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You're in a universe where Magic and/or Phlebotinum are commonplace. The gifted few can do anything you can think of: stop time, create energy, fly... but they can't raise the dead. Simply trying is usually suicidal and taboo. Expect the Eccentric Mentor to go into full-tilt grim mode if someone mentions it. It's pretty common for an idealistic hero to contemplate attempting this anyway, usually giving up after deciding that some things are better left alone; if they don't, something usually comes back wrong. Alternatively, bringing someone Back From the Dead is possible, but due to the nature of the power at work it's almost never done. (If people are still usually resurrected in this kind of world, it tends to be a very big deal.) This is usually an Author's Saving Throw against trivializing Death in a world where it would otherwise be a minor inconvenience.

This doesn't mean that every character reported dead is, in fact, dead, even when No One Could Survive That. Even in works that manifest this trope, it's possible that they Never Found the Body, that Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated, that the Almost-Dead Guy who was Left for Dead pulled through off screen, or that someone was Faking the Dead. But when a body is found, the only way you're going to see that character again will be as a Posthumous Character.

Compare Death Is Cheap. See Killed Off for Real for when this is applied to individuals. Possible subtrope of Equivalent Exchange. Contrast Deader Than Dead where only certain types of death are final. See Final Death for the video game version.

Needless to say, this trope is Truth in Television (usually).

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of All Deaths Final include:


Anime & Manga

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, human transmutation -- trying to bring back dead people through Alchemy -- is forbidden. The whole series is kicked off when the protagonists try to bring someone back and have a close encounter with Truth as a result. The end result: Truth takes Al, and Ed's leg, in payment for returning a barely functional organ pile. Things taken by Truth do not count as 'dead', however, and Ed is able to retrieve Al's soul by sacrificing his arm for it.
    • It gets a bit more complicated. Al wasn't just "payment". Al's body was taken by Truth, but since a soul cannot be created with alchemy, Al's soul was put into the thing that was created. The transmutation that took Ed's arm was used to transfer the soul into a more stable host, the armor.
    • The series eventually ends with Ed learning what it'll take to bring an entire human back out from the other side: his Alchemy -- his own internal connection to Truth.
    • The 2003 anime version further compounds this: Each time an alchemist performs human transmutation, what comes back evolves into a Homonculus, a soulless Humanoid Abomination wearing the body of the dead person.
      • Actually subverted somewhat in the 2003 anime. The homunculi were actually the deceased brought back by human transmutation, just...not totally themselves. Also, Alphonse managed to bring back Edward, who had just been killed by Envy, back from the dead using himself as the philosopher's stone. Ed managed to bring Alphonse back using himself and ended up in our world instead of dead while Alphonse was brought back with his human body.
      • It can be said that the whole 2003 anime is Ed and Al learned exactly what level of Equivalent Exchange is required to return life to the dead. Ed figures out that it requires an exchange of body, mind and soul. In other words, a full human being for a full human being.
  • Ojamajo Doremi falls into the latter category of this trope.
  • This is the general rule for CLAMP series, even in a world like Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle where you have otherwise massively powerful magic at work. (In fact, the denizens of that world attempting to break said rule is what kicks off the massive Gambit Pileup that we're just starting to get a peek at now.)
    • This is one rule that CLAMP has set in stone, actually, and the breaking of it during the Tsubasa Non-Serial Movie was a factor in their abandonment of the original anime adaptation.
    • Of course, it really comes down to the wording. No coming back from the dead, but having your Reality Warper boyfriend convince the universe to ignore your death and proceed normally achieves a similar effect, if only temporarily (a thousand years, give or take). Just ask Yuuko.
  • Naruto has generally followed this line of thought. When a character has been shown to really and truly die, they stay dead. When they don't, it was usually a blatant fake-out of some kind.
  • In Toward the Terra, the Mu can read thoughts, perform astonishing feats of telekinesis, fly through space unaided, teleport, and do all manner of fantastical mutant stuff. But once a character is dead, they are dead.
  • One of the rules in Death Note. In the end of the manga, while Light is begging Ryuk to save him from death, Ryuk says that there is no way to do it. The last page (as a follow-up to a previous statement) says, "Once they are dead they can never come back to life."
  • Technically, this holds true in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Returning a soul to a body is said to be impossible. But screwing with the space-time continuum so they never died in the first place is fine, if difficult.
  • Digimon Tamers, being a Deconstruction of the previous Digimon series, works this way. There is no village where data forms in eggs, loose data won't sometimes coalesce into ghosts, and absorbing another Digimon's data only makes you stronger (and, in some cases, gives you access to their attacks) and doesn't allow the previous mon to live on inside you. So when Digimon die, they die for good.
  • While Miranda Lotto's Innocence power allows her to turn back time (which doubles as a healing ability as she can turn back time on recent injuries,) she can't use it to bring back the dead. Not that the revived person would stay alive for long if she could, as everything returns to normal after she deactivates it (she can, however, keep a person alive after they suffer a fatal injury in the meantime.)


