Three Excellent Reasons For Embracing Repetition In Anime

Feature Reasons

Recently, well not so recently given its been a few weeks – what counts as recently? – Kapodaco posted some of his thoughts about how trends effect the quality of Japanese media. While there were many thought provoking points my brain latched on to the idea of repetition as being seen as a negative. And this is something that seems to be a fairly accepted point of view by a lot of viewers that something being the ‘same’ or having the ‘same story’ as something else somehow makes it a lesser work or less interesting.

I’m not actually going to tell people they can’t feel that way. Honestly, if you don’t like watching the same story line over and over, there’s little that will change your mind. There’s also plenty of people who never rewatch anything feeling once is enough. While I find that strange given I grow to love things more on repeated rewatches and find comfort in familiar favourites, it isn’t as though I don’t kind of get where they are coming from. Besides we all enjoy anime for different reasons and as long as we’re all having fun we should celebrate.


But it did make me want to write about the reasons why a telling the same story, again and again in slightly different variations, is not necessarily a bad thing and can in fact lead to something truly good. If all the years of studying variations on the ‘hero’s journey’ can finally be put to some good use here, who am I to walk away from that?

Reason One: New Viewers

This might seem cynical and kind of like it defeats the purpose of my own argument, but from an industry point of view this one makes sense. The average age of an anime viewer isn’t that high and every year new future fans stumble upon anime and some move on in their lives and away from the fandom. While there are some of us who are all about anime for life, it still isn’t exactly the standard fan model. As a result, recycling a plot or story structure is actually a pretty good idea.


If we just look at sports anime, there are many brilliant sports anime I never watched because I never used to watch them. Then three years ago I tried one that just happened to be streaming weekly and enjoyed it, then took on a reader’s recommendation and watched Haikyuu, then Yuri on Ice happened, and now I kind of watch sports anime (two this season in point of fact). The story lines are literally all the same with very minor variations, yet for me this is a genre I’ve not explored all that far and so while I can see familiar patterns from story to story, it doesn’t feel stale to me whereas someone who had watched more older sports shows might very well find the current options a little lacking.


New fans coming into the anime family through new anime that they love before they move on to more new anime or explore some of the older titles is certainly a good thing. It really doesn’t help the overall community when someone tells a new fan that they only like such-and-such because they’ve never seen whatever. Yet this happens all the time. Sorry, I’m not a new fan and I don’t only like the original Sword Art Online because I never watched Log Horizon. I’m going to be honest, I just don’t like Log Horizon and have never made it all the way through the first season. I liked the original season of Sword Art Online because I find it cool and exciting and I enjoy the characters.

But the point here – getting back on track – is that telling a similar story in a new anime will bring new fans in and that’s a good thing.

Reason Two: Refining a Model

While many stories are told and many will follow familiar paths one thing we should remember is that these paths have been forged through centuries of trial and error. Okay, maybe girl club anime have been refined through a couple of decades of trial and error, or maybe such stories always existed but no one felt the need to preserve them over the centuries… okay, going off on another tangent and stopping now.


But the bottom line is that while it feels like little is added in each minor variation, over time these small changes and trends, accumulating through bodies of work, lead to larger overall changes to the basic narrative. We don’t really notice it when just looking at the seasonal anime because from one season to the next the change is generally minuscule but when you then look back at anime from a decade ago the differences start to become more noticeable. Whether it is in art style, character tropes, variations in how jokes are delivered, or even the motivation of the protagonist, small things begin to shift and what people consider the norm moves without anyone even noticing it.


Now whether or not you like the trend that things slowly move in will really depend on your individual tastes as compared to the majority and the industry as a whole, but for the most part we see things that are less preferred slowly faded out and things that people like being driven to the forefront. This couldn’t happen if stories in anime were one-and-done. Not to mention we’d rapidly run out of stories to tell.

Certainly the counter-argument to this one is valid. Not all changes or iterations are value adding or an improvement. Some are a decided step back. However, that is also part of the refinement process, as are leaps forward, back, sideways, and going right back to basics and the generic story structure. Watching it play out is kind of like seeing history in motion even if the vast majority of it will swiftly be forgotten.

Reason Three: Playing With Audience Expectations

When an audience is kept totally on edge by being presented with something they aren’t familiar with or comfortable with, it is difficult to really manipulate their emotions. They are always at full awareness and so the basic narrative patterns where rising to an emotional climax is kind of supposed to kick in, just can’t. Not to mention a lot of people just don’t feel relaxed and comfortable watching something that is truly experimental or defying standard story models.


But when you introduce a trite set-up for a story we’ve seen before with characters we are familiar with that is when you have room to play. You can introduce an element or two that are a bit different from the expected or take that sub-plot in a direction we didn’t see coming. Wadded in amongst the pillowy comfort of a narrative we’ve seen before, the audience feels secure with minor variations – depending of course on what they are.

Madoka Magica used this to solid advantage by having a magical girl anime where the main character didn’t become a magical girl until the end. For all that people point to the death and darkness as the part of Madoka that was different, I found even Sailor Moon has some pretty dark themes under all the sparkles. Madoka’s true subversion was in not having the main character make a decision or a transformation until the very end of the series. However, with so many other familiar magical girl tropes this element didn’t feel jarring to audiences.


