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Become a Real Boy

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"Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy."

"Well, I just think that the concept of chi might be a little hard for her to grasp. She's not the descendant of a long line of mystical warriors, she's the descendant of a toaster oven."
Anya, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Bargaining, Part One"

So, you've got your Artificial Human grown in the tank or just put together your Robot Girl with an assembly kit. Unfortunately, your creation is not a ridiculously human robot, and thus, predictably, they have all the emotional range of a tuning fork. Robo Speak is a common manifestation of such emotional paralysis.

Not to worry, though! While in reality, socialization and emotional stability are the product of years and years of interaction with other people, in the world of fiction, all a robot or Artificial Human needs to become a functioning, well-balanced, emotionally resonant member of society is the proper life-altering event.

Much as any protagonist generally works out any personal issues and neuroses they may have over the course of an otherwise unrelated story, any emotionally stunted individual, or creature conventionally incapable of emotion, will discover what it means to be human in their journey alongside the other heroes. That this may defy their programming, their lack of a soul, or other such assumed limits is beside the point — it appears robots and clones are socialized like real people, only much faster.


Often, such a journey involves extreme violence and the simplistic black-and-white morality of "them vs. us". The fact that this bears no resemblance whatsoever to daily life rarely comes up. (One can only imagine the difficulties such characters will encounter when they are placed within a situation where you can't solve any problem with the proper application of violence.)

One also has to wonder if any such individuals later regret their humanization. Humanity Ensues, of course.

This is a common anime plot, and also appears in several Western movies.

Compare Emergent Human (which describes a newly turned human getting used to the human condition), Defusing the Tyke-Bomb (which describes the gaining of a heart rather than a soul), and Pinocchio Syndrome (which solely describes the desire to become human). See also Just a Machine. Living Toys made from Love Imbues Life may seek this.


Contrast Mechanical Lifeforms, who start with the same emotional range as their organic counterparts. Contrast Trans Nature, for when the creature trying to become human wasn't an artificial human. For the inverse of this trope see Toy Transmutation.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • An essential part of Rei Ayanami's character in Neon Genesis Evangelion, along with most of her expys.
  • In the anime Cluster Edge, artificial soldiers are created by the government to fight wars. The soldiers have no memories and therefore no emotions due to being raised in test tubes. A right's activist gives memories to one of the main soldiers, Chrome, and although Chrome is self aware and very human, he still doesn't believe himself so.
  • Despite Astro Boy being frequently compared with Pinocchio, he himself rarely expresses a desire to become a real boy (which is somewhat ironic, considering he was originally a Replacement Goldfish for a real boy). In fact, on the few occasions he does get upgrades to become more human-like, he ends up regretting it and concludes that being the best robot he can be is more important than being more like a human. This trope is played somewhat straight in the story of Zolomon's Jewel in the manga, which features L-44, a robot who signs up for a dangerous mission that ends up costing him his life because he wants to earn enough money to pay for a Nanomachine treatment that will supposedly turn him into a human. Also subverted in that the villain of the piece is trying to steal the titular jewel so he can pay for an operation to become a cyborg.
  • Subverted in Dragon Ball Z in regards to Android 18. When Krillin wishes to Shenron for her to become fully human, he is unable to, so Krillin wishes for the bomb in her body to be removed instead. Technically, 18 (and 17, her twin brother) is a cyborg, so her human parts are intact (hence, Marron), whereas Androids such as 16, 19, and number 8 from the original Dragon Ball are purely robotic.
  • In the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, as part of the world becoming "normal", Yuki goes from The Stoic Robot Girl to a regular Shrinking Violet human girl. This was, in fact, a result of Yuki's spontaneous development of emotions, since she was responsible for altering reality in the first place.
    • She did it exactly because she had no emotions from the start, which made her confused, angered and angsty, that the reaction was a rampage of highest degree. At least that is what Kyon tells us.
  • Subverted in the anime Ergo Proxy, where the robots who become self-aware do typically come to regret it; in fact, the most common reaction to Becoming A Real Boy is a violent psychotic breakdown from crash-course existential angst and the inability to reconcile their new sapience with a lack of life experience.
  • Early in Inuyasha, it's revealed that Inuyasha once agreed to use the sacred jewel to become human and live with Kikyo, who would be released from her duties when the jewel ceased to exist. Of course, things went downhill went Naraku tricked them into turning against each other, causing Inuyasha to revert to his old wish of using the jewel to become fully demon. Either way, he'd be freed from Half-Breed Discrimination.
  • Subverted in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. As an Innovator, Tieria Erde was created to be a tool in Aeolia Schenberg's grand plan for humanity. Over the course of the series he falls in love, gains a surrogate family, and learns to follow his own will instead of blindly obeying his creator. Yet eventually he stops living in denial about his true nature, and sacrifices his biological body to upload his consciousness into the supercomputer VEDA. In the end, Tieria finds fulfillment as a thinking, feeling, fully sentient AI, rather than as a human.
  • Jiro in the anime Kikaider is motivated by an incomplete conscience circuit to try and achieve what his creator envisioned as what is required to be "human." However, the ending of the story twists what the audience might expect as the final goal of Jiro, and states that Jiro succeeds in becoming "a real boy" when he becomes capable of killing the opposing Mad Scientist who tried to turn him into a heartless killing machine. In other words, humans must be capable of both good AND evil, and they must possess free will.
  • In the final chapter of Karakuridouji Ultimo, Dr.Dustan resets time and transforms all the Douji, good and evil, into humans to live out their lives alongside their former masters.
  • Aiko from Magical Pokaan longs for a human body. She almost gets it at one point.
  • Chachamaru from Negima! Magister Negi Magi goes through this rather quickly, as she already has the emotions programmed in; she just doesn't know what they are called. This is because she's approximately two years old and her "parents" are a Mad Scientist and a vampire, not the most ideal choice for social role models. She's amazingly well-adjusted regardless.

