Follow TV Tropes


From a Single Cell

Go To
Not quite one single cell, but it is one single Cell...

"I don't remember much after the explosion, but somewhere amongst the planetary debris the core of my being still existed, one living cell survived, and that is all I needed for my regeneration... Soon that living cell began to multiply into many, it wasn't long before I became conscious of my transformation, I could feel every part of my body growing, crackling with new life and energy. My shapeless mass began to sprout new limbs, first my legs, then my arms, and in no time, my whole body was restored! [...] That is when I realized that each cell must hold a memory of my former self. Each one programmed to make me whole again."
Cell, Dragon Ball Z, having just survived his own Planetary Taking You with Me thanks to this trope

The worst kind of unkillable enemy, there's the creature who cannot be mortally wounded, because he has a Healing Factor that is exaggerated. Every injury simply regenerates, from lost limbs, to a blown off torso, to a broken neck. Even when you think you've completely killed him, he comes back, because you missed a bit of flesh that was able to replicate itself into a new body.

This is rarely an ability of the hero; it is more often a power a villain has that marks him as being too powerful and resilient for the heroes to overcome, forcing them to find a creative way to beat the villain or gain a Plot Relevant Power Up.

If not properly explained, or given to a character who doesn't really seem worth it, it can become an Ass Pull. No matter how well done, it will have audiences (and characters themselves) screaming "Why Won't You Die?!".

Why every loose cell or drop of blood shed by the character doesn't generate a copy of them is not generally addressed. In a supernatural setting, this can be hand waved with some talk about souls or lifeforce, though one still wonders how the various bits go about deciding which one of them gets to do the regeneration. Bonus points if the character/creature in question somehow retains all of his memory and personality, which in real animals are stored in the brain — no brain, nothing to restore all that data from!

Also, per mass-energy conservation, this process should either require some sort of mass to absorb and convert into new cells, or a lot of energy to convert to mass.

Expect this from all sorts of enemies, from demons, aliens, to androids made of Nanomachines.

