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Generic Cuteness

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Now, try to spot the one that's supposed to be ugly.note 

In animation, consistent symmetry means a character will usually lean towards the state of being generically attractive. This is a hard rule in Bishoujo Series where even plain characters will look attractive, but fundamentally a result of drawing a character that is aesthetically pleasing. Also, for obvious reasons, drawing a character consistently means the hard and fast details should be easily reproducible, and the simple, symmetrical character designs which are conducive to this tend to be attractive by default.

This makes it especially jarring when we're told a character is physically unattractive, gained a few pounds, or has bad skin. It's too much work to draw these minor details. The only way to combat Generic Cuteness is with a Gonk or you end up with a disarming cutesy look in some wildly inappropriate things.

For obvious reasons this should be weighed against how pretty the general mood of a series is, but even your gritty action hero plot will usually reserve its uglies for bad characters — and then they will likely be actual grotesques.

Occasionally this pops up because your story is filled with tons of characters but there are Only Six Faces. Some artists attempt to avert Generic Cuteness by hinting at some form of sorting algorithm of in-universe prettiness among their six faces so that the audience can tell that someone is supposed to be attractive without the characters explicitly stating it, though this may result in making every ugly, plain or beautiful character look even more alike.

One common trick is what distinguishes the Meganekko from the dope with Nerd Glasses. It's not that glasses are ugly, it's just obscuring the face is one of the most jarring things to do, and thus not cute.

