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Fanservice Does Not Always Suck: An Analysis of Ecchi as an Art Form

likeyouveneverseen

It’s pretty hard to justify the existence of ecchi with one’s brain rather than with one’s groin, but I’m going to do my damned hardest here.

(Note: All images in this post are perfectly clean, so feel free to keep on reading.)

A couple of days back, I wrote a post called Is Anime Getting Worse? In it, I argued that nostalgia can cloud a fan’s perception and cause them to think that the current anime industry is worse than it actually is. I deliberately sidestepped the issue of whether or not ecchi and moe had any artistic merits, mostly because I felt that it was only tangentially related to my main point.

Still, I can’t help but feel that this is a question that deserves to be tackled directly, since the overuse of fanservice cliches is one of the most common critiques levelled at modern anime. That’s not something I can simply ignore if I want to seriously claim that anime is as much of an art form as it was over twenty years ago.

For this post, I’m going to put a discussion on moe aside for another day and simply focus on ecchi. My argument is that, when executed well, sexual titillation does not cheapen the appeal of anime. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that it can even enhance the viewing experience. I’m talking in artistic, aesthetic terms over narrative terms here – the way anime deals with sex is rather unique and I don’t think titles such as High School DxD and To Love-Ru should be so quickly dismissed as trashy and insignificant. The key is in approaching them with the right mindset.

A “Guilty” Pleasure?

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In general, anime fans respond to pictures like the above in one of three ways:

1. They laugh because they think it’s genuinely funny.

2. They laugh somewhat uneasily and roll their eyes at the inane humour.

3. They groan, or feel apathetic.

High School DxD is called a “guilty pleasure” mostly because the second reaction is probably the most common one. One enjoys the show on some superficial level but not without a keen awareness that this is not “high art”. (I’ll explore this concept more deeply under the next subheading.) DxD and its brethren of ecchi comedy are guilty pleasures because admitting that you like them without any irony whatsoever would likely get you some strange looks and even some outright attacks from the fans who are in the third category – the ones who see no amusement in boob jokes whatsoever.

I think, however, this sense of guilt should be scrutinised a little further. What I feel when I laugh at the boob jokes in DxD is not guilt related strictly to my questionable tastes as a fan. What I really feel, deep down, is a sense of moral guilt. I’m guilty because I’m focusing my attention on a woman’s chest rather than her personality. Along with the show, I’m objectifying the woman and seeing her as something less than human. In today’s society, we call this ‘sexist’, even though it’s a part of human nature that will undoubtedly never go away as long as men have penises.

I mostly subscribe to ghostlightning’s philosophy when it comes to guilty pleasures. If you like it, it’s good. Feeling guilt over liking something has more to do with being aware over what that may say about yourself as a person. In other words: is my sense of morality being compromised by liking something that endorses potentially bad morals?

So yes, I agree with critics who dislike ecchi anime on the basis of its social values. It is sexist. But that does not instantly mean it is inherently bad art.

High Art versus Low Art

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I disagree violently with the divisions between low and high art. Yes, there is a clear distinction between the boobs in DxD and the satire in Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, but the words imply that one is better than the other, not merely that they are on opposite ends of a spectrum. To me, they are simply different approaches, nothing more.

The desire to like anime only for its intellectual offerings rather than for the fanservice strikes me as oddly puritanical in a way. As sentient beings, we are aware of our own carnal desires but do our best to suppress it. For this reason, sexual humour is quickly relegated to “low art” in terms of entertainment.

This urge not to validate sex in front of others actually tells us a lot about ourselves as humans. Of course, there are some of us who do proudly declare their love of ecchi, but this has the feel of a response to what others may say rather than simple impulse. Whether we laugh or groan at it, sex still has the power to make us feel deeply ashamed of ourselves.

What I do personally like about ecchi anime is how the characters themselves show this attitude too. Rito in To Love-Ru is absurdly innocent for all the ecchi situations he gets into. He treats the girls with kindness and respect and not simply because they are good-looking. To some extent, we can see this in Issei’s attitude in High School DxD as well. Despite being an unrepentant pervert, he genuinely admires Rias for her moral strength and acts in a rather gentlemanly way towards the innocent Asia. For all its pervertedness, fanservice in anime is portrayed as oddly innocent – in the awkward, adolescent way.