A form of Nigh-Invulnerability. A character with a sufficiently strong instance of this trope and The Ageless has Complete Immortality. See Shapeshifter Baggage and the necessary Genetic Memory. Also see Good Thing You Can Heal and Immortal Life Is Cheap. Related to Pulling Themselves Together.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Yakumo from 3×3 Eyes. He was turned into a Wu, an immortal undead slave, when Pai, the last of the Sanzhiyan, sucked his soul into herself to save his life. His Healing Factor is so powerful he was once able to regenerate from being blasted into a bloody mist. The same applies to all Wu, such as Benares (who takes longer to reform since his master's life energy is slowly running out.)
  • The wriggly centipede thing that's the originator of the titan powers in Attack on Titan seems to be able to do this, at least to a degree. It's apparently defeated by severing the host's head inside the Founding Titan's mouth once it's activated its final form.
  • Black Clover: Licht's spell that uses the combined power of the reincarnated elves destroys Zagred's body except his heart, which allows him to regenerate his entire body. It requires Yami catching him off guard by bisecting his body, Yuno destroying his spears in time, and Nero healing Asta for him to finally destroy his heart.
  • It's eventually revealed that this is the power of Shaz Domino in Bleach. It's so strong that he, a projection made by Gremmy, generates himself a corporeal body and breaks free of Gremmy's control. Kira has to defeat him by repeatedly cutting him with his Zanpakuto until he is stuck in the ground and unable to free himself.
  • Genji Ikusabe from Buso Renkin's spear has the ability to regenerate his entire body very rapidly, even if the body itself is completely destroyed. Admittedly, it has the weakness that he has to be holding his weapon at the time.
  • Priscilla's true strength in Claymore is her insane Healing Factor, which is based on The Power of Hate (some characters go as far as to say that Priscilla's powers are something one would expect from a god), it was certainly powerful enough to pull this trope off more than once. During one of the last confrontations, Priscilla is literally cut into hundreds of pieces by Clare's Quicksword, only for her to just heal again, devour a weakened Cassandra, and come back stronger than ever. In the final battle between her and Teresa, after her regenerating abilities go temporarily out of control, leading to plenty of Body Horror, she does this again! Multiple times, in fact, as many of her scattered pieces produce each a full copy of Priscilla to attack Teresa with numbers. In the end, Teresa has to use a move that basically all but pulverize Priscilla to keep her endless hatred from eternally regenerating. This is also Played for Drama: Priscilla still has a remnant of her human self within herself. After her Awakening, she has done everything possible to lead her Awakened form toward death, stabbing herself with her Claymore sword, messing with the likes of Isley of the North, being eaten by an Eldritch Abomination, but her hate was too strong for her to die. At the very end, her human half regains consciousness for a moment and thanks Teresa for being able to finally grant her death, and that she's sorry for all the trouble she created.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Cell from Dragon Ball Z is a biological android with many of the main characters' abilities coded into his DNA, including Piccolo's regeneration and Freeza's ability to survive in very harsh conditions. Therefore, he doesn't have to worry about dying if... say... the upper half of his body gets blown off. In fact, after initially losing to Son Gohan, he tries to blow himself up and destroy the planet. After Goku sacrifices himself to teleport Cell somewhere far away from Earth, Cell surprises everyone, including himself, by regenerating after the explosion. In the original manga and Japanese anime, it's explained that Cell can only regenerate from a group of "core cells" in his brain that have to remain intact, averting the Asteroids Monster problem. However, this created a different Plot Hole, since Goku actually blows up the entire top of his body at one point (as mentioned above), so the English dub of the anime kept the visual of the "core" in his brain but changed the dialogue so that any of his cells could reform his body (back to square one on the Asteroids Monster thing). Cell also has an extra twist on this; his Saiyan cells grant him a Zenkai boost whenever he recovers from gruelling injuries (such as losing a limb), with the power boost being proportional to the injuries sustained. Applying that to his coming back from a single cell (or the core cluster in the Japanese, as noted above) results in him becoming several times more powerful.
    • The next villain after that, Majin Buu, is a murderous, magical demon who can reform himself from a single piece of himself, and can reform himself if he is blown apart into a million pieces, or even air vapour. A single cell? All he needs is a single molecule. Planetary explosion? Give him 3 seconds. Blown up to shreds, the shreds then being vaporized just to make sure? Give him 3 goddamn seconds. The only thing that can end him is having his chi completely neutralized by someone else's chi, and that needs to be done fast; Gotenks briefly had a shot at doing this, but he got distracted just for a moment and Buu was able to reform. It takes a Combined Energy Attack with power from every non-evil, non-dead character in the series up to that point to kill him. It's interesting to note that his regeneration becomes more powerful (or at least faster) with every transformation. Fat Buu already fits this trope, but it's a fairly slow process. Super Buu is able to regenerate at incredible speed, though there are implied to be mental limits that Gotenks almost reaches and during his battle with Vegito in the anime it seems to start slowing down as he gets his ass utterly wrecked, to the point Vegito actually points out he hasn't regenerated from an injury yet and Buu hasn't even noticed. Finally, Kid Buu can regenerate seemingly instantly from having his entire body destroyed, with no visible limits aside from complete destruction of every molecule of his being. Kid Buu's being the fastest could be justified by virtue of being the original form of Buu.
    • Baby from Dragon Ball GT has similar regenerating powers. He is destroyed for good when Goku blasts him into the sun, eradicating every last one of his cells.
    • When Zamasu wishes for Complete Immortality on the Super Dragon Balls in Dragon Ball Super, this is what he gets: any wound he sustains heals itself within seconds of being inflicted. He's never blown apart as completely as Cell or Buu, but it's heavily implied that he would come back from that if he was, at speeds comparable to Kid Buu. In an interesting but logical take on the trope, his regeneration becomes compromised when he fuses with his still mortal, alternate timeline self. In the manga version of Dragon Ball Super, Fused Zamasu still has this ability, and this time the Asteroids Monster caveat is invoked. He's cut in half and then exploded, but each piece of him regenerates into a brand-new copy of the original. The anime went with a different form of survival.
    • The Super manga shows that the Cell Juniors inherited the same ability from Cell, as they're all alive years later despite Gohan apparently killing them. Thankfully, they're no threat... unless you're a poacher or otherwise on their island without permission, then you can kiss your ass goodbye.
  • The Homunculi from Fullmetal Alchemist have rapid regeneration limited only by cumulative exhaustion of the Philosopher's Stone that fuels them. It doesn't matter how damaged their body gets at a given time: after one of his subordinates is grievously injured during a fight with the homunculus Lust, Roy Mustang attempts to hit two birds with one stone by forcibly removing Lust's Philosopher's Stone to kill her and using it to heal his friend. When the Stone is removed, Lust's body disintegrates, and Roy thinks he has won. Cue utter horror when Lust's body begins to reform around the Stone in his hand. The issue of why lost body parts and/or blood don't regenerate into copies is handled by the fact that a homunculus's Philosopher's Stone is the source of all its power. Thus, any part not connected to the Stone ceases to exist.
  • Nurarihyon from Gantz. Without the gravity gun against this guy, you are screwed.
  • Acacia from Green Worldz regenerates from a single small flesh in chapter 51 despite being cut to pieces. Her Healing Factor is so strong that the hero has to resort to feeding her severely damaged body to a giant-size monster baby in order to get rid of her. Even after that, she is revealed to be alive in chapter 110 and manages to regenerate her body back.
  • Guyvers are able to do this, so long as that "cell" is the control metal, the entire rest of the Guyver can regenerate. That goes for the human bonded with the Guyvers, if any of their cells are still in contact with the control metal after their death. Aptom can as well, although he requires Zoanoids to alter into more of his body mass. As a bonus, this also lets him use those Zoanoid's powers. The "why doesn't every part of him regenerate into him" issue is addressed - this will happen if they have access to sufficient biomass, but all copies of Aptom have a Hive Mind and can merge or split at will. Eventually, a villain finds a flaw in his power: after Aptom is nearly killed, his non-sentient remains are exposed to a Zoanoid which contains a fake "Aptom brain" and absorb it. His cells do not regenerate his brain due to thinking it's already present, thus allowing the villain to control Aptom's body through the fake. Sho questions why "Evil Aptom" keeps using an unwieldy Wave-Motion Gun while fighting him, and realizes that he has been using it to destroy any pieces of Aptom which were separated from the main body.
  • Alucard from Hellsing, who can also use his spilled blood as a deadly weapon with no adverse effects. More than once is he reduced to a fine red mist before regenerating fully. To elaborate, in the Hellsing universe when a vampire drains a victim of their life's blood they absorb the victim's soul. Among other things this gives the vampire what amounts to an extra life. Alucard has feasted upon so many battlefields that his extra "lives" number in the hundreds of thousands by the series. However, Alucard can turn his "servants" loose as a literal army, which leaves him alone and vulnerable to a stake through the heart, but he remains a formidable opponent even then. If you wipe out his army and/or fail to destroy him, he'll drink more blood, rejuvenate completely and gain more lives — like he did when he summoned and absorbed blood from the entirety of London's population. He was finally brought low when that meal was "poisoned" by the walking physics anomaly Schrodinger killing himself and casting himself into the sea of blood, causing an Assimilation Backfire as this turned all of his gathered souls against him and deleted him from the world. At the time of this Critical Existence Failure, Alucard had three million, four hundred and twenty-four thousand, eight hundred and sixty-seven "lives" from the London battle. He sacrificed all but one (Schrodinger himself) and gained an even stranger and stronger immortality, though the process took him thirty years to complete.
  • Karkinos Rucan of Heroic Age was once completely destroyed, leaving only the core of his Heroic Tribesman. He gets better.
  • Naraku from Inuyasha becomes like this (he starts off able to regenerate, but with limits). At one point he's reduced to his head, one hand, and miscellaneous bits of flesh and has regenerated fully within a chapter.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Battle Tendency, infinitely regeneration is one of Ultimate Kars' Informed Abilities. It never comes into play, though — Kars is defeated by being immobilized rather than being destroyed.
    • Subverted by Josuke's Crazy Diamond in Diamond is Unbreakable, which can put together a body that's been blown to pieces, but if the person already died from their injuries, they stay dead. It's still useful if say, an ally is in lethal danger after leaving behind a severed limb, letting Josuke effectively teleport them to safety. The trope is played straight as far as inanimate objects go.
    • The autonomous Stand Notorious B.I.G. in Golden Wind worked like this in addition to being a Living Motion Detector. Since they were unable to destroy it completely, Trish traps it by having it fall into the ocean and as a result constantly attack waves and any boats unlucky enough to get too close.
    • Foo Fighters from Stone Ocean is made out of sentient plankton, and thus can survive as long as just a little piece of her body stays intact. On top of that this plankton can multiply very quickly, which allows her to grow full body back from said little piece in a matter of seconds.
  • Adolf K Weismann, the immortal Silver King, has this power. He ends up being about as far from "villain" as it gets, though.
  • The berserked Self-Defense program in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. Getting petrified and frozen didn't stop its regeneration. Getting blown to bits by three Wave Motion Guns didn't stop its regeneration. What finally killed it? A weapon that completely annihilates a target by distorting time and space over a wide radius, and it still would have come Back from the Dead had the first Reinforce not performed her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Rin, a rare protagonist example from Mnemosyne (due to encountering a spore of the Yggdrasill tree) has virtual immortality, including the ability to recover from any injury, even getting sucked through a jet engine. Of course, being able to regenerate and stay alive under all sorts of conditions can be... bothersome.
  • Deoxys from Pokémon: The Series is shown to have this ability as long as its brain, the gem-like substance that protrudes from its chest (which is indestructible anyway), is still active. While it can regenerate lost limbs in just a couple of seconds, it has been shown that regenerating its entire body can take up to several years.
  • TerraforMARS: Having the planaria as a base allows Eva Frost to do this. She regenerates her entire body, brain and memories included, from only a piece of her breast. She also absorbs Adolf's electric abilities in the process.
  • Tomie: The titular character can do this. She can also speed the process up by infecting the bodies of other women and turning them into copies of herself. A scene in an early storyline implies that she is able to do this by virtue of being extremely radiotrophic, somehow converting background radiation into mass as her growth was accelerated by a doctor's attempt to kill her with a radiation machine used to destroy tumors. Throughout the story it's been proven that fire will kill Tomie for real and unable to regenerate (burned flesh are dead tissue).
  • Toriko has Elg of the Bishokukai, who fused with a legendary horse called a Heraku and as such can regenerate from a single cell, and do not cut him up into pieces because each piece will regenerate into an entire copy of him. He dies anyway after Tengu Buranchi electrocutes all of his copies long enough that the Heraku's regenerative powers can't keep up with the damage.
  • Elder Toguro from YuYu Hakusho explicitly says that the only thing that will kill him is destroying his heart or brain. Simple enough, right? Wrong. He's able to move around all his organs and body parts to wherever he wants in his body and can even ooze through cracks in the ground. Only two characters in the series manage to defeat him: Kuwabara (after transforming his Laser Blade into a Laser Racket in order to squash his entire body) and later Kurama (giving him a Fate Worse than Death by planting on him a monstrous tree that never stops harassing its victim until his or her death, which will never be the case with Elder Toguro).

