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All Deaths Final
None cometh from thence
That he may tell us how they fare.
Lo, no man taketh his goods with him.
Yea, none returneth again that is gone thither.
— "The Song of the Harp-Player", Ancient Egyptian poem found inscribed on a tomb.

In some settings, even Magic and/or Applied Phlebotinum can't bring back the dead. Sure, it can stop time, create energy, fly... but trying to restore life to a dead body is out of the question (and likely forbidden anyway, just to make sure). Expect the Eccentric Mentor to go into full-tilt grim mode if someone even remotely mentions the subject.

Of course, the fact that it can't (or shouldn't) be done also makes it an excellent MacGuffin: It's pretty common for an idealistic hero grieving over the death of a friend or loved one to search out ways to bring them back — and usually give up after deciding that some things are better left alone; if they don't, something usually goes wrong, like something else came back instead. Alternatively, perhaps bringing someone Back from the Dead is possible, but due to the nature of the power at work (whether or not it's actually forbidden) it almost never happens anyway. (Meaning that if people are still usually resurrected in this kind of world, it tends to be a very big deal.) This is usually an Author's Saving Throw against trivializing Death in a world where it would otherwise be a minor inconvenience.

This doesn't mean that every character reported dead is, in fact, dead, even when No One Could Survive That. Even in works that manifest this trope, it's possible that they Never Found the Body, that Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated, that the Almost Dead Guy who was Left for Dead pulled through off screen, or that someone was Faking the Dead outright. But when a body is found, the only way you're going to see that character again will be as a Posthumous Character.

And of course, even this doesn't trump the First Law of Resurrection — though it simply must be said that trying to invoke that Law in an all-deaths-final setting will not sit well with the audience.

Compare Healing Magic Is the Hardest, contrast Death Is Cheap. See Killed Off for Real for when this is applied to individual deaths (where resurrection in general could otherwise happen). Possible subtrope of Equivalent Exchange. Contrast Deader than Dead where only certain types of death are final. See Final Death for the video game version.

