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Non-Lethal Warfare

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Simirror: Good gravy, did anyone die in that war?
Sir Kibble: I'm not complaining.

In Real Life, warfare is hardly an entertaining and carefree experience, and can seriously mess with kids' headsnot to mention their bodies. However, warfare and fighting can easily make for good, clean fun in entertainment media, and is often marketed to children. Most parents and Media Watchdogs are okay with media portraying Non-Lethal Warfare, regardless of the nature of the combat, its origins, the Fridge Logic or the Unfortunate Implications it may engender. No matter how lethal the weapons are, how dangerous the environment is, what the attitudes to enemy combatants and civilians are, no one dies or gets severely hurt. At least, not on-screen.

Commonly, the combatants will use weapons or powers that stun or KO rather than kill, or at least have the option to. Anyone with more lethal weapons or power sets won't ever hit their target because the target knows Deadly Dodging. Lethal or destructive weapons will only hit the scenery or vehicles, and in the latter case, the crew will usually have ample time to eject or bail out first. Generally, the above will give the impression that things Could Have Been Messy were anyone playing for keeps or slightly sloppy.

We should mention the rules set out above assume that the setting allows for the possibility of death at all and that it can happen off-screen. If the target audience is too young even for that, the scale of Nerfed violence increases (er, decreases?). No one will use bladed weapons or guns (arrows might fly, though), traps, tanks, and other large scale weapons will be completely non-lethal, perhaps even designed to humiliate the enemy rather than knock them out. Likely "weapons" for use will be "energy" guns that are about as dangerous as laser tag guns… scratch that, less dangerous. Laser tag guns can at least potentially blind you. Or perhaps blunt weapons that "can't kill" because they don't cause bleeding.

This trope isn't an indicator of the quality of the on-screen fighting though, which doesn't need to be lethal or scarring to be entertaining. If it were to be considered "bad", it's only when it fails to carry Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Compare with Bloodless Carnage and As Lethal as It Needs to Be. Contrast with how Snowball Fights and Paintball Matches are Played for Laughs with exceedingly "gory" acting from the participants, especially when those involved act excessively militarily. Compare and contrast Nobody Can Die, where death is a narrative impossibility even when dealing with explicitly deadly weapons and situations.

