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Many media are often adapted from one form to another. Books, comic books, and television shows become films, cartoons/anime and New Media in almost any permutation you can imagine. While some try to follow the original material with some degree of accuracy, sometimes an adaptation writer will kill someone off for drama, or keep them alive out of sympathy, while the original has left their fate undetermined, or seemingly inconsequential.
This can become a problem however, if the source material is still ongoing and this character's fate in the original story becomes an important plot point in a later Arc. Then the series must either do some gymnastics to get things back into synch, or just Hand Wave the entire thing away.
Thus, the Schrödinger's in the title, after his famous thought experiment in which a cat in a box can be thought of as both alive and dead, until the box is opened. The cat's state is indeterminate. Here, the composition of the cast is indeterminate.
Often a symptom of Adaptation Decay, this can also refer to someone who simply does not exist in the original; thus, their existence is in danger of termination or being erased from the plot if later installments have to conform. Compare Overtook the Manga and Post Script Season.
When the entire fictional setting is left indeterminate by the author so he can write by the seat of his pants (which also may be indeterminately on or off), usually so as to railroad players in a game no matter which way they go, see Schrodinger's Gun.
Anime and Manga
- Would Alternate Universe versions of characters count? If so, Shiro Takamachi from Triangle Heart 3 ～sweet songs forever～ and its Spin-Off show Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha would count: in the former, he was killed by a bomb while his wife Momoko was pregnant with Nanoha. In the latter, he suffered grave injuries (presumably from the same bomb blast) when Nanoha was little, but he survived and eventually recovered. His retirement raises questions about just how much into the family business Nanoha's brother and sister are in this reality
- Another odd example is Nanoha's Earth friend Suzuka, who didn't exist in Triangle Heart at all. She's the younger sister of the character who turns out to be a vampire in Triangle Heart; making the precise nature of her existence a curiosity. Nanoha's other friend, Arisa, is similar. In the original Triangle Heart her Expy is a ghost. The writers made one teasing reference that there might be something different about both of them, and they were left behind on Earth as the plot went to other dimensions.
- In A's, Reinforce dies. In A's: The Battle of Aces, she doesn't.
- Nasuverse visual novels do this to themselves constantly. Keeping in mind that visual novels can have as many as a dozen endings, making a sequel gets tricky. This is usually hand waved with alternate universes. (There is no ending of Fate/stay night where everyone lives, but it's okay if it's a crazy-anything-can-happen singularity universe!)
- Slayers has entirely too many of these to list, mostly owing to its inability to decide whether it wants to be Darker and Edgier or Lighter and Fluffier than its source novels. Particularly gratuitous examples include Rubia from the Atlas City arc and Abel from the Vezendi arc, both of whom survived their brush with Lina Inverse in their original storylines, but were killed for the sake of a Downer Ending when the anime got around to them. Former Mook Duclis, however, gets expanded into an Anti-Hero role and ultimately lives.
- Yomi in Black Rock Shooter dies in the computer animation, but survives in the OAV.
- The Galaxy Angel gameverse killed off Eonia at the end of the first game. However, the manga kept him around and made him the Big Bad of the next arc, possibly to avoid dedicating any more plot space to the conspiracy that unfolded in the games.
- In The Day of Sigma, the tie-in OVA prequel to Maverick Hunter X (the Mega Man X remake for the PSP), Dr. Cain is killed during an explosion. However, in the original SNES games, Dr. Cain was still alive as of Mega Man X 2. Apparently there were plans to remake the whole SNES series on the PSP to conform with the new continuity, but the low sales of Maverick Hunter X prevented that from happening.
- Xenosaga: The Animation kept Lieutenant Virgil alive through most of the series, while he had died in the first segment of the game. Oddly, the manner of his death was unchanged, just the timing of it.
