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You Are Already Dead
HIDEBU-*splat*

He hits you with his fingertips at five different pressure points on your body. And then he lets you walk away. But once you’ve taken five steps, your heart explodes in your body, and you fall to the floor, dead.
Bill, Kill Bill, describing the legendary Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

The Final Battle has begun. The two opponents square off, and one of them hits the other with a series of mighty blows that would fell a mountain. But what's this? Nothing seems to be happening! That's when your opponent tells you that You Are Already Dead, right before your head explodes, your body separates in two, or you disintegrate into a fine mist. If you're unlucky, only one of those happens. Sometimes, you may also discover that you were Made of Explodium.

A common trope in martial arts series, this involves some form of Finishing Move that does not take effect immediately. When used with martial arts, it may involve Pressure Point attacks or some form of Ki Attacks. Assassins may use Universal Poison to achieve a similar effect. In video games, Damage Over Time abilities often have this effect.

When used with swords there are a number of common variations, often shown with a Diagonal Cut. In sword duels, the two sides charge each other and attack. There will be a pause as the two pose, then one (or both) will fall down. Another one is for a Master Swordsman to perform a series of lightning-fast slashes, and then slowly and dramatically sheath their sword (with an audible *click*) before their attacks take effect.

This trope is not necessarily limited to martial arts, either. In more modern settings, gunshot wounds can often have this effect, since getting shot typically feels like getting punched hard and it is not uncommon for victims to take some time to realize it. This can be exploited for dramatic effect in war movies, where fatally wounded soldiers wander the battlefield before succumbing.