This trope can lead to Informed Deformity or Ugly Cute. Contrast Informed Attractiveness (although it can be a consequence of Generic Cuteness). See also Hollywood Beauty Standards and Artistic Age. Artists might attempt to dispel this by using a Beady-Eyed Loser.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Yomi in Azumanga Daioh worries about being overweight and thus constantly goes on diets, even though she doesn't look any plumper than the other girls. Aside from Tomo's deliberate teasing, though, it's implied this is just Yomi being overly self-conscious — the liner notes for the anime's DVD set explain that her weight woes were given to her as a more "normal" quirk compared to the other characters.
  • Ran from Case Closed. Sonoko complains that she pales in comparison to Ran, who gets on by every guy that crosses their way—although BOTH of them look just like every other girl their age in this series.
  • Nina Einstein from Code Geass is frequently pressured by Milly to lose her glasses, but...doesn't really need to. Nina's plainer and less endowed than all the other schoolgirls in the main cast, but in a show where character design was done by CLAMP, all this means is that Nina is realistically beautiful while everyone else is impossibly beautiful. Including some nearly all of the guys. Girls the world over wish they looked as good in a dress as Lelouch.
  • While Himeko from Destiny of the Shrine Maiden has several characters lusting over her, she's portrayed as not really being above average in the eyes of most. The other girls are surprised to see her hanging out with the likes of ever-so-popular and beautiful people like Chikane and Soma.
  • Nadie from El Cazador de la Bruja is supposed to not be that attractive, judging by the responses of some male characters when she tries to act cute—for example when she disguises as a taco delivery girl. Still, her character-design is actually rather pretty, which is especially evident in merchandise for the show. Then again, she does have a tendency to make very silly faces. (Her name is also Spanish for "nobody".)
  • The premise of the manga Family Complex (A spinoff prequel of Princess Princess) is that the main character, Akira, feels inadequate due to being the sole average-looking member of a supermodel-hot family. This may have come off as a bit more believable if Akira wasn't himself a doe-eyed Bishōnen.
  • Although not an example of being cute, in Fist of the Blue Sky manga characters that are considered "good" are all portrayed as handsome and beautiful whereas those considered "bad" are disturbingly intimidating at best and comically ugly at worst; Zhāng Tài-Yán is perhaps the best example- the viewers know it's the same person with the same visual features, but he still managed to look significantly different before and after renouncing his evil ways.
  • Naota from FLCL is stated in the show as being unattractive, even though he really looks just like everyone else.
  • Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi is supposed to be average-looking (kinda the girl version of the typical male lead in a harem anime), but she is far from plain-looking.
  • An entire episode of Genesis of Aquarion is premised on the three main female pilots going on crash diets after gaining what normal people would consider a trivial amount of weight. Since they're maladjusted teenage mecha pilots, it's plausible — except that their character animations exhibit no evidence whatsoever of said weight gain.
  • Yukinari of Girls Bravo is frequently bullied by girls and is said to be average-looking, dorky, and good-for-nothing. He's also frequently beat up by other girls via a punch/foot to the face for being an Accidental Pervert. However, he has the same facial design as the female characters making him a dude that looks like a lady.
  • GTO: The Early Years: Shinomi is Formerly Fat, but from the "before" picture and flashback scenes of her, she really doesn't look ugly at all (definitely not gonk like some female characters) and not that fat either. Of course, the Comical Overreacting of the boys saying "Who's that monster!?" could be intended to show how immature and shallow they are.
  • This can also produce the opposite effect: characters who are supposed to be exceptional are, well, not that much cuter than all their classmates. Haruhi Suzumiya, for example, is considered stunningly attractive, but so is everyone else in the school.
    • It should be noted, however, that really all of the main and supporting females are supposed to be outstandingly attractive: Mikuru, Tsuruya and Asakura are all explicitly mentioned to be this and even Nagato gets an A- from Taniguchi, as well as occasional positive comments on her looks from Kyon. The trope still applies, however, because minor characters (like the ENOZ girls) look just as attractive as these.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler:
    • Katsura Yukiji is described as unable to get a date and also as she used to be cute. The personality is probably part of it, at least, but you couldn't tell she was 'ugly' to look at her. Or that she was much older than her students... At one point, her students get her to dress in a schoolgirl outfit expecting hilarity... but she actually looks pretty cute, even in-universe, much to their disappointment.
    • Hibino Fumi is an odd case in that she's usually drawn in a weird deformed version of her actual character with a face like an emoticon, blank eyes and short stubby limbs. This version is pointed to when someone say that she's unattractive, but when drawn normally she's as cute as anyone else.
  • Similar to Yomi, Hiro in Hidamari Sketch worries about her weight and her diet, but any differences in her weight aren't really visible to the viewers. Except for maybe that one bath scene in x365.
  • Imaizumin-chi wa Douyara Gal no Tamariba ni Natteru Rashii: ~DEEP~: Imaizumi has a Bishie Sparkle and a face-wide grin when he's happy, but as a childish and not an attractive trait.
  • Shiruku from Kyouran Kazoku Nikki is supposed to be horribly scarred behind her mask, but once it comes off she only appears to have a discoloration around one eye, which isn't too distracting from her otherwise cute face.
  • Love Me For Who I Am makes reference to the character's looks and characters worry about their ability to pass as girls, but everyone already looks like feminine and cute either way. There are slight differences between the male-assigned-at-birth characters and female-assigned-at-birth ones (such as shoulder size or hand size), but it's very subtle.