- The entire Death Busters group of villains from the third arc of Sailor Moon is quite diffrent in the first anime than they are in the manga and Sailor Moon Crystal. Most noteworthy is Professor Tomoe, who was originally a straight-foward Complete Monster Mad Scientist. In the first anime series, he was filled out and became a quirky and nuanced looney with a sympathetic reason for his actions. However, the later arc of both versions requires Hotaru's presence with the Outers. Since in the first TV series he wasn't killed off as in the original version, Sailor Pluto simply "borrows" Hotaru from him in a flashback, and he disappears from the face of the Earth.
- Sailor Pluto's own death occurs at a very different time in the three versions, partly because the plot arcs for Chibiusa were also modified in the first anime and then Crystal had them follow the manga. This was, for simplicity, outright ignored in The Movie adapation.
- In Magic Knight Rayearth the character of The Blacksmith Presea was killed off for drama in the first season of the anime... but wasn't in the manga. Unfortunately, she was required in the second season. At first they tried to explain that she was resurrected, but this broke a cardinal rule that CLAMP has for their worlds. So the person who the Magic Knights thought was Presea was really her twin sister Sierra, also The Blacksmith (though her abilities were slightly different), who happens to know everything that Presea did including her mannerism, and everyone who knew went along with it so that the Magic Knights wouldn't feel bad. And some scenes show that the charade has a heavy toll on the woman's mind: she cares a lot for the Knights and Cephiro, but is also deeply burdened by having to pose as her sister and being unable to mourn for her.
- However, Anti-Villain Eagle Vision, who is dying of an unspecified illness (going into a deep, sleep that's usually eternal due to Mana drain in the manga; an actual Incurable Cough of Death in the anime,) is killed by the Big Bad Debonair near the end of the series. In the manga, he succumbs to his illness during the Pillar's Trial, but survives, and it's implied that Hikaru's new Cephiro will help him make a speedy recovery. Since this occurred at the end of the series in both manga and anime, not too much was required to change.
- Also, Ice Sorceress Alcyone dies from injuries rather early on in the manga. In the anime, she hangs around Emeraude's castle till the end of the first season, disappears mysteriously, and comes back as a Brainwashed and Crazy Dragon for the Big Bad Debonair (who ultimately does kill her).
- The OAV, being a separate continuity, kills as many characters as it spares.
- In the Cardcaptor Sakura anime, Mei-ling was an added character who followed Syaoran as his self-declared fiancée. Her major problem is, since Syaoran ends up with Sakura, their relationship is doomed and the plot can't accommodate her. She was Put on a Bus, with the insinuation that their engagement wasn't entirely official, and then she briefly returned in the second movie... and even managed to show up in the anime version of the newest manga arc, Clear Card.
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has something similar, which explains CLAMP's reasoning. In the Filler last episode of the first season, Sakura makes a wish with a god to return a number of people Back From the Dead... unfortunately this majorly conflicts with the Aesop that CLAMP makes in the events of the manga that would become the second season. Gods and wishes cannot bring people Back From the Dead as they were. Bee Train, the production company, had to make an Author's Saving Throw before the manga events and return to this world to explain that the wish merely resulted in "physical ghosts" that would vanish in a month.
- The second season of Rozen Maiden veers from the manga quite a bit... however, numerous resurrections and deaths occur quickly in order to synchronize with the manga by its end.
- Voodoo-obsessed Hikaru Gosunkugi in the manga version of Ranma ½ was eliminated when the series was animated. However, several plots in the second season required someone to serve in the same role; thus Sasuke, the ninja houseservant to the Kuno clan, was introduced as a replacement. Eventually, Gosunkugi would appear in the anime, several seasons along, but oddly enough as a somewhat more sympathetic character who even got his own brief romantic Story Arc -- with the local Cute Ghost Girl Kohane.
- A bizarre instance revolves around Ranma's curse. In the manga, the whole school finds out relatively early on that Ranma can change into a girl, because Ranma apparently was still going to school when stuck as a girl and they saw "her" change back and forth during a duel with Mousse (though they were apparently stupid enough to think it was "a disguise"). In the anime, however, Ranma apparently didn't go to school and never did change into a guy during that battle, so his classmates never found out about it until near the end of the series, when Genma entered the scene out of nowhere and proceeded to pretty much spell it out to them for no apparent reason.