Compare Delayed Reaction for the comedy version. May lead to Died Standing Up. See Determinator or Heroic Second Wind for when it doesn't work, and also beware of Normally, I Would Be Dead Now. May be invoked with a Diagonal Cut, as previously stated. Can overlap with Badass Boast. A subtrope of Time-Delayed Death. Not to be confused with Dead All Along or Dead to Begin With.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  
  • Fist of the North Star is the Trope Namer. Kenshiro, the protagonist, used this as his Catch Phrase ("Omae wa mou shindeiru") when he made his opponent's head or entire body explode with superpowered Pressure Point martial arts.
    • Even subverted a couple of times. One time a mook attempts to do this to Kenshiro, only for his own head to explodenote . And Bat claims to be able to do this to a mook, only he was lying so he could use the mook's horrified reaction to retreat.
    • A non-lethal version occurs during Ken's short-lived duel with Shin at the beginning of the series. Countering Shin's Nanto Gokuto Ken with his own Hokuto Hiei Ken in a memorable instance of Air Jousting, Ken lands, slowly rises, and turns around to face his rival, only to realize Shin's attack has incapacitated him by cutting the tendons in his limbs.
    • Also happens to Kenshiro in his first duel with Souther. Kenshiro strikes one of Souther's fatal pressure points and tells him he's dead in three seconds. Souther responds by counting down himself... At which point he reveals he's not only immune to Kenshiro's style but used a delayed attack on Kenshiro, opening a series of wounds on Kenshiro's body. Things rapidly go downhill for Kenshiro.
    • Fist of the Blue Sky's protagonist does much the same thing, only the Catch Phrase he uses is Chinese (你已经死了 "Ni yijing si le") instead of Japanese.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann does this with mechs.
  • Naruto uses this often, seeing how it's a show about ninjas.
  • Bleach:
    • There's a lampshaded Shout-Out to this trope when Love quotes it while reading manga.
    • Sui-Feng's shikai guarantees death in two hits, which combined with her high speed, leads to this trope. The target won't even notice they've been stabbed once half the time, let alone stabbed twice.
    • Byakuya has a special technique called Senka that is based around this trope. He stabs the target in two very specific places on the body that guarantees both the destruction of their powers and their death without them even being aware they've been hit until they're already dying. The main difference between his technique and Soifon's shikai is that Soifon can hit anywhere on the body whereas Byakuya's technique based around the two parts of the body that generates both life and power in an individual, so he has to hit a very specific location twice for his technique to work at all. Only the main character has survived being hit with this technique; even he couldn't tell he'd even been hit once, let alone twice, until he was actually falling, and even he lost his powers. Sort of. Being the main character, Loophole Abuse occurred.
      • Rather pragmatically, Byakuya prefers to use this as his opening move to a fight. If his opponent is fast enough to block or dodge it, he moves on to the rest of his arsenal of moves. If they're not...why should he have wasted any more time on a weakling that he can dispose of in less than a second?
  • Excel♥Saga parodies this in their Fist of the North Star episode by having victims turn into plushies.
  • One Piece has Brook who uses this as his signature attack, and one of his catchphrases. He is able to slowly walk ten feet, and then put his sword away with enough time to say "I already cut you" and the name of the attack before his slash takes effect. His original attack would cut the opponent, while his improved attack with his sharpened sword Soul Solid harnessed his/the underworld's energies to freeze all the blood in the opponent as it cut.
    • Zoro seems to have some attacks of this type too, especially Shishi Sonson (translation: Lion's Song), which he used to finish off Mr. 1; however, they aren't stated as such like in the case of Brook.
  • If your true name is written in the Death Note and the writer had your face in mind, you are dead; you will have a heart attack in 40 seconds. note 
    • Light literally says "He's already dead" in episode 24, at 10:30.
  • Parodied in Lucky Star when Soujirou tenses up his arm muscles to demonstrate how to get a mosquito stuck:
    Soujirou: (pointing at the mosquito) You are already dead.
  • Said almost verbatim in Burning Hell - a Villain Protagonist Deadly Doctor can use this trope with his sword... for Flaying Alive his opponent.
  • Very common in Saint Seiya, to the point where people can receive an attack, wax philosophical, and suddenly get flung across the room, usually through some pillars.
  • Digimon Adventure: At the climax of the 50th episode, Agumon warp evolves to WarGreymon, slices up Machinedramon, makes a Three-Point Landing and reverts to Koromon before Machinedramon falls to pieces. It only happens after a brief debate over the effectiveness of WarGreymon's assault, where Koromon reminds Machinedramon of the special power of WarGreymon's claws. This trope is dub-only - in the original, Koromon instead responds to Mugendramon with a touching "World of Cardboard" Speech.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: Kuu Fei and Mana's fight in the fighting tournament ends with one of these (in a non-lethal way). Kuu's palm is on Mana's abdomen as Mana believes she has bested Kuu, but that Kuu put up a remarkable fight. And they have a brief exchange before Kuu informs Mana that that wasn't all. Then the back of Mana's shirt explodes from the attack. Even if the attack was released after the exchange, Kuu clearly landed the strike at the start of the conversation. This is the first time Kuu ever uses a ki technique.
  • Happen once in Claymore, with a slight variation: the victim had his hand immediately cut off, complain because of it, then the Diagonal Cut kicks in...
    • This actually happens a lot in Claymore, due to the main characters being sword-wielders who can move at incredible speeds. The Quicksword technique is probably the best example of this; at one point, Clare "dodges" past three monsters, and then has a conversation with them that lasts a good thirty seconds before they collapse in pieces. A minor variation occurs in most non-human cases, though; most realize they're already dead, and there's a moment of horror before the laws of physics decide to pay attention.
  • Happens to Seiryu in YuYu Hakusho. Sliced 16 times by Hiei, and he wonders what happened before the camera (meaning he) starts dropping to the ground in pieces.
    • And again (though not a killing blow this time) against Makintaro in the Dark Tournament. Hiei flashes his sword, Makintaro tells him to bring it on—and Hiei pulls out his severed arm, saying he already did.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni has this happen during a fight between Virgilia and Beatrice. One of the combatants makes an illegal move which means that she lost the fight automatically, as she did not successfully counter all attacks.The soon to be loser is about to kill her opponent when she informs her of this. This causes all attacks made after that point to be illusory because she was already dead. The previously checkmated opponent is therefore left completely unharmed
  • In the final episode of Katanagatari Shichika hits an opponent who is wielding a sword that is meant to keep people from dying with an attack that kills him several times saying "You've now died 272 times" before said opponent collapses to the ground.
  • Done on a fairly regular basis in Samurai Deeper Kyo, especially during the beginning chapters and/ or when a new enemy is introduced. As the series progresses however, this becomes rather rare as the Mooks and Red Shirt Armies are gradually replaced with Quirky Miniboss Squads, various Dragons and the Big Bad, who's power levels range from Charles Atlas to Made of Iron to Physical God.
  • Happens at least once in Samurai Champloo, when Jin is stabbed in the back by Kariya, only for Kariya to wince in pain and have the camera pull back to reveal that Jin left himself open so he could fatally wound Kariya.
  • Dragon Ball Z: In the seventh movie Future Trunks battles Android 14, their fight comes to an end when their blows collide with Trunks using his sword, Android 14 comes out seemingly unscathed he runs out at Trunks and his body splits in half just before he reaches him.
    • Parodied at one Martial Arts Tournament, when Mr. Satan and Android 18 are fighting. 18 says she'll throw the match if he agrees to pay her double the prize money. He does, and throws a heavy punch to knock her out of the ring. 18 just takes the punch to the face without moving, asks if that was really the best finishing move Mr. Satan could come up with... then throws herself backward out of the ring. Mr. Satan then tries to pass off this bizarre chain of events as this trope to the confused audience: a "delayed reaction" punch.
    • In the dub of Dragon Ball Z Kai, Future Trunks says "You're already dead." to Cyborg Frieza just before their fight. If you can call it a fight.
  • In Lupin III, Goemon does this frequently, though usually not against actual people. Nevertheless, most things he cuts only fall apart after he has sheathed his sword.
  • In The Slayers, Gourry rushes between two rows of would-be bounty hunters. Reaching the end, he clicks his sword in his scabbard. Cue the bodies dropping to the ground. (Amelia: "Make that eleven...")
  • Shows up in Baccano!, when Ladd Russo slits the throat of an underling in his uncle's office. He has time to turn away and close his switchblade before the High-Pressure Blood kicks in.
  • In the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Kimblee's favourite trick is to use alchemy to turn people into delayed time bombs by transmuting their bodies' sulphur and phosphorous into a slow-oxidising explosive. He eventually does this to Al.
  • Subverted in Ranma ˝, where Ranma spends half an episode dodging Ryoga's Bakusai Tenketsu, which can supposedly shatter anything by exploiting natural weakpoints. When Ranma finally beats Ryoga, he is casually hit with the technique by Cologne. A look of horror spreads across his face... only for Cologne to reveal its true nature - a mining technique designed for use against rocks (which it had been used on every other time) and inert against humans.
    • A more literal example happened earlier in the fight. Ranma had been unable to deal any damage to Ryoga during the fight, so he tries launching a punch using the recoil from a tree branch to add to the damage. Ryoga immediately shouts, "You punch like a baby!" while delivering a counterattack. A second later, though, Ryoga begins to double over in pain.
  • Battle Angel Alita: Vershlag, a technique from Panzer Kunst anti-cyborg martial arts, basically works like this. Instead of manipulating Ki, however, it sets up inside a metal body a large number of Solitary Waves (from several hundreds to tens of thousands if the Kunstler using it is good enough) that are set to converge in one point after a certain amount of time, blowing up the victim's head (and sometimes a good part of his/her surroundings). Bonus points for the fact that the delay set on this technique allows it to kill its victim even a month after it was set up, effectively making them live with an unavoidable death sentence.
    • In the Sechs vs Zekka fight. The first major blow Zekka does to Sechs' side is what kills or destroys his body. Everything afterward was Zekka toying with Sechs.
  • In Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei main character Tatsuya's decomposition magic instantly renders anything he wants to, into pure elements, including humans. You get to see a hazy outline of the person's shape before their now unbound atoms bond together.
  • Toriko has Old Lady Chiyo, who is capable of completely removing all the flesh off your bones from under your armpits to your hips with a pair of kitchen knives so fast that you don't even see her move, much less realize it for a short time.

