Fan service

Fan service (ファンサービス, fan sābisu), fanservice or service cut (サービスカット, sābisu katto),[1][2] is material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience,[3] often sexual in nature, such as nudity.[4][5] The term originated in Japanese[6][7] in the anime and manga fandom, but has been used in other languages and media. It is about "servicing" the fan[8] – giving the fans "exactly what they want."[9] Fan service can also refer (by means of text, symbol, image, sound) to other stories[3][10] that contain visual elements.

Wikipe-tan wearing a swimsuit, an example of typical "fan service".

When anime and manga are translated into English by U.S. companies, the original work is often edited to remove some of the fan service, making it more appropriate for U.S. audiences. Mike Tatsugawa explained this change as a result of a difference between cultural values of Japan and the U.S.[11][12] In fact, some anime have little more than fan service as their selling point.[13]


Direct and deliberate audience arousal, such as that seen through the literary tradition of ribaldry, is as old as fiction itself. Examples which can be found in early works include: meta-references where the work or audience is referenced within the work itself; homage or parody where the work references another work familiar to the audience; asides where a character in a work directly speaks to the audience; cameos where characters or persons familiar to the audience outside the work (such as the author, a celebrity, or a character from another story) make an appearance in the work for the audience's sake; and other examples of breaking the fourth wall to directly engage the audience. An ancient example can be found in Aristophanes' comedy The Frogs where two characters speak in the underworld:

Dionysus: But tell me, did you see the parricides / And perjured folk he mentioned?
Xanthias: Didn't you?
Dionysus: Poseidon, yes. Why look! (points to the audience) I see them now.

These nods to the presence of the audience not only acknowledge the narration, but invite the audience to become a co-creator in the fiction.[14]

Unnecessary sexual arousal has also been a common feature of entertainment throughout history, but when it serves to enhance the work itself and when it could be simply be called "fan service" is debatable. Since the 1950s, professional sports, especially American football, have used cheerleaders to entertain the audience. These are typically scantily-clad women who dance and perform for the arousal of the fans. These, along with mascots, musical performances and halftime shows, are commonly known as "fan service" in Japanese sports, although the term is less commonly applied to sports in the US.

In cinema, external factors of fandom such as societal norms and celebrity status can often affect a work of fiction. The 1952 French film Manina, la fille sans voiles (Manina, the Girl Without Sails) was not imported into the United States until 1958 after the success of the film's star, Brigitte Bardot, in that country. In the US, the film was renamed "Manina, the Girl in the Bikini" to highlight the appeal of the star and her revealing outfit (then a matter of controversy), despite her not appearing in the first 40 minutes of the 76 minute film.[15] In the United States, from 1934 to 1954, cinema was limited by the Hays Code in what it deemed appropriate to show audiences. In spite of this, foreign imported films and exploitation films specialized in providing sexual and taboo content which audiences were unable to view on television or in approved films.

Keith Russell regards the beginning of modern fan service as taking place in a permissive context, when "kids were just doing kids' stuff", which he believes allowed authors some latitude in regards to their subject matter.[16] Beginning in the 1970s with Cutey Honey and continuing later with other magical girl shows, fan service in manga became more risqué. By the 1980s, full frontal nudity and shower scenes became standard content for anime and manga fan service.[5][17] In the West, obscenity laws and rating systems (such as the Comics Code Authority in the United States or the MPAA rating system, which replaced the Hays Code for film ratings) prevent or limit unnecessary displays of nudity in films and comic books. However, bikini shots and topless scenes were still popular forms of audience arousal. In the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, Carrie Fisher portrayed the character of Princess Leia wearing a metal bikini and chains while enslaved to the gangster Jabba the Hutt. The motivation for this change in her character (previously portrayed in the series as a strong, empowered leader) to a seemingly vulnerable sex symbol was an attempt to feminize the character and appeal to boys' fantasies.[18][19] Some critics point out, however, that by portraying Leia as the object of desire to a crude monster, the film is reflecting the crude fantasies of its audience.[20]

In 1991, Marvel Comics began publishing a special series catering to fan service, Marvel Swimsuit Specials, which features both male and female characters in swimsuits and skimpy clothing. In the same year, Marvel released a Sensational She-Hulk issue wherein the title character wears a bikini and jumps rope nude (blur lines cover any displays of nudity).