- In the manga version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bakura kills Pegasus in the process of stealing his Millennium Eye, while in the anime version Pegasus survives, instead just losing his eye and appears later as a secondary character in Filler arcs. This seems to separate the anime and manga spinoffs into separate continuities, as Pegasus appears in the anime version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, but his death is an important part of the manga Yu-Gi-Oh! R.
- A reversal: the anime of Bleach introduced 3 modsouls in its Bount Filler arc. This led to a problem when they returned to the manga storyline, as the characters didn't exist in that plot. The solution seems to be to only include the three in scenes that contain Kon; as he's already a comic relief character with little impact on the plot, it doesn't affect anything to make it an ensemble of comic relief characters.
- Similarly, the 3 modsouls somewhat formidable combat abilities are still employed during short segments of filler used to pad out actual arcs, such as during the begining of the Hueco Mundo arc.
- An example razing Narm went on with Ishida loosing and getting his powers back... twice. It's hard to take him seriously the second time he angsts about it when he did it worse the first time, complete with a What the Hell, Hero? moment in the fillers.
- Similarly, the Mai-Otome Zwei manga ignores the preceding Mai-Otome manga, instead being a sequel to the anime. This is presumably because the Mai Franchise is one big example of Anime First.
- A bizarre example is in Fullmetal Alchemist, with Shou Tucker, and Tim Marcoh. In the anime, Marcoh only has one major appearance before being killed off screen, while in the manga Shou Tucker is killed by Scar after one appearance. The result is that both characters share similar plotlines, its just that Marcoh's plots are full of Wangst, while Tucker's is full of insanity, weirdness, and an upside down head.
- Other characters who die in the first anime but not in the manga include Yoki (becomes Scar's servant in the manga, killed by Lust to provoke a fight in the anime), Scar (decides to change his goals in the manga, he and Kimblee kill each other in the anime), Selim Bradley (is Pride himself but is spared by the heroes after losing his memories in the manga, killed by Pride in the anime), and Izumi (the disease that isn't as serious in the manga kills her in the anime).
- It did help that in the second anime, Izumi got a "social call" from Hohenheim, who's less of a jerk in the manga than in the first anime, and got her organs rearranged so she can breathe better and presumably not cough up blood every five minutes.
- In fact, she is never seen spewing blood after his visit anymore, so presumably that's what he meant when he said that he "rearanged her insides so that her blood may flow well again."
- In the last episode of the first season of Gunslinger Girl, Angelica is implied to have died in hospital, which does not happen in the manga which the show is based on. Since the second season largely follows the next manga volumes, Angelica is up and running again, indicating that she got better.
- Until she dies in Volume 9, three volumes after the arc Season Two is based on ends, after jumping in front of Marco to save him from a car-bomb. She dies having forgotten everyone and everything EXCEPT the Prince of Pasta story.
- Strangely for Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, where the anime is usually Lighter and Softer than the manga, the anime versions of the Dark Lovers, Gaito and Sara are implied to have died in the Collapsing Lair. In the manga, Sara simply seals herself away along with the Dark Lovers and Gackto.
- In both the anime and the manga of Gravitation, the last we see of Taki Aizawa is Tohma pushing him into traffic, saying "have a nice life." The difference is that in the anime, a car can be seen stopping just short of hitting him; in the manga, the frame of the car approaching is followed by Tohma standing behind a spray of blood.
- Actually, a little later on in the manga we see Taki Aizawa in hospital, conscious but shaken and clearly not about to bother Shuichi, Yuki or Tohma again any time soon.
- Possibly the most extreme example occurs in Wolf's Rain. The original anime features the death of everybody on Earth. The manga, adapted from the anime, doesn't.
- The first season on Detective Conan anime was so determined to remove the Black Organization that a few gratuitous example happened when the anime was forced to line up with the manga.
