Not So Similar

"Maybe you ain't so bad after all, Blake. In fact, you kinda remind me of myself at your age. Except, y'know, I'm a mutant. And I've got ethics. And I'm not a psychopath... (or a rapist...) You know what, maybe you remind me of someone else..."

Two characters or groups initially appear to be quite similar, possibly so similar as to be practically interchangeable. As the work develops, however, it becomes clear that the similarity is only superficial. Their deeper characteristics, such as motives, morals, or methods, are quite dissimilar. They may fill roughly the same role in the story, but they are far from interchangeable. If another character comments on the similarities, one or both of those being compared may respond along the lines of "What? I'm nothing like him!" before listing the differences.

Common cases include Cloning Blues, Shadow Archetype and Legacy Character.

See also Our Monsters Are Different; and Divergent Character Evolution, if the subjects really were interchangeable at one point.

Cast Speciation is a subtrope that applies only when the characters are part of a small cast of characters. The inversion, when characters who appear to be very different turn out to be quite similar, is Not So Different.


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • In general, if the ad is claiming the product in question is a more affordable version of the competition then they are using this trope, such as when Verizon Wireless, and AT&T, two American phone companies who used to have a friendly relationship, broke away from each other. They both quickly dedicated much of their budgets to letting everyone know why they should never be mistaken for the other. Product Switcheroo Ad or Best is Average, Better is Best might be in effect.
  • Between the 1910s and 20s Coca Cola became well known in several countries and also became frequently imitated. The most humorous duplicates being Sola Cola and Coc Ola. Naturally, many commercials were put out explaining to the consumer why these knockoffs were inferior to the real thing.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Piccolo and Vegeta from Dragon Ball, two evil aliens who became friends with Goku. Piccolo initially saw Goku as an obstacle to World Domination, Vegeta just had an obsession with becoming the strongest and Goku's existence just got in the way. Also, Piccolo's friendship was genuine, even if he hated to admit it. Vegeta didn't bury the hatchet until the entire universe was at great stake. Piccolo at one point has to explain Vegeta's own problems to him. Zig-Zagged: by Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return! and Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods he appears to actually enjoy Goku's company and they're able to hang out in social settings with little conflict.
  • In the first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Isaac McDougal attempts to recruit Solf Kimblee, another State Alchemist who killed his superiors and apparently defected. However, while both are defectors from the military and use their alchemy to attack opponents from within (freezing and exploding, respectively), McDougal is a Defector from Decadence who wants to save Amestris from the Ancient Conspiracy, while Kimblee is an Ax-Crazy Nietzsche Wannabe.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rei and Kaoru have an exchange that amounts exactly to him discussing Not So Different and she invoking this.
  • The Transformers Armada Starscream takes offense when the Autobots try to compare his treachery to Sideways.
  • Arch-Enemies Trafalgar Law and Donquixote Doflamingo from One Piece. Charismatic, strong, and a penchant for cruelty and misanthropy, at the surface, they're almost a distorted mirror. However, Doflamingo's attempts to mold his prodigy into his own image failed, because Law still has his compassion, and as the Dressrosa arc cotinued, it proves to be the defining difference. What it comes down to is that Law is driven by revenge for the sake of another, while Doflamingo is driven by revenge for the sake of himself. Hence, Law cares about other people and shows a willingness to die for the sake of his goal, while Doflamingo only cares about himself and fears death to the point of obsession.

    Comics 
  • Blade felt he had a lot of similarities with The Punisher but had to question why Frank Castle pursued a seemingly impossible goal while Blade felt his own was much more reasonable (he even succeeded once already). In Frank's answer Blade (and the readers) start to understand just how different they really are.
    • In a meta sense, Marvel gave Blade to a popular Wolverine writer hoping he could duplicate that success. It was made clear that they weren't really that alike.
  • In the various DC-Marvel crossovers, although both universes have a planet Earth which is inhabited by a human species with broadly similar histories up to about the 1960s, it's been shown that they're fundamentally different down to even the background cosmic principles each is based on.
  • Multiple Man has the power to create body doubles of himself and they usually work together, as they always embody a part of his personality. Sometimes an isolated part of himself can end up behaving very differently from the whole however, many of his body doubles have caused trouble he really doesn't approve of.
  • Judge Dredd has the law enforcement collecting the genetic material of their best judges to ensure they can always create great judges to replace them. Though they often get exact genetic copies of outstanding judges, the clones rarely end up like their predecessors. Just because they have the same talent doesn't mean they want to apply it the same way.
  • This is why Blink ends up as leader of the Exiles, because she is the first on the multiverse crossing team to realize the "familiar faces" they encounter may be anything but.
  • The supervillainess "Knockout" specifically targeted Superboy because she felt they were a lot alike. Both got a charge from adventure, both get really like to let their libidos take control, and both are excited to flirt with someone on the opposite side of the law. Except not really. Knockout is a complete sociopath that targeted the teenage Superboy because he was impressionable enough to mold into her ideal sexual playtoy. Having grown up on Apokolips, she is a total Combat Sadomasochist, cares nothing about other life and planned to discard Superboy when she was done with him.
  • At the beginning of Deadpool vs. Carnage, the former makes several comparisons between himself and the latter. He changes his mind after finding the remains of a family (which included two young children) that Carnage had taken hostage, terrorized, and butchered.
    Deadpool: Carnage and me... not... not on the same wavelength... at all! Not like him. Would never do anything like that...

