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An extreme version of Wouldn't Hit a Girl that extends to actually killing people.

For some reason an otherwise very good fighter can't kill or harm certain people -- usually due to a Freudian Excuse, a curse, or some other prohibition -- and this is almost always a gateway for this weakness to be used against them. If this fact is introduced early on, it's usually a Chekhov's Gun and will almost certainly be used sometime in the story.

Generally, if the person affected by Selective Slaughter is a villain the Flaw Exploitation is treated as ingenious on the part of the heroes, but if the person is The Hero, it's considered low. Yeah, a bit of a Double Standard. This very often results in a Go Through Me scenario.

See also Never Hurt an Innocent, Wouldn't Hurt a Child, Kick Them While They Are Down.

Examples of Selective Slaughter include:

Anime and Manga

  • Enishi in Rurouni Kenshin is unable to harm young women and becomes violently ill if he tries due to what happened to his sister (and he was witness to) and this becomes a crucial plot point twice: He didn't really kill Kaoru, he just abducted her and left a very realistic dummy to serve as a body, and in the final fight with Kenshin Kaoru throws herself between them and stops him before he kills Kenshin.
  • After fully awakening her Super-Powered Evil Side, Priscilla in Claymore literally walks right by the young Clare after killing the other Claymores, and it's explained that whenever she attacks a place the young girls are spared, as if she doesn't even see them. The regular Claymores are also prohibited from killing humans, though as Teresa explains, this is voluntary on their part, and that despite the consequences they can and sometimes do break it.
  • A slight variation: Kurogane in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is put under a curse by Princess Tomoyo that will weaken him a little bit more whenever he kills someone. The idea is that it will teach him the value of life, as he lacked that as Tomoyo's personal Ninja, but he sees it more as an inconvenience for most of the story. It's later revealed that it wasn't actually a curse at all, but a protective spell, and she just lied about that in order to keep him out of trouble.
  • The Peacemakers from Scrapped Princess can kill everyone except for Pacifica, the person they have to kill.


  • In RoboCop 2, the title character is prohibited from shooting children. The child criminal villain takes advantage of this restriction to shoot him.
    • And previously, in the first movie, he was prohibited from harming employees of the company that made him.
  • The Predator, in the second movie, attacks a subway train full of people and kills only those who were armed except for the policewoman, whom was spared because he could see that she was pregnant.
  • Subverted in Demolition Man. Wesley Snipes' character, Simon Phoenix, is prevented from causing any harm to Raymond Cocteau due to subliminal programming instilled in him while he was in suspended animation, soooo ...

 [Simon points gun at Cocteau's head but cannot pull the trigger]

Simon: "Now that I have an army, I don't need you anymore! Never liked you anyway.. like an evil Mr. Rogers."

Cocteau: "Yes, you do! The programming prevents your harming me."

Simon: [hands gun to other guy] "Will you please kill him? He's pissing me off."


  • In Mercedes Lackey's Oathbound series, the sword Need has a geas that prohibits the wielder from harming women, and at least one villain has used a Gender Bender to get around this.
  • Patrick Bateman from American Psycho seems to be unable to kill people who love him. He wants to kill his coworker, Luis Carruthers, but when he learns that Luis is in love with him, he's physically unable to do it.

Live Action Television

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike is implanted with a device that causes him agonizing pain if he attempts to inflict harm on humans. Demons, on the other hand...


Web Comics

  • In Girl Genius, Von Pinn (basically a monstrous semi-robotic babysitter) chases after Agatha, but one of the students gets in her way. Said student is quite aware of the fact that Von Pinn is completely incapable of hurting her due to programming. When the Psycho for Hire steps in and kills the student for her, Von Pinn gets mad and tries to kill her.
  • In Order of the Stick, since a "Mark of Justice" was put upon him, Belkar cannot deal lethal damage to any living creature inside the boundaries of any city, town or village without setting off the mark -- thus restricting him to killing things outside the boundaries, destroying undead, or knocking people around with Nonlethal damage. And he still trips it off.
  • Used after a fashion with Oasis in Sluggy Freelance. Her brainwashing causes her to automatically attack anyone she recognizes as a Hereti Corp employee. Several Hereti Corp agents get around this simply by saying "I quit." She can still kill them, but unless they do something do piss her off she has no reason to. The only person she's truly incapable of killing is Torg.

Western Animation

  • Brock Sampson cannot kill women or children. He's not above killing anything else under the sky with gusto, and he'll even maim women (considering he plucked out his lover's eye), but his mentor taught him not to kill women or children as it's basically the only moral high ground they can actually claim over their enemies. They're also probably just not covered by his license to kill (even though the undead apparently are).
  • Clay from Xiaolin Showdown mentioned on two occasions that he would not fight (specifically, hit) girls.

Real Life

  • Traditionally the Japanese ghost known as the onryo will attack everyone around it except the man who wronged it in life. This doesn't mean the man gets away unharmed, however, as usually the onryo is targeting the people close to him, and eventually the survivors will figure out who the onryo is going after...
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