- In episode 12, the animators changed the villains from The Syndicate to some generically evil guys. However, Akemi Miyano, who was originally a Mook killed by their employers was ascended into a Posthumous Character. Result? She was killed again, this time by The Syndicate, in a Filler 116 episodes later. Lampshade was hung by Ran asking Conan if they've seen that character any time before. This arc is the Billion Yen Heist. It was pertinent because Akemi Miyano had to die under the organization's hands to bring her little sister Shiho aka Ai in, because she is Ai's Dead Elder Sister. And much, much later... the anime special ONE features Akemi's death as told in the manga and not the anime, probably retconning it.
- An even more gratuitous example was in episode 4: the villains were supposed to Those Two Bad Guys, and in manga Conan overheard their name as Gin and Vodka. Again, in anime it was changed to some other Badass Longcoat. In the sub the names of names "Gin" and "Vodka" were mysteriously inserted into Conan's memory--if we just follow the anime--in episode 54. In the English dub they try to fix it by Heiji telling Shinichi in episode 49 that while Baigar is bad, "Gin and Vodka are real killers."
- Buttatake Joe of Soul Eater survives in the anime, which effectively marks where the series diverges. However, because Justin Law was his murderer and he couldn't do The Reveal, the anime had to take another route. Worst part? BJ doesn't even get his dream girl back in the anime.
- Abberlin of Black Butler shows you how it's done: tragic, Ciel-traumatizing Heroic Sacrifice in the anime...just to drop in and say hello in the chapter that came out the month of his death.
- In the Fist of the North Star TV series, many scenes from the original manga that had children being killed were rewritten so that Kenshiro would save the child at the last minute. One notable example is Bat's 7-year-old brother Taki, who is killed by a ruffian for trying to steal water in the manga, but narrowly avoids death in the TV series. On the other hand, characters like Mitsu (the younger brother of Raiga and Fuga) and Gill (the younger Harn Brother) were killed off in the TV series, even though they survived in the original manga.
- In the original Cutey Honey manga, during Panther Claw's attack on Honey's school, Alphonne and Miharu are explicitly killed along with most or perhaps all of the student body and their deaths are Played for Laughs. In the anime version, Alphonne and Miharu explicitly survive along with most or perhaps all of the student body, which is probably a good thing. The anime version filled them out more as comic relief characters and gave the audience time to develop affection for them, so killing them off so unceremoniously would have felt inappropriate. Natsuko dies in both versions, but in different ways.
- In Pokémon Special, Pryce AKA the Big Bad of the GSC arc, is forever lost in the time stream. Of course, back then the mangaka couldn't have anticipated that there would eventually be remakes, so now, in the HGSS arc, which is about five years later in-story, the fate of the Mahogany Gym is unknown even though the rest of the Johto Gym Leaders appeared.
- For Gundam fans, there's been a debate that's raged since the late 80s: did Amuro Ray and Char Aznable die in Chars Counterattack? Yoshiyuki Tomino's Word of God is that, in his mind, they are dead unless Sunrise puts them in a new story set post-CCA.
- Ms. Marvel she was (temporarily) killed in her own title when her powers overloaded, but continued to appear in the New Avengers title as if nothing had happened.
- In the Transformers Film Series, Ravage appears and dies in the second movie. However, the post-movie comics were already planned before Ravage's death was finalized. So Ravage returns in yet another comic continuation of a screen story where he was intended to truly be dead. This is one cat who always lands on his feet. However, Soundwave can't sense him, and he can sense all the rest of his underlings, suggesting that Ravage perhaps Came Back Wrong. Turns out Ravage is being controlled.
- The character of John Hammond in Jurassic Park was portrayed as a Corrupt Corporate Executive in the original novel and died. When it was later turned into a movie, he was portrayed more sympathetically and was permitted to survive. Meanwhile, the game warden, Muldoon, survived the book but died in the movie.