Needless to say, this trope is usually Truth in Television (although some scientists are hoping to change that), and works set in mundane worlds without magic or "sufficiently advanced" technology needn't be mentioned.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, human transmutation — trying to bring back dead people through Alchemy — is forbidden. The whole series is kicked off when the protagonists try to bring someone back and have a close encounter with Truth as a result. The end result: Truth takes Al, and Ed's leg, in payment for returning a barely functional organ pile (which, as it turns out, wasn't even derived from the deceased - bringing people back from the dead really is impossible). Things taken by Truth do not count as 'dead', however, and Ed is able to retrieve Al's soul by sacrificing his arm for it.
    • It gets a bit more complicated. Al wasn't just "payment". Al's body was taken by Truth, but since a soul cannot be created with alchemy, Al's soul was put into the thing that was created. The transmutation that took Ed's arm was used to transfer the soul into a more stable host, the armor.
    • The series eventually ends with Ed learning what it'll take to bring an entire human back out from the other side: his ability to perform Alchemy — his own internal connection to Truth.
    • The 2003 anime version further compounds this: Each time an alchemist performs human transmutation, what comes back evolves into a Homunculus - the deceased brought back by human transmutation, just... not totally themselves. Also, Alphonse managed to bring back Edward, who had just been killed by Envy, back from the dead using himself as the philosopher's stone. Ed managed to bring Alphonse back using himself and ended up in our world instead of dead while Alphonse was brought back with his human body... It can be said that the whole 2003 anime is Ed and Al learned exactly what level of Equivalent Exchange is required to return life to the dead - an exchange of body, mind and soul, a full human being for a full human being.
  • Ojamajo Doremi falls into the latter category of this trope; using magic to bring the dead back automatically kills the caster upon success.
  • This is the general rule for CLAMP series, even in a world like Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle where you have otherwise massively powerful magic at work. (In fact, the denizens of that world attempting to break said rule is what kicks off the massive Gambit Pileup that we're just starting to get a peek at now.)
    • This is one rule that CLAMP has set in stone, actually, and the breaking of it during the Tsubasa Non-Serial Movie was a factor in their abandonment of the original anime adaptation.
    • Of course, it really comes down to the wording. No coming back from the dead, but having your Reality Warper boyfriend convince the universe to ignore your death and proceed normally achieves a similar effect, if only temporarily (a thousand years, give or take). Just ask Yuuko.
  • Naruto has generally followed this line of thought. When a character has been shown to really and truly die, they stay dead. When they don't, it was usually a blatant fake-out of some kind.
    • Until Shippuden reveals that resurrection is extremely costly, but doable with the right ancient knowledge, limited to the recently deceased, and possible only for the one guy with the God Mode ocular jutsu, the Rinnegan. Which means don't expect it to happen again. Turns out there are two other characters with the Rinnegan, but given that they're the Big Bad Duumvirate, good luck getting them to sacrifice themselves to revive fallen heroes.
      • The cost is arguable, as a person who was already exhausted could revive a large number of people. And it's even cheaper to revive a person as a zombie, apparently with their thoughts and memories intact, though without an independent will, as done by Orochimaru. Note that the Zombie method requires you to KILL someone. That is, one death for every person you bring back as a zombie.
      • And even then, those who are brought back as a zombie aren't truly "alive." They're dependent on the chakra reserves of the caster of the technique, and when dispelled return to the land of the dead. Hence, they're called zombies since their existences are not permanent — meaning, unless somebody uses the Rinnegan to revive them, they are still technically dead.
  • In Toward the Terra, the Mu can read thoughts, perform astonishing feats of telekinesis, fly through space unaided, teleport, and do all manner of fantastical mutant stuff. But once a character is dead, they are dead.
  • One of the rules in Death Note. In the end of the manga, while Light is begging Ryuk to save him from death, Ryuk says that there is no way to do it. The last page (as a follow-up to a previous statement) says, "Once they are dead they can never come back to life."
  • Technically, this holds true in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Returning a soul to a body is said to be impossible. But screwing with the space-time continuum so they never died in the first place is fine, if difficult. Future Diary works like this too.
  • Digimon Tamers, being a Deconstruction of the previous Digimon series, works this way. There is no village where data forms in eggs, loose data won't sometimes coalesce into ghosts, and absorbing another Digimon's data only makes you stronger (and, in some cases, gives you access to their attacks) and doesn't allow the previous mon to live on inside you. So when Digimon die, they die for good.
    • Digimon Savers has a variation. Though Digimon effectively turn back into eggs immediately upon dying, they are reborn as new people without any knowledge of their former lives. The only exception seems to exist with partner digimon who have a strong connection with their humans. However, a straight example exists in the victims of Kurata's Gizmon, artificial digimon whose beams cause their victims to be permanently deleted when struck by them.
  • While Miranda Lotto's Innocence power in D.Gray-Man allows her to turn back time (which doubles as a healing ability as she can turn back time on recent injuries,) she can't use it to bring back the dead. Not that the revived person would stay alive for long if she could, as everything returns to normal after she deactivates it (she can, however, keep a person alive after they suffer a fatal injury in the meantime.)
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Despite the highly advanced magic and technology of the setting, if a person is dead, they stay dead. You could try to make a clone of them and stuff their mind with memories, but all you'll get is a lookalike that has their own personality. The closest thing to a resurrection in the franchise were the Dark Pieces in The Gears of Destiny, which were Virtual Ghosts that could only stick around long enough to come to terms with their death and clean-up some Unfinished Business. Even the Reincarnation in Vivid is explicitly mentioned to just be a case of someone inheriting their ancestor's memories, rather than the continued existence of said ancestor. The only ones who could come back to from the dead are the various Ridiculously Human Magitech Programs of the Book of Darkness, who have Resurrective Immortality as part of their schtick—they are not so much "resurrected" as restored from the latest backup.
    • The Big Bad of the original anime seeks to avert this trope. Whether she actually had any chance of success is unclear, but the method she was trying to use was something the heroes had to stop because it ran the risk of causing severe multiversal damage just to maybe bring back one person. Precia was too crazy to care about the risk.
  • Player deaths are permanent in Sword Art Online, which is about MMO gamers trapped in the game- if the player's HP drops to 0, the hardware fries their brain. Later an item is found that can revive someone, but it only has a ten second window between character death and player death. In the later arcs, this aspect is no longer present in the VR games (the newer-generation hardware used to play the games doesn't allow for a kill-the-player-in-reality function), though some characters do die in reality for other reasons.
  • Stands have incredible power in Jojos Bizarre Adventure, but one hard rule is that they cannot raise the dead. They can cure wounds so grievous it's amazing there's anything left to cure, and they can bring you back from the very brink of death. But once the soul departs, there is not and never will be a Stand that can undo this. The closest they can get is turning back time to undo the death in the first place, and even the extremely rare Stand with that power has massive limitations to what it can do.

