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Multi-Armed Multitasking

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Been up since 6:30, two days crowded into one
Put away the dinner dishes and my work still isn't done
If I had three arms, I could do what I need to do
There's too much going on to just get by with two
Trout Fishing in America, "Two Brains"

You look in the mirror and see three heads looking back at yourselves with five eyes and seven arms and think to yourselves, how do we septo-wield? Or better yet, how can we write our book, cradle our baby, and make paper airplanes at the same time? Practice, that's how.

It is rarely explained how users of this trope have the coordination to pull all this off in the first place, since normal humans typically lack the skill to perform two different tasks with their hands. Justified in the case of extremely non-human entities which may have evolved to use their excess limbs in many different tasks at once with ease.

Please note this has surprisingly little to do with Excuse Me While I Multitask, if you're thinking about wielding weapons with many arms you still need some form of Multiarmed Multitasking; it just belongs in Multi-Armed and Dangerous. If your extra limbs are for walking, they belong in Spider Limbs or possibly Handy Feet. And then there's if it's just a Vertebrate with Extra Limbs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Squid Girl, Ika appears to specialize in this with her tentacle hair.
  • Franken Fran oftentimes attaches her head to a special multi-armed body in order to perform particularly complex surgery.
  • Briareos Hecatonchires of Appleseed fame possesses a cyborg body that includes the ability to control more limbs then he actually has, to the point of apparently running a aircraft carrier by himself, but is mostly shown using multiple guns in his Landmate.
  • Umba, Alita’s engineer in the Motorball arc of Battle Angel Alita, has a specialised robotic harness that features 20 arms, all of which he can control independently and perform the work of 10 engineers simultaneously. He uses them to replace all four of Alita’s limbs, damaged in a crash, in under six minutes.
  • Science teacher Ken Tatara in Nurse Hitomi's Monster Infirmary has four arms, which he puts to good use (often gesturing with one or two arms while lighting a cigarette with the others).
  • Ayakashi Triangle: The Gogyosen fight with a remote avatar that all five members control together. It can grow four extra skeletal pairs of arms to perform the hand signs for five times at once, either separately or together for more power.

    Comic Books 
  • In Ironwood, first mate Tif makes full use of all four of her hands while having a threesome with a djinn and a crewmate.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Doctor Octopus is very good at using his tentacles to do this. According to the most reliable source, he could use his tentacles in combination with his regular hands to do one complex task and two simple ones at the same time. And there were also several stories where the "complex task" was a heated battle.
    • The 2019 Spider-Ham mini has Ham meet Parker Peterman, an alternate universe Spider-Man who grew six arms and developed a hobby for each set that he does all at once. Even when he's rescuing Spider-Ham he's using a spare set to carve a wooden duck.

    Fan Works 
  • There was once a Mortal Kombat fan fic where Sheeva was driving somewhere with the heroes, and had two arms on the wheel, one on the transmission, and one out the window (and no, it doesn't mention how she learned to drive).
  • Zany To The Max
    • Sekoila Zarner has four arms and four legs, and she is a great example of this trope.
    • Usually subverted with Wacka and Wakka. They have two arms each, so if the arms on Wacka's side are doing one thing, and the arms on Wakka's side are doing another, it doesn't count. However, if one of Wakka's (or Wacka's, it doesn't matter) arms is holding a book, while her other arm is holding a glass of water, it does count.
  • Briefly shown in an Oversaturated World sidestory. Ditzy is outside her universe and sees Sunset Shimmer holding the thing together with twelve arms, while using an additional four to heal the cracks in reality. Sunset also grows an additional head just to talk to her without getting distracted.
  • From the Parody Fic B'Elannarella
    Sprouting a dozen extra pairs of holographic arms, the Doctor launched into a fierce rendition of Das Axtzeichen im Rücken des Bären by Netonostridarimachii, a piece that could normally only be played by an entire orchestra of Tonarian octopoids with multiple personality disorder.

