Nobody Can Die

"Thank you, Major Panic, but none of us are going to die. Not on this network."
General Specific, Sheep in the Big City (which aired on Cartoon Network)

Sometimes, nobody can die, even when it seems like they should. Unlike Never Say "Die", they're allowed to use the words "kill" and "die", but for whatever reason no one ever actually does any killing or dying. It's not Amusing Injuries — the situations faced by the characters are presented as realistically dangerous and the threat of injury or death is definitely present. Nor is it simply Plot Armor — when Nobody Can Die, even the lowliest mook is seemingly immortal. It simply seems to be a law of physics that no situation can result in the death of a person — gunshots leave people injured but alive, explosions cause lots of property damage but never seem to happen with people in the blast radius, etc. Note that, since talking about death is allowed, there may be references to characters that have died in the past, but onscreen deaths are still verboten.

Nobody Can Die is a compromise between Anyone Can Die, which can be upsetting to younger or more sensitive audiences, and Never Say "Die", which can seem childish even to children. It is occasionally imposed upon writers by Executive Meddling; in these cases, expect them to try Getting Crap Past the Radar.

Compare and contrast Non-Lethal Warfare, where the combatants are deliberately using nonlethal weaponry, rather than the lack of deaths seeming to be a happy coincidence. Also compare Everybody Lives. The difference between that trope and this one is that Everybody Lives generally applies to just one book or season where the others can have high fatality counts, whereas in this trope, people never die. Not to be confused with Death Takes a Holiday, which is when death is literally impossible because The Grim Reaper is no longer on the job.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • Zoids: New Century; Not a single person, from main character to faceless mook, is ever killed during a series full of Giant Robot Animal Blood Sports. It makes the relatively harmless first series look like an Anyone Can Die show by comparison.
  • Dai-Guard features a Giant Robot fighting Kaiju all across Japan, with copious amounts of property destruction as a result. But never fear, the effected area is always evacuated beforehand! This culminates in the final episodes where the whole of Tokyo (which contains about 10% of Japan's entire population) is evacuated to provide a suitable arena.
  • Nobody dies in the Zettai Karen Children anime (the manga…not so much). There is a prophecy, shown on-screen, where Kaoru dies, however.
  • In Dog Days, protective magical fields around battlefields mean that natives of Flonyard only ever receive Clothing Damage or get turned into a Waddling Head when damaged. This protection does not apply to humans, but they are fortunately Made of Iron and skilled enough to avoid getting mortally wounded. People can still die if they get attacked by demons or wild beasts outside of a battlefield, and the protective fields can get deactivated by a demon.
  • Kantai Collection, perhaps due to it mashing together Slice of Life and War Arc themes that clash against each other, winds up not killing off anyone despite stresses being made about the situation being a dire Anyone Can Die nature. In fact, only one character dies and another character has their fate questioned.
  • Little Witch Academia has its fair share of perilous situations—including a stone-breathing cockatrice in the first episode and a magical illness that turns people into moss—but other than the dragon in the original OVA and a love-inducing bee in the TV series, no living creatures ever die in it. This is partially brushed off by a comment that witches are notoriously difficult to kill, but not all of the characters are witches. It does acknowledge that humans can die when the heroes visit a cemetery and accidentally reanimate a corpse, but no one dies during the course of the story.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fic 

    Films — Animated 
  • The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie features food raining from the sky. You'd think that that by itself would be enough to cause some bodily harm, but no matter how severe it gets — with spaghetti twisters that suck people up into the noodle funnel cloud while flinging boulder-sized meatballs hard enough to destroy buildings — the only injury in the entire movie is a child who went into a sugar coma from eating too much raining candy.
  • Enforced by Executive Meddling in The Road to El Dorado. At one point, a guard is almost crushed under the foot of a stone monster that just barely misses him, screaming "I'm okay!" Then another foot comes down and actually crushes him, but he survives and says "I'm still okay!" Originally he didn't survive the latter, but the execs wouldn't allow it. Subverted however with Tzekel-Kan's Acolyte, who is not seen again after being pushed into a boiling vat of liquid.
  • The Legend of the Titanic where it turns out nobody died during the sinking of the Titanic as they were saved by a giant octopus. Also the characters that are seen to die in the film are shown to be alive and well with no explanation how they survived.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The live-action George of the Jungle movie. When a guy falls at least 400 meters from a rope bridge over a cliff, the Narrator reassures the audience: "Don't worry — nobody dies in this story. They just get really big boo-boos." *cut to heavily bandaged and bruised guide* "What did I tell you?" Later, when Lyle shoots George in the middle of the movie, the Narrator comes in again saying, "Poor George was really shot, but can't die because let's face it, he's The Hero."
  • In Labyrinth, no one was allowed to get hurt. A boulder even falls on a goblin cannon, and the smashed cannon says, "Hey, no problem." Jim Henson talks about purposefully doing that in the making-of documentary.
  • Masterminds starring Patrick Stewart is a fantastically flagrant example of this. People should be dying left and right but every single time, the film's powers that be go to the outrageous lengths needed to contrive the deadly threats somehow to always have non-lethal consequences. (As opposed to the earlier movie Toy Soldiers, which has almost the same plot, but not this constraint.)
  • In Iron Man 2 despite the Hammer Drones going amok amid the crowded Stark Expo and doing untold fortunes in property damage, not a single bystander is ever shown getting so much as a boo-boo.
  • Ang Lee's Hulk makes sure to show soldiers emerging unscathed from each military vehicle that Hulk wrecks in order to keep him sympathetic.

