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Many shows use the same face template throughout. Why do they use this?

  • I've edited your question to remove the mis-match. If you think that it's changed what you want to say, feel free to add it back in - but please add some more information linking it to the question Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 15:59
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    (not a true answer so not listing it as such, but check here to read: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OnlySixFaces ) Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 5:49

5 Answers 5


This is a matter of artistic style and a branding strategy.

As a prime example: Studio Ghibli films are arguably the highest-quality anime produced. They painstakingly aim for realism in the movements of characters and objects and the backgrounds are lush and extremely detailed.

The balance of light and shadow accurately matches real life, and every cell is intentionally still hand-painted in the studio to preserve the high quality (Roger Ebert's interview with Miyazaki Hayao reports, "Miyazaki, who is suspicious of computers, personally draws thousands of frames by hand. 'We take [handmade] cell animation and digitize it in order to enrich the visual look, but everything starts with the human hand drawing. And the color standard is dictated by the background. We don't make up a color on the computer'").

Not only do the Japanese think so, but Studio Ghibli's work has been internationally acclaimed for its impeccable quality. Without any interest in a computer-generated template, Studio Ghibli uses the same face character designs over and over.

Studio Ghibli heroines enter image description here enter image description here Kanta, Tombo enter image description here enter image description here Howl no Ugoku Shiro

There are four main points:

  1. Studio Ghibli doesn't do this because they are lazy, cutting corners in the production process, or not creative enough. Similar and even nearly-identical faces are not a result of mangaka and animators feeling limited by their mediums, as if a wider variation in facial design would be too hard for them to pull off, or not worth bothering with. Studio Ghibli has never been interested in trading a drop in quality in exchange for a time-saving measure. Though many anime studios now animate by computer, the tradition of crafting and amply using a trademark facial design for multiple characters predates the technological possibility of mixing-and-matching hairstyles onto a basic "doll" head, and did not arise in the art form in order to make that the standard once animation software could be invented.
  2. The character designer is a prominent position in an anime's staff roster, as some character designers, such as Tadano Kazuko and Nobuteru Yuuki, draw such recognizable faces that the designer can be billed as a feature of the series. Character design is all done in pre-production (before the animators start painting cells), so increased/decreased variation in the character design does not create a large impact on the production schedule once animating begins, unless the character's costume is extremely detailed. Once the designs are established, the character designer draws official settei (設定, meaning "materials") sheets which show the character from various angles and includes notes for the animators about details not to overlook. These usually utilize very clean lines, though some character designers distribute sketchy ones. The settei are photocopied and each animator receives one copy for reference while animating, so that the character designer's intent is realized even across a large number of animator staff.


  1. Each mangaka or character designer has a style that he/she personally likes. It may get honed over the course of the beginning of her career, but once he/she captures his/her Ideal, the artist becomes a pro at making it consistent. Unless it is a rare manga or anime in which that character designer does not intend to draw attractive-looking characters, it stands to reason that the design perceived as most attractive will be used time and again. This may mean the same face for nearly all female protagonists, the same face for nearly all male love interests, and the same face for amicable, friendly men. As an example, Takeuchi Naoko can be counted on for consistency.

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Only one of these blue-haired girls is Sailor Mercury:

enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description hereSoranu Hikaru

Chiba Mamoru (Tuxedo Kamen) and his dead ringers from other series:

enter image description here ouji PQ AngelsMermaid Panic light novel

Tenou Haruka (Sailor Uranus) and dopplegangers:

Tenou Haruka

  1. Branding (also known as Visual Identity, Brand Management, or Corporate Design), is very important in successful marketing. Mangaka and character designers who provide immediately recognizable faces grant fans the ability to know in an instant that this is a title they are interested in, and whenever they hear an announcement that the same creator is starting a new series, they can know exactly what to expect. Studio Ghibli has crafted simple character designs that strike a chord, make the protagonist easily likable, and garner sentimentality from the viewers. This strategy ensures repeat consumers more than if they changed up the character design from film to film. A good example of strong branding that evolved from the time of her debut is Yazawa Ai:

early work → enter image description hereenter image description here

middle period →enter image description hereenter image description here

distinct branding → enter image description here enter image description here

Although many mangaka and anime character designers do this type of branding very well, it should be noted that this is not specific to manga and anime, but can be seen in other mediums in other countries.

