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Reset Button Ending

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Lisa: Don't worry, Bart. It seems like every week something odd happens to the Simpsons. My advice is to ride it out, make the occasional smart-alec quip, and by next week we'll be back to where we started from, ready for another wacky adventure.
Bart: Ay, caramba!
Lisa: That's the spirit.

Everything is all wrapped up, the Love Triangle has been resolved, the Final Battle in the Grand Finale has been won, and it's time for the happy ending. But if everything is all wrapped up, then there's no dramatic tension for the OVAs, The Movie, or the next season. And perhaps there's a bit of Executive Meddling going on, just a friendly note from someone upstairs that you just can't let the big payoff actually continue to happen after all this time.

Solution: press the Reset Button at the last minute, subvert the hell out of the dramatic resolution that you've just reached, and leave the characters in the situation that has held for most of the series.

Often, but not always, the Reset Button Ending is too Anvilicious, Jumping the Shark and ruining the series for many fans.

Some instances of this trope are versions of the All Just a Dream ending, if you find out that the guy wakes up and is back at the start of the work. Can also overlap with The Story That Never Was, if it's a Cosmic Retcon that causes the reversion to status quo.

Compare Sequel Reset.

Note: This is a Spoilered Rotten trope, that means that EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE on this list is a spoiler by default and most of them will be unmarked. This is your last warning, only proceed if you really believe you can handle this list.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Naruto:
    • The Pain Invasion arc ends with Pain using one last jutsu to revive all the people he killed in the invasion, while there is still time for him to do so.
    • Played incredibly straight with the fourth Shippuden Movie under Status Quo Is God effect. Naruto has gone back in time to meet the younger version of Minato, his own father, but never confirms his suspicions (until later in the series). The Big Bad was the one who initially went to the past for the sake of world domination. When he's down for the count, Naruto goes back to the present, but Minato has to mind wipe everyone so there won't be any ripple effects in the future from this event... save for one involving a little girl.
  • Future Diary had one of these that managed to take a series notable for rending your soul in half constantly and give it a happy ending.
  • Ranma ½ — both manga and TV series, but at different points in the story. This is especially true later on in the manga, when the last page of an arc was often a non sequitur. However, the manga explicitly resolved the major conflict in the series, and handily did away with at least four points of contention.
  • The Big O, although with only a few seconds' glimpse of the post-reset world it's hard to say whether anything has changed or not.
  • A huge use of this trope, one that made an anvil gentle, was the end of The Familiar of Zero's second season.
  • CLANNAD ~After Story~ Episode 22 Inverted this by having the death of Ushio/The Girl from the Illusionary World causing the release of the light orbs. Tomoya obtains one, and he forces a Time Skip a la Reset Button to occur where Nagisa gives birth to Ushio and this time, survives. While a Deus ex Machina, this is actually the true end of the visual novel, and by extension, the anime. See this detailed analysis for more details.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean has an interesting spin on this. After using Made In Heaven to speed up the flow of time until the end of the universe, forming a new one where everyone is aware of their future actions and will be able to live happily with that knowledge, Enrico Pucci is ultimately defeated by Emporio just when he started to accelerate time once again, creating a new universe out of his control where all the deceased characters from the part are alive with new names, different identities and happier lives, and where all the remaining conflicts have being solved. As a result, from the following part onward the series focuses on a completely different universe with only some elements and recurring themes linking it to the others.
  • Serial Experiments Lain, though in this case, it's a rare variation in which it gives the series a sense of closure. Of course, the fact that it wasn't a complete reset definitely helps...
  • Sailor Moon would have originally ended this way had it not been extended to 5 seasons (4 for The '90s english dub) from the original 1. The first arc ended with shots of the Sailor Senshi living happy civilian lives without memories of the Dark Kingdom, having met each other or anything that happened during the arc due to Usagi asking the Silver Crystal to let them live normal lives during the final battle. Luna and Artemis are shown to have kept their memories and comment on this. This ending is undone in two episodes via Luna restoring the Sailor Senshi's memories once the Makaijiu, Ail and Ann arrive and attack humans.
  • Wolf's Rain pretty much ended this way, to the dismay of many fans of the show, due mainly to the fact that several characters integral to the story (Quent, Blue, Hubb and Cher) were not included in the ending.
  • The Magikano anime reveals that the entire cast (and possibly, the world) are reliving the same year forever, resetting a split second after the big love confession.
  • The OVA Ai City ends with everything suddenly re-starting back at the car chase in the beginning. There is no explanation for this and no reason.
  • The spinoff manga of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, including Kazumi Magica and Oriko Magica, have Homura hitting the Reset Button after losing Madoka yet again. The series proper ends with Goddess Madoka rewriting the universe so that witches cannot exist, which has the effect of bringing back everyone who was ever killed by or because of a witch (such as Mami and Kyouko) as well as Mercy Killing those who would have become witches (such as Sayaka). Madoka herself cannot come back because her wish would have turned her into a witch herself, and because of the sacrifice she made, only one person (Homura) remembers who she was. And magical girls have a new enemy to fight in the form of wraiths, because Kyubey still needs energy to counter the entropy of the universe (and moreover, because Madoka didn't remove human suffering from the universe, just that one particular manifestation of it).
  • Pokémon: The First Movie ends with Mewtwo erasing everyone's memories so no one will ever remember what happened in the film. Although the main characters do meet it again later in a special without their memories being erased.
  • Toward the end of My-HiME, Miyu breaks the pillars, enabling the Himes' most important people, who died as a result of their defeats, to come back to life, resulting in all the Himes destroying the Hime Star. Inexplicably, this also results in Alyssa coming back to life and Nao's eye being healed.
  • Di[e]ce probably contains the most straight-forward use of this trope ever. A button that says "Delete" is pressed, and bam - all the previous events of the manga never happened. Characters that ended up broken and/or dead (which is every character) can now live happily. Who needs character development?
  • Heaven's Lost Property ends with a needed one, considering the current world was in the process of being redone, with several major characters having died before it was hit. It also makes a fitting Book End, as the very first crisis ended with the problem being magically undone.
  • The manga adaptation of Neon Genesis Evangelion ends this way, in stark contrast to the original anime series. Or is it?
  • Digimon Adventure tri. is especially cruel with this, with a literal reset button hit on everything in the entire series, bringing back everyone they defeated even all the way back in Digimon Adventure, while temporarily stripping them of their ties to their Digimon.