See also The Paralyzer and Family-Friendly Firearms.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has this kind of war at the end of the school festival, with the attendees playing magicians fighting off a Martian invasion. With lots of magical guns and staffs against robots with clothing destroying lasers and teleportation bullets. What do you mean real magic, it's all CGI folks! This only worked due to the only actual Martian (we think) Chao Lingshen being a total Anti-Villain.
  • Girls und Panzer has this big time, by turning World War II tanks into sporting vehicles. All of the rounds are live, and there are still a few serious occupational hazards for tank crews (as the first episode shows, having your tank fall into water is not fun) but the interior of the tanks are lined with modern armour plate to keep the crew safe, meaning the adorable high school girls crewing the tank are not turned into paste. Tanks instead possess on-board hit detection that registers a disabling shot and raises a white flag from the tank's hatches to signal its 'destruction'. Notably, this deliberately unrealistic tank combat also affects the participants' tactics - since nobody's in much actual danger, suicide tactics are far more common than they would be in real life, and since any hit that doesn't raise the white destruction flag will leave a tank mostly undamaged, crews can keep going without much fuss when their vehicles should be crippled.
  • In Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure, the war between the UN and the Rara Army is deliberately handled this way, with either side surrendering before the risk of serious losses. Of course, nobody tells the protagonist Kazuki this before his first battle — what, and spoil the angst?
    • They also schedule their battles and give the population time to evacuate before they start.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Lance blows up a large section of Vermilion City. When Yellow protests to the lives lost, Lance points out since a major event was happening at the bay, the city itself was currently empty. In a slight aversion, he admits that there probably were a few people caught up in the blast, but not that he cares.
  • Zigzagged in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The fluff details horrifically violent conflicts in the distant past featuring — among other things — armies of cyborg zombies, universe-destroying starships, and human WMDs under every freaking rock, all used at one point or another in a series of interdimensional wars which lasted thousands of years and devastated countless universes. It's enough to make a Space Marine wince. However the main series takes place over 100 years after the end of those wars and the Time-Space Administration Bureau has outlawed mass-based kinetic weapons in favor of magic-based weapons, the logic there being that magic can be set to stun living targets even when it's being used to level buildings or blast halfway through the interior of an ancient starship. The titular character follows this religiously as does most of the main cast, but several characters die anyways even with these weapons in use. And then there's the Force manga, which features a team of villains who are completely immune to magic, forcing the good guys to ditch the stun guns and use perfectly lethal magic-powered kinetic weapons against them. But that's okay, they can regenerate.
  • Library War: All the belligerents wear military-grade body armour. With few exceptions, their guns appear chambered for handgun bullets. Result: People get shot, people fall down with nasty bruises and possibly some cuts and are out of the fight. Few, if anyone, actually dies. This system seems to have been implemented on purpose since the Media Betterment Committee and the libraries are, essentially, involved in an institutionalized Civil War under state supervision.
  • Lies of the Sheriff Evans: Dead or Love is a western, and sees as many gunfights as one would expect from that genre. However, no one ever actually dies in any of these gunfights, with the protagonists usually just Blasting It Out of Their Hands, or more rarely disarming their adversaries by shooting them in the arm, who will be clearly shown to be still alive and conscious afterward.
  • The entire premise of Dog Days: war is literally a sport, complete with commentators, live coverage, betting, and quite a lot of fanfare. When someone is slashed by a sword, they don't die, they temporarily turn into a cute ball-shaped kitten/puppy or have their clothes or armour torn. Justified, in that they wage their wars in a protected space that grants this ability to everyone there (except Shinku, supposedly). Of course this becomes a plot point later on as wild monsters are not subject to this rule.
  • AKB0048, in regards to the stance taken against the DES soldiers. Any manned unit is to be disabled with strictly non-lethal force.
  • A plot point in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. The Big Bad is a Smug Snake who's using a little girl as a figurehead to command the loyalty of the soldiers who served under her father. The Gundam Pilots are aware of this, and deliberately avoid killing because they know the soldiers are being manipulated; when the truth gets out (via the villain's breakdown), he gets shot dead by one of his own underlings and the entire army willingly surrenders.
