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Impossibly Graceful Giant

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And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's the windup!

Humongous Mecha are a curious thing. By all logic, they can't work in the real world due to issues with weight distribution and speed. Even if such a machine existed, it would probably move something like Honda's Asimo — slow, clunky, and stuttering.

Apparently, nobody told this to Japan — watch any given mecha anime, and you'll see hundred-meter battle machines moving with the lithe, fluid grace of martial artists. Even more confusing: the pilot can pull off these amazing feats with nothing more than a pair of joysticks and a set of pedals. Why is this? Probably because, if the robots moved like the multi-ton walking tanks that they are, then the series would bore its viewers to death. A carryover from the Super Robot days considered too catchy to dismiss along with the humanoid form — thus making this a rather obvious sub-trope of Rule of Cool. A notable exception is when a smaller character is in the scene, in which case from their perspective the machine will be shown as moving very slowly.

Kaiju tend to have the same problems, for similar reasons; you'd be bored if Godzilla threw an enemy and it took half a second between the start of its trajectory and it hitting the ground.

It should be noted that this phenomenon occurs almost exclusively in Japanese media;note  Humongous Mecha from Western sources tend to actually be big, slow, clumsy walking tanks (see BattleTech). This happens occasionally with Japan as well (see: Armored Core before the fourth installment, and of course, Steel Battalion).

It also should be noted that spider tanks can fall just as easily in this trope as humanoid robots, but rarely do. In fact, if a Mecha series has both you can expect that humanoid robots will move with much more fluidity than the multi-legged counterparts, even though logically the opposite should be true. Animal Mecha almost always display this, and if they take the form of an animal more agile than humans (such as feline/canine), expect them to be equally more agile or graceful than humanoid counterparts.

Can allow the use of a Motion-Capture Mecha.

This is also a common trait of the Giant Woman. Since it helps play into her femininity and beauty.

Often a form of Art Major Physics. May be contrasted / paired with Graceful in Their Element, when the pilots are unable to do anything remotely as acrobatic themselves.

Subtrope of Faster Than They Look.