    Comic Books 
  • In the comic Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: Nightmare Warriors, based off characters from the films, Freddy and Jason are both killed, and Wesley Carter is sent back in time by the Necronomicon. He signs Freddy's search warrant (whose not being signed was the technicality that allowed his release and subsequent death and transformation into a dream demon), thus altering history and preventing any of the Freddy movies or F v J v A from taking place, or any of the Jason movies after Jason Goes to Hell (since he went to hell at the end and Freddy resurrected him). As this would prevent Jason X from taking place, however, it is clear that the timeline splits after Freddy vs. Jason.
  • Druuna: Carnivora concludes with the entire crew of the spaceship having been killed and replaced by clones, minus the Doctor. He saves the ship by piloting it into a mirror dimension where time runs backwards, which somehow resets everything to several months before all the bad things started happening. As a consequence he is the only person with any recollection of what happened, though it's implied that Druuna might have too.

    Fan Works 
  • Deconstructed in Marie D. Suesse and the Mystery New Pirate Age!. There is an opportunity to undo everything that happened in the One Piece world over the past 20 years, including the deaths of all the Straw Hat Pirates by making it so that Madelyn never ate her Devil Fruit in the first place. However, in the process of doing so, she will have never met Garreth or had Marie, who will end up wished out of existence.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Richard Donner's version of Superman II ends with Superman undoing the entire movie by spinning the world back (as he did in the theatrical release of the first Superman), to keep Lois from knowing his identity. This is after the villains have been defeated.
  • Happens in Amityville: It's About Time. A cursed clock from the infamous haunted house resets everything to the beginning of the movie to prevent getting destroyed in an explosion. What it didn't expect though, was that one of the survivors, Andrea, retained all her memories of what the clock had caused, and smashes it to pieces before it can do it again, thereby preventing many deaths and much unpleasantness.
  • Dude, Where's My Car?: after they recover the continuum transfunctioner, the benevolent aliens reset time back to when Jesse and Chester first woke up. They find the car right away. The ending makes the whole film completely pointless.
  • Night Watch: Anton gets noticed and initiated as an Other while visiting a witch to perform a spell on his ex-wife, leading him to be brought into the Night Watch and indirectly causing the other events of this movie and the sequel. The sequel ends with Anton rewriting his own fate so that he changes his mind almost immediately after meeting the witch, never meets the Others, and lives out the rest of his life as a mortal.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In any episode of Gilligan's Island in which it looks like they might actually manage to get off the island, something will go drastically wrong in the last two minutes. It's usually caused by Gilligan, which gives us another trope.
  • The Witchblade season finale rewound the entire season after some irrevocable events.
  • The TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air makes a very obvious reference to this — the writers clearly intended Will Smith's story arc to reach a natural dramatic end with his moving back to Philadelphia in Season 4 to be with his mother, in what was intended to be the series finale. However, the network picked up the show for another season, resulting in the writers breaking the Fourth Wall by having TV executives show up and literally dragging Will back to Bel-Air, citing the title of the show. ("It's not called the Fresh Prince of Philadelphia!") Nearly every story element affected by this arc was simply dropped in later seasons of the show. (Will's mother seemed to cease to exist, etc.)