    Comic Books 
  • This happens to assassin Evelyn Cream in Miracleman when he's decapitated by a monster dog but doesn't realize it until the end of the issue.
  • Lobo uses his special attack "Five-Second Delayed Special Whaperoo" in Lobo: Infanticide
  • A nonlethal example happened in one Spider-Man comic where the hero fought Tombstone. Spidey put all he had into one punch to the villain's face. Tombstone didn't seem hurt at first (even though his nose was bleeding), he threatened Spidey, then lifted his fist to hit him... Then he got dizzy, and finally collapsed, out cold. Spidey quipped, "Well what do you know? Like a dinosaur. Took a few seconds to reach his brain."

    Fanfiction 
  • In Like a Phoenix from the Ashes Harry cast an overpowered Reducto that hit several Death Eaters and "all three fell to the ground dead, even though their bodies weren't aware of this fact yet."
  • In Speed Ron had accidentally acquired super-speed and used kinetic energy to send a mess of splinters at a couple of giants shortly before the final battle while thinking "They're dead, they just haven't noticed yet."

     Film  
  • Kill Bill has this with the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, which is delivered to Bill himself by the Bride at the end of the film.
  • Used for dramatic effect in Saving Private Ryan during the Normandy scene, where severely injured soldiers in the throes of shell-shock wander the battlefield before succumbing.
  • In Ghost Ship, a thin wire rips through everyone on the dance-floor of the ship, instantly cutting them all in half; and yet they remain standing perfectly upright... and slowly all fall apart (when in actuality they'd obviously fall immediately).
  • Something similar happened in Underworld where Selene decapitates Victor. And it takes several seconds for his head to fall off.
  • In one of the Pink Panther movies, a ninja-master gives a demonstration where he strikes a rock, and nothing happens; then he leaves, and the entire room collapses.
  • Wagons East: During the gunfight at the end of the movie, Julian and Slade have a stand off during which Slade is shot but doesn't notice until Julian points it out to him.
  • Darth Maul takes a second to realize he's been cut in half at the end of the climactic fight scene in The Phantom Menace.
  • V for Vendetta. V injects Dr. Surridge with a poison while she's sleeping, and then has a conversation with her.
    Dr. Delia Surridge: Are you going to kill me now?
    V: I killed you ten minutes ago.
    • In contrast to many of the deaths on this page, the poison used caused no pain to its victim. After the conversation was over, she peacefully died.
  • In Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li hits the bad guy with the titular attack, paralyzing him. Jet Li then has time to describe what is about to happen, right before starting the process of death by yanking the needle out and walking out of the room. The bad guy then starts to have extreme pain and blood starts leaking out of every possible opening until he dies.
  • In the obscure horror film Skinned Deep, the Surgeon General takes a swing at a kid with his knife. Nothing seems to happen, and the kid remarks that he missed. Cue kid splitting in half.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Barbossa takes a few moments to realize that Jack didn't waste that last shot.
  • The guy who challenged Kyuzo to a duel first with sticks, then with swords in The Seven Samurai. Kikuchiyo's death could also qualify.
  • Spock's Heroic Sacrifice to repair the Enterprise in Wrath of Khan.
    McCoy: No! You'll flood the whole compartment!
    Kirk: He'll die!
    Scotty: Sir, he's dead already.
    McCoy: It's too late.
  • John Rambo describes the death of one of his fellow soldiers in First Blood this way to his commanding officer, after learning that exposure to Agent Orange gave him cancer. "Got himself killed in 'Nam, didn't even know it."
  • The Men Who Stare at Goats parodies this with the Dim-Mak, a technique which can supposedly kill a person with a simple touch... 20 years after it's been executed. At least, Lyn believes this
  • In D.O.A. (1950) Edmond O'Brien goes to a doctor when he feels ill, only to be told he's been poisoned, and that it's too late to do anything, leaving him a day or two to live. When he tells the doctor he has no idea how he was exposed the doctor tells him "I don't think you fully understand, Bigelow. You've been murdered."
  • A variation of this occurs in The World Is Not Enough. The anarchist Reynard has an untreatable bullet wound to the head; the injury will eventually kill him, but until it does, it makes him stronger and more resistant to pain every day. And he knows this, giving Bond an enemy that literally has nothing to lose - he is not just losing the ability to feel pain, but the ability to feel anything. In fact, when Bond threatens to kill him in one scene, Reynard chuckles and says, "You forget... I'm already dead."

