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A Mental World is any world that exists inside a person's mind (or heart, soul, whatever, but not their physical body). Similar to Dream Land and Cyberspace, a Mental World does not follow the regular laws of physics, and may ignore or respond badly to characters trying to use logic or force. This world is usually entered by some type of telepathy, either magical or technological; if the character whose mind contains the Mental World is sleeping or unconscious their individual dreamworld may be physically attached to a larger Dream Land or collective unconscious, which makes it enterable by other dreaming or meditating people.
Symbolism is king here, sympathetic magic may be in operation, and puns, metaphors, and metamorphoses may be common. Because this world is based on an individual's (possibly incorrect) beliefs, it may contain multiple Evil Twin versions of both the owner's personality and that of anyone else they know, especially the people exploring the world. Sometimes this works in the other direction, and changes made inside the Mental World may change the beliefs of the individual who is the source of the world in question.
In other cases, this Mental World is more like a magical pocket dimension where the controlling mage can wage battles, imprison others, hide themselves from enemies, or even take a friend for a vacation. In this case the world does not necessarily exist strictly inside the character's mind, but still behaves as if it does because it is woven out of that person's magic and actively connected to that person's mind (and still generally representative of their 'self').
See also Journey to the Center of the Mind, Vision Quest. Tends to be a Wackyland, especially when exploring one's personal mind. For certain specific locations within Mental World, see Happy Place and its opposite, the Black Bug Room. Not to be confused with Womb Level.
Anime & Manga
- Paprika, based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's 1993 novel of the same name, involves people's Mental Worlds-- or rather, their dream worlds-- leaking out into reality.
- In the memorypunk universe of Kaiba a relatively common device is utilized which allows one to literally step into the mind of another person or simply click through their memories like a slideshow.
- In the Nasuverse, this is used as a powerful rare ability called a Reality Marble, where the user can temporarily overwrite the surrounding reality with a landscape representative of their soul/meaning.
- Fate/stay night had this as a major plot point, as the only thing that Archer (and Shirou, by extension) truly gained in his lifetime was his Reality Marble, Unlimited Blade Works, an endless, barren landscape littered with swords. It's the basis behind all of his techniques - all of the weapons he recreates come from this world of his, which is representative of his lifelong conflict between ideal and reality.
- Iskander, aka Alexander the Great, in Fate/Zero possesses the 'shared' Reality Marble "Ionioi Hetairoi" ("Army of the King"), which recreates the battlefields of his past and resurrects his army, many members of which have become Epic Spirits themselves, but comes at his call even after death. It is this display of kingship that finally forces Gilgamesh to recognize him as a Worthy Opponent.
- In Tsukihime, Canon has that it that in Yumizuka Satsuki's (nonexistent-but-eventually-will-exist) route she has her own Reality Marble representative of her continuous loss-without-gain called Depletion Garden, which sucks all the mana in the surrounding area dry (of course, it doesn't really benefit her directly).
- The term "Reality Marble" ("Innate Bounded Field" in Japanese) comes from a metaphor. In a bag of a hundred marbles, 99 are black and one is white. "Marble Phantasm" is the ability of spirits or elementals to changing the probability of picking the white one to 100%; "Reality Marble" is the unnatural ability to turn all the marbles white.
- Also Kagetsu Tohya for a non Reality Marble example. That would be spoilered considered it's part of The Reveal midstory... but it's kind of obvious.
- In Rozen Maiden, everyone's dream worlds are connected through the World Tree. Somewhere inside any given person's dream world is a tree that represents that person's mental and emotional well-being.
- Soul Eater has several examples.
- When the Weapons are transformed, they seem to exist (naked, usually) in a black, infinite empty space, which can sometimes be seen from outside as uncanny reflections on their metallic surfaces. Liz and Patti seem able to actually move around (Patti on one occasion turning up on Liz's “side.”)
- Soul's soul is depicted as a red and black decorated room with a piano in it. This may or may not be down to his having been infected with the black blood (we see it only after the Italy episode, but he has a longer history with the piano and what it seems to represent for him).
- Tsubaki's soul changes between a dark world filled with long, looming shadows and a clear blue sky over water, depending on whether or not the her brother is involved and how it's being used.
- Crona's soul is depicted firstly as an empty desert in which Crona is sitting in circle, where their insane/sad side is shown as a shadow. When Maka enters her soul and convinces Crona (both represented as young children) to leave the circle, the desert is replaced by an island with a blue sea surrounding it. The anime later uses this imagery when Crona runs out of Death City into an actual desert and somehow ends up in a big hole.