Although the concepts had been used previously, the term itself "fan service" (ファンサービス, fan sābisu) most likely originated in the late 1980s to describe such scenes in anime and manga.[21] The term is used in the 1991 film Otaku no Video.

Later, excessive fan service content came to be considered unnecessary regardless of its justification in relation to the narrative in which it takes place.[2][22] In Neon Genesis Evangelion, director Hideaki Anno had initially promised that every episode would give "something for the fans to drool over," but later began removing the fan service imagery in later episodes. Later episodes that did contain fan service elements juxtaposed them with imagery of the character in some kind of emotional trauma. Since then, fan service rarely contains full nudity.[17]

In modern anime, fan service has often been received with varied reviews.[vague]


Long shots of robots in mecha shows, sexual elements, violent episode-long fight scenes and emphasis on shipping can all be considered fan service as they are specifically aimed at pleasing the fans of any given show.[5][4] Christian McCrea feels that Gainax is particularly good at addressing otaku through fan service by adding many "meta-references" and by showing "violence and hyperphysical activity".[23] Baseball teams provide events which are described in Japan as fan service, such as dance shows, singing the team song or a performance by the team mascot.[24]

The typical, but not only, variety of fan service in anime or manga is racy, sexual or erotic content, such as nudity and other forms of eye candy[5][4] (for example, sexy maid costumes). Fan service is especially common in shounen manga (aimed at boys). In shounen manga, pin-up girl style images are common "in varying states of undress", often using an "accidental exposure" excuse to show a favourite female character[25] or an upskirt "glimpse of a character's panties".[26] Series aimed at an older audience include more explicit fan service.[25] Jiggling breasts, known as the "Gainax bounce", are an example of fan service,[27] created as a way to make a scene of the Daicon IV opening video a bit more "H". The "bounce" was taken up by other animators, including the creators of the hentai series Cream Lemon.[28] Shower scenes[4] are very common in movies and in anime of the 1980s and 1990s, whereas many more recent TV series use trips to onsen (Japanese hot springs) or trips to tropical locales (or in some cases a swimming pool) in order to showcase the characters in bathing suits. Series aimed at males can also include fan service for women, as an attempt to court a wider audience.[29]

Keith Russell defines fan service as "the random and gratuitous display of a series of anticipated gestures common in Manga and Anime. These gestures include such things as panty shots, leg spreads and glimpses of breast". Russell regards fan service as being an aesthetic of the transient "glimpse", which he contrasts with the gaze, as it takes the mind unaware and open to "libidinous possibility" without mediation. He considers the fan service object to be reassuring in its unrealistic nature and to be confirming the "freedom of desire".[16]

Shoujo manga, aimed at female readers, also includes fan service, such as showing male characters "half-naked and in enticing poses". Robin Brenner notes that in the US comics culture, fan service aimed at women is rare, and also that in Japan, series can be famous for their fan service content.[25] Chris Beveridge explains this mindset with Agent Aika: "There's some sort of plot in there, but that's not the reason you're watching it. ... we're watching this for the sheer amount of fanservice."[30] Male homoeroticism, such as accidental kisses, is a common feature of fan service for women and has been described as "easier to get away with" in terms of censorship than fan service for males.[31] In the Boys' Love genre, fan service is "artwork or scenes" in products that "depict canonical characters in a homosocial / homoerotic context".[32] Shoujo manga series may eroticise its female leads as well for crossover appeal, as fan service aimed at a potential male audience.[33]

