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No Body Left Behind

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(gasp) Where'd he go?! Are we in a video game?
"Sweet victory! That giant insect's body has crumbled to dust! I am quite relieved to know I won't have to store such an enormous bug."
The Ship, Pikmin 2

Something dies, as it is prone to do. After it takes its last breath, the body dissolves for no apparent reason. Often dissolves into smoke that wisps away as the body dramatically falls to the ground. Why this occurs is generally never explained and no character bats an eye at it happening. Often used in media to avoid showing the kiddies a corpse. Of course, if Death Is Dramatic, and it's done right, this can be a HUGE Tearjerker.

For video games, this is a subset of Everything Fades, though with Everything Fades, bodies may stick around for up to a few minutes after monsters die.

Not to be confused with No One Gets Left Behind, in which not one single person (or unit) is left behind when a force retreats, which is maybe the thing you're looking for. Also not to be confused with Never Found the Body, in which the subject's death was not seen/confirmed, and is most likely Not Quite Dead.

If there's no recognizable body left due to the cause of death being so tremendous as to destroy the body entirely, that's Not Enough to Bury.

Animated Armor may be caused by this. On the other hand, you may never know. See also Disappears into Light and I'm Melting!. For the moral equivalent to this, see Self-Disposing Villain. May be the end result of No Immortal Inertia. If he takes his dungeon and doomsday devices with him, he may be a Load-Bearing Boss. Sometimes this results in Empty Piles of Clothing, if it's only the person's physical body that disappears and not what he's wearing. Mundane examples may have done The Dying Walk to go off and die in peace away from any other characters. If there's not only a lack of body, but no trace of them having ever existed at all, they're Ret-Gone. May lead to other characters Burying a Substitute at a funeral. See also Fading Away.

This is a Death Trope, so expect spoilers.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, when Iago destroys Jafar's lamp, he explodes into dust. After he writhes in agony with his skeleton visible.
  • In Anastasia, Rasputin's body turns to dust and blows away as soon as his Soul Jar is destroyed.
  • In the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit magic swords completely destroy their victims. Sting, Orcrist, and Glamdring all have different effects when they kill something. Averted in the final battle, where the field is littered with corpses and we see Thorin need burial when he dies of his wounds.
  • In Klaus (2019) when Klaus grows old and can no longer make toys, he hears his deceased wife's voice calling to him, he sets down his axe and tells her he's ready, he passes away standing up and his body fades away into snow that then blows away, Jesper and the other townsfolk never find out what became of him, and he continues to deliver toys as a spirit years later and Jesper knows it's him.
  • In the JetlagProductions version of The Nutcracker, when the seven-headed Mouse King is killed, he explodes leaving behind nothing but his seven crowns.
  • In Quest for Camelot, Ruber is physically disintegrated into smoke and nothingness after accidentally returning Excalibur back into the stone - due to him magically attaching the sword to his hand, leaving what's left of him is one of his shoulder pads from his armor.
  • In Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent becomes a dragon, gets impaled by a sword, and falls down a cliff. When the sword's shown again, it has only a cloak under it.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, after the Koopa General performs his Blue Shell attack on Mario and Donkey Kong where he blows himself up in order to take them both out with him, absolutely nothing remains of him and there is no trace of his body left at all.
  • In Tangled, after Eugene cuts off Rapunzel's magic hair, its healing abilities quickly vanish, causing Mother Gothel, who used them for centuries, to rapidly age and turn into dust, leaving only her cape behind.

    Gamebooks 
  • In the Lone Wolf series, amongst others, the Darklords and their sorcerous servants the Nadziranim fade into nothingness when killed. As for their undead underlings, Vordaks and Helghast, they dissolve into foul-smelling liquids when destroyed.

    Music Videos 
  • At the end of the Pet Shop Boys original video for "Opportunities", Neil Tennant disintegrates into dust, leaving behind his work coat and hat, which themselves subsequently fade away.