- In Bleach, Ichigo's Mental World is a city of skyscrapers… and gravity is at right-angles to normal, meaning that he fights his mental Battles standing on the sides of the buildings…
- …except when he's about to become a Hollow, then gravity rights itself and the buildings begin dissolving.
- In Naruto the main character oftentimes finds himself inside of his own mind, face to face with the Kyuubi for which his body serves as the container.
- Also one of the abilities of the Mangekyou Sharingan is the ability to trap an enemy's mind in a mental landscape complete with crosses and a weird red moon, in which time is altered so that days pass over the course of seconds.
- Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima was once trapped in his own Mental World represented by the Elaborate University High he teaches at with his Sink or Swim Mentor Evangeline slaughtering him for days in a world he can't completely die in. This was required to unlock his Deadly Upgrade. A bit of physical Blood From the Mouth was in order.
- Mad Scientist Dr. Kanzaki from Black Cat has the tao power of "Warp World", which creates one of these. He has total control over the contents and the senses of the people within.
- Yugi of Yu-Gi-Oh! features this in his Millenium Puzzle where the mind of Yugi is separated into two worlds, one which is like a toyroom to symbolize Yugi's naivete and innocence as well as his love for games while the other is a mishmash twist of traps, mazes and plains that defy the laws of physics to symbolize the depths of Atem's soul. To note though, if you fall to one of Atem's traps in the area, even if he did not want to kill you, you can still end up brain dead.
- One issue of the manga also showed Anzu's mental world, which was filled with things that emphasized her dreams of becoming a dancer.
- There's a few of these in Chrono Crusade, mostly shown when Rosette "dives" into a person's soul. Azmaria's world looks like a graveyard in pouring rain (although it's possible this was influenced by the demon possessing her at the time). Chrono's looks like the grave he was sleeping in when Rosette found him. It's also possible that Rosette's is a train, but given what was happening when we see her there, it's quite likely that was just her world's version of Purgatory.
- In Psyren, Lovable Coward Kabuto's powers are derived from a mental world, where a subconscious creature named Yoyo resides.
- Similarly to the Black Cat example, Road Kamelot in D Gray Man can draw people's minds into a world where she has total control. The one time we've seen her use it, she Mind Raped Lavi by confronting him with his Becoming the Mask.
- Code Geass has the World Of C, the world that is the link between Human Consciousness (including the memories of the dead) and the waking world which has a link to Geass... that no one ever explains, or possibly even knows about.
- Also, there's the White World, a mental world that C.C. and Lelouch appear in once, butt naked, while their minds are linked or something...
- And finally, C.C.'s World of Memories. When C.C. locks away her own code, she buries herself in a world filled with paintings that represent her memories... with some sort of caretaker C.C. walking around. Which, again, never explained, though I suppose the concept is common enough for people to understand.
- Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion frequently lapses into a hallucination of himself sitting in a commuter train at sunset. He's usually accompanied by a child version of himself sitting in front of the sun though at later points he sees Rei instead; sometimes he sees both at the same time with Rei standing to his left. The topic of conversation is always piloting. In End of Evangelion, he gets both Rei and Asuka at the same time: Rei sitting in her usual seat and Asuka standing right in front of him, one leg propped up onto his seat.
- While he's swallowed up in his Eva, he gets a radically different and very vivid hallucination implied to have been caused by Yui.
- And of course there is the original depiction of Instrumentality: the subject of the hallucination sitting in a chair, surrounded by various people while they mercilessly dissect his/her personality.
- In the TV series of Record of Lodoss War, Neese has to fight the spirit of Naneel within her own mind, over control over their shared body.
- The Witch's Labyrinths from Puella Magi Madoka Magica act as Mental Worlds that reflect the Witches that reside in them. Humans who stumble into a labyrinth usually do not leave alive, and a Magical Girl takes her life into her hands every time she enters one in order to fight a Witch.
- Spider-Girl has ventured both into her own mind and that of her father. The first is a typical Journey to the Center of the Mind, but the latter is much more up-front, as May struggles to free her dad from being mentally enslaved by the Green Goblin.
- The 1990s Marvel Comics character Sleepwalker became banished from the Mindscape and trapped in the mind of human college student Rick Sheridan, and could emerge into the human world whenever Rick slept. When Rick was awake, Sleepwalker was forced to stay in Rick's mind and often interacted with different parts of Rick's personality and memories.
- Elsewhere in Carla Speed McNeil's Finder is one of these, though outsiders can visit Magri's brain via technological means.
