Posts Tagged ‘fanservice’


If the nape of the neck scores higher with you than cleavage, your weaboo stats are high indeed.

As mentioned previously, today’s entry will be about my favourite use of fanservice in anime. Without beating around the bush, we will talking about Hyouka’s Chitanda Eru.

Eru is the very opposite of a fanservice-magnet character. Always prim and proper, you will be hard-pressed to find her involved in any morally ambiguous situation. For her, even something as trivial as being seen alone with a boy at the wrong place and time is troubling – it might mean unsavoury rumours being spread. Mind you, this attitude is not the effect of some haughty blonde tsundere ojou-sama mindset. Eru is an ojou-sama all right, but in terms of proper conduct she is much harder on herself than on anyone else.

This means that Eru fanservice, in the usual sense, is scarce. Aside from one swimming pool episode, there is little chance to see her revealing any more skin than is appropriate by the highest social standards. The thing is, sensuality itself is something subjective, and it comes into existence through the eyes of the beholder. Come in our perspective character – Oreki Houtarou.


Is this one real or all in Houtarou’s head? Mystery fanservice for a mystery series.

Much to his chagrin, Houtarou is strongly attracted to Eru. His eyes wander and add a lens of sensuality to what would otherwise be neutral scenes. One time, the combination of a hot bath and Houtarou’s too-vivid imagination (itself an example of tasteful and delicious fanservice) has him end up in something of a daze. Moments later, Houtarou is more troubled than excited when the object of his fantasies comes to check in on him.


What follows is quite the spectacle. Coloured by the lingering remains of Houtarou’s fantasy, everything about Eru seems to radiate sensuality. But it is much more than the light bath robe Eru is clad in. It is in in the dampness of her hair. It is in the warmth of the bath still lending a rosy shine to her skin. It is in the fragrance and the proximity as she leans down to check on Houtarou’s well-being. The fanservice first becomes fanservice when we see what Houtarou sees and how he sees it.


May I have a Chitanda check up on me if I overheat?

Like other fanservice scenes often do, this one also doubles as a comedy scene, offering a humorous take on a character’s embarrassment. But unlike the typical “lucky-sukebe” scene, where a protagonist gets to see or touch the heroine(s) because of random factors beyond his control, there is nothing actually untoward taking place in this scene. The protagonist here is trapped not by happenstance, but by his own psyche, and thus there is no easy escape, no resolution through getting slapped by the heroine. Try though he might, Houtarou cannot stop thinking about Eru, and Eru is similarly focused on Houtarou’s well-being, and yet the two could not be more out of synch. And so the conversation drags on, much to Houtarou’s increasing distress.


“Somebody get me out of here…”

Run of the mill fanservice targets the viewer directly, while the characters are an aside. Here, we unavoidably notice a degree of disconnect between what we as viewers think and Houtarou’s feelings. As mere onlookers, we can enjoy Eru’s beauty, the cuteness of young love and the low-key hilarity of the misunderstandings. For Houtarou, the situation is much more complicated. He cannot reasonably deny his own attraction to Chitanda Eru, and that is a major problem for him. His life would be that much simpler, that much easier if he could only be rid of this feeling. But Eru has ensnared him as early as during their first meeting, and it is a sweet, sweet poison she infused him with. Houtarou’s struggle between the temptations of romance and the burdens of commitment is a major theme of Hyouka, and something this scene further builds upon.

This is one scene which can be called fanservice, and yet is filled with artistic pride. It proves that well-used fanservice can hold significance within a story, and thus makes it impossible to decry all fanservice as bad by default. At the same time, it does raise the bar for other such scenes.

If you are doing fanservice, you better do it right.

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Stole this example straight from another blog.

(Note: For the purpose of this article, fanservice refers to mildly sexual content: pantyshots, beach episodes, skimpy clothing and the like. Actual hentai/animated porn is excluded, as is “cute/cool but otherwise pointless” content.)

I used to hate fanservice.

The issue first came up for me around late primary school/early junior high school. I hated fanservice for two general reasons. The first one was that of self-interest, or my own convenience. You see, the existence of fanservice-heavy series somewhere out there had no genuine effect on my own viewing habits. If I had little interest in that kind of stuff, it was enough to watch something else, any one of the seemingly infinite supply of titles which did not at all rely on fanservice content. Fanservice “slipping into” otherwise top notch content probably happened from time to time but was ultimately irrelevant to the weight of those works as a whole. It was a time when I watched things that aired on the TV, too, so if there was anything actually disturbing, it would probably get cut out.

