Y'all can do the treadingCombining Mecha tend to combine in a humanoid form. It's easier for people to follow, and it's easier for the guys to get fitting rubber suits. When mecha combine, the parts will more or less match up with limbs, and it doesn't really matter what goes where. Except when it does. The "face" and/or torso are special parts of the combined form. They're the most identifiable, and they're generally where the cockpit is. It's why we have special importance for the locations of our brain and heart. So with mecha, the part that is most important will be formed by the personal mecha of the most important character, generally The Hero, or a spotlight stealing variety of Sixth Ranger. Because the position is special but can only be handed to one, expect Headbutting Heroes or Vitriolic Best Buds to compete for the lead position. At this trope's strongest, the mecha of The Hero can be humanoid on its own, and the others will form a larger body by way of a Mecha Expansion Pack, thus an overlap with Meta Mecha. At its strangest, The Hero doesn't form the head, but it gets double subverted by having the part that does look suspiciously matching to the mecha of The Hero. Because Red Is Heroic, this leads to a lot of ensemble mechas being a bit red in the face. Also, compare the color patterns on an All Your Colors Combined attack. The main character's color illogically in the middle? This will probably be in effect when the robots show up.
Swing energy machete
If combination’s ready,
I'll form the head!
Swing energy machete
If combination’s ready,
I'll form the head!
—MC Frontalot (feat. Dr. Awkward and ZeaLouS1): "I'll Form The Head"
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Anime and Manga
- This trope dates back to Getter Robo, the first Combining Mecha, where each of the Getter Machines' combined forms were controlled primarily by the pilot of the upper body. Getter-1, the form belonging to group leader Ryouma Nagare, was the most commonly used form.
- Voltron codified this for USA audiences along with many other Combining Mecha tropes; its Transformation Sequence (played, of course, Once an Episode) comes with a voice-over of the team leader ordering each step of the process, ending with "...AND I'LL FORM THE HEAD!" (Naturally, this was also played straight in the shows Voltron was adapted from, GoLion and Dairugger XV.)
- Played with in Voltron Force, where Voltron has different forms depending on which lion forms the torso and head.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender not only has the team leader forming the head of Voltron with the Black Lion, it highlights the symbolism of other team members forming Voltron's other parts:
- Hunk is disappointed that his Yellow Lion is merely Voltron's leg, but he's assured that it's an important role that provides stability for the team. When the Paladins later celebrate forming Voltron for the first time, Hunk shouts "I'm a leg!", which becomes a Running Gag.
- But in the next episode, when the Paladins are trying to figure out how to combine their Lions reliably, Hunk unconvincingly claims to have formed the head the last time they did it successfully. Despite specifically having said "I'm a leg".
- Season 3 emphasizes how the Red Lion is the right hand of Voltron, with its assigned pilots being the faithful Lancers to their respective team leaders.
- Played with in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Supporting Leader Kamina makes Simon's Ganmen the (second) head. All along, Kamina had been setting Simon up to be a true hero. However, as Kamina was still the leader at this point, his ganmen forms everything but the head of the combined ganmen, has its own head on its torso, and the combined ganmen has his trademark sunglasses on both faces.
- Simon, The Hero, takes the head position in his mini-mech, while the torso is taken by his Lancer, whoever that is at the time. In larger combinations, when Lagann takes over a larger mech such as the Dai-Gunzen or the Cathedral Terra, his original mech is always located within the head of the resulting gigantic mech.
- The Big O episode 18 "The Greatest Villain". When Beck and his henchmen form their giant mecha RX3, the part Beck is controlling becomes the head.
- One of the few series that averts this is The Brave Express Might Gaine, where the title mech is mostly formed from the remote-controlled supertrain Locomizer while the Kid Hero's vehicle and his transforming Robot Buddy form the arms.
