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Kibbles and Bits

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Kibbles and bits and bits and bits...

"Sometimes these pieces are there as a matter of aesthetics, and sometimes it's simply because there wasn't any place better to put the stuff."

What happens when a Transforming Mecha can't hide its Shapeshifter Baggage. Helicopter blades on their back, jet fighter wings on their shoulders and duplicate parts from another robot all makes it obvious what it transformed from.

Coined by the Transformers fan community, "kibble" is the general term for the odd parts of one mode that "hangs around" in the other, unable to be converted into something useful or blend in properly to hide it. In a television show or movie geared more for kids, kibble can be used as disposable "parts" that can be torn or shot off from a character, showing superficial damage without exposing the kiddies to the true horrors of war.

When the majority of one mode ends up as spare parts on the other, it's known as a "Shellformer," as one mode forms a shell around the protein-packed peanutty goodness that is the other. It's basically like a toy hiding within an egg, and the egg becomes a large backpack or cape behind the robot.

A related term is "Partsforming" (portmanteau of "Parts" and "Transforming"), when a Transforming Mecha transforms by removing kibble altogether and re-attaching it somewhere else on its body (after transforming what's left) to finish the transformation. A classic example would be the original Optimus Prime toy who had his hands removed from his arms and stored in his cab in vehicle mode. Lazier transformations may consist entirely of partsforming around a core, with only the position of the kibble determining its current mode. A degree of partsforming is often expected for Combining Mecha, as the combiner's hands, feet or head may not be part of the mecha who becomes its arms, legs or torso.

If the media product in question is Merchandise-Driven, kibble can severely hurt the playability of the resultant toys, as the "hanging" pieces can restrict articulation or become easily lost if they're detachable from the main robot. On the other hand, the latter case has created a lucrative online trading business for fans in need of replacements.

It's not all bad, as the kibble itself can be visually appealing and is often necessary for the transformation to work at all. Classic characters such as Prowl have the doors of their vehicle mode form apparent wings on the character and are not only perfectly fine for articulation but also gives him a distinctive (and badass looking) silhouette. Same goes for Starscream and his fellow Seekers, for whom the airplane cockpit chest and aircraft wings on their back are a defining aspect of their appearance. And depending on how flexible the design is, fans can sometimes create their own appearance for the character, shifting the kibble to become a pseudo-shield, armor or weapon that the original designers did not intend for. The alternative of there being no kibble at all often results in bland-looking toys with limited articulation, which are referred to as "bricks" due to having comparable poseability to a piece of masonry.

Not to be confused with "bitz", a wargaming hobby term for spare parts originating in the Warhammer 40,000 fandom. Or with, you know, dog food.


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  • Parodied in Project A-Ko. B-Ko designed a huge transforming mecha, and after giving a list of features worthy of a car dealership, she orders the pilot to kill. The pilot, however, has been twisted up due to kibble pushing into the cockpit and rearranging things very painfully. What's worse, in the process, the start button is put into a position that cannot be reached with human anatomy.
  • Played straight in Code Geass with Gino's Knightmare Frame, the Tristan. In its first appearance, you can clearly see its hands right next to the giant 'Anchors.'
  • The Gundam franchise tends to be all over the spectrum with regards to this trope but special mention has to go to the Union and AEU mecha from Gundam 00. This can probably be pinned to the fact that they aren't fully transformable and can only change between forms in the hangars (though in the first season, The Rival pulls off the first-ever on-the-fly transformation).
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has a gigantic instance of parts-forming with the titular mobile suit, as the Wing Gundam's transformation involves its shield attaching to its simply floating into place, which happens even in the anime. The same goes for its Mid-Season Upgrade, Wing Zero.
  • A consistent problem with Digimon toys; some (Greymon -> MetalGreymon) do it significantly better than others (Patamon -> Angemon, which had a particularly bad case of the shell problem). It was particularly bad with the DNA Digivolution toys around Digimon Adventure 02, and it didn't help that they simply did not design Omnimon in a way at all friendly to an adequate combining toy. The Digimon Fusion line mostly cleaned up its act in regard to this trope, but still had a small problem with Shoutmon's head still being somewhat visible when it's being used to form the V crest on the chest of Shoutmon X3 and higher.
    • WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon were the first digimon to be modeled after their toys instead of vice versa. This lead to creative use of kibble, such as Agumon's head and claws becoming the Brave Shield and Dramon Killers or Gabumon's feet, horn and tail becoming his shoulder mounted missile launchers, tail and wings respectively. However, this caused them to fit in poorly with their other forms due to clashing themes.
    • The Digivolving Spirits line of figures launched in 2017 heavily utilizes the shell technique, with the Rookie/Champion form being the "shell" around the Ultimate/Mega form.
  • Completely averted with the variable fighters from Macross. Pretty much every single one of them have practically no kibble besides the gunpod unit. It says something that even the most divisive series are practically never bashed because of the mecha elements, but rather due to the much more pervasive presence of musical performers compared to the original.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bumblebee: In the more rarely-used form of kibblenote , Charlie realizes there's something seriously strange with her new car when she spots a robot face approximately where an oil pan should be (if the VW Beetle didn't have a rear engine, that is).

