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Grant Watson over at The Angriest has started reviewing Izetta: The Last Witch, and his rant regarding the fanservice in episode 4 The Secret of the Witch is glorious to behold:

Then there’s this soft-core animated pornography, dropped onto the rest of the series like a bucket of turds through a ceiling fan.

I dropped Izetta around episode 3; I was already uncomfortable with the levels of fanservice, and the blatantly phallic imagery of Izetta riding that gun in a short dress and not much more. I had also, courtesy of anitwitter, heard about episode 4 and said “no, nope, not going there”.

Correctly as it turns out.

As most readers would know I’m not a big fan of fanservice at the best of times, particularly when it centres on underage characters, but there are some shows where it really will ruin the experience for me.

Izetta is a classic case in point: this was a show with a serious story to tell. An alternate history World War II with magic, and a strong princess in Finé that could easily have become one of my favourite characters. But whenever I was engaging with the story, there would be a cut that was quite simply gratuitous and it would throw me out of the story.

This sort of thing damages the willing suspension of disbelief, at least for me. In the current season the show that’s frustrating me the most on this front is Fuuka, which has hints of greatness brought down by gratuitous fanservice. If Fuuka keeps going the way it has been it will soon be dropped.

Now there are shows where fanservice can work as part of the plot, although it’s risky. See for example Dusk Maiden of Amnesia where it’s central to Yuuko’s characterisation[1]. Similarly there are shows like ef: a tale of memories where the mature content of the story almost demands a certain level of, well, exposure but handle it well enough for the fanservice label to be questionable.

On a much more sophisticated level you get shows like Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine where the nudity is essential to understanding Fujiko’s character. Fujiko Mine failed as a show for me for other reasons[2], but the nudity was handled sensitively and with great style.

At the other end of the spectrum you will get shows like Walkure Romanze or the more recent Keijo where fanservice is, to an extent, almost the entire point of the show. To be honest whilst I will cheerfully mock such shows[3], I don’t actually mind that they exist. There’s an audience for that, just as there’s an audience for moe[4], and there’s certainly enough shows being made to cater for all audiences.

No, the problem lies with the gratuitous insertion of fanservice into shows where it gets in the way of the story. Much as I adore Hibike! Euphonium, it does have its moments when I go “Really? Did you just go there?”[5] and it does throw me out of the story a bit.

There’s also a related problem for the casual anime viewer, and how easily this will turn people off. For example I often show friends stuff from CR or AnimeLab, and to be honest I have to be really careful about which shows I pick. It’s why I’ve never finished showing those friends Konosuba (because of episode 9[6]). It’s also why I probably won’t ever show them Danmachi, despite it having a worthwhile story.

Fanservice is a YMMV topic. I guess the point of this post is to clarify how I see it, and why I’ll try to call it out in my reviews when I’m uncomfortable with it, or when it really doesn’t fit the story being told.

Other than that, sound off in the comments if you have other examples of when it worked, or when it threw you out of a show.

Finally, thanks again to Grant for that glorious rant that inspired this post.

[1] Noting that, as I did when I reviewed Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, the level of fanservice adopted was likely to make a lot of viewers drop the series before the payoff. NB: The review is here and contains major spoilers.

[2] Mostly that it was a prequel with an “it was all a dream” copout ending.

[3] And in the case of Walkure Romanze did mock it. Twice. Although a lot of that was centered on the lethal stupidity of boob plates.

[4] I still want noses to come back though.

[5] See for example the station concert video in my final thoughts on Hibike! Euphonium S2, there’s a surprising amount of Gainaxing going on.

[6] I still shudder everytime I think about it.