Alex: I don't know, man...
Evan: Huh! Well, that figures. Smell's gone...
Alex: Hole's gone...
Evan: Hole's gone.
This trope happens when a continuity error or several is made intentionally, either to hint at oddities within the story, as the result of a reality change, add a layer of mystery, or to make fun of the fourth wall.
Maybe someone's shirt will change mid-scene. Maybe a tree that was there one day is no longer there the next, or maybe it moved ten feet down the block. Characters may come Back from the Dead with no explanation and a denial that they ever were dead to begin with. This is only a few specific forms this phenomenon can take. The characters may or may not be aware of it, but if they are, it'll no doubt create confusion as their own reality is inconsistent with itself. If they aren't, it's likely there for the audience to try and piece things together.
Usually, this implies that something about the very fabric of the character's reality is wrong or becoming imbalanced. As such, it works very well as a part of a Mind Screw work, but doesn't need to be. While it's often long-term continuity that's being messed up, it may still appear in a series with loose or Negative Continuity. Usually Played for Drama, with the errors being serious and often hinting at a greater problem; can be Played for Laughs in scenarios poking fun at the Fourth Wall or common editing mistakes. What counts isn't the purpose behind the errors, but the fact that they're there for a purpose at all- the story wouldn't be quite the same without them.
Sometimes there will eventually be The Reveal about why these things are happening, but it's not absolute, and depends on the story.
One specific variant is The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday, where a mysterious store appears from nothing and disappears just as quickly, and Vanishing Village, where an entire community can appear and disappear at will. Another subtrope is the Backstory Invader, a character who suddenly appears in a story without explanation and is mysteriously accepted by the other characters as always having been there. This might occur as part of a "Groundhog Day" Loop, with small changes happening each cycle. Another possibility is that everything is All Just a Dream, with the inconsistencies being a clue. Another common variant is a character's memories being imperfect retellings of the original scene, due to the limits and failings of their own mind.
Compare Plot Hole, which works have a tendency to Lampshade. Also compare A Glitch in the Matrix and Cosmic Retcon. May overlap with Spot the Thread. In a Gaslighting situation, the gaslighter might make these changes on purpose to undermine their victim's sense of reality. This may also come due to the actions of a Reality Warper, the result of a Merged Reality blending the timelines, or part of a Fourth-Wall Observer noticing the errors others wouldn't.
Note: Before adding an example, consider if the error's removal would change anything about the work's plot, setting or meaning, and if it's caused by anything in the story itself. If neither of the criteria fits, it falls under Easter Egg instead.
Here be unmarked spoilers. Tread carefully.
The examples have been arranged alphabetically. Please put your examples in the proper place.
- Many minor examples occur in part five of the Kara no Kyoukai anime adaptation, where apparent continuity errors allow the viewers to piece together the distorted chronology of the movie. E.g. when Touko arrives at the Oogawa building, she parks next to two cars already there, but in the next scene, we see Mikiya and Tomoe arrive in one of the cars that "were" already there in Touko's scene, allowing viewers to infer that Touko arrives after the guys have gone inside.
- In Scott Pilgrim, Scott himself is notoriously unable to remember things that happen from issue to issue (and even further back), and since we see everything through his eyes, things that are easy to look up in a past volume clash with whatever Scott says about what happened back then. This is partly because Gideon has been in his head pretty much since the moment Scott started dating Ramona, and has been "spicing up" Scott's memories this whole time but mostly it's because of Scott's own selfish personality and Self-Serving Memory.
- In the metafictional story Daring Do and the Secret of the Fourth Wall, Rainbow Dash notices continuity mistakes and thinks they're evidence that she's been sucked into a fictional story. For example, at one point she wonders how she can see anything in a room that ought to be pitch black, and only then notices that she's holding a lit torch — in spite of the fact she fell into a lake shortly before, and she has no memory of relighting the torch.
- Scootertrix the Abridged:
- In Episode 13, Pinkie Pie and Spike notice that various ponies' racing numbers (or "butt stickers" as everyone calls them) are disappearing and reappearing with no explanation between shots. Pinkie (who knows that they all exist inside a cartoon) tries to distract Spike so he doesn't figure out the truth.
- In Episode 16, Pinkie exploits the fourth wall to create a beneficial continuity error: getting movie tickets for her friends, even though the movie's completely sold out. The downside of this Reality Warper power is that weakening the show's continuity also weakens the seal that's imprisoning Discord.
- RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: The story Nightmares Yet to Come mentions that the character of Puissance, a minor antagonist from several stories, has been dead for years after a mysterious and highly destructive fire. This despite stories she'd previously been involved with, which took place as recently (in-story) as a few months prior are also mentioned as having occurred, and one of those stories only happens because of Puissance's involvement.
