Follow TV Tropes


Fight Unscene

Go To

"That's the problem with CHR's fights. Since they're described with the bare minimum of effort, you really have no idea what took place. It could have been a brutal, gigantic clash that tore apart an entire continent and went on for days, or if you're lazy like me, you can just take it completely literally and only show what was actually described!"
Normalman, notes on Christian Humber Reloaded: The Webcomic

In animation, cool fight scenes draw an audience — but it takes a long time to create.

For those who aren’t willing to pour most of their budget into the fight scenes, the solution is to use all kinds of tricks to avoid having to show elaborate movement or visual effects. These tricks include tight first-person perspectives, eliminating backgrounds, and making sure there's as little physical contact as possible between the fighters. There may also be a censorship aspect to it, if the fight would otherwise look too brutal.

Making a virtue of necessity, characters may "move too fast to be seen!" as one of their in-world powers. Ideally, they move between static poses in a split second and dramatically hold those poses for many frames, with the melee replaced by a Hit Flash. Or we can always just see a Big Ball of Violence.

Typically The Movie will ditch these gimmicks entirely due to the amount of money that inevitably gets put into such projects.

Can also be Played for Laughs as a kind of Gilligan Cut - Bob threatens to beat Charlie up, and the next thing we see is Bob being wheeled into an ambulance.

Compare Battle Discretion Shot, Relax-o-Vision, Offscreen Moment of Awesome, Coconut Superpowers, and Hit Flash. See also Bolivian Army Ending, Charge-into-Combat Cut, Fight Scene Failure, and Take Our Word for It. When a scene is skipped entirely and only described afterwards, it is Second-Hand Storytelling instead.

Do not confuse with a fight unseen.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • YuYu Hakusho: Played with in the Hiei-vs.-Seiryu fight. Hiei blurs around Seiryu a few times, and he falls apart. Then the rest of the team compares notes on how much of the fight each managed to see - he was moving too fast for them, too.
  • Air Master was notable among fans who otherwise didn't always like the art style of the series because it played its fight sequences fairly straight.
  • Avoided in Ghost in the Shell (1995), which looks as if it's going to lead into one of these, with Kusanagi being invisible during a fight sequence. What transpires is a thing of absolute beauty, with her presence only being displayed by splashes in puddles and the brutal beatdown her victim receives. And the occasional Invisibility Flicker.
  • Black Lagoon:
    • Most of the firefight between Revy and the Cuban ex-assassin Roberta, arguably the deadliest opponent Revy faced in single combat during the series, was mainly observed from the other side of a stack of shipping crates. Presumably the battle was just too amazing to animate.
    • When the same characters later settle their grudge with a bare-knuckle fistfight, most of it is left offscreen, as other characters dicuss the fight over the sounds of them slugging it out.
  • Sumomo Momomomo: The battle between the fully grown Koganei Tenka and his pre-teen brother was so fast that only "martial artist vision" could see it. Certainly censors couldn't, and maybe that's the point.
  • Fist of the North Star: One exceptionally frustrating exception to the rule that "The Movie is more explicit": In the movie, Raoh confronts Shin in Southern Cross. We cut away, and then when Kenshiro faces Shin later, their fight consists of one punch before Shin dies from an attack inflicted by Raoh earlier. For those keeping score, that's two fights the audience is cheated out of.
  • Fairy Tail: When Laxus sets up hundreds of objects that will destroy a populated town, a full chapter is spent setting up having all of the guild members come together to destroy them all first, but then we see none of these attacks being launched as the very next page just skips to the explosion(s) made from the objects being wrecked all at once. This was fixed in the anime. The part where Erza fights and defeats a hundred monsters is also done in just one page in the manga. This was also fixed in the anime.
  • Ranma ½: When Ranma is fighting skating martial artist Mikado Sanzenin there is a scene where it appears the latter is spinning Ranma around madly injuring him and preventing a counterattack. Only Akane's sharp eyes are able to see the Ranma is actually pummelling the hell out of him with blows almost too fast to see. It's only after the fight when Mikado's partner, Azusa asks if Mikado won the fight that Akane points out he has actually been knocked unconscious despite still being on his feet.
  • Devil May Cry: The Animated Series is, sadly, loaded with these. There is one episode in particular in which Dante gets purposely sent to jail in order to rescue a man under the request of his sister. Inside, Dante finds out said jail is run by demons in disguise who periodically release all the inmates in order to hunt them down. Once the "game" starts, a disarmed Dante calmly gets out of his cell, stands before a bunch of demons and adopts a fighting stance. Cue the fade to black and when we're back Dante is calmly walking away from a bunch of beaten up demons...
  • Legend of Himiko also suffers from these, especially in the penultimate episode.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: the whole 2nd half of Episode 6 is full of it. Cue Gainax blowing the whole budget on the fighting while the rest looks...well… The "too fast to see" variant is played for laugh in the Beach Episode, as it happening with a volleyball match makes it rather hard for the ref to do his job.
  • Bakemonogatari deliberately uses this as a stylistic choice when Araragi faces down the rainy demon. Most of the sequence focuses on his face, brief glimpses of a blow or another, and cuts to typography designs. It's a highly stylized series as it is to begin with.
  • Katanagatari uses it for comedic effect in the case of Hakuhei Sabi. Said person is hyped as a Master Swordsman without peer. Said person is beaten completely offscreen with the characters describing just how awesome/epic the fight was.
  • Early in Dragon Ball, young Krillin fights Master Roshi (in disguise) during a tournament and the fight is over in a blink of an eye. When the audience complains, Master Roshi and Krillin enlist the aid of the announcer and cameraman and re-enact the most improbable fight ever in slow motion.
  • Averted for Aoharu × Machinegun. The fight scenes are normally the best things in the show while other scenes suffer for it.
  • Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase had this problem in the televised version, which was fixed when the show came to DVD.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi did this with Jack Rakan's fight against Fate's minions, which consisted of a "five minutes later" panel and a cut to said minions lying unconscious.

