A child — usually a young boy — who has sole control over some fearsome creature or robot and uses it wisely, despite advice from all the well-meaning but fundamentally clueless adults around him.
Sometimes the remote control is literal — as in the watch used in Giant Robo by Johnny Sokko/Daisaku Kusama to transmit orders to Giant Robo. Sometimes it is figurative or metaphorical, in the sense that the mecha or creature considers the child its sole master and obeys only him. Helping said creatures or raising them from birth are reliable ways to recruit the free-willed variants.
This character can cause problems if the show bills the nonhuman as the star but then focuses on the kid to the point of being annoying. The trope originated in dawn-time Anime and Manga and is still strongest in those genres.
Contrast with the Kid with the Leash and Guardian Entity.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Gigantor: Jimmy Sparks has Iron Man #28/Tetsujin 28 (What the show is named in Japan), aka Gigantor. The opening theme mentions the remote:
"Good or bad depends on the remote control" "Don't give the precious remote control to the enemy!"
Giant Robo: Features Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.
Steel Angel Kurumi is a good example of the "metaphorical" remote control. For the most part Kurumi is a free-willed individual, but loves and obeys Nakahito, whom she regards as her absolute and permanent master.
Pretty much the point of tamers/Chosen Children in the Digimon franchise. This is noticeably less so in the Digimon Adventure canon, where the kids mostly functioned as spotters, strategisers and moral support during combat and couldn't actually do anything. Digimon Tamers gave the tamers more to do by introducing the concept of using cards from the Digimon CCG to power up their monsters; later on, the main tamers actually merged with their digimon to achieve their final forms. Digimon Savers sort of fell back in line with Adventure with none of the DATS agents really able to do much (save for Masaru tending to actively fight himself), and the Digimon Xros Wars canon, which places the partnered children in the role of army generals, had them actively command and merge their Digimon in a manner falling more in line with this trope; Digimon Frontier, of course, didn't have to deal with this at all as a result of its lack of partners.
In Utawarerumono Aruruu raises a tiger-like dragon/god-cub to giant proportions and later rides on it into battle.
Magic Knight Rayearth: Ascot is so small he took to standing on a floating rock, is a master Summoner who can easily call forth creatures that can go toe-to-toe with Machine gods.
The Kirby anime has a variant — since Kirby is incredibly powerful but has the mind of a toddler, Fumu frequently has to tell him when to inhale, and she is also the only one who can summon the Warp Star for Kirby to use. However, once he copies an ability, Kirby seems to become much more competent and rarely needs direction from that point onwards.
Neo Ranga's titular monster is controlled by a trio of sisters, each with their own unique views on how to control him. This results in much confusion, though there are hints that Ranga doesn't just do what they tell it, but in fact has its own, more primal views on the world.
Medabots, with almost everyone (except the main character, early on) having 2-foot mecha armed to the teeth, voice commands transferred through a Watch.
Heroman has Joey Jones, the series itself is pretty much Stan Lee 's take on shows like Giant Robo and this trope in general.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: the Toei anime has Haiyama, who manipulates Kujirada into doing what he wants.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The titular Evangelions have wills of their own and, despite NERV's safeguards, it's ultimately the teenage pilots who can control them since their mother's souls are trapped inside them. Or at least the mothers of Shinji and Asuka. Unit 01, particularly, refuses to activate when Shinji isn't in the cockpit.
To a further extent, Haruka could be considered the one with the remote control. While she's an adult, she's technically of the same age as Ayato. However, Ayato is repeatedly implied to be one of the human aspects of the RahXephon which is at least centuries old and if his UST with Haruka goes bad, the next Dolem usually dies very painfully at the RahXephon's hands.
Huit in Queen's Blade Rebellion. She is the owner of the only existing Automaton in the world, an alchemy-powered device named Vingt, who is, fittingly, a beautiful robot woman.
Nichijou spoofs this with the Professor and Nano, the former of whom has a remote control that activates different functions on Nano's body, such as opening her arm to reveal a roll cake or firing off her hand to go fetch another remote.
Juston Seyfert from The Marvel series Sentinel, which intentionally based off the Gigantor/Giant Robo style. He's now back in Avengers Academy.
Tom Skylark from the "Here Comes Tomorrow" arc of "New X-Men" is a grown-up version of this. He appears to be modeled after Juston.
Gert (and later Chase) from Runaways. She has a telepathic link to a genetically engineered deinonychus from the 87th century called "Old Lace".
