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Anyone Can Die

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Nope, not even the guy in the wheelchair is safe — and neither are the later additions to the main cast who aren't pictured.

Arya Stark: They say he rides into battle on the back of a giant direwolf. They say he can turn into a wolf himself when he wants. They say he can't be killed.
Tywin Lannister: And do you believe them?
Arya Stark: No, my lord. (Beat) Anyone can be killed.

Most of the time when you finally grasp who the main characters of the story are, you can expect that these characters will survive through the end of the story (or at least until the last episode). Like, c'mon, there's no way the writers would actually have the young and innocent Tagalong Kid actually die without being saved at the last second, let the loyal team dog be mauled to death by wolves, or allow a sweet ol' granny to be run over by a speeding truck. Right?

Well, This Is Not That Trope.

This is very common in Darker and Edgier works. When the writers want to impress you with their ruthlessness, they may trumpet that Tonight, Someone Dies, then kill off a random second-stringer that nobody cares about much. They might even kill off a major character because their actor was leaving anyway, or because they needed a good cliffhanger to convince people to watch the next season. That is also not this trope (although it's merely pretending to be).

Anyone Can Die is where the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality is thrown out the window from eight stories high, then further tenderized with a lead pipe; no one is exempt from being killed, including pets, children, the elderly, even the main characters (maybe even the hero!). The Sacrificial Lamb is often used to establish the writer's willingness to kill off important characters early on. To really be the Anyone Can Die trope, the work must include multiple deaths of named characters, happening at different points in the story. Bonus points if the death is unnecessary and devoid of Heroic Sacrifice.

This trope is very helpful in keeping fans from being Spoiled by the Format. War shows like Mobile Suit Gundam benefit from having a larger cast since there are so many people to kill off. The frequent deaths within a wide cast make the storyline unpredictable, forcing you to wonder who'll be left standing once the dust settles.

Still, even if all characters are allegedly up for the possibility of a dance with the reaper, the general laws of storytelling (and, more importantly, how actors are contracted) tells us that you can expect the chances of main-character death to increase as you approach the climax of an arc, the final episodes of a season, the final chapters of a book, or the final instalment of a series, even if the work averts Death Is Dramatic. A creator needs to be quite committed to the concept to kill off an important character in a completely plot-irrelevant way.

When used poorly or too frequently, this trope can cause Too Bleak, Stopped Caring, possibly with audiences uttering the Eight Deadly Words, as the audience won't see any point in getting attached to characters that they expect to die sooner or later.

Note that the character needs to be Killed Off for Real for the trope to have the desired effect; it does not work if the writers cheat and bring back the guy later (see Not Quite Dead, Disney Death, Negative Continuity, and Climactic Battle Resurrection). As such Super Hero Comic Books as a medium have gained a reputation of "Anyone Can Die... until someone wants to use the character in a later story."

Compare Survived the Beginning, when the story begins with a cast massacre, and the few who survive get some Plot Armor.

A good way to check if this trope applies is to see if who survives is an important plot point, rather than only how they survive.

Contrast with Tonight, Someone Dies, Sorting Algorithm of Mortality and Contractual Immortality. Compare Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics, Survived the Beginning, and Characters Dropping Like Flies.

Opposite of Nobody Can Die and Plot Armor, where not even situations that should kill people manage to. See also Dwindling Party, where the deaths are evenly spaced rather than near the end. Easier to do in works with large casts. Can be expected in a Tragedy. Red Shirt is (usually) when the deaths are reserved for nameless extras. This trope tries to upgrade them to Mauve Shirt first.

This is easily defined as definite Truth in Television, because all living organisms are mortal and are bound to, by statistics at least, eventually die for any number of reasons, with no fiction writers to determine how it happens, so No Real Life Examples, Please!

As this is a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware!



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  • The franchise for the Evillious Chronicles has got a huge death toll, not only because the series spans for a thousand years and so almost everyone will die of old age by the time of the next arc, but because it's got multiple main characters to choose from and isn't picky about which ones they kill off. One of the plot points is everyone dying near the series' climax.
  • In Paul Shapera's Ballad of Lost Hollow trilogy of albums, it starts with four main characters, two of whom are dead by the end of the story.

  • In the Cool Kids Table game Creepy Town. Who survives each scene and who doesn't is dependent on the luck of the draw, which means at any moment a victim could meet their fate, no matter how much their player likes them.
  • The first season of Dark Dice begins with a party of six people, and ends with three just barely escaping with their lives and sanity.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Whilst reality-based rather than in a storyline, sadly Professional Wrestlers seem to have very short life spans. Prior to drug testing (which was implemented after one such death), wrestling has had a number of high-profile deaths that seem to come out of nowhere, most notably Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero. Certainly fans are now conditioned to expect any wrestler to die at any time.
  • You also never know when an accident may happen, such as the one that claimed the life of Owen Hart in 1999, and another that claimed the life of Jay Briscoe in 2023.
  • And of course accidents can occur outside the ring, as what had happened to Randy Savage.
  • This can also apply to wrestling families, the Von Erich Family being a noteworthy and tragic example (with Kevin being the only son to outlive father Fritz).
  • Due to Lucha Underground being more of a TV show about Wrestling then a Wrestling TV show, They aren't afraid to kill off characters. While some characters come Back from the Dead, others are Killed Off for Real.

