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"Net... overpowering! Arms... tired... heavy! Can't... move... must... urk..."—Bat Thumb
Want to incapacitate somebody without killing them? Then the most foolproof way of pulling this off is with the Inescapable Net, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's a net that, when thrown over someone, causes them to just flail around helplessly, trapped like a bunch of fish, ready to start Dying Like Animals.
This trope is particularly popular in children's animation, where the intended audience usually just accepts the application of this trope without considering the general silliness of the idea. Suffice to say, this trope is much more difficult to pull off in live action television, in which the participants usually just end up looking silly.
To some extent this is Truth in Television. Animals surprised by nets usually don't have enough time to figure out a way to get out of it before the hunter is able to incapacitate them permanently. Of course, anything that is substantially stronger, smarter or with more escape time than your typical hunted animal doesn't have this excuse. Sometimes however, heavy weights will be added to the edges of a net to make it more difficult to escape from, or the corners will be attached to long ropes to drag the captured target away.
- In the Pokémon anime, Pokémon caught inside Team Rocket's nets will only rarely manage to free themselves, despite them usually being pretty powerful in battle. Usually handwaved as being electric/whatever proof nets.
- Justified in One Piece, when the Marines use a net to trap Alvida and Buggy - it's a net specifically designed to counter Devil's Fruit powers, so they're screwed.
- Don Krieg can fire a weighted net from his gun, which is used to send people into the water. Doesn't stop Luffy.
- Averted in a very early Spider-Man comic featuring Kraven the Hunter's debut. Kraven catches Spidey in a net, but Spidey reasons that, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the net must have a weak joint in it, and he then tests the netting till he finds a part he can make big enough to escape through. All at super-spidey-speed, of course.
- Even happens in Return of the Jedi, when the protagonists are caught (of all things) by the Ewoks.
- Don't know if that's a good example of this trope or not, since they actually get out of the net on their own pretty quickly, but it did give the Ewoks enough time to surround them.
- Spoofed in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist: the hero is trapped in a net that isn't even big enough to cover his head.
Mayor: That tiny net was sure-fire master!
Master Betty: Yes, a tiny net is a death sentence, it's a net and it's tiny!
- The nets in the Predator film series are quite effective, but that's also because they automatically contract on the target and are apparently made out of something like piano wire, so targets are less incapacitated and more cubed.
- How well this works when the "prey" starts bleeding an insanely corrosive acid however...
- And Force Nets, which are actually a darkside method of executing someone by constricting the net.
- In the Aasman Ko Chukar sequence in The Return of Hanuman, Hanuman used a net to capture figures with a bad name such as terrorists and George W. Bush.
- In Lone Wolf #8, your traveling companion Paido is snagged by the bad guys in a net that is also studded with fish hooks, making it practically impossible to quickly free him before they drag him off. You see him again a couple of books later, alive but covered in scars from where the hooks were pulled out.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe features 'Connor Nets', which are capable of doing this to starships.
- Connor Nets are justified by them being EMP's in the form of a net to tangle stabilizers and shut down engines.
- As well as Stokhli Spray Sticks, which basically fire electrified riot goop.
- Lampshaded/justified in the Planet of the Apes book: The protagonist and narrator writes that he was so panicked he did exactly the wrong thing when trying to escape from the net, which led to his capture.
- In one of the Warrior Cats field guides, one cat told a story about how his ancestor got chased through an old rabbit warren by some kind of terrier. He dashes out of one of the tunnels, only to get caught in a net and be at the mercy of the human and the dog.
- On The Electric Company, Spider-Man caught criminals this way.
- One episode in the second season of Who Wants to Be a Superhero had this happen to the good guys early on to act as a lead-in to the supervillain death-trap challenge.
- Averted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Consequences". The Watcher's Council trap Angel under a net, and to make sure he stays down they start whaling on him with crowbars.
- Parodied in Order of the Stick, where the party gets trapped in a net on an island with an orc tribe hunting after them. They quickly figure out a way to get out of the net, but Elan warns them that the presence of the net is proof that they were supposed to be caught, and that trying to escape from the net is ultimately futile because the narrative structure is working against them. They're then beat up while still removing the net.
- Also parodied by Daisy Owl here.
- Many Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but done most blatantly in Superfriends. These are characters with the ability to vibrate through walls, move entire planets, turn into lightning bolts- but put them under a net and they have no idea what to do. If you're lucky, it'll be a kryptonite net, but that still doesn't explain that no one else can escape. Also used in Scooby Doo and shows like it to capture the monster at the end.
- Happened in Darkwing Duck several times, the most Egregious of which is when a villain made entire of malleable, liquid water gets trapped in an ordinary net.
- In The Fairly Odd Parents, fairies are literally incapable of escaping if trapped in a butterfly net. Not a special, fancy net--an ordinary butterfly net. Talk about Weaksauce Weakness! Rules of magic.
- In the Looney Tunes short "Elmers Candid Camera", Elmer puts a net over Bugs Bunny (or his prototype at any rate). Bugs then begins gasping for air and pretends to die, causing Elmer to sob and call himself a murderer.