  • Miki in Marmalade Boy is described as "cute but not pretty" by Suzu and Yuu says that her face is "ugly", yet she has the same facial design as the other characters.
  • Sakura of Naruto. She's canonically not that attractive, merely cute-looking with a prominent forehead, but you wouldn't know that to look at her. According to Word of God, she really wasn't attractive at the beginning. Kishomoto's assistants even reacted at her reference sketch saying "She is not cute". Praise Art Evolution here.
    • Naruto was thought of as plain-looking compared to Sasuke by female characters but he isn't noticeably less attractive. It also helps that he become more Bishōnen looking post-Time Skip.
    • Hinata has not once ever been considered beautiful and is described to be rather "plain-looking" although she is made much cuter in the anime adaption, especially in fillers. Kishimoto stated that Hinata was meant to have a "crumpy" appearance.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Played with when it comes to Chisame. She claims she's frumpy with bad skin and doesn't have the gorgeous figure of some of the classmates like Chizuru. However, no one else comments on it, and some say she actually is as pretty as she seems to look, indicating she just has low self-esteem. She also happens to be an idol on the Internet.
    • Asuna is revealed as an example of this whenever she dresses up, which causes people to remark that she looks stunning when she takes care of her appearance.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, Misty is regarded by many characters - Ash in particular - as being unattractive (especially when compared with her sisters). Many fans of the show would disagree. It's implied to be teasing and Ash being immature because Misty is also a Dude Magnet.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Madoka notices that Homura is charming (etc), but since everyone including the males have Ume Aoki's signature wideface, the audience can't see how Homura is supposed to be significantly more attractive than others. The films take steps to avert this by playing up Homura's hair, with a lot of the Big Budget Beefup going into making it downright beautiful.
    • Conversely, Madoka is stated to be plain looking. Again, no one is really sure how exactly she is supposed to be less attractive than the others when her face is identical to that of Homura and indeed everyone else.
  • Ranma ˝: Ranma constantly calls Akane flat-chested. She's got the real-life equivalent of at least C's, same as almost every other Anime girl unless it's deliberate and/or a plot point.
  • Reborn! (2004): It's become very ironic when the series keeps claiming that "no-good Tsuna" is ugly and that no girl would want him... when he looks like this after Art Evolution.
  • Sailor Moon. Usagi is regularly the target of fat jokes and Rei occasionally makes fun of her appearance. Especially jarring in that the series uses Only Six Faces. This also holds true for her weight, even though when you look at her it's hard to tell that she's supposedly a little overweight.
    • Makoto is supposedly too unattractive (read: muscular and manly looking) to retain a boyfriend, and is ostracized for her appearance. Though she is shown as taller than the rest of the Inner Senshi, she appears just as slender as any other Senshi and her face shape isn't visually any different from the more "attractive" characters.
  • Shirobako, despite not really needing that amount of eye candy for its Work Com plot, still made all its characters uniformly beautiful down to the very last one. Yes, even the gramps. The worst are barely Hollywood Homely, but even that is a stretch.
  • Lina from Slayers is constantly teased for being flat-chested, but she's decently developed for a 15-year-old; later redesigns to fix this ironically mean Lina has actually become less endowed as she has aged.
  • Another good example is Midori from Tamako Market, who is said to be really attractive, even if every other female character is just as cute.
  • Ami in Toradora! who, being a model, is supposed to be way more attractive than her classmates, but generally only seems to excel in bust size—barely.
  • Ataru in Urusei Yatsura is frequently described by girls as "ugly looking", even though he's a fairly typical design for a Rumiko Takahashi character. The only thing that really sticks out are his buck teeth and the frequent stupid look on his face.
    • There's actually a bit of a shout out to this when Kurama tries to time travel so he can see her father (Yet another of her early quests to "Make him good enough to have a one night stand with"). When she starts talking about his face and expression, Ataru briefly imitates it perfectly, then goes into spasms because "He never uses those muscles".
  • Hitomi of The Vision of Escaflowne has rather plain looks, which once or twice troubles her. She doesn't have a less attractive face compared to other female characters though. However, the series is also heavily populated by pretty Bishōnen.
  • Subverted/Lampshaded in The Wallflower as the boys of the series want to see Sunako's face, which she doesn't want to show because she thinks she's ugly. After a long chase they manage to pin back her fringe and look at her face, which is quite attractive. Then it turns out they were deceived by a ton of flour that had fallen on her and made her skin seem clear. When the flour is cleaned away the spots and unwanted hair are visible. From here on, however, Sunako is never shown with spots (as a matter of fact, she is often just chibi). Despite being called ugly, the way she is drawn in her full form is no different from, say, the super-popular Noi-chan.
  • Fuuka from Yotsuba&! is often mocked for being plain-looking, having funny eyebrows, or being somewhat overweight (particularly over having "fat thighs"). These traits are somewhat visible, but she could only really be considered "unattractive" in comparison to her much more conventionally attractive sister, Asagi. Ironically, mangaka Kiyohiko Azuma admits that Fuuka really is supposed to be plain-looking, but it's supposed to be charming. This can be seen early on in the manga, where Jumbo initially describes Fuuka as a bishoujo, and then downgrades her to just a shoujo after seeing Asagi.

