I like my fanservice; I really do. I enjoy it in many forms of popular media, but in anime and manga I get more of it, and enjoy most of it. However, it’s not limited to sexual titillation. Actually, this is not as satisfying for me as referencing shows that I love: remembering love if you will.
Broadly, fanservice is elements in a work that exists gratuitously to amuse and titillate viewers. Gratuitousness is the key; the presence of these elements are unnecessary to the narrative. The story will be whole and complete without them. This ‘being unnecessary’ is the foundation of the negative perception it has from righteous viewers.
The presence of something unnecessary may actually get in the way of telling a story. I know some people who will have trouble appreciating a show I really enjoy like Aim for the Top! Gunbuster due to the presence of the following:
- The awkward school arc, with the bullying and clique cliches
- The nudity (Did Noriko REALLY have to tear off her uniform to expose her boob for the Gunbuster to prepare for its final move?)
- The bouncing boobies in general (the whole show exists in a fantastic science fiction realm, but the boobs bounce rather realistically)
The awkward school arc is actually a reference and homage to the Aim for the Ace! tennis manga (and anime). The characters and setting in the two shows almost form a 1:1 correspondence. I don’t care much for the referenced source, and the events in the first few episodes of Gunbuster! can be annoying (though obviously this no longer bothers me at all!), the referencing arguably gets in the way: this particular arc could’ve been completely different.
Someone who doesn’t care for nudity (my wife) thought the boob exposure final attack was stupid. Obviously she isn’t the target viewer; but it is rather interesting how a show with a strong female cast (and lead character for that matter) can put off a strong female viewer.
The fanservice in this case, causes distractions and detracts from the overall viewing experience for some viewers. Given that we distinguish fanservice in this post as unnecessary, the negativity towards it makes sense.
Taken to the extreme, some people will outright dismiss a work if it has overt fanservice.
I think there’s something I’d like to call the Blinder Effect, or, “I can’t see the story for the boobs!” that affects many a well-meaning but otherwise ignorant fan. So this fan, right, he walks into a bookstore/visits his favourite internet piracy website and looks for the cover/synopsis of Series X. Series X starts out in all its fanservice glory before escalating into otherwise unrelated glory later on, but Mr. Fan does not know this, and after reading the first volume or two he throws up his hands in disgust, proclaim the end of manga to be ‘nigh’, and lets everyone on the internet know how terrible this is.
The f word isn’t limited to sexual titillation. This whole hobby operation of ‘remembering love’ is built on a concept of fanservice. However,
fanservice, whatever form it may take (be it T&A, excessive manliness, robots punching each other, Intellectually Stimulating Philosophy™, intertextual references, etc.) is basically junk food, which can be served as part of a complimentary dessert or side dish, or gorged upon on its own.
This makes sense to me, but I don’t completely agree. More later. OGT’s comment above is part of a discussion raised by SDS, using chocolate as a metaphor for fanservice:
Sure you might like it, perhaps even a lot, and sometimes it’s just the thing you’re looking for. But you can’t live off of chocolate alone, and any attempts to do so will only end in agony. Similarly, fanservice can be a welcome addition to anime, but if all the anime consists of is tits and ass, then it’s not going to be a complete, well-rounded experience.
Before I continue I posit that the enjoyment of sexual fanservice is different from enjoying pornography (hentai, to be specific). In most cases I presume, hentai and pr0n are enjoyed accompanied by literal and physical masturbation. One may fap to fanservice, but I am perhaps distressed to consider that this could be the norm.
OGT and SDS suggest that there are viewers who enjoy works for the fanservice specifically. The amount of T & A fanservice delivery vehicles (To Love Ru), of moe-moe fanservice delivery vehicles (K-ON!), BL fanservice delivery vehicles (The Prince of Tennis). But there is a kind of service too that is related more to the re-delivery of past incarnations of a certain work. It’s not a re-release or repackaging like what Evangelion does, but more like what the Macross and Gundam franchises do.
– Do you feel the pressure from Gandamufan.
Gundam creators of the moment, the customer, “I’m not so Gundam, Gundam, we can not work now” is not much to continue to say that.
This was from an interview with Gundam 00 series director, Mizushima Seiji. I interpret the google translated text to mean that viewers complain that “Gundam isn’t like that.” The franchise is a certain way, which can seem very narrow for creators and producers who work on new installments. I can imagine that they are hamstrung by the need to ‘pander to the base.’
This can be a problem, as shows become narrowly targeted, and have little cross-audience appeal, the shows lose their ability to grow the viewer base. To do so is painted with accusations of ‘selling out’ while the work is actually very guilty of ‘selling in.’ Macross Frontier is criticized by fans of ‘Universal Century’ Macross (i.e. SDFM up to Macross Plus) for ‘pandering’ to a contemporary viewership (moe moe fanservice: Ranka Lee, and OMFG Klan Klan), not acknowledging that making a show very much like Plus or SDFM or [gasp] Robotech would be pandering to their own narrow tastes.
To go back to OGT’s quote however, I don’t think fanservice is necessarily junk food. It’s not always gratuitous, even if it’s blatantly sexually titillating. For this the best catch was made in the Superfanicom blog:
fanservice is often considered as separate from the rest of the show (or comic) we find it in. The general problem with a lot of readings online is that a lot of time is spent on whether or not something is “good,” which often becomes an argument about whether or not certain elements should be in the show. The reason that’s a problem is that the element is in the show — it’s a little too late to jump in front of that problem. More useful is the approach of asking why something is there: what it does and how it does it? So, with your indulgence, I’ll use a handful of examples and take a crack at what the fanservice adds to the show.
He then proceeds to read a particularly interesting sequence in Banner of the Stars, a scene wherein I initially dismissed the ‘male gaze’ of the ‘camera’ to focus on cleavage and jump into a naked bath scene as means to break up the wall of dialogue/’text’ that transpires in that dinner conversation, and nothing else.
He deftly establishes how the fanservice underscores the ongoing themes in that particular point of the narrative, and of the narrative as a whole. An excerpt:
The sexual dimension of this scene underscores the desire for life that these people feel. We’re used to seeing all three of them as relatively staid. Most of this show we see them in uniforms, and the other outfits they sport (like Jinto’s “nobleman” duds) serve to highlight their societal placement rather than their biological needs (that is, their sexual identities). It’s significant that this blast of fanservice happens during a meal: two reining desires are coupled here, healthily and without issue. Not only does this underscore what the entire series is about: illustrating warfare as something performed by people; the alien as human; and the personal lives of these developed characters, it also shows us these two women, generally so controlled, still behaving in a controlled manner while enjoying their sexual sides in a familiar way: wearing nice clothing that reveals them to observers.
Great read, and seemingly effortless too! The whole scene is devoid of OGT’s “Intellectually Stimulating Philosophy™” branding of that kind of fanservice (something I do enjoy on occasion as well; e.g. Legend of the Galactic Heroes). The conversation was about favorite dishes and memories; remembering love for a fallen brother and sometime enemy.
Not really saying anything new here, only that I enjoyed reading about fanservice across the web, and wanted to comment on the various opinions (and put up fanservicey images).
Fanservice and the ‘Blinder’ Effect (Owen S 2009/02/18)
OGT comments on this interesting Oguie Maniax post, which is like fanservice for chocolate (SDShamsel 2010/01/30)
Part 1 of the Cuchlann Fanservice Series (Cuchlann 2009/11/15)
The kinds of fanservice I’m very much into [->]