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A character spontaneously starts crying, seemingly for no reason. When asked about it, even they don't know why they're doing it. There is inevitably a plot-relevant reason behind this.

Perhaps it's a repressed memory that has just been triggered, or maybe something bad has happened somewhere else and their Spider Sense is tingling. Whatever the reason, it's usually because their subconscious knows something that the conscious mind doesn't.

It is particularly likely to happen if the character is The Empath or has a Psychic Link to someone else. Another common variant involves a loved one that was somehow erased from existence.

For the nasal equivalent, see Sneeze Cut. Sub-Trope of My Significance Sense Is Tingling.

For characters who are just confused because they didn't know they were capable of crying, see My Eyes Are Leaking.

Examples of I'm Crying but I Don't Know Why include:


Anime and Manga

  • This happens in the end of Kannazuki no Miko; then Himeko, after her love Chikane is erased from existence, (including from Himeko's memory) looks at pictures that used be of her and Chikane, but now are only of her because of the erase, she starts to cry and she does not know why.
  • In Scrapped Princess, Pacifica starts crying when her accidental protector and surrogate big brother Fulle is killed elsewhere, even though, due to a case of Laser-Guided Amnesia, she doesn't have any memories of him anymore.
  • In the Karin manga (not the anime), Karin's vampire family removes all knowledge of them from her mind, so she can live happily without their burdens on her shoulders. When Kenta (who knows about the memory adjustment) asks about her family, Karin starts crying, but she doesn't know why. Cue Kenta's marriage proposal to Karin.
  • Rei does this on two occasions in Episode 23 of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • The first is after her conversation with the sixteenth Angel after it forces her to feel sadness. It's not that she doesn't know what sadness is, just that she's actually feeling physical manifestations of emotion.
    • The second is after she tries to destroy Gendo's glasses, having lost her memories of her time as Rei II. She feels sadness, but she doesn't know why.
  • In the movie of Howl's Moving Castle, this is implied to be the reason Sophie cries as she escapes from Howl's childhood.

  Sophie: I'm sorry, Heen. I know I need to keep running. I just can't seem to stop crying, that's all.

Comic Books

Film

  • In Star Trek Generations, Data cries when he finds his beloved cat Spot unharmed in the wreck of the Enterprise D. Not understanding why he is crying in spite of this event making him happy, Data assumes that his emotion chip must be malfunctioning. Deanna tell him that it's working just fine.

Live Action TV

  • Amy Pond does this in an episode of Doctor Who. She's actually crying for Rory, whom she doesn't remember because he was erased from existence.
    • It happens to Amy again in the Season Finale because she's forgotten The Doctor who was erased from existence but not his stories, which help her remember him and bring him back.
  • On Lost, Daniel cries while watching a news report about the Oceanic 815 crash. He says he doesn't know why.
  • On Friends, Phoebe goes through rapid mood swings later in her pregnancy. When she goes from hysterically laughing to bawling her eyes out, she just says "I don't know." in response to Rachel and Monica's concern.

Video Games

  • Happens often in the Kingdom Hearts series from Chain of Memories on, usually a character crying because of something they can't remember or a link to another character.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword, if you fulfill certain requirements you'll get a secret gaiden chapter in Hector's route. After Nergal's defeat, if you unlocked that chapter Nils will start crying for reasons he doesn't know, but the player has figured out: Nergal was his and Ninian's father.
  • At the end of Lufia II Rise of the Sinistrals, Tia, who previously had been Unable to Cry due to overly toughening herself since childhood, suddenly finds herself crying uncontrollably without knowing why. It's because her Unrequited Love Interest, Maxim, has just died.

Webcomics

 Student: Why are you crying, Dr. Physics Professor?

Professor: I... I'm not sure...

Web Original

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