  • Every episode of the CBBC series Hounded ended this way, courtesy of Big Bad Dr. Muhahaha pressing a literal Reset Button that rewound time back to the beginning of the day, allowing him to try and Take Over the World all over again, and forcing Rufus to stop him - again.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki teased then subverted this trope, turning a Bittersweet Ending into Everybody Lives.
  • Similar to the Ryuki example above, Kamen Rider Zi O sees Sougo finally unlock the power of Ohma Zi-O, allowing him to finally defeat the Time Jackers and stop The End of the World as We Know It...but at the cost of the lives of Geiz and Tsukuyomi. Sougo then proceeds to sacrifice the power of Ohma Zi-O, creating a new timeline where he, Geiz, Tsukuyomi, and even the Time Jackers are just ordinary people in the year 2019.
  • Star Trek: Voyager was infamous for this. If the ship took major damage it'd all be fixed by the next episode. If somebody mutated into an abomination because they went to infinite speed, they'd be fine at the end.
  • The Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 episode "Whatever it Takes ..." is built around June finally getting the kind of Wall Street job she lost after one day in the show's pilot. After she signs the contract, she finds herself not liking the moral compromise she had to make of letting her roommate Chloe have an affair with a mentally-disabled man who turns out to have a wife and child, and quits.
  • The final season of Roseanne had the Conner family winning the lottery, visiting exotic locales, Roseanne and Dan breaking up and reconciling, and Darlene giving birth. Then in the final episode, Roseanne revealed those events were all just imagined by her in her writings: They never won the lottery, Dan was Dead All Along, and she had switched out her daughters' spouses (Becky married David, not Mark; Darlene, vice versa).
  • The Big Bang Theory episode "The Apology Insufficiency" has this. Sheldon has seriously offended and caused real damage to Howard, and makes a significant sacrifice to him in order to make amends. In the last few minutes of the show, Sheldon takes his sacrifice back, yet Howard has no angry or offended reaction and has forgotten all about everything by the next episode.
  • 12 Monkeys ends with this, as Cole manages to break the series of Stable Time Loops by erasing himself from the timeline, thereby creating an Alternate Timeline where the plague, the Army of the 12 Monkeys and the Witness never existed.
  • Cory in the House episode, "Gone Wishing", featured a literal "Undo" button when Cory wishes to be in charge of the White House from a shooting star. The wish comes true when he suddenly wakes to a reality where kids were given the right to vote and he was made the president. All seems well but he keeps ignoring reports of an Alien Invasion from alien robots from his secretary and goofing off. Eventually, the robots infiltrate the White House aided by Sophie whom betrays Cory since he kept fostering all the work on her and they're on the verge of surrounding him when he remembers the Undo button and pushes it just before they overwhelm him, erasing the reality and bringing things back to normal.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Journey to the Center of the Tardis" has a more literal use of a Reset Button —after an episode full of dangerous secrets revealed and Arc Questions answered, the Doctor has to slip into a Time Crack to reset (with the "big friendly button", no less) back to the start of the episode in order to save everyone involved.
  • The series Josh Kirby Time Warrior ends with Josh saving the Nullifier, and (somehow) saving the 25th century. The series ends up with him being returned (somehow) to the morning before his departure, where he manages to avert a tense situation by calling on Azabeth's identical ancestor Elizabeth.

