Created By: RazorSmile on December 15, 2013 Last Edited By: RazorSmile on July 18, 2016

Anti Inorganic Attack

Only Flesh Is Safe

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
This trope describes a weapon or superpower that explicitly damages/affects inanimate objects but has absolutely no effect on living organic matter. It of course does not stop the user from, say, dropping a building on their foe, taking out the floor beneath their feet or blowing up the power source of their powered armor. For instance.

Can be considered a Super Trope of The Nudifier but includes all the less prurient examples. Overlaps with As Lethal as It Needs to Be. Contrast with Neutron Bomb (which destroys organic matter only), Selectively Lethal Weapon and Could Have Been Messy (both of which are extradiegetically brought on by poor editing and age restrictions respectively.)


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Ranma : Ryouga's Breaking Point attack turns out to have this limitation (the real point of the training was to make him Made of Iron).
  • Mid-Childan combat magic in Lyrical Nanoha is like this: you'd think that an energy beam that can pierce through layers upon layers of heavy spaceship armor would vaporize bare flesh instantly, but no, it merely knocks the target unconscious with not so much as a burn. Most cuts and bruises the characters sustain in combat actually come from secondary sources, like being slammed into a wall or caught under falling debris.
  • Caitian weaponry in Cat Planet Cuties focuses specifically on destroying material matter. In the 2nd episode, anti-matter hammers are used to destroy a battalion of tanks, and the clothes of the pilots inside. Later on in the series, anti-matter bullets are used to defuse a hostage situation by shooting the gun pointed at someone's head.
  • One Piece
    • The Fuwa Fuwa No Mi power is a bit of a mixed-case: it is a levitation power that can only affect the user himself — and inanimate objects. All other organic matter and lifeforms are immune to direct use.
    • Gladius' Pop Pop Fruit power is to make any non-organic object inflate and then pop, potentially spreading harmful shrapnels. Played with that it can be used on Living Toys as they're made of non-organic matter.
  • Dog Days: Within the world of Flonyard, there exists areas where people can not be injured and are instead temporarily turned into fluffy little balls or receive Clothing Damage. Kingdoms mainly use these to engage in Harmless War for Fun and Profit.

Comic Books
  • Marvel Universe
    • X-Men villain Avalanche originally had the power to create seismic effects that shattered buildings but did nothing to living organic matter. At some point, he lost that particular weakness.
    • In his first appearance, the Molecule Man from the Fantastic Four comics was incapable of affecting organic matter.

Literature
  • Steelheart
    • Tensors can pulverize most matter, but can't affect flesh (at one point a skilled user punches some Enforcement mooks while disintegrating holes in their body armor for his fist to go through).
    • Steelheart's metal-transmutation power also can't affect living beings, and many other Epic powers are the same.

Tabletop Games
  • World-Weathering Incandescence from Exalted is a charm that lets the infernal burn and destroy inanimate non-magical objects (like walls and floors and ceilings) with a single fiery blow.
  • Matter powers from Mage: The Awakening, which only directly affect non-living matter.
  • Champions
    • It's possible to give attacks that normally affect living creatures (such as Energy Blast and Ranged Killing Attack) a disadvantage such as "Doesn't affect living creatures". This allows the character to use the attack freely without worrying about accidentally harming the innocent or violating a Code vs. Killing. It's particularly useful when applied to area effect attacks.
    • In The Great Super Villain Contest, the villain Annihilator has a 6d6 Ranged Killing Attack Explosion that only affects inorganic objects.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Any spell in that lists its target as "object" will not affect creatures. A few do make an exception for constructs.
    • Leprechauns from 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons had "polymorph non-living" as one of their most annoying talents.

  • Paranoia
    • One type of gas shell available for the cone rifle is Corrosion Gas. It destroys all metal in the area of effect (such as armor and the bodies of robots). It has no effect on living creatures.
    • A Gauss Gun sends out a powerful electromagnetic charge that has a devastating effect on electronics (including robots and computers). It doesn't affect organic beings.

Video Games
  • In SSI's Galactic Adventures, one of the weapons was a Heat Ray Gun that could destroy solid objects (like walls) but had no effect on opponents.
  • The Repair/Destruct power from Memoria can only affect non-living objects.
  • Depending on the patch, the Ultralisk and Reaper in Starcraft II have an attack that does a lot of damage, but can only hit buildings.

