If a character is immortal — even if it's the "immortal but can die temporarily" type — then their opponents don't need to hold anything back. Not even if those opponents are good guys.
is a sweet gig. Whether it's because the character can download into a new body as part of a Hive Mind
, has a Healing Factor
strong enough to reconstruct From a Single Cell
, or possesses some even stranger way of staying among the living. The downside is everyone else now considers you fair game for target practice.
It's common sense. There's nothing wrong with using non-lethal force to stop someone. So what if it just so happens that, with this person, non-lethal force happens to include bullets? It's not that the code against killing
doesn't apply. They're just not killing anyone. Which means heroes who normally have to fight with Swords Set To Stun
to avoid things getting messy
, or otherwise take pains to Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight
can now cut loose
against the immortal enemy.
This can be implicit or acknowledged in the story. The characters might never come out and say that they feel no remorse for blowing off a regenerator's head or throwing a grenade into a room full of robo-clones, or they may well explain it at length as a form of dehumanizing their enemy or as Trash Talk
in a fight.
It's worth noting that this trope is often applied on targets that can bleed and feel pain. No Bloodless Carnage
here. The trope provides interesting opportunities
mostly because it allows more drastic violence against important characters that has tangible results
while avoiding the usual Unfortunate Implications
for both attacker and victim.
See also What Measure Is a Non-Human?
, Uniqueness Value
, Good Thing You Can Heal
, Self-Mutilation Demonstration
, and Immortality Hurts
. Fearless Undead
can fit this as well, depending on the nature of the undead. May be played alongside a "World of Cardboard" Speech
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Anime and Manga
- Lots of it in Mnemosyne: every Big Bad who knows about Rin's immortality prefers to snap her neck first, ask questions later. Goes especially for Sayara.
- Also, the ES Members in Kiddy Grade are commonly sent on suicide missions because GOTT can always resurrect them.
- In Excel♥Saga, the Great Will of the Macrocosm will commonly resurrect any important character who happens to die. This leaves Lord Il Palazzo free to kill Excel for the slightest irritation. This happens several times in the very first episode and a few more times throughout the series.
- The Homunculi of Fullmetal Alchemist get this a lot, as they can instantly regenerate. To be fair, several are eventually killed, but it still counts seeing as one can get take three clips of bullets, get up, and ask, "Are you done yet?"
- Later really show how damn painful this trope can be. Envy was burned alive several times, and at one point Mustang let his eyes explode. And Sloth was impaled again and again, twice right through his face.
- That one guy from Ninja Scroll, the one who turns himself to stone all over... except for his eyes, which is how he gets beaten.
- Yakumo Fujii, from 3x3 Eyes. Being unkillable is a lot less fun than you might think, especially when horrible monsters are trying to kill you anyway.
- Several characters in Baccano!! go to town with this trope, most notably Fermet, who spent a couple hundred years taking advantage of his and Czeslaw's immortality to perform every kind of gruesome "experiment" on poor Czes that he could think of. Then again, since almost everyone in the series is a gangster, a Psycho for Hire, or just plain Ax-Crazy, life is pretty cheap in general, and it's not just the immortal characters who get maimed.
- Accordingly, Isaac and Miria avert this, as during the entire anime Isaac was only injured one or two times, and Miria wasn't at all.
- Code Geass: C.C. sometimes gets this sort of abuse, such as when Mao decided he was going to "make her compact." At one point, she takes out an opponent by having her mech drag theirs to the bottom of the ocean, and holding them there until they were both crushed completely by the pressure, having her enact this trope on herself — though given that she's a Death Seeker, this makes some sense.
- A couple of characters in Naruto are like this. The Akatsuki member Hidan takes sick pleasure in doing horrible painful things to himself in battle after performing a ritual to ensure that his opponent feels the same thing. Hidan is virtually immortal (e.g. getting his head cut off hardly slows him down), but the same cannot be said of his opponents who get trapped by the ritual.
- He's paired with Kakuzu specifically for this reason. See Kakuzu has a habit of killing his partners so the Big Bad gave him a partner he couldn't kill.
- Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan feels free to beat Sakura to death with her spiked baseball bat any time she suspects him of ecchi thoughts, or indeed, any time she's bored, because she'll just resurrect him for another round immediately anyway.