The existence of fanservice did matter to other people, though. The media and the church would roast anime for being in equal parts sex, Satan and the Pikachu. Occasionally, they would raise valid points: bringing attention to problematic scenes, like that one time in early Dragonball when Bulma agrees to flashing her panties in return for a favour. But most of the time, their claims were based on complete ignorance and used to make unfair generalisations, to the point where it seemed dubious if those people had ever watched a single anime episode in their lives.

I thought at the time that if fanservice did not exist at all, we would be rid of most of those people. They would lose ammo for their arguments, and so the social standing of anime would improve. That I would like very much, since it would make my life significantly easier by allowing me to be more honest and open about my interests. Getting rid of fanservice for that purpose seemed like an insignificant price to pay, and so I advocated getting rid of those lesser elements from all series.

The second reason for my hatred of fanservice was at least a more genuine one: I was and largely still am a prude. I did think that some of the scenes contained in anime were improper and potentially dangerous to people of my age (how a teenager analyses what is improper for teenagers is another matter that did not bother my precocious mind). Ever a stickler for the rules, I knew that while I might choose to avoid fanservice scenes, many of my friends would not. And there is also the quandary that you can only turn off some of the questionable stuff after you have seen it, which might already be moot.

Image result for anderson hellsing

Come here, sinners…

My approach to the above two points has now changed, mostly because I have realised how limited my perspective was, based as it was only on personal experience. First some data to give context to this discussion. The following numbers represent the state of affairs for Poland, my country. Most of the numbers ought to be similar for your country if you live in the West. I do encourage you to research specifics for your own region if you have never done so.

Over 50% of children have their first contact with pornography by the age of: 11 years

Average age of sexual initiation: 18,5 years

Average age of marriage: 29 years

Surveyed admit to pre-marital sex: 90%

Christian (Catholic) population: 89% (87%)

The bottom half regarding pre-marital sexual activity in a Christian-dominated society is there just to show that we are masters of not practising what we preach. I was genuinely not aware of that as a teenager, and so I had to bring this up. But I do not intend to dwell on this point too much. It is just that you should take a limited-trust approach to any moral preaching – odds are the authors are guilty of exactly what they speak against.

More important is the upper half. I was shocked to discover late in junior high that the majority of my class were experienced smokers and experimented with drinking alcohol when they could get away with it. If statistics are to be believed, more than half of my classmates also willingly and regularly accessed porn on the internet. We are talking real porn here: vivid and often violent images delivered by real-life actors.

I was worried anime fanservice could adversely affect us at that age, but that sounds like a joke in light of the above data. Anime fanservice is borderline infantile: guys tripping up and nose-diving into female chests, super-wind providing pantyshot support and revealing swimsuits in beach episodes. Anime characters will start screaming about getting pregnant after an accidental kiss. If any minor willingly watched through any one porn flick in existence, nothing of what the average non-hentai anime delivers will make them lift an eyebrow. The levels are just too different.

So is fanservice content entirely irrelevant from a parent’s perspective? Not exactly. But if a child is being exposed to or actively seeks out porn, you can bet they will not be consulting their parents about it. Thus many children are indefinitely exposed to potentially toxic portrayals of sexuality. If your kid wants to read something like Hayate or Negima, and you let them place those titles on their shelf, you actually get a chance to segue into a discussion of what you read when their age and how you acted when you were the age of the characters portrayed. I know people are afraid of talking. It is difficult and embarrassing to talk. Which is what this whole duality is supposed to serve: decry materials that deal with sexuality as evil and forbid them entirely, and you no longer have to discuss anything; pretend there is no inevitability of exposure to those materials or tacitly accept their consumption within the shadows, and there is no need to discuss anything either!

Beyond a certain point, I now see the idea of completely shielding minors from exposure to sensitive material as unfeasible and potentially even dishonest. And with that out of the way, the other reason I used to hate fanservice was for the sake of anime’s good name. This one does not even deserve a long-winded paragraph. Let us just be real about it: anime is only a medium and all kinds of stories will be told through that medium, regardless of their value or our preferences. People who want to cherry-pick and complain about some titles will always find what they need. We can somewhat affect what gets the spotlight or is considered mainstream. Everything else we have to take in stride.