- Digimon goes all over the place with this trope in its Fusion Dances - Omegamon, the first identifiable example, has a unique head unrelated to its components, as does Susanoomon. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Imperialdramon's head is pretty distinctly based on that of V-mon, the Bond Creature of The Hero; its contemporaries Silphymon and Shakkoumon are both of the unique head variety. The big Combining Mecha example, Digimon Xros Wars, is also all over the place - on most of Shoutmon's Combining Mecha forms, the head is a unique one which sometimes comes from Shoutmon but is not obviously connected to him design-wise;note on others, like Shoutmon DX, he is distinctly the head.
- It is however consistent that Shoutmon's V-shaped head crest always becomes the chest piece of the Shoutmon X series, and even during the DigiXros sequences we can see his head "merging" into the chest to form that V crest.
- Genesis of Aquarion used three fighter craft. Often the team would fight over whose craft would become the central head-body leader.
- Same with the sequel. That being said although both main characters formed the most powerful and most used form, neither of them were the team leader. That is Gen/Zen Fudo, who calls the shots on who deploys and who forms what version of the Aquarion's. In Evol main character Amata isn't even the highest ranking pilot, and would often find himself under the command of senior members Cayanne or Shrade.
- Averted in Gravion, where our protagonist actually fills the role of The Lancer for the team and thus his vessel forms one of the titular mecha's legs.
- Combattler V plays the trope straight. The Leader forms the head, The Lancer is the chest and arms, The Big Guy is the rest of the torso, The Chick forms the legs, and The Smart Guy makes up the feet.
- Parodied in a back-up feature in Squee! The series creator, Johanen Vasquez, fought beligerent fans. The fans joined together in a grotesque humanoid version of this trope with the leader forming the ass instead of the head.
- The Transformers: Robots in Disguise:
- Megatron altered Devastator so that he could be remotely controlled by the Insecticon Bombshell. When Bombshell is taken out of commission, he reveals that he can simply take control of the combiner by transforming into its head and replacing its current rage-driven head.
- Very bizarre example when Prowl, pro team leader of the Autobots after Optimus Prime stepped down (Bumblebee was allegedly in charge, but everyone followed Prowl's orders over his), is cerebro-shelled by the Insecticon Bombshell and forced to act as the head of Devastator, who had been believed permanently out of action ever since the Constructicons' former leader Scrapper was executed by humans after he had surrendered while injured. He later takes this role in a more willing capacity when he takes over the Constructicons following their defection from the Decepticons.
- All over the place in Super Sentai and Power Rangers, where the Red Ranger is usually the one to get the head- or torso-forming privileges - and even when the head is formed by someone else, it's often colored red anyway. Since it happens so often, we'll only include aversions, exaggerations, and cases that are more unique than simply making the head or torso (and mind you it's still a long list):
- In extreme situations, the red mech makes up almost the entire mecha by itself, making the others seem purely cosmetic. This happens in:
- Power Rangers Wild Force/Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger: The Pegasus Megazord/GaoKentaurus is a one-time combination where Red's Falcon mecha is used as the head and torso and his Lion is the legs. Other Rangers supplied only the arms.
- Power Rangers Dino Thunder/Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger: Red's Tyrannosaurus mecha makes up most of the Thundersaurus Megazord/Abarenoh, with Blue providing an arm, and Yellow giving the chestplate and helmet - and in an emergency, Yellow's mecha can be skipped!
- Power Rangers Jungle Fury/Juken Sentai Gekiranger: Both of the main teams' megazords have Red providing everything above the waist while Yellow and Blue are legs.
- Power Rangers Dino Charge/Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: The only parts of the Dino Charge Megazord/Kyoryuzin that Red don't provide are the arms.
- For Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger's Wild Tousai Dodeka King, non-Red Rangers make the legs, and unlike previous examples each individual Ranger only gets to make part of a limb instead of the whole thing.
- Zigzagged in other series, where another team member's mecha makes the bulk of the robot (as much as the previous examples), but the Red Ranger still steals head privileges by having their mecha on the top of the formation:
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm/Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger: Yellow forms the entire body, legs, and one arm of the Ninja Storm Megazord/Senpuujin, and Blue is the other arm, but Red is the head.
- Power Rangers Mystic Force/Mahou Sentai Magiranger: Green forms nearly all of the Mystic Titan Megazord/MagiKing, but Red slots into the center of the chest. All the other Rangers form are feet and shinguards (Blue), back and wings (Yellow), and a small part of the chestplate (Pink).
