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Magic Realism

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"It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise... to such an extreme that no-one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay. It was an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of José Arcadio Buendía with impatience and made him wander all through the house even in broad daylight."
Gabriel García Márquez (after the arrival of the railroad, when dozens of new inventions — the phonograph, the telephone, the electric lightbulb — flooded Macondo), One Hundred Years of Solitude

Magical realism is a story that takes place in a realistic setting that is recognizable as the historical past or present. It overlaps with Mundane Fantastic. It has a connection to surrealism, dream logic, and poetry. In Magic Realism, events just happen, as in dreams. Tchotchkes telling the heroine what to do (Wonderfalls) or the ghost of your father showing up at odd intervals to offer personal and/or professional advice (Due South). Or perhaps it's just a quirky vibe that infuses the environment (Northern Exposure, Twin Peaks).

"Magical realism" is sometimes misused to explain why a favorite work is literary fiction and thus somehow superior to genre fiction like Fantasy and Science Fiction. On the other hand, the inclusion of well-written magical realism into the canons of Lit Fic is historically well supported, as Latin America's major 20th-century authors mostly wrote in this genre. The literary world outside of Latin America so closely associates the region with magical realism that the McOndo movement (for which see below) exists chiefly to prove that not everything literary that comes from Latin America involves magic and angels. Also, the way that religious and horror fiction are distinct enough to be distinguished from fantasy even when they fit its basic definition of containing unscientific elements, the same is true for magical realism.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Midnight’s Children, and Beloved are defining examples of magical realism.

Rule of thumb: Say there are vampires in New York.

From another perspective, it is possible to interpret many non-fantasy musicals by definition as magical realism, since spontaneously breaking into song with invisible accompaniment gets taken as a perfectly normal thing, although there are a few exceptions where the incongruity is lampshaded, the most notable recent example being Enchanted. (See Musical World Hypotheses for other interpretations.) Or the singing could be taken as just a symbolic representation of the characters thoughts and speeches and not at face value over what they actually said. If the unnatural events happen in only a couple of episodes in an otherwise grounded series, like say a Dom Com, they can lead viewers to exclaiming How Unscientific!.

For when it's ambiguous, as in Kafka's The Metamorphosis where the protagonist has either actually turned into an insect or just gone insane, see Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane and Unreliable Narrator. Compare/contrast with Like Reality, Unless Noted, as well as Low Fantasy.


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  • In this Corona Commercial the environment shifts between a ski resort and a beach and nobody finds this weird.
  • In many advertisements, living company mascots coexist with humans who find nothing unusual in the situation.

    Anime and Manga 
  • While Beastars is about anthropomorphic animals, there are still things that stand out as fantastic even for the world it's set in, like Legoshi instantly growing all his fur back after after eating a moth in its larval form, then having a dream sequence in which the moth blesses him with it's strength. He later briefly turns into a glowing swarm of moths during his fight with Riz. There's also the ghost of his dead mother having a conversation with him while he's in a coma and having an "out-of-body experience", and his fur turning completely white from despair after he believes he's eaten Haru, who reacts to it not with shock, but amusement that they now have something in common (their fur color).
  • Café Kichijōji de is a Slice of Life manga that deals with the light-hearted, comedic antics that happens in the titular cafe. One of the staffs also happens to be a questionable human being who uses the Necronomicon as his cooking guide, and is capable of curses and minor reality warping.
  • Case Closed is about a teenage detective that solves crimes... even after a failed poisoning attempt changes him into a kid and he has to move in with his childhood friend who is enough of an Action Girl to qualify for being borderline super-powered. On a lesser note characters sometimes have successful premonitions of danger, like the Action Girl did in the first episode before the titular character is poisoned. If that's not enough, Magic Kaito takes place in the same universe and the bad guys are searching for a specific jewel that may make a person immortal, and there is an actual witch as a recurring character who outright confirms there are other witches as well. Other than that, it's a pretty straight-forward mystery series.
  • In Coffee & Cat, on Kon's struggles to find a purpose after failing his university exams and feeling squeamish about going back to his Education Mama grandfather. His primary source of solace is his love for his cat M'Lady, whom he literally can't live without. He also has the unexplained ability to talk to cats and sees them as human beings.
  • The crux of the plot of Death Note is a magical item from another world falling into the hands of an ordinary (albeit with some... personality quirks) human boy in our world and what he chooses to do with it. Aside from the Death Notes and shinigami, the world depicted in Death Note is highly realistic, and much of the plot focuses so heavily on the human characters using real-world methods and technology to try to catch the Villain Protagonist — and the magic itself is treated in such a mundane and almost scientific fashion — that you might occasionally forget that the plot is founded on the supernatural to begin with.
  • Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan is set in a world exactly like modern-day reality, except for, y'know, the dragons that transform into military aircraft. Their "pilots," who have to control the things from inside their stomachs, are treated as just a special category of fighter pilot; only the protagonist finds any of this odd, and she adapts to it quickly. Dragon-piloting is explicitly a weird metaphor for transitioning to adulthood.
  • Fruits Basket has an enormous family who has several members that turn into animals from the Eastern Zodiac when hugged by the opposite sex, and Hanajima has Psychic Powers, but aside from that it takes place in a completely mundane setting in present-day Japan. As the story goes on, it's made clear that the fantasy elements themselves aren't meant to be deeply examined and function more as metaphors for various difficulties in life.
  • Haibane Renmei fits. Yoshitoshi Abe is a huge fan of the genre. The show is heavily inspired by the "End Of The World" narrative in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.
  • The over arching plot and background of Haruhi Suzumiya has elements of Magic Realism even though the individual pieces are Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction. This is due mainly to Haruhi's powers being very subtle and especially the lack of certainty about what is really a coincidence and what is outright alteration of reality.
  • Helen ESP never explains the nature or origin of Helen's psychic powers, and they don't really change that much about her life.
  • Arguably the existence of personified countries in Hetalia: Axis Powers would count, especially when their dynamics are played with.
  • Similar to the example above, Hikaru no Go deals with this. The plot is mostly about a normal Slice of Life exploits of the title character's Go games — the fact that Hikaru only started being interested in Go is because of a thousand-year-old ghost of a Go master who wishes to continue playing forces him to do so.
  • Kiki's Delivery Service is basically a Slice of Life about a witch who must, per tradition, live on her own and develop her powers. Since the titular Kiki is only really good at flying, she forms a delivery service in a city - and when she goes to the city, they are impressed but don't see much out of the ordinary.
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service might seem like Urban Fantasy — you've got a psychic, a hacker, a dowser, an embalmer and a channeller of aliens all in the business of physically transporting dead bodies to where the dead want to go — but the setting is resolutely realistic, and they've got the footnotes to prove it.
  • Living for the Day After Tomorrow: The setting is mundane except for the wishing stone that changes Karada and Shoukos' ages.
  • Lucky Star dips into this once when the main character's dead mother visits her family as a ghost.
  • Nagasarete Airantou is a comedic first-class example. Ikuto, young man of the modern age and the main character finds himself on an island stuck — culturally, at any rate — in the late 19th century. Normal enough at first but before long he's rationalizing away the more... unconventional aspects of his new home, like magic, talking animals, youkai, etc.
  • Now and Then, Here and There is for the most part a brutal, grounded story of surviving war and genocide (supposedly inspired by the Rwandan genocide in South Africa), albeit one set in a Post-Apocalyptic Earth where Time Travel/Dimension hopping technology is used to transport the protagonists to this world. One of the main characters is an ageless immortal with water manipulation abilities who is all but stated to be a goddess, and both sides of the war fight to use her to their advantage. Oh, and unfortunately for everyone, the Big Bad has a flying fortress that he gets operational in the penultimate episodes, complete with MiniMechas and giant energy cannons.
  • Oshi no Ko's two main characters are Reincarnations with Past-Life Memories. Other than that, the story is grounded in reality about the main characters becoming an idol and an actor respectively.
  • Patema Inverted implies a sci-fi justification for why some people have inverted gravity, but we're never told exactly what happened, and everyone just accepts it as normal. Well, each society accepts themselves as normal, and has Fantastic Racism towards the other (calling them either "inverts" or "bat people"). It's mainly a metaphor for that, and for shifting your perspective. The ending reveals that the ones we thought were "normal" were the inverted people all along.
  • Penguindrum, where the main characters' souls are represented by penguins only they can see, aphrodisiac potions brewed from frogs really work, and key scenes take place on a strange, alternate version of the Tokyo subway all pass without much comment. For extra credit, the show makes several references to other examples of Magical Realism, such as Night on the Galactic Railroad and Haruki Murakami's works.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena, a series set in a fairly normal, if clearly rich, high school, where students deal with their turmoil, hatred and/or pettiness. And some of the students fence for possession of a seemingly immortal girl underneath an inverted castle, all for the vague end of revolutionising the world. Oh, and there's a guy who may or may not be God/Lucifer. Characters react to all this as they would towards lesser, or at least real world, events. Utena, though shocked by the inverted castle, would probably experience the same level of surprise finding a regular castle hidden in the woods.
  • School Rumble is a normal high school story with normal (if goofy) protagonists. Then Yakumo states that she can magically read people's minds, her older sister can bend spoons with her mind, Dracula helped out with a school festival, Akira may or may not be a secret agent, and Yakumo and Iori the cat once switched bodies. There's definitely odd things going on, but they're not the focus of the story.
  • The works of Satoshi Kon offer a lot of examples of this, specially in Paranoia Agent and Tokyo Godfathers.
  • Serial Experiments Lain might fit into this category better than Science Fiction. Among other things, it seems that dead people go to (or through) the Wired after they die, computer equipment can grow like vines, and the physical reality is as much "data" as the computer-world and can likewise be programmed by gifted individuals. It's perhaps the only cyberpunk or science fiction-ish narrative to convincingly do so. The reason why Serial Experiments Lain might be an example of this trope is because it basically deals with the digital world merging with the real world, thus creating a hybrid where the rules of this reality don't apply. The problem with this theory is that people do seem to take notice of the change; one guy even shoots himself in the head because of it. Perspective is everything. Lain's point of view perhaps flips towards Urban Fantasy in the end, but Alice's remains in the field of Magic Realism.
  • Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight, unsurprisingly given its deliberate similarity to Revolutionary Girl Utena, involves this. Just a realistic story about young stage performers going to acting school; oh, except for the secret elevator to an enormous underground automated theater, where a talking giraffe conducts an audition to choose a "top star" who will receive a vague and probably supernatural reward. The magical side of it is an elaborate fourth-wall-breaking metaphor for the behind-the-scenes aspects of stage performances (and the Takarazuka Revue in particular) so it never gets any in-universe explanation, and the characters rarely suggest that there's anything strange about performing spontaneous swordfight-musicals to win recognition from a giraffe.
  • Skip Beat! is a story about a girl who sets out to become a star in the Japanese entertainment industry, and follows her ups and downs, new friendships and possible romantic interests, and her burgeoning career. Said girl also has a demon army that gives her anger and resentment a voice and physical presence, and the resident esper is actually not a fake.
  • Tonnura-san is about a family who adopted a stray cat... who's quite articulate, gentlemanly, wise, and overall charming. At one point, the owner was worried that such an animal would cause a great commotion, but his charms simply wins everyone over.
  • Twin Spica is a hard sci-fi series. And there's "Mr. Lion", the ghost of an astronaut who died in a major shuttle accident prior to the events of the story and now mentors the main character. Shuu is implied to have become a Mr. Lion-style ghost as well after his death.
  • Weathering With You runs on this. The setting is realistic modern Tokyo except for the weather, which is vaguely supernatural and influenced by "sunshine girls" and "rain girls" who can clear or cloud the sky, respectively. We only meet one of the former, who received her powers though a mysterious incident where she was drawn to a sunlit shrine on an abandoned building, but a surplus of the latter supposedly caused the recent overabundance of rain. How their powers work is never explained beyond implying that god(s) did it (she clears the sky by praying). The climax of the story, where she gets "taken into the sky" in exchange for restoring normal summer weather, and her friend/love-interest prays his way into the otherwordly sky-dimension to save her, works heavily on dream-logic. Everyone in the city literally sees her in their dreams when she disappears.
  • Your Name is more or less built around this trope — various fantastical plot-driving things happen, including body-swapping and time travel, with either vague poetic explanations or none at all, and the characters never really question the how or why of any of it. After a certain point, they begin struggling to remember anything associated with the magical events, making it unclear both to them and to the audience whether it was All Just a Dream.