Now let’s think about the purpose of art. It’s clear that for all its strange, foreign ideals, ecchi anime is attempting to capture something about how we perceive sexuality. Why do the fanservice moments in anime almost always happen by accident rather than volition? Because ecchi anime captures an atmosphere of innocent voyeurism. It reflects on our own instinctual hesitancy in dealing openly with sex, despite our fascination with it.

Isn’t this, then, art at its finest? The purpose of art is to capture something about the human experience, whether through elegant satire or brutish sex jokes. Both are a part of being human. We are titillated or offended by fanservice because we are human.

If ecchi has made you respond in any emotional way at all, it has succeeded in its purpose as art.

Plot? What Plot?

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One of the most common remarks people have about hardcore ecchi anime is: “Why don’t they just make it a hentai? What is the purpose of so much ecchi without plot?”

Read as pure narratives, hardcore ecchi titles are usually failures, much in the way pornography tends not to measure up to storytelling standards. By this, I’m referring to the anime that make softcore porn their entire purpose behind existing, like To Love-Ru Darkness. I actually think it is rather beside the point to approach such anime in the same terms as one would approach a plot or even a character-driven anime. More than any other kind of anime, hardcore ecchi tries to become an experience rather than something that can be simply described with its synopsis.

I’m going to make a confession here. I recently downloaded the uncensored TLRD episodes and rewatched the whole thing. Let’s just say that the effect it had on me was just as intended. In fact, I find TLR to be more titillating than hentai. The latter is simply not my thing.

Why is this? I suspect it may be because being teased with the idea of sex is ultimately more arousing than actually seeing the act play out. The imagination is usually much more potent than reality. I personally find that hentai (and a lot of pornography in general) lacks a level of restraint and sensuality. What I can really credit TLR for is its atmosphere. It knows how to build up escalating levels of erotic tension and never pushes the envelope far enough to descend into outright sex.

This, of course, ties into the timeless debate of art versus pornography. I believe that the two can easily coexist and are often indistinguishable. (I do not see pornography as inherently “cheap”.) In the case of anime, it is most definitely art for the simple fact that it is drawn and animated. The distinction comes from the intent. Porn is made, first of all, to embody lust, while art is made with the intent to capture something broader about human existence.

It’s clear that, even with this difference in mind, ecchi anime does not fall into the pornographic category. Ecchi anime does follow a narrative structure. The stories do feature characters who have defined personality traits. Its intent is to blend story and sensuality into one neat package. Atmosphere and buildup play a huge part in an effective ecchi show.

One of my favourite examples of an ecchi scene ever came from High School DxD episode 8. Rias asks Issei to sleep with her. What follows is a scene where they fumble in semi-darkness as Rias takes off her clothes. Issei expresses his hesitancy and Rias tells him that she’s nervous too – is he letting her down? He embraces her, and they’re about to go all the way…

What made this scene effective wasn’t just the fact that we got to see Rias’s naked breasts. What made it effective was the underlying dependency indicated in the dialogue between the two main characters, the glimpse at Rias’s earnest, desperate side, the violin score escalating in volume as the climax of the scene approached. It was a well-structured scene with clear turning points to mark the rising intensity.

So yes, there is an art to titillation. The fact that not all ecchi scenes are good just because we see naked flesh shows that there is a high level of technique involved. Atmosphere is important, but so is context. You don’t just randomly have the hero trip over and reveal the heroine’s panties in an otherwise serious scene and expect the audience to instantly be aroused. I’m not an expert in camera work and directing techniques, but the more I think about it, the more I believe the work that goes into creating ecchi anime has to be something quite involved.

Ecchi employs artistic techniques and uses sensuality to appeal to us aesthetically. It would do the genre an injustice to simply dismiss it as porn.

Final Thoughts

In this post, I mostly discussed ecchi as its own genre. I find I’m mostly against including fanservice elements in works of other genres because this creates a conflicting atmosphere, as I hinted to before. That’s not to say that it cannot be implemented tastefully and subtly, but I think the general consensus here is that ecchi can only ever get in the way of a more plot-driven work. It cannot contribute to its success. Look no further than episodes 5 and 6 of Suisei no Gargantia for a recent example. Some said the fanservice was tastefully done, others said it was distracting. But it would be extremely difficult to make the argument that it actually improved the flow of the overall show.

In any case, my original point still stands. Ecchi can be well-made and it can be rather titillating – and that in itself is not a bad thing. The idea is that you really do need to approach it on the level that it approaches you. Ecchi shows are not meant to be watched for their storytelling merit but rather for their atmosphere and the overall experience. It is unfair to simply label them all as trash on the mere basis of their genre.

