What is Fan Service (ファンサービス)?
Fan service or service cut (サービスカット) is a risque scene from popular Japanese media. It provides “service” to the viewers and has no bearing on the plot or character development. Its main purpose is to please fans in a lighthearted and mildly sexual way.
Fan services appear on Japanese manga, light novels, anime, film, and video games. The colloquial term for the risque moments in Japanese media is service kai (サービス回), which include moments like the clothes-changing scene, beach scene, hot spring scene, shower scene, bed scene, and any compromising scene. Scenes that exemplify the “moe” characteristics of a character could count as service kai.
The other meaning of fan service or fansa (ファンサ) is the act of pleasing fans. Celebrities, idols, and actors would shake hands with the fans, sign autographs on their merchandise or paper, perform spontaneous acts based on their roles, throw kisses during live performances and stages, and respond to the audience’s encore.
There are tons of series that utilize fan service. The intention lies from simple attention-grabbing to something profound and deep. Examples of Fan Service-filled series are Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tenchi Muyo!, Love Hina, Kill La Kill, Keijo!!!!!, Food Wars, Prison School, the Monogatari series, Fairy Tail, and Highschool of the Dead.
Fan service (ファンサービス) is a wasei-eigo, a Japanese-made word from English. The word means pleasing the audience with images not related to the series. These images could make the series more fun to follow.
A Brief History
Fan service existed before anime as old media featured the same idea. It grabbed the attention of readers and viewers by surprise. Some techniques include breaking the fourth wall and showing sexually suggestive scenes. In Japan, fan service was first used in sports like baseball, in which it has something to do with the baseball athletes and fans and the entertaining half-time shows.
One of the earliest mentions of fan service was in the late 1980s. Gainax was one of the few anime studios that showcased fan service on their works. Their classic series like Otaku no Video and Gunbuster popularized the term “Gainaxing” or “Gainax Bounce.” The animation technique involves the female breast jiggling in a gratuitous manner. The breast moves as if the female character is not wearing a supporting bra. This animation technique by Gainax became a trend in anime for the past decades. It was jovial, unrealistic, and defies physics, but it managed to catch the viewers’ attention.
Fan service, at first glance, could make bystanders and non-otaku uncomfortable. It creates the stereotype of “sex sells” in Japanese media. Blatant showing of skin is distracting to the series’ plot. It may successfully attract the attention of viewers, but it may promote the objectification of genders. Female characters are not the only ones objectified, but male characters as well. However, nudity does not equate with sexuality; it is the natural state of the body. The intention still lies with how the characters are presented. The audience can still enjoy fan service while disagreeing with the over-the-top sexualization of characters.
Fan service also does not necessarily mean showing sexy images to please fans. It can also mean inserting bonuses or Easter eggs on the Japanese media. Authors could insert a character from their different works. True fans can identify what the author wants to express. Other nonsensical examples includes references from other media, characters dancing, lascivious sakuga scenes, and whimsical imageries to make the series more fun.
サービスシーン, Pixiv Encyclopedia, https://dic.pixiv.net/a/サービスシーン, Retrieved 17 April, 2021.
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ファンサービス, Nico Nico Pedia, https://dic.nicovideo.jp/a/ファンサービス, Retrieved 17 April, 2021.
Fan service, Anime News Network, https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/lexicon.php?id=54, Retrieved 17 April, 2021.
“Fan Service.” Anime Mikomi, https://anime.mikomi.org/wiki/FanService, Retrieved 17 April, 2021.
Gainaxing, Know Your Meme, https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/subcultures/gainaxing, Retrieved 17 April, 2021.
D’Anastasio, Cecilia, Anime’s Fan Service Can Be A Minefield, Kotaku, https://www.kotaku.com.au/2016/12/animes-fan-service-can-be-a-minefield/, 8 December 2016, Retrieved 17 April, 2021.
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