     Fan Fic 
  • A positive example in Shatterheart that serves as turning point from acquaintances to friends when Kurogane tells Syaoran while he and his clone act similarly, Syaoran is more mature and acts more cautiously. Kurogane also notes to himself that Syaoran is more a bookworm and has a slower reaction time than his clone.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Star Trek: Nemesis, Data has to explain why Captain Picard shouldn't expect his clone to be much like him. As a robot, he is just one of many of his line but he knows just because the rest have the potential to be just like him doesn't mean they are or even will be.
  • All Through the Night criminal Gloves Donahue describes just how wrong Nazi Franz Ebbing is when the latter thinks they have enough in common to work together.
  • In Inception, one of Dom's nightmares takes the form of his deceased wife Mal in order to guilt trip over his past mistakes. It works at first but Dom overcomes by realizing and pointing just how much its imitation failed to compare to the real thing.

    Literature 
  • One book in The Chronicles of Narnia introduces us to Tash, who one figure stubbornly insists is another culture's take on Aslan, no matter how many times the fact it isn't is explained to him.
  • Harry Potter starts to find the similarities between him and Voldemort fairly early on; both are dark-haired, relatively popular guys who started out their years without parents and found Hogwarts to be their home. However, each circumstance is marred with differences; Voldemort was conceived through a loveless union. His mother, while sympathetic, still gave her son to an orphanage. Voldemort instigates much of the antagonism against people in his youth. Harry on the other hand, had parents who loved each other and mother was brave enough to sacrifice herself against Voldemort. Dumbledore explains to him at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets how even though they have similar abilities, they've made very different choices that have shown them to be very different people. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows establishes that the biggest difference of all is the fact that Voldemort fears death and Harry does not. Hence, while Voldemort fruitlessly searches for a way to escape the inevitable, Harry is not afraid to die and willingly goes to his death to ensure that Voldemort can die as well.
  • The Jungle has a passage dedicated to how some view political parties as autonomous machines full of same thinking people and how naive the believe is. It is demonstrated in a heated debate between a mildly anarchist man who views all establishments as oppressive and wasteful, saying organized religion is the wort offender against a fiercely religious man who believes socialism owes its very existence to the teachings of Jesus Christ, who aimed to disrupt the wealthy and raise up the oppressed, so therefore Socialists should be using The Bible to promote themselves.
  • In Going Postal semi-reformed Con Man protagonist Moist von Lipwig worries that he is no different from his vile enemy, Reacher Gilt. In an epilogue that Moist doesn't get to see, we see that Gilt rejected the offer of reform from the Patrician that Moist accepted. As a result, the biggest difference between them afterwards is that Moist is still alive.
  • In Halo: Silentium, the Ur-Didact (the villainous one that appears in Halo 4) and the Iso-Didact (the clone version created when the original gave his imprint to Bornstellar-Makes-Eternal-Lasting) ultimately come to this conclusion about each other. The latter is the one that believes Halo and the Ark the only way to stop The Flood, while the former rejects this and intends to create an army of Promethean warriors using Human Resources. The nearby Catalog sums it up thusly:
    The two Didacts stand opposite each other, barely moving, barely breathing, as if sizing each other up. Their armor is evenly matched. Their weapons are identical, their defenses, identical.
    But the Didacts themselves—no longer identical.