  • In the second season of Inazuma Eleven, the main antagonists are Aliea Academy; aliens from a distinct planet called Alius, who invade Japan. Although with this being a soccer anime with the protagonists being middle school soccer players, all the battles and warfare fought by the aliens is soccer-related. This is explained with a few lines where they mention that they picked soccer as an alternative to violence, due to believing it to be a non-violent form of war used on Earth. Although their pacifist nature is kinda lost in the fact that they blow up schools, a monument statue, kidnap the Prime Minister of Japan and almost kill countless people in the explosions (we never or are told anyone has died, but we're never told explicitly otherwise either). Subverted somewhat with the plot twists, that the nonlethal warfare was actually primarily due to the fact the aliens where actually humans, and also that they weren't invading Japan but were just demonstrating how powerful they were to the Japanese government.
    • In Go: Galaxy, a black-hole threatens to eradicate the planet Faram Obius and its population. To save the people of the planet, they decide to rage war against all planets in the galaxy, which includes Earth, in order to occupy them and safely house their population. (Faram Obius has such a large population that it's said that in order to house everyone on that planet, they'd need around 98% all other planets in the galaxy). The Ginga Renpou Hyougikai (Galactic Federation Council) however is against such an idea and demands that the matter be settled in a manner not involving lethal warfare. As such, the "Grand Celesta Galaxy" tournament takes place throughout the galaxy, where all those who don't win have their planet taken over. Although, this turned out to be all part of the main bad guy's plan to take over the galaxy by manipulating everything.
  • In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the Gundam Fight is supposed to be this, a martial arts tournament used to choose who leads the world government for the next four years and was suggested at a time when a full-scale world war was set to break out. Though there are rules against killing on purpose, it does happen sometimes and there's a specific provision in the rules addressing it.
  • In World Trigger, combats are performed in trion bodies, which are fake bodies with enhanced capabilities (strength, reflexes, and senses) as well as built-in functions like radars, map/video display, and comm links. When combatants are defeated, their trion bodies are destroyed and the unharmed real bodies are ejected. In general, enemies do not kill the ejected real bodies because it is more practical to kidnap the real bodies to use as soldiers or human resources. However, there are rare cases where enemies do double-tap the real bodies and kill the combatants for good.
  • In Macross Delta, a major plot point is the spread of Var Syndrome, which turns people into mind-controlled berserkers. The heroes do their best to only disable Var infectees' Humongous Mecha, not only for the obvious reason but because Walkure's music can cure Var. The concept is discussed in one episode, where Messer tells Hayate and Mirage that they shouldn't do this, since it opens them up to attack. Hayate points out that the rest of their unit (including Messer himself) do go for disabling shots, and Messer counters by saying that it's because they're skilled enough to pull it off, while Hayate and Mirage are still rookies.
  • Invoked by the Freedom Gundam from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED from mid-season onwards. After killing his best friend's friend, having his best friend kill his friend, and then trying to kill each other, from thereon Kira only ever takes shots at an enemy mech's weapons or head-based sensors. This gets deconstructed in the sequel Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, where Shinn weaponizes this while fighting Kira: he deliberately moves the Impulse Gundam so that the Freedom's disabling attacks would become lethal, forcing Kira to back down.
  • Kemono Friends already had an example of this with the battles between Lion and Moose's groups; however, Friends do still get injured sometimes, so Lion asks Kaban and Serval to help come up with an even safer form of combat. Kaban suggests using rolled-up paper "swords" to pop a balloon on the opponent's body, which Lion and Moose agree to; by the end of the episode, she takes it a step further and convinces them to play soccer instead.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Subverted with the Shooting Stardust game during Death-T. Yugi and his friends think it's a harmless laser tag game at first — and it certainly is for them with the toy guns they're given — but the people Kaiba hired to play against them were professor killers, and the guns they used shot out electrical currents, which were amplified to lethal levels when they hit the sensors.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V the war with Academia does not kill the opponents, but losers get turned into cards instead. Not that this makes it any less horrific, as the solid vision effects make the battlegrounds look like realistic war zones. Even in the end when everyone is freed, the damage, particularly in the Xyz Dimension, has not gone away.
  • Battles in Future Boy Conan have no explicit casualties, even for unnamed characters when both sides are armed with guns. The only exceptions are Conan’s grandpa (killed by a bomb) and Lepka and his crew on the Gigan (who die when the airship crashes into the ocean).

