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 first episode of the romantic comedy anime Mayo Chiki!
What’s the deal?
Kinjiro goes to the same school as a rich girl, who has her own butler. Konoe the butler accompanies his mistress to school every day, because that’s a thing, apparently. One day Kinjiro rushes into the men’s toilets to find Konoe in the process of taking off his girl’s underwear. Turns out the butler is a butleress, but Kinjiro is a bit slow on the uptake and thinks it’s a dude with a thing for wearing dainty undies with pretty patterns. Later, Konoe pursues Kinjiro with the aim of knocking him out with his “memory erasing technique” (i.e. punching his lights out). They end up in… I’m going to say a store cupboard. In the midst of having a little chat together, a big glass jar starts falling from a shelf above Konoe, Kinjiro throws himself on her to save her, her clothes come open and Kinjiro discovers the truth! His hand is resting on a chest that definitely doesn’t belong to a guy.
Why it’s not OK.
As an excuse for fanservice this brings a whole new level of meaning to the word “contrived”, and it left me with some questions. Who goes into a toilet cubicle and doesn’t lock the door? OK, yes some guys do that, but a girl pretending to be a boy, going to the toilet in the gents? Never mind about the lock, she’d probably bring some planks of wood, nails and a hammer. The sight of Konoe’s undies is dealt with gleefully by the animators, with a lingering shot that makes it abundantly clear that she’s a girl, and yet Kinjiro still thinks it’s a dude, despite getting a good enough look to remember the pattern. Then we have the glass jar falling for no reason whatsoever, and then the funniest moment of all: the wardrobe malfunction. How do Konoe’s clothes all fall open? Kinjiro pushes her to the floor (i.e. hands on shoulders) and then ends up with his hands on the floor either side of her shoulders (logical), but then in the next shot his right hand is sampling the butler’s goods. As accidents go, it’s pretty bizarre.
Why it’s OK.
I suppose we have to acknowledge that the animators show some restraint here. Kinjiro sees the undies before they have come right off, and Konoe’s clothes end up open just enough to leave us in no doubt about what has happened, while keeping the… ahem… essential details covered by clothing or Kinjiro’s hand. This all happens within the first ten minutes of the episode, and is essential for setting up the premise of the series. It might be handled in an incredibly clumsy manner, but it does need to happen or you don’t actually have a series at all. Let’s give this one the benefit of the doubt. RP