It’s an often used statement to say that everything that can be invented already has been. To an extent, I feel that this is true. There’s been a lot of history of mankind to contend against if you want to invent a new idea. Specifically for creative fields like writing, films, and different forms of media, this can definitely feel like it’s the case, especially these days when we’re getting remakes of remakes all the time from Hollywood and television. (Did we really need another Fantastic Four? I mean, the first one was alright but that last one was just horrifying.)
However, even if a plot or setting has been done before, that doesn’t mean that we can’t find new and creative ways of working with those ideas. Iterating or innovating on an idea can be as great a show of genius or craft as creating something entirely new. A famous example of this is The Lion King, which borrows heavily from Hamlet both in plot and characters, but you’d never hear someone complain that it’s just a rehash of the same thing. Both Disney’s animated classic and Shakespeare’s wonderful play may share a lot in common but both also are able to stand on their own as great and incredibly entertaining works.
Another great example that not many may know is a film called 10 Things I Hate About You. A story about a boy (Cameron) who wants to date a girl (Bianca) but only can if the girl’s older and “shrewish” sister can also find a date. So Cameron gets a bad boy of the school to woo the older sister for him and allow Cameron to date Bianca. The story may sound familiar because it’s Shakespeare again with the play The Taming of the Shrew, though this time, less misogynistic. Watching these back-to-back, you can easily see similarities between the two and a lot of borrowing on the part of the former from the latter, but the stories are not the same and the telling of 10 Things gives something new and fresh for the audience to enjoy. And that’s really the big thing. It doesn’t necessarily matter if “it’s been done before”, but more so “how a story or idea is being told”. Which leads me to one of my favorite anime of all time: Nichijou.