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"Thank you, Major Panic, but none of us are going to die. Not on this network."
General Specific, Sheep in The Big City

Sometimes, nobody can die, even when it seems like they should. Unlike Never Say "Die", they're allowed to use the words "kill" and "die", but for whatever reason no one ever actually does any killing or dying. Amusing Injuries don't count — the situations faced by the characters are presented as realistically dangerous and the threat of injury or death is definitely present. Nor is it simply Plot Armor — when Nobody Can Die, even the lowliest mook is seemingly immortal. It simply seems to be a law of physics that no situation can result in the death of a person — gunshots leave people injured but alive, explosions cause lots of property damage but never seem to happen with people in the blast radius, etc. Note that, since talking about death is allowed, there may be references to characters that have died in the past, but onscreen deaths are still verboten.

Nobody Can Die is a compromise between Anyone Can Die, which can be upsetting to younger audiences, and Never Say "Die", which can seem childish even to children. It is occasionally imposed upon writers by Executive Meddling; in these cases, expect them to try Getting Crap Past the Radar.

Compare and contrast Non-Lethal Warfare, where the combatants are deliberately using nonlethal weaponry, rather than the lack of deaths seeming to be a happy coincidence. Not to be confused with Death Takes a Holiday.


Examples of Nobody Can Die include:


Anime and Manga

  • Zoids New Century lives on this trope. Not a single person, from main character to faceless mook, is ever killed during a series full of Giant Robot Animal Blood Sports. It makes the relatively harmless first series look like an Anyone Can Die show by comparison.
  • Dai-Guard features a Giant Robot fighting Kaiju all across Japan, with copious amounts of property destruction as a result. But never fear, the effected area is always evacuated beforehand! This culminates in the final episodes where the whole of Tokyo (which contains about 10% of Japan's entire population) is evacuated to provide a suitable arena.
  • The original Bowdlerized dub of Dragonball Z was pretty ludicrous about this trope; the single biggest example has to be Nappa vaporizing an entire metropolitan city, with Vegeta remarking immediately afterwards that because it's Sunday most of those buildings were empty. Ignoring the Fridge Logic involved[1], immediately beforehand we have scenes of the people in the city reacting in terror to the two evil aliens who just showed up. Which means the city was evacuated completely in, oh, less than a second.

 Reporter: Oh my God! They blew up the cargo robot... And the cargo was people!

  • Nobody dies in the Zettai Karen Children anime (the manga...not so much). There is a prophecy, shown on-screen, where Kaoru dies, however.


Film

  • The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie features food raining from the sky. You'd think that that by itself would be enough to cause some bodily harm, but even after It Gets Worse -- with spaghetti twisters that suck people up into the noodle funnel cloud while flinging boulder-sized meatballs hard enough to destroy buildings -- the only injury in the entire movie is a child who went into a sugar coma from eating too much raining candy.
  • The live-action George of the Jungle movie. When a guy falls at least 400 meters from a rope bridge over a cliff, the Narrator reassures the audience: "Don't worry — nobody dies in this story. They just get really big boo-boos." *cut to heavily bandaged and bruised guide* "What did I tell you?"
    • Later, when Lyle shoots George in the middle of the movie, the Narrator comes in again saying, "Poor George was really shot, but can't die because let's face it, he's The Hero."
  • Despicable Me
  • In Labyrinth, no one was allowed to get hurt. A boulder even falls on a goblin cannon, and the smashed cannon says, "Hey, no problem." Jim Henson talks about purposefully doing that in the making-of documentary.
  • The film Masterminds starring Patrick Stewart is a fantastically flagrant example of this. People should be dying left and right but every single time, the film's powers that be go to the outrageous lengths needed to contrive the deadly threats somehow to always have non-lethal consequences. (As opposed to the earlier movie Toy Soldiers, which has almost the same plot, but not this constraint.)
  • As of 2011, Monsters, Inc. is now the only Pixar film series not to feature any permanent deaths. Proof? They actually now kill cars!