- Halloweentown: In the first movie, there are subtle changes around Halloweentown that signify something is going wrong. Marnie and her siblings first notice the big town pumpkin isn't looking the same as it does in their grandmother's book, and the grandmother notices her friends changing in appearance and personality before vanishing altogether. This is all due to the villain's magic.
- Jacob's Ladder: Strange and surreal things are littered all over the story, which includes changes to Jacob's known reality. His hospital has no recollection of him ever visiting, his doctor supposedly died, he and his Vietnam veteran buddies were supposedly discharged before ever departing, and more.
- In Shutter Island there are many of these, but most notably when interviewing patients one asks Agent Chuck for a glass of water, and in subsequent cuts the glass is there when Chuck is in frame but doesn't exist when he is not, showing Chuck isn't actually Chuck.
- Teen Beach Movie:
- In the first movie, as part of Mac and Brady being sucked into a fictional movie world, they notice things don't quite line up with reality. They change clothes in an instant, their hair is dry even when they've fallen into the ocean, and they even experience an immediate time-shift.
- In the sequel, movie protagonists Tanner and Lela end up in the real world. For quite a while, their interactions with reality line up with the rules established in their own world- their hair is dry in water, and whatever clothes they wear instantly turn into clothes straight from the 60s.
- In Scary Movie 4, Brenda shows up as a reporter covering the alien invasion, despite having been killed by The Ring girl in the previous movie. The only acknowledgment of that is this exchange:
Cindy: Brenda? I thought you were dead!
Brenda: [laughs like she'd just told a joke] I thought you were dead too...
- Animorphs has multiple variations of the trope:
- Megamorphs #3; Visser Four uses the Time Matrix to rewrite human history in order to make it more susceptible to invasion. The Animorphs have no idea anything's wrong, but the readers sure do, as prominent characters are missing and personalities are drastically different, not to mention the sorry state the world is implied to be in. It isn't until chapter 3 that the Drode drops in to finally explain what's going on, restore the Animorphs to their original selves and task them with stopping Visser Four.
- Megamorphs #4; Crayak creates a new timeline where the Animorphs never existed. This time, Cassie does know something's wrong from the beginning, but can't put her finger on what. Eventually, however, the timeline becomes more and more unstable, with people suddenly teleporting from miles away and coming back from the dead with no explanation. This turns out to be because Cassie is a space-time anomaly who will always try to revert things back to the original timeline.
- Animorphs #41: Jake wakes up years older in a world that has been taken over by the Yeerks. But details don't match up from moment to moment, and it turns out to be All Just a Dream.
- Storm Thief: The setting is constantly affected by something called "probability storms." These "storms" change whatever they come in contact with, from rearranging certain areas to changing the color of someone's lipstick, to shutting down a character's lungs.
- Doctor Who: In "Flesh and Stone", there's a brief scene where the Doctor is seen in his jacket, which he lost earlier in the episode. The season finale reveals that this scene features the Doctor from his personal future, and what he says here plays a role in the plot of the finale.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Parallels" has an increasing number of these as the episode progresses, with Worf noticing them as they happen. This turns out to be a sign of what's happening to him; he's switching involuntarily between different quantum realities.
- Torchwood: "Adam" begins like any other episode of the series, with the opening credits showing the characters you've seen before... and Adam. Suddenly, there is a new member who apparently has worked with the Torchwood team for the past three years, and for some reason, everybody remembers the new guy. Turns out, he is some kind of alien entity that can only survive by inserting himself in the memory of other people.
- A Touch of Cloth: Parodied in series 3 when a supporting character points out a Plot Hole, namely that there was no reason for Cloth to have stolen the pound of heroin from the evidence room when he didn't even know at that point that he would need it later. Cloth rants that he doesn't obey any laws, including the laws of continuity, and grows and ungrows a full beard in between shots to prove his point.
- Twin Peaks:
- In one episode, Cooper is in the Black Lodge and drinking a cup of coffee. Between shots, the coffee turns from liquid to solid and back again with no possible explanation. This serves to add a bit of Surreal Horror and underline the Black Lodge's status as an Eldritch Location.
- In the final episode of The Return, Cooper meets up with someone who seems to be an amnesiac, alternate version of Laura. He takes her to her parents' house in Twin Peaks, sure that this will jog her memory. When they get there, they find that it is occupied by the Chalfont/Tremond family, and no-one has ever heard of the Palmers. Cooper is incredibly confused, and this implies that something is incredibly off about the world he's in.
