A character is frozen solid by superpowers or some sort of futuristic weapon. This can be in the form of forming a giant ice cube around the character or simply freezing the person. Then shortly after, they thaw out, and they are mostly unharmed. Sure, they might shiver a bit, but they have absolutely no problems with hypothermia, frostbite, shock, or, with the covered in ice version, suffocation. After all, microwaving frozen food works! And there's all this buzz about "cryogenics,"note Suspended animation via extremely low temperatures is actually called "cryonics"; "cryogenics" is the study of the creation of extremely low temperatures and their effects on materials. which must mean that you can freeze and thaw people out with no problem.
If the character's body itself is frozen, the situation is even more unrealistic. Unless you take special precautions when you freeze organic tissue (which can be assumed to be the case when making human popsicles, especially if Applied Phlebotinum is involved), ice crystals will form and rip apart the cell membranes (frostbite). When it thaws out, all of the soft tissue turns into mush. There are ways of minimizing ice damage to frozen organic tissue (usually by injecting it with special chemicals), though whether it will be of any help to future scientists that try to revive the person is a matter of debate (one of the primary problems with this method is that all known suitable chemicals are extremely toxic).
Even if you avoid the ice crystals, there's the matter of having parts of your body at different states. Freezing is usually portrayed as instantaneous, but thawing is generally done more slowly. This would kill you. Imagine having your extremities full of oxygen-starved blood while your heart is still frozen. Not pretty.
Many Video Games have freeze attacks that trap the player. Usually the player just has to do some Button Mashing to break free and move at full speed/strength. The greater risk is from not being able to dodge instead of hypothermia or suffocation, which is a bit more justified since the character is typically only encased in ice rather than frozen solid and breaks out in a matter of seconds anyway.
Movies may also portray characters as awake while frozen, often by having their eyes open and moving around.
For breathing without problems in other hostile environments, see Batman Can Breathe in Space and Super Not Drowning Skills. For the lethal version of this trope see Kill It with Ice; for combining the two see Literally Shattered Lives. For this trope's electrical counterpart see Harmless Electrocution.
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Anime And Manga
Subverted at first in One Piece. Initially freezing is treated as a very serious condition and Chopper made sure that the thawing would have to be a slow, gentle process with cold water so as to not to warm up the victims too quickly and crack the frozen tissue. Even after thawing, it still takes a few days for Luffy and Robin to recover. Later gets played straight during the battle at Marine Headquarters, as Buggy and the former Impel Down prisoners get frozen whole and then thawed from the equally deadly heat of hot magma, and only look a little beat up from the whole ordeal.
Whitebeard manages to break out of being frozen after a few seconds with no harm done. But remember, this is the guy marketed as actually being able to move the world, he's so Crazy Awesome.
Jozu seems to have lost an arm from it, but it wasn't from the freezing itself as much as Aokiji shattering the arm while it was frozen.
Subverted in Vampire Princess Miyu, where The Rival is a ghostly girl with ice-based powers - her freezing attacks leaves the target frozen inside a shell of ice, in a classic non-lethal fashion, but despite leaving them apparently intact and clearly visible, it does kill any ordinary mortal subjected to it. Certain powerful demonic beings can shrug it off, and require 'breaking' afterwards, but not even many of those.
This seems to be the case in the Pokémon anime (and it can't entirely be explained by the special abilities of the Mons, since it also happens to humans on occasion).
In the episode in which Ice Beam was first used, Ash's Charizard nearly died from it, and it took Ash a long time and a lot of rubbing to get it well again. But this was the only time; after that, being frozen is pretty much instantly cured.
Even if it's harmless to everything else, putting out the flame on the tail of a Charizard will kill it. Was the flame burning while Charizard was frozen?
The tip of the tail wasn't hit by the attack.
In a later episode, Charizard fights Articuno, an ice bird Pokémon. Charizard takes several direct hits from Ice Beam that apparently do nothing, until its wing is frozen, slightly reducing it's ability to fly. Charizard didn't seem too bothered.
Diamond and Pearl: Galactic Battles episode "Hold the Phione!". Jessie is frozen by a Phione's Ice Beam and all of the Team Rocket trio is frozen by the combined Ice Beams of a Buneary and a Phione without any ill effect.
In the anime episode "Bulbasaur, the Ambassador", Jessie, James, and Meowth stow away on an airship, accidentally get locked in a freezer, and end up frozen into blocks of ice. After they thaw out, they're fine.
Lorelei from Pokémon Special has this ability. Her Jynx's Ice Beam can make dolls of people. Simply by marking a limb of the ice doll she can create a cuff of ice on the actual person, which can then gradually spread across the body, encasing it completely. Red was completely trapped and should have died, but at least it wasn't completely played straight as he suffered from painful frostbite for a year. Sabrina, luckily, only got off with frostbite on her wrist. Somehow, in the FRLG arc, Sird/Storc managed to free herself before she was completely encased.
As it turns out, Sird's leg is still suffering from the effects and she doesn't know the cure for it.
Hyoga in Saint Seiya. He needed to have his body warmed afterwards, though.
For all Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch is a great story, physics were never its strong suit. Maria freezing Hanon and her being fine fifteen minutes later is a bit of a glaring example. Maybe mermaids can survive freezing...
Happens in an episode of Fushigi Yuugi. The spirits of two Genbu Seishi encase Miaka in a block of ice as a test to see is she's really the Priestess of Suzaku. She is and is saved by what they claim is "Suzaku's Flames". Could be considered Justified as both the freezing and 'thawing' was magic.
During the Final Battle with Phoenix King Saffron, Ranma from Ranma ½ turned the freezing power of the Gekkaja on himself. The weapon froze him solid, allowing him to survive through Saffron's mountain-vaporizing heat beam —which thawed him almost instantly afterwards. The art isn't very clear on how complete the freezing was, but consider this: the Gekkaja can turn multi-ton chunks of rock into solid ice just by touching the ground, and Ranma's clothes and hair were still covered in ice despite being hit head-on by the Imperial Annihilation.
