The Real Anime Inspirations Behind the Creations of Re:Creatorsby Gabriella Ekens,
Spoiler Warning for Re:CREATORS up through episode 15.
Re:CREATORS is a copyright-safe version of that fanfiction every otaku has wanted to write at some point in their lives: a metatextual crossover showdown between characters from all the biggest genres in anime. Since the creations themselves are meant to be fictional characters who enter our world only to discover that they were created for escapist entertainment, one of the most fun things to do with the show is guess what kind of stories they might have come from. What kind of anime, manga, light novels, or games was real-world writer Rei Hiroe thinking about when he came up with each character?
This guessing game actually isn't as easy as you might think. None of the creations have an obvious counterpart in one specific character. Rather, they're all combinations of several recognizable elements, from their personalities to their appearances to the types of stories that they originate from. It's a smart choice that keeps viewers guessing and proves the writer's detailed knowledge of popular anime tropes. With that in mind, I thought it'd be fun to test my knowledge by guessing what real-world otaku media may have influenced each creation. I really strained my brain for this, but feel free to offer your own ideas on what references made it into this wildly clever show. Without further ado, let's get to the list!
As the show's postergirl, it makes sense for Selesia's touchstones to be other leading ladies from popular anime. The most obvious one is Asuna, the main heroine of Sword Art Online. SAO probably needs no introduction for most anime fans, but if you need to know one thing, it's that Asuna is the action girlfriend of the show's leading man, Kirito. In the show's first arc, she has a similar haircut and outfit to Selesia's, albeit with a different color scheme. They also have similar fighting styles, favoring one-handed swords and aerial acrobatics. However, Selesia isn't from one of those “trapped in an MMO” anime. Her world is an anime-fied swords n' sorcery magitech war setting with mech suits and grave stakes that have hardened her spirit, perhaps most similar to 2014's Cross Ange.
Of course, Selesia is still quite distinct from both Asuna and Ange. Unlike Asuna, who plays second-string to Kirito, Selesia appears to be the main character of her work. And unlike Ange, Selesia isn't battered by sexual violence in either her original story or Re:CREATORS as a whole. These differences result in a more independent and noble nature than her forebears, giving Selesia a role inhabited by similar characters but injecting a more distinct personality. I like Selesia a lot, and I hope that we get to see her giant robot – Vogelchevalier – before the end of the show. I'm also curious to find out what will happen to her companion Charon now that he's come into contact with our world.
Meteora is probably the simplest creation to sum up, which is appropriate since she was given the least amount of personality in her original world. She was the tutorial NPC in a video game, existing pretty much just to explain the game's mechanics, making her contemporaries numerous yet unmemorable across hundreds of different JRPGs. That's all there was to her at first, but she's come a long way from such humble beginnings. Meteora often feels more like our main heroine than Selesia, who's mostly been relegated to big dramatic action scenes. By contrast, Meteora gets most of the intimate emotional moments, philosophical contemplation, and metatextual commentary. This also happens to be the stuff that makes up the bulk of Re:CREATORS, so I'd call Meteora closest to its heart. A nerdy, soft-spoken, and self-aware girl who feels deeply but doesn't really show it; that's how I'd characterize Re:CREATORS if it were a character itself.
Mamika's influences are the easiest to identify. She's a magical girl who looks like half of all the magical girl protagonists to have ever existed (particularly from the Pretty Cure series). Of course, Madoka Magica is one of the most iconic anime of this decade, so I don't think Mamika's resemblance to Madoka Kaname was lost on anyone either. Interestingly enough, Mamika's character arc blends both the optimistically straightforward and darkly deconstructive types of magical girl heroine in an inspired way. While Mamika starts out as your average Pretty Cure protagonist – a naïve savior who's never encountered moral complexity in her children's show – she becomes like Madoka as she comes to terms with the real world's darkness. She realizes just how hard it is to be an unequivocally good person – to believe friendship is always the solution and “do no harm” as an absolute commitment – in such a complicated world, but she resolves to keep trying anyways. It's one of the most sophisticated character arcs in the show so far, even it ends brutally.
Alicetaria is the creation that I can best describe as two things jammed together – what if Guts from Berserk had Saber from Fate/stay night's appearance and personality? Like Guts, Alicetaria is from a demon-infested medieval hell world. Her life seems to have been a barrage of horrible nonsense, so she's pretty incensed to learn that this was all done for the sake of entertaining a bunch of nerds. I can easily imagine Guts reacting much like she does to our world: stabbing a bunch of people for no good reason and trying to coerce her creator into fixing her world. (The good news is that this might actually get Kentarou Miura to finish Berserk, although that depends on how fast he can draw with a buster sword against his throat.) Her personality, meanwhile, is pretty generic lady knight, which means that it's close to Saber's – although Alicetaria is a bit more brash. (She also got Excalibur used against her instead of using it herself.)