Live Action TV

  • On The A-Team, cars full of Mooks would often crash -- at which point the camera would linger for us to overhear brief dialogue between them. ("You okay?" "Yeah, I'm fine.") Just to assure the viewer that no one had really been hurt. See also the marksmanship issue.
  • Power Rangers has had to do this for decades, thanks to Stock Footage of giant monsters rampaging throughout a cardboard city and smashing buildings. Occasionally the writers will Lampshade the trope with things like the monster saying "I hate empty buildings!" before smashing, or the Rangers remarking that he's in the "warehouse district".
    • Power Rangers has featured several deaths, however. The monsters themselves in the early episodes (although, it was never a big deal when they bit the dust). As the series progressed, it became notably more dark, and major characters did indeed die, good and bad.
  • This trope is pretty much the concept behind, if not the entire premise of, Torchwood: Miracle Day, the American adaption of the British television drama and Doctor Who spin-off TORCHWOOD. Although in "Miracle Day" the character Captain Jack Harkness, who has been immortal in every other incarnation of TORCHWOOD (as well as in every Doctor Who appearance after 2005) CAN die.


Video Games


Webcomics


Western Animation

  • The standard for the edgier comedic Nicktoons such as Ren & Stimpy, Rocko's Modern Life, SpongeBob SquarePants and Invader Zim!. In those cartoons, characters are allowed to say "kill", "die", or "dead", but no one is actually allowed to die (permanently}[2]. Other, less comedic Nicktoons such as Rugrats and its Mother's Day and Passover episodes avert this at the expense of playing Never Say "Die" straight.
  • The old-school G.I. Joe cartoons made a painful point of this. Every time a jet exploded, the pilot would always escape with a parachute, even if it was a faceless mook. Somehow, this happened with destroyed helicopters. In the "Worlds Without End" two-parter, we see the skeletonized remains of the Alternate Universe versions of Steeler, Clutch, and Grunt -- but that's the closest brush with death the series takes.
  • Joked about in George of the Jungle.
  • Parodied in Phineas and Ferb. Anyone who suffers something obviously lethal (car crash, a house falling on them, etc) will remark "I'm alright!" without a trace of pain. The creators actually commented about this in an interview, noting that as far as the network is concerned, pretty much anything can happen to a character as long as they throw that in.
  • Parodied on an episode of Johnny Bravo in which Johnny becomes a superhero. First he causes a plane crash, and the passengers shout "we're all okay!" before the plane explodes, then he accidentally gets Lawyer Friendly Cameos of the DC Heroes Thrown Out the Airlock, and comments, "It's a good thing there's plenty of air out in space! Wait, no there's not."
  • For most of Batman the Animated Series, they could only unambiguously kill a character if the plot was some sort of murder mystery. Joker episodes got around this by suggesting Joker venom was sometimes curable, but seldom actually curing it on-screen after the first time.
  • In Transformers Generation 1, from the makers of G.I. Joe, ungodly amounts of fire could be traded, and really-should-be-fatal injuries taken on both sides, but everyone was always fine next week. The Movie killed half the cast to make room for new toys, but when the series returned it was back to the same old rules for the most part. (There's the case of a space battle where ships known to be piloted were destroyed, though.)
  • Spoofed to hell and back by Megas XLR, which as part of its general skewering of Mecha Tropes, had several buildings with signs like "Conveniently Empty Skyscraper" on top of them just seconds before they get blown up.
  • Parodied in a Something Completely Different episode of Batman the Brave And The Bold, when Bat-Mite shows us some of the weirder takes on Batman, including a Stylistic Suck badly-dubbed 70s anime, based loosely on the 1960s Batman manga series. At the end of this segment, the villain's plane explodes.

 Batman: Lord Death Man paid the ultimate price for his evil ... although I'm certain he parachuted to safety.

Notes

  1. How would a space alien know what Sunday is, let alone that most Earthlings don't work on that day?
  2. Except for Filbert's pet bird in one episode of Rocko's Modern Life.
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