     Literature  
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium, this is the favorite tactic of the Bulrathi when fighting humans during the Vague War. They would strike the liver with a special move then let the prisoner go. The victim would feel perfectly fine for several days before the liver would suddenly fail, and the person would die. The main character ends up on the receiving end of this strike at the beginning, during his Training from Hell, but gets better. He later accidentally hits a guy the same way during an interrogation, but reasons that the guy probably deserves it.
    • Several such attacks are described in the book against aliens. The Bulrathi themselves have a gland that, when punched hard, causes them to die of intense pleasure. There are also the unexplained "reflexive points" that can also be used to kill within seconds. The Bulrathi, being obsessed with hand-to-hand combat, also develop a technique for taking down a Silicoid (a hovering column of rock) with singing and a single punch. The main character is the first human to use this technique.
  • Gar Quithnick from Roger Zelazny's Forever After practices Tian-shi-sheqi, a martial art that demands that death be a summation of life, rather than a mere cessation. To that end, he employs the kuo-tak strike to set up a sort of psychic resonance that kills the victim upon experiencing a certain stimulus. With it, he causes a predator to die the instant it pounces, tells a deposed despot that he will die the moment he considers himself greater than another man (though he can still live a long life of humility), and even turns one enemy into a MacGuffin Delivery Service.
  • David Langford's fractal basilisks infect the human mind with an image it cannot process, producing this effect. In the short story "BLIT," a vandal is Hoist by His Own Petard when he accidentally looks at a stencil of "The Parrot" while using protective goggles (the cops who arrest him die instantly). The effect doesn't kick in later, and can only be countered with strong drink to ensure short-term memory loss.
  • Jack Vance's The Demon Princes series has cluthe, a microbiological agent delivered by needle (usually fitted to a protective glove) which has a progressive paralytic effect. Essentially an extremely accelerated case of tetanus, except that you're dead in minutes instead of hours to days. The onset seems to be able to be varied, from instantaneous to something like twelve or more hours later.
  • A number of creatures in the Aiel Waste are known for this, by name. They are also apparently a snack. This is one of the many good reasons to not mess with the Aiel.
  • In Mid-Flinx, Teal concludes her contemptuous tirade at the mercenaries' inability to survive the jungle by announcing that one of their party is already dead. Within moments, the native woman's words are proven true, as the tuft of flowers one of the group has been wearing in her hair sprouts parasitic tendrils that spread rapidly throughout the wearer's body and reduce her to a lump of nurturing compost.
  • In The Clocks by Agatha Christie, Detective Inspector Hardcastle describes a fatal stabbing: "Don't suppose she even knew she'd been stabbed. People don't, you know. Remember that case of Barton in the Levitti Gang robbery? Walked the length of a street before he fell down dead. Just a sudden sharp pain—then you think you're all right again. But you're not. You're dead on your feet although you don't know it."
  • In The Color of Magic, Rincewind stabs a troll. The troll realizes it's been stabbed, but doesn't realized it's been killed for a good fifteen seconds.
  • The Hedge Knight by George R. R. Martin. Prince Baelor feels strange after helping the protagonist win his Trial by Combat, and asks his fellow knights to help remove his helmet. That's when they discover that the back of his skull has been crushed, and the helmet was basically the only thing holding it together.
  • Midway through the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy, some Hirogen attack a Starfleet vessel that's searching for the Borg invasion route. The Alpha kills a Chelon with his bare hands, and another member of the security team promptly starts talking to his subordinate instead. When the Alpha protests, she explains that Chelons secrete a lethal contact poison in times of danger.

     Live Action Television  
  • In Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, Kamdor, one of several major Big Bads, and Black Ranger Will charge at each other, and strike in passing. Will falls, and Kamdor, thinking he's won, turns to leave... and then goes kaflooey. Will pulls himself to his feet a little later.
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O I'm Born, Den-O Sword form and Kamen Rider Gaoh have one final showdown. After the two have an exchange of slashes, Gaoh suddenly starts being reduced to sand after a few moments.
  • In Ultraman Tiga, Tiga and Evil Tiga have a midair attack exchange. Tiga falls to his knees, causing Evil Tiga to turn and laugh before suddenly clutching his chest in pain and falling to the ground. While it doesn't kill him in the series, it gives Tiga the oppertunity to finish him. In Ultraman Fighting Evolution 3, this is how he kills him.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena has a move where she could cut off blood flow to a person's brain. It required precise strikes to the underside of the chin, and could be reversed with a different series of nerve strikes. She mainly used it for interrogating Mooks, though, before her Heel-Face Turn, she used it more like this trope.
    Xena: I've cut off blood flow to your brain. You'll be dead in two minutes.
    Mook: ...what...do you want to know?
    Xena: Nothing. I just thought I'd tell you.
  • On the Homicide: Life on the Street episode "Subway", a man is pushed into the path of a subway train and winds up lodged beneath the car from the waist down. Medics rush to the scene, but quickly realize there's nothing they can do to prevent him from bleeding out internally as soon as the train's weight is removed. Needless to say, the pinned man is not pleased with this prognosis.
  • An episode of Quincy hinged on the killer using the "Dim Mak" quivering-palm technique — he could "program" his victim to die at a specific later time just by setting up vibrations in the victim's body.
  • In one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Scoobies (minus Buffy) are fighting a vampire. Spike gets in a few blows, then pulls back and lights up a cigarette. Giles, currently pinned to a fence by the vampire, calls out for help. Spike replies "I already did." We then see that Spike lit the vampire on fire already, and it just took a few seconds for the flames to grow. The vampire screams and turns to dust.
  • In Game of Thrones, Khal Drogo delivers this to Mago during their fight and giving a Badass Boast about what will happen after Mago is dead.
    Mago: First you have to kill me!
    Drogo: I already have.
  • Early on in the Stargate Universe episode "Alliances", Wray and Greer seek out the crashed Lucian Alliance ship in order to disarm the naquadria bomb set to destroy Washington D.C. The bodies they are in take a massive does of radiation, so Senator Michaels and Dr. Covel, the owners of the bodies, are already dead. Once Senator Michaels learns that she is dead, she devotes her remaining time to learning to disarm the bomb so she can save the city.
  • In an episode of The Outer Limits, a human fleet makes a last-ditch effort to destroy The Reptilians against who they are waging a desperate (and losing) war. However, one of the crewmen aboard the flagship is The Mole, and the enemy ambushes the fleet, destroying all ships but the flagship. Only a few crewmen are left alive on the flagship. Each crewman has a patch on the chest that displays a color indicator, which detects the levels of radiation. The crewmembers are horrified to discover that the indicator is black, which signifies a lethal dose of radiation. They don't have long.

