Why I Don’t Hate It
by Bolt Vanderhuge
Recently there seems to be some push back against fan service from within the fandom. I’ve been accused of that myself, from the “elitist” angle rather than the “objectifying women” angle. The thing is most people seem to forget that boobs aren’t the only form of fan service. As the name suggests, it’s really anything that’s there only for the service of the fans. Whether that’s a long flyby sequence of some space ship that earns a movie a well-deserved nickname for its slow pacing, giant robots showing off how awesome they look before, during and after they punch each other, of some nice, long hard objects continually shooting their loads, it’s all fan service, as long as it’s only really there just for its own sake.
Still, boobs do tend to get all the attention, as they tend to stick out a bit more. There also seems to be something of a universal appeal there, as witnessed by the proliferation of skin-tight “uniforms” in sci-fi like Star Trek or Space Battleship Yamato 2199. It can also be extremely easy to poke fun at that type of fan service, especially if it’s really obvious that its only purpose is to distract the audience from lackluster/formulaic writing and/or to sell plastic figurines of your favorite waifu. Those jiggle physics also make for a nice way to keep your eyes on the screen instead of on your phone.
I know this might come off as me bitching about it, but to be honest, even when I know it’s just blatantly trash, I don’t mind it and can enjoy it. I’ll still make fun of it, but really it’s more about how the fan service is used that makes it good or bad in the artistic sense. If something only ever sets out to be trash, I can’t really hate on it for being trash, and if I watch it I know exactly what I’m in for. I’m only ever genuinely critical of it when a show is trying to be serious, because, say, suddenly cutting to a shot of a female character’s ass in her catsuit when you’re trying to have a serious space opera thing going on can kind of undermine the mood a little. Also, fan service can be used to say something, which in a way makes it in service to the plot, or the artistic sense of the show, in addition to titillating the fans. Or, it can be used to get an emotional response out of the audience, like say to feel Guts’ rage as he is forced to watch Casca get raped at the end of the ‘90s Berserk anime (spoilers BTW), or to get a laugh at Revy’s expense as she’s flung ass over tea kettle at the end of Black Lagoon’s first story arc, or just to weird you out, like about 70% of Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Or, like in the case of the movie Redline, the entire point is just to have fun while it pays homage to classic ‘80s hand-drawn anime, so why not? I suppose that viewpoint could make my criticism of High School of the Dead a bit hypocritical, as I’ve seen it argued that it was also only ever out to have fun. I guess I see the show as something of a disappointment in any case because it had a serviceable plot there that could have made it the Japanese version of The Walking Dead, which given how Japanese culture differs from American culture, could have made it somewhat unique and interesting to watch, but instead it was caught up in bouncing titties and panty shots.
Some people like to complain about there being more fan service now than there used to be, and they’re both right and wrong about that. The thing is, those generic harem animes from back in the day aired on TV during more normal people hours, and thus wouldn’t be able to get away with outright nudity, which is why quite a few anime characters suffer from the somewhat hilarious condition known as “Barbie anatomy.” A good example of this is the series Burst Angel, because all the female characters are almost constantly sporting pokeys and camel toe, but when they lose the clothing, suddenly the body parts that would cause that suddenly disappear. In any case, if you look at older stuff that went straight to video, or movies that would have been given an R rating (like say the classic Ghost in the Shell movie Hollywood tried to ape), there’s plenty of nudity in those. Your modern formulaic fan service anime either airs late at night when all the normies are asleep, or is simply censored when it originally airs, with one of the video release’s selling points being that it’s uncensored.
Actually the Burst Angel thing brings me to another point, which is how I think anime can be made great again, and that’s to go back to drawing school and learn how to draw boobs, dammit. I mean, it’s easy to laugh at the obnoxious anime boob physics, or how they all look like silicon pornstar boobs, but I honestly wish some of these artists would take some of Miyazaki’s advice and “draw from life.” I mean, I get that they might not be able to get anyone to model specifically for them, but between drawing guides that are out there, and pictures and video of actual real women who literally do have the traditional anime proportions they can study.
I guess what I’m saying is that while there could stand to be some improvement, both in terms of how fan service is used (at least if a show is trying to be serious), and how art could stand to imitate life a bit more closely in some area(ola)s, I definitely don’t hate it by any means. Sometimes it can be fun, because it tickles my tank boner or my ‘80s nostalgia, or it might actually help make the show a bit better as a work of art, if it’s actually trying to be. Just the fact something has nudity in it can’t be used as a litmus test of quality, even ignoring all the other types of fan service out there that tend to get more of a pass. I’m no prude, so while I might laugh, it’s not out of scorn, and if I’m critical, it’s only because I saw some potential there for the show to be better.