Friday, October 14, 2016

Fan Service - Meaning in Japanese

As the seasoned anime watcher I know you are, I'm sure you've already heard about the word fan service when talking about anime, and by "fan service," I actually mean "fanservice," or fansaabisu ファンサービス, which is totally a Japanese word.


In the anime fandom, both western and Japanese, the word "fan service" refers to any scene, shot, arc, picture, panel, etc. shoved into an anime or manga in a deliberate and sometimes jarring way to pander to the fans, specially the most hardcore fans, the otaku オタク.

The most important thing about fan service lies in its motivation. Fan service often puts a stop on the story, or makes an unnecessary curve, or otherwise adds nothing of importance. It doesn't help advance the plot or develop the characters. So one has to wonder: "why was this scene included?" If the answer is: "because some fans would like to see it," then it's fan service.

Types & Examples

Fan service is essentially moe 萌え forced down every watcher's throats, so it can be basically anything. However, what most people recognize as fan service and call fan service is limited.

Sexy Fan Service

Most of the time, fan service is of erotic or sexual nature. Random sexy scenes, sexy clothes, wardrobe malfunctions, bath scenes, situations where girls end up naked or semi-naked for some reason, characters with mysteriously big boobs, etc. all encompass this sort of fan service.

Focus of a fanservice-filled anime, a screenshot of the anime kore wa zombie desu ka? これはゾンビですか? illustrating how anime filled with fanservice focus on the female characters' breasts all the time.

The greatest example of this kind of fan service are beach episodes. Which seem to exist only so the female characters can be shown wearing in swimsuits. This is such the clichéest cliché ever that beach episodes have become a parody of themselves.

Likewise, hot springs episodes are also extremely common, as are public bath scenes. In this case girls end up bare naked instead of wearing anything sexy. But it's alright: a supernatural combination of water steam, water surfaces, splashes, long hair, floating towels, rocks, light beams outta nowhere, and other random stuff always end up conspiring to cover the girls nipples and crotch in the most ridiculous ways possible.

Also common in anime are situations where a character's skirt is flipped over somehow and their panties (or lack of thereof) are shown. Or they trip on the floor and their panties are shown. Or they go kick something and their panties are shown. Or they do a handstand and their panties are shown. Or someone just somehow ends up under their feet and their panties are shown. (oh, and it happens to bras too, although with far less frequency)

The kind of fan service above is the one generally recognized as fan service. When people say fan service, they think of that, awkward sexy shots in anime. However, it's important to note that fan service also comes in other forms

Homosexual Fan Service

Fan service which panders to homosexual couple shippers also exist.

For example, fan service which panders the yuri 百合 fandom often contains unnecessary and often times odd displays of affection, romance and sexual tension between girls, some of which are bishoujo 美少女. When people say there are "yuri undertones" in anime, they may be referring to fan service for the yuri fans, but almost nobody calls this fan service.

Fan service which panders to fujoshi 婦女子, female consumers of BL / yaoi やおい, is often called "fujobait." This comes in the form of unnecessary and often times odd displays of affection between guys, and characters who can be classified as either bishounen 美少年 or ikemen イケメン.

And, more obviously, guys who end up crossdressing for some mysterious reason. If you've ever asked yourself: why the fuck so many guys end up crossdressing in anime? It's because of fan service targeted at fujoshi.

Non-Sexual Fan Service

The least recognized type of fan service which doesn't get called fan service and doesn't even get another name or phrase associated to it is the non-sexual-but-still-heterosexual moe.

This type of fan service includes cosplay, such as maid costumes, bunny costumes, etc. which aren't necessary sexy but are still a valid type of moe.

Lastly, the smallest, least noticeable type of fan service there is is the usage of endearing scenes, funny quirks, unique traits, etc., which make little sense and add basically nothing, but turn the character into something more appealing for the fans. Examples: sleeping scenes where you get to see a character's sleeping face, eyes of different colors, liking a weird food like tacos or spicy curry, etc.

Since this type of fan service doesn't really affect the flow of the story most people don't really mind it.