     Music 
  • Decoded Feedback says this at the end of Soultaker: "If you look into his eyes, you're already dead!"

     Professional Wrestling 
  • This can happen regularly in pro wrestling matches. The most common use has been nicknamed the "AJPW sell." What happens is Wrestler A delivers some kind of blow or slam on Wrestler B. Wrestler B no-sells that attack to deliver some kind of attack on Wrestler A and then Wrestler B sells the initial attack.

  • A Real Life variation, Shawn Michaels was in a casket match with The Undertaker at Royal Rumble '98. During the match Shawn took a bump on the casket where the small of his back hit the corner. Shawn was basically fine until three days later when he couldn't even get out of bed.
  • Receiving this became one of Ric Flair's signatures in the later parts of his career: he'd be backed into a corner and receive some sort of pummeling/squashing, only for his opponent to back away. He'd let out a WOOOO, take a couple of steps (usually strutting) like nothing happened, then fall flat on his face. It's since become known as the "Flair Flop."

     Stand-up Comedy  
  • On David Cross' CD, Shut Up You (lift flap for dirty word) Baby! he launches into a long tirade mimicking the puffed-up threats rednecks make when they're about to start a fight:
    "I just take my eyelash, man, and then you fuckin' put it in your eye, and you're fuckin' dead, man, you're dead for an hour, you don't even know it, man. You'll be walkin' around, thinkin' you alive, but you been dead for an hour, man."

     Tabletop Games  
  • In 1st & 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, this is basically what the Quivering Palm ability of the Monk does. Once per week, a high-level Monk can declare an unarmed strike to be a Quivering Palm attack. Any time within the next several (at least fifteen) days, the monk can simply will the target to drop dead (although he gets a saving throw to survive).
  • In the Ravenloft setting, Ivan Dilisnya is a master poisoner who takes pride in his ability to secretly dose dinner guests with a toxin that won't kill them until after they've headed home and think they've gotten away from his mansion safely.
  • In the Feng Shui fan supplement Out For Blood, the fu power "Harmonious Fist" from the Path of the Harmonious Chord, a fu path for those adept in both Martial Arts and Sorcery, allows its user to launch a Martial Arts attack that doesn't deliver its damage until you make a Sorcery check, and among other things can be used to deliver many strikes that only take effect when the Sorcery check is made to activate them all. Omae wa mou shindeiru indeed.
  • The Ninjas And Super-Spies RPG from Palladium Books contains the dreaded Dim Mak technique. Only a few Martial arts allow you to learn it and one must be of the most evil (Diabolic) of alignment. A successful infliction of this technique destroys one's ability to recover the positive chi required for healing, leading to one slowly wasting away and dying from the incurable breakdown of the body over the following weeks. It can even be delivered with a finger poke where the victim never knows what happened, and an advanced version can even work (with more difficulty) through phone lines!
  • In Exalted, one of the iconic powers of the Solar Exalted is exactly this: Your attack connected, but damage will only happen when you will it. It's learned as a thrown combat technique, but may be used with all other arts.
  • A particularly time-extended version of this occurs in Warhammer 40,000 lore, when an Inquisitor inadvertantly tries to speak to the bound daemon Cherubael. Cherubael's very first words to the Inquisitor are, "In my world, you are already dead," before explaining that he had 14 more years to live until he would be shot by a traitor with his own gun.

     Theatre  
  • Older Than Steam: In Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2, Laertes pulls this on Hamlet:
    Laertes: Hamlet, thou art slain. No medicine in the world can do thee good. In thee there is not half an hour of life. The treacherous instrument is in thy hand, unbated and envenom'd.