In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Asuna is frozen solid by Evangeline, who did so because Asuna managed to strike her, and breaks out within ten minutes of her own struggles and her friends hitting the twelve-foot crystal she'd become. Chisamepointed out how above-human their fights had become, wondering if Asuna was actually alive. Eva later commented on how the spell that should have lasted for ten years, and congratulates Asuna on surviving it and scoring a hit. To be fair though, this might just be because of her anti-magic abilities.
Used in Fairy Tail to some extent, though Leon and Gray don't usually freeze people directly (opting to make ice weapons/containers instead).
Definitely subverted, however, in the Galuna Island arc, where Leon's attempt to revive Deliora completely fails when Deliora shatters because he was frozen in Ul's Iced Shell for too long.
One issue of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service deals with a man whose freakish anatomy allows him to survive being frozen solid and thawed out again, allowing him to enter suspended animation by freezing himself down. He used his ability to run a cryogenics scam back in the eighties and froze himself down until the statute of limitations for scamming runs out — the end of the issue sees him frozen down in a glacier, which he's still stuck in 400 years later.
Episode 25 of Space Adventure Cobra has Cobra frozen by falling into liquid nitrogen; a doctor manages to revive him to full health. Not even frostbite — though Cobra has demonstrated several times a solid Healing Factor.
A couple zanpakuto in Bleach have ice based attacks, like Hitsugaya's and Rukia's, but they mostly just freeze people inside pillars or Christmas trees of ice. If Bleach conformed to the normal laws of phsyics regarding this, Halibel would have been dead ages ago.
If Bleach conformed to the normal laws of physics regarding this, Hitsugaya would have gotten frostbite on his arm ages ago. Also, everyone would've stopped watching.
To quote Grimmjow: "Did you really think merely freezing the top layer of my skin would be enough to kill me!?"
In the Mai Hime manga, Haruka is defeated by being frozen by Natsuki's Duran, but after being thawed out, is largely fine except for having a cold.
Averted in Digimon Adventure by Metal Garurumon's attack that kills most digimon such as Puppetmon
This is how the soldiers of Fort Briggs defeated Sloth when he broke into the base in Fullmetal Alchemist. Of course, they were hoping for Kill It with Ice, but given that Sloth was a homunculus, they were forced to settle for immobilizing him.
SHUFFLE! plays this straight and averts it on different occasions, depending on if it's a gag or not.
Almost all ice-based superheroes. Superheroes have a Thou Shalt Not Kill rule, so it'd be very inconvenient if they froze someone solid and ended up killing them. Supervillains with ice powers sometimes avert this, since they have no problem with killing people.
Captain Cold claims that he only kills on "special occasions" ... despite his completely indiscriminate freezing-to-absolute-zero of anyone who gets in his way, which should have resulted in him having a Joker-sized death tally. When he kills the Top at the end of the Rogue War, he does so by freezing him first and then smashing the ice.
The difference between these two is that Cold's gun has been explicitly stated to put people in suspended animation (it was designed to slow down molecules) and Freeze's gun just straight up freezes people solid.
The problem with this explanation is that slowing down atoms, which molecules consist of, is the phenomenon we know as "cold".
Freeze will often avert this trope. Many of the people who survive his freezing beam (which is quite a lot, given his Anti-Villain status), only do so if they're thawed out immediately and receive medical attention. The comics do stay sketchy about how serious it can be, though. During Batman: No Man's Land, Freeze was able to encase Batman in ice and gloated that he'd die in a moment once his soft tissues crystallized.
Although the trope is a little bit justified with Freeze, since his freezing technology was originally designed specifically to preserve human tissue.
During the Legion storyline of X-Men, Iceman finally decides to end the fight by freezing every cell in Legion's body. It barely holds him for half a page, though this had more to do with Legion's powers having been amped up to "wrathful god" levels.
In Batman: Blackest Night, Batman (Dick Grayson) freezes himself and Robin in order to get away from the Black Lanterns, (since the zombies are attracted to beating hearts) all it takes is Deadman to possess them and use his increased strength to break out. However, he has barely ten seconds to do this before they die.
In the DC Universe comic The Outsiders, the title superteam was frozen by a villain inside a mass of ice. After one of the team members used her powers to thaw them out, they were all fine.
In a comic where Spider-man is frozen by Iceman, he catches a cold afterwards. It's not quite catastrophic tissue damage, but it's a start!
This needs more explaining - one story had Spidey teaming up with Iceman and Firestar and, noting how both of them were on the rebound from failed romantic endeavors, decides to play matchmaker and hook BOTH of them up. It works, but once they get to the talk about cats, it quickly turns sour. Once they realize that this was all Spidey's fault, Iceman freezes him and Firestar quickly thaws him out, leaving him freezing cold and wet, netting him with a nasty cold.
In "The Secret of the Dragon's Den," a Donald Duck adventure story by Ron Fernandez and Patrick Block, a warrior, his beloved, and his dog are all thawed from a block of ice centuries after having been frozen there. They immediately come back to life with no ill effects; yes, it's unconvincing even by Duck comic logic.
Both used and averted in Transmetropolitan, where people from the 20th century had their heads frozen for later revival. The defrosted remains are not salvageable, but the brain patterns can be extracted and used to create a clone of the revivalist.
In the '90s Teen Titans, Tempest freezes Dr. Light's eyeballs during a fight, which should logically blind him- but he's fine.
Iron Man villain Blizzard confused things even more in his first appearance (at the time calling himself Jack Frost) by saying that the people he froze had enough oxygen within the ice to survive. What?
Garfield: His 9 Lives has the story of that life of Garfield and his Viking pals begin with the melting of an iceberg and release of the characters. After centuries.
In the 1990 film Captain America was frozen in a block of ice in Alaska, when they dug him out, he breaks free from it on his own.
