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 beach episode of Haruhi Suzumiya spinoff The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan.
What’s the deal?
This series veers back and forth between slice-of-life, rom com, the usual Haruhi shenanigans, and a compelling amnesia storyline for a few episodes. Approaching the end of the series we are firmly back in slice-of-life territory, riffing on the original Haruhi Endless Eight arc as an excuse to show the characters having fun and slowly move the love angle between Kyon and Yuki along. This week, the group of friends are having fun at the beach.
Why it’s not OK.
There was an element of fanservice to the original Endless Eight arc, but this series goes much stronger with it, and mainly that distinction comes down to shot choice. If you are focussing a shot on Kyon’s little sister, and she is being upstaged by Mikuru’s chest, that’s not an accident. Poor Mikuru doesn’t even get her head in shot at that moment. Her costume also doesn’t fit with her character. She’s supposed to be a shy, nervous thing. Would she really choose that bikini? And Tsuruya’s costume is just crazy – surely no teenage girl would wear that for a day at the beach with her friends? Also, the way Kyon ends up on top of Yuki is rather contrived, although it is quite amusing. Where Kyon’s little sister goes, trouble will always be found.
Why it’s OK.
As a general rule I tend to think these kinds of episodes have their place in anime series, simply because they throw familiar characters into a very different setting and see what happens. That can be a golden opportunity to move character development along. In particular here, the focus is on Kyon’s awkwardness around Yuki after her alter-ego’s love confession. It makes for an interesting contrast. They are in a fun setting and should be enjoying themselves, but instead Kyon is full of pent-up frustration at his inability to “just be normal”. And I think this episode puts something important into perspective with Kyon. Faced with a barrage of busty girls in revealing bikinis, he still obsesses over the quiet, visually unimpressive girl in her modest outfit. That must be love. RP