On fanservice

Fanservice is an inevitable, unavoidable aspect of anime. In most shows, there would always be at least one scene or two with a female character being in some kind of sexually provocative situation, and we bloggers would thus term it as ‘fanservice’.Some bloggers even go to the extent of calling an entire show a ‘fanservice anime’. However, on the subject of fanservice, I have several points to raise.

Firstly, what is fanservice? Fanservice would refer to giving the fans what they want : letting them see what they want to see. However, does it apply exclusively to ecchi-like scenarios? Couldn’t I describe an extended, epic fight between the Knightmares of Britannia and Black Knights as ‘fanservice’? Since it’s what I might have wanted to see, after all.

Clearly, fanservice seems to have evolved into a subset of the ‘ecchi’ genre, as a way to throw in random sexual elements with no relevance whatsoever. For instance, all your random irrelevant beach and onsen scenes. Then again, how could fanservice differ from ecchi in general if in both the sexual elements play no relevance to the plot( if any) and are thrown in simply because the audience likes it? Wouldn’t fanservice equate to ecchi if it was classified this way? Surely, there must be something that differs most fanservice from ecchi.

Of course- fanservice only appears for a few scenes – and not enough to determine the entire genre on its own. Surely, we don’t call a show part of the horror genre if only one scene contains a bit of horror. Likewise, fanservice appears everywhere, even in shows like Code Geass or Puella Magi Madoka Magica (if you treat the Madoka and Homura floating about nude and sparkling as fanservice, of course.) there will be scenes with fanservice, and we don’t call them ecchi because of that.Thus, we can see that fanservice does not equate to ecchi.

Therefore we come to the very puzzling problem: why do people call shows ‘fanservice’? Surely, if fanservice only includes certain, disjointed scenes thrown in because the audience likes watching it, it couldn’t be an entire genre on its own. If the watchers call the show a ‘fanservice’ show, shouldn’t it simply be changed to be counted as ‘ecchi’? How does one differ between fanservice scenes and ecchi anyway? The two are so closely linked, yet they do not equate to one another.

This leads yet again to another puzzling conundrum: so what on earth is fanservice? It’s like a genre, yet it isn’t. It’s like a trend, a fad, yet it isn’t. It’s just like ecchi, yet it isn’t. The most I could say was that it’s merely a blanket term for all the sexually provocative scenes thrown into a show for the fans.

Yet, even that doesn’t seem quite right.

Any ideas?

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24 Responses to On fanservice

  1. Balloon Thief says:

    I think the difference between a battle scene and a “fanservice” scene is the battle scene actually furthers the storyline in some way. This is why it’s called fanservice, it’s only purpose for the “fans” entertainment.

    From what I understand about ecchi is that it’s big pay off are the fanservice-like scenes. Other series may have fanservice but the main ending of the plot isnt fanservice related.

    It is kind of a blanket term. I guess you could say it’s gone viral in the anime community. What I find weird is how people just except it as normal. In most series it’s unneeded and in some it’s downright inappropriate.

    • Valence says:

      Exactly – it’s a waste of time, if you ask me. It’s sad to see that all fans are blanketed by the term fanservice. Perhaps this is why people think we are all perverts.

  2. hiroy_raind says:

    Let me ask a question:
    I enjoy giant robot battles, whether its Real Robots maneuvering at high speed or an extensive display of it’s mechanism and anatomy, or Super Robots delivering an over the top attack with absurd destructive power. Does that means its…. proper for me to say that SRW OG The Inspectors (or the whole Super Robot Wars games) as fanservice? (minus the boobies fanservice that are usually included)

  3. SnippetTee says:

    My take on fanservice is to literally “service” its fans. Also, my take on the term is it’s more of a slang or colloquial, and I agreed that it’s a subset of ecchi genre.

  4. ~xxx says:

    I really take it as a way of entertaining the fans…
    asides, even a serious story has few fanservice.

