In Real Life, different people have different faces - barring identical twins or rare look-alikes.
Not so in cartoons. At the very least, a Child, Teenager, and Adult of both sexes will be distinct from each other (often solely by height). Afterwards, all bets are off.
Impossibly Cool Clothes or unusual hairstyles can create an extremely powerful framing effect, meaning the rest of the character's design may be quite simple as a shortcut. The unfortunate result may be a fundamentally homogenized artstyle, exacerbated if the designs are simplified further for characters who must be easy to animate in large groups. Naturally this runs the risk of looking somewhat cheap, especially if the cast gets very large. This can be compensated with color redesigns, or sticking a character habitually into one outfit, because said outfit is more distinctive than the actual character. In contrast, homogenous outfits (like school uniforms) tend to encourage faces to be drawn differently. Because of this, a character's outfit actually changing usually means its supposed to mark an emotional change in either them or how we're supposed to see them. A simple haircut can also mess up with who the character is very easily.
As East Asians culturally focus on eye and face shape to identify faces to a large degree, anime and manga typically uses a large amount of variation on eyes rather than changing the rest of the face. Similarly, western superheroes often look alike aside from their distinctive costumes depending on the artist. Female characters seem especially susceptible to this, due the emphasis on the character's stylised and stereotyped attractiveness/cuteness further limiting any unusual variation.
When applied in excess to secondary characters, it can become Faceless Masses. The Videogame version of this trope is You ALL Look Familiar.
This is an actual documented issue in ancient art history. Surviving burial portraits from Roman Egypt resemble each other more than real people would. The painters must have mixed-and-matched a limited repertoire of features, making this trope Older Than Feudalism. (This could also be due to Ancient Egyptian art's long history of making people look good, rather than realistic.)
The opposite of this trope is a Cast of Snowflakes, where even the most incidental characters designs tend to be unique and well-defined. Sounds like but is unrelated to Same Face, Different Name, which is about creators going by different monikers. A clever creator can work around this and create a Reused Character Design habit.
When you use "Only Six Faces", it often becomes more vital to give them some other Distinctive Appearances through the use of Limited Wardrobe.
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Anime and Manga
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and its sequels/spinoffs have about four basic body and face types - and character designer Hisashi Hirai's every work after Gundam Seed (Heroic Age, Fafner In The Azure Dead Aggressor) features the exact same character designs, arguably due to Gundam Seed's great success. (Which is a shame because he was quite versatile in his earlier works.) It gets a little absurd when you notice that the only difference between Kazuki from Fafner and Shinn from SEED Destiny is eye color.
And then there's Ryo in the prequel OVA, who looks exatly like Shinn except for eye color. At least Kazuki's hairstyle differs.
This can be pretty confusing in Super Robot Wars games with two of these series if you have watched neither.
This let him earn his Fan Nickname and Pun in Chinese that translates to "bottle neck dog corpse" (which is pseudo-homophonic to the Chinese pronunciation of his name), indicating he cannot get through his design bottle neck and kept using the same face over and over.
What makes Hirai's current style even more baffling is that it is a recent change in his style. Take a look at one of his older series, Dancouga. Now compare it to the above mentioned series. It almost raises the question of "What happened, Mr. Hirai?"
Well, he never actually designed the characters in that show, only the mechanics.
The 2012 Remaster of Gundam SEED is another perfect example. While SEED was the start of his generic art style, at least the early episodes had the characters with more distinctive features and unique quirks. The remaster completely throws these out in favor of making everyone look as identical as they did in SEED Destiny.
Lampshaded in G Gundam Abridged where Domon points out that his brother Kyoji looks a lot like American Chibodee Crockett, for which he blames the animators.
Ken Akamatsu's extensive cast of females usually end up like this:
In the most extreme example, Master of Disguise Kanako seems almost a Lampshade Hanging, easily dressing up as any of the Love Hina characters and even passing off the big-breasted Mutsumi as Keitaro with little more than some makeup and hair styling, glasses, and a sarashi.
The first Negima animated series also received flak for changing the hairstyles of the girls to more bold/garish colors. Interestingly, its creator admitted not all of his own color choices were static at that point and in fact began using some introduced colors as official ones because they were cute or make them more distinguishable in merchandise and group shots.
The spinoff manga Negima Neo is really bad about this; pick two random characters who are doing a Moe Stare and their faces will probably look exactly the same.
In Sayo's profile, he apologized for basically making her a white-haired Konoka.
Pani Poni Dash! parodies this by just having two generic characters (one male and one female) that look out of place compared to the main characters taking up often dozens of seats in a classroom in one shot. Sometimes these characters are randomly replaced with other objects, including, but not limited to animals.
Class 1-B, instead of the usual washed-out generics, gets apparent clones of the homely girl Ito. It's enough to freak out a TV crew.
Subverted later on in the manga and especially with the 2012 anime which arguably turns the series into a Cast of Snowflakes.
In Bleach there's an increasing level of homogenisation in Kubo's artwork as the manga (and by extension the anime) has progressed, where previously only a few characters shared similar features it seems he's working off a single face-shape template now with only cosmetic changes (hair, eye, skin) to differentiate. Characters that once looked very dissimilar now look almost identical (Ichigo and Byakuya, for example). When a gang of thugs invading the school looking for Ichigo mistook Uryuu Ishida for Ichigo, Uryuu's insulted response, "You got a good look at his face, didn't you? So what part of me resembles Kurosaki?", led to the fandom's response of "Your face does!". Cue memetic mutations, a fandom Running Gag and Wild Mass Guessing that perhaps Tite Kubo knows about this trope and is having fun with it. Chapter 540 suggests that this is in fact the case...turns out that Zangetsu looks like YhwachBECAUSE HE IS YHWACH.
Going back to his previous work, Zombie Powder, you'll find most girls tend to have the exact same face, but with a different haircut.
Clannad: Very similar body and facial types combined with everyone wearing the same uniform AND quite a few people sharing hair-colour makes actually telling characters apart a real challenge.
Dragon Ball uses this often, with about five or six major body types copied over and over again due to the large amount of alien and monstrous races; this results in bizarre circumstances when characters like Vegeta and Jeiice meet up, especially when they wear the same uniform. In contrast, Bulma is one of the series's only reoccurring females, so she's often given a different design.
Android 18 is distinctive from all other female designs, while even Bulma has some resemblance to the generic female. 18 has a very different nose and eyes, probably because she was one of the only serious female fighters in the series. However, jet black her hair and you have Android 17. They are meant to be twins, but come on, must they have even the same 'do, color difference apart? The similarity between the 17 and 18, along with them both having rather stand-out designs, could be intentionally invoking the Uncanny Valley.
Many of the main character's faces look very similar, with only small changes; Tenshinhan, Yamucha, Vegeta, and the adult versions of Goku, Gohan and Trunks all share several major features (thick eyebrows, pointy nose, large eyes). All of the above characters except Trunks also have the same eye color/design (plain black pupil, color indistinguishable). The only characters from the Cell-era group that really stick out physically are Chaozu (who is barely a speaking part at this point), Piccolo and Krillin.
Oddly, the villains seem immune - even bit players like Zarbon are given more distinct looks. And barring genetic resemblances, the main villains do not have look-alikes anywhere else in the series, while the heroes all resemble each other. The unique-villains, generic-heroes pattern is rigid enough that Vegeta, who was eventually destined for the heroes' side, already looked familiar on his first appearance; and Piccolo, who looked unique as a villain in dragonball, only had his species (90% carbon-copies) introduced shortly after his Heel Face Turn.
The Namekians can be excused since most of them are siblings.
Raditz is an exception to that unique-villain rule. If he and Vegeta had both appeared together before the revelation that he was Son Goku's brother, many would likely confuse him for being Vegeta's brother.
In a later story, Akane switches places with a foreign princess, wacky hijinks ensue, and then one character points out that Akane has yellow hair while the princess has green hair; they just didn't notice it because the manga was in black-and-white.
Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest games also have character designs by Toriyama. Some characters look suspiciously similar to some Dragonball characters, and even some of the monsters/animals looks familiar. Which leads some to joke that the robot is Trunks' time machine with eyeballs.
Most of the women in the Lupin III franchise. It gets to the point that Japanese Fujiko can easily impersonate a Bound and Gagged Soviet officer and an American stewardess with nothing more than a stolen uniform and pair of contact lenses.
Tachikawa Megumi's works seem to have only one face, leaving the reader constantly looking back to the character index. This was lampshaded in Kaitou Saint Tail, where Seira, who has different coloured hair and eyes from Meimi, dresses up as her seamlessly and needs to be pointed out with an arrow and note to the audience.
