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In Anime and Manga, and to a lesser extent in all animation, fish tend to be drawn hyperrealistically. Their movements are naturalistic, and they never exhibit any trace of personality, even when other animals or Mons are very iconic and anthropomorphic. This also applies to fish being eaten, when compared to other food items.

In many animated universes, fish are actually the sole wild animals ever seen, possibly because it's okay to show people eating fish in a children's show, but not other meats, even for characters Raised by Wolves. (And even if they are wolves...)

Scott McCloud goes on in Understanding Comics about how Japanese comics can vary the level of iconic vs. realistic rendering: the more iconic the art, he states, the easier it is to identify with the characters. Making the fish look more realistic would make it easier to dissociate from it, and therefore easy to regard it as potential food rather than a living creature. More than one chapter examines the implications and uses of this trope.

See also All Animals Are Dogs. May be the result (or one cause) of What Measure Is a Non-Cute?.

Examples of No Cartoon Fish include:

Anime and Manga

  • Digimon Adventure 02 has a long hyperrealistic underwater sequence where we see, strangely, a turtle.
    • The first Digimon Adventure pairs this with Fridge Logic. In the Dark Masters saga, the DigiDestined go fishing in the digital world (where digital monster versions of marine wildlife also exist). One notable scene had Agumon swallow a realistic fish twice his size, which Squicks out the other characters.
  • Pokémon oddly has both Mon fish and realistic fish. In the very first episode, one scene pans up through a lake - where we see first a school of regular fish and then a Magikarp swim by. The "real" fish have essentially been RetConned out of existence by now, and it's been hinted that Pokémon are used as a source of meat.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!! both the consumed fish and some fish monsters used by Ryota Kajiki are hyper realistic (although admittedly the monsters mix cartoon and realism happily)
  • Sketchbook: There were some cats, a chicken and a crayfish (and briefly a lobster). The cats had big anime eyes and made un-catlike sounds; the chicken was extremely cartoony, and the crayfish could have been taken out of a field guide to North American streams.
    • Sketchbook ~full color'S greatly differs between animals and pets, as dogs, cats and chicken were displayed in a cute way while wild animals (fishes, crayfishes and insects) in a realistic way.
  • Ranma ½ used a well animated koi in a pond as a standard part of their aspect montages.
  • In one of many nods to M. C. Escher, Mamoru Oshii's movie Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer has a scene in which we see puddles, showing the reflection of the gang walking above, leaves on the surface, and a carp impossibly swimming below.
  • In one episode of Samurai Champloo, Jin is shown fishing; the fish are portrayed more realistically than the characters themselves or any other animals.
  • In Yotsuba&! the fish are depicted as living beings that bleed, much to the distress of Miura (depicted above). They get caught to be eaten and, once cooked into food, even Miura has absolutely no objections.
  • In Azumanga Daioh, cats are about as unrealistic as you'd expect (not counting Chiyo-dad). For dogs, Mr. Tadakachi looks more like a plushie Great Pyrenees than a real one. But when the girls go scuba-diving during the class trip, the fish are quite realistic. Oddly enough, at one point Sakaki reads a cat magazine while planning a (short-lived) attempt to take a picture of Kamineko; the cat pictures she looks at are, appropriately, photorealistic.
  • Apollo's Song by Osamu Tezuka had a chapter in which the main character is stranded on an island where none of the animals eat each other and he himself is not allowed to eat animals. Fish are, of course, exempt (and the character takes great pleasure in catching far more than he could possibly eat).
    • This is practically the only time Tezuka uses this trope, though. Most of his fish are pretty damn cartoony. The best example would probably be Mach Fumiake (named after a famous female wrestler), the prize carp from the Black Jack story Heart of a Giant.
  • Nagasarete Airantou: A while after coming to Airantou, Ikuto finds he can understand and talk to the Mon-style animals of the island. In an omake, he learns that the original castaways decide they couldn't eat such cute, playful creatures and so only eat fish for meat. The fish, although showing some sign of intelligence, tend to be ugly and spiny but delicious.
  • Played with in the Kimagure Orange Road OVA episode "I Was a Cat, I Was a Fish": the fish was originally realistic-looking, but after Kyosuke's mind was transferred into it, it got a lot cuter.
  • Seems to have been averted in One Piece where all the fish, like everything else in the show, are unrealistically drawn. And they're still eaten.
    • However, whales have been drawn both unrealistically (Laboon) and realistically (the whales the crew see diving down to Fishman Island).
  • Title character aside (and even he can look it when he needs to), all the animals are rendered realistically in Gon, and anthropomorphised with human expressions or emotions as needed in each story, fish included.
  • An episode of Kirby of the Stars had Kirby feed a recently hatched limbless dragon, Galbo, tons of fish from a nearby lake. This taking place in a world where alot of the creatures, even some of the plants, are sentient in some way.
  • "Doubutsu no Kuni" is a huge offender of this trope. The world of Animal Country is populated with Civilized Animals, some with more varying degrees of anthropomorphism (the tanukis look like bipedal teddy bears with comically over-sized heads, while the wolves are more like Talking Animals). Part of the manga's main themes is the issue of the strong animals eating the weak ones, yet no one raises a paw when the Tanukis catch fish to survive for the winter or when the adopted human offers a fish to a pack of wolves who previously attacked the Tanuki village to feed a starving cub.


  • In Redwall, Matthias catches a fish for dinner, but almost all other animals are more or less anthropomorphic and never seen eating each other. This is addressed on the author's website.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan makes many species into talking animals, but no fish (or other sea creatures) are included. There are mermaids, though, but they are probably altered humans (despite there being no native humans in Narnia... altered monkeys, maybe?).
    • So... just like in the source material, all humans are descended from some brother-sister pairing?
      • Not necessarily. The first book chronologically points out that King Frank and Queen Helen's children wed dryads, nyads, wood sprites, etc. It can be assumed that any dryad-ish or sprite-ish traits were bred out of their descendants as more of them came into being to breed with. Also, the Telemarins were pirates who get into Narnia from our world through an island cave; it's possible that other human groups got into Narnia in similar ways.
  • In both the original Franklin book series and Nelvana's Animated Adaptation, Franklin has a pet fish named Goldie.
  • Averted with the cover art of Etgar Keret’s Anihu, featuring a strange cartoony, half-skeletal fish.

Video Games

  • Cats, rabbits, penguins, mushrooms, and bottles are anthropomorphized into playable characters in Phantom Brave. Fish are weapons.
  • Animal Crossing features fishing as a large part of its gameplay, which is strange considering the land of anthropomorphic animals that forms its core, which includes an octopus character. Strangely, you're not able to eat the fish... just sell them, give them to a friend, or donate them to the museum.
    • Wendall eats the fish, though.
    • This is lampshaded by the octopus character, who says that that she loves to eat octopi but is afraid that she's becoming cannibalistic.
  • The Mario series, in its 3D incarnations, has flirted with this one a bit. In many bodies of water you can see realistic fish swimming about... even though the series-mainstay fish Cheep-Cheep is by no means realistic and is found just as often.
    • Although, the Unagi in Mario64 looks like a realistic moray eel.
  • Played with in Dark Cloud 2. The fish Max can catch straddle the line between cartoony and realistic (as realistic as a fish shaped like a horse's head can be, anyway.) Meanwhile, King Garayan is a gigantic, flamboyant fish with huge puffy lips, curly eyelashes, and an impeccable (and quite creepy) toothy grin. The Frozen Tuna that Max wields as a weapon is as realistic as cel-shaded graphics can make it, however.
  • Mostly averted in the Kirby series: almost all of the fish that appear are about as unrealistic as you'd expect from a video game about a pink puff. The most commonly-found piscine is the Blipper, essentially a sphere with fins, a mouth, beady eyes, and a diving mask. A realistic-by-Kirby-standards fish does appear in the intro to Float Islands in the first game, but when it's reused in Kirby Super Star (and, by extension, Ultra), it's changed to a Blipper instead.
    • One notable episode where it's played straight is in the anime-- the episode with Dyna Blade. Kirby catches a whole basket full of realistic fish and is in the process of catching more when the angry armored bird-god arrives.
    • There are somewhat realistic schools of small fish in Dreamland 3.
  • In the Harvest Moon games fish are depicted realistically, and they are the only animal that can be eaten.
  • Mostly averted in Donkey Kong Country, where the fishes have 3D rendered sprites (as do the player characters) but with cartoony faces. The Under the Sea backgrounds, however, have a drab realistic look.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In the animated movie Madagascar, the fish are the only non-anthropomorphic animals in the entire film, and thus the only things predators can eat without feeling guilty.
  • The same is true in the movie Happy Feet. Since it stars penguins, who only eat fish, it's inevitable.
  • Brother Bear exemplifies this trope, with the fish being drawn much more realistically, being consumed in droves by bears, and being shown decapitated... only to subvert it in the nastiest way After the Credits...
  • Pinocchio has it both ways. When Pinocchio and Jiminy go underwater, they are followed around by cute cartoony fish. However, the tuna that are swallowed by Monstro - and which Geppetto catches to eat - are realistic.
  • An episode of House of Mouse features Donald (an anthropomorphic duck) and Humphrey (a cartoony goofy-looking bear) fighting over an ordinary-looking fish that both caught at the same time.
  • Partially averted in Help! I'm A Fish!, which has a mix of both cartoon and realistic fish. The difference between them is due to those with the 'cartoon' look are either fish who've been exposed to the 'Anti-Fish' potion, or humans exposed to the 'Fish' postion.
  • Averted in The Sword in the Stone. Even the predator fish is somewhat cartoony.
    • Only with the eyes. The rest is a very realistic and scary pike.
  • This happens in Little Bear, which is fortunate in light of his father's profession as a fisherman.
  • The Little Mermaid, of course, has many examples of sentient sea life, but the fish seen getting chopped up and cooked by Chef Louis in the "Les Poissons" number are realistic, in order to enhance the Squick factor.
  • Inverted in Fish Hooks; the fish, being the main characters, are extremely cartoony, while every other sentient being in the series is rendered realistically.
  • Averted in Fish Police. Like Fish Hooks above, all the characters are anthropomorphic fish, but all the action is underwater; nothing but sea life is ever seen. This also applies to the comic.
  • Also averted in both Shark Tale and Finding Nemo.
  • Inverted in SpongeBob SquarePants. Any character who merely sits in the background like an "extra," or who utters a line or two but has no real characterization, will be cast as a Funny Animal fish. (apart from the news fish)
  • Averted in Fish Fry, that pits a cute Tweety Bird type goldfish against a scroungy alley cat - "star" Andy Panda is practically a background prop.
  • Applied to all animals in South Park since Art Evolution.
    • Except for cats and dogs, who are still done in the traditional style, probably so they won't clash with reoccurring Sparky and Mr. Kitty.
  • Averted in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, in which fish are cartoony, emotive, and still eaten (by ferrets).
    • In a first season episode we can clearly see Fluttershy feeding the fish to the ferrets, in the second season we can clearly see that fish are in fact sentient, but like most smart animals in Friendship is magic they can't talk.
  • Averted in Scaredy Squirrel, where a cartoon fish has a crush on Scardey
  • Both subverted and played straight on The Snorks. While earlier episodes featured realistic looking fish, they gradually got more and more cartoony as the show went on.