- In Human Of The Other Side, the character Raim Hanta's mind has reproduced several location of Japan he has visited. However, inside of it, sometimes a weird crossbreed between The Heartless and light doses of Psychological Horror, appear in order to kill him and/or screw his mind. The laws of physics there are fairly normal, but then he figures out he can walk over the surface of buildings. Oh, and there's a bridge which spirals up to the heavens. Damn his mind is messed up.
- ToyHammer has the 'mindscapes' which seem to be a Mental World mixed in with Forge Mode of Halo; characters can create and use weapons, buildings and whatever they wish to create and fight in this manner. Used to its full extent with weapons being thrown away in favor of creating new ones, buildings being used in miniature ColonyDrops and a literal wall of Gatling guns for... crowd control.
- Being John Malkovich features a climactic chase scene through the titular character's unconscious mind
- As does Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also written by Charlie Kaufman
- In Jim Henson's Labyrinth the eponymous labyrinth seems to be a magical extension of the mind of Jareth the Goblin King, and the crystal balls he uses each contain an illusionary world in which he can appear.
- The Cell is about a psychiatrist entering a now comatose serial killer's Mental World to find the whereabouts of his last captive before it's too late.
- The 1984 movie Dreamscape, in which certain people can go into the mindscape of dreamers, only the dreamer may not survive the encounter. Cue Dennis Quaid trying to save people from a psychopath who has learned how ot enter dreams and then control them.
- One could argue that Terry Gilliam's entire catalogue is this trope; he may have finally gotten it out of his system with "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus", in which an old man has a magic show in which he transports people into their own minds. Then he and the Devil present them with a choice to pursue beauty/truth/imagination or selfish id-fulfillment.
- Most of Inception takes place in a dream within a dream within a dream. But what really takes the cake is Limbo, where a dreamer can construct their own entire world, completely from scratch.
- In Sucker Punch the brothel and fantasy worlds take place in Baby Doll's mind.
- Pat Cadigan's virtual reality novels and short stories, especially Mind Players, feature characters exploring their own or others' minds, often for therapeutic purposes.
- Melissa Scott's Silence Leigh trilogy (aka Roads of Heaven) also has one character doing telepathic therapeutic work inside another's mind.
- CS Lewis' The Shoddy Lands explores a drab and self-centered landscape inside the head of a young woman.
- Similarly, Hell in The Great Divorce is a place where the damned can make their thoughts quasi-real. Since they aren't actually real, their functions are a bit impaired--houses don't keep out the rain, for instance. Really real things are the province of Heaven, and aren't subject to the whims of mere human thoughts.
- In Young Wizards book A Wizard Alone, the protagonists enter the mind of an autistic wizard several times.
- In the Discworld books, Samuel Vimes's mindscape is the city of Ankh-Morpork, empty at night, and it is always raining. The half-demonic entity trying to take him over in "Thud!" finds itself completely lost in this dark, unwelcoming city for a while before it's eventually kicked out.
- Remember, Sam Vimes loves dark and rainy nights.
- 1970s short-lived modern pulp series "Weird Heroes" had Doc Pheonix, a shrink who could enter patient's minds to fix them from the inside. One story had him treating a girl whose mental landscape was a nightmare version of Oz, with a demonic Raggedy Man standing in for her abusive father.
- Storm Constantine's novel Burying the Shadow involves a realm called the soulscape, which connects all people on a subconscious level. An individual's soulscape reflects their mental and spiritual health.
- Farscape. Since the implantation of Harvey, neural clone of Scorpius, Crichton had a shipload of mental world scenes- some based on places taken directly from his memory, others completely fantastical. But the most memorable was the Road Runner parody cartoon.
- One episode also allows a neural clone of Crichton to enter Scorpius' mind, depicted mostly as a dark shadowy landscape obscured by thick clouds of fog.
- Happens quite a bit in the Battlestar Galactica finale, as it's shared by several characters. What makes it interesting is that becomes a waking hallucination for everybody involved.
- In an The Outer Limits episode, a computer technician can use a specialized mainframe to enter the mental world of people trapped in comas. He uses this to try to save his love interest. Unfortunately, the protagonist forgot AI Is a Crapshoot with unusual results.
- The series finale of St. Elsewhere reveals that the entire show was a product of an autistic child's mind.
- The Attic in Dollhouse is revealed to be a long chain of nightmarish Mental World scenarios chained together to be a giant super computer.
