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Delayed Causality

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Death waits for some men.

"You're already dead."
Kenshiro, Fist of the North Star

A Dramatic Pause used for action scenes. The hero (or villain) punches his foe. Dramatic Pause... and a giant explosion obliterates him. Or, the hero swings his sword. Dramatic Pause... object/opponent falls to the ground in at least two pieces. This is not like using a Time Bomb, where a delay is deliberate. This is ignoring the laws of physics for the sake of dramatic effect. For all intents and purposes, the fight was over when the punch landed… the resulting effect(s) simply decided to wait a few seconds before showing up.

The Delayed Causality is almost always used in a Single-Stroke Battle — often resulting in the loser having a limb cut off, getting sliced in half, or ending up partially or fully decapitated.

The target of the attack doesn't have time to, or simply won't, react to it until the final explosion occurs. The only reaction, if there is one, is to acknowledge how the opponent bested him before he dies.

This can also be used simply as a display of skill. For example, the hero throws a block of wood into the air and slashes at it a few times. The wood block falls down... Dramatic Pause... and breaks apart into the shape of a peacock.

See also You Are Already Dead and Time-Delayed Death.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Code Geass, this happens in the fight between the Knight of One and Suzaku.
  • Parodied in Dragon Ball: Mr. Satan pays #18 to take a dive in their tournament match. Mr. Satan punches 18, who is completely unaffected. She asks Mr. Satan whether that was his most powerful attack, and he says yes. She jumps backward off the arena, and the audience misinterprets it as a Delayed Causality punch.
  • Fist of the North Star: Whenever Kenshiro says "You Are Already Dead", there's a good chance this trope is taking place, since his attacks are based on hitting pressure points on his adversaries, making their bodies to unnaturally bend, disable parts or simply explode in a few seconds.
  • Halo Legends manages to pull this off in The Prototype with a Missile of all weapons, with Ghost firing a missile at a Banshee that clipped its wing without doing any apparent damage, only to have the craft slowly erupt into flames a few seconds later.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler, when Isumi destroys the Koi Herpes Virus.
  • Highlander: The Search for Vengeance does this twice. First with cutting off the head of Malik (who even manages to have a conversation after his head is flying through the air) and again at the final battle.
  • Lupin III:
    • In Japan, that pause where nothing is happening is called "Mu", something like "emptiness". It's important as a punctuation in Japanese theatre and is used most famously (to the point of being parodied in countless other anime and manga) by Goemon Ishikawa XIII in the Lupin III franchise. Goemon even has a catchphrase that he says before the items he has just cut fall into pieces: "Again, I have cut a worthless object."
    • In Lupin III: Dead or Alive, after Goemon slices apart boats and telephones, they continue to hold together for several seconds afterwards. As does General Headhunter, before turning into a pile of gold dust.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Raphtalia defeats Trash II by making a slice and sheathing the Vassal Katana. As Trash II learns a while after, the slice has made him Half the Man He Used to Be.
  • Saint Seiya loves this one. Foes don't drop dead until they realize they've been hit. An Exaggerated example occurs in the Hades Arc. Aldebaran Taurus is Killed Offscreen by a Spectre, but a piece of his cosmos lingers around to leave a message to Mu, which helps him block the same attack that killed Aldebaran when the Spectre tries to attack him by surprise. Mu then tells the Spectre that even though he managed to kill Aldebaran, with his last breath he managed to launch an attack that killed him but hadn't realized. The incredulous Spectre can just watch as suddenly parts of his body begin exploding as he is totally disintegrated.
  • Frequently played straight in YuYu Hakusho. In what was possibly the earliest example in the show, Hiei slices an opponent something like sixteen times; said opponent has time for some gloating before he finally slides into pieces.

