One of the hallmarks of anime is fan service. Certainly, to reward long-time viewers of shows, the creators throw in a bit of eye candy to keep your interest. However, it seems as of late that fan service is taking over to the point that it may be damaging shows.
Please understand that I am not wholly against fan service, especially when it is used to meaningful ends. For example, the fan service in “Mahoromatic” is employed to not only play up the pulchritudinous charms of Saori Shikijo, but it endlessly infuriates Mahoro Ando, who reminds us that “Dirty thoughts are bad.” This is a good use of fan service.
Other shows lob in the fan service before you can determine if you are a fan or not. “UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie” starts up in a bathhouse and we haven’t even gotten to the opening credits! I feel it is a cheap ploy to draw viewers in by offering up a lot of bubble-bath coated boobies and an implication that more will follow, so stick around.
Some shows are so blatant with the fan service that it skates pretty close to hentai and it could get in the way of a good or compelling plotline. “Highschool of the Dead” certainly fits that description, with up-skirt shots and rather busty teachers bouncing their way to safety. Look! Zombies are just outside our apartment complex…..so all the ladies will share a bath and we will examine how really big those headlights are on her! Wowzer! They’re firm…yet soft.
I can pretty much guarantee that every romantic comedy will have at least three opportunities for fan service: a day at the beach, an afternoon of clothes shopping and a night at the bathhouse. Three guaranteed sessions! And what if there is a transformation sequence? Have you seen “Jungre de Ikou”? I am just going to pop out! And so is she!
Even if the fan service is not over the top (like it is in “Sekirei” or “Ikki Tousen”), does it serve a real function? “Okamisan” has Otsū Tsurugaya, a busty maid. She serves a purpose, but she is still a busty maid. We see her cleaning up and her ‘friends’ get in the way. And there she is again, jiggling down the street, off on another errand.
What about in “Chobits”? Chi is certainly naïve to the point where she ended up doing a peep show and not knowing what it was all about, but when she had her switch turned on (you DO know where Chi’s switch is, right?) was this fan service for plot or for exploitation?
And some fan service is just too much that it really isn’t enjoyable at all. How many here have seen “Eiken”? (Oh, let’s not see the same hands.) This show, in my opinion, is fan service gone berserk and to add to the distress, it’s not even that good of a show! Maybe the manga is better (maybe not), but it is just wretched excess.
Can a show be good without fan service? Sure. “Mushi-Shi” is a stunning show with nary a trace of fan service. “Ouran High School Host Club” has some rather demure fan service. Even when Haruhi is seen in a bikini, it’s cute without anything being shown. Even “Samurai Champloo” uses fan service to advance plot, not merely for ogling purposes. (How many times do they end up hanging around the bordello?)
Perhaps some production companies are seeing this trend as well and are dialing it up. Some may feel that since they have gone as far as they have, it makes no sense to calm it down and to just keep pushing, so we may be seeing the perigee of all of this. In any case, the problem is over-saturation. Much like junk food, too much fan service leaves you feel nauseous on the inside, as it is not balanced.
But you can have a judicious use of it. “Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt” is a really perverted anime, but with such an odd caliber of fan service. Panty has sex with every guy she meets, but you never see anything, even when she takes off her panties (which convert into her weapon). Much is implied, nothing is revealed, despite the rather blocky art style (akin to “Samurai Jack”). This might be a better approach to things.
I recall the words of Yūko Ichihara from “xxxHolic”: “For everything you wish, you have to pay an equal price in return. You can’t get more or give more. You can’t get less or give less. It must be in balance, or else there will be chaos.” I just hope we are not at that point.