On a deeper level, her life reminds me most of Saber's backstory, when she was king and everything went horribly for her, leading to her angst throughout Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night. Much like Saber, Alicetaria also gets what seems like a chance to undo all of the bad things about her life, but instead has to learn that this isn't really possible, and her life still has meaning as it is. I also like imagining Alicetaria as Saber due to her relationship with Mamika, because Saber and Madoka are both characters in Gen Urobuchi works. I just never realized how much I wanted the two of them to fall in love!
Yuuya's direct influences are some of the more difficult to suss out. I can easily tell what type of story the dude comes from; he's a cool punk from some sort of pseudo-gritty shonen gang wars thing. His spirit companion Hangaku is reminiscent of both the stands from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and the summoned spirits in the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona series. Both of these franchises are also decent matches for his general vibe, but I personally find his aesthetic closest to the style and setting of one specific game, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. It takes place in a version of Tokyo where rule of law has eroded and fashionable teens fight turf wars in cooperation with demons. That's not far from what we know of his story (although he's from a manga, not a game), and I could see his character design fitting in there naturally.
Going back to JoJo's, Yuuya's story role (though not his personality) also reminds me of that manga's iconic villainous vampire, Dio Brando. Like Dio, Yuuya is a villain/rival character who seems to have exceeded the story's hero in popularity. He seems to have been designed as Re:CREATORS' representative for these types of characters, particularly the kinds of "bad guys" who turn out to be big softies. There are a few more overtly villainous creations in the show, but he's by far the nicest and most susceptible to negotiation.
However, the one single character he reminds me of most is from a completely different type of shonen manga: Ryunosuke Umemiya from Shaman King. He was an impulsive punk hothead who beat people up with a wooden sword, acted as rival to the main character, and even formed a pact with a ghost samurai. That's pretty dead on, I'd say! Ryunosuke seems to be a more comical figure than Yuuya, and his haircut is way more awesome, but they have the same general aura, even if their stories are very different. Overall, Grasshopper Eyes is one of the more thoroughly remixed creations, but it's still clear what they were going for with his fan-favorite bad boy archetype. (He must get shipped with his manga's main character a lot.)
The mecha genre has a long history of bratty teen protagonists. Rui kinda encapsulates all of them, but he makes me think of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam's Kamille Bidan above all else. You could argue that Kamille's predecessor Amuro Ray is the True Original Annoying Robot Boy, but I prefer to give Kamille that title, since his show is the first to have outlined a lot of the genre's familiar story beats. Also, Rui kind of has Kamille's haircut and comical girlishness. (To help play this up, Rui's clearly voiced by a woman, Sora Amamiya.) Pubescent robot-piloting boytweens have largely been cut from the same cloth since the dawn of time (aka the 1980s), and Rui is fully in that mold. He might actually be a little more pleasant than most, since he only has one tantrum fairly early on in the series. Rui may talk a big game about being forced into his role, but you can't really run in the Bratty Mech Pilot big leagues until you run away for a week, almost destroy the world, and realize that your dad never loved you.
This one's another toughie, mostly because it feels like we don't know a ton about this dude yet. Much like Yuuya, I do immediately get where Blitz is coming from, but it's tough to name one perfect explanatory reference. He's definitely from a cyberpunk crime show, which brings to mind Ghost in the Shell, but he doesn't quite match up to any one GiTS character. The closest is probably Batou, Matoko Kusanagi's bulky older partner, but Batou has a much more jovial personality, and he's never been a parent either. An older Togusa maybe? That still doesn't quite match up.
Ultimately I'm going to have to go for another deep cut on this one – Solty Rei. This mid-2000s Gonzo show is a forgotten gem, and its male lead, Roy Revant, is a solid ringer for Blitz. Grizzled older mercenary detective with a large build? Check. Cyberpunk setting? Check. Angst over his missing daughter that he nurses by finding solace in another orphaned creation? Yup, that too. I don't know if Rei Hiroe looked at Solty Rei specifically when coming up with Blitz, but it's pretty close, I've got to say. You may be a sad dad, Blitz, but at least you can be Altair's dream daddy.