Also approached in Thor with Heimdall, who is frozen completely in ice near the film's finale. Shortly afterwards he hears the frantic calling of the hero and breaks himself out through sheer force of will, kills the nearby baddies, and opens the wormhole to bring the heroes back. Not entirely harmless, however, since he collapses shortly afterwards.
Scrat, the little squirrel from Ice Age got buried in an avalanche, stayed frozen for 30,000 years, and when he thawed in the present, he was running around as fast as he always did.
Encino Man was about a caveman who had been frozen solid at the onset of the Ice Age until he was discovered in the early 90's by two friends in California. This would be an example of Human Popsicle, except that no explanation is given as to how he didn't freeze to death (or how his icy coffin never thawed in the Mojave Desert before the two boys stumbled across it).
Batman & Robin: Mr. Freeze's victims can be thawed out with no lasting effects, as long as they don't stay frozen for more than eleven minutes.
The Abyss has an interesting, somewhat more realistic version of this trope. Two characters find themselves trapped in a sinking submarine with only one diving suit, so one character lets herself drown thinking the very cold water would preserve her body so that she can be carried back to the underwater rig and be revived. It works.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day: When the T-1000 is frozen by liquid nitrogen flowing from a ruptured tanker truck, the T-800 shoots him, causing him to shatter into thousands of pieces. However, the heat from a nearby smelting tank allows the shards to melt back into liquid metal, enabling the T-1000 to reform and resume chasing the protagonists and remain a threat. However, a few deleted scenes reveal that he is "glitching." Justified in that the character is a terminator and not a human being.
This is the very basis for the movie: convicts are cryogenically frozen instead of incarcerated. Although the vital functions are suspended, apparently the victim is still fully aware of every waking moment.
At the end the freezing is treated fairly realistically, as the villain gets hit by the freezing crystal thingy without any of the normal preparations, freezes in a manner that looks extremely painful, and almost certainly fatal, and finally gets his frosty head kicked off his shoulders.
It's established in the movie that the government re-educates the prisoners while they are frozen. That's how Spartan learns to knit and how Phoenix learns to super-hack, and also to be programmed not to harm his new boss.
Happens in Zathura. Of course, she's fine as soon as five turns pass.
In Sky High, a family-friendly superhero film made by Disney, several characters are frozen in various ways. It's treated lightly, but I can't think of any point where we've seen a frozen character unfrozen, and at one point we see two guys who were frozen quite a while earlier, still stuck there, entombed in ice...
At one point, the science teacher decides to test the freezegun one of the students built... on another student who never agreed to such a thing and never saw it coming. Repeat, a student-built freezegun that could have had any number of dangerous flaws (although said teacher suspected the technological genius had built it, which she had). Unless this trope is considered an established, universal truth, he'd risk going to jail for assault, reckless endangerment and probably more. (He probably still would; how would your school react if your teacher clubbed a student unconscious or injected them with sedative just to make a point?)
It's a superhero school. Orientation consists of throwing a car at someone to see if they have super strength, and gym class is the kids beating the hell out of each other with fireballs and potentially diving over a giant meat grinder. The freeze ray isn't so bad in comparison.
It should also be noted that the science teacher looks fondly upon the time when "Save the Citizen" used actual citizens. Clearly, his regard for human life is just a little lacking.
If you listen you can hear the teacher tell another student to thaw out the one he froze.
In the beginning of Jason X, Jason Voorhees and another character are cryogenically frozen for a few hundred years, and found later by a salvage team. She needs some medical attention afterwards, but he's just fine because he's, you know, Jason Goddamn Voorhees.
Horribly, horribly toyed with in Andrey Tarkovsky's version of Solaris. Don't go drinking liquid oxygen kiddies, especially if you can't be killed that easily.
In The Fifth Element General Munro and two of his men were stuffed in the freezer by Korben Dallas to hide them from the cops. He freed them after a couple of minutes when they were already frozen still. But later on the General seems to be OK again.
In The Mask the title character freezes himself (after being ordered to "Freeze!" by Lt. Kellaway), and thaws himself out seconds later with no ill effect. Justified in that he's basically a cartoon character.
Happened to the title character in Iceman, a Neanderthal or other primitive man frozen for many thousands of years in a glacier. He is revived without much in the way of complications.
Predator 2. Peter Keyes' plan was to capture the Predator alive by freezing him solid with liquid nitrogen. Apparently Agent Keyes' Ph.D in "Physical Sciences" didn't include any training in biology. Keyes might not have cared about a living specimen, though; he wanted the Predator's tech, and the idea was to freeze him before he used his Suicide Attack.
The Thing (1982). The original Thing was frozen for around 100,000 years. When it's thawed out it's completely fine. It's acknowledged that this should have killed it, and it only survived due to its Bizarre Alien Biology.
In Like Flint. Flint's girlfriends are put in cryogenic freezers with no preparation. After he defrosts them they're completely O.K.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger . The Guardian of the Shrine, a giant sabre tooth tiger, has been frozen in ice for thousands of years. After the witch Zenobia possesses it, it re-animates and breaks out of the ice, alive and unharmed.
Twelve To The Moon (1960). The unseen Moon aliens freeze North America, but after a few atomic bombs are dropped on them they make peace and inform the astronauts that everyone flash-frozen on Earth has just been placed in suspended animation, and thus not been harmed.
Subverted in the third Artemis Fowl book. When Butler is shot in the heart, Artemis freezes him in order to keep his brain preserved long enough for him to be magically healed. The overall damage is still severe enough that the process causes him to be severely aged, as his life force is apparently used up to assist the healing process. The possibilty that he may be permanently brain damaged is also brought up. They also address the problem of ice crystals in the blood vessels, and take steps to avert it.
A great example in the first book of the Leven Thumps series Winter and the villian freeze the entire freaking planet in a ice duel and afterwords Winter unfreezes the planet and no one realizes they were just frozen, they were not even a little chilly.