    Comic Books 
  • PS238 followed this trope, until it brought a Mostly Dead character back to life. Canonically, the extremely rare ability to restore the dead marks someone as a "Messiah" class healer, which causes all kinds of ethical problems.
  • Supposedly this was true for The DCU following the events of Blackest Night. It didn't last.
  • At least in principle, in ElfQuest, physical death is permanent. Elves can still make contact with their dead through the Palace and endless flashbacks.
  • This is what Chris Claremont intends for his book X-Men Forever.
  • When Joe Quesada took over as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, he instituted a "Dead means dead" policy. It didn't last very long because, by his own admission, it was like closing the gate after all the horses have already escaped. And one of his first acts was to try to retcon Gwen Stacy back into Spider-Man, before the writer rebelled.
  • The Ultimate Marvel universe has the same "Dead means Dead" rule as the normal one does, only this one sticks to the rule. Every hero and villain that has been killed off, stays dead. The only exceptions are:
    • Valkryie. She was actually revived by Thor, but got killed again by Loki right after her resurrection, so she got officially retgonned.
    • Gwen Stacy. Her clone was created, with the DNA and all exact memories as the real Gwen Stacy, so she's kinda the real Gwen brought back to life. But in all honesty, when you think about it, she's still really dead, as her original persona which was killed by Carnage, didn't actually come back, only a clone did. So, everyone just really forgot about the real Gwen since the new one took her place. What a bunch of jerks.
    • Depending on how souls work in Ultimate Marvel, from a certain point of view it could be seen as Carnage absorbing Gwen rather than killing her, seeing as Carnage became the "clone" in question.
  • The whole point of the Hellblazer story Son of Man.