    Asian Animation 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County may only barely qualify, as most of the material revolves around talking animals, but most of the time they're talking about real-world stuff. Then, of course, there's the fact that the Monster in the Closet may actually be real.
  • If Bloom County qualifies, Calvin and Hobbes does too. For the most part, the setting is realistic, aside from the ambiguous nature of Hobbes himself. But then there are also things like the Transmogrifier, the Duplicator, and an entire arc where Calvin goes to Mars. He also owns a bike that keeps trying to run him over and a baseball that tries to eat him. All of these things can only usually be explained away as products of an active imagination.
  • Candorville is usually credible enough, allowing for a pretty serious undercurrent to the punchlines in Lemont's life. But every few months, he'll meet someone like a talking scarecrow, a ghost, or himself from the future.
  • Used constantly in Foxtrot. Peter's status as a Big Eater is impossible, seeing as how he can eat a whole plate of spaghetti in one thirteenth of a second and be disappointed by it. Roger can create a fire blast from a grill so destructive it destroys a Mars Rover.
  • Peanuts: A world where one encounters inexplicably sentient plants and animals, mythological creatures who may or may not really exist, buildings that are larger on the inside than the outside, and several young children with unexplained highly-advanced talents and knowledge would probably be considered by many to be a magic realist setting. And that's the world Charlie Brown wakes up to every day.
  • The existence of guardian angels, sentient animals and plants and fairies (although they only showed up once) qualifies Rose is Rose as this.
  • In Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Phoebe having a unicorn is common knowledge, something even her parents take into account.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Paperman is basically a down-to-earth romantic comedy about a guy, seeing a girl he's fallen for in a building across the street, trying to get her attention by throwing paper airplanes at her. Until he fails, at which point the paper airplanes suddenly come to life without explanation...
  • Pinocchio takes place in a world where supernatural elements (a talking cricket, an anthropomorphic fox and cat, an Amusement Park of Doom that turns kids into donkeys, etc.) are surprisingly commonplace and accepted.
  • Pocahontas places a talking willow tree in an otherwise realistic 17th century Virginia setting. The titular heroine also has distinct shamanic powers including an unusually close connection with the earth, strong friendships with animals, and the ability to learn English by "listening with her heart."
  • The Red Turtle: The only fantasy element happening in the movie is the titular turtle turning into a woman in the middle of the film. This event is never questioned nor explained, just happens.
  • Tekkonkinkreet has the main characters that can fly/glide, alien assassins, and psychic bonds between brothers. None of this is explained or even really acknowledged.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In About Time, the protagonist and his male ancestors have the ability to travel back in time. How they came to possess this ability is never examined or explained, and the world they live in is perfectly ordinary in all other respects.
  • The Age of Adaline features a woman who, after being struck by lightning never ages and is already over a hundred by the time the story starts. Besides that, it's a straightforward drama/romance.
  • The 1998 theatrical film based on the Cirque du Soleil show Alegría. It's obvious the world the characters exist in is a little more colorful and eccentric than ours, but possible magic comes in at the end when the manager/ringmaster encounters and converses with his own stage character.
  • Amélie has some. Talking photographs and paintings, and Amélie watching a documentary about her own life and death being the instances that come to mind the most.
  • Arizona Dream: At least three characters take to the air, one flying the ambulance after he dies, and two more levitate at odd times with no particular attention paid to it. A flying fish wafts through the desert, meandering in and out of the story for no particular reason.
  • Bagdad Cafe: The central theme is magic, so much of the film has the logic of a Fairy Tale. At one point, the protagonist does a magic trick that is impossible unless real magic exists.
  • The Film of the Book of Being There diverges from its source novel in this manner. Hal Ashby, the director, came up with a different ending than the one scripted as a salute to how believable the actors were — since the audience would already accept Chance the Gardener becoming one of the most important men in the world in a matter of days simply through misunderstandings, then they would also accept the final shot's revelation that he can literally Walk on Water. There's no explanation given as to how, and Chance is as surprised as the audience is; he even tests the depth of the water with his umbrella...but, being who he is, he accepts it right away as just something he can do.
  • Big Fish has the main character's father spice up his life story with small magic tidbits every now and then. The main character believes he's making it all up, until the father's funeral, where many of the magical characters show up. He concludes the only way to tell his father's story is the exact manner his father told it.
  • Another 60s comedy, Blackbeard's Ghost is about a college track coach who gets involved with the eponymous spirit.
  • Blind Chance: There is no real explanation of WHY Witek lives through the story three times — if he really does. The events simply restart on their own accord, each time with minor changes at the train station, which are also left unexplained. There is also his wife sensing something wrong about the flight and asking him not to go.
  • Celine and Julie Go Boating, where Mind Screw meets Slice of Life comedy.
  • The world of Child's Play is largely similar, albeit crappier, to our own, aside from the incantations that allow people to transfer their souls into others or into inanimate objects.
  • There are several elements of magical realism in Chocolat, one of these being the personification of the North Wind as the force driving Vianne and Anouk to wander the world.
  • Nearly every film The Coen Brothers make has at least some Magic Realist elements, with O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Barton Fink being the most obvious examples.
    • A good specific example is Raising Arizona: the plot is centered around a fairly mundane love story/kidnapping scheme, but it also involves a bounty hunter who may or may not be a demon from Hell! And then there's the main character's tendency to have prophetic and/or clairvoyant dreams, which he doesn't seem to consider unusual.
  • Several sequences in Come and See are implausible and downright surreal, and intentionally so.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon makes use of the trope as a tribute to Chinese wuxia cinema, which often features characters pulling off seemingly supernatural feats in otherwise mundane action stories. The film is ostensibly a simple period piece about a group of Imperial bodyguards in the Qin Dynasty who get roped into a battle over a valuable sword, but practitioners of the Wudan school of martial arts are frequently shown to levitate and fly during action sequences—which apparently isn't just a stylistic decision, but is occasionally tacitly acknowledged (in one scene, for example, Li Mu Bai stops Jen from flying away by grabbing her sword). It's also left deliberately ambiguous whether the Green Destiny is just a mundane sword, or if it's imbued with supernatural powers that make the wielder more formidable in battle.
  • Daughters of the Dust: A mostly realistic portrait of a black family preparing to leave their isolated island and journey north in 1902 — except for the spirit of Eula's unborn daughter materializing and spending time with her family.
  • Dave Made a Maze, an indie comedy about a slacker artist who builds a fort/maze out of cardboard in his living room only for it to inexplicably grow into a sentient monstrosity.
  • Don Juan DeMarco: The title character is a mental patient, with delusions of living in a wonderful world full of romance and adventure. In the movie's final sequence, he and a couple friends hop on a plane and go to that world.
  • A pair of Clint Eastwood westerns count as this. Both High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider are typical revenge stories, except that it's hinted very strongly that the protagonists have returned from the dead for their revenge.
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is an otherwise grounded comedy about a hapless pop music duo trying to get into the Eurovision Song Contest, in which ghosts and elves are real. After Katiana is killed, her ghost appears as a Spirit Advisor to warn Lars that Karlosson is planning to kill him too, while it turns out that Sigrit's belief in the existence of elves was right all along when they save Lars from Karlosson. Neither of these things is brought up again.
  • Fanny and Alexander has a mostly realistic setting, but with fairy-tale aspects. Alexander sees a statue move, and sees ghosts. A mummy somehow breathes. Mr. Jacobi casts a spell to make images of Fanny and Alexander appear when smuggling them out of the Vergerus home. Mr. Jacobi's disturbed son Ismael seems to bring about the death of Edvard and his aunt by some sort of psychic link, with the events transpiring in Real Life just as Ismael describes them to Alexander.
  • 1992's Fathers And Sons is primarily a down-to-Earth story of a strained relationship between a grieving widower and his rebellious teenage son on the Jersey Shore, but gradually unusual elements are stirred in — a serial killer is stalking the area offscreen, and a bizarre stranger observing both men from a distance is noted and joked about by one character as perhaps said killer. A crate containing copies of a self-published novel about telepathy mysteriously turns up at the father's bookstore; one copy ends up in the son's hands, and he becomes fascinated with its ideas around the time he experiments with a hallucinogenic drug. The father meanwhile has several conversations with a boardwalk fortune teller who warns him to beware false prophets. In the climax, the author of the book — the stalker and the killer — attacks the son on the beach. He is saved by his father telepathically sensing both that he's in danger and where he is at the time; it is clear that there is no mundane way he can know the latter.
  • Friday the 13th is an interesting example as the first two films are relatively mundane murder mysteries before Jason Voorhees becomes a nigh-superhuman Implacable Man in the later sequels. After death, he's resurrected by a lightning bolt and becomes an outright super-Zombie. Then the series leans more and more into the fantastic, randomly introducing Psychic Powers, turning Jason into a body-switching demon, landing him in a space-based future with androids and bionics, and finally pitting him against a demonic fiend who dwells in dreams.
  • The 1960s children's movie The Gnomemobile is about the adventures of an eccentric millionaire and his grandchildren who get entangled in the affairs of a pair of gnomes.
  • In Griff the Invisible, most of the fantastical things that occur seem to be the product of Griff and Melody's wild imaginations, but several things seem ambiguous, like Melody actually being invisible to Griff at one point, or Melody phasing through a solid door with Griff witnessing.
  • Groundhog Day: Bill Murray lives every day over and over until he becomes truly selfless. The constraints of this mysterious circumstance is never fully explained. Additionally, his way out of the loop is never really known to the audience.
  • Halloween (1978) could otherwise be considered a mundane Slasher Movie, but features a super-strong, seemingly-unkillable villain who is heavily implied to be the Boogeyman himself. The sequels lean even heavier into this, as Michael Myers shrugs off injuries that would kill any mortal man, and more or less seems to be more force of nature than rational human being. Michael is even more of an enigma considering he is the only one who demonstrates such otherworldly traits. Regardless, all anyone cares about is killing the Shape rather than understanding what he is. The few who are interested in this never come close and swiftly die at Myers' hands.
    • Of course, the series itself has so much Canon Discontinuity that it's very difficult to come up with any consistency. Only the first film is canon across all continuities (bar the third) and the films that explicitly state Michael is a supernatural being are most certainly not canon by now.
  • A Hard Day's Night. Most of it is realistic enough that viewers have mistaken it for a real documentary; but there are a couple of segments which just cannot happen in even The Beatles' real life, and (this being a comedy) there isn't even a Hand Wave for why they happen.
  • In Your Eyes is about two people living thousands of miles apart who discover that they can each experience what the other one is sensing. No attempt is made to explain how this connection is possible.
  • Jasminum has alchemy, ghosts and saint Roch, and nobody bats an eye.
  • In Kill Bill, the martial arts master Pai Mei is said to be at least a thousand years old. The credibility of this statement isn't even questioned by any of the characters; given that he could explode people's hearts, being Really 700 Years Old may not be too much to swallow...
  • Ladyhawke: In otherwise normal medieval France, a bishop has cursed a pair of lovers to transform into beasts at alternating times, so that they can never be together.
  • L.A. Story, written by Steve Martin, applies many of the tropes of Magical Realism. What else can you call a story where a variable-message sign on the highway offers a character advice on his love life?
  • Local Hero has a classic quirky setting in Ferness: Full of Eccentric Townsfolk, and a place not far off from a military bombing range yet full of natural beauty from the land to the sea to the sky. Moreover, it seems to attract other unusual people: Marina may well be a case of Our Mermaids Are Different, and Eccentric Millionaire Happer finds a soulmate in Ben the beachcomber, which makes some poetic sense given that Ben Knox may be a direct descendant of the founders of Knox Industries. It could be a Contrived Coincidence, but... (Some critics called the film a "not-quite-a-fairy-tale set in a quaint seaside Scottish village named Ferness.")
  • David Lynch's films have it both ways. Some of them really do fit the definition of magical realism and fit comfortably within the genre, while others are clearly supernatural but are lumped in with magical realism because it's an easy way out of the Sci Fi Ghetto. It doesn't help that the only Lynch film they really can't weasel their way out of acknowledging as what it is, Dune (1984), really was bad.
    • There is some disagreement over the setting of Eraserhead, whether it's a Magical Realist Pittsburgh or a Post Apocalyptic nightmare land or Purgatory or the inside of someone's nightmare or anything really. Perhaps it would be better to say that there may be some agreements about Eraserhead.
    • Inland Empire straddles the line of this and Absurdism, but Mulholland Dr. IS magical realism.
  • P.T. Anderson's Magnolia features a relatively standard ensemble drama, until the final act, which leads to a rain of frogs all over the town.
  • Midnight in Paris. When Gil Pender waits on a certain street corner of Paris at midnight, a car arrives and takes him to famous Paris locales in the 1920s, where he spends his nights with people like Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. In the 1920s, waiting in a certain spot allows the protagonist to travel to an even earlier era, and so on and so forth.
  • Mighty Aphrodite, another Woody Allen film, has a modern New York story being told by an ancient Greek Chorus whom the protagonist occasionally converses with. It's Neil Gaiman-esque in the way Greek mythological characters like Tiresias, Jocasta, Cassandra and so on appear as modernized people.
  • "Oedipus Wrecks", the final segment from the movie New York Stories, is the only story from that film that features a small fantasy element: After vanishing during a stage magician act, the old mother of the main character ends appearing as a giant head in the sky of New York: The short never explains how this happened, and instead explores the humorous consequences of this strange event.
  • The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a charming story about the life of a little boy. It just so happens that he has leaves growing from his legs, and that he was born from a box buried in the ground that his parents had filled with their wishes for a child.
  • Ondine: Subverted, as at first it seems like Ondine is a selkie in the otherwise normal modern Irish setting. Then however it turns out she's just a woman, with the selkie stuff being coincidences and misidentification.
  • Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 have this general atmosphere. They're set in ordinary 21st century London, but there are certain Wes Anderson-inspired stylistic choices that tend to skew things, such as scenes of the Brown family living their lives as viewed through a dollhouse replica of their house, a calico-style band that seems to be following the characters around singing oddly-apt songs about what's happening, and of course the fact that no one seems particularly fazed or surprised by the presence of a surprisingly well-dressed talking bear wandering around the place.
  • Ruby Sparks is about a writer who dashes off twenty pages about his perfect woman in a fit of inspiration. When said perfect woman appears in the flesh in his apartment, at first he freaks out, but soon he accepts it as a bona fide miracle.
  • Take "magic realism," replace "magic" with "video game," and that's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Enemies have unique mystical powers, video game graphics show up and may even be interacted with by characters, and people explode into coins once bested in a duel. But otherwise, you know, just the normal lives of twenty-something Canadians. While these elements appeared in the graphic novel source material, the film revels in it all, maybe just because we see it all in motion.
  • The Secret of Roan Inish nonchalantly introduces the concept of selkies marrying humans. The story is mostly about Fiona finding her brother, and the selkie herself only appears for about ten minutes in a flashback.
  • The revenge western Seraphim Falls verges into magical realism in the third act, when a Magical Native American and a snake oil saleswoman appear out of nowhere to each of the two main characters and engineer a final confrontation between the nemeses. The Native American is named Charon in the credits and the saleswoman's name is revealed to be Louise C. Fair.
  • Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: The film has supernatural elements that could be explained as hallucinations and superstition. Ivan's wife cheats on him with a sorcerer who may or may not have actual powers. Later, a delirious Ivan seems to see Marichka's ghost walking through the woods toward him. The use of this trope put the film at odds with Soviet authorities, who mandated Socialist Realism in all Soviet art pieces.
  • Siege of the Saxons is a fairly mundane (albeit highly anachronistic) movie about knights, outlaws, and medieval political intrigue, but it still has Arthurian elements like Excalibur and Merlin that are still treated as magical.
  • Sorry to Bother You certainly qualifies. Starting as a story of Cash, a telemarketer and aspiring activist, the story gradually builds more supernatural aspects. Cash sees success as a telemarketer through using his "white voice", which is an entirely different voice to his own (actually David Cross dubbed in) and when speaking to customers he literally falls into their house. Once we see the plans by the villain to turn his workers into horses, things REALLY take a turn for the weird, and place the film in this genre.
  • Stranger Than Fiction. The movie is more or less like this, Harold is struggling with life, and the only magical thing is that he seems to be the main character of a book. The book in question also seems to have Magic Realism elements to it, as his watch becomes sentient for a second.
  • Ted is a slacker comedy about a young boy who brings his Teddy Bear to life with a wish under a shooting star on Christmas night... and is now a grown man still living with his walking, talking stuffed animal, who has "grown up" into just as big a jerkass as him. It's shown at the beginning of the film that "Ted" was initially the subject of Human Interest Stories (and religious mania) and enjoyed 15 Minutes of Fame, but then everyone moved on and he faded into obscurity (save for a Loony Fan who's still obsessed with him after all these years).
  • The Tin Drum is both a novel and a film about a boy who Never Grew Up, was perfectly aware while in the womb, and can create destructive screams. While the book version of the character is likely insane, the movie plays it straight. It's a historical/political drama.
  • Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a surreal Czech film based on novel of the same name, in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.
  • When Evil Calls: No one expresses skepticism at the idea of a djinn being responsible for the horrific events in the film, or the wish results themselves, suggesting that the film's universe has many such unusual things happen frequently enough so that they're known to be real.
  • Yesterday: The protagonist is one of only three people on the planet who remember the Beatles because of a blackout. But even then the blackout doesn't explain anything, because hard copies of the Beatles records don't exist and John Lennon has no memory of recording those songs.