    Comic Books 
  • Slippery B'eeef, the villain of The Authority: Kev, has this ability.
  • Rampage in Beast Wars: Uprising proves to be virtually, if not totally, unkillable due to his regeneration. His efforts as a "living crumple zone" who saves other 'bots from fall damage by being crushed were impressive enough, but at the climax he blows himself and the villain up with a nuke and wakes up in the crater a bit later with a frustrated groan. It might also protect him from aging; many, many years later, when the events of the main plot are the subject of intense historical dispute, "Pontiff General Rampage" is noted as a historian with a particular expertise on the subject, and while it's not said it's the same guy, Uprising generally doesn't reuse names and Pontiff General Rampage sure seems to agree with a lot of the opinions Rampage expresses during the stories proper.
  • Blackest Night: Black Lanterns are zombies with power rings that can regenerate them back to full health, even if their entire body is destroyed. The rings themselves are Made of Indestructium.
  • The Darkness had this once after Jackie set a warehouse and a few mooks on fire. The Darkness survived by hiding in a tooth cavity; not knowing what else to do, the Darkness rebuilt Jackie.
  • Deadpool: Unfortunately for Deadpool, his regenerative properties cause his cancer cells to regenerate rapidly too, causing him to be horribly disfigured and, well, not exactly sane.
  • Earth X's version of Daredevil can do this — including ending up as many copies of himself after being torn apart by a mob. He even makes it into a circus act in which people try every method imaginable to kill him. Too bad for him he's a Death Seeker.
  • Fiends of the Eastern Front: Corporal Cringu explains that his master Captain Constanta can resurrect from the smallest leftover. Despite burning him to ashes, Hans finds out that it still wasn't enough.
  • The Flash: In the Silver Age, Barry Allen was a rare heroic example, as he was able to reconstitute himself from extreme fates such as being vaporized, apparently due to his complete control over his molecules. The one thing he couldn't save himself from, however, was being converted into energy in an epic Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Hulk's future incarnation, the Maestro, was capable of regenerating from dust.
  • One of the potentially toughest Justice League of America foes is the Shaggy Man, a nearly invulnerable, ten-foot-tall bionic android that can regrow any limbs it loses almost instantly. Luckily, it's utterly mindless and therefore easy to trick. Eventually, a crazed general dying of brain cancer transfers his mind into it. He hasn't shown up very often since, probably because they're running out of ways to get rid of an unkillable, unsubduable villain with the mind of a brilliant tactician. Part of this may be because General Eiling found out too late that The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body. The Shaggy Man's tiny brain did not have a good effect on his mental facilities, and the Shaggy Man mostly just slept a lot, and yes, this does show a bizarre combination of the mind as the brain and as something beyond physical.
  • Lobo of DC Comics, an alien mercenary who deviates back and forth from a Psycho for Hire to a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, can revive himself from a single drop of blood. He once cloned himself an army this way, but, y'know, being all "sociopathic," they all killed each other until one remained (in non-bloody ways, like suffocating each other).
  • In the MonsterVerse graphic novel Godzilla: Awakening, Shinomura is The Worm That Walks, and so a new Shinomura can grow if even one of the individual organisms making up the whole kaiju are left alone.
  • Isstvan from Myth Adventures gets blown up by a spell, and then rather squelchily reassembles. Nothing remotely like this happens in the original novel.
  • Jimmy Marks a.k.a. Hybrid, from the original 1970s run of ROM: Spaceknight. He's killed by being torn apart on a molecular level and having those sundered molecules banished to another dimension twice, and both times he literally wills himself back together and back into reality. Downplayed in that it does take him weeks on both occasions. On his third occasion, he's skewered with Ilyana Rasputin's Soulsword and seemingly killed for good. Then he comes back in both X-Man and Avengers Academy, where he's vaporized and banished to Limbo again in each run. By the time of Avengers Academy, nobody is even pretending that this will actually kill him for good.
  • The Sentry has been able to unwillingly and unconsciously regenerate his entire being from nothing. He does have his limits, though, as he was eventually killed (and then revived into an undead horseman of Apocalypse).
  • Spider-Man: Sandman and Hydro-Man have this ability — so long as one grain of sand or one drip of water is left in their mass, they can reform like nothing; as long as there's more sand or water nearby.
  • Superman's higher-end baddies tend to have this ability. They include:
    • Brainiac is constantly shown to be able to survive from the smallest remaining bit of his circuitry or computer program. This is taken to an extreme in the DC Animated Universe, where the tiniest bit of Brainiac always survives, is stored somewhere, and manages to take over more technology and reform himself completely. He is then defeated, and the process repeats itself.
    • Cyborg-Superman accomplishes this via his technopathy. It's an unconscious reflex rather than a choice, though, as he is in fact a Death Seeker who would really, really like to die. Unfortunately for him, no hero he antagonizes seems to have the oomph to grant him his heart's desire.
    • Doomsday once regenerated from being reduced to an irradiated skeleton by a Planet Destroyer-level entity. Lex Luthor helped by pouring some of Superman's blood on the bones to give him some raw material to work with. It was later revealed in Doomsday's back story that he was created with the ability to die and then evolve with an immunity to what ever killed him upon resurrection.
    • Metallo is a cyborg who rebuilds himself via technopathy, and he's managed to pull himself together after being blown to smithereens more than once. However, his machine control isn't quite at Henshaw's level, and odds are Superman probably could destroy him if he ever really wanted to.
    • In Who is Superwoman?, the body of the titular Supergirl villain explodes when her Magitek super-suit gets shredded, and only tiny bits of flesh are left. However, those small specks of flesh was all she needed to rebuild herself completely thanks to her altered DNA.
  • Swamp Thing once lost an arm, which grew back (for the first time in his book). Later, he met a mindless clone of himself which had grown from the lost arm. During the later Alan Moore run, he could dissolve his body at will and re-appear from any form of plant life whatsoever, anywhere in the world. (He later got exiled into space with help from Lex Luthor, though, but he managed to find a way to return.)
  • Modular Man from Tom Strong isn't quite at this level. He is technically mortal, and can be killed, but functionally he's identical: if even one of his modules exists, he can use it to make more, and he posted the plans for free download all over the internet...
  • In the Ultimate Doomsday trilogy, Ben Grimm manages to kill the Maker/Reed Richards... or so he thinks. It turned out that the body Ben destroyed was merely an extra body spawned from a hair-thin tendril from his central mass which is quickly regenerated. When Reed is finally cornered by the Ultimates and his former teammates, he implies that so long as a microscopic bit of him remains, his bacterial stack can grow back.
  • Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen puts all these guys to shame. As Jon Osterman, he got disintegrated by radiation, to the point that they had nothing to bury. Somehow his consciousness survived and, in a few months, mastered command of matter to the point that he could remake himself from essentially nothing. Later, he is completely disintegrated again, and is back (and huge) in 5 minutes.
    Doctor Manhattan: I am disappointed, Veidt. Very disappointed. Reassembling myself after the subtraction of my intrinsic field was the first trick I learned. It didn't kill Osterman... did you think it would kill me?
  • Wolverine:
    • Wolverine once regenerated from a single drop of his blood landing on an incredibly powerful MacGuffin that was making the villain of the month all powerful. As a result, his healing abilities were supercharged to the point that he could regenerate from a single cell. He was also still touching the item when he popped his claws, (to destroy it) making it reasonable to assume he either deliberately or subconsciously used its power to re-adamantiumize his skeleton.
    • During Civil War (2006), he was immolated down to his skeleton and regenerated. Later comics apparently had him trade in some of his healing factor to return from the dead.
    • A common Fanon theory about how he can make so many cameos in other comics is that every time he loses a piece of himself, it eventually grows into another Wolverine.
    • The villain Bloodscream is a vampiric being who has this built in, and like Cyborg-Superman above, isn't exactly thrilled with it.
  • X-Men:
    • Cassandra Nova has a slow-acting form of this. She was a Fetus Terrible who was 'aborted' in the womb by Charles, but was able to survive as protoplasm on the wall of a sewer and telekinetically built a rudimentary body for herself over forty years. That body was eventually destroyed by the X-Men, but even then she was able to survive and continue her rampages via Body Surf.
    • Exodus is an omega-level telekinetic whose control of his ability is so fine that he can reconstruct matter at the molecular level. He once repaired the entire brain of Professor X this way, patiently reconstructing it atom by atom after it was pulped by Bishop. He also brought various Acolytes Back from the Dead during the Siege of Wundagore event.
    • Juggernaut, while never having to regenerate from a single cell, is capable of regenerating from being completely skeletonized...assuming you can even damage him in the first place.
    • Master Mold acts much like Brainiac, storing backups of itself in out-of-the-way places. Its future "descendant", Nimrod, can rebuild itself if even a single molecule survives.
    • Mister Sinister. As an aside, quite apart from this healing factor, he has back-up plans in the event that someone does manage to kill him, namely that he secretly experimented on several characters in their childhoods (including Juggernaut, Professor X and Sebastian Shaw) to allow his mind to be transferred to them telepathically while their DNA is overwritten with his, so even if you stop him returning from a single cell, he'll still come back. Not helped by the fact that all three of those characters are quite hard to kill anyway, and one is nigh-invincible.
    • Selene boasts of being able to reconstitute herself from dust ala Maestro above. She's done it a few times, but even she has her limits, as Warpath was once able to kill her in a way she wasn't able to regenerate from without outside assistance.
    • The Shadow King is a psychic example. He's a Living Shadow with no physical body to regenerate, but on the astral plane where he resides he's nigh indestructible. He once boasted that he could revive himself from a single dark thought in one man's heart.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Ghidorah can regenerate its entire body with all three heads' minds intact, even when there's only a single severed head left to work with, although the process takes months to years to complete. This is also why Godzilla has never been able to kill Ghidorah off for good despite the number of times they clashed in ancient times: every time Godzilla killed Ghidorah, death was just a setback for the three-headed dragon before it regrew from some severed piece of itself that Godzilla missed somewhere.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/Dragon Ball Z Abridged crossover Cell Vs The Rainbooms #CellGames does this literally: after her friends were at the wrong end of a Curb-Stomp Battle in the first chapter, Sci-Twi comes to Cell and uses a device of her own invention to degrade his cells, but leaves a single cell intact to study it later-with obvious consequences.
    "Lucky for me, you left one cell behind." Cell explained, in a completely calm tone. It turns out that I can regenerate from just that — who knew?"
  • Dark King Joe Dark and Chaos Alex both utilize this trope in Clash of the Elements, but it is stated in-story that the best way to counter their regeneration is to burn their cells faster than they can restore them, which Alex Whiter does with his Blazing Overlord Fist.
  • Deconstructed in Hell Butterfly. While Orihime is able to take her restorative powers to a logical extreme by reviving Ichigo with just a few hairs she found around his house, it's not a quick process: She has to focus on recreating the skeleton, followed by the blood vessels and nervous system, then the organs and muscles, then the skin and details. It takes around 12 hours of constant focus, and when Ichigo's inner hollow regains consciousness halfway through and tries to attack her, Orihime drops her healing field, and the hollow can't move because Ichigo's body is barely half-formed.
  • A Peaceful Afterlife: Very few things can permanently kill demons, as they'll eventually regenerate. It's to the point were decapitation is seen as a valid way of restraining someone.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • The Dark World Mane Six's Elements of Chaos (which Discord replaced their hearts with) give them Complete Immortality so long as the Elements aren't destroyed or forcibly removed from their body while they're whole, even if their entire body except the Element is destroyed. Unusually, the ones who have turned good keep the power. Unfortunately, most of their enemies have the same ability if not better, and the one who doesn't knows how to deal with it and has something nearly as good, so it's not as big of an advantage as it'd otherwise be.
    • The Alicorns and Draconequi both are capable of surviving and healing from unholy amounts of damage. It would seem nothing short of being vaporized can actually kill one. Even then, their natural forms are spirits that can live on past death, though killing them does seem to prevent them from just returning to the mortal plane. The only exception was Discord, who was shattered after being turned to stone. A fail-safe Havoc put in place allowed his spirit to remain in the mortal plane and possess a pony, whom he used his powers on to turn into a clone of his original body. Even then, it takes a massive amount of damage or special weapons to actually pull off under most circumstances. Princess Fidelitas, the purified version of Nightmare Eclipse's Manacle has both this and the Element of Chaos version.
  • In Queen of Blood (SirWill), Crawler is reduced to a fragment of bone which Dragon's scans show to be inert. He's actually alive and regenerates which is not good for him as he's floating helplessly in interplanetary space for the next five years before crashing into Jupiter and spending the next few years with his body trying to adapt until the shard gives up.