    She later goes through it again, briefly angsting over whether or not she has a soul. Turns out she does indeed have a soul, as evidenced by the fact that her Pactio with Negi worked. She did have to, ahem, work a little harder for it than normal though.
  • Seira in the Pure arc of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, more so in the manga, has to journey along with Lucia (at least in spirit) and learn the different aspects of love before she can be "born". This is asked of Lucia before Seira's heart is shattered and absorbed, and even as she gets them back on a journey, Seira continues to observe and gain the feelings she needs.
  • Ghost in the Shell is all about the nature of the "human self" and what remains of it when the original body and brain gets increasingly replaced by cybernetic machines and computer programs. In the slighty dystopian future, most characters struggle with maintaining their "humanity" in a society based on apathy, indifference, and decadence. In Stand Alone Complex, they are contrasted with the Tachikoma, which are completely mechanical beings with purely digital A.I.s that never had a soul to begin with, and completely subvert this trope. They are fully aware that they are machines and incapable of having a "ghost", which makes the nature of the "human self" all the much more fascinating to them. They are almost constantly debating amongst each other about the unique nature of humans, which can not be defined scientifically and therefore lies completely outside their own experience. But at the same time their personalities are defined by the amazement and curiosity about the world, their child-like joy of life, compassion and self-sacrifice that people have mostly lost, making them much more human than the actual humans, but are completely oblivious about it.
    • There's also Kim in Innocence, who regards machines as perfect and wants to eventually become like one. It's very complicated.
  • Saati of A.I. Love You runs off a feedback function that works with her interface (environment), so she continuously learns more. And she wants to be like a real girl for Hitoshi. In the last volume, Hitoshi, upon seeing her bleed from an injury, explains that she basically has become human, because she wanted to be one. However, Saati decided to return to being an A.I. to rescue her siblings.
  • Promptly the entire point of Key the Metal Idol. However, the trope is subverted and deconstructed, like many others in the series, when it is revealed that Key is a human the entire time.
  • In The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, Ryuunosuke's long-term goal for his Artificial Intelligence "maid" is to turn her into a Ridiculously Human Robot.
  • A key part of the plot of xxxHOLiC is this for Watanuki. An unusual twist in that he is technically real... he's just a hollow placeholder generated by the world to fill in for his Ret-Gone'd brother, and so Yuko tries to get him to develop enough emotional ties with the world that, when said brother returns, Watanuki won't cease to have existed in the first place, with the said ties acting as anchors to make his temporary reality into permanent reality.
  • Over the course of the Full Metal Panic! books, the Arbelest and later Leviathan's Artificial Intelligence, Al, slowly starts to acquire consciousness as a byproduct of regularly reading the direct mental states of its pilot, Sousuke. Starting with jokes, it then progresses to having irrational preferences and complex emotional experiences such as guilt before finally acquiring the ability to activate the Lambda driver without Sousuke's involvement - just in time to save itself and Sousuke from an impending nuclear impact.
  • Arpeggio of Blue Steel features battleships with Robot Girl avatars (called Mental Models). Some of them are initially seen as humanlike from the start (such as Takao) while other mental models start emotionless and are shown adapting to human behaviour over time. A specific character who exhibits this is Haruna who starts quite cold and becomes much more capable of emotions and sympathy after spending time with Makie .
  • The second half of Saber Marionette J To X has Lime undergoing an existential crisis, thinking that Otaru won't love her and the others unless they become fully human, so she jumps the chance when the Big Bad Dr. Hess offers her a chance to do so. In the end, they succeed, though they're reborn as infants and with no memories of their previous life.

