Sometimes, an artist has decided to take the time to give even the most incidental of background characters each a unique face and appearance. Doing this is time-consuming and difficult, but man does it make for Awesome Art
. It also often requires the artist to kick Generic Cuteness
in the face and throw it out the window — which, in turn, can make characters that are supposed
to be attractive a whole lot more attractive by comparison to the other characters.
Please note that almost all the facial features of the characters are different. Slight changes in hairstyle, hair colour, eye shape or eye colour do not count. The opposite of this trope is Only Six Faces
, where even the main characters tend to look alike. In video games, there are usually only six background characters (You ALL Look Familiar
). Tends to go hand in hand
with Loads and Loads of Characters
. Sort of related to Taste the Rainbow
, where a class of characters may come in a huge number of permutations.
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Anime and Manga
- Pretty much anything done by Studio Bones, including, but not limited to:
- Fullmetal Alchemist. There are Loads and Loads of Characters, with many of them in the Redshirt Army. Nearly all of the characters (with the exception of, what, four or five out of how many dozen?) have either black or blonde hair, making facial features more significant.
- Maybe her ability to distinguish similarly built characters is why Father looks completely different from first Hohenheim and then Ed (especially Ed, there seems to be barely a passing resemblance between the alchemist and his counterpart due to mannerisms and attitude alone) even though he is identical to them in physical features. The same tactics are used to differ Ling from Greed after they end up sharing a body and amazingly can still be fairly easily told apart from one another when they switch dominance in control.
- And to make it more impressive: Not only are the characters in Arakawa's Silver Spoon also very different from each other, they're also quite different from the FMA characters, with occasional exceptions that are so obvious one might claim it's a deliberate Expy, such as the P.E. teacher who looks a lot like Major Armstrong.
- Similarly to Fullmetal Alchemist, Natsuki Takaya's works, particularly Fruits Basket, manage fall under this despite the fact that nearly all facial structures are completely identical. It helps that in Fruits Basket, a lot of the cursed characters are easily distinguishable due to unique hair and eye colors corresponding to their Zodiac animals.
- Also, all characters have unique eye shapes and eye colors, as well as hairstyles. The artist also gives small differences here and there like the size of eyelids and the length of eyelashes, etc. that help a little bit. Overall, each character, including the minor ones, has a relatively unique design, which is necessary with a cast full of Loads and Loads of Characters.
- At the amount of designs is actually rather small but as Art Evolution marches on each of the characters gain their respective appearances.
- One Piece is king of this. Need a big crowd of Amazons? Marauding army of Pirates? Every single one of them with have a unique face, hairstyle, outfit, and most likely, superpower.
- But it must also be said, that One Piece kinda has it easy in creating distinct characters, as it often just features extremely bizarre character designs, unrealistic proportions and a large number of Gonks.
- However, the biggest improvement in the art of One Piece has been the elimination of Nami clones, Eiichiro Oda has gotten much better at drawing women, giving them small details that separate their appearance, rather than just unique hair styles that most mangaka seem to use as a crutch
- Berserk same with FMA but with hundreds of (realistic) sets of armor.
- Monster, oh Monster. As shown in the page pic, the style allows the artist to give variety to various features, including the noses and eyes.
- Taken to a logical extreme in Ore-tachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai, where the series occasionally gives names to many characters, sometimes two per second, and all of them have a distinct personality and style. In fact, the opening is a good example of how to introduce every major character in the series. However, the series will also parody the trope by giving useless names to One Scene Wonders, like Kissme!
- Hiroya Oku's Gantz. Necessary, since the whole cast wears identical black suits.
- Liar Game is a rather impressive example considering that each new arc introduces about 15 new characters. Not only is each character distinct but the characters facial expressions display a range of emotions wider than the vast majority of manga.
- Black Butler definitely applies. There are whole new sets of characters in every arc, yet all of them are easily distinguishable.
- Despite some contradictions between characters (such as Sebastian and Vincent, Bardroy and Phipps, etc.), Toboso Yana still stays within this trope by varying their expressions and overall body-language. While most of her bishies are long-jawed and narrow-eyed, one would still be able to identify them naked and bald.
- Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru gives everyone a unique appearance in terms of build, facial structure and features, not to mention diverse wardrobes, down to the unnamed bit part characters.
- Soul Eater is pretty good with this. Every character in the series, most notably the main cast, has unique eyes, mouths, body types, and of course, hairstyles. You could differentiate the characters from miles away. However, some characters tend to look extremely alike (such as Patty and Kim), and in the anime at least it's a subversion as background characters are greyed out and indistinct, differing from a proper Cast of Snowflakes.