    Films — Animation 
  • Gluto from Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix is one giant blob of living gel with three eyes. He saves Gwen's life by blocking a plasma gun, and for a long time, everyone thinks he's gone for good. But at the end, it turned out that the residue on Gwen's clothes gave him enough resources to regenerate from this level, prompting Tetrax Shard to say, "Who knew?"
  • In the Fantasia segment "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", Mickey Mouse can't stop the enchanted broom from flooding the room with water, so he chops it to bits. Unfortunately, each of those bits turns into a broom (complete with buckets already filled with water!), ready to continue the job.
  • Gemma the Depraved Bisexual from Ninja Scroll has regenerative abilities that may approach this level, but it's hard to say. In the movie, he reattaches his severed arm, reattached his head several years ago, reshapes his face after literally having it pounded into mush, and is finally drenched in molten gold and plunged into the sea, sinking to the ocean floor in a hardened cocoon of metal.
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo: All villains under Brushogun can regenerate from any injury in a matter of seconds, from losing a limb to a hole in the stomach. Brute force seems to be capable of killing them, however. This is due to them being made entirely of ink, meaning that water is fatal to them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bit: It turns out that all that's left of Vlad is his heart, locked in a box that Duke slowly eats (it refuses to burn, which will usually kill vampires). He's later able to regenerate from this back into his full body after someone frees him.
  • In Devil Fish, this is one of the eponymous creature's abilities — apparently, even one single cell severed from the original creature will grow a new Devil Fish. This is a pretty big problem since the creature is also unstable and designed to disintegrate after a week or so, which will then reform into dozens if not hundreds of new Devil Fish.
  • In The Fifth Element, the Action Girl protagonist Leeloo is regenerated from scratch in a rather cool sequence near the beginning of the film. The doctor who restores her practically quotes this trope when explaining the process, saying "A couple of cells are still alive. It's more than I need."
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Groot is blown up from his Heroic Sacrifice to protect the team from the Big Bad's ship crashing. Rocket Raccoon takes one of his twigs, which regenerates into a tiny Groot that will grow back to full size, albeit without the original Groot's memories.
  • Serleena from Men in Black II seems to have this ability.
  • This is how the title monster in Reptilicus is created. A dinosaur tail, found frozen, regenerates into a full dinosaur once it thawed. It then goes on the rampage in Denmark. In the end, it gets put to sleep where they can then Kill It with Fire... almost. A foot survives destruction, implying that it will regenerate and return again.
  • Species: At one point, a single cell is injected with the alien genetic material. It immediately starts dividing and growing, but is killed before it finishes turning into one of the Sil-type monsters. At the end of the movie, it's implied that any part of one of the monsters can regenerate into a whole.
  • At the end of The Spirit, it is implied that the Octopus, who has just been blown up all over an alleyway, will be able to regrow himself from a single finger.
  • One of the more dangerous qualities of The Thing (1982), provided it has biomass to feed on. The kicker? It only needs a single cell to consume you from the inside out.
  • Tohoverse:

