Blinded by the Panties: “Distracting” Fanservice


Time Enforcer Anubis here, and I’m here to make an assertion.

I hear a lot that fanservice is “distracting.” Somehow, too much panties can completely ruin an otherwise good series. The presence of large, jiggling breasts somehow rips the viewer away from the compelling things happening in the series, forcing them to focus on the dirty, creepy ecchi-service.

But maybe, none of this is the case. Maybe, just maybe, fanservice by itself isn’t capable of tearing the viewer away from the story and whatnot.

Maybe, when fanservice is “distracting,” that means that, in actuality, the rest of the elements in the series just weren’t worth paying attention to.


It baffles me that some people actually claim to be distracted by fanservice. By “fanservice,” I, of course, mean the modern definition which, conveniently, tends to only apply to sexually-charged imagery such as pantyshots, well-animated breasts, and partial/full nudity. The older definition, which applies to almost everything under the sun, from elaborately-animated fight scenes or transformation sequences, to fandom-specific references (Gundam jokes in Sgt. Frog, for example) to, of course, ecchi and sexual fanservice, is much too broad. Going by the older definition, there would be far too many “distractions” to count.

Even with just sexually-charged fanservice, however, there’s often a backlash against shows that attempt to tell a story and have some titillating fanservice. I’m not saying that it’s not okay to dislike fanservice, but when the issue of it being “distracting” is mentioned, it brings up the question: When fanservice becomes “distracting,” is it because fanservice actively detracts from the storyline and other elements, or is it because the storyline and other elements weren’t strong enough in the first place to remain relevant with the inclusion of fanservice?

The thing about saying that fanservice is “distracting” is that it implies that, with the fanservice removed, these series with distracting fanservice would be substantial experiences. Take, for example, Highschool of the Dead. Without the fanservice, it’s the same standard zombie show that we’ve seen a trillion times. The ecchi adds personality to the show. It knows its audience and endeavours to produce entertainment for that audience, in the form of violent zombie dismemberment and high-powered action, coupled with large, bouncy breasts and pantyshots. Both the violence and the ecchi come together to make one whole package, and removing either would result in half an anime. I usually hate zombie media, but I won’t say, “Highschool of the Dead was great despite the zombies.” That’s half of what the series is about.

Now take Code Geass, an anime with more intermittent fanservice and a greater focus on its story. Sure, when the fanservice is there, it’s very apparent, but does it ever actively detract from or devalue the story? No. That’s completely unreasonable. How does a shot of C.C.’s rear or Viletta Nu naked make the story any less relevant? It doesn’t make sense.

As a final example, take Divergence Eve. Abundant fanservice, as evidenced by the character designs, and an incredibly mediocre story make for a remarkably unremarkable anime. However, is the fanservice at fault for the story’s lack of quality? If the fanservice were removed, would that make the story better? A crap anime is a crap anime, fanservice or no. It’s not that the fanservice is distracting, it’s that the story isn’t worth paying attention to against the fanservice.

If the fanservice of a show that’s half fanservice, half substance is “distracting,” it’s obviously not the right kind of show to be watching. If the fanservice of a show that’s mostly substance, with fanservice peppered in seems “distracting,” it’s either a failure on the part of the show’s substance, failing to be interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged versus the fanservice, or it’s a failure on the part of the viewer for simply being unable to look past some fanservice to see a show for what it actually is.

Fanservice on its own does not have the power to invalidate substance. That is, indeed, the nature of fanservice, to excite the viewer separate from the show’s actual substance. Those who see fanservice as a distraction are jumping to conclusions based on their contempt for it.

I like fanservice. It’s nice to see some eye candy every now and then, whether it occurs in the form of a one-off pantyshot or in the form of breasts bouncing around for half the series. When the substance is up to par, we get shows where the substance and the service complement each other. Shows like Code Geass and Highschool of the Dead. When the substance is lacking, we get shows that are only good for fanservice, like Divergence Eve. Maybe it’s time we learn to live with sexuality and appreciate all of what anime titles have to offer, instead of cutting shows down, saying they’re good “despite the fanservice.”

So… were you distracted by all the fanservice in this post?

‘Till next time!


26 thoughts on “Blinded by the Panties: “Distracting” Fanservice”

  1. As Daisuke Sato once said “Many who come to the industry have had backrounds in erotic works like modern directors who had their start in the pink film industry and that sexuality is part of the creative process.”

