In the Studio Ghibli film The Cat Returns, I saw a very noticeable example of a storytelling technique that I've seen in other Studio Ghibli productions.

When in the Cat palace, the King of Cats has some entertainers defenestrated for their inability to entertain the King. At this point, we can expect the unfortunate entertainers to meet their death by way of the pavement at the end of their flight.

When our heroes escape the palace however, we see the defenestrated cats shaken but unharmed, resting against the palace wall. We know now they survived.

I saw another example in Spirited Away, where Kaonashi (No-Face) swallows a number of too greedy workers of the bathhouse. After having been fed half of the magic dumpling, No-Face vomits out all he has eaten, including the workers who turn out alive and well.

In both cases, we see minor characters who we may very well assume to be dead, turn out alive in passing. It's done in a casual way, the characters remaining minor characters.
Had it not been done, we would've assumed the characters to be dead and it would not have made a difference for the story.

Is there a name for this storytelling technique?

This is not a Disney death(Warning: TV Tropes; time sink), since that concerns the supposed death of a major character, who is mourned but miraculously turns out to be alive.

What I mean is minor characters who are shown to be alive after all in an underhanded way, making no difference to the story.

  • 1
    This is a great observation, but TVTropes isn't offering a good bucket to put these in. Although both of these scenes are described on their separate pages, they're not associated with an overarching "don't worry they're not dead" type trope. maybe this needs a name, or can be bunched in with the Team Rocket gag or Disney Death in general
    – Ross
    Dec 5, 2016 at 16:05
  • 2
    @BCdotWEB up until a certain height. And these are anthropomorphic cats.
    – SQB
    Dec 5, 2016 at 17:52
  • 4
    I don't know the name (I thought it was "No-one ever really dies" but turns out that's just the band) but another famous example is in The A-Team who did it so much (mostly to dodge the censors) they took it to knowing self-parody: they had a scene where a helicopter crashes into a cliff, explodes, falls to the ground, explodes again - and then the crew stumble out of the burning wreckage and brush the soot off their clothes. I remember seeing a documentary where one of the producers was laughing at how much fun they had making that scene. Dec 7, 2016 at 12:02
  • 7
    @user568458 A-Team's TVTropes page categorizes that scene as "No One Could Survive That," and the phenomenon in the show is categorized under "Nobody Can Die" tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NobodyCanDie
    – Ross
    Dec 7, 2016 at 17:17
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    Note that it is not the case that the story is not impacted. The fact that the victims are restored to life shows the perpetrators of crime (King of Cats, Kaonashi etc) in a much better light as being fundamentally good of heart. No-face later is shown to reform and improve. Also, I know a few kids who are impacted by the demise of the side character and are later relieved when the character is unharmed. Remember young kids are one of the (,or the most important,) target audiences. Apr 3, 2017 at 6:56

1 Answer 1


It is Subversion of WhatHappenedToTheMouse, maybe? "What happened to the mouse?" occurs when a minor character, action, or very minor plotline is suddenly dropped from the story for no apparent reason, without any real explanation about what happened to it, and without a resolution. It might even be a Brick Joke:

Named after an old joke, which seems at first blush to be a pair of unrelated jokes. At the end of the first joke, a brick is tossed away, leaving the confused listener without a punchline. At the end of the second joke, the brick returns and the listener falls on the floor laughing. For bonus points, the teller can tell an actual unrelated joke in between. Sometimes, the Brick Joke structure of introducing a seemingly irrelevant feature only to return to it much later, after the audience has largely forgotten about it, can be used for drama as well as comedy; only in drama, it's known as the Chekhov's Gun.

Also possible to be Disney Death or maybe "No one could survive that!" trope from tvtropes.

  • But I think the apparent demise is an important aspect of the OPs question.
    – Joachim
    Aug 15, 2021 at 8:49
  • @Joachim edited my answer.
    – jo1storm
    Aug 15, 2021 at 15:45

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