General Jumbo: Jumbo was the eponymous hero of a long-running story appearing intermittently in The Beano, in command of a sizeable army (and occasionally navy and air force) built by his friend Professor Carter. A low-achieving hero by modern standards, he mainly foiled minor nuisances and petty criminals, but since even this entailed independently controlling dozens of models using a wrist controller with only a few buttons, it would be churlish to deride his efforts.
His Viz spoof counterpart had an army of Jehovah's Witnesses. They foiled un-christian activities and then handed out leaflets.
The heroine of Gearz, after receiving a coterie of robot bodyguards due to a postal error. As a Genre Savvy pop culture junkie, she specifically compares herself to Johnny Sokko (Daisaku Kusama's name in the English version of the live-action Giant Robo show called Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.)
Jason from the short-lived Oni press series "Jason & The Argobots."
Johnny Thunder and his successor Jakeem Thunder each controlled an omnipotent genie who's only limit was that he used his power exactly the way he was told.
Timmie and his pet robot in The Invisible Boy.
In Terminator 2, a young John Connor plays around with the T-800 for a bit after learning it has to obey his commands, but later on, he uses his power over the machine for more serious purposes - most importantly, telling it Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Drakengard: Seere, whose pact-partner is Golem, a giant stone construct with very dim intelligence.
Twisted Metal: Black: Literally a kid with a remote control; picking the vehicle Yellow Jacket sees the player controlling the corpse of Charlie Kane, who in turn is being controlled by his autistic son, who constructed a device to reanimate his murdered father. In his ending, Calypso breaks the remote control and adopts the boy, as he needs an heir. He would have used the boy's brother, Needles, but he was killed in the contest.
Alice and Ape III are the next to last opponent in Nintendo's Arm Wrestling arcade game. You beat them by sticking a magnet against Ape III's head...
Yuna from Final Fantasy X, in the past in the series the "summons" have been simply really impressive magic spells, Yuna actually calls down whatever the magic creature of the day is and directly controls the dragon/devil/half-naked ice-woman in battle.
Scribblenauts: The player has the power to summon anything in the in-game dictionary (which is incredibly huge), thus by extension Maxwell holds this power as well.
Darkstalkers: The video game series features a robot named Huitzil (known as Phobos in Japan.) Though originally programmed to destroy all life on earth, a malfunction changes his prime directive to protect a little boy named Cecil. In his ending, he also changes the directives of all other huitzil units so that they protect Cecil as well...to the detriment of everyone else on the planet.
Any Mon games including Pokémon, Demikids,Dragon Quest Monsters, etc... especially since the heroes of these games are kids, yet they have ability to control, raise, and breed monsters that are as tall as or even taller than them.
Mega Man Battle Network and it's anime adaptation Mega Man NT Warrior: each Net Navi has an Operator who sends their Navi Battle Chips using a device called a Personal Terminal, or PET. The main characters are 5th graders at elementary school.
Xenogears: Maria Balthasar is explicitly that, a little girl that commands, rather than pilots, a giant, at least partially sentient robot, including being able to call on it's help in a battle that otherwise happens without the use of mecha, even indoors. Much of that robot's design, in-game history and abilities are very similar the aforementioned Daisaku Kusama with his robot, almost to the point of her being an expy.
Xenogears justifies this trope during Maria's subplot: her father developed Gears (read:giant robots) that needed human minds to function, and after he was uploaded into one himself, Maria's mother uploaded her mind into Maria's Gear in order to protect her.
In Zodiac, Cancer is a 13-year-old kid who controls a massive power suit with game controller. He designed and built the suit.
Batman Beyond: Villainous example: Willie Watt had first the remote control for, and later mental command of, a massive humanoid construction machine known as a Golem. He did not use it wisely.
Fairly OddParents: Timmy Turner. He has fairy godparents that grant his every wish (that's not against the rules). Whether he uses them wisely is debated. Almost a trope-namer since in one movie he had a pair of magical remote controls, but loses one to the villain.
In Wolverine and the X-Men, mutant escapee Marrow becomes this to "Rover", a reprogrammed rust-bucket of a Sentinel created by Polaris from pieces of Sentinels she destroyed. She becomes very attached to him, considering him her truest friend... to the point that, when he is required to sacrifice himself to allow the success of a vital mission for Xavier, she tries to run away with him and leave the rest of the mutant rebels to be slaughtered. When he turns back and makes a Heroic Sacrifice, she then goes on to betray the rebels to the Sentinels out of vengeful spite.