    Live Action TV 
  • On The A-Team, cars full of mooks would often crash — at which point the camera would linger for us to overhear brief dialogue between them. ("You okay?" "Yeah, I'm fine.") Just to assure the viewer that no one had really been hurt. See also the marksmanship issue.
  • Power Rangers has done this for decades, thanks to Stock Footage of giant monsters rampaging throughout a cardboard city and smashing buildings. Occasionally the writers will lampshade the trope with things like the monster saying "I hate empty buildings!" before smashing, or the Rangers remarking that he's in the "warehouse district". The Monster Of The Week died, of course, but even then it woudl often turn back into the components it was made from (such as a still living pig or inanimate objects). This is not the case with all series. As they progressed, it became notably more dark, and major characters did indeed die, good and bad.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Toon, given that it's based on Funny Animal cartoons like Looney Tunes. Characters "Fall Down" instead, and are incapacitated for three minutes.

     Video Games 
  • Most MMOs have either this or Death Is Cheap, either in-universe or as Gameplay and Story Segregation.
    • In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, you get sent to a Cardboard Prison with a sleeping guard, even if your ship sinks while fighting a deadly ghost ship.
    • The MMORPG City of Heroes/City of Villains uses this to justify character respawning. Instead of dying, characters are "defeated" and teleported to the nearest hospital to recover. Likewise, the enemies are teleported to jail before they can be killed... most of the time. In City of Heroes, anyway. Unsurprisingly, the Rogue Isles are a bit less accommodating towards supervillain victims.
    • In The Lord of the Rings Online, you don't even have health, you have "morale." When your Morale reaches zero, you are defeated and can "retreat" to a respawn point. That's a viable retreat from anywhere, whether it's the pinnacle of Orthanc, or the middle of the Battle of Helm's Deep.
  • In Prince of Persia (2008) it is literally impossible to die. If you fall off an edge or take too much damage in battle the princess will use her magic to pull you back to safety.
  • PAYDAY: The Heist uses this trope for the players. You can get riddled with bullets and bleed out completely, but bleeding out just places you under police custody and if you get traded to get back in the game, you come back with full health.
  • Marvel: Avengers Alliance is set in a comic book world, so the characters can all throw incredibly vicious attacks at one another, using swords, magic, metal claws, energy blasts, and what have you. Apparently none of that is enough to force more than a Non-Lethal K.O. Two villains are brought back from the dead in the plot, but your hero didn't kill either of them.
  • In the Crazy Taxi series, pedestrians invariably dive out of the way of your car. Additionally, they seem to have no issue hopping from your car at 100 mph.
  • Most Advance Wars games and spinoffs believe War Has Never Been So Much Fun. When Kid Hero Andy wonders if the infantry is doing OK getting attacked by tanks and recon vehicles, one member tells Andy that they eat war for breakfast! Maybe two villains explicitly die in the series, and never by the player.
  • The Super Mario Bros. series in general. Every defeated foe is a Non-Lethal K.O. unless it's the Final Boss of an RPG (and even then that's not a certainty). This is a series where characters having "Extra Lives" is canon, after all.
  • In Psycho Waluigi, Waluigi gets knocked out during his final conquest. He wakes up trapped inside his own mind, and Psycho Iris explains, "Hazel's robot-thing exploded on you, knocking you out cold! Y'know, seeing that no one actually dies in Unconica and all."

