The question is self-explanatory. Why does all Japanese animation look exactly the same? Doesn’t anybody have any imagination over there? Even the comic books have that same look. Isn’t there at least one artist over there who can come up with a different drawing style?
I find the sameness so annoying and monotonous that I basically can’t enjoy any of it.
Popularity, probably. They’ve created an idea in the mind of the Japanese and Japanophiles of what anime looks like, and they don’t want to mess with success. Even within that look, though, there is a lot of variation. I can point out different shows’ styles, for example.
There’s more variety than in American comic books (if you compare the mass market spectrum.)
But variety really isn’t very good when you’re talking about animation. When you’re animating something, the faster you can do it, the better. Having certain similarities makes this easier when you’ve got a limited supply of animation talent.
Noses and eyes, in particular, are a pain to draw perfectly from all angles. Disney included, pretty much everyone tries to get around this if they aren’t going for absolute realism. In this respect, American comics are rather impressive; they do show fully globular noses and eye-shaped eyes.
It should be pointed out, though, that most American comic books only have two bodies, Male and Female, and it’s just coloring and hair that differentiate them. If you look at a lineup of characters for an anime, each character will have lots of minor differences.
“The look” comes from Osamu Tezuka, father of anime and manga. It’s popular because he was awesome. And it’s not all exactly the same. I can understand how you feel that way, though. I think all of the American computer animated features from the last few years look the same. It’s probably like how passively racist people think all black people look the same . . . when it comes right down to it I really just don’t care about most of those computer animated movies and I bet you don’t care much for anime.
Picked up a comic book in the last 25 years or so? This was largely true until around the '80s, but things are much different these days. There are tons of different artists out there trying to make their own style stand out instead of following company guildelines on how each character should look and be proportioned.
Maybe it’s because the Japanese style of caricature is so different from Western style cartoons. If you haven’t been exposed to a lot of anime and manga, the only thing you really notice about it is that it looks weird (giant, sparkly eyes, tiny nose and mouth, funky hair) and you wouldn’t be able to pick out the stylistic differences between different artists. Once you start reading manga and watching anime, your brain gets accustomed to the style and you start to notice that some eyes are bigger and sparklier than others, etc.
Maybe it also has something to do with collectivist Asian culture. The Japanese value conformity a bit more than Americans and Europeans. A manga artist may feel more compelled to keep his characters looking more like the “standard” Japanese style, whereas an American artist might actually try to develop an individual look that sets him apart from other artists.
For the same reason that all Japanese people look exactly the same. Which is to say, they only look the same because you’re looking for the wrong things to differentiate them.
The animation is often choppy because its cheap. Japan produces cartoons at the rate America produces sit-coms. Just as sit-coms reduce cost by having a limited number of sets and camera positions, Japanese cartoons reduce cost by having a limited number of frames, leading to that choppy look. High end Japanese animation does not have this choppiness.
Unfortunately it’s not just the animation, either. A lot of mangaka suffer from the Only Six Faces syndrome because they have to churn out a chapter a week. While each artist has a fairly unique style, at first glance a lot of the characters do look rather samey.
As a budding artist myself, I find it very tempting to let wardrobe and hairstyle distinguish my characters, but as I’ve been able to flesh them out more and nail down their unique points, it’s become a lot easier to draw an unambiguous design for all of them.
I remember, after watching Robotech, then Arcadia of My Youth, and then some other anime, thinking, “wow, Rick Hunter gets around!” Or maybe it was his brother or something. But yeah, when your aesthetic is so formulaic (big eyes, tiny mouth and nose, brooding expression, LOTS OF HAIR GEL!) you can only come up with so much variation.
You begin to notice difference after you get accustomed, for example I could probably pick out from a sample of one-hundred (exaggerating of course) which one Akira Toriyama Directed/Drew. For example, look at Blue Dragon and Dragonball and tell me you can’t draw specific character parallels just by looking at the art. Now compare those two to Death Note and notice the less-wacky designs, L is the only one slightly out of place and he’s more disheveled than looking like he fell into a vat of hair gel. Then you can look at Cowboy Bebop and (probably) Vampire Hunter D to see what looks more like a fusion of Japanese and Western styles. Now look at Rave Master and Fairy Tail (same artist) and notice the somewhat lanky, oddly proportioned characters characters (you can also see this with One Piece to a degree with the females).
Yes, many main themes are the same (emphasis on the eyes for example), but when you get into it you can really start to pinpoint styles.
I defy you to confuse them for each other, or for “typical” manga style.
Now, there is a tendency to take some of the sketchier work & make it more conventional for anime. And there used to be, say, a very strong Tatsunoko house style (much as Don Bluth has a consistent style). But really, it’s not all exactly the same. There are similarities in a significant proportion of stuff made in the same time frame, much as there are basic similarities in art direction between Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty & Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby-Doo.
Because drawing styles usually follow “schools”. Only, instead of just a bunch of people, the modern Japanese school of comics and animation have got thousands of followers. Schools are determined by:
-Influence: They grow up mimicking the same artists and each other, not only on characterization or backgrounds but even in their narrative.
-Tools: They mostly use the same kind of pens to ink the comics, the same paper and are more effectively published on similar formats (Many small pages that form a very hastily produced book) and animation studios also follow the same time tested techniques. This makes it all tend to homogenization.
-Market: In Japan, artists are not there just to express their feelings and experiment, they are competing with a bunch of others to sell as much as possible. Whatever sells, is fiercely adopted, and once it becomes standard the audience grows used to the style and rejects innovation. A vicious cycle, if you will, but undoubtily successful.
It’s been already mentioned that the father of modern “manga” style is Ozamu Tezuka, who acquired his style, paradoxically, from watching Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Oddly enough he experimented with other western-ish styles:
With the exception of Yokoyama, they’re all best-selling authors.
I’m not sure, but I think there might be a bias within the works that are available in English. For instance, Akatsuka’s Tensai Bakabon doesn’t look anything like Man Gataro’s work, however, I don’t think either are available in English.