  • There's a whole sub-genre of historical fiction that fits this. Generally the earlier the era and/or the more non-western the culture dealt with, the more likely this is. Common features are prophetic dreams/visions, an individual or group of individuals with mystic knowledge and something like the Australian Dream Time. Often features a clash with a more "advanced" nation that considers the more "primitive" peoples beliefs rank superstition and are usually the bad guys.
    • Both The Spiral Dance, set during the Great Northern Rebellion in Elizabethan England and American Woman, and account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the events leading up to it from the perspective of the white wife of a Cheyenne warrior by Rodrigo Garcia y Robertson. In fact most of Garcia y Robertson's stuff qualifies.
  • J. M. Sidorova's The Age of Ice follows the protagonist from his conception in a palace constructed from ice, including the bed he was conceived in, over his lifespan which lasts over 250 years. He is also An Ice Person who may be an incarnation of Old Man Frost.
  • Jo Walton's Among Others is about a Welsh girl in an English boarding school trying, with the occasional help of the faerie, to cope with life and the psychic attacks of her mother, an evil witch.
  • Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad novels, slice of life/mysteries set in rural North Carolina featuring Nora Bonesteel, an old woman who has "The Sight". One book also features a ghost.
  • Kate DiCamillo's classic children's novel Because of Winn-Dixie is a mostly mundane Coming of Age Story about a girl's relationship with her beloved dog. It also features an old-fashioned candy that inexplicably tastes like sadness, and causes people to relive their saddest memories upon eating it.
  • In The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs, the character of Danny Skinner deiscovers that the damage that ought to accrue to his body from his hard-drinking, football hooliganism lifestyle is instead inflicted on his workplace rival, Brian Kibby.
  • Toni Morrison's classic Beloved has the resurrection of Sethe's unnamed daughter (whose tombstone simply read "Beloved"). How this happened, or why Beloved is as old as she would have been, is never discussed. The ghost in the opening sequence (implied to be the same character as Beloved) would also qualify.
    • Toni Morrison's earlier novel Song of Solomon is also a good example. Aside from being the fairly mundane story of a dysfunctional middle class African-American family in 1960s Michigan, there's a persistent folk tale about an ancestor of the protagonist who may or may not have discovered the power of flight, a woman who crawled out of her mother's womb as a baby and was inexplicably born without a navel, a few albino animals that mysteriously show up at weird intervals, and one secondhand story about an encounter with a ghost.
  • Tananarive Due's The Between in which a man is haunted by the ghosts of his alternate selves who feel that he should have died in their place. Also her African Immortals series which is about a group of Exactly What It Says on the Tin given eternal life by the stolen blood of Jesus. There are also ghosts.
  • The Big One and its subsequent series, written by Stuart Slade, is an extremely realistic alternate history, which avoids many of the cliches of the genre in favor of a deconstructivist look at the historical implications of World War II-era superweapons. Over the course of the series, however, it becomes increasingly clear that, not only are some or all of SAC's bombers sentient and capable of speaking to their crews, but the Seer, the Thai Ambassador, and several other characters are also nigh-immortal demon-type creatures, who are carefully steering world history.
  • Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is an epic historical novel set in the American West in the 1840s, focused on the exploits of a group of mercenaries hired by the Mexican government to pacify hostile Apaches. But its primary antagonist "Judge Holden" (or just "The Judge") is also a mysterious and enigmatic figure who's strongly implied to have supernatural abilities—although his true nature is something mankind wasn't meant to know. He's a nearly seven-foot-tall hairless albino who never sleeps, never ages, seemingly can't be escaped or outrun, and desires nothing less than complete mastery over all life on Earth. And upon meeting him in the desert for the first time, every single member of the Glanton gang claims that they've met him before...
  • In The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To, nobody knows why Eric can't sleep and doesn't have to (and very few people are even aware that's the case): most of the narrative attention is given to his and Darren's life as geeky high schoolers until The Men in Black find out. Interestingly, there may actually be an explanation for it. Rhett Lamb almost never slept, and Hai Ngoc hasn't slept in thirty years. It looks like this can be caused by odd, rare medical conditions, though it's certainly fantastic.
  • Much of Ray Bradbury's output, while normally shelved with typical fantasy, science fiction, and horror works, could more accurately be described as Magic Realism in tone and content. He relies on this fairly often when not writing straightforward science fiction. The most obvious example is "Uncle Einar", possibly an homage to the Marquez story mentioned below.
  • Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings is a coming-of-age story about a mute teenager who plays on a minor-league baseball team in the Deep South during World War II, when all the 'real' ball players are fighting the war. It's almost an incidental detail that the team's slugging first baseman is Frankenstein.
  • Italo Calvino is a famous Italian writer whose works skirted Magical Realism. His book Invisible Cities consisted entirely of Marco Polo describing to Kublai Khan various cities he had visited which become less and less real as the book continues. His novellas The Baron in the Trees likewise has a Baron spend his entire life in the trees and never come down, and titles like The Non-Existent Knight are intended to be taken literally.
  • The works of Angela Carter tend to fall into this genre:
  • Happens in two of Jodi Picoult's books. In Change of Heart, Shay Bourne is somehow able to cure one of his cellmates of AIDS and cause water to turn into wine. In fact, a priest specifically sees him as a Jesus-analogue. The main focus of the book, however, is on the ramifications of the death penalty. The trope is in fact double-subverted because some of his miraculous acts have mundane explanations, but then the little girl who he donated his heart to miraculously brings her dog back to life. In Harvesting the Heart, Paige has the ability to draw pictures of people and weave some of their hidden memories or desires into the drawing. The focus of that book is mainly on Paige's problems with being a mother.
  • Writer George Saunders is big on this. In the short story collection CivilWarLand in Bad Decline he has several examples, as most of his stories are very dreamlike. In the title story, the main character works in a Civil War themed Amusement Park where he regularly encounters a family of ghosts who lived on the land during the Civil War. Another story features a man hounded by the ghost of a child who was killed due to his negligence. Other than these elements the stories are grounded in reality (if perhaps an overly bleak version of reality).
  • Cloud Atlas, also a collection of loosely connected stories, this time spread, not only across space but time as well, has reincarnation as a persistent theme and one of the stories features what may either be visions or hallucinations.
  • Marie Corelli has this in some of her novels, including A Romance of Two Worlds, which some people still think is partly autobiographical.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a normal life story and period piece, except the title character was born as an old man and ages backward.
  • Dance of the Butterfly plays with this trope, spending the majority of its telling coming off more as a crime thriller or contemporary fiction with something else going on, but it eventually shows its more magical colors. Despite this, the world at large is still hidden on the other side of The Masquerade.
  • In Phryne Fisher book Death Before Wicket, it is heavily implied that Phryne is either an actual incarnation of Isis (see Egyptian Mythology), or a sort of mouthpiece that Isis sees fit to speak through, once in a while at least.
  • Keith Hartman's two Drew Parke novels are gritty detective stories set 20 Minutes into the Future but the title character gets visions from a dead Cherokee shaman and his sometime partner is a Wiccan who practices Ritual Magic.
  • Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds mixes this with Southern Gothic in a story about a girl who sees ghosts dealing with the legacy of her great-great grandfather, an evil sorcerer.
  • His Ghostwritten is a collection of loosely connected vignettes, some which are this. One has a young girl's ghost haunting the narrator's apartment, two others feature a wandering soul that has become detached from the cycle of reincarnation, one of which is told from the souls perspective, the other has it masquerading as a tree spirit.
  • Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. It's the closing months of WW2, featuring witchcraft, talking mice, a man who can have your nightmares for you, a trip to Hell and a sentient lightbulb.
  • Alice Hoffman's Green Angel duet is especially magical — Green's skill at gardening can make plants grow overnight, the tattoos she does on herself slowly change color from black to green and red, and her damaged eyes are restored to full vision after she finally breaks down and cries in grief for her deceased family.
  • Grooves: A Kind of Mystery by Kevin Brockmeier has a pretty normal world, but audio messages are encoded in such unusual things as the ripples on rippled potato chips and the texture of blue jeans. The message? "He's stealing the light from our eyes," which is literally what "he" was doing.
    • Kevin Brockmeier's books and stories are almost always this, with the fantastic elements used to illustrate and explore aspects of human nature. (For example, The Illumination deals with how the world would change if physical pain was suddenly manifested as visible light.)
  • The The Hammer and the Cross series by Harry Harrison and J. R. R. Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey (as "John Holm") merges this and Alternate History. The tone is entirely realistic except various characters have divine visions (after the ingestion of hallucinogens) which convey information about things happening elsewhere, and sometimes share and interact inside said visions.
  • While Joe Hill is best known as a horror writer, some of his shorter work is this.
  • Holes is deliberately vague about whether or not the Yelnats family curse is real, or whether or not the drought is actual divine retribution. If they are real, the whole story becomes this, with two very persistent curses being woven into an otherwise-realistic story about redemption, prejudice, and the inadequacies of the U.S. penal system.
  • Conn Iggulden wrote a straight historical fiction series about Julius Caesar, with a few liberties from the truth. The most obvious is a character called Cabera, who has minor healing and precognition abilities, and ends up giving the Ides of March warning.
  • The Illuminatus! trilogy and most of the other novels by Robert Anton Wilson tend to alternate between this genre and Science Fiction; the world is mostly as we know it, but there's usually some technology that can't exist in the era the stories are set in, such as a sentient computer in Illuminatus!. There are always Psychic Powers as well, some more subtle than others.
  • Incidente em Antares, written by Brazilian author Érico Veríssimo (father of Luis Fernando Verissimo). The first part is setting up the history of the fictional town and the corrupt families who control it. Then the titular incident happens where seven people die, but since the undertakers are on strike, the dead people cannot be buried. So the dead return to life and start wandering around the city, and without fears of reprisals, they go observing closely the mundane lives of their close friends and relatives, revealing their hypocrisy and exposing the rotten underbelly of their society.
  • Harlan Ellison's short story "Jeffty Is Five" takes place in the real world with the exception of the best friend of the narrator; a boy who never ages past the age of five and whose room is a time vortex where it's always the fifties and his radio still picks up new episodes of old classic serials.
  • The Jehovah Contract by Victor Koman, in which the protagonist, a profession assassin with a sideline/cover identity as a private eye, is given a contract by Satan to kill God and it actually turns out to be a Xanatos Gambit by the Triple Goddess to do in both God and the Devil.
  • Jessica's Ghost is a mostly mundane slice-of-life story where one of the main characters is a ghost. It's left ambiguous if other ghosts exist in this world.
  • Franz Kafka has this in many of his works, such as having an orangutan transform into a human or a man turn into a giant cockroach, each happening for little or no discernible reason.
  • A big portion of Etgar Keret's stories. Few examples: A winged man pretending to be an angel, several magicians capable of real magic, soldiers who got turned into body targets, a guy with mind-controlling ability (who uses it to get laid) and a boy who can control ants (and uses them to take the school away).
  • A few of the novels and short works in Stephen King's catalog could be classified as this, for the simple fact that almost all of his fiction takes place in the same continuity, meaning that the fantastical elements from his outright horror and fantasy works will often creep into the background of his works that focus on more mundane character relationships. Fantastical stuff is always happening somewhere in a Stephen King work, but the plot may not always focus directly on it.
  • Tim Powers' Last Call could be a Donald Westlake story of a gambler in too deep with gangsters except for the tangle of Tarot mysticism, astrology and folk magic that gets thrown in and that the debt the gangster is trying to collect on is the gambler's body.
  • The Last Resort by Jan Carson is a slice-of-life about miserable people in a Northern Irish caravan park. Which is home to ghosts, a sea monster, a drunken telekinetic, and a caravan which is Bigger on the Inside.
  • Magic realism is very prominent in 20th century Latin American literature. In fact, magic realism is so prevalent in Latin American literature that the McOndo movement was formed specifically to distance itself from its clichés.
    • Mexican Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, wherein the protagonist's strongest emotions get transferred into the food she cooks. For instance, when she is preparing a wedding cake for her sister's wedding (to the protagonist's own beloved), she weeps into the icing, and her sorrow causes everyone who eats the cake, except her, to cry and then vomit. In another chapter, her feelings for her beloved are infused into a poultry dish, which her (other, unmarried) sister then eats, causing her to literally burn up with passion — she goes to use the outdoor shower and ends up setting it on fire before a soldier of the revolution rides by on horseback, scoops her up, and they have passionate sex while riding away on the horse.
    • Magical cooking is a popular concept for magical realism and "straight" fantasy both within and without Latin America. See also Chocolat, for instance.
  • Pretty much the entire output of both Kelley Link and her husband Gavin J. Grant. In almost all of the stories the two have written, really weird stuff happens (ghosts, zombie apocalypse, a handbag that holds an entire town, a stream-of-consciousness television show that appears on random stations at random times) but no one reacts as if it was at all strange.
  • Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine and the prequel, Tracks, take elements of this trope. In Tracks, natural disasters seem to happen whenever one of the main characters is wronged and throughout both novels the character Nanapush is hinted to be descended from the trickster God of the Ojibwe tribe.
    • Her novel The Night Watchman also contains some of this trope. For example, a ghost named Roderick is regarded casually by the characters who can see him, almost as if he were still alive.
  • Much of Salman Rushdie's Midnight’s Children is considered Magic Realism, as the children in the title have various powers and abilities ranging from beauty capable of blinding people to an ability to physically hurt people with words.
  • In the collaborative series The Mongoliad by, among others Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear, set in 1241 and revolving around a quest to assassinate the Great Khan of the invading Mongols at least one characters has a holy vision. Several others also have visions that are more open to interpretation as hallucinations but may not be.
  • Virtually everything by Haruki Murakami falls into this category, along with Magic A Is Magic A, Screw the Rules, I Have Plot!, and How Unscientific! The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and A Wild Sheep Chase are probably the best examples.
  • Gabriel García Márquez' book One Hundred Years of Solitude popularized the term and is often considered to be the master work of the genre, and one of the most important pieces of universal literature written in the 20th century. A few years of rain, a gypsy who keeps coming back to life, a man who just sits in the basement and doesn't speak, and a couple dozen civil wars are some of the more normal aspects of the book. Marquez' other works also tend to feature this to a greater or lesser degree, such as A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings (where an old man with huge wings is kept in a manor under the belief he is an angel before being released and flying away).
  • Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, which would be a normal historical romance set in the 18th century if one of the two main characters wasn't from the 20th. Later books in the series throw in ghosts, Indian wise men and woman and slaves practicing Voudoun. Although her Lord John Grey stories are set in the same world they're straight mysteries that, ironically in one story uses a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, Rose has the ability to taste the emotions of whoever cooked her food. The book, however, mostly focuses on her relations with her family. Her brother Joseph is said to frequently vanish without a trace, and near the end of the book it's revealed that he involuntarily turns into furniture at times. Her father also reveals that his father could smell peoples' characters and he himself is implied to be able to heal people.
  • Delia Sherman's The Porcelain Dove, about a cursed family of French aristocrats during the build up to the French Revolution. It's also hinted that once magic was both more common and more powerful.
  • Zenia from The Robber Bride has no provable supernatural abilities, but with her palpable aura of evil she reminds one of a fairy tale witch.
  • The Railway Series despite the talking trains, freight cars, buses and boats; the rest of the world of Sodor is mundane. The Queen is Elizabeth II, several real life historical figures are All There in the Manual, and real life events such as World War II or the Beeching Cuts are alluded to in the series. Sodor itself is treated as an island in the Irish Sea between England and the Isle of Man, and is part of the United Kingdom; otherwise mundane except in that trains can talk. The decision of the TV series to add more fantastical elements resulted in a Broken Base, especially considering the only theatrical film from the franchise Thomas and the Magic Railroad, adds in loads of magical elements and alternate dimensions that were never present in the books.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events and its prequel series All the Wrong Questions aren't explicitly fantastic but contain several surreal elements like talking snakes, killer leeches, a forest of land seaweed, a hotel organized by the Dewey decimal system, a villain with the ability to mimic any voice or animal call, and a sea monster.
  • In David Almond's Skellig, à la the page quote, the eponymous character is a man with wings who might be an angel and who lives in the young protagonist's garage. His Heaven Eyes has runaway children encountering an unusual family in an abandoned printing house, and at one point someone rises from the dead (nicely, though).
  • Snow in August by Pete Hamill pulls out the magic realism card in the last few chapters. In order to punish the gang of antisemitic thugs that beat a Jewish store clerk into a coma, threatened Michael and his friends, beat him up later on, attempted to sexually assault his mother, beat up Rabbi Hirsch, and repeatedly vandalized the temple with swastikas, Michael performs the Golem summoning ritual in the legend the Rabbi told him and actually succeeds. As part of the miracle, all of the gang's victims are also healed, and the Rabbi's wife who was killed by the Nazis is brought back to life.
  • While her Sookie Stackhouse novels fall somewhere between Magical Mundane and Urban Fantasy Charlaine Harris' Harper Connelly stories, about a woman who, after being struck by lightning gains the ability to locate dead bodies and know how they died, falls straight into this territory. The existence of other people with psychic powers is mentioned briefly in the first book and we meet a couple in the second. Harper also encounters a ghost in the second book, Grave Surprise.
  • While Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series mostly avoids this (except for Morelli's Great Aunt Bella whose curses are a case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane) the holiday oriented subseries feature Diesel (now with his own series), a magical bounty hunter who specializes in chasing "specials" (people with mutant powers) gone bad.