    Board Games 
  • In Shōgi, captured pieces are truly captured, not outright killed.
  • The same is true of Chess. Getting a Pawn all the way to the opposite end of the board allows you to ask for one back (or declare it a second Queen, depending on rulesets).

    Comic Books 
  • In the Asterix series, the Romans, Gauls, and other nations are constantly at war, and most books feature on-screen fighting, but no-one is ever killed. As the trope picture shows, everyone simply receives Amusing Injuries. There is a justification in that the Super Strength of the magic potion allows the Gauls to merely beat their armed enemies with their bare arms to unconsciousness. They end up (most often the Roman legionaries and the Pirates) surviving the skirmishes in one (if rather pummeled) piece and ready to live another day, their clothes and their dignity not so much.

    Films — Animation 
  • In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West the final climactic battle is fought with slingshots rather than real guns.
  • The final battle in How to Train Your Dragon 2 consists largely of the heroes' dragons torching siege engines and boats, and in turn the dragons getting caught in nets. This is despite the fact that both forces are armed with various bladed weapons. Subverted for drama with the deaths of the good Bewilderbeast and Stoick.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Captain America: Civil War, heroes split into two sides and fight each other, but they still try to avoid brutally injuring or killing each other, save for Black Panther trying to kill Bucky because he thinks the latter killed his father. Of course, Ant-Man nearly blows up Black Widow, War Machine, and Black Panther when he tosses a fuel tanker at them (he thought it was a truck full of water) and Vision's attempt to knock out Falcon's flight thrust misses and destroys the power source in War Machine's armor, causing him to fall to the ground and become paralyzed.
  • The Hunt for Red October is set in a non-lethal Forever War between the US and Soviet navies that is threatening to turn hot because of the defection of a Soviet sub. Sean Connery as a Russian sub captain once lampshades this by musing that it still has casualties, because it causes anguish on the families that have to endure long separations.
  • In Mystery Men, the heroes go to see Dr. Heller, who told them that he was a weapons designer. However, he didn't say he designed non-lethal weapons, which leaves them unimpressed and disappointed until he demonstrates two of his weapons: a tornado-in-a-can and a blamethrower. As he puts it, "nonlethal" doesn't mean "harmless".
  • Early in The Rock, General Hummel and his Recon Marines infiltrate a military base and steal 15 VX rockets, subduing the guards with rifle stocks, a few Tranquillizer Darts, and in one case, clotheslining a guard with a forearm.
  • In Warriors of Virtue, the forces of good and evil have been at war for years… but never kill anyone. Ever. The leader of the good guys accidentally killed someone before the start of the film and the titular heroes are about to go their separate ways in disgust. When the human POV character asks why everyone is so aghast at the idea a war might result in death, he is repeatedly shouted down. "IT WAS A LIFE!"