I know for some of us that appreciating ecchi can be difficult. I admit, as someone who has always approached fiction through mostly a literary rather than an aesthetic perspective, it took a while before I could get into ecchi without letting myself get too offended by its implicit social messages. But to dismiss ecchi as porn without further thought would be to deny one’s thinking of an entire dimension of artistic appreciation. I don’t think it would hurt any kind of fan to broaden their appreciation, even if ecchi isn’t normally one’s thing. There is certainly no harm in trying out a different perspective every once in a while.

So don’t be afraid to enjoy ecchi for what it is. Not all fanservice sucks.

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Posted on June 7, 2013, in Editorials and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. man you’re so deep

    I’m not one to feel the need to defend my tastes (unless it helps me enjoy them even more), but if somebody ever hounds me about the worthlessness of fanservice/ecchi, I’ll redirect them here!

    all hail oppai
    (a dfc is fine too)

    • I see someone’s been reading my tags!

      I’m often curious about WHY I like something, since the answer tells me a lot about myself. So I wrote this article just as much for myself as I did for the sake of defending ecchi. Honestly, I don’t really care if people choose to hate on it. Not everyone gets turned on by a cartoon, anyway.

  2. Another good post on a good topic. I’ve also touched on this subject in various posts of mine (though more about fan service than ecchi). I’ve watched very few, if any, ecchi anime, but I agree with what you’re saying that you shouldn’t automatically label it as “trash” just because it has no plot…not unlike how you shouldn’t automatically label slice-of-life shows like K-ON or Azumanga Daioh as bad because they have no plot. Focusing on a moving plot and defined narrative are not always things that anime set out to do. That’s one of the things that makes the medium so great – it can appeal to both typical storytelling techniques with a flowing plot and dynamic characters, or it can go simply for things like art style, atmosphere, etc,. Non-plot focused anime might even be more avant-garde than other anime precisely because they have to make a compelling series while not having a defined plot but not being flat-out porn either.

    I think one important reason people have a problem with ecchi and/or fan service in anime, especially Westerners, isn’t just because they have those feelings about sex in entertainment that you discussed in your “guilty pleasures” section (though those are prominent reasons), but because the characters often depicted in those situations are underage teenagers. If you look at a lot of ecchi/fan service images and products such as dakimakura, most of those characters aren’t even 18. I think a lot of people see ecchi and fan service as barely a step away from child pornography – even just depicting underage characters in sexual poses is just very uncomfortable. But like you said in the post, in the actual show the fan service is played out rather innocently. There aren’t any scenes of underage characters actually having sex or even advocating it – the ecchi stuff that happens is either played for laughs or for some harmless adolescent-level titillation.

    I’ve always been of the belief that people should like what they like as long as what they’re liking doesn’t make them an immoral person and cause harm to others. As long as ecchi doesn’t make guys go around and grope or rape women in real life, no one should feel like there’s something wrong with them for liking it.

    • Amen to all of that my friend. That last paragraph really resonated with me.

    • Heh, looks like I should read more of your editorials. You know where it’s at.

      I have to say, what a mighty good call with you have with your second paragraph. I can’t believe I overlooked that when I was writing this, but yes, the underage sexuality really does play a big part in why ecchi is so hard to embrace. Like I said, I don’t endorse many of the social messages in ecchi, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them or that I’ll turn immoral from liking it.

      So just like frjoethesecond, amen to your last paragraph.

    • And I, for one, have always asked myself why people (especially feminists, at least at first, but by far not only feminists) seem to think there is a monkey-see-monkey-do connection between art and life. Why is it exactly that looking at naked female bodies in porn or in hentai/ecchi animē is going to make you be less respectful towards women? What is this “objectification” business and how does it work in detail? (Personally, I’ve never thought that someone who arouses me, be it a real person in a real life situation or an actress in a porn movie, or even a drawing in an ecchi animē, is an “object” because of that; so the whole debate always seemed so pointless to me at a gut level, and all the curious and sometimes elaborate arguments always seemed to me to be so byzantine and unencumbered by real evidence…). Should we conclude that more bad-ass female characters make us treat women with more respect — or just expect them to be tools in solving problems that we can use (if you need bad-assery, send that girl; if you don’t, forget about her)?