    Podcasts 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu. Several Cthulhu Mythos monsters will dissolve into liquid after they're killed, such as the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath and the Mi-Go.
  • In the d20 Modern Urban Arcana setting, dead shadowkinds (i.e. creatures from the D&D world) are "reclaimed by shadow" (i.e. bodies are brought back to their home dimension) in 30 seconds tops, except for heroic shadowkinds who fades in between 2 to 5 hours.
  • Some monsters in Dungeons & Dragons are noted for this, including most elementals, genies (in editions where they're not already elementals), incorporeal creatures, oozes, and certain types of undead like
  • Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution
    • The Atomize talent tears the victim apart at the atomic level, leaving no trace of them.
    • Pyrokinetics that die from overloading burn up.
  • Old World of Darkness/New World of Darkness:
    • In both Vampire: The Masquerade and The Requiem, vampires rot to dust within seconds of their death as long as they are old enough. This is repeatedly commented on in Hunter: The Vigil — vampires are the only type of supernatural creature to clean up after itself. Everything else leaves corpses to deal with. Usually human.
    • Spirits from Werewolf: The Forsaken and Ghosts from Geist: The Sin-Eaters both discorporate when defeated. Justified in that they aren't material beings to begin with, and this usually doesn't kill them anyway — they will just reform in a safe place unless you drain all of their Essence and Corpus.
    • Sirens from the fan-made supplement Siren: The Drowning liquefy within a matter of hours after their death and turn into sea foam, unless the flesh is preserved in a freezer. This is a major issue for the Flensers, since they rely on eating Siren flesh to preserve their immortality.
  • Titanspawn in Scion usually evaporate, melt away, or otherwise cease to exist once slain. The only part left behind is a piece or an item (called a Trophy) that serves as a reward for the Scions that destroyed it. Some of them, like the nekomata, are more complicated.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Necron bodies will seemingly dissipate if a battle seems to be lost. This is because the bodies are being teleported back to their tombs to be repaired. On the reverse, Necron weapons strip a target molecule by molecule, flaying the victim down to dust.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate Series: Servants dissolve into energy when they die.
  • Spirit Hunter: NG:
    • In the case of the Urashima Woman, her body - alongside the bodies of various fetuses that the murderer disposed of as well - couldn't be found by the police. It seems to imply that a person's physical body disappears when they turn into a spirit.
    • In some of the Bad Ends where Akira's companions die, their bodies will disappear after Akira finds it for the first time, causing him to question whether what he saw actually happened or not.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • The Creatures of Grimm dissolve into black smoke upon death, making it very difficult to learn more about them. Grimm hunting trophies, such as those owned by Professor Port are always taxidermied replicas. In the White Trailer, Weiss fights an enormous animated suit of armour that dissmoves into snowflakes when she finally destroys it. This is a clue that the armour is being animated by Geist Grimm called Arma Gigas, artificially created by the head of the snowflake-themed Schnee family, Jacques.
    • During the Battle of Beacon, Cinder kills one character by burning them from the inside-out with an incendiary arrow. With a single touch of her fingers, Cinder instantly cremates their body, which turns to ash and billows away on the wind, leaving behind only the deceased's armour and weapons. The character Cinder kills is Pyrrha; in Volume 4, the surviving metal from her circlet and weapons is incorporated into Jaune's own armour and weapons as a Tragic Keepsake.
    • During Volume 8, Ironwood starts wielding a massive laser-gun that is so powerful it can destroy anything in its path, including vapourising human bodies. While Jacques is in prison, Ironwood fires the gun at the cell, destroying the cell and leaving behind no trace of Jacques' body.
    • During Volume 8, an unusual Grimm is killed in battle, unexpectedly leaving behind a body. This shakes the heroes to their core; when Ruby and Yang discuss the implications, they are both reduced to tears. The Hound is an experimental Grimm created from a Silver-Eyed Warrior. Upon death, the Grimm body dissolves, but a human skeleton is left behind. Ruby and Yang are devastated by the realisation that Salem wants Ruby alive, despite historically killing Silver-Eyed Warriors, because she must have learned how to create these hybrids from their own silver-eyed mother, who died years ago under mysterious circumstances.

    Webcomics 
  • In Erfworld the bodies of the dead, if not moved or uncroaked, disappear at the beginning of their side's turn.
  • Girl Genius: Getting stabbed with a Nullabist knife will cause the victim to dissolve and their remains be reduced to nothing but fine dust within half an hour.
  • In Homestuck, defeating an enemy game construct causes it to turn into an amount of grist proportionate to the difficulty of the enemy. Grist takes the form of hexagonal blocks, cubes, ovals or diamonds, depending on the type. It functions as a usable material for building and alchemizing objects. This rule does not apply to player characters or characters in the game which are not necessarily intended as enemies, such as agents.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Why illusions have to fall over the wall.
    • The Demon-Roaches disappear when killed, as seen in this strip, since they are extraplanar creatures from the Abysses.
    • Vampires that are killed turn to their Gaseous Form, or to ashes if they are burned under the sun. At the Godsmoot, several destroyed vampires turn to smoke, preventing corpses from piling around Roy. Later lampshaded by Elan:
      Elan: On the plus side, it's nice to kill something that cleans up after itself.
  • Witch's constructs in Whither turn into paper when they die, because that's what they are.
  • Unsounded: A victim that is killed via core leaching are dismantled and by the khert, leaving nothing but their clothes behind but a wright wanting to hide evidence can core leach whatever they were wearing too save for pieces made of First Materials.
    • Duane core leached Jon Belarus when Jon jumped him with a group of friends to try and kill Duane for taking his position as the top pymary student.
    • Vienne core leached the VITS council Aseptic that nearly caught and killed her for her involvement with the March, including his clothes, to dispose of his body.
    • The chirograph operator who tries to help Elka is killed by General Bell and core leached away, clothes and all, by Karl. She was wearing a First Materials hair clip which Karl steals and gives to Chea.
    • Maur is ordered to core leach "Not Karl" to hide evidence that the Black Tongues couldn't keep Ruck in line and prevent him killing a child. Maur instead covers the boy's body with a sheet and core leaches the blood spatters so that the boy's family will have a chance to bury him.