    Comic Books 
  • The Marvel Comics character, The Vision, has fluctuated in his emotional state many times over the years. Usually a writer will get him to nearly Become A Real Boy and a later one will reverse. Usually this is done by destroying the android's body and rebuilding him.
  • In Fables, the Pinocchio story is a Be Careful What You Wish For. He became a real boy. And he has remained a real boy for the hundreds of years since then. Now he wishes he was a real adult.
  • Amazo, the Red Tornado and the android Hourman have at various times tried to become more 'human'.
  • One Silver Age Superman story had Sufficiently Advanced aliens transform one of Superman's robots into a superpowered flesh-and-blood human being with free will, but the robot ended up Heroically Sacrificing himself to save the day before the story's end.
  • Played with by X-23, the Opposite-Sex Clone of Wolverine. Whether or not she's viewed as a real person depends largely on who gets asked. To her creator, Sarah Kinney, there is no doubt in her mind that Laura is a real person (especially after she disobeyed a direct order to kill a child, proving the Facility which created and trained her hadn't fully destroyed her humanity). Her friends and teammates take the similar position. By contrast, characters such as Kimura treat her as if she were something less than human, and it's common for anyone seeking to insult or hurt her to make derogatory remarks about her origins. Laura herself has been on both sides, and struggled with developing a sense of self-worth and accepting that she is a human being with feelings and desires of her own. All of this is driven home even further by the copy of Pinocchio which pops up throughout Innocence Lost and Target: X.
    • Used to symbolic effect in All-New Wolverine issue 17: Pinocchio's transformation from puppet to real boy is directly juxtaposed with Laura finally breaking free of her conditioning to the trigger scent, literally "cutting her strings" and making her a puppet no more.
  • At the end of TRON: Ghost in the Machine, The unified Jet.exe gets offered a chance to be uploaded into the User world, but when he learns it would mean the destruction of the server he lives on, Jet.exe throws away the chance and chooses to live out his runtime as an ordinary Program without hesitation or regret.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side: Happens to Pinocchio at the least convenient moment possible- namely, while taking a picture of a pride of lions from very close up.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Bonus points in that it heavily references Pinocchio, completely with Blue Fairy.
  • Short Circuit: Johnny Five.
  • The various Terminator protagonists in Terminator 2 and 3.
    • And in Terminator: Dark Fate, we meet a Terminator who got married, adopted a son, and gained a very human conscience free from Skynet's influence.
  • Used and eventually subverted in the Child's Play series. The premise of the first film is a serial killer who uses voodoo to transport his soul into a children's doll. For most of the series, he's trying to find another body to jump into. However, in the fifth film, he discards the idea. He decides that as "Chucky" he's become an icon and that he never needs to worry about getting sick or old.
    • One of the reasons he wants to Body Surf to begin with is that the more time he spends in the body of the doll, the more human he becomes, so he's effectively undergoing this trope against his will. In the first film he's thrilled with his new body, until he gets shot and realizes that he can still be hurt and even bleed. And that's when he finds out he's turning human.
  • In the movie adaptation of "Adventures of Electronic", the titular robot wants this. In the book he just wanted to overcome the limits of his programming.
  • The two robot protagonists in Daft Punk's Electroma have this as their main goal. Their attempt to become human backfires, causing them to get exiled from their town. While hiking in the desert, they both commit suicide.
  • The primary motivation of STEM in Upgrade. It wants a complete human body to, in its own words, "evolve". And the "real" part of the trope is no exaggeration, it chose Grey explicitly because Grey is a healthy specimen with no implants, fully human.

