Ask John: Is There More Or Less Fan Service In Anime Now?

Question:
Is the demand for fan service higher than it was ten years ago, or is it now at an all time low?

Answer:
I think that a great deal of research and comparison would be necessary to draft a waterproof theory on the fluctuating amount of “fan service” contained in anime over the past decades. I’ll have to be irresponsible and offer a personal and unresearched answer based on recollection and impressions. Especially if we consider “fan service” in its broad definition as any sort of gratuitous “service” for fans, I think that the 1990s may be considered a low point in the presence of fan service in anime.

Anime of the 1980s are playfully characterized by the shower scene. Female nudity revealed during bathing scenes was virtually a standard of 80s anime. Furthermore, robot fan service was at a special height during the 1980s with the “robot boom” of mecha shows including Z Gundam, Dragonar, Dancougar, Dougram, Vifam, Xabungle, and many, many others. 80s anime was also frequently gratuitously and gleefully violent and gory. 80s anime may be broadly characterized as anime designed to give viewers the sensationalistic shocks and excitement they craved.

Perhaps in response to the excesses of the 1980s, during the 1990s anime seemed much more subdued. 1996 gave anime fans “service” like Bronze Zetsuai, Nadesico, Kakugo no Susume, and Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer – anime with bishonen yaoi, plenty of “otaku” parodies and gags, over-the-top ultra-violence, and gratuitous exploitation. But 1996 is also characterized by anime including Rurouni Kenshin, Kodomo no Omocha, Escaflowne, Hana Yori Dango, and the X movie, which didn’t make obvious efforts to feature gratuitous excesses designed just to appeal to hardcore fans.

But if the 90s were relatively light on excess fan service, the “moe” phenomenon erupted in the 2000s, coinciding with the tendency for popular PC dating simulation games to get anime adaptations. This year, in particular, has given fans shows filled with bishonen for girls to swoon over (Meine Liebe -wieder-, Gakuen Heaven, Angelique, Marginal Prince, Ouran High School Host Club, Yamato Nadesico Shichihenge); shows with big breasted, scantily clad, sexy girls for boys to fantasize about (Amaenaideyo!! Katsu, Papillon Rose New Season, Renkin San Kyu Magical? Pokaan, Witchblade, Zero no Tsukaima); shows with cross-dressing pretty boys (Princess Princess, Happiness); shows with overt lesbian themes (Simoun, Strawberry Panic, Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru), and shows with large casts of cute girls for every taste (Lovege Chu, Love Doll, Lemon Angel Project, Negima!?). In fact, the anime released this year seems especially heavily characterized by anime specifically designed around giving fans exactly what they want to see.

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