- Love Hina: Keitaro isn't any more durable than is usual for a main character in his genre, but unusually for the genre, other people notice and take advantage of this. Kitsune outright states that lethal force is acceptable against an "immortal" like him.
- Angel Beats! is full of this, episode 2 probably being the most extreme. As the characters are in maybe-not-quite-purgatory, they'll wake up from any sort of death a few minutes later. The show uses this as an excuse to put the high-schoolers through some truly gruesome deaths. Typically, the males receive far worse onscreen abuse, with the females primarily put in positions where one can simply assume they suffered after the cut to something else. This leads to an interesting dichotomy, where boys will be brutalized outright onscreen far more often, but the girls can be presumed to have suffered far, far worse fates while offscreen. As an example, in the aforementioned episode 2, each of the male members of the SSS is quickly killed by a trap, crushed to death, sliced apart by lasers, etc.; however, Shiina and Tenshi, the two girls to "die", get much harsher deaths: Shiina falls off a massive waterfall and presumably either drowns before resurfacing or goes splat on the rocky ground at the bottom, and Tenshi is dropped into a collapsing, burning factory, and is presumably crushed to death as the explosions brought everything down around her. After which she'd of have to have dug herself out. Ouch.
- Hakamada from Aphorism. Used as scapegoat once by his friend to dodge an attack.
- Bakemonogatari: The Dying Bird is a type of supernatural creature that reincarnates itself into human form; the resulting human is immortal, and will rapidly regenerate/recover from any injury or illness. The resident specimen, Tsukihi, ends up suffering this trope because of this. For example, Yodzuru and Yotsugi's plan for capturing her involved walking up to her house, ringing the doorbell a few dozen times, and then abruptly blowing off the entire upper half of her body when she finally answered the door.
- There's also Araragi himself, who thanks to retaining some powers from having been a vampire, possesses a strong Healing Factor and can survive from fatal injuries, like his heart being crushed into smush. He gets beaten to an inch of his life several times through the series in an exessively gory fashion to show off his determination.
- Attack on Titan: Levi will occasionally take advantage of Eren's Healing Factor. He brutally beat him for speaking out in court, and his plan to avoid killing him if he rampages in titan form involves cutting him out, severing all four of his limbs in the process. Annie, Reiner and Bertholt couldn't afford to be gentle in their kidnapping attempts, either.
- Several attempts to stop the villain Juggernaut. On one occasion he took a pair of katanas through the eyes. In another battle, all of Juggernaut's flesh and organs were magically incinerated by a powerful demon. Said demon was horrified when Juggernaut's skeleton kept marching toward him. For the most part it takes high-level magic (the above-mentioned swords were magical) to even scratch him, since his power source is a high-level god.
- Wolverine has fallen prey to this many times. He is often burned to a crisp, has all of the metal pulled out through his pores by Magneto, and at one point The Punisher shoots him in the crotch with a shotgun, where he then gets his legs sawed on by midgets, and then flattened by a steamroller. There is also an episode in the animated series where Proteus uses his reality altering powers to rip Wolverine in half and then melt him into a puddle (he comes out crying). The other X-Men are also attacked by Proteus, but no one else gets the horrific treatment, even though in this case they may have survived afterward since Proteus's effects go away when he leaves the area.
- Likewise, The Hulk is not only Nigh Invulnerable, what damage he DOES take regenerates near-instantly. There's a few strategies that might be instant death, usually involving severe cranial damage, but they're still not sure he'd stay down. He was once caught in a horrid explosion and reduced to a charred skeleton with a few bits of flesh left over. His response? "Give me a minute." Four panels later it was like nothing happened. For the record, it DID hurt, a lot, but it also got him even MORE angry than usual.
- Parodied with Marvel Comics character Mr. Immortal, who has no other superpowers aside from his immortality. He ends up dying horribly at least several times in every issue he appears in. However, when he does die, he comes back in the throes of a beserker-style rampage due to the incredible pain he experiences when he dies.
- Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series features the immortal Cain and Abel, the former frequently murdering the latter over a minor dispute or simply to pass the time.
- In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Hawkeye remarks during a fight that the best thing about killing Multiple Man is that there's always more of him.
- Deadpool: During one crossover, Bullseye slit Deadpool's throat with a straw because he was talking too much.