- Baccano! is a good example of this. Despite the fact the most characters are simply wearing suits and many have similar (and realistic) hairstyles, every character in the massive cast looks completely unique.
- Durarara!!, also. Since it's set in a massive city, it applies Conservation of Detail to distinguish greater population of figures who are not cast by leaving them indistinct and grey. Still, many extras are also distinctly detailed.
- RahXephon - all of the character designs are given unique facial profiles, making sure that everyone has a unique appearance. The only exception being the Isshki clones, but who counts them, anyhow?
- Common with classic manga artists, such as Osamu Tezuka, Shotaro Ishinomori, Go Nagai and Ken Ishikawa. Impressive when you consider that these artists generally drew most of their characters with black hair and conservative hair styles.
- Masanori Morita, author of Rokudenashi Blues and Rookies, is very good at this. Despite none of the characters wearing particularly distinctive outfits and only a few having Anime Hair of any kind, each of them has a very distinctive face. It helps that he draws in a very realistic style.
- Takeshi Obata is good at this . . .
- Hikaru no Go? All the characters wear normal, everyday clothes. But all of them are very distinct and unique - including the old people, fat people, young people, etc.
- The Death Note manga has distinct faces for nearly everyone, including random criminals who only appear once in a mugshot (though they tend to look a bit odd). Essential since there are Loads and Loads of Characters.
- On the other hand, as the artist himself acknowledges, the female characters tend to look very similar, save for their hairstyles.
- The one time a character (one of the Yotsuba Group executives) looks similar (yet distinct) to the main character, Light, it's fixed by Misa Lampshade Hanging.
- Many (if not all) of Satoshi Kon's works feature this, most noticeably in Paranoia Agent, which has Loads and Loads of Characters.
- Eyeshield 21 goes above and beyond when it comes to making each character extremely distinctive. Every audience shot is filled with detailed, individualized people, and one can even spot the "regulars" amongst the crowd. And even if a character has so much as ONE notable speaking line, you can guarantee there's gonna be a little character profile for them at the end of the chapter.
- And of course, that's not even mentioning the HUGE cast of main and secondary characters who are in football uniform 75% of the time, who are still instantly recognizable due to very distinctive body types and faces.
- A quiz in one of the manga volumes just shows a bunch of hands and has the reader identify what characters they belong to. Yes, even their hands are unique.
- Zetman definitely falls into this trope.
- The 33 background students in Class 3-2 from the second season of K-On all have distinctive character designs (although one of them looks like Mio wearing glasses, and another is an Expy of Rukia Kuchiki).
- Darker Than Black has completely unique designs for practically every major and minor character. Most notably the contractors, who along with having very odd appearances compared to the non contractor characters, all feature completely unique and often abstract abilities, along with a unique and abstract remuneration.
- This uniqueness even extends to characters who only show up for a few minutes at best. Burger-Kun for example. The character designs often add strange or unusual aspects to a characters appearance with no real reasoning behind it, such as Wei's elf ears, Amagiri's one eye always half closed, and Maki's heterochromia.
- Hellsing definitely applies. While it's not a manga with Loads and Loads of Characters per se, the main and secondary characters in it are all extremely stylized with completely unique outfits, hairstyles, facial features, weapons and poses.
- Rosario + Vampire is pretty good about this, especially post Art Evolution. Every character has distinct facial features and expressions, with various traits by which to distinguish themselves, including secondary characters and even some recurring extras. And while the series may not have Loads and Loads of Characters, with 30-some noteworthy characters in the mix it's certainly well on its way.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn! has an insane amount of characters but each of them are distinct from each other (and if there is a resemblance, expect there to be a reason).
- Inariya Fusanosuke manages to pull this off in Maiden Rose despite the fact that 90% of the cast are wearing the same military uniform, of the same ethnicity and with no Anime Hair to speak of.
- Anything made by Yoshihiro Togashi.
- In any given series Togashi created, it'll even go into "Nonstandard Character Design" territory. Some of the characters he creates look like they belong to some other manga series, especially in the case of Hunter × Hunter. In some cases, it's just... weird.
- Tweeny Witches is very good about this. Even though most of the characters are young girls.
- Pokémon Special is usually pretty good with this, with the exception of the evil teams' Mooks. However, the Team Plasma grunts all have strikingly different faces and bodies.