Osamu Tezuka deliberately chose to embrace this trope, Lampshade Hanging it by calling it the "Star System" as though his manga universe were a movie studio using actors; he came up with about forty recognizable character designs (occasionally to the point of Gonk in an effort to make them distinctive) and recycled them — even the instantly-recognizable ones like Black Jack and Atom — in multiple series.
This was continued by the creators of the movie version of Tezuka's Metropolis with the character Rock.
He took it up a notch in the Phoenix series. Not only did he use his major star system, but the primary theme of the series was reincarnation and the eternal struggle in attempting to catch the Phoenix. In the case of one soul, he was always doomed to have a large misshapen nose by the end of the story arc. Arguably the entire star system is these same people reincarnating again and again.
Hayao Miyazaki also has his own "Star System" of sorts - while, in each movie, the characters are very distinguishable from one another, watching several of his films in a row brings the audience to a realization that Miyazaki has many, effectively unnamed, "actors": most of his female leads bear a striking resemblance to Nausicaa, though at different ages – Kiki, Sophie, Sheeta, Fio, and San, being the most prominent examples; most male leads, in turn, look similar to Asbel at different ages - Ashitaka, Kohaku, Pazu, and Howl being the most obvious, though his look is altered from softer to harsher, depending on the character's personality. Other characters include Yubaba, who also appeared in Howls Moving Castle, and even bit characters like the soot spirits (appearing in both My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away). Watch closely next time for your favorite "actor".
Leiji Matsumoto tends to use the same faces over and over again. Sometimes it's explained (Mamoru Kodai was supposed to be Captain Harlock, for example), and sometimes it's not.
Earlier art for the Slayers novels have fairly distinguishable characters; as the Art Evolution set in, though, each character, moreso the females, become more and more identical facially and body-wise (which is noteworthy because both the anime and the books avoid using the same exact body types for the major female characters), leaving only their hair (and eyes, but very sporadically compared to before) as a distinguishing mark. Pick up the first Slayers Special novel, then pick up the latest Slayers Smash (a continuation, basically) and be amazed.
Claymore can be weird about this. While all of the Claymores have fairly distinct facial features (impressive, given their identical coloration and uniformly unblemished skin), the unimportant human characters share maybe four or five faces between them, while important humans have distinctive faces.
It's easy to think that Shinichi, Heiji, and Kaito Kid from Detective Conan and the Kaito Kid manga are actually the same person, along with every other guy who's the same age, and possibly every other girl, considering how well Kaito is able to disguise himself as Ran.
Heiji is actually pretty easy to distinguish from the others, due to his slightly different face shape and his noticeable tan. Shinichi and Kid however, are deliberately drawn alike, and have not-girlfriends who could be identical twins as well (though Word Of God has supposedly said that their resemblance is not a coincidence) Where the series really runs headlong into this trope is in the many, many random people around the cast who drop dead of various murder schemes, and their friends and family who may or may not have done it. As of this edit there are more than 500 episodes in the anime and over 700 chapters in the manga... and the typical one or two episode case introduces a minimum of 4 to 6 one-shot characters. That is a lot of people to make up, so it's no wonder they all start to look the same.
Fans have noted that Akai and Kir (who are of different genders) look confusingly similar in the manga. Though, again, for all we know at this point there could be a reason for that.
Considering how many plots have been constructing in recent years using the fact that two characters look alike, either it was all planned from the beginning (every single lookalike? It's Aoyama Gosho)... or Aoyama realised this over time and has been finding quite epic ways to lampshade it since. A recent plot, for example, focused on how much Satou-keiji and Kobayashi-sensei without her glasses look alike, and how that disrupts Shiratori's search for a little girl he fell in love with.
Gantz does this with Kurono and Inaba; both are similar enough in the black-and-white manga that it would be hard to tell the two apart...That is, if Kurono wasn't a great "everyone comes home alive, leave no man behind" hero type, and Inaba wasn't a cowardly wuss.
Rumiko Takahashi gets accused of this a lot with the rounded style of her characters' faces. This is especially noticeable in anthologies of her early work, where the heroes of different stories tend to look almost identical.
InuYasha. It's funny when everyone says how much Kagome looks just like Kikyo when both look equally similar to Sango, and almost every other woman. In fact, the difference between Kagome's and Kikyo's hairstyles and skintones makes them look less like each other than any other two characters of the same age and sex you could compare. And while their resemblance is a plot point (due to reincarnation), there is no excuse for why every other young woman looks the same.
There was one episode involving a young priest and his three sisters, all of whom (well, the sisters) looked just like each other and Sango. I bet there's a picture somewhere...
Ranma and Inuyasha even have the same voice actor. In Japanese and English.
Little kids (or characters who look like them) tend to suffer from this in her work too: Jariten (Urusei Yatsura), Shippo (Inuyasha), and Rokumon (RIN-NE) might as well be triplets.
Basically, age and sex are what make her characters distinct. All children are Shippo, all young men are Miroku, all young women are Sango.
The constant hiding of Onigumo's face becomes hilarious when you consider that, as a young man before his injury, anybody who's watched that far knows what he must look like.
Scott McCloud (Making Comics, p. 123) gives a slightly different perspective on this by pointing out that Takahashi is one of a number of artists who "have a narrower range of features for heroic or beautiful protagonists, but a wide range of face and body types among supporting characters."
Random villagers in Inyuasha tend to have more elongated faces than her main characters, though. you can basically tell who's going to be important to the episode by the presence or absence of the basic faces - if he looks like Miroku, you're either going to have to save him or kill him.
Rumiko Takahashi's use of Only Six Faces is most present in Ranma ˝. As most of the characters are teenaged martial artists, they tend to be built the same and differences in body type (such as Akane's A-Cup Angst) tend to be implied through words rather than the illustrations themselves. With Mousse, Ryōga, and Ranma, if you cut all of their hair and got rid of Ryōga's bandana, they'd be virtually indistinguishable (aside from Ryōga's fangs and pale eyes). Same goes for Shampoo, Akane, Ukyō, Girl-Ranma, and the most of the other female characters. The adults mostly seem to be more distinct, though: Sōun and Genma don't have any almost-twins running around, for example.
Mushishi: Realistic hair and clothing, combined with simplified faces, means great difficulty telling most of the characters apart.
From manga to manga, Mishima Kazuhiko's characters tend to look the same.
The characters, especially the lead females, in Mitsuru Adachi's dozen or so manga series look very, very similar. In the art books, the only way to tell when one series stops and another begins is by the chapter headings. Each character within a series looks different, but each series has character designs similar to the previous one.
With the exception of "Nine" and "Cross Game", there's are only two heroine types in terms of appearances. I call them the Haruka and Hikari type since both of these characters appear in the same manga. They are both heroines since that manga had two heroes and two heroines.
Captain Tsubasa in any adaption, especially women. They look almost the same with different hairstyle and color. Men don't get away with it either; Schneider is just Tsubasa with blonde hair and green eyes.
Lampshaded in Fruits Basket. Hanajima and her younger brother Megumi are drawn with pretty much the same face, and everyone thinks they look alike...but Hana always protests that they look completely different.
Manga artist Sho-U Tajima tends to recycle a small handful of not just faces, but complete character designs over and over again for all of his different projects, resulting in characters that reside in completely different games and comics that wind up looking identical to one another in every way. For example, Rion Steiner of the game Galerians seems to be a clone of Hisashi Shimazu, a villain from the manga MPD Psycho, right down to the single hoop earring.
Taka Tony is well known for being able to draw exactly one sort of face. It is off-set somewhat by the sheer detail put into the rest of his drawings but becomes disturbing when he has more than one character is a picture.
Tony seems to both play this irritatingly straight and subvert it with his work with the Shining Force series: Female characters are almost literally the same girl wearing different dresses, but male characters (especially non-human ones) are very diverse, apart from maybe the lead males.
Marmalade Boy. With a bit of luck you might be able to distinguish a boy from a girl, but that's as far as you'll get with only the face to go by. Hair colors and -styles make all the difference.
ALL of Wataru Yoshizumi's series suffer from this. One can find about 100 Yuu look-alikes across her otherworks.
Yaoi mangaka Minami Haruka is well-known for having many of her characters look rather similar, compounded by the fact that she also tends to stick to one body type.
Minami Haruka's pictures in her artbooks include boys, Yaoi Guys, and girls. Guess what? They all look the same.
Axis Powers Hetalia is very amusing and lots of fun, but reading the webcomic, with its often sketchy style, leads to much confusion between characters. Watching the anime is a bit easier on one's brain. Thank God for different hair colors!