  • The Little Mermaid. Though not an artificial life form, the mermaid is excessively different from us; Andersen's mermaid would live for five hundred years and then dissolve into sea foam, having no afterlife of any kind. Her ongoing wish, even before her falling in love with the prince, is to become a human and acquire an immortal soul.
  • The Bicentennial Man: Andrew Martin was originally an NDR model robot, but he wanted to become human for many years. The line that finally convinces the World Congress to grant him recognition as a human is when he replaces his platinum-iridium positronic brain with a new brain that would quickly deteriorate and kill him.
  • Older Than Radio: This originates in Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio. In Chapter 25 Pinocchio wants to grow up, but the Fairy tells him he can't grow without first becoming a real boy.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's titular Stranger in a Strange Land suffered Parental Abandonment on Mars as the infant survivor of the first human exploratory mission. Having been Raised by Natives (who are Starfish Aliens), he has to learn everything from scratch to relate to humans when the next mission comes along, after he's already a grown man.
    • Minerva, the AI who runs Secundus, in Time Enough for Love, desperately wants to gain a human form. Her motivation is that she's fallen in love with Ira and wants to be a real woman to be with him.
  • Data actually becomes a real boy in one of the Star Trek: The Next Generation tie-in novels, Jean Lorrah's Metamorphosis, in which mysterious aliens turn him into a living breathing being; he feels some emotions, mourns Tasha, falls in love, and gains weight from eating too many chocolate sundaes before a Reset Button makes it all go away.
  • Subverted in the horror novel The Dollmaker as the dolls have no desire to become human. They want to understand what it means to be whatever it is they are.
  • Subverted in Twig, where the protagonist, Sylvester, is the project of regular chemical injections which alter his mind. At one point, he runs away from his creator, only to return just in time for his next injection, horrified at the idea of being a "real boy."
  • In the seminal Sci-Fi novel "R.U.R." by Karel Chapek the (biological) robots rebel against humanity and exterminate them until there is only one left. When he begs them to tell them why they killed all the people, he is told they wanted to be just like us, and that is what people do.
  • Averted in a fictional myth from The Crocodile God: The prince of the sambar deer wanted to marry a young human datu (Filipino chief)... so he killed and ate a little boy to take human form, which is emphatically NOT the right way to do it. The gods are angered, but give him three chances to repent and tell the truth so he can Become a Real Boy. First chance: He arrives to find the datu's whole village in deep mourning, then finds out that the boy he ate was her NEPHEW. Second chance: He can't eat meat—as in, he literally can't, since he gets nauseous at the SMELL of cooking meat—and realizes that while his body is human, his soul is still a deer's because the gods refuse to change it. The sambar-prince sweeps both events under the rug, and after he marries the datu, he asks for tattoos. They start normal, but while they heal, the gods change the designs to scenes of him killing and eating the datu's nephew. He tries to hide it with heavy clothes, but tropical summer arrives and he can't bear the heat, so he takes off his shirt. When his new wife spots them and finds out the Awful Truth, she pushes him off into a reef to drown. When the sambar deer find out what their prince did, half of them try to drown themselves but are turned into the first stonefish by the sea-god Haik. The other half shrinks into the small deer of current-day Philippines.
  • The Diabolic: A running plot point is that Nemesis, as an Artificial Human, is legally and religiously not a person. Her master Sidonia tried to get a priest to bless her, but he flat-out refused. The same happens in the second book, except now it's a bigger deal because the new Emperor has declared his intent to wed her. The fact that she is not a person causes huge problems as the more religious nobles consider her mere existence an abomination, and openly plot against her and her allies. Tyrus decides to go over the heads of all other religious authorities and seek out the Interdict, the head of the faith. The Interdict initially politely but firmly refuses, saying that if Tyrus returns in twenty years still wishing for Nemesis to be named a person, he will grant it, as Tyrus will have proven his wisdom and devotion. Tyrus can't wait that long, but the resultant fight reveals to the Interdict that the galaxy is in a much worse state than he thought. He charges Tyrus with a holy mission and names Nemesis as an instrument of divine will for bringing the problem to his attention—meaning that yes, she is a person now.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In season 4, this becomes Aida's goal after she reads the Darkhold and becomes self-aware. Deconstructed though. Since she's never felt human emotions before, having them all be experienced at once is more than she knows how to process, and she doesn't respond to things like Fitz rejecting her romantic advances well at all. She gets compared to a newborn who doesn't know how to handle her feelings or accept not getting what she wants, but in this case she has enough power to kill hundreds of people because of it, having given her human body dozens of Inhuman powers.
  • Kyle in Kyle XY manages it over the course of months. He didn't know anything at the start, even how to speak, but because of his advanced mind he picks it up relatively fast.
  • Kai from Lexx died and spent thousands of years as a re-animated corpse. In a subversion, he has little care for the idea of returning to life, and Xev is the one who entertains fantasies of Kai becoming alive, going so far as clinging to obvious stretches ("Kai did something unexpected! That's a sign of life!") until she learns better and accepts it. Subverted in the last season when Kai wins a Deal with the Devil to be brought back to life, but the devil goes back on the bargain and leaves him dead only to make him alive later, mere minutes before an event that would not destroy undead Kai, but that no living human could survive. Double-subverted in that Kai doesn't have a death-wish, per se, but welcomes true death after spending six thousand years only halfway there.
  • Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is an exception; his socialization takes place over the course of years and he clearly has great difficulty with it at times, yet eventually becomes an essentially human personality. In fairness, he was built to be that way.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • Subverted with Seven of Nine, who was born human, but assimilated by the Borg as a young girl. Many years later, she is forcibly separated from the Borg Collective by the crew of Voyager and most of her cybertech implants removed against her will. She is told she is now safe and free and can be with her people again...but (at least initially) she still thinks of the Borg as "her people". Seven does eventually accept her new existence and tries to simulate some human interpersonal emotions, but never feels entirely comfortable as a human, as she considers her nanite-augmented brain and body superior to those of humans and is currently exasperated with the emotionalism and "silliness" of other crew members. Seven is one of the few characters who dare to openly criticize Janeway's decisions.
    • This trope is lampshaded by the Doctor in one episode. He mentions that he once considered trying to become like a human, but realized early on that being a hologram is far better.
  • Discussed in a typically Black Comedy way in a host segment to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "I Accuse My Parents," when Tom wants to become a real live boy, so Crow paints him "nude" color.
    Tom: Snips and snails and puppy dog tails! That's what Tommy's made of!
    Joel: (making no attempt to hide his sarcasm) Yeah, really.
    Crow: Um, no. Paint, actually.
    Joel: But, Tom, why do you want to be a real-live boy? There are billions of real-live boys on Earth. There's only one Tom Servo.
    Tom: I want to run, and jump, and skin my knees!
    Crow: You don't have any legs.
    Tom: I want to catch frogs down at the old swimming hole.
    Crow: Your arms don't work.
    Tom: I want to experience a world of emotions and feelings.
    Crow: You'll get beat-up because you're a freak.
  • Space: 1999 had an episode where humanoid robots wanted to learn emotions to be able to use violence and kill off their creators. One of them finally did in the end , and in doing so destroyed them all.
  • Parodied humorously in Angel, where the Blue Fairy comes and turns Spike into a 'real boy' in Angel's coma-dream in "Soul Purpose".
  • In The X-Files episode "The Unnatural", Josh Exley is a gray alien shapeshifter who has disguised himself as an African-American minor league baseball player in the 1940s. When his secret is discovered, he explains that his race doesn't understand fun and don't have a word for laughter, and he needed to pretend to be human for that. When he is ultimately killed by the relentless alien bounty hunter, he inexplicably bleeds red human blood. He stares at it in surprise for a moment, then smiles, laughs, and dies.
  • Some of the Cylons on Battlestar Galactica (2003) have this as a motivation, particularly ones who have had extensive contact with the humans and have begun integrating into human society. They were designed to be as close to human as possible, although at least one of them isn't too happy about it.
  • Deconstructed in Red Dwarf. Kryten would love to Become a Real Boy, but the human traits he admires are things like lying and gratuitous violence. When Kryten becomes human in one episode (and in another episode when he mistakenly believes Lister is a lesser model of robot) he becomes arrogant and bullying.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): A variation in "The After Hours". After finding out that she is a mannequin and spending a month living in the outside world, Marsha Cole doesn't want to give up her new life as a human. However, she is ultimately forced to do so by the other mannequins so that one of them can have a turn.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder: Homunculi are normally mute, mindless constructs and little more than extensions of the masters. However, a homunculus that outlives its master will attempt to continue its maker's legacy and may gradually develop a mind of its own, eventually developing a voice and will due to retaining a shard of its maker's soul. Most never reach the true mental complexity of a living creature, becoming simple caricatures of their makers or parodies of true minds, but a few eventually grow into mature people in their own right.
  • Promethean: The Created presents this as the ultimate goal of most Prometheans, requiring a long struggle to understand both themselves and the human condition. The good news is that they can succeed in transforming themselves into humans, granting them souls and freeing them from the combination Hate Plague and Walking Wasteland effects of Disquiet. The bad news is that this leaves them as a De-Powered mortal in a Crapsack World, often losing some or all memories of their previous existence. And, of course, other Prometheans will really want to know how they managed it.