  • Animorphs: The Animorphs frequently make use of the morphing power's healing properties. Their fights often go like this: Attack; get torn to shreds while decimating the enemy's defenses; de- and remorph; carry out the mission. Rachel in particular seems to lose and regrow limbs on a regular basis. Their regeneration ability becomes a major plot point in one book where Rachel morphs into a starfish and gets cut in half. She returns to her human form, but so does her other half, creating two Split Personality Rachels — a decent, kind-hearted girl and a total ruthless bitch.
  • In The Arts of Dark and Light, this is how the Complete Immortality of the Watchers works. They literally cannot be destroyed, at least not by any means available to humans (including magic) — even burning them, grinding the ashes and scattering the dust only means it takes them a little longer to reassemble.
  • Immortals in Baccano! effectively work this way, although except in the case of their bodies being burned or dissolved, they don't regenerate so much as all of their tissues, any spilled blood included, are simply drawn inexorably back together into the proper form. Even when burned or dissolved with chemicals, however, they can still fully recover — Fermet checked. Szilard's done his own research on the subject, and discovered that immortals pull themselves together on a molecular level — set an immortal on fire, and the resulting smoke will return to the burned flesh once regeneration kicks in.
  • Blood Music takes a different spin on this. The noocytes are able to encode the squishy chemical versions of people into molecular memories based on DNA/RNA. The noocytes can rebuild and upload the original person — or an amalgam of anyone who wants to participate — back into a squishy flesh body should they so wish. After encoding and absorbing almost all biomass on North America, there are uncountable replicas of everyone to the point that there is no possible way to erase every copy.
  • The titular creature in The Clone begins its life at a microscopic level in a sewer catch basin. It grows steadily bigger by feeding on all the bacteria and fungi lining the basin, allowing it to become large enough to leave the basin and expand through the sewer, up through drains and pipes and into the city.
  • The immortals of The Company Novels, well... it takes a lot of destruction to get any of them to the point where they can't be brought back.
  • Alluded to on a factional level in The Culture. It's said that if even one GSV escapes a conflict, it could singlehandedly rebuild the eponymous faction.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle, a "chaodyn" must be stabbed in the heart, because if not, they will heal and the blood that has dripped out of the wound will spawn a second chaodyn. (Killing them without spilling blood works too.)
  • Discworld jokes about the various and complicated methods of killing vampires by having vampires from different areas have different weaknesses. Furthermore, all vampires on the Disc can be brought back to life with a drop of blood — even if they were burnt to ashes. In fact, one vampire is a photographer for Ankh-Morporkh's newspaper and gets turned to ash every time he uses the flash. He carries around blood in a breakable vial so he instantly gets revived when this happens. Consequentially, one group of particularly bad vampires is threatened with having their ashes thrown over the Rim into outer space.
  • The main characters in Eden Green are infected with a needle symbiote that can resurrect them from any death, including complete immolation and being torn down to tiny pieces.
  • Twice, by two different characters (both Perpetuals, though) in Horus Heresy:
    • Oll Parsson is hit by piece of a spaceship crashing on Calth's surface, but is fine and good after a few hours' blackout.
    • Vulkan is immolated by falling all the way through Macragge's atmosphere when his teleporter doesn't work quite as planned and wakes up on planet's surface, although the experience makes him go crazy.
  • The book Jason X: The Experiment has Jason Voorhees coming back after being reduced to little more than a hunk of flesh due to being incinerated during atmospheric reentry. It takes him a couple years (even with help from nanomachines), though.
  • The Hero Kanon of The Misfit of Demon King Academy was infamously difficult to kill and ensure that he would stay dead due to his seven Sources, the in-universe equivalent of his soul. Even if one or a handful are destroyed, he can continue to come back to life with his appearance, memories, and skills intact. Anyone else needs to either be highly skilled in Source Magic or have an extremely powerful ally willing to bring them back to life.
  • In On Stranger Tides, anyone who drinks from and then sheds blood near the Fountain of Youth can regenerate from even the smallest part of himself, even a drop of blood, so long as it falls into the ocean.
  • In A Planet Called Treason, one of the families exiled to an isolated world has genetically engineered themselves to a state in which they can regenerate organs, so that they can sell them to eventually buy their way home. Occasionally, a mutant like the protagonist appears whose regenerative abilities approach this level — but he also grows extraneous body parts that eventually cripple, then kill him. At one point, his guts are ripped out, producing a feral copy.
  • In Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, the supervillain Chimera can regenerate from just a tiny piece of himself, though it took him multiple decades.
  • Rebuild World: A Super Serum exists that grants this, based on the Lost Technology nanomachine-based Healing Potion. The origin of it was Mad Scientist Yatsubiyashi making a deal to work for Tsubaki in exchange for the data, to help him get back into the Rebuild Institute. The first individual to use it is the Back from the Dead Tiol, who can instantly reattach severed limbs, and at one point gets ran over repeatedly by hunter cars until reduced to pieces, only for a mouth to form on his arm that devours a monster that came to eat him from the inside. A more refined version of the serum is used by the Rebuild Institute Tyke Bomb Haruka, who takes full advantage of the Voluntary Shapeshifting it grants to split into small Spider Tank monsters or two copies of herself that regenerate in an attempt to capture a MacGuffin from a transport.
  • One of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Expanded Universe novels mentions a race that fought a brief war with the Federation over this trope. Because they were effectively immortal, one of their more revered ways of learning things was by dying, because you usually at least learn "that was a bad idea". Because they thought every race had the same trait, they didn't realize that they weren't doing the Federation any favors by killing them.
  • The Radiants of The Stormlight Archive can survive just about any injury if they're holding enough of the titular Light.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Anyone who possesses the Skill Ultraspeed Regeneration would in theory be capable of this, as their body heals so quickly after taking damage nothing short of complete destruction would kill them. In practice, it's still possible to kill them without completely destroying their body by instead attacking their souls, as the skill doesn't heal spiritual damage. With Rimuru and Shion after she Came Back Strong, the skill combinations they possess and later gain mean that even if their physical bodies were completely destroyed, as long as their souls remain intact, they would be able to anchor themselves to the world long enough for their bodies to recover from nothingness (and they have skills that heal soul damage too).
  • Crawler of Worm can instantaneously recover from any injury, even if almost all his bodymass (including his brain) is destroyed, and becomes immune to whatever injured him to boot. He's only killed by a weapon that transforms his body into silicon, and when Bonesaw makes clones of him, Dragon resorts to nanotech weapons that obliterate his entire body at once.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Grim reapers in Dead Like Me are effectively impossible to kill, being already dead. In the movie the cast try to kill a renegade reaper by shooting, drowning, and finally dismemberment followed by cremation and launching the ashes into space.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Silicon Based Lifeform Eldrad from "The Hand of Fear" first appears as a fossilized hand, then absorbs some nuclear radiation and turns into a walking hand. It eventually regenerates into an entire person.
    • In a very similar vein, the Doctor himself has a previously severed hand put away somewhere. Then, when Ten tries to stop his own regeneration, he shunts the regeneration energy into said severed hand. The hand then grows a not-so-clone of Ten (he's more human than Time Lord). It should be noted that the Doctor himself averts the trope. While he can regenerate from fatal damage, there are known limits to this ability, and there are a number of ways to outright kill a Time Lord.
    • In "Revolution of the Daleks", a scientist finds Dalek cellular material and clones it to make a complete creature (in fairness he has no idea what a Dalek is). Unfortunately, the Dalek consciousness can exist within the tiniest fragment of their DNA, so it retains its memories and desire to CON-QUER AND DES-TROY!
  • In the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "Primal Scream" (1974), an ancient cell sample discovered in the Arctic regenerates into a murderous ape man.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, Vandal Savage fits this. Even after being completely obliterated by the Flash and Green Arrow, he still regenerates and conquers the world in the distant future, setting the events of the series in motion. Given that Merlyn collects his ashes after Savage is incinerated by the Staff of Horus and says "You owe me.", he probably knew this was going to happen. The only way to kill Savage for good is for Kendra/Chay-Ara to stab him with the Amon Dagger. Alternatively, Savage's immortality is negated by his presence near one of the Thanagarian meteorites, so he can be killed by anyone.
  • Jack King from Reaper can form a new self from just a hand — possibly less, but we never see him try.
  • The Space: 1999 episode "End of Eternity" features Balor, who is imprisoned forever on an asteroid by his immortal race. At the start of the episode, he quickly recovers from horrific explosion and rockfall injuries. At the end, he's blown out onto the Lunar surface (or into space — the episode glosses over this). The question of what happens to a From a Single Cell individual left in a vacuum is never addressed.
  • The Replicators in Stargate SG-1 come close. It only takes one active Replicator to make an entire swarm. Fortunately, they are limited by local resources, and there need to be at least enough active blocks to form a working entity. They can't actually regenerate from a single cell.
  • Super Sentai:
    • In Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, as long as a single piece of Madako survives her destruction, the villainess is capable of completely regenerating again and again.
    • GoGo Sentai Boukenger: The helmet of Creator King Ryuuwon is actually a Clingy MacGuffin that granted Ryuuwon immortality as a humanoid reptile, as well as the power to survive falling off a high cliff, getting blown up while piloting his dinosaur-mechs two, maybe three times, and suicide. However, this power fails Ryuuwon when Bouken Red destroys it during the two's final duel, causing Ryuuwon to revert back to his original human form. He gets better.
  • Torchwood: Captain Jack is not invincible, but always comes back to life after being killed, no matter how severe the damage. In Children of Earth, he is torn to shreds by a bomb planted inside his chest, and the only thing remaining of him is an arm, a shoulder, and part of his head — he regenerates fully within a few hours. He is conscious for most of it, and it is very painful.
  • Ultra Series:
    • Kupukupu, a harmless, rabbit-like creature from Return of Ultraman, has the ability to adapt to its surroundings; after being blow up, a single piece of Kupukupu gets picked up by a child, and begin re-growing itself and enlarging into the far more powerful and menacing-looking kaiju, Kingstron.
    • Salamandoras from Ultraman 80 goes by the Boss Subtitles of "Regeneration Monster", but in his original appearance he had to be regenerated by the Gorgonians who controlled him. In Ultraman Mebius, the regeneration was remade into a natural ability performed via the Achilles' Heel on his throat that must be damaged in order to destroy the monster permanently.
    • Gyeron from Ultraseven, as Ultra Garrison found out after they successfully blew up the mutant alien. When Gyeron reappeared in an episode of Ultraman Geed, this was his primary trait, as the monster constantly regenerated itself over the course of a day to reappear at the exact time and location until Riku and his friends found out they could neutralize it with freezing temperatures.
    • The Imperisersnote  from Ultraman Mebius have to have their entire body vaporized to kill them — otherwise, they will regenerate, even from having their upper half totally destroyed. Later on in the finale, this is toned down to having to destroy a certain part of their body to prevent complete regeneration, but the damn things are still Nigh-Invulnerable beforehand. Worst part, the Imperisers are the Big Bad's mass-produced minions.
    • Nosferu from Ultraman Nexus proves to be a serious pain in the ass for the Night Raiders because of this. Like Salamandoras, he possesses a special organ/Achilles' Heel for this, but unlike the others above, has to slowly grow back to its original Kaiju size by ravenously eating. Not surprisingly, Nosferu takes the longest to finally kill out of all the Space Beasts.
  • The Supersoldiers in The X-Files. Even after being crushed and mashed to pieces, they can regenerate from a single vertebra.

