Follow TV Tropes


Mecha-Enabling Phlebotinum

Go To

Humongous Mecha can be rather awesome on screen, but for a variety of reasons they would be impractical in real life. Strategically, a tall humanoid figure would be an easy target for missiles, even dumb artillery. Physically, they'd run into the Square-Cube Law at a great enough size. So, the Real Robot Genre often tries to include some manner of Applied Phlebotinum that would make building-sized robots more reasonable.

See Motion-Capture Mecha for one of the more common techs. While the trope namer for Minovsky Physics was an example, not all examples of Mecha-Enabling Phlebotinum need be be so developed as to qualify for that trope. Many examples are very loosely science fictional, or even explicitly magic.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Aura Battler Dunbine: Aura Battlers can defy the square/cube law (though they're smaller than other examples anyways) because they're made using materials harvested from Byston Well's native square/cube law defying giant monsters.
  • Cannon God Exaxxion: The Humongous Mecha in this manga rely entirely on gravitational control to function, or even stand. The square-cube law is addressed and without said gravitational control, the mecha would buckle under their own weight. In-Universe, the gravity controlling technology is incredibly energy consuming so there is another Unobtanium energy source in the form of Dark Matter. Despite using an older-model robot, the titular mecha is so powerful because the heroes have a much larger store of Dark Matter, thus can use it more freely.
  • The Code Geass setting's advanced technology is all explained by the mineral sakuradite. As a radioactive material and room-temperature superconductor, it's used as both the fuel source and power grid for the Knightmare Frames.
  • Eureka Seven's mecha run on transparent light particles or 'trapars', which are particulates produced by the Scrub Coral that act like wave currents.
  • Most iterations of the Gundam franchise include Minovsky Particles that interfere with radar and advanced targeting systems, forcing combat to close ranges where mech agility makes them ideal, at minimum. Some also allow non-aerodynamic machines to fly.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The resident Kaiju have force fields that can soak nukes, so the Eva project developed cloned Angels with cockpits in their spines and bolted on enough armor to make them look like mecha.
  • Obsolete: The setting's Mini-Mecha are alien Black Box technology sold to humanity by a race of alien merchants, who do not care who they sell to as long as their price can be met. At the price of a metric tonne of limestone per unit (less than a hundred dollars on the open market), 'exoframes' are literally as cheap as dirt and the aliens seem to have no end of them. As such, exoframes are found practically everywhere in civilian use. Unusually, they're explicitly terrible against tanks, artillery or air support, and when converted for military use tend to be a sort of infantry assistance device for guerrilla warfare or special ops.
  • In Robotech, the setting's Transforming Mecha are explicitly based on the reverse-engineered technology of the SDF-1, the emponymous robotech. It has something to do with a magic flower that can be burned for near-limitless energy and warp spacetime (and be chewed to get high).
  • Averted in Stellvia of the Universe: there is no practical reason why the Infinity spaceship should be humanoid in shape. However, since it is given the center stage in humanity's greatest achievement, the Great Mission, its engineers decide to sink the extra costs into making it look like a human for the sheer symbolic value of it.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Mechs run on the heroes' Spiral Energy rather than the laws of physics — in the setting, Awesomeness Is a Force that can manifest galaxy-sized robots in sufficient concentrations.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne: Mechs, including the title one, run on petrified hearts of dead dragons.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Abraxas (Hrodvitnon) post-story official timeline, it's stated that Apex Cybernetics have used the skeleton of the dead Titanus Gojira in the Philippines as the endoskeleton for Kiryu. They're also trying to get the Hollow World's enigmatic energy source (here called Zohar) as a power source for the two Mechagodzillas, and although there's no Ghidorah skull in this fic's timeline, it's still implied that Apex have knowingly or unknowingly connected their main Mechagodzilla in Hong Kong to something that's related to Ghidorah.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: This version of Mechagodzilla is hit with a dose of reality, in that its systems and weapons use so much power that there literally isn't any power source in mankind's possession that can give the Mecha more than a couple minutes of power before being sucked dry (and even then, the Mecha's Proton Scream only works at 40% power during this time). Apex successfully get around this by infusing Mechagodzilla with a synthesized copy of the Hollow World's energy source, which enables the Mecha to operate at full power seemingly indefinitely, albeit with some unexpected side effects.
  • Iron Man Films: Tony Stark uses a miniature generator in his chest called the Arc Reactor to power his Powered Armor. Later versions of the armor had Arc Reactors built-in.
  • Pacific Rim partially accounts for the speed and reflexes of its Humongous Mecha by explaining that it requires two pilots to share the neural load through a mind-sharing mechanism known as the Drift. How they were able to build the mechs in the first place isn't elaborated on, but Fanon has concluded that the dead kaiju bodies were used in some way.
  • Transformers Film Series:


    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech, 'mechs depend on an artificial muscle tissue made from smart plastics called "myomer". Myomer is vastly more energy-efficient at converting reactor output into mechanical force than a conventional engine, letting 'mechs carry disproportionately heavier armour and weaponry at the same tonnage as a tracked vehicle while still being faster and more mobile. "Neurohelmets" use the pilot's own proprioception to keep the 'mech balanced. The square-cube law is still in effect but vastly reduced: 20 to 100 metric tons is the practical mass range for a battlemech, and heavier 100+ ton prototype designs tend to collapse under their own weight or simply sink into the ground. Powered Armor uses the same high-capacity power packs that make the series' man-portable laser rifles practical, allowing the armor to remain powered for hours without having to lug around a bulky engine.
  • In Stars Without Number, mechs prove an ideal platform for ground-based quantum chaff systems, shielding entire platoons from nukes and guided missiles.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Eldar use mechs of varying sizes constructed from wraithbone, a psychically reactive plastic. The humanoid form makes it easier for the pilot and/or the soul-stone controlling the machine to link with it and use it as if it were their own body.
    • The Titans used by the Imperium use a similar, though cruder neural interface, but they're mainly humanoid for propaganda reasons, showing the Imperium's reverence for the "holy human form".
    • Orky "Stompas" only avoid collapsing under their own weight thanks to the Orkz' gestalt psychic field, much like the rest of their technology. Although oddly enough, the stompas' bottom-heavy design makes them the most plausible of the setting's giant battlemechs.
    • While the Tau make heavy use of Mini-Mecha but dismissed reports of the Imperium's walking cathedrals as "ridiculous" until encountering them in the Damocles Crusade, at which point they started countering them with heavy bombers before grudgingly designing their own Titans.
    • Nearly all Titans are fitted with Void Shields or the equivalent, mitigating some of the "artillery bait" drawback.

    Video Games 

    Web Videos 
  • Isaac Arthur explains in "Giant Robots and Power Suits" how tanks perform better than Humongous Mecha in almost every measure but training time and crew size. Because a Motion-Capture Mecha could potentially put a battleship's worth of weaponry in the hands of a single minimally trained soldier, he suggests that a pacifistic civilization with rapid manufacturing capabilities might use mecha to rapidly build up a defense force.

    Western Animation