Some characters do have unique faces that can't be mistaken for anyone else's, Russia being the most prominent example. On the other hand, many characters are given distinctive appearance traits like glasses or ahoge to counter the Generic Cuteness — take away England's characteristic Big Ol' Eyebrows, and he could be mistaken for Iceland or a calm Prussia. Likewise, smooth down America's ahoge and you get Estonia.
Taiwan is basically an Asian Hungary with a hair curl
Cameroon is basically a black Sweden with a hair cross
Thailand is basically dark haired Denmark, likewise Australia is twin ahoge thicked eyebrows Denmark.
Whilst One Piece has always had a brilliant record for differentiating male characters from one another (perhaps more so than any other manga out there, considering just how outlandish and distinctive each of those characters tends to be), the female characters have traditionally come from a far, far more limited palette, thus evoking the "female characters are more susceptible" aspect of this trope in spades. There was a time when it wouldn't have been a stretch to describe the vast majority of One Piece females as "Nami clones" (the few exceptions mostly being the women who barely look human at all like Miss Merry Christmas). Perhaps inevitably, considering just how large his cast has grown, Oda recently seems to have overcome this limitation, even to the point of coming up with an entire island of nothing but female characters, with a crapload of differentiation◊, in the largest part because he quit "holding back" and let the female characters have faces as wild and outlandish as any male character.
Not to worry, though, because Hiro Mashima has inherited the legacy! ...Okay, so the rumors that he has been directly associated with Oda have always been denied, but when the first thing anybody taking a glance at his art in Fairy Tail says is something along the lines of "Is this the guy who did One Piece?" you know there's got to be a connection somewhere. And yes, the most obvious aspect is that his lead female (and most of his other females, to an extent) have inherited Oda's classic Single Female Character Design.
Although Blade Of The Immortal is notable for its more realistic style and lack of the usual visual gags, the female characters (except for Doa) have pretty much the same face. If Rin didn't have those hair rings, she would be practically indistinguishable from the other female characters.
Yuu Watase is particularly bad about this - she appears to have two teenager/young adult faces, male and female, with different hairstyles and the occasional Gonk thrown in for good measure (and other age groups aren't exactly bursting with variety). In Imadoki!, she actually had to change a character's hair color in order to make him distinguishable from another after he shaved his goatee. This is made even worse because of the two short stories shoehorned into the last volume of Imadoki!, both starring male and female protagonists who are 100% identical to the ones from the story that just finished...and equally indistinguishable from the lead couples of Fushigi Yugi, Absolute Boyfriend, and Alice 19th.
With some occasional exceptions, Full Metal Panic seems to be populated with face-clones.
The female students in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei are basically the same design except for hair and eye style or props, making it difficult for the uninitiated to tell them apart.
Arguably this is part of the visual appeal of the series.
Exception: The foreign exchange student, Kimura, is very easy to tell apart from the other girls, being the only blonde/blue-eyed girl in the show. She also wears a different uniform.
Maria also averts the trope to some degree, although it may be due to her different skin tone rather than her actual facial features. And then, of course, we have the Gonk Kotokon...
Naturally, Kiri is the easiest one to tell apart, since the times when she's not wrapped up in her blanket is when she's being Ms. Fanservice.
This gets even more apparent with the end-of-episode guest artwork from other six-face mangakas, like Rumiko Takahashi.
Ignoring the expy nature of most of the side characters from Sailor Moon—imported from Codename wa Sailor V—Takeuchi really only has about six faces for all her series: The deep male, the innocent male, the mature female, the innocent female, the cheery female, and the nondescript either.
This is slightly subverted in that the main characters tend to have unique faces from the rest of their cast, but identical faces to main characters in other series.
The two leads in Pieta can be distinguished only by their hair.
Lampshaded in a Gintama omake, where Ginpachi-sensei explains how to draw the characters.
"Next I'll teach you how to draw Shinpachi and Kagura. Draw a normal guy; make him as bland as possible. Then give him glasses. You're done! Next, how to draw Kagura. Take off Shinpachi's glasses and change the hair to white. Then give her dumplings. You're done!"
Masami Kurumada of Saint Seiya fame is very famous for this. He has two faces for men (normal men and bulky men), one face for little boys and one face for girls. That's all. The fact that many of his characters share similar hairstyles doen't really help — it was for that reason that the anime adaptation gave them tons of different hair colors.
In Hokuto No Ken, more than a handful of the women look remarkably similar, which is used as a plot point. Also, before his character development kicked in, Rei looked a hell of a lot like Shin.
Wandering Son. The mangaka even admits that she always draws things where the characters don't look very different. When the only apparent differences between girls and boys are hairstyle and clothes, it's not exactly surprising that Shuuichi can easily look like a girl just by putting on a hairband.
This extends out to her other works, especially Aoi Hana. If one were to go from being associated with one of the two manga, and began reading the other, you'd notice quite a few characters look a like. Some even are Gender Flip's of others.
Lampshaded in an omake for Zettai Karen Children, when a male character asks to keep his signature headband because there's already two other guys with the same hair/face style and he's worried about not being recognized.
The female characters in Yamatogawa's stories are all quite distinct. The main male character is pretty much the same guy across all stories. Considering what he writes, could it beintentional?
Masamune Shirow is a major offender here. His male characters are ok and plentiful, but he seems to only have one female face he can draw (and he did comment on this in his artbooks quite a few times).
Most of the characters in Girls Bravo, specifically the girls, have similar looking faces.
Despite Akiko Hatsu's skill in drawing brilliantly detailed settings, antiques and clothes in both Victorian England and Ancient Japan, most of her characters tend to look very similar. Not that they are less beautiful as a result, but it's just somewhat confusing when there is two teen protagonists, both with supernatural powers, both with dark hair, both of similar build, in two completely unrelated comics.
Psyren is usually just a mild case of this with its male characters, but it has a few especially jarring examples with its main character. That was very confusing during the fight at the Grigori research facility when Ageha fights a guy who looks almost identical to him.
In the beginning, Naruto actually averted this, with characters having different faces. But the art decayed, and if the character is a young adult, it has the same chin and mouth as every other young adult. yeah, regardless of gender!!
Several characters also strongly resemble each other; its usually justified though as most are either related in some way, or the resemblance is deliberately symbolic (for instance, Yahiko/ Deva Pain looks almost exactly like an older Naruto; this is probably to reflect his status as an Evil Counterpart).
Basically all of Arina Tanemura's main heroines have a similar face, gigantic-eyed and all, with eye-size variations and her male characters only occasionally bear different-sized eyes and pupils. She is fond of long hair so most of heroines also have Rapunzel Hair, though she does style it differently from character to character.
Kaori Yuki was guilty of this during ealier years (the first six volumes of God Child and the first volumes of Angel Sanctuary, possibly earlier work too). There was always a man with slightly longer, dark hair, a blonde/brunette women with long, curly hair, not to mention a line of young boys with blond hair (honestly, could anyone tell Eric, Ariel and that boy from the God child chapter Who killed Cock Robin apart?)
Bizenghast is very much a victim of this. Almost all the young women and men, including Vincent and Dinah, have the same face with different hair. (The old men and women were slightly less subjected to it.) They all seem to have the same height as well.
It should be noted that if Lieutenant Maya Ibuki wore the boy's school uniform for Shinji's school, she would look ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE HIM.
H-Manga artist Shunjyo Shusuke is a heavily blatant case of only one face and body for either gender (and even then, it's only a matter of effort in eye-shine to make one into the other) however this is excusable with the variations in personalities and the fact that both models are detailed enough to stand out compared to more typical anime styles.
Yamamoto Yoshifumi, another H-manga artist is a funny case in that he started using exactly one face with the only difference between the genders were the breasts making women look like walking letter "Ps" then changed his style to make everyone shorter, rounder and more Moe-like... and it's still exactly one face!
From Eroica with Love is an example that oddly supports and subverts this trope. Sparing differences in hair, eyes, and wardrobe, "handsome" characters (i.e. Klaus, Dorian, and Agent Z) look very similar. Comic relief and other supporting characters (i.e. Agents A and B, Mr. James, and Bonham) are distinctive in appearance: these folks vary greatly in terms of build, facial and skull shape, height, etc.
Shuichi Shigeno has, perhaps inevitably, slipped into this territory. More than a few longtime readers have pointed out that the Two Guys From Tokyo are essentially an overweight Takumi and Itsuki and, when Mika was introduced, honestly thought for a while that Natsuki had made a comeback.
Manwha by Hwang Ri Mi and Han Yu-rang can be accused of this. Most characters can only be distinguished by clothes and hair styles, and even the "ugly" characters are Hollywood Homely.
Though the males can come off better, every female character in Jormungand has the exact same, triangle like face.