    Literature 
  • Magic in Inheritance Cycle works like this, draining a fatal amount of energy from whoever attempts it. It's brought up in Inheritance that you can physically resurrect a dead person, but there is no way to restore their mind, so everyone considers it better to leave them in the ground to avoid certain issues.
  • The Belgariad mentions this as a specific restriction of the Gods; they are not permitted to undo death (even though it's within their power) at the risk of setting off another universal catastrophe. Belgarion, however, is specifically permitted to accomplish this twice: once with a stillborn horse (who becomes important to the plot of The Malloreon), and at the very end with Durnik, fulfilling the prophecy that he would live twice. In the first case, he resurrected Horse in the place of the Gods, and in the second he needed the assistance of the Orb of Aldur and the Gods as well. Also in both cases, the deceased came back with special powers.
  • In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, the Art cannot bring back the dead. In fact, one character's false hope that this is possible is what drives the disastrous events of the main story, as it allows him to be tricked into becoming the Unwitting Pawn of the Big Bad.
  • The book Fire Sea of The Death Gate Cycle has a few. The Sartan have begun using necromancy to raise the dead, but the raised dead are not very smart and can do only simple tasks. This ritual can only be done after waiting at least three days after death, for the soul to have time to leave. If the ritual is performed before then, the soul is trapped and a lazar is created. They retain their intelligence but are trapped between life and death and must suffer endless pain and torment. And if those aren't enough reasons to just say no, it's discovered that whenever you bring someone back to life, someone else in the universe dies.
  • The Wheel of Time: While many things can be Healed with the One Power, death is considered final. Other ailments once considered unhealable have since been Healed, but the series goes out of its way to establish a finality with regards to death. There are a few loopholes that can be abused, but none of them are practical:
    • All dead souls are eventually reborn as the Wheel of Time spins them out into the Pattern again; this is on a metaphysical level, however, and, a handful exceptions aside, is a largely academical distinction.
    • Balefire erases someone retroactively, causing their actions to have never happened during the time spanned. The strength of the balefire weave affects how far back someone is erased; if timed right, and strong enough, it can prevent the death of someone who died at the hands of the erased person. Mat, Aviendha and a large part of the Aiel force invading Caemlyn are restored to life by balefire stretching back half an hour.
    • The Dark One can reincarnate people who died, but another body is needed, the procedure is only possible for a very short time after someone dies, and balefire in anything but very small amounts will render the operation impossible. As The Dark One is the Big Bad of the series, this is reserved for the Forsaken - his strongest underlings - and is considered an undesirable way of returning to life.
  • In the Shannara franchise, characters can be healed from the brink of death. They can survive crippling wounds that would kill a normal person. There are loads of cases of Never Found the Body. But if you actually die? That's all you get. You might come back as a Shade, but even then you're an immaterial ghost who can spend a maximum of a few minutes in the world of the living before returning to the land of the dead. Coming back really doesn't appear to be an option.
  • In The Dresden Files, there doesn't even seem to be much in the way of healing magic. Any injury to a character is regarded as threatening as it would be in a non-magical genre, and anyone who dies stays that way, though their ghost might cause some trouble. Necromancy provides an alternative approach, though not a very pretty one. It's also shown that the Queens of The Fair Folk can reconstruct damaged bodies, and some similarly powered beings can probably do so as well, but none have ever brought someone back to life. Harry was thought to be dead during the events of Ghost Story, but it turned out to be a Double Subversion, as while he was dead enough to visit the afterlife, he wasn't "Dead" dead. His body was being kept alive by multiple supernatural beings, waiting for him to return.
  • In the Harry Potter universe, only one method has ever been able to do anything even close to bring back the dead: The resurrection stone, one of the three Deathly Hallows. Even then, it only brought back a sick facsimile of the person, and after its first use no one was eager to use it again. More conventional magic can regenerate bones from scratch, reshape bodies, or undo petrification, but cannot resurrect anyone.

    Live Action TV 
  • LOST: Ben Linus sums the situation very well:
    Ben: I've seen this Island do miraculous things, I've seen it heal the sick. But I've never, ever seen anyone come back to life. Dead is Dead. You don't get to come back from that. Not even here.
    • So when John Locke is seemingly resurrected, Ben is promptly horrified. Turns out he was being used as a Living Bodysuit all along. Sayid Jarrah is also seemingly brought back from the dead, but him being seemingly dead could be just a delayed effect from healing by the Temple pool, which was tempted with by the Big Bad.

    Roleplay 
  • Destroy The Godmodder uses this to a certain extent. If an entity you summon gets killed, you cannot re-summon it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the titular Exalted, chosen of the gods, are extremely powerful and can literally do the impossible but there's still absolutely no way to bring back someone from the dead, except as a ghost. This is clearly stated throughout the game line; a book even broke kayfabe and explained that it's because being able to come back from the dead as if nothing happened is a drama-killer. However, there's one very specific exception to this rule: if someone you're concerned with dies in Hell within the last five days, you can beg the Yozi to alter the causality in their world-body so that the person never dies. Keep in mind that you just surrendered your life in the past five days to the sadistic, insane god-monsters who hates everyone and everything.
  • By the rules of magic in Shadowrun, resurrection is impossible. Averted in the 2007 Xbox 360/PC game for gameplay reasons.
  • There are very, very few ways to resurrect someone as they were pre-mortem in The World of Darkness and all have huge risks involved, slim chances of success and a high chance of coming back wrong or driving the person insane. Oh and they're held by groups or societies who are unlikely to share them out, and may try to kill you just for knowing about them.
  • In Ars Magica Raising the dead (in a manner other than the classic zombie) is a boundary that Hermetic magic can not overcome. The closest thing is a costly ritual that gives the dead body a simulated life. And in the best it dissolves into a puddle or becomes a shadow without a will (The spell name is The Shadow of Life). At worst a demon possesses the body or the creature becomes a psychopathic murderer who hates the living.
  • Timemaster: If you are a time-traveler, your death cannot be prevented by time travel. This even applies to temporally-displaced people; one published adventure included a chapter where a general and several soldiers from The American Civil War wound up on a dangerous alternate world/timeline. Normally, if they died, the PCs could alter events to save the soldiers. But since they aren't in their native time, should they die in that chapter the death is specifically noted to be permanent.
  • Alternity's Gamemaster's Guide notes: "No game mechanic exists for restoring life to the dead." It then goes on to note the First Lawof Resurrection, and the consequences thereof.