Played with in Larry Niven's short story Wait it Out. The first manned mission to Pluto goes horribly wrong. Rather than wait for a nonexistent rescue attempt, the survivors walk outside and have just enough time to strip off their environmental suits before freezing solid. During the long Plutonian night, the temperatures get low enough that at least the narrator's brain turns into a superconductor, leaving him conscious, although still completely frozen solid.
In Niven's short story The Defenseless Dead, people preserved by 21st Century cryonics are being targeted for organ harvesting (the supply of organs for transplant being pretty much permanently lower than the demand), and as they are technically "dead", they have no legal defense against being harvested. In a desperation measure (to show that these are still people and not just a fresh source of transplant material, the facility that has been taking care of the "corpsicles" thaws a few out. They are physically unharmed by the process, but are in shock and confused by suddenly waking up four hundred years after they were frozen.
Corbett, the corpsicle-turned-starship pilot who is the main protagonist of Rammer and A World Out Of Time gets to the future this way
Dark Star includes the dead-but-frozen captain among its crew, who is at least partially conscious, some of the time; it's also implied that Talby ends up this way following the destruction of the ship.
Hinzelman of American Gods tells one of his tall tales about how, when it got cold enough, his great-grandfather would dig a trench and give his wife, children and hired help a drink of herbs, then freeze them and bury them in the trench and dig them up in spring.
A short story titled "Whatever Gods May Be" (author unknown) subverted this: the main character volunteered to be left behind on Mars after an accident meant their ship didn't have the fuel to take off with the full crew. He told the other astronauts he'd freeze himself to wait for rescue, but in fact he knew there was no chance of survival — claiming to expect rescue was just his way of making sure this disaster wouldn't end space exploration.
In Mercedes Lackey's The Snow Queen, the eponymous fairy godmother is surprised to find the frozen heroes still alive. She realizes that the attack by the Icehart was explicitly magical. Other deaths were simply caused by subzero temperatures and were irreversible.
Becomes a big plot point in Lois Mcmaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. Cryonics have developed to the point where if you have the proper tools available, dead people can be frozen, then brought back to life later (assuming you're able to fix whatever killed them in the first place, such as a grenade to the chest.) The not-so 'harmless' part: it requires a special cryo-fluid to be infused in the body in place of blood. If this isn't done properly, the victim's brain becomes frozen mush.
Though the narrator argues it's self-defense, on their part.
In Icerigger, Tran religious fanatics try to encase some captured humans in ice for heresy. Justified in that the freezing process is gradual, with water poured over them and allowed to solidify layer by layer, and it's only their high-tech arctic survival suits that let them survive even partial encasement.
Elsewhere in the same trilogy, we see Tran metalworkers douse themselves with water so it'll freeze into a coating of ice on their fur. This grants these cold-adapted aliens a few moments' protection against the ambient heat in their foundry.
Justified, as almost nothing in Everworld works the way its supposed to.
Septimus Heap: The books admit that re-freezing someone who is thawing isn't a good look, but neverthless use Freeze spells extensively to disable opponents.
Played with in the case of the frozen colonists on Godspeed in Across the Universe. While they are able to survive for hundreds of years in a frozen chamber, the overall process isn't very comfortable or pleasant. Furthermore, unplugging someone without following the proper thawing procedure can kill them, freezing them without following the proper freezing procedure will kill them messily, and re-freezing a person after they thaw means almost certain death. Amy has to come to grips with that last part, since she was thawed early.
Live Action TV
In an episode of Castle, Beckett and Castle get locked in a refrigerated container. While they are not encased in ice, they do estimate the temperature as 'below freezing'. They do not become all cold and stiff, instead they sit on the ground, shiver dramatically, get frosted eyebrows and slowly lose consciousness. Some time later (we don't know how long) they are rescued, diagnosed with mild hypothermia and just rush back to the case. No, you know, frostbite or any damage to their toes or fingers...
In the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q froze two people who annoyed him. The first time, the guy was OK after being rushed to sick bay (advanced medical attention straight away). The second time, they were in Q's fantasy court and expressed distress that they wouldn't be able to get the frozen crew member to sick bay. Q, being omnipotent, reversed the freezing.
A subversion: at the end of Ben Bova's Voyagers astronaut Keith Stoner turns off his EVA suit heater because the alien ship is colder than outer space and will preserve him (and his presence aboard it will spur NASA to recover it before it leaves the Solar System.) He's revived some years later and discovers everyone else in cryonics experiments conducted to make sure it could be done has died. He survived because alien nanotechnology was repairing his cells.
In the pilot episode Buck Rogers is frozen while piloting a spaceship. 500 years later, when he's thawed out he's completely fine.
The people who find him make a big fuss about how improbable it is that he was frozen under the exact conditions necessary for him to survive, and eventually conclude that he's a spy.
Somewhat subverted in an episode of H2O: Just Add Water. When Emma accidentally freezes Miriam, Cleo and Rikki spend the rest of the episode very carefully thawing her out.
A mild and realistic version occurs in House. After discovering that Amber is the mystery patient and in serious condition, Wilson and House drop her body temperature in order to prolong the time they have to make a diagnosis. It works but they explicitly mention the risks of doing so as well as that it means they can't revive her until they're absolutely sure they know what's wrong with her.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warren shoots a security guard with a Freeze Ray. The guard is frozen solid, but Warren says that he'll be fine in a couple of days, and he's later mentioned to be in critical but stable condition.
In Smallville, Clark Kent and Metallo were both able to break free from being frozen solid with no ill effects. However, normal humans who get frozen realistically either die or go into critical condition.
Mostly averted in this series. In the episode "Instant Freeze", after an innocent bystander was frozen he fell over and hit the floor (offscreen) with a horrible crunching sound, indicating that his frozen body shattered. We never saw what happened to him afterward. In the next episode Batman and Robin are defrosted after being hit by it, but it's shown as a tricky operation with no guarantee of success.