    Myths & Religion 
  • There's at least one folktale where, when an evil wizard was burnt at the stake, countless birds and bugs burst forth from the fire, and all of them had to be caught and killed, for if just a single one escaped it would reform into the slain wizard.
  • Some of the more thorough methods of disposing of vampires involves staking one, chopping off their head, stuffing their mouth full of holy wafers/and or garlic, then either burying them at a crossroad at midnight or burning the body, driving back any rats or beetles that scurry out of the fire, and scattering the ashes to prevent them from reforming, usually into moving water. It's not entirely clear what would happen if it did get away, though.
  • The Hydra in Classical Mythology. Cut off one head and two grow back, unless cauterized with fire.
  • In Hindu Mythology, the demon Raktabij could birth a new form from every drop of blood. Kali solved this by having the demons strangled. An alternative version is she cut off his head, then drank all the blood that flowed out.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Jenna has this ability as a result of being a sentient mass of insects. If even one insect is left alive, then Jenna's consciousness will remain with it and automatically gather more insects into her hoard, making her very difficult to kill.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • The Hosts of Werewolf: The Forsaken. These are bizarre hybrid spirit creatures (most commonly the Azlu and the Beshilu) who are able to either take on vaguely human forms or hide inside human skins. If a Host is destroyed, its body will shatter into dozens or hundreds of its animal form (which will look like mundane animals), one of which contains its soul. They all need to be destroyed to be safe or else they will eventually consume enough to regrow into their monstrous forms (and usually be pissed at whatever killed them).
    • In World of Darkness: Immortals, we have the Purified, who have this as one of their main abilities. You see, they've turned their souls into spirits, and like the Hosts above, just killing one's body simply sends his mind to the Shadow, where they can rebuild it even if it was completely destroyed. They're a perfectly viable character option (far more so than the blood bathers and the body thieves), and this ability is mitigated by the fact that the Spirit World is rather dangerous. That still means a halfway competent Purified is going to be alive for a very long time (this is a book called Immortals after all), but it's something of a weakness.
    • The Abmortals from Geist: The Sin-Eaters are people who found ways (usually very amoral ones) to make themselves immortals. They all have a single Achilles' Heel allowing you to kill them, but this aside, they are this trope: you could cut them to pieces and burn their remains, they would still eventually regenerate and come back.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Any creature with regeneration works this way unless you take its Hit Points to -10 with whatever form of damage it can't regenerate (that's when a creature is officially considered Killed — -1 to -9 HP is only considered Dying). A joke D&D item exists called "Troll in a Can" that uses this trope to turn a chunk of trollflesh into self-regenerating field rations. Wizards of the Coast ruled that eating a troll will eventually cause a new troll to grow inside you and EXPLODE OUT OF YOUR BODY. (Unless it's well done on a bonfire, since trolls do not regenerate fire damage and can be safely killed by it.)
    • The Tarrasque has this ability. The only way to defeat it is to beat it into unconsciousness and then use the most powerful spell in the game to make sure it doesn't wake up. (Good thing it sleeps 99% of the time.) And as of Fourth Edition, the Monster Manual implies that the only real way to kill the Tarrasque for good is to send it into space. Reducing its HP to 0 just sends it back to slumber beneath the earth. Second Edition required the Tarrasque to be reduced to -50 hit points, requiring the use of +1 or better magical weapons, then a Wish spell or equivalent to be used wherein you wished for the Tarrasque to never return. Depending on your DM at the time, sending it into space may be a lot easier.
    • Zargon the Returner cannot die as long his horn remains intact. Even if the rest of his body is entirely destroyed, it'll all grow back from his horn within a few days at most.
    • While the single-cell aspect of this trope would be pushing it, the 7th level Cleric spell Resurrection can regenerate the target's body from any small part of it. The spell description even explicitly specifies that the remains of a creature that has been reduced to ash by a Disintegrator Ray counts as a small portion of the body.
    • In the Ravenloft campaign, Dr. Victor Mordenheim, the Mad Scientist responsible for the blasphemous experiment that created Adam, the Lord of Lamordia, has this ability, whether he wants it or not. Even though he is not the true Lord of the domain, he is cursed to share Adam's Ironic Hell, and cannot die while Adam lives. Thus, he can't be killed. In fact, he would even survive if not a single cell were left; if that happened, his soul would become bound to a recently dead corpse that would regenerate and turn into a duplicate of his old body.
  • Exalted:
    • Chimeras, Lunar Exalted who have gone bat-shit insane, can learn this. The Knack is called "Perfect Regeneration", and also solves the question about "which part regenerates"; the Chimera's spirit will always occupy the largest remaining part. This lends itself to some interesting ideas about how you could permanently kill it with relatively mundane methods, but since we're talking about an Essence 6 Ax-Crazy shape-shifter-slash-titan-killing-weapon-gone-rogue, it might just be easier to pop a Total Annihilation on it...
    • One of the Lunar Exalted's most characteristic traits is their ability to tank obscene amounts of damage, so you had better be ready to pop another half-dozen different WMD-level spells, just to be sure — they also excel at adapting, so just spamming one is unlikely to work too well. It might still take cover in an otherwise inaccessible pocket dimension, or space-warp into the Wyld, or... You get the idea.
  • In GURPS, this is the 100-point level of Unkillable. For just 50 points more, you don't even need that one cell.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Squee, the goblin who, as both Crovax and Ertai learned, could never stay dead. Ever.
    • On a larger scale, we have the Phyrexians. As long as a single drop of glistening oil remains, they can be reborn continuously, forever.
    • On an Faction Calculus level, Green's resurrection spells usually return creatures to your hand, unlike White and Black. On the rare occasion it doesn't, this trope is employed.
      "Leave but a shred of root and it will return, bursting with vigor."
  • An interesting variation in Pathfinder. The undead warriors known as Graveknights will regenerate after death unless their armor is destroyed. The armor doesn't need to be all in one piece, either: one graveknight exploits this by detatching a single link from her chain mail and storing it away, and the adventure confirms that that's enough for her to regenerate from, even if the heroes destroy her body and the rest of her armor.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • While the Necrons don't have cells, being automatons, they fit the spirit of this trope, able to regenerate or be repaired from any damage whatsoever. Well, at least originally; newer versions seem to have Nerfed that ability significantly.
    • Tyranids are this trope on an interstellar scale, when considering that their Hive Fleets and Hive Mind are really just one big body. If even one vessel manages to survive and reaches an ill-defended planet or three, they can use the biomass to rebuild the entire fleet.
    • Da Orks on a species scale, since they reproduce by fungal spores, all they need is a single spore left over from battle and untouched by cleansing flame to sow the seeds of a new invasion.
    • The Expanded Universe brings us the Halo artifacts, which are completely disturbing.
    • The latest incarnation of the Dark Eldar Codex indicates that Haemonculi can regrow people from small amounts of flesh, leading to many Dark Eldar leaving a bit of skin or a finger in a Haemonculus' care when heading out on raids to act as insurance should they perish.
    • Also, the Perpetuals. They don't even need an entire, intact cell; they can regenerate from complete and total atomization. The only Perpetuals to have canonically died are Ollanius Pius, on account of Horus' Cessation of Existence attack,note  and Malcador the Sigillite, who took the Emperor's place on the Golden Throne for a while so that the Emperor could go up to fight Horus, and it completely drained him.
  • The Ananasi and Kumo (werespiders) in Werewolf: The Apocalypse could break into swarms of normal-sized spiders (called the Crawlerling form). If a single spider from the swarm survived, it could eventually hunt enough to increase its mass to the point that it could resume human form. (Unfortunately, the Ananasi in such a situation would probably lose almost his entire memory...)