  • An unusual biographical example in Stranger Than Fiction: The Life And Times Of Split Enz, which chronicles the foundation and original run of the New Zealand band Split Enz... oh, and God shows up at one point.
  • Michael Chabon's Summerland starts out as this. It revolves around a quirky little island community where it always rains (but always has inexplicably perfect weather at the local baseball field), and includes a Bungling Inventor who builds miniature airships, a teenage boy who's convinced that he's an android, and a 109-year-old retired baseball player. Then the "Save the World" Climax plot starts, and it makes a Genre Shift into full-on High Fantasy.
  • Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz has magical fish that heal any ailments and increase peoples' lifespans upon digestion, but the prospect of ghosts existing is treated as ridiculous to both the protagonist and his parents.
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell is a fairly standard historical drama set around the Dutch trading post in turn-of-the-19th-Century Nagasaki except for the villainous Lord Abbot Enomoto who can drain the life out of small animals and insects and who claims to be six hundred years old thanks to child sacrifice.
  • The Tiger's Wife tells the story of the buildup to and the aftermath of The Yugoslav Wars as seen through the eyes of a fairly ordinary family. Except, Death's immortal nephew casually wanders in and out of the story, tangentially affecting the lives of several generations.
  • Karen Tei Yamashita's Tropic of Orange proudly parades its magic realism and Gabriel García Márquez influence. Seven main characters in modern-day Los Angeles and Mexico's lives interweave in strange and not-very-satisfying ways when an orange causes a gigantic traffic accident, then firestorm on a major freeway. Meanwhile, another orange that happened to grow on the Tropic of Cancer (which was fertilized somehow by the woman who works on the property) causes the geography to shift completely when... well, it still doesn't make much sense, except there were lots of Author Tracts.
    • Similarly, her novel Through the Arc of the Rainforest. The plot revolves around a massive field of plastic with seemingly magical properties being uncovered in the middle of The Amazon Rainforest, and the manner in which the main characters (including an American businessman with three arms, a Japanese railway conductor with a little ball floating in front of his face, and a Brazilian radio evangelist who thinks that the plastic is holy) interact with it.
  • Amos Tutuola's books depict magic realism in an African setting. The protagonists live in a world where they often come in contact with spirits of the Bush. A good example is The Palm Wine Drinkard.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The British Sitcom 2point4 Children is a prime example.
    • It is a perfectly mundane show, with the exception of the strange things that happen to the mother, Bill Porter. Like the number of prophetic dreams she's had, or the time she found herself chased... by a hurricane (the storm literally followed her when she left Miami to avoid it, and was also named Hurricane Bill).
    • Odd things occasionally happen to her husband as well. Yes, it's possible that his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis (who's a The Prisoner (1967) fan) might kidnap him and leave him in Portmerion... but then Rover appears... And the man on the motorcycle who kept appearing whenever Bill needed help and who may actually have been Dead All Along.
    • One episode has the characters believing that a neighbor is a vampire, and breaking into his house with a giant crucifix. There appears to be a rational explanation — but the ending of the episode strongly implies he is a real vampire.
  • Kenneth in 30 Rock is Really 700 Years Old. This is played totally as a Running Gag. The "Leap Day" episode, which celebrates leap year as an actual holiday, and has an entire mythology built around it, complete with a "Santa Claus" figure, Leap Day William. He turns out to be real.
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete is a bit like Twin Peaks FOR KIDS!. The world isn't really magical, but it is extremely bizarre and the inexplicable often happens. Like the superhero who lives there, or a boxing match between an evil garbageman and Santa Claus.
  • Alias does this with the Rambaldi artifacts with which Arvin Sloan has an obsession. They do things that are on the border of magic and technology, and are never fully explained. In the series finale, the Rambaldi artifacts become clearly magical, as they preserve Sloan alive forever, trapped underground. J. J. Abrams, y'all.
  • The Almighty Johnsons, a Dramedy about a family in New Zealand who happen to be reincarnated Norse gods.
  • Atlanta has been described by Donald Glover as "Twin Peaks, but with rappers" and it does seem to fit here. We have things like the invisible car as blatant examples, but also subtle changes and differences that show off the uncanniness of the show, though in its own way, like a black Justin Bieber.
  • Bewitched, about a mixed marriage between a mortal and a witch.
  • Bones:
    • In this universe, ghosts exist. In one episode, Booth is helped by the ghost of a dead soldier while stuck inside a booby-trapped ship. Brennan meets him at the end of the episode without knowing who or what he is. Then in a more recent episode the story is viewed from the perspective of a victim's ghost.
    • Avalon, Angela's psychic, appears to be more than just deluded. She has made several uncannily accurate guesses about Booth and Brennan's relationship and about the victim in one of the Institute's cases.
    • Temperance has a near-death experience in which she encounters her dead mother.
    • Not magic, but the episode with a dead UFOlogist ends on a very creepy note.
  • Community normally stays within confines of (wacky) realism, but it did feature a ghost, a boob-obsessed robot and evil versions of the main characters from an alternate reality. In all instances it's unclear whether the supernatural elements are imagined by the characters or not. With the exception of a zombie virus outbreak, which was confirmed to have actually happened, although none of the characters remember it.
  • Day Break (2006) is about a Los Angeles cop who is framed for a murder by The Conspiracy, but finds himself trapped inside a temporal loop forcing him to repeat the same day before he fully unravels the mystery, exposes the culprits, and helps the people around him with their problems. The cause of the loop is never explained, although one other person is revealed to have been part of the same loop in the show's closing shot.
  • Dickinson: The series intersperses mundane drama and things such as precognition, talking with Death, even time travel at one point (although that may have been just in Emily's head).
  • The live-action Disneyverse as a whole. There have been numerous crossovers, so it's all one world, and you have psychic teens, tallking dogs and of course wizards. You also have more normal shows that have the occasional strange occurences.
  • Dispatches From Elsewhere drops strange places, inexplicable Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane events, and abrupt Imagine Spots into the ordinary world of Philadelphia.
  • Drake & Josh is a standard teen sitcom set in early 2000s San Diego, CA, USA with no supernatural elements whatsoever, but the Please Dump Me episode "Mean Teacher" centers around a very real Good Luck Charm (a shirt) whose effects are too extreme and too perfectly timed to be explained away as coincidence. The boys accept its magic as real and (successfully) plan how to use its magic to solve their problems of the episode. (Naturally, it's lost once the plot is resolved to prevent it becoming a Story-Breaker Power.)
  • As mentioned above, Due South allows ghosts, who demonstrate abilities to affect the real world. They do, however, appear mostly only to those with an emotional connection to them. One story, too, involves the likely involvement of the literal Raven trickster, and another a voodoo conflict which may or may not have involved actual magic.
  • Felicity broke into this by the end. The main character can't decide between Ben and Noah? Simple; her Wiccan friend will cast a spell that sends her back in time a few years so she has enough time to figure everything out. Yes, kids, J. J. Abrams created it.
  • The Golden Girls: Sophia encounters her husband's ghost twice, Blanche may have encountered her grandmother's ghost once, Dorothy may have been cursed by a witch, Sophia may have been a witch, the girls encountered bizarre dreams, and let's not get started about St. Olaf...
  • Grey's Anatomy had a storyline in which Izzie's dead fiance Denny came back as a ghost, though she was the only one who could see him. It turned out to be because she had melanoma that reached her brain, though it was never stated whether or not it was just a hallucination or it was because he was trying to warn her. It seemed like a bit of both.
    • There was another episode where Meredith has a near-death experience (seeing three dead people, including Denny), at the end of which she encounters her mother (who is dying at the same moment in another room). As soon as she wakes up, she announces that her mother is dead before anyone else can tell her.
  • If Halloween specials count, every sitcom in ABC's TGIF line ran into the supernatural but its characters never saw fit to mention it during the rest of the year or adjust their worldview knowing that Cory traveled through time or that JT got dating advice from a ghost.
  • Hannibal — The title character is written as if he were a Fallen Angel, Will's empathic abilities are indistinguishable from actual clairvoyance, and every Serial Killer around is some kind of Mad Artist who turns their victims into complicated displays, the logistics of which are never explained.
  • How I Met Your Mother sometimes verges into this territory, including events that waver between magical and highly unlikely (doppelgangers, some of Barney's schemes). However, the show can always fall back on the fact that Ted has been established as an Unreliable Narrator, leaving it unclear which events happened exactly as described and which have been embellished or misremembered. Also, a couple of Season 5 episodes have Marshall seemingly time-traveling as minor elements.
  • I Dream of Jeannie, a similarly themed show about a human astronaut and a female genie.
  • Irma Vep: Irma, after really getting into playing Irma and wearing the costume while not on set, develops an ability to walk through walls, which she uses to spy on people. She isn't surprised at all, nor is this treated as being very odd by the narrative, while the rest of things remain grounded in known reality.
  • The Fox dramedy Key West was, in its short time om the air, one of the best examples of this on television.
  • It's sketchy, but Lost fits the definition of Magical Realism better than it does any other type of Speculative Fiction. When you boil it down, Lost is the story of some seriously dysfunctional people who get stuck together, forge some real connections, figure out how to survive in a hostile environment, become better people and eventually let go of their issues. This story just happens to take place on an island that's been known to move through space and time, can heal people, and is home to ghosts and people with immortality (among other things).note 
  • Man Seeking Woman — The main character gets set up on a date with a troll, his ex-girlfriend is dating Hitler, and a stuffed toy came to life and attacked. No one really questions any of that.
  • The Swedish kids' series Mimmi is a completely mundane Slice of Life series — until the very last scene of the series reveals this trope as the titular protagonist and her friend think there's a monster in their kindergarten teacher's locker and open the locker to release it. It turns out that there actually is a monster — a pink, feathered, kite/hat-like creature (although more weird than actually monstrous, and completely harmless) that immediately flies away and passes a lot of the other kids and teachers. Everyone is mildly amused by the creature, but otherwise treats it as another completely mundane thing and doesn't seem surprised by its existence.
  • My So-Called Life was a straight up teen Soap Opera Dramedy and contained absolutely no supernatural elements whatsoever. Except for the episode "Halloween," where Angela encounters a ghost. Or "My So-Called Angels" (widely regarded as one of the best and most tearjerking episodes) where both Angela and her mother talk to a (sort of) angel.
  • Much like The Golden Girls, The Nanny has a few moments like this. Fortune tellers prophecies coming true in eerily accurate ways. Fran endures a curse that begins to reset itself the second she starts making things right. The miracle of Hanukkah is reenacted in one Christmas episode (with gas in their car instead of oil in the temple.) They also implied that Fran's family had some kind of supernatural powers (they implied that Yetta had the ability to curse people, and once, when Sylvia is dancing with joy, a freak thunderstorm started.) A short while before marrying Fran, Mr. Sheffield is visited by his dead wife's ghost, where she reveals that not only she's happy to see him get married again, she was the one who sent Fran to him.
  • NCIS is about as grounded in reality as they come.
    • Except for the slightly surreal Season 4 finale, where Jeanne is implied to see the Angel of Death, in the form of a small child. At the end Jeanne mentions the girl and is told that it was a girl who was lost and whose parents were looking for her, so it seems like this is subverted, but then we see the girl... and she looks nothing like the one Jeanne saw before.
    • Plus Gibbs' infallible instincts. And his ability to get a boat out of his basement. Be fair, no one really knows for sure what happened to the boat. He may have simply broken it down and started over. Both this and his instincts are justified by Rule of Funny. In one episode, Gibbs has a near-death experience in which he encounters dead friends and family.
  • Night and Day interspersed the typical soap drama with supernatural elements such as parallel realities, witches, and the final episode ending with the revelation that the main character, who was ostensibly returning home after being released from jail, had actually died on the morning of her release and was now a ghost.
  • Northern Exposure is actually a fantasy series. After all, it has characters who have prescient or telepathic dreams, pregnant ladies who speak only in song, ghosts, aliens, tribal magic, Jewish mysticism (practiced by Native Americans no less), and a man who can fly under his own power in his sleep. Unfortunately, people tend to look at you funny if you actually point out that it was one of the most successful fantasy programs in network television history. Lacking elves and whatnot, it usually gets pigeonholed as Magic Realism.
  • The real world portions of Once Upon a Time are this. The fairy tale world portions are of course much more explicitly magical. Since Emma broke the curse, explicit magical elements have creeped into Storybrooke as well.
  • The supernatural soap opera Passions is mostly focused around the mundane escapades of the Crane family... but ongoing subplots focus on the resident Wicked Witch Tabitha. Word of God claimed that the show was meant to actually serve as a subversion of this trope, since supernatural elements, which proved to be popular in story arcs for soaps, were present from the get-go and lasted throughout the series' run.
  • Another "the fantastic exists, but not that kind" example: Power Rangers Time Force shares The 'Verse with magic-based teams, but that particular series was all sci-fi — good guys were a Heroes "R" Us organization, bad guys were Gattaca Babies Gone Horribly Wrong. However, the Yellow Ranger meets the ghost of a previous owner of their clock tower. The ghost is gone once she ends up changing history and giving him a happy ending, and there's some question as to whether or not any of it happened, but we get the Or Was It a Dream? reveal with a painting that is now different
  • Pushing Daisies was weird about this: the premise is that the main character can bring the dead back to life, so it's clearly Urban Fantasy, but that's the only explicitly magical element. The rest of the world is a Magic Realism-esque one: there's a car that runs on dandelions, two characters who can Sherlock Scan by smell and a jockey who had the legs of his dead horse transplanted into his body to replace his own, but none of this is treated as magical, unlike the protagonist's necromancy.
  • Quantum Leap: The time travel stuff and the seldom-seen future setting of Mission Control are the only non-mundane features of the universe, as the bulk of an episode is the mission to Set Right What Once Went Wrong in the lives of normal people. "That guy runs someone over on Friday if he keeps up the illegal street-racing; help him learn his lesson before then" is the usual mission rather than "prevent World War III." But we once meet the devil, and once has Sam leap into a vampire. He also meets a ghost and an angel.
  • The Pretty Little Liars spinoff Ravenswood, about a town haunted by both a curse and its victims.
  • Nostradamus' visions in the pilot and later plunge Reign into this territory.
  • The ghosts that visit Tommy in Rescue Me may or may not be real.
  • The Brazilian soap opera Saramandaia was responsible for popularizing the genre in Brazilian television. It has a werewolf, a guy with wings on his back, a girl with resuscitating tears, a guy who throws up his heart, another guy who has ants coming out of his nose and finally, a woman so fat she explodes.
  • Even ignoring Zack's fourth-wall breaking powers, Saved by the Bell has some weird stuff going on, including an apparently sapient robot and a lightning strike causing a character to temporarily gain precognition. Speaking of the fourth-wall powers, Zack can actually say "Time out," and everything but him stops, and he usually does this to talk to the audience, but he is capable of actually moving things around while time is frozen, and once quickly uses "time out" to avoid being punched in the face. It's not a gag that "doesn't count" story-wise; Zack Morris has for-real time-altering powers.
  • Later seasons of Seinfeld toyed with magical realism, such as a nightclub that turns into a meat-packing plant by day, or Elaine meeting a group of people who are physically similar but emotionally the exact opposites of Jerry, George and Kramer. Also, a woman who seemingly changed from beautiful to hideous on the spot, and Kramer owned a dummy that apparently came to life at the end of the episode. Also the stink in Jerry's car.
  • Sister, Sister was a standard suburban teen sitcom with the only odd sections being when the girls would address the audience during the intro. However, a handful of episodes featured strange elements. One episode had Roger stealing an ancient artifact from a museum that would attract women to him. Another had Cupid showing up and causing people to magically fall in love with each other. In another episode, Lisa encounters the ghost of Ray's dead wife(a plot point played mostly for drama). Coupled with these elements, a few of the shows' wackier, inexplicable and seemingly out-of-place gags(such as Roger running away and leaving a pair of smoking shoes behind, and Tamera doing a Wild Take that's straight out of a Tex Avery cartoon) begin to feel like a combination of Rule of Funny and this trope. Evidently, the Sister Sister universe is just like ours except for some fringe supernatural elements such as ghosts, love gods, and the ability of some otherwise normal people to occasionally display Loony-Tunes-esque abilities!
  • Slings & Arrows, depending on your perspective. It's possible, of course, that Geoffrey's just crazy — but it's also not made obvious that Oliver's ghost isn't hanging around.
  • Spaced features elements of light magic realism, such as Colin the dog (who seems to be more intelligent than he ought to be), a vivisectionist who can disappear at will and a pair of Creepy Twins who speak with one voice.
  • The Terror is a straightforward what-if dramatization of the real-life lost Franklin Expedition of 1845... that also has prophetic visions, possible ghosts and a mysterious monster only barely under Inuit control that is unfettered by the expedition's imperialist callousness. Characters are about equally likely to die of agonizingly realistic scurvy or suicide by immolation as they are to die of having said monster suck their souls out, and toward the end one character seems to be undergoing a slow slide into A God Am I.
  • Too Old to Die Young:
    • Yaritza seems to display supernatural fighting abilities and proclaims herself to be the mythical Queen of Death. It's not clear if she's just a badass Dark Action Girl with a knack for self-promotion or if she's really become some sort of supernatural avenger.
    • Diana believes that she receives visions from other-dimensional beings. After one vision, her eyes develop a metallic sheen, which she can only get rid of after a shamanistic ritual. She accurately predicts that she won't see Martin again and seems to intuit the existence of Yaritza. However, all of these could be delusions, hallucinations and lucky guesses.
  • Twin Peaks actually barely fits here, but it's worth mentioning. Most of the show is fairly mundane, but when it isn't, it's uproariously supernatural. Actually, most of David Lynch's work is like this: mundane human drama interspersed with the pants-crappingly bizarre.
  • The Unusuals is an otherwise completely normal (if quirky) cop show that has a character who receives occasional prophetic messages from fortune cookies and, in the pilot, is the recipient of a Pulp Fiction-style miracle. And then there's the episode "42," which seems to indicate that a psychic they question can really see the future.