    When Square Enix first started out the company known for the mega hit Final Fantasy started off as an Eroge company. It’s funny you bring up fanservice again Anubis I take it that you knew how popular it was in America back in the 80’s and 90’s. It was so popular magazines were published in America about nude anime girls bathing. Also, ADV had a jiggle counter on their heavier fanservice works.

    I think fanservice today is so hated because there are more female fans today who consider fanservice sexist. It’s hypocritical because of things like shounen-ai, yaoi, and shoutacon being eaten up by female fans and is becoming extremely popular here in the US.

    Look at Evangelion considered the greatest anime in history had fanservice in it, or how about the new movie redline that western otaku are praising non stop has fanservice. Kodomo no Jikan is very fanservice ridden and still has an excellent plot that no one sees. You’re right Anubis it’s about the writing of the story not the fanservice.

    P.S. Chalk me up to number 2 I started drooling over Rin’s body! *0*

    1. I don’t quite think it’s the influx of female fans, so much as it’s the attitude of a lot of “holier than thou” anime people who want anime to be this deep art form that’s free from baser entertainment elements like fanservice, which would explain why people turn their noses up at shows like Kodomo no Jikan, despite KnJ having an incredibly rich and deep story.

  2. Ha! The only thing that distracted me out of all those pics were that of Charlotte Yeager. Maybe because it fits more with my taste in fanservice, I guess?

    Back on topic, another excellent post this is. I’m so sick and tired of all those hacks and their mindsets that if a show has pantyshots or whatever, they have to try to be pretentious as possible. If a show’s made purely for fanservice, then it should be enjoyed in that perspective.

    What’s even more ridiculous is that, as a fellow Strike Witches fan, I’ve come across so-called “fans” who watch the show just to complain about the excessive panty shots rather than the other aspects of the show. Yet they always try to be preachy by saying the light novels are better because of the lack of “pantlessness.” I have nothing against the light novels, but I’m pretty sure if they ever did get adapted into anime form, it’d still contain all the pantlessness that the so-called “fans” would rage over.

    1. #1 Question asked about Strike Witches: “Why aren’t they wearing any pants!?”

      When, in truth, that’s probably one of the easier-explained of the show’s elements, but I digress. The people who can’t deal with pantslessness probably shouldn’t be watching Strike Witches. Bottom line.

      That’s one thing that gets me about these kinds of people who say that the fanservice in something like Highschool of the Dead is “distracting.” It’s complaining about half of what makes up the anime. An anime can’t be “good despite the fanservice.” It doesn’t work that way.

      1. LOL that’s like saying Puella Magi Madoka Magica or Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is bad because you see the girls nude when they transform. Such a superficial complaint against the show. When you are critical about a work you should be critical about the nuts and bolts of the work such as characterization and narrative. Not superficial or shallow elements like T&A.

        If I was to be that shallow I’d say the Redline is garbage because it has pretty animation and nothing else going for it. Instead of the fact that it contains a simple story catered to Americans with speed with no solid deep plot or character narrative which is what a lot of those old otaku’s bitch about. It’s a lot better of a criticism than ‘oh the girls are pantless this is a crappy show!’

        Watch the show in question first don’t judge something based on a premise. I still get annoyed when people call Sora no Woto ‘Military K-On!’

  3. Lesson in economics: sex sells.

    A timeless marketing tactic that is going to be around as long as humankind manages to maintain its existence. While there are more fanservice shows now than in times of yore, there’s also more shows PERIOD. Therefore, it is no real surprise that numerous titles go for a safety net.

    I disagree about the increasing female numbers being responsible for the backlash. I’d say it is more likely a small but extremely vocal group that feels this stuff is making anime too niche and scaring off normal people. Apparently, there’s a group of nerds that watch anime with their parents and need the consent of their elders to approve of their hobbies/obsessions.

    1. Do you think that our social culture you know the one that proclaims sex is worse than violence be a factor in it too? You can’t ignore all those bible thumpers out there who preach chasity till marriage.

      1. I’d definitely say that’s a factor. That’s also why you don’t see elaborate fight scenes or the like labeled as “fanservice” anymore. The trend now is to use fanservice as a value judgment. Where it used to be just a thing, it’s now a bad thing, and to narrow it down to only include elements they (The anti-ecchi, “REDLINE is awesome!” crowd) don’t like, they changed the definition to only include sexually-charged content.

  4. Great write up as usual.

    And of course I’ve seen many shows where the fanservice couldn’t help the weak directing (like Sky Girls).

    I never ever had a problem with fanservice like many in the western fandom community have.