    Video Games 
  • In Boktai, the Count of Groundsoaking Blood can come back from the dead as long as one of his bats is still alive.
  • Contra: Hard Corps has this being one of the main plot points for the game and main motivation for the Big Bad. Just a single cell from Red Falcon is enough to cause devastation on a planetary scale. In most endings if the Alien Cell is grown it can easily: turn back into a hive monstrosity, or re-purposed as a biological bomb; or be used as fuel for a giant doomsday weapon. In the one ending in which it isn't released, it's fused with the Big Bad, who turns into a massive alien monstrosity himself.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: The Half-Human Hybrid remodelers developed by Tarantula only need a single cell to be rebuilt. This is discovered when the heroes raid the Tarantula base and discover row after row of tubes containing Panda Bear Corpse, the first Tarantula remodeler defeated at the very start of the game, and soon after have to fight other remodelers that were already once destroyed throughout the game.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Jenova from Final Fantasy VII can apparently regenerate indefinitely so long as some cells still exist. Which is what provided the retroactive Sequel Hook: Cloud (and others) are infected with Jenova cells, and thus Jenova and Sephiroth are not truly dead, but, in fact, possibly more powerful than ever.
    • Exdeath of Final Fantasy V once rebuilt himself from a single splinter.
  • The Bacterians from Gradius work like this. Every time you defeat them, they regenerate and come back stronger.
  • The Flood of Halo are this trope on a much larger scale. From a single spore, the Flood can rise again, and even if its Gravemind is destroyed, its communal memory remains.
  • Metroid:
    • Every single enemy in Metroid Fusion works this way. Since they're all X Parasites mimicking various creatures, they revert to the cellular form when defeated. The only way to kill that form is to absorb it which only a Metroid can do safely. If the cell form isn't absorbed, it recreates its body or infects the killer: so far the only known cure is to infuse the infected with Metroid DNA, which is why Samus can fight them. Some can even spawn more cell forms, creating even more monsters.
    • Ridley also seems to have this, as his entire body routinely explodes, though Super Metroid was the canonical death of the original Ridley. A clone was made in Metroid: Other M, which the X Parasites infected in Fusion.
    • In the Metroid Prime Trilogy, the eponymous Metroid Prime a.k.a. Dark Samus has survived everything up to and including being vaporized and then caught in the destruction of an alternate dimension immediately afterward. The 100% Completion endings of the first two games of the trilogy show the player that, yes, it's still alive and kicking. It ultimately took the destruction of every bit of Phazon (the Sentient Phlebotinum that Dark Samus has become composed of) in the galaxy to finally kill it for good.
  • Monster Hunter: In the lore, it is said that this applies to Fatalis, the most powerful Elder Dragon. Even if someone does manage to kill a Fatalis, it can regenerate its body from even a single scale. People who fashion armor and weapons out of Fatalis' remains will find themselves slowly being absorbed and swallowed up by their own equipment, eventually becoming a new Fatalis. This has no effect on gameplay, and the player can wear Fatalis armor without any negative drawbacks.
  • In The Powder Toy, most forms of 'exploding' life will regenerate no matter what you do.
  • At the end of [PROTOTYPE], Alex Mercer saved New York from being nuked by flying the nuke out over the ocean. Unfortunately, he didn't escape the blast, and a few mangled fragments of him wind up in Manhattan. A crow eats the pieces, which then eat the crow, and Alex rebuilds himself from the inside out.
  • Terraria: Once Hardmode hits, the Corruption/Crimson and the Hallow spread constantly. As long as one block of Ebonstone/Crimstone or Pearlstone exists within 3 blocks of a block of grass or stone, they will continue to spread. Additionally, prior to the 1.4 update, destroying a Demon/Crimson Altar to spawn the rare ores will create a block of Corruption/Crimson/Hallow somewhere in the world, meaning that it can literally grow from a single cell.
  • Touhou Project:
    • The Hourai Elixir Fujiwara no Mokou and Kaguya Houraisan drank granted them immortality and the ability to come back to life even if their bodies were completely destroyed, and beyond that. Yuyuko has the ability to kill anything by simply inviting it to its death, and once attempted to use it on Mokou. She couldn't even find her death. Turns out the Hourai Elixir simply banishes their death at every point in their timeline, ensuring they can never die no matter what. Even if they could get someone to kill them before drank the Elixir, it would fail - their deaths would have been retroactively banished. It's just that good at averting death.
    • Marisa, being Marisa, lampshades it by asking what every one of us has always wondered: if we split either in half, which half will regenerate?
    • Fairies have a similar level of regeneration ability in the series, being somewhere between this and Fighting a Shadow. However, they are idiot mooks subject to The Fog of Ages.
  • Tsukihime:
    • Roa can be like this, but only when the conditions are absolutely right (midnight during a full moon, as Arcueid found to her chagrin, when he regenerated from his ankles up).
    • Arcueid herself is able to construct an entirely new body after being sliced into seventeen pieces by Shiki near the beginning of the game.
    • It is explained at some point that in case of most powerful beings (like Shinso and Dead Apostle Ancestors) the wounds do not regenerate by normal means (i.e. cell division cranked up) but rather by reversing the flow of time around the missing body part (or even missing body, for the most powerful of them returning from the state of complete non-existence is just as simple) effectively making the wound to never existed. Of course, most of those creatures also have abnormal Healing Factor just in case someone attacks them with means (like Conceptual Weapons) that prevent recovery by time reversal.
  • Warframe: The Sentients are almost impossible to completely destroy. No matter how small their pieces, they will retain their full intelligence and cunning. Thankfully they have no easy way to heal themselves from that state. One of the primary villains of the game is the Sentient Hunhow, who has gone from a massive Sentient warship to a single greatsword. He still almost destroys the Tenno in that state. The Plains of Eidolon are hunted by massive Sentient Kaiju that are actually just small pieces of a much larger Sentient that was defeated long ago, now left to wander the Plains, mindlessly trying to recombine.
  • One of the hardest bosses in Xenogears is Miang Hawwa's Omnigear Opiomorph, which had been transfigured from Organic Technology into essentially Grey Goo by the game's Big Bad Krelian. After the party beats it, it promptly snaps back up to fighting position like nothing even happened to it. Cue Miang gloating about how the entire Gear can restore itself from a single atom if need be.
  • Xenosaga's Albedo Piazolla may be the single most indestructible example on this page. It takes a Cosmic Entity to kill him permanently, and even then, he comes back. The third game ends with him asleep in his twin brother's subconscious mind, with the implication that this might not be a permanent arrangement...

  • In Archipelago, the mechanical soul-stealing arm that is currently home to Captain Snow's soul can regenerate from a single chip of its material.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the Goo can regenerate its amorphous body if its demon nuclei survives.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Gog-Agog is a Hive Mind of worms that number in the trillions, distributed across thousands of worlds and having silently assimilated an unknown number of people on them. The worms all share a single soul and consciousness, and thus as long as a single worm exists anywhere in The Multiverse, Gog-Agog isn't dead and can assimilate nearby biomass to continue her existence. On top of this, she can form The Worm That Walks bodies out of excess worms, who all have a Healing Factor powerful enough to regenerate while standing in the middle of the path of a Death Ray.
  • Ed from Megatokyo is apparently cloned by Sony whenever he gets killed. He mentions at one point, all they could find of him as material could fit on two cotton swabs.
  • In NIMONA, it's pretty heavily implied that this is the root of both Nimona's Shapeshifting powers and Healing Factor. Every time Nimona transforms, all of her cells are destroyed and reformed. It's how she can resurrect and split into two bodies.
  • Xykon from The Order of the Stick is able to regenerate from any injury as long as his Soul Jar still exists. After his first (and so far only) defeat, he was notably able to regenerate his whole body from essentially nothing. This is a standard ability of all Liches in D&D.
  • In Problem Sleuth, Demonhead Mobster Kingpin's 2nd form has 3 health bars, all regenerating extremely quickly. However, if you knock out a health bar, it's gone for good. His 3rd form has enough bars to, from the center of the universe, physically break into hell, and he could regenerate entire bars just about whenever he wanted to.
  • Carbosilicate Amorphs from Schlock Mercenary are entirely made up of uniform tissue; they can literally pull themselves back into shape and can survive practically everything as long as a piece big enough to assimilate things to add to its bio-mass is left: Sergeant Schlock kind of does it here when 80% of his body mass is incinerated in an explosion. This method isn't foolproof, however: Amorphs distribute their memories in their body mass, so the above event also destroyed about 80% of Schlock's memories in the process. Also, Amorph eyes are a symbiote arising from a native tree, so eye losses cannot be regenerated.