    Comic Books 
  • Inverted in The Sandman (1989), as Despair of the Endless is the exact physical opposite of any woman in the comic books industry.

    Fan Works 
  • Sword Art Online Abridged: In the original, when Kayaba revealed everyone's real appearances, this occurred. Everyone acted shocked and dismayed at having their real selves exposed, but they didn't actually look much different. Here, it gets lampshaded.
    Kayaba: As you can see, I have peeled away your petty façades, and revealed you for what you truly are! ...Fairly attractive twenty-somethings, apparently. Good for you! Kinda undermines the whole "Cold-light-of-day" thing I had planned, but still! Way to break down stereotypes!

  • Serious literary variation: in Tanith Lee's novel The Birthgrave the heroine (who wakes with amnesia at the start of the story) believes she is ugly and spends most of the book wearing a mask because men shied away from her the first time they saw her. In fact of course they shied away because they were astonished by her incredible beauty. But you guessed that already, right?
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: An epidemic in this series, but for the opposite reason. Example: Lyu is supposed to be impossibly beautiful, as an elf, and the same could be said for a good deal of the cast. Syr, however, is described as pretty, but not to the same degree as most of the cast. Syr has the same face as a number of the "impossibly beautiful" characters, and besides face, hair color, and eye color is impossible to differentiate from Lyu, especially as they wear the same uniform.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: Every female character in The Name of the Wind is described as beautiful, cute, attractive, or the like. There don't appear to be any wrinkled old women running around. The next book in the series, The Wise Man's Fear, manages to avert this; several female characters are described as old or plain.
  • In Man and Wife, the narrator goes on a little rant while introducing Mrs Glenarm, about how any illustrated periodical sold in Britain has exactly the same sort of young, full-faced, inanely-smiling woman on the cover. Mrs Glenarm, he concludes, looks just like that.
  • Pride and Prejudice: The Bennet sisters could be considered a literary, Regency version of this. Austen doesn't tell what the Bennet daughters look like, except that Jane is the only blonde, and considered to be the most beautiful — but none of them are bad-looking, and their social "attractiveness" depends just as much on their manners and personality. However, the heroine of the story isn't Jane, but Elizabeth, described as having "more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form." Sure, we'll take your word for it, Jane. Despite these failures of symmetry, her fine eyes and light figure make her beautiful in Mr. Darcy's eyes.
  • This is invoked in the Uglies series when people decide to make everyone a generic pretty in order to resolve human conflict.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Inverted in Cathy, which has a distinctive art style that renders every character either unattractive or plain-looking. To the artist's credit, characters who are ugly in-comic are unattractive in-art, but characters who are supposed to be good-looking can have Informed Attractiveness.
    • She also lampshaded her drawing style when her character considered getting a nose job (being famously rendered without a nose).
  • Garfield started out as visibly fat, but as the art style improved, he began to look pretty similar to other cats in his series (though this has the effect of making everyone look fat). Garfield and Friends starts out with this latter version, so it exaggerated his eating habits more.

