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In the real world, an explosion has many ways of killing people nearby. The pressure wave can rattle the brain inside one's skull or destroy organs, the heat can burn through several layers of skin. Shrapnel will rip into soft tissue and bits of floor or wall can be turned into deadly projectiles by the blast. If the explosion is enough to lift someone into the air the force of landing can shatter bones.
In fiction, however, a bomb just gives you a push and causes a bit of singeing. Also, if you fall over, your clothes might get dirty.
Cartoons aimed at children are the most blatant offenders (with Looney Tunes characters able to survive dynamite going off in their hands) but this shows up in almost every medium and genre. This raises the question of why anyone even tries to use them as weapons at all, if they're so harmless.
An interesting variation occurs in more serious but still censor-neutered cartoons where airplanes and helicopters explode. They'll have people in parachutes coming out of the explosion, completely unharmed. A piece of advice: in Real Life, you have to eject before it explodes.
Some movies will feature similarly neutered explosives; rather than killing people in the blast radius, they transform people into stuntmen who are then pulled into the air by cables while going "Aiiieee!" Often it's possible to survive such a device even if standing a few feet from the detonation point.
A similar behaviour can be seen in many video games, where fragmentation grenades typically have an incredibly small blast radius after which the lethal wall of burning-hot shrapnel they create simply vanishes. Some games (mainly multiplayer ones) even allow players to survive grenades going off right in their faces or even direct hits from rockets -- albeit just barely -- as a way to prevent explosives from being Game Breakers. It goes even further in games where every enemy and object dies with an explosion and where Chain-Reaction Destruction phenomenon is common as the explosions caused in that manner are outright harmless.
Often a source of Amusing Injuries. Compare to the truly hideous example which lies in many Real Time Strategy video games, known affectionately (or not-so-affectionately) as the Slap-On-The-Wrist Nuke.
A supertrope of Ash Face, where an explosion leaves a character with nothing worse than a blackened face.
Anime and Manga
- Full Metal Panic has two different types of episodes- in the school-based comedy ones, things explode in people's faces all the time and they just shake it off. Away from the school, in the plot-based stories, people get hurt.
- Mahou Sensei Negima does this on occasion, with a lot of explosions not damaging anything except clothes.
- In Ranma ½, Happosai regularly throws around homemade gunpowder hand grenades. It's usually Ranma himself that gets left charred, smoking and pissed off, but otherwise unharmed.
- Justified with Minnie May's 'May Specials' in Gunsmith Cats, since she customizes grenades to remove the shrapnel and some of the explosives, ending up with a grenade that just makes a loud bang for distraction. Real explosives, however, do inflict realistic damage, which is why May makes her own in the first place.
- One of the several Amusing Injuries that happen to Keroro and his platoon is explosions. Apparently, jamming a live grenade into Keroro's mouth will only make him faint. And grow a large afro.
- Invoked in the final episode of Excel Saga when Excel and Hyatt are looking for a way to return to their own bodies. They meet Nabeshin and ask for his help, he replies that in anime you can solve everything with explosions. He then holds up a lit dynamite stick, there is a large explosion, and everything is fine thereafter.
- Played infamously in One Piece, where A bomb with a 5-kilometer blast radius is carried into the sky by Pell in an apparent heroic sacrifice, but he managed to survive.
- Additionally, Mr. 5 has the power of the Bomb Bomb Fruit, enabling him to make any part of his body (including his entire body) explosive. It seems like a deadly power, but several people, including Luffy, Usopp and as it turns out, even Mr. 9 and Ms. Monday, manage to survive direct hits from it.
- In Ed's introduction episode of Cowboy Bebop her hideout gets hit by a meteor, leaving behind a molten crater. But she just goes flying and only suffers a couple bruises.
- In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Jango Fett hits Obi-Wan Kenobi with one of these using his jetpack missile.
- In Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, while said duo are driving along in a car full of gas fumes (as well as covered in gas), Chong lights up a joint and causes a decent sized explosion to occur inside the car. When the smoke clears, both are fine, though they're covered in ash and have Clothing Damage.
- Home Alone. In the second movie, Kevin lights Harry's head on fire, Harry puts it out in the toilet, not knowing it is filled with kerosene, and blows the entire first floor up. Luckily, Harry only has second-degree burns on his scalp (as well as soot on his face and teeth and a damaged hat) to worry about.
- Happened a lot in The Pink Panther movies.
- This is basically a superpower for Clouseau, he is immune to explosions.
- It gets rather ridiculous when two characters start repeatedly shooting each other in the face with shotguns, repeatedly, at point blank, only resulting in some sooth covering their faces. You'd think they'd try something else after the second shot...
- The ending of Hot Fuzz is this for all but one character, who had the misfortune of having the bomb sitting in his lap.
- The Three Stooges are a rare live-action example used in a slapstick manner.