There's a website that collects examples of fan service.

Why It Exists?

The answer to the greatest question of all time: 42. No, wait. The other question, the "why fan service exists?" question. For that one, the answer is: because MONEY!!!@#$$$

No, seriously, it's because money.

As the name implies, fan service is for the fans. And who are fans of anime? Are you a real fan? Art thou truly?! How many thousands of dollars have you flushed down the toilet spent in expensive anime Blu-ray sets, expensive anime dolls, expensive anime pillows, and other obscenely expensive merchandising?

Most people don't waste money with this crap support the industry this way. And those who do, the hardcore fans, who'd spend cash, the otaku, the fujoshi, the yuri fandom, etc. probably like their respective types of fan service.

In a way, fan service is a nod from the creators of the show: "yeah, I know you're there, hardcore fan with a wallet full of holes, don't forget the Blu-ray version has slightly less censorship than the TV version!"

By recognizing such fans exist, and by putting an effort into pleasing them, the industry tries to, and apparently succeeds in, making more sales. That's why fan service exists.

If fan service didn't help make more sales, if fan service hurt the sales, fan service wouldn't exist anymore. It's true that fan service does alienate part of the audience. But it's the part that's not expending as much money in anime anyway. It makes more sense to have 1 viewer who'll spend $100 than to have 500 viewers of which 3 will spend $20 each making it $60 in total.

Ecchi vs. Fan Service

Anime of the ecchi genre do not contain fan service. Period.

Furthermore, anime of the moe genre, such as Saki, Kancolle, and Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon, do not contain fan service. More further, shoujo-ai anime do not contain fan service for the yuri fandom, and shounen-ai anime do not contain fan service for the fujoshi.

Now, if you're asking yourself how is such thing even possible, like, how can it be that the anime that one would guess have the highest density of fan service ever, the most sexy scenes, panty shots, yuri overtones, and fujobait, in reality do not have any fan service at all, there's a very good reason for this: it's not fan service when it's the product.

In essence, fan service is sweetening the deal. It uses a moe scene or two to bait the hardcore anime fans into buying products of an anime that's not actually targeted at them. That is, it's an anime targeted at normies, aired on TV, with fan service to make non-normies buy the products.

In contrast, an ecchi anime is, by definition, a sexy-filled otaku-targeted product. A moe anime is a moe-filled otaku-targeted product. A shoujo-ai anime is targeted at the yuri fandom. A shounen-ai anime is targeted at the fujoshi.

Their core audience is already the hardcore audience! They don't need to use baits, fan service, and figurative winking to attract the hardcore fans because the whole thing is already made for the hardcore fans!!!

So that's why ecchi anime does not have fan service. It can have a lot of sexy scenes, but they are not fan service, because fan service does not mean sexy scenes.

Normie Filter Method

Another way to understand the difference between fan service and not fan service is to look at it from a normie perspective.

If you're not interested in 2D girls underwear, or them wearing swimsuits, and stuff like that, having these scenes shoved into an anime can be annoying. After all, you don't really give a shit. You just want the characters to stop posing half-naked and get into the damn robot to save the world or something.

In an ecchi anime, such scenes are literally the point of the anime.

It's like, "saving Princess Peach is important, but stomping Goombas is where the fun is at." Sure, there's a goal in ecchi anime, etc. but a big point of the ecchi anime are the ecchi scenes. You can't ignore the ecchi in ecchi anime because it's a central part of what it is.

Nobody starts watching Kill la Kill and get through the first episode with the premise of a girl fighting almost naked, or Keijo!!!!!!!, or Prison School, and they think, "ugh, I hate this blatant sexualization of anime characters, but I'll keep watching hoping it tones down by episode 2."

Likewise, nobody watches... (wait gimme a sec, I forgot the name)... Junjou Romantica, see a character literally getting raped on screen and don't go "wait, what, what? What the actual fuck is this shit?! What the fuck am I watching? Jesus F. Christ. Fuck this shit, I'm outta here. I'm not going to sit through this just for a screencap for the shounen-ai post, I'll take one from Loveless instead."

