Gratuitous fan service is quite possibly one of the most easily noticeable trends in anime. From erotic content (ex: glorified ‘pantsu‘ shots; zettai ryouiki) to over the top action/mecha scenes, fan service is present in a majority of the most popular series in the industry. However, is it truly servicing the community or is it stunting the growth of the western viewer base?
For the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on the erotic form of fan service. It is most noticeably common in harem (ハーレムもの) anime (such as Love Hina and Tenchi Muyo). This genre of anime focuses on tensions between (typically) a male protagonist and a group of females. The formula immediately prides itself on sexually-driven situations. It is, however, the means of displaying the character tension and frequency of occurrence that can be called into question. For a fair number of these series, the amount of fan service elements can transform the story from a fun adventure into an all out shoddy parody.
Special thanks to Monica Ray for pointing this one out.
The easy choice for a director or storyteller to take with exploration and conflict with sexuality is to just show excessive amounts of cheap sexual imagery. Is it necessary to have multiple upskirts or ‘bouncing boob’ shots in an anime to further a story? More than often, the answer is: Absolutely not. Instead, the reasoning is that they (the content creators) are ‘giving the fans exactly what they want’. This train of thought is shared by many creatives. Personally I have been told many times, by both mentors and colleagues, the following:
If this is true, why are a good number of fans being turned off by a device created for them?
With anime becoming more readily-available over the past few years, there seems to be a growing dislike by American anime viewers towards the cliche. I asked people via Twitter today about their thoughts on fan service. The majority of responses stated it simply has become too much, and even caused several to stop watching anime altogether. A few responses:
- “Fan service does its part, but when they substitute a good plot for some breasts or panties, then why even bother?”
- “Fan service pretty much turned me off to anime. It bothers me that even with a good story they pander.”
- “Its the reason I don’t like most anime and it nearly ruins half the anime that I do like. Fandom can be obnoxious!”
Shows featuring heavy amounts of “what we want” can cause them to come off as perverted foreign cartoons and mistaken for soft-core hentai by new-coming viewers and passerbys. Some individuals within the female viewer base (which has been growing slowly over the past few years) have angrily presented that fan service is simply sexism and a blatant objectification of women.
Now don’t get me wrong, fellow Ogeeku, I enjoy the occasional funny plunder of a dorky pervert or the build-up of sexual tension between characters. In fact, I love awkward situations involving those two things. My issue is when a cliche interrupts a story, and, frankly, it is happening way too much. I would have loved Baka & Test if it maintained focus on the brilliant concept of classes fighting each other with intelligence-based avatars, instead of giving me random jiggles and nosebleeds.
Here’s to hoping that creators across the board lean off the “fan service” a bit. Don’t worry, I will still watch your series – just as long as you maintain story integrity. You are no longer obligated to have to add in glimpses to the elusive opposite sex. If viewers want to see boobies or pantsu, there is a great new tool at our disposal:
What do you think of fan service in anime? Do you feel it caters to your desires or is it more of an annoyance/deterrent to watching a series in full? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
**As a bonus, here’s some Lucky Star fan service just for you.**