- Power Rangers Operation Overdrive/GoGo Sentai Boukenger: Black forms the main body and legs of the Battlefleet Megazord/GoGo Voyager and the rest form the arms and chestplate, while Red is the head.
- The two teams of Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger both use a neutral mecha called the Good Striker to form the majority of their mecha. In both combinations, it's the Red mecha that forms the head while the other two form the arms.
- And outright subverted with a couple of secondary mecha, where one mecha makes the bulk of the robot but the Red Ranger (or nearest equivalent) does not take a position of prominence:
- In Power Rangers Wild Force/Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, the Sixth Ranger's theme animal was the wolf, but his robot was formed mostly from an alligator mecha and the wolf mecha was only an arm.
- Mystic Force/Magiranger had a combination where the main component was made from a mecha that jointly belonged to the other four Rangers, and the Red Ranger's mecha only formed a set of wings.
- Jungle Fury's Wolf Ranger/Gekiranger's GekiViolet only had a leg mech. The closest he got to his own mecha was by attaching his piece to the main team's combination and piloting it solo.
- Engine Sentai Go-onger/Power Rangers RPM had two robots where Rangers' mecha only made the arms, with the rest of each robot being an unpiloted mecha that didn't belong to any specific Ranger.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Season 2/Gosei Sentai Dairanger and Power Rangers: Beast Morphers/Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters play the usual formations a little differently; rather than forming the torso and head Red gets his own humanoid robot and the other Rangers' mecha just form armor elements for it. However, Beast Morphers/Go-Busters would later subvert it by introducing a second core; a blue-and-gold mech that doesn't belong to any specific Ranger. The strongest combinations involve the Rangers attaching their mecha to this other core and leaving Red out entirely.
- Averted in the third season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, when the Red Ranger formed neither the head or torso of the Ninja Megazord. Instead the Pink Ranger was the head and the Yellow Ranger was the torso. (This was a straight example with its counterpart Kakure Daishogun Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, where the Pink Ranger's counterpart was the official leader.) Played straight in both Power Rangers and Kakuranger by the Shogun Megazord/Muteki Shogun, the team's other robot, where the Red mecha did form the head and torso (as even when he's not the leader, Red's still The Hero).
- Played with in Power Rangers Zeo/Chouriki Sentai Ohranger, as the main robot had interchangeable helmets: the Red Phoenix helmet would usually be on top, but when another team member had a feature episode, they'd take the lead and equip the robot with the helmet from their own mecha to finish off the enemy.
- Averted with the Mega Voyager from Power Rangers in Space/Denji Sentai Megaranger, where Red formed the lower abdomen; the head came from the Black vehicle and the torso was a combination of Blue and Yellow.
- Averted in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue/Rescue Sentai GoGoFive with the second 5-piece combination Supertrain Megazord/Grand Liner, with the Green Ranger forming the head and torso, though this was due to it being the middle car, which allowed for an easier transition when the cars split up to combine.
- In Power Rangers Wild Force/Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger, and Uchu Sentai Kyuranger mecha have a standardized combination scheme where each mecha transforms into a specific body part (divided torso/arms/legs in Wild Force/Gaoranger, torso/midsection/feet in Zyuohger, and torso/limbs in Kyuranger) and can be freely exchanged with other mecha of the same part. Aside from the mecha of the Sixth Rangers, all the "torso" pieces belong to the Red Rangers, while the other Rangers hold other parts.
- Taken to a logical conclusion with the robotic Gosei Knight/Robo Knight in Tensou Sentai Goseiger and Power Rangers Megaforce, who himself transforms into a giant head and mounts himself on the body of his mecha.
- Shuriken Sentai Ninninger/Power Rangers Ninja Steel has a unique variation, as its main robot is a Meta Mecha with a cockpit "throne" set in the chest that the Red mecha sits in. However, other mecha can sit in the throne instead in other combinations, in which case the Red mecha becomes an arm; one of these alternate formations features the Blue mecha front-and-center and the others are Mecha Expansion Packs.