- The movie features four character deaths, two of which coincide with the six deaths in the book:
- Died in film, lived in book: Donald Gennaro, Robert Muldoon
- Died in book, lived in film: Ian Malcolm, John Hammond, Henry Wu (Put On A Boat after one scene in film), Ed Regis (did not exist in film)
- Malcolm even had to be resurrected in the book's sequel The Lost World as the character would be returning to star in the film.
- Died in both film and book: Dennis Nedry, John Arnold
- The movie features four character deaths, two of which coincide with the six deaths in the book:
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an interesting example. The movie is very different from the book (Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, in which the titular character dies at the beginning and is represented by a "temporary stunt copy" created as an alibi for the rest of the story, and was guilty to begin with). The book's sequel ignores most of what happened in the first book, instead reading like a sequel to the movie. It's rather unfortunately handwaved as being Jessica Rabbit's dream.
- Robert Crumb killed off his Fritz The Cat character after he was disappointed with Ralph Bakshi's movie version. Steve Krantz, the producer of the first film, made a sequel anyway, without Bakshi, titling it The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat; fans of the feline choose to either ignore the sequel... or ignore Crumb's own final story.
- In both the original novel and film of Layer Cake, the protagonist gets shot at the end of the work. In the former, he survives, but is implied to die in the latter (although it's deliberately filmed ambiguously). If the soon to be published novel sequel is filmed, then he'll clearly be alive in both, but until then, he's equally likely to be alive and dead. Incidentally, there's also a reverse version. In the film, the Scouse gangster Trevor, who survives in the movie, kills an antagonist at the very end, in similar circumstances to his death in the novel.
- Bill Weasley and Mundungus Fletcher were this, until Deathly Hallows. The scene where they were introduced came across as something like, "Oh, hey, this is Bill Weasley, Ron's brother who's never been mentioned before. He's engaged to Fleur, who hasn't featured at all since the fourth film. Oh, and he got mauled by a werewolf offscreen. And here's Mundungus Fletcher; he's a bit of a coward. Oh yeah, and Lupin's dating Tonks." It should be noted that Bill and Fleur were mentioned as dating in book 5, and announced their engagement at the start of book 6; Bill getting mauled by Greyback was seen at the end of book 6; Mundungus Fletcher has been a minor character since book 5 with a well established personality (and was, in fact, mentioned in passing even before that); and Lupin and Tonks... weren't much better even in the books, although introducing them at the end of Half Blood Prince might've mitigated the sheer awkwardness of the infodump in that scene.
- There's also Lavender Brown; the last time she is mentioned in the books, she is injured in the last battle but still alive; the reader never finds out if she lived or died. In the last movie, there's no uncertainty about it: Fenrir Greyback kills her.
- In the book version of Wicked, Professor Dillamond gets murdered fairly early on. In the musical version, he is merely fired instead, but ultimately doesn't do much better: He gets captured by the Wizard and turned into a dumb animal.
- More significantly, Elphaba and Fiyero get to live and run off together in the musical.
Live Action TV
- Knots Landing was a spin-off of Dallas; the main character of the spinoff was Gary Ewing, the black sheep of the Ewing family. Gary fathered a pair of twins right as his brother Bobby died on the parent show, and so he named his son after his dead brother. Who was then brought Back From the Dead a year later as the entire previous season was retconed away into a dream. Needless to say, on Knots Landing, Bobby Ewing stayed dead.
- Largo Winch was adapted from novels and comics to live-action. Led to have composite characters, canon foreigners… But while in the film the Corrupt Corporate Executive traitor from Winch father trusted circle was necessary a Canon Foreigner, the TV featured a character using the name of the comics traitor. But he was an honest guy, even if he's a jerk.
- In the first Kamen Rider TV series, the original protagonist Takeshi Hongo himself was written off and replaced with Hayato Ichimonji after his actor Hiroshi Fujioka broke his leg in an accident. Since Fujioka's return to the TV series was still uncertain at the time, so Shotaro Ishinomori decided to kill off Hongo in his tie-in manga version by leaving him as a disembodied brain on life support who communicated with Ichimonji via telepathy. When Fujioka returned to the show completely fine, Ishinomori was forced to bring back Hongo in the manga by giving him a robotic body.
