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 twelfth episode of the romantic drama series Golden Time.
What’s the deal?
Golden Time is set at a university in Tokyo, and centres around freshman law student Banri Tada, who gets into a relationship with Koko Kaga, who has… issues. Banri suffers from amnesia, and when his past life starts to re-emerge it has consequences for his relationship, especially as his former love interest is at the same university. In this episode, Banri is working as a waiter at a party, cross dressing as a maid, to try to earn money to take Koko on a really nice trip. He has kept this a secret from Koko. Also at the party is his pre-amnesia love, Linda, dressed in a provocative outfit. Just as the two of them are posing for a photo, intertwined and with a glow stick in their mouths, Koko walks in.
Why it’s not OK.
The animation makes the most of Linda’s outfit on a couple of occasions. When they meet up with their friend Mitsuo at the party, his ogling of Linda is accompanied by a close-up shot of her chest. Mitsuo himself is wearing very little, and if anything he is the subject of fanservice shots even more, including a pan up his body. Later Linda is advising Banri to “throw your chest out”, and we are then treated to an even closer-up shot of her own chest. The question is, how much of this is necessary to get to the point of the episode, the moment where Koko walks in on the two of them. At that point, much has been made of the sexualised nature of their pose by the animators, including shots of their legs intertwining, Linda pressing herself up against Banri, and the glow stick being put into their mouths.
Why it’s OK.
The close-up shots of Linda are the hardest thing to justify, although we are at least experiencing the character’s-eye-views. It also doesn’t go uncriticised by Linda, who says to Mitsuo, “I told you not to stare”, and later asks Banri, “what are you looking at?” If anything, Mitsuo is objectified more, although he admits that he likes “being a device that heats up the party”. The shots of Banri and Linda posing together are in my opinion entirely justified by the narrative. There is clearly an attraction between them, and it’s typical of a love triangle misunderstanding for something to look as bad as it can at the point the girlfriend turns up. Banri gets doused with a drink and slapped for his troubles. This is also a key moment in the series, leading to Banri’s hidden past coming out into the open, and both of them acknowledging their failings in the relationship. The visuals might be slightly more than are strictly necessary to sell the story, but as a result the moment of Koko’s arrival is a breathtaking scene that really packs a punch (well, a slap). I also think context is key when looking at fanservice, and this is a series that hardly ever plays the fanservice card, so in this instance I do think it’s necessary to the storyline and never really crosses the line.
Not gratuitous, and required by the plot. Wave your glow sticks, because this one gets a thumbs up. RP