On Fanservice In Anime

Fanservice as a genre has always been a touchy subject in the anime community, some view it as mindless fun that the viewer can enjoy when they just want to sit back and relax and others view it as the scum that is plaguing the creativity of the medium…(or is that moe? its hard to keep up with all the hate). No matter how you look at it, love it or hate it, its definitely here to stay, atleast thats what the sales numbers tell me.


I thought about writing this article after I saw the now famous episode 8 of Nisemonogatari (which everyone can now watch for free on Crunchyroll), the fact that I enjoyed the episode so much led me to rethink my stand on fanservice as a genre in anime as a whole. I always looked at fanservice shows a blight on the medium, with nothing really positive to add to the medium as a whole. I even tried watching what has come to be known as the Quintessential Fanservice show, Queens Blade just so I can sort of “get it.” I never did.

Maybe it comes from the fact that what I seek from anime is just not implemented in these shows. such as a good story or interesting characters and character development, or cool action sequences or even comedy. Most of the fanservice shows I had seen just didn’t seem to have any of this and they never struck a bell with me. Obviously, I realised I may have been looking for the wrong things in the wrong places, clearly the primary purpose of these shows is to arouse the viewer but even in that respect most of these shows failed. Its very hard not facepalm everytime you see a forced panty shot or boob flash in the most unnecessary of situations. Also these shows tend to take themselves way more seriously than they are supposed to, considering their main objective is to turn the viewer on, why have such a deep and compelling “premise?”

Just to clarify, I am not entirely against fanservice as a matter of fact I really really enjoy it, but only when its done well. I really enjoyed the fanservice in the Code Geass series, one of the major selling points of that show was how voluptuous their character designs were, every single character in that show was designed by a committee (or CLAMP) to be “hot” and they weren’t afraid of showing it. They were so proud of it they went as far as having special mini episodes of the characters in quite revealing situations. Another good example would be the fanservice in the Evangelion franchise, its very hard to notice how blatantly obvious most of the camera angles are meant for the viewer to stare at these characters with lust the first time you watch the show but its very apparent in consecutive viewings and it really works well. It adds to the experience as a whole and does not seem out of place.

Getting it Right

Obviously the examples I gave were not shows whose primary goal was to turn the viewer on, so is there any show out there whose primary target was to arouse the viewer and got it right? This is where the Nisemonogatari series comes in.

Many fans of the novel may argue against this but 9 episodes in its more than apparent that all the plot and intrigue in this franchise was left in Bakemonogatari and it stayed there, all that managed to make the leap into this sequel was the great character banter and the fanservice. The main thing that manages to make the fanservice work in this show is the fact that from the get go it set up its characters and the way they interact with each other in a way that seeing them in sexually exploitative positions or camera angles totally made sense. The characters frequently interject conversations with sexual innuendo and some of the jokes made even make light of subjects like lolicons. What this does is it makes seeing  an entire episode of Senjougahara in her underwear relevant, it makes seeing Araragi pretty much molest Hachikuji and joke about it not weird, it also makes seeing an entire episode of Kanbaru work out in the nude very “normal.”

By setting up this atmosphere in such a way, getting to see a panty shot does not invoke a feeling of disgust or shock from the viewer but instead satisfaction. Why? because the viewer is expecting sexual content from the show. Nisemonogatari does not take this atmosphere for granted either, there are no boob flashes in the entire series, even though having them would totally be okay and make sense. The show stays classy by constantly teasing and not really showing.

Conclusion

Nisemonogatari has shown me that not all fanservice shows are fluff that can just be chewed up and spit out once the user is done with them but that even the process of getting a viewer titillated can be an art. I hope more shows take ques from this and implement them in their own shows or hopefully make them even better.

Further Reading

Scamps take on Nisemonogatari 8

Riyogas take on Nisemonogatari and Fanservice in General

Yumekas take on Fanservice

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~ by kiddtic on March 6, 2012.

11 Responses to “On Fanservice In Anime”

  1. Fanservice is certainly a subject that can be more touchy (no pun intended) than it’s worth. For me, the “aha” moment came when I somehow decided to watch Strike Witches, a series that had been out for 2 years at the time and of which I had had no interest due to its fanservice. In fact, I despised it for it.

    But as I watched and discovered what an excellent series it was – technically sound, great action direction, endearing and well built up characters – it dawned on me what a fool I’d been to let something like fanservice keep me from enjoying a work. I consider it a matter of maturity. The less mature, less nuanced me would dismiss works off hand merely for pandering content – a type of bigotry, I’m ashamed to admit – whereas the slightly matured me was able to take works on an individual basis and appreciate them for everything they were, without letting a tiny inconsequential detail overwhelm the big picture.

    • I try not to be judgmental with shows which is why I saw the entire 1st season of Queens Blade.

      I think maturity is a major factor but don’t you think that Strike Witches would have been a better show without the blatant fanservice?

      • I certainly don’t think the show was made any worse due to the fanservice. It was something that added to the core identity of the franchise, and helped to put its tongue in cheek, to boot.

  2. I agree, there are certain shows that somehow place an emphasis on overall sexiness more than just sheer fan service. It’s these shows that I find more rewarding. I often find the panty shots and ginormous breasts to be pointless. It doesn’t arouse me in any way. But there are plenty of times where beautiful character designs and an overall appeal to a character incite more than just a sexual lust (sometimes moe/tsundere being one of those qualities, sometimes not). Evangelion or Shakugan no Shana being a decent example, there’s nothing overblown about Rei or Shana but as plenty of otaku can attest there’s something sexy about them, something arguably more sexy than a character with huge tits.

    I also adhere to the philosophy that less is more. I brought up on Riyoga’s blog the ‘Zettai Ryouiki’ phenomenon and how showing less of a character’s physique is more arousing than showing more i.e. long leg stockings and the longer they are the more enticing it is. Basically, my overall point is that there is something I find sexier in the subtleties of fan service, sexual innuendos or awkward ecchi situations more so than the blatant attempts at visual arousal.

    • Subtlety its all about subtlety. There is certainly something way more sexier about a moe tsundere than there is about some dumb bimbo with huge knockers flailing all over the screen.

      Your Zettai Ryouki analogy is the perfect example, glad we see eye to eye.

  3. Setting up the perfect timing and settings for a fanservice-y scene takes skill and if done so, it is the perfect art,

    Nudity is a form of art, and I guess that theory can be applied to anime fanservices as well.

    • Agreed, most of the examples I gave above pick and choose the perfect spots to place the fanservice scenes and the result is always spectacular.

  4. “Nisemonogatari has shown me that not all fanservice shows are fluff”

    From my perspective, Nisemonogatari is just fluff. I was expecting it to be a continuation of Bakemonogatari or at least a spin-off with Karen and Tsukihi as the main characters, but instead I got panty shots, implied incest, and teeth brushing.

    • Well to be fair it has got a more complex storyline and plot compared to most other fanservice shows you have to atleast agree with that.

  5. Bottom line is sex sells. It’s in every media whether it be print, analog or digital. I remember buying my first copy of Vampirella comics just because of the tantalizing cover art. And I’m sure many do, have done and will continue to do. Now transform that static image into a motion picture – where anime “fanservice” have capitalise you have yourself a fanboy’s wet dream come true. It’s not for everyone. But there is a market for it. And it’s a big one.

  6. […] of the manga I enjoyed used to. I also just loved animation a whole lot, I felt like something like Bakemonogatari could not be replicated on paper, not to me […]

Well said but my Opinion Is...

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