Exaggerations and Lampshade Hangings

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: The Titular Titans, which range anywhere from 3 to 15 meters tall (and up to 60 in the case of the Colossal Titan) can move, run and attack just as fast, often even faster than regular humans. It's explained a bit into the manga that they are apparently unnaturally light, but even then, they should clearly get hit harder with the Square-Cube Law.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta fits the bill when he assumes his Great Ape form to fight Goku. He's as big as a skyscraper, but is every bit as fast and agile as in his base form, and not just because he can still fly. When Goku dodges one of his punches, Great Ape Vegeta spins his entire body around in the blink of an eye, nailing Goku with a kick.
    Goku: Big as he is, he moves like a rabbit!
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Fuji of the Ten Swords is a literal giant, yet is so fast that the gang at the Oniwabanshu place didn't even notice his presence until after he had cut half the inn down.
  • Mazinger Z: The Super Robot Genre Trope Maker actually subverted this trope. When the series was animated, Go Nagai reminded the cartoon-makers Mazinger-Z was a huge, heavy machine, therefore it should look heavy. Hence, Mazinger walked apparently slowly, shaking the ground and making much noise with each footstep. The robot was frequently seen from below to reinforce the sensation that it was very tall. It still was more agile than it should have been, but by no means did it seem graceful or nimble. Go Nagai wanting Mazinger-Z to seem heavy was the reason Jet Scrander was a Mid-Season Upgrade. Go Nagai intended Mazinger-Z to fly all along, but he feared if Mazinger flew from the get go, the robot would seem light, so he only gave it wings when it was firmly established Mazinger was heavy.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the ganmen are piloted with nothing but a pair of handles. That's no big deal. However, when that mech pilots another mech using similar handles, which then pilots another mech using handles, which then pilots ANOTHER mech using handles, it gets ridiculous. Of course, in this series the Rule of Cool is a law of physics, so you should really just relax.
  • Full Metal Panic! has a silly little moment featuring tangoing mecha. It's justified in that to do that it took weeks if not months to code all the movements to make it look fluid and it's later subverted when one of the Arm Slaves slips off at the end and crashes into some stuff.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: The Gundam Heavyarms, despite being the heaviest Gundam in its series, can do circus acrobatics just because its pilot can (To be fair, it is also the leanest and least-bulky in design too, so go figure). Later taken to ridiculous heights when it does a spinning flip carrying four in-scale gatling guns.
    • This trope forms a minor plotpoint in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. One of the most reliable ways to tell whether or not a mobile suit is piloted with the use of the Ālaya-Vijñāna control system is to simply look at the way it moves. A suit with that control system will both have much more fluid and life-like movements as well as much faster response time when compared to traditional control systems. This is because the Ālaya-Vijñāna involves plugging the mobile suit's controls directly into the pilot's own nervous system (via cybernetic implants in their spinal cord), and obviously simply thinking about what you want your machine to do is both faster and more precise than operating control sticks and pedals.
    • An amusing little aversion shows up in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury where as part of a PR video, the main characters have the lead mecha dance a silly little dance with one part of the video requiring it to reach over its head. That action however is beyond the machines range of motion leading to the characters having to do a painfully obvious edit in the video to make it work.
  • The CGI Reideen demonstrated the artistic reasons for this trope by averting it in the early episodes. Reideen took half of eternity to perform relatively mundane attacks and would have been defeated if its enemies weren't under the same constraints. Later episodes embraced this trope, however, especially when combat moved into space where gracefulness was somewhat justified.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The titular Evangelions. They're huge, taller than most of the buildings in Tokyo III. In the Rebuild continuity, they're seen breaking the sound barrier by running. Not flying, not jumping, but running. This is a justified example of this trope because they only look like robots; they're actually giant biological humanoids cloned from aliens placed in armor so constricting that they can't control their own movements, and the pilots are controlling them with their minds, not with physical controls.
  • Cybodies in Star Driver are very graceful and fluid in their movements, especially once they series reaches Third Phase, which basically turns the Cybodies into Motion-Capture Mecha. It's best seen with Tauburn, the main character's mecha, who's in Third Phase from the very first episode on and frequently does flips and corkscrews like an ice skater in the olympics.
  • The Titans in Attack on Titan have a justification: they're a lot lighter than they should be for their size, and their musculature is in most cases nearly identical to a human's, so they're able to move with nearly as much grace and fluidity as a human (it varies from Titan to Titan exactly how graceful they are in practice). The Colossal Titan, however, is an exception. Being over five times as large as any other Titan, it is also extremely slow and moves rather clumsily. If it didn't have the power to vent superheated gas from its flesh, it would be virtually helpless against the human soldiers, who are used to dealing with much smaller and faster targets.
  • Lampshaded and handwaved in Kuromukuro, because the Geoframes explicitly feature gravity manipulation technology, which allows 300-ton giants to have an effective mass of a paperclip. In one episode it allows the heroes to transport the titular mecha over a dinky bridge that in no way could support its 320-ton bulk without the phlebotinum. This is also what gives the mecha in the series their otherwise impossibly fluid mobility.
  • Digimon Tamers: SaintGalgomon is a giant, green mecha, about three times the height MegaloGrowmon. But since he's fused with his Tamer Lee Jiangliang, SaintGalgomon is capable of performing Jiangliang's Tai Chi moves, even though his movements are kinda slow.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross: One of the most legendary feats in the original was the 'Costume Change'. Using what is effectively an overcomplicated jet cockpit, Max Jenius manages to knock a 50' giant out with his mecha, then actually put on its clothes over his mech, to try to be inconspicuous.
  • Downplayed in Patlabor. The Ingrams and other humanoid Labors can perform any action a human can do despite being at least two stories tall, but they can't do anything too strenuous for very long without their joints breaking down. At once point after watching one perform an Unnecessary Combat Roll, Shinohara winces because he knows that stunt just flushed a significant portion of the Special Vehicles Unit's budget down the drain due to the dozens of man-hours and replacement parts needed to restore its motors after the grinding down they took.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Fitoria, the Filolial Queen, is bigger than a house in her bird form, yet moves faster than the wind.

    Fan Works 
  • Justified in Darwin with regards to the control rig, a cybernetic implant that allows a person to meld their mind with a Knightmare frame and control it like their own body. When Kallen dodges the Four Holy Swords attack from every direction at once, Tohdo notes that such agility should be completely impossible with such a machine. Once a control rig is hooked up to the Guren Mk II, Kallen is basically unstoppable.