    And it’s not because the influx of female fans. It’s the old timey (or wannabe old timey) fans that want to act all chaste and nobel which is why Miyazaki is so pushed by those types.

    But at the same time, they can’t see the difference between a show like Strike Witches and K-On (both excellent shows, just difference approaches to fanservice).

    1. Ikkitousen would be an example of a show the couldn’t be saved by fanservice for me. They tried to make all serious and it did have a plot to it but it was poorly executed.

  5. It is not about distraction, old anime fans or the bible. It is about anime becoming popular and the individual or so called otaku has changed. No longer is it the typical stereotype otaku watching anime, it is individuals from diverse backgrounds. With this diversity has to come change. Anime is now mainstream which means the audience wants something more acceptable to the social masses. High School of the Dead is a great example of an anime ruined by fan service. The plot cannot be taken seriously after episode 6 period. If you were watching a movie like this you would classify it as a Roger Corman trashy B flick. This is where the dislike for fan service arises. The mainstream anime fan wants great plots and quality production not trashy B movies. It may have been cool years ago but if anybody wants so called fan service it is free all over the Internet and no longer needs to be animated. Give me a great story with strong animation, production and great direction along with that style only anime can pull off and that in my opinion is a must own anime. Stay classy anime!

    1. Your point of view is ignorant.

      You’re looking at this from the perspective of a Western anime fan, and there’s no way that’s going to work.

      Realize that 1: Anime is not a mainstream thing here, nor was it ever, and that 2: Anime is not a mainstream thing over in Japan, where it actually matters. And if anime becoming “mainstream” means we have to get rid of fanservice, then I don’t want anime to become mainstream.

      On the subject of Highschool of the Dead specifically, it’s supposed to be a trashy B movie. A grindhouse film, to be exact. If you were taking the “plot” seriously (As seriously as you can take the same zombie shit we’ve been force-fed for the last 5-10 years, just in anime form), then you’re looking at it the wrong way.

      I’m sorry, anime doesn’t need to be 100% serious storytelling. Why do you need to turn anime into the no-fun zone?

  6. The only thing I may be ignorant about is Japan. I am however not ignorant about America and why fan service is looked at poorly. High School of the Dead is a “B” movie which is why I made that point. With that much T&A how can it be taken seriously. The tragedy of what befell them no longer matters. It is now all about how extreme the creator can take it next. You said it best, it is very reminiscent of a Grindhouse film, and none of those were ever quality. Quality is what the new anime fan is wanting. I am not saying stop making animes of all types, but quit mixing genres and start developing anime targeted at the appropriate audience. I do not need ecchi in my animes, but if you are a fan of that watch it, just don’t assume everyone needs it to make them appreciate a story. Elfin Lied is a fine example of a great premise with a strong story, but again we have to have a bath tub scene. Why? Why not just leave it out. Will it ruin the story or its impact if these scenes are removed? The answer is a simple no. Great movies do not resort to fan service to tell a story and in my opinion anime is a great medium to do the same. What separates anime from being the same is anime sometimes cheapens itself in the middle of something extraordinary and instead of greatness it settles for mediocrity.

    1. The “appropriate” audience? You don’t seem to understand that we here in the West are lucky we even get the anime we do get.

      Japan creates anime for their audience. It’s a Japanese cultural product. Sure, Americans might not like fanservice, but that doesn’t matter. Americans aren’t the intended audience for most anime. You need to understand that the current primary audience for anime is the otaku fanbase in Japan, and they enjoy fanservice, so you’re going to see fanservice anime.

      I’m sorry if that’s a harsh reality for you, but that’s the way things are, and the anime industry doesn’t have to conform to your narrow, ignorant, uninformed views of what anime should be.

  7. Fanservice is nothing new in anime and sex is definitely not something new in anime. If you follow anime’s roots you’ll find that risque material goes back to the 60’s. And a lot of directors came from the pink film industry. Why fanservice seems so prevalent today is because of how much attention people give it. As Anubis stated, anime is targeted towards Japanese Otaku and America has proven that it really doesn’t care about anime. Also not every anime is going to be like Morbito, Ristorante Paradiso, Death Note, or the Miyazaki films.

  8. Timeenforceranubis quote:”I’m sorry if that’s a harsh reality for you, but that’s the way things are, and the anime industry doesn’t have to conform to your narrow, ignorant, uninformed views of what anime should be.”