    Live Action TV 
  • The various Super Sentai and Power Rangers Humongous Mecha have different combined forms that may either be fairly slender or cumbersome to the point that they shouldn't have any real range of motion. Generally, the technology-based series have fairly smooth looking Megazords while the animal-themed series usually have a giant animal head or five sticking out of the chest and/or sides. The base combined mecha usually isn't too bad, but once more Mecha Expansion Packs are added, the combination likely has many parts sticking out of it. Some of the worst offenders are:
    • Ushi Origami from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger has very obvious fists sticking out of the cannons on its back.
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger
      • Gokaioh (known as the Legendary Megazord in Power Rangers Super Megaforce) has some kibble problems with the vehicles forming its arms. GokaiJet is basically an arm with wings, as its fist is clearly visible. GokaiRacer does it a little bit better by having its fist being the motor block. But it is still recognizable as a fist. GokaiGalleon also has some kibble, in the form of the upper legs sticking out of it's back.
      • Sadly, Kanzen Gokaioh was semi-spoiled because Machalcon has a very obvious hand sticking out of his back from day one. At the very least, you knew he had a formation other than "gets ridden like a skateboard."
    • Shuriken Sentai Ninninger has some big offenders in this regard:
      • Some of the separate mecha from the DX Shurikenjin. DragoMaru and ShinobiMaru both have an arm mode, the fist of which is very visible between the legs of both individual figures.
      • LionHaoh's arms/front legs have hands sticking to their elbows, which are needed for the combination with Shurikenjin and Bison King.
      • The final mecha, GekiAtsuDaiOh, is very bad with this. Especially the center part Genbumaru, which should look like a turtle, but instead looks like a robot with its lower legs and arms chopped off, since the upper legs and face of the combined robot are very clearly visible, as seen here
    • Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger is almost entirely kibble. Since the mecha are formed by cubes stacking on top of each other, the parts for the series' main robots are visible on one of the cube faces. The Sixth Ranger's robot, a large rhino-truck, turns the rhino's horn into one of its hands - said horn-hand containing the face of its combined form with the core five's robots on the back at all times, not even tucked away behind a panel.
    • Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger has the Good Cool Kaiser VSX, the combined form of both the Thieves, Police, and Sixth Ranger's main mech. Said combined form's face can be seen from the top view of the overly-large smokestack of the Sixth Ranger's train mech. When combined, the Thieves' mech becomes the chestplate and an extra pair of arms on the shoulders, while the Police's mech... ends up being pretty much a "hat" for the headpiece and parts of the feet, leading to a weird design aesthetic of having a gun or an entire baton sticking out the sides of its feet.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Den-O: Den-O's armor consists of two pieces which swap around depending on which form is active. Due to this Rider using the same pieces for four of his forms, parts of his other forms can be seen when fighting in one form. For example, the chestplate of Sword Form can be seen on the back when Den-O assumes Ax form and vice versa.
    • One of the powers of the eponymous character in Kamen Rider Decade was the Final Form Ride, which could turn other Riders into huge weapons, usually falling in the BFS and BFG category. While the show could, logically, portray these transformations cleanly, the toys not so much. When looking at some of the Riders in weapon mode from a certain angle, it just seemed like them taking an uncomfortable pose while having extra bits and pieces attached to their body.
    • The main transformation gimmick in Kamen Rider Gaim, was that the Riders summoned giant pieces of fruit that deployed around them as armor. Needles to say, the toy versions of some of armors had very noticeable kibble. Two good examples are Mango Arms and Lemon Energy Arms, both of which have Badass Capes in the show; obviously the toys couldn't magically transform, so instead you have plastic "shells" hanging off the Rider's back.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O also has an armor-change gimmick, with many of the earlier armors being reversible to use with both Zi-O and Geiz. Their respective faces just get left off, but you still end up with the front of the armor for one Rider being obvious on the back of the other, including feet coming out of the heels.
    • In Kamen Rider Revice, the titular Riders can fuse into a giant animal based on what form they are in. Said fusion is pretty much them taking an uncomfortable pose with some parts deployed. That these combinations involve two humanoids is clearly visible. The show even lampshades this by showing that both halves of the fusion are conscious and not very comfortable while doing assuming said forms.