  • In Cloverfield, the giant monster manages to sneak up on the protagonists, hiding Behind the Black.
  • Dude, Where's My Car? zigzags this trope. The giantess that shows up during the climax is nimble enough to grab a guy for a quick snack, she is mostly lumbering combined with a Supermodel Strut.
  • Godzilla
    • The Showa series played this trope completely straight, as well some of the Millennium films, particularly Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and Godzilla: Final Wars. The Heisei series tried to avert this as part of the filmmaker's attempts to make Godzilla Darker and Edgier. In contrast to the fast-paced, exciting battles seen during the Showa era, inspired by Japanese pro-wrestling, Heisei kaiju slowly waddle towards each other, spew lasers back and forth, and when they're feeling really ambitious, will mix things up with some shoulder bumping. Fans complain about the fight sequences of the Heisei era to this day.
    • Godzilla (2014) plays with this trope. Godzilla is back to a lumbering behemoth who causes a lot of damage just by walking through an area, but he is especially graceful in the water, capable of sneaking up on the M.U.T.O. kaiju just fine, and seems to be trying to weave his way through the cities as much as he can to avoid too much damage unlike the M.U.T.O. He's only walking fast in comparison to humans because his strides are so much longer.
    • Kong and Mechagodzilla from Godzilla vs. Kong. Despite being of comparable size to Godzilla himself, the former has just as much agility as one expects from primates a fraction of his size, swinging and climbing through cities easily. The latter has back mounted rockets that turn it into a pure Lightning Bruiser allowing it to practically dance around Godzilla.
  • Pacific Rim: Guillermo del Toro avoided the use of motion capture because it would make the Jaegers look less like machines and more like this trope. Still played somewhat straight, especially by Striker Eureka. although it is some justified in that case as Striker Eureka as it is a top-of-the-line Mark V Jaeger. Gipsy Danger is a rebuilt Mark III that is noticeably slower and less graceful while the old Mark I Cherno Alpha is very clunky and brutish.
    • Pacific Rim: Uprising gets a lot of criticism thrown this way for having the Jaegers and Kaiju move and attack much more quickly and agilely in fight scenes, including leaping, rolling, getting repeatedly thrown into the air, and performing acrobatics, as well as far fewer shots showing them from below, removing the sense of massive size and weight that was present in the first movie.
  • The Prawn mechsuit piloted by Wikus in the Final Battle in District 9 is twenty feet tall yet able to leap several metres in the air and possesses surprising agility for something so massive. It can also land gracefully without shattering its legs. This is probably justified by the machine taking cues from the physiology of the Insectoid Aliens who built it: after all, a grasshopper can leap 30 inches, equivalent to a human leaping across the length of a football field.

