I’m probably not alone in this. Let’s see, has this ever happened to you? You’re chatting with an anime fan or reading a post and they say something along the lines of if you like anime X then watch anime Y or anime X reminds me so much of anime Y. And then you think to yourself: really? I did not get that impression at all!

This happens to me pretty regularly. In fact, it’s happened to me twice very recently. I was talking with someone in the comments that called two shows essentially the same when they seemed almost opposite to me. And just the other day, I was reading someone suggesting that if you like My Dress-Up Darling, then you will definitely like Smile Down the Runway. And so many people were exclaiming about how right they were. But I was scratching my head.

huh?

And then I realized something most toddlers already know, we don’t take in media in the same way. Ok, I’m being silly. I of course know that we don’t all have the same takeaways from fiction and there are many different ways to read something like a season of anime. I guess the actual realization I made is that my way may be rather unpopular.

I have never seen myself as a particularly unusual person. I’m not the type of person that dislikes all the shows that are super popular. Of course, I have my preferences just like everyone else, and there are some megahits that don’t resonate with me, but generally speaking, I’m fairly similar to your average anime fan. At least I think so.

But maybe I’m wrong.

For instance, to me, My Dess-Up Darling is a light-hearted romantic comedy. It focused on Gojo and Marin’s growing relationship and how these two characters have to step out of their respective comfort zone to develop and learn to better connect with others. The cosplay premise is a good way to add in a lot of fanservice and make the story feel topical. At its heart, it’s sort of a quintessential high school romance but it’s got great pacing and very likeable characters. It’s well done, I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys high school romances and doesn’t mind a bit of t&a.

Once again for me, Smile Down the Runway was a dramatic character study about how people of very different backgrounds and challenges deal with the highly competitive world of high fashion. It had a strong commentary about how privilege affects your professional life and about the sheer pressure of certain industries. There is a lot of office politics in play. It also centers on the characters’ individual progression and gain in confidence to be able to pursue careers with high barriers of entry, despite their individual obstacles. I think it has some rocky moments but I found that in many ways, it explored themes that weren’t that common and therefore made for an interesting watch in that sense.

I might have undersold Muy Dress-Up Darling, there are a few themes there as well

As you can imagine, for someone that sees these two shows as I do, they don’t have much in common. If I’m in the mood for a goofy fluffy show, I’m not going to want to see Smile Down the Runway. On the other hand, if I want something dramatic and exploring the more adult ideas of career progression and professional sacrifices, I’m likely not going to find what I’m looking for in My Dress-Up Darling.

However, a lot of people think these two shows are similar enough that enjoying one would translate to liking the other.

And why wouldn’t they?

Both of these shows are concerned with making clothes and go into detail about fabric, sewing techniques and garment constructions. Both star a strong-willed blond girl who seems unphased by it all but is actually much sweeter than people might think at first glance, and a much meeker boy who happens to be unusually talented at making clothes. Both are in a way, character-driven coming of age stories, even if they focus on contrasting aspects of personal development.

Of course, if these are the elements that make someone enjoy one of the shows, then they will absolutely like the other. And that’s a perfectly reasonable interpretation of these shows.

I’m only bringing up My Dress-Up Darling and Smile down the Runway as an example here. Mostly because I feel like a lot of people are watching My Dress-Up Darling right now so my example will make sense to a lot of folks. But I can do the same thing with a lot of shows people have compared.

To be clear, this isn’t happening every time. There are plenty of instances when someone tells me two animes are similar and I totally agree. However, because I had a few of these times that I disagree, happen in close succession, I started to think about it a bit differently. I started to try to figure out what the comparison was saying about how people are watching the shows, rather than what it was saying about the shows themselves. And I have to say, this exercise is fascinating to me.

everyone has different hobbies…

MAL has a few pages of If you like anime X then you’ll like anime Y and I’ve been going through them. It’s the anime recommendations tab. And it’s an absolute blast. I do run into the issue that I’ve not always seen both anime in question but when I have, I try to figure out why a person thinks two shows are similar instead of whether I agree or not. It’s also allowed me to find out if there are anime fans out there that have similar perceptions to mine. Which is not exactly the same as similar tastes.