Shojo mangaka Haruka Fukushima is incredibly guilty of this (though got slightly better after time), to the point that most of her heroines literally have the exact same hairstyle and hair colour. This and the fact that most of her series are Cliche Storms has made her Snark Bait to veteran shojo fans.
Archie Comics is relatively well-known for this, as a common story involves Betty or Veronica merely placing on a wig to imitate the other, leaving every other character completely fooled. In fact, the only female characters in Archie Comics not to have the same body and face type are either older women, the rare 'super-attractive' types such as Cheryl Blossom or Melody, who possess larger busts and more curves, or the Gonks like Big Ethel.
It varies from artist to artist, sometimes Cheryl Blossom and Melody have the same body as every other girl. Cheryl Blossom is lucky enough to get a slightly different face most of the time, though.
In one comic, Betty and Veronica both dyed their hair red. Aside from hair style, they looked identical.
For astute readers this becomes something of a metajoke. Since Betty and Veronica are essentially identical, Archie's indecision between them is based entirely on their personalities rather than their appearance.
Much of the cast of Scott Pilgrim restyle or dye their hair throughout the series — a very bad move considering Bryan Lee O'Malley can draw approximately 2 faces ('standard' and 'long', with optional female characteristics for the latter if you're lucky), and uses the same one for all recurring characters. Freckles are employed twice... and fail to distinguish the two identical blondes to which they're applied. This leads to interminable stretches of "Aren't those two together anymore? Who is that? Isn't she in America? I thought he was with them"...
Not to mention the comic is in black and white.
This was somewhat fixed in the fourth volume, when the characters are given at least one unique facial characteristic. Kim is the only one that has freckles now, Wallace's eyes are always squinted, Stephen has Perma Stubble, Knives has no whites in her eyes, etc. Also, some people have different head shapes, like Knives' dad is square, Mobile is horizontally elongated, the twins are pointed vertically elongated rectangles, etc.
Jack Kirby's women are famous for being only distinguishable by their hairstyles. His other characters, on the other hand, are so varied and diverse that it almost makes up for it.
This is an improvement on how he drew people in the early Fantastic Four (and other comics of the time)—one letters column admitted his eight basic types bore an unofficial nickname, "Kirby's Kast of Kharacters."
In an early issue of Fantastic Four, this was even a plot point. By simply putting on a wig and a spare FF uniform, blind sculptress Alicia Masters looked exactly like Sue Stormnote See item #6. — to other characters, as well as the reader!
Finder by Carla Speed MacNeil does this on purpose, in a civilization composed almost entirely of clans that intentionally inbreed to look like each other.
However, the different clans (and the non-clan characters) have wide variety of very different faces.
John Romita Sr., second main artist for Spider Man, had one design for attractive female characters. It got so bad that at one point, Mary Jane Watson was given a Funny Afro just to distinguish her from Gwen Stacy, as their faces were near-identical. A little credit has to be given to him for consistently drawing Gwen with high cheekbones and Mary Jane with dimples and a cleft chin, a template that most of the artists who succeeded him followed.
John Byrne (of Fantastic Four, The Man of Steel) is known for having his male faces look pretty much the same, while his female characters all have the same face. This is especially noticeable when his Batman and Superman are on the same page: the two of them are twins who happen to wear different costumes.
He averts this in the Generations graphic novels, starring Superman and Batman, because he draws Batman with the distinctive Lantern Jaw that he sported back in the Silver Age.
Ditto Jim Lee. Batman and Superman appear to be clones, and all women are identical. This has caused a lot of confusion in certain parts.
This trope was in full force in the Golden and Silver Age DC Universe. Consider all the times that Superman and Batman were able to pose as each other with literally no one figuring it out until they explicitly identified themselves.
The semi-internet-famous meme 'Tony Stark Is Everyone' is basically the masterpiece of this trope. Turns out that without his distinctive mustache, Tony Stark becomes Bruce Wayne. Adding glasses made him Clark Kent. From there, the permutations are endless.
Female characters in general seem to suffer the most from this trope in comic books. The older the comic, the more likely it is that all female characters have the same face, just with different hairstyles, and sometimes, with a little luck, a slightly different body type.
During the Silver Age, Superman would run into lookalikes often - from his Kandorian cousin to a movie actor- who were so similar to him that they could (and did) pass for him. Of course this was an intentional plot point. I guess Supes is supposed to have "one of those faces" which helps to explain his Clark Kenting - somewhat.
Tom Grummett's characters tend to all have the same face. This makes it awkward when drawing characters who are romantically involved, such as Superboy and Wonder Girl, or Mach-IV and Songbird.
Mark Bagley is a major offender, especially in Ultimate Spider-Man. He is often forgiven for this because he is an inhumanly fast penciller - in an era where comic fans are used to delays, Bagley has a habit of getting issues out early.
Plus he used this to astounding effect in the Ultimate Clone Saga, wherein Peter's Opposite Sex Clone really does look exactly like him, only female. Though Bagley does repeat his faces, they look much more like each other than any other character.
Similarly, the Ultimate Richard Parker was immediately recognizable as the 616 version of Peter Parker.
Elf Quest was a rare aversion. Wendy Pini kept a concordance of the shapes of eyes, facial structure, etc., so that her elves definitely weren't the same faces with different (extremely elaborate) hairdos. Although elves are all slender and have bodies that are considered attractive in this culture, there was a lot of variation in that shapeliness, on the men and especially the women.
Greg Land is infamous not only for apparently tracing his characters from porno magazines photos, but also for tracing entirely different characters from the same◊ photo. There have been quite a few joke campaigns to buy Land more porn just so comic readers can see some variety in his work
Ed Benes tends to give every female character more or less the same face. This is especially noticeable in his Justice League comics, where Black Canary and Zatanna look like blond/brunette versions of each other.
A big problem for Steve Dillon, who draws faces very distinctively and very uniformly. Sadly this wasn't always the case, Dillon is an excellent draftsman, but even he has admitted to oversimplifying things in his work.
Phil Noto also does this for his characters, but makes it so pretty. Ditto Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Stuart Immonen ...
David Lafuente averts this. He gives all the cast of Ultimate Spider-Man distinct faces, hairstyles, dress styles, and rarest of all, physical builds.
Artesia. It's more like two - one for men and one for women. Mark Smylie paints almost everything with great detail - human faces being the exception. There are certain variations, like slightly wider noses, wrinkles and scars. The only way to really tell the characters apart is hair and facial hair. With the Ensemble Cast, it sometimes makes things confusing. The old Artesia website used to have a Character Sheet, but the new one does not.
Maybe not faces, but for Kevin Maguire, it's expressions. Look at Superbuddies or his JLI runs and you'll see the same confused expressions on the faces of the JLI.
Franco Urru's art on Angel spin-off comics - his male characters are pretty individual but his womens' faces and bodies are quite interchangeable. Particularly annoying since many of the characters are based on live-action actors who don't look alike.
Charlie Adlard's art for The Walking Dead is especially bad with this, at least in the beginning of his tenure. He seems to have one stock "Unshaven White Guy With Large Nose and Scowl" face that he uses pretty much constantly for at least three or four different main characters, and most of the women (and Glen) are only identifiable by their hair and/or hats. In shots that just show the face, the reader has little clue who they're looking at, outside of the dialogue. On top of that, the range of expression for the vast majority of Adlard's characters is exactly one: semi-stoic serious face. This is especially notable since the first six issues were drawn by Tony Moore, who actually made all of the characters look very distinct from one-another, especially Lori (Rick's wife). Tony Moore being a complete and total aversion of this trope makes Charlie Adlard's work following Moore's departure all the more jarring, though he has visibly improved over time.
Millie the Model often consciously imitated the Archie Comics style and had many of the same artists, including Dan [DeCarlo] and Stan Goldberg. Unsurprisingly, the feature often shared this trope with Archie as well.
Terry and Rachel Dodson draw a lot of similar faces (see quote page).
Surprise! Rob Liefeld goes here. Once, a "top 40 worst Rob Liefeld drawings" list showcased a scan of two data profiles on two different characters; the faces were identical, and the blonde hairstyles nearly so. The list asked readers, for bonus points, to guess which of the two was supposed to be latina.
Archie Comics Sonic The Hedgehog is often accused of taking this to the entire body. Many share a body and head type with Sonic, even if they're not hedgehogs. Many characters are distinguished by clothing elements, colored bodies, or hairstyle.
This is part of the reason why the comics are immensely popular in the fan art community (one could make a drinking game out of browsing Deviant Art for recolors of Sonic). The body type is fairly easy to learn and since many characters design-wise could be dumbed down as 'diffrent color Sonic with hair', novice artists often can fall back on tracing pages.
