Fan Service: Is it Really Necessary?

How often have you come across a review and found the phrase “was the fan service really necessary?” or something similar? I’d bet it’s fairly frequent. Well, I’m going to tell you that it’s not necessary, but that’s not really the issue!

Highschool of the Dead Episode 13 More Girls in Bikinis at the Beach

Fan Service: Is it Really Necessary?

I originally wrote this post for Ecchi Hunter, which is still offline, so when I saw Crow’s post on Crow’s World of Anime – Fan Service or Art? I knew that I had something to add to the conversation, especially as it’s focused on a part of anime that often gets looked down on. Crow brilliantly compared classic works of art to ancient marble statues to make his point. Like Crow, I’m going to focus on the sexual type of fan service. Unlike Crow, I’m going to just give you my thoughts on the subject. So, here we go.

What is Necessary?

It would have been a great anime if only it didn’t have all that fan service. Was it necessary? It didn’t add anything to the story. That could be a valid argument, however, it’s probably predicated by the fact that you probably don’t like fan service of a sexual nature. Maybe, it makes you uncomfortable or you see it as being exploitative.

However, completely dismissing a series because of fan service is as ridiculous as saying “it would have been a great anime if only she didn’t have pink hair.” That’s right! Hair colour is not necessary. In fact, there are lots of things that aren’t necessary for a story to function, but I doubt you’ll hear people complaining about how unnecessary they were.

I’m reminded of an interview with the great Stephen Fry about swearing. Now, if you don’t know who Stephen Fry is then you’ve got some homework that I think you’re going to enjoy. He is a talented actor, comedian, author, and someone who enjoys swearing. I remember growing up and seeing the usual complaints in the news about a TV show and whether they needed to swear as much or even at all. Something that he experienced first hand.

However, Stephen Fry likened this to a cushion on a sofa. The cushion doesn’t need to be there. It is quite unnecessary, however, without it, the sofa is a bit boring. We don’t need fan service just like the sofa doesn’t need the cushion. But do you know what? Some people like fan service, which, just like the cushion can come in many styles and designs. These extras that are added to anime are what give it life.

You don’t like fan service! That’s fine. Watch a show that doesn’t have any. Maybe you don’t like violent shows. The same thing applies. What if you don’t like pink hair? Well, now you’re just being picky.

Highschool of the Dead Episode 8 Saya New Clothes

Doesn’t Fan Service Create Unrealistic Expectations?

Again, the short answer is no! This is the ‘violent video games make violent people’ argument or the idea that playing Dungeons and Dragons means you’re a Satanist. These arguments have been thrown around for decades and they never have any substance behind them.

What people seem to forget is that this is fiction. The fact that it’s animated should be an even bigger tip-off to these sorts of people. It’s all too easy to catch a rapist and then look at the things they were into and make a correlation to suit your narrative.

Quite frankly, it’s lazy and offensive to all the other people that enjoy fan service to assume that they’re all rapists and sex offenders. Some will be, but so will some of the people that go to church every Sunday.

I watch a lot of ecchi anime but not once have a walked around a corner and expected a girl to run chest first into me and then fall over, exposing her panties. Nor do I expect to have a harem. Could you imagine how much of a pain that would be? I’ll just stick to enjoying fictional harems thanks.

Cat Planet Cuties Episode 2 Eris Manami Aoi and Kio

It’s Not Necessary, but it’s Not Going Away!

I’m sure there will be some that are worried about Western influences on anime and fan service in particular, but this seems to be one of the lesser things to worry about in my mind. If you think the Western world is without fan service then you are quite mistaken. Just look at all the shows filled with attractive teenagers (even if they’re not really teenagers). Sex sells here just as much as it does in Japan.

The only real difference is that anime are animated cartoons and some people believe that cartoons are for children. This causes them to be extra offended when they see something that they don’t believe children should see. That’s like getting mad that kids are watching A Game of Thrones or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Stop blaming the media for what you are letting your children watch.

Highschool of the Dead Episode 2 Rei Turns on the TV Panties

So, I don’t know if I’ll convert anyone into liking fan service that doesn’t already like it, but that wasn’t the point of this rant. The point is that it doesn’t make a series bad just because it has fan service. Plenty of series are bad and they don’t have fan service. Basically, it’s just another element that will either add or detract from your enjoyment of a show.

At the end of the day, it’s all about whether you enjoyed it or not. Ratings on MAL really don’t matter. Reviewers opinions, really don’t matter. Yes, even mine. They are, after all, just opinions. So, don’t worry. Enjoy what you enjoy and embrace the fan service that makes you happy. If it doesn’t, watch something else and leave it to those that do.

Fan service may not be necessary, but I love it!

Other shows I’m watching

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9 Comments

  1. I am with you there. In the end it is just an element. There are a lot of different ones and they all have their pros and cons. Whether they work for people or serve as a detracting point for others will vary in each person. Shows are allowed to exist even if they have elements that don’t work for people.