- Sam is stuck in one in the season 6 finale of Supernatural after Castiel destroys the mental barrier that is keeping his traumatic memories from potentially turning him into a vegetable.
- Dean and Sam also enter Bobby's nightmare world in another episode.
- Star Trek loves these:
- When Captain Picard is almost fataly injured in The Next Generation, he meets Q in a featureless white space and is told he is dead. While Q gives him a chance to change his past and prevent his death that way, his body is shown to still be in sickbay, so most of the episode purely takes place in his mind. Q really only wanted him to understand why he is the man he is now.
- The Prophets in Deep Space Nine usually communicate with people within their minds, appearing as people the person knows well in a place familiar to them. (Which also saves a lot of money for special effects.)
- Though it seems to swallow up a persons body, the Nexus in the movie Generations has all the aspects of a Mental World.
- In Red Dwarf the crew encounter a "psi-moon", a physical planet that warps itself into the representation of someone's Mental World. Unfortunately it chooses Rimmer, leading to them being attacked by little black-cloaked figures that represent his self-loathing.
- Used as a premise for Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking, in which all scenes where Benedict Cumberbatch takes over the narration from Hawking are presumed to be thought-experiments playing out within the master physicist's mind.
- Warhammer 40000's Warp is a collective Mental World of the dreams and emotions of every sentient creature in the galaxy.
- It's also the only afterlife and home to 4 Chaos Gods(plus a few more) & an arbitrarily large number of demons.
- That's mainly because most sentient creatures in the galaxy don't have very much love or friendship.
- The Chaos Gods actually reprsent both positive and negative emotions, just taken to the extreme. Since they gain power from the emotions, they want their followers to feel as strong emotions as possible. So the deamons of the god of love rape you to death.
- Also home to the Ork gods Gork and Mork, the psychic manifestation of the Ork race. Given that the Orks vast numbers and simple mentality (endlessly enthusiastic and no real concept of defeat or despair), Gork and Mork appear to be invunerable and portrayed as simply laughing off any attacks by Chaos gods. Fortunately for everyone else they seem to have no plans other than cheering on the Orks and bashing each other over the head.
- It's also the only afterlife and home to 4 Chaos Gods(plus a few more) & an arbitrarily large number of demons.
- In New World of Darkness, both Mages and Changelings can travel into, and warp both their own dreams and the dreams of others. Mages can go further beyond the mere subconscious and into a person's Oneiros (one of the three Astral Planes), which is their own soulscape. It contains the Anthropomorphic Personification of their desire for self-improvement, their darker urges, their fears, and their Flaws and Derangements (if they have any). It also contains the sum total of all a person's knowledge and experience, albeit shrouded in metaphor and symbolism (or in the case of memories, the subjectivity of the experience). Its possible to travel even deeper into the Tenemos, which is the collective unconscious of humanity.
- American McGee's Alice has Alice fighting in Wonderland - a world that represents her mind. Given that at the time Alice is in an asylum, Wonderland is virtually a nightmare, twisted by her insanity and depression.
- The entire premise of Psychonauts is based around entering the mental worlds of others and fighting their Freudian Excuses.
- Some examples: An army-obsessed drill sergeant wannabe's mind is a Remilitarized Zone obstacle course. A Stoic's mind is a perfect, flat cube. A fun-loving lady's mind is a dance club with a perennial party going on. A conspiracy theorist's mind is a twisted neighborhood where everyone and everything are disguised agents of a malevolent conspiracy.
- Earthbound has Magicant, Ness's Mental World which he is forced to travel into in order to confront his inner demons.
- The dungeons in Persona 4 are created from the subconscious of the people who were kidnapped.
- In Shadow Hearts I and II, Yuri's Mental World is a graveyard, where monsters embodying his flaws and fears roam, waiting for him to fuse with their souls. It has an actual influence on the real world, as it finally digests Alice's soul.
- One key aspect of Silent Hill is the blurring between the physical world and the Mental World of a powerful psychic. Also many of the monsters that appear in the town take shapes directly related to the personal fears and troubles of the protagonists and in the case of Maria, can only be explained as creations of the protagonists mind. In Silent Hill 4, the main character is jumping across a number of an undead serial killer's memories.
- With Alma being an almost copy of Alessa of Silent Hill, the last fight in FEAR 2 takes place in a Mental World, which is a bleak and chaotic as one would expect.
- Following in Silent Hill's footsteps somewhat, Alan Wake has The Dark Place.
- Yume Nikki centers on exploring the very unsettling dream world of an (apparently) very disturbed little girl.