In his list of 15 Things That Are Wrong With Identity Crisis, Linkara briefly mentions that Michael Turner could only draw two faces: male and female.
In the German comic Werner: Brösel once revealed in an interview that his characters are mostly based on a very few faces with a very few variations.
Unsed intentionally in the comic Sturmtruppen, where all the soldiers share the same body type, and so do the officers. Bonvi's point was to underline how much war "de-humanize" soldiers and turns them into an anonymous mass.
Any interpretation of super heroes by Creator/Alex Ross will be super-detailed and almost photo-realistic... paintings of the exact same guy or girl, just in a different outfit (or painted green in the case of The Martian Manhunter, etc.)
Lampshaded in the DVD commentary of The Incredibles, in which all of the background and minor characters are "played" by the same, slightly-altered CGI model (dubbed "Universal Man"). Yes, even the female characters.
Pixar actually did this again with Cars where some of the background characters have the exact same vehicle body style!
Overall though, Pixar had been pretty good at averting this. Even when using the same model, they've been able to create pretty unique characters, whether they be background or main.
The financially-strapped Disney used severaliconic dance scenes, from at least three different movies, over again in Robin Hood. Along with some other scenes. Deja vu, much? All the scenes were drawn from the exact same live-action source material (and, in some cases, Xeroxs of that material).
Walt Flanagan played no less than four roles in Clerks, and that was before he began the recurring role as the Fanboy. Kevin Smith even dubbed him the Lon Chaney of The Nineties.
Live-action war movies can be like this, since often everyone is a young man with a crew cut wearing fatigues, a helmet and a lot of obscuring mud. If the army in question is integrated, there might at least be a Token Black guy.
Mostly averted in Robots, which features a few background characters that are variants on the same model, but otherwise has a fairly diverse array of character designs.
Beauty And Warrior: The only differences between the female goddesses are the colors of their clothing and hairstyles; and the only difference between the two brothers is eye color.
A common problem in slasher films and any other horror film that serves mainly as an excuse to have various people die. Due to the lack of character development these films tend to have, add to that directors hiring similar looking actresses and actors, it can become really difficult at times to tell exactly who of the cast has died.
In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, all the girls look the same, only varying by their hairstyles. Word Of God says it's because Greg "thinks all girls are the same" and "doesn't quite understand them yet".
In the earlier Warrior Cats graphic novels by James L. Barry, there are hardly any variations in character design. This isn't a problem usually, because in the Graystripe's Adventure series not very many characters appeared at the same time, but in crowd shots it's very problematic. it's especially hilarious in the gathering at the end when there are four cats in the crow who look exactly like Ravenpaw.
All young, attractive women in Beetle Bailey over the decades, varying only by hair style and clothing. They're also drawn in a very different style from the men and older women, with sensuously flowing lines (which is of course only an exaggeration of reality). The style has shifted somewhat over the years, but the theme hasn't. Two recurring examples are Ms. Buxley and Beetle's previous girlfriend, who look about as different as they can within this technique, but mostly it applies to the hundreds of usually nameless extras Killer and the other soldiers are typically drooling after. If a young woman is drawn any other way, she's almost without exception meant to be plain or ugly.
All the younger men in Apartment 3-G look like each other.
Scott Adams, author of Dilbert, isn't quite as bad as certain other examples on this page, but has admitted that he can't draw that many faces. This resulted in two main things:
Once George Wunder took over as artist for Terry and the Pirates, this was the rule, with all the characters — male or female — having the same face.
The work of John William Waterhouse took this to extremes—the subjects of his paintings all look exactly alike, just with different clothing and, occasionally, hair color.
Several of the Pre-Raphaelites (Dante Gabriel Rosetti comes to mind) feature this, because they tended to have a few go-to female models they used for most of their pictures. The portraits could be more accurately titled "[Model] as/in the guise of [Goddess/Mythological Figure]".
Edward Burne-Jones only does one face, usually from the same angle (three-quarters profile) with the same long thick neck and broad shoulders. When it's supposed to be male he puts a beard on it and covers up the neck with armour. It's basically Janey Morris (his model) plays everyone in the universe. Particularly pronounced in his stained-glass windows in Birmingham St Chad's, where Janey Morris is Jesus, the Madonna and the hosts of heaven.
LEGO had a stock smiley face for all figures during the 70s and 80s. Sometime in the 90s they decided to use more different prints (like bearded man, guy with sunglasses, etc.). They do new faces regularly, but lines like City are still plagued with this - for example most of the policemen have the same grumpy expression, and there seems to be only three different female head prints; this is possibly justifiable in how City figures are supposed to be generic everymen with no designated characterisation. Conversely, licensed themes handle this better because the main characters need to be identifiable, but they still spam the more generic-looking heads like the Norman Osborn one (who accordingly was also a Nazi, a Communist, his own son Harry, and the goddamn Batman) for mooks and guards.
Then there's BIONICLE, which in the early days literally had only twelve different masks for the entire population of Mata Nui, and later possibly the entire universe. Virtually every mask introduced after the beginning was a one-off for the characters on whom they were used, with very rare exceptions, while almost everyone else still just had the same original twelve. Also, underneath the masks? The same four or five head pieces, further exacerbated by the first film trilogy which made all the heads the same.
This later became a problem when masks became the only unique part of the toys. After the Inika line, almost all Toa-level figures had a standard template for how they're built. While some of them are visually different, construction-wise they were all nearly the same, and a simple armor swap can make one Toa look like another (or a bad guy). Adverted with the Barraki and Mistika Makuta lines, who all had unique construction making them vastly different from each other, even in the same line (the Barraki, in fact, were only similar in the construction of their "skull", while the Mistika Makuta had nothing in common at all).
Minimate faces only have eyes and mouths, no noses, so they tend to look a lot alike. The Mobile Action Xtreme line takes this to new heights, with each two-pack of figures sharing one identical face.
The first Mass Effect game had many alien background characters cycle through the same small number of faces. It was actually justified in-universe, when a Turian that didn't have much prior contact with humans couldn't tell what gender Shepard was, and later commented that humans "all look alike". The sequels brought more depth to character faces, but background characters still appeared with stock faces.
Knights of the Old Republic was little better. There was only one face for each race, and only a couple for humans. Even the player character could only select from a few stock faces, and could quite possibly run into a face clone.
Perhaps somewhat understandably, Final Fantasy XI does this, with most races having only 8 faces per race/gender combination, and a palette-swapped version of each face to give an alternate hair-color (the Tarutaru race has only 4 faces per gender, offering 4 sets of coloration per face instead of two). This is only a strict limitation on PCs and the quested NPC fellows (who were further limited to a subset of these), but even some story-important NPCs showed very little differentiation from these models (most egregious example from off the top of this editor's head is Doctor Shantotto, who is Tarutaru Female face 4-A in relatively common mage gear, with some custom animations), and most general NPCs who are neither very young nor very old use the same faces as PCs. Also, each race/gender combination is identical from the neck down, with both sexes of Tarutaru being thus identical to each other as well.
This is a complaint with quite a few MMOs. Most MMOs without extensive character generators tend to have very few facial choices per sex/race combination. World Of Warcraft, for example, tends to average somewhere around eight faces per sex/race combo, and usually only two of each of them look good enough to use most of the time. True, you can change hair color and shape, and facial hair, but that's really barely anything, and most of those favor heavily towards one style. Even one of the rare examples that shouldn't be, City of Heroes, tends to lean towards this; while they have a lot, lot, LOT of options, only a few are really, honestly usable for "normal" looking characters. The rest are a bit too close to Uncanny Valley half the time to be tolerable.
It's an awfully common thing for the awfully generic products that fill 90% of the Dating Sim market. This is visible in almost everything, stock character designs, stock plots, stock character types, stock Photoshop glowing pink, etc. This YTMND animation gives a really good example.
Note that the characters featured in that animation are all designed by Naru Nanao; a couple of them even come from the same game. Her later designs vary a bit more.
This also follows with anime based on h-games (AIR, Kanon, etc.) which tend to have only one face — well, maybe two, one for boys and one for girls.
Possibly the worst offender is Aoi Nishimata, possibly best known as one of the character designers for SHUFFLE. (Examples: One◊, Two◊, Three◊, Four.)
Forget stock 'designs', the game Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteruliterally uses the same three character pictures for any random students who aren't part of the main cast. This includes several named characters who are part of the Student Council during Takako's plot.
In a couple of rare examples (such as Dragon Quest Swords, where none of the characters have spiky hair/Goku eyes, and a few are wearing decidedly Baroque-era or gothic outfits) he breaks out of the six faces mold, but when he phones it in (such as with Tobal No. 1 and Blue Dragon), it's really obvious that he is.
