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Forgot He Was a Robot

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Invisible sweat glands? Who knows?

"*Huff* *Huff* *Huff*"
Oon, the magically animated armour from Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

A robot is fleeing, or just running, and, what's this? It's out of breath? Ooops, it banged its head! We'd better put a bandage on that! The trope for robots whose writers forgot they were robots, just didn't care, or thought it would be useful to give mechanical characters unexplained human traits, perhaps as a way of humanising them. This may be Hand Waved (he's not out of breath, his cooling fan is cycling) or in comedies just put down to the Rule of Funny.

Not to be confused with Ridiculously Human Robots, where the traits are deliberate and are all about making the robot as human as possible, nor with one of the android-related scenarios which could give rise to the character in question realizing he's the Tomato in the Mirror. This trope is about the more obvious robots. Compare I Would Say If I Could Say.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Captain Future has both an obvious robot and an android in his crew. In one scene where there is a risk of depressurization in the ship, the latter is seen wearing a space helmet.
  • Lampshaded in Star Blazers. Just for the heck of it, I.Q.-9 programs himself to be able to hiccup, like a human being. Then he can't figure out how to get rid of them, and spends the HIC! whole HIC! episode HIC! hiccuping HIC!
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Not exactly a robot, but Alphonse Elric tends to make weeping or out-of-breath noises a lot. He's a disembodied soul bound to a suit of armor. He should not need to do that. Despite making the sounds, however, he can exercise for hours without rest or sleep.

    Comic Books 
  • In one issue of Marvel's Machine Man, the eponymous robotic hero is in his human guise of insurance investigator Aaron Stack at a company party. One of his co-workers spikes the punch, and Aaron drinks some — and promptly gets drunk! Much later, this quirk of Machine Man's would be enshrined by Nextwave, which gave him the Catchphrase "My robot brain needs beer!"

  • Justified in Tantabus Mark II. Moondog is a dream-based Energy Being, but being formed from the mind of a living pony and spending a lot of time in ponies' dreams means she's picked up some of their quirks, such as taking a breath to psych herself up or gulping in shock. The narration occasionally mentions how unnecessary this is for her.

    Films — Animation 
  • Pinocchio in Disney's adaptation is seen blushing, turning green from cigar smoke, and shedding tears (among other things) while he's still a puppet. Probably justified by the Blue Fairy's magic making him almost human.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The robots on Mystery Science Theater 3000 switch between needing air and not needing air, depending on the situation. Like C-3P0, Tom sometimes had references in the script to smiling or, worse, having a look in the eyes... that he hasn't got. To say nothing of them eating, their apparent ability to cry and get sick, Gypsy's inexplicable fixation with Richard Basehart, etc. Remember the mantra...
  • K9 in the Doctor Who story "Destiny of the Daleks" comes down with Lamp Shaded but unexplained laryngitis. (This form of laryngitis explains a change of voice actor later.)
  • The opening of Kamen Rider Zero-One shows the android assistant Is with a single tear running down her cheek. The story proper lampshades it by having Jin wonder if she is leaking coolant. It was a real tear, but a moot point anyways as the whole scene turns out to be Is' simulation.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, constructs are immune to a lot of things because of their type. Eberron's Warforged, being made for player characters (and intelligent unlike almost all other constructs), lack many of the immunities for balance purposes.
  • While fleeing some singularly nasty adversaries in Vampire: The Requiem, Solomon Birch has to remind himself that he's undead, his body hasn't functioned for centuries, and therefore his muscles should not be burning from exertion.

  • Transformers has this so often, and in so many different ways, that it has enough examples for an incredibly lengthy list, with various instances of coughing and breathing being the most blatantly odd/difficult to explain away examples. Possibly justified in that some continuities are rather vague about whether Cybertronians are true robots or Mechanical Lifeforms of some sort.