Web Original
  • Web serial Worm
    • Faultline can split apart any object she touches by tracing lines on it with her fingers, in effect creating her own Shatterpoints. It doesn't affect organic material, be it flesh, leaves or wood.
    • Many other Worm characters share that limitation such as Vista, who can only bend space unoccupied by biological life and Rune, whose telekinesis only works on inanimate objects. This is because of the Manton effect, which is theorized to be a psychological block that prevents some capes from using offensive powers directly on living targets, and later revealed to be the shards keeping their host parahumans from accidently harming themselves with their powers. As a result, capes with offensive powers that don't fall under the Manton effect tend to be extremely dangerous to fight.

Western Animation
  • The "Argon Matrix Laser" from Spider-Man: The Animated Series was explicitly incapable of harming organic matter but it could damage clothing and even severed two of Doctor Octopus' cybernetic limbs.

Needs a Better Title, Needs More Examples and Rolling Updates of course apply.
Community Feedback Replies: 88
  • December 15, 2013
    KantonKage
    Isn't this The Nudifier. EDIT: oh wait you could add certain magic in Fairy Tail like Urtear's Time Arc (which allows her to be able to control the time of inanimate objects and vegetation) and Midnight's reflector (that can bend, and deflect inanimate objects).
  • December 15, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    Materiel does not mean what the OP wants it to mean. that said, can't think of an alternative.
  • December 15, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    Indeed. And anti-materiel weapons in the real world are quite capable of splattering personnel as well.
  • December 15, 2013
    Chernoskill
    I guess it's hard to find a fitting word for this :)

    Anyway, things like EMP weapons would count.
  • December 15, 2013
    ZuTheSkunk
    @Kanton Kage: Perhaps it could added like this:

    Compare The Nudifier, where a bomb is specifically meant to destroy only clothing.
  • December 15, 2013
    Chabal2
    Meltabombs, EMP and Haywire grenades in Dawn Of War only damage vehicles and buildings for balance reasons. In the 40K verse, they can be used against living targets.
  • December 16, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced work names, created Examples section, sorted examples by media.

    Tabletop Games
    • In Champions it's possible to give attacks that normally affect living creatures (such as Energy Blast and Ranged Killing Attack) a disadvantage such as "Doesn't affect living creatures". This allows the character to use the attack freely without worrying about accidentally harming the innocent or violating a Code vs. Killing. It's particularly useful when applied to area effect attacks.

    Video Games
    • In SSI's Galactic Adventures one of the weapons was a Heat Ray Gun that could destroy solid objects (like walls) but had no effect on opponents.
  • December 16, 2013
    SKJAM
    • Ranma One Half: Ryouga's Shattering Point attack turns out to have this limitation (the real point of the training was to make him Made Of Iron).
  • December 16, 2013
    RazorSmile
    @Arivne: thanks for the edits. Really cleaned up the entry nicely.
  • December 16, 2013
    DracMonster
    I think I've seen this used a few times as a excuse for Psychic Powers causing Clothing Damage and Fan Service.
  • December 16, 2013
    DAN004
    The Nudifier is pretty much a comedy/fanservice specific subtrope of this. =P
  • December 16, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • Caitian weaponry in Cat Planet Cuties focuses specifically on destroying material matter. In the 2nd episode, anti-matter hammers are used to destroy a battalion of tanks, and the clothes of the pilots inside. Later on in the series, anti-matter bullets are used to defuse a hostage situation by shooting the gun pointed at someone's head. Clothes do get destroyed in the process, but most of the female cast stays focused enough at the task at hand as to not succumb to Defeat By Modesty.
  • December 16, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ that's The Nudifier. this one's for serious usages.