    Video Games 
  • Most Rogue Like games. If any character dies, including the one you're controlling, they're gone forever. While there are typically magic items of resurrection, they usually take place right after "death", making them more of a saving throw.
  • Fire Emblem
    • Any character who has no plot importance (Except in Casual Mode or during Blazing Sword's tutorial chapters) will die permanently if they fall in battles. Plot related characters simply retreat, but they still won't be usable for the rest of the game.
    • The first Fire Emblem game and the remakes give you a staff that can bring back one slain party member. As of the remake, most players use it to perform the Tiki/Falchion Bonus Chapter trick. The second game was much more lax, having springs on the map that revived characters, but they had limited uses. The fourth game also has a one use staff (that can be repaired for a very hefty price) that revived the dead. In the rest of the games, ignoring Casual Mode, deaths are final.
  • In the Dragon Age series, this is one of the cardinal rules of magic. Even bringing someone back from the brink of death can be problematic. There are walking corpses and other zombies, but these are usually just dead bodies possessed by demons (which is why the Chantry advocates cremation). There have been two cases when the (very) recently killed people were brought back: Wynne and Evangeline de Brassard in Dragon Age: Asunder, but in both cases, it was the work of a very powerful spirit, who may or may not be The Maker himself, and the end result is more akin to Living on Borrowed Time: the moment said spirit leaves the resurrected body, the person dies for good.
  • This is true for Hoshigami Ruining Blue Earth until late in the game unless you can craft a Coinferm that can resurrect the dead.
  • Despite Pillars of Eternity being a high-magic setting, there is no spell that can resurrect the dead so any companions who die are dead for good (the setting does have magic that binds the soul to the body in such a way that the person doesn't exactly die, but this has major drawbacks, and ultimately leads to being a mindless soul endlessly bound to a pile of bonedust, so it isn't exactly something you'd want to have done to you if you know the price). However, reincarnation happens naturally to everyone.
  • This is the case for Dangan Ronpa, despite the high level of technology shown. As a murder mystery series, expect the bodies to pile up fast.
  • The Final Fantasy games usually have this. KOs can be cured with phoenix downs and magic, but death cannot be cured by anything, as shown in the fifth game.
  • In Pokémon, there are admittedly few cases of this actually happening, but the fans and players came up with a challenge called the Nuzlocke Challenge. Basically, every Pokémon who faints, you must release it into the wild, even if it's your starter. The reason being because this Pokémon is "dead." That shiny Pokémon you're so attached to faints of poison? It's dead, Jim.
  • One Chance goes beyond the normal definition and tries to prevent the player from even restarting the game.
  • Playing any of the X-COM series of games on the Ironman setting effectively turns the game into this. You do not get to save or load data. The game restricts you to one save file per game and automatically autosaves after every turn and every time you exit to the menu. Any mistakes, deaths, and losses are effectively set in stone. Lost an elite psionic Super Soldier to a random lucky alien grenade? Too bad, commander, he's dead and gone, no do-overs. You'll have to try and train another.