  • Welcome to Night Vale could be considered Magic Realism, even more so than Surreal Horror or Urban Fantasy. Making use of an already Unreliable Narrator, such events as a glow cloud invasion, the birth of a human hand to two fully human parents, and a hole in the vacant lot outside the Ralph's are all dismissed as merely the news of the day. Every magical action is treated with the calmness and nonchalance of going to the store, and the fact we don't see any of it allows the listener to draw their own interpretation of how magical the whole podcast really is.
  • Wooden Overcoats is set in a world where a man can talk to a mouse as if she were a human, said mouse can write and publish a bestselling memoir, a woman can have shadows follow her everywhere she goes, a set of twins can be born a week apart, and nearly every death is absurdly over-the-top and unlikely. None of this is ever explained, and the characters just accept it all as part of life.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Undertaker. He can apparently control lightning and fire, the arena lights always dim when he makes his entrance and then there's the rolling fog. None of the other wrestlers question this or even seem bothered by the fact that they are sharing a locker room with an apparent supernatural being. This was later worked into his gimmick as Taker got older and his body couldn't keep up with a rigorous schedule, working (at best) a few months out of the year. It's now explicitly stagecraft; the "power of the Undertaker" is his ability to awe through his mere presence, and being the most long-running performer to still look good by his own merits.
  • Kane, the Undertaker's half-brother, also has pyrokinesis and the same teleportation powers. Depending on the Writer, he's a demon or at least sold his soul to them.
  • Under a similar category, Papa Shango's "voodoo curses" seemed completely effective against his targets.
  • Winter in TNA. She only appeared in backstage segments with Angelina Love and kept disappearing whenever she looked away. The announcers never mentioned her and apparently only Angelina could see her. Then Angelina accepted her as her lover and now she actively competes on the roster.
  • Finn Balor occasionally turns into a demon. Seriously. WWE acknowledges his time competing in the UK and Japan under the name "Prince Devitt", where he was notably not a demon, but when he shows up in NXT, he is suddenly able to transform himself into a heavy-breathing, large-toothed demon with tentacle-dreadlocks instead of hair and the ability to switch off arena lights.
  • Lucha Underground is unique even in the inherently magi-realistic world of pro wrestling in that it fully embraces its use of magical realism. While many of the luchador participants fall into the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane category (everyone's pretty aware that Prince Puma is not actually a jungle cat or an Aztec warrior), there are a number that stretch reality to its limits. There is the duo of Mil Muertes and Catrina, a potentially-undead warrior who has been resurrected by a witch with necromancy powers (and every time he comes back, it's stronger and more evil); Drago, an actual dragon who seems to take human form and return to draconic form at will; and Matanza, a monster kept chained in the temple by his brother Dario because he has the literal Aztec god of slaughter inside him.
  • Bray Wyatt has teleportation powers, can project holograms of himself, is capable of Mind Control and is said to have a demon within him, which later manifested as the Monster Clown-like entity called "The Fiend".
  • Broken Matt Hardy is capable of brainwashing other people into an "enlightened" version of themselves.