- Geese Howard in Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters has left fans wondering just how the timeline is supposed to work since the beginning of the latter series. In Real Bout Fatal Fury, Geese unquestionably dies in a fall from Geese Tower, setting up his son Rock's storyline in Mark of the Wolves. However, in The King of Fighters, Geese is alive and a playable character in several games... and nobody is surprised, hinting he never died in the first place.
- Oddly enough, in The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact, Geese is dead -- Billy Kane appears in the second game, and his storyline revolves around avenging Geese's death by defeating Terry Bogard. Geese is playable as well, but in his "Nightmare Geese" form, which only appears in games where he is canonically dead.
- To answer the question: Art of Fighting/Fatal Fury are one timeline; KOF exists in another. They share a basic backstory (such as Geese killing Terry and Andy's father Jeff), but the plot point seen in Real Bout never came to pass.
- Super Robot Wars is a very big offenders here. They let some characters that were supposed to die in the original run (e.g: Four Murasame, Gai Daigoji, Master Asia) to survive and joins the player's team. When they release the Original Generation games, this gets carried over to the Original Characters (Axel Almer, Fernando Albark, Alfimi...)
- Subverted in the case of Getter Robo's Musashi, though. He dies. He always dies in every game he's in. Alpha 2 gave you the option of pulling sufficient strings and keeping him, but Alpha 3 flat-out retconned that possible ending for him. To be fair though, Go Nagai's stated he loves inventing new ways to kill him off.
- Not to mention, you also get to spam attacks that were supposed to be last-ditch desperation maneuvers soaked in dramatic Nothing Is the Same Anymore. Sometimes this actually destroys the unit, like the Million Alpha's self-destruct (they get repaired between missions anyway), but there is no excuse for being able to use Goldion Crusher repeatedly.
- No excuse other than Gameplay and Story Segregation and Rule of Fun that is.
- Not to mention Rule of Cool and Rule of Funny. In Alpha 3, it was possible to make a squad consisting solely of characters voiced by Akira Kamiya because of this (as Roy Fokker was allowed to live way past the point where he should have died). Additionally, one reason why a large amount of deaths is averted is because of different situations (mostly coming in the form of the protagonists having much more firepower on their side than in their original shows).
- Within the Battle Moon Wars game itself, we see this happen to Satsuki. In the "main" plot she actually dies at a certain point unless some special conditions are met. Her affect on the plot if she survives, however, is precisely the same as if she didn't, so she only appears in combat and not cutscenes.
- In the arcade version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Marian (the kidnapped girl from the first game) is killed off by Machine Gun Willy in the opening sequence. She never comes back to life. In the NES version, the game is still about avenging Marian's death, but the death occurs differently (it is implied that she was stabbed by a ninja) and she comes Back From the Dead in the end]]. The PC Engine version has multiple endings in which Marian returns to life in the best one.
- In the original floppy disk versions of Snatcher, Random Hajile is assumed to be dead after Queen Hospital explodes with him still inside. In the CD-ROM remakes, Random is shown to had survived the explosion after being revealed to be a snatcher, only to die for real later. In the RPG remake SD Snatcher, Random survives till the end and goes with Gillian to Moscow to hunt down the remaining snatcher factories.
- Notably averted in Tales of Destiny, in the case of fan-favorite Leon Magnus, who dies in every adaptation of the game, whether it's the Drama CD, the manga, a part in a crossover game, the remake or even the Updated Rerelease of thge remake that features his own story mode. He ends up dying without fail every single time, even though you'd expect with his huge fan following that he'd get a break at least once.
- In Tales of Heroes: Twin Braves, another crossover, Stahn's scenario also involve Leon dying in a Heroic Sacrifice like in the remake. And suddenly revealed in the very next scenario that he avoided death thanks to Yuri Lowell saving him in the nick of time and rejoins Stahn for a happy end, making it an aversion.
- In Mario Kart Wii, Bowser is actually both dead and alive at the same time!