- This House Has People in It: The main short-film video alone features phantom hands coming from a part of the basement where nobody could possibly be hiding and Madison phasing through the floor to fall on a mattress in the basement, only to disappear in an immediate cut to the screams of her parents.
- Unedited Footage of a Bear: Right when the short-film starts, we are treated to an advertisement that interrupts the bear footage, complete with a YouTube ad-skip counter... despite the film premiering on television. The ad-counter itself is counting upwards in time rather than down. This is only the beginning of the surreal horror that unfolds.
- Confess My Love: During each repetition, minor things change around the room, such as the sudden appearance of a new character named Julie, the title screen characters becoming silhouettes, and the discovery of a knife, showing things slowly becoming stranger and darker.
- SIMULACRA: Each time the player looks at the phone's lock screen, the picture of Anna changes very slightly, fitting in with the haunted technology plot and doing a good job of unnerving the audience.
- Shade: The plant in the apartment changes what type of plant it is, going from a hyacinth plant, to a spider plant, then a fern, and finally a cactus. This serves as foreshadowing that the entire apartment is a hallucination.
- The Stanley Parable: In addition to small changes occurring the more the player repeats the game, done only to be unsettling, some endings invoke this. Most notably, the "Confusion" ending, where even the Narrator is aware that things are changing and going wrong and tries desperately to get things back on track, as the player is thrown into never-seen-before areas, sees the setting take on Alien Geometries, and each attempt at fixing the story just makes things more convoluted than the last. Even after the game returns to "normal", there's a lingering remainder of the events of the "Confusion" ending, implying that the continuity is still messed up.
- Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair starts acting up towards the end. Aside from various visual glitches, dead characters inexplicably start appearing as if they never died.
- Doki Doki Literature Club!: Though a normal dating sim at first, things take a strange turn following Sayori's suicide. The entire game resets but without Sayori's existence, Natsuki forgets entirely about an argument she'd had with Yuri the day before, and she and Yuri both suffer moments of insanity only the player seems to notice and remember. This is because of Monika tampering with the game's files to make the player love her instead of the other girls.
- Alantutorial: Early in the series, Alan tried to show his viewers how to pick up a blue chair, only to fail because it was making him too emotional. He was later forced from his house, including the chair. The chair would later appear during his time lost in the wilderness despite this, due to its significance to Alan's life.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd: In his "Berenstain Bears" video, Nerd discovers the spelling of the titular franchise has changed on him from what he remembers in childhood. Apparently, this was caused by a split timeline, where the Nerd was killed by Jason in the "Friday The Thirteenth" video.
- Clear Lakes 44: Birdwatcher tells his doctor about the strange things happening to him at times when changing rooms, from his lame leg being better to him being in a different place entirely.
- Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: After Red Guy leaves the show, the picture in the kitchen has changed to show only Yellow Guy and the Duck, and Yellow Guy is frowning instead of smiling. They seem to notice something is different and missing, but can't put their finger on it before the episode's song starts, which turns out to be the most disjointed and surreal one yet.
- Everyman Hybrid: This is a constant happening in the series, thanks to the "iteration" reincarnation cycle the characters are trapped in. From unexplained events found in secret videos only the viewers could see (including moments that could not fit the timeline as we know it), to an explosion somehow killing people in a hospital five minutes before the boys went to save their very-alive friend and fight a very-alive security guard, to one of them coming back to life with no explanation given, and much more. It's just as confusing for the characters as it is for the viewers when they're aware of an inconsistency.
- The 15 Experience: During the main experience, viewers had the choice between watching the Hackers View storymode or jumping from camera to camera. Doing both reveals some strange inconsistencies between the events- characters frozen in one room are seen elsewhere in the house, characters change position between cameras, and more.
- Played for Laughs in the Jacksfilms video "Your Editing Lacks Continuity". Jack is having a dinner with his family as they critique his videos having continuity errors. Of course, that video is full of outrageous mistakes as the conversation is happening, from everyone's clothing and food changing to his father turning into a dog, all while Jack tries to defend his continuity abilities.
- Played for Laughs in a Joueur du Grenier episode that gives advice on making your own webseries, especially avoiding this kind of error: the scene plays out as a dialogue with the camera switching to each character as they speak, and every switch features a blatantly obvious error (the background goes from a kitchen to a veranda, a cell phone becomes a banana, one guy's Cool Shades become an enormous pair of novelty sunglasses, etc.), but the one they focus on is that a drawer in the background is closed in one shot and ajar in another. And of course, Fred is bareheaded in the first shot and wearing a wig in the last one where he tells viewers to watch out for such basic mistakes.
- Marble Hornets:
- As a result of Slenderman's influence, the characters have the tendency to literally lose time, such as Jay taking several days to drive home from an investigation while tweeting as though it's only been a few minutes.
- When exploring Brian's house, Jay finds himself teleporting to different rooms, and it turns night within minutes despite him getting there in the daytime. All of this is captured on camera.
- Phelous: In the review for Jacob's Ladder, Phelous experiences some oddities. His attempts to get into his review room first lead him to a creepy hand-print covered shed instead, only to fix itself on the third attempt. After the review, he suddenly realizes the room is empty and that he can't remember the names of any other reviewer. This is because his other reviews were all a Dying Dream that's finally caught up to him.
- Tribe Twelve:
- As a result of Slender Man and the Observer's influence, Noah loses track of time in a similar manner as Jay from Marble Hornets. One particular instance has him continuously chase the Observer around a hotel, repeatedly ending up in the same hallway. By the time he returns to his room, it's suddenly the middle of the night.
- The power of the Collective is displayed when Noah suddenly receives two calls about people he knows being murdered. One of them, Kat, is suspected to have been killed by Noah himself, and he begins to think this is the case, despite him never leaving his house to be able to do it, having no memory of doing it, and not having wanted to do it at all. The only explanation is that he'd killed her during a moment of possession on Thanksgiving when he really was spending time with Kat, but was taken into the future to do it.
- To Boldly Flee: The influence of a literal Plot Hole creates chaos for all the characters. A montage of errors includes The Rap Critic having his toothbrush change into a twig, Diamanda Hagan having her sandwich turn into a hand, and Handsome Tom having himself and his desk move to the opposite side of the room. It's also explained that any continuity errors that had happened before the events of To Boldly Flee were also caused by the Plot Hole.
- The Adventure Time episode "Jake the Dog" shows Simon's skeleton wearing the Ice Crown, well after Finn took it from him. This is later explained in "Crossover", as Prismo takes the crown from this episode and places it on Simon's head right before the Mushroom Bomb explodes, thereby destroying it and ending its influence on the Farmworld universe.
- The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Test" has Tobias accidentally pulling a Hostile Show Takeover that turns the show into a terrible sitcom. One of the various production shortcoming is sloppy directing: one scene is set in the Watterson's living room, but after a Shot Reverse Shot to Gumball and Sarah watching from the window, it's suddenly in the kids' bedroom on the next floor.
Gumball: It makes no sense. We're not even in the living room anymore!
Sarah: We're not even on the ground.
(view changes to Sarah and Gumball floating in midair, then falling)
- BoJack Horseman:
- When we watch flashbacks from the perspective of Beatrice Horseman, who is suffering from dementia, there are numerous blatant inconsistencies. Most noticeably, at one point Butterscotch begs Beatrice empty handed to speak to the maid whom he has impregnated, and when he speaks of coming to his wife 'hat in hand' his hands suddenly glitch and a hat appears, as though Beatrice just remembered it was there.
- Dicussed and subverted in another case, when BoJack recounts a fan coming to him about a scene of Horsin' Around in which a coffee cup can be seen on the counter in shots of The Horse, but not of Ethan, asking whether this was done deliberately by the show's producers to make a profound statement about how even people who take part in the same event together can have entirely different experiences and memories of it. BoJack scoffs - some intern just left the cup there and nobody noticed it — but tells the fan Sure, Why Not anyway.
- While the reveal it sets up is fairly unimportant Milo Murphy's Law episode "Fungus Amoung Us" has a continuity error in which the protagonist's sister Sara's shirt, in several shots is missing the logo of her favorite show, which plays a major role in the plot. At the time it's written off as an error but the next episode, a direct continuation reveals that the time traveling mutant pistachio who took control of the show back in the beginning is a terrible showrunner and in the current timeline the show was canceled after 2 episodes, 50 years ago, long before Sara could become a fan.
- The Phineas and Ferb episode "Lost in Danville" is set in a parallel universe, as revealed in a twist ending. One of the only two hints to this twist is the fact that Phineas got an extra stripe on his T-shirt, something that would normally be passed off as an animation error. The other one is that Lawrence Fletcher is a polar bear, which was only shown moments before the twist reveal.
- In the What's New, Scooby-Doo? episode "E-Scream", most members of Mystery Inc. start behaving heavily out of character: Fred doesn't tell the gang to split up but instead they all go together, Daphne goes around wearing mismatched shoes without worrying of her look and Shaggy and Scooby offer themselves as bait for the monsters with no need of bribing them with Scooby Snacks. All these changes (plus the fact that Shaggy says "Toinks" instead of "Zoinks") end up to make Velma realize she is actually in a VR simulation.