For instance, there was this one user that I pretty much agreed with all their comparisons. Like everything they said were shows that are alike, I was completely on board and didn’t even have to think about it. It made perfect sense from the start. We obviously saw the same thing in these shows. But they hated some of my favourite anime and I didn’t care for a lot of their top picks. We don’t have the same tastes in anime at all, but we do have very similar ways of watching anime if that makes sense.

And that is actually something to consider both when you write and when you read anime reviews. Things that I tend to do quite often.

This isn’t always the most practical advice. After all, not every reviewer I read does these handy dandy comparison charts or even regularly compares anime in general. But if they do have something like that, I’m going to make sure to go through it attentively. I think that will give me a much better understanding of how they review anime.

As for the writing part, I think I have to be more aware of the fact that when I compare two anime to make a point or something, even if it’s the most obvious comparison in the world to me, it might not make sense to some of my readers. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but I should be more careful about explaining my comparisons or putting them into context.

Maybe I’ll even make a handy dandy little anime comparison chart at some point. It sounds like a lot of fun but also a lot of work so don’t hold me to it…

23 thoughts

  1. Interesting point and something I hope I remember when trying to rec something.

    To your example: my partner watches My Dress Up Darling for the aspects you mentioned, romcom, highschool drama, feels and doesn’t care about clothes one bit. If I would watch it, it would be for the reasons the Runway series is similar, I like sewing and crafts would be willing to tolerate romcom on the side 😉 (I considered watching it, but suspected the crafts vs rom ratio wouldn’t be in my favor).

    I have ran into similar issue in music, a friend who shares lot of my tastes…. sometimes doesn’t like band B at all even if he loves band A. And I think they’re so similar and how could you like one and not the other?!?!

    1. Actually much more dress making than romance. Romance being my least favourite genre it made me appreciate the show more. I know what you mean about music. Happens to me all the time. And vice versa. Where I’m sort of meh about a band and friends are like, they are the same as your faves…

  2. I haven’t gone through this, because I don’t get much comments. (Okay that is a lie. I don’t get any traffic, *Cries*)

    But I do compare anime in my head. For example, I was watching Claymore (Review coming!) And I totally got the Demon Slayer vibes from that one, even though Claymore is much older than Demon Slayer, and the plot is also different.

    Then, when I was watching Black Cat, I got the similar vibes to Darker than Black from that one.

    As for clothes? The only anime I have watched which has anything to do with clothes was the one where clothing fibers are villain… Yeah.

  3. It’s funny. Normally I go down this rabbit hole whenever I finish a series I enjoy. For instance, when I finished Bunny Girl Senpai, I went looking for series that are similar. What I found is that a lot of the comparisons were the same. They all recommended Toradora, or they all recommended Bakemonogatari. Both of which I think capture aspects of the show.

    What I’ve found the most useful is seeing why people recommended certain shows. But even then, I don’t think that necessarily gets around your issue.

    Personally though, I rarely find myself disagreeing with people’s comparisons, well except for Eva and RahXephon, but that is an entirely different can of worms.

    1. I have never seen Bunny Senpai but I always hear it compared to Snafu. AniList also compares it to Horimiya but not to Toradora.

      1. The comparison with Snafu is largely because of the main male lead. They both have a similar snappiness to their comebacks. Overall, there is just some similarity in the writing, but that is more my subjective opinion and not something I can prove.

        Personally, I’d compare it closest to Bakemonogatari, but only because they share a similar structure. They’re both divided into short arcs that focus on one character’s supernatural dilemma. Of course that character is generally a woman.

        Normally, I do the Google search for comparison stuff. But I would say that Toradora is on the outside of comparisons. It’s just what popped into my head.

  4. I do think comparisons are always tricky for me. I don’t necessarily make a connection to anything while I’m watching. Maybe afterwards if I really think about it I may start to tie some titles together but unless it’s something where two shows are based on the original myths like God of Highschool and DBZ I draw a blank.