      I’ve always thought of the “objectification” of a fictional character, inasmuch as it actually occurs (which is debatable to me — I think there are several different things that are being subsumed under this word, but that is a different topic), is more of a choice of the viewer, depending on whether or not s/he likes this kind of character of this particular execution of this kind of character in a given work of art, than the effect of the work of art itself. Not that one cannot be predisposed towards one kind of appreciation over the other — some works of art seem to be begging on their knees for you to interpret their characters from a given perspective (say, “objectification”) — but I insist that we can always choose not to, despite the cues in the work of art, if we don’t want to. I’m not denying that art cannot be designed to influence us in a certain way (that would be stupid), but I am denying that we are as passively influenced by it as the theory of “objectification” seems to suggest.

      What do y’all think?

  3. I think the main issue with fanservice is has to do with the conservative values in the west where people view sexual portrayal of characters badly and accept violence. To me, I am pretty indifferent to fanservice as I don’t find it that annoying if done properly and in an enjoyable manner. While I haven’t watched the shows as you used as examples, I feel that Photo Kano despite it’s flaws more like an art of portraying the beauty of a girl taken in a photo. But in general, I don’t mind fanservice, unless they throw it at every moment just for the sake of it such as in Nogizaka Haruka where panty shots become a running gag. But overall, I don’t mind ecchi as long it doesn’t make people actually performing those actions in real life likewise with people not imitating stuff from violent video games.

    • Yeah, Photo Kano’s a good example of an artistic ecchi anime. Good of you to have thought of that. Of course, just because something is an art doesn’t always necessarily mean it’s “good” per se, so I fully accept that there are many occasions when ecchi is badly executed and comes off as tacked-on and tasteless.

  4. “It’s pretty hard to justify the existence of ecchi with one’s brain rather than with one’s groin, but I’m going to do my damned hardest here.”

    Oh god. Did no one notice the terrible irony in this statement?!

  5. “As sentient beings, we are aware of our own carnal desires but do our best to suppress it. For this reason, sexual humour is quickly relegated to “low art” in terms of entertainment. This urge not to validate sex in front of others actually tells us a lot about ourselves as humans. ”

    – I think you kinda make a leep of logic here. If our ‘shameful’ carnal desires was the only reason that sexual humor is looked down upon, then so would the so called erotica. You’ll ask me now to define erotica and that’s really tough, but I think that you have a certain not so excessive image in your mind as when you hear about ecchi or hentai. Erotica is subtle. Sexual jokes are loud and the problem I have with them is that as jokes they are not my cup of tea. I can’t find funny something that doesn’t engage my mind. I could never understand what is funny about clutziness in general. Perhaps because I’m a woman and my sex is the receiver of sexual harassment I see things differently. Then again I can’t laugh with anything that in real life brings trouble/pain/shame to someone. Plus to validate sex in front of others I don’t even need to make a joke about it.

    And yes art does have the purpose you mentioned but that’s not the only one. Another is to challenge your brain. Of course, you’ll tell me not all things have to do with the brain, and I’ll agree, but it’s in the eye of the beholder.

    “I personally find that hentai (and a lot of pornography in general) lacks a level of restraint and sensuality. ”

    -Ok, we totally agree. Though by restraint I don’t mean exaggerated and silly virgin complexes that are overused and just become redundant (like what happened with B geta H kei).

    “But to dismiss ecchi as porn without further thought would be to deny one’s thinking of an entire dimension of artistic appreciation.”

    -Porn = Hentai and even then Hentai have a more imaginative field due to less limitations. Artistic appretiation though is higly subjective. For me as I’ve mentioned I need my brain engaged or at least my feelings towards characters. I watch Disney/Pixar movies and they don’t do almost a single thing to me anymore. So it’s not about having a basic premise/plot. It’s about the way things are excecuted. And here plays a huge role how titilation works for different genders/people. Bouncing huge breast do nothing to me, but scenes like the one you described above in High School of DxD perhaps.

    I’m curious about what you’d recommend to me from this genre.

    • Looking back on this post, I think your criticisms of my points are quite valid since I didn’t explain the relationship between art and ecchi as well as I would have liked. Your comment fills in a lot of the gaps in the logic, so thanks for that.

      As for what I would recommend in this genre, from recent memory I really liked the fanservice in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, Hataraku Maou-sama! and Oregairu. The latter pulled it off with the most subtlety, especially because it attempted it very rarely and tended to emphasise the girls’ personalities more than their bodies. Pretty good for anime.