  • Early works in the BattleTech Expanded Universe had Battlemechs with ridiculously graceful movements, being capable of performing Unnecessary Combat Roll and other silliness that in the boardgame would result in a mech falling on its face and crushing the cockpit. Later novels toned down the gracefulness to be more in line with the boardgame, though still more graceful than they should be, because reading about a battlemech failing a piloting check and falling to its death from the top of a building would quickly get dull.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Lampshaded when one of the heroes notes that the chasmfiend (giant carnivorous lobster-thing about the size of an apartment building), shouldn't be anywhere near as graceful or fast as it is. This is stated to be very creepy. This is justified because greatshells (giant arthropods, from horse-sized to island-sized) are essentially powered by magic. They have stone-like objects called gemhearts which absorb the ambient magic of the planet. Also, Roshar's gravity is only seventy percent of Earth normal.
    • Averted/Downplayed with other, larger greatshells called Tai-na. They do move extremely slowly, but given they're the size of islands, they still presumably move faster than they should.
  • At least two of G. K. Chesterton's novels feature a main character who is built on the same scale as Chesterton himself but moves like a grasshopper. This is noted to feel vaguely unnatural to observers.
  • Invoked in Maskerade, where Agnes knows the tremendously obese opera singer waddling onstage isn't the real one, since the real one reminds people of a moored dirigible.
  • In Animorphs, Jake describes the rhino morph as a tiptoeing giant.
  • The title character of The BFG is twenty-four feet tall and moves like a ninja. At least he's notably wiry and thin; the other giants are even taller, built like linebackers and just as sneaky and agile...and put that to use in much worse ways.
  • In the stories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, the giants were quite athletic and graceful. Despite being a giant among giants, Gargantua was able to sneak through the streets of Paris and steal the bells from the clocktower without waking anyone. The giants also regularly avoided causing destruction or damage despite their massive sizes. It gets ridiculous in some parts where Gargantua is indicated to be thousands of feet tall.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One BattleBots match had two of its largest robots, Mammoth and HUGE, face each other in a "big bot battle" where the former was somersaulting and flipping around the BattleBox as it attempted to and eventually did ring out the latter by flipping one of HUGE's big wheels out of the box, immobilizing it for the knockout.
  • One episode of Mythbusters tested if the adage "Bull in a china shop" (meaning recklessly destructive) was true. Result? Busted - the bulls were unbelievably nimble, weaving around and through the shelves of china as if they were threading needles.
  • The episode of Red Dwarf where the Cat not only steers one massive earth-moving robot as if it were Fred Astaire, he gets an entire deck of similar machines to act as a synchronised line of backing dancers.
  • Super Sentai and Power Rangers have embraced this more and more as the series' mecha fights have slowly shifted from People in Rubber Suits to CGI. Take the Delta Squad Megazord, which uses a lot of diving and rolling in its Gun Fu. That being said, this only applies when CGI is being used, as earlier examples of the Humungous Mecha displayed human-like reflexes and were surprisingly agile, bordering the titular heroes' own. By the late-2000s, however, the suit actors in mecha costumes began performing with slower movements with increased usage of extreme closeup shots, mainly to sell the illusion of weight and scale. Every now and then, however, the series will make exceptions; any mecha combination specializing in hand-to-hand combat will retain usage of the human-like reflexes, as well as any design meant to accentuate high speed.
  • Ultra Series: While the Kaiju tend to avert this, usually being lumbering giants with sluggish movements, even if some play this trope straight by being rather quick on their feet, the titular Ultras are capable of incredible gymnastics no matter their size, very rarely actually caring about the Square-Cube Law.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has stone giants, slender grey-skinned philosophers and stonemasons who take great pride in the grace and finesse they put into rock-throwing. They have the highest Dexterity score of any true giant (15 in 5e) and have more powerful rock-throwing attacks.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has both straight-up and averted examples — deliberately so, in that the otherworldly grace and speed of certain alien races' machinery is explicitly contrasted with the bulk and clumsiness of human constructs and less advanced aliens' technology. The giant titan walkers of the Eldar embody this trope, being huge yet slender and impossibly graceful war machines made from psychic-reactive exotic polymers and augmented by the souls of dead Eldar. Eldar revenant scout titans even have jump jets to let them leap huge distances. Tyranid bio-titans are less graceful than Eldar titans, but still possessed of an insectoid speed and maneuverability they shouldn't really have at that size. By contrast Imperial (human) titans are clumsy, lumbering behemoths that shake the earth as they trudge inexorably forward. At the farthest end are Ork Gargants, which are essentially waddling mountains of scrap metal festooned with guns.
    • Part of the evolution of Tau technology between the various editions of their codex (explained as actual technological innovation — practically unheard of by anyone else in the setting — between eras of expansion) has their mecha trending towards this. In early depictions, Tau Battlesuits were graceful fliers (well, really good jumpers) due to their vectored thrust, but their actual movements were fairly clumsy, their weapons tended to be fixed guns without a lot of articulation, and they were utterly execrable in close combat. Later models moved more fluidly, were faster and more responsive, and sucked less in melee. For example, in their third-edition debut, Broadside artillery mechs mounted their railguns as Shoulder Cannon with limited traverse; in sixth edition, they wield massive rifle-like guns in articulated hands. Even the brand-new Riptide heavy mech is vastly more nimble than their previous models.
  • Early BattleTech was weird about this. Many of its 'Mechs are based on existing designs from anime that tended towards the blocky, but there have also been descriptions of these things doing Unnecessary Combat Rolls. Just imagine one of these tucking in its shoulder and doing a forward roll on the ground. Modern versions of the game and the book adaptations have since cut back heavily on the acrobatics. It's considered canon, and there's even on mech that due to specialized equipment is considered agile enough to perform a cartwheel, but it's also something that's cool but not actually useful in any sort of battle situation.