- At the climax of Collateral Damage, the protagonist outruns an explosion, considering himself safe once he's behind a staircase that only blocks the larger shrapnel. Not only does this work, but the villains who were at the center of the explosion are somehow also unharmed.
- 2009's Sherlock Holmes features three leading characters all caught smack in the middle of a cluster of fiery debris-scattering explosions. Some minor skin loss and smudges are suffered, but everyone keeps their pretty faces, hair, eyes, ears, and bones intact, and soon shake it off. Watson does have a noticable limp, though.
- In Damnatus, Wodan has an RPG explode pretty much at his feet and is no more than temporarily stunned. Later in the same film, Corris survives a grenade explosion strong enough to collapse the staircase he was running down.
- In the live-action Speed Racer movie, all race cars envelope drivers in a protective foam bubble that bounces them to safety just before all catastrophic explosions. Partially subverted when one driver races off a mountainside and ejects a parachute instead.
- Averted and lampshaded in the trailer for the film The Other Guys.
- But played straight with Samuel L. Jackson 's character in one of the earliest scenes.
- Of all places, Sin City had one in a short back-up story featuring Shlubb and Klump. Their task was to dispose of a dead body that was revealed to be a dummy filled with explosives. It was a message from the various mob bosses they continually disappoint. Despite the violent nature of the comic, that particular story ended with the two bad guys in Ash Face and Amusing Injuries as opposed to a more relaistic result.
- In Over the Hedge, the De-Pelter Turbo causes what looks like a huge explosion, but the result is merely removing the hair from the animal it has trapped (if that -- Dwayne gets out of it with his comb-over intact).
- Happens (in a notably funny situation) in Jingle All the Way. What makes this example even more Egregious is that the characters milk the living hell out of how dangerous the bombs are before a camera cut simply shows everyone covered in soot, including the officer who directly ripped it open.
- Mousehunt: Ernie and Lars are both blown up by the mouse twice (the first time, Ernie is blasted from a chimney and into a nearby lake) but luckily, they only have some soot on their faces and shredded clothes to worry about.
- Parodied at the start of the spoof Carry On Spying, when a villain slips a bit of sabotage into a scientist's experiment, steps to one side, and put his fingers in his ears. The experiment blows up, the scientist is killed, the laboratory is reduced to a smoking wreck, and the villain is completely untouched.
- The Starsky and Hutch film included a scene where Hutch's house is bombed and Willis is caught in the blast. Despite being quite close to the front door, he's merely slowly lifted into the air (almost as if he's on wires....) and breaks his leg on the impact.
- Played with in World War Z: A soldier explains how non-fatal explosions are definitely not Truth in Television, graphically listing all the damage an explosion can cause to the human body. Then, he goes on to explain that this doesn't matter in the case of zombies, unless their brains are destroyed.
Live Action TV
- This has happened on Angel. A demon gives Angel and Spike a bag, claiming it contains the episode's MacGuffin, but it actually contains a ticking bomb. Oddly enough, the fact that Angel and Spike survive being blown up is more justified than most examples of the trope, since their vampire toughness is the obvious explanation. Said toughness is usually played for drama, but in this case it's handled with exactly the same emphasis on humor and humiliation as any other Amusing Injuries.
- These were a favorite stock gag on The Muppet Show.
- There were a lot of harmless explosions in The Goon Show. This is thought to be partly Spike Milligan's way of cutting his war experiences down to size. Mostly, though, it's just for the joke.
- It was usually an explosion that deaded Bluebottle though.
Eccles: I think I'll smoke this big red cylindrical cigar with a wick on the end. (Sound of enormous explosion) Mm, strong.
- The Dutch kids series Bassie En Adriaan often had the villains plotting to take out the titular heroes with a bomb, which more often than not ended up exploding in their faces instead.
- GURPS has the Cinematic Explosives rule. Explosions do no damage except for some small damage from being knocked back; apart from that, all they do is blackening faces and messing up clothes.
- The ending of Portal2
- Spycraft 2.0 has an optional rule where explosions cause even more chaos and random property damage but are less likely to kill characters.
- Particularly Egregious in Pokémon, in which it is the Mons themselves that explode. Somehow, Trainers never have to pick up scattered bits of Electrode or Geodude afterwards, although they do faint.
- One fan explanation has this "explosion" as a burst of heat and light that the Pokémon emits in a big burst before fainting from the exertion.
- Unless you're playing by the recently-popularized Nuzlocke rules, in which case, yes, you just ordered your trusted friend and ally to make a Taking You with Me. And they'll do it, too. Because they love you. Even if you don't deserve it.
- In the Pokémon anime, Team Rocket sometimes threw bombs at Ash and company -- if it was a critical hit they would have nothing more than an Ash Face and temporary Clothing Damage, and if Team Rocket was hit by them, it just sent them blasting off again.