- Battle Angel Alita and its sequel series Last Order both have extremely varied character designs, even for the most minor background cyborgs. If two character resemble each other, it's likely related to plot or thematic reasons, and not the artist being lazy.
- Shiki characters have very different faces from each other, even the ones who are only in a little while. Their body types tend to be the same, though.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has a variety of distinct character faces.
- Blade of the Immortal definitely deserves a mention. As it's set in the Edo-era Japan, most characters wear kimonos and have pretty normal hair styles and colours, but Hiroaki Samura's realistic and detailed art style allows for plenty of variation in face and body features... though fans have complained that his women look too much alike.
- Girls und Panzer might count as an exaggerated example. In a show with 32 main characters in the protagonist team alone (and then we start adding the five main rival teams, the support cast...) they still go out of their way to try to make random background characters memorable. Then they add personal traits (as meta-characters) to the teams and tanks themselves...
- Ravages Of Time notably manages a greatly varied roster of faces for the male cast even for those who are only around for brief or even seemingly one-time appearances. Unfortunately, with women Only Six Faces is in full effect.
- Axis Powers Hetalia's Generic Cuteness and excessive use of Idiot Hair could make one assume it has a case of Only Six Faces. But no two characters have the same eyes. Many characters also have distinctive jawlines and expressions.◊ Most people accusing Hetalia of having Only Six Faces probably only saw the anime◊ pre-Art Evolution.
- The main cast of Attack on Titan are all distinct in terms of face shape, eye shape, build, etc, which is especially impressive since almost all of them wear the same uniform.
- A Certain Magical Index and its spinoff A Certain Scientific Railgun does a good job of this considering the Loads and Loads of Characters. Even Mikoto's clones have slight variances from her. One exception is that Shutaura Sequenzia from the Miracle of Endymion movie looks exactly like Seiri Fukiyose. The series' artist, Kiyotaka Haimura, realized this too late and apologized to the fans when the movie came out and he noticed the mistake.
- Blue Exorcist does this really well. However, Kato also takes into consideration family relations and so you can actually see they are related by their similiar features (for example Rin, Yukio, Amaimon and Mephisto all sons of Satan) but still are easily identifiable.
- The non-human characters in the Star Wars movies, regardless of whether they were puppets or CG, as with Ewoks and Wookiees. A marked exception is the crowd of dancing Gungans at the end of the Phantom Menace: not only are they identical, their movements are in perfect unison.
- Also used to great effect in James Cameron's Avatar, in which the many mo-cap Na'vi are as distinguishable from each other as real humans.
- The Hobbit: A good effort has been made to avert Our Dwarves Are All the Same and make thirteen of them all distinguishable. See here◊.
- The cast of characters in ParaNorman.
- Ostensibly the point of paint-your-own miniatures in any number of tabletop games. Not everyone bothers, however, to paint theirs differently, or at all.
- The CCC series does to a large extent.
- Homestar Runner gives a unique character design to every character. Strong Bad, Strong Mad, and Strong Sad are brothers and don't resemble each other in the least. The only characters who even look remotely like each other are Homestar and Homsar, and that's because Homsar started as a one-off joke to make fun of a misspelling of "Homestar".
- Every student in Monster High has their own distinct look, as well as being different creatures.
- Generic Cuteness is a rule in Chirault and it's sometimes hard to tell whether someone is a he or a she, but the latter is caused exactly by this trope: some guys are more effeminate than others and some ladies are more masculine than them. So the end result is fairly diverse.
- Opplopolis has a large cast of various ages, body types and ethnicities. Even the aliens are surprisingly distinguishable, despite their uniform, circular eyes.
- Guilded Age has quite the unique cast. Even besides the obvious body types differences between races (humans, gnomes, dwarves, elves, savage beasts, etc.), all of the characters have instantaneously recognizable faces.
- Background characters in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! tend to have unique faces. Even characters who initially appear as just random people in a crowd will typically return later with distinct names and personalities.
- Characters in Penny Arcade tend to look unique except in the first two years or so of the strip.
- Last Res0rt uses Faceless Masses for massive crowd scenes like the arena audience, but otherwise hews to this pretty nicely.
- Doesn't stop readers from mixing up Vince and Nate though; yes, they're supposed to be a Wrestling Family (after a fashion), but Cypress at least has bluer skin (and curly hair), Damien has those headwings, and they both have different hair colors.