    Video Games 
  • Beating the first Arkanoid game causes time to start "flowing reversely", bringing the Arkanoid back from its destruction. The arcade version even shows the opening cutscene in reverse, with an enemy fighter swooping by in reverse and sucking up the fatal laser beam.
    Dimension-controlling fort "Doh" has now been demolished, and time started flowing reversely. "Vaus" managed to escape from the distorted space. But the real voyage of "Arkanoid" in the galaxy has only started......
  • Bastion has this during the Restoration ending, where the Kid uses the Bastion to rewind time to before the Calamity. Unfortunately, since nobody remembers anything after the Reset Button is pressed, it's heavily implied that the Calamity just happens again, and the characters are stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop until the Kid chooses not to use it.
  • Ben There, Dan That! ends with after accidentally killing their past selves, Ben and Dan destroy the entire universe and later confront God, whom gives them a second chance by resetting everything before the adventure even began, although one difference is that the TV is fixed and Ben & Dan don't pay it any mind.
  • In Don't Look Back, during your return trip to the surface, if at any point you turn around, the ghost you are rescuing evaporates with a breathy sound. After you reach the surface, you return to the graveside where you began ... and you are still standing there, by the grave. Both you and the ghost evaporate with the same sound.
  • Evolve Idle uses various reset buttons, from Mutually Assured Destruction to launching a bioseed ship to seed another planet with new life to blowing up the universe by destabilizing a black hole. These end up being very valuable, as they're only way of generating meaningful amounts of plasmids and phage, which provide huge production bonuses for subsequent races.
  • Destroying the Improbability Drive in Improbable Island results in the machine exploding in a burst of Improbability, then reconstructing itself in every outpost simultaneously before quantum-wavefunction-collapsing into just one location. This has the side effect of transforming you into a different race that you retroactively choose a bit later, which is sufficiently distressing to you that the Watcher agrees to make you forget you were ever any other way. The upshot of all this is that you're back in much the same situation you were when you first landed on the island — you even go through a not-quite-identical copy of the starting scenario.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: After you rescue the king, you have the option to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. When he inevitably gets recaptured, you're encouraged to reincarnate to try to save him again, starting over from level 1. However, you get to choose a different class while retaining some previous memories, and through repeated ascensions, you can eventually gather useful skills from all six classes.
  • Life Is Strange: One of two possible endings has Max use her blue butterfly photo to completely undo her actions over the course of the week, starting with saving Chloe's life on Monday, preventing the storm.
  • Mary Skelter 2 uses this in its True Ending to undo its For Want of a Nail setting in favor of returning to the first game's timeline. Little Mermaid, who dies in the first game's backstory but is alive here, is fine with this because it will save her fellow Blood Maidens from the gruesome slaughter that she just witnessed.
  • Persona 2: Innocent Sin ends this way since the only way the surviving heroes can salvage the disastrous outcome of their fight with Nyarlathotep - Maya being murdered, fulfilling the Oracle of Maia and leading to the world ending - is to erase their initial meeting from history, setting up the plot for the second game, Eternal Punishment.
  • Neko Entertainment's physics platformer Puddle pulls this off with the help of radioactive liquid sodium and a nuclear singularity.
  • At the end of Shadow Hearts: Covenant, every member of the party is sent to some place in space/time where they can be truly happy. The good ending for the main character takes him back to the introductory scene of the previous game, where he will presumably avoid the bad end of that game this time.
  • Used to remove the confusing plot of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) from the canon. In the end, the entire plotline is undone through one last bout of time travel, and the final thing we see is the opening cutscene again, except in the new timeline. Much to the relief of the fanbase.
  • Regardless of what ending you get in The Stanley Parable, the game will reset right back to the office where you started. The Narrator seems to be aware of the game resetting, as in one ending he begs Stanley to stop trying to kill himself so the game won't reset, but it is often out of his control.
  • Super Mario Galaxy ends with the universe imploding and being reborn.