- This is pretty much the entire schtick of Bob-ombs in Super Mario Bros., one way or another. While Mario can often survive their explosions when they're his enemies, heroic Bob-omb allies in the Paper Mario series all have the ability to blow up without suffering any harm to themselves at all.
- The blast mask from The Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask, which is essentially a reusable bomb that you strap to your face! Somehow, raising your shield protects you from harm.
- In borderline Insane Troll Logic, the shield deflects damage from the front of the character, and the mask is on the front of the character making the damage come from the front, the shield deflects the damage from the exploding mask as it deflects damage from the front. QED?
- The Legend of Zelda, in general. How many times have you accidentally gotten Link caught in the blast radius in one of his own bombs? How many times have you walked away with only, maybe, four hearts or so of damage? Subverted if you're low on health, then you do die. This doesn't even count all the other minor explosions and bombs in the series that still leave you standing (if a little damaged).
- In Sakura Taisen, resident benevolent mad scientist Kohran's inventions are prone to comedically harmless Explosive Overclocking. She lampshades this in the second OAV (when asked what one of her inventions does, she says something along the lines of "That's Mr. Exploder! You press the button and smoke comes out and then it blows up, leaving us charred and sooty, but unhurt.")
- All of Snake's attacks in Super Smash Bros Brawl are explosive based (assuming he's not just using close-quarters combat skills). Apparently, Nintendo thought guns would be too violent and would seem jarring compared to other characters, so now all of his smash attacks and most of his special moves become variations of grenades, rockets, and missiles. This actually makes him a very unique character with a strong field-control if used right.
- Explosions in the rest of the series, however, are particularly deadly. Since the entire point of the game is to push your enemies off the screen, push-away explosions become very useful. AND they do tons of damage.
- Averted in Deus Ex, where explosives are generally lethal unless you use an upgrade that remotely detonates them before they reach you.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City: Explosive gel will at worse knock someone out and often just stuns them.
- Of course, given Batman's "no killing" rule, they would be way less useful if they did kill people, because then the players either couldn't use them or would encounter Game Over screens when they did.
- This particular explosive might have been specifically engineered to be non-lethal, like flashbang grenades. Complete lack of shell (and subsequent shrapnel) suggests that.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, during the appearance of the Imperial Legatus during the (currently) last storyline mission, he calls a powerful blast from a airship, supposedly engulfing everyone on its flames to end the fight. 10 seconds later the player character wakes up unharmed in a cave, everyone else present during the cutscene is fine as well.
- Played straight and averted simultaneously in Ghost Trick. Three people are in a room which blows up. One dies instantly. One gets several broken bones and possibly some other injuries. The other just stands there, completely unfazed. Because he's already dead.
- In Final Fight, one of the bosses is Rolento, a character in a military uniform who constantly tosses grenades all over the screen, five or six at a time. In real life, of course, this kind of fighting style would be utterly suicidal, but this being a typical beat-em-up game, his grenades have all the explosive power of a bottle rocket, and if a character is caught in the miniscule blast radius, it just takes a small amount of health off his Life Meter and knocks him off his feet for a second.
- Order of the Stick: I prepared Explosive Runes this morning.
- Early in The Last Days of Foxhound, an explosion which destroys the entire building around them just leaves everyone charred and smoking. (Except for Mantis, who gets impaled on some debris, but he turns out to be okay too.)
- Looney Tunes. All of them. They can be fatal, but very rarely are. When they are the characters are seen as angels on clouds, floating spirits, or, when the explosion occurs offscreen the character who did that to them remarks how gruesome it is and we never see that character again.
- Similarly, many cartoons of the day also were very fond of leaving the victim with Ash Face.
- Seemed rather prevalent in G.I. Joe. You'd have situations where 2 characters were being held in a cell and the rescuers would blow the steel door to said cell open with explosives. None of this was a danger to the occupants.
- Subverted in an episode of Clone High where Professor Scudworth frequently gets blown up by dynamite sticks (reading TNT of course). While he does survive every explosion, he is seen screaming in agony with extreme facial injury after each explosion.
- Very common on The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Gopher claims to be an expert in dynamite and even dabbles in stronger stuff, such as nitroglycerin or U235. When he uses the dynamite, stuff and characters almost get blown up and though the others sometimes think that they're dead, they naturally never turn out to be.
- Lampshaded in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together!"
Johnny: Hey Vanessa, is that your dad up on the rocket?
- Happened to Chief Quimby at the beginning of every episode of Inspector Gadget. This also happens whenever a MAD Agent gets caught in whatever explosive trap they had planned for Gadget.
- A running gag in the Tom and Jerry cartoons, although Tom has died at least twice from an explosion in the episodes "Yankee Doodle Mouse" and "Mouse Trouble".