First of all, and before I say anything else, we need to know what fanservice is.
From a quick Google search, I’ve opened three sites that will bring definitions and examples of fanservice: Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary and TV Tropes.
Now the Wikipedia page is absolute horrible, but it does tell us that the origin of the term fanservice (also spelled fan service and also called service cut) comes from Japan and it started in the 70s with Cutey Honey, a manga series written and illustrated by Go Nagai.
(For those who don’t know, Go Nagai is a famous mangaka or Japanese comic book artist responsible for works like Devilman, Mazinger Z or Violence Jack)
It is about “servicing” the fan – giving the fans “exactly what they want”. Fan service usually refers to “gratuitoustitillation“, but can also refer to intertextual references to other series.
This is seems to be one way to define fanservice, by referring to an anime or manga’s sexual content that will please the fan, which might become the focus, rather than telling a story.
Urban Dictionary gives us the same kind of definition, although a more honest one.
In general, fan service refers to scenes designed to excite or titillate the viewer. This can include scantily-clad outfits, cleavage shots, panty shots, nude scenes (shower scenes especially), etc. Some broader definitions also include things like cool mecha, big explosions, battle scenes, etc. Basically, if it has little plot-redeaming value, but makes the viewer sit up and take notice, it’s probably fan service in one form or another.
But if we notice closer, we can read that fanservice can also include cool mecha, big explosions and battle scenes among other things, but it has very little to do with plot or adds very little to it. What really matters is making the viewer continue to see the show of read the manga/comic. But, while reading on TV Tropes, you’ll find that fanservice is rather pornographic, rather it teases the audience.
Real fanservice is seldom explicit or graphic — that is the territory of pornography. Instead it is primarily there to “add a little extra” by teasing and titillating the audience.
I like the inclusion of the work “real” to make a difference between borderline pornographic images and teasing the viewer with a beautiful woman riding a mecha.
However something we can agree on is that fanservice isn’t just for males, there is gender specific fanservice, whatever it is sexual or not. Although we often think of fanservice as a sexual thing (because it is everywhere, and it’s easy to add to any kind of show, as TV Tropes tells us), I like to think that fanservice is far beyond it’s specific designed characters and animes filled with cute girls doing cute things for guys who have a fetish for young looking girls and girls who like things that uncomfortable cute.
And a warming for TV Tropes:
Not to be confused with Fan Flattering.
(Fan Flattering is a work that claims that it’s fans are better than others, examples are Stan Lee addressing his Marvel fans as “true believers” or boy’s band songs, like Backstreet Boys’ songs, that claim that you’re the best fan in the world and nobody else is as good as you.)
So what is fanservice, in the end?
Fanservice is what pleases the fan and as such everything can be fanservice. That’s why it’s a bit hard for me to say that fanservice is just sexual, because it’s not. Anything that pleases a fan is fanservice, even a good story. The reason why we refer to fanservice as a sexual thing is, probably, because it’s the most common form and also the most beloved and hated one.
I like to think that woman are better with that, their fanservice can be restrained to a smile from a cool male (or female whatever is up your alley) character a good romance, but each time I enter tumblr I find that to be a projection of my ideals.
I admit it, I have a problem with sexual fanservice and I believe that a lot of people are in the same situation as I’m, that’s why I started writing this in the first place.
It’s not like have something against fanservice, but I need things to have point. To me, fanservice can’t be a total disregard for the story and universe created by a story, it has to in tune with it and it has to have point, an objective to the story. I know fanservice has the objective to please the fans, but I’m not a person that’s easy to please. I don’t like boobs to simply be throw at me in an anime or show, if I want boobs I Google boobs and I see a shitload of them.
I specially hate when fanservice hides itself in the facade of story. They give it a setting and story and then throw it all away because sex (or hinting about sex) sells. That’s something that doesn’t sit well with me, as I spend part of my life studying how to make good stories.
On top of everything I do have my set of issues with sex, which I’ll not explain here because they’re personal, though I admit they may cloud my vision about sexual fanservice more than I should let them.
In conclusion, I’m someone that doesn’t need sexual fanservice, and there many people like that and we should be able to respect their opinion. I do honestly think that excess of listening to the fans ruins a story, because, most of the times, fans do not know how to create stories or universes, they’ll end up thinking about what’s cool and forgetting that making a story requires a lot of work and not everything you think it’s cool actually is cool or will be cool to you forever.
And now, if you excuse, I must buy some bread.