  • The Secrets of Droon. It got to the point, even for a kid, where you wonder what everyone's so worried about.
  • In the Alcatraz Series, both the Free Kingdoms and the Evil Librarians use weapons which put the targets into a coma rather than kill them. Justified by three considerations:
    • First, since neither side knows how to cure the other's coma-weapons, stunning an enemy takes them out of the fight just as effectively as killing them.
    • Second, stunned soldiers still need to be fed and hydrated, meaning that they are still a drain on the other side.
    • Third, if the Librarians win, they can awaken and brainwash the Free Kingdomers one batch at a time, saving the trouble of finding new inhabitants for their conquered territories.
  • In Kang's Regiment, a squad of draconians left to themselves after the war set up camp and start raiding a nearby dwarf village. The dwarves raid them back. After a short while of killing each other, the draconians realize that dying is a serious problem as they can't breed yet and killing the dwarves is also a problem as they rely on the supplies they raid. As a result, on their next raid the draconians make sure to keep all the dwarves alive. In return, the dwarves start doing the same in their raids. These non-lethal raids go on for a while until a dwarf is accidentally killed.
  • In The Hormone Jungle by Robert Reed, dozens of technologically backwards micro-nations exist within America that practice ritualized warfare with non-lethal (but extremely painful) weaponry. The protagonist — from the Yellowknife nation — carries a wide assortment of stun guns, poisonous gasses, and knows martial arts.
  • INVADERS of the ROKUJYOUMA!?: The Blue Knight, the Messiah figure of the Holy Galactic Empire of Forthorthe, earned his fame not only for leading the royal family to triumph in an ancient civil war, but for being an Ideal Hero Martial Pacifist who did so without a single casualty on either side. He continues to act this way after his Second Coming in the present day, only breaking his vows in order to Mercy Kill villains who had transformed into demons incapable of reason.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team: Though there was lots of gunplay and death threats throughout the show's run, firefights never actually resulted in anyone getting killed or even injured.
  • Doctor Who: In "Rosa", the antagonist has been fitted with a Restraining Bolt that prevents him from hurting or killing anyone, so in his attempt to Make Wrong What Once Went Right, he has to alter history in minor ways, and the Doctor and her friends have to try and undo the effects. The one weapon the villain has in his possession is one which simply displaces its targets in time, as well.
  • The titular character of M.A.N.T.I.S. used darts to temporarily freeze enemies. This led to an episode where he's framed for murder by using one of these darts to disguise an assassination.
  • RoboCop: The Series took advantage of the publicity given to NLW at the time to avoid having Robocop kill anyone in a series aimed at children (unlike the movies). RoboCop is instead armed with an array of Non-Lethal Weapons which he uses to capture the bad guys.
  • Star Trek:
    • "Set phasers to stun." Though they also have a "kill" setting, the good guys rarely ever used it. This meant some of the rare fights with good guys opposing good guys ended with only minor scrapes and bruises.
    • A creepy variation on this trope in "A Taste of Armageddon", where two planets at war have decided by mutual agreement to just simulate all their battles on computer and then execute anyone who would have died. Because there's no way to actually damage their opponent's infrastructure, victory for either side was impossible and over the generations-long conflict, the actual body count was orders of magnitude higher than a real war would have been.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • lampshaded in a 1992 arc of Dilbert, in which a civil war breaks out in the dim-witted fictional nation of Elbonia
    Reporter: "What caused you to turn your weapons on your own people?"
    Elbonian 1: "Weapons? We can use weapons?"
    Elbonian 2: "Well, no wonder it was taking so long."