     Video Games  
  • Many fighting games in general, particularly modern ones, tend to have this if you finish off an opponent early on in a rush combo. You will keep on attacking and keep on attacking long after the opponent is defeated. Justified in that if the opponent's death animation played mid-attack, the character would be comically attacking nothing.
  • A common tactic among feral druids in World of Warcraft is to land your bleed attacks when the opponent is fairly low on health (40%) and instantly move to another target, knowing your original foe will die in seconds.
  • A common event in any game with Damage Over Time effects: if you hit an opponent with an effect that does damage over time that exceeds the remaining hitpoints of the opponent, then unless they can heal or dispel the effect, they're already dead.
    • Independent of player attacks, there's a comical version of this in the death animation of the Tenders (small walking trees inhabiting the Eversong Woods). When defeated, a tender looks briefly confused, then glances down to find that its body has been sliced clean through on a diagonal. It looks up in disbelief as its top half slides sideways off the bottom half, and collapses.
  • Gen from Street Fighter Alpha 2, whose martial art style is classified as an "assassination fist" like Kenshiro's, has a Super Combo called Shitenshuu or the "Death Point Attack". When Gen performs the Lv. 3 version on his opponent, it will cause a timer to appear above their head, which will cause an instant K.O. Unlike other examples, the effect can be canceled if the opponent manage to strike Gen before the countdown reaches zero. His other Super Combo, Zan Ei is a lesser version of this. He dashes forward hitting his opponent once, but after the pass, the opponent receives multiple mysterious hits.
  • The Fist of the North Star fighting game gives Kenshiro two attacks with "the line." One is his Fatal KO, the Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken. The other attack is the Zankai Ken, a Super that gives the opponent three seconds before being defeated. Just like in the original series, however, this attack doesn't work on Souther.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has the Walking Bomb spell, which causes whatever it is cast on to explode after a set amount of time. Its upgrade, Virulent Walking Bomb, turns anyone else in the blast radius into bombs themselves.
  • The Final Fantasy series has the various spells and attacks that inflict the Doom status effect. This places a timer above the victim's head, counting down to zero. When the timer hits zero, the character dies.
    • Some enemies have a doom-like ability that is un-dispellable. Essentially, you're already dead, you've just been given a short grace period.
    • This also appears in the Kingdom Hearts series.
    • The best example of this is the Air Anchor from Final Fantasy VI. It's a guaranteed hit, and does no damage. But with the next action the target takes - any action, including healing itself or just waiting - it dies instantly. It's also not a standard status effect, so it can't be dispelled by anything. It's ineffective against zombie-type enemies though, as it's considered an instant-death attack (which zombies are immune to).
  • In Anarchy Reigns, Zero's mutant execution attack involves slicing through a mutant's body, causing the arms to fall off: usually non-fatal, considering mutants can regenerate arms. Then Zero turns his back to the mutant, and the second he sheaths his swords, the mutant is cut in half and dies.
  • One of the Metal Gear Solid comics shows a High Frequency Blade-d guard's head slowly sliding apart in mid-sentence.
  • In Diablo III, one of Monk class' skills, Exploding Palm, causes the target to explode if it is killed by Damage Over Time. Given that Diablo III is chock full of Shout Outs, the reference to Fist of the North Star was no doubt intentional.
  • Taokaka's Astral Heat has her (intending) to finish the opponent after saying this, word for word. Considering the nature of Blaz Blue, it is very likely that it's a Shout-Out.
    • Hakumen even has an achievement named this in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift. Its objective is to deal 10,000 damage in one combo, which is such an absurdly high amount that if you're not dead, you're probably one good poke from dead (unless the opponent is also Hakumen or Tager, who are the only characters that can withstand such a combo at whopping 12,000 and 13,000 health respectively).
  • In Shinobi for the PS2, Hotsuma can attack multiple enemies in a chain, and after the chain attack is completed, they all fall to pieces.
  • Mortal Kombat Deception: One of Li-Mei's fatalities involves this.
  • Vergil's Signature Move in Devil May Cry 3 is Diagonal Cutting his opponent, then waiting several seconds before sheathing his sword (with an audible CLICK), and only then the enemy goes asunder.
  • Ninja Gaiden for the NES opened with this happening to Ryu Hayabusa's father in a Cut Scene.
  • One of the Nekomata's attacks in Disgaea 4 is a dead ringer for the Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken. After delivering multiple blows, the opponent becomes irate and walks up. Cue the explosion about halfway there.
    • Made more obvious in Disgaea D2 where they rip health bars straight out of the Fist of the North Star fighting game whenever the attack is used.
  • At the beginning of Shadow's story in Sonic '06, Shadow briefly pulls this with several robots by simply running through/by them.
  • The No Moment sword tech and Fist fighting tech in Sa Ga Frontier.
  • Reiji and Xiaomu in Endless Frontier when they perform their Shinra Banshou overdrive. After Reiji wails on the enemy with his guns and swords, Xiaomu finishes with a slash from her sword staff. As soon as she clicks it into her staff, the enemy gushes out blood in the air.
  • In a really wrong way, Prototype makes it impossible to let someone go after grabbing them without killing them. So they are pretty much dead once you get your hands on them.
  • In Prototype 2 gives us the BioBomb. Where you insert into an victim a variation of the virus that incubates for a short time, enough to leave the scene, before exploding them into a mass of tentacles impaling everything near him.
  • Evie's Drain attacks in Vindictus have this effect, particularly the Mark of Death and Bloody Thread attacks. You can hit an enemy with a smash and then hit them with the Drain attack, which you can then explode later for extra damage.
  • Ukyo Tachibana from the Samurai Shodown series inflicts something like this as his special and his finisher. He runs up to his opponent, walks "through" him or her a few times, stops behind him or her, twirls his sword, sheathes it aaaaaand..... one torso less attached to it's legs.
  • Played with in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning with said Reckoning move. When this Rage mode is active, everything turns blue and time slows down, allowing your character to deal massive damage with room for error. Any enemy whose HP drops to about zero enters a near-death mode signalled by their supposed "fated death" erupting out of them in the form of blue strings of fate. If the player can successfully execute one of these characters (how they were supposed to die happens now, supposedly) before Reckoning runs out, the rest suddenly die from the chain reaction. Otherwise, they somehow regain a small percentage of their HP.
    • It's actually precisely the opposite. Entering Reckoning mode is the player character giving destiny the middle finger and proceeding to handle the fight in a way that should never have happened. Enemies' fates come unwound as they near death in this state as you're literally ripping apart the weave of fate as you yank them out of it, and Fateshifting one is enough to lock that in. Failing to do so allows destiny to reassert itself, but it apparently can't completely undo the grievous wounding you just inflicted on a whim.
  • In the Touhou fighting game spin-offs, one of Reimu's ultimate spellcards requires you to hit the opponent six times, and a few seconds after you did that, she will release a huge wave of Ofuda strong enough to finish the round in one hit. The name of the spellcard? Musou Tensei, translated as Fantasy Heaven.
    • Actually, not one hit. It seems to be one just because you take many hits in the same frame. A talented player with health high enough can actually survive through this bullet hell.
  • In Goldeneye 1997, Perfect Dark, and Perfect Dark Zero, enemies killed with grenades or other explosives may stand still for a second before being Blown Across the Room.
  • Spore, Creature Stage. If the other creature is down to five or fewer hit points and you hit it with +5 spit (you need the "Porcupain" part to do this) or have all of your pack target the creature with Spit, the other creature fights on a few seconds before the poison takes effect.
    • If you kill the specified amount of creatures to "Extinct" them, all surviving members will float up and evaporate in a cloud of sparkles, even if they were still fighting.
  • True to the series it's based on, Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage can do this to mooks he performs a special maneuver on. Several such maneuvers can be performed on multiple mooks or even a mass of mooks at once, leading to much carnage among the enemy.
    • The equippable "Hokuto Wisdom" Skill can give this to any other character, including Mamiya.
  • The New Vegas GRA DLC exclusive Power Fist weapon "Two Step Goodbye" behaves in a manner very similar to Kenshiro, and not just because they're both in a post-apocalyptic setting. If you score a critical the enemy will explode a few seconds later. Oddly, there's also a weapon that's named for the aforementioned series, the Fist of the North Rawr, that sadly lacks this effect.
  • DotA has Zharvakko, the Witch Doctor and his spell Maledict. It deals delayed damage based on how much hp the enemy has lost since spell cast, and escaping from heavy damage becomes nigh-impossible. In DotA 2 he even has special responces when the enemy dies to the spell's last damage tick.
    Witch Doctor (finishing off an enemy with Maledict): "Wait for it… waaaait for it… "
  • Zed's Death Mark ultimate in League of Legends has a debuff attached that triggers 3 seconds after the ult was cast, dealing damage based on how much damage Zed inflicted during those 3 seconds. If timed right, Zed can rush in, burst an enemy down, then let the Death Mark proc while he escapes to safety and they explode.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney has the fourth case's victim die of atroquinine poisoning. When atroquinine is ingested, particularly in a lethal dose, it takes 15 minutes for the effects to kick in and kill the victim.
    • Another person in the same case ingests it, and this time it's the defendant, who collapses in the courtroom because throughout the court session she had been chewing on her nails, which she polished with nail polish that, unbeknownst to her, is laced with atroquinine. Fortunately, she subverts this trope because she didn't ingest enough to kill her, and she fully recovers the next day.
  • Earthbound did this in an odd way. Taking damage in battle caused your health meter to scroll down at a fixed rate. Therefore, even if you took lethal damage, you wouldn't really "die" until it finished scrolling down all the way, making it possible to survive if you got off a heal or finished the battle in time.
  • Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae has a gameplay mechanic where sheathing your katana makes glowing enemies bleed in fountains. This doesn't always kill them.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's gives us the security camera footage of Foxy running down the west hall if the left-side door to your office isn't closed already. By the time you've put down the monitor to even reach the door button, Foxy's probably already entered your door and is screaming in your face.

