Brief Introduction of Fan service
As anime fans, certainly, you will have come across the term fan service.
But what does it actually mean?
Well, fan service in anime refers to the sexualized depictions of anime characters to serve as entertainment for its audiences. Hence the term fan, as in viewers, and service, as in ‘entertainment’.
Fan service comes in many form.
These acts can range from the dominant male character flipping a female skirt, or a scene showcasing panties shots, or a combination of both.
Another famous example of fan service is fancy jiggling boobs physic.
Yep, they are simply too common.
Evolution of Fan Service In Anime
Fan service has its origins all the way from the classic era of anime in the 80s.
Some of the most mainstream forms of fan service are magical girls shows, featuring half-naked transformation scenes.
Since then, these similarly explicit scenes has been the norm for fan service within anime.
From shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion to the well-known Ghost in Shell, these anime series are also some of the earlier instances of fan service.
Evidently, such scenes started to shape fans interaction within the anime community itself.
As such, fan service continues to be a massive trend within the anime community, continuing till today.
Old Anime vs New Anime
A decade ago, it is evident that an anime plot still plays a major role within the show itself — since fan service are extremely minimalistic.
Most ‘older’ anime often times contains 40+ episodes or more, therefore allowing a more gradual world-building process.
In fact, these classic anime shows were able to fully indulge itself in the complexity of character development, bringing out a whole new level of multi-dimensional characters.
Ultimately, the duration in which old anime takes for world building and character development really allow an incredibly diverse and in-depth story line.
Unfortunately, the new standard of 12 or 24 anime episodes has essentially changed this process.
Though if done right, these 12 episodes could bring out the true worth of a show – take Violet Evergarden for example.
However, most newer anime series are not like this. Thus, the depth of character development are essentially lost in translation.
In addition, unlike older anime series where its plot played a major role, most anime these days can simply get away purely through fan service alone.
It’s as if fan service is the new ‘norm’ in which anime fans are expecting within their modern shows.
Which brings me to some of the issues I have with the currently ‘trending’ form of fan service in modern anime.
Why I Utterly Despise Anime Fan Service
Throughout my years of watching anime, I have come to realize something important.
Fan service sucks!
They really do, and nothing will ever manage to change my opinion upon the matter.
Now, before everyone gets mad at me for saying such a seemingly outrageous comment, I would like to point out a certain distinction.
As an avid anime fan myself, I truly don’t believe that fan service itself is bad.
But rather am critiquing the marketing and purposes behind these outrageous scenes.
And that’s why today, I would like to present y’all why I believe the current trend in fan service just simply do not work.
INTERFERES WITH THE VIEWING EXPERIENCE
To be frank, most fan service occurs at absurd moments that have no relevance to the plot whatsoever. Of course, that is to be expected.
But consider this.
How would you expect to be immersed within the story if there are panties shots and funky jiggling boob physics in every episode?
I’m especially talking about those beach filler episodes. Once in a while, anime studios will break away from the main storyline to deliver to their audiences something special.
Anime girls wearing bikinis while playing volleyball on the beach? Check.
Ripped anime dudes flashing their six-packs while basking their wet hair under the sun? Check.
These moments of fan services are far too common.
Sure, while some of you might be sitting there loving the fresh and unique ‘content’ given out.
I, on the other hand, simply despise being interrupted.
Take a look at an apocalyptic anime called Highschool of the Dead.
Featuring a zombie apocalyptic theme, High School of the Dead challenges a group of high school student amidst their new chaotic world.
Initially, High School of the Dead seemed to be an extreme graphic show containing a promising plot.
I was actually hyped up to see these characters saving the world, and that there might be a huge incoming plot twist of some sort.
But then this happened…
I’m sure those of you who watched this show remembered this utterly ridiculous scene…
Seriously, how am I supposed to enjoy this show when 80% of its supposedly ‘frightening’ content are completely undermined by merely 20% of its ‘fan service’?
The moment I saw this, I immediately realized what kind of show High School of the Dead was.
The supposedly ‘frightening’ mood created within the initial part of the show now seems laughable.
All of my expectations for this show went out the window as I was left with a pondering question whether I should continue or drop this joke of an anime.
Honestly, if High School of the Dead changed their story direction into something more seriously themed, such as Attack on Titan or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, then it might actually be a decent show.
But unfortunately, this was not the case…
And that is the problem with fan service in anime nowadays.
They interrupt with the plot in unnecessary ways, even going as far as ruining the viewing experience for many.
GIVES ANIME A BAD REP
When anime are choke full of these underlying explicit and sexual themes, there are bound to be controversies from its viewers.
Here are some of the most common themes I could think off the top of my head:
- Sexism In Anime
- Body Shaming
First of all, just check out this one particular meme.
It’s a funny meme alright. But why is it funny?
Well let me tell you.
It’s funny because, on some level, this simply hit a little too close to home.
That is why most people consider watching anime in public to be a taboo act.