    In the end I like having fan service in anime. There’s some I don’t like, but that’s fine. Same for discussion about series. Debates and disagreements aren’t bad. But no reason to harass people over liking or not liking the same things. Just entertainment at the end of the day. Best for people to just enjoy what they like.

    • Absolutely. There have been some shows with fan service where I have found it intrusive (not many mind you), but like most elements in a story it’s often about finding the right balance.

      I’ve never really cared for slice of life anime, but there have been exceptions where it’s managed to find a sweet spot, merging it with another genre I do like. I find it’s better to be more open and that way you won’t miss out on something great. But yeah, everyone should definitely focus on enjoying what they like and not worry about what they don’t. Leave it those that do like it.

  2. I usually don’t have a problem with it, and since I am grown boy I don’t mind seeing some skin. But then I watch something like Strike Witches that has decent characters, a plot that works, and lots of action, and I say “What is the point of all these crotch shots?” Because they’re all over and they aren’t needed. I think that like other gratuitous elements – gore, violence, random humor – it has to make sense or it’s just pointless

    • Agreed. I think everyone has different tolerance levels for all of those things too. I find the comedic elements in Demon Slayer to be too intrusive, but the same sort of thing is fine in Dr. Stone.

      I’ve definitely seen shows with lots of fan service where I’ve felt that it got in the way. I think my biggest issue is the snap reaction to shows that some people have and the way they will judge those that enjoy it.

      The best ones are definitely the shows that find a balance and make it all work together seemlessly.

  3. To be honest, I can tolerate and maybe accept fan service as a positive aspect but it really depends on how it’s portrayed because when the fan service scenes is blatantly out of place or/and the false ones are glorified because these aren’t actual fanservice.

    Take Plunderer as a prominent example of false fanservice. I was so traumatised (though partly because I’ve experienced misogyny more than a decade ago) watching the annoying (yes, sorry but I can’t seem to like her no matter how nice she really is; she’s written with “Too Dumb to Live” trope gazillion times) heroine getting groped & have her legs spread forced apart by the hero who’s actually a sexual predato…I mean harasser, no doubt. This goes on in the first whole half with the eleventh episode being the worst of them all. In fact, this isn’t fanservice but somehow (and unfortunately) several (male) Japanese viewers/readers believe forced groping is be fanservice.

    Of course the second half tone down, but it’s sending ridiculous message by making the heroine become a sex maniac and that sudden behaviour of hers made the hero get “payback” by being sexually harassed by her. So this makes fair and square on both sides, right? But not for me as these false fanservice make the plot elements get derailed because 80% of its whole runtime has dedicated to unnecessary & false fanservice like that.

    It’s kind of ironic that I had great expectations of Plunderer and worst expectations of Gleipnir which later on the expectations got swapped after I’ve watched both series until their final episode. I hope I’ve explained well on which scenes shouldn’t be classified as fanservice. And there are many people seeing Demon Slayer’s fanservice offensive??? They need to watch Blunderer to get their mind change about DS.

    • Yeah, that’s kind of the point I was making. As with the cushions on the sofa, you don’t have to like all the aspects of a show. Maybe in one show it is the fan service that doesn’t go well with the other cushions. Basically, I’d rather there were shows that I didn’t like than having someone censoring the shows I did like.

      As to Plunderer, well, when I think of fan service this show is the furthest thing from my mind. I think it had maybe two good fan service scenes, one being when Jail walked into he women’s bathroom without realising because he was reading. The rest was garbage and not just because of the “fan service”.

      I have to laugh at people thinking that Demon Slayer has lots of fan service or that it’s problematic. That’s the most ridiculous notion out there which was obviously fueled up by that idiotic tweet about 9-12 year olds watching Demon Slayer.

      Ultimately, it possible to like fan service and dislike the way a particular show uses it. It’s the same way that I don’t automatically like every isekai.

  4. I appreciate well done fanservice that actually tells me something about a character or helps the plot along or makes some kind of statement. I don’t care for fanservice that feels like they really could have used that valuable few seconds to have improved the plot or deepened a character. I’d feel the same way about any other scene wasting time on a production with limited time to tell a story.

    Fan service usually unfortunately lacks any kind of sophistication. Pretty puerile and boring stuff. I suppose that’s a given, considering the dominant audience for anime.

    • I don’t think fan service is trying to be sophisticated. Most of the shows that I particularly enjoy with fan service are using it in a more comedic setting, so it’s generally for cheap laughs.

      I grew up watching Carry on films which are generally a bit cheeky so they appeal to my sense of humour.

      Of course, there are times when it does get in the way and that time could have been better spent. Most notable series that I think is guilty of this was Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka as it got the balance wrong and could have really focused on the psychological aspects of the show.

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