Brenner notes that fan service can be offputting to teen readers, as in a male reading shoujo manga or a female reading shounen manga and that in general fan service is more criticised when it features a female character. She cites Tenjo Tenge as an example of a fan service-laden series. When the series was localised, a large amount of this fan service was removed, leading to outcry from fans.[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Example: 吉田陽一, ed. (25 June 1999). Encyclopedia Cutie Honey: Go Nagai World (エンサイクロペディアキューティーハニー : 永井豪ワールド). Nakano, Tokyo: Keibunsha. p. 028. ISBN 978-4-7669-3236-2. A frame (numbered "25") from the English opening sequence of New Cutie Honey, in which character Danbei Hayami fires a Rocket Punch as main character Honey Kisaragi lies topless and prone in the background, is shown and captioned "サービスカット! 団兵衛がジャマ......"
  2. ^ a b Barrett, Grant (2006). "fan service". The official dictionary of unofficial English: a crunk omnibus for thrillionaires and bampots for the Ecozoic Age. New York City: McGraw-Hill. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-07-145804-7. OCLC 62172930. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  3. ^ a b de la Ville, Valérie-Inés; Durup, Laurent (2009). "Achieving a Global Reach on Children's Cultural Markets: Managing the Stakes of Inter-Textuality in Digital Cultures". In Willett, Rebekah; Robinson, Muriel; Marsh, Jackie (eds.). Play, creativity and digital cultures. Routledge. pp. 45–47. ISBN 978-0-415-96311-4.
  4. ^ a b c d Harcoff, Pete (23 May 2003). "Fan Service". Anime Glossary. The Anime Critic. Archived from the original on 19 February 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2009.[self-published source?]
  5. ^ a b c d "Fan Service". Animetion's Glossary. Animetion. Retrieved 15 June 2009.[self-published source?]
  6. ^ "ファンサービスとは (ファンサービスとは) [単語記事] - ニコニコ大百科". ニコニコ大百科 (in Japanese). Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Fan Service and Fanservice - Meaning in Japanese". Japanese with Anime. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  8. ^ Carrie Tucker (17 January 2009). I Love Geeks: The Official Handbook. Adams Media. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-1-60550-023-2. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  9. ^ Wolk, Douglas (2007). Reading comics : and what they mean. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-306-81509-6. Retrieved 22 April 2011. fan service.
  10. ^ "Encyclopedia: Fan service". Anime News Network. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  11. ^ Poitras, Gilles (1 December 2000). Anime Essentials: Every Thing a Fan Needs to Know. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-53-1.[page needed]
  12. ^ Gardiner, Debbi (January 2003). "Anime in America". J@pan Inc Magazine. Japan Inc Communications. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  13. ^ Santos, Carlo (26 January 2005). "2004 Year in Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  14. ^ "Metanarration and Metafiction". Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, University of Hamburg. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  15. ^ Richard W. Nason (25 October 1958). "MOVIE REVIEW Manina la Fille Sans Voile 1952 Girl in the Bikini". Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  16. ^ a b Russell, Keith (2008). "The Glimpse and Fan Service: New Media, New Aesthetics". The International Journal of the Humanities. 6 (5): 105–110. doi:10.18848/1447-9508/CGP/v06i05/42444. hdl:1959.13/38651. ISSN 1447-9508. Archived from the original on 31 August 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  17. ^ a b Galbraith, Patrick W. (2009). The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider's Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan. United States: Kodansha. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-4-7700-3101-3.
  18. ^ Noah Berlatsky (5 November 2015). "The 'slave Leia' controversy is about more than objectification". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  19. ^ Emmet Asher-Perrin (25 October 2013). "Carrie Fisher's Sound Thoughts on Princess Leia in 1983". Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  20. ^ Alyssa Rosenberg (23 October 2015). "The fraught history of Princess Leia's infamous bikini". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  21. ^ "Fan Service". Anime Mikomi. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  22. ^ Nakayama, Whitney (21 December 2004). "Fan Service". Anime Glossary. G4 Media. Archived from the original on 19 May 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  23. ^ McCrea, C. (2008). "Explosive, Expulsive, Extraordinary: The Dimensional Excess of Animated Bodies". Animation. 3: 9–24. doi:10.1177/1746847708088732. S2CID 192025106.
  24. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 February 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ a b c d Brenner, Robin E. (2007). "Fan Service". Understanding Manga and Anime. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited. pp. 88–92. ISBN 978-1-59158-332-5. OCLC 85898238. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  26. ^ Drazen, Patrick (October 2002). "Plastic Little: Not What You Think" in Anime Explosion! The What, Why & Wow of Japanese Animation Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press p.329 ISBN 1-880656-72-8.
  27. ^ "Media : Top o Nerae : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Fanservice Friday: A Girl's (G)Fantasy - Manga Bookshelf". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ Thompson, Jason (July 31, 2006) Boku no Shonen Ai (or "Jason overanalyzes something and takes all the fun out of it") archive
  32. ^ Levi, Antonia; McHarry, Mark; Pagliassotti, Dru (30 April 2010). Boys' Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre. ISBN 978-0-7864-4195-2.
  33. ^ Lamarre, Thomas (2006). "Platonic Sex: Perversion and Shôjo Anime (Part One)" (PDF). Animation. 1 (1): 45–59. doi:10.1177/1746847706065841. S2CID 193228688. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2020.

Further readingEdit