Fan Service: Actual Favor or Destructive Device?

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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?


Am I turning you off?

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:

“Sex sells. Give them a glimpse and they will come back for more.”

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.


I have no idea where they'd get an idea like that...

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:

GOOGLE

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.**


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16 comments

  1. Posted by SvenTS, at Reply
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    As I said on twitter it can have its place in certain over the top tongue in cheek series. But I do agree that it can be overdone and, when it is, it can really drag down an otherwise good story.

    • Posted by Jeff Gallo, at Reply

      This is pretty much the way I feel about it.

  2. Posted by Snotsnit, at Reply
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    I should mention that even with the amount of fan service it offered, I LOVED Love Hina for the story.

    Same with Onegai Teacher oddly.

    Shuffle….not so much.

  3. Posted by ThunderCaya, at Reply

    This guy I liked told me I should read Love Hina. He gave me half of the volumes at once to read at my own pace, then I was supposed to trade them in for the other half. I only made it through the first volume before giving them back and asking him “why did you think I would enjoy this?” and wondering if I could like a guy who enjoyed it. Not sure what makes accidental molestation so funny….

    Clearly not a fan of fan service! I will put up to it to a degree, but only because my options are very limited if I don’t.

  4. Posted by Spencer, at Reply

    Like I said in my Twitter response (rather giddy that you used mine) fan service does its part in some anime, but when companies feel that a fight requires all of the female combatants to suddenly lose their clothes because some super attack wills them to, well then I just can’t take the show seriously anymore. A few examples of these being Samurai Girls, Queen’s Blade, and Ikki Tousen, although all of these are more eroge anime, you can still see how much fan service overtakes the plot, and it usually ends up with a poor quality storyline that focuses more on the harem than actual plot development (Samurai Girls being an example, I only watched because seiyuus I liked were in it).

    Though, I can’t say I hate Fan Service, some anime, like Love Hina, I enjoyed when i was younger partly because the fan service was at a lot of times used for comedy purposes, and being 13, almost seeing breasts wasn’t a bad thing either. Though, the ironic part is that the Christmas Special, while also being my favorite episode and unlike the Spring Special counterpart, hardly focuses on fan service and instead on the plot, and it works wonderfully, which is probably why I love it so much.

    It’s also why I love K-ON so much.

  5. Posted by Charlotte Parker, at Reply
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    that hotd clip always makes me cringe. utterly redonkulous.

    also, found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhEnYJj4mn8

  6. Posted by EDRider, at Reply

    For me it does get distracting when it is too much in your face. Some shows I like such as Kaze no Stigma and Hand Maid May does have a little bit of fanservice but it is not like in every episode, they do it more for comedic effect which is fine with me. Some shows like Ikki Tousen and I hate to say it Rosario + Vampire (which is a shame I love the manga version of it) where it is in every episode for almost no reason and makes it seem like it is just there so you can watch it.

    • Posted by Snotsnit, at Reply
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      Kaze No Stigma I can forgive because the plot doesn’t focus on fan service

  7. Posted by Jeff Gallo, at Reply

    Just throwing this out there, there was another reason I suggested the Tellah cosplay, aside from the obvious of him having an awesome design. For me, when I see people walking around half naked it just makes me feel uncomfortable, regardless of how ‘hot’ or not you are. So in a way, when I see fanservice I also think of the people who are going to cosplay as the character in question.

    But for me it’s mostly about taking me out of the story, as Svents mentioned. The example I used on twitter (although not an anime) was the movie Columbiana. The trailer itself is ridiculous. Am I expected to believe this woman is some sort of super action hero who can kick butt all the while being practically wearing nothing but underwear? I’m sure there are some; but I can’t really think of any big budget action flicks where you see a male lead running around like that all the time.

  8. Posted by Tyler, at Reply

    I think everyone can put up with it to a certain degree, but like HOTD, it was over the top. I did not care for that anime which really sucked, as I was looking forward to a Zombie themed anime.

    I’ve become accustomed to generally ignoring it, so I can follow the story and decide if I liked it or not regardless of the fan service, I.E as I’m sure you can judge from my user name, I loved Gundam Wing, the battles were not like DBZ as depicted in the example video, things actually got damaged and didn’t just beam-wrestle for five minutes.

    Nevertheless, I avoid the animes that are nothing but fan service, because there’s nothing there. And let’s be honest, when discovering things on the internet, you get tired of the “erotic” finds and want something with real story (I.E. Fullmetal Alchemist: Bortherhood, Death Note, Elfen Lied)
    Note: Elfen Lied’s nudity is not a fan service, it’s tastefully done and really contrasts certain elements of the story (avoiding spoilers.)

  9. Posted by Justin Constable, at Reply

    Before actually watching anime I had always associated Anime with big bouncing breasts, although
    I was very young at the time and that is possibly all I cared to pay attention to while watching as a child. But in all honesty you are correct, it seems to be less of a fan service anymore and more of a “fan requirement” that good anime doesn’t even need. Yes it can be comical and sometimes necessary for story development between characters. Aside from animes dedicated to fan service (I’m a firm believer of if you don’t like it, don’t watch it), it needs to show itself in rarity if at all.

  10. Posted by Alisha Miller, at Reply

    “Its the reason I don’t like most anime and it nearly ruins half the anime that I do like. Fandom can be obnoxious!”

    This is an unfair characterization of fandom. Though fan service can be used by fans in their fanworks, fandom and fan service are not synonymous. Personally, as a person heavily involved in fandom, I find fan service to generally be obnoxious. Where I want plot and characterization to enrich my personal viewpoint of the world I love, fan service is often out of character or is completely over the top. Some series can use what some would call fan service as a part of a specific character’s characterization, and I’m okay with that – most notably, you see this in Fairy Tail, though they do often get out of hand with it, but, for example, Gray Fullbuster gets naked all the time because of his training in the freezing cold. There is plot significance. It’s when people are getting naked for no reason, or when people are doing out of character things to push a certain pairing that is clearly not canon that it gets obnoxious.

    Even as a (primarily) slash writer, I still find this sort of thing distracting and unnecessary. I don’t choose my pairings based on superficial googly eyes made tailored to my love of slash. It, in fact, cheapens the deeper meaning that can be assigned to such feelings in my fan exploration. While I do look for subtext that can be taken multiple ways, if that subtext is deliberately overplayed just for my sake and is not true to the characters, it is meaningless. Both of my main Fandoms, Gundam Wing and Hikaru no Go, have little fan service to speak of. And yet, they hold some of my most cherished pairings – all without someone shoving fan service down my throat.

    Fan service does not equal fandom. It’s unfortunate that people think it does.

  11. Posted by DukeKataron, at Reply

    Fan service in small proportions can be very entertaining, but it was a little…over the top in Highschool of the Dead. And that’s coming from ME. But that didn’t stop me from watching the entire thing and enjoying it. But normally, I love fan service. But I am a massive, massive pervert. Which at this point all of you are well of.

  12. Posted by El Placebo, at Reply

    I think it’s sexism and a blatant objectification of women.

  13. Posted by Jesus Hernandez, at Reply

    Based on how society is these days, sex appeal is the only thing that keeps people into watching/buying anything. so fan service is basically a marketing strategy…