    Webcomics 
  • Black Belt in 8-Bit Theater. This came up to such a point that when asked by the fanbase why White Mage didn't cast revive on him, Brian Clevinger responded by making a comic in where White Mage attempted to revive Black Belt. Her efforts were a miserable failure.
  • Errant Story touches on this in a particularly humorous fashion. It's used more seriously later on.
  • The world of Dominic Deegan doesn't have any way to resurrect the dead. In the Maltak arc, Necromancer Jacob Deegan claims that, with a little research into some Orc magic, he'll be able to pull it off (though other comics heavily imply he's lying). Thus far, the only ways to "cheat" this are as an Obi-Wan-style spirit advisor (Klo Tark), and by becoming a demon (Siegfried), neither of which are really preferable as you're still dead. Necromancers are the one real exception, as their mastery of death allows them to come back from fatal wounds, but this could be seen as a way to cheat death, rather than revert it.
  • In Shadownova death is commonplace, usually quite painful and always permanent.
  • Clan of the Cats goes with the Equivalent Exchange version: either someone has to die, or the world has to be changed for the better on a very broad scale; the one time it was accomplished was by ending a magical cold war.
  • At the start of the third incarnation of Road Waffles, the author warns the main character that Anyone Can Die at any time, and no one will come back, killing some talking birds to make the point. True to his word, she dies anticlimactically about two-thirds of the way into the strip, trying (and failing) to save her original Foil while the rest of the cast regroups.
  • This is the case in Drowtales. Getting killed or possessed by a demon is both fatal - in the latter case the demon may retain some of the memories or personality of the body. Bodies can be reanimated, but as one character lampshades, it's just an empty shell with golem technology. Exceptions exist to some degree - one secondary character cheated death via magic, and a major plot character may be entirely resurrected.

    Western Animation 
  • The Genie in Aladdin lists trying to bring back the dead as one of the three things he can't - or won't - do. He implies that he can make someone Come Back Wrong ("it's not a pretty picture: I don't like doing it!"), although he may have just been joking. The bit is probably a reference to The Monkey's Paw.
  • An Egyptian man in the Gargoyles episode "Grief" enlists the help of The Pack (minus Dingo) in a bid to summon Anubis to bring back his deceased son, who had been killed in a car accident two years prior. It takes absorbing Anubis and becoming an avatar of death for him to learn that this cannot be done, and so he performs a Heroic Sacrifice in order to save all present from the collapsing tomb; it's implied that he didn't survive.
    Goliath: If there's any justice in this world or the next, he's with his son, now.
  • Transformers Prime, according to Word of God. So far every death has stuck, since the mindless robot zombies don't count as being "alive", and definitely don't count as being who they were back when they were alive ("Whatever that thing was, it wasn't Cliffjumper..."). Fans are taking bets on whether or not this will hold true regarding Optimus Prime's tradition of dying and resurrecting (sometimes more than once) in every continuity.
    • So far they've sidestepped the issue by having Optimus' traditional Heroic Sacrifice result in Laser-Guided Amnesia.
    • He came very close to fading to gunmetal gray for good in the early part of the Beast Hunters season, but Smokescreen Refused The Call to take up the Matrix of Leadership, choosing to restore Optimus instead (after all, Prime does have new toys out).
    • Subverted in the finale movie - after dying in the last episode, Megatron is resurrected by Unicron. He survives even after Unicron's essence is removed, but Redemption Earns Life and he leaves for parts unknown. Optimus ends the series by giving up his life to fully restore Cybertron, so it's unlikely he'll be back.
  • A rare case of this applying to Time Travel; in Code Lyoko, if someone dies, changing the events leading to that death will not save them. That said, no one ever dies in a manner time travel could have prevented, so it's unclear what would happen if they'd tried.

    Real Life 
  • Needless to say, this is how all deaths in real life work. Since humankind's genesis it's been debated what (if anything) happens afterwards but there are no verified cases of people returning from the dead. The only exception is people who 'died' only temporarily but were almost immediately revived. As medical techniques improve, the point at which someone is even considered "dead" changes — once upon a time, successfully administering CPR would have been akin to necromancy.
  • Thanks to advancements in medical science, it's possible albeit difficult to revive a person up to several hours after their heart and brain have stopped functioning with the right methods and machines (cooling the body helps very much in this regard). In some very rare cases, people whose bodies have been chilled to an extremely low temperature have been brought back to life after a few days. Many doctors won't attempt to bring people who've been dead for long periods of time back to life, however, because - even if the patient is revived - the chance of them coming back with brain damage is often too high to risk it.
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alternative title(s): Exit Only; All Death Is Final; All Deaths Are Final
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