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!
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.
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.
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.
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!