Bleach. One Piece. Naruto. What do these have in common? Aside from being the supposed best-selling/most popular shonen manga/anime series in the market today, all three have had multiple reviews criticizing them for how ‘generic’ they are. Some even call for days in which we’ll see truly unique shows.
But how exactly do you decide whether a show is ‘generic’ or not? And even if it is generic, is it not enjoyable?
Take these quotes to be an example.
“..bleach’s story is generic shonen type”
“copying his own work”
And other scathing reviews of the Shonen Jump Trinity. I admit, I don’t exactly like the three aforementioned shows either.
But the problem here is, upon what do you judge such a show to be ‘generic’? Surely, just because there are similarities , doesn’t mean it’s generic , does it? One of the major arguments used against the Trinity is that it uses too many tropes from other shonen manga, such as Dragonball Z amongst several others.
The thing is, it doesn’t use tropes from Dragonball Z per se, it uses tropes from the entire genre of shonen anime. Big fights, inane/insane power-ups, screaming attack names, the epitome of entertainment for little kids who don’t mind watching something with no story whatsoever. And how do you exactly point out where exactly the source is? Surely, there was something before Dragonball Z which uses such shows of power. Following this logic that Bleach is generic since it has what previous shows have, wouldn’t that imply that Dragonball Z is generic too? Following that logic further, it would imply that everything down the line would be generic to a certain degree. Bring that logic to extremes : what then, would be the most unique manga series? The Four Immigrants?
Saying it takes tropes from Dragonball Z would be accusing it of plagiarism. However, although Bleach is innocent of this, it’s still using common tropes. Tropes from where? Common storylines, etc. This proves to be a challenge as well. Let’s say we have one unique show. Another show adopts a similar approach, and eventually, it multiplies. Now that we have so many clones , is series A unique? And if it no longer counts as being unique, does that make it any worse?
And even if the show is generic, does that make it bad? What defines a show to be bad, anyway? Bad art, bad story, bad characters, et cetera. Just because the characters are similar doesn’t necessarily make them bad per se, just common. Would that detract from your own enjoyment and judgement? Bad art is the show’s fault, but for story and characters, what could you do if it’s ‘generic’ , or common? Truth is, the most common plots will make themselves seem boring to those who have watched others, and so on. (Meaning the less you watch, the more unique it sounds. ) Still, even if you think it’s generic, does that make the entire show itself, bad? Surely, someone likes it, even if you (or we) don’t. It seems that there is a problem with deciding something to be generic or not.
Yet, even after all of this, you cannot deny that Bleach is ‘generic’, if you look at it objectively. Its tropes are all-too-common. The cast of characters is cliché, the fights just slightly different.
The way I see it, however, Bleach isn’t generic.
It isn’t unique either.
It’s both to a certain degree. Some tropes are re-used, some ideas are made. Some characters are repetitive, some characters are new. Some ideas follow along convention ,some put a twist on things.
The truth is, there probably can’t be much, or even a truly unique anime, per se.
Almost everything can be linked to something else. Character types can overlap. We can have the same imouto-moe types in X number of shows, and so on. Just classifying it into a genre makes it start to have a degree of genericness. And even if there is a unique anime, eventually, some other shows will come along and make it seem less unique than before.
In other words, most shows can probably only be classified as unique for a short amount of time. Bleach may have seemed to be the greatest thing ever to someone who just started watching anime and reading manga, but after constant exposure to new, better manga, they start to think it’s generic, and that undoubtedly, it’s bad. (It is.)
Shows will be common in some areas, and unique in others. And there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t label an entire show to be generic.
Otherwise, the only way for a show to be unique is to come up with a unique concept that no-one else can possibly employ. When there’s only one of you, you’re unique, aren’t you?
I suppose I’m being a little bit optimistic, but I too, wish for a truly unique show to come this way. Something that no-one has done before. I don’t mind if characters seem similar , I don’t mind if voices clash, I just want a show with a unique concept, a concept that no-one can employ, a concept that’ll stand unique amongst the vast, endless amount of new shows.
I want a show with a high degree of uniqueness.