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.
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.