In another episode, Freeze encased Miss Iceland in a block of ice, hoping that lowering her body temperature would make her fall in love with him... somehow. Batman frees her by bashing the block with an ice pick. When she steps out, she doesn't even appear to be cold. After she is liberated from her ice coffin by Batman, he ironically uses it on Mr. Freeze to preserve his life until they can move him to a better installation, making him an example played straight.
In the pilot episode "The Reluctant Stowaway", the Robinson family are in suspended animation "freezing tubes" for their journey to Alpha Centauri. The tubes are used in several other episodes, as well as the first act of The Film of the Series. If the mission had gone as planned the Robinsons would have been Human Popsicles when they reached Alpha Centauri.
Episode "The Condemned Of Space". The Robinsons encounter an abandoned prison filled with inmates who served out their sentences while frozen. When their sentences were up, they were unfrozen and released.
Averted in The Flash, where Captain Cold's freeze ray kills its victims. Only The Flash barely survives, thanks to his high metabolism and his scientist friend's medical assistance.
One Li'l Abner story features Sandra Deepfreeze, an uncharacteristically beautiful Slobbovian girl who wants to go to Hollywood. Since she can't afford the fare she allows herself to be frozen solid by the local climate so she can be sold as a statue to a rich American collector. Once she arrives in the USA her new owner puts her on display at an outdoor art show, having first made arrangements to keep the temperature below minus 20. The local art critics sneer at the realistic "statue", expressing their pretentious preferences for abstract pieces. Sandra can evidently hear while she's frozen, because their jibes make her so angry she thaws out. Fortunately the rich guy agrees to take her to Hollywood as her "protector".
1st edition adventure I6 Pharaoh. One trap in the Sunken City of Pazar is a wall of absolute cold. Anyone touching it is frozen solid, but can be revived by either a slow thawing or being instantly defrosted by a Fireball or Flame Strike spell.
3rd Edition supplement Relics & Rituals. The Freezing Curse spell freezes the target creature solid and encases it in ice. When the ice melts the creature is returned to normal.
Generic RPG supplement Booty and the Beasts. The Cryogenic Jellyfish can freeze other creatures solid. If the frozen creature makes its constitution roll, it can be thawed out and be completely unharmed.
DC Heroes RPG (and the remake The Blood Of Heroes RPG). The Ice Production power can be used to encase an opponent in ice. The victim takes no damage or side effects from being frozen, and when they break free they're completely fine.
Paranoia 1E adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues. In Mission 4 the Troubleshooters are given experimental equipment, including a Constant-Wear Prophylactic Biostasis Garment. If the Troubleshooter wearing it is Incapacitated or Killed, the Garment will freeze the body solid. If someone successfully uses medical skill on the victim, they will be thawed out in Wounded state.
Champions supplement Gadgets!. The Ice Sprayer weapon fires a compressed liquid gas at the target, freezing it. The damage is defined as No Normal Defense, which means it does only Stun damage, not Body damage. When the target defrosts they're still alive and unharmed.
Iron Crown Enterprises Cyberspace main rules. Cryo Units are devices that can freeze a creature solid and thaw them out at a later time unharmed. The freezing and thawing routines are controlled by a built-in computer.
In BIONICLE, all recorded cases of freezing have been harmless, unless the victim gets smashed to pieces while they are frozen. Handwaved in that most of the characters are cyborgs with only a small amount of organic tissue.
Subverted in RuneScape - encasing ice magic is among the most devastating attacks.
BioShock: Although the player and enemies can apparently take cold damage, mostly they are just frozen with no side effects.
Freedom Force has Freezing as a status effect. It inflicts no harm (though the attack that inflicts it may cause damage), and can be dispelled by attacking the frozen hero. It's annoying for you, because it puts a hero out of action for a decent length of time unless you break them out, but at least the breakout attack inflicts no damage.
Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat goes both ways; most of his moves hurt but don't cause lasting harm, but when it comes time to "Finish Him"...
Most of the Metroid games have had an Ice Beam (or sometimes missiles) for freezing enemies, who usually just unfreeze a while later and keep on doing what they were doing. Even flying enemies will just stop and hang in the air (a fact which is usually used for a tricky jumping section). It became a minor plot point in Metroid Fusion - the Metroid-based vaccine that allows Samus to fight off the X Parasite also leaves her extremely vulnerable to cold, meaning that she can't use the Ice Beam.
Freeze a non-invulnerable enemy enough times, however, and it will burst into kibble as if hit with any other weapon.
Also, in Metroid Prime, a few creatures (baby and adult Sheegoths, Thardus, as well as the first form of the titular Metroid Prime that you encounter) have attacks capable of freezing Samus; the remedy is of the "mash B until the ice breaks" type. She is wearing a Power Suit; whether this would help or hurt in real life is... debatable.
Uh, her power suit lets her survive lava, acid, and space. So long as her suit isn't breached, she'll be fine. And if Metroid Prime's death scenes are to be believed, 0 health is *when* her suit is breached.
It also becomes a case of Smashing Survival, where the player must button mash and/or rotate the analog stick in order to break Link free sooner, thus lessening the ice damage.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Link's ice arrows will freeze enemies solid, but they break out a few seconds later unless the damage was enough to kill them...or unless you smash them with a hammer.
In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, the boss of the Temple of Droplets (a comparatively giant) Octorok) is frozen when you first enter, but your efforts to thaw out the Water Element thaw it as well, and it apparently feels well enough to snatch the Water Element and fight you right away.
In Pokémon, Pokémon can be frozen, too (when they're hit by an ice attack or tri-attack). They can't attack during it, but they can thaw out quickly (but that doesn't have to be). They also thaw out whenever they use or get hit by a fire attack. Shaymin can't change forms when it's frozen however. Could have been explained as the Pokčmon simply getting paralyzed or dazed by frostbite, but from Gen IV onwards the battle animation shows them encased in a hunk of ice.