    Comic Books 
  • The French comic Game Over:
    • Subverted in this strip: the protagonist gets the time to retaliate... not that it does any good.
    • Played straight here.
  • After Scott Pilgrim defeats Ramona's evil ex-girlfriend Roxanne there's a delay before the pieces fall apart.
  • In a fight scene of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, the Operative gets into a swordfight with one of his former fellows named Denon. He ends the fight with a Clean Cut through Denon's entire head, front to back; it takes a couple panels for the top of Denon's head to fall off.
  • There is an issue of Sin City where Miho slices her sword across a mobster's wrist. There's a moment before the hand falls off where the mobster is looking down, wondering what just happened.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • From Alien vs. Predator, A Predator uses his weapon to kill a Xenomorph in Antarctica, after a moment or two its head sloughs off and its body falls to the ground.
  • In The Court Jester, when Hawkins, under a hypnotic spell that turned him into a great swordsman, swings his blade at a candelabra with five candles, Ravenhurst laughs at his failure. Hawkins then blows on the candles, causing them to fall.
  • Curse of the Pink Panther: Parodied with the implausible martial arts prowess of the Ninja Mr. Chong. He karate-chops a boulder to no apparent effect, then calmly walks away while first the boulder and then the entire building fall to pieces behind him.
  • In Cube, one of the rooms slices up a character with Razor Floss but the pieces don't fall apart for a few seconds.
  • In Equilibrium, the Dragon to the Big Bad is on the receiving end of one of these. After John Preston faces off with him in a Single-Stroke Battle, he stops and has just enough time to turn his head before half his skull slides off and falls to the floor.
  • Eternals: There's a long delay from the moment Thena dices up the master of the deviants and his body actually falling apart from the cuts.
  • In Hero, during the demonstration of "death within ten paces", Nameless cuts up all the bookshelves in a single move. Naturally, the bookshelves don't actually fall apart until a few seconds after he's returned to the center of the room.
  • In Highlander there is an over 10-second delay from the moment the Highlander deals the fatal blow to the Kurgan and his head actually falling off. He actually has time to reach out towards the Highlander then smile before he dies.
  • A sword-vs.-prop example from Hot Shots! Part Deux. Near the end of the movie, Topper Harley and Saddam Hussein engage in a swordfight within Saddam's compound. As their scuffle takes them upstairs, Topper takes a quick swipe at a candle hanging on the staircase wall. Topper's sword break apart five seconds later.
  • Happens in The Ice Pirates during the swordfight between Maida and Dogbite. Maida swings her sword, Dogbite stops fighting, and simply stands and grins. "Feeling better?" she asks. Dogbite raises his head to nod, we see a red mark across his throat....and then his head just topples off his neck.
  • In Iron Man: Tony gets knocked out of the sky and lands in a crater. As he rises, a tank starts firing at him. Stepping aside from the missile, Tony aims a forearm-mounted rocket launcher and fires back. As the rocket hits the tank, Tony turns and starts to walk away. Seconds later, the tank explodes.
  • A favorite trope in classic sword fights. In The Mark of Zorro, during his big fight with Pasquale, Don Diego swipes at a candle with his sword. When Pasquale laughs because he thinks Diego missed, Diego lifts the top half of the candle off of the candlestick, to show that he cut the candle cleanly in half.
  • Two members of the Umbrella Special Forces Team in Resident Evil are killed by the Red Queen computer with lasers. They stay perfectly standing until their injuries start to show; one of them has her neck sliced open while the other one is cut into tiny cubes.
  • Star Wars: How Darth Maul is defeated in The Phantom Menace; he stands whole for few seconds before falling, which shows that he was cut in two. He gets better.
  • A form happens in The Three Musketeers at the beginning, when the dragon slices through three candles with one stroke, and then calmly pushes the top halves off naming the musketeers in turn.
  • The climax of the first Underworld movie, wherein Seline does this to Viktor. It's particularly ridiculous because not only does he fail to realize the two halves of his head aren't connected anymore, he actually manages to whip around and draw his weapons before reality kicks in.

  • Discworld:
    • In Interesting Times, Lord Hong is discussing with an underling when he suddenly lashes out with his sword. The underling cautions himself to stand very, very still to keep his head from falling off, as Hong's blades are known for their incredible sharpness. (It turns out a moment later that he struck an assassin posing as the tea girl.)
    • Used by Granny Weatherwax, who can deliberately invoke this trope. She catches a sword bare-handed to no apparent injury, only allowing the injury to happen later when she's more prepared for it.
  • The Sellswords: In Promise of the Witch King, Jarlaxle stabs a female adventurer he'd temporarily teamed up with in the chest. She seems fine for a moment but then drops dead about a minute later because he'd nicked her heart.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Shagga, son of Dolf claims his axe is so sharp that he once cut off a man's head without the man realizing it until he went to brush his hair. Tyrion muses that this is why Shagga never brushes his.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Better Call Saul: In Carrot and Stick, the Cousins execute one of their henchmen mid-stride for trying to kill Nacho before they can capture him. He manages to squeeze off another shot before falling to the ground dead.
  • The first episode of the 2017 MythBusters revival tested this very trope, even mentioning it by name. The hosts tested whether it was possible to decapitate a human analogue fast enough so that the head could briefly remain in place before falling off. Busted. Both a watermelon and a prop zombie head were used as targets for a rocket-propelled guillotine. Once the blade sliced through them, the upper halves of each fell to the floor almost immediately. The shape of a blade makes this trope impossible — as a blade cuts it pushes both halves apart automatically.
  • Justified and Played for laughs in Red Dwarf, when Lister and Rimmer are under the effects of a time-manipulating device, so when two bruisers start pummeling them, it doesn't have any effect... until several hours later, when they're in the captain's office and suddenly start getting beaten and tossed around by thin air.
  • Star Trek: Picard: After a Single-Stroke Battle in "Absolute Candor", there's a Dramatic Pause before Tenqem's head slides off due to a Diagonal Cut made by Elnor's tan qalanq.