    Video Games 
  • In Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, Tails works out a way to send the Nocturnus echidnas back to their own dimension in a non-lethal manner. Enemy Mine Dr. Eggman seems almost affronted by the fact that "It won't hurt them? Not even a teeny bit?"
  • Combat in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is somewhere between this and a Blood Sport, since if you agree to an official duel arbitrated by a judge, the judge's magic will (depending on which translation you're playing) either keep you from dying even if you're unconscious and face-down in a river or keep you from staying dead. Of course, things get uglier if you're fighting in a lawless region, and the Japanese version implies that innocent people can and frequently do get killed in the crossfire.
  • Touhou Project has the Spellcard System, which means incidents are solved by danmaku instead of by youkais' innate abilities. The draft for the spellcard system, written by the Barrier Maiden Reimu Hakurei, includes these concepts:
    That youkai can easily cause disasters.
    That humans can easily resolve disasters.
    That use of one's full abilities is to be denied.
    That there are no things superior to beauty and thought.
  • In Splatoon, Turf Wars and all of their derived events are entirely non-lethal, as being splatted after sustained enemy ink fire is barely a slap in the wrist for Inklings and Octolings, who can easily go and restore themselves as long as they've been synced to a respawner. This is played with by the single-player campaigns; the player characters and enemy Octolings are usually synced to a respawner (which may have also been the case for the Great Turf War between Inklings and Octarians 100 years prior to the events of the first game), but splatting the more basic Octarian troops seems to outright kill them, as they seemingly lack the octopus "spirit" seen flying out of splatted Octolings.
  • Iji: The Passive Weapons introduced in version 1.7 are designed not to kill note . Instead, Tasen passive weapons are either stun guns or impact weapons that throw their targets around harmlessly, while Komato passives either dissipate projectiles or do weirder things: farming XP, or cracking targets instantly at a distance. note 

    Visual Novels 
  • Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! has the Kamikami War, the most extreme of actions two feuding classes can take. Weapons are nonlethal, no broken bones, no punctures, no holes! This despite weapons like a bow with arrows that can pierce metal shields.
  • In Date A Live, AST vs. Spirits. This is because the Spirits are Nigh-Invulnerable and possess enough power to annihilate the AST should they ever decide to get serious. The AST's aim in these battles is mostly to be an annoyance and convince the girls to go away rather than defeat them outright. The AST's medical technology means casualties aren't serious.

    Web Animation 
  • When raiding Frollo's house during his birthday in The Frollo Show, the villains make it a point to not harm innocents, and instead put them in a pot called the PITy. This is the reason why Stocking kills Batiatus after he murders Ib in cold blood. The entire idea was suggested by Stocking herself so as to minimize damages.

  • Played with in Penny Arcade. They did a series of strips of an alternate Earth where there was no nuclear war; instead, all disputes were settled with Ping Pong matches. Potentially deadly Ping Pong matches.
  • Sluggy Freelance has the Dimension of Lame, where getting nuked meant receiving a bunch of Notices of Unified Kindness Envelopes.
  • In Cassiopeia Quinn, military tactics have come to be so focused on drones that most forces will retreat or surrender before any personnel are put in danger; this has become so ingrained that a ship actively engaged in battle surrenders to a pirate rather than risk the captain's life.