In Backyard Baseball and other Backyard Sports games, all characters, besides the 30 main ones, are based off of a few models.
Tetsuya Nomura is often accused of succumbing to this trope. At least there's an in game excuse for all the characters that resemble each other in the Kingdom Hearts games.
To expand, in Kingdom Hearts Sora, Kairi and Xehanort, each have several look-a-likes for various reasons. You can be certain that every single time you notice someone bears a physical resemblance to someone else, it will be significant. This is so rampant in the series that it almost wasn't a surprise when we found out Vanitas looks like Sora. So far, Riku is the only core member of the main cast to not have a doppelganger, unless you count the Riku Replica.
The girls of the hentai Bible Black are not only limited to a single face, they all have the same body figure, and CGs featuring more of them will clearly show that they all have the same heights. It's like they are all clones with different hair and accessories.
The anime series mostly attempts to avert this, as the character designer seems to have done their best at making the women as distinguishable as possible from one another. Character models show that, at least for the named characters, they attempted giving each male and female different figures and body types, and all of them are different heights. This is not completely averted however, as certain characters do look quite a bit alike and un-named background characters are sometimes identical to others.
The guys of Dead Or Alive are easy to tell apart, but the girls all have the same vaguely-childlike face, and the same build. It gets even more noticeable when you look at Team Ninja's fanart of Chun-Li and Cammy, though they tone down the former's Hartman Hips.
Well, that's not entirely true. Close inspection reveals that there are, in fact, two female models in the game, the tall, incredibly well-endowed Caucasian, and the petite, yet still incredibly well-endowed Asian (or half-Asian).
Akihiko Yoshida is notorious for this. Almost every character he designs (particularly in games like Final Fantasy Tactics and sequels, and Final Fantasy III (DS)) has the same face, albeit with a few characteristics. It's quite an accomplishment when even some of the males and females look the same.
The biggest culprit here is that he rarely gives the characters noses. It is really difficult to differentiate characters when one of the biggest facial features is just missing.
The Witcher had this bad. A very obvious shortcoming of the game's graphics department was that there were only one or two models for merchants, old ladies, old men, hookers and so on, as a result of which most NPCs of a particular type looked like identical twins. This stands out even more due to the fact that even named and important NPCs share some of these repetitive models.
In The Sims 1, there are only about 8 faces and 3 skintones (dark, medium, light) to choose from for each gender and age group (adult or child). In The Sims 2 and 3, this is changed and the "Create A Sim" options are greatly improved. However, in The Sims 2, the NPC's or Townies often only have faces from the pre made faces in CAS, leading to various nicknames by fans (e.g. the mailwoman Dagmar Bertino has "Face 1", which is considered to be the prettiest face).
Players sometimes invoke this by only allowing Face 1 and Face 2 townies to marry and breed with their playable sims, leading to challenge families where You All Look Alike.
An inversion is that "Breed Ugly Sims" challenges, where players will marry their sims with the stranger-looking townies in the interest of breeding ugly sims, will often result in children who aren't Face 1 and Face 2, but are still quite attractive, making them instant favorites. Aliens tend to do this, as do Death and funnily-named Pleasantview townie Goopy Gilscarbo, who has a reputation for producing unusually beautiful children despite his bizarre features.
The old Infinity Engine games, Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment, Icewind Dale, etc, were all full of color Palette Swaps and identical-looking NPCs. Even many quite-well characterized NPCs were virtual clones of a stock model. Protagonists were frequently not exempt, with one build, one basic outfit, and one face for the male and female of every race. Customization came down to hair, skin, and clothing colors. Despite this, major characters often had impressively detailed rich portraits.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? did this with its witnesses by taking a few figures and randomizing its color palette. Ingenious when you realize that all the crooks are done up the same way.
The NPCs in Epic Mickey, if they're plot-unimportant, will tend to look like clones of Dippy Dawg, Horace Horsecollar, or Clarabelle Cow. This is justified in that they're unused concept art and non-final character designs for the same characters. This is here because there were plans and potential to use a number of forgotten Disney characters and stands out more because the plot-important characters look wildly different from each other.
Bioshock 2 has this with the little sisters in the final cutscene (good ending).
Worldof Warcraft offers about 8 or 9 face options per race/gender. While many of the male faces get used, female faces are rarely used unless they're one of the couple of youthful, smooth faces available for that race, making female characters more likely to look like clones of eachother.
One particular troll female face is known as "cutefase" (note spelling). Whereas other troll faces have wrinkles, deepset lines, and cranky expressions, cutefase is young, smooth, and appears either deadpan or "under the influence." Virtually all female trolls will use this face. The term cutefase is often also applied to an orc female face with smooth features and the forsaken female face that lacks visible decay (the last of which is also called the "dollfase").
Female tauren and worgen faces are notoriously difficult to distinguish from one another. This is further exacerbated by the fact that all female worgen have pale green eyes and the same expression, while female tauren only have four non-death-knight-specific options.
The Mario series is a big offender when it comes to non-human characters. All characters who are Toads, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, etc. tend to have exactly the same face and body, sometimes being distinguished by their clothes or facial hair (or, in some Koopa Troopas cases, shell color). And all Yoshis look exactly the same except for their color scheme (and many times, even the colors repeat). While all members of a species looking the same makes sense when they're enemies, it gets annoying when you're dealing with actual characters: It's impossible to tell if you're looking at the "main" Toad or a generic one, or whether the green Yoshi Mario rides through the different games in the series is always the same one. And the fact that the names of the "main" Toad and Yoshi are just "Toad" and "Yoshi" respectively doesn't help, either.
Touhou: Not only is ZUN susceptible to this with his famously crappy character art, but so are some of the official manga artists, such as Aki Eda (Silent Sinner in Blue) and Makoto Hirasaka (Touhou Sangetsusei).
One step up in the fighting games. As far as Alphes' character portraits go, literally everyone has the same face.
THE iDOLM@STER - All the girls are distinguished only by their hair, body types and eye color. The face template for all of them is the same. The anime managed to make it less noticeable, though.
Arthur's Quest: Battle for the Kingdom, at least according to the Something Awfulreview: "You start out in....some town, somewhere. But this is a special clone town, one that's populated by about 12 people with about 3 or 4 unique looks. You'd think they would have at least bothered to make a few more models, or at least position the people so that identical twins aren't standing right next to each other."
Neverwinter Nights does this oddly. There are dozens of unique character portraits... but with each random NPC getting one from this selection, they get repetitive anyway, with it not helping that the portraits are always the same, not modified slightly the way characters in a work with Only Six Faces usually can be.
In the X-Universe games, a given NPC is usually generated by picking from a list of roughly half a dozen faces per race and assigning a race-appropriate name from a similar list. Major characters such as Saya Kho sometimes get their own face.
Save for Campbell, Dr. Betruger, Counselor Swann, Theresa Chasar and Sergeant Kelly, the NPC's in Doom 3 have all the exact same asian, middle-aged white or young white male faces. There are two black males in the first level, though, but that could be Hand Wavedas them being twins.
Former SNK and current Capcom artist, "Shinkiro", possesses an almost photo-realistic (if slightly creepy) art-style. The thing is, all his characters have more or less the same face and their expressions seem limited to "serious", "creepy grin" and "manic grin".
The 2005 video game homage to The Warriors has pretty much all gangs except the Warriors (who have the protagonist cast and 9 "New Bloods) use just 9 different characters, no more. And even then, in a lot of cases, one of the characters will be the gang's warlord who, as you'd expect only appears once, and as a boss, so apart from him/her, there are usually only 8 gang characters; what's more, you can often see several clones of the same character in one fight due to the fact that you'll be fighting multiple gang members throughout the game.
Achewood falls into this trope at times. Since the introduction of Ray, Pat, and Roast Beef, it has been revealed that the majority of the animal population are cats (dogs have been established as typically non-anthropomorphic and excluded from the animal underground.) In keeping with Onstad's generally minimalist art style, most of the cats are interchangeable in terms of facial features. There are three or four body types, and a couple of heads to go with them, and generally the eyes, muzzle and ears of the cats are exactly the same (exceptions being Ray and his family, as well as his ex-current-ex-business partner-ex-girlfriend Tina, who have been identified as American Curls.)
A common criticism of Ctrl+Alt+Del is that the art style involves most characters having nearly identical facial features. This image◊ is provided for examination. Memetic Mutation has branded this expression B^U because it looks like said digits turned sideways, and by extension its author is often called Tim B^Uckley. He has gotten better at drawing faces as of late.