    Comic Books 
  • In Marvel Versus DC, the results of seven key matches were determined by fan vote. Wolverine out-polled Lobo, but the writers couldn't think of any way to believably make it happen, so the last blow occurs off-screen as the two (fighting in an alien bar) fall behind the bar. After a couple of Beat Panels, Wolverine is the one who stands up. For the record, back in his home series after the event, Lobo says that "some bald guy" bribed him to throw the fight.
  • Parodied in an issue of Simpsons Comics where the characters spend several panels discussing an extremely elaborate fight sequence happening just off-scene, culminating in one of them saying "It'd be ridiculous to ask any artist to try and draw all of that."
  • A letter to the editor of Batman praised a previous issue for skipping straight from "Batman is about to fight some Mooks" to "Batman is confronting the Big Bad", saying we know Batman can beat up mooks, and by not considering it worth showing, the creative team is indicating they know we know that. The editor jokingly responded that a later issue might skip Batman fighting the villains altogether.

    Fan Works 
  • Checkmate (Anla'Shok): Mags sleeps through the end of the 10th Hunger Games (which are Outdated by Canon and thus do not feature Lucy Gray Baird) and another mentor, Vicuña, wakes her up to tell her that sociopathic District 2 tribtue Mordred (who terrifies Mags) won. Vicuña starts to describe how he he won, but Mags sadly says that all that matters is he did and she doesn't want to know what happened to his last two opponents (Little Miss Badass Skye and Stealth Expert Cally).

    Film - Animation 
  • The first two BIONICLE Direct to Video movies did this due to censorship and budget reasons. LEGO had a strict rule against direct violence, characters were not allowed to use their blades, spears or chainsaws directly, only to hold down their foes or fire elemental blasts that would indirectly incapacitate or inconvenience them. Tahu flashes his fire swords and plants them into the ground to heat it up. Onua readies his chainsaws only to put them away and levitate rocks instead. Scores of action scenes are filled with running, acrobatics, flashy effects, cutaways, interruptions and heroes resorting to trickery, but no direct physical combat. Because of technological limitations, even effects like fire or water were kept to a minimum — in the second movie, the heroes don't use their power over the elements in combat at all. This ban was lifted for the third movie, which went on to indulge in so much action that it actively hurt the story. The German cut of the film actually became an example because of this: as the anti-violence policy was still in effect in Germany, almost all action from the action scenes was removed, leaving viewers to imagine what might have happened based on the aftermath.

  • Let the Right One In featured the final fight - all we see is the male lead almost being drowned in the pool (the camera is sub-water too), then suddenly, people from above the water begin to scream, and the hand that is holding the boy down suddenly disappears. Cue showing the bloodbath above. Being a drama with supernatural elements, this really works very well, and doesn't feel like an Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
  • The Dutch film De Griezelbus did this with the final fight, only showing the shadows and people's reactions (actually, the evil monster involved in this is never shown at any point in the film).
  • The Lost Bladesman usually averts this trope, with Guan Yu fighting his way through hordes and hordes of mooks in multiple large-scale action sequences where he puts his trusty halberd to good use slicing in dicing. But played straight in the scene when he confronts a traitorous general in the latter's mansion - suddenly, forty armed mooks appears from out of nowhere, the general picks up his Epic Flail as Guan Yu unsheathes his halberd, and the courtyard doors swings shut, conveniently obscuring every bit of action, though plenty of commotion can be heard behind the doors. The morning star part of the general's flail then bursts through said door, which opens finally... to reveal Guan Yu standing alone surrounded by dead bodies, said general included.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Daredevil (2015): Matt's rescue of Carl Hoffman from the corrupt cops sent by Fisk to kill him plays out this way in the season 1 finale.
  • Moon Knight (2022): Used frequently when Marc (or Jake in the last episode) takes control and Steven blacks out.
  • Smallville: In the episode "Society" (also known as "Absolute Justice, Part I"), Chloe Sullivan meets a former superhero named Sylvester Pemberton. When he's suddenly attacked by an ice-wielding villain, Pemberton throws Chloe into a dumpster to protect her. We see the fight from her perspective: mostly the dumpster being rocked back and forth as bright light and battle sounds come through the grate, and the metal is pierced by huge icicles. [1] It's really cool.
  • Young Sheldon: In "White Trash, Holy Rollers and Punching People", the camera cuts straight to the title sequence just as Missy is about to punch the boy in the face.