  6. Most ecchi anime I tried watching nearly had no story, but I found sekirei, and highschool of the dead to be exceptions. But I’m not sure if the latte should be considered, “Ecchi” since there are no scenes where girl or boy is seducing each other or anything like that.

    • This makes me wonder what kind of ecchi anime you’ve been watching. Believe it or not, the best ecchi these days comes from light novel adaptations. Trashy as the stories often are, they often do have more elaborate plots than traditional harem/ecchi anime and they often have to resort to more creative setups with the fanservice due to the limitations in their form. (See: High School DxD and Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko.)

      In the end, the appeal of ecchi over outright porn isn’t really known for its plot so much as the characters. They’re generally written to be likable. Not all of them succeed in this, but it’s the intent. If you enjoy slice of life and stories with light plots, ecchi is a little easier to swallow.

  7. I still find it hard to believe that ecchi isn’t “porn”. I mean it has scenes where girl is seducing guy, guy’s hand is on girl’s breast, naked girl on guy, etc. If the ecchi genre is meant to combine story and ecchi, then I wish more ecchi anime would put in more effort into the story.

  8. Franklin Clinton

    my god… i really haven’t watch animes recently because most of them(new animes) are filled with stupid fanservices… i really wish there’s a good anime with a little fanservice for character desigin instead or just without

  9. Trevor Phillips

    i fxxking love fanservices!!!!!!

    /sarcasm

  10. Patrick McReary

    sure… anime industry need to do something diverse now…. instead of keep making *****y moeboob fanservices anime bull**** we keep getting every year

  11. I know an ecchi anime with a pretty interesting plot: Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai (Wanna Be the Strongest in the World)

  12. While I like the way you defend your “controversial” opinions and the fact that you’re always so positive on this blog, I don’t agree with the “art relativism” you “preach” (sorry if the term isn’t correct, I’m not a native english speaker, I think you’ll certainly see it in my post).

    Like this :
    “I disagree violently with the divisions between low and high art. Yes, there is a clear distinction between the boobs in DxD and the satire in Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, but the words imply that one is better than the other, not merely that they are on opposite ends of a spectrum. ”

    It’s really easy to tell why one is superior to the other. Fine art is fine art because not everyone can make it. It’s as simple as that, even if it comes out as “pretentious” or “elitist”

    We all agree that there are certain feats that only a few people are able to do/make, sportive ones, intellectual ones and that alone makes them superior… but somehow in term of “art” everything must be equal, it’s only a matter of taste… Well no.
    While I do not agree with the dichotomy between “elite culture” and “popular culture” it doesn’t mean everything that comes from pop culture is good or art, and many anime fans forget it.

    If harem and fanservice aren’t art, it’s precisely because it’s so easy to make, everyone can make it and it appeals to the most basic instincts of man. You just need to learn how to draw cute girls in the current fad’s style and here you go, it’s no wonder we have 10 romcom and moeshit each season. That’s why Jojo, even if it’s not intellectual or challenging can be called art, because it’s really creative and the average mangaka can’t make something like that. This isn’t the case with crude, low fanservice, save for a few titles (bakemonogatari maybe ?)

    To make a musical exemple : Everyone can write a blues song, not everyone can use blues chords to make a 15min psychedelic ambiant song like Hendrix : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJarvWcSNMY

    You shouldn’t feel guilty for liking this kind of things, I like things much much worse in the japanese industry but trying to make them somehow equal to art because they’re restricted to a certain niche and PoV ? Well no, because even in that niche, we should be able to tell what harem anime is well executed, intellectually challenging while still being “post-modern” and “sexy” and what anime is just wish fullfillment and toxic for one’s mind.

    But that beign said, I really do enjoy your blog, I only discovered it yesterday, but i really like your prose. Cheers.

    • Hi, Hikadey, sorry for the late response!

      I’m glad you found this post interesting. Actually, my opinions about art have changed somewhat since I wrote that piece in 2013, so I don’t entirely disagree with what you’re saying about it. I’d like to point out a few things, though.

      The question of what makes “good” art really does come down to taste. However, taste isn’t just an individual thing. Taste is also shaped collectively, and we do have generally agreed-upon standards. That doesn’t make the standards absolute (because standards can change a lot over time), but it does mean that they’re not arbitrary. I don’t think I was meaning to argue that all standards are arbitrary in this particular piece, but if it did come across that way, I’d like to emphasise that I don’t believe that way.