     Webcomics  

     Web Original  
  • Episode 18 of Yu Yu Hakusho Abridged gives us this example:
    Seiryu: Hm. Seems you're pretty fast... but not fast enough.
    Hiei: Oh really? You have no idea how fast I am.
    Seiryu: Oh yeah, smartass? Then how fast are you?
    Hiei: You really want to know?
    Seiryu: Enlighten me.
    Hiei: You sure you want to know?
    Seiryu: Yes I'm sure!
    Hiei: Positive?
    Seiryu: Positive!
    Hiei: Absolutely sure?
    Seiryu: Yes, goddammit!
    Hiei: You've been dead for twenty seconds.
    <Beat>
    Seiryu: AhhhhAHHHHHH!!!
  • This happens twice to Axem Yellow in Super Mario Bros. Z, first it took him several seconds to realize that, after an attempted attack on Mecha Sonic, his axe had fallen apart. Later, Mecha Sonic spin-dashes him. Five seconds later, he splits in half. Both halves explode.
  • Avatar: The Abridged Series did a Fist of the North Star parody, complete with the line.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall gave us Pollo's Heroic Sacrifice to repair Comicron-1's engines after Mecha Kara's latest attempt at domination. This was a direct Shout-Out to Spock's death in Wrath of Khan.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-022, the Black Shuck. Looking at it in the eye, or any other eyes it spawns elsewhere, will cause your innards to be completely incinerated exactly one year after you break eye contact, if it doesn't kill someone in your family instead.
  • In one episode of Tales From My D&D Campaign, Angel is listening to a mysterious possible enemy discussing the situation with his comrades, and hears them determine that should the "raj" engage the party, he will die, but will in return kill 1.5 party members. Not precisely an example of this trope, but the effects it had on the PCs were quite similar.