- Deadpool's sometimes-partner Cable has been known to telekinetically blow up his brain to get him to shut up for an hour or so.
- DC Comics character Resurrection Man gets this a lot, naturally. One issue has a confused Batman trying to figure out why the same guy keeps getting murdered by Gotham City criminals. A crossover with Hitman sees Hitman repeatedly shooting him over and over until he gets a useful power. In the 853rd century, even Resurrection Man himself gets in on the act, wearing a gauntlet that lets him commit instant suicide.
- Multiman gets this in Last Laugh, where The Joker repeatedly murders him until he gets a power useful in escaping prison. Afterwards, the entire prison gets sucked into a black hole, stranding a number of people. They eventually escape... by repeatedly murdering Multiman until he gets a power that helps them escape.
Films — Animated
- Wreck-It Ralph: As long as a video game character is in their own game, they will regenerate if killed. That's how villains can be defeated day after day. However, if they're are in another game, the character is Killed Off for Real.
Films — Live-Action
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Captain Jack Sparrow has developed a habit of shooting the undead monkey whenever he is angry.
- In Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, people can take backup copies of their personalities in case of death. Nobody is particularly worried about this, because everybody who had a problem with it "you know, died".
- In Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series, everybody is implanted from birth with a "cortical stack" that records their personality in case of death. The hero occasionally kills people and steals said stack for later interrogation.
- Accelerando: Taken to extremes in the last chapter of Charles Stross' novel. Children, free to take backups of their personality, play war with real weapons. Additionally, they keep software copies running at faster-than-real-time to grow up and watch over them.
- Threnody in Xanth often cuts off bits of her husband Jordan, such as his tongue. This is not considered a big deal because his talent is incredible healing.
- Gilbert Gosseyn in A. E. van Vogt's The World of Null-A can be killed, and then he just wakes up in a new Gilbert body with all his memories.
- Used and subverted in Kiln People by David Brin, in which people download their personalities into short-lived clay golems which they use for work and pleasure. While these golems are regarded as expendable, no-one risks their real self any more, and for someone to suffer even minor injury is quite a scandal.
- Simon R. Green's novel Hellworld features the protagonists being dropped onto a planet to determine its potential for colonization. They find the planet apparently devoid of most animal life, with large pools of what can be described as greyish, primordial goo. Then, they discover that the advanced alien race that lived there constructed a machine that made them immortal and protean, able to take on any shape they willed and unable to die. The psychic member of the group discovers that the aliens had eventually become violent sociopaths, fighting endlessly until the machine grew bored and turned them into said goo. To make matters worse, that machine? It's still around. And insane. And starting to affect mutations within our heroes.
- In a story Distant Rainbow by Strugatski Brothers, Camillo is a cyborg whose machine part (and that includes brain) is virtually indestructible (can sustain nukes without any damage) and can regenerate the living part of his body even from nothing, using raw materials. So Camillo dies thrice in the course of just one day and is going to die a fourth time when the Wave kills everybody and he will regenerate afterwards, too.
- Angel: Played increasingly for comedy, to the point where Angel will walk around with a sword through his chest, looking only slightly miffed.
- Cylons in Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) would occasionally shoot each other without batting an eye if it were expedient, since they could download into new bodies. The horrifying aspect is played up on occasion, such as when a Cavil mentions being too impatient to bleed to death after an ambush, and so has to cut his carotid open with an empty shell casing. Later episodes also feature the prospect of 'death as a learning experience' and the major trauma caused after someone is killed in an especially gruesome way and essentially suffers the worst PTSD ever.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the first season, Darla at one point shot Angel. She told Buffy, "Don't worry, guns can't kill vampires. Hurts like hell, though."
- Leo from Charmed, who can reassemble himself if his body is destroyed. The sisters have occasionally used him for target practice (with and without his consent), and a throwaway gag indicates that Piper tends to make him explode when she's mad.
- The crew on Farscape once ganged up on Pilot and forcibly amputated one of his arms, so they could sell it to a scientist. They rationalized this action because Pilot's species can regrow lost limbs. Another member of his species on a different ship was actually used as a replenishable food source for this reason.
- Heroes has Claire Benett, the immortal regenerating cheerleader. Guess who from the cast is suffering deadly injuries on a fairly regular basis?