    Video Games 

  • In Christian Humber Reloaded, many of the fights are mainly described as having the main character performing the killing moves on his enemies with his various weapons and abilities, and the quote above shows the author's approach to illustrating the fights. In "Soku's Revenge against Me," the narration immediately transitions from the main character noticing Soku's arrival and recognizing her to regretting killing her (again) in front of the children.
  • Parodied in The Order of the Stick with the ultimate duel between clerics, consisting entirely of touch attacks, most of which don't even work thanks to the would-be victim making his saving throw.
    Goblin General: Truly, there has never been a more spectacular display of magic in the annals of warfare.
    Redcloak: Yeah, we really blew the special effects budget on that one.

    Web Games 
  • A handful of fight scenes from BIONICLE's Mata Nui On-Line Game, due to Lego having a fairly strict "no hitting" rule at the time. In contrast to many other examples, these used the trope to great effect.
    • Kopaka VS the Muaka: Kopaka activates the Mask of Concealing, turning invisible for the first half of the fight. We only see his footprints and the flashes of his sword hitting the Muaka. The beast soon sees through his method, and smashes him into a snow-mound, forcing him to switch to another Mask Power.
    • Onua VS infected Lewa: hit flashes punctuating complete darkness, illuminating the combatants standing in various poses. When you think about it, the whole animation isn't all that impressive, but many fans consider it to be one of the best fight scenes — the music track may have something to do with it.

    Web Original 
  • Lampshaded on There is a section there dealing with how certain Star Trek vs Star Wars scenarios will turn out - Trek fans vs the DS9 show writers vs realistic scenario. So, in a scenario of retaking a planet with land forces, the show writers' scenario is that the battle doesn't happen at all - due to this trope, it will become the Defiant battling an orbital defense platform in order to clear the way for Klingon troop transports.
  • The Blackest Night crossover between Linkara and The Spoony One had Black Lantern Spoony grabbing Linkara, only to be interrupted by a title card and return to Linkara freed. Less an effects limitation and more that they just couldn't figure out a good way to stage Lewis escaping the hold.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "What Was Missing", upon finally opening up the Door Lord's door via the power of music, Finn, Jake, Marceline and Princess Bubblegum discover he was trying to teach them a lesson about The Power of Friendship. The Door Lord rejoices, and we cut to the next scene in which he is tied up and badly beaten, showing he wasn't so Easily Forgiven for taking everyone's stuff.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball the titular character tries relentlessly to get his sister to tell him a secret she knows. He pokes her repeatedly in the head until warned "You do that one more time...." . The warning goes unheeded and the next scene depicts him with several scratches all over his face.
  • The Dexter's Laboratory episode "911" has Dexter resolving multiple crises in hopes of quelling an Emergency Broacasting System that was interupting his Show Within a Show "Action Hank". Unfortunately, nothing seems to work and, not only was it only a test, it was so long, that he missed an epic fight scene.
  • Parodied in an episode of Droopy, Master Detective. A fight between Droopy and McWolf consist of the two bowing, and McWolf flying out the window. When demanding an explanation, Droopy's son shows a recording of the fight in "super slow motion" which is basically the two bowing, Droopy turning into a blur around McWolf, then stopping, then McWolf flying out the window.
  • Explicitly lampshaded in an episode of Earthworm Jim: Suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, Jim is accosted by his Rogues Gallery while trying to retrieve his neighbor's lost egg beater. Then...
    Earthworm Jim: (runs headlong into danger all guns blazing) Eat dirt, gigantic undefeatable army! Ah-hahahahahaha!
    (cut to a TV news bulletin)
    Newscaster: Newsflash: costs of cartoons skyrocket! Producers seek cheap substitutes for huge action sequences!
    (cut back to the episode; Jim is unharmed and has won the fight in all of the five seconds the intermission above took)
    Earthworm Jim: (puts his blaster away) What a huge action sequence!
  • The Relax-o-Vision episode of Freakazoid! played with this as well, with Freakazoid commenting that the preceding (censored) fight scene must have blown a good chunk of the studio's animation budget.
  • Gravity Falls: In the "Clay Day" segment of "Little Gift Shop of Horrors", some claymation monsters fight, while the main characters watch the fight in such a way that the audience can only see the monsters' shadows on the wall. Someone comments on how expensive claymation is, and Soos adds "This is an impressive fight, though. Sure am glad I'm facing towards it."
  • In one episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, a fight is about to break out between elves and dwarves, only for a man to suddenly appear and say it's too violent to show, so instead, they show a clip of a koala until it's over, all the while, the man is describing the fight.
  • The fight scenes in which Roger Ramjet is involved are usually replaced visually with sound effects words.
  • In the South Park episode "Best Friends Forever", the epic battle between Heaven and Hell is described in real time by an angel who notes it is ten times bigger than the final battle in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Played straight in Wander over Yonder in an episode entitled "The Cartoon" The Watchdogs explicitly stated that they didn't include Hater's fight with Awesome in the cartoon they made because their budget was used up on the fight scene with them in it.