No, Fanservice Isn’t Destroying Anime

Read in 4 minutes

I recently caught a video by The Anime Man in which he asserted that fanservice, in its current state, is destroying anime. It’s an alarmist way to make a point, but his position basically boiled down to the assertion that the popularity of fanservice in modern anime can’t survive an inevitable change in the fandom’s tastes, and that in general, rampant fanservice will skew the perspectives of people on the outside looking in, making them think that all anime is just cheap, oversexualized garbage.

And I wholeheartedly disagree.

Not only is fanservice not destroying anime, it can’t destroy anime. Not only can’t it destroy anime, pragmatically speaking, it’s saving anime.

Here’s why The Anime Man is wrong.

Number One: If fanservice could destroy anime, anime wouldn’t have survived the ‘90s or the 2000s.

Fanservice 6When we remember past eras of a medium, much of our memory outside of works we personally connected with is filled with the exceptionally good and exceptionally bad. A lot of fanservice anime tends to fill out that middle area of forgettable mid-level works. Shows like Divergence Eve, Steel Angel Kurumi, and Maburaho, and even shows that were well-known in their heyday like Love Hina and Negima aren’t really talked about anymore outside of people for whom those shows were particularly important.

It’s easy to act like the fanservice that’s out now is something new, but that’s a lack of hindsight. If fanservice had the capability to destroy anime, it’s already had plenty of chances to do so. And yet the anime industry has survived the OVAs of the 1980s and ‘90s, through to the early 2000s and still stands today.

Fanservice 1Number Two: Fanservice is helping keep the industry afloat.

Yes, sex sells. The old adage is as true as ever. What’s also true, however, is that anime is an industry and needs money to stay in business. If a studio can make cheap money selling mid-level fanservice anime, that puts more money in the industry. This can only be a good thing. Let a studio pump out a few fanservice shows and perhaps they’ll have the money to make something more robust and less T&A-driven.

Number Three: What about the critics?

Like it or not, anime is made for the fans who enjoy it. Critics take pleasure in picking apart shows to get down to the themes, characters, setting, story, and the significance behind all of that, but not every anime will be conducive to that, and that’s okay.

Number Four: What about the Ordinary People?

Fanservice 5This sentiment bothers me. The idea that we need to, at best, validate, and at worst, apologize for, this medium we all love so much as anime fans comes off to me as half-hearted. It’s like being a fair-weather fan, only into it when it makes you look good, but willing to abandon it wholesale the moment it doesn’t work in your favor.

Anime is still fringe. It’s not “geek culture” like superhero comics or AAA videogames have become. We’re not in the spotlight to where we should feel the need to downplay aspects of our fandom to look good to people on the outside looking in. We’ve all survived as anime fans this long without having to call for an end to fanservice, so why do we need to do that now? Stick to your guns. Anyone who’s going to judge an entire medium based on a few works within it is too closed-minded to have ever given it a fair shake in the first place.

The desperation I see to eliminate parts of the medium in an effort to become more palatable to Ordinary People bothers me deeply, because it’s a sign that people have no pride in the medium and no pride in being anime fans. People don’t respect people-pleasers, those who bend over backwards and sacrifice elements of themselves to appeal to anyone and everyone. People respect people who stick to their guns.

 

Not liking fanservice is perfectly fine, but accusing it of destroying anime simply isn’t productive and speaks more to personal biases than to any problems with the medium. Support the shows you want to see and ignore what you don’t, but understand that fanservice isn’t destroying anime.

About the Author

Timeenforceranubis
President, Lead Content Creator, and Head Editor of She’s Lost Control Media. Has a lifelong love and passion for anime, videogames, and otaku culture. Enjoys Gundam, lemonade, and yandere girls.
  • I really hope that Anime, Mangas, and Visual Novels never become mainstream.

  • Jordan Rongavilla

    What anime is that on the screen shots

    • The one at the very top is from Yosuga no Sora, the next one down is from Steel Angel Kurumi 2, the one after that is from Strike Witches, and then the last one is also from Yosuga no Sora.

  • Tony

    Yeah, I don’t see it destroying anime whatsoever. Honestly, while there are shows with over the top fan service there are plenty more without it. Look no further than some of the top shows this season. Re: Zero, My Hero Academia, and Bongou Stray Dogs. None of them shove fan service down your throat and all of them are more successful then the fanservice shows this season. It’s like saying porn is ruining movies… lol

  • ransom78

    It’s not destroying anime. But it is destroying particular series. Harem and ecchi, as a genre, I generally despise, but they’ve always existed, and to each their own. They obviously bring in revenue to the industry, which is good. My problem with fan service is when it rears it sexy head in a series where it has no business, outside of those genres. It can completely detract from or even reverse positive character development. Don’t build them up as someone deep and complex, and then relegate them to just being the best butt or breasts of the series.

    Don’t get me wrong, you can have someone pretty/sexy and complex at the same time, I’m just not in favor of zooming in on their boobs with the “boing” sound effect. I can see that she’s sexy without you doing that, anime.

    • I’m mostly in agreement, but with different terminology. I think fanservice can certainly end up clashing with other elements of a show, but one thing I wish we could all do is get away from the kind of terminology that suggests that fanservice can ruin an anime series by itself. To me, that portrays anime like its elements are created in parts, like the fanservice is created separate from the rest of the series and when bolted onto the rest of the show, the series doesn’t work like it should.

      To me, when fanservice manages to “detract” from other elements of a series, that’s a failure of the series as a whole to properly integrate and contextualize the fanservice with its other elements, rather than the mere presence of fanservice actively detracting from the series.

      For any given show, we are to assume that the fanservice is meant to be there. The show doesn’t exist separated from its fanservice. Therefore, I’d posit that fanservice isn’t destroying shows by itself, but rather those shows are destroying themselves by failing to properly reconcile their fanservice elements with their other elements.

      This isn’t to single out fanservice, either. The same can happen with any other element. For example, I thought that the introduction of real life-and-death combat into Infinite Stratos was a misstep that the series failed to properly contextualize, and that ruined that series for me. I also thought that REDLINE did a poor job at integrating and contextualizing its character development and love story with its high-speed action, which is a major reason I didn’t enjoy that movie.

      ~Timeenforceranubis