- The writers of Misfits seem to gain some kind of sadistic pleasure out of killing the immortal character Nathan Young week after week in ways so gory and painful that it quickly becomes hilarious. The fact that he's a total Jerk Ass might have something to do with it.
- The immortal heroine in Painkiller Jane was repeatedly shot by her friends for very little reason. Examples include being in the way, to convince someone else they were bad-ass or just for a cheap trick. Incidentally she was called "Painkiller Jane" because she had to eat a lot of them. Because she was repeatedly shot. By her friends.
- She also shot herself plenty of times, like to convince a mind-altering Neuro that she reversed his nightmare-causing powers on him by shooting herself in the hand and having him watch the wound close.
- She can die given sufficient damage. In one episode, her body is pulverized by a claymore mine. Luckily, this episode has a "Groundhog Day" Loop, and she is fine in the next cycle.
- Sanctuary: Nikola Tesla is the occasional Butt Monkey, since, being a vampire, he can't die (at least until he is turned back into a human, sort of). He has been stabbed, electrocuted, having Jack the Ripper's fist punched through his chest, sliced with claws, dropped from a high-rise, etc. And he's still as cheerful and annoying as ever, especially since he lacks the any of the traditional vampire weaknesses (he walks in the sunlight, can eat and drink, does not require blood, can survive a stab through the heart).
- In Smallville, the Lesbian Vampires have fun throwing each other off the balcony. Since this is done to Lana, the scene might be favored more than it was intended.
- In Torchwood, Captain Jack Harkness becomes an absolute damage-magnet for the first series-and-a-half, after which other characters start eating bullets. The Master points this trope out right after he zaps Jack with a laser screwdriver. "And the good thing is, he's not dead for long. I get to kill him again!" Then Jack gets buried alive for 2000 years, constantly suffocating and reviving, somehow without going insane.
- Baldur, the Norse god of beauty, had a prophetic dream of his own death. His mother, the goddess Frigg, responded by making everything on Earth vow never to harm Baldur—effectively making him Nigh Invulnerable. The other gods react to this, in jolly Norse God fashion, by making a game of hurling things at him, all of which harmlessly bounce off. (Unfortunately for Baldur, his mother neglected to bother with getting the lowly mistletoe to take the promise, so Loki, the Jerkass Trickster, made an arrow out of mistletoe and tricked Baldur's blind twin brother Hod into shooting Baldur with it, killing him dead.)
Another (completely different, by the way) version of the myth simply has Baldr as the rival of Hod (who is mortal) and already resistant to anything but a certain sword, whose name is Mistletoe.
- On occasion in 2nd Edition Paranoia adventures the Troubleshooters receive an unlimited number of clones (instead of the normal six anyone but Teela-O-MLY receives). This can be used to "solve problems" by performing a Zerg Rush at otherwise unbeatable opponents or, in one case, crossing a chasm by filling it up with Troubleshooter corpses.
- In a Shadowrun monster-book, attached in-character comments by shadowrunners include remarks by someone the SPCA would probably burn at the stake. He claims to make a living by trapping Weres (sapient, regenerating animals which can take on human form) and repeatedly skinning them, then selling the pelts. Live-butchering a type of giant regenerating shark for meat was also mentioned.
- The cortical stack and backup memory upload are very common among transhumanity in Eclipse Phase. Which is good, because up to half of your characters' missions will be literal suicide missions.
- There are sidequests in Planescape: Torment that take advantage of this. The Nameless One can break his own neck to win arguments or let a woman pay for the opportunity to stab him, among other things.
- And then there's the Practical Incarnation's 'tomb', an elaborate deathtrap for his enemies where the only way to navigate it is to die. Repeatedly.
- Touhou: Fujiwara no Mokou passes the time by killing (and being killed by) Kaguya. And in Imperishable Night, Reimu begins her fight with Mokou by pointing out that ''if she's the sort that can't die, I can go all-out on her, right?'' And sure enough, it's the only time Reimu uses lethal force. Mokou instantly regenerates whenever she "dies", but it's counted as beating her when she gets tired of it and gives up.
- Mokou actually endorses this on herself as a way to toughen up her body against attacks, in Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the earth. Amusingly, this is with Reisen, probably the only person in the series who wouldn't be looking for an excuse to get in a fight.