      Also, I do think that some ecchi shows are better-executed than others. Although I suppose that one could argue that all ecchi/harem shows appeal to sexist fantasies, no matter how well-executed they are. I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing, though, which is why I wrote the piece.

  13. Hey Frog-kun

    It’s interesting because I was arguing against fan service and ecchi with a friend recently so your article did point out a lot that put things in perspective for me. I agree with your points as well as some of Hikadey’s (comment) but I did have a few things to say. I don’t watch a lot of ecchi and I’m new to this but I’m speaking in general about fan service, ecchi, and fan service in video games and stuff so might be a bit of generalising based on they way my friend describes what he watches.

    “Now let’s think about the purpose of art. It’s clear that for all its strange, foreign ideals, ecchi anime is attempting to capture something about how we perceive sexuality.”

    Now that may be true for some shows but a lot of times, isn’t it just that the anime producers or the video game developers want to sell their games and they know this will attract an audience? Doesn’t the purpose matter as well? Maybe for the shows you’ve mentioned, they are trying to portray how we perceive sexuality but a lot of times, many anime are made with the intention of selling. You may look at fan service like this but do the rest of the audience? And more importantly do the producers?

    “Along with the show, I’m objectifying the woman and seeing her as something less than human. In today’s society, we call this ‘sexist’, even though it’s a part of human nature that will undoubtedly never go away as long as men have penises.”

    I kind of disagree with that last bit. Sure men (and women) are going to find a lot of things sexy but what they do really depends on what society reenforces. In the sense that what men found most attractive or even physical characteristics they found sexy say a 100 years back is often different from what they find sexy now. Two, and from what it seems the ecchi shows you described do emphasise on character and personality and have storylines. The problem is many don’t. Even if you (or viewers) focus on the physically attractive characteristics, it would be nice if the industry made sure that their characters are well rounded and the woman character does not only depend on her sexuality to be powerful and that she is not created with the sole purpose of helping a male character sexually/ or to develop character or something. Lastly, as a lot of producers just want to sell stuff, they don’t really bother with the above stuff so objectification does happen and thats not okay. So objectification is NOT a part of human nature, but finding being attracted to certain things is. So if that could be handled more sensitively in the genre, I think fan service and ecchi would be nicer.

    Also, I’m a girl and I completely agree with you about why you like ecchi better than hentai. Keeping my comment in mind, could you give some ecchi shows I might enjoy?

  14. Since your post mentions “objectification”, a topic that remains a pet peeve of mine in art and in the media, I thought it might be worthwhile to repeat here as a thread of its own a comment I wrote above as an answer to another comment — maybe it will be easier to see this way? If not, if I’m just using up space unnecessarily, plese delete one of these two comments. Thanks!

    — In your post, you mention fanservice scenes as somehow inherently sexist and “objectifying”. I, for one, have always asked myself why people (especially feminists, at least at first, but by far not only feminists) seem to think there is a monkey-see-monkey-do connection between art and life. Why is it exactly that looking at naked female bodies in porn or in hentai/ecchi animē is going to make you be less respectful towards women? What is this “objectification” business and how does it work in detail? (Personally, I’ve never thought that someone who arouses me, be it a real person in a real life situation or an actress in a porn movie, or even a drawing in an ecchi animē, is an “object” because of that; so the whole debate always seemed so pointless to me at a gut level, and all the curious and sometimes elaborate arguments always seemed to me to be so byzantine and unencumbered by real evidence…). Should we conclude that more bad-ass female characters make us treat women with more respect — or just expect them to be tools in solving problems that we can use (if you need bad-assery, send that girl; if you don’t, forget about her)?

    I’ve always thought of the “objectification” of a fictional character, inasmuch as it actually occurs (which is debatable to me — I think there are several different things that are being subsumed under this word, but that is a different topic), is more of a choice of the viewer, depending on whether or not s/he likes this kind of character of this particular execution of this kind of character in a given work of art, than the effect of the work of art itself. Not that one cannot be predisposed towards one kind of appreciation over the other — some works of art seem to be begging on their knees for you to interpret their characters from a given perspective (say, “objectification”) — but I insist that we can always choose not to, despite the cues in the work of art, if we don’t want to. I’m not denying that art cannot be designed to influence us in a certain way (that would be stupid), but I am denying that we are as passively influenced by it as the theory of “objectification” seems to suggest.

    What do y’all think?

  15. It’s the opposite. Fanservice has never sucked and will never suck. Hth

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