This is why most who watches anime shy away from sharing their hobbies with their non-anime friends for fear of being isolated and left out.
And what’s worse, this is merely scratching at the surface level.
There are so many journalism articles, reports, and legislation banning certain works relating to anime due to the over-sexualization of minors. Specifically, the term lolicon and loli.
Just a simple google of the term ‘Japan Anime Pedophilia’ will give you million of results.
Even the UN is trying to ban sexually explicit anime and manga genres. Though this is more on the side of actual pornography, the anime medium is also majorly influenced by these media.
But for those of you who simply wanted to watch and enjoy anime for what it is.
For those who grew up watching anime and even learned important life lessons from it.
Why should you all be discriminated against just because of some ‘highly offensive’ niche products that only few know of and consume?
Why should anime as a whole be labeled as strange, or outrageously perverted?
Despite the many factors in play, I think that falsely marketed fan service are to be blamed.
Just think about it.
Since when are the sexualization of underage anime girls, or a ‘legal loli’, actually acceptable within the anime community?
Sure, as anime fans, we might be too familiar with the terms and the culture surrounding this issues.
Therefore, we might even dismiss these behaviors as normal and that they ‘comply to the norm’.
But from the outside, it is a different story. For those who never once in their life watch anime, what does it actually look like?
Anime viewers are viewed as a bunch of pedophile obsessing over some thousands years old vampire who possesses the body of a child.
That we are just a bunch of perverts who love flipping anime schoolgirl skirts to view their panties.
And that we are lowlife creeps for watching anime girls playing a sport where the contact of blossoms and buttocks are involved.
For all the anime fans out there, and this is a direct message to non-anime fans, the statements listed above are simply not true in any ways.
But nonetheless, these dreaded stereotypes of anime and its fan service remained till this day…
ENCOURAGES LACK LUSTER PLOT
Depending on cheap fan service to garner an audience imply to me that the plot just simply sucks.
If we take a look at some of the well-known Ecchi Anime Titles, such as High School DxD or High School of the Dead, there is a common recurring theme.
A male protagonist is constantly trying to save the world while gathering the ‘resources and trusts’ of his mistresses.
Of course, the phrase resources and trusts could be interpreted in many different ways. But that’s beside the point I’m trying to make.
My point is that within these shows, anime studios are relying too much upon fan service.
Sometimes it work.
But most of the time, it fails.
Take High School DxD for example.
When perverted and peeping-tom highschooler Hyoudou Issei died by the hands of a fallen angel, he was revived by a mysterious and beautiful senior girl, Gremory Rias. Now, living his second life as a demon and serving as Rias’ servant, Issei begun training in order to fight for the brutal conflicts within the demon world.
The plot of High School DxD, at first glance, seemed completely fine and ‘normal’.
However, there is one tiny problem…
Throughout the show, the main protagonist, Hyoudou Issei, trains his newly obtained Dragon Power through… the power of breasts!
They could have chosen anything:
But nope. Breast it is…
At this point, I seriously just want to stop everything I’m doing and wonder why that’s actually a thing.
But then it can’t get worse than that right?
Well then behold Shinmai Maou no Testament.
Basara Toujou comes home one day to only be greeted by his two new step-sisters, Mio and Maria. It later turns out that the two are actually from the demon race. Caught between the conflicts between Demons and Heroes, Basara then decided to protect his new family.
Initially, Shinmai Maou no Testament might sound like an actually promising anime.
However, there are simply moments in the shows that are just… meh.
Such was the fact that in order to strengthen the master and servant bond between Basara and Mio, our main protagonist must sexually satisfy his own ‘step-sister’.
Sure, I understand that these fan service are meant to make viewers ‘crave’ for the show. However, these forced and cheap scenes are simply insults to everyone in the anime community.
It’s practically saying:
“The plot sucks, so we’ll slap fan service on it and hopefully, everyone will be fooled”.
And as such, I can’t stress enough how many times I found the statement above to be true…
What do you typically see in anime containing ridiculous or over-the-top plots? Fan Service!
How about anime that has a promising synopsis, but turns out to be an utter disaster? Fan Service!
Of course, slice of life or purely comedic anime shows are exceptions to this rule, as those does not come with a lot of plot in the first place.
Even anime based on video games such as Kantai Collection or Princess Connect are PURELY made for fan service.
Look at their plot. Not very deep!
And most of the screen writing simply help introduces you to many of the ‘playable’ characters and their ‘waifu’ qualities as much as possible.
Dont get me wrong! I love both these games.
I even thought that Princess Connect was actually a decent adaptation when paired with the game itself.
But nevertheless, the fact that shows with shallow or simple plot usually incorporates fan service still remained.
Sadly, many of unsuccessful ecchi shows contains a hefty amount of dates and beaches episodes.
As such, when paired with a terrible or ridiculous plot, these shows simply make ways for generic hand-holding scenes and cliche volleyball games featuring sparkling bikinis.
And what’s more mind boggling boring than viewing the same TV trope over and over again?