    Not much venom in that statement…. TEA these are simply my points of view very similar to your point of view in this article. Why did you write the article? You act as if my comments are new ones. It is a common complaint by the West and one you seem to be clearly opposed of. Never in my comments have I called for anime to conform to my….how did you put it…”narrow, ignorant, uninformed views of what anime should be.” I believe all types of anime should be made for all types of interests. Anime is an awesome medium for story telling because it can do so many things movies cannot. I would never want anime to conform to my sole needs. Howver, America’s spending habits, if tailored to more, could bring increased funding to the anime industry. With increased demand comes increased supply. So this so called “narrow” minded approach is far more vast in scope than you give me credit for. The only one being narrow minded is the anime industry not maximizing untapped capital for the industry.

    TsukuyomiMagi99 quote: “Also not every anime is going to be like Morbito, Ristorante Paradiso, Death Note, or the Miyazaki films.”

    True and I will state again I do not ever want all anime to be the same. However, the animes you reference further solidifies my point that an anime without fan service becomes serious, a piece of art, unlike anything ever seem in the world and never settles to cheapen itself. Some of those on your list are regarded by many as some of the greatest animes of all time.

  9. The problem with catering anime to the west is that anime becomes too heavily localized and becomes heavily edited to conform to American sensibilities. 4Kids is the master of that and if you don’t believe me look at America’s most successful mainstream anime Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Robotech, and the Dragonball Z series. All have been heavily edited and localized to conform to American standards. Something like Evangelion or Fate Stay Night maybe popular among American Otaku but they don’t sell towards the mainstream that well.

    My point is that Anime here is still niche and the only cartoons that do well here are usually cartoons that are family friendly or adult ones filled with gag humor or social satire. If Anime started conforming to those standards I would never associate myself with anime again. It wouldn’t be an artform anymore.

  10. Yes I totally agree I would never want it to conform to that level. It would no longer be unique. When I say conform to America I am referring to use of fan service. America is still a little behind the curve with nudity, while Europe is ahead and has it in their commmercials, but this would never be accepted in the states. It is acceptance I would like anime to target not overall conformity to the point anime is no longer recognizable. Still with this conforming the anime companies do not need to stop making fan service series they just need to create both and expand their market of interest. It makes everyone happy and with this comes a buzz. The more “acceptable” it becomes the more buzz it creates and with it demand. Too many companies fold in the anime world because profit margin is so low. I want this profit to increase so more and more companies survive, but this cannot happen if the sole target is the Japanese Otaku. Simply put if it is offensive to the masses, but not to the “niche” crowd or otaku, how does this promote sales? Fan service is starting to be offensive to Japan as well and they are trying to pass a a law regulating anime Bill 156. They say it is giving the world a misunderstanding of their culture. So mainstreaming anime may soon be the only alternative for us to have anime at all, but I hope this doesn’t happen. I hope they can correct the issue from within and give us sexual content when the audience asks for it and remove it when we don’t. It is not impossible to have the best of both worlds it is just the first step that is the hardest.

  11. They already do that with Titles like Steins Gate, Madoka, Fate/Zero, Dennou Coil, Ponyo, The New Prince of Tennis, Pandora’s Heart, Zakuro, Star Driver, Redline, Princess Jellyfish, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, and etc. The problem with most fans today is that they make broad sweeping generalizations without looking for the gems as they did in the past. Most people only remember the good that Japan did in the 80’s and 90’s but forget all the garbage they produced. Another point is that the shows I listed are contemporary works that contain little to no fanservice but the problem is that they didn’t sell all that well. While moe, ecchi,, and harem titles sold extremely well so while it isn’t a bad thing to diversify anime for everyone anime at the end of the day is a business product meant to make money. If that means less diversity then the big japanese executives don’t care. And you combine that with low sales overall of non fanservice titles this is what happens. Again anime has never been mainstream here and it won’t be because it is a representation of a foreign entertainment medium. As for Bill 156, that was just a reinforcement of a previous law to protect the youth of Japan. The law has had very little effect on the industry as a whole as there are plenty of fanservice shows still being made.

  12. Thanks for the intelligent discussion. I guess call me a contemporary anime fan then. I think or hope I have shed some light on the outlook of the anime fan that thinks fan service “distracting.” However, no matter how much one side dislikes fan service I believe TsukuyomiMagi99 you are right in stating the Japanese Otaku will always win in the end. The anti fan service anime fan will just have to live with the gratuitous cash cow of nudity, no matter how out of place it is in the story.

    Until next time cyberspace cowboy.

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