Comic Books

  • For decades, the unbreakable rule in comics has been that only three characters ever stay dead - Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben. It must be noted that within the last five years, both Bucky and Jason Todd have returned from the dead.
  • PS238 followed this trope, until it brought a Mostly Dead character back to life.
    • Canonically, the extremely rare ability to restore the dead marks someone as a "Messiah" class healer, which causes all kinds of ethical problems.
  • Supposedly this is now true for the DC Universe following the events of Blackest Night, We'll see how long that lasts.
    • It did not.
  • At least in principle, in Elf Quest, death is permanent. Sort of. Elves can still make contact with their dead through the Palace and endless flashbacks.
  • This is what Chris Claremont intends for his book X-Men Forever.
  • When Joe Quesada took over as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, he instituted a "Dead means dead" policy. It didn't last very long because, by his own admission, it was like closing the gate after all the horses have already escaped.


Literature

  • Magic in Inheritance Cycle works like this, draining a fatal amount of energy from whoever attempts it.
  • Harry Potter follows this trope to a T. There are magics that can do very good imitations of a resurrection, but that's only a shadow of the person they once were. There's also horcruxes, but those simply stop the person from dying in the first place.
    • Also, in Deathly Hallows, we find out about the Resurrection Stone. However, it's implied that bringing people back using it makes them miserable and that they aren't there in spirit.
      • They weren't alive; they were basically slightly more solid ghosts.
      • i.e. Solid, real people, just pale, cold and sad.
    • Not to mention that it drives the living to suicide...
  • The Belgariad mentions this as a specific restriction of the Gods; they are not permitted to undo death (even though it's within their power) at the risk of setting off another universal catastrophe. Belgarion, however, is specifically permitted to accomplish this twice: once with a stillborn horse (who becomes important to the plot of The Malloreon), and at the very end with Durnik, fulfilling the prophecy that he would live twice. In both cases, he needed the assistance of the Orb of Aldur, and in the latter, the Gods as well. Also in both cases, the deceased came back with special powers.
    • Garion did not have the Orb when he resurrected Horse. The fact that he performed it while in the meeting place of the Gods may have helped, though.
  • In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, the Art cannot bring back the dead. In fact, one character's false hope that this is possible is what drives the disastrous events of the main story, as it allows him to be tricked into becoming the Unwitting Pawn of the Big Bad.
  • The book Fire Sea of The Death Gate Cycle has a few. The Sartan have begun using necromancy to raise the dead, but the raised dead are not very smart and can do only simple tasks. This ritual can only be done after waiting at least three days after death, for the soul to have time to leave. If the ritual is performed before then, the soul is trapped and a lazar is created. They retain their intelligence but are trapped between life and death and must suffer endless pain and torment. And if those aren't enough reasons to just say no, it's discovered that whenever you bring someone back to life, someone else in the universe dies.
  • The Wheel of Time: While many things can be Healed with the One Power, death is considered final. Other ailments once considered unhealable have since been Healed, but the series goes out of its way to establish a finality with regards to death. There are a few loopholes that can be abused, but none of them are practical:
    • All dead souls are eventually reborn as the Wheel of Time spins them out into the Pattern again; this is on a metaphysical level, however, and, a handful exceptions aside, is a largely academical distinction.
    • Balefire erases someone retroactively, causing their actions to have never happened during the time spanned. The strength of the balefire weave affects how far back someone is erased; if timed right, and strong enough, it can prevent the death of someone who died at the hands of the erased person. Mat, Aviendha and a large part of the Aiel force invading Caemlyn are restored to life by balefire stretching back half an hour.
    • The Dark One can reincarnate people who died, but another body is needed, the procedure is only possible for a very short time after someone dies, and balefire in anything but very small amounts will render the operation impossible. As The Dark One is the Big Bad of the series, this is reserved for the Forsaken - his strongest underlings - and is considered an undesirable way of returning to life.
  • In the Shannara franchise, characters can be healed from the brink of death. They can survive crippling wounds that would kill a normal person. There are loads of cases of Never Found the Body. But if you actually die? That's all you get. You might come back as a Shade, but even then you're an immaterial ghost who can spend a maximum of a few minutes in the world of the living before returning to the land of the dead. Coming back really doesn't appear to be an option.
  • In The Dresden Files, there doesn't even seem to be much in the way of healing magic. Any injury to a character is regarded as threatening as it would be in a non-magical genre, and anyone who dies stays that way, though their ghost might cause some trouble. Necromancy provides an alternative approach, though not a very pretty one. It's also shown that the Queens of The Fair Folk can reconstruct damaged bodies, and some similarly powered beings can probably do so as well, but none have ever brought someone back to life.


Live Action TV

  • After John Locke supposedly comes back from the dead in Lost, Ben Linus is amazed, and says that, although he's seen many amazing things on the island, he's never seen someone come back from the dead. Turns out it's the smoke monster, not John Locke. Sayid also comes back from the dead, but then apparently he's possessed or infected by something, but then he gets better. Maybe.
  • Despite the numerous times things come back from the dead in Angel, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, very rarely can magic bring those who died of mundane things back from the dead, as in the cases of Tara and Joyce. After all, the vase that brought back Buffy was the only one in the world, and it was destroyed.
    • There's also still a terrible price to be paid as it is revealed later that bringing Buffy back destabilized the magic of the Slayer line, leaving it vulnerable to being completely wiped out forever. Zombification seems to be a relatively easy magical process though (several novices pull if off multiple times in both dead. Necromancers are the one real exception, as their mastery of death allows them to come back from fatal wounds.
  • Three different magical characters in Once Upon a Time have said that they can't bring back the dead: the Blue Fairy, Rumplestiltskin, and the Genie have all said it's impossible for them.