    Video Games 
  • In the Ace Attorney franchise Maya Fey is apparently fairly plain, failing to illicit excited responses from lecherous pervs such as the false Doctor Hotti & Victor Kudo. Maya Fey looks like this.
  • Maki Tanabe, the "unluckiest girl in the world," from Gunparade March. She would look just as attractive as the other girls if she took off her glasses, even more if you're into that.
  • The Art Style of Hometown Story is pretty much this. None of the characters look too distinct from one another. Although, the game's story is darker than the art style would have you believe.
  • Late into The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna refers to her cursed form as a "hideous little imp". Sure, she's a little imp, but she's more Ugly Cute than hideous. Of course, at the end of the game, you find out she usually looks like this and you might see why she calls herself "hideous".
  • Metal Gear qualifies - barring the occasional Gonk, everyone is distinctive-looking, but highly attractive. Even the inhuman, faceless cyborgs and robots have sexy mannerisms. Justified in that the series is a conscious attempt to make a set of games that look like Hollywood movies, so it makes sense for, say, Solid Snake and Naomi Hunter to be way hotter than a Shell-Shocked Veteran and a nerdy scientist would look in real life.
  • Fuuka of Persona 3 is said to be frail, anemic, and an unattractive computer nerd, but she has some of the most exotic looks of the cast. This is supposed to balance the almost worshipful attitude the game has for her personality, which is demure, sweet-natured and intelligent, but because she's not nearly as unappealing as everyone says she is, it comes off as more than a little silly.
    • It's possible that, in the English dub at least, they tried to emphasize her gawkiness through her voice acting. If this was the intention, though, it seems to have largely backfired, as most players simply assume that Fuuka's voice actor can't act.
  • Ohya in Persona 5 is simply stated to be "not very attractive" without highlighting any particular alleged issues, but in-game she's depicted as a fairly good looking skinny girl in a t-shirt and jeans. Specifically, when she pretends that the secret she's been keeping from her boss is that she's dating the 17 year old protagonist, Joker, he says that he doesn't believe that a guy like Joker could possibly be attracted to someone as old and unattractive as Ohya and she doesn't even try to protest this assessment of her looks.
  • The PSP remake of Star Ocean: The Second Story dispensed with the more detailed anime art style, giving everyone generic cuteness instead. A particular offender was Rena, who went from this to this.
  • Kaguya from Touhou Project could be argued to fall into the reverse category mentioned under Anime/Manga. She's supposed to be breathtakingly beautiful, but her official art isn't really any cuter or uglier than other characters'.
    • Sumireko from the same series mentions that she isn't confident about her own looks, but whether this is true or just low self-esteem is hard to tell. For all intents and purposes, she's a cute anime schoolgirl.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, George is stated to have average to below-average looks, but looks no worse than the rest of the cast, and certainly than Battler, who is stated by Eva to be something of a looker. And this is in the novels, which feature illustrations that would be better called "generic mediocrity"—the anime makes George a full-blown Bishōnen with the exception of those huge glasses. Even the glasses are far more Meganekko than Nerd Glasses.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: A common criticism of the game is how generic, artificial or "doll-like" the characters all look. Most of them have a generically cute aesthetic, especially women (there's somewhat more variance with men—particularly older characters like Vandham and Nagi). A common Fanon theory is that this is because humans are mimeosomes and are thus supposed to look slightly artificial. This doesn't apply to alien characters like Celica or Elma (in her real body), however.

  • Chirault does not contain a single unattractive face. Even if a person is a demon who's suffering from Power Incontinence and going One-Winged Angel, he'll look handsome while crushing everything around him. And they manage a Cast of Snowflakes, too.
  • Dumnestor's Heroes: Crunch the frost giant is supposed to be hideous.
    • He is also supposed to be a monstrous brute who kidnaps young women, but he is genuinely fond of the girls and cares for the roc babies after he accidentally kills their mother, turning out to be a very literal Gentle Giant. Whether the DM intended this or not, Crunch subverted quite a few tropes very quickly.
  • Thanks to Mob Psycho 100's rough art and simple designs for the main characters, it can be hard to tell why Mob is considered much plainer than his brother Ritsu, or why Tsubomi is seen as the prettiest girl in school. The anime adaptation rectifies this to some degree by tweaking the characters' eyes so that Mob's eyes are noticeably beadier and giving Tsubomi a Non-Standard Character Design.
  • Most of the cast in Questionable Content is in their 20s, the outliers being Ellen (introduced just before her 18th birthday) and Amir (35 but explicitly stated to be much younger-looking). Anyone much older than that tends to look like a younger person who dyed their hair gray for some reason.
  • The joke in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic is that the man must be great at science because he's incredibly ugly. But he's the standard "orange-haired bearded male" character that has appeared many times in the comic, and doesn't look noticeably worse than anyone else.
  • Lampshaded in Shortpacked!, where Batman has Oracle use an Enhance Button to see the face of a woman who managed to blur herself on a security tape. Didn't help, since in the DC Animated Universe all women look the way Bruce Timm draws women, i.e. attractive.
  • Davan MacIntire of Something*Positive is, particularly in the earlier strips, supposed to be hideously unattractive, even though he's drawn as your average geek, neither particularly handsome nor particularly ugly.
  • Sword Princess Amaltea. Females are all quite attractive, despite looks for them being not so important as their strength and power. Males pretty much only have their looks and sex appeal. Thanks to these facts, there's actually no single truly ugly person in this work.