  • The BBC Radio 4 drama serial Little Grudges is based on real-life experiences of Radio 4 listeners, and is therefore as "real" as it gets. Except for the pixies...

  • Tony Kushner's Angels in America takes place in modern-day (well, modern at the time) America, and it has angels, Biblical visions, ancestral spirits, a dream sequence in which two characters who have never met are able to communicate with each other, and on and on.
  • In Prokofiev's Ballet of Cinderella, the Prince trying to find the slipper's owner goes to every Shoemaker in his land, then travels the world to find the Princess, then he returns to his kingdom to try it on every woman in his kingdom where with the magic of love it is only the day after the ball.
  • Les Misérables is set in more-or-less historically accurate, 1830s France, except for the ghosts that begin appearing following the revolution. Given that they only are visible to the dead/dying, it could be excused by saying it's all in Valjean's head and/or a metaphor for him going to heaven. That is, except for the fact that a) one of the ghosts is Eponine, a girl Valjean met once (and assumed she was a boy), had no real connection to, and whom Valjean didn't even know was dead, and b) ghosts also appear during "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", which Marius cannot see, further suggesting that they are not the product of an active imagination but real ghosts appearing.
  • A number of William Shakespeare's plays nonchalantly introduce fantastic elements and would probably qualify as magic realism if they were written today. Hamlet has a ghost, Macbeth has witches, The Tempest is set on an island inhabited by strange creatures and spirits, and A Midsummer Night's Dream deals with The Fair Folk and their supernatural shenanigans involving love potions and a jester who gets transmogrified into a donkey-man. Of course, at the time Shakespeare was writing, belief in the supernatural was more common, so these elements didn't raise as many eyebrows.

