Anime teems with fan service (fanservice, or service cut), complementary content that aims to give fans exactly what they want. Breasts! Big robots! Panties! fan service has become such a part of anime that it defines genres. For example, comedy anime often features the antics of a perverted male spying up lady’s skirts or a prudish guy surrounded by girls lacking qualms about showing off their assets. Think Master Roshi from the Dragon Ball series and just about every male protagonist in the harem genre. Fan service most often involves similar sexual elements. Animators turn the camera just so the audience gets a full view up a female character’s skirt. Fan service scenes, such as a male character tripping, falling, and grabbing a handful of a woman’s chest, have become so common that they have morphed into tropes and stereotypes.
The most common types of fan service center on a male-dominant view. Female characters swing two directions. Either they are innocent victims of a male’s pursuit and suffer from accidental peeks, or they are sexually dominant toward the male protagonist. Both views focus on male fantasies of women. Rosario + Vampire, for example, features Kurumu Kurono, a succubus who flaunts her bust and other body parts to try to win the male protagonist’s attention.
As you can tell, fan service by Western terms can be seen as sexist. It violates women’s privacy and reduces them into objects of desire. However, That isn’t to say that anime aimed at female audience doesn’t feature its own fanservice. There are plenty of shows that sexualise the beautiful male characters to titilate the female viewers. Despite this, male-oriented fan service is more common and more acceptable. Because of this, we’ll just focus on the male side of fan service in this article.
Before we get into the most common version of fan service, the panty shot, I need to mention a version that doesn’t focus on sexualization, at least directly. The branch involves long, detailed pans of vehicles and humanoid robots. These pans show off the design of mechs, which have become well-known characters in their own right. Mobile Suit Gundam gives us a good example. Fans want long camera pans over Kunio Okawara’s designs so they can enjoy the details and changes from previous entries in the franchise. The practice comes from Star Trek, Star Wars, and other science fiction stories. It’s common for these shows to have long pans of the Enterprise or other starships. Science fiction and mecha anime that lack these shots feel a bit off as if something is missing.