- Sluggy Freelance is pretty good in this respect, at least with any character that shows up in more than one comic. The comic also deserves a special mention in the sense that it's not only the faces that are distinguishable, but characters' body shapes as well, even between characters who have the same general type of figure. (Well, at least you can see the differences if you know how to look. They can be subtle, just like in real life.) It did take some Art Evolution since the beginning to achieve this.
- The comic takes advantage of this in dimension-travelling storylines — it's actually rare to run into someone in a different dimension who isn't an alternative version of a main character or one of those unique minor characters.
- The demons of the Dimension of Pain are all unique to the point of not visibly fitting the definition for being of the same species, or even genus. During the Dimension of Lame invasion, some caught on with fans enough to get more exposure. Some "Outsider" mutants found later on have the same trait.
- How I Killed Your Master
- Lackadaisy Cats: All the characters are highly distinct and defined in every way.
- Which is even more impressive when you remember that they are, in fact, anthropomorphic cats.
- Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name has a number of distinct characters with different faces, heights, body language (which gives them fairly distinct silhouettes, though nearly all of them have similar builds), and color schemes. Check 'em out!
- Mattel's Monster High, amazing since it's a flash cartoon.
- El Goonish Shive's secondary and minor characters vary considerably, in some ways moreso than the main characters who by comparison suffer from Only Six Faces.
- The Meek has a rather distinct cast, where no one person looks like another, all the while using realistically-drawn cartoon figures.
- Gunnerkrigg Court also does quite well with its Cast of Snowflakes.
- To the point where the creator only half-jokingly points out that random background characters are not related to the main story in any way.
- Bobwhite. No two sets of eyes, heads, noses, colors, shapes, and bodies are the same, and all characters who only appear in one or two comics has a distinct face you'd be able to pick out if given a picture of them. Some of them even have stories and backgrounds!
- Ethan Nichole's series (Chumble Spuzz, Axe Cop, and Bearmageddon) are all examples of this, but note should be made of Axe Cop's main sidekick, who changes identity every few pages and always looks completely different: first he's Flute Cop, resembling Sipowitz from NYPD Blue, until he gets some dinosaur blood on him and becomes Dinosaur Soldier, who is an anthropomorphic t-rex built like Schwarzenegger. Later updates include him becoming Viking Cop, Ghost Cop, and Avocado Soldier (who soon gains a unicorn horn and becomes Uni-Avocado Soldier).
- All of the cast in The Dreamer look quite distinct from each other, even more so in the art evolution.
- Paranatural does a good job making every character visually distinct.
- The Walkyverse features Loads and Loads of Characters, all of whom can be identified quite easily. See this poster◊ for examples. Note that the only reason some of the people on the far right look like those on the left is that they are the same characters, but from another universe.
- When Dorothy was introduced, some commenters noticed a resemblance to Amber, and dubbed her Blonde Amber. Art Evolution has since diverged their appearances more, and the similarity was lampshaded when Danny revealed that he became interested in Amber primarily because she sort of looked like his ex Dorothy.
- Dresden Codak: The artist makes a point of designing characters this way (mildly NSFW).
- Hero Oh Hero has 100 unique sprites already in reserve, each with their own design (even the ones wearing uniforms or otherwise sharing outfits).
- Disney's Fillmore! has a distinct love of using distinct background characters. Often one-shot characters from previous (or even future) episodes...
- The various secondary, minor, and background characters in Daria.
- Occurs in The Simpsons largely by virtue of the fact that they keep making episodes and never throw anything away. Bumblebee Man? Disco Stu? Permanent residents.
- Futurama went through a similar process. So much that one of the last scenes has a crowd shot containing every adult character at once (it was originally supposed to be every one ever, but a joke necessitated them to remove them because it hinged on there not being any children there).
- In fact, Matt Groening has a rule of thumb for character design that's become widely known as "The Groening Rule" stating it should be identifiable by silhouette.
- See The Simpsons Movie for a similar scene, the mob scene includes characters who haven't been seen for over a decade!
- Total Drama Island, every character has a unique design and none of them look even a little bit alike, even though all the girls have the same Hartman Hips.
- Word of God says this was done intentionally so that (like The Simpsons) each character could easily be recognized in silhouette.
- The characters in Hey Arnold!!
- Pretty much any Cartoon Network show has characters who are distinctive.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender. Some of the earlier episodes have repeated designs for background characters, but by and large it follows this trope. If you recognize a specific character design from an earlier episode, you may be pretty certain it's the same individual. Once had a whole flock of 12-year-old boys who were in identical costumes and bald. They were all distinguishable. The main characters also routinely swap hairstyles and costumes, and remain completely recognizable.
