Fan Service Stunts the Growth of Anime
Fan service, it exists as a way for creators to pander to their audience, forcing a series of sexual scenes into their work. These sequences are typically sexist, misogynistic, and hinder the growth of anime as a medium.
It's normal for someone to enjoy their fair share of sexually suggestive anime. Similar to pornography, there's nothing wrong with indulging in something that's meant to satisfy a natural human urge. This is where the ecchi genre comes in, existing as a less sexual, high-budget alternative to regular pornography. While the creation of this genre may sound unproblematic, the reality is far more troublesome.
When studios realized how much money the ecchi genre was bringing in, they had no reason to stop. To make matters worse, creators figured they could sneak the tropes of the genre into their more serious works for the sake of building up a larger audience.
Now, we're subjected to a seasonal line-up full of effortless, generic, and sexist fan service anime. Ecchi has evolved far beyond an alternative to pornography. The genre’s consumption of the anime industry has made it difficult to watch anything without having boobs and butts thrown in your face.
It should be made clear that there's a huge difference between the repetitive fan service of modern anime and a natural, sexual theme. One issue has to do with how a series portrays its characters. It's no coincidence that almost all ecchis are full of brain-dead women being treated like nothing more than a walking pair of breasts. Popular anime like High School DxD portray this most appropriately, where every character is naked half of the time, and each interaction and conversation is sexualized to appease the ecchi demographic.
These problems aren't a rare occurrence in anime, either. A huge chunk of seasonals display these tropes, where they objectify every female character for their fanbase.
However, some shows do incorporate nudity and sexuality in more appropriate ways. To properly do this, a writer has to develop their characters first. There's nothing more important than creating a convincing character that the audience can actually become invested in. This is because there's nothing interesting about a walking sex toy. That's what modern anime consists of, walking objects that speak. If only genuine characters were what's necessary for a show to have intriguing sexual themes, but it seems the average fan is more than okay with the walking sex toy.
A huge problem here is not the creators, it's the audience. Sure, the writers, artists, and directors are the ones actually responsible, but there's a lot more to the ecchi genre than one might think. In 2016, AnimeNewsNetwork reported that more than half of young animators can't support themselves financially, and nearly forty percent live with their families. Studios can barely survive, unable to pay their workers livable wages. It's not hard to imagine that these companies would do anything necessary to bring in a larger audience. This begs the question, what does the average fan want to see? Mindless fan service, and nothing more.
One example was the downfall of Artland, a studio well known for creating beloved series' like Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Mushishi. The company was having financial trouble, listed with 298 million yen in debt at the end of 2016. Six months later, the studio shut down, filing for bankruptcy. Their final anime, Seven Mortal Sins, was strongly disliked by a large chunk of the anime community. Unsurprisingly, it was a jarringly sexual ecchi, one that's known for some of the most overwhelming fan service in the medium.
The more worrisome issue is when the fan service infects the anime that are meant to be serious. In hindsight, having a series meant solely for the sake of appeasing ecchi fans isn't a big deal. However, when a show that actually tries to invest the viewer with characters and a story pulls the same gimmicks, things get obnoxious.
Similar to what was stated earlier, there's a difference between mindless fan service and sexual themes. This is an especially huge factor when the series aims for quality. An example of this is best illustrated in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, a nice, cute, and fun series meant to warm the heart. That's until its obsession with breasts and a creepy portrayal of children ruins it.
Sexual misplacement creates such a huge conflict with the viewer. Someone who genuinely loves what this series does can't help but be put off by these scenes. Thankfully, it only happened a few times during the show, but even then, it's still incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
A huge part of this has to do with its relevance to the genre. If you're creating a show about teenage angst, it's no surprise that it will be full of sexual themes. However, when you create something that's meant to be heartwarming and soothing to the soul, sexual themes seem out of place.
Another problem has to do with execution. Most anime have their characters react to sexual scenes in some of the most bizarre ways. For example, there's a scene in Shakugan no Shana where the female protagonist, Shana, is suddenly found in the male protagonist's bed in her underwear. Apparently, she climbed into his bed without realizing it, and when she wakes up, she blushes, pointing her sword at him, screaming at the top of her lungs.
What's even more jarring about this is how Shana is portrayed throughout the whole anime. She's supposed to be a cold, mature badass, and yet the writer was willing to betray her character entirely for the sake of a sexual scene.
In the same anime, there's a scene where Shana has to change her clothes so the male protagonist hides in a closet in respect of her privacy. As soon as Shana removes all of her clothing, the closet door breaks, having him rolling out onto the floor. Who thinks of this stuff?
However, there are ways to appease this demographic without being obnoxious. In the Monogatari Series, there's a scene where one of the female characters, Karen, comes home from her daily running. She tells her brother, Koyomi, that she's going to take a bath. This scene shows Karen removing her clothes as she has a conversation with her brother, but her brother doesn't react to her being naked. The two continue to talk normally as the director focuses attention on Karen removing her clothing.
While this may still be annoying to some viewers, it's certainly the more mature alternative. Most anime would have the brother blush, super embarrassed by her sisters naked body. Then, the two would probably proceed in a conversation about how large her breasts are or something ridiculous along those lines.
Instead, the ecchi demographic is satisfied without risking the integrity and accuracy of Karen's character. The creators of Shakugan no Shana were willing to destroy Shana's character for the sake of appeasing the audience, while the Monogatari Series had a better alternative.
It's Destroying Anime
Most importantly, the ecchi genre is ruining anime. New fans of the anime medium will be put off if the first thing they see is nothing but lifeless objectification. Not only that, but female viewers will easily learn to hate it. No one would become a fan of something if they're constantly being portrayed in such awful ways. Additionally, these tropes are normalizing sexist objectification. While the ecchi genre may not seem like a big deal, it's the reason why anime is having so much trouble becoming a respected medium.
In the end, it's no surprise that anime has such a bad reputation when it's currently plagued by ecchi. If anyone expects the medium to be taken seriously, a lot of work needs to be done to refine it. The underlying problem is that most fans would feel no need for it to change. They're satisfied with a plethora of seasonal ecchi and harem anime, regardless of how mindless, sexist, and offensive they are.