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Anime and Manga
- In the first episode of Mononoke, the elderly innkeeper gets tired of arguing with the pregnant foreigner over how there's no room in the inn. She just gives up, says it can't be helped, and lets her sleep in the abandoned room in the attic.
- Used very frequently by Madara in Natsume's Book of Friends.
- In the historical manga Barefoot Gen, many of the citizens in Hiroshima use the phrase to explain why they accept the military rule, and the acceptance of the below-poverty conditions that cause many of their citizens to starve.
- Used incredibly frequently in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.
- Used in Skyhigh after the schoolgirl Kino-shita kills herself because she knows she'll be able to kill the Libby at her school, and she realizes that her friend she left behind is overjoyed in her death and then wishes she hadn't decided to drown herself. Izuko simply tells her that's it's too late and it can't be helped, so she might as well just go to heaven without going through with the killing.
- Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shouganai, an incredibly melodramatic Boys Love manga, translated as "I Love Who I Love, So It Can't Be Helped''.
- At the end of CLANNAD episode 24 (Kyou Chapter), Kyou cancels a date with Tomoya because her sister wants to go shopping. He shrugs it off with "shikata ga nai", unselfishly.
- Holland uses the phrase in Eureka Seven... to explain why the Gekkostate absolutely has to play a game of soccer before going to save the world. It pops up on at least one other occasion as well.
- Holon from Real Drive uses the phrase in reference to other androids of her model and type being used for sexual intercourse.
- Used a lot in Digimon Adventure 02.
- Frequently used to describe Chise and her situation in Sai Kano.
- In Persona 4: The Animation, Yukiko's buried resentment of Chie for not being able to save her from being trapped in her role at her family's inn is highlighted by Chie's careless comment that Yukiko will inherit the Amagi Inn and "it can't be helped." This prompts Shadow Yukiko to reject Chie as her "prince."
- Used by Homura at the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, referring to the need to continue fighting monsters for the foreseeable future. But she says this after Madoka decided that tricking young girls into becoming demonic beings was unacceptable, and manipulated the system to make it more reasonable. And that was only possible because Homura couldn't accept Madoka's death/bewitching and worked obsessively to undo it. So it is, in a sense, a subversion.
- Shogun by James Clavell uses this phrase as a subtheme, although there it is mispelled as "Shigata ga nai". Shikata ga nai.
- Snow Falling on Cedars has Kabuo Miyamoto, who uses this to fuel his belief that he cannot change the circumstances surrounding his unfair trial due to prejudices remaining from WWII.
- In the non-fiction novel Hiroshima, this is one of the character's catchphrases. It's even written out in romaji in Gratuitous Japanese of sorts.
- Harry Turtledove has several characters - including non-Japanese - using the phrase in his Worldwar series.
- Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars mentions "shikata ga nai" being introduced to the initial colonists en route to Mars by their sole Japanese member. Even in the future, space flight is a long, slow endeavor, so with a lot of things they can't help, the phrase quickly enters everyday usage.
- Comes up darkly in Fate/Zero: This is what Noritaka Emiya has to say after his experiments have turned the village he was staying in into inhuman monsters and leading to their annihilation by the Church and Magus Association, his son's best friend/first love Shirley being the first. He has to burn the evidence (his research), and move somewhere else to start again (with likely the same results), and this is all he has to say. Kiritsugu kills him for this.
Live Action TV
- All the time on The Sopranos, in the form of "[But] What are you gonna do?"
- On HBO's Carnivāle, as Ben drives out to confront another person, he runs into Libby and Jonesy along the side of the road. After saving them (which winds up taking the rest of the day), Libby apologizes to Ben for ruining his plans. He simply shrugs and replies, "It couldn't be helped."
- In Kamen Rider Double, Phillip bemoans this when Shotaro starts spamming him to henshin.
- King Crimson has an instrumental titled "Shoganai" (later reworked into "The Power to Believe II").
- Bo-en's song "My Time" uses this during the bridge.
- In the stage production of Kamen Rider Decade, there was a skit about Faiz, Kuuga, Ryuki, Kabuto, Decade, and Diend being hungry and wanting to get a bite to eat. Decade argues with the other Riders about how there's no time, but Faiz calls in a reservation at IXA's Italian restaurant anyway. Decade just sighs, says "It can't be helped", and goes along. Hilarity ensues.
- The concept of gaman is central to the musical [Allegiance] starring George Takei and loosely based on his own experiences in an internment camp during world War ii. The Japanese inmates initially turn to gaman to help them survive the camps, but the concept is also deconstructed as some younger inmates try to take whatever agency and power they can get and even rebel against the camps guards.
- "Song of Love", the theme tune to the Pikmin series, has this as its premise: It's all about how the Pikmin go through Hell for their leader, Olimar, yet despite the fact that it's very likely they'll die ignobly, "We don't ask that you love us." The song's single actually outsold the game itself because of how it resonated with the Salaryman public.
- In Goemon's Great Adventure, this is the party's reaction to Goemon being forced into doing a certain sidequest... though it only pops up if you're playing with a friend.
- Used frequently in the Japanese versions of the Ace Attorney games, often spoken by a witness before they finally confess information they were hiding.
- The 2014 release of Dwarf Fortress introduced a more in-depth conversation system with NPCs/dwarfs reacting to news based on how it makes them feel. The neutral, apathetic response of "It was inevitable" is by far the common reaction; in crowded areas where villagers pass information among themselves it's not uncommon to see multiple "It was inevitable" statements in the time it takes to move one square. The phrase has already been adopted by the community via Memetic Mutation, and serves as a sort of corollary to the game's "official" slogan. After all, in Dwarf Fortress losing was not only fun, it was inevitable.
- A phrase often quoted by Western reporters who visited the afflicted area after the Touhoku Earthquake of 2011. Along with gaman, it was used to describe the lives of the disaster victims after the earthquake and tsunami, mostly on how they coped with the grief, the anxiety, freezing weather, and uncomfortable living circumstances. Was picked up on particularly because of the stark difference of how the victims reacted to the disaster compared to the more unfortunate victims of Haiti and Hurricane Katrina.
- As already explained, Mexicans has their own version of this, and unlike the Japanese, this is not portrayed as a good thing. Due to an unholy combination of Values Dissonance (internal and external), Cultural Cringe, Cultural Posturing, many problems with crime and corruption in many parts of the Mexican society and fatalism taken to the extreme, Mexicans are normally taught to tolerate many bad things that can befall them, but when the Mexicans decide they have had enough of tolerating too much crap, the results are NOT pretty