Welcome to the second in an occasional series looking at the rights and wrongs of fanservice and other questionable content in anime. A warning: this series will have plenty of spoilers and sometimes NSFW discussions and images. This week let’s look at the OVA episode of Hyouka, “What Should be Had”.
What’s the deal?
This gentle detective series set in a school features a group of four friends investigating low-key mysteries, using Holmesian techniques, and exploring the nature of their own friendships in the process. In this OVA episode the brilliant-minded Oreki, who is normally averse to expending any energy unnecessarily, is roped into a job as a lifeguard. His friends find out and meet him at the pool, where the mystery of a missing earring unfolds.
Why it’s not OK.
Hyouka is a wholesome, thoughtful series that normally avoids fanservice (except for the end credits, which deserve an article of their own), but this is an OVA episode and that so often means swimwear. Even Hyouka is not immune to putting the main characters into swimming costumes. When Oreki first catches sight of love interest Chitanda, the “camera” becomes an Oreki-eye view, panning up and down her body. Cue lots of shots of the girls messing around in the pool.
Why it’s OK.
Firstly the fanservice is considerably more restrained than most series, and that in itself makes an interesting point about Oreki. At first he is not immune to the usual teenage boy reaction to seeing a girl in a bikini, but that is fleeting, and soon he is instead mesmerised by the way she pushes back her hair and flicks water. He sees more than just her body. The plot involves a lot of bending over to search for the missing earring but the animators avoid the sort of pervy angles one might expect from that opportunity. There is also a purpose to the pool setting, which is integral to the plot. The mystery Oreki faces could not be explored anywhere else, and it’s a strong one. This is also an important episode in terms of the development of his relationship with Chitanda, with her admiration of his deductive abilities:
“As long as there’s someone, even just one person who thinks you’re special, that means you are.”
So in the end this episode manages to take some fanservice clichés and turn them on their head. It’s the mind that matters, not the body. RP