In World of Warcraft a mage can freeze himself by using the Ice Block ability. While frozen, the player is unable to act, but nearly invulnerable (except to certain boss attacks). Ice Block is widely considered to be the best "panic button" available to any class in the game.
It does, however, give the mage a debuff called "hypothermia", during which he cannot use Ice Block again.
Mages specializing in Frost can also freeze enemies, but only if they are already affected by Frost Nova or similiar spells.
Hunters can freeze enemies in a similar fashion with a trap.
Death Knights get yet another variation of this in the form of a spell called Hungering Cold.
In the battle with Hodir, players can free NPC allies from being frozen in ice; they have seemingly been frozen for a while, and appear to suffer no ill effects. The same happens with a Brainwashed and Crazy Keristraza in The Nexus. Tirion Fordring gets frozen for virtually all of the Lich King battle and also suffers no after-effects.
Many of Shiori Misaka's attacks in Eternal Fighter Zero freeze her opponent into a block of ice, but no lasting effects ever linger. This is especially odd when she proceeds to shatter her frozen opponent for her Final Memory move, which is powerful, but by no means an instant kill.
Played straight and averted in Crysis. The player character, and anyone else in nanosuits can survive being frozen. Everyone else is out of luck. Mildly justified in how Crazy-Prepared the suit appears to be by that point in the game.
Ice Control powers in City of Heroes can freeze a foe in a block of ice to hold them, and it does deal damage to the target as well. There are also the odd Ice Armor powers and Cold Domination, which is the opposite of Thermal Radiation in that you make your team better by freezing them rather than lighting them on fire (plus the thermal and cold buffs stack). Ice Armor users can become briefly invulnerable and recover by freezing themselves solid in a block of ice.
Frozen targets are effectively thrust into a state of suspended animation. The effects of the freezing gradually wear off and the target snaps out of the effect all at once, with no recollection of the passage of time, as though waking from slumber. In fact, a majority of test subjects reported feeling unusually relaxed after this fugue state. Although research findings concerning the long-term effects of the freezing are inconclusive as of yet, the cryobeam has provisionally been deemed "perfectly safe" by manufacturer FutureTech Corporation.
Though shooting one soldier with more than one cryobeam will make him explode.
The allies also have a Cryoshot abilities, which does the same thing in a small area. Both effects deal no damage on their own but make the frozen targets more vulnerable to attacks (even buildings).
In Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando the inventor of the Thermanator gadget is harmlessly encased in a block of ice by his own invention, until broken free by Ratchet.
In Ratchet: Deadlocked, this is played straight with the enemies: If an enemy frozen with the Freeze Mod isn't shattered, it breaks out no worse for the experience, even if it was frozen completely solid.
Inverted in, of all things, Sonic The Hedgehog 3. Getting hit by the jets of freezing gas on the Ice Cap levels encases you in ice for a few seconds, causing you to lose all your rings. Get hit without any rings, and it's a kill. But if a second player jumps on the frozen character quickly enough, they'll break free of the ice with no damage.
In Sonic the Hedgehog CD, Sonic can get frozen in a block of ice in Wacky Workbench. But just like with the S3&K example above, he loses his rings as soon as he thaws.
Not the result of an attack, but a power-up: An item in Super Mario Galaxy makes Mario so cold that he can walk on water because every step he takes creates a little temporary ice floe, yet not only does this not hurt him, it doesn't even slow him down. Swimming in the cold water where this item is first found, however, does sap his energy.
In Spyro the Dragon 3, Spyro gains a freezing breath attack on a particular level. It encases NPCs in the classic cartoon ice cube, which thaws after a few seconds. Anyone frozen is, of course, completely fine. This ability comes in handy during a minigame, where you play a version of ice hockey that involves using frozen pink cats as gigantic cuboid pucks. (link. Skip ahead to about 1:00, and try to ignore the narrator). You also use it to defend a figure skating polar bear named Nancy from hockey-playing rhinos.
Somewhat justified. Anybody who you're not specifically meant to kill is invulnerable to anything. Fry them? They'll jump comedically. Headbutt them? They'll fly a short distance, land, shake their heads, and get up. In rare cases, you may even be able to supercharge them. Of course, then there are those times that you'd supercharge an NPC and bounce off harmlessly. Clearly "Harmless" is a relative term in the Spyroverse.
Blazblue's Jin freezes people with a variety of ice powers which hurt no more than a normal hit (and considering the attacks involve giant wolf heads, swords and some kind of weird flying surfboard...)
Semi-subverted due to the fact that while it's possible to break out of the ice, the ice has the power to erode life.
Final Fantasy VI has a Frozen status, which stops the character until a long time has passed, battle ends, or the character is affected by a fire-elemental attack. When thawed, the character will attempt to complete the command given before being frozen.
Final Fantasy IX has the Frozen status effect which results in a One-Hit Kill if the frozen character then receives a physical attack. They can be thawed out with a fire-based attack too.
Overlord II has both the yeti and the young overlord frozen into blocks of ice. The former is hacked out with an axe while the later is thawed by a dragon.
In Scribblenauts, when you are explicitly required to not kill a specific threat, you're free to open fire with a freeze ray to keep them out of your way; they'll thaw out, unharmed, a short time later.
Ragnarok Online has the Frozen status effect which can be invoked by a variety of player skills, enemy attacks, card effects, eating ice cream, etc. While utterly harmless beyond keeping the subject from doing anything until they break free, it does make them far more conductive to wind-elemental attacks such as Jupitel Thunder.
If you use the freeze powerup in Backyard Hockey, the enemy will thaw out unharmed a few minutes later.
Played straight against most enemies in Zombies Ate My Neighbors when frozen by the fire extinguisher (although they take extra damage while frozen).
Your Freeze Ray in Purple can't do anything to mooks other than making them your temporal stepping stone. Inverted with special blocks and bosses, who take mere damage instead of freezing.
