Can fanservice ever be justified in anime or is it a disturbing and unnecessary aspect of the genre? In this occasional series we look 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, the second episode of edgy anime rom com Eromanga Sensei.
What’s the deal?
Masamune Izumi is a 15 year old light novel author, whose work is illustrated by an artist known as Eromanga Sensei, who has a skill for lewd art. In the first episode we discovered that Eromanga Sensei is actually his little sister Sagiri, a shut-in girl who rarely emerges from her bedroom and seems to have a bit of a crush on him, but they’re not blood related, so that’s all good… er.. yes? In this second episode Sagiri’s classmate Megumi turns up to try to persuade her to go to school, and while she’s about it starts talking to Masumune about… ahem… men’s private parts.
Why it’s not OK.
The problem with this series is that it sometimes strays into territory where characters say things that just don’t sound like anything a girl of their age would actually ever say. Instead, it sounds like exactly what it is, the sensationalist writing of an adult, male author, with not enough effort to create dialogue that fits the characters. There is more than one kind of fanservice. It’s not all about beaches and hot springs. And here we have a girl behaving in an inappropriate manner in the language she uses, rather than the things she does. So when a writer has a girl meeting a boy for the first time and saying “if you don’t react to me then your **** really is useless”, that’s a writer being deliberately provocative, instead of prioritising what he should be doing: building believable characterisation.
Why it’s OK.
To be fair, this is one small part (if you’ll pardon the expression) of the episode, and for the rest of the time the writer does exactly that: builds believable characterisation. In fact, the second half of the episode is a brilliant introduction to another main character, free from fanservice. He also attempts to backtrack by having Megumi say she was just joking, which is unconvincing but at least ameliorates things a little. As always, it’s important to look at whether there is justification for fanservice or not. In this instance, Megumi spends the first half of the episode being provocative towards Masumune in an attempt to anger Sagiri enough to get her to emerge from hiding, especially when she realises that Sagiri is listening in on their conversation. She starts calling him “brother”, and when she asks him if he has ever kissed anyone there is the sound of things being smashed upstairs. It’s not quite as funny as it’s trying to be, but at least it makes some sense. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… The Fanservice Debate: Haganai Ep 2