  • BIONICLE has begun to show traits of this trope. Ever since the web-serial chapters arrived (though mostly from 2008), former main and side characters have been dying left and right. Now that the happenings of the Matoran Universe have to be restricted to a web-serial, since non of the characters are part of the main line of toys, everyone who survived the story's first 8 years can begin to worry. Don't think of Heroic Sacrifice, rather blowing up or being pulled beneath the ground for just the heck of it. Or simply eaten. Exceptions are, of course, some of the main heroes and the invulnerable Big Bad. And if a side-story happens to take place in an Alternate Universe, absolutely no one is safe, save for those who don't belong there and will eventually return to their own world... Although, that isn't guaranteed either.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
  • In Fate/stay night, all the Masters and Servants can die. The only ones who are guaranteed to survive the non-bad endings are Rin and Sakura. The Bad Ends kick it up a notch, with several of them dooming everyone in Shirou's highschool or the entire city.
  • Full Metal Daemon Muramasa has an absolutely massive cast and that is just as well given just how high the mortality rate is in this story. By the end of each route, the number of characters left alive can be easily counted on one hand. Not even young children are safe, with them often dying just as gruesome deaths as the adults. This holds equally true for the main characters with most being either dead or dying by the end, some of which can die midway through with little warning depending on the route.
  • All of the main characters in The Letter can potentially die. The True End even requires some of them to die.
  • Lux-Pain is a dark visual novel game where the main character outright states that if his mission fails, many people will die. While it's very easy to save the main cast, it's just as easy to lose them. Only eight people are killed canonically and half of them are villains. Mako, Takano, Naoto and Kyosuke are examples of the good guys. Also, if you mess up during a certain portion of the game, the number of people that die in the normal ending is higher. The most prominent example is Hibiki who is killed by Honoka (and she too is killed by getting gunned down) when you fail to remove the Silent from Honoka that prevents her from going crazy. Oh yeah, and when Hibiki dies, Shinji dies too (or at least never wakes up from his coma), and Mika and Nami go missing. In fact, out of all of your friends, the ones that are safe at this portion of the game are Akira, Rui, Yayoi and Ryo. The latter, however, is to be questioned because after Hibiki is killed, you can't talk to him.
  • Played with in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The 9th Man's early and brutal death by Zero's explosives sets the tone for the game, but contrary to Zero's threats, none of the rest of the 9 have a bomb in them, none of them are actually on a sinking ship, and Zero actually intends to avoid harming anyone besides those responsible for running the previous Nonary Game. There are bad endings in which one of the 9 kills the rest either because they'd been Evil All Along or because certain events in the game had broken them, but each ending is really one potential timeline that Zero can see, and Zero is capable of guiding the protagonist's decisions to result in exactly what was planned (i.e. the True Ending).
  • Rose Guns Days has it the usual way in the first 2 Seasons, with only nameless mooks dying (but they are seldom explicitly stated as dead) and Wang Yuanhong implied to breathe his last breath off-screen. Then at the very end of Season 3 Stella Maiougi, a fairly important character, actually dies in very graphic detail. In the Last Season, named characters suddenly start to drop like flies starting with Yuuji Maiougi (a 2 year old kid), and continuing with Oliver Oribe (who may or may not be 20 years old at that point), Lee Meixue (one of the arc's main characters' girlfriend), James Tomitake, Maurice Monobe, Cyrus Saimura, Richard Maiougi (Stella's brother and Yuuji's uncle), Alan Aramaki (Meixue's boyfriend) and Gabriel Kaburaya. To these deaths we might as well add Keith Kisaragi, who lost his best friend Alan and his entire new family (the Maiougis) in the span of a single season.
  • In Sickness, a reader may begin to realize this upon the death of Sara, if she indeed dies in your route. If Suoh gets killed, you'll definitely realize this.
  • There are rather few characters in The Shell who make it to the endings reliably. For example, Mizuhara, Tojiko and Orihime always die and Toko dies in every route except one in which she lives on as a torso.
  • As the name implies, Your Turn to Die — Death Game By Majority — has several fatalities — and in certain cases, it's effectively up to the player who gets to live past that point.

    Web Animation 


Video Example(s):


Even the Prompter Dies Here

According to El Hormiguero's musical parody, nobody is safe from death in Game of Thrones - not even the show's crew.

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