The Fine Art of the Rip-Off

bav-ichino munto-ichiko

Yeah, you try telling me that the girl in the second picture isn’t a carbon copy of the girl in the first.

Ok, ok, so I don’t really think that Ichiko in Munto (TV and OVA’s) is a complete rip-off of Ichino from Battle Athletes and Battle Athletes Victory, but I do think there’s enough in common between the two for the creators who designed her to have been influenced by Ichino’s character. Battle Athletes dates back to 1996, whereas Munto first appeared in 2003, so I don’t think its too absurd to posit that the folks involved with Munto had come into contact with Battle Athletes seven years prior, and as they were drawing up designs and ideas ended up synthesizing that and creating the character of Ichiko.

Anyway, I should probably give you some good reasons for why I even make the argument in the first place, as I’ve only really pointed out the similarities in their appearances to this point. There is also the obvious similarity in their names – Ichino and Ichiko – a difference of but one character (いちand いち) (as rendered in hiragana), but the common ground between the two goes further than that.

Based on their appearance, even if someone didn’t have any experience with either of the shows, one can easily infer at least the basic aspects of these two young ladies’ character – they’re tomboys. Ichino is an interesting case, as she exists in a world full of girls who could be considered tomboys based on their physical prowess; that is, all the young women in BA and BAV are groomed to be psychotically good athletes, and thus are all physically tough, something that is normally more associated with males as opposed to females. But, even so, Ichino stands out amongst her peers as a tomboy based on her boyish haircut, her mannerisms, and her style of clothing when not in school uniform.

Ichiko’s also pretty clearly meant to be the tomboy of the piece (e.g. Munto) for pretty much the same reasons, although she isn’t standing in a field of athletic females. Ichiko dresses boyishly when out of school uniform, and has a boyish hair cut.

More importantly for both, though, is the relationship each shares with the true female lead of their respective shows – in Ichino’s case, Akari, and in Ichiko’s case, Yumemi. These two relationships are honestly what, to me, seemed to clinch the entire thing, as their resemblance to one another is fairly stark.

Akari is the heroine of BA and BAV, and like many heroines before her in the genre, she’s pretty much klutzy, lazy, and the last person who would succeed were the story to take place in the real world (well, ok, she’d probably still get pretty far on her famous mum’s name in the real world, but I digress). Ichino, meanwhile, is the spunky, encouraging friend who ends up helping Akari realize her potential and her dream. She also gets left in the dust as the story progresses, much like how all best friend characters are.

Yumemi isn’t nearly as klutzy and such as Akari is; in fact, her character goes more for the spacey sort, giving off a sense of not being entirely of this world as she constantly operates in distraction. But she’s still a female lead with a friend who acts are her rock and anchor no matter what. Ichiko befriends Yumemi when they are children and defends her from the bullies who harass Yumemi for her tales of land masses floating in the air, much how Ichino defends Akari against other students who pick on her for her weakness and laziness. And she likewise gets left behind, as Yumemi leaves for another world to save the day.

Ichino and Ichiko also both suffer from anxiety over separation, although Ichino’s is tempered with the realization that Akari has surpassed her in athletic prowess. But there is a similar feeling of helplessness, as both realize their inability to stay by the side of their friend and protect and support her.

And, yes, there is a degree of yuri implied in both cases (the BAV manga is a bit more explicit on this point than the TV series). Amusingly enough, both girls get to wear almost the same outfit when it is most obvious that the two might be feeling a little bit birds and bees-ish over their friends:

bav-ichino-2 munto-ichiko-2

Honestly, I would argue that its this yuri overtone to it that separates it out from the common trope of female friendship as presented in anime that possess a female lead, by which I mean, the pattern of relationship as I stated above in the cases of Ichino and Ichiko, and their respective friends. Theirs is very reminiscent of Maron and Miyako in Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, but these girls have no yuri implied at all in their friendship (instead, Miyako gets kissed by Maron’s guardian angel gone bad… but, really, that’s a whole other story).

What also makes the relationships in question more grounds on which to compare these two is the fact that there is already a pretty heavy established pattern in addition to it – its that its the names, the appearance, the character type, and the relationships shared with their best friends are all so similar that made me raise an eyebrow.

Anyway, I really just did this for my own amusement. I really like both Ichiko and Ichino, so that encouraged me, along with the fact that I slash both of them with their friends… although, in my defense, their respective properties certainly encourage it (especially BAV)!

And, on that note:

bav-yuri munto-yuri

Yeah, ok, suuuure we’re not meant to ship them. Pfft.

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One Response to The Fine Art of the Rip-Off

  1. I actually like it when characters and stories are recycled in anime. (It’s one of the reasons I enjoy Gundam so much, though that’s a topic for a post of its own.) A lot of the stuff I read for uni was written at a time when originality was frowned upon, and the trick to writing good literature was to borrow ideas from the most well-respected authors you could find, spend a lot of time going on about how you were only repeating their thoughts and then stealthily slip in a bit of creativity under the radar.

    You wind up with intertextual reinforcement very similar to the kind of thing you’re talking about here: two similar characters with similar relationships, the existence of each one bolstering the case for shipping the other.

    (Not that my medieval lit tutors permit shipping – unfortunately for them, sometimes the writers themselves do. I suspect Lancelot x Guinevere was Malory’s OTP.)

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