In an age where anyone with access to a Twitter account can throw down the gauntlet on a creative creation, every last promo advertisement and concept art piece has been analyzed for every anime coming out. The Internet is riddled with Is that character making a pose?! Oh it must be a JJBA reference then! or This show was obviously inspired by EVA because the way the one character has his hands folded at the table... kind of tweets- doing the classic two frame comparison of the source material side by side with something that happens to match the original in just that one frame. I’d link some of these, but if anyone goes on to Twitter to look into it (or the AniTwitter as they call it), it’ll be there for a dime a dozen.
So does this translate into the approach series take in being created? Instinct alone makes me want to say no, however having fans so easily pulsed through the Internet has to have had some writers or artists mulling their creative decisions. Stories risk tipping off acute analysis when they hit the same beats as last year’s hot flavor to come through. Perhaps a show was really cool because it featured a plot twist that turned the concept on its side (surely that was exclusive to that one 2016 anime, right?!). Suddenly people are slamming it because it is a “clone” of another series because it has similar themes and beats. When I say “beats”, I am of course referring to the concept of story beats- a less flattering way to address it would be “tropes”.
In a recent episode of the AniTAY Podcast (I’ll hyperlink to the podcast and timestamp when it becomes available), Gugsy and I went back and forth on whether or not a particular series was unique since it followed a lot of the same beats as another. This season there is a sequel to the series Yuki Yuna is a Hero coming out, which has unfortunately been constantly cast in a gigantic shadow of another series. For those who don’t know, Yuki Yuna is somewhat of the martyr for anime that were burned by the Internet for resembling another, more popular series by the name of Madoka Magica. Both shows featured school girls obtaining magical powers (I’m not saying “magical girl” as much as possible here) and were spiced up by psychological plot twists. What YYiaH had working against it, however, is that it came out a considerable amount of time after Madoka had a chance to inject itself into everyone’s blood streams.
There certainly is a case to be made that almost any show is trying to capture the same genius that another had, but it defeats the purpose to make something exactly by the playbook of a show like Madoka because the entire reason it was so successful was because there wasn’t anything like it at the time. The dark twists kept coming in the guise of a genre that never had any real danger introduced. To try to replicate that would be foolish, dictating more subsistence than that to even be in a conversation as a decent work. Truth be told, Yuki Yuna departs from Madoka almost entirely once the concept of psychological magical gi- m a g i c a l p o w e r s - is moved past. Almost entirely through, Yuki Yuna hits more of its stride as an enjoyable slice of life series, riddled with the occasional dark undertone. In many ways, this builds outstanding chemistry between the cast and makes the stakes even higher when it comes time for the psychological twists.
Surprisingly, the very way that YYiaH uses its twists works in a wholly different way as well. The jerks and pulls in Madoka are sudden and character developments are on the fly thanks to this- a genius concept. In Yuki Yuna, however, characters have to suffer and cope through their progressive losses. Watching them stumble and weep through the cost their actions take on their bodies is stomach churning. The descent for the character development is not a traumatic car accident pace like in first show but rather a small wound, slowly opening until it is too late. Slice of life moments pop up in the middle of the characters’ losses and it makes the viewer want the best for them in the few moments they have in a way. That kind of investment doesn’t really show through in Madoka.
I can’t really go into further comparisons of the two without spoiling things, and I refuse to spoil either series as they are both outstanding series that both deserve some of your time. Much like the Twitter hot takes out there, it is just important to realize that just because two series are alike in optics does not mean they are inspired by, influencing, or copying another. Color this a weak argument, but to call Yuki Yuna a Madoka clone is the same thing as saying that Pepsi is a Coca-Cola clone.