Judging an anime by it’s cover

Welcome, to the summer season! I will describe my experiences with the shows in detail after their third episodes, because I realized that writing “first impressions” after a single episode would be redundantly similar to my season preview, with barely anything more than guesses and hopes about their actual content. But there are already two shows, that proved to be noticeably different from what you could expect based on their promo picture. Unsurprisingly,  the rest of the internet didn’t notice this, and blindly tailored their later experiences to their initial assumptions. Thus, it is left to me to point out the obvious, and expose that people are being wrong on the Internet. Fortunately, the two cases follow the same logic, so I can explain them in one post:

Tari Tari is nothing like Hanasaku Iroha

Kokoro Connect is nothing like K-on! 

Yes, they have similar art styles. Kokoro Connect had the same person designing the characters as for K-on, (though the rest of the animation is very different), while Tari Tari has it’s whole animation team shared with Hanasaku Iroha. They look similar to each other, about as much as Joshiraku looks similar to Toradora,  or Natsuiro Kiseki to Index. Also, they have entirely different genres, plots, cast types, and characters.

Sure, you can find similarities between them, if you are selectively looking for these similarities. But if you are selectively looking for similarities, you can also phrase the plot of Evangelion to sound like Hamlet, or Bakemonogatari to sound like the Twilight saga. There is a TVTropes page for these kind of comparisons. While that page is just a joke, it’s surprisingly easy for people to believe these kind of connections. Once they get a shallow connection, like a similar character design, or news about the same person working in the staff, or some reason to portray the writers as unoriginal, you can always enlarge these random similarities to sound more important than they are, or to ignore the entirely different way they were presented.

Outside the anime fandom, this habit reached it’s peak with James Cameron’s Avatar, that was accused of having the same plot as Ferngully, Dune, Pocahontas, Dancing with Wolves, and several other series, to the point of plagiarism. Wow, apparently Pocahontas plagiarized Dune too?

Yes, Kokoro Connnect starts out with a school club of vaguely defined purpose. So does Love, Elections, and Chocolate, Haganai, Rinne no Lagrange, Yuru Yuri, Suzumiya Haruhi, and Higurashi. And they are just as completely different from K-on, as they are from each other. Kokoro Connect, for example, appears to start out as a mystery story, where the characters  are realistically incredulous about the phenomena that is happening to them, trying to logically verify it, and presumably continuing with trying to find it’s source.

The only reason to describe it as “starts out like K-on, but with body swapping and sex jokes”, is because K-on became ridiculously magnified in the eyes of the anime fandom. For some reason, that one 2009 show, that firmly followed a well-established genre, and reached moderately good popularity with it (though less sales than Code Geass, Nisemonogatari, or Fate/Zero, for example), really took the western online anime fandom by storm, got raised to Evangelion-ish heights as a controversial “masterpiece”, and got treated as the lens through which all anime must be interpreted, to the point that even stories that’s source was written before it, are being described as “K-on with x”. (I’m looking at you, Hyouka). A few years from now, probably we will even describe Evangelion as “K-on but with mecha and psychological horror”.

Compared to that, the case of comparing Tari Tari to Hanasaku Iroha sounds almost reasonable. Well, at least their design really look similar, not even just the character designs but the coloring, the scenery, and the image quality as well, and the protagonist is another genki girl. Except that it is mainly a school story, while Hanasaku Iroha almost completely left out the school setting, that it had no romance until now, while Iroha was  framed by a romance setup, and that it’s shifting between various protagonist-like characters while the cast of Hanasaku Iroha only existed in their relation to Ohana.

Well, obviously the studio chose this style intentionally, so they probably wanted to highlight a similar atmosphere, but that alone doesn’t make it true. Many studios and publishers are trying to sell their product as something else  than what it is, but I would expect any reviewer to look beyond that.

3 responses to “Judging an anime by it’s cover

  1. Nicely said, I have to admit the whole “show B looks a little like show A therefore THEY ARE EXACTLY THE SAME!!!” nonsense often irritates me!

  2. K-ON is more popular than Nise, Code Geass, or Fate/Zero during their heydays.

    It’s safe to say it reached high popularity actually.

  3. “Dances with Wolves in space” is a totally accurate way to describe James Cameron’s Avatar. The plots are identical but with blue cat people instead of Indians. When people use K-On! as a reference, it’s generally because the other work is also a slow-paced moe slice of life series with no real plot that takes place with a small circle of girls in middle school or high school (YuruYuri, Lucky Star, A Channel, Acchi Kocchi, or even Azumanga Daioh or Hidamari Sketch).
    (Incidentally, I wasn’t aware anyone thought K-On! was good.)

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