Though he has no meme associated with him, Scott Ramsoomair of VG Cats is often criticized of the same thing. Ironically, it used to be praised for not falling into this trope, before people started really paying attention and notice that most characters have the same insane look on their faces as the art evolved. It could be related to the fact that he is obviously relying on his computer a lot more. While Leo and Aeris did always look like essentially palette swapped versions of each other, it can be pointed out that the different facial expressions often look very similar now, I.E. pissed off character A looks like pissed off characters B, C, and D, or at least a lot more than before. It doesn't help that yes, they do tend to look pretty weird.
The fans find endless amusement in pointing out that Piro could very well be his girlfriend's twin sister, especially as his bangs grow ever longer.
Kimiko gets a bit of it right back due to her small bust and non-existent hips, though it's mostly Piro's fault for looking like her.
This is more so with the male characters Dom, Matsui and Inspector Masimichi Sonoda. As can be seen in this strip where Matsui has to be captioned to identify who he is. The other similar-looking man present is Dom (obviously).
The female characters' eyes have much larger irises, but besides that, all the faces are pretty much identical. They apparently have lots of eye/hair color variation...but the comic's normally in black and white.
The tendency for all bishonen in any given anime series to have the same generically pretty face is parodied in this strip at the Anime News Network website.
Played with in The Order of the Stick, which has Only Two Faces. The faces are male and female, differentiated by the position of the eyes and mouth (women have both positioned lower on the face, suggesting more delicate features and smaller chins; the difference is showcased by the storyline in which Roy uses the Belt of Gender Changing and his features shift accordingly). However, in this case the trope is justified because they're, well... stick figures. Xykon is the only member of the cast who completely stands out, as he is a skeleton.
Even that variation gets lampshaded when Redcloak creates some Xykon decoys by getting some skeleton monsters and dressing them up like him.
Note that the skulls in question aren't the least bit similar in shape to the heads of living characters.
Many of the characters in Jack are essentially the same model with different markings. It's very hard to tell what species some of them are meant to be without being told (Arloest is a panda; Farrago is a ferret; it's hard enough to tell them apart, let alone discern their respective species).
Concession was originally like this, with cat, mouse, wolf and even pangolin looking almost exactly alike. After being called out on this several times, the artist initially excused it by saying that a more realistic pangolin face would look ugly, but later redesigned the characters to look more distinct from each other.
xkcd, with the exception of a handful of early pieces, tends to have zero faces.
Queen of Wands had one face for almost all of the female characters besides Angela, and one for the male characters besides Felix, giving a generic sameness to Donna, who was supposed to be older and heavier (judging by spin-off Punch an' Pie with a different artist), and the various males in the background.
Housepets! was prone to this during its first year; most of the characters looked alike, and it was difficult to tell cats apart from dogs. The strip underwent a major art style revision about nine months into its run, which significantly improved the situation, although there are still occasional hang-ups; for example, Peanut and Fido have identical faces.
Dan Shive of El Goonish Shive has noted that three of the main female characters have pretty much the same face. He's tried to give each of them a little more individuality, but points out that changing their faces too much would mean they'd no longer look like the people they're supposed to be. He averts it a lot better with characters created later in the series.
and according to Grace, this extends to their entire body structure
save for hair color and clothing choice is noted and implied to be significant.
In The Mansion of E, all gnolls look pretty much alike, except for their hairstyles.
How I Became Yours (as well as the sequel, Rise of the Agni Army) has this something terrible. Mostly due to the fact that the artist traces her face over and over again, and only bothered to trace one character's face for her OCs.
APT Comic has a habit of one face per species, to emphasis the rest of the differences.
Homestuck's simple style means that all the child characters have the same bodyshape and facial structure. This trend is carried over even into the more detailed shots.
Taken even further with the recent inclusion of the ectobiological parents of the original protagonists, whose features are similar on purpose. The most extreme example thus far being John◊ and Jake◊, whose facial features are pretty much exactly the same.
Misfile has this issue with secondary characters: combined with the downright glacial progress of the story (not unheard of to spend two weeks of real-time covering one conversation) it can make it extremely difficult to remember who they're talking to sometimes...
Parodied in one Anime News Ninastrip where Nina becomes a fan of a series whose male characters are distinguished only by hairstyle, eye colour, and one guy having a scar.
There a quite a few online tutorials that aim to teach artists how to avoid this. The most common DON'Ts mentioned are "don't draw anime, don't rely solely on clothing and hair to differentiate characters, and don't always try to make your characters look beautiful."
All the women of comic-style illustrator Garett Blair suffer from a bad case of this. His unanimously praised gallery seldom gets any criticism at all, adding to the prevalence of this trope in comic books illustration.
Webcomicker Jeinu seems fed up with this enough to start a tutorial series teaching amateurs how to avoid this very trope.
All of the characters in the ASDF Movie series have the same appearances, this is often the joke.
Happy Tree Friends. This is an especially egregious case, being that most of the characters are different species. With few exceptions, nearly all the characters have flat faces, heart-shaped noses and buckteeth (including the carnivorans and ungulates) and are all the same size except for Lumpy. You could say this is Stylistic Suck though, considering the show's premise.
Only One Face in the case of the main cast of Red vs. Blue, as the main characters are all wearing Spartan armor. The only exceptions are the occasional alien (who all look alike except for color and size), Andy, Sheila, and Vic. Season 9 averted this strongly when CGI was used heavily to show the faces of several different characters, all of whom looked quite distinct.
Nekci, Kety Perr, Medoner, and Beyonce all share the same facial design in The Nekci Menij Show; in the same show, Rhenna, Keshir, and Lady Gags also share a similar facial design, though they are not identical.
Most of the women in Barbie Life In The Dreamhouse have the same hairstyle, face, and body type, with the obvious exceptions of Barbie, her family, and her friends. (And Raquelle.) Justified in that the series takes place in a community of living Mattel dolls.
In "Super Best Friends," Stan and Kyle get buzz cuts and identical clothes as part of joining a cult, and don't even wear their trademark winter hats. Stan, Kyle, and Butters (who also joined the cult) look identical now, and it becomes impossible to tell them apart. Then, when Stan decides to leave, he and Kyle get confused as to which one is Stan and which is Kyle:
Stan: Kyle, I'm beginning to think this was a bad idea. Butters: I'm Butters, I thought you were Kyle. Stan: No, I'm Stan. Kyle: You're Stan? I thought you were Butters. Butters: No, I'm Butters. Kyle: Where's Kenny? Cartman: Heheh, guess who I am, you guys!
Also, in the Terrance and Phillip episode, Not Without My Anus, the character "Ugly Bob" wears a paper bag over his head. When he takes it off, he looks exactly like all the other characters, but they react as if he's traumatically hideous.
Cleverly lampshaded in the episode "The Coon", in which after spending the entire episode keeping the other characters - and the audience - guessing as to his identity, masked vigilante "Mysterion" finally removes his mask, revealing him to be... completely indistinguishable from just about every other boy in the show. Just to rub it in, the rest of the characters recognize him instantly, but don't say his name. Later episodes reveal him to be Kenny.
Which is Fridge Brilliance when you consider that Kenny's face is almost always concealed.
The only characters that Professor Chaos has crossed off his Mysterion identity list are the obvious ones: Token, Cartman, and Jimmy and Timmy.
The real reason this is Fridge Brilliance is because, by process of elimination, Kenny and maybe Craig were the only people it could be, since Mysterion has either interacted with all the other candidates (eg. Kyle) or they had been seen somewhere else at the same time. Mysterion confirmed to Kyle that they were in the same class too. It was likely to be Kenny because Cartman accused everyone of being Mysterion, but he was the only one who just reacted with silence, rather than denial or an insult.
Oddly enough, many of South Park's one-off characters are a complete aversion of this. The primary characters look similar because of a far more simplified character design from the early seasons, while anymore, characters have unique head shapes, hairstyles, hair colors, mouths, and eyes — they've got a ton of different Redneck characters that all look very distinct from one-another. Now, if there were a trope for Only Six Voices... Wait there is
Parodied in a Cracked comic where the Stan and Kyle expies can't even tell each other apart and the only way is to look down their pants.
SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the clearest examples. While the main characters all look extremely different, every other Bikini Bottom resident is the same fish model, just recoloured and wearing different clothes (sometimes not even that). This becomes especially evident in scenes with angry mobs, audiences, etc. Ironically, the reoccurring character of "Old Man Jenkins" tends to switch character models each time he appears.
The DCAU's simplified art style post-BTAS has shades of this, especially the generic 'male' body shape used for otherwise very different characters.
Very apparent in Justice League in the few rare instances when Batman takes off his mask and looks nearly identical to Superman.