    Web Original 
  • Darkwing, as a parody of the T-1000, in Ducktalez 6.
  • Mortasheen's zombies work this way, given their absurdly powerful healing factor and the fact that their consciousness is spread out all over their body. Downplayed in the sense that, depending on what exactly happened to them, they may not regenerate correctly or even lose their intelligence.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-682 is seemingly unkillable, though it's not for lack of trying on the Foundation's part. Various attempts at destroying it have reduced it to as little as 1% of its original body mass before it adapts and regenerates.
  • As a result of meddling by a dark god, the trolls of Tales From My D&D Campaign can regrow from nothing more than their jawbone. Since the jawbone itself cannot be destroyed by any known force whatsoever, this renders trolls utterly unkillable.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: One of Ben's original 10 forms, Ghostfreak, turns out to have this ability. Unfortunately, this means the mind of the original alien whose DNA sample is in the Omnitrix is present within that sample and capable of restoring himself, and he's not a good guy.
  • Danny Phantom has two dangerous enemies with this kind of power: Undergrowth and Nocturne. Apart from instant recovery from Danny's attacks, this trait is made apparent when Undergrowth managed to (offscreen) completely regrow his body after it was blown to nothing but a weed and Nocturne was able to pull himself back together after Danny froze him solid and shattered him.
  • Bushroot in Darkwing Duck, as a plant/duck/thing, can regenerate even if there are only tiny vines left of him. Through the whole series, he's mulched at least twice.
  • The Big Bad of Generator Rex, Van Kleiss, is able to rebuild his entire body using the nanite-infused soil of his homeland. He does this near the end of the first episode after Rex smashes him to pieces. After being brought Back from the Dead, he can no longer do this.
  • This once happens to General Skarr on The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy when he becomes a plant like being after coming in contact with Grim's scythe. At the end he's blown through the air by an exploding lawn mower and is chopped to pieces by a helicopter, and we still see him slowly regenerate later.
  • Amazo in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited gains the ability to reform from any injury that doesn't completely destroy him in "Tabula Rasa". Before that, a small explosive in his brain really would have killed him. This trope is double-subverted in the later episode "The Return". In an Enemy Mine assault against Amazo, Lex Luthor and the League use the robot's blueprints to build a weapon capable of disabling its nanomachines. However, it's soon revealed that Amazo knows about this limitation, and had evolved itself beyond the nanomachines' tech threshold, rendering the weapon useless. Of course, by this point it's been travelling the galaxy for years copying all the powers and technology it finds, essentially becoming a Physical God anyway.
  • Megas XLR: The R.E.G.I.S Mk V. If there is sunlight and a small piece of it remains, it will reconstitute itself.
  • In the Season 2 finale of The Owl House, Emperor Belos gets his body destroyed by The Collector. However, his sludge remains are proven to still be sentient, and in Season 3, Belos manages to restore his body, albeit in his monstruous form. It is also shown that even a very small piece of the sludge can still survive and reform into Belos properly.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins clone a whole dodo out of a single feather. When said dodo dies minutes later because he's stupidly reckless, they re-clone him from one remaining feather, and he acts as if nothing has happened. This gets repeated all throughout the episode.
  • Samurai Jack: This applies to Aku, the main villain, who is basically malicious darkness empowered with magic and sentience. He's immortal in all respects; normal weapons are less effective than bug bites, and he can even absorb and reflect them. The eponymous protagonist's magic sword, forged from pure righteousness, is the only thing that can destroy him apart from the gods that forged said sword. Even then, while every strike burns part of Aku away, he's fully capable of regenerating from the sword's blows if given enough time, and if even a fist-sized amount of darkness remains, he can use it to shape-shift into a form that will let him escape, which he always doesright down to the finale, when Jack pursues the last fragment of Aku and stabs him as he runs away, finally destroying him.
  • The Simpsons: The Itchy and Scratchy parody of The Sorcerer's Apprentice has thousands of Itchys regenerating after Scratchy chops him up into fine dust. Unfortunately for Scratchy, they regenerate after he's inhaled some of that dust.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • SpongeBob displays impressive regeneration every now and again, as real-life sponges do. (See below.)
    • In the episode "Frankendoodle", said doodle recreates its body by redrawing itself with the magic pencil.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: After losing his body, Toffee's spirit endured through his skeleton hand gripping half of the wand's star. Through it, he eventually regained a body by possessing Ludo's, and he regains his full body, finger and all, at the end of Battle for Mewni
  • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, the alien bounty hunter Durge has incredible healing powers. We see him recover from being cut in half, and later in that series he got blasted into a gooey mess via the Force by Obi-Wan. The shocker: Durge still survived this in other works! He was finally Killed Off for Real by Anakin, who hurled him into a sun.
  • The Gems of Steven Universe are able to regenerate from any fatal injury as long as their Gem is intact and unharmed. Interestingly, even if an attack does not destroy their body, any would-be fatal attack has them explode in a cloud of smoke, leaving only the Gem, which recreates the entire body. Any damage to the gem, however, can prove fatal, even if the rest of the body isn't harmed. The full Gems' bodies are Hard Light projections created by the gems which are their true selves.

    Real Life 
  • Stem cells are totipotent, which means they can potentially regenerate into literally any organ cell of choosing, provided the right DNA and resources. Unfortunately, the most versatile and abundant totipotent cells are embryonic; most commonly found at the start of an organism's development before mitosis gets too far under way. For example, prior to a certain point, splitting the developing zygote apart results in identical twins. This is why embryonic stem cell research has a negative public reputation as Powered by a Forsaken Child, though efforts to produce "ethical" stem cells from adults such as those found in the bone marrow are underway, albeit difficult.
  • Sponges contain totipotent cells (see above) throughout their bodies when mature, potentially giving them the full version of the trope.
  • Nematodes. Not only can they regenerate from a single cell, they can eat themselves till being reduced to one cell if they don't find food, and then regenerate from that single cell left.
  • Cancer. If there's even just a few cancerous cells left in an individual, they'll continue to rampantly grow and divide and continue the disease. This is why metastasized cancers are so dangerous, it's extremely difficult to ensure that all the abnormal cells have been destroyed or removed, and that there aren't any more floating around in circulation somewhere. Cancer appearing means the immune system has already failed and is not capable of stopping it. And unless every single cancer cell is destroyed at once, it will keep coming back until it kills you. Technology to do that does not (yet) exist.
    • Most notably the HeLa cells, the first immortal human cell line. They were taken from the cervical tumour of a woman named Henrietta Lacks in 1951 and they're still going. They will also invade and take over any other cells you happen to have growing about the lab - they've done millions of USD worth of damage that way, but it's sort of balanced out by also being responsible for every significant medical discovery in the past sixty years.
  • Sea squirts can literally regenerate from a single blood cell.
  • Some species of flatworms and starfish have impressive regenerative abilities, and although they can't grow back from a single cell in isolation, a single individual can survive being cut in half and both halves can independently develop into complete, separate individuals. A flatworm was exposed to lethal radiation, crippling its regenerative capabilities and giving it a few weeks to live at best. Then a single donor cell from a different adult worm was implanted in the dying specimen's tail. Two weeks later, an entire healthy adult resulted—its eyes, skin, and organs genetically identical to the donor's despite being grafted onto a dying body. So a single cell can regenerate an entire flatworm, if said cell has a scaffold on which to grow (the dying adult).
  • A few examples from the plant kingdom — Cultivars are specific clones of certain plants (such as a Fuji Apple, or a Red Dragon Venus Flytrap). You can't grow these by just making seed and hoping the new plant is identical to the parent — you have to cut off a piece and force the plant to spit out new roots.
    • Another plant example is Micropropagation — that is, taking a single cell of a host plant, putting it into some special goo (essentially extremely sugary jelly), and letting the cell clone itself a few thousand times, all through a process called Tissue Culture. It's difficult to do, being extremely expensive and time consuming... at least, it was. Nowadays, you can do it in your kitchen. Isn't science grand?
    • The innumerable weeds/invasive plants that just excel at that asexual propagation stuff. Any plant cell from an asexually reproducing plant has the potential to become a new plant. Many a gardener have probably screamed Why Won't You Die? whilst uprooting creeping charlie on their hands and knees.
    • Caulerpa is an extreme example. It's normally a seaweed (technically a single-celled algae, making it a literal example of the trope) native to the Caribbean and a few other tropical seas. However, a combination of a mutated variety capable of surviving in subtropical and temperate waters, a natural toxicity and the ability to grow back into a full plant from the smallest fragments has turned it into one of the most dangerously invasive aquatic species on the planet. Because of its incredible regenerative ability, the only effective way found so far to combat a Caulerpa outbreak is to sterilize the entire outbreak area of all life and let the native life recolonize the resulting aquatic desert.
  • Sacculini carcini is a hellish parasite that combines properties of the Alien and the Puppet Masters or the Goa'uld. Its larval form attaches to a crab and injects just a few cells, which grow into a sluglike thing that lives in the crab's abdomen and grows a set of tendrils throughout the crab's body, including into its eyes. It controls the crab's behavior also, making it eat constantly to feed the parasite and making the crab care for the parasite's eggs. In a female it seems to be activating maternal behaviors already there, but male crabs take on the same behaviors when infected.
  • All single-celled organisms can technically do this, but it takes away the point when it was a single cell to begin with.


Video Example(s):


Cell Returns

Despite blowing himself up, due to one of his cells surviving, not only does Cell return, but he comes back stronger than ever.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / FromASingleCell

Media sources: