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You have a set of characters. They work well as an ensemble; so well, in fact, that they can be slotted into just about any scenario you care to imagine, within the constraints of genre (fitting an ensemble into a different genre is a completely different trope). So you can see them, identical but for different trappings (he was wielding a sword, now it's a blaster pistol...), in places as diverse as Feudal Japan, the Modern Era, Space Opera, etc., etc., etc.

What you have is a Universal Adaptor Cast: found anywhere that an ensemble is cast into an odd situation and yet fits in perfectly because their roles and characters are so well-defined. The best example is Commedia Dell'Arte, an Italian theater tradition that uses a group of characters whose characteristics and attributes are so well-known that the entire play is ad-libbed. Many Moe shows are practically Merchandise-Driven versions of the Universal Adaptor Cast. Separate Scene Storytelling is often done this way.

This is one of the essential justifications for Transplanted Character Fic, including the High School AU.

The Magnificent Seven Samurai is a specific subtrope of this.

Examples of Universal Adaptor Cast include:


Anime & Manga

  • Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito is a straight Anime example; this one a Yuri series set in a bunch of settings with the same basic characters due to reincarnation.
  • Every episode of Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai has the characters playing different roles in a parody of a given genre.
  • The various incarnations of Tenchi Muyo!, exemplified by the spinoff of the Pretty Sammy series.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
  • This dates back to the beginnings of anime, with Osamu Tezuka's troupe of characters. They were a little more versatile than the standard commedia troupe (several of them "played" both heroes and villains), but the idea remains that they are "actors" portraying characters.
  • Code Geass spinoff manga Strange Tales of the Bakamatsu places the cast of characters in pre-Meiji Japan, with La Résistance being the nationalist rebels and Lelouch himself leading The Shinsengumi as a cover identity. Oh, and in this universe, "Geass" means the ability to summon Knightmare Frames.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has two Alternate Universe / Alternate Continuity spin offs: Angelic Days and Gakuen Datenroku, the former being a fluffy shojo manga and other one being an X Meets Y scenario with Persona.
    • There is also the radio drama Shin Seiki Evangelion, which is where the characters are trying to create a new show so they can continue after, you know, all of humanity is destroyed at the end. As the title sounds, Asuka wants a sentai show.
  • One Piece frequently puts the Straw Hats into alternate universes, such as one in which they are all fantasy monsters and another in which they -- even the males -- are middle-aged women. The most frequently used setting is one in 19th Century Japan, in which Luffy is in the police force of Japan under the rule of Cobra. The Chopperman setting, in which Chopper acts as a superhero with Nami as his assistant and Luffy as his Humongous Mecha against Usopp, Franky and a Quirky Miniboss Squad composed of the rest of the crew, initially started out as special that was a few minutes long, but got a full-length filler episode after the Ice Hunter Arc.
  • School Rumble tried this a few times as well. Even more so in its short sequel of sorts, School Rumble Z which was mostly composed of the cast in various different alternate universe or possible future settings.
  • Urusei Yatsura has its large cast take on the roles of Japanese historical figures like Miyamoto Musashi, or fight in the Heian Self-Defense Force. Of course Kintaro is an recurring character in the modern age, so yeah... As usual, Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the past twenty-plus years, the cast of Ranma One Half have been slotted into every possible scenario, ranging from bizarre fusion fics (The Wheel of Time, Star Trek) to original plots of every possible stripe.


Comics -- Books

  • Most major superhero teams have had "imaginary stories" where they were medieval knights, steampunk warriors, etc.
  • Marvel Fairy Tales retells various Fairy Tales with the X-Men, Spider-Man and The Avengers.
  • Marvel Noir does the same, but with film noir-style tales.
  • Sam and Max. It helps to be the Freelance Police.
  • Disney comics often feature the characters in various different settings, such as medieval fantasy, science fiction and parodies of famous books or movies. In one Mickey Mouse story, Mickey and pals performed what was supposed to be a play by Molière but was actually a parody of one.
  • The Archie Comics gang. Including for a while, various spinoffs were they were in space, in the past, or superheroes.


Films -- Live-Action


Literature

  • Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novels do this explicitly. Many of the characters are clearly identified with their original Commedia dell'Arte counterparts, with Jerry as Harlequin, and swung through a wide variety of settings and situations without clear explanation.
  • Hal Duncan's The Bookof All Hours does this extensively with its central cast. This is an interesting case, because each character is the living embodiment of an archetype superimposed upon multiple realities. So by the second book, where reality has degenerated into isolated wells of time and space, and the characters move from one reality well to another, they all become Dangerously Genre Savvy, having absolutely no qualms about screwing all possible realities to their advantage. This results in them routinely sitting around a table and leafing through the "script" for the next reality, deciding who is going to play what.
  • "The Years of Rice and Salt" is an alternative history of the 700 years following the Black Death, the "alternative" being thrown in by the idea that all Europeans died, not just 1/3 of them. The same group of characters are reincarnated as characters with the same first letters of their names, until 2002 CE.


Live-Action TV


Puppet Shows

  • The Muppets, who manage to play themselves whether on a vaudeville stage or in Treasure Island.
    • Yet, and this is the unique part, they still capture the roles they're playing. The Muppet Christmas Carol is widely regarded as one of the best adaptations of the book ever made.


Radio

  • The Goon Show has the same troupe of characters in a different setting every episode.


Theater

  • As mentioned, this is the whole point of Commedia Dell'Arte.
  • The Sera Myu has a sequence where Chibi-Moon and Saturn are transported to the Edo Era of Japan. The other characters show up as apparently past life versions of themselves. Usagi and the Inner senshi (sans mercury) are a group of noble thieves, Setsuna appears as a traditional comedian/announcer complete with a paper fan, Mamoru as a local playboy who is secretly the magistrate, and Ami as a village girl who has a crystal ball similar to the one carryed by the Inner Senshi and is thus destined to be their companion. One of villans shows up as an apparently time-displaced Mexican named "This is a pear".


Video Games

  • The Beatmania series has background animations that show the same characters in different settings.
  • Each Mecha's Story Mode in Tech Romancer basically features them as if they were the star of their own Mecha Show, with the other fighters as secondary characters.
  • Mega Man; particularly the original, Mega Man Battle Network and some parts of Legends. (Let's not get into continuity, please.)
  • The various Super Mario Bros. spin-offs provide the best video game examples; to name just a few settings that have been done by the Italian Plumber and his friends:
  • The Sonic Storybook Series has Sonic the Hedgehog characters filling fairytale roles (save Sonic himself, who gets pulled into the adventures as himself). For instance, Knuckles is Sinbad the Sailor in Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sir Gawain in Sonic and the Black Knight.
  • In The Legend of Zelda series, there are many different incarnations of Link and Zelda that occur in different time periods. Fans have come up with numerous explanations for why Link and Zelda reoccur such as reincarnation, descendants, or just some sort heroic spirit that reappears when evil threatens Hyrule. However, on a meta-level, Miyamoto says that he sees Link and Zelda like old theatrical cartoon characters like in Popeye who can be recast in many different situations.
    • The character casts of the two Zelda games Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask are basically the same, with the only changes being their names.
  • Team Fortress 2, especially in the Vidding community, which makes surreal animations using the characters in stock roles based on how they're played in the game. For instance, the Spy is usually a violent sociopath, and Heavy has a rivalry with the Scout and a friendship with the Medic.


Web Animation

  • Homestar Runner, as seen by the many many alternative settings (futuristic Japan, medieval times, 1800s US just to name a few) and premises.
  • The Something Awful Peezle Ward series of Flash Tub cartoons are various movies that place the same four characters in various movie "adpatations" of a fake author's stories, ranging from Fire Fighters to Astronauts to Time Travelers.


Web Comics


Web Original


Western Animation


Other

  • Vocaloid characters. De-facto, they are tabula rasa[1] and it's up to the producers just what they are supposed to be-- which is largely the point of having virtual songstresses. Even the official merchandise is in it: the sheer variation of Miku figmas is staggering, and these are based on the most popular imagining of Miku.

Notes

  1. Miku did have a manga series, though
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