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 ecchi anthology series We Without Wings: For Example, That Kind of Fairytale.
What’s the deal?
I’m not sure that anthology is quite the right word for this, because there are separate stories which follow through the series. I haven’t got there yet, but presumably they will start to connect with each other eventually. But there are three separate groups of characters, linked by a framing device that we see right from the start of the first episode: we start with somebody turning on a television screen, which displays “JO Me-X TV”, which offers 7 trillion channels. The only way that is possible, presumably is that it’s somehow a feed of hidden cameras. I’m not sure yet. Anyway, the first group of people we are introduced to are Haneda, and three girls who are all madly in love with him.
Why it’s OK.
This is standard harem anime stuff, with one main character all the girls love. Instead of introducing them one by one and showing them fall in love with him, we just cut right to the chase, so at least there’s an honesty about that. This series isn’t trying to hide what it’s doing. If you look at the screen shot above, you will see that only half of Haneda’s face is shown (I didn’t crop it off), and that comes at the end of the opening sequence and is as much of him as you get to see. The rest of the time his face and therefore his reactions are not even shown. He’s such an avatar for viewer fantasy fulfilment that he doesn’t even need a face, so there’s no pretence here. This series lets you know its ecchi agenda right from the outset.
Why it’s not OK.
The first shot we get on the television is of a girl in her underwear, which sets the tone for what is to come. I’ve mentioned in previous articles about the distinction between the character’s-eye-view and the pervert-eye-view, and I think that’s important. If you are seeing what a character sees, often by some accidental mishap, then that’s justifiable by the comedy, even if it’s contrived. If we are just seeing what the “camera” sees, and that camera is looking up skirts, then the shots we are shown are not relevant to anything the characters on screen are actually experiencing. Some of that happens here, but it actually gets taken a step further, because we have the pervert-with-x-ray-vision-eye-view. When Asuka greets Haneda with a hug, there is a shot of her chest pressing up against him, but we see right through her clothes. Similarly, when Hiyoko takes charge of Haneda and takes him off by the arm, there’s a shot through her clothes as well. I suppose you could argue that it’s illustrating the closeness he’s feeling in those moments, but it’s all a bit unnecessary.
I’m not going to get too preachy about this because I don’t think anyone has the right to do that when they buy something with an 18 certificate. I haven’t seen much of this series yet, but after this opening sequence the first episode does actually get on with some actual story, it all looks like it’s going to turn out to be pretty funny, and bawdy humour is what it does. However, every harem anime series I’ve seen shows the reasons for the girls falling for the main guy, which justifies the setup and makes some sense of what’s going on. By cutting right to the chase and starting the series with a virtually-faceless guy who just happens to be a babe magnet, and then giving us lewd shots of them immediately, it all seems a bit soulless and gratuitous. To be fair, it’s not pretending to be anything different. RP