  • Transformers:
    • Bulkhead in Transformers: Animated is able to convert the "leftover" parts of his vehicle mode into a chair. One of his many toys can do the same thing (leader, 2008). This shows the impact kibble has on the fandom, as everyone went crazy with that idea.
    • A number of other Transformers have the ability to move the wheels on their legs down to their feet, allowing them to skate with them. Bumblebee uses this liberally in Transformers: Animated, and Optimus Prime does so at one point as well.
    • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #45, Krok comments that he knows a mech who was so anti-alt-mode, he had all his kibble surgically removed because he couldn't stand to look at himself in the mirror. This is considered somewhat excessive, even by the standards of the Militant Monoform Movement (which rejects transformation).
    • In other MTMTE issues, we visit the Functionist Universe, where a Fantastic Caste System based on alt-mode was never brought down by the early Decepticons and now rules Cybertron. In this universe, there is a thriving black market in fake kibble; because your alt-mode determines your social rank, people who want to see how the other half live get fake cockpits or microscopes in order to trick their way up to the Flight or Intellectual class.
  • The Japanese exclusive toyline Transformers: Go! consists of two teams of combiners; The vehicle based Samurai team, consisting of Kenzan, Jinbu and Ganoh and the animal based Shinobi team, consisting of Gekisoumaru, Hishoumaru and Sensuimaru. These teams have three combinations each, depending in which of the three team-members forms the top half of the combined form. Because these toys are so ambitious, several of the modes suffer from a bit of a kibble problem.
    • Since each of the individual robots can form either an upper body, an abdomen and a set of legs, parts of the combined forms can be seen in either robot or vehicle/animal mode. This is especially notable with Jinbu and Ganoh, where the fists of their combined forms are used as the robot's heals.
    • GoHishou has a lions head sticking out from his behind, while a sharks head sticks from its lower back. The feet of Hishoumaru's own leg mode stick out of this combined form's elbows.
    • GoSensui practically has an entire lion as a backpack.
    • When Kenzan forms the abdomen of GoGanoh, his legs are clearly forming a backpack in the combined form. One can even use this kibble to form a fully functional set of additional arms.
    • The fists of the GoGanoh combination can clearly be seen behind the head of the GoJinbu combination.
  • In the Transformers Film Series they placed a lot of emphasis on the robots being both aliens and a Mechanical Life Form. For that reason they generally lack excessive kibble. The designs treat the vehicle parts as being either smoothly integrated into their body or as being a sort of armor plating, and their weaponry transforms out of their bodies as well, if not a part of their alternate mode (Blackout has miniguns on his wrists from his helicopter form). This has generally resulted in some of the most slender designs ever made. Although how well they resemble the toy varies, the toyline tries to follow suit as the Buster Optimus Prime averts this trope by having his Ion Gun form from his detachable fuel tanks.
    • In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, Devastator is formed by the Constructicons, who all take forms of construction vehicles. Guess where the wrecking balls are located. This, naturally, caused a stir in the fan community, from noticing that only one of them could have come from Hightower the truss crane and not a second one, to third party designers creating a customized mod to make the toys more screen accurate (there was a small legends size toy released while a playset DID include a wrecking ball as an obstacle for the race track, a proper combining version of Devastator wouldn't be released until over a decade later in the Transformers Studio Series line).
  • A lesser-used definition of 'kibble' (which, however, was the earliest known use of the word as Transformers slang) is the parts that are left over from a toy's combination. A truly disappointing number of the finer details of older Combining Mecha come from a bag of parts, to the point that the individual vehicles on their own are basically just framework. If you lay out Superion's extra bits as they would be if they were on the final robot, it's more likely to be recognized as Superion than if you assembled the five bots and didn't add the combiner kibble. As toy technology improves, this is less so today, to the point where the most recent designs don't have any at all (although they still have plenty of the other kind of kibble).
    • Transformers: Energon's combiner teams tried to solve the kibble problem by having the individual TFs' weapons become the hands and feet.
      • Later on, the Combiner Wars toyline refined this approach
    • The set of deluxe figures based on the Combaticons/Bruticus from Transformers: Fall of Cybertron avert the problem by simply having hands built into the figures that can become limbs, and having the feet form from miscellaneous vehicle kibble (the first variety of kibble, that is).
    • However, the Japanese-only Transformers line "Operation Combination" had three combiners named Sixbuilder, Sixwing, and Sixturbo whose extra parts are put to good use: they could combine into small jets, able to be piloted by any of the individual team members. (Maybe they should have called him Sevenwing.) The same line also slightly modified the previous year's Sixliner to make Sixtrain; both used the kibble as extra cars to be pulled by the train-bots. After all five were reissued well over ten years later, four of them (Sixliner was omitted) were finally released in America, renamed (and in Sixbuilder's and Sixwing's cases, repainted) as new versions of Devastator, Superion, Defensor, and Rail Racer. Sadly, outside of a cameo, none of them have appeared in any cartoons or comics... yet.
    • The Beast Wars Neo toys were notorious for being "shellformers" with much kibble that doesn't integrate at all into the robot form. Forget "becomes a backpack or a cape," the animal parts, mostly intact, just hung off wherever they happened to be. Break basically has a giant penguin for shoulders - beak, feet, and all. Nothing folds away or attempts to look more attractive. Similar can be said of the entire line.
      • Also, the robots inside the shell never looked like they had anything to do with the animal; wildly different color schemes and generic faces that didn't resemble the animals; in robot mode the Neo cast were just very generic robots with gigantic animal parts stuck to them at random.
    • In Age of Extinction Galvatron shifts into a cloud of "Transformium" when changing between his robot and truck modes. As this is impossible to replicate in toy form, his Voyager toy was just a very obvious shellformer with the truck folded up on his back.
    • Earthrise Arcee was infamous for the fact that her entire altmode simply folded up and stored on her back like a backpack. Many modders wound up simply detaching her back kibble and keeping the robot and car modes separate, which had a secondary benefit of making her far more stable in robot mode due to removing a lot of weight from her upper torso.
    • The Animorphs Transformers (no, they weren't tied into the Transformers universe, but apparently the similarity in transforming, not to mention the TV show airing at the same time, led to a line of Transformer/Animorphs toys being released) toys had similar problems with animal parts hanging off. The 'Visser Three to Hork Bajir' one is an especially huge mess because it was a triple changer. Tobias's body still looks very hawk-like in his human form, with the hawk head visible hanging down in the back, and the human form of the Jake/Tiger one looks like he's halfway through donning a mid-tier fursuit.