- Played for Laughs when some Sentai characters guest star in Kamen Rider Taisen. The Ressha Sentai ToQger team shows up and forms ToQ-Oh to aid the Kamen Riders, and Kamen Rider Den-O moves to combine his Cool Train with it. He docks it in the "head" position where the Red Ranger's mecha usually is, only for Kyoryu Red to show up as well, declare "No, that's wrong!", and literally ram Den-O out and take his spot; forcing Den-O to form the feet instead. Den-O spends the entire time complaining about why he has to be the feet.
- In extreme situations, the red mech makes up almost the entire mecha by itself, making the others seem purely cosmetic. This happens in:
- In Tomica Hero Rescue Force, the heroes gain a combining mecha about halfway into the series. Rescue Striker, the fire truck belonging to R1 turns into the torso and head, while Rescue Saver, belonging to R2 turns into the limbs. It is even made into a minor plot point that R2's cockpit is located inside the mech's foot.
- Played with in the Dungeons & Dragons Online raid, "The Chronoscope." Player characters get a bit of time travel to an earlier version of the city of Stormreach, back when it's invaded by devils from another plane. After your party lays the smackdown against five flying Abishi demons at end-game (each with an elemental mastery), they retreat and take to the air to regroup. Each demon describes their contributing attack. The last, black in color, says "And I'll form the head!" as they magically combine into a nasty dragon-like demon.
- Barbaracle from Pokémon X and Y is a humanoid being made up of seven barnacles. Although its legs and hands have minds of their own and can move independently, they usually follow the head's orders.
- Played with in Super Robot Wars: the R-1 is the head of the SRX, but its pilot is not the leader of the SRX Team. However, once the SRX combines, control of the machine is performed by him.
- Megas XLR
- As expected, the show parodies this. The Glorft's UMD is a combining mecha made from other combining mecha, repeated for a couple of cycles. At its final stage, It is completed by Gorrath's personal mech docking in the center. Without Gorrath's part, it doesn't seem to be useable at all, enforced when he leaves the battlefield, and the dozens to hundreds of mechs and pilots that also made up the UMD. Gorrath having a Never My Fault mentality, all of this to be expected.
- In Sentai parody episode "The Bad Guy", the "S-Force Super Ultra Dimensional Magno Extreme Robotoid Power Zorp" is equal parts Voltron (combining) and Super Sentai (theme), with the Red Falcon at the head. Later, Coop literally forms a new mecha by sliding/smashing Megas' limbs into their robots and slapping the bird on his back. When in fights, it becomes noticeable how uncomfortable it would be to be in a limb. The actual episode's bad guy finds this treatment disrespectful to his nemeses, and of course loves it.
- In The Venture Bros., when JJ Venture's team spoofed Voltron with the "Ventronic." Complete with the "I form the " exclamations. The combined form had two heads, the one formed from JJ's robot, and the "left arm" clown head, shaped in a way to be recognizable and comfortable to Sally Impossible's mentally handicapped cousin Ned. Instead of just putting the clown head on top, they wound up with a stubby, useless arm, not too dissimilar to JJ himself.
- In Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, the head of the eponymous Super Robot is formed with the Brain Scrambler 2, piloted by the second-in-command, Antauri. Chiro instead pilots the Torso Tank 1, which serves as the "heart" of the robot, as it's the main center of operations and is connected to all of the other combining vehicles.
- One episode of Dexter's Laboratory had Dexter and his family piloting vehicles that combined to form a giant robot. Dad tries to claim the head, as he is the "head" of the household, but Dexter complained to Mom (on the grounds that it was his robot) and got to keep the spot. Dad was miffed at first, but warmed up to controlling one of the arms since he used to pitch for his college's baseball team.
- Subverted in one episode of Teen Titans Go! involving a giant Mecha. Robin expects, as leader, that he will be controlling the head. Only to be told by Cyborg (y'know, the guy who created the giant robot and knows how it works) that Robin is to control the left leg. The Boy Wonder is not happy, and the episode has him learning to accept the position.