    Video Games 
  • The Age of Empires series occasionally slides into the supernatural, despite being a historical RTS game. For instance, one Viking level in Age of Empires II features lindworms in the sea that devour boats, and the campaign of Age of Empires III involves a mystical fountain of youth in the new world as the MacGuffin which, as we find out later, really does make people immortal, though that point is completely out of left field.
  • AI: The Somnium Files is largely a, well, grounded may be too strong a word with, but "mundane" scifi murder mystery in the near future. However, the story has a girl with unnatural strength (able to bench press 220 pounds at the age of 12 with an age appropriate frame, also able to single handedly take down multiple armed thugs single handedly) that goes almost uncommented on. Also, similar to the Zero Escape games, there are alternate timelines depending on Date's decisions, and to finish the story, he has to remember events from other timelines. However, this similarly goes mostly uncommented on, with Date just be vaguely confused about the information he's "remembering".
  • With optional supernatural events turned on, Crusader Kings II takes on this vibe. Mostly it's a deeply-researched and intricate simulator of medieval Europe, India, the Middle East, and surrounding areas. But every so often, you'll encounter things like The Antichrist rising, the Necronomicon, and characters questing for, and sometimes achieving, immortality. All of these are mere texture in the ruthless politicking of dynasties and nations, however.
  • The game of The Darkness is about a mafia hitman who just so happens to become possessed by a millenia-old demon that grants him superpowers. The main focus of the plot is still his quest for vengeance against the entirely mortal don who betrayed him.
  • Disco Elysium. At first glance, most elements are Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, and playing Agent Scully (as your strait-laced partner invariably will do) and brushing off "superstition" is a perfectly valid way to play. But on subsequent playthroughs, it becomes clear the voices, Shivers and Inland Empire especially are able to intuit things they couldn't actually know, even if it's cryptic the first time around. There's also the matter of the Pale and the the Swallow in the church, which is very difficult to offer a rational explanation for (though in-universe, people have tried) and skirts the line between Magic Realism and an outright Cosmic Horror Reveal.
  • Harvest Moon is a farming simulator with heavy life sim elements. Overall it takes place in a realistic setting however supernatural aspects are in almost every game. The Harvest Goddess and the Harvest Sprites are recurring characters, and more recent games give the Goddess a Distaff Counterpart in the Harvest King. Witch and wizard characters are often common in recent titles.
  • Kentucky Route Zero paints the Bluegrass State as one of these. The elements of ghost stories abound, but no one pays much mind to them.
  • Killer7, a political thriller starring a man who can transform into seven different people, see and speak to the dead, and fight exploding monsters that possess human bodies.
  • Killer is Dead features all kinds of bizarre sci-fi and supernatural elements that verge into Mind Screw territory at times for the player, but are typically treated as nothing out of the ordinary for the protagonists. For example, one mission ends with Mondo's client turning out to not be their actual client, who died before they even met, but a bird disguised as her, who simply turns back into a bird and flies away after the job is done. Mondo reacts with mild surprise, Bryan simply laughs it off, and Vivienne is more irritated since a bird and a corpse can't pay the contract fee they owe them.
  • Square Enix's Life Is Strange, having been inspired by Twin Peaks, is clearly magical realist in tone.
  • Mace: The Dark Age takes place in a similar Eurasian setting to the Soul Series except during the Dark Ages, and there is an sinister group of evil men that summoned a demon to engulf the world into darkness. The cast is made up from fighters from Europe, the Middle-East and the Far East, ranging from mercenaries, vikings, ninjas, samurais, assassins and harem girls, with The Dragon being an stone gargoyle and the aforementioned demon as the Final Boss. And a mythical dwarf is among the secret characters.
  • Metal Gear. Real world setting, real guns, lots of talking about real-life politics and science, but also features walking robots, magical floating psychics, autotrophic snipers, bee men, and ghosts. The original Metal Gear Solid title featured a collection of Charles Atlas Superpower bosses, the Ensemble Dark Horse of which was a floating, fourth-wall breaking psychic. Later games would expand upon this with a steady increase of Magic Realism. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots dabbled with Doing In the Wizard, but official Word of God is that Vamp was still immortal in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Ocelot was possessed, but had the arm removed and started faking possession instead.
  • The entire Mother series has definite elements of Magic Realism, which are especially prominent in Mother 3.
  • No More Heroes seems to take place in a fairly dull Californian city. Except for the fact that the protagonist purchases a functioning lightsaber on eBay and proceeds to off progressively more bizarre assassins. At one point his mentor dies, but afterward the mentor's ghost continues his job working at the gym. No one seems to find any of this at all odd. And then there's No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, which has Travis Touchdown using dimension warps and fighting ghosts, among other things.
    • No More Heroes III manages to top both of the above by having Travis fight alien superheroes from outer space.
  • No Straight Roads takes place in Vinyl City, an otherwise normal, bustling place where all musical artists appear to have magical powers (let alone the Virtual Idol, the robotic boy band and the DJ with an astral body for a head), and this isn't seen as strange.
  • Pathologic and Pathologic 2. The setting is realistic, the characters are very human, one of the playable characters has Lovecraftian Super Powers. There are a bunch of medicine men wrapped head to toe in bandages who sell herbs that grow from blood. There are loads of children walking around without parents, and occasionally wearing the dead heads of dogs as masks. Disease clouds attack you. They come in the form of horrendous, symbolic abominations. An impossibly-shaped tower created as a "factory of dreams and utopias" just to spite the laws of nature. The land and soil, which are alive. We haven't even discussed the rather meta theater themes...
  • Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption II possess several paranormal or fantastical elements despite being Rockstar titles that take place near the end of the Wild West, the most prominent of which is a mysterious figure in all black simply called The Strange Man. In both installments, he's heavily implied to be a supernatural entity particularly intrigued by John Marston. Members of the fandom debate whether he's an angel, the Devil, God, or Death.
  • The Riddle of Master Lu is set in a slightly alternative-history version of our world before the Second World War, but it contains the very literally unlucky Romanov Emerald, and the whole plot is set around the search for the Emerald Seal, which by the sound of it has magical powers that could help anyone become a dictator somehow. The protagonist Robert Ripley doesn't seem too perturbed by the idea of something being magical, in fact he takes it for granted about the Seal, and seems convinced an ancient tower where human sacrifices were committed is literally haunted, even though there is no evidence for this other than a very oppressive atmosphere.
  • Arguably every incarnation of The Sims, where witches, vampires, aliens, fairies, and werewolves, as well as a number of magical or high technology objects exist but are treated as perfectly normal in a game that is otherwise supposed to be a simulation of real life.
  • A recurring element in the Sly Cooper series. Mojo and ghosts exist, and raising the dead nets you a life sentence in prison.
  • Somme Trench for the most part is a realistic choose your own adventure game about a British private during the Battle of the Somme. Then there's a sceen where your character sees (and depending on your choices, talks to) a ghost, though since no one else sees it, you can't tell if it's just your character imagining things, and the soldiers who you tell about it are just superstitious. Until the end, where your stuck in a shell hole, and more ghosts show up, including at least one you actually knew and saw die, and there's another (living) soldier with you who sees them, confirming that, yes, they're really there. Don't worry, they're actually friendly, and understand if you decide not to go with them.
  • The Soul Series takes place in a mostly realistic depiction of 16th Century Eurasia. Except there's an evil sword of supernatural power out there that everyone wants to get a hold of. Oh, and there's a good counterpart up for grabs as well. Not to mention the golem, the lizardman, the demon-hunting ninja, that Greek woman who keeps getting visions from Hephaestus, the scary black guy who claims he was born in Babylonian times, and not just one but two people who may or may not be vampires. To the series' credit, they're used well, but they're more played up with each title: the very first game was basically the real world with a few low-key fantastical elements, while V arguably leaves this trope and ventures into the realm of High Fantasy. Not to mention the times Link and Darth Vader showed up.
  • Spec Ops: The Line might dip into this depending on your interpretation. Just enough odd things happen through the course of the story that can easily be written off as hallucinations in the mind of the PTSD-addled protagonist.
  • Physically impossible Finishing Moves? Flaming Battle Auras that look straight out of Dragon Ball Z? Lightsabers, Morph Weapons disguised as canes, haunted video tapes, and more cases of Made of Iron than you can shake a metal pipe at? Just another day for Kamurocho's Neighborhood-Friendly (and not-so-friendly) Yakuza, though it's never made clear just how much of the wacky stuff Kiryu and pals pull off is in-universe and how much is just artistic licence for the fun of it.

    Visual Novels 
  • This trope is a staple of Key/Visual Arts works, which tend to follow a common formula: firstly there's a common route set in a basic school setting with nothing remotely supernatural or only very vague hints at anything non-mundane, then there are a couple of character routes that involve explicitly supernatural elements (e.g., a character turning out to be a ghost) but also other totally realistic routes, and then the main route reveals some kind of important magical element that forms the basis of the entire game. The character development and interaction is always clearly the focal point and the magical elements merely providing a frame for it.
    • CLANNAD is mostly a slice-of-life romance in a realistic, present-day setting... except for the Genki Girl in a coma somehow astral projecting herself whom only some can see, a cat who temporarily turns into a human boy and can grant one wish, a lonely world no-one can see that exists somewhere between the layers of our own, and the past being rewritten after years of tragedy, finally resulting in a happy ending.
    • Kanon is just a normal high school anime, except for the fox that turns into a human girl, the girl with healing powers who fights invisible monsters with a sword, and (yet another) girl in a coma projecting herself and magically producing a happy ending.
    • Air does this, with several characters supposedly descended from Winged Humanoids, or possibly just nuts. A distant-past segment has some winged women, yet implies that their wings may have been an embellishment to the story and/or a metaphor for their deaths. The male lead has a doll which he can control seemingly through telekinesis, but it's never explicitly stated to not be just a trick. Near the end, he appears to go back in time and become the bird that was hanging around throughout the series. If he actually did, there's no explanation of how, and it's possible he just went crazy.
    • Then there's Little Busters!, which is a totally normal, happy game about the everyday school life of a boy and his friends. And then there's one unusual girl who doesn't have a shadow but does have a strange doppelganger, and when he starts romancing another girl strange things start to happening such as snow falling in May... Although in the end it turns out to be a bit more of a subtle example than the rest: all of the supernatural things happened because they took place within the dream Kyousuke created to replay the same month over and over to prepare Riki for the events ahead, meaning that the creation of that dream was the only truly magical thing to have happened.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Spirit channeling is a real thing, but in most cases it stays in the sidelines, being only used as a way for Phoenix to get help from his late mentor. The existence of spirit channelers also leads to Phoenix owning a magical Lie Detector artifact, and to a few cases where spirit channeling was directly involved in the crime. While spirit channeling is generally discounted in the story, this is because of a highly publicized incident where the police tried Interrogating the Dead and got testimony that incriminated an innocent man, which embarrassed the police out of trying it again. If Phoenix tries to argue that a channeled spirit couldn't have committed murder (which is true in this case because said 'channeled spirit' was alive the whole time and there was a conspiracy to fake the channeling) because spirit channeling doesn't exist, all Franziska has to do is present a single photo to prove him wrong. After that, on the rare occasion that someone is channeled in court (and it's not Mia), they're generally treated like any other witness.
    • Apollo's Hyper-Awareness through his bracelet, that leads to him becoming a Living Lie Detector, could be seen as another hint of magical realism at first, but it has a perfectly scientific explanation. His entire family has a gene that allows them to subtly perceive other people's twitches and nervousness, and the tight bracelet allows Apollo to notice more easily when he's subconsciously perceiving it through body temperature increases and the like.
    • Spirit of Justice introduces the Kingdom of Khura'in, an entire country based around spirit channeling to the point where the royal family (or at least the women) are all expected to be spirit mediums, and a major part of the country's judicial system is a specialized channeling called a Divination Seance (performed by Princess Rayfa) that shows the deceased's last moments... and which is significantly less reliable than said court system would hope. In fact, the Big Bad is defeated by proving she's not a medium and thus unfit for the throne.
  • The main character of Da Capo is a mage who jumps into people's dreams, there's also a magical cherry tree that grants wishes, a reality altering witch, mind readers, cats becoming human, a human sized cat that the girls see around town, and ever blooming cherry trees, and although it's a bit odd, nobody ever questions their reality.
  • In Fleuret Blanc, Squeaker is a Funny Animal who can rotate his head 360 degrees. No one finds this odd except for Kant.
  • The setting of The Fountain is largely realistic, the one exception being that Areanna's statue is alive and Luca's long-lasting influence on the pigeons he cared for. The two characters aware of these going-ons aren't surprised by it.
  • Love at First Sight is set in a world similar to ours, with completely mundane humans... and yet a girl with a significant eye condition co-exists with scarcely any comment.
  • Uta No Prince Sama would be just another Otome Game with an idealistic vision of the idol business... if it wasn't for magic being real (although seemingly only prominent in invented countries like Permafrost or Agnapolis).