    Video Games 
  • Minor character Johnny in Chrono Trigger has a case of this. He can change between his human form and a three-wheeled racing form; when he's in human form, the rear wheels become his shoulders and his exhaust pipes take up the majority of his back (he actually seems to lean on them). Notably, the exhaust pipes appear to be his cooling system in his humanoid mode, as they still periodically puff out smoke.

    Western Animation 
  • The Go-Bots seemed generally more willing to make use of their kibble than Transformers were. A Guardian with a cockpit in his chest might allow a human to ride around in it; or a Renegade might forcibly shove a human into his cockpit to hold him prisoner. And they would frequently pop their heads up out of their vehicle modes to emphasize a point when speaking, particularly Cy-Kill. Scooter pretty much always left his face visible when transformed, but he's a bit of a subversion. (The toy's head became the vehicle's front wheel, not the handlebars where the cartoon puts his face in vehicle form)
    • The Go-Bots had a Combiner pack called the Puzzlers that consisted of 6 normally transforming figures that also combined into a single robot, and despite being made back in the eighties, there was no detachable kibble of any kind - absolutely everything was built in.
    • This was one of the toys' main advantages; they never used detachable kibble, all of the parts were in both modes. It was also one of their main disadvantages, since it tended to make the robot forms look ridiculous
      • Except that they did, quite a lot, and it didn't help. Cy-Kill, Cop-Tur, Tank, just to name some of the first-year designs, all had parts that either came off for transformation, moved to other places on the toy for transformation, or could come off and be lost regardless. Helicopter designs in particular often had the blades able to pop off.