Fan Service and Its Place in Anime

It's more than just oppai...


Fan service is something that is present in almost every anime now, in some degree. It’s an unavoidable fact at this point, and something that I’m not convinced is a bad thing. You have your standard fare of fan services, with the shapely female characters or ripped male characters wearing revealing (or no) clothing. Then you also have other forms of fan service, such as relationship progression in shojou romance shows, or the intense battle scenes in shounen shows. In fact, you could say that any number of actions or scenarios fall under the loose term “fan service”. In this article, I’m going to go over some of the more common types of fan service and share what I think about them, which you are free to agree or disagree with.

Fan Service of the Flesh

Fan Service and it's place in AnimeI’d like to go over the obvious group of fan service first, the body revealing fan service. This type is your standard girls wearing bikinis or guys wearing trunks while showing off their rippling muscles. While being the fan service that many think of, I don’t think it’s as bad as I have heard other people say. It adds variety to a show and characters, and shows them doing something other than wearing their standard uniforms we see episode to episode, and also takes them to locales and environments that don’t appear in the normal part of the story. I think that it offers up the chance for the creators to flesh out the characters, make them something more than just the cookie cutter characters that they are shoehorned into being during the standard episodes. It gives them a chance to expose inner thoughts and feelings symbolically while they also expose their bodies in attire normally not shown.
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One such example of characters exposing themselves is in the ever present hot spring/beach/pool episodes, where there will always arise some conflict between characters as they are dragged from their usual every day life and thrown into a situation outside of their usual situations. This is a good way to strip off the layers of defense that the characters have raised around themselves as a by product of their daily interactions. If done well, it allows an exposition of their own thoughts and feelings. It also gives us some insights into what the characters believe is fun and relaxing. But, as true with everything else in life, that holds true only if the episode is done well. If done poorly it will seem as nothing more than pandering to those that enjoy the image of 2D characters running around and doing idiotic things while scantily clad. Which, hey, I enjoy as well so I’m not judging. So, my final thought is that if done well, it adds to the world building.

Fan Service and it's place in Anime

Another example would be the flashing of panties or the breast jiggling/groping that happens in many harem shows. This, I’m sad to say, doesn’t add much outside of doing the same routine over and over for the same laughs. I find it a bit forced and honestly think that it’s over done in today’s animes. I’m not saying remove the situations all together, but I feel that they have become almost expected and have lost the impact they used to have. The scenes being in an anime don’t take away from my enjoyment of the show as a whole, but they certainly don’t add to it, outside of an extra face-palm as I see yet another breast squeeze scene where the MC takes thirty seconds to realize that he does, in fact, have a breast in his palm. You’re free to disagree with me, but my final thought is that you can cut 75-90% of these scenes and won’t impact the story at all.

Fan Service of the Scenario

Fan Service and it's place in Anime

The next type of fan service I’ll be covering falls under this definition for me, but others may not agree. While that’s fine, I still feel that it merits some discussion. When I talk about these scenarios, I’m talking about the scenes that you want to see while watching a type of show, the fight scene between the Big Bad and Main Character, the explosive multi episode fight that boils your blood. Or on the opposite end, the scene where the girl (or guy) confesses to the person they’ve been having vague interactions with all season long. I’m talking about the scenes that, when they happen, make you stare at the screen without blinking and make you internally fist pump at the end. These scenes are the easiest to understand and rationalize, as they’re the logical end point of the show, something that was always being led to.

Fan Service and it's place in Anime

Let’s talk about the fight scenes first. I’m someone who enjoys a lot of different kinds of anime, so I enjoy a good battle show. I love those fight scenes where the characters are pulling out all the stops, firing off everything they have at each other in an attempt to win. These scenes fill you with a feeling of excitement and are the culmination of all the fights beforehand. These scenes are written so to show the progression the characters have made since episode one, to have an ending to the journey that you started with them way back. As they grow and see victories and defeats, you stand next to them through their growth. To see the end result of this journey is moving for anyone. These scenes are a needed fan service, because they prove that everything you and the characters went through meant something. Valid proof that the hardships they went through bore fruit.

Fan Service and it's place in Anime

For the slower paced shows, like the romance shows, the fan service scenarios are the relationship progression scenes. The ones with the male coming to the rescue, the female baking cookies for lunch and delivering. The heart warming scenes where the characters show that they are there for each other and that there is someone looking at them. The scenes are centered around the feelings of two people that you honestly have no interaction with, besides being a passive observer, but you feel a connection to them because of the inner monologues and secondary conversations you are privy to. You start to empathize with a character, and in a different way from the battle scenes, watch the characters advance and receive the rewards they worked for.

Death Pony’s thoughts:

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I’ve talked a lot about all the different parts of the shows, but what do I personally think? I think that this medium is amazing, that it brings all of us together to discuss this in a manner such as this. I think that every type of fan service is needed in every kind of show… but it needs to be done tastefully. A panty shot to break up the tense atmosphere at the correct time, if done within the parameters of the character’s personalities, is a great thing. A hot spring episode where the characters reveal inner thoughts to each other and come a bit closer through clashing and growing is a good thing as well. Unfortunately, some shows don’t deliver on that sort of desire and we end up with just gratuitous fan service.

What I ask of all of you, is to consider all the fan service as part of a world building as a whole. Is this fan service, or part of creating a character’s personality? Is it a dumb over done scene, or something needed to convey the feelings and thoughts of the characters outside of the main character’s inner dialogue?

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About the Author

My Little Death Pony

The sparkling personality of the podcast, Yatt-Talki. Born in Germany and raised in America, I have a passion for cultures I'm not familiar with.

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