    Western Animation 
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. The really bizarre thing about G.I. Joe looking back at it as an adult is that their "laser guns" don't look like sci-fi weapons at all, instead virtually all the guns are animated to look like realistic depictions of identifiable real-world guns. Snake Eyes clearly is packing an Uzi, Duke blasts away on what's obviously a Colt .45, Falcon has a pump-action shotty, etc., etc. But instead of firing bullets, these realistic firearms inexplicably shoot lasers, which is very dissonant. Sometimes you can even see the guns expelling shell casings! That's right kids, LASER BULLETS!
    • Resolute, an 11-episode miniseries created to hype the movie, averted this. The guns actually do fire bullets (they did feature red muzzle flash and blue muzzle flash as a shoutout). There's plenty of A-Team Firing and the Cobra Blueshirts are still unable to hit anything, but the Joes do manage to gun them down often.
    • Most other adaptations (like the comics and the movie) avert this, as we've got characters on both sides firing real bullets and actually scoring some kills against enemies.
  • Similarly, G.I. Joe's sister show The Transformers showcased a brutal Forever War between two groups of giant alien invader robots, which - despite many firefights - had surpsingly little casualtiesnote  on any side, human or robot... Until 1986 and The Transformers: The Movie, which begins with a genocide before it starts using a surprising amount of brutality in the almost systematic killing of fan-favourite characters whom Hasbro wanted to replace with new ones. Needless to say, the Mood Whiplash from this trope to a frighteningly realistic War Is Hell one was enough to traumatize a lot of the intended target audience!
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): The cartoon was set in a world where the heroes were a small band of Freedom Fighters fighting against difficult odds, so they had to have some losses. However, they also could Never Say "Die". The solution? Robotnik's main way of disposing of his enemies was to "roboticize" them—that is, use a machine to turn them into mindless robots that would follow his orders. This was very effective, as the person's personality essentially "died", the bodies left as shells to act as Robotnik's soldiers. Early in the second season, a temporarily de-roboticized Uncle Chuck explains that the mind actually doesn't go away, and the roboticized person is still completely aware of what's going on around them — they just have no control over themselves. It's debatable as to whether this made it better or worse.
  • The SWAT Kats intend to do this— despite their vigilante status, they were previously cops and therefore try to disarm and disable their enemies as much as they can, hence their Abnormal Ammo and other crazy weapons and gadgets; however, if there's no other way to stop the enemy they will shoot to kill. But the Enforcers aren't safe, as many of them (aside from Commander Feral and his niece, Lt. Felina Feral, plus a few others, are routinely killed/eaten/blown up by whatever villain/Monster of the Week is rampaging. Weirder still, in early episodes the Enforcer weaponry seemed to be lasers or bullets depending on the plot and/or animation; by season 2 they had firmly switched to laser weapons. The villains also tend to be against this, constantly trying to kill the SWAT Kats, Enforcers, and anyone/anything else that gets in the way of their plans.
  • Spiral Zone justified this trope in its premise, since the "Zoner" Mooks are all Mind Controlled innocents; the heroes want to save them, and the villains want as many warm bodies as they can get.
  • Rambo: The Force of Freedom has a very low body count compared to the later movies.
  • W.I.T.C.H. has armies with swords duking it out impressively... and nobody ever actually depicted being cut. The heroines disposed of villains by evicting them from the area with elemental attacks or forcing them to retreat by pounding but not permanently damaging them with the same.
    • Probably justified in that they're still young girls and wouldn't want to kill anyone if they could help it. There are two large battle scenes towards the end of season one that should have had a lot of deaths but seem to imply a lot of Gory Discretion Shots.
    • However, it should be noted that in the original comic book, the heroines don't mind killing (or sending someone tumbling through empty space for all eternity), with no apparent guilt or angst.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Mechanist's people fight the Fire Nation with smoke, fire, and stink bombs. They also use presumably deadly fire bombs, though any death they might cause is obscured by the smoke and flash of the explosion. The fate of people "non-lethally" thrown off the cliffside of their mountain fortress is never questioned. This becomes a standard for fighting on Avatar as a whole: people get flung around and bruised on screen all the time, but death is only ever implied and done off-screen. Especially notable is that the villains are an army of literal human flamethrowers, yet (aside from Zuko) no one even suffers so much as singed clothing.
    • In the follow-up series, Pro-Bending has become the pro-wrestling slash boxing slash gladiator attraction of the world. With thick but light armor for the combatants and a ring surrounded by water, one wrong move and you're... wet. That isn't to say it wouldn't hurt.
      • The Lieutenant uses electrified kali sticks to take the Equalists' foes down, powered by a cleverly packed generator on his back.
    • Weapons in Korra overall seem to have a largely non-lethal bent to them. The Equalists, the Northern Water Tribe, and the United Forces go to war with Mini-Mecha armed with what amounts to riot-suppression gear, such as electrified cables and discs that act as glorified tasers. There's no real equivalent to heavy artillery, and huge amounts of nonbending soldiers on both the good and bad sides run around completely unarmed. Kuvira's Earth Empire army is probably the first fighting force in the series to pack any kind of lethal weaponry— their mechs are equipped with a Lightning Gun and flamethrower, and their ultimate weapon is a giant, highly destructive spirit energy cannon. And even then, they're not immune to the "nonbender soldiers have no weapons at all" rule— at least the nonbending Fire Nation guys in the first series had swords and spears.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has the Badass Army of kids at war with various adult villains who wish to oppress, harm, and enslave the world's children, and while most villains don't seem to shy away from trying to kill their KND foes, you never see it happen, nor do you see any KND operatives doing any of the sort to them.
  • In Legends of Chima, the rock-crushing energy cannons and laser-powered swords simply push living animals around, while still demolishing buildings, trees, and cliffs.
  • In Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero this is averted by the villains, who generally aim to kill rather than incapacitate, but actively invoked by the heroes, who have killed sentient entities in the past but always strive to find non-lethal ways to defeat Rippen and Larry. This ends up becoming a plot point in "I'm Still Super!", where the Professor challenges Penn to kill Rippen in exchange for Boone and Sashi's lives.
  • In Egyxos the Golden and Dark armies duke it out often... and no one is ever shown dying, or even suffering visible injury.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Over A Barrel features a battle between the buffalo natives and settler ponies... fought entirely with pies. Complete with a Lock-and-Load Montage featuring bakeries militarizing.
  • Conan the Adventurer was a Lighter and Softer adaptation of Conan the Barbarian, but they obviously couldn't let Conan go around chopping limbs off and whatnot. Their solution was to use his starmetal sword (or his friends to use other starmetal weaponry) to banish the Serpentmen back into the Abyss (and/or reveal them to be Serpentmen if they were disguised). Uniquely, this actually became a plot point in one episode where Conan and Jezmine are in the Abyss itself, and find their weaponry ineffective; after all, it's not like you can banish someone to where they already are. This was expanded upon further during the finale arc, where Set has managed to open a permanent portal to the Abyss and let his Serpentmen armies march en masse; all the banishing does is send them back a few miles or so, meaning Set's armies are theoretically limitless. Uh-oh.