     Real Life  
  • Frequently in boxing and kickboxing, a strike to the point of the liver has a delayed reaction. The struck fighter often feels nothing at all for two or three seconds - and then collapses. An example from Mirko CroCop.
  • Also a common response to a Groin Attack when in a pressure situation; In the right circumstances, you won't realize you have been hit there by a kick hard until some time has passed. Typically, it's just a few seconds, but sometimes it can stretch to a full minute before the opponent falls to the ground, writhing in pain.
    • A lighter example is smashing your toe. You'll feel the impact, but the real pain hits you in a wave a second or two later.
  • Though not necessarily a fatal instance, an adrenaline rush running as a result of or alongside some physical incident can have the side effect of deferring pain. As a result, one could be experiencing anything from a sprained ankle to much worse and not realize it, carry out various tasks, and only experience the intense pain of the incident itself much later. Often happens with car or motorcycle accident victims, who may even walk out of the wreck and then collapse to ground, or be calm when they're taken over by paramedics, only to howl in pain later, when the shock of the accident wears off and pain begins.
    • Sometimes consciously exploited by soldiers on the battlefield or in similar instances (firefighters in a disaster), when the man involved may still do his job deferring pain, to collapse afterwards.
  • Crush Syndrome. It's experienced by people who are rescued after being crushed or buried under a heavy weight; they appear completely normal at first, but start losing renal function over the next days; it can be severe enough to mean a complete loss of renal function.
  • Can happen with heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest victims.
  • Secondary drowning, which is pulmonary edema (the lungs getting filled with liquid) some time after the inhalation of fluid.
  • Take a high enough dose of hard radiation and you're guaranteed to die rather suddenly... in about three days. There's even what's known as the walking ghost phase after the exposure there are no direct symptoms and you feel fine for up to a day. What is happening is it takes time for things to die, and they're normally replaced, but those replacements aren't happening now, as your bone marrow is dead.
    • Speaking of that, if you see critical fissionable material, such as the molten reactor core in the ruins of Chernobyl, you've already recieved a lethal dose of gamma rays.
    • Ricin, the deadliest non-radioactive poison (it prevents protein synthesis), has a similar delayed sudden death effect.
  • Being fatally shot doesn't always kill people outright. Considering being shot feels kinda like being punched really hard, it's entirely possible you wouldn't realise you were dead until it all goes black.
  • Shallow water blackout. Don't hyperventilate before breath-hold diving.
  • If your hard drive starts clicking, it's already dead.
  • Cerebral edema, which sometimes develops in the wake of a head injury, can cause compression of the medulla oblongata and abrupt cessation of breathing. This is why doctors don't let patients who've suffered a blow to the head leave the ER and go home by themselves, as undetected brain swelling can cause the victim to drop in their tracks without warning.
    • Epidural hemorrhage: You get hit in the head; get confused for a few minutes; recover completely and then, six to eight hours later, you collapse.
  • Tylenol (known outside the USA as Paracetamol) overdose. Occasionally used to attempt suicide by people who don't know that if you take a high enough dosage you will die... in about three weeks as your liver slowly shuts down.
  • Burn victims are sometimes this. They are still "alive", but if burned bad enough over too great an area, they're basically roasted humans and there is nothing that can be done for them (the amount of skin/flesh grafting that has to be done quickly would kill them anyway). They feel no pain (nerves are burned/gone), they can't move, speak or do anything (muscles melted) but, still conscious, wait for the end.
  • Irukandji syndrome. According to The Other Wiki the initial sting may go unnoticed, or feel like little more than a mosquito bite. 20-30 some minutes later though...
  • As mentioned in the Homicide: Life On The Street example, people caught between trains and the platform like that can survive as long as the train is keeping them in place. The train is keeping all of their bodily organs in their upper body. They can live for several hours and stay alive long enough to have full conversations with their loved ones. The second the train moves, all their internal organs come spilling out and they are dead.
  • Brain stem death. If the brain stem stops functioning, then there is no way to reverse this and they will die eventually.
  • Prolonged starvation can leave a body so fragile that eating food can, in itself, be fatal. Filling the stomach only causes blood flow to shift to the digestive tract, denying it to other organs too weak to endure the loss. Only intravenous nutrition and tiny mouthfuls of liquids can ease such a person back from the brink; if neither option is possible, they're Already Dead.
    • Additionally, food has a thermogenic effect; it requires energy to process food before the food can be used as energy. Overfeeding a starving person whose body has shut down a lot of digestive functions puts an enormous energy strain on them.
  • SIRS (systemic inflammatory response syndrome) and it's big brother MODS (multiple organ dysfunction syndrome) describe a state where a stress (sepsis, blood loss, hypoxia, etc) causes extensive tissue damage to multiple organ systems. The heart and brain may be alive and might survive the inciting incident, but if the tissue damage to those other organs is irreparable, the death spiral begins. Because the body has a stereotyped inflammatory reaction to these stresses, the pathophysiology is the same regardless of the cause. More at The Other Wiki.
  • A ruptured spleen can feel like nothing worse than a bellyache, at least until you've bled out so severely that you turn gray and keel over.
  • One of several potentially lethal species of Cone Snails, Conus Geographicus, is known as the "cigarette snail"- those unfortunate enough to pick up one of these pretty shells with an occupant are said to have just enough time left to smoke a cigarette before the snail's cocktail of toxins turns off their entire nervous system. There is no antidote, but some victims have survived by being placed on heart-surgery level life support until the toxin wears off.


Huh? The page ends? Does this mean that I — HIDEBU!!


Wrestler in All of UsFight SceneYou Can Barely Stand
You Are a Credit to Your RaceStock PhrasesYou Are Not Alone
World's Best WarriorCombat TropesYou Get Knocked Down, You Get Back Up Again
Prepare to DieImageSource/Anime & MangaFlame of Recca
You Are Worth HellDeath TropesYou Have Outlived Your Usefulness

alternative title(s): Delayed Instadeath
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