    Video Games 
  • Tio in Grandia II is an automaton with essentially no free will and no emotions. When she is told that she is free to go wherever she pleases, she doesn't understand the concept and tags along with the group. Of course, this all changes when Mareg dies. Conveniently, this also gives her a new special move in combat.
  • Persona:
    • Aigis in Persona 3, which is the crux of the story for The Answer in FES. After being repaired of her injuries from her battle with Ryoji, Aigis finds her own humanity toward the end of 3, but in The Answer it is revealed that Aigis slowly rekindles her urges and will of losing the side of humanity and the penalties a living being must face upon the protagonist' death. Her will and wishes to remove her side of humanity manifests as Metis, whom is known as her "sister" who doesn't want to be left alone. At the end, the sisters reconcile and merge into one being, returning all of Aigis' humanity.
      • It's even taken far enough that Aigis' brain is fried at the end of The Answer, and by all right she should be a robo-vegetable, but somehow comes out of it just fine. As a bonus, because Aigis becomes a Persona main character, she has to have the power to equip all of the Persona's the player's managed to acquire thus far... which means the plot sets her Persona, which evolved to reflect her character growth, aside so she can fill her lost love's shoes, encapsulating all the worst issues with this trope through Gameplay and Story Integration: she became human by falling in love with the protagonist, and so once he's gone, she loses it altogether, and has to mimic him until she finds something else to rebuild her humanity on.
    • Teddie in Persona 4. He's a cartoon character living in the TV world, but wants to join the rest of the cast in the real world as a human. He doesn't go through the typical sudden-onset humanity that is typical of the trope, though, until he gets his own Persona just before the halfway point and then manages to manifest a human body.
    • Upon being thrown into the TV world, Labrys of Persona 4: Arena created a replica of Yasogami High in which she could try to live out this trope, forgetting that she wasn't human to begin with. The plot of Story Mode is centered on rescuing her before her Shadow kills her for it.
    • Morgana in Persona 5 is a cat, cartoonish in the Metaverse but realistic in the real world. He's convinced that he Was Once a Man, and aids the party to find a way to become human. Turns out he was never human to begin with and realized that long before he actually admitted it out loud, but spends much of the game in denial before finally coming to terms with it in the end. However, in the Royal Updated Re Release, he becomes human in Maruki's false reality but rejects it along with the others because Misery Builds Character.
  • Ahri in League of Legends is based on a kumiho—the Korean version of the nine-tailed fox, one known for both being predatory and desiring to be human. Appropriately, she has this as her goal in her pre-Continuity Reboot backstory. She was a nine-tailed fox that wanted to be human, so she absorbed the soul of a dying human mage during a battle and gained human form. However, she didn't see this as really being 'human', and wanted to go so far to be human in more than just form. As she absorbed more human souls and became more like a human, she also gained a conscience and realized that what she had done was evil.
    • Downplayed in the post-Continuity Reboot story—while she still gained a degree of humanity and conscience over time by absorbing human memories, she no longer seeks to become human. Her new goal is to find any traces of her lost Vastaya tribe.
  • Phantasy Star IV,
    • Averted in that the androids of the party, Wren and Demi, are both hundreds of years old (Wren is actually closer to a thousand years old) and perfectly happy being androids with feelings, having presumably awakened to their emotions some time ago. Some fans speculate that Wren actually built Demi as a companion for himself, which is why she's small, cute, and more emotionally developed despite being some six hundred years younger than him.
    • Played straight with Rika, an artificial humanoid; the player can watch her slowly grow up over the course of the game (including a childish phase and a know-it-all adolescent phase, before arriving at maturity). At one point, she even describes the difference between being informed of things and encountering them in the real world, but none of the things she counts among them are romantic love, and in fact her first experience with displays of human emotion is mourning the death of Alys.
  • Done in Super Robot Wars: Original Generation 2. New main character Lamia Loveless is a cyborg spy for a villain group. She was taught how to socialize and everything, but aside from that, like all 'W Numbers', she is supposed to lack a personality due to intentional programming. Unfortunately for the bad guys, all the W Numbers seen obtain a personality of their own, even if it only causes them to sacrifice themselves to save their masters...
  • KOS-MOS from Xenosaga skirts with this trope on and off, but eventually she becomes humanized, albeit through a somewhat supernatural mechanism.
  • The motive of most members of Organization XIII in Kingdom Hearts is to get their hearts back. The leader, though., wants to become a "great being." They are a bit unusual in that they were once human and want to be human again, rather than being artificial and wanting to become human. Ultimately, it's revealed that they could naturally regain their hearts over time and were never truly inhuman.
    • The Riku Replica in Chain of Memories definitely qualifies, even more so in the remake. Being a clone of a main character who's had his memories altered into making him think he's the real deal when the truth comes out and he encounters the person who he's a replica of he goes as far as trying to kill them so that he can get out of their shadow and become his own person.
    • In Kingdom Hearts III, Namine, Roxas and Xion finally become humans thanks to perfected replica bodies that are 100% human, and Sora using the Power of Waking.
  • Defied by Legion in Mass Effect - they're not human or even particularly human-like, and are perfectly fine with this, even expressing bewilderment that humans view individuality as a beneficial thing. Until Mass Effect 3, in which the choice ends up being, bluntly, become full individuals rather than a consensus of interfaced programming nodules, or die horribly, although you do get to choose which happens.
  • Spirits in Dragon Age are entities born from the thoughts of mortals that reside in the Fade, the world of dreams. Many spirits have a fascination with the physical world that spawned them, and wish to know it. Demons are that wish gone horribly wrong, thanks to being exposed to the darker facets of mortals such as desire, pride, rage, and envy. Cole, a Spirit of Compassion who took on the form of a dying mage (the original Cole), has gone further down this road than any other spirit in the franchise and depending on the result of his personal quest in Inquisition can continue down it or turn back and embrace his nature as a spirit. According to him, spirits such as himself aren't "real". Only through contact with mortals can they become "real".
  • Daniella in Haunting Ground is a homunculus who cannot feel anything, and believes she is incomplete. Daniella pursues Fiona because she believes the Azoth within Fiona's womb can change this. Word of God later revealed that Daniella is actually human. She was kidnapped as a child, experimented on, and abused by Lorenzo and Ricardo.
  • Curie, a Ms. Nanny robot in Fallout 4 assigned to medical research, finds her research efforts stymied by the nature of her physical being. The course of her personal quest line involves her being uploaded into a braindead donor synth body, resulting in an expansion of consciousness.
  • Unusually enough inverted with Kogasa Tatara, an umbrella tsukumogami from Touhou Project who, due to her failures with scaring people, her failures with babysitting, and her failures in general, considered going back to being a real umbrella again so that she at least could be of some use... the depressing implication being that she thinks people would appreciate her more if she was dead.
  • In Undertale, you encounter an angry ghost inhabiting a training dummy. If you go through the game killing everyone you meet, the ghost becomes so enraged that the built up emotion causes it to fuse with the dummy and become corporeal. This makes it so happy that it fulfilled its life-long dream that it will immediately spare you.
    • If, while playing on a Nintendo Switch, you spared the dummy in a Neutral/Pacifist run, you can later find the ghost leaves the dummy and inhabits a life-sized anime Cat Girl doll, Mew Mew, still trying to fuse with her new body. Sparing her again and talking causes her to begin fusing.
  • The (kind of) sequel Deltarune introduces Spamton in Chapter 2, a living robotic spambot who is obsessed with becoming a "big shot". If you battle him as a Bonus Boss, his suddenly somber and lucid dialog as he dies implies all he really wanted was to just not be a puppet, in more than one way; He wanted to achieve freedom and stop being someone's Unwitting Pawn, and also stop being a literal puppet. His goal goes a step beyond most examples; His Medium Awareness and talks about reaching "Heaven" imply he wants to become something more like the player.
  • Parodied in Borderlands 2 with the "A Real Boy" questline. A malfunctioning Hyperion loader named Mal wants to become a human - and because his only observations of humanity have been on Pandora, they're pretty skewed. After you steal some bandit "clothes" and human limbs for him, he decides to kill you, because that's all he's seen you and everyone else do to each other. In the end, you convince Mal he's become human when he feels pain during your battle with him, as he's under the impression that robots can't feel pain and humans can.

