Last month, Irina of I drink and watch anime shared her thoughts concerning fan service, which I found interesting because I own a blog about anime titties and ass (or ass and titties, if you prefer). I don’t typically write about fandom topics that get everyone buzzing, but COVID-19 has ruined the chances of me getting new figures anytime soon, so I’ll offer my two-cents on the issue before vanishing once again like The Laughing Man.
Irina defines fanservice as “material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience. It usually has no bearing on the rest of the work and can even clash with the remaining elements when not incorporated properly.” I’m not going to argue this point because doing so means I’ll have to come up with my own definition, and I’m too lazy to do that. I do appreciate her omission of sexuality here, which broadens the discourse for more people to participate. But I write a sexual blog here, so…
Rather than go through the whole, “iS fAnSeRvIcE gOOd oR baD?” thing, I’ll start with some examples from my anime viewing experience:
- I just watched Season 5, Episode 1 of Food Wars. I love the series because it feels like I’ve become a cooking expert even though I’ve never touched my stove before. That said, this was a beach episode, so half of the shots were of Ikumi Mito’s boobs, which is nice because she’s my favorite girl, but not so nice because she literally does nothing else in the series. Food Wars has the Herculean task of balancing food facts, fanservice, and an ever-growing cast. Maybe if Ikumi wasn’t just another background character, but a real love interest for Yukihira Soma, her boobs would be more than just another pair in a sea of boobs.
- Irina mentions Kill la Kill as an example of fanservice to the point of parody, and how well the concept was integrated into the plot. For a version of this that doesn’t blow up into absurd Gainax/Trigger proportions, I’d recommend Keijo!!!!!!!! Less plot heavy and just as parodic, the show is about school girls who compete in titties-and-ass combat while standing on a floating platform in the middle of an olympic pool. Is that enough fanservice for you? Wait til you reach the “Titty Hypnosis” episode.
- For those of you watching anime way back in 2012, Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine was released to lots of fan fare, particularly with feminist-leaning anibloggers. It’s a mature show about a mature woman who robs people and walks around topless because she has the agency to do so. The series is built on sexual tension, international crime rings, and bloodlust. Fujiko spends a few episodes learning about her origins, but the more important takeaway is that she, and the audience, must be comfortable with who she is right now.
Returning to Irina’s idea of fanservice, I think the “clash” most people fixate on has more to do with expectations than anything else, and less to do with whether fanservice is good or bad. The internal logic of Food Wars has always involved equating sex with food, as anyone who’s seen the first episode can tell you. Keijo!!!!!!!! is nothing if not a naked appeal to horny fandom. Fujiko Mine, a show directed by a woman and about female ambition, lays bare the fact that both men and women are motivated by sexual desire. If Yukihira Soma suddenly pulls his dick out during a competition, it wouldn’t match his previous character quirks even though fanservice is part of the show’s appeal, and would therefore “clash” with the audience. We’d need a whole new arc just to explain this behavior.
Even in a world without titties and ass (or handsome husbandos, or beautiful enigmas like Astolfo from FGO), people will find flaws in the media they consume. I think we might as well acknowledge that people are sexual creatures, and sometimes we get horny in the middle of our anime. As Irina brilliantly points out, writers aren’t slaves to their audience, but have to consider business and marketing decisions as well, in accordance to what their production committees think will provide the biggest return on investment. There are many people who do enjoy fanservice, however distracting it may seem, and they are waiting for uncensored Blu-Rays and half-naked PVC waifus. By that same token, there are many shows that don’t rely on titties and ass to tell their stories. There’s enough diversity for everyone to enjoy.