Then again, Zenitsu from Demon Slayer is a character who kind of plays with our expectations, exaggerates the cowardly hero trope to extreme levels, and still manages to give him some majorly impressive moments in some real pinches, and yet that character rubbed me wrong from start to finish. However, he really did divide audiences. Some loved him, some hated him, but everyone who watched Demon Slayer certainly remembered him. He really made an impact.

Should We Strive For Originality
Or Are Repeats Just Fine?

In truth, only the individual can answer this question for themselves. I love an old story told in a new way, seeing a pattern I know played out much the same, played with some slight variations, or just kind of played around with even if the end result is pretty messy and ultimately doesn’t work. However, this is my preference and I’ll happily keep watching isekai stories as they come out, loving some, dropping others, and tolerating the mass of mediocre titles that just coast along on the success of the few that grab the crowd.


But regardless of whether you like repeats or not, a story isn’t bad because it is similar to another. Certainly it may be weaker in other elements or maybe you won’t personally enjoy it as much because you are looking for something different, but those fans who like it, for what it is, genuinely do like it and should celebrate what they like about it.

Though, Kapodaco did make some very good points about predictability, companies just playing it safe, and the death of interest.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Friday’s Feature: 3 Reasons That Bunny Girl Anime is Worth Trying This Season

Bunny Girl Senpai - Episode 1 - Mai Sakurajima and Sakuta Azusagawa

While it has probably become apparent from my episodic coverage of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, this absurdly titled school-romance-comedy thing with a bit of the supernatural thrown in has really managed to grab my attention in a season packed with titles that I was greatly looking forward to. The anime I took one look at the promotional artwork and the title, rolled my eyes and clicked start on episode one expecting to dislike, drop mid-way through the first episode and maybe write a snarky first impressions post of ended up sucking me write in and forced me to pay attention to it. Then over the first three episodes is proceeded to tell a very endearing, if slightly emotionally overwrought, story before episode four transitioned us fairly solidly into a new arc that has enough promise to make me believe that maybe this anime is going to maintain its consistently high standard.

Bunny Girl Senpai - promotional image
Though if you are expecting Mai to remain in Bunny Girl costume, you are probably out of luck.

So other than the fact that I like it, why do I actually think you should try it (assuming you haven’t already)?

01. The two characters we primarily follow during the first three episodes, Sakuta Azusagawa and Mai Sakurajima, are individually both fairly ordinary characters but when thrown together they have some incredible chemistry and the dialogue flows between them in a way that is almost mesmerising. Both characters like to verbally push their conversational partner but exchanges between the two are almost light-hearted sparring matches with each one making sure not to miss their beat and working to score points off the other.

Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 2

Now I wouldn’t actually say the dialogue is natural sounding as both characters pull off some retorts in a split second that most people would take at least a moment to frame. They are also very big on discussing things like the ‘atmosphere’ of the school and how people are perceived and while this is contextually appropriate it doesn’t exactly lend itself to sounding natural. But then again, that isn’t really what this anime is looking for. Everything about the situation the characters are found in is a gross exaggeration of reality and so the dialogue sounding that cut above what the average teens would discuss fits perfectly with the ideas this story is choosing to delve into.

02. And on that note, the basic premise of this story is pretty great. It isn’t original. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer had an invisible girl (and it wasn’t original then), made so by being ignored by her peers, so the concepts at work here about rumours and hearsay having an impact on the way reality is perceived isn’t breaking new ground. It doesn’t need to. The concept is still fascinating and it isn’t the over-ploughed ground of the isekai or high school club anime where cute girls/boys do cute/silly things. There’s plenty to explore with this concept and the first arc covered over episodes 1 – 3 clearly demonstrated that this anime has a firm grip on its writing and pacing to do a decent job of exploring the issues at hand without dragging them out or rushing to a hasty conclusion.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senapi Episode 3

It also makes me wonder what else will be explored and whether things will come together in the end or if each situation is just going to be a stand-alone arc and either option could be fine provided they continue to deliver stories like the first one.

03. Finally, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai knows how to ride the audiences’ emotions. Admittedly, those who dislike overt emotional manipulation may find it a little twee but if you strap in for the ride and just go with it, this anime will take you through the whole array of human emotions having you smile or laugh at one line of dialogue before plunging you into introspection and then we’ll transition into being contemplative, annoyed, or even really sad or embarrassed and these transitions feel perfectly natural while watching the episode (largely because we’re kind of riding along with Sakuta’s emotions as the story unfolds).

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 3

While I won’t declare this anime perfection (just watch some of the running animations and I’m still kind of scratching my head about the scene where Sakuta kicks that girl in the butt after she asked him too) I will definitely say this is an anime worth giving a go to this season and so far the ride has been great. While I’m not a huge fan of scores, this one is currently sitting third for the season on MAL beaten only by JoJo and Fairy Tail that both have massive brand recognition and it has come out ahead of SAO and the two isekai entries of Slime and Goblin Slayer.

For a show that had almost no buzz prior to beginning, it has definitely made an impact on viewers and while jumping on a bandwagon isn’t a great reason to watch an anime either, there are some really good reasons why this anime might be worth your time.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 3

I’d love to know your thoughts on Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai so if you’ve watched any of it so far I’d love to know what you’ve thought (no spoilers if you’ve read the source, please).

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James


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