For example, even while Disney intentionally adds hints of traditional cultural art styles into its films (eye shapes for Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Megara), facial design for Disney protagonists is, for the most part, easily recognizable as being Disney, regardless of the ethnicity of the characters.

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Disney women of color:enter image description here

  • Give more examples like Bleach,Naruto and Fairy Tail
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 8:53
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    Padding with images of series that bear 1) less uniformity across characters within the series and 2) less distinct facial design than Studio Ghibli and Yazawa Ai would be redundant rather than adding anything substantial to competently answering the question, "Why do anime and manga use the same faces?"
    – seijitsu
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 9:06
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    As a heads-up: the second (?) image that's supposed to resemble Mamoru seems to be giving me an "image hosted by Tripod" message instead of the actual image.
    – Maroon
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 0:55
  • @Maroon, thanks! How odd, it was showing up for me linked from the PQ Angels site hosted on Tripod. I've downloaded it from that site and then re-uploaded it here.
    – seijitsu
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 5:46
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    I always appreciate your willingness to go outside anime and connect it to other forms of media, as you do here with your Disney example.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 20:39

Relevant TV Tropes page.

It's easier for animators to keep one face pattern and differentiate through other features that are unique to that character - hair colour, hair design, eyes, etc.

The love-live girls are a good example of this. They're very unique at first, but their faces are mostly similar designs.

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Some benefits of keeping the same face is that the animators only have to learn that single type of face, meaning less time redrawing as they should be very used to it.

Also, in certain scenes characters may be switched out for others if the director decides it. This means that only the hair / peripherals would have to be changed - rather than the entire body. Even if they are somewhat different - changing a the colour of an eye is a matter of a simple image tool's slider. It also means that facial features can be mostly left alone if there is a significant rush for release. Your first image is a good example of this.

Anime also is a medium that has gone through years of refinement. If you watch a show about schoolgirls - there's a certain subset of design that this will fall into - you aren't going to get gritty speedlines and heavily shaded faces unless in the case of a gag.

Combine this with the artist's particular style which is an important feature for first-glance recognition - and the fact that anime characters are significantly less detailed than real-life humans, means that a lot of characters can look the same.

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This is what has lead to all the crazy pink, purple, blue hair colours that are so common (and presumed natural) in anime.

Why do many characters tend to have crazy hair colors and styles?

In summary: Character designs are limited in several ways, so animators prefer to spend time on other parts of anime characters instead


Everyone can relate to.

The more basic a face looks, or the less it looks like anyone in particular, the more relateable it will be.

You might notice in many series (especially within the Shounen genre) this trope really only applies to the main cast, where sameface will be applied equally regardless of race. If a villain is supposed to be cute, or sympathetic in some way, they will be granted sameface.

However, more and more distinguishing features will be added the more a character is to be viewed as either unimportant or an unredeemable bastard. Other examples of breaking the trope include trying to visually push a character trope.

For example, the tiny but relateable girl will be given less of a nose than the other main cast, or the strong guy of the bunch will have a more defined nose or squared shin tip, but they will both have generally the same structure.


Because they produce like 100 anime every year or something. They have to be fast at it and we all know how the Asian market is low when it comes to quality. Sure thing Studio Ghibli and other studios that make movies (like the Vampire Hunter D) can do wonders, they choose not to when it comes to mass production.

Effectively, the different characters rely heavily on the hair and little bit on eye colour and/or shape. Especially filler characters that might not really play a huge role will have the generic anime face with some average hairstyle.

This is also why in anime all characters wear one and one single outfit ONLY throughout the whole series. Give them a different clothing and they turn into a different character.

For example, there was an episode in Sailor Moon where Sailor Venus had pigtails on purpose to pretend she is Sailor Moon to distract the enemy from the real Sailor Moon, she was identical in every aspect and the only thing that made her different was the length of the pigtails since Sailor Moon has knee hair length while Venus hip length hair.

At some point, they will have used all possible hairstyle, hair colour, and outfit combinations and they will have to upgrade in style.

Western cartoons also tend to have a continuation throughout the series, you won't see them change the hairstyle or clothing too much, but many times they portray the hair and clothing and face more realistically different than the typical anime face with spiky otaku hairstyle with glasses or not.


Because it's easier honestly. Japanese have a thing people can't stand out or be too individualistic. That's why I love seeing realistic interpretation of anime character in fanart or 3D animation like Final Fantasy

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