Further Words on Fanservice

Here’s one of the many interesting exchanges the Nise writeup provoked, on the nature and merit of fanservice, as well as the presumption of evaluating art:



I think the amount of effort you put into this analysis shows. It’s obvious that you like the show quite a bit, and dislike fanservice quite a bit. Maybe this is your way of reconciling the two?

Anyway, I can follow your logic, but I think you’re falling into the trap of trying to attribute things to the director or creator of the show that are purely a product of your mind. Obviously, analysis is about how you viewed the show, but you’re framing it as though you have some kind of special insight into what was going through Shinbo’s mind while the show was in production. You don’t. While I’m sure you enjoyed the show believing what you wrote, I’m just as sure there are fans who enjoyed the show because it had fanservice.

I take issue with the idea that fanservice is bad. Ultimately the point of a show is entertainment value. This can be done through various means. You seem to be saying that some of the means to entertain the viewer are inherently better or truer than others. That using these other means of entertainment is making use of some fault in the viewer, and that any entertainment they provide should not be considered in the show’s actual worth.

Why is one stimulus worth less than another other? Because you said so? Demeaning the audience? Give me a break. You’re the one demeaning various forms of entertainment because they don’t mesh with your rigid ideals.

Regarding the bit you wrote on intimacy, I agree. In fact, I think most fanservice is a sort of emotional porn, and it’s not limited to intimacy. Even if it’s just a character cameo, it’s eliciting an emotional response in the viewer. In fact, I could analyze any scene from any show you consider useless fanservice and contrive some narrative or emotional value from it by projecting my own ideas on to the characters.


Regarding your first point, all I can say is “there is strong evidence for my theory within the show.” Most scenes support my interpretation, and there are a number of scenes where a character relationship or conversation shifts, and the camera angles used immediately shift to reflect this change. I honestly think it’d be pretty hard to argue the camera choices in this show are totally meaningless.

Second point. When I say fanservice is “bad,” the implication is that it is damaging/irrelevant to the goals of a show. There is nothing wrong with entertainment, but it is certainly not the only possible goal of media – media can seek to inspire, to illuminate, to cause an emotional reaction, to evoke a time and place, etc etc etc. And when a show has a clear artistic purpose, but deviates from that goal to offer some random other commodity to some subset of the audience, it hurts the show.

This sounds like a pretty big and esoteric assumption, so as an example, many shows with random fanservice simply have goals like “make the viewer empathize with these characters and then tell a story with them.” Sure, there are normally other themes in the background, but this is a common base. When fanservice enters a show like that, I dofeel demeaned – it’s like the show is saying, “these characters that we were trying to make you empathize with? They’re objects for your voyeurism now, because that’s what you really wanted.” I don’t like that implication, and I don’t like that the fanservice damaged what the show is trying to do the 95% of the time it’s not being about fanservice – create an emotional investment in these characters. As my original last paragraph regarding this said, if the show doesn’t respect its characters, why should I?

I am not saying portraying sexy things is bad. I am saying a show hurting its own storytelling or themes is bad for that work as a conduit for that story or those themes.

Your last point is an interesting one. I don’t know if it’s possible or justified to say one work is “worth more” than another, but I think it’s easy to say one work is more artistically valuable than another, if we can all agree to respect the standards and metrics of artistic value that have been formulated and refined over hundreds of years. I’m very aware personal taste influences our love of media, and that’s only natural – but I personally respect that there is a difference between things I love because they reflect my media preferences, and things that are extremely successful and praiseworthy as artistic works.


Further Clarification on My Definition of Fanservice:

I should probably have included a point in my conclusion that makes it clear I don’t really think this show has much fanservice at all.

“Fanservice” as a term implies something added for the audience that exists outside of the narrative/emotional needs of the story/themes, and since this is a show largely about sexuality and the visual portrayal of relationships, it wouldn’t actually work or say any of the same things if the characters weren’t portrayed the way they were.

“Fanservice” doesn’t even have to be about sex – it’s more like “if this scene/shot were removed, would it negatively effect the story, characterization, themes, or resonance of this work?” If not, it’s probably fanservice. Then again, I should probably replace that “story, characterization, etc…” list with “what this show is trying to do,” because not all shows are interested in that stuff, and sometimes, the fanservice is the point.