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Hammerspace (also known as malletspace) is a fan-envisioned extradimensional, instantly accessible storage area in fiction, which is used to explain how animated, comic, and game characters can produce objects out of thin air.
The phenomenon which later became known as "Hammerspace" has been occurring in animation for many years. Inexplicable production of items dates back to the very beginning of animated shorts and was a fairly common occurrence during the golden age of animation. Warner Bros. cartoon characters are particularly well known for often pulling all sorts of things — guns, disguises, bombs, anvils, mallets— from behind their backs or just offscreen. However, this phenomenon was mostly just left to suspension of disbelief. Only recently have fans created a pseudo-explanation to explain (albeit jokingly) the phenomenon.
The term "Hammerspace" itself originates from a gag common in certain anime and manga. A typical example would be when a male character would anger or otherwise offend a female character, who would proceed to produce, out of thin air, an oversized wooden rice mallet (saizuchi) and hit him on the head with it in an exaggerated manner. The strike would be purely for comic effect, and would not have any long-lasting effects. The term was largely popularized first by fans of Urusei Yatsura, and later of Ranma ½. It is believed by some that the term "Hammerspace" itself was coined after Ranma ½'s character Akane Tendo due to her tendency to produce large hammers from nowhere.
Another series that may have led to the term is City Hunter. One of the lead characters in City Hunter—Kaori—makes extensive use of the "transdimensional hammers" as they are sometimes called, as they are one of the two main running gags in the series; the other is the extreme lecherousness of the other main character—Ryo—which almost invariably leads to the use of said hammers. The City Hunter hammers also require more explaining in terms of storage, as they are often considerably larger than the characters themselves, and thus more likely to inspire questions like "where did she get that from!?". At the very least, City Hunter predates Ranma by two years, and already had an extensive fanbase.
Another series that made extensive use of hammerspace was Kodomo no Omocha, where the mother of the main character would pull toy hammers of varying sizes to tap her daughter on the head to forge breaks in her ranting and offer a chance to glean understanding and wisdom.
Hammerspace in games
The theory of Hammerspace can also be applied to many video games, as game mechanics often defy those of the real world: for instance, a character might be able to carry a sword larger than himself without any sign of it before use, and inventory capabilities are commonly implausible. This is particularly visible in traditional adventure games and RPGs. Early first person shooters tend to have the player character carry an entire arsenal of weapons (with full ammunition) without any visible drawback such as loss of pace or fatigue.
Many humorous adventures make gags on space in items inventory. In Space Quest series (III and VI), its protagonist Roger Wilco crams a full-sized ladder into his pocket. In Simon The Sorceror, Simon similarly obtains a ladder at one point, which he stores in his hat. In The Secret of Monkey Island, as a recurring gag, Guybrush Threepwood usually barely fits an oversized item in his clothes, from a 6 foot long q-tip to a huge idol's head statue, or even a monkey (which is shown moving underneath his coat).
Although there are numerous examples from the genre Hammerspace usage is not just limited to adventure games. In The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, the sims make extensive use of Hammerspace, regularly pulling items out of their back pockets which could not possibly fit there. Examples include rakes, hairdryers, watering cans and bags of flour. In addition they have seemingly limitless personal inventories in which they can carry around almost anything, from a mobile phone to a sports car without actually having anywhere to store it. These items are also occasionally pulled from the back pocket when used in game (as in the case of mobile phones). Although both games are supposed to mimic reality in many ways it does still retain cartoon like elements and hammerspace was probably implemented to prevent sims having to trek to a storage shed/closet/drawer etc. every time they wanted to use a certain item, something which would no doubt have been both boring for the player and impractical in terms of gameplay. Similarly, in the sandbox game Minecraft, players can hold several thousands tons of gold (the densest real-life material that exists in the game) in a hyperspace inventory, having no in-game effects, such as Slowness or loss of hunger, as if an empty inventory was the same as a full one.
Television commercials over the years have used hammerspace:
- A Kit-Kat ad campaign from the late 80s involved a man and a woman in two separate commercials deciding they wanted something to eat. The woman pulls food items out of her purse, while the man pulls them out of his pants pocket, and the items they pull out before pulling out a Kit-Kat bar were items that, in real life, couldn't easily be stored there (i.e. the woman pulls a fully intact birthday cake out of her purse, while the man pulls a large hamburger out of his pocket).
- The character of Harpo Marx is often seen retrieving large amounts of items from his seemingly bottomless coat pockets.
- The term Hammerspace is often used synonymously with magic satchel; however, Hammerspace is an actual extra dimension where items are stored, whereas a magic satchel uses magic to either contain these items or to access Hammerspace itself. This is similar to the way The Doctor (from Doctor Who) uses sufficiently advanced technology in his space-time machine the TARDIS to achieve the same results.
- More often than not, non-animated occurrences in film or television are explained as a plot hole rather than Hammerspace access, and dismissed due to suspension of disbelief. Examples include the live-action Highlander TV series, where the sword-wielding Immortals often have their weapons readily available despite their lack of a suitable container or article of clothing in which to carry a concealed sword.
- "Hammerspace". http://tvtropes.org. Retrieved 5/9/2013.
- Fix, Charlene (2013). "Harpo Marx as Trickster". Google Books (McFarland & Company). p. 53. ISBN 9781476601496. Retrieved 11 January 2014. "The contents of Harpo's pockets go beyond what is physically possible, thus moving him into trickster's realm, which is supra-normal or the realm of the surreal."
- Universal comedy anime rules. Retrieved on October 22, 2006.
- Hidden Objects: The Hammerspace Phenomenon. Retrieved on October 23, 2006.
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