    Webcomics 

     Western Animation 
  • This is an unspoken law of Looney Tunes, and of all zany cartoons which follow in it's footsteps: characters can get shot, squashed, blown up, dropped from great heights and otherwise severely hurt in ways that would otherwise be fatal, but only wind up with Amusing Injuries. The only exception is if and when said death can be done in a funny way (and the character will usually come back later anyway).
  • The standard for the edgier comedic Nicktoons such as Ren & Stimpy, Rocko's Modern Life, Spongebob Squarepants and Invader ZIM!. In those cartoons, characters are allowed to say "kill", "die", or "dead", but no one is actually allowed to die (permanently)note . Other, less comedic Nicktoons such as Rugrats and its Mother's Day and Passover episodes avert this at the expense of playing Never Say "Die" straight.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero made a painful point of this. Every time a jet exploded, the pilot would always escape with a parachute, even if it was a faceless mook. Somehow, this happened with destroyed helicopters. In the "Worlds Without End" two-parter, we see the skeletonized remains of the Alternate Universe versions of Steeler, Clutch, and Grunt — but that's the closest brush with death the series takes. Writer Buzz Dixon has said that while the studio wouldn't let anyone die in a TV show about soldiers, he did make sure that in any episode he wrote, somebody would get seriously injured, to give kids at least some idea that war is not fun and games.
    • In one particularly egregious example, Lady Jaye shoots a pair of Cobra pilots to steal their uniforms and helmets. The scene then cuts to the two pilots Bound and Gagged in their Goofy Print Underwear, with absolutely no injuries whatsoever.
    • Robot Chicken lampshaded this in a sketch which had both the Joes and Cobra have no names on their memorial wall. Commander even goes out of his way to gun down one of his own Mooks just to add a name to the wall, but he wouldn't die.
    • Community also lampshaded it in the Affectionate Parody Episode, "G.I. Jeff", where Jeff hallucinates himself and the rest of the cast being members of G.I. Joe. In a unrepresented move for a G.I. Joe character, Jeff actually kills Destro, by shooting his parachute to pieces when he attempts the usual Villain: Exit, Stage Left!, a move which greatly shock and upset the other members of G.I. Joe, who court martial him for murder. Trying to defend himself at the trial, Jeff lampshades the original show's use of Status Quo Is God by arguing that G.I. Joe's refusal to risk killing the operatives of a major terrorist organisation means that the war with them is just going to keep going on forever, which kind of makes G.I. Joe just as bad as Cobra. Things escalate later in the episode, where Jeff attempts to lie down suppressive fire, but accidentally ends up shooting and killing a whole squad of Cobra operatives as well as inadvertently setting the G.I. Joe medic, Lifeline, on fire, causing him to burn to death. These actions eventually lead Cobra and G.I. Joe to see Jeff as the biggest threat against them both, culminating in them pulling an Enemy Mine on him and forming the organisation "Jo-Bra" in attempt to stop him from killing more people.
  • Action Man: Asazi takes over a control room for a sports event. It's quite clear from the context that she killed the control room staff by pumping the room full of poisonous gas, but the censors tried to hide this by throwing in some snoring sounds to imply it was simply knockout gas. This is despite the fact that we see a limp body with wide, dead eyes just as Asazi enters the room.
  • Parodied in Phineas and Ferb. Anyone who suffers something obviously lethal (car crash, a house falling on them, etc) will remark "I'm alright!" without a trace of pain.note  The creators commented about this in an interview, noting that as far as the network is concerned, anything can happen to a character as long as they throw that in.
  • Parodied on an episode of Johnny Bravo in which Johnny becomes a superhero. First he causes a plane crash, and the passengers shout "we're all okay!" before the plane explodes, then he accidentally gets Lawyer Friendly Cameos of the DC Heroes Thrown Out the Airlock, and comments, "It's a good thing there's plenty of air out in space! Wait, no there's not."
  • For most of Batman: The Animated Series, they could only unambiguously kill a character if the plot was some sort of murder mystery. Joker episodes got around this by suggesting Joker venom was sometimes curable, but seldom curing it on-screen after the first time. This is also why Scarface is always destroyed in the most gruesome way as the writers were allowed to "kill" a puppet. Any time a character was knocked off a building or off an aircraft, it would always show them surviving the fall. Rather than give anyone parachutes however, it would always have the mooks falling into an ocean or other large body of water, then surface alive and well. Even if they were falling somewhere in the middle of a crowded city, they'd always be lucky enough to have a swimming pool right under them, or to bounce off an awning. The end result is that it doesn't seem that Batman could care either way whether a henchman lives or dies, or is just so good that he knew they'd be fine. Ironically, this is averted in the Batman Beyond movie "Return of the Joker" (in the same continuity) with the same character that Joker Immunity was named after.
  • In The Transformers, from the makers of G.I. Joe, ungodly amounts of fire could be traded, and really-should-be-fatal injuries taken on both sides, but everyone was always fine next week. The Movie killed half the cast to make room for new toys, but when the series returned it was back to the same old rules for the most part. (There's the case of a space battle where ships known to be piloted were destroyed, though.)
  • Spoofed to hell and back by Megas XLR, which as part of its general skewering of Mecha Tropes, had several buildings with signs like "Conveniently Empty Building" on top of them just seconds before they get blown up.
  • Parodied in a Something Completely Different episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold (a show which otherwise completely avoided this trope), when Bat-Mite shows us some of the weirder takes on Batman, including a Stylistic Suck badly-dubbed 70s anime, based loosely on the 1960s Batman manga series. At the end of this segment, the villain's plane explodes. We see the villain's mask zoom past the camera as it's torn to shreds. Then Robin quips:
    Robin: Lord Death Man paid the ultimate price for his evil ... although I'm certain he parachuted to safety.
  • Parodied in Futurama, where one segment has a violent G. I. Joe styled show and, pushed by Moral Guardians, Nixon scrambles to explain why the gruesome deaths pictured are not actually deaths at all.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NobodyCanDie