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"Whew! Okay, kids, let's settle down and review the important information —Lyle is a big doofus
. Poor George
was really shot, but can't die because, let's face it, he's the hero."
stubborn refusal to expire... is driving us insane!
So you're watching a series and the good guy has just killed his enemy. He finally has that epiphany about his major personality conflict, collapses from his wounds, and as his eyes slowly close, reflects on his life and entrusts everything to his friends. You think this may well be it for him...
...but it's not the first time this happened to him in the series, and The Medic
manages to reach him to heal his wounds in time. The enemy, on the other hand? He's dead, gone for good and forgotten after the end of the arc.
Death is inevitable in real life and common in fiction. While it tends to happen more often to the bad guys than the good guys, most works of fiction with life-and-death conflicts between good and evil have at least a few casualties on both sides.
But not all series do this. Some authors believe that no heroes or characters who would be considered "good" should die, and bring the heroes back from circumstances where an evil character would have perished, while ensuring that none of the heroes are Killed Off for Real
. For whatever reason, the writers may not want to kill off good characters, possibly because the work may not fit a tragic death scene, or because they want to use them later.
This trope can often cheapen the impact of character deaths on a show, as it becomes hard to believe that a character is not coming back when they have come back before. It sometimes leads to He's Just Hiding
when a character seemingly dies, and in series with those tropes, people who make those claims are often right.
Note that series that included as examples should have multiple instances of good-aligned characters seeming to be dead and being brought back, in addition to few or no good-aligned character deaths.
Compare Invincible Hero
, where the character never even loses
, and Death Is Cheap
, in which this trope tends to apply to villains as well as heroes. Joker Immunity
is this applied to villains.
As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime and Manga
- In Bleach the villains drop like flies, but not a single hero has died yet, no matter how severe their injuries. Many of them are defeated and severely wounded and often given what appear to be death scenes, but are brought back later. A good example is the Soul Society Arc, where no one with a name really dies (The only person to even have the appearance of being killed was Aizen, who is subsequently revealed to have been Faking the Dead), despite fights to the death happening all over the place, and there being 46 deaths caused by Aizen's Offstage Villainy.
- As of 485, we finally have a named protagonist die outside of a flashback. And now Yamamoto has apparently bit the dust as well.
- Naruto has this trope mostly present in Part I, as Sasuke, Choji and Neji survived their Disney Death scenes, but this is balanced somewhat by the fact that most of the major villains also make it out, bar the Five-Bad Band, Mooks and, crucially, the one exception of Big Good Sarutobi who dies fighting a surviving Big Bad. Then it's played with in Part II, where several noteworthy good characters die and several more appear to do so. Gaara gets brought back at the cost of another's life, the heroic sacrificer Chiyo staying dead. Several appear to be Killed Off for Real only to not be in the Pain arc, while Jiraiya and redeemed Akatsuki member Konan really do die trying to take down respective Big Bads.
- The only "good" character who dies in YuYu Hakusho without being brought back to life or revealed to have been Faking the Dead is reluctant ally Murota, who is eaten by the Gourmet, while most of the heroes' opponents die after being defeated. Genkai dies at the end of the series, but only in the manga, and of apparently natural causes.
- Happens at least 4 times in Samurai Champloo. One of these even feature a long and Tear Jerker death sequence (the one following the "death" of Mugen), but he resuscitates (without explanation of course) soon after.
- The Sengoku Basara anime got fairly bad at this: While the first season killed off a large amount of Sacrificial Lions and wounded a few secondary characters, none of the main cast died. And most of said Sacrifical Lions had an Unexplained Recovery in the show's second season.
- Superman is one of these, as The Death of Superman was just a big publicity stunt after all, albeit a good-intentioned one (to illustrate why the DC Universe needed The Cape rather than another Nineties Anti-Hero). Heck, even if they had the guts to kill off Kal-L (The original 1938 Superman) they've already announced plans to bring him back.
- Unlike many other titles, the Superman books were published continuously through the years, so there was no character left behind in the past to be reintroduced in an aged form from "Earth-Two." Kal-El was invented to fill the slot in "Earth-Two" for Superman.
- DC Comics subverts this trope with Blackest Night, where most of the characters they've ever killed off — including the Earth-2 Superman — come back... as murderous zombies. Plus, they're not really back in body and soul, just a twisted echo of the person they were.