And lampshaded (we hope) in the Superman episode "Knight Time", where Superman is able to 'be' Batman by putting on his costume and disguising his voice. Several characters do wonder, though, whether Batman seems taller all of a sudden. Which is a joke considering that in their previous crossover episodes, Superman and Batman are the same height.
Also lampshaded in this dialog:
Superman Do I look like Batman to you? Flash Yeah, you kinda do, especially when you get all scowly like that.
Even more evident with the female characters. Justice League eventually broke out of this, with broad-shouldered Wonder Woman and realistically-built Amanda Waller, but earlier efforts had "Bruce Timm Generic Female #2" for almost every distaff character.
Parodied in Shortpacked!, when Batman studies video footage of a female criminal, before concluding that, since the hair isn't visible, she's impossible to identify.
Justice League was essentially the combined "lessons" the producers had learned over the previous series, such as in earlier series Batman was maybe two inches shorter than Superman but otherwise had the same body type. In JL, Batman got noticeably far more slender than his earlier incarnation to help differentiate the two, as well that Hawkgirl was far more petite than Wonder Woman.
For that matter, it's even possible to tell Supergirl apart from her clone Galatea due to the latter's bulkier muscles.
Spider Man The New Animated Series had six background characters that were continuously reused in different contexts. Sometimes they even played different "roles" in the same episode.
In Meet The Robinsons, a few generic character models are used for minor roles and even a few major characters are recycled. Art's model is used as a college student in the Another Believer montage and Franny's model is used for Lewis' mother.
In the Winx Club, pretty much every girl has the exact same body, head, and face shapes. If it weren't for the vastly different hairstyles, clothes, and colors you wouldn't be able to tell any of them apart.
And it's only gotten worse. In the first seasons there were some differences at least, e.g. eye shapes and sizes, but by the 4th season even that seems to have faded, and the girls look even more alike than ever.
Also happened with the background characters, to the point where one character could be both a witch and a fairy. Sometimes, it was just the same character with a different hairstyle. Other scenes had repeated, recolored characters to fill out the masses; Shilly (a witch from Cloud Tower who featured a few times in the comics) makes an appearance (in a blue dress instead of a red one) in Season 4 as "Sally", one of Mitzi's friends. Not even the Winx escaped; there was a brown-haired Bloom in a crowd at Redfountain in season two.
Some characters are copied exactly. Priscilla (a red-headed girl in an all-green outfit) appears in both Alfea and Cloud Tower, leading many early fans of the show to believe that there was a pair of twins attending both schools. And Darma (Mitzi's fuschia-haired lackey in Season 4) showed up regularly in background shots from Cloud Tower, leading to a debate over whether or not she's actually a witch; the Cloud Tower version was never named or even spoken to (like most of the characters at Cloud Tower), so it's entirely possible that it really was her.
The Fairly Odd Parents uses this relentlessly, with most child or teenage characters having the exact same face, with the possible variations only extending to two different types of eyebrows, two different types of noses and two different types of eyebrows. Timmy, Cosmo, Wanda, Vicky, Chip Skylark, Chester, Trixie, Veronica and many more suffer.
Danny Phantom, which uses the same visual style, avoids it a little better.
Girl: Which one's Josh? All the guys here kinda look like the same generic douche. (pan to show more partygoers; all the male ones shown share the same face)
Also happens with Titan Maximum, a Robot Chicken-styled series. Just watch the fight in the second to last episode. The same guy gets an ass-kicking no less than three times, two of those being at the same time in different spots.
A lot of the characters in Codename Kids Next Door follow this pattern, including Sector V, Numbuhs 86 and 362 and The Delightful Children From Down The Lane, excluding the tall, lanky one.
Helps it's an Omega Cast; the kids never venture out of the Cul de Sac (Until The Movie that is) or their school, and nearly every kid appears in every episode ever.
Making Fiends. Vendetta has slightly distinguishable facial features and expressions from the others, especially in the webisodes, but the only difference between everyone else's faces is that they have either a pointed nose or a rounded nose. Also, the adults have the exact same faces as children (unless they have mustaches), so there's no Animation Anatomy Aging to diversify.
Becomes extremely evident in most crowd shots seen in Word Girl where there are actually duplicates of the same people!
A lot of animals from the Dingo Pictures cartoons are constantly reused for their films.
The religious-themed video series produced by Richard Rich's studio post-The Swan Princess feature characters that are almost visual clones of that movie's characters.
This is very noticeable in all of Seth Mac Farlane's work; there are really only two faces: Asian (with almond eyes) and ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ELSE (even animals)!
Parodied in Phineas And Ferb. The character of Agent P the platypus is told he has to protect a visiting Princess coming to town, but they don't have a picture of her. His superior just shows a picture of his owner, Candace, saying that all teenage girls look alike anyway. When they do get the picture... it looks exactly like Candace anyway.
Ironically, this show is pretty good at averting the trope, due to making very distinct body and head styles. In this case, it was only used to set up a Prince and Pauper like story with Candace and the princess.
Nearly every incarnation of My Little Pony has featured a cast of identical ponies, distinguished only by their colors, because all the toys used the exact same mold. In the 1980s and 2000s series, they even had the same hairstyle (especially odd considering styleable hair was a major selling point of the toys). Friendship is Magic began to move away from this, giving the six main characters all subtly different eyes and every significant character a different hairstyle — but not changing their having the exact same shape of face — and giving the male ponies more distinctly masculine heads (which are also more recognizably equine; make of that what you will). On top of that, some characters were designed with entirely unique heads, bodies, and/or facial features, most of which were recycled into new background extras in season two.
In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman find a herd of zebras, among the many herds on the game preserve, and Alex has a hard time distinguishing Marty from the others. He finally manages to identify Marty using the scar on Marty's rump from when Alex bit him in the first movie.
In real life, each zebra's pattern of stripes is unique, like human fingerprints. However, it would be like trying to identify a human by using only the fingerprints through a magnifying glass, a task that would be quite difficult.
This is a very common fan complaint about the the female character designs in Young Justice, especially where facial structure is concerned. Fans say that, if not for the differing skin/hair/eye colours, about 90% of the female characters would be identical in appearance.
A brain disorder known as prosopagnosia (aka face-blindness) results in a person being unable to recognize faces and put individual features together to form a unique face, so they're 'just faces'. It can go so far as to not recognising one's own face in photographs. One prosopagnosic commented they found picking a person out from a crowd like looking at a pack of golden retrievers. Hairstyles, clothing styles, and distinctive features such as scars are used as aids for distinguishing individuals. And this works fine, up until your mother gets a new haircut and you walk past her in the street.
Prosopagnosic: The words 'handsome' and 'beautiful' have no meaning for me; it's like looking at a crowd of barbie dolls and being asked which one is the most attractive.
In some Drug Rehab centers part of the process is shaving your head because it eliminates vanity and encourages camaraderie among those trying to get clean. The first thing you'll notice is that when everyone is bald, everyone starts to look the same. This is part of the reason why some people go for extreme hair and clothing styles because they want to stand out in a crowd.
Done for the same reasons in many armed forces and some cults.
Some autistic individuals suffer from face-blindness, as well.
The Coke Zero Facial Profiler is a Facebook app that scans through your photos and tries to pair you with another Facebook member that resembles you. It even allows you to friend request your digital double. Although its accuracy varies depending on how good your photos are.
Porn artist Zimmerman (well known for Rule34ing lots of cartoon characters (mostly Jessica Rabbit and Disney princesses) is amazing in how he can draw the same girl over 1000 times in a year, yet they are described as being different characters. Be even more amazed in the fact that he has been doing this for almost a decade and that his models range from Belle to Lara Croft.
Greek Statues, due to the emphasis being on human perfection. The Romans, however, often times subverted this.
Much as with Classical Greek statues, Regency official portraits tended to all look alike, "'cause they're painted to a romantic ideal rather than as a true depiction of the idiosycratic facial qualities of the person in question". Historically, this contributed to Prince George marrying Caroline of Brunswick, who so repelled him on actually meeting that he immediately begged off claiming to feel unwell (and Caroline wasn't very impressed with George either, which didn't help things). The whole marriage was such a disaster he attempted (unsuccessfully) to divorce her, and a good many of his relatives started desperately trying to produce an heir (when it became clear he was never going to have any legitimate children), eventually leading to Queen Victoria.
Byzantine art is classified by gold backgrounds, pattern drapery and stylized facial types. Most figures in the paintings look like they are related to each other.
As humans' visual-processing capacities aren't designed to work on non-human faces, it's often all but impossible to recognize individual animals if they lack giveaway coat patterns or the like. Field biologists often resort to applying non-toxic paint to individual members of wild animal populations, simply to tell their research subjects apart, while zoos or breeders use color-coded tags or collars to distinguish between otherwise-identical animals.