- This trope is why fairies in Touhou are treated as Cannon Fodder; they just regenerate offscreen after being blown away. In the games where she's playable, it's implied that Cirno only gets a Game Over because she gets bored and/or gives up.
- In Phantasmagoria of Flower View, Shikieiki warns Cirno that if she continues to become stronger and more intelligent, she will surpass what fairies are meant to have and become a youkai... a mortal youkai.
- Tales of Monkey Island: Near the end of Chapter 5, LeChuck gives zombie Guybrush a terrible beating and maiming that would have killed an ordinary human being, often gloating about many ways to kill our hero and trash-talking him, yet unaware that Guybrush can't die, thanks to the effects of the Spirit Gum inside him. And while Guybrush is continuously beaten, he feels so exhausted and in so much pain that he can't even quip, indicating that immortality does indeed hurt. He eventually finds a way to get back to the rip in the Crossroads and destroy LeChuck with help from Elaine and Morgan in the end, just to end our hero's continual suffering.
- Fate Route Shirou, not that he realises it. Thank god for Avalon.
- There is also Raziel from the Legacy of Kain series. Managed to get yourself killed? No worries, you just get sent to the spectral realm where sucking on souls floating there gets you back to the land of the living. Managed to somehow get yourself killed in the spectral realm? No problem, you just get sent to an earlier check point in the spectral realm where there are lots of free floating souls to eat. There is no way to get a game over because you died.
- In Batman: Arkham City, Batman follows his usual no-killing rule, right up until the boss-fight with the giant immortal zombie.
- Inverted in Solatorobo, where Red is upset at the thought of having to leave the immortal Paladin Elh inside Lemures while he takes on Tartaros. She points out to him that she is technically immortal, and he notes that somehow, that doesn't make him feel any better about it. Considering Baion wiped out the rest of the Paladins and her form of immortality is just "never ages but can be killed", he's right to worry.
- Disgaea. Prinnies, no matter how strong they are, are impossibly cheap to revive since they're dead souls stuffed into penguin suits. This means that demon lords have very little reason not to violently kill them at the slightest annoyance.
- EVE Online. The core sci-fi concept of the game is that you're an immortal spaceship-flying cyborg who will, at worst, suffer some minor memory loss from being vaporized. This results in the death penalty being the first resort for even minor infractions and schemes, and is the in-universe explanation for pilots trying to kill each other at random in PvP.
- The Materials of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable games are Humanoid Abominations who could survive getting reduced to nothing since they could just reconstruct their physical bodies over a period of time. Despite being as strong as the heroes, they've been killed several times in the games they appeared in, especially in the first game where the Material were killed multiple times over the course of one night by all the playable characters, including Technical Pacifist Nanoha.
- Pamela Ibis from Mana Khemia has a passive skill called Immortal Body which causes her to Auto Revive a few turns after dying, provided she remains in the active party. Physical Immunity makes her hard for enemies to kill, but the player can still invoke this by over-using her "Have Fun" skills.
- Starscream from Transformers Animated gets killed a lot. Transformers in general tend to get this treatment. Being eons old war machines, they are very hard to kill. Waspinator, being nigh unkillable even by Transformer standards, gets it even worse.
- Lampshaded, inverted, and played both for laughs and drama in South Park with the super power of Mysterion. Being Kenny, he has died a thousand times, but wakes up back in his own bed every morning with nobody remembering that he died. At one point he gets so pissed off that nobody believes him that he can not die while he has to suffer through the pains of all kinds of horrible deaths on a regular basis and shoots himself in the head to prove it, but two minutes later everyone has forgotten. He later uses his ability to escape from R'yleh by throwing himself into a chasm to awaken back in his own bed and searching a way to save his friends, who are still trapped there. After everything is said and done, Mysterion mention that he's tired and just wants to go to bed, and shoots himself in the head again as a shortcut.
- Agent K of Men in Black has no compunctions about blowing the head off of the immortal alien informant Jeebs as part of his regular interrogation technique. Jeebs, after regenerating his head, usually complains about how much it stings before relenting the requested information.
- There're also other Butt Monkey treatments for Jeebs; he also gets stomped into a puddle by a giant alien and ripped in half by a couple of teleporter guns.