I recently wrote “Anime – A Quick Intro” where I spoke about some of the myths regarding Anime. One of these myths was “It is Sexual”, I however forgot to mention Fan Servicing. This is probably because although I was aware of the practise, I had rarely personally come across it. My original advice in the post still stands, use the rating as a guide and if you don’t like it move on to something else.
What is Fan Servicing
So Fan servicing or simply Fan Service is the adding of material thats sole purpose is to please fans. This content is about “Servicing the Fans” or “Giving them exactly what they want”. It can take many forms, but one of the most common methods is gratuitous titillation. Other common forms is references to other series, or story and visual elements that fans tend to want to see.
Sexual Fan Servicing
Although Fan servicing does and often, includes the titillation of fans it rarely ventures in to been outright pornographic from my personal experience.
For one Japan has very strict censorship rules when it comes to the depiction of full nudity or sexual content. With the vast majority of Anime been made in Japan for a Japanese audience studios are keen and careful not to full foul of these censorship rules. The other reason is that it is designed to service fans, and “teasing” them achieves that goal better.
So what form does sexual fan servicing take? Probably the most common form is that of putting characters into situation where they wear very little. An example of this is a beach scene where characters will only wear swimwear. Other forms can be more overt such as up skirt shots, sexy clothing (The sexy maid costume is probably the most famous) and Jiggling breasts (also known as the Gainax bounce).
Violent Fan Servicing
Another form that fan serving can take is with violence. This is slightly more common in my experience. Again this can multiple forms from episode long fight scenes to hyperphysical activity. Although I am writing this post in regard to Fan servicing in anime, which is arguable where it began. Violent fan servicing is just as common in western culture. The “Action Movie” genre is an example of violent fan servicing in the west. With recent movie series “The Expendables” been a prime example.
So what form does violent fan servicing take? The most common is gratuitous violence, and violence for violence sake. A prime example of this is when a character resorts to violence in situations that don’t require it. Another common example of violent fan servicing is that of hyperphysical action. Hyperphysical action is any action that is beyond what is possible in the real world. An example of this would be a sustained time in the air, falling from great nights with no injuries and been hit into solid objects.
Violent fan servicing is much more prevalent in culture as a whole whether western or Japanese. Action movies, television shows, cartoons and video games all use violent fan servicing. Unlike sexual fan servicing, which whether we want to admit or see it, is just as prevalent in western culture. Violent fan servicing is probably more accepted by society as a whole.
One of the most common of other forms of fan servicing is the practise of reference material from outside a series been shown. In the west this is almost always labelled as a pop culture reference. This is probably the most common form of fan servicing. For example the Spider Man “upside down kiss” has been referenced in numerous other places.
The other type is long shots. Long shots are when they camera spends a longer than necessary time on a character or element of a show. This is particularly common in Mecha anime, where you will get long shots of the robots (Mecha). It can also appear elsewhere, with long shots of the main characters, weapons or other elements.
Although there are many forms of Fan servicing, the one that is most commonly associated with the term, is probably sexual fan servicing, certainly in western culture.
I was aware of the practise before now, but it hasn’t been so advert to draw my attention. Looking back on series I have watched, and can even say I am a fan off, I can see now that it has been there. Recently however I started watching the series “Kill La Kill”.
Kill La Kill is on Netflix and I entered into it without much knowledge of what it was. Although the series has a storyline that is interesting, it is very fan servicing. It uses both sexual and violent forms of fan servicing. Often showing the main character in a sexy outfit. It also contains partial nudity of the major characters that all happen to be female, like most fan serving it doesn’t contain full nudity however. It really does try and hit all the tick boxes for Sexual fan servicing however, including up-skirt / panty shots, sexy costumes and jiggling breasts. Kill La Kill, however as the title suggests also contains violent fan service. Often this includes common troops, such as long shots of the characters, hyperphysical elements and fast exciting action. There are also numerous violent confrontations between the two main characters, which feels more than likely aimed at giving the fans what the want to see.
Fan servicing is part of the Anime culture, but no where near as prevalent as it was in the 80’s and 90’s. Out of all the series that I have watched recently and there has been a fair few that included a huge amount. I have also found that really overt fan servicing is rare. Now days given the amount of sex and violence in our own culture, for the most part Anime does not have any more than we have come to expect. Again I do feel that the fact that the western perception that all cartoons are for kids, makes fan servicing, especially sexual fan servicing feel more out of place. This is though changing in western mindsets with shows like Family Guy. As with my intro to Anime, if you find that a show is overly sexual move on to something else. There are a lot of shows out there that do not fan service, or do so to a moderate level. Let the age rating guide you in your decisions, or read up on them online.