    Real Life 
  • Sports are in essence non-lethal warfare. The competition can be real (Cold War Olympics?), but the body count is significantly reduced.
    • Violence can still erupt over the sports. Just look at Soccer Hooligans for example.
      • That is nothing new. The chariot-racing fans were a famous terror in the history of the Byzantine Empire.
    • Paintball is like two armed forces shooting each other up, but instead of bleeding (let alone to death), you get splattered with paint and get escorted off the field by a referee. Unless you neglect proper eye protection.
    • The British Lions' 1974 tour of South Africa became effectively the third Boer War, played out on the rugby fields. The anomosity between the two teams reached a peak where the Lions' captain, fed up with the over-robust play of the Springboeks, devised the Call Ninety-Nine. This meant "forget the game. Run at the nearest South African player, and punch him." The reasoning for this was that if all thirty players started a fist-fight at once, the referee would not know who to send off and would lose control of the game for just long enough for the Lions to make a point about dirty play by the Boers. The Battle of Ellis Park has gone down in rugby history.
  • Many cultures used to practice non-lethal warfare such as in the Native American custom of 'Counting Coup' (where a combatant would essentially touch a rival with a stick and that counted as a winning blow in a battle). This did not prove to be an effective form of warfare against European colonists.
    • It's believed that the Aztecs preferred to take captives rather than kill enemies in battle. Nastily subverted, however, in that the purpose of those captives was to serve as Human Sacrifices.
    • They also fought "Flower Wars" with their subjugated neigbours that counted half of this trope. Namely, the Aztec warriors packed real weapons, while the opponents were only allowed non-lethal replicas.
    • In Italian city-states, it was common for there to be a specified spot (a bridge, for instance) to have ritual brawls between neighborhoods.
      • Speaking of Italian city-states, during the Renaissance, most of these states contracted out their military to the condotteri, or professional mercenary companies. And for these companies, warfare mostly revolves around maneuvering around each other until one side ends up in a completely hopeless situation (and would certainly lose if fighting starts)—whereupon that side will peacefully surrender. Although there were also a dozen or so recorded cases of actual pitched battles between condotteri companies, and those were almost all incredibly bloody.
    • As Europe honed the art of heavy cavalry, so too did they practice through the use of several sports. Most famously in the form of jousting. By that time in history, full-plate armour made most combat long and arduous affairs, and the combatants were able to batter each other mercilessly in training since in general fights were won purely by concussions.
    • This practice is seen in many older forms of martial arts, focusing on less violent means of training as they minimize internal damage or styles that utilize less striking that would be more likely to cause injuries. Tai Chi forms from China, and Japanese Katas can easily be compared to Europe that was flush with wrestling styles. All of which were designed for the working class to be able to practice, without having to worry over injuries that would keep them from their work and deny them much needed food.
  • In the book A History of Warfare, John Keegan discusses in the first chapter non-lethal and semi-lethal warfare among low-tech tribes as witnessed by anthropologists. Much of this seems to be ceremonial resolution of quarrels and better described as "multi-participant duels" or even as "tourneys" than as warfare in the manner that more complex societies would think of the term.
    • Some of these same groups also build stockades, which is an indication that they also have a concept of organized warfare.
    • Nastily deconstructed by further anthropological work, as while what we think of as warfare (pitched battle between organized forces) were less common among early humans, the rate of casualties sustained could per capita far exceed modern warfare even from these little skirmishes. Additionally, it was the quiet, under darkness raids and ambushes that cut down the vast majority of victims, leading to rates of violent death three or more orders of magnitude higher than the modern world.
  • Elections are a nonlethal regularly scheduled Civil War. Nobody gets killed, although many candidates probably wish they were dead after they are done.
  • Submarine patrols during the Cold War
  • The Toledo War was an armed conflict in the 1830s, lasting one and a half years, between the State of Ohio and the soon-to-be State of Michigan, over a piece of territory known as the Toledo Strip. The war caused a total of one serious injury, on Michigan's side, which was not life-threatening.
    • While the Toledo Strip, which the war was fought over, is today part of Ohio, Michigan got the Upper Peninsula as a Consolation Prize. At the time, the prevailing opinion was that Michigan got shortchanged, but that was before the generous mineral wealth underneath the Upper Peninsula's forested land was discovered. Today it's clear: the real loser of the Toledo War was Wisconsin.
      • Not that Michigan has ever forgiven Ohio. To this day, the long-running rivalry betwixt the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University is as bitter as it is entirely because it directly stems from origins in the Toledo War. Even residents of Toledo and its suburbs aren't in full agreement. Although part of Ohio, Toledo is geographically closer, to the University of Michigan than to the Buckeyes' campus, so loyalty is divided evenly among those two schools and their own University of Toledo.
  • The War of the Bavarian Succession is as close as an actual war between two global powers ever got. Essentially, Prussia and Austria mobilized several hundred thousand troops but agreed not to attack each other. So, for six months' time, nearly half a million people camped right next to each other, in two hostile camps, without ever engaging in battle. However, while nearly entirely bloodless, several thousand men died from starvation, as the logistics of supplying such a large number of troops clustered so close together proved very difficult, which caused a shift in military strategy, as seen later in the Napoleonic Wars.
    • In fact, the soldiers spent most of their time foraging supplies, earning the war the names Kartoffelkrieg (Potato War) and Zwetschgenrummel (Plum Fuss) in German.
  • The Pig War, a territorial dispute fought in 1859 between American and British military forces in the San Juan Islands (located between British Columbia and what would later become the state of Washington). The whole thing escalated from an incident where an American farmer shot a British pig which had been digging up his potatoes. After word of the increasing tensions finally reached both governments, orders were quickly dispatched ordering forces on both sides to stand down and get back to whatever they were supposed to be doing. Ultimately, the only casualty was the British pig.
  • Espionage is sometimes non-lethal warfare. That is, during lulls in tensions, it will probably not include assassinations, certainly not as often as movies portray. And in any case, officers on formal employment to an agency are not likely to be targeted as often as mercenary assets, as that might make too much trouble.