    Web Original 
  • Literally every single Disney character in the "As Told By Emoji" series, the villains aren’t excluded either.
  • A staple of James Franzen's works - even the evil characters are adorable!
  • Parodied in the Homestar Runner Show Within a Show "Teen Girl Squad"— all of the characters look almost exactly alike save for their clothes and certain facial details, even the so-called "ugly one". This is, of course, due to Strong Bad's crappy drawing style.

    Western Animation 
  • The Kanker sisters of Ed, Edd n Eddy are supposed to be the core trio's Abhorrent Admirers. While the "unsympathetic" part is definitely well-executed, the "unattractive" part seems to be a bit far-fetched. Indeed, May, with her buckteeth, tiny eyes and protruding ears, and Lee with the manly face shape and, oh God, her feet, can hardly be considered good-looking, but Marie, if it weren't for her yellow teeth, could easily be seen as at least pretty. The designers have failed epically in making her visually unappealing by giving her the half-lidded, alluring smirk.
  • Fairly OddParents: Tootie is considered unattractive compared to the other girls on the show, but she doesn't appear to be anything more than a somewhat nerdy, kinda cute little girl. In the live-action movie, however, she is accurately portrayed as being undeniably unattractive.
  • Meg on Family Guy is supposedly ugly and fat, but doesn't look all that different from all the other teenage girls. There's a good chance that as the resident Butt-Monkey that it's entirely the point.
    • As many viewers have noticed, aside from attire, hair color, and being inconsistently portrayed as ever-so-slightly pudgier, Meg looks pretty much exactly like Lois, who is considered a total bombshell in-universe.
  • To fans of Futurama, Leela is a classic Cute Monster Girl and Ms. Fanservice to the Nth degree. In-universe, she tends to get the reactions you'd expect a person with a single giant eye to get in real life, which range from casual bullying to Kill It with Fire.
  • None of the main characters of KaBlam! Life With Loopy were intended to be cute (except for Loopy,`cuz she's like, five, or six, or seven), however Loopy's older brother Larry seems to be pretty cute according to some fans.
  • In the Lady Lovely Locks books the Comb Gnomes are said to be ugly creatures, but in illustrations and the show they're Adorable Evil Minions.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic naturally makes all of the ponies adorable. Rarity is treated as the de facto "pretty" cast member, and Fluttershy is apparently attractive enough to have had a brief but successful career as a model, even though aside from hairstyle they have the exact same body type as every other female pony.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Recess where Spinelli is entered into a beauty pageant (for 10 year olds). While watching all the contestants, Gretchen remarks at how similar all the girls look and they only recognise Spinelli when she shakes her fist at Ashley B.
  • Parodied on South Park with the character "Ugly Bob", who despite looking no different than any other Canadian on the show is considered horrendously ugly by everybody and forced to wear a paper bag over his head to be considered attractive.
    • Lampshaded in a later episode, where Ugly Bob is shown living in America because they can't tell the difference between him and other Canadians.
    • They also do it to Clyde, who looks just like all the other children, but is deemed the "fat one" in the absence of Cartman.
  • This trope actually causes trouble in the Tom and Jerry short "Downhearted Duckling": Quacker sees a picture of a cute little duckling that looks just like him in a storybook. Unfortunately, the story was "The Ugly Duckling", so he takes it to mean that he must be ugly. He doesn't take it well.
  • Lucy in Winx Club is constantly teased for being hideously ugly. While her face does somewhat resemble that of the classic Wicked Witch, she's only ugly compared to her unearthily gorgeous schoolmates. However, this might just be the witches being mean.