- Taken to its logical conclusion in the Grand Finale of Generator Rex. Black Knight, who acts as the leader of the Consortium, not only forms the head but the entire body of the Humongous Mecha is based on her design. This is justified because she has the power to create the Mecha in the first place but needs everyone else to actually form it.
- Transformers does this across all of its media.
- Actually averted with The Constructicons, the first of the combiners. Scrapper, the leader front-end loader of the six warriors actually forms the right leg of Devastator, whereas it is actually Hook the crane who forms the head instead. This discrepancy in placement is actually played out cleverly in Transformers fiction: Scrapper is actually a modest individual who dismisses actual well-deserved praise in favor of being a very capable and completely psychotic engineer. Hook, on the other hand, is a Glory Hound and Insufferable Genius with a massive ego, and demands attention the same way black holes demand nearby matter. With personalities like these, it is only natural the work-a-day Scrapper is a leg and the self-important Hook is the chest and head.
- In the Unicron Trilogy Powerlinx has whichever Transformer is on top be in control.
- Beast Wars Magnaboss has Prowl, the lion (whole bunch of leader archetype imagery there) form the face and center of the torso. Silverbolt, a horribly out of scale eagle, wraps around prowl and forms the wings. Pretty much every other visible part, including the arms, legs, and rest of the torso, comes from Ironhide, a downsized elephant, to compensate for this. This results in Ironhide being rather confusingly built and prone to damage in his standalone form and Silverbolt being excessively simple.
- In one comic, G1's Dinobots force a combiner out of themselves, Beast, which is intentionally poorly designed, with everyone else just grafted on to Grimlock's beast mode form. This, however, only exists in a one-off microcontinuity that most fans prefer to ignore. Thankfully for them, the Power of the Primes line has provided an alternative with Volcanicus, which forms like a more traditional combiner, and is not a completely insane murder machine like the Beast.
- Partially averted in the "Scramble City type" Combinersnote , where the hands, feet and head may come from extra parts in the toy (out of nowhere in the cartoon). The leader of most teams is the torso. Limbs are thus completely interchangeable, between arrangement and even whole transformers (Scramble Power). In some cases, the leader of a team may actually be in one of those limbs, and thus the combined form could be configured without them.
- The Combiner Warsnote versions of the "Scramble City" characters do have the combiner head integrated into the torso-forming team leader's body. There are also several torso-forming characters who are not established leaders of specific sub-teams. The Power of the Primes line adds even more new combiner torso-forming characters (fully compatible with Combiner Wars) without defined sub-teams.
- As seen in the page quote, this was parodied by MC Frontalot in a song entitled (naturally) I'll Form The Head, in which Turquoise and "Lightish Red" argue why they should be the ones to form the head: Pink because he's the most qualified and Turquoise for... other reasons. Gold actually offers them turns later, as long as they get the current job done. They don't.
- In the picture book Swimmy by Leo Lionni, Swimmy is a small fish who convinces his school to swim around in the shape of a much bigger fish to ward off predators. Being a different color from the rest of the school, he plays the eye.
- In BIONICLE, of the two known Toa Kaita combo-configurations (Akamai and Wairuha, both made up of three individual Toa), Akamai's Kanohi mask is that of Tahu, the leader of the group (Tahu's true head actually ends up on his hands). Wairuha's mask, however, is Lewa's, who is just about the bottom of the command chain, but his Kanohi was the most generic-looking, thus the most suitable for a combo model. As a subversion, in the storyline, these aren't really the masks of Tahu and Lewa specifically, nor are they a Kanohi Hau and a Kanohi Miru in general, but other types of masks that happen to look like a Hau and a Miru — out of sheer necessity, as the designers only had these pieces to work with. They're actually called Kanohi Aki and Rua, respectively. But as a Double Subversion (for Wairuha, at least), a special edition chromed Rua was at one point made available for purchase... and it used the mold of a Kanohi Hau, Tahu's mask type!
- The Turaga Nui figure also has Vakama's head for its real head (the other five are built into various parts of its body). Vakama is often considered the "main" Turaga of the initial six.