Fan Service and the Newbie: Introducing Your Significant Other to Anime

Kill la Kill

So, you’re getting ready to sit down and binge watch your Otaku nuts off. You’ve got your snacks, your drink, and an intense need for that sweet, sweet anime goodness. You take your time choosing, browse through your favorite site’s enormous list of choices, and finally you see it, Highschool of the Dead. One of your favorites, it’s perfect! You lean back, click play, and prepare your mind to be teleported into a world of action and mayhem.

There’s just one problem; your girlfriend of a few months is sitting on the couch next to you looking forward to experiencing and sharing in one of your favorite hobbies. She’s geared up and ready for an evening filled with good old-fashioned zombie bloodshed completely unaware of what’s to come. Before the opening theme song is even over, the eager smile on her face is gone. Her desire to watch anime is all but obliterated, and you have officially leap frogged your way to the tippy top of the pervert scale. You are now a “hentai.”


Highschool DxD

Let’s talk about what went wrong here. After years and years of scarfing down everything Japan can throw at you, you’ve become unfazed, often indifferent, towards the sheer amount and lewd nature of fan service that many anime employ. After all, fan service is prevalent in more than a few of the anime that you know and love. The near mandatory beach trip, the sudden excursion to the hot spring, the pervasive amount of harems and accidental towel drops. And let’s not forget the token ‘underdeveloped’ girls placed in way too many suggestive situations. These anime tropes are as common as presenting protagonists undergoing rigorous training and fighting battles in order to become stronger.


Highschool of the Dead

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying anime with heavy fan service. To many of us, myself included, the fan service in a show doesn’t always detract from the quality of the plot and character development, nor does it deceive me into thinking a dumpster fire is anything but. You’re not a bad person or immoral for watching shows that bombard you with gigantic, bouncing bazoongas at every turn; but you do need to understand the target audience of those shows and how they may appear to other people. While shows such as Highschool of the Dead, Kill la Kill, and Highschool DxD may be anime favorites, not everyone, male or female, is comfortable with the amount of fan service and sexual situations they present; especially those unfamiliar with anime.


So, the next time you’re sitting down with someone new to the world of anime, before you choose that one show you love or are dying to watch, take a second to think about the content and remember that your comfort level with fan service may not be the same as the person's next to you. There are many types of anime, all with varying degrees of fan service and sexual innuendo. For those that wish to avoid fan service when introducing someone to anime, you could try one of these fantastic anime:


Steins;Gate



Based on the science fiction visual novel video game of the same title, Steins;Gate follows self-proclaimed mad scientist Hououin Kyouma and his ‘research team’ or friends as they take on the powerful global organization CERN after accidentally creating a device that is capable of sending messages across time. Steins;Gate tackles the common theme of time travel with unique and interesting characters and a brilliant and engaging plot. It’s humorous, it’s insightful, it uses bananas in a way you’re not expecting. The dynamic between the characters and the development of their relationships leaves you feeling entertained and wanting more throughout the entire series, especially towards the end. What begins as a lighthearted comedy between an outcast group of mostly intellectual wannabes spirals into a thrilling tale of like-minded individuals fighting against an unimaginably powerful corporation bent on controlling time itself. The series starts out slowly, a chance encounter, a strange text message, and a whole lot of "just hang in there." Nonetheless, the last few episodes tie it all together and are guaranteed to have you fully engaged and on the edge of your seat.


Psycho Pass



This cyberpunk anime is based in a dystopian future where every person’s mental state is constantly monitored by a public system, the Sybil System, in order to determine their potential for criminal activity. The show follows Inspector Akane Tsunemori just after she begins her career with the Public Safety Bureau. Her job is to work in conjunction with a group of ‘latent criminals,’ dubbed Enforcers, already judged and deemed unfit to be a part of regular society. She leads this group on missions to apprehend active and potential criminals found by the system. Shinya Kogami, an Enforcer and ex-detective under the command of Akane, provides necessary nudges for the wide-eyed Akane to understand how the Sybil System works and the actions it requires you to take. Through his own obsession with a criminal he is desperately trying to catch, Shinya challenges the status quo; meanwhile, Akane, having already found herself doubting the system after the very first episode, doubts not only her decision to join the Public Safety Bureau, but also the Sibyl System’s seemingly be all, end all judgements. The challenges the two main protagonists go through to take down a villain that cannot be judged a criminal no matter what he does force the pair to uncover the truth behind the system and the methods employed to maintain a public status quo. The revelations that follow have the potential to shake the foundations of their society to its very core; that is, if Sibyl doesn’t prevent them from getting out.


Space Dandy



Let’s crank it up a little bit and get to an anime that definitely uses the elements of fan service, I’m talking to all the patrons of the premier intergalactic restaurant BooBies here. Of course, I’m talking about the one and only Space Dandy, Baby! Space Dandy’s genius lies in using fan service in a humorous way that doesn’t make you feel dirty and confused.


A colorful and psychedelic trip to nowhere, Space Dandy follows a rag-tag team of unlikely comrades as they traverse the universe looking for new species of aliens. Their goal, however, is not to expand mankind’s knowledge about what lies beyond; instead, these bad boys are only it in it for the cold, hard cash. The main protagonist, Dandy, is a supremely confident, albeit he has no reason to be, individual that operates under a, to put it in his words, “who cares, baby” mentality. Dandy and his crew search far and wide for their next paycheck completely oblivious to the fact they are constantly pursued by an evil organization hell-bent on killing Dandy. A clone of Spike Spiegel gone wrong, Dandy only wants one thing in life, BooBies, an intergalactic version of Hooters that caters to a variety of different species, humans included. And while his time at the restaurant, and his constant and nonstop desire to go to BooBies, definitely seems like fan service, it does not follow the standard trend.


This is as graphic as it gets in Space Dandy

The characters that work at BooBies, while referenced and common, are in no way main characters. Their risqué appearance is not out of the ordinary contextually and is not awkwardly forced for the sake of the audience. These characters can be seen as a necessary function to further the story rather than as an out-of-place peep show. The show also doesn’t employ small teenage girls or create incestuous storylines, which is a plus for the inexperienced anime viewer. Space Dandy doesn’t take itself too seriously and provides its audience with a fantastical adventure into the known, and unknown, universe that is just plain fun.


The goal here is not to besmirch fan service; after all, it is a characteristic of anime that both draws and maintains viewers while spicing up what can sometimes be slow storylines. The intent, rather, is to make sure potential anime fans are not discouraged from delving into the genre because of misunderstandings surrounding fan service. Even something as simple as informing new viewers of the fan service to come can drastically alter how they interpret and react to what many consider ostentatious imagery. Consequently, while there are thousands of amazing anime out there with brand new worlds to discover and adventures to be had, be careful not to turn someone off anime before they ever really get a chance to enjoy it.


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