Fan Service

Love Dodecahedron

Fan service is a term originating from anime and manga fandom for material in a series which is intentionally added to please the audience (i.e. ‘giving the people what they want’). Fan service usually refers to ‘gratuitous titillation,’ but can also refer to intertextual references to other series and other ‘indulgent’ inclusions.

Long shots of robots in mecha shows, nudity, violent episode-long fight scenes, and emphasis on ‘shipping’ (the desire by fans for two people, either real-life celebrities or fictional characters, to be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise) can all be considered fan service as they are specifically aimed at pleasing the fans of any given show. Meta-references are intended to be seen and understood by the fans, as a way for creators to acknowledge and engage the more knowledgeable members of the fanbase.

Initially fan service took place in a permissive context, when ‘kids were just doing kids’ stuff,’ which allowed authors some latitude in regards to their subject matter. Beginning in the 1970s with ‘Cutey Honey’ (a manga about a meek android girl who transforms into a busty, pink-haired heroine), and continuing later with other magical girl shows (a subgenre of Japanese fantasy), fan service became more risqué. By the 1980s full frontal nudity and shower scenes became standard. Later, Hideaki Anno who had promised ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ would give ‘every episode…something for the fans to drool over’ began removing the fan service imagery in later episodes. Those later episodes that did contain fan service elements juxtaposed them with imagery of the character in some kind of emotional trauma. Since then, fan service rarely contains full nudity. Excessive content, either sexual, violent, or merely nostalgic, is now usually considered gratuitous regardless of its justification in relation to the narrative in which it takes place.

Erotic fan service is especially common in ‘shonen’ manga (aimed at boys), in which pin-up girl style images are common ‘in varying states of undress,’ often using an ‘accidental exposure’ excuse to show a favorite female character, or an upskirt ‘glimpse of a character’s panties.’ Series aimed at an older audience include more explicit fan service. Jiggling breasts, known as the ‘Gainax bounce,’ have been employed by other animators, including the creators of the hentai series ‘Cream Lemon.’ ‘Shoujo’ manga, aimed at female readers, also includes fan service, such as showing male characters ‘half-naked and in enticing poses.’ Male homoeroticism, such as accidental kisses, is a common feature of fan service for women, and has been described as ‘easier to get away with’ in terms of censorship than fan service for males. In the ‘Boys Love’ genre, fan service is artwork or scenes that ‘depict canonical characters in a homosocial / homoerotic context.’ Shoujo manga series may eroticize its female leads as well for crossover appeal.

When anime and manga are translated into English, the original work is often edited to remove some of the fan service, making it more appropriate for US audiences. In fact, some anime seems to have little more than fan service as their selling point. Some believe that the prevalence of fan service indicates a lack of maturity within the fandom; an editor of ‘Del Rey Manga’ joked that manga ‘Negima!,’ which contained fan service, should be rated as ‘for immature readers 16+’ rather than for ‘mature readers 16+.’

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