    Web Original 
  • In Darwin's Soldiers, Lockdown has the power to turn people or objects into anti-energy. This causes them to instantly vaporize.
  • Dream: Par for the course with Minecraft, but in addition, when he kills any of the hunters Dream will often burn the loot the hunters have on them if he can't use any of it himself, leaving behind no trace of them.
  • Goodbye Strangers: Almost all strangers rapidly decay into nothing or just a faint trace when they die. Laminate sensitives can bring pieces of dead strangers fully into reality which stops them from decaying, but it is effectively impossible to bring a completely intact stranger corpse into the real world because the more that a piece of a stranger resembles that stranger, the less likely it is to survive the transfer.

    Web Video 
  • Bart Baker: In Bart's parody of Happy, it's implied Pharrell Williams suffered this trope when his doctor told him he was shrinking and there was no cure to stop it, causing him to shrink into nothingness, leaving only his hat behind.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In the final episode, Fern, after killing the Grass Demon, disintegrates into a bunch of grass, leaving behind a seedling that Finn plants amid the ruins of the treehouse.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Princess Yue's body vanishes shortly after she dies to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Code Lyoko:
    • The monsters explode when killed, and whatever debris they left behind quickly vanish. There is one enemy that does this a little differently. Creepers don't just explode, but also partially melt before vanishing completely.
    • The heroes also disappear when "devirtualized". Of course, this is inside a virtual world and overlaps with Everything Fades.
  • Justified in The Dragon Prince. Rayla, Ezran and Callum fight against a giant leech, which then dissolves. Then it turns out that he was just an illusion.
  • Horseland: In the "Mosey" episode, Sarah's old cat Mosey has seen better days, and gets fatally hit by a passing car without warning. Knowing he has barely over a day left to live when Sarah watches over him, Mosey decides to take a stroll through the big snowstorm in his final moments because he can't bring himself to let Sarah see him dead once she wakes up. The instant he leaves and Sarah awakens, she is shocked to see that Mosey has mysteriously disappeared and spends the whole evening riding through the snowstorm on Scarlet until she sees Mosey's vanishing footprints and comes to the conclusion he is gone and not coming back, just before Bailey and Aztec arrive to take her back to the stables.
  • In Justice League, a lot of the beasties from the episode "The Terror Beyond" didn't leave bodies when destroyed, in many cases because they were incredibly squishy. The giant-claw-whale-monster-thing that kills Solomon Grundy dissolves into acid when killed, for some reason.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, once hit with a magic energy wave representing his polar opposite, King Sombra is vaporized.
  • Happens to Candace at the end of the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Curse of Candace".
  • In The Legend of Korra, once Korra defeats the combined Vaatu and Unalaq, their giant body dissolves into light and Unalaq's original body is completely gone (Vaatu is also gone, but still alive as he still has Complete Immortality).
  • In The Smurfs cartoon special "The Smurfic Games", Gargamel's cousin Argus disappears when he dies, and so also does his castle before the evil wizard tries to do anything with it.
  • Steven Universe. When a Gem's body is very badly damaged, they will release their physical form (usually referred to as "poofing"), and retreat into their gemstone to regenerate. This looks like they explode into a cloud of dust, but none of the dust actually lingers.
  • When Jaga dies in the first episode of the original ThunderCats, his body turns to dust instantly, leaving only his empty clothes. A later episode reveals that he is actually trapped in another dimension.

    Real Life 
  • Happens to many invertebrates when they die. Unless they have a shell, rigid exoskeleton or calcite support structure, they leave very little behind. This is the reason why most fossils tend to be those of vertebrates.
  • Because Muslim burial practices dictate that a body must be buried very quickly after death, it is very hard for militaries fighting in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan to get an accurate body count on many of their enemies, which may lead to a perception of this effect.
  • In many ancient burials in Britain and the Scandinavian countries, bodies and organic material usually do not survive, since the soil in those areas is highly acidic. The only clues of their presence tend to be stains (which can be laminated) or phosphate traces, which don't dissolve readily.
  • Good luck leaving a fossil behind in life-heavy areas like the woods. Within a week to a month, the body will be gone. The bones... take a little longer, but they won't last if not calcified.
  • In June 2016, a visitor to Yellowstone National Park strayed from the designated trail and fell into a geyser. His sister, who was with him, called for the authorities. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived and tried to recover his body, it had dissolved.
  • There are precious few, if any, bodies left on the RMS Titanic. Not only has soft tissue long been devoured by the creatures that dwell on the ocean floor, but the sheer amount of pressure from those depths have also accelerated the rate at which bones dissolve. The most anyone can find of the ship's victims is their shoes, which were made and treated in such a way that they could remain preserved even long after their owners sank with the ship.


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Klaus becomes Santa Claus

At the end of the film Klaus supposedly dies and is reunited with his wife, only to have then have been brought back as the traditional Santa Claus bringing gifts to the children and visiting his dear friend Jesper on Christmas.

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