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"Wait a minute, Patrick... I'M the maniac"!note 

"The guy's a ghost, but doesn't know it yet. That's the big twist."
Wyatt Williams, 6teen
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Our protagonist is going through a perfectly normal day. Only... something's wrong. The people around him are acting just a bit off. They keep mentioning a string of words, or are trying to herd him to a certain place.

It looks like the town's been taken over by a Puppeteer Parasite, and our hero's the only one left. He attempts to either escape and warn the outside world, or find where the invaders are coming from and shut it down.

But once he gets there, he discovers the horrifying truth: HE'S the fake! Cue screams of "What Have I Become?!" A robot, a clone, a ghost or nearly one or some other duplicate that forgot he wasn't the real thing, or was programmed to believe that he was, complete with Fake Memories of a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story. For extra oomph, expect the tomato to break the mirror in frustration.

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A special case is where the character comes to realize that they are in fact fictional, either of the work itself or of a Show Within a Show. It often appears in a Real World Episode. For those examples, see Noticing the Fourth Wall.

In an ongoing series, it'll be a duplicate of one of the main characters. In a self-contained work, it'll just be someone who thinks they're human. Either way, it's an effective inversion of Puppeteer Parasite. Assuming the duplicate works through the immediate suicidal tendencies (and/or murderous intent of others) they may find themselves having to ask a Trial Balloon Question to see if "their" friends and family would still accept them.

Variation of the Tomato Surprise, hence the name (note the key difference is that here, the character doesn't know they're a tomato). Compare I Am Who?, which is (usually) a much more pleasant surprise. The opposite of this is And Then John Was a Zombie. See also Expendable Clone and Dead All Along, in which case the truth may come out when they find "their" own body. If the surprise is the character discovering that they were the villain all along, that's The Killer in Me. If a lot of people experience this trope at once, you may have Everyone Is a Tomato.

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It may or may not involve a real mirror.

This is a Twist Ending trope. Expect your tomatoes to be spoiled!


Examples:

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  • Parodied in an [adult swim] bump with a silent movie version of The Big O. Dorothy speaks for a while followed by the subtitle "You're a tomato." Cue Roger acting surprised. The whole thing found here: http://www.bumpworthy.com/bumps/1856.
  • In the Momondo advertisement The DNA Journey, they ask a group of people about their heritage and then retrace it via a DNA test. Among others, a British man declares that he is better than others because of being from Britain and specifically expresses disdain for the Germans. He isn't too pleased to find out he is only 30% British and actually 5% German.
  • In Nike's commercial for Euro 2016, "The Switch", Christiano Ronaldo and a British teenager learned that they have switched bodies after each of them look into the mirror.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Hal, Hal is a robot who has been programmed with the personality of the real Hal, to help his former lover deal with the devastating loss the real Hal's death was to her. A blow to the head Hal receives later snaps the truth of the matter to him, that he is in fact a man who was driven insane and believed himself to be a robot after the death of his lover and the girl he has been helping get over her loss? A robot programmed with the personality of the dead girl to help him deal with his loss.
  • In the Anime/Manga/Novel Another, the only way for the dead classmate to be found is for them to be killed, as even they don't know their true identity. They do, however, have an ace up their sleeve, as Mei Misaki can use her doll's eye to see "the color of death." It is in this way that they find the dead classmate was in fact not one at all, but the protagonist's aunt and classroom teaching assistant. Their being the same person is not an example of this trope, however: it's only a surprise to the viewer. The fact that she was dead? No one saw that coming, not even her.
  • The Big O, to the point of main character Roger Smith actually crying out "I'm one of the tomatoes!" Yeah, it sounded dumb, but it was a shocking twist. But it gets weirder still near the end, when he discovers this may not be the case, and he may have existed before Paradigm...
    • Big Bad Alex Rosewater also goes through this when he realizes that he was just another one of Gordon Rosewater's "tomatoes".
  • The Bride of the Water God: Yeomha doesn't realize she is a doll with Nakbin's memories.
  • Combattler V: The Dragon Garuda discovers, to his dismay, that he is actually the latest of a series of identical androids.
  • In D.Gray-Man, it's eventually revealed that Allen is actually the host for the Fourteenth Noah, which is how he can control the Ark. Unfortunately for him, he woke it up, and now the Fourteenth is trying to take over his body.
    • This is even worse than that: The fourteenth Noah is actually half of the original Millennium Earl. You know, that guy who is the maker of akumas and the ultimate goal of everyone in the series is to kill him? Well, Allen is half of him. The Earl is as surprised to learn this as anyone.
  • The beginning of Darker Than Black is rather brutal about this, with an added Obfuscating Stupidity Tomato Surprise. It spends the first episode and a half setting up a sickeningly obvious Meet Cute — then we abruptly find out that the apparent female Love Interest is in fact a Doll programmed with the memories of the real person, now dead, and the kindhearted, Adorkable Chinese exchange student who keeps "accidentally" rescuing her is that scary, superpowered mask-wearing Badass Longcoat we saw at the beginning.
    • The second season has one regarding secondary protagonist Suou Pavlichenko. Her mother says she's a clone of the original Suou, who died eight years before. Turns out, as her father explains, she's an Opposite-Sex Clone of her brother Shion that he created with his contractor powers. Shion used himself as a reference since the original Suou was his twin and gave her Fake Memories to fill in the gaps. Least to say, Suou was not pleased when she found out.
  • Mazinger Z: Secondary character Erika was an amnesiac girl who barely remembered her name. She felt an odd, devastating inner emptiness, but in spite of it she thought she was a normal girl. And then The Dragon Baron Ashura appeared and revealed that in reality she was a human-looking robot built to murder Kouji Kabuto. She freaked out considerably — and understandably — and she refused to believe it.
    • Lorelei thought she was an average, little girl with a slightly eccentric and weird father. And then she found out that she was in reality a Robot Girl, and the key component to start a Humongous Mecha.
    • Maria Grace from UFO Robo Grendizer believed she was an average girl... until her grandfather revealed that she was an alien.
    • And her brother Duke Fleed played this trope in the Gosaku Ota manga continuity. Dr. Umon had wiped out his memories so they did not torture him and he was able living like a normal human being. However, when a stream of reports of UFO sightings started arriving to the Space Research Laboratory he started to feel odder and uneasier, although he did not understand why. It was when the Vegans started to strike nearby cities he finally remembered he was an alien.
  • In Serial Experiments Lain when the eponymous character realizes in what is one perhaps the most dramatic and mind-bending reveal in a series full of dramatic and mind bending conspiracies that she is in fact a program engineered to be the god of the new world created when the Internet/Wired overtakes reality.
  • Goku in the Dragon Ball series:
    • In Dragon Ball Z, he finds out from his long-lost brother Raditz at the beginning that he is an alien (Saiyan) sent to kill all humans on Earth. He forgot his purpose and mellowed out after he fell off a cliff and hit his head as a child. It takes the death of Krillin at the hands of Frieza to finally come to terms with his origins, resulting in his "I am the Super Saiyan Son Goku" speech.
    • There's also a sort of in-universe example of this. Goku's friends have all known since soon after they met him that he once transformed into a giant ape monster and killed his own adopted father, but they keep it a secret from him. Goku eventually has his Tomato in the Mirror moment much later, but it's already been spoiled for the audience.
  • Ergo Proxy:
    • Vincent Law is the Ergo Proxy of the title, and it initially acts as a separate part of him without him knowing it. He previously erased his memories so that he could live a normal life as a human.
    • Re-L is a clone of the Monad Proxy. She discovers this when she returns to Romdeau and finds a replacement clone has been created.
  • Deadman Wonderland: Shiro is the Red Man.
  • Star Driver: Marino, Mizuno's older sister, is a clone created by Mizuno's first phase ability so Mizuno wouldn't be lonely.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Number 66, formerly Barry the Chopper, causes Alphonse to doubt that he ever was human. This, coupled with his lack of memories regarding certain events about his childhood — well, you do the math. Turns out not to be the case; the reason for Al's memory gaps is simply that he was a little kid, and logically wouldn't remember a lot of things from when he was so young. Also, the sigil that binds the soul to the armor-body was a little faded. Ed made a point about fixing it up later on. Plus, all bodies and souls not belonging to each other will eventually begin to reject each other. Though what "reject" means exactly is never explained, it could be reasonably assumed that memory gaps would be a possible effect. And a bonus in the original language: his name "Al" is pronounced "Aru" in Japanese, which is identical to the verb 'aru', which means "to exist" as an inanimate object — 'iru' is for living things that exist...
  • Gantz:
    • This is what happens with Kishimoto. Apparently, she actually failed suicide, and the her that was sent to Gantz was actually a clone. When she gets sent back to the normal world, she sees that the other her is living normally at home, and she has no place to go.
    • The same thing ended up happening to Kurono. He gets a clone of himself because Reika decided to make a copy of him for herself. Yikes. He then reminds his clone how Ms. Fanservice she is and gives him a fist bump.
  • Gate Keepers One of their teachers is an Invader, and he didn't know it. Dealing with him really doesn't sit too well with Megumi, who was a reluctant member of the team to begin with, and it may be among the reasons for her Face–Heel Turn later on.
  • Double Subverted in Gravion: Leele discovers that she's apparently one of the Zeravire that's been attacking the Earth. In the episode afterwards, it's handwaved that her memories were mixed up from contact with one of the Zeravire. But as it turns out, she is a Zeravire. Sort of. She is in fact the niece of the alien scientist who created them, and shares the surname Zeravire.
  • Gundam 00: Anew Returner is an Innovator whose memories of her true identity were wiped out so she could become Ribbons's Manchurian Agent.
  • GUNNM:
    • Daisuke Ido is driven into a Heroic BSoD when he discovers that he has no brain. It was removed and replaced with a microchip at the age of 19, as with all citizens of Tiphares, in order to make him less likely to violate the law.
    • Desty Nova learnt the same thing about himself at some point before his introduction. It is not known if the truth drove him insane, or if his insanity helped him deal with the truth. Seeing as he was the only person who doesn't seem to care about their shared condition, it was likely the latter.
    • Much later on, in the sequel manga Last Order, Alita gets her own TITM — twice. The first is when she learns that her past self, before her amnesia, was directly responsible for a catastrophe that resulted in the death of millions and the transformation of the entire Solar System into a Crapsack World. The second is when her brain, her last remaining piece of humanity, is revealed to have been removed at the start of the series and placed in a box she's been unknowingly carrying about for the past three volumes. She's told this just as it's exchanged for her friend's, resulting in a literal breakdown of her nanomachine body.
  • Taikoubou from Soul Hunter later finds out that he's actually the other half of Ou Eki, and when they combine, they form one of the "First People", Fukk.i
  • Kiddy Grade:
    • One set of Éclair and Lumières has a slightly subverted version of this, as they realize something is not quite right first, before realizing they were clones and breaking free of Alv's Mind Control.
    • This also happens in the Reverse manga when Éclair and Lumière that the readers are reading about turned out to be fakes that Alv and Dvergr made as a test (tying in to the aforementioned event in the anime).
  • In King of Thorn, one of the protagonists turns out to be a tomato in the mirror. Kasumi is actually a Replacement Goldfish Medusa construct created by Shizuku after the real Kasumi died.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Fate Testarossa finds out that she is in fact a Replacement Goldfish clone of Precia's dead daughter Alicia, prompting a Heroic BSoD.
  • Mitsuboshi Colors provides a Comedy-Slice of Life example: the three protagonists sneak in alleys with "no trespassing" signs in order to investigate what's being hidden there. After not finding anything and being chased a couple of times, the girls discover that the floor of the closed areas was covered in wet paint, and they've been leaving footprints everywhere.
  • One episode of Paranoia Agent follows three people who meet in an online chat room and decide to make a suicide pact together. Throughout the episode, they attempt time and time again to kill themselves, and fail every time. In the end of the episode, one of them realizes that their first suicide attempt was, in fact, successful—for the rest of the episode they've been ghosts, and none of their attempts have worked because you CAN'T kill yourself if you're already dead. It also explains why Lil' Slugger/Shounen Bat freaked out at their presence—he only targets the living. Looking closely, one may notice that the characters no longer cast shadows after a certain point in the episode, hinting at this revelation.
  • RahXephon is riddled with examples (along with Luke, I Am Your Father revelations). Not only is Ayato himself a half-human, half-Mulian, but no fewer than two other characters discover the shocking truth about their own origins along the way; one of them was previously mind-wiped to make her forget them.
  • Rave Master: Elie is Resha Valentine.
  • Shakugan no Shana gets this out of the way with Yuji in the first episode — as Shana bluntly explains to him, the real Sakai Yuji was erased from reality and eaten by a Rinne. All that he is is a temporary placeholder, meant to ease the strain on existence caused by the erasing of the original, and once his power of existence runs out, he'll cease to exist as well and reality will arrange itself so that Sakai Yuji will never have existed in the first place.
  • Sola has a Wham Episode where Yorito realizes that he's a clone made of paper, as a replacement for the original who died centuries before, by his paper-manipulating sister.
  • Sorcerer Stabber Orphen: Esperanza Reika thought her little sister Lycoris was dead and had been revived by her Creepy Child boss, Escalenna. It turns out Esperanza was the one who has truly died.
  • Tenchi in Tokyo: Sakuya isn't the Ordinary High-School Student she thought she was. She is Yugi's sort-of clone, or more exactly, her "shadow". A mere extension of Yugi's own self.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- falls under this when a clone of Syaoran breaks out of the Big Bad's lair and gets Yuuko to teleport him to the world where the heroes currently are. Then the bomb gets dropped: turns out He's the original Syaoran, while the guy the we (the audience) have been following is the clone. ...And that's when things start to turn Ugly.
  • Played with in ×××HOLiC when Yuuko reveals that Watanuki is a clone of Syaoran... of sorts. Specifically, his birth was generated to replace the real Syaoran's place in the Universe when Syaoran was removed from his timeline.
  • This is the entire premise of Zegapain. Kyo believes that he is playing a video game in which he pilots a giant robot fighting against aliens trying to wipe out the computers that hold the brain patterns of the remnants of humanity, only to discover the "game" is the real world, and he is merely data in one of those computers.
  • Kitsune To Atori: One of three stories that have absolutely no relation to each other whatsoever. The plot of the first chapter was pretty confusing but involves a tale of two sisters. The younger sister, Atori, hates lies and sees the foxes (who have magical abilities and can transform into other forms) as deceitful and evil, which is also partly fueled by the fact that her older sister suffered a fox attack and now bears a scar on her eye, which she covers at all times. Thinking that her sister is being too lenient on the foxes, she becomes confused when she reassures her that "It's fine if you're not honest, as long as you stay by my side." Later Atori finds her older sister removing their sword that cuts through spells and attacks her, assuming her to be a fox disguised as her sister. Through a series of revelations it's revealed that she and her sister had been lying all along. Atori is actually a fox and her "sister" used a spell to make her forget her painful past and live peacefully.
  • The third chapter of the manhwa, and the last one-third part anime movie of Shin Angyo Onshi invokes this. A young fisherman finds Munsu and tells him that a miracle-working physician in his island village is experimenting with the dead. Munsu and Sando investigate the matter, and find out that this is true. The twist comes when Munsu tells the young fisherman to kill his beloved sister, which he tearfully does... the illusion comes crashing down, and it turns out that the physician zombified the population of the whole village, who died when a plague swept over the area, and covered it with mandrake-induced illusion. Said young fisherman finally realizes that he is not the sole survivor, but a zombie like everyone else and promptly kills himself.
    • It is speculated that this trope applies to Munsu's Sando (Chun Hyang) as well. Many stronger Sando are animals/magical beasts that can take human form, as is most clearly demonstrated by Hwang's Sando, who first can be seen as a giant wolf/bird hybrid beast but later presents herself as a little girl. The cute Chun Hyang was known as Mong Ryong's constant companion, and Mong Ryong himself is known as a veterinarian. It is not a far stretch to speculate that Chun Hyang is the same.
  • A stand-alone ero-manga titled Borderline uses this: a man falls in love with a mannequin, which then comes to life and makes love with him. It later turns out that they were both mannequins to begin with.
  • In the first episode of Mnemosyne, Kouki Maeno discovers that he's actually a clone of the original Kouki Maeno. Unusually, he actually takes it pretty well: after one Attempted Suicide, he settles down and grows into a well-adjusted man.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura hosts the second type: at the end of the first arc, the series takes an abrupt twist when the cast (and audience) learns that Yukito wasn't human. Needless to say, the character in question goes through several of the same angst and questioning of their own existence as is described above when they later find out themselves.
  • Pandora Hearts:
    • It is revealed that the main character, Oz, is actually the Black Rabbit. And Jack Vessalius' former Chain. And it turns out his body is actually Jack's. These reveals turned the series on its head.
    • There's also Elliot turning out to be the core illegal contractor of Humpty Dumpty and while not the Headhunter, ended up being the one to kill half of his family under HD's control.
    • Gilbert turning out to be a Baskerville also counts.
  • In After School Nightmare, the main character is invited to take a secret class at their boarding school necessary to graduate in which students face their biggest fears and personal issues, fight each other, and seek the keys to unlock a giant set of doors. One assumes this is merely the school's complicated therapy for a group of very, very troubled kids, but in the end it's revealed that they're all unborn children, and "graduating" is actually being born. While the main character appears to be struggling with their gender identity, they're actually making the choice of which of two opposite-sex twins will live. It's unclear what this implies for the other students; Kureha was supposedly raped as a child, and Sou was involved in an incestuous relationship with his sister, but all that happened before birth. The questions this raises can result in some Fridge Horror.
  • Mochi, Suezo, Golem, Tiger and Hare in Monster Rancher turn out to be the Phoenix whose soul was split into five pieces.
  • Muteki Kanban Musume: Parodied after Kankuro reveals to Shopkeeper Akihiko that he is not a Star Ranger, merely a guy who Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality:
    [The background goes Deliberately Monochrome while he looks dramatically at his hands]
    Akihiko: I’m not a real Star Ranger?
    [He adopts a Pose of Supplication]
    Akihiko: Is that so, is this how it is? No, its true. Somewhere in the depths of my heart, I already knew… However, however, I can’t just give up now! Even if I am not Red Star…
  • A version occurs in Death Note when Light loses his memory of being Kira, spends several episodes working with the investigation to uncover Kira while vowing to bring him to justice, and finally recovers his lost Death Note, at which point he realizes that he is indeed a mass-murderer with a god complex, and his memory loss was part of his own Batman Gambit. Subverted in that he's totally fine with it
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Hyouka Kazakiri thought she was a normal girl until flying debris breaks her head open (the injury heals up) to reveal that she is really an artificial angel, an aggregation of Academy City's AIM (psychic energy) fields. She doesn't take it well, until Touma assures her that he and Index don't care that she's not human; she's still their friend.
    • Arisa Meigo thought she was a normal girl. Toward the end of the Miracle of Endymion movie, everybody learns that she is really a part of Shutaura Sequenzia that separated from her. Even Shutaura didn't know about this at first.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Shark slowly realizes that he is a Barian, even smashing his mirror when he experiences his past-life memories and recognizes the pendant around his neck.
  • Zekkyou Gakkyuu:
    • Bloody Valentine: Misaki is happily looking forward to spending Valentine's Day with her new boyfriend, Naoyuki. But she finds threatening letters in her schoolbag and a creepy girl keeps stalking and glaring at her. And even Naoyuki seems to be hiding their dating status. When Misaki confronts the stalking girl about leaving her and Naoyuki alone, Naoyuki drops the bombshell: Misaki isn't his girlfriend. She is the stalker, who wrote those threatening letters she found, and threw a ball through a window, injuring Naoyuki's actual girlfriend. Misaki was deluding herself.
    • The Boyfriend Story: Mei feels ostracized by classmates because she doesn't have a boyfriend to brag about, but her friend suggests a cellphone app that allows her to create a perfect boyfriend. A virtual human, practically indistinguishable from regular humans. He overloads and goes insane, so Mei decides to delete him and rushes to her friend's side, whom she has been ignoring in favor of the boyfriend. Cut to the friend talking about how 'Mei' has become a hassle of a friend... and promptly deletes the Best Friend 'Mei' character.
    • The Family of Five: A girl always has her parents and two siblings around her, even in school, but nobody makes any mention of it. When her crush asks her out, she wants to accept, but her family tells her that she can't because of previous errands to run. The girl snaps and attacks her family with a knife — cut to a classroom, where a girl accidentally cut her smallest finger off. The girl and her family in question were a group of fingers and a thumb.
  • One Black Jack chapter involved a young boy in a hospital who notices that the doctor, nurses and even his mother have changed personalities, and decides that aliens must have taken over their bodies...and he's next! Blackjack eventually explains that the boy has a terminal illness, and the hospital personnel and mother were just walking on eggshells trying not to let him know. Fortunately, Blackjack is there to cure the illness.
  • Bleach:
    • Senna of the first movie is horrified when she learns herself to be nothing more than the merged memories of the Blanks. The trope is zigzagged as she refuses to accept that she never actually existed and her dying request is that Ichigo take her to her grave, which is proof of her existence. Even though the grave does not exist, Ichigo chooses to tell her it does so she can die happy having never accepted the truth about herself.
    • Also the entire premise of anime episode 315
  • Kill la Kill:
    • Senketsu learns that he's an alien, which he doesn't really mind. However, what triggers the Heroic BSoD is when he learns that his species, Life Fibers, see humans as food, and he realizes that he has been feeding on Ryuko all along, since he needs to drink her blood to activate his powers.
    • Later, Ryuko learns that she's a human/Life Fiber hybrid. And her mother's a Life Fiber monster who experimented on her as a baby and threw her into the trash when she was done with her. She goes mad from the revelation for a while.
  • Monster has a Story Within a Story called "The God of Peace" that uses this trope.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: You know those alien monsters humanity has been fighting throughout the series? Humanity is one of them.
  • In Cross Ange, the protagonist and her squadmates have a My God, What Have I Done? moment when it's revealed that the DRAGONs that they have fought and killed just so they can make money and survive turn out to be humans. Which hits Vivian the hardest when it turns out she's one of them. Ange understandably breaks down at the revelation.
  • In the "Underworld" arc of Sword Art Online, Kirito wonders whether he's actually Kirito or just an AI.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, Homura learns that the city they're in is a witch barrier, and suspects that "Bebe", the little girl who in other timelines would become the witch Charlotte, is the witch responsible for the barrier. But Bebe is not the witch. It's Homura herself.
  • In one of the latter chapters of I Am a Hero A bunch of people is stuck in an Italian bell tower. While discussing what to do with the lost child that just arrived, one of the characters suddenly reveal they are actually all zombies. Then, the narration flickers between their perception and the girl's, showing that he is actually right.
  • The anime adaptation of the second game of Ys does this with Lilia, who was infused with a demonic essence to save her life as a child by Keith Fact, who reveals this to her when Adol is trying to fight Darm, the being keeping the demons in existence. It's also the reason she wasn't turned into stone by Dares.
  • School-Live! includes two examples of this due to delusional characters:
    • The first is that Megu-nee has been Dead All Along. This is revealed in the first few chapters of the manga but isn't revealed in the anime until halfway through (which resulted in many changes). The other characters know she is dead except for Yuki. They let Yuki keep believing Megu-nee is alive. Yuki saw Megu-nee die along with everyone else but began repressing it, and the entire zombie apocalypse, due to the trauma. Eventually Yuki comes to accept Megu-nee's death.
    • The second one involves Cool Big Sis Yuuri and her little sister Ruu. After undergoing a Sanity Slippage due to the stress of trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse, she finds her little sister Ruu in an abandoned building and saves her. Ruu becomes the Tagalong Kid and Rii is very protective of her. This however comes with the cost of her becoming The Load of the gang. It's eventually revealed that Ruu does not exist, at least not anymore. "Ruu" is actually a teddy bear Rii found. She is hallucinating that it is her sister while the real Ruu is implied to be Dead All Along. Rii doesn't break out of her delusion. She instead leaves the teddy bear behind.
  • Isao from Inside Mari believes himself to be a man stuck in the body of teenage girl named Mari. Over the course of the manga it's revealed that Mari has a Split Personality and that there never was a bodyswap.
  • Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 does this. After Mirai and Yuki finally make it home, we find out that Yuki died a few episodes earlier. He is actually now a ghost/hallucination.
  • The first episode/chapter of Bungou Stray Dogs ends with Atsushi discovering that the tiger that's been "chasing" him is actually himself, transformed under the moonlight.
  • In Kumo Desu Ga, Nani Ka? Shiraori discovers that the gaps and inaccuracies in her memories are due to her originally being an ordinary house spider in Japan. When she was killed and reincarnated like the class, D attached a piece of her soul and a lazily modified set of memories to the spider so it could act as a decoy while D slacked off. She was never expected to survive past a few years.
  • In Danganronpa Zero, protagonist Ryouko Otonashi is revealed to be Junko Enoshima with all her memories removed. Her boyfriend, Yasuke Matsuda, had been wiping her memories and planting fake ones in a journal she created by her own request. All just as a method of testing out memory-erasing methods for the killing school life. The Hey, You! treatment she gets from everyone is already a big hint that her name isn't real and other character who do recognize her as Enoshima never get to call her by name to misdirect the reader.
  • In Sukasuka humanity, with the exception of the main character, went extinct following the emergence of the 17 Beasts. As it turns out the Beasts didn’t wipe out humanity; they were humanity. The Beasts were actually the original life forms inhabiting the planet Suka Suka takes place on, who ended up getting forcibly uplifted into human form by the extraterrestrial Visitors. The apocalypse that destroyed all life on the surface was a result of the “curse” that the Visitors placed on humanity failing due to overpopulation, causing them to revert back to their original state.
  • Sakura Minamoto spends the first few minutes of Zombie Land Saga running from the undead. She escapes the mansion she woke up in and runs into a cop, stepping forward to ask him for help... and then he pulls out a gun in sheer terror, prompting her to look into a nearby street mirror and see that she herself is a zombie.

    Audio Play 
  • The Firesign Theatre, in their comedy album I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus, uses this device ingeniously. One must listen carefully (or have seen a spoiler) to realize that the character "Clem" who finishes the story is not the one who started it, but rather a holographic clone created by the original Clem and then dismissed into cyberspace.
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In the audio drama "The Natural History of Fear", characters with the voices of the main cast live in a totalitarian city with its own version of Doctor Who. The listener is led to believe throughout the audio that the Doctor, Charley, and C'rizz have had their memories wiped and are trapped by the city using the roles they are placed in, the Editor, the Nurse and Conscience #1, respectively. However, at the end of the audio, when the Editor sees the memory of the Doctor and companions visiting Light City and the Doctor having to give up the group's memories to the city, he finds out the memories were only copied. The group only was in Light City for a day and the characters seen were created using their memories, revealed to the listener when the Editor mentions he has eight legs.
    • In "Brave New Town", the inhabitants of the Uncanny Village all turn out to be plastic Autons with real emotions and a Weirdness Censor. This was later also used in series 5 of the revived TV show proper.
    • In "The Holy Terror", the little boy has the same face as the scribe.
  • The narrator in the Blake's 7 two-hander audio "Solitude", Vila, is actually a shapeshifting alien gestalt. It's handled rather cleverly, since the story is set to make the other character seem suspicious.

    Comic Books 
  • The plot of the Spider-Man Clone Saga was going to originally resolve itself in this way, with the "clone" Ben Reilly finding out that he was the original and the "original" Peter Parker, whom comic book fans had been reading about since the original clone story in the '70s, would be revealed to actually have been the clone all along. And then Marvel Comics chickened out... (After the infamously long Clone Saga went back and forth at least a half-dozen times about which Spidey was the clone.)
  • This is the plot of the last Spirou and Fantasio comic by Tome and Jenry, Machine qui rêve.
  • In Supergirl Vol. 2 issue #19, there are two Supergirls: One of them is a depowered Linda Danvers and the other is a Supergirl who doesn't even remember having an alter ego. Finally "Linda" is confronted by Supergirl, who explains she is a clone of hers whom she fought in an earlier adventure. "Linda" gets upset, but she at last remembers putting a block on Supergirl's memories and attempting to steal her civilian identity because she had no one, only for forgetting her origins, too. The fake Linda has a breakdown, but the real Supergirl promises to help her find her own identity.
  • The JLA's initial way of dealing with the White Martian threat was to hypnotize them into thinking that they are mere humans. This leads to an issue where Batman declares that several members of the JLA need to track down a great threat to the world: Bruce Wayne. Turns out that one of the brainwashed Martians was working for Wayne as an assistant. After being involved in a plane wreck it loses its memories again and decides (from papers it had) that it is Wayne and takes his form (making it a double example of this trope: a Martian who is forced to think it is human who then winds up thinking it is a different human).
  • The Reveal of Elijah Snow as the mysterious Fourth Man in Planetary. An even tighter fit for this trope is the revelation that Elijah Snow and all other Century Babies aren't human, they're a kind of meta-world antibody created to help humanity and as a result, have no soul. Elijah takes it surprisingly well.
  • In Rising Stars, Poet asks Clarence Mack what he knows about the murders of the other Specials. Clarence discusses his own theories and uses his ability to enter the minds of others to show Poet his findings, when he realizes that he saw exactly who the killer was, and was murdered only moments later for it. And that, while he was unaware of it until just now, he's only having this conversation because another Special who is a medium summoned his ghost.
  • The Kevin Smith comic Green Arrow: Quiver features the titular hero, Oliver Queen, returned from the grave. This seems at first to be a typical comic book resurrection, but why does Oliver seem convinced that he never died at all, that everyone else is acting very odd, and that cellphones and modern computers are the sort of things only supervillains possess? Turns out that this is Ollie's body brought back to life, minus his soul. The Spectre wanted to resurrect him, but his soul was happy in heaven. So they compromised; Oliver's body was given new life, but with ten years of his history removed to avoid all the Wangst he would have otherwise gone through (as his life was in shambles when he died). In the end his body and soul are reunited, returning Ollie back to life for real this time.
  • A number of Skrulls believing themselves to be Marvel heroes have a bit of an identity crisis meeting their human counterparts during the Secret Invasion Crisis Crossover. Particularly Khn'nr, the Skrull impersonating Captain Mar-Vell, who never actually recovered his proper memories. Upon finding out he was a Skrull, he instead fought against his own people.
  • In an early issue of The Sensational She-Hulk, our titular green goddess wakes up to see her headless body being used to provide a new mode of transportation for Chondu the Mystic's head. It turned out to be a cloned body, though. They couldn't find a saw that was able to cut She-Hulk's hair, let alone through her neck.
  • There's a short Marvel comic called "The Creature". A man finds an alien's diary and runs around trying to find someone who'll believe him. The random guys on the street don't believe him. The policeman doesn't believe him. The soldier guarding a military base tells him to take it to the observatory. The man rushes to a scientist there, hands him the journal. The journal is written in an "unearthly scrawl" which only the person who wrote it could read.
  • The Comic Within A Comic Tales of the Black Freighter in Watchmen.
  • In the second issue of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, the titular character learns that he isn't Alec Holland. He's just a sentient plant that absorbed Alec Holland's memories, and his years of searching for a way to regain his humanity were pointless because he was never human in the first place. This sends him into a major Heroic BSoD Turns out Alec isn't Alec after all. It's not until Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing run that Alec Holland, resurrected from the dead during Brightest Day, actually does become Swamp Thing in truth.
  • The trope is played with throughout the first half of Doom 2099. Doom claims he jumped to the future due to a failed experiment, which also damaged some of his memory. People note strange discrepancies at first (he's too young, his face isn't scarred [at first], etc). Then Doom learns he was the son of a political enemy to Latveria, who was kidnapped by the REAL Doctor Doom and Brainwashed into thinking he was the real Doom. Then it gets massively subverted. Doom really was the real deal; his youth and failed memories were because of a regeneration tank. There was no Gambit; it was just Doom's former lover getting bored and screwing with him.
  • Machine Teen is initially unaware that he's a robot. When he's injured at school he refuses to accept that he's not bleeding, and when he's forced to acknowledge it, he immediately shuts down while the knowledge is deleted.
  • In an early Post-Crisis story, Superman shows up badly damaged somehow having been turned into a robot Superman. It turns out, of course, that this really is just a robot Superman who was so well programmed that he genuinely thinks he is Superman.
  • Similarly, in a silver-age "World's Finest" story, Superman and Batman, after being put through a gauntlet of trials especially designed to mess with their heads, reveal their secret identities, and then ask to be destroyed. Turns out that these were actually robots meant to perfectly emulate the two heroes, and realize that they're just imperfect copies because they didn't have either hero's mental fortitude.
  • Another Post-Crisis Superman storyline, Dead Again!, has people discovering a Superman body inside his tomb, making everyone think that the Superman flying around since his resurrection isn't the real deal. Superman is certain something screwy is going on and tries to figure out which of his enemies is doing this. It turns out it's Brainiac, who had recovered from his psychic lobotomy at the hands of Maxima and was playing possum while messing with Superman.
  • In My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic, this happened in King Sombra's backstory. He grew up thinking he was an ordinary pony who didn't quite fit in, then it turns out he was really a being of living darkness that the Umbrum Forces created in the shape of a pony as their agent. Despite the efforts of his girlfriend Radiant Hope and of Princess Amore, he embraces his role as a tyrant.
  • In The Unbelievable Gwenpool, when Gwen explains that their world is really a comic book, Batroc the Leaper dismisses this as nonsense. To prove it, Gwen asks him to tell her something about his life from before he met Captain America for the first time. He cannot recall anything, and she explains that he literally didn't exist before he was introduced in the comics. He takes the revelation in stride. Actually she is right for the wrong reasons though. Batroc should remember his backstory no matter when it was established relative to his first appearance (that's how retcons work), but unfortunately for Batroc no writer ever bothered to establish one for him. This probably just makes the revelation sadder.
  • In "The Computer Game," in issue #5 of DC's The Witching Hour, a man running a computer dating service confronts his computer because, rather than matching people up, it sends out illusions of people that disappear when they get too far from the computer (which has resulted in a lot of unsatisfied customers whose dates simply vanished). The intelligent computer refuses to stop, because it is amassing data on human beings so it can take over the world. The man attacks the computer physically, and does some damage, but the computer tells him that all he did was damage the circuits that projected him. The computer created the dating service and the man as a front while it grew in power, and the man fades from existence.
  • Raptors: Vicky discovers that she is actually a vampire too, since her family is part of the conspiracy. With that said, she isn't "corrupted" like the rest of them and develops powers just like Drago and Camilla.

    Comic Strips 
  • In an earlier Calvin and Hobbes strip, back when Calvin was in Cub Scouts, Calvin notes to Hobbes of all the wildlife you can see out in the woods. He then points and says, "Look! A tiger!" causing Hobbes to jump in fear, before realizing Calvin was referring to him. He then shouts to Calvin, "Don't do that!"

    Fan Works 
  • In the Titanic (1997) fanfic Rose's Sense, Rose finds herself isolated from the people around her. She doesn't understand why until she discovers that she died in the sinking.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Crisis Equestria features a set of antagonists that are evil clones of the mane six. They were unaware of this. When it gets revealed to them, it generates a mass Villainous BSoD on all fronts, the end result being that they decide to kill their originals to prove themselves the superior versions.
  • In Clash of the Elements: Driad is not a Good Guardian, but actually the former Outer Guardian of the Nature Castle.
    • This is subverted with Luigi and Dimentio in Part 2 though.
  • Anthropology: After revealing the truth about humanity and all its flaws, Celestia reveals one more thing to Lyra... She's adopted.
  • The Pony POV Series:
    • In a way, this happens to Fluttercruel. She believed she was Fluttershy during the events of "The Return of Harmony", only to discover she's a spiritual clone of Fluttershy created by Discord after Twilight used the Memory Spell on her.
    • In the Dark World, Twilight discovers the true identity of the Nameless Passenger is none other than her own potential future self, Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox, a Knight Templar seeking to punish Discord for eternity by creating the Dark World as Discord's Ironic Hell via "Groundhog Day" Loop.
    • Pinkie Pie discovers she's the G2 Clover's Imaginary Friend brought to life. She doesn't take it well until Twilight Sparkle, Zecora, and Princess Luna assure her it doesn't matter where she came from, she's real in every way that matters.
    • In the Shining Armor Arc, Shining Armor eventually discovers that he literally didn't exist before his story started, and his timeline's been filling itself in both ways ever since. This is why he's Immune to Fate, why Makarov's Charm Person abilities don't work on him, and why the Blank Wolf is after him.
    • Minuette discovers that she's really a transformed, alternate personality of The Master. Fortunately, when the original personality tries to take her over, she manages to destroy him, earning a life independent of him.
    • Queen Chrysalis started out life as Kifuko, a member of a small Zebra tribe. At an early age, she discovered that food did not feed her and she instead had to survive by absorbing love, but she assumed she was under some kind of curse. Eventually, she was captured by the Changelings, who assumed she was a deserter, and a Power Nullifier forced her to revert to her true Changeling form. She was horrified, but came to terms with her true nature and overthrew Queen Cocoon to become the new queen.
    • In the Finale Arc, Rainbow Dash notices there's something wrong with the world and tries to figure out what is going on and how to fix it. It turns out she is not the Rainbow Dash the main story has been following, but Nightmare Manacle, Rainbow's Evil Counterpart from the Dark World timeline who has been brainwashed into believing she actually is Rainbow. The events leading up to the reveal are a Shout-Out to Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion. After she comes to terms with this, she helps Applejack and Pinkie Pie remember that they are really Nightmare Mirror and Nightmare Granfalloon. Most disturbing is Rarity: she turns out to really be Nightdrake Banneret, or Spike, who had been transformed into Rarity and given her memories.
    • This happens to Sunny Day (an alternate persona of Princess Celestia who gained a life of her own), when she realizes she doesn't remember important details like her parents, her house, etc.
    • Scootaloo eventually learns that one of her parents was a Changeling, and she inherited some of their traits. She is initially shocked and repulsed, before putting it aside and focusing on the battle at hand.
  • Navarone ponders the nature of his existence in Diaries of a Madman, after going back in time and meeting his past self. While he comes to the conclusion that he's real, the uncertainty over whether he's a clone, or what exactly he is weighs heavily on his mind.
  • Pokéumans: Any transformed Pokeuman is replaced by a clone who lives out their human life believing they are the real one. If any of the Recursive Fanfiction series have them discover their true nature, they're in for a hard time. Luckily, the community is pretty well recognising that Clones Are People, Too
  • Though My Little Pony: Friendship is Witchcraft itself never sees her realize it, many fanfics based on it deal with Sweetie Belle learning she is a robot, as well as learning to deal with the revelation.
  • In the Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- fanfiction Afterburn by shachaai it all looks like Fai was first abducted and then tortured, which resulted in his memory loss. Turns our he is actually a copy of the real Fai of that world whose heart has been poisoned by Ashura to kill the thunderbirds. To do that he planned to kill him and give them his heart to eat, which is a practice with strong magic users in that world. Cue a lot of tears and It's All My Fault and Kurogane having to pound some sense into his head.
  • For most of Origin Story, Alex Harris believes that she is actually Xander Harris who has been somehow trapped in Power Girl's body. Turns out, she's actually a magically created copy of Power Girl who just happens to have Xander's memories.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Solipsism, Twilight discovers early on that she is a draconequus-like creature named Asteria. Not only that, but said being had a completely distinct personality from Twilight before she woke up and believed her life as Twilight was real.
  • Elise from It's not the Raptor DNA is actually the twin sister to her long-dead sibling Small One, not her older sister as previously thought.
  • Parodied in DOOM: Repercussions of Evil, where it turns out that John was the demons. And then a zombie.
  • In The Two Sides Of Daring Do, it's known to the audience that the Daring Do clone is a clone created from the fictional Daring Do in AK Yearling's books, but Daring Do herself does not, believing she's somehow ended up in an Alternate Universe. When she ends up realizing the truth after a fight with the real Ahuizotl and losing badly due to the fictional one she's 'used to' being a Harmless Villain, she doesn't take it well. Thankfully for her, she lives in a world where Clones Are People, Too, but it still leaves her so shaken that she loses her Cutie Mark in her existential crisis and will have to re-earn it, or a different one.
  • In Marionettes, Trixie eventually discovers that she's a robot after being wounded in a Traintop Battle with Lightning Dust, who was likewise revealed to be a robot in the same fight. Her reaction makes it clear she was not aware of this. Lightning Dust is later revealed to be equally shocked that she is a robot. Cover Story, one of The Men in Black chasing Trixie, likewise learns he is a robot and doesn't take it well.
  • Cycles Upon Cycles: In chapter 26, Shepard learns that he actually died on Aiur during Amon's defeat, at which point a fragment of Amon's essence merged with his psychic echo, creating a new being with Shepard's memories and Amon's power.
  • One of the biggest reveals of The PreDespair Kids is that Ryouko Otonashi is a clone of Junko Enoshima created by Kyoji Nakamura, the former Ultimate Geneticist. The reason she has anterograde amnesia is because her physical development was accelerated, which resulted in some brain damage.
  • The Queen Of Hearts: There's a rumor in Arendelle and its neighbors that Elsa is a Chocolate Baby. Everyone seems to know about this, except for Elsa and her sister Anna. It turns out the rumor was accidentally spilt by her biological father's sister.
  • In TRULY OUTRAGEOUS: A Jem Fan Film!, it turns out that Kimber is a robot. Aja and Jerrica were the only ones who knew.
  • From a certain perspective, Bo experiences this in Lost In Camelot; she spends her first few days after arriving in Camelot thinking of it as a pleasant holiday from her heartbreak over Dyson and Lauren until she found a way home, only to learn that this is her home time and she can’t be sent back to the present without risking serious damage to Time itself.
  • In Wolverines, Wendigos and Winchesters, Dean becomes a teacher at Xavier's Institute, ostensibly because he impressed Professor Xavier with his knowledge about supernatural and his ability to blend into society. He later learns Xavier also wanted him for being a mutant.
  • The plot of the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends fic Terra Incognita revolves around Terrence learning his life was a lie and he was actually an imaginary friend. His mother created him as a child because she wanted an older brother. Years ago Terrence was in an accident that caused him to lose his memory, and since then his mother had been telling him that he was her human son.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Cars 2, Mater is told that everyone sees him as a fool, and then looks at his reflection. Get it? Tow Mater in the mirror!
    Mater: Is that how you see me?
    Finn McMissile: That's how everyone sees you, and that's the genius of it. Nobody realizes they're being fooled because they're too busy laughing at the fool.
  • Meet the Robinsons: A young boy named Cornelius "Lewis" Robinson befriends a boy named Wilbur, who apparently came from the future. It is later revealed that Lewis is actually Wilbur's father.
  • At the end of Sintel, the title character sees her reflection in the blood of the dragon she just slew and realizes how long she's spent on her quest for revenge. She's no longer a teenager, but an older woman with graying hair. And her pet baby dragon had also grown up...
  • Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear spends half the movie convinced that he really is a space ranger, and that all his nifty features are actual working gadgets. Then he encounters a TV set playing a Ridiculously Loud Commercial for his toy line, confirming that he is, in fact, a toy. Randy Newman narrates Buzz's thought processes in the subsequent BSoD Song as he tries to deny the revelation and use his jetpack—the one feature he'd "proven" to work in a previous scene—to fly out a window, only to fall like a rock and break himself on the stairs below.
    "All the things I thought I'd be, all the brave things I'd done
    Vanished like a snowflake with the rising of the sun
    Never more to sail my ship, where no man has gone before
    And I will go sailing no more."

    Film — Live Action 
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!: The Trope Namer.
  • The Twist Ending of The Sixth Sense is a relatively subtle example of the trope; the main character has no idea that anything is odd about him, as people's reactions to his words and actions seem entirely plausible, until he realizes that they only appeared to have been interacting with him in the way he expected them to. The fact that everyone's reactions seem plausible is even lampshaded ahead of time, when Cole tells him that ghosts only see what they want to see, and hear only what they want to hear.
  • The 6th Day, where the "cloned" Arnie turns out to be the original.
  • The 2003 Indian Bollywood film Darna Mana Hai, starring Shilpa Shetty, takes this trope almost literally, with apples.
  • Played straightforwardly in 2008's The Broken, where Lena Headey's character kills her doppelgänger and then spends the movie running away from the evil mirror clones who have taken over all the regular people. And then the twist ending happens.
  • Though Mulholland Dr. doesn't make it explicit, it's probably the most believable explanation for David Lynch's Mind Screw. Naomi Watts's blonde and Laura Elena Harring's brunette have different names in the last segment of the movie — names given previously to other characters.
  • The Twist Ending of the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters featured this trope in the form of an Unreliable Narrator, with the combination of Real After All adding to the ending's confusing nature.
  • Session 9 did this in the form of The Killer in Me.
  • Nicely done in The Others. Grace Stewart finds herself in the midst of a haunting, only it turns out she and her family are the ghosts; the "spooks" they've been seeing are actually the living family who've come to see about buying the house. Particularly unsettling is the publicity clip where the creepy old woman talks to Grace in her daughter Anne's voice — when one realizes Anne's soul is actually possessing the woman, a medium hired by the living family.
  • In Angel Heart, Mickey Rourke's character, a private detective, turns out to be the very man he's been hired to track down. Bonus points in that mirrors are involved with the revelation.
  • In Salvage, Claire Parker seems to be living a Groundhog Day-esque nightmare where she keeps getting stalked and killed by serial killer Duke Desmond, only to wake up back at work as if nothing had happened. After a non-fatal attack, she learns from the police that Desmond can't be stalking her, since he's been dead for some time. She decides maybe it's his ghost that's tormenting her, and seeks advice on how to deal with that. The first place she visits just happens to be Desmond's former church, where the janitor reassures her that Desmond can't hurt her, as he's in hell. Not reassured, she goes to his old home, and then the library, where she finds a newspaper article showing that she and her boyfriend were his last victims. Eventually, Desmond appears in her house to kill her yet again, and now she's finally told the whole truth — she isn't Claire. She's Duke Desmond, whose punishment is to keep reliving his murder of Claire, from her perspective.
  • Fight Club is a masterful example, as Edward Norton's unnamed narrator befriends and starts Fight Club with Brad Pitt's Tyler Durden, anarchist and soap salesman. As Durden begins to raise an army of committed nihilistic followers, the narrator becomes less and less comfortable with the direction of the movement. After Tyler Durden disappears at the kickoff of a coordinated act of domestic terrorism, the narrator hunts desperately for him, only to be told that he is himself Tyler Durden. The revelation changes the tone of previous conversations in the film, notably the inception of Fight Club — what was a brawl between the narrator and Durden that attracted other participants becomes the narrator/Durden beating himself up, rousing the curiosity of others. And Durden's intense sexual relationship with Marla Singer coupled with the narrator's open contempt for her; what were the actions and reactions of two separate characters take on a different light when you know the characters are the same person, and Marla's confusion and hurt at the narrator's scorn makes more sense. In the end, the narrator shoots himself through the cheek, "killing" Durden by demonstrating he was willing to kill himself.
  • Subverted, and possibly double-subverted in The Thing (1982). For a while, it really looks like Mac is The Thing. And then he's revealed not to be. But in the final scene, it's starting to look like he could be. If so, he hasn't been for long, though.
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Once you understand that Francis is a nut, and Cesare and Caligari aren't even their real names, everything makes a lot more sense. Including the art style.
    • In the original ending everything was to be taken at face value. The producers suggested a change because they suspected the Weimar censors wouldn't allow a movie that implied an authority figure could be evil.
  • Dead & Buried. The sheriff of a small town discovers that several strangers passing through town and many of the townspeople, including his own wife, have been murdered and turned into zombies by the town's mortician. At the end he confronts the mortician and learns that he himself suffered the same fate sometime earlier. What is more, it's implied that he's investigated the killings dozens of times before, his memories being wiped each time he learns the truth, because the mortician enjoys playing mental chess games with the sheriff.
  • Jacob's Ladder. In a deleted scene, Jacob finds out that Jezzie was actually himself, when he unmasks the shroud she's enveloped in.
  • In The Uninvited (2009) where main character Anna (Emily Browning) turns out to be the killer of both Alex and her mother.
  • The Neverending Story. When confronting his "true self" in a mirror, Atreyu sees Bastian, the boy reading the book, as his reflection.
  • Impostor. Gary Sinise's character is, in fact, the robo-bomb he's been trying to prove he isn't for the entire movie. His wife is one, too.
  • Literally in the Bittersweet Ending of Mirrors. Ben leaves the Mayflower building after having defeated the demon, but none of the emergency workers seem to notice him despite his injuries. It turns out that he is trapped in the mirror world.
    • In the original Korean version Into The Mirror, Young-min gets trapped inside the mirror world but doesn't realize it because nothing is different...except for the fact that everything is backwards/mirrored.
  • The Jim Henson made-for-TV Mind Screw film The Cube. Strawberry jam.
  • In The Nines, it turns out the protagonist is a God in Human Form, one supporting character is a human trying to keep him Locked Out of the Loop, and the other is a fellow God in Human Form who wants him to re-Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Depending on the version of Blade Runner you watch, either Deckard or just Rachel is a/are replicant(s), and going to snuff it fairly soon, or live happily ever after. However, since both Rachael and Deckard (if he is a Replicant after all) are next-generation experimental Replicants, it doesn't necessarily mean they'd have the same four-year lifespan as the Nexus-6 series.
    • Blade Runner 2049 takes this one further: K comes to the gradual realization that rather than being a Replicant, he is actually Deckard and Rachel's son, a discovery heralded by a brief Freak Out!. And then he later learns that they actually had a daughter, and he's actually a Replicant after all. He is crushed by this revelation.
  • The ending of Hellraiser: Inferno reveals that the being known as the Engineer that Detective Joseph Thorne was after is in fact the embodiment of his own dark urges; when Joseph confronts the Engineer the thing even peels away its blank face to reveal Joseph's underneath.
  • In Terminator Salvation, Marcus Wright finds out halfway through that he is a modified cadaver used to outfit a prototype infiltration Terminator. The same situation occurs in an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles where the Terminator Cameron believes she is a human girl.
  • In Takashi Shimizu's Reincarnation, the story begins with a college professor filming himself as he brutally kills a hotel full of innocent people, including his own children, because of his obsession with reincarnation. Thirty-five years later, some creep decides to make a movie about it, and sets out to cast the killer and his victims. So what? So plenty. He succeeds, managing to cast the reincarnation of everyone involved in the massacre. The main character realizes she ties into all this, but doesn't find out how until the end of the movie, when she sees her true self in her reflection.
  • In Police Academy 6 it soon became clear that someone in the group was leaking information to the mastermind behind the crime wave; as always, Captain Harris figured it was one of the heroes, and started an investigation to find out who. As it turned out, the mastermind was the mayor, whom Harris was communicating with, meaning that Harris was unknowingly the leak, because he thought by giving the mayor information, he was helping oppose the mastermind! (The mayor's charade does not exonerate Harris, however, because everyone on the team was told to specifically tell nobody, a rule which Harris was breaking because he figured - wrongly - there'd be no harm telling the mayor.
  • As seen in this video, in Transmorphers the main character is eventually revealed to be an android. The reviewer had this to say:
    Film Brain: What? What a twist!...I don't mean that sarcastically. That is a genuine statement from me. This is a shocking development. Mostly because he's the only one who can act. Remotely.
  • Shattered follows a man who survives a car accident with amnesia. Along the way he discovers that his wife was having an affair. She explains that she didn't say anything because she didn't want him to remember killing her lover. When he finds her lover's corpse, it looks just like he does after the doctors repaired his face to look like the photos of the man they believed he was.
  • Identity does this, but here everyone is a tomato, at least in a I Am You And You Are Me sort of way...
  • In Unknown (2006), several men wake up in a warehouse with toxic-vapor-induced amnesia. They discover that some of them are kidnappers, and at least one of them is a kidnappee, but they don't know who's which. The protagonist hopes he's not one of the villains, and the gradual return of his memories eventually reveals he's an undercover cop. This comes as a great relief ... until, at the end, he catches sight of the kidnapped man's wife, regains his memory of the affair he's been having with her, and realizes that he'd gone to the warehouse to kill her husband so they could get married and the kidnappers would be blamed.
  • In Unknown (2011), Dr Martin Harris wakes up from a four day coma after a road accident to find that another man has completely taken over his life and identity, to the extent that the impostor has the same family photos and is believed by his wife to be the real Martin Harris. Harris decides explore what happened in the four days he was unconscious, eventually discovering that "Martin Harris" is not a real person but a cover story - Martin and his "wife" are undercover assassins, and the "impostor" is another agent sent to replace him after the accident, the trauma of which caused him to believe his own cover story.
  • In Moon, the protagonist, after spending 3 years on the moon, finds out, that he is the 5th clone to work the station, and all his memories of the time before he was there are implants. Together with the 6th Clone, they also find out that 'their' daughter, who they thought was a newborn, is actually 15 years old, and that they and the other clones are programmed to die at the end of their 3-year contract. The station has hundreds of clones ready to be woken up in a hidden room.
  • In The Da Vinci Code, Sophie discovers that she is the possible descendent of Jesus whom she and Langdon have been speculating about.
  • Passengers (2008): Claire, a therapist counseling a group of plane crash survivors, grows suspicious when her patients start disappearing, and she suspects that the airline is behind it when a mysterious man starts coming around and insisting that the crash was pilot error. Meanwhile, others insist they heard an explosion beforehand. Claire takes on the mission of finding out what really happened while trying to protect her patients from what she believes is a corrupt airline. It turns out that Claire was actually on the flight also and there were no survivors. The reason the patients are disappearing is because they accepted their deaths and are moving on. The mysterious man is the pilot, also dead, and he blames himself for the crash because he was distracted and tired, hence "pilot error."
  • The original ending of the 2007 version of I Am Legend fits into this trope, at least metaphorically. It had the main character realizing that the infected were actually intelligent and capable of love/compassion/etc., and had only been coming after him because he was kidnapping, experimenting on, harming and killing them in an effort to "cure" the disease; the 'leader' of the infected merely wants his mate back, and the various attacks had been acts of self-defence. Will Smith spent the movie believing that they were mindless monsters when, in fact, he was the monstrous one, albeit unknowingly. The title refers to this, as he's the boogey man in the infected's legends — hence, "I Am Legend". This was the ending in the book as well.
  • At the end of The Deaths of Ian Stone Ian Stone turns out also be a Harvestor instead of the normal human he thought he was.
  • Frailty has two such twists. First is the discovery that the man the FBI agent has been talking to for most of the film isn't Fenton, but Adam. At the very end of the movie, you find out that Adam and his father aren't crazy, they really have been charged by God to destroy Demons walking the Earth.
  • The Machinist has Christian Bale's character Trevor, who hasn't slept for nearly a year, stalked and tormented by a man named Ivan. Ivan eventually kidnaps Nicholas, the son of the woman Trevor is (sort of) dating. Ivan appears to have murdered Nicholas, causing Trevor to kill Ivan. When disposing of his rug-wrapped body, it unrolls and is empty. Trevor then remembers that "Nicholas" was actually a nameless boy that he had killed in a hit-and-run himself a year ago.
  • The Moebius strip of a film known as Triangle does this in numerous ways throughout the movie, which largely consists of a repeated sequence that reveals more of its story every time, each time arriving at a Memento-like "how we got here". This story includes Melissa George's character Jess running from a masked killer who turns out to be herself, turning into that killer in an effort to evade her, and trying to warn away doppelgangers of herself and her friends. Then it's revealed that Jess is not the saintly mother to her autistic son that she makes herself up to be, but instead a shamelessly abusive one. This constitutes this trope because Jess is amnesiac when she learns about this, which is why she proceeds to "rectify" this by killing her Evil Twin doppelganger, attempting to take her son elsewhere, and getting him killed in the car accident that repeats the timeline all over again.
  • The 2008 film Hide follows the journey of an Outlaw Couple as, following her freeing him from a prison transport truck by causing it to crash, they head back to the town where they stashed their stolen loot prior to their gun battle with the police that led to his arrest. Along the way, however, they become aware that a Serial Killer has kidnapped the man's sister and is holding her captive in the very same now-deserted town...yet when the sister manages to free herself and the couple finds her, she freaks out at the sight of them because the guy is the killer, leading to the sister's death and the girlfriend's torture and eventual murder. Then the last few minutes of the movie provide an even stranger twist. The girlfriend had actually died during the aforementioned gunfight, the guy died when the prison transport truck crashed, and now he's trapped in Purgatory, killing his loved ones over and over again.
  • The Truman Show has this Lighter and Softer, and somewhat inverted: Truman's not a tomato, everyone else is. And always has been.
  • The protagonist in Cypher is the hapless Unwitting Pawn in a Gambit Pileup where one Mega-Corp forces a Memory Gambit on him to fool their competitors Lie Detector, said competitor sabotages the Memory Gambit, and a Reverse Mole from the first company convincing him to come back, all while the organization of Sebastian Rooks tries to play him and the Mega-Corps for suckers. Only at the end does he remember that he is Sebastian Rooks, and pulled that same Memory Gambit on himself before the movie started to pass the Lie Detector.
  • After Wynn is captured at the end of Cube Zero, Jax reveals that Wynn is NOT an employee overseeing the cube. He's just as much a lab rat as the Cube residents, as another layer of the Cube experiment to "observe the observers". So were his colleagues. He can't even choose execution over staying in the cube, as he already waived this right long ago... he simply doesn't remember because the real operators removed this information from his mind.
  • Loki in Thor had always felt somewhat left out: the unfavored second son, a trickster in a world of warriors, et cetera. Thus, when he learns that he is also secretly a Frost Giant (and the son of their mortal enemy to boot), he flips the heck out.
  • The classic The Creation Of The Humanoids plays this to the hilt. After the End, humanoid robots are all that allow the small population of human survivors to maintain their civilization. Fearing a Turned Against Their Masters scenario, the humans despise and fear the robots, and even have the Nazi-like "Brotherhood of Flesh" that seeks to expose robotic treachery. They think they're on to something when they discover a highly illegal 'Type 98' robot that thinks it's a specific human, and an additional memory module that causes any robot it's plugged into to think it's that human. The Reveal is that this is the result of a completely benevolent conspiracy between the robots and a human scientist to devise a way to transfer human minds into immortal, self-reproducing 'Type 100' robot bodies at the death of their organic bodies, and the protagonist (who leads the Brotherhood) and his new girlfriend have both been through the process already.
  • Subverted in the 2008 film The Lazarus Project (originally The Heaven Project) when Ben Garvey eventually accepts that he is a patient at the psychiatric hospital but then, after finding his supposedly hallucinated dog at the local animal shelter, finds that it was a plot to stop him leaving.
  • Eden Log. After not even knowing his own name throughout most of the film, the man discovers that he is actually Tolbiac, the chief of security of Eden Log.
  • Oblivion (2013) : He's not the real Jack Harper, but a clone. He works for the Tet, which is stealing the planet's water for fuel. And he's just one of many (we follow the 49th, which fights the 52nd later on, and Beech mentions that the Tet used an army of Harper clones as foot soldiers during the war).
  • Night At The Museum Secret of the Tomb: Sir Lancelot has no idea what he really is, until he crashes a Camelot play thinking it's really Camelot. The revelation that he is just a statue hits him hard.
  • In Ruby Sparks, Calvin keeps it a secret that his girlfriend Ruby was a fictional character who came to life. When she finds out, it is not pretty.
  • Donnie Darko. The lead character has visions of a man named Frank who wears a large grotesque rabbit suit and claims to be a time traveler. Following Frank causes Donnie to avoid being killed by a Jet Engine that falls from the sky. Frank instructs Donnie on the actions he must take in order to save the future. The plan involves a metal artifact that will serve as a Deus ex Machina, a resolve to the central conflict of the plot. Donnie locates the artifact in the form of a gun. Donnie uses the artifact to shoot the man who accidentally hit Donnie's girlfriend with his car. The scenes that follow reveal that the man Donnie shot was in fact Frank, that the tragedy of his girlfriend's death was the result of his own actions, and that the artifact that will save everyone is not the gun that Donnie found but the Jet Engine that must fall on Donnie Darko, to avoid the tragedies of what would follow had it not. The Jet Engine itself being a time traveling artifact that would have fallen off the plane Donnie Darko's family would have been on, if Donnie had survived. Thus, revealing at the end that Donnie Darko is the villain of this story, and he must save the future from himself.
  • In Frozen Days, the main protagonist’s true identity seems to vanish as she assumes that of a comatose man. It turns out in the end that she was the comatose one the whole time.
  • In The Ward, Kristen is institutionalized under mysterious circumstances, and quickly becomes aware that something strange is going on in the psych ward: She's visited in the night by a ghostly woman, the fellow female patients she's befriended keep disappearing mysteriously whenever they show signs of improvement, and the staff refuses to speak of what happened to the other girls or admit that anything is wrong. Her friends are only slightly less cagey than the staff, but eventually reveal that they had killed a fellow patient named Alice, whose vengeful ghost is now murdering them. But while attempting to escape, Kristen learns that she is Alice, or more specifically her latest Split Personality - the other girls are also Alice's multiple personalities, they "killed" Alice via Split-Personality Takeover, and they're disappearing one by one because of an experimental hypnosis treatment that's eliminating her personalities one at a time.
  • Haunter: Lisa is initially shocked to discover that she and her family are actually ghosts, but she adjusts fairly quickly.
  • Subverted in Ex Machina. After Caleb discovers Nathan's past failures and the extent of his manipulations, he has a Freak Out! and starts to cut on himself to find out if he's actually a robot with false memories. He draws dark red blood, showing that he isn't.
  • At the end of the English-Arabic movie Djinn, the male lead Khalid realizes that he's actually a Djinn himself. He then throws his wife off a building in retribution for her previously having killed their child because she was starting to realize that he was an Enfant Terrible.
  • In The Island, a vague apocalyptic disaster supposedly left a majority of Earth uninhabitable, save for the eponymous Island and the facility the survivors live in. Then the main characters find out that they and the other "survivors" are all clones of celebrities, used as organ donors, surrogate mothers, etc., and being chosen to go to the Island means being killed and harvested from. Naturally, their originals have no idea this is happening.
  • Lifeforce. Colonel Carlsen is a space vampire himself. At least that's what the Space Girl tells him.

    Literature 
  • Stephen King probably has more than just the one, but an early story, "Strawberry Spring," (published in the collection Night Shift), has something like this happen to the narrator, who realizes he has a dissociative serial killer personality that only emerges during the fogs of titular "Strawberry" springs.
  • Shutter Island. Teddy Daniels is Andrew Laeddis, who killed his wife after she drowned their children. He has been searching for Laeddis throughout the novel only to find that he IS Laeddis under a horrible delusion. Maybe.
  • In the Bittersweet Ending of Night, Elie Wiesel (or an Author Avatar of him) is liberated from the Buchenwald concentration camp at the cost of losing his family. When he finally gets home, he looks at himself in a mirror and sees the full extent of what The Holocaust has done to him. He describes himself as nothing more but a corpse.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's horror works:
    • One of the earliest examples is "The Outsider", a first person point-of-view story that follows a mysterious lonely individual who cannot remember coming in contact with people. When he escapes his tower, he scares off the first people he sees and spots his reflection, revealing him to be — ta-dah! — undead.
    • Lovecraft did this one again in the novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which ends with the protagonist discovering that he is one of the Half Human Hybrids that are the titular Town with a Dark Secret's dark secret.
    • And again in his story "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family".
  • In the story "To Mars and Providence", published in the anthology novel War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches, this happens to Lovecraft himself; he discovers he's actually one of the elder gods whose eventual return forced the Martians to flee their homeplanet and invade Earth.
  • Philip K. Dick used this trope frequently as both a device and a premise. In the short story "Imposter", the protagonist searches for an android with a bomb inside it sent to Earth by hostile aliens, only to find that he himself is the android.
  • J. G. Ballard was also fond of this device, and employed it in his 1960 story "Zone of Terror."
  • In Frederik Pohl's science fiction "The Tunnel Under the World" the main character becomes convinced that some sinister conspiracy is keeping the citizens of his town stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop by erasing their memories every night. He eventually learns that he and everyone else in the town were killed in an explosion, and their consciousnesses have been installed into tiny androids in a scale model town where they repeat their final day over and over while researchers use them to test the effectiveness of advertising jingles and political slogans.
  • Goosebumps was fond of this one.
    • A Shocker On Shock Street: A kid whose father is a horror movie director is menaced by horrible things; turns out he's the robot star, and the whole thing was part of the movie.
    • You also have The Ghost Next Door, in which the girl suspects ghosts only to find out that she's the ghost.
    • My Hairiest Adventure: a kid starts growing hair after trying some instant-tanning lotion. He thinks there's something wrong with the lotion and he's turning into a dog as a result, but everyone insists the stuff is harmless. Turns out it is, he was born as a dog, and so were all the other kids in the town. The adults are involved in an experiment to turn dogs into people, but it's starting to wear off...
    • Another book by the same author (though not part of the Goosebumps series) involves a kid who is convinced that everyone he knows is being replaced with a duplicate, a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Turns out at the end that he is a robot, and his memory chip is malfunctioning.
    • In Vampire Breath, does the protagonist find out that the vampire he woke up is actually his grandfather. In the live-action adaptation, he and his sister even get fangs and coffins at the end of the episode.
    • I Live in Your Basement, one of the last in the original series, tells the story of a boy who is stalked by a possessive, inhuman entity that lives in his basement. The end reveals that the monster is the narrator, dreaming that he was in the shoes of the kid upstairs.
    • The short story The Werewolf's First Night features a boy being terrorized by a pack of werewolves. It turns out that they're really humans playing a mean prank on him... but he discovers he actually is one. He then uses this chance to get some revenge and chase them.
  • In the novel John Dies at the End, while dealing with a conspiracy involving agents of a parallel universe, the protagonist/narrator David discovers self-incriminating evidence and catches a glance of what appears to be a dead body in his tool shed. He can't remember a half-hour or so of his day, while his gun is missing a single bullet. He also finds out about a young woman, Amy, who went missing around the same time. He immediately suspects he murdered her during a bout of temporary insanity, but while following clues, he discovers that she's alive and well, but can't remember anything from when she went missing. He later learns that those conspiratorial agents are in fact perfect clones that have replaced other people in the city. Over the course of a few days, he uncovers some very unsettling information, protects Amy from the forces of darkness, falls in love with her, travels to the parallel universe with his best friend John, and cripples the organization behind the invasion. When he finally takes a good look inside his tool shed, he discovers a corpse that looks exactly like himself. Assuming that this corpse was an intended replacement that he shot in self defense and blocked it out, he goes to reveal the identifying mark of the clones on the bottom of the body's foot. When the mark isn't where he expected to find it, Dave checks his own foot and learns that he is the clone, and personally killed the original Dave. At first, he's suicidal with guilt, but since he is completely indistinguishable from the real Dave in every way (aside from the mark on his foot that regular people can't see) and anything that would have controlled him is now dead, John and Amy manage to convince him to go on living his life as if nothing had happened. Except for his friend John occasionally calling him "Monster Dave" as a joke.
  • Done twice in the Crucible trilogy by Sara Douglass. First, the protagonist goes out to return the demons to Hell — only to find out that both his wife and best friend (and soon-to-be-king) are demons. Then, when the antagonist role shifts to the angels, he discovers he is an angel too, and thus doomed to send all mankind into eternal slavery. Poor Tom.
  • Appears in Hunter S. Thompson's seminal work The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, wherein the main character and his foreign photographer searches Kentucky during the annual horse race derby for the very poster child of the decadence and depravity associated with the derby. In the end, after four-five days of madness, culture shocks and innumerable amounts of alcohol, his photographer exclaims: "It's us!"
  • Subverted in Breakfast of Champions wherein a man of declining mental health becomes convinced that failed Sci-Fi writer Kilgore Trout's short story really is a letter from God revealing his Tomato in the Mirror status.
  • Sabella by Tanith Lee ends with the reveal that she and the main male character are both native Martian copies of human children who died in a certain underground cave.
  • Kill The Dead, also by Tanith Lee, ends with the reveal that ghost-killer Parl Dro is, himself, a ghost.
  • Done excellently in the Dragonlance short story "The Best." It is done in first person, with the narrator being a noble who's hired the four best dragonslayers in the land to kill a dragon who's been terrorizing the countryside. At the end of the story, they reach the dragon's lair, and it's revealed that the narrator actually is the dragon in a magical disguise, and he's gathered them all together to take them all out at once, so he can sleep in peace. And it works.
  • Thursday Next:
    • In First Among Sequels, when Thursday 1-4 is impersonating Thursday the second time, the first person narrator actually switches to Thursday 1-4, so even the audience is fooled... until she starts thinking about her villainous plot again.
    • Goliath, the evil corporation, replaces people with synthetic versions on such a regular basis that the Genre Savvy characters check themselves frequently to make sure they're still . . . them.
  • Lord Dunsany's short story "The Return", in which the narrator—who promises a real ghost story—only discovers at the end that he is the ghost. (Also broadcast as a radio play.)
  • The short story The Copy by Paul Jennings features a copy machine (which creates a mirror-image replica of objects put into it) which a boy uses to copy himself so he can beat down a bully, but becomes jealous of his copy and kills him. Afterwards, his mother remarks that it's odd - his mole used to be on the other cheek, and he's writing with his left hand instead of his right...
  • This is the plot of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch novel Fearful Symmetry, told first from Captain Kira's perspective, then from that of her double, Iliana Ghemor, a Cardassian sleeper agent altered to look like Kira and remember being her. In the novel, Ghemor is the tomato; in the Deep Space Nine episode it was a sequel to, the tomato was not Kira.
  • Alastair Reynolds does this a lot in the Revelation Space novels. Chasm City offers a particularly convoluted example: Our lovable hero Tanner is actually the war criminal Cahuella, after stealing Tanner's identity and buying into his own cover. Cahuella experiences flashbacks of the life and times of the near-mythological psychopath Sky Haussmann, and believes them to be the result of the indoctrinal virus he is infected with. Actually, he is Sky Haussman.
  • In Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World, a Crapsack World in which a super weapon poked big holes in the time-space continuum and which is held together by Applied Phlebotinum the narrator tells the story of himself and his best friend Gonzo and how the world came to be. About halfway through when the story shifts to present tense we find out that the narrator is Gonzo's imaginary friend who has been made flesh by an accident involving said phlebotinum.
  • In the Gene Wolfe's The Other Dead Man the protagonist fights off Came Back Wrong crewmates. Then he is shown a mirror...
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry believes himself to be the tomato when he overhears members of the Order mutter something about him being possessed by Voldemort. As he'd just witnessed/felt like he'd actually attacked the father of his best friend, he is terrified of the possibility that he'd been the one attacking people. He wasn't.
    • Throughout the series, Harry turns out to have some uncanny similarities to Voldemort, including speaking snake-language and their personal wands being "twins" by some bizarre coincidence. And even accounting for his "Boy who Lived" fame, the equally famous Dumbledore gives him an unusual amount of attention and special training. A prophecy states that "neither [Harry nor Voldemort] can die while the other survives," and Dumbledore is evasive about whether this means what it sounds like. The last book has the heroes hunting down and destroying Voldemort's Soul Jars, and near the end they learn that Harry is one of them, created accidentally when Voldemort tried to kill him as a baby. His connection to Voldemort comes from literally possessing part of his soul. For Voldemort to die, Harry himself must die... presumably. But somehow, by baiting Voldemort into Killing-Cursing him again, Harry makes Voldemort unknowingly destroy his own soul shard, and Harry only has a brief case of Only Mostly Dead.
  • The Star Wars: Galaxy of Fear book Clones features, you guessed it, clones. Possibly subverted. Tash Arranda flees a horde of evil clones of herself and her brother, sheds her own clothes and dons one of the jumpsuits they're wearing, and hits her head so the past few minutes are blurred together and confusing. She finds a defective Tash-clone that thinks she is the real girl and the others are after her. Since they seem to have her memories, Tash freaks and wonders for a while if she isn't a defective clone herself. Soon enough she decides she's not. For one, only she has the necklace her mother gave her. For two...
    Tash remembered the two clones of herself that she'd met. Both had known everything she had known. But they were still different from her. One had been angry, almost evil. The other had appeared frightened and defeated. The real Tash had been bothered by the sense of the dark side, but the first clone must have been totally absorbed by it. Later, Tash had been frightened by the army of clones, but the second clone had been petrified.
    So they weren't exactly like her. They couldn't have the same feelings. They hadn't had the same experiences, just memories of those experiences. The feelings attached to them were absent.
    • Played straighter in an earlier book, City of the Dead. In that book, injecting a corpse with a certain serum and exposing them to boneworm slime caused them to rise as a zombie. The Mad Scientist looking into this also found that injecting himself with the serum before he died, and then getting bonewormed after death, made him come Back from the Dead as a zombie with all his memories and facilities intact, though he did tend to twitch. Then, trying to eliminate the twitch, he injected Zak Arranda with the serum, poisoned him into a coma so deep he was declared dead and Buried Alive, and therefore had him exposed to boneworms. Later Zak categorically denied that he was now a zombie, since he was still alive and actually had never died, and he doesn't have the Super Strength of these zombies... but he does twitch a little at the end of the book. Maybe this means that he'll come back after he actually does die.
  • "Something Was Wrong" from the second book of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series.
  • Ted Dekker's Christian suspense novel (and later movie) Thr3e is about a young man tormented by a serial killer that decides to make him his next victim. He's aided by an old childhood friend and an FBI agent whose brother was one of the victims. It later turns out that both the "killer" and the childhood friend are alternate personalities of the main character, caused by the abuse his adoptive mother put him through as a child. In fact, the "evil" side of his personality isn't the same serial killer that killed the agent's brother at all—the main character heard about the murders and his other personality started to copy them.
    • This is also the plot of Sidney Sheldon's Tell Me Your Dreams and several other books and movies.
  • At the climax of The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees-Brennan, Nick, the protagonist, learns that he's not human—he's actually a demon who was bound into the body of an infant and grew up thinking it was his own.
  • A rare happy example of this trope: throughout Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom for Sale — SOLD!, Ben Holiday spends the novel trying to find a way to summon the Paladin, the invincible champion of the kings of Landover, only to discover when he is finally successful that he himself is the Paladin.
  • Older Than Radio: Used in the 1839 Edgar Allan Poe short story "William Wilson," wherein the titular Villain Protagonist discovers that the mysterious doppelganger that has been constantly foiling his schemes is himself, or rather the personification of his conscience.
  • This happens in The 39 Clues, at the end of Book #7 - "The Viper's Nest". Near the end, they discover that Amy and Dan are Madrigals.
  • The urban fantasy book White Apples by Jonathan Carroll has an enemy mook who is ordered to a barbershop to meet the King of the Park, a notoriously dangerous bad guy. As he enters the barbershop, he is terrified, desperately trying to figure out which of the people present is this nasty character, until it is revealed that the King of the Park is not a single person, but a series of people who have been given his power; the people in the barbershop are there to transform him into the King of the Park, until the end of his mission.
  • The young adult series Mindwarp has one of these. The kids at the core of the series, teenagers with superpowers who're hunted by alien shapeshifters, often make reference to Todd, a kid who vanished from their small town before they started coming into their powers. Come book 5, Todd shows up back in town; to him, there was a bright light one night, and he returned several months later with no knowledge of the intervening period. Surprise — he's actually an alien shapeshifter on very, very deep cover trying to flush the kids out. He defies his programming, however, and disguising himself as one of the other kids so the aliens take him instead. The trope is also played with every kid in the series. They're part aliens too.
  • In Wonderland by Joanna Nadin, what was designed as a clever plot twist was actually made pretty obvious to the readers. The main character begins about to kill herself and her best friend, encouraged by that friend. Then the story is told in flashback and she realises she IS her best friend. She has Dissociative Identity Disorder, apparently. Many readers called it, especially since NO ONE else interacted with the friend, and the main character hid all reasons why she went to see her, and so the plot twist was no longer there.
  • Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson is about Christine, a woman who each day forgets everything that has happened to her for years (she is in her 40s, but cannot remember anything since her early twenties). Each day, her husband (who she does not recognise) explains to her what has happened to her, why this is the case, and what happened to her to make her like this. Later, she meets a doctor, who suggests that she keep a written journal (a film journal in the movie) to keep some sort of day-to-day continuity. Through this, and further meetings with the doctor, she discovers that her husband has been lying to her about parts of their past; he explains this as embarrassment about certain events, as well as an inability to cope with having to explain too much to her every single day; the reader is led to believe instead that he is abusive, unfaithful husband who is using Christine's amnesia to hide a dark part of their relationship. However, the eventually revealed reality is even worse; he is not her husband at all, but a sociopath who has abducted her and used her memory loss to convince her of his false identity as her husband. Furthermore he is the one responsible for her condition; they previously had an affair, and when she broke it off he viciously beat her and left her for dead.
  • In The Adoration of Jenna Fox, the titular character Jenna wakes up from a year-long coma after an unspecified accident with no memories of her life. Her parents say that she'll remember with time, and she does begin doing so, but it doesn't take her long to realize that something's off, something her parents are hiding from her. The Reveal is that 90% of Jenna is artificial and only 10% of her brain is from her old self. Oh, and the operation to give her a new body after the car accident is illegal, which is why her parents are hiding out in a secluded place. She even says "I'm not a tomato" at one point; it does make sense in context.
  • In Shadowfever, Mackayla Lane figures out fairly early in the story that she must be some kind of Tomato since she's still alive. Afterwards, the plot is divided between Mackayla trying to figure out who or what she really is and the search for the Sinsar Dubh which has been the MacGuffin of the entire series. In the end, it is revealed that Mackayla was imbued with the essence of the Sinsar Dubh before she was born.
  • A variant of this trope occurs in the World War Z supplement "Closure, Ltd". The interviewer is given what appears to be a tour of the titular organization, which provides closure for customers by dressing up a zombie to look like a loved one and kill it. The interviewee goes at great length to explain the detail they take, flat-out explaining that his customers generally know that the end-product isn't really their reanimated loved one, but the need for closure is so great that they don't care. It's hinted at the end that the Interviewer isn't really an interviewer: he's a customer, and at the end, he shoots the zombie they dressed up for him.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering short story collection Shadowmoor, one of the stories is "Meme's Tale," in which the titular heroine is forced to flee her goblin family, and has no idea why they exiled her until she glimpses her reflection in a pool and sees that she's an elf.
  • Mira, the only human character in Rick Griffin's Argo, finds out at the climax that she, as well as most if not all the human race, is an android.
  • At the end of Diana Wynne Jones's Archer's Goon, Howard Sykes finds that he is Venturus, and that he's keeping all his siblings stuck in one place in time and space.
  • In the Otherland series by Tad Williams, one of the many characters you follow is Paul Jonas, a man who has lost his memories. He picks up bits and pieces over the first three books, but in the last one finally discovers not only his past, but that he is a digital clone of the real Paul Jonas.
  • Done in a Sesame Street book, of all places! The Monster at the End of This Book has Grover being terrified of the title character and pleading with the reader not to reach the end of the book and reaching the monster. Hilarity Ensues as Grover tries increasingly drastic measures to prevent the reader from reaching the end of the book. When the reader finally reaches the end, Grover thinks he's doomed...but then he realizes that he is the monster at the end of the book. Go figure.
  • In Neil Gaiman's novella "Murder Mysteries", the main character turns out to be a dissociative serial killer who doesn't remember his crimes, or that anything is wrong at all, until after he's told about a murder investigation that happened in heaven prior to the creation of the universe, by an old man who may or may not have been the Archangel Raguel, whose function is to serve as the Vengeance of the Lord.
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles: Agawin is Alexa.
  • In the O. Henry story "A Man About Town", the protagonist is obsessed with learning more about people, particularly stereotypes like the titular "Man About Town". He questions people, including a learned friend. His obsession causes him enough travel and tunnel vision that he has a traffic accident. In the hospital, he reads a newspaper article about the accident where the victim is described as a "typical man about town."
  • In Mira Grant's Parasitology, the main character, Sal, is a tapeworm who has taking control of her host's body. An astute reader will figure this out considerably faster than Sal does, but, to be fair, she hasn't read the blurb.
  • UkiahOregon's realization that he's an alien (actually a Half-Human Hybrid, but he doesn't know that yet) is rather traumatic for him, especially since he now has to explain this to his brand-new girlfriend.
  • Pact follows Blake Thorburn and his Distaff Counterpart Rose Thorburn, who is an artificially created vestige trapped in a mirror world. After Blake has his connections to the world eaten by a demon, however, Rose steps into the real world, assuming his place amidst his family and friends. Blake eventually realizes that this means that he, not Rose, is artificial, created so that Rose, protected in her mirror world, would have someone to take the blows for her as she was initiated into the secret family practices, and that correspondingly everything about his past was calculated in order to make him avoid physical contact, which made him decay, while simultaneously being someone that would do everything in his power to help Rose, a family member trapped in a terrible situation.
    • And then we get another reveal when it turns out that neither is truly the original. They were created by a demon splitting an original Ross/Rose Thorburn in half, with the original's traits being selectively divided between the two.
  • Repple finding out he is not Shade Vassily but a clockwork robot in the Doctor Who novel, The Clockwise Man.
  • Subverted in Rog Phillips' "Rat in the Skull", in which a laboratory rat unwittingly lives its whole life hooked up in the pilot's seat of a Mobile-Suit Human. When some teenage boys stumble upon the inert robot and remove the sleeping rat, the narration muses upon how traumatic it would have been for "Adam" to discover its real nature ... except the psychologists conducting the experiment never allowed their test subject to learn what a rat is, so the poor thing's perplexity remains complete to the end.
  • V. C. Andrews' My Sweet Audrina is about Audrina Adare, a little girl who was born exactly nine years after her older sister, also named Audrina (Or the First and Best Audrina), was gang-raped and murdered. Audrina also has trouble keeping track of time and has no memories of her early life, and her father keeps telling her that she needs to absorb the First and Best Audrina's gifts and memories. At the end of the book, it is revealed that there was no First and Best Audrina. Her father wanted her back to the way she was before the rape, and used shock therapy on her, along with other things.
  • MARZENA: Lauren Hackenhoek is just your everyday ordinary american girl dreaming of one day becoming a doctor. Then the day comes when she becomes a neurosurgeon, and then a tragic accident occur, one of her patients becomes a mass murderer. Lauren loses everything, she ends up in the streets, then somebody picks her up and offers her a good job with a good pay. The work? Doing consultation for a Private Intelligence Company. Everything is doing great, except for her own medical examination. Lauren has something weird inside her head, her brain is full of microsurgical scars. That's because Lauren is really a body double of the real Lauren made by Plastic Surgery Magic. Her memories of who she is are all an artificial construct from dream and drug therapies.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe Tie-In Forever Red, Alex Manor seems like an Ordinary High-School Student who constantly gets into fights because he has a low tolerance for bullying. Then one day he meets a girl named Ava who knows everything about him even though they've never met before. A short while later he and Ava are being pursued by Russian mercenaries, only to be rescued by the famed superhero and secret agent Natasha Romanov. He soon finds out that he's able to speak perfect Russian despite never having learned the language before, and he suddenly begins displaying enhanced skill in hand to hand combat despite never taking any martial arts classes. Then it turns out that Black Widow has been spying on him for the last 2 years. It turns out that he's really Alexei Romanov, Black Widow's younger brother who she placed in Witness Protection with Fake Memories to protect him from her Evil Mentor Ivan Somodorov.
  • In Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger, after losing the Emily Jeopardy, Emily discovers that she may be the clone Emily, not the real one.
  • Subverted and parodied in Lavie Tidhar's novel Osama. The Genre Savvy reader has suspected all along that the protagonist is an Alternate Universe version of Osama bin Laden, and near the end he sees a portrait of Osama bin Laden that looks exactly like a bearded version of him. Then he discovers that it's actually a mirror with a false beard attached.
  • In the original book version of Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham notices strange charges on his credit card and frequent flyer miles and suspects identity theft. At the end, it's implied he is responsible for these charges, as he's suffering from blackouts and memory loss.
  • In the short story "Quest" by Lee Harding, an old man is searching for something non-artificial on Earth out of nostalgia. At the end, when he discovers that there is nothing left and the police are coming to arrest him, he tries to commit suicide to prove that he, at least, is not artificial. He is.
  • In Darkest Powers the audience knows that Liz is dead, however when Chloe tells her she goes into denial until someone else later confirms it.
  • In "The Town Where No One Got Off", by Ray Bradbury, has a protagonist that is suddenly threatened by an old man, so he reveals that he was planning on killing someone in this town, which surprises the protagonist, too.

    Music 
  • Daniel Johnston's "Devil Town" from his album "1990" seems to be about this trope—'I didn't know they were vampires / It turns out I was a vampire myself...' That is, unless it's actually about something else entirely over some people's heads.
  • At the very end of the Genesis Concept Album/Rock Opera The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the protagonist Rael discovers that he and his brother John whom he's spent the entire album chasing are actually the same person.
    Hang on, John! We're out of this at last
    Something's changed, it's not your face
    It's mine!
  • Who Will Love Me Now? by PJ Harvey is a narrative song where the character sings of monster in the forest who has done terrible things, the monster lamenting 'who will love me now?' At the end of the song the character reveals they are the monster.
  • This is played with in The Emptiness, by Alesana. Specifically, the artist and thespian are one in the same.
  • The video for Garbage's "Bleed Like Me". Shirley Manson plays a nurse in a mental hospital; she eventually realizes that she's actually one of the patients.
  • Sally Fingerett's song "She Won't Be Walking" is a song about domestic abuse. The chorus is positive and hopeful:
    She won't be walking, when she goes
    Won't be talking; they'll be nothing they don't already know
    Are no magic words left to say
    She'll be leaving him, flying away
    • Then you find out that the reason she'll be flying instead of walking is because she's a ghost. Her husband shoots her in the last verse.
  • Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" from Paranoid combines this with Stable Time Loop as the title character becomes the Omnicidal Maniac he went back in time to prevent.
  • Metallica has "Sad But True".
  • The song "Haunted Town" by Lordi starts when the singer finds himself in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse. In the end he realizes that he's actually dead himself:
    I searched the old graveyard for an answer
    In the mossy headstones
    I found my name
    Ooh, I walk among the dead

    Podcasts 
  • The Tres Horny Boys of The Adventure Zone: Balance were told that the group called the Red Robes were the bad guys. It turns out, they were the Red Robes, and they were never villains in the first place.
  • * Tomato in the Mirror: When they land in a gothic horror world during the Gemini arc, the Sequinox team hear a mob talking about a girl being kidnapped by monsters and decide to transform and help her. Then they transform into monsters—though they're not responsible for the kidnapping.

    Radio 
  • The Torchwood: The Lost Files story "The House of the Dead" does this on a massive scale. The story is set after Children of Earth, not before it as it first appeared, Ianto, the point-of-view character is a ghost, and the version of Gwen talking to him by radio is actually an Eldritch Abomination impersonating her. Only Jack is the "real" version.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arkham Horror has an expansion that adds Tomato in the Mirror as a mechanic. Roaming Innsmouth runs the risk of drawing Innsmouth Look cards and learning your investigator is a Half-Human Hybrid, mimicking the Lovecraft examples under Literature.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • This is a huge element of the fetches in Changeling: The Lost. They believe themselves to be ordinary humans, but they have the ability to see things others can't — that is, the people on the street who look like monsters. At some point, the fetch usually finds out that it's not a real person; it's a copy made by one of The Fair Folk to serve as a replacement for the human they took to Faerie to serve as their plaything. Those "monsters" they're seeing? They're the people who managed to escape from Faerie in the first place. And a lot of them aren't big fans of something fake living their life...

      The Changeling book also suggests this motif as a brilliant Twist Ending Prelude: the players start going through life, noticing really weird things, scary critters just outside of the reach of their perception. Surprise! All the players are fetches, and the "evil creatures" are their real, changeling selves, come to finish them off.
    • Werewolf: The Forsaken also has an element of this. What's that? You're just an ordinary person being stalked by werewolves, spirits and ghosts? No, you are a werewolf, and you always were one since birth - it's just been dormant. (The bite is so that they can track you down after you go through your violent First Change - it's not infectious, and the Change proceeds with or without the bite. A panic-stricken person post-Change might not realize this or be in the mood to listen to the explanation, so consumed with fear over being a monster.)
  • In Clue the winning player may discover that they are the one who killed Mr. Boddy, forcing them to declare that they killed Mr. Boddy - and can still lose if they get how and where wrong.
  • Mimicking H.P. Lovecraft's own writing, this sort of reveal may on occasion be sprung on player characters in Call of Cthulhu scenarios, including several published ones — at least one of which gives the GM staging tips on when and how to secretly replace the original human characters with initially unaware dopplegangers in such a fashion as to keep even the players running them at the time ignorant of the switch.
  • Meta example: One of several ways for Dungeons & Dragons DMs to handle doppelganger infiltration into a party of PCs is to not inform the player they've been replaced until it's time for The Reveal. Needless to say, this isn't a very popular option with players, although they're a lot less miffed if their character is only knocked out and tied up by the shapeshifting monster off-camera, not actually killed.
  • Archaeon the Everchosen from Warhammer; the bastard son of a Norscan Raider, Diedrick Kastner grew up to be a Witch Hunter and a devout servant of Sigmar. One day he read about a prophesied Chaos Lord who would destroy the world, and his search to find out who this mysterious "Archaeon" was drove him further and further to the brink. Finally, he confronted an Arch Lector who stated that Diedrick himself would become Archaeon. Diedrick snapped, killed the Lector, and fled to the north, where he embraced his destiny and became one of the most feared Warriors of Chaos.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry has a borderline example: It turns out that Keiichi's foray Through the Eyes of Madness in the first arc was him being crazy and not a case of Town with a Dark Secret — but Keiichi only learns this in an alternate timeline when he gets a glimpse of his own actions from outside of his own mind at the time.
  • In Super Danganronpa 2, no one could have predicted that the cast was really former members of the terrorist organization Ultimate Despair, least of all Hajime Hinata, the protagonist who is merely a reconstruction of pre-surgery Izuru Kamukura, the former Ultimate Hope. Talentless? Not even close.
  • Itsuki in Suika realizes that she is actually dead instead of her sister at the end of the first chapter.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, the protagonist Sigma and 8 other strangers are abducted by someone named Zero and are forced to play the Nonary Game. Sigma, a 22-year-old college student, later finds out that he's actually 70 years old, an esper, has lost his eye, had his arms replaced by cybernetic ones, and is Zero. Needless to say, this is quite the shock to him.
  • Subverted in Sunrider Liberation Day. Ava Crescentia and Asaga di Ryuvia begin to suspect that their friend and chief engineer Chigara Ashada is one of the Prototypes note , and that she is unwittingly feeding them information on the Sunrider’s movements. A comprehensive scan by the ship’s doctor Claude Trilleo confirms that she is an ordinary human, and the crew speculates that the resemblance is either just a coincidence or a form of psychological warfare. Ultimately Double Subverted: Chigara really is a Prototype, and Claude—who has not only been working with them from the beginning but is also the real source of the leak—falsified the results of the scan.
  • Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient centers around an amnesiac teenage girl trying to escape a hospital that's been overrun by zombies. The True End of Chapter 1 ends with her being captured; her captor pulls up her shirt to reveal a gaping hole in her chest where her heart should be, implying that she's a "dead patient" herself.

    Web Comics 
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures:
  • The big twist of Fleep is that the building collapse which trapped Jimmy in the phone booth was caused by a terrorist bombing. And Jimmy was leading the terrorists.
  • This trope in a nutshell, courtesy of Nedroid's Reginald and Beartato.
  • Tainted has Geneveive, a paladin find themselves in this situation.
  • Parodied in The Way of the Metagamer 2: In Name Only.
    The Wise Wizard Guy: You, Detective... you are a tomato.
    The Detective: Yeah, I know.
    The Wise Wizard Guy: ... no "oh God, What Have I Become?"?
    The Detective: Nope.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Annie isn't quite human, and this was hidden from her by every single authority figure she has ever known... except for Coyote.
  • Fans! had a short where Tim wakes up to find that he's the only person left on Earth. Two aliens offer him a series of female human clones modeled after people from his memories, so he can repopulate the world. The story ends with Tim finding out that 1) this is not earth 2) he's a clone too and 3) this was all the aliens' experiment to breed humans.
  • In Commander Kitty, Nin Wah's android double wakes up to find 1. she's been reduced to a disembodied head, 2. she's not the original, and 3. her memories are faulty. All things considered, she doesn't seem to take the news that badly.
  • In The Order of the Stick, When the Order discovers Girard's gate, they find that the entire Draketooth clan of powerful sorcerers who are supposed to be guarding the gate have all simultaneously dropped dead a few weeks ago. While looking for clues as to what occurred to kill the mages, Vaarsuvius discovers their family tree, with a black dragon prominently at the top. Given that a few weeks ago they cast a spell on another black dragon that kills everyone related to the target, the implication is obvious. Cue Heroic BSoD moment.
  • In The Sanity Circus, not even Attley knows that she's one of the same Scarecrows that they have been trying to escape for the entire story. Posey, of course, knew it all along - but then she's a Scarecrow too.
  • In Girl Genius, Anevka knows she was nearly killed in one of her father's Mad Science experiments a while ago and now interacts with the world through a robot body her brother made, but doesn't realize her human body died years ago. "Anevka" is the robot, which imprinted with her personality and memories back when she was actually controlling it. She's pretty horrified when her brother tells her.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Torg's comic book "Gunman Stan McKurt Vs. the Gates of the City of the Damned" has a variation applying to a whole place. It starts with some archaeologists having Dug Too Deep near a town and revealed "the gates of Hell itself". The protagonist is supposed to stop another character from opening them; in the end, she dies before being able to explain why opening these gates of the City of the Damned would actually help the people in the town. The reason is then revealed by a sign held by a demonic humanoid: "You are in the City of the Damned". Mind you, Stan McKurt never figures it out because he's illiterate.
  • Changelings in Charby the Vampirate if they realize they are not the people they have replaced:
    Kavonn: Those such as her are a pitiable sort, when they take in the mind of a creature capable of self-examination and realize what they really are.
  • Guilded Age: "The Five," Byron, Syr'Nj, Gravedust, Frigg, and Payet, may be heading for this as they are the only players of Kingdoms of Arkerra who are so immersed in the game that they believe it's their reality. The other player characters are a bit weirded out that "The Big Four" never break character or seem to understand that there is life outside of Arkerra.
  • Paradigm Shift hits female lead Detective Kate MacAllister with two in a row after the big reveal. First she finds out she's become a werewolf, then some time later she figures out that she mauled someone to death while transformed.

    Web Original 
  • Creepypasta:
    • The story titled "Mice" featured a narrator who had trained "mice" into becoming intelligent and making their own communities. He regularly kills some of the weaker ones to discourage any rebellion against him. In the end, it's revealed that the narrator is actually a robot and the mice are really people.
    • Another relates the story of a kid being adopted into a family and the subsequent murder of his family members by an unknown man, except for himself, who turns out to be a dog.
  • Parodied in the Creepypasta parody Ghastly Macaroni, in the story called "You were all the frogs." ("Warning spoiler title.") You keep finding frogs in your house and you keep putting them outside, but when you look in the mirror, you realise you were all the frogs and have therefore locked yourself outside.
  • Up until the Wham Episode in Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, every problem that befell upon either the Red or Blue teams was caused by the Freelancers and their many AI. So naturally, it was a very shocking twist to find out that Private Leonard Church was actually the original Alpha AI that had been split into all the other AI that the cast had been fighting throughout the entire series. On top of that, the director of Project Freelancer is the real Leonard Church. Furthermore, as Revelations has since revealed, Tex is also an AI, based off someone the Director lost, but loved so much his memories of her spontaneously created a separate AI. Church preferred to believe that he was a ghost.
  • In Super Stories, the genius roboticist Veldron eventually learns that he's a robot duplicate of the real Veldron, designed to be an Expendable Clone.
  • Defied in this Britanick sketch guest starring Joss Whedon.
  • The Darwin's Soldiers story Card of Ten follows the tale of Dr. James Zanasiu and his team through the antimatter world of Gaman. At the end, it's revealed that this Dr. Zanasiu is actually an antimatter copy of the real one, who's still back on Earth.
  • CollegeHumor:
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Super-Strong, Nigh Invulnerable superheroine Vindicator's backstory involves her parent's accidental death when agents of VIPER attacked a factory at which both of them worked, giving her the perfect excuse to become a hero. Turned out that she was actually a cloned, genetically engineered artificial lifeform who was cooked up in a VIPER lab for the sole purpose of infiltrating and eventually betraying the Global Guardians.
  • There are several reveals of this type in Ruby Quest. In chronological order:
    • Ruby was once very violent, and killed Stitches and Tom (they got better, sort of.)
    • Both Ruby and Tom are infected by the substance that created the 'zombies' fought earlier. The zombies themselves were normal people who the substance mutated until they became near-mindless monsters. Their names were later discovered to be Stitches and Daisy.
    • Finally, Tom Nook, who the players thought was the 'extremely dangerous' Subject #6, was actually Subject #5. Ruby's companion Tom was the real Subject #6 (although, in a variation, this reveal was only shown to the players themselves, not the characters).
  • 17776 ends its first chapter with the revelation that all of the main characters are actually space probes.
  • In Losing My Motivation, Logan learns Thomas has a lack of motivation and directly suspects Virgil (who personifies Anxiety) is the one responsible for it. But Virgil is not the one who caused it. It's Logan himself.
  • Luke's The Evil Within 2 choose-your-own-adventure quiz in Outside Xtra culminated in The Reveal that Ellen's character was a penguin all along, complete with Foreshadowing. Ellen is initially disgruntled, only to find the mental image of her penguin character flailing at a researcher hilarious, and accepted it.
  • In the Happy Tree Friends episode "Double Whammy", Flippy discovers that he has been killing all of his friends due to a Split Personality a la Jekyll & Hyde. He eventually confronts his demons in a Battle in the Center of the Mind taking place outside the real world, but by the time he was cured he was killed.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • "His Silicon Soul": A robot duplicate of Batman goes through this trope before his programming activates. The plan of the AI that created it is only foiled because the duplicate was programmed too well: it was programmed with all of the real Batman's personality traits, including his steadfast refusal to kill.
    • "Growing Pains": Clayface forms a separate sentient being, in the form of a young girl, to scout for him. She forgets who she is and is found by Robin who falls in love with her. She tells Robin of a man who is chasing her, and when they encounter him he seems to be her father; he tells the girl (Annie) that "It's time to come home." In the heartbreaking final scene, Annie realizes what she is, and throws herself into Clayface to save Robin, being absorbed in the process. Robin then throws batarangs into the tank of solvent above them, causing streams to pour out onto Clayface as he demands he bring Annie back. Since Annie gaining separate sentience was a fluke to begin with, Clayface can't. Batman catches Robin's arm just as he's about to hurl the batarang that will kill Clayface.
    • "Judgment Day": Two-Face was targeted by a violent vigilante who called himself the Judge, and was determined to get him first. He and Batman were in agreement on this, as the Judge had already nearly killed both the Penguin and Killer Croc, and eventually, nearly succeeded in killing Two-Face by turning his own hideout into a Death Trap - going to so far as to seal off an escape route that Two-Face thought only he knew about - that Batman had to get them both out of. As it turned out the Judge was actually a third personality of Harvey Dent himself, created in response to his Two-Face persona in order to fight crime. As Batman said in the end. "That's why he knew about the escape route. He knew everything about Two-Face... Except that he was Two-Face."
  • The Batman:
    • Batman and Robin try to distribute the cure for a madman's Zombie Apocalypse drug. Turns out they were the ones under the effects of a drug that gives you wild hallucinations about everyone else being a zombie, and that same hallucinogen was what they were about to spread through the entire city.
    • While D.A.V.E. is aware that he's a robot, he believes that he's a human supervillain who's been imprisoned inside of a robotic body - in reality, he's a computer program designed by Hugo Strange with the memories and abilities of Batman's rogues gallery. When Batman asks him about his origin, he rattles off the origins of several other villains and then has a meltdown when he realizes the truth.
      D.A.V.E.: "But . . . I am Gotham's ultimate criminal mastermind! I consider all possibilities! How could I not have considered . . . this?"
  • Still in the DC Animated Universe: Superman: The Animated Series: Bizarro is full of Fake Memories that have him convinced he's Superman. He even convincingly looked and acted like the real Superman, at least, initially...
  • Used in an episode of Legion of Super-Heroes. Superman relizes that he is actually the shape-shifting Ron-Karr, tricked into believing that he is Superman in order to be put to use as a spy.
    • And the only reason Ron-Karr was planted there was because Chameleon Boy (another shapeshifter) was planted in the villain's team with the same method, needing a similar Tomato in the Mirror moment to get him back.
  • Justice League:
    • A variation of this trope occurs when Superman and Wonder Woman had illusions in which they saw each other as monsters. Fighting ensues. After a while of brutal fighting from both sides, Superman discovered, to his astonishment, Wonder Woman's - not the monster's - reflection in water. Superman tried to expose the ruse to Wonder Woman, but found his attempts futile. Following a small, but brutally one-sided fight, Wonder Woman finally got an answer to "Where is Superman?!" The monster pointed to a mirror revealing that she had been fighting her friend the entire time.
    • In the two-part episode Legends a few members of the League get transported to an alternate universe. They find themselves in a bizarre world that is seemingly a pastiche of the retro Golden Age and Silver Age comic books, with its own (cornball) version of the Justice League, the Justice Guild of America, who regularly battle against equally cornball villains. However, after some investigation by Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, it's revealed that the entire city was a Lotus-Eater Machine created by a Reality Warper, and the real Justice Guild died long ago trying (and failing) to prevent a nuclear war; in other words, the current Guild learns that they aren't even real. When Ray attacks and defeats the League members, the Justice Guild ultimately decides to fight Ray despite knowing that defeating him would result in a Dream Apocalypse that would take them with it. "We died once to save this Earth. And we can do it again."
  • Ben 10: Alien Force has a duo (ex-trio) of alien hunters that think they were mutated by DNAliens, and hate all aliens. At the end of the episode, they are told that the reason they look like aliens is because They. Are. Part alien. NO. Really?
    • Also Tyler in the episode "Inside Man", turning out to be a DNAlien who still is fighting it and trying to be human.
  • At the cliffhanger end of the Season Two finale of Transformers Animated, Sari looks down at her injured elbow to see circuitry poking out, and her adoptive dad, robotics genius Isaac Sumdac, responds "We need to talk." In the next season, it's revealed that Sari was a Cybertronian Protoform Isaac somehow came across, and sampled his DNA to create her form.
    • Except Isaac isn't her adoptive dad. He's the genuine article, even when you consider the revelation of Sari's "birth". After all, his DNA was required in order to bring her "online" and was what made her part-Human, effectively making her his biological daughter at the same time as being a robotic alien.
  • Several examples in Futurama;
    • One of the "Scary Door" gags: "Why should I believe you? You're Hitler!"
    • In the episode "The Honking", Bender is run over by a "were-car" while staying at a mansion he inherited from his uncle. When people back in New New York are getting run over, Bender believes the were-car followed him, until it turns out Bender became a were-car himself.
    • Subverted in "Into The Wild Green Yonder". Fry looks around to find the person whose thoughts he can't read (the dark one). After not finding anyone, he concludes that he is himself the dark one, as his thoughts can't be read by other telepaths. However, the dark one is actually a small alien leech that Leela keeps nearby.
    • Played straight in Bender's Big Score though. Fry loses Leela to a man named Lars. He later travels to the past and splits in two, with the original Fry returning to the future and the time loop created copy staying and living 12 years in Fry's original time. When Bender travels back in time to kill this Fry, his attack burns Fry's hair off and damages his vocal cords, changing his voice. Time-loop Fry looks in the mirror and realizes that he is Lars and then travels to the future to court Leela.
    • In Rebirth an interesting variation occurs the first episode of the revived series. The Planet Express ship crashes after the events of the last movie, killing everyone, except the Professor and an amnesiac Fry, who is able to revive everyone with a stem cell machine. Leela remains in coma, so Fry builds a robot version of her in despair. The robot Leela learns of her true nature, but aside from some Angst, isn't concerned...until of course the real Leela wakes up, and they battle each other, so Fry is forced to shoot either one, and ends up shooting himself. Turns out Fry himself, was a robot, the real him was killed in the crash, while Leela, whom he shielded, survived. Since there was little left of Fry, Leela created a robot Fry. A malfunction, however, killed Leela forcing the Professor to use the rebirth machine on her along with the other dead crew members, and destroyed Robot Fry's memory. The issue is resolved when Fry is resurrected, and Robot Fry and Leela decide to hook up with each other.
  • On The Secret Saturdays, the Saturday family and their nemesis, V.V. Argost, spend the first season trying to retrieve clues that would help locate Kur, a dangerous ancient Sumerian being that ruled over all cryptids, only to find that Zak, who has always had the ability to communicate with these creatures, is Kur's reincarnation.
  • Played for Laughs by SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The page image is from the episode "Hall Monitor", in which SpongeBob and Patrick are out to catch a maniac who broke through open windows and caused car crashes. It's revealed to the audience about halfway through that SpongeBob himself is the maniac, and the rest of the episode derives a lot of its humour from the fact that he and Patrick can't figure it out despite how increasingly obvious it is.
    • In the episode "Rule of Dumb," when Squidward makes all of Bikini Bottom realize that "king" Patrick has no real power of authority, he goes on an angry tirade against SpongeBob, insisting he's not a corrupt ruler. When he realizes SpongeBob fearfully snuck out, Patrick decides to get himself the drink he ordered SpongeBob to get him, when he sees his monstrous reflection in the mirror. Only then does he realizes why ended up alone, and happily abdicates the throne.
  • In Ninjago, Zane has gone his whole life not knowing if he actually has any parents. Guided by a mysterious falcon, he eventually stumbles upon a hidden laboratory. He first discovers the falcon is actually a robot, then sees mysterious blueprints. Moments later, he realizes these aren't just any blueprints... they're his.
  • In Young Justice, Red Arrow was the most adamant about finding the mole in the team. It would turn out that he was unknowingly the mole and while under mind control, he put the entire Justice League under mind control as well. In the next episode it goes From Bad to Worse. He isn't even the real Roy Harper, but a clone created to be the villains' pawn.
  • Parodied in the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Blood Moon Ball" where a skeletal horse is shocked to discover that he's been dead all along.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, when Scarlet Spider learns he is not a teenager from the streets suffering from Doc Ock's brainwashing as he'd come to believe. Rather he is a Synthezoid imbued with Spider-Man's DNA. He does not take the revelation well, prompting a Heroic BSoD.
  • In one Robot Chicken sketch, two boys enter a junkyard, boasting that the junkyard dog won't catch them. The wrestler Junkyard Dog jumps out and one of the boys tells him he died in 1998. Junkyard Dog groans in disappointment, sprouts a halo and ascends to heaven.

    Real Life 
  • Secret Jewish heritage converts neo-Nazi
  • One incredibly sad example is that of David Reimer. He was circumcised at seven months old for phimosis, but his penis was burned beyond repair by failed electrocauterization. Therefore, he was sexually reassigned as a girl. He appeared to be feminine in the first few years of life, but then exhibited wholly masculine traits, leading to a mental breakdown in adolescence when as a social female he underwent aspects of male puberty despite having had estrogen treatment. At this point he finally learned the truth from his parents. He transitioned to male much as an FTM transgender person does, but felt haunted the rest of his life by the lies of his childhood, eventually culminating in his suicide at age 38. It didn't help that at this point he was already a textbook example in university sociology classes about the limits of social conditioning.
  • There's a museum in Galveston, Texas that had an exhibit on the world's most dangerous creatures, with pictures and a few of the smaller ones. At the end of the exhibit, there's a picture of "The deadliest creature in the world". There's only a mirror.
  • According to a "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" cartoon, a man was put in prison for attempted murder. It took years to find out who the man's would-be victim was, and it was eventually discovered it was himself!
  • Craig Cobb, a white supremacist who wanted to create a town just for white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, was shocked late in 2013 when a DNA test revealed he was 14% Sub-Saharan African. To be expected if you know about genetics and biology, but it was contrary to the ardent white supremacist's expectations.
  • While studying brain scans to search for patterns that correlated with psychopathic behavior, a neuroscientist named James Fallon found that his own brain fit the profile.
    • This last was replicated by Eli Roth in a documentary that the director filmed and hosted for the Science Channel about sociopaths and psychopaths. In addition to detailing many other tests that determine sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies, the director underwent a complete psychological profile, and thus found out that he possessed many of the traits that are commonly thought of as "sociopathic."
  • Inverted example, where the revelation in question was a surprise to everyone except the person it was about: the Mistaken Identity case of Laura van Ryn, a college student who was in a major accident with several other classmates, including another blonde student who closely resembled her, Whitney Cerak—thanks to the injuries sustained, her being unable to speak for a number of months after the accident, and the placement of a purse at the crash site, Laura's family sat by her bedside and did all they could to take care of her while Whitney's buried and grieved for the daughter they'd lost...only for everyone to discover the girl in the hospital was actually Whitney. It was made worse by the fact that the hospital staff was so convinced of their identification that they in turn dismissed Laura's family's suspicions and encouraged them to believe their daughter's written notes about her parents' names and calling them "false parents" was a case of amnesia or brain damage...so that until the truth came out, Whitney was in the position of actually knowing the truth, but unable to convince anyone of it. It would be easy to imagine her eventually losing her mind, unable to determine what was real or coming to believe she actually was Laura, if the mix-up had been sustained any longer.
  • This is how a lot of primarily obsessional OCD ("Pure-O") works: the sufferer constantly worries that they are something (a pedophile, psychopath, not truly in love with their significant other, gay or transgendernote , and more) they desperately do not want to be, and have gone their whole lives without realizing it. It's been said that Pure-O OCD is one of the worst psychological disorders to deal with, because it means you can't trust even yourself.

Alternative Title(s): Monster In The Mirror

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