hotel and see bloodstains at the same places where he, as Emir Parkeriner, killed (and assimilated as alternate personalities) the six people of the Smith Syndicate, who all happened to be staying there at the time, bringing back painful memories.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, around 85% through the main storyline, after Snake attempted to chase down the Peace Walker whilst riding the Boss's horse, said horse breaks it's back after being thrown off an extremely steep hill, Snake (i.e. The Player) is then forced to euthanize said horse, before (or after, depending on how long the player takes to pull the trigger) Snake has flashbacks to the climax of Operation: Snake Eater, in which he was forced to finish off the Boss, whom was helplessly suffering from wounds attained in her previous battle with Snake, with a single round from her Patriot.
  • In Metro 2033, Artyom has incidents of hearing voices and seeing things that are not actually there. At some point while walking through the ruins of the surface, he comes across an old and rusty playground where he experiences a freaky flashback echo. After a couple of seconds, the vision vanishes as quickly as it came and Artyom notices a Dark One who was stalking him for a while who was likely behind all that crazy stuff.
    • He runs into several more of these in Last Light, but without the presence of the Dark Ones. The first is the vision of the crashing plane that he and Pavel get sucked into in "Echoes", and he has a bunch more in "The Dead City" that are triggered by seeing ghosts.
  • After the three year timeskip in Mother 3, the first thing Lucas does is his morning routine of looking in the mirror, changing his clothes, and fixing his hair, which triggers a flashback of Hinawa brushing his hair when he was younger. Trying to leave the house before doing so will trigger the scene at the beginning of the game where Hinawa catches Lucas trying to leave the house in his pajamas.
  • In Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, Hikari had such a thing when her father asked her "Why do you have to be like that," which caused her to hear and see visions of the people who abused her in the past asking her nearly identical questions, turning her into the Empty Shell we see at the start of the game. In reality, her father was just expressing genuine concern over her deteriorating sanity. The problem? Just as mentioned, that exact phrase was her Trauma Button phrase since each of her tormentors asked that when they heaped in abuse, so she actually thought that her father was joining in too. And if this isn't depressing enough, remember that she is also a Daddy's Girl who uses him as her Living Emotional Crutch. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
  • Shadow the Hedgehog has had numerous Flashback Echoes, both in Sonic Adventure 2, and his own game, in which one triggered a Flashback Level. Both Amy and Rouge have triggered them, as did once a blaring alarm, and seeing Prison Island again.
  • In Xenogears, Elly is speaking to a mob of mutated humans, offering to sacrifice her body to them in order to ease their pain. In the middle of her speech, the game flashes back to Sophia, her previous incarnation, saying the same words.
  • Type 2 is how Link gradually recovers his memories of the events prior to his suspended animation in Thelegend Of Zelda Breath Of The Wild. Most of them are triggered by visiting a location that Zelda had captured in a picture on the Sheikah Slate, which has Link recall events that happened in those places from while he was acting as Zelda's bodyguard in her journey across the land of Hyrule (to recruit the Champions, and pray at the sacred springs to try and unlock her divine power). Others (largely relating to the Champions themselves) were not chronicled on the Sheikah Slate, so Link remembers them after focusing on something that was in some way related specifically to them.

    Web Animation 
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: After getting smacked in the face by Vivi, Shiromori flashes back to Mushi, Vivi's ancestor, fighting her off and separating her from Mystery. Realizing Mystery has willingly stayed with Mushi's family, Shiromori flies into a rage and attempts to kill Vivi.
  • During the third episode of RWBY Season 4, Yang accidentally drops a glass and ends up flashbacking to the horrible battle with Adam Taurus when she lost her arm, which leaves her hyperventilating and visibly struggling to calm herself down.

  • In Gifts of Wandering Ice the memories in Elie's head can be triggered by the sight of ice gifts from the old world, and sometimes by discussions of ancient events. The sight of a child's body retrieved from an escape pod in the ice pulls her into a vivid flashback really Ash's memory of a tsunami that destroyed much of the old world.
  • Kid Katydid from The Bug Pond. While she was on a mission to save a silk worm from a blue jay, she has a flashback of her first rescue in which she meets her to-be sidekick, Totter Tate.
  • In Complicated Ness Type 1 and Type 2. In the novel the four notes have significant meaning to Ness' early life.
  • A staple of Last Res0rt:
  • In Nefarious, Princess Foxglove flashes back to when she was a good guy and asked Princess Mayapple for help only to be put on hold, cut to the present where Mayapple is calling for a ceasefire only for Foxglove to put her on hold.
  • Ask White Pearl and Steven (almost!) anything: After witnessing Steven breaking down crying, blaming himself for Earl getting poofed protecting him, Rose flashes back to a memory of being in his position, with Blue Diamond standing over her in the same way she's standing in front of him. This spurs her to show him the compassion she wishes she was shown back then, as well as calling him Steven rather than White Diamond for the first time since she 'realized' who he was.
  • In NEXT!!! Sound of the Future, when Tech asks Shine if she would be satisfied with the kind of life where she is merely an observer to the idols she admires so much, Shine has a flashback to her teacher asking her the same thing.

    Web Original 
  • Kagerou Project: During the PV for Moon-Viewing Recital, mixes Types 3 and 4. First, when Momo accidentally steps on a cat's tail, she crouches down to try and comfort it - leading Hibiya to remember Hiyori doing the same thing. It happens again later when he sees some girls playing on the swings, which triggers a flashback of Hiyori sitting in the same place - triggering another flashback to later that day, when she died in a freak accident.
    • A comedic and heartwarming example at the end of the same video; when Momo turns away from Hibiya, he grabs her hand. His reaction when he realises seems to imply that (due to the similarity of Momo and Hiyori's clothes) he forgot himself and grabbed her hand because he thought it was Hiyori.
    • Mary has a traumatic variant near the end of Imagination Forest when Kousouke opens the door to her house; it causes her to remember the day she has attacked by teenage boys, and her mother turned one of them to stone - which in turn killed her.

    Western Animation 
  • Ninjago: In "Saving Faith," Harumi finds her way out of a building in danger of being destroyed by Garmadon's stone giant when she hears a child in the building crying for his parents. She runs inside to see a family about to be separated and flashes back to the moment her parents were also killed by a collapsing building after being separated from her. Realizing the harm she's caused, Harumi goes to the family to get them all out of the building together before it collapses.
  • The Venture Brothers likes playing with this one. In Past Tense, there was even a fight scene that flashback echoed to a fight scene that played out in the exact same way (the winner was Brock in both fights; the other four characters involved were different).

  • This is a common symptom in dramatic portrayals depicting war veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    • Really, anyone with PTSD could suffer the first and third points.


Video Example(s):


The Warden

The Second Coming is at the mercy of a terrifying monster called the warden and is trapped at a dead end with nothing but a book, a candle, and a stick. With no choice but to utilize whatever he could use at his disposal, The Second Coming finds that the warden is not really a monster.

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / MusicSoothesTheSavageBeast

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