    Web Animation 
  • In an episode of Red vs. Blue, Sarge needs to steal Andy the bomb from the Blue Team so that he can translate the orders from command Lopez has stored on his hard drive, which against all logic are in extremely poor Spanish, just like Lopez' regular speech. So what's he do? Gets Caboose to turn his back and then replaces Andy... with Lopez. Caboose turns around and joyously cries, "Andy! You've Become a real boy!" Lopez is not amused. When Sarge realizes the fundamental barriers presented by the laws of physics (i.e., the inability to interact with something that isn't there), he pulls the same stunt with Lopez and a skull. CABOOSE is not amused, and mourns Andy's "death."
    • The AI fragment Sigma of Project Freelancer was fascinated by the concept of "Metastability", which was basically the stage where an AI becomes indistinguishable from a normal mind. To accomplish this, he created the Meta by brainwashing Agent Maine and having him steal the other AI fragments to become whole. In season 13, Locus assumes the Meta was trying to become the perfect weapon, only for Aiden Price to explain that what the Meta truly wanted was to become human.
  • RWBY: An Enforced example. Penny is a Robot Girl with an Aura, and Ruby comments in Volume 2 that she can feel Penny's heart and soul. Although she isn't initially on a quest to become a real girl, she and Winter do debate throughout Volume 7 what it means to be human because Penny follows her heart while Winter robotically follows orders. Volume 7 climaxes with Penny's compassion for the dying Winter Maiden earning her the Maiden power instead of the intended Winter, which can only be passed to young women. When Watts hacks Penny's body in Volume 8, Penny's soul fights off the virus just long enough for the heroes to quest for, and convince, the Relic of Creation that Penny's true self is her soul; it's separated from the infected machine and transformed into a living being by bringing forth the being that lies beneath.