    Films — Animation 
  • Kamaji in Spirited Away operates the bathhouse boiler room. He has six spidery arms, which he uses to multitask: reaching into the hundreds of herb cabinets, pouring boiling water, grinding potions with his yagen (related to a mortar a pestle, but using a wheel in a narrow trough) and responding to wooden tags on ropes signalling requests from the bathhouse above.
  • Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Celia book a reservation at a Japanese food restaurant to have a romantic dinner. The chef is a multi-armed monster who uses the extra limbs to prepare sushi at record speed.
  • Monsters University:A multi-armed monster is seen cramming for his final exams by holding up several textbooks and reading from them, and another is seen drinking several cups of coffee to stay alert.
  • The Princess and the Frog: During the la Boeufs' masquerade party, a guy in an octopus costume uses the tentacles to hold glasses of wine. When he sees a dog in a mermaid costume chasing two frogs wearing a disembodied giraffe's head, he looks baffled and pours out all his drinks at once.
  • Treasure Planet: Long John Silver isn't multiarmed but still manages to pull off this trope in the kitchen, thanks to his multi-purpose cybernetic arm with little armlets.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • In Life, the Universe and Everything, Arthur's extreme Unknown Rival Agrajag has built a Temple of Hate devoted to him, the centrepiece of which is a giant statue of Arthur with multiple arms. He discovers that each one of them depicts one of the many, many times he has (unwittingly) caused the death of one of Agrajag's former incarnations.
    • Subverted with Zaphod Beeblebrox, who gave himself a third arm and then does nothing at all with it. (Except, supposedly, ski-box.)
  • A four-armed One-Man Band appears in the Discworld We R Igors Diary.
  • Vyr Cossont in The Hydrogen Sonata had an extra pair of arms added so she could play the fiendishly complicated instrument required for T. C. Vilabier's 26th String-Specific Sonata For An Instrument Yet To Be Invented, catalogue number MW 1211 (aka, the Hydrogen Sonata).
  • Xandri Corelel: The Ongkoarrat, who resemble six-legged sloth bears, can program a computer and knit a sweater at the same time.
  • One of the later books in the Land of Oz series, Handy Mandy in Oz, features the adventures of a seven-armed goat herder named Mandy who comes from Mt. Mern, where everyone had seven arms. Early on she explains how she uses her arms for different tasks.
    "This iron hand...I use for ironing, lifting hot pots from the stove and all horrid sort of work; this leather hand I keep for beating rugs, dusting, sweeping and so on; this wooden hand I use for churning and digging in the garden; these two red rubber hands for dishwashing and scrubbing, and my two fine white hands I keep for holding and braiding my hair."
  • In Inventions Of Professor Vagner by Aleksandr Belyaev the titular professor uses only two hands, but actually trained himself to multitask with his two brain lobes and two body halves. By looking in two directions at once with different eyes, dancing polka and waltz simultaneously with different legs and so on. At one point he uses his right arm and right eye to demonstrate his research to a journalist, while his left arm and left eye are busy writing an article.
  • The Mermaids (2001) trilogy has Octavius the octopus. He's first introduced using two arms to push aside the curtain of his cave, two to wash his cooking pot, one to hold a plate of food, and three to eat. In Rani's Sea Spell, Rani and Kai meet Octavius's sister Flora, who styles the sisters' hair, using some of her arms as curlers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Pilot from Farscape. One episode notes that having the mental capacity for Pilot's specific brand of multitasking is very uncommon and more important than the multiple arms themselves, because Pilot is required to manage and regulate dozens on-board functions at once.
  • The short-lived 1970s sci-fi sitcom Quark featured Interface, a four-armed alien woman who worked as an intergalactic switchboard operator connecting calls between ships.
  • Kamen Rider Fourze has the Hand Switch, which equips Fourze with an extra arm (attached to his leg) that's outright stated to be for this. While he works on solving a math problem, it disassembles a bicycle. Thus far its not been shown to have any type of combat potential.
  • The 1979 pilot for sci-fi sitcom Starstruck features Dart, a four-armed alien creature who is the drummer in a band aboard a space station. Based on the pilot, if the show had been picked up for series a big chunk of the humor surrounding this character would be him handling multiple tasks at once.

  • Played with in Trout Fishing in America's "Two Brains", in which the narrator proposes growing extra legs and arms (and a second brain) to keep up with everyday life, so he can do more at once without being stressed out. The first verse is quoted at the top of the page.
  • "Who Taught These Idiots to Drive?" presents the image of the jackass at the wheel occupied so:
    One hand dials his cell phone
    One hand combs his hair
    One hand's on the radio
    And one is in the air

    Myths & Religion 
  • Hindu Mythology several gods (including Shiva and Vishnu) are usually depicted with multiple arms each holding symbolic instruments like scales and scythes and swords.
  • Buddhism several Buddhas like Avalokitesvara and Yamantaka have multiple arms and sometimes tools or weapons. Yamantaka for example is a wrathful protector thus his many arms hold from weapons to actual skulls and dead bodies of enemies.


    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS has the Multiple Arms advantage available for player characters, but you also need to buy special coordination to use them fully- otherwise they are only good for holding things, not performing more than one task at a time.
    • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Ananasi werespiders can take this ability, though it's a fairly high-level spell, since it requires a fair deal of mental skill.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Techpriests often add an extra limb that's practically an industrial tool on a robotic arm. They often add on tentacle-like mechandendrites which can serve many roles, including manipulation. And then with their practically unlimited options for body modification, they can take on more traditional takes of this trope.
    • When it comes to Chaos and natural mutations, extra limbs isn't common, but it's far from unheard of.
  • One of the Shticks in Toon is the Coat of Arms, a device that produces a practically unlimited number of mechanical arms with gadgets on them that let you do multiple things at once.
  • One early Dragon article about how many actions a Dungeons & Dragons PC can reasonably perform per round cited a player suggesting that their PC would draw a weapon, hold up a shield, drink a potion, and with their free hand do something else. The article quips that unless the PC in question happens to be a six-armed Type V (a.k.a. marilith) demon, this isn't reasonable.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons monster called "Spellweavers" have six arms, which are explicitly able to perform multiple functions simultaneously. In particularly, they can cast multiple spells simultaneously per round, something few if any other creatures in the game can do.
    • The six-armed half-woman half-snake demons called Mariliths is also normally depicted wielding six weapons simultaneously. They have their own Demon Princess named Shaktari, who has eight arms and is correspondingly more dangerous in combat.

