Lately, I’ve been considering the term fanservice to be a bit presumptuous.
In regards to its definition, fanservice / fan service / service service is supposed to be material that is intentionally included in a work of fiction in order to satisfy and please the audience. While fanservice is frequently associated with gratuitous titillation, the term can also refer to story or visual elements the audience may desire or covet.
So by that definition, long and lingering shots of robots in mecha anime could be considered fanservice because devout mecha fans may really love such attention to detail and may find aforementioned shots to be stimulating. Similarly, cute interactions amongst characters could also be deemed as fanservice because some shippers may cite such moments as proof that a girl is into another girl and so on.
But for these shots to be dubbed as fanservice, these scenes are understood to be specifically designed and framed in order to be appealing to specific viewers. Alas, all kind of viewers will watch the same shows for different reasons, which means one person’s fanservice moment could become another person’s “I can’t believe they included this in the show” moment.
In regards to the earlier examples, perhaps some viewers may find these long shots of the robot’s interior and exterior to be boring and could grow impatient while waiting for the action to actually happen. As for the intimate interactions between two characters, it’s possible that some viewers may think that these two characters to not be compatible or that the moments were merely platonic in nature. Different people will have different interpretations of the same scenes, after all.
So what does fanservice mean, then, when individuality and differing opinions are both alive and well among anime fans? If one scene appeals to the majority of the viewership, then is said scene by default to be considered fanservice? What of the dissenters? These are the kind of questions that will also lack clearcut answers and are heavily dependent on personal beliefs.
Be that as it may, I think the most controversial form of fanservice also happens to be what many people associate with the term in question: immoderate amounts of visual and auditory stimulation.
I think it’s safe to say that most viewers want to see attractive characters in anime. There are some anime fans who will criticize a character for being “too ugly,” for instance. There are also some anime fans who will watch a series simply because a character in said show is a pretty girl or a handsome guy. Just take a look at how so many people are or have been talking about Zero Two from Darling in the FranXX being a total babe.
With that in mind, it seems like a no-brainer for studios to include some gratuitous titillation. If a character (whom is considered by the majority of the viewership to be attractive) is placed in suggestive and stimulating scenarios and situations, then obviously the viewership will be pleased, right?
Two factors, however, make this seemingly simple conclusion harder to realize than first imagined.
Firstly, there’s the whole bit about individuality and personal preferences I mentioned earlier. Some viewers won’t be happy to see half-naked guys. Other viewers won’t care for scantily-clad girls. So perhaps scenes of Zero Two parading around wearing nothing but a towel is well-received by many fans, for instance. Those who hold no attraction to female characters would obviously disagree, however. You like what you like, I suppose, and I’m not sure if much can or should be done about that. Just don’t insult others’ preferences just because their opinions don’t align with that of yours and we should be fine.
Secondly, there’s a very fine line when it comes to pleasing the fans (which, as established above, is actually a subset of all fans, but I digress) and being potentially alienating through excessive enthusiasm.
Some series revolve entirely around fanservice which means some fans won’t even give the shows a single chance out of principle (Keijo!!!!!!!! and Seikon no Qwaser come to mind). Other series may have a solid idea and execution going on, but then the focus and genre shifts which causes important themes to be overlooked and downplayed and neglected just so the “fans” can be pleased. That seems to happen to a lot of titles, unfortunately.
So I understand that this post could be considered a total mess of incomplete thoughts and contradictory ideas. That’s what I get when I try to force myself to write something late at night. But before I take my leave, I would just like you all to consider this final question. If fanservice could be considered unneeded material that was merely added in order to appeal to certain fans, then what of the fans who were loving said series but were put off by said moments of “fanservice?”
Thank you for reading.