    Video Games 
  • The Binding of Isaac: Dark Arts lets you pass through enemies to damage them. Hit enemies will freeze in place and don't take damage until the effect ends, with each enemy being chopped up in the sequence they were touched.
  • Kingdom Hearts II has Superboss Sepiroth, who has a move where he takes a stance and then dashes past Sora. Fail to press the button in time, and Sora will be slashed multiple times; succeed, and he'll parry the slashes. Both happen after Sepiroth is already behind Sora.
  • Ninja's dash attack in Kirby: Triple Deluxe doesn't deal damage until after Kirby's sheathed his katana.
  • Starcraft II has a cinematic sequence where Zeratul cuts off one of Kerrigan's blade-wing things. It takes a few seconds to fall off. In the second expansion, he does it again to Artanis' nerve cords, snapping out of his possession by Amon. He doesn't survive this time.
  • Most heavy attacks in Super Smash Bros. Brawl send foes flying a few frames after they connect.
    • The same applies in the Wii U and 3DS versions of the 4th Smash Bros installment, adding a red spark of lightning effect that jets out when an opponent is almost guaranteed to be KO'd. Little Mac's KO Punch in particular zooms near him when he hits an opponent with it, along with slowed-down frames before said opponent flies off in real time.
    • During 1-on-1 matches in Ultimate, landing powerful attacks for some characters will cause a dramatic delayed effect, which briefly causes a blue explosive surge in the background.

    Web Animation 

    Web Originals 
  • The SuperMarioLogan episode "The Remote!" has a justified example in that time was frozen. Under the effects of the pause button, Junior punches Chef Pee Pee in the face. Chef Pee Pee doesn't move or react to it until Junior unpauses time.

    Western Animation 
  • Often occurs in vintage cartoons at the end of a Saw a Woman in Half trick, if only because Rule of Funny applies in these situations.
    • In "Daredevil Droopy", Droopy and Spike compete for a job as a circus performer. One scene has Spike being sawn in half by Droopy. After Spike emerges from the box visibly intact, his upper half struts to the left as his lower half heads rightward as this scene ends.
    • "Show Biz Bugs" has Bugs Bunny performing this trick on an overly eager Daffy Duck. Though Daffy explains how this trick usually works in an effort to ruin the act, the trick goes off without a hitch. Outraged, Daffy demands the audience stops applauding, but he soon realizes he's actually been cut in half as he's jumping up and down in anger.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: El Tigre attacks Señor Sinestro's giant robot with his Absurdly Sharp Claws, to seemingly no effect. Señor Sinestro laughs and claims his robot is made of impervium... and then the robot falls apart.
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon "Touché, Pussycat" has swordsman Tom poised to skewer poor Nibbles. Jerry manages to push a battle ax forward so that it falls toward Tom. The ax's blade seems to cut right through Tom from crown to crotch, but Tom actually turns to Jerry and sticks his tongue out at him. Then Tom returns to his target to resume the skewering. Only then do Tom's two halves fall apart, exposing featureless tissue innards, as though he's Made of Bologna that's the same color as his fur.
  • In Wakfu, Sadlygrove's sword slashes often go according to this, but similarly often split stuff immediately too. Rule of Drama applies. Exhibit: Dream Sadlygrove slices up the dragon monster in Evangelyne's dream sequence in the Sadida Tree of Life.
  • Wander over Yonder: Lord Dominator punches Lord Hater in the face. It takes a few seconds for Hater to get launched by the impact.

    Real Life 
  • Time-delay fuses on aerial bombs can cause this; while most bombs dropped from planes use a simple contact detonator to explode as soon as they hit the ground (or their target such as a vehicle or building), some can be set to only explode after a certain amount of time has passed often by using a propeller-wound detonator, which spins as the bomb drops through the air doesn't allow it to go off until the propeller stops spinning. These are often used on bombs meant for hardened targets, to allow the projectile to pierce into the armor or thick concrete to explode within the structure rather than on top of it and cause more damage, or when the bomb is dropped from an extremely low altitude so to allow the plane, and any potential wingmates, to escape the blast radius before it explodes. Depending on how long the detonator itself is set, the delay can be anywhere from a few seconds, playing this trope straighter, to a few minutes.
  • Ammunition fires, especially in tanks, can give this effect, especially if caused by a shaped-charge warhead which pierces the thick armor and sets off the ammo while keeping the structure of the tank intact enough to (initially) contain the sequential detonations. As seen here, the moving tank initially seems to shrug the missile off without slowing down...but then not five seconds later, the multi-ton turret begins hopping in its mount from the ammo inside cooking off and the vehicle grinds to a halt, at which point it goes up like a Roman Candle. Thankfully, the tank in the video was unmanned for demonstration purposes, but it paints a grim picture for any poor sod manning the vehicle on a battlefield and taking such a hit.


Video Example(s):


El Tigre

El Tigre's claws are sharp enough to cut through an impervium robot.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AbsurdlySharpClaws

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