In Odium, freezing paralyzes the frozen party and makes them more vulnerable to attacks. No aftereffects though.
You can find a Martian freezeray in Ultima Worlds of Adventure: Martian Dreams, which incapacitates but does not harm its targets.
In Exit Fate, the status ailment "Freeze" freezes the target solid but does no harm, nor does it incapacitate them in any way you'd normally expect. It does however turn them into a One Hitpoint Wonder since taking any damage will cause them to shatter (temporarily).
In Ōkamiden, you find Shiranui trapped in a block of ice attached to the ceiling. It could be seen as just another part of her Rasputinian Death, but Ishaku was frozen with her, and is perfectly fine.
Inconsistently used in Batman: Arkham City. Mr. Freeze's gun results levels of frostbite that requires several characters to take steps towards warming themselves back up. However, Batman later acquires a subweapon that can inflict this on opponents, and the Iceberg Lounge features a shark tank that's mostly iced over with a fairly active shark inhabiting it (which should've been seriously sickened, if not killed, by water cold enough to support a layer of ice that could hold up the 210-pound Batman).
Used in Dead Space. How do you get rid of the Hunter?. You lure it into a cryogenic chamber and start the freezing sequence. However, it pops out again after a few levels, completely fine. This is likely because the subject is a Necromorph and it was just frozen into the block, not frozen inside.
The puzzle game Dweep includes Harmless Freezing as part of its gameplay. It results from stepping on a "freeze plate". Dweep can be unfrozen with a torch or the ice broken with a hammer, and once unfrozen, he is wet, which can be used to bypass different kinds of obstacles.
In a two-panel sequence by Hugo-nominated artist Taral Wayne, (slightly NSFW for furry nudity) a furry alien girl gets frozen when her more advanced (and practically indestructible) alien friend forgets to warn her about a planet's cryogenic environment until it's too late. The second panel demonstrates the sophistication of their thawing techniques. It's probably just as well they didn't visit a volcanic planet.
Though played straight in the chibi pages of the prologue of Drowtales, it was subverted in Sillice's battle with Vy'chriel/Yaeminira. Not only did the poor girl freeze to death, her fingers actually snapped apart right before the end!
The harmless version of this trope is used in Bitmap World whenever the supervillain Coldfusion shows up.
Vaarsuvius do this in The Order of the Stick in this strip. Including Elan by, hum, accident. Elan gets no other problem in the next strip than being cold. But of course, it's based on Dungeons & Dragons, where you are perfectly fine as long as you still have 1 HP, so that makes sense.
In the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes, Tami oftentimes encases her enemies in solid blocks of ice, though the attacks prove to be little more than minor distractions.
In the Whateley Universe at the beginning of the first Boston Brawl. This one's probably justified, though; Tennyo doesn't need to breathe and isn't terribly bothered by temperature extremes (she described being frozen in a block of ice as "a bit chilly"). Lancer might've suffocated if Tennyo hadn't been able to bust them out in time, but his PK field probably helped shield him from the cold.
In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) this trope is utilized frequently. Not only are there "freeze-ray" weapons that can freeze a person (and they'll be perfectly fine when they thaw), but there's freeze magic, and some monsters have a freeze ability with their breath or eye-beams.
Yvon of the Yukon has this in its back-story - the eponymous Yvon is supposedly a French mariner from the 18th century preserved this way. Why he spends most of his new life in his underpants is less clear
Katara has encased a couple people in ice who seemed unharmed by it... possibly justified for the Firebenders, not so much for the civilians and Jet (though she at least didn't cover his face, unlike with Zuko and some firebenders).
Much like the wood frogs below, in one episode Sokka and Katara catch some manner of bizarre illness that leaves them extremely loopy. The most effective medicine? Some frogs which survive the winter by being frozen, and should be frozen right about this time of year. But they lose their medical properties if they thaw.
In the Batman/Superman Hour episode "Freeze's Frozen Vikings", a number of Mr. Freeze's henchmen are frozen inside an iceberg. When he thaws them out they're perfectly fine.
'The New Adventures of Superman'' episode "Prehistoric Pterodactyls". After millions of years frozen in Arctic ice, two pterodactyls are freed and immediately go on a rampage.
In many classic Western cartoons, when a character falls into an icy lake, they are insta-frozen into a block of ice. But of course, they are none the worse for wear when thawed out. To be fair, they can also shrug off bullets, hammers, falls off of cliffs, falls through cliffs, the occasional bus, and nuclear fucking weapons.
On The Magic School Bus, Arnold took off his helmet on Pluto and froze. When they got him back to Earth, he had a cold. The ludicrous nature of this was actually pointed out in the And Knowing Is Half the Battle-type ending that usually gets cut out in syndication. The writers know he should end up with a lot worse than a cold, but killing off a main character isn't very kid friendly.
In one episode a human male is discovered frozen in a block of ice, dating from... a few years ago. He's totally fine once he's thawed, but he has some trouble returning to his former life after his unexplained absence.
Double-subverted in another two-part episode. When Cartman wants to freeze himself in the snow outside of the town so that he doesn't have to wait for the Nintendo Wii to come out, Kyle sensibly points out that this will kill him. Nevertheless, when he does get frozen (and an avalanche renders it impossible for his body to be found) he actually is unfrozen several centuries later, with no apparent ill effects (which could be due to 26th century medicine).
In an episode of Justice League Unlimited, Green Arrow managed to use a buzzsaw arrow to break out of an ice block from Killer Frost. In an earlier episode, both Martian Manhunter and Clayface survive getting frozen by her (although Flash's crappy quip about antifreeze nearly finishes J'onn off), but that could be justified by their biology. Otherwise, as her name implies, it seems to be fatal (although that makes her "you're a beautiful man, I think I'll keep you" to one of her victims even more improbably squicky...).
