Fan service

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Not to be confused with Fan labor.
A character wearing a bathing suit is typical "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 a term originating from anime and manga fandom for material in a series which is intentionally added to please the audience.[3] It is about "servicing" the fan[4] – giving the fans "exactly what they want."[5] Fan service usually refers to "gratuitous titillation", but can also refer to intertextual references to other series.[3][6]


Keith Russell regards the beginning of 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.[7] Beginning in the 1970s with Cutey Honey, and continuing later with other magical girl shows, fan service became more risqué. By the 1980s full frontal nudity and shower scenes became standard content for fan service.[8][9] Later, Hideaki Anno who had promised Neon Genesis Evangelion would give "every episode...something for the fans to drool over" began removing the fan service imagery in later episodes. Those 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.[9] Excessive content is now usually considered gratuitous regardless of its justification in relation to the narrative in which it takes place.[2][10]


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.[11][8] 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".[12] 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.[13][14]

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[11][8] (for example, sexy maid costumes). Fan service is especially common in shonen manga (aimed at boys). In shonen 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,[15] or an upskirt "glimpse of a character's panties".[16] Series aimed at an older audience include more explicit fan service.[15] Jiggling breasts, known as the "Gainax bounce", are an example of fan service,[17] 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.[18] Shower scenes[11] are very common in movies and in anime of the 1980s and 1990s, while 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.[19]

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".[7]

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.[15] 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."[20] 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.[21] In the Boys Love genre, fan service is "artwork or scenes" in products that "depict canonical characters in a homosocial / homoerotic context".[22] Shoujo manga series may eroticise its female leads as well for crossover appeal, as fan service aimed at a potential male audience.[23]

Brenner notes that fan service can be offputting to teen readers, as in a male reading shoujo manga or a female reading shonen 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.[15]

Intertextual references are intended to be seen and understood by the fans, as a way for the creators of the show to acknowledge and engage the more knowledgeable members of the fan-base. Intertextual fan service is now being inserted into media aimed at younger children as well; this can be seen in Shrek 2‍ '​s upside-down kiss scene, which is a reference to an upside-down kiss scene in Spider-Man.[3]

In translation[edit]

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.[24][25] In fact, some anime seems to have little more than fan service as their selling point.[26] Some believe that the prevalence of fan service indicates a lack of maturity within the fandom; an editor of Del Rey Manga joked that manga Negima! Magister Negi Magi, which contained fan service, should be rated as "for immature readers 16+" rather than for "mature readers 16+".[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Example: 吉田陽一, ed. (June 25, 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 June 15, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c 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. Play, creativity and digital cultures. Routledge. pp. 45–47. ISBN 978-0-415-96311-4. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Wolk, Douglas (2007). Reading comics : and what they mean. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-306-81509-6. Retrieved 22 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Encyclopedia: Fan service". Anime News Network. Retrieved November 28, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Russell, Keith (2008). "The Glimpse and Fan Service: New Media, New Aesthetics". The International Journal of the Humanities 6 (5): 105–110. ISSN 1447-9508. Retrieved June 15, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c "Fan Service". Animetion's Glossary. Animetion. Retrieved June 15, 2009. [self-published source?]
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Nakayama, Whitney (December 21, 2004). "Fan Service". Anime Glossary. G4 Media. Archived from the original on May 19, 2007. Retrieved June 15, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b c Harcoff, Pete (May 23, 2003). "Fan Service". Anime Glossary. The Anime Critic. Retrieved June 15, 2009. [self-published source?]
  12. ^ McCrea, C. (2008). "Explosive, Expulsive, Extraordinary: The Dimensional Excess of Animated Bodies". Animation 3: 9–24. doi:10.1177/1746847708088732. 
  13. ^ Yoshino, K. (2011). "Happiness and heart rate response: A case of fan services at japanese professional baseball games". Natural Science 03 (3): 255–258. doi:10.4236/ns.2011.33032. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ 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 June 15, 2009. 
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Thompson, Jason (July 31, 2006) Boku no Shonen Ai (or "Jason overanalyzes something and takes all the fun out of it") archive
  22. ^ Levi, Antonia; McHarry, Mark; Pagliassotti, Dru (2010-04-30). "Boys' Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre". ISBN 978-0-7864-4195-2. 
  23. ^ Lamarre, Thomas (2006). "Platonic Sex: Perversion and Shôjo Anime (Part One)". Animation 1 (1): 45–59. doi:10.1177/1746847706065841. 
  24. ^ Poitras, Gilles (December 1, 2000). Anime Essentials: Every Thing a Fan Needs to Know. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-53-1. [page needed]
  25. ^ Gardiner, Debbi (January 2003). "Anime in America". J@pan Inc Magazine (Japan Inc Communications). Retrieved May 1, 2009. 
  26. ^ Santos, Carlo (January 26, 2005). "2004 Year in Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved May 1, 2009. 
  27. ^ O'Connell, Margaret. "San Diego Comic Con: The Manga Tsunami Multiplies". Sequential Tart. Retrieved April 29, 2009. 

Further reading[edit]