  • Lampshade Hanging: Within the Achewood anything made in Mexico contains "Mexican magical realism." For example, a camera that takes pictures of what a person feels like, an RV that is always raining on the inside, and a helicopter that moves by causing the occupants legs to grow to several hundred feet and walking. Most recently, a Nagel serape that grants wishes (actually only the "Hecho en Mexico" tag attached to it grants wishes).
  • The first two chapters of Can of Beans focus on Carl trying to hide his lycanthropy from his new roommate, Dude; chapter three explores other odd quirks about his condition. However, from that point on the supernatural becomes a side point, with the main focus being on Carl and Dude's relationship. Lampshaded by page 220's Alt Text:
    "Oh yeah I totally forgot this was a werewolf comic."
  • Darkest Night: Interspersed with mundane drama is a blood-drinking monster mystically linked with Mags and an apparently real seer.
  • Aside from being set in a World of Funny Animals, Deer Me is a pretty mundane narrative for the most part. Then you get to the story arc with Viana's wicked niece who has a demon and magical powers.
  • In The Devil's Panties, which is mostly slice-of-life, the main character occasionally chats with both Jesus and the devil, her shoulder angel and devil seem to have lives of their own and one of her roommates used to keep Legolas naked and locked in a closet.
  • Girls with Slingshots is usually normal every day life. Except for the talking plants and the occasional impossibility thrown in for Rule of Fun, such as the laser tag game that somehow removes your clothing when you are shot. The talking house plants is a running gag and often lampshaded. Every time a new character is seen talking with them, they are relieved to find out they are not the only one that has been hearing them.
  • Homestuck starts out somewhat like this, before being revealed to be full on Mundane Fantastic and more. Early on, it seems more or less like our world, but interacting with things vaguely follows Adventure Game tropes. When they start up their game and view each others' houses, it doesn't seem so bad. Then they start altering the real life houses, with a game, like it's the Sims. It pretty much stops trying to pretend there's anything normal about their universe at that point.
  • Comments on a Postcard name-drops this specifically, claiming that a hovering telepathic female pie from the future is a totally legitimate example. The entire "comic" is one big joke, so make of it what you will.
  • Penny Arcade is a Two Gamers on a Couch comic set in what is nominally the real world, although sometimes Jesus comes over to play Mario Kart. Or Gabe and Tycho will discuss video games while emerging from hideous cocoons.
  • pictures for sad children is mainly about the pressures of modern life and the clash between the opposite sides of the Sliding Scale. The main characters are Paul, a recently-deceased Bedsheet Ghost, and Gary, whose extended family was recently revealed to collectively possess the same powers as Jesus.
  • Questionable Content slips in a fair amount of this, mostly in science-fiction or alcoholic form.
  • Shortpacked! is an interesting example. The previous webcomic by the same author, It's Walky, was straight-out science-fiction adventure about a group of alien-abductee government agents. Shortpacked exists in the same world, but in a much more mundane setting — a toy store. Thus, the elements that took center stage in It's Walky are pushed to the edges, and the genre shifts to magic realism. Since the weirdness does have a canon explanation in The 'Verse, just not in that series, it's more like All There in the Manual. Except replace "manual" with "the entire archives of several previous comic strips".
  • Something*Positive is generally just satire, but has some surreal elements (like the protagonist's boneless cat), and then some outright supernatural ones, like Silas, a minor character, being reincarnated a few years after being Killed Off for Real. Other dead characters have been specifically shown in either Heaven or Hell, and in recent years Davan has been having dreams of dead loved ones who either offer advice or seem to be predicting his own demise.
  • Think Before You Think happens in a normal world, but the main character can read minds, and he is the only one, as far as we know.
  • User Friendly starts out in a pretty normal world and focuses on the techs at an Internet Service Provider. Mostly the humor is geek-based and requires a healthy understanding of the computer world. Also there are creatures created from the dust molecules inside a computer, another creature created from spilled coffee and rotting food, the ability to make a coffee out of "distilled usenet bitterness", and the Great Old Ones from Lovecraft (usually just Cthulhu and Hastur) actually exist.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Kickassia is ostensibly set in the modern day real world, chiefly in the Real Life micronation Molossia. However, it keeps featuring talking stuffed animals, electromagnetic superpowers, teleportation, two-dimensional people, energy weapons, and Santa Christ; how these things exist is never explained, and most of them only have a small effect on the main plot. There's also a curious lack of interest from authorities when a bunch of internet critics invade a guy's home and start talking about conquering the world.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur can veer into this territory on occasion. Normally (aside from the characters not being — or at least looking — human) it's a very grounded, realistic, Slice of Life show about elementary-school kids. But then you have episodes where aliens have been seen as existing, imaginary friends are regularly show to be physically real, the Halloween episode featured a real ghost, and in one exceptionally weird episode Arthur's dog Pal and his baby sister Kate took a trip in a spaceship with Pal's cousin from Pluto.
  • In As Told by Ginger, Noelle has telekinetic powers. These are never explained, and the show is mostly a Slice of Life show about junior high students. The Halloween episode "I Spy A Witch" involved Hoodsie and Carl summoning a dead woman from beyond the grave. It's successful and she possesses Hoodsie to talk to Carl.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head occasionally did this. For example, the Morning Wood Fairy turned out to be real in "The Mystery of Morning Wood," and the Roman god of feces, Sterculius, is revealed to exist in "Peace, Love, and Understanding." Mike Judge, whose subsequent series King of the Hill is arguably the most realistic series in the history of western animation, views the aforementioned episodes as an Old Shame as a result of their fantastic nature, and neglected to include them on The Mike Judge Collection DVD sets as a result.
    • Daria, a Spin-Off of the above, also swung into this territory at times. Usually a satirical but realistic take on high school and 90's society, it also featured a Bizarro Episode where holiday spirits come to town, as well as a Musical Episode. "A Tree Grows in Lawndale" ends with the crutch in Tommy Sherman's memorial growing a flower, and "Legends of the Mall" implies that Helen may have been attacked by Metalmouth. There are also a lot of scenes where minor characters will appear in two places at once, switch places or show up in flashbacks where they don't belong. It's become a fandom joke that these "animation errors" are actually signs of supernatural activities.
  • It can be ambiguous whether or not the supernatural beings from Big Mouth are an example of Not-So-Imaginary Friend, but there are certainly times where other people can see them.
  • Some of the characters in the universe of Bojack Horseman are various kinds of talking animals. They have various traits associated with whatever animal they are, but are generally treated as human beings. The story never brings up or explains why the world is this way, it just is.
  • The Boondocks is sometimes like this. Most notably, the episode in which the vengeful ghost of Colonel Stinkmeaner comes back from Hell to possess Tom Dubois and attack the Freeman family. Despite all the weirdness of the whole situation, the Freemans are more concerned by the fact that it's their old enemy back for revenge, rather than how supernatural it is.
  • For most part, Clarence is a relatively down-to-earth series about the lives of a bunch of kids...And then, there are episodes like "Balance", where the titular character is shown to have telepathic powers. Another episode, "Animal Day" ends with one character turning into a werewolf.
  • With the exceptions of the Amazing Technicolor Population, Porkchop (And sometimes Stinky) walking around like a human (Not to mention the supernatural elements of the first Halloween Episode), Doug is a very, very realistic show. The Disney version has Skunky Beaumont befriending a mermaid, not to mention the Lake Monster from The Movie.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy is a Slice of Life cartoon about kids in a cul-de-sac, and while the show operates primarily on Toon Physics, is otherwise set in the real world. However, there are some episodes with weirdness that may or may not actually be supernatural. In "One + One = Ed", reality starts to break down around the Eds before revealing that none of the weird things they saw had happened and it was just their overactive imaginations... all three of theirs. In "Hand Me Down Ed", a boomerang flies into the cul-de-sac and magically inverts the personalities of everyone who touches them. In "Sorry, Wrong Ed", an allegedly cursed phone plagues Eddy with acts of misfortune whenever it's answered, Edd convinced that it's all one big coincidence. In "Run Ed Run", Sarah convinces Ed that the sky is falling, a fact that is proven accidentally true when they hit the sky, revealing nothing but static just past the cracked skybox.
  • Hey Arnold! is set in a mundane, realistic world and focuses on Arnold, his friends, and the people around them with their down-to-earth problems and daily lives. Then it factors in elements like Eugene's excessive bad luck, unusual one-shot characters like The Pigeon Man and The Sewer King, and hints that some of the local urban legends may be true.
  • One episode of King of the Hill had Luanne being visited by the angel of her dead boyfriend Buckley, though they kept it ambiguous whether she was imagining it or not.
  • Littlest Pet Shop is mostly realistic except for Blythe's ability to talk to animals and the occasional cartoony gag.
  • Martha Speaks is about a dog who gains the ability to talk after eating alphabet soup in an otherwise Slice of Life series about a normal girl, her dogs, and her friends. Although at times, some other things come up, such as a device capable of controlling things by spoken adjectives and a photograph seemingly proving that a local ghost is real.
  • The Proud Family, an otherwise normal series about a teenage girl and her family, has a lot of strange and fantastic elements, such as: a telepath, an evil talking baby, a talking credit card, an evil, reality-warping Al Roker, a blue-skinned trio of bullies, a mad scientist and his island of peanut people, ghosts, snacks that give people superpowers, etc. Though it could be chalked up to the writers taking full advantage of the fact that it's a cartoon.
  • Regular Show is a prime example. The main cast includes anthropomorphic animals, a talking gumball machine, an immortal yeti, a guy who looks like a lollipop, a green man, and a ghost that gives high fives. They’re all treated as normal people who just happen to not be human. Weird, supernatural things constantly happen, but they’re similarly often treated like expected hazards or otherwise not uncommon and through it all, the series is pretty much a Slice of Life show until the Myth Arc becomes more apparent later on.
  • The Christmas Episode of Rugrats ended by having Santa Claus be Real After All. The episode "Toy Palace" had a working time machine for a brief gag.
  • The Simpsons started out fairly ordinary, but after the first couple of seasons, inexplicable fantastical elements tended to spring up suddenly, yet the world, characters, and plot move on regardless. Occasionally lampshaded, like an episode where Lisa says that cartoons don't have to be 100% realistic, to which Homer appears in two places at once. It would be impossible to list the incalculable number of Big-Lipped Alligator Moments where supernatural beings appear briefly for no reason and everyone just ignores them.
  • Total Drama is generally a satirical take on reality shows and teenage stereotypes. However, even ignoring the Cartoon Physics and Nearly Normal Animals, we also have canonical cases of aliens, a Sasquatch and technology that would fit in a sci-fi setting. All-Stars also had an episode where a Bad Moon Rising made all the animals act weird and ended with an arc about Mike's Journey to the Center of the Mind.
  • The Cartoon Network Minis short "Welcome to My Life" is a Mockumentary about the life of Douglas, the teenage son from a family of monsters who live among humans as if they were just another ethnic minority.

Alternative Title(s): Magical Realism