    But it is a big NO!!! if this element destroys the anime in the process.

  5. baka~ says:

    If the battle scenes and the story are the meat in the stew (anime), I’d like to think of fanservice as the flavoring along with the music, voices, and (animation) effects. While the stew would taste bad without flavoring, it is still edible when cooked properly. So anyone can dig in any anime without kickass effects, or fanservice, or even the music… It would simply taste bad but it’s still anime… right?

    • Valence says:

      That’s an overly idealistic way of looking at it, since you assume that fanservice contributes to the quality of the show as much as major factors like effects and music. Music and effects are necessities, but fanservice – at least, this amount of fanservice- is clearly uncalled for.

  6. Fan service is fan service for a reason. Somehow, nothing seems to lead to fan service. Its just there. For fan service films like HOTD, its about 20% plot, 80% fan service. with 90% of the plot being zombies. I mean. really? 80% fan service? Who needs THIS much fanservice?

  7. @fkeroge says:

    Maybe it’s just that more people would buy shows if it had sexually charged fanservice, or at least make it “memorable.” Sadly, some shows just suck because of the wrong usage of fanservice. In my opinion, handling things makes a big difference. Tasteful fanservice is likely to be a plus for an anime, and overly exaggerated ones will probably dull its blade.

    • Valence says:

      Is there a ‘right’ usage of fanservice?

      • @fkeroge says:

        There is. In fact, even some of the cleanest anime still have fanservice. It’s the fact that they can incorporate it to be subtle and not too raunchy. Clannad has fanservice. Kanon has fanservice. Yet no one really notices them because they’re subtle enough.

  8. Nopy says:

    If it’s one of: panty shot, bouncing boobs, giant boobs, giant bouncing boobs, or provocative position, then it’s fanservice.

    As for ecchi vs fanservice, there really is no dividing line. Some old ero-anime were classified as such simply because one of the characters was nude (covered). Now we see that in bath scenes all the time and no one gives it a second thought.

    • Valence says:

      But fanservice literally means fan-service, right? I guess when you take service to mean…. service…..then it’s clear. . . .

  9. biotoxic says:

    To me I would use the blanket term “fanservice anime” to describe your usual (but not strictly) harem / VN adaptation where there is little to no plot and the main focus is on providing the audience with mildly provocative scenes: beach, onsen, etc. If it just had a few brief moments of these scenes I would say “it has fanservice”. Is it a negative descriptor? To some I guess so, to me it’s more of an indicator of what to expect from the female cast. While I’m aware this is not the strict use of the term this is how I would use and interpret it.

    An anime becomes ecchi to me when uncensored breasts are involved. Again ecchi can either be the main focus or an element of a series. Going one step further I’d label something hentai when there is obvious exposed genitals and sex scenes (which is why I would class Qwaser as ecchi for example). That’s the measures I use when distinguishing between fanservice, ecchi and hentai anyway.

  10. glothelegend says:

    Anime used to contain fanservice, but now it’s like fanservice contains anime.

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  12. Carillus says:

    Personally I think that fanservice is better defined as an objective aspect present within the anime that makes the user feel happy/excited/satisfied/there’s no right term for this. Like watching Mikoto get all flustered in a conversation with Touma, or any scene in Denpa Onna that has Erio in it are my ideas of fanservice. Even battle scenes, in this case, would be considered fanservice – I mean, I watch Railgun so I can see Mikoto beating the shit out of stuff. So when she starts blowing shit up, isn’t that fanservice for me?

    Ecchi is the proper term for sexually charged or provocative situations, as these are not neccessarily appealing to all fans. When a person regularly drops a series upon its arrival on the inevitable swimsuit episode (for supposed ‘fanservice’ anime), would you call it a service to that particular fan?

    What I think is that fanservice as a term has evolved to encapsulate ecchi and various related ideas, as the people that enjoy watching such scenes are in the majority, and thus fanservice has come to be associated with them.

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