    Live Action TV 
  • The A-Team, "The Battle of Bel Air". Mr. Carson tries to bribe Hannibal to stop attacking his operation, saying that as they both provide what a person needs for money, they're Not So Different. Hannibal collars him and growls that they are nothing alike and that his money is no good.
  • Teal'C and Ronon Dex filled the same role on two different Stargate shows, the alien ally who had a long, personal history with the enemy and beat people up. A character who was on both shows noticed this and decided they'd work well together. When they met she immediately began to think otherwise.
  • When Angelus from Angel gets "I'm not like you" shouted at him by Faith he admits it to be true but then adds "You will be."
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003), all of the Cylons got backup bodies they could jump into when their current one broke down and a few went as far as to use multiple bodies at once. Some Like Boomer unexpectedly developed their own, very different personalities which created some friction between them.
  • Baron von Richthoven of Black Adder believed that since his and Lord Flashear's careers neatly parallel each other that their values would as well. Since you're on this page, you know he was sadly mistaken.
  • The regeneration gimmick of Doctor Who is mainly used to keep the show going when the actor playing the Doctor is no longer available, but different actors leaving a different impression on the character was inevitable. Rather than try to hide it, the show embraces it.
  • Q expects playing with captain Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to be like playing with captain Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation but he learns the difference pretty quickly, to Quark's amusement.
    Q: You hit me! Picard never hit me!
    Sisko: I'm not Picard.

    Mythology, Religion and Folklore 
  • The kings of Assyria told the people of Judah not to be fooled when Hezekiah said God could save them because they had destroyed the gods of everyone else they conquered. Hezekiah told them that they only did that because those gods were only idols made by human hands.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Low Ki and Yoshihiro Tajiri during their first Impact Championship Wrestling meeting, were noted to have very similar styles, though at the time, Tajiri displayed a much more playful attitude and tricky approach than super serious Low Ki.
  • CZW and Ring of Honor, two attempts to replace ECW, both get this reaction in comparison to their predecessor and to each other. CZW gets accused of lacking the technical wrestling and athleticism showcased in ECW, though has been making strides toward correcting the latter with its "Best Of The Best" tournament, while Tyler Black has acknowledged ROH ended up going in the opposite direction of ECW in approach to matches and presentation, being very strict about disqualifications, interference and the like (to the point it more heavily resembles KOI than ECW). The two even differ in origins, as CZW was a copycat operating while ECW still operated while ROH was started by ECW's distributor after it went under and CZW didn't want to become their new source of income. Comparing CZW to ROH often gets mixed responses of cheers and disapproval from the live crowds and the two promotions have even gone to "war".
  • Tazz went to TNA on the belief that Samoa Joe was his second coming, since he was no longer medically cleared to wrestle. Once arriving in TNA though, he noted Joe had a serious flaw: the ability to feel remorse.
  • To the uniformed, CM Punk and Jeff Hardy's could have been thought to be much alike. Tattooed, skinny (by wrestling standards) weirdos who both wrestled in ECWWE. Before their rivalry became serious (before Punk cashed Money in the Bank on Hardy) the two had a civil argument on Raw which ended in Jeff in saying "You know Punk, we're pretty different." As their rivalry became more bitter, these differences became more and more apparent to everyone.
  • Another relating to CM Punk are his protests against WWE management. R-Truth, Christian and The Miz all seemed to have similar issues but as it turned out the first two's bigger issue was with the fans and the fact the general managers were ruling on things they wanted, Punk was upset about management not doing enough for fans. Meanwhile Miz was complaining about being overlooked and declaring himself awesome, similar to CM Punk claiming to be under appreciated and the best wrestler in the world. The difference here was that Miz had always been pandered to until his recent losing streak, CM Punk did not have nearly the amount of exposure even when he became a triple crown champion.
  • When Alberto Del Rio debuted everyone assumed he was an expy of JBL. Christian called him Juan Bradshaw Layfield. They both came to the ring in cars, both were kind of racist and they both hated Rey Mysterio. The first clear difference was that Alberto was a Mexican aristocrat to JBL's "self made man" stock broker. Then we learned that while JBL had a signature bull horn car Del Rio had a different one every week but what really put them apart was that JBL was much more of a dirty coward than Del Rio, who by contrast is more willing to get his own hands dirty as he believes he is destined to win. Their wrestling styles are very different and Del Rio's now known for his Hammy Herald. Nobody's calling him an expy anymore.
  • Kevin Steen claimed he and Eddie Kingston were one in the same, their differences became pretty clear when Kingston balked at Steen's plans to destroy the entire pro wrestling industry and Steen went on to call Chikara "A Bullshit Mickey Mouse Promotion". The same Chikara Kingston calls "Home".
  • Jay Briscoe said that he and Kevin Steen were a lot alike, in that they both like to eat a lot and neither one of them goes to the gym. The reason why Jay isn't fat like Steen is because he spends twelve hours a day working, with his hands, like a man.
  • When people cited Victor Quiñones's failure to bring Lucha Libre to an English audience in the run up to the debut of Lucha Underground, Konnan stated Quiñones had experience promoting Puerto Rican style wrestling but did not understand Lucha. While that might sound pretensions from a linguistical standpoint, there are a noticeable differences between Puerto Rican and Mexican wrestling. (and to be fair to Quiñones, he did successfully introduce Puerto Rican wrestling to a Japanese audience, IWA Japan turning out to be more successful that the Puerto Rican product in as far as drawing)
  • The basis for Bobby Fish's feud with Roderick Strong in Ring Of Honor. The two were compared for having somewhat similar styles and very similar attitudes. Fish insists that he has self confidence, while Strong acted out to hide his insecurities, and then vowed to prove it by making Strong realize Fish was the better man.