As you can see, normies are filtered and naturally barred from watching anime made for hardcore fans through a biological reaction known as "utter disgust." If there are no normies left to watch the anime, there's nobody left to complain about fan service, and in this case fan service doesn't exist.

Fanservice vs. "Fan Service"

I'm sure you've wondered this already: is it fanservice or fan service? Are all these baka 馬鹿 spelling "fan service" wrong all the time? Or is it actually fanservice? Or is there a difference between fanservice and fan service? After all, what's the correct way to spell it?

It's a bit complicated, but let me explain.

First, "fan service" is, obviously, English. Only a total retard would write fanservice. I mean, what the fuck? It's two words: fan... service. You can't just write them together, fanservice. If you do, at least use a hyphen, right? Fan-service!

But what does "fan service" mean in English? Let's take a look at this grammatically... hmm... it's the word service... and there's the word fan behind of it... both are nouns... but because of grammar the first one is an adjective... fan service... a service... of fans... hmm...

So people like to say fan service is about a service for the fans, or that fans are getting service or stuff like that. All of which are incorrect.

What happens is that "fan service" is not an English word.



Yup, you heard it right. It is, like I said, obviously English, but it's not English-English, it's a "Japanese-made English word," a Wasei-Eigo 和製英語. That means it's a Japanese word, Made in Japan™, using the raw Englishy materials of the US of A.

In Japanese, "fan service" would be katakanized as fansaabisu ファンサービス, which is written together because that's just how romaji works. So people imported the fake-English from Japan as "fanservice," and people started seeing the word "fanservice" written, thought it was English written wrong, a misspelling, and decided to say "fan service" instead.

That is to say, before the term "fan service" was imported from Japanese "fanservice," the words "fan service" meant nothing in English. The phrase "fan service" only gained meaning in English after the term was made-up in Japanese.

So that's the difference between "fanservice" and "fan service." One is a Japanese word made from English, the other is an English phrase made from an English word made from English.

In Japanese

So "fan service" in Japanese is fansaabisu ファンサービス, or "fanservice." But is there a difference between what you think "fan service" means and what "fanservice" means in Japanese?

There probably is.

Fan ファン

A fan ファン in Japanese is the same thing as a "fan" in English. So this bit is as you'd expect.

Saabisu サービス

And a saabisu サービス in Japanese also means "service" just like in English.


A saabisu can also mean something done for free for a costumer. For example, a discount on the price of a product can be a saabisu. A extra service performed for free can be a saabisu. An extra item, a bonus given can be a saabisu.

Just imagine a sly-looking salesman rubbing his hands together with a sly-looking smile saying saabisu, you'll probably get what it means.

Fansaabisu ファンサービス

In Japan, in anime, and in manga, a faansabisu ファンサービス means exactly the same thing this whole article has been explaining so far. However, anime fansaabisu has its roots in another kind of faansaabisu.

When a celebrity, a star, an idol, even a voice-actor, etc. goes to an event made for fans, to sign autographs, takes photos, and so on, something like this is called a fansaabisu. That's because it's something extra, done for free, for the fans. A fansaabisu.


For reference, some extra vocabulary related to fanservice in Japanese.

The following terms refer to different ways a fanservice is contained in media:
  • saabisu katto サービスカット
    Service cut. (clip of a video)
  • saabisu shotto サービスショット
    Service shot. (still image)
  • saabisu shiin サービスシーン
    Service scene. (same as clip, perhaps storywise)

You may notice there's no fan in the words above. That's correct. The words are like that. No fan.

Nike fanservice cut from anime Mahoujin Guru Guru 魔方陣グルグル

Omake おまけ

An omake おまけ is something extra given (often with a purchase). In manga, anime and games, it often refers to extra pages, yonkoma 四コマ, and other stuff added to the product that has little or nothing to do with the story. An omake is not contained within the main story, only in extras, so it's not called fan service. Nobody complains it's there.

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