Magane is another “mash two ideas together” creation – “what if Durarara!!'s Izaya Orihara was a sadistic lesbian?” Okay, we haven't gotten any direct confirmation of Magane's sexual preferences (besides killing folks), and she sure did shove Sota's face into her crotch that one time, but hear me out on this one. She seems to have attended an all-girls school, and her source material's title, Record of the Night Window Demon, has voyeuristic overtones. On top of that, Magane's appearance and shtick remind me of a very specific kind of ultraviolent yuri literature that I see pop up every once in a while. It doesn't pop up in anime very often with rare exceptions like Riddle Story of Devil, but the manga Murciélago (which recently came out in English) is a great example, where a cartoonishly murderous lesbian goes on a rampage of sadism and ladyboning. While they're not always the main focus, I've seen similar characters show up in stuff like Hellsing, whose Rip Van Winkle is not textually gay, but she is notably popular with women for certain reasons, if you catch my drift. Now that I think about it, Rip's constant smirk, battle-dancing, and irreverent personality seems like half of the equation for Magane all by herself.
That just leaves Ikebukuro's own Lucifer-esque figure, Izaya. The big part of Magane that's not represented by characters like Rip is her preference for verbal manipulation over hand-to-hand combat. This is most comparable to Durarara!!'s Izaya Orihara, who uses nothing but his sadistic wits to get by through thirteen volumes' worth of supernatural shenanigans. Izaya is also a total smirklord, capable of keeping his cool while manipulating everyone from crime bosses to death gods. While Izaya doesn't have any magical powers at his disposable, he and Magane are clearly kindred spirits down to their shared habit of ruining people's lives for kicks. The world should be grateful that these two didn't both show up at once, since they both aspire to world domination to play with their “gods.” (Although I would hope that Ryohgo Narita fares better against his creation than Magane's writer, the poor guy.) While Yuuya represents the cool villain, and Blitz the tragic villain, Magane is the type of baddie who's unrepentantly terrible, but just so much fun that you love her no matter she does. “Step on me” indeed.
The newest creation in Re:CREATORS is less of an amalgam in design or personality ("generic mid-2000s eroge girl") than in the story behind her creation. Her creator, Nishio Ohnishi, seems to be a reference to several different real life creators. His name itself is a reference to NisiOisin, author of the Monogatari series. The whole “from an X-rated game that had the porn taken out of it in more mainstream releases” thing could be a reference to the original Fate/stay night visual novel, which is the most well-known example of this practice. And her game's title, The Milky Way of a Starry Sky, is reminiscent of multitudinous "sad girls in the snow"-style VNs largely popularized by the work of Jun Maeda, which are loaded with that sort of imagery. Judging by her creator's behavior, Hikayu also seems to be a joke on how otaku creators often make female characters to satisfy all of their fetishes, and are maybe also huge perverts in real life? Honestly, I'll need to see more of this girl and her creator to be able to say more about them, but wow, I hope that NisiOisin has a thick skin. If a version of me showed up on TV like this, someone would be receiving some nasty feedback.
Altair is a grimdark alternate universe Hatsune Miku OC.
There's no simpler way of putting it. Her backstory is that there's a Hatsune Miku analogue in Re:CREATORS – a distinctive character design with no story of her own who just exists to advertise various goods. Some fan took this character design, messed around with it, wrote a story where they're some sort of serious military officer, made a music video about this in Adobe After Effects, and posted it on the internet. When the video took off in popularity, it made this new version of the character iconic in her own right. This has actually happened at least once in real life – it's the origin for the Black★Rock Shooter franchise, which began when vocaloid artist supercell took a liking to Pixiv artist huke's work and decided to make a music video with it. Crazy as it sounds, Altair is based on a true story. (Well, except for her creator committing suicide. That didn't happen, thankfully.)
Beyond that, since Altair lacks much concrete detail as a creation (a single music video can't really lay on the worldbuilding), it's very easy for her to get powers from random fanworks across the internet. For example, her gunblade-violin and flower powers actually come from fan videos responding to her original fan video. As such, Altair represents the malleability of collective creation under fandom culture. More and more often, I see characters get assigned certain traits not because of anything indicated in canon, but just because the fandom seems to have decided a character is like that, which influences the creators to make it so. (Just look at Overwatch for a great example.) This is a powerful phenomenon, and Altair's entire character seems to be a testament to its influence. With this in mind, it makes sense that Altair's motivations revolve entirely around having been a lifeline to one troubled girl. People get seriously invested in their favorite characters, especially the versions of them that they make in their heads. This attachment and re-creation of other people's ideas may in fact be the basis of all "original" creation to begin with.
And that's all I've got! We're more than 2/3rds of the way through the show now, and I've very much enjoyed my time with Re:CREATORS. I've found it authentic to the experience of being an otaku, the types of characters that people love, and how folks engage with their favorite media. While far from sugarcoating the experience of fandom, Re:CREATORS is clearly a labor of love that does a good job of showing why people love making and consuming stories. I look forward to the show's conclusion, which is shaping up to be the biggest crossover blow-out this side of Fate/Zero. (Speaking of obvious influences!)
What other anime do the cast of Re:CREATORS remind you of? Share your own favorite references with us in the forums!
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