- Ar tonelico have Cosmospheres, Infelsphere and Fusionspheres, the first is located within every reyvateil's mind, the hero will do an activity called diving inside the reyvateil's cosmosphere, to solve their inner problems.
- In City of Villains, there are a few missions where a power psychic will send you into his mind so you can defeat his various paranoias and fears.
- Sirush's sidequest in The Reconstruction takes place in one...maybe. It could just be an example of Bad Dreams.
- In the third "Hive" story of the Whateley Universe, Hive/Samantha has one. Carmilla takes it over as a psychiatrist-slash-talk show host.
- Comedity sometimes showed the various sides of Garth's personality sitting around a conference table discussing what he should do next. It got particularly interesting when Karen fell through a plot hole *into* this mental world.
- In Red vs. Blue, Caboose is frequently subjected to mental invasion. During these times, his mind is depicted as a vast expanse of pillars populated by poor caricatures of the people he knows. Killing people inside of there (temporarily) destroys his memories of that person's real-life counterpart.
- Dept Heaven Apocrypha featured one of these during its infamous phantasmagoria event, wherein a Magic Misfire by Nessiah accidentally trapped several other students in a mental world created from his most horrific memories. Currently, Fia may have locked herself into one, but we're not sure yet.
- Zimmy from Gunnerkrigg Court appears to have one of these as a form of Blessed with Suck (since she has little control over whether or not she can enter it).
- Screw entering, she can't easily leave.
- At its worse, it begins transposing itself onto regular reality. In that state, other people can be affected by it the same way she is and it appears that sometimes things can latch onto others to escape.
- Screw entering, she can't easily leave.
- Orion from Beyond Reality is in his own in the current story arc, and it looks like it may be leading to a Battle in the Center of the Mind.
- Dominic Deegan does this occassionally to confront his enemies. He has no combat experience or knows any offensive magic, but within their minds even powerful mages have few chances to beat him.
- Nenshe from Rumors of War goes on a Journey to the Center of the Mind in the fifth Story Arc, which adds a heavy dose of Mind Screw to the story. He seems locked in a Groundhog Day Loop (Madness Mantra?) that returns him to the same sequence of thoughts until the voices in his head (represented by his teammates) help him break free.
- Ninth Elsewhere: Virtually the entire comic takes place in this type of setting, called elsewhere in-universe.
- In Shifters Ferrah ends up in her own one of these while hypnotized or dominated by a vampire's mental power. She also shows up there Naked on Arrival
- On The Fairly Odd Parents, Timmy's imaginary friend Gary gets trapped in his mind when he stops believing in him. Gary seeks revenge for being unjustly imprisoned, and uses the power of Timmy's mind dimension to imprison Timmy in his old nightmares. Timmy is able to defeat Gary when he realizes that since it is his mind, he can warp reality better than Gary can, and turns the closet monster he was afraid of when he was 5 into what it really was: a green sweater. He had since learned of real things to be afraid of, and counters Gary's attacks by conjuring an image of Vicky.
- Played with on SpongeBob SquarePants. When Squidward hypnotises Spongebob to make him a better waiter, we see the inside of his mind looks like a newspaper office. All the employees are mini versions of Spongebob, with a green visored "editor" telling the workers that he "just got an order from the boss." Then this happens:
Editor: Hurry up! What d'you think I'm paying you for?
Worker: You don't pay me. We don't even exist. We're just a clever visual metaphor used to personify the abstract concept of thought.
Editor: One more crack like that and you're outta here!
Worker: (Begging on his knees) NO, PLEASE! I HAVE THREE KIDS!
- On Pepper Ann, everyone's mind is full of robots that look and act like them. For example, Nikky's mind is organized like an enormous library card catalog. When Pepper Ann tries to cram for a trivia competition, they all go a little crazy. One gets frozen from all the iced coffee she drinks to stay awake. At the end, one of them finally gets so frustrated that it screams, "That's it, I quit!"
- American Dad: Roger's mind consists of animals made out of TVs, tall Oreo mountains and Chocodiles that turn into party balloons.
- An early episode of Teen Titans had Beast Boy and Cyborg fall through a magic mirror of Raven's and wind up in a bizarre otherworldly landscape, which turns out to be Raven's own mind. They encounter spooky hazards and the personifications of Raven's suppressed emotions.
- Lucid Dreaming could be considered a type of mental world in that the dreamer has the power to control everything like a god, without having to abide by any laws of logic because of their level of self awareness, making it less of a Dream Land, and more of a seemingly real (but completely controlled) fantasy.