fanservice: (n) service for the fans

Dear Readers,

I am getting tired of trying to explain fanservice to people these days. It’s a losing battle. Fanservice was a term originally created to mean that the creators were pandering to the fans, and it very well applies to all aspects of media and not just anime. It doesn’t just mean nakkidness, and fanservice in a general sense refers to anything superfluous to the plot lovingly put into the show to please the fans. It is, after all, service for the fans.

The most braindead way, of course, is to introduce nakkidness, but it doesn’t mean that other ways do not exist. Take the long spewings of mecha for the hardcore fans such as all those money shots for Strike Freedom and Destiny. They struck a pose more often for Strike Freedom than for Meer (though, this probably explains that show’s general problem). Another example would be the SDF transformation sequence to Macross. Superfluous to the plot, but wonderfully animated (especially compared to the rest of the show). It’s as vital to the plot of Macross as Nanoha’s 90 second transformation sequence is to Nanoha. Just because one of the transformation sequences lack underaged nakkidness, it doesn’t mean it’s not fanservice. Just a different kind.


Then there’s fanservice in terms of in jokes like Hanaukyo 5 when Mariel dresses up as Chii (they are both voiced by Rie Tanaka), and Taro dresses up as Mahoro. Superfluous to the plot, but they are very nice in jokes for the people who understand them. That’s fanservice. Then there’s when Dokkoida starts playing “Thirteen Sisters” (which actually had something to do with the plot), and, at the very end, they snuck in Inoue Kikuko saying, “Priority number one.” Absolutely nothing to the with the plot, but it’s pure genius for people who have watched both Dokkoida and Please Teacher. As Misato would say, “Service, service!”

And then there’s fanservice that pander to specific fetishes… like… oh, meido or nekomimi or the elusive nekomimi meido. True that a meido wearing only the bonnet is fanservice, but it doesn’t mean that a fully dressed meido can’t be moe and fanservice as well.

Nekomimi meido = fanservice, even when fully clothed

The otaku crowd (with perpetuation from various internet sites that only use the ecchi version of fanservice to lure visitors to ads) pushed fanservice to mean anime nakkidness or at least hint of nakkidness with lots of cleavage and panties. Well, yes, watching Tessa slip at the hotsprings is fanservice, but it doesn’t mean that Peter Jackson getting impaled by an arrow in Return of the King isn’t fanservice either. Both mean little to nothing to the plot. Both were services to the hardcore fans. Tessa nakkidness for most; others laughed seeing Peter Jackson do his death spiral. Nakkidness is undeniably the main force of fanservice today, but then what would be the difference be from fanservice and ecchi? Fanservice has usually always been meant to be a more general term and encompass other ways to service the fans beyond a wardrobe malfunction or a hot springs episode.

Going around the web via Google, here’s how others define fanservice to be:

Urban Dictionary:

In general, fan service refers to scenes designed to excite or titillate the viewer. This can include scantily-clad outfits, cleavage shots, panty shots, nude scenes (shower scenes especially), etc. Some broader definitions also include things like cool mecha, big explosions, battle scenes, etc. Basically, if it has little plot-redeaming [sic] value, but makes the viewer sit up and take notice, it’s probably fan service in one form or another.


Fan service (Japanese simply “saabisu”, “service”), sometimes written as a single word, fanservice, is a vaguely defined term used in visual media — particularly in anime fandom —to refer to elements in a story that are superfluous to a storyline, but designed to amuse or excite the audience. The term is sometimes derogatory when used in criticism of clumsy, pandering use of visual fashions, or if the stories lack substance, such that fashions are the only thing notable about a series.

Tonakia Anime and Manga:

fanservice term for the inclusion and/or overuse of certain story elements that aren’t needed for the advancement of the story. Usually referring to sexual contents like panties, glimpses of nudity and so on, but can also be used for other elements, such as violence.

Mu Epsilon Kappa:

‘Fan service’ is any gratuitous shots of the human anotomy [sic] in a show that does not contribute or further the plot. For example, the usually female character being unclothed or close to is shown in a variety of ways to show off the physical attractiveness of the character; including shower scenes, full body pans of the character in a skintight outfit, panty shots, bondage shots, etc.
It must be noted that fan service can be cross gender, male characters are often given the same treatment in shows meant primarily for female veiwers.

AnimeNation Forums:

Any gratuoitous scene done for the “fans”, which include,but not limited to, pantyshots, unessecary fighting sequences or action segment, cameo by studio-related charater, obligatory moe character, obligatory “swimming” episode (to see the characters in swimwear), onsen sequence, sex scene (if not relying on subtlety), wierd backplot that ends in a massive epic story arc, gun or shooting sequences, explotions, etc.

Basically, anything that turns on the fans. [lots of sic]

So basically, it can mean everything from hardcore nakkidness like Elfen Lied to violence like Elfen Lied. But, even though I’m an stodgy old school fanboy, I’m more progressive when it comes to blogging, and I know when to give up my fights. What do you think is fanservice? Just ecchi? Is kawaii fanservice? Or can fanservice still be regarded in the general sense?



Or this?


Or this?


Or this?


Or this?


All? None of the above? Should I interpret in the strict sense, or the general sense? (Not asking for preference or favorite but how would you define fanservice.)

Your input will help determine what future fanservice holds for this blog.

Thank you,

4 Responses to “fanservice: (n) service for the fans”

  1. Well, I used to define fanservice as things involving clothes (e.g. nudity, hints of nudity, dressing up as other characters) but after this post I see that the real definition, of which I was unaware, makes a lot more sense. So, now I’d say all of the above photos fit.
    On a semi-related note, that second image is hilarious, even though I haven’t seen the series it comes from.

  2. Fanservice has always been a tough thing for me to define. I’d say everything you posted here is fanservice, save only the Gundam image. I’ll never be able to think of giant robots as fanservice, mainly because I don’t understand the mecha obsession. Don’t get me wrong—I like quite a few mecha shows, but not for the giant robots.

    As a bit of a side note…

    Answerman’s response on filler got me thinking. What do you consider a “filler” episode? For me, it’s an episode filled with fanservice or an episode that doesn’t significantly advance the plot of a series. I was surprised to learn (if Answerman was correct) that some people think of filler as a deviation from the manga storyline. o_O

  3. Interesting article Nunka. Off-topic, but “manhwa” is Mandarin for comic… so why does it refer to Korean art?

    Anyway, I consider “filler” to be episodes that kill time between plot points for a series with a continuous plot. For example, in DS9’s last two seasons, any episode not dealing directly with the Dominion War, I would consider filler (like the episode where they break into the casino). For anime, most people consider “filler” as a buffer when the anime gets even with the manga in terms of storyline, so it is most commonly used with shounen shows like One Piece and Naruto. For example, in One Piece, after Luffy returns from Skypedia, the anime was about where the manga is, so to let the manga get ahead, the anime started a few arcs (running into a marine base; everyone getting their memory stolen; etc) that weren’t in the manga to buy time. That’s what I consider “filler” to be.

    A lot of fanservice episodes aren’t really filler in that regard as they do appear in the manga. The beach trip in Mahoraba, for example, came directly from the manga (mostly). I think people nowadays consider filler to be pretty much anything not pertaining to the main task at hand, so for Luffy, any story that doesn’t bring him closer to the One Piece, that tar be filler there.

  4. >> Off-topic, but “manhwa” is Mandarin for comic… so why does it refer to Korean art?

    I’ll just link an ANN page again. :P

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