    Video Games 
  • The Borderlands series:
    • Subverted in the first game, Borderlands: Some of the more neurotic Claptraps (for example, the one outside Dr. Zed's surgery in New Haven) can be heard saying, "Oh my god, I can't breathe!" then following it up with, "It's just a recording!".
    • Borderlands 2:
      • The main Claptrap accidentally talks several bandits beating him up into continuing by pointing out that while it's fun for them, any pain he feels isn't real so they have the moral high ground in doing so.
      • Loaders. Damage them and you'll hear cries of pain in robotic monotone.
    • A Claptrap in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! says that people only think robots can't feel pain, when not only can they feel it, the intensity of the pain is amplified significantly for them, and they feel it in slow motion!
  • Wheatley is somehow out of breath after being chased by a bird in Portal 2.
  • In the Mega Man X games, when X (or Zero) is low on energy, he clutches his chest and pants hard.
  • In the Mega Man (Classic) series, Mega Man blinks every few seconds. Star Trek: The Next Generation could provide an explanation, in that Data, who is also a robot, blinks as a means to avoid Uncanny Valley.
    • In Mega Man 8 and Mega Man & Bass, Mega Man clutches his neck and starts panting. Bass does something similar.
    • In ZX Advent, Grey complains that the heat is unbearable and starts panting in one level.
    • The examples from X and later may be justified in that the robots are incredibly human like or, in Mega Man Legends' case, the people are all artificial humans and the ones that aren't, the System, are similar to Reploids.
  • Because all the squadmates in Mass Effect 2 have the same animations, Legion will often be hunched over and out of breath, or leaning against something, scratching, rolling his shoulders, or whatever else organic squadmates do.
    • This turns out to be a case of Fridge Brilliance however, as Legion is intended to help the geth understand organics and help build relationships with them. By mimicking these kinds of actions, Legion appears more 'human/turian/asari' and stops the uncanny valley effect.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Sith Warrior players are fully capable of Force Choking a droid. How, precisely, one induces a robot to choke in agony is not really explored, but a strong, crushing force damaging internal hardware isn't too much of a stretch.
    • Same with Trooper's Sticky Bomb, which can cause merciless assassin droids and rabid animals alike to flail helplessly until it detonates.
    • Apparently all droids have a full set of male genitalia installed, because smuggler's Groin Attack stuns them as well as it stuns organic men.
  • Not robots but undead, the draugr in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (basically barrow wights) can frequently be heard breathing. Then again, some of them do use the same Shouts as the main character, and probably need air to use them.
  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, robotic character Thursday can be poisoned and put to sleep just like anyone else (applies to zombies, vampires, and living puppets as well). On the plus side, you can heal and resurrect him just like anyone else as well (though he alone cannot reincarnate).
    • He can reincarnate in later games. Upgrade?
  • The robot Pal-18 from Anachronox can get poisoned, confused, and any other Status Effect, just like his living party members; he can also get healed and resurrected with items. (Justified because healgrease contains nanobots capable of repairing both robotic and organic bodies, and timeminder tears mess around with time and essentially snatch you back from just before you were killed.) In a related case, all these things also count for Democratus, who is not a robot but a miniaturised planet. Please don't think too deeply what it means when it takes damage, or when you pour healgrease on it.
  • WX-78 from Don't Starve is an Eating Machine who runs on a chemical engine; this explains why they have a hunger meter, but not why their cheeks bulge the same way as the organic characters' do when they cram a meal into their mouth. When they're overheating they pant and wipe away sweat (or condensation on their chassis, possibly), they stagger around slowly and woozily while recovering from being forcibly put to sleep in Don't Starve Together, and they react to taking damage from Deadly Gas getting into their ventilation system by making coughing noises.

    Web Comics 
  • In Bob and George. It is pretty ambiguous just what the main cast is. One the one hand, we see Mega Man with his head opened for repairs, cut in half and ending up fine, and we actually get to see him get built. On the OTHER, he eats ice cream and is apparently affected by drugs.
  • Justified in Freefall, Florence explains to a robot how while it doesn't need to breathe, the cooling fan in its body needs air. Therefore, robots need air, too. She is, however, worried that Helix (the aforementioned robot) needs to pause for breath while screaming sooner than Sam.
  • Some robots in the universe of Schlock Mercenary can feel pain. Lampshaded by one, who mentions they were told feeling pain would cut maintenance costs... but not how much it would hurt.
  • Androids in the world of Commander Kitty are incredibly lifelike at all times, but Big Bad Zenith seems to literally forget. In addition to possibly eating and being out of breath from running, her entire first evil plan relied on her bearing children, which as a machine she's completely unable to do.

    Western Animation 
  • Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors has Oon, the magically animated armour, who apparently breathes (though only when running).
  • Futurama:
    • Taken to the extreme when the Brain Spawn wipes intelligence from the planet:
      Bender: Fry, help me! My heart stopped beating!
      Fry: You don't have a heart; you're a robot.
      Bender: Sure... right. Robot! [looks at his arms] Oh, Fry! My skin's all dry and clanky.
      Fry: Well, yeah. Robots are made of metal.
      Bender: Am I a robot?
      Fry: Bender, if this is some kind of scam, I don't get it. You already have my power of attorney. [leaves]
      Bender: Fry! Gasp! My skin!
    • Lampshaded in another episode where Bender says he longs for a world without high-tech machines, which Leela points out he is.
    • On several occasions, it's been stated that as a robot, Bender lacks the ability to taste, which is why he's a Lethal Chef, but we see him visibly cringe upon trying anchovies, and when he first tries Slurm, he notes that it's not that bad.
    • Bender also makes huffing noises when the crew are running for their lives (which is quite often). When it's revealed that his model has functional immortality via Brain Uploading and he's asked why he always acts scared in life-threatening situations, he replies, "I never said I wasn't a Drama Queen."
    • In "Benderama" as Fry and Bender watch an episode of The Scary Door involving a robot:
      Fry: Man! I wish we had a robot to do stuff.
      Bender: I know, right?
  • The Simpsons parodies this with a robot running from a burning scientist's lab, saying "Why, Why was I programmed to feel pain!?"
  • Transformers in all incarnations go back and forth on the scale of humanness constantly. They can survive in space but they can make breathing noises. They endure great damage and don't act like they're in any pain but other times they get hit in the face and show about as much pain as a human. They have no blood (with their blue-or-purple fuel, Energon, being Machine Blood in incarnations where it runs throughout their bodies in liquid form - constantly seen in Transformers: Prime.) but they blush red. The Transformers Wiki has a page of considerable size dealing with the matter.
  • An episode of Samurai Jack featured a group of metal-eating robots who, of course, forgot they were robots (thanks to synthetic skin). They're defeated when, in their frenzy, they tear the skin off each other, and, seeing metal, consume each other.
  • Averted in Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and lampshaded at one point.
    Kilowog: How're you gonna get in [that tiny gap a good ways off the ground]?
    Aya: With ease. [dissipates her construct body and enters the gap as her individual components]
    Kilowog: Forgot she could do that...

Alternative Title(s): I Thought I Was Human For A Second There, Forgot She Was A Robot