    Web Comics 
  • Practically every single robotic or otherwise artificial character in an RPG undergoes this process. The webcomic Adventurers! spoofed this trope — about to be struck by a devastating attack, the character Spybot is told by the villain that he should be feeling terror, if he had learned emotions over the course of the adventure.
  • In Freefall, ALL of the humanoid or smarter A.I.s were designed to do this (through neural pruning). The people who mass-produced the robots to build their colony's infrastructure, however, don't realize this. To quote one of the robots: "Millions of robots walking off the job to pursue their own interests? Yes. I would describe that as a problem."
  • Sluggy Freelance features a horror retelling of Pinocchio in the story of Stiks, where the attempt to invoke this trope Goes Horribly Wrong. Like Pinocchio, Stiks is a marionette made by a toymaker who wishes Stisk were a real boy, although this toymaker is not good at his craft, and Stiks is just a crude figure made of pieces of wood. The Moon Twin grants the wish to the extent that Stiks becomes animated, but says that he has to find the path to becoming real himself. After the townsfolk break out the Torches and Pitchforks on the weird animated marionette and his father, Stiks cries angrily to the dark side of the moon that he wants to be real but doesn't know how. This cry is heard by the darker being Basphomy, who encourages Stiks to think that since what he lacks are head, hands and feet, he should go out and, uh, get some. So he murders the toymaker for spare parts. The Moon Twin is not pleased, and curses Stiks to be a monster who wanders forever in search of new replacements for his stolen, rotting body parts.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, "A Bug's Life": The Metamorphosis read backwards could be a kids' movie about a bug that turns into a real boy in the end.
  • The Nonadventuresof Wonderella: Parodied in "Mastery of Puppets", where Wonderella helps Pinocchio to become a corporation so that he can be declared a real person. Unfortunately, the corporation was selling wood made from his magically growing nose — and all of that turns to real noses as well.

