The term “Fanservice” seems to have become a buzzword that is used to describe each and every show in the Ecchi-genre nowadays. Does it feature girls in underwear? That’s fanservice! No, no it’s not. Today, just in case you never thought about it, I want to raise awareness based on a few examples of Fanservice, or not Fanservice: The Monogatari Series, Highschool Of The Dead and The Asterisk War, or at least one of its first scenes.
First, let’s define “Fanservice”. It’s relatively easy. Service for Fans, nothing more. Aspects that are solely part of the story to please fans, not to progress plot or develop characters in any way, shape or form. “Ecchi” however is the existence of sexual themes or implications, without explicit nudity. This is mostly embodied by pantyshots, cleavage or shower scenes. No matter if female or male, of course.
Sexual service, no way around it.
Highschool of the Dead is stupid, and fun. Cool, unrealistic action with zombies and explosions, and busty girls. Busty girls with lots of cleavage and skirts flapping around. They are not aware of it themselves, and the virtual camera is positioned in favorable perspectives, if that’s what you are looking for. Panties or jiggling boobs don’t add anything to plot or characters.
Sexual, but relevant.
This perfectly fits to the Monogatari Series, especially the first 2 seasons, Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari. Here, the sexuality is important. It is part of the characterisation, both of protagonist Koyomi Araragi and the girl shown half naked, be it Hitagi Senjougahara, Tsubasa Hanekawa or whoever else. The series is mostly portrayed from Arararagi‘s perspective, with the first exception being Nekomonogatari: Shiro, the first arc in Monogatari Series: Second Season. Ararararagi, being a healthy, pubescent teenager, pays a lot of attention to naked girls, obviously. It all, especially episode 2 of Bakemonogatari, serves to show his view. While it may pander to people dreaming about Senjougahara, it is in no way the purpose. She is a woman aware of her sexuality, and okay with it. She doesn’t need to be embarassed, and that’s what the scene with her taking a shower while Araragi waits tells us.
Sexual and Fanservice, but not due to Sexuality.
The Asterisk War falls into this category, a show often regarded as “Just another Fanservicey Harem-Action-Light Novel-Adaptations”. When Ayato Amagiri first encounters Julis von Riessfeld, she is currently dressing, with her blouse open and skirt removed. Typical situation to introduce a Tsundere. He stands there, not knowing what to do, she gets embarrassed and angry. THAT is the Service about this scene. If you like Gakusen Toshi Asterisk, you probably like other shows like it. Be it Hundred, Rakudai Kishi No Cavalry or Infinite Stratos, they all feature scenes like it. Fans of these scenes get basically the same as what they know and probably enjoyed the first few times.
This is an example of Fanservice as a vague term. It does serve a purpose, but the way they go about it is either there because it’s easy and you don’t have to think about what to do, or because it serves as entertainment to those familiar to it.
All in all, I want people to look at it in a broader spectrum than just “It’s ecchi, therefore it’s fanservice”. It can have many layers, but, and this is important, Fanservice is not inherently bad, nor good. While it may stagger creative freedom if focused on too much, entertainment for those that seek a certain kind of entertainment is not a bad thing. As long as it’s not pedophilia, at least.