    EDIT: reading your example, it counts, Played With.
  • December 17, 2013
    Koveras
    • Mid-Childan combat magic in Lyrical Nanoha is like this: you'd think that an energy beam that can pierce through layers upon layers of heavy spaceship armor would vaporize bare flesh instantly, but no, it merely knocks the target unconscious with not so much as a burn. Most cuts and bruises the characters sustain in combat actually come from secondary sources, like being slammed into a wall or caught under falling debris.
  • December 17, 2013
    Arivne
    Added text to the Mage The Awakening example so that it wouldn't be a Zero Context Example.
  • December 17, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare Anti Armor.
  • December 17, 2013
    shimaspawn
    This looks like a supertrope to several tropes that we already have like The Nudifier. Nice work spotting it.
  • December 17, 2013
    meerkatspy55
    Needs a better description.... Current one is kimoi~.
  • December 17, 2013
    DRCEQ
    The Cat Planet Cuties example is NOT Played For Laughs or just for the fanservice. The series has a pretty solid story behind it, and the anti-matter weapons are used seriously more often than not. The fact that it also happens to be The Nudifier is only a coincidence. It is a straight example of this trope, but it needs to be pointed out that many of the examples for this trope will also fit under The Nudifier for various reasons.
  • December 17, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Played With does not necessarily mean "played for laughs/fanservice". It's usually a shorthand for "it's not played straight but this trope was definitely kept in mind when writing it".
  • December 17, 2013
    DRCEQ
    All the same, the main difference between labeling an example here or under The Nudifier is whether it was intended to destroy clothing, or if it just happens to be an unintended side effect.
  • December 17, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ straight yes, but denying it's not also The Nudifier (hence Played With, because it's both serious and for Fan Service) is like denying that it's an ecchi show.

    i've seen it by the way, and it's definitely a solid love letter to action movies with lots of shoutouts and decon/reconstructs lots of tropes.
  • December 17, 2013
    DRCEQ
    Well, I'm not trying to deny The Nudifier aspect, but I just want to make sure that it counts as an example for this proposed trope because the weapons are never used specifically for that purpose of making people naked.

    Anyways, I think the name could be better. For a proposed supertrope, I want to say Unbiological Weapon... as little as that makes any sense. Or maybe Non Lethal Anti Material Weapon, or... this might be tough to name without making it sound corny or overly long. :/
  • December 17, 2013
    KZN02
    See also Phlebotinum Bomb?
  • December 17, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    the word Materiel has no place in this YKTTW. it refers to weapons and equipment. not "non-biological" matter.
  • December 18, 2013
    DAN004
    IDK, do you think this is covered by Anti Armor and Wrecked Weapon?
  • December 19, 2013
    RazorSmile
    @ShanghaiSlave: I concur but (i) you have to admit it comes pretty close. Most people using an anti-inanimate-matter attack will be using it against ... weapons and equipment. And structures. No? AND (ii) if you suggested a better name, I would happily and immediately change it.
  • December 19, 2013
    randomtroper89
  • December 19, 2013
    RazorSmile
    ^^RazorSmile — yeah.... good point.

    how about "a weapon that only affects non-living things"? for the laconic?
  • December 21, 2013
    Arivne
    Should be "An attack that only affects non-living things". That would allow spells, super powers (etc.) as well.
  • December 21, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Like.

    Maybe there should be an inversion where there's an attack that only harms living beings (while harmless to the clothes, buildings etc)
  • December 21, 2013
    DAN004
  • January 6, 2014
    SharleeD
    • Any spell in Dungeons And Dragons that lists its target as "object" will not affect creatures. A few do make an exception for constructs.
  • January 10, 2014
    dalek955
    • Tensors from Steelheart can pulverize most matter, but can't affect flesh (at one point a skilled user punches some Enforcement mooks while disintegrating holes in their body armor for his fist to go through). Steelheart's conversion power also can't affect living beings, and many other Epic powers are the same.
  • January 10, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Pulled a hat from this. Hats are to be given only when the draft is ready to be launched in its current state. We can't launch a trope with a one sentence long description.
  • January 10, 2014
    DAN004
    Is this Up For Grabs yet?
  • January 11, 2014
    Boston
    In the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise, heroes have a variety of combat spells. Most deal damage to creatures, but some, like Earthquake, deal damage to opponents' castles. The hero's catapult also only works against castles; the hero's ballista only works against creatures. The Cyclops in HOMM 3 have an attack which they can direct against castles, too.

    In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot of medieval siege warfare games where you have some attacks against creatures, and some attacks against castles, catapults, or other structures.