    Video Games 
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance the two hateful jerks you employ sort of stick out for bringing down their more optimistic teammates but at least when they're on a mission together they'll finally have someone agreeable to talk to right? Nope, one of them likes the company but not the job, the other loves the job but barely tolerates who he works with.
  • In order to get Link's trust in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Nabooru states "she's completely different from Ganondorf" even though they are both thieves and she's technically his subject.
  • X's copy in Mega Man Zero claims to be a perfect copy. Zero retorts says the copy's strength and wisdom are both lacking in response. Whether or not the player takes his word for it, they can compare the two X's personalities for themselves and in that area they definitely are not alike.
  • From the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Knuckles and Shadow are often compared to each other due to their supposed similarities. Both are major foils to Sonic who started off as his enemy before eventually becoming his ally. However, Knuckles maintains a rather Friendly Rival relationship with Sonic while Shadow plays the distant, dissenting rival. Their temperaments are pretty at odds too despite both being serious minded individuals, Knuckles is rather Hot-Blooded and easily angered while Shadow is far more composed. Also, both are loners, but different types - Knuckles is more of a straight-up loner who has gotten used to being alone due to being isolated, but makes friends easily while Shadow prefers to be alone because of his Dark and Troubled Past and has made very few friends.
    • Blaze is often similar to Knuckles due to both being both guardians of powerful artifacts (Knuckles with the Master Emerald and Blaze with the Sol Emeralds) and both have served as Foils to Sonic where they started off as opponents before becoming friends of his. One key difference in that regard is that Knuckles antagonizes Sonic due to Eggman's manipulations while Blaze fought Sonic due to her stubbornness in accepting his help. Also, Blaze started off as an anti-social loner much like Knuckles, with the difference is Blaze's development from loner to friend was more expressed while Knuckles' development was rather subtle. As for temperaments, while the two are serious, Knuckles is hot-tempered while Blaze is calmer, but can get riled up on occasions.
  • In Three the Hard Way, The Protagonist Vance would frequently describe his two companions, Kanna and Anderson, as two weirdoes who may or may not be human, rarely distinguishing between the two. However, as the story progresses, Kanna becomes more open and straightforward about her true goals motives, while Anderson is revealed to be hiding more and more secrets, becoming even more cryptic and mysterious character than he was when he started.
  • In Asura's Wrath, Augus is convinced that Asura is a Blood Knight like him. Asura responds to these claims with violence. It's only at the very end of their fight when Asura's desire to save his daughter gives him the strength to break Augus' sword and use what's left of it to defeat Augus that Augus admits he was wrong.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the first rotue of Fate/stay night Saber realizes that despite their similarities, Shirou is also different from her current self. When Shirou is offered the chance to rewrite history to prevent the disaster that destroyed his old life Saber assumes he will accept because that's what she wanted. Him rejecting the offer leaves her stunned and somewhat humbled by his resolve. This convinces her to accept the past as well.

    Web Original 
  • In one of the I'm a Marvel... and I'm a DC sketches, Wolverine and The Comedian appeared together. After a lot of arguing, Wolverine becomes impressed by the Determinator streak that Comedian has, and begins to say that Comedian reminds him of himself. He then promptly remembers all the bad things about Comedian that makes them different, and it turns into this instead.
    Wolverine: Maybe you ain't so bad after all, Blake. In fact, you kinda remind me of myself at your age. Except, y'know, I'm a mutant. And I've got ethics. And I'm not a psychopath... (or a rapist...) You know what, maybe you remind me of someone else...

    Western Animation 

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NotSoSimilar