  • Tales of Destiny 2. After defeating Fortuna, every action she (and by extent, Elraine) took is erased from history, thereby completely erasing the events of the game, causing everyone to lose their memories of the journey (and the erasure of Judas). However, for some reason or another, Reala comes back anyway in the new timeline.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: "Sorry, Wrong Era" ends with Leppy using Jimmy's Quantum Replay 9000 on the fourth wall, causing everything that happened to rewind all the way back to the first seconds of the episode.
    Jimmy: Whoa!... Déjà vu-ish!
  • The Kim Possible movie A Sitch in Time ended with the Tempus Simia Idol being destroyed, thus resetting everything that happened from the second minute of the movie out of existence.
    • But Ron still hates meat cakes, but he doesn't know why.
    • In a lot of ways, So the Drama did this, perhaps most evidently with Bonnie's character development. She returns to being even more of an Alpha Bitch from here on in.
  • The Fairly OddParents! television movie "Wishology" was to have everyone know of Timmy's fairies. He was also to get together with his crush Trixie. However, when the network decided to order another season, it was re-written to show that everyone's memories will be erased—which makes one wonder how/why Trixie's memory was erased, when it's been stated several times in every season that fairy magic can't interfere with true love...
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had everything go to hell as the ending neared, and either God or Satan (at Kenny's request) reset the events of the movie.
    • Played for Drama at the end of "Ass Burgers". After Stan spends the episode overcoming his cynicism and learning to embrace the major changes in his life brought about by the previous episode "You're Getting Old", the ending suddenly undoes all of the change brought about by that episode, which leads to Stan sinking back into cynicism and beginning to rely on alcohol to get through the day.
  • Almost every episode of The Simpsons ends with this, except for a few plot points such as Apu and Manjula getting married (and later having octuplets).
    • The episode where Maude dies actually has Reverend Lovejoy list the various plotlines that never snapped back, which also included Kirk and Luann's divorce. (Ironically, they've since remarried.)
    • Also averted with Lisa's decision to become a vegetarian. This was done at the insistence of Paul and Linda McCartney, who only agreed to lend their voices and likenesses to the episode if Lisa's decision stuck, so as not to make the lifestyle choice seem cheap or easy. And Lisa has been a vegetarian ever since.
      • Also, Lisa's Buddhism seems to have been retained, although the episode when it was introduced also ended with her learning not to be so obvious about it.
  • Mighty Max ended with this, as Max and Skullmaster wrestle for control of The Cap at Stonehenge. The last scene repeats the first scene of the series until Max realizes his friends are alive, and they all remember what happened during the previous runthrough. This was done in response to executive edict that there couldn't be a firm resolution, since that would supposedly screw up the plan to do reruns of the series.
  • Happens often in Phineas and Ferb:
    • In "She's The Mayor", Candace finally busts her brothers and just as Linda begins scolding them, Dr. Doofenshmirtz's Accelerate-inator backfires and resets to the beginning of the day, and then alters it so the events won't be the same.
      Candace: I was robbed.
    • In "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted," Candace busts her brothers, which causes them to be sent to a reformatory school. Turns out it was All Just a Dream (or more like a Dream Within a Dream).
    • In the movie Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, everyone's memories get erased at the end in order to preserve Perry's Masquerade.
  • The original series finale for Dexter's Laboratory has Dexter's parents find out about his lab and Dexter find out about Monkey being a superhero. At the end, everyone except Dee Dee loses their memory of the episode's events. Just as well, since the show would get Un-Canceled for two new seasons some years later.
  • The Futurama Grand Finale "Meanwhile" ends with a literal one. Because the time-rewinding button is destroyed, time is frozen for everyone— except for Fry and Leela. The two get married and spend decades exploring the frozen world, growing old together. Eventually, Professor Farnsworth repairs the device, but modifies it so that it would rewind time back to before it was invented, erasing everyone's memories of events after that. Fry and Leela are okay with giving up their perfect life together and starting all over again—although the point of divergence was notably after Fry decided to propose to Leela.
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots has the world come to an end, and the only way to prevent it is to travel back in time and stop the series of events that lead to the end of the world to begin with. Namely, to stop the entire show from ever happening.
  • The Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated finale has Scooby destroying the Nibiru curse which causes everything in Crystal Cove to be reset as if the curse had never existed. The only people who are still aware of what happened prior is the gang and Harlan Ellison, who jumped the same timeline. This is basically where the gang's mystery-solving exploits begin.