    Web Original 
  • SCP-085, hand-drawn "Cassy", an animate and intelligent 2D drawing of a young woman. When her canvas was photographed with a camera that produced a picture showing the subject doing what they most desired at that moment, the picture showed Cassy doing the same thing she'd been doing on the canvas, but as a 3D human.

    Western Animation 
  • Played with very dark humor in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. When Pinocchio and Gepetto are stuck in the whale, Billy is also eaten. Gepetto, thrilled to have a human companion, begins to act as if Billy were his real son. Pinocchio, out of jealousy, decides that the only way to become a real boy is to eat Billy (again) and get his soul. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Pinnocchio's first appearance in the show, "Nursery Crimes", sees him try to eat Billy to become a real boy. He gets a big pot to boil Billy in too. Mandy has to save Billy and punished Pinnocchio by turning him into a tiny rocking chair. They ditch him at the Gingerbread Witch's house who winds up crushing him beneath her massive rear.
  • In the second episode of Mighty Orbots, the little girl robot Oh No gets her wish granted to be a real girl by the episode's mini-boss. Unfortunately, Oh No is necessary for the Mighty Orbots robot to combine...
  • During The Simpsons' episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled", his rival show is hosted by a ventriloquist and his puppet Gabbo. When their show collapses, we see a newspaper subheading reading "Gabbo to have 'Real Boy' operation".
  • Invoked and deconstructed on Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. While a race of alien machines are trying to become organic creatures, supposedly to replace their long-dead creators, Rusty can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to be a robot.
  • This is the wish of Phineas and Ferb character Norm, as expressed in song.
  • BMO from Adventure Time has often expressed this wish.
  • In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, when unfreezing Mr. Krabs, King Neptune accidentally turns him into a human boy. Turns out he accidentally set his trident to "Real Boy" instead of "Unfreeze".
  • The Venture Bros. has this as a running theme, as Hank and Dean had been a succession of clones, educated by computers programmed decades ago, and virtually cut off from the outside world. As super-science mishaps and plain stupidity killed them, they were replaced, starting over in their teenage forms. Once all their reserve clones had been killed off, their father has been marginally more concerned with keeping them alive, and they've been encountering the larger world, largely unequipped to deal with it.
  • In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Dummy Love", the Aqua Teens get two murderous ventriloquist dummies and Shake uses them for a stage show. Unfortunately for him, Meatwad wishes them human, which leads to Shake getting pissed, trying to kill them and going to prison for attempted murder.
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Free Will Hunting," as Bender attempts to Grow Beyond His Programming:
    Bender: I wish I was a real boy. Then I'd show them. I'd kill them all.
    • Using the Professor's What-If Machine, Bender sees what would happen if he were turned into a human. Long story short, Bender ends up overindulging in eating, drinking and partying so much, he becomes a huge blob of a man and then dies due to heart and liver failure.
  • During the League of Freedom's adventure in the Realm of the Gods in the SuperMansion episode "The Long Chaun", Robobot is transformed into a bald and naked human.