    Video Games 
  • In Magrunner Dark Pulse, the six-armed Gamaji is the main character's mentor and can be seen in-game manipulating multiple data screens and holding a cup of coffee at once.
  • In the Mortal Kombat franchise, with its four-armed Shokan race, there are two examples of this: Sheeva, the Action Girl Shokan, can pose with her upper arms in Mortal Kombat 9, while her lower arms clap(by using her opponent's severed arms and hands, instead of her own): and in Mortal Kombat 11, Sheeva uses her four arms to play musical glasses as her Friendship. Another, non-Shokan character, the Kollector( who, as a Naknadan, has six arms), can use two of his arms to examine the pieces he rips off his opponent's bodies and stuffs into his bag, while at the same time shredding his opponent with his other arms, and for his Friendship, he becomes a One-Man Band.
  • The pipa ghost from The Rewinder has three arms, and uses all three when playing his pipa (a Chinese instrument similar to the lute. His third arm turns out to be detachable though, in a cutscene where he stops playing and pulls one of his two left arms to be put aside.
  • Subverted in the Pokémon franchise with the four armed pokemon Machamp. Its pokedex entry specifically states that "Any delicate or complicated work causes its arms to get tangled up".

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Played with and subverted — and then played straight for good measure. One of the mercs, a guy named Andy, belongs to a race of four-armed aliens. During his initial interview, he bragged about quad-wielding handguns, but Thurl just pointed out that he still only had two eyes, so no matter how many weapons he's got, he'll only hit one target. There has been incidents where he HAS used it, though — including wielding a two-handed assault-rifle and two handguns at the same time — but it's been purely for intimidation-value. Or sometimes just for fun.
    • Schlock himself has demonstrated on multiple occasions that he can not only form extra hands when needed, but also use them quite effectively. The fact that he can have multiple eyes (if he can get hold of them) means he can aim at multiple targets.
  • Spinnerette:
    • Spinnerette uses her six arms to knit — all at once and while using silk she produces herself.
    • Later on, Sahira copies Spinnerette's arms in order to clean her apartment faster. She's then seen to clean 6 different surfaces at once.
  • At Arm's Length:
    • When not fighting evil, Ally, Reece and Sheila are not above using all four arms to cut corners in mundane activities.
    • The entire Enchanter race, which is naturally four-armed, is built around this trope.
  • Snap Fahrenheit, the titular main character of How to Raise Your Teenage Dragon, is a four-armed dragon.
  • Lakshmi in Brat-Halla is based on the Hindu goddess of the same name which gives her the requisite four arms. Puts them to good use on a date with Loki.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Cio's Coat of Arms gives her two extra sets of limbs, which, in her first appearance, she's using to maintain the accounts for the Den of Iniquity where she works. They also give a huge edge to her Paper Master magic.

    Web Original 
  • An episode of Rooster Teeth Shorts involves Geoff having additional arms surgically added so he can communicate over more social networks at once.

    Western Animation 
  • Celebrity chef Elzar in Futurama. His species was given multiple arms specifically as a Season 1 joke for how cooking shows go too fast for viewers to cook along. The DVD commentary mentions that the animators went out of their way to have each arm work independently rather than have each arm on either side move in the same way.
  • SpongeBob does this taking care of the baby scallop, probably other times as well.
  • Squiddly Diddly did this sometimes. (In fact one promo shows him playing several musical instruments)
  • In The Simpsons, a cutaway shot of the Earth shows a vaguely Hindu-esque being frantically pressing buttons in the core, apparently to keep the world working. He pauses briefly to wipe his forehead with one of his hands and sigh with exhaustion.
  • One episode of Dragon Tales featured a dragon with six limbs running a concession stand.
  • In an episode of Arthur, the titular character has to clean a room, and his dad tells him "Many hands make light work." He imagines it literally. Buster does the same later in the episode.
  • Spydra in Gadget Boy & Heather does this at times in a few episodes, making full use of her six arms simultaneously.
  • Several fusions in Steven Universe has four or more arms, which prove to be quite useful. For instance, Opal (fusion of Amethyst and Pearl) uses two of her arms to hold Steven and the other two to do backflips in her debut episode.
  • In the cancelled series Stripperella, a supervillainess with six arms pilots a blimp all on her own, with two hands on the wheel and the remaining four on switches and buttons. She also utilised six pistols at one go in the earlier portion of the episode, allowing her to use them as a makeshift machine gun.
  • Gravedale High features Miss Webster, a six-armed teacher who frequently made use of all of her arms during class.
  • The Rick and Morty episode "Raising Gazorpazorp" features the Gazorpazorpians, with brutish males and human-like females with six arms, four growing from the torso and two on the side of the head.
  • Invoked in an episode of Kaeloo, where Mr. Cat experiments on Quack Quack in a laboratory so that he can do this.