Played straight and subverted in Batman Beyond. In "Heroes", one of the superpowered trio in that episode freezes multiple people to no apparent ill-effect. Averted with Mr. Freeze, who actually killed one person and only failed to kill Derek Powers because he's living radiation. His cold gun from Batman: The Animated Series also shows up, when it is used against Inque. Even though she survived, being a Blob Monster, it still significantly damaged her form and it only took the one shot to put her out for the count. A later attempt to freeze her failed when she compressed herself into a ball, keeping the majority of her bodymass safe from harm.
The Herculoids episode "Mekkor". Igoo is frozen into a giant ice cube by some robots. After Zok melts him out with his laser beams he's fine. Of course being a giant ape made of rock might have something to do with it as well.
Space Ghost. The title character is frozen into an ice block by "The Iceman".
Two soldiers are frozen in ice by Cumulus, the Storm King. When Birdman thaws them out seconds later with his "sun rays", they're fine.
The title character is frozen into a block of ice by Cumulus. A few seconds later he uses his solar power to melt himself out, none the worse for wear.
"Versus Dr. Freezoids". Birdman, Avenger, Falcon 7 and the occupants of an entire city are all frozen and then safely defrosted by Birdman's solar rays.
"Train Trek". A villain uses "Ice Fumes" to freeze Birdman in a block of ice. After it's shattered against a metal beam he's fine.
"The Empress of Evil". Birdman uses his "Solar Desensitizer" beam to freeze some giant Amazon women without harming them.
The Amazing Spiez episode "Operation: Twins of Trouble". The Spiez' parents are frozen by the Twins but thaw out just fine.
In The Venture Bros. episode "Trial of the Monarch", a Guild team freezes everyone in a courtroom for a matter of minutes, and when they thaw, they're not even aware anything happened.
Dunno why Futurama wasn't the very first example, but it happens all the time there. The only problem people experience after being cryonically preserved is needing to go to the bathroom, and then only as a one-time gag. Fry in particular has been frozen for 1000 years; not only as the premise of the series, but also happens again in one of the movies. The actual cryonics laboratory could be the least realistic of all, since everyone working there is kind of a goofball and the freezers can basically be used for anything at all, no questions asked.
In Xiaolin Showdown, there's a water Shen Gong Wu that can also freeze. Omi - more than once - travels to the future by setting up a recording device to play back his voice (saying the Wu's name, thus turning it off) to deactivate it after X,000 years.
FilmationSuperboy cartoon "The Neanderthal Caveman Caper". After being frozen in a block of ice for tens of thousands of years, a Neanderthal man is thawed out and is perfectly fine.
In the first Fairly OddparentsChristmas Episode, Vicky once froze Timmy and his pals and sold them as ice sculptures. Despite her being the main villain, Timmy suffered no repercussions when he was shown to break free of the ice.
In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Gwen is encased in ice in "Perplexahedron" by simply being in a extremely cold room. She is thawed out by Swampfire with no problems.
Just like the comics, Captain America froze in the Arctic Ocean, and reawakened in modern times. Cap later uses the Cosmic Cube to make the same happen to Bucky Barnes, who would otherwise have died prematurely in an explosion caused by Red Skull.
Happens to a lot of mooks in W.I.T.C.H.. Special mention to Cedric, who gets this treatment repeatedly yet suffers no ill effects despite being a, presumably, cold blooded giant snake monster.
In the episode S'Winter Candace ends up falling in ice cold water and is fished out encased in a block of ice.
In another episode Phineas and Ferb thaw out a caveman from the conveniently local glacier.
Darkwing Duck had this happen to himself and Morgana, while Darkwing was thawed out, Negaduck shattered Morgana's encasing and yet there was no harm done.
Subverted and deconstructed on Adventure Time in the season two finale where Princess Bubblegum, while possessed by the Lich King is frozen and accidentally SHATTERED. Thanks to being a candy person she makes it, but not after a trip to the emergency and undergoing some severe operations which even then ends up not entirely restoring her.
An earlier episode had the frozen businessmen. At the very least, they're suffering memory problems from being encased in ice for who knows how long.
A baby triceratops is unfrozen by The Smurfs in the episode "The Smurfs That Time Forgot", which then kicks off the plot of Season 9.
Justified in Young Justice. The one getting frozen is Miss Martian, whose homeworld is extremely cold. Even so, Icicle Jr. tells Superboy he could shatter her if he hits the ice cube she's in.
The Wood Frog, a common sight in most of North America, can freeze solid, every winter, with no ill effects.
In fact, nearly all aquatic and amphibious life in colder climates is capable of being frozen solid and then thawing out unharmed (though some species may be unable to do this as adults). This means that, yes, some people really dominefor fish.
A Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar can do this.
Harmless Freezing is beyond humans but we have the next best thing, Cold That Kills You Slower Than Some Alternatives! Low temperatures are brutal to biological processes. Bleeding out and burning through one's oxygen supplies count as biological processes. Cold is used medically as therapeutic hypothermia, which is a bit of a Desperation Attack, and there are documented cases which show that if you freeze before you drown, you can make it back, even if you went under an hour ago. The general rule in emergency medicine is "They're not dead until they're warm and dead."
Hypothermia also tends to slow bleeding in wounds that would otherwise hemorrhage. There have been countless cases of wounded, hypothermic soldiers who survived when in warmer temperatures they would have bled out.
Whenever there's a risk of a cold snap in Florida, growers cover their oranges with ice. The logic is that the temperature ice freezes at is higher than the temperature at which the oranges are ruined. The ice keeps the oranges from getting any colder.
And let's not forget the New Zealand alpine weta (An insect looking like a mutant grasshopper, if you want more info, it's out there) that freezes solid every winter & thaws back in the summer (and I do mean solid, NZ is COLD).
Certain humans have proven able to adapt to cold that would kill normal people, through extremely difficult training. An episode of The Real Superhumans covered one such man, who can be buried in ice without trouble and easily withstood cold that would have killed a normal human in under an hour with no ill effects.