Monday, October 26, 2009

Editorial: Fan Service

"I like boobies and so should you..."

In the anime world there's a constant discussion about fan service when looking at particular shows and manga. Frankly, fan service is something you'll see in more shows than it should be in and quite honestly I'm sure fans in Japan and America have become numb to some of it by this point. But, just what is fan service?

The definition of fan service is content that is unecissarily added to a show. It's something that often doesn't need to be there, and it's frequently sexual in nature. This is often something used to distract the viewer or give them something to find amusing/sexy. More often than not fan service is simply out of place and it contributes nothing to the experience.

Now, the amount of fan service is often symptomatic of the type of genre you're watching. Harem shows such as Tenchi Muyo, Negima!?, Love Hina, and Shuffle! are loaded with the stuff. Quite honestly, it's the basis for most all of their humor and in the case of these shows it works well. One guy amidst a bevy of beautiful girls and, well, something sexy-hot is bound to happen.

Other shows that use fan service to a great extent such as Ikki Tousen, Divergence Eve, Tenjho Tenge, and Queen's Blade simply choke on what they offer. These series are built up around fan service and as such there's just not enough quality material to save them. It's almost like the designers of the show thought, "Hey, I can draw girls fairly well! Maybe I can make a bunch of them fight, and as they fight they lose their clothes." Then his pervert friend agrees and says, "Hey! That sounds like an awesome idea! I'd watch that in a heart beat."
To be fair, there are other shows that follow along those lines, but actually have an entertaining story built upon around the boobs and panty shots. If you've ever seen Godannar, 009-1, Agent Aika, Grenadier, or Sorcerer Hunters then you know that fan service can work even when it's at the roots of a show. Even when it's not at the basis of a series there are still shows that feature characters who are the representative element of fan service. Just look at Carmen from GunXSword, Faye from Cowboy Bebop, and Yoko from Gurren Lagann. All incredible shows with solid stories and characters. Just one happens to be a little ecchi, that's all.

The question still remains, where does this all come from and why does it keep happening? Well, Japanese television is a little more lenient than American in this regard. There's also the fact that a large majority of anime fans are adolescent boys deep in the throngs of puberty. We see the same thing with video games all the time and just about every female character brings the sexy. Actually, that example is probably the best. Several shows on the market stem from a visual novel or erotic game. It's only natural that those elements will remain to some extent when it makes the transition to animation. Oh, and hentai is popular among otaku as well, so that's definitely another factor.

Is fan service a bad thing? No, not necessarily, at least not in moderation. Everyone can get a chuckle out of watching a bumbling harem lead character fall face first into a girls chest. It's just a matter of how many times that happens, or how many panty shots there are, that things get over the top. Everything can be fun in moderation and it's when content becomes gratuitous that it's unacceptible. But then again, everyone has their limits. In the end it's all up to you regarding what you want to watch, and you should always, always read reviews before dropping money on a new show.

Just remember: Sometimes you feel like a panty shot. Sometimes you don't.

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