So, with both my reasons gone, how has my approach to fanservice changed over the years?

Image result for chisaki nagi asukara old uniform

Actually a great scene.

Well, I still dislike fanservice. I suppose it is no longer “hate”.

Again, I have two reasons. One is that fanservice is a major pain when it comes to sharing your favourite series. I would very much like to show and discuss anime more with the common folk, my family etc. and there are plenty of series deserving this, but there is no point if you are just making people uncomfortable. As far as sexy men and women are concerned, the average Hollywood flick might have more of that than the average anime. But anime fanservice will often involve minors or even children, and I can only understand how that makes people queasy. I will defend those scenes when they are an integral part of what is being expressed. Madoka and Homura drifting through imaginary space in their birthday suits during the finale of Madoka Magika is not meant to turn you on. Youngsters treated as still possessing sexuality in Made in Abyss is in tune with the naturalistic approach of the series. I have shown both to my family. But much as I would like to, I can not find a good enough excuse for naked loli shower scenes in Rou-kyu-bu or the unnecessarily detailed bodies in the Nanoha movies’ transformation scenes, except for the honest: “they probably appeal to ‘that’ kind of audience”. It is such a waste.

The second gripe I have against most fanservice is purely artistic, and therefore more important. To put it bluntly: fanservice is a waste of time. Any scene, sound or shape in anime is intended – you do not accidentally capture things on camera in this medium. As such, every detail contributes in some way to creating the setting, atmosphere or plot. And those contributions are by nature indirect. Anime might resort to a few seconds of direct narration, when the viewer is informed of some elements of the setting. But when a group of thugs enter a tavern, they do not announce themselves as thugs – you can more often tell from their nasty smirks, dirty clothes and missing teeth. Necessary information will likewise be slipped into natural conversations between characters, for the viewer to pick up on their own without being addressed directly.

Fanservice does not work like that. As the name suggests, it is about providing “service” directly to the fans. It is a form of fourth-wall braking. If the viewer likes (is stimulated by) the eye-candy, then great. If they do not, then it is bad news, as the scenes often serve no other purpose, failing to further the narrative or develop anything – a waste of time. To keep the fanservice tangentially related to the characters and plot at hand, anime will often resort to tried-and-true tropes, like the aforementioned trip-and-grope ordeal. Notice how the carbon-copy scenes are set up in such a way that we learn next to nothing about the characters even as they supposedly interact – if the guy trips, it is just bad luck. He might or might not try to apologise, but the heroine will reflexively slap him before any actual conversation can take place. That ends the scene in a supposedly humorous way. The template works for 90% of all characters, so do not worry about having to adjust or develop your characters.

[Randomacts] Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS - 02 (BDRip 1280x714 x264 FLAC) [338FC6A4].mkv_snapshot_21.10_[2018.06.01_12.28.52]

However, we are still talking about art, and nothing in art is ever a completely lost cause. Remember that scene in Nanoha Strikers when Caro and Erio first meet? Trippity-trip and the boy ends on top of the girl with his hands square on her chest. And then what? She apologises (first!) for causing the two of them to fall. He apologises for possibly causing her embarrassment. Two seconds later and they are over it and starting off a good friendship. Sometimes I wish we all had the emotional maturity of those fictional 10-year-olds.

So while bad fanservice is the death of storytelling, you can get plenty of fanservice past my radar as long as it actually serves a purpose within the story OR occurs simultaneously with something else that is worthwhile. The gear-users of Symphogear wearing skimpy or tight clothing barely ever bothers me in any way because there is usually too much action going on-screen to think about such things. Or if a character is a seductress, then yes, you better expect them to dress the part.

And then you have the holy grail: fanservice which makes a scene or series better. Fanservice that is storytelling. After years of watching anime I experienced at least one series that made me admit that such a thing exists (and I might be a harsher judge of other fanservice because of it). I hope to introduce that in my next, much shorter, article. Until then, feel free to guess what series it is, or tell what your take is on the best use of fanservice in anime. Until then!

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