  5. I suspect that a lot of recommendations are based on simple keyword comparisons between titles/subjects. Our local library posts “If you liked…” lists for best sellers. A few years back (OK, many years back), when “Bridges of Madison County” (an Italian woman having an affair in the US after WWII) was trending, they recommended “A Farewell to Arms” (an American and an Englishwoman having an affair _in_ Italy during WWI) and “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (collapse of a bridge in Peru 300 years ago, no Italians were harmed). At least we didn’t get “The Bridges At Toko-Ri”.

    On the title at hand, I’m surprised people haven’t recommended “Paradise Kiss”.

  6. That’s really interesting since I’m very much a literal comparison person. I.e. Smile Down the Runway and My Dress Up Darling make 100% sense in my head if you’re looking the garment construction, fashion, etc. When you talk about the feel of the two shows, that also makes sense to me why they wouldn’t be a good match.

    I actually went and took a look at my old (5+ year old) recommendations on MAL and wow, I went for the obvious every time. I guess that’s rubbed off from when I was getting more into JDramas, since a lot of people are looking for shows with similar premises but not feeling per say…

    1. Well comparing media based on subject makes perfect sense. Especially since feels and theme interpretation can be very subjective

  7. Interesting. I mean I get it, like some people make connections based on the subject matter while others may focus more on the tone of the presentation. I guess it all really depends on what grabs people to connect the two. Always something curious to thinka about

  8. Happens to me all the time with shows-like-X recommendations. Wait, how did this show end up on that list? Usually it’s easy to understand the reasons once you’re made aware of them; but it’s not easy to *feel* them.

  9. While not anime-related, your comments on comparisons not being seen the same way by others reminded me of a funny (in hindsight) story:

    I was once speaking with a peer about how my disinterest in Splatoon was akin to my (now) disinterest in Team Fortress 2—both are team-based shooters where the bulk of the content is in short-form matches and a lot of narrative significance is in the foreground. They’re very much games that contain their fun, or hook, into its in-depth gameplay mechanics and team-play in small chunks, rather than on some motivational, long journey. (Overwatch, Valorant, and Apex Legends are all other examples.)

    When I tried to express this to them, their response was “?????????????????? Splatoon and Team Fortress 2 are NOT the same game???” To me, it was pretty clear. To them, it wasn’t. Try as I may, I couldn’t get through to them, and I could never understand why.

    Your post is a good reminder of what you deem as fairly obvious: Not everyone looks at things the same way!

    1. Oh that’s a great example. When you lump in ludonarrative, you end up with so many interpretations

  10. Ok. I see the fault in the comparison. The individual matched the series by subject matter, you match by genre and mood. Light hearted comedy vs intense drama. As such if you looked through the lens of type My Dress Up Darling and Smile Down The Runway are a fitting match… If you ignore the genre mood not matching. Or if you consider that one does not live on a single genre alone.

    Now I like me a good fun enjoyable watch. A lot of the things in my DVD Collection are enjoyable easy to digest romps… But not all of them. I have some decided swings in mood here or there. I tend to think I like many different genres and moods. As such some may think if you like a lighthearted fare in this topic? You’ll also enjoy a more dramatic fare in this same topic. It may seem like tonal whiplash swapping moods, but sometimes you are in the mood for a mood shift in your entertainment. In that case Smile Down The Runway might be an ideal fit.

    Also I got a condensed lesson in what to expect from My Dress Up Darling before I digitally buy the season and sit myself down to review it at a later date. Thanks.

  11. That’s a great take. I feel if everyone understood this basic of media consumption we could really avoid all those horrifying Twitter and Reddit wars. I run into this situation often not because of comparing two pieces but because I like overthinking everything I watch. A lot of people will relate to that and others will just not simply because they have a different style of watching or they enjoy/relate to different things. Neither is necessarily right but to each their own. Great point with the identifying of “similar” anime often being based on superficial aspects like the presence of a blonde protagonist in your example. In action anime maybe any two with samurai or guns in them will get clubbed together even though they’re drastically different creatures.

    1. Internet culture sometimes makes it hard to remember that there are people who are not exactly the same as you since echo chambers are so easy to fall into

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