Tabletop Games

  • In Exalted, the titular Exalted, chosen of the gods, are ridiculously powerful and can quite literally do the impossible. But there's still absolutely no way to bring back someone from the dead, except as a ghost. This is clearly stated throughout the game line, a book even breaking Kayfabe and explaining that it's because being able to come back from the dead as if nothing happened is a very effective drama-killer.
  • By the rules of magic in Shadowrun, resurrection is impossible. Averted in the 2007 Xbox 360/PC game however for gameplay reasons.
  • There are very, very few ways to resurrect someone as they were pre-mortem in The World Of Darkness and all have huge risks involved, slim chances of success and a high chance of coming back wrong or driving the person insane. Oh and they're held by groups or societies who are unlikely to share them out, and may try to kill you just for knowing about them.
  • In Ars Magica Raising the dead (in a manner other than the classic zombie) is a boundary that Hermetic magic can not overcome. The closest thing is a costly ritual that gives the dead body a simulated life. And in the best it dissolves into a puddle or becomes a shadow without a will (The spell name is The Shadow of Life). At worst a demon possesses the body or the creature becomes a psychopathic murderer who hates the living.


Video Games

  • The first Fire Emblem game and remake gives you a staff that can bring back one slain party member. As of the remake, most players use it to perform the Tiki/Falchion Bonus Chapter trick. The second game was much more lax, having springs on the map that revived characters, but they had limited uses. The fourth game also has a one use staff (that can be repaired for a very hefty price) that revived the dead.
  • In Dragon Age, one of the cardinal rules of magic is this. Even bringing someone back from the brink of death can be problematic. There are walking corpses and other zombies, but these are usually just dead bodies possessed by demons (which is why the Chantry advocates cremation).
    • There have been two cases when the recently killed people were brought back: Wynne and Evangeline de Brassard in Dragon Age: Asunder. In both cases, however, it was the work of a very powerful spirit, who may or may not be The Maker himself, and the end result is more akin to Living on Borrowed Time: the moment said spirit leaves the resurrected body, the person dies for good.
  • This is true for Hoshigami until late in the game unless you can craft a Coinferm that can resurrect the dead.


Webcomics

  • Errant Story touches on this in a particularly humorous fashion.
  • The world of Dominic Deegan doesn't have any way to resurrect the dead. In the Maltak arc, Necromancer Jacob Deegan claims that, with a little research into some Orc magic, he'll be able to pull it off (though other comics heavily imply he's lying). Thus far, the only ways to "cheat" this are as an Obi-Wan-style spirit advisor (Klo Tark), by becoming a demon (Siegfried), neither of which are really preferable as you're still dead. Necromancers are the one real exception, as their mastery of death allows them to come back from fatal wounds.
  • In Shadownova death is commonplace, usually quite painful and always permanent.
  • Clan of the Cats goes with the Equivalent Exchange version: either someone has to die, or the world has to be changed for the better on a very broad scale; the one time it was accomplished was by ending a magical cold war.
  • At the start of the third incarnation of Road Waffles, the author warns the main character that Anyone Can Die at any time, and no one will come back, killing some talking birds to make the point. True to his word, she dies anticlimactically about two-thirds of the way into the strip, trying (and failing) to save her original Foil while the rest of the cast regroups.
  • This is the case in Drowtales. Getting killed or possessed by a demon is both fatal - in the latter case the demon may retain some of the memories or personality of the body. Bodies can be reanimated, but as one character lampshades, it's just an empty shell with golem technology. Exceptions exist to some degree - one secondary character cheated death via magic, and a major plot character may be entirely resurrected.


Western Animation

  • The Genie in Aladdin lists trying to bring back the dead as one of the three things he can't do, having apparently been wished into perpetrating one too many Came Back Wrong incidents.
  • An Egyptian man in the Gargoyles episode "Grief" enlists the help of The Pack (minus Dingo) in a bid to summon Anubis to bring back his deceased son, who had been killed in a car accident two years prior. It takes absorbing Anubis and becoming an avatar of death for him to learn that this cannot be done, and so he performs a Heroic Sacrifice in order to save all present from the collapsing tomb; it's implied that he didn't survive.

 Goliath: If there's any justice in this world or the next, he's with his son, now.

  • Transformers Prime, according to Word of God. So far every every death has stuck, since the mindless robot zombies don't count as being "alive". Fans are taking bets on whether or not this will hold true regarding Optimus Prime's tradition of dying and resurrecting (sometimes more than once) in every continuity.

Notes

  1. Just to be clear, this translation dances around the topic a little; the original was inscribed at a tomb.
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