When Fan Services Are Actually Great
Not all fan service are bad service, ironically.
Kill la Kill throws you into a deep and long winded adventure of Ryuuko, a girl who seeks out revenge for her dead father.
Shows such as Kill la Kill uses fan service as a sort of unique trademark for its plot, characters, and the overall badass vibe of the anime.
In the case of Kill la Kill, the fan service is acceptable for a number of reasons:
- The main goal of its fan services are not for cheap gratification in any ways.
- It never got in the way of the plot; for the fan service IS THE PLOT ITSELF.
Ironically, despite containing some of the most over-the-top fan service moments, it never actually bothered me in any ways.
In fact, Kill la Kill turned out to be one of my most surprising and satisfying ecchi show.
Tackling the issue with fan service head on, the nudity and transformation in Kill la Kill seemed to served more as a satirical device rather than for audience gratification.
In addition, the fan service in Kill la Kill turns out to have an excellent message!
When Ryuuko started embracing the ridiculous appearance of her Senketsu, her power grew exponentially.
Evidently, this indicated that we all should not be shameful for showing our bodies to others: opposite of what was taught to women in Japan.
Kill la Kill is that one ‘transcending’ anime show that realizes that fan service should not be taken seriously in any ways.
This therefore distinctively sets it apart from all the other generic ecchi shows.
Another great usage of fan service is through the anime Shokugeki no Soma.
Shokugeki no Soma is perhaps one of the most thrilling and alluring cooking anime shows of all time, featuring the story of an arrogant young chef who soon realizes there’s much more to be learnt.
The show is mainly a competitive cooking anime that will make you drool constantly. With the main theme as culinary with nothing to do with ecchi, why does Shokugeki no Soma need fan service?
In this show, fan service is often used to show the heightened reaction upon feasting on an amazing meal that the contestants had cooked.
Are they neccessary?
Because without the fan service, I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed Shokugeki no Soma through its plot alone.
But does it improve my viewing experience?
Seeing the judge’s clothes being forcefully ripped apart due to the ridiculous aroma of their meals seems very much appealing for my appetite.
The beauty and cleverness of fan service within Shokugeki no Soma is that it is not meant for simple gratification.
Rather, it is served to intensify the viewers’ reactions upon seeing those different food flavors being tasted.
At the end of the day, Kill la Kill and Shokugeki no Soma are some classic examples of ‘fan service done right’.
Because not only do their fan service not interfere with the plot, it even helps to create a more thrilling and meaningful viewing experience for the audiences.
Anime Dependence on Fan Service
Despite all my hatred for the falsely marketed fan service in anime nowadays, there are some hard cold facts that I cannot simply deny:
Fan service sells!
There are some amazing anime out there that would forever never see a second season.
On the other hand, there are many ‘cheap’ fan service anime that are getting second and third seasons, or sometimes, movies and many more ‘special’ edition OVAs.
And of course, all of that has to do with profits within the anime industry.
Looking at some simple statistics:
- Anime Expo 2018 generated over $99 million
- Merchandise’s revenue in 2019 was $4.7 Billion, according to Anime Industry Report
These are some huge and surprising numbers, considering how anime was merely a Japan domestic export a decade ago.
Of course, to say that the rise of anime in oversea regions is solely due to fan service itself is quite a stretch from the truth.
However, there is definitely a correlation between fan service and merchandises, as well as the profit being generated each year within the industry.
And when there is a correlation, those who seek money will abuse every single statistical evidence in order to maximize profits.
Evidently, this correlation ultimately results in anime studios incorporating more fan service to their shows.
Some nailed it, but most failed terribly.
Whether it be a lack of budget, poor screenwriting, or an issue with the original plot itself, most of the time, everything is simply due to anime studio’s inability to learn and understand their audiences.
Viewers don’t need more panty shots.
They don’t need more over-exaggerated boobs physics.
As someone who watches a large variety of anime, I can confidently say that what make a great show is actually very simple:
It’s simply to build everything else based on one unique element that a show has.
Whether it be great soundtrack, plot, or voice acting, a great anime simply needed to be built using one particular element as a baseline.
At the end of the day, I want to finish an anime and actually remembers what that anime was ‘unique’ for.
Because let’s face it.
Fan service, under only very specific and few circumstances, is memorable.
But in every other cases, it is some of the most redundant and generic element that an anime can offer to its audiences.
A Process of Evolution
Ultimately, considering the rate in which anime is growing so far, perhaps it is only a progress of evolution; a process that allow anime to caters their content into what is expected of them from fans.
Fan service, whether you hate it or not, brings in a hefty amount of profit for the anime industry despite its questionable marketing.
Though I am unsure as to the ultimate goal that anime studios want their fan service as, undoubtedly, fan service will forever continues to be a part of the anime industry.
So what do you think of fan service? Do you think that fan service should be a part of the growing anime industry? Or perhaps do you think it’s time for some change and that anime should reconsider their uses of fan service as a whole? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!