- Kim Possible tends to reuse certain background characters who have their own distinct looks, behaviors, and even voices. A few of them have become Ensemble Darkhorses.
- Turtles Forever, featuring the best animation quality in the two series, uses this to great effect during crowd shots. Often done on purpose to feature many cameos from all over the 25-year franchise.
- Thomas the Tank Engine - both the sculpted character faces/expressions and the engine models themselves, with a handful of exceptions.
- Most new characters in Season 5 had look-alike faces - large, round chin and nose, high cheeks, round eyes.
- From Season 7, Arthur, Emily, and Murdoch all had round faces, oblong eyes, triangular noses, and small mouths, just with different proportions.
- Diesel, 'Arry & Bert, and Splatter & Dodge from The Movie are all based on the same engine type, just different faces and paintwork.
- Stanley, Billy, and Charlie are all practically identical builds of tank engine, again, with different faces and paint.
- Family Guy: despite a pretty simple art style, every character (even relatives) looks distinct from one another; even background and one off characters each look unique in nearly every way possible.
- The exception seems to be family members — Lois and Meg have similar faces, along with Lois' mother. Peter is also a dead-ringer for his biological father.
- Also true of American Dad!.
- Everybody in We Are the Strange.
- In Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, ever character, including unnamed extras and Red Shirts, is distinct from every other character. Even when the troopers are wearing full helmets that obscure their faces they can be identified by their armor and name tags. The one time it is averted it becomes a vital clue to the team that something is wrong, as they notice that they keep passing the same people all throughout a town.
- On The Amazing World of Gumball, every character has not only a different design, but also a different art style.
- John Kricfalusi and Spumco produced shows, such as The Ren & Stimpy Show and The Ripping Friends. Of course, all of it is done with full intention, since this is John Kricfalusi we're talkin' about.
- The characters in Ed, Edd n Eddy.
- X-Men: Evolution. Head character designer Steven E. Gordon is often praised for unique character designs for each person, even minor background characters. However, clothing designing is often very similar and reused (Boys tend to wear sagging pants and exposed boxers, while girls tend to show off their stomachs). The facial designs and haircuts are so unique, that when two characters have slightly similar appearences (Amara and X-23, both being young, short, with dark skin and brown hair) some fans make a big deal about how much they look alike, despite being completely different (Both have different builds, different skin tone, and different hair cuts and shades).
- Sym-Bionic Titan has this, the neighbors, military personnel, random citizens, and school students all look VERY different. Some occur several times, but if they go to the same school, this is justified.
- An added bonus is that they seem to have individual personalities as well, the students primarily.
- The characters of Recess.
- Phineas and Ferb is quite good about making distinctive character shapes.
- Huntik: Secrets & Seekers is good about this, having unique designs for everyone, even random civilians and Suits.
- Motorcity, especially since the characters still have a more realistic shape with some cartoony features, much like Anime.
- Goof Troop and its two movies have significant variance in important characters, minor characters, and extras in terms of head shape, face and ear shape, body shape and physical size, and even the degree of anthropomorphism applied to the Petting Zoo People and what animal characteristics are retained, which can vary significantly even within one family. Even the characters who are meant to physically take after one another (Max after Goofy, PJ after Pete, Pistol after Peg) have significantly different faces and head shapes.
- Impressively, the meerkats in the crowd scenes of The Lion King 1½ all look distinct, despite having similar body shapes and no clothes to help distiguish them.
- Moral Orel, a stop-motion example. While some faces/designs are shared occasionallyNote , most of the models are very distinct, usually by noses or the shape of their head.
- Popeye always had very unique character designs for the main characters, though background characters could suffer from Only Six Faces.
- The Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang contains approximately 8,000 terracotta soldiers. And each one looks different.
- Occurs with any 'mass scale miniature' or otherwise not created for a gaming/collectible purpose. There was a Belgian exhibit with 855 knights and footsoldiers engaged in combat, and every single face was readily distinguishable from another. Quite an amazing feat considering the figurines were something like 1/25-1/30 scale. Feel sorry for the poor bastard's hand.
- Actual people in real life, of course.
- If you go to two universities or spend a long time there, you will start to notice very similar people studying the same thing in each place or class. It's quite eerie, really. They're still different people, but not too different.
- Inverted to varying degrees for people with face-blindness.