- In Brent Weeks' The Night Angel Trilogy, Azoth/Kylar dies at the very end only to be brought back by the black Ka'kari. This becomes a major plot point, however, when it's revealed that every time he comes back, someone he loves dies.
- In Larry Niven's short story "Procrustes", nanotech-driven medical technology allows Beowulf Shaeffer to recover from being shot through the heart and decapitated.
Live Action TV
- Torchwood's Captain Jack Harkness. No matter what happens to him, shooting, stabbing, falling from heights, buried alive, explosions, having his life force sucked out... a stray javelin, he keeps coming back because he's a fixed point in time and space.
- Heroes: Peter Petrelli and Claire Bennet. Nathan survived being shot and getting caught in a nuclear blast before dying for real.
- Player character mortality or lack thereof can be a hotly debated topic in tabletop RPG circles in general. On the one hand, many players and game masters feel that simply taking the risk of PC death off the table altogether eliminates a key challenge of the game (namely, staying alive) and therefore cheapens the experience; on the other, it can obviously be highly inconvenient if the Random Number Gods decide to kill off exactly the wrong character (or even the entire group at once) at the wrong time, so in practice this trope is often in effect even in games whose rules wouldn't "officially" support it thanks to some quiet fudging on the GM's side, plot-convenient resurrections or similar contrivances.
- Final Fantasy IV is especially notorious for this, as many of the party members are thought to be dead at various points, but most return during the Big Damn Heroes moment at the end of the game, or even earlier than that. Tellah is the only one who stays dead.
- Tellah's also the only one that you see die onscreen. Even Cid has the courtesy to leave you behind before exploding himself to seal the gate between worlds. The twins being Taken for Granite doesn't stick, although how it is that Tellah couldn't fix the problem but the master from Mysidia could is just sort of Hand Waved. A player-friendly version of No One Could Survive That is in full play, apparently
- The twins return is Justified; They previously resisted attempts to turn them back from stone because then the Death Trap would kill everyone. When Baron is no longer under evil influence and the trap is turned off, they no longer resist and any attempt to fix them works.
- In Star Fox Assault, General Pepper's ship being taken over by Aparoids presents you with a Shoot The Dog (literally) scenario, but Peppy manages to save Pepper. Peppy, ROB and the Star Wolf Team make Heroic Sacrifices in the invasion of the Aparoid homeworld, and all of them survive.
- In Fate/stay night, Shirou has a supernatural ability to regenerate as part of his contract with Saber that makes him live through practically anything (short of a DEAD END, of course). By the end of "Fate", we learn this is because Shirou has Avalon embedded in him, which will bring him back from literally anything given that it has magical energy left. He loses its protection in both "UBW" and "Heaven's Feel" and the amount of "was practically killed but made miraculous comeback" all but disappears.
- He wouldn't die if he was killed.
- Because he is a massive Save Scummer!
- So he made a Heroic Sacrifice... and became a puppet? What the...
- Only if you do EVERYTHING right. Remember, Ilya is an expert at Homonculi and such? It's been established in advance, in Fate route, in fact. She turns Shirou into a Homonculus in a couple of endings. What she did was save his 'soul', and transfer it to a new body. Had to pull in a character from Kara no Kyoukai to get it to work right, though.
- In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard is killed in the opening of the game, but is rebuilt by Cerberus. Enforced in the finale; although Shepard can suffer Plotline Death at the end it's considered a Non-Standard Game Over rather than a proper, canon ending. You can't use such a save for Extended Gameplay and you can't carry that particular save over into Mass Effect 3.
- Planescape: Torment follows the story of The Nameless One, who's literally immortal. With a couple of exceptions, getting killed in the game just means you'll wake up somewhere else at full health. You don't even suffer any sort of temporary penalty for dying - in fact, there are a couple of situations where you can have someone 'kill' you for profit. This is an Inverted Trope, however, as the point of the game is to find out why you can't die - and find a way to die, if possible.
- In Solatorobo Red is sacrificed to awaken a Humongous Mecha that will destroy the world, then a couple minutes later he gets back up, no explanation.
- Nippon Ichi really likes this. They use it just about every game in the Disgaea series.