    In Magic: The Gathering, a hero can cast a spell like Murder, which destroys one creature, or Stone Rain, which destroys one land. Even though the creatures nominally live on the land, destroying it won't damage them.
  • January 11, 2014
    dalek955
    Razor, when you copy posted examples to your list, what you want to do is click the post's edit icon and copy from the edit pane. That way you get all the links and italics and so on.

    Just be sure not to click the "enter changes" button to close the edit pane, though, otherwise your name overwrites the poster's.
  • January 14, 2014
    RazorSmile
    @dalek955: I normally do that. I must have been sleepy or something. Fixed and thanks.
  • January 14, 2014
    DAN004
    Improve description plz...
  • January 20, 2014
    RazorSmile
    @DAN004: Lengthened description and added quite a few more examples. An improvement, I hope.
  • January 20, 2014
    DAN004
    So there is a weapon that targets only organic matter. Didn't expect it to be a Neutron Bomb tho. :P
  • January 22, 2014
    dalek955
    Possible laconic: Kills buildings but leaves people standing.
  • January 22, 2014
    aurora369
    A Russian joke (into Humor category): Cold War era. Two generals argue, one American and one Soviet. The American says: "We shall drop a neutron bomb on you. This is a superweapon that kills people but leaves everything valuable intact." The Soviet general answers: "And we shall unleash a platoon of warrant officers on you. This is a superweapon that steals everything valuable but leaves people alone".
  • January 22, 2014
    DAN004
    Needs a better title...
  • February 9, 2014
    RazorSmile
    I disagree. I think the title is fine as is. That said, any and all are welcome to offer alternatives.
  • February 9, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ I agree, So Okay Its Average. Creature Avoiding Attack... damn, not even an improvement.
  • February 10, 2014
    DAN004
  • April 9, 2014
    dalek955
    • A real-life example would be the EMP.
  • April 9, 2014
    DAN004
    Change the title plz.
  • April 9, 2014
    dalek955
    You know, the current laconic would make a decent title.
  • April 9, 2014
    Astaroth
    • There are spells in The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion that can corrode an opponent's weapons and armor without harming them. (Don't know if they were also in the earlier Elder Scrolls games, but they were removed from Skyrim)
  • April 9, 2014
    Lumpenprole
    The Terminator movies had as a plot point that the time travel effect either destroyed or couldn't transport non-living matter (or at least inert matter, as the T-series demonstrated.)
  • April 9, 2014
    dalek955
  • April 9, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Wrecked Weapon.
  • April 10, 2014
    Arivne
  • April 15, 2014
    needsanewhobby
    The so-called "dip" from Who Framed Roger Rabbit cannot affect humans, only toons. (So it qualifies depending on whether or not you interpret toons as alive.)

    The sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who:
    "It doesn't kill, it doesn't hurt, it doesn't maim. But it is very good at opening doors."
  • April 15, 2014
    aurora369
    2 Astaroth: these spells were in Morrowind, too. Using them was one of the ways to rob Divayth Fyr of his set of Daedric armor.
  • April 24, 2016
    RazorSmile
    Sooooo ... this never got launched. Surprising; there are loads of examples. Guess we just never settled on a name?
  • April 24, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ the laconic is better for the title.
  • April 25, 2016
    Prime32
    Worm goes far broader with this than just Faultline. By default, all powers are limited to either living things only or inanimate objects only. It's called the Manton Effect, and those rare few who can bypass it are considered extremely dangerous.
  • April 25, 2016
    zarpaulus
    • The second Futurama movie had a dimensional rift whose energies shorted out machines but were safe for living things.
  • April 25, 2016
    iNfiniTeSe7eNz
    Do we make/have/list inversions, such as Halo featuring the titular installations as a specific anti-organic superweapon?
  • April 25, 2016
    DAN004
  • April 25, 2016
    iNfiniTeSe7eNz
    Wait, I just found Depopulation Bomb, which is a more generalized version.
  • April 25, 2016
    Eggy0
    Not necessarily involving inanimate objects, but it's still about non-organic matter.
    Western Animation
    • Steven Universe: "The Return" and "Jailbreak" introduces Gem Homeworld weapons and jail cells utilizing a force-field-like barrier that can deter and even harm Gemsnote . But Steven, being half-human and half-Gem, is organic and can't be harmed by them, allowing him to escape from his cell and free Pearl, Amethyst and Garnet (whilst she was split into Ruby and Sapphire).
  • April 26, 2016
    Arivne
  • April 27, 2016
    FerrousFaucet
    The opening has links to both As Lethal As It Needs To Be and Selectively Lethal Weapon, but they are the same trope now. Maybe they were merged after this was made, but as it stands now, both links are not necessary.
  • April 27, 2016
    DAN004
    • another for Onr Piece
      • Gladius' Pop Pop Fruit power is to make any non-organic object inflate and then pop, potentially spreading harmful shrapnels. Played with that it can be used on Living Toys as they're made of non-organic matter.
  • May 2, 2016
    RazorSmile
    Out of curiosity, a number of people have a problem with Only Flesh Is Safe as a title. Does it make some lascivious reference that I'm too square to get? What's so objectionable about it?
  • May 2, 2016
    ErikModi
    It could be seen as that, but it's also rather non-descriptive. I clicked this out of curiosity, had no idea what it meant.