    Video Games 
  • The Armored Core series started out with an element of this and progressively became worse. The first game had reasonably-paced combat, though the giant mechs still moved with far more agility than so many tons of steel should rightfully have. However, the combat got faster in each sequel until becoming absolutely ludicrous in Armored Core 4. The giant robots in this game can fly and zigzag around faster than human characters can in most action games. The speed of combat was toned down for Armored Core 5.
  • Reaper capital ships in the Mass Effect series are notorious for their flagrant defiance of the laws of physics, even by the standards of Space Opera. In the first game, Sovereign's first major appearance has it pull a turn that Joker explicitly notes would snap an Alliance dreadnought of similar specs in half. This does have its downsides, though: it takes the majority of their mass effect power to do, which also happens to be how their Deflector Shields work, so a Reaper caught in the middle of a high-performance turn is much more vulnerable to attack.
  • Completely averted with the capital and super-capital ships in Homeworld. They move and turn like they're stuck in treacle. So much so that it's possible for some ships to dodge the lethal beam weapons of the Ion Beam Frigates since they're a Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon.
  • One Must Fall features Humongous Mecha known as HARs (Humanoid Assisted Robots) moving with human (sometimes inhuman) agility due to being 'chemically linked' to their pilot's motor neurons. So while the pilot is laying in a medical bay, they can 'move' the robot by making the same motions they would to move their bodies. This allows for maneuvers such as forward flips, double jumps, and other ludicrous feats of agility.
  • Ratchet & Clank: While he moved fairly slow and couldn't jump very high at all in the first game (though realistically speaking, considering how thin his legs are compared to his massive gorilla like upper body, he shouldn't have been able to jump at all), the sequels make Giant Clank far more nimble than anything his size should normally be. It's a little justified in the second game where he spends his sections on moons and presumably is under the effects of much lower gravity (though again, he shouldn't have been able to jump at all in the first place), but other games show that while he can't jump as well as when he's on a moon, his movement speed is still the same as in the second game and he's still a bit better at Jumping than in the first game. No explanation is given for how he became so much more agile in later games.
  • In mission 2 of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves after first being possessed by the Mask of Dark Earth, Carmelita is still able to do her areal somersaults despite her now giant size. It's unknown if she could still do them after her size was further increased by Bentley's darts, but she does get a lot faster. She is shown moving very slowly after her final increase from the dynamite, though it's stated she's not moving at full speed and that at her full speed, the gang can no longer outrun her in their giant truck.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: MEC Troopers are humans augmented with cybernetics in a hulking cybernetic combat suit the size of a small vehicle. Said suit serves as their Artificial Limbs when in combat, so they're capable of some very fluid and elegant motions like running or engaging in fist fights, as seen when they deliver the finishing blow against larger aliens using the Kinetic Strike Module. And if you research Advanced Servomotors (a mobility upgrade) in the Foundry, MEC Troopers stop jogging when ordered to move, in favor of sprinting in long, loping steps. The only thing MECs are stated to not have the fine motor control to do is use a medikit to stabilize an ally that's bleeding out, which justifies their healing subsystem, Restorative Mist, being made as an Area of Effect instead.


    Western Animation 
  • Megas XLR, Megas is an 80ft. tall battle robot with a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda for a head and several video game consoles for controls. In spite of this, Coop maneuvers the robot with incredible agility and speed, often going hand to hand with other robots and kaiju using moves he learned from video games and professional wrestling. In one episode Megas' computer was damaged so Coop switched to a manual backup using a DanceDanceRevolution control pad, and the only thing he lost was the ability to use ranged weapons.
  • Super Giant Robot Brothers!: Shiny, a 300 foot tall Kaiju fighter, especially falls victim to this trope. There are many scenes where he prances around weightlessly and even performs parkour.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan:
    • The eponymous robot is about at least several stories tall and must weigh quite a few tons (even accounting for the improbable mechanics of its construction), yet it can perform impressive feats of martial arts with no regard for the laws of physics.
    • This is subverted with the H.M.E.R. It's bulky, slow and needs a ridiculous amount of jets all over in to make simple maneuvers. Probably justified in that the Titan is built by aliens with technology at least centuries beyond Earth's, while the H.M.E.R. is mostly Earth tech inside a shell of scavenged alien armor.
  • The Holons in gen:LOCK all started with the same lean, somewhat gangly build, each one does some ninja-level dodges and flips. Chase's model eventually gets wings attached for impossibly graceful aerial combat, and Cammie installs bunny-style legs on hers to better leap around.
  • While there are a number of outliers, the vast majority of the robot characters from the Transformers franchise fit this to a t.


Video Example(s):


BattleBots - Mammoth vs. HUGE

Everyone was expecting a battle between two big bots to be awesome, but NOBODY was expecting one of them to be flipping in the air throughout the match!

How well does it match the trope?

4.64 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / ImpossiblyGracefulGiant

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