    That said, I like it.
  • May 24, 2016
    Chabal2
    • Depending on the patch, the Ultralisk and Reaper in Starcraft II have an attack that does a lot of damage, but can only hit buildings.
    • Command And Conquer Generals: Weapons that are highly effective against units (machine guns, flashbangs, fire, anthrax...) are almost useless against vehicles, though they still take Scratch Damage from them.
  • May 24, 2016
    DAN004
    Maybe, along the lines of Anti Cavalry or Anti Armor, call this Anti Non Organic?
  • May 24, 2016
    DAN004
    Maybe, along the lines of Anti Cavalry or Anti Armor, call this Anti Non Organic?
  • May 24, 2016
    iNfiniTeSe7eNz
    Anti Inorganic would be more proper than Nonorganic.

    Also, the trope description references Neutron Bomb, which is a subtrope of Depopulation Bomb, which is the proper antithesis of this trope. Should fix that.
  • May 25, 2016
    DAN004
    Btw, let me ask the dreaded question of "who's in charge of this one".
  • May 25, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Webcomics
    • While playing an online adventure game, Pip of Sequential Art encounters "canyon worms" in panel #260 that splash adventurers with oil that makes it difficult to grasp weapons and wear armor. Pip's companion, a female elf mage, calls for help because the oil is making her armor fall off from her already stripperific outfit. Pip's aid must wait until he's done capturing screenshots of the nubile denuded elf.
  • May 26, 2016
    RazorSmile
    @DAN 004: in charge? No comprende.
  • May 26, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ lel you're still here.

    So have the examples been added?
  • July 8, 2016
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Paranoia
      • One type of gas shell available for the cone rifle is Corrosion Gas. It destroys all metal in the area of effect (such as armor and the bodies of robots). It has no effect on living creatures.
      • A Gauss Gun sends out a powerful electromagnetic charge that has a devastating effect on electronics (including robots and computers). It doesn't affect organic beings.
  • July 9, 2016
    DAN004
    Plz add the other One Piece example
  • July 10, 2016
    RazorSmile
    On it.
  • July 12, 2016
    Arivne
  • July 15, 2016
    RazorSmile
    Thanks, Arivne. I was off TVtropes for a few years and hadn't quite gotten with the program on some of the changes in policy. I get it now.
  • July 14, 2016
    Gamermaster
    Dog Days: Within the world of Flonyard, there exists areas where people can not be injured and are instead temporarily turned into fluffy little balls or receive Clothing Damage. Kingdoms mainly use these to engage in Harmless War For Fun And Profit.
  • July 16, 2016
    RazorSmile
    Haven't seen Dog Days but, while the Clothing Damage might count toward this trope (I suspect it falls more under The Nudifier though), the transformations definitely do not.

    Do their attacks damage scenery or just clothing/armor?
  • July 16, 2016
    Gamermaster
    The scenery still gets damaged.
  • July 18, 2016
    RazorSmile
    @Gamermaster: Aight, cool. Added with thanks.
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