Of all the anime to come out in 2016, Flying Witch might be the one that I’ve seen the most consistent praise for. It isn’t the most popular show around by any stretch, but it nailed the appeal to its target demographic perfectly, and I’ve seen it mentioned alongside the words “favorite of 2016” no shortage of times. The only real criticism I’ve seen of the show is stuff that broadly applies to the iyashikei genre as a whole: that it’s boring, and nothing really happens; but fans of that genre really don’t seem to have any complaints. The same goes for Amanchu, an incredibly similar show from the same studio that came out right afterwards. This one hasn’t been quite as much of a critical darling, and I have seen a little bit more criticism over it, but in both cases, I’ve never once seen these shows criticized for their fanservice.
Some of you might be thinking that this is because these shows don’t feature a lot of fanservice. On the contrary, I think that these are probably two of the most fanservice-laden shows to come out this year. In fact, in both cases I think that the fanservice is practically a constant.
First of all, each of these shows centers on a cast consisting primarily of unbelievably beautiful women. Nearly all of them are busty, full-bodied, and with beautiful faces and cool hairstyles. I’m going to posit a number of reasons why I think that these shows haven’t been criticized for their fanservice, but the first and most hilarious one is that the characters are more realistic-looking than is typical of anime. When an anime character has exaggerated and cartoony features, it seems to emphasize in the viewer’s mind the idea that the artist who created them went out of their way to imbue them with sex appeal. This is no less true of more realistically-drawn characters, but since they look like what actual beautiful women look like, you’re more likely to just compartmentalize them as naturally beautiful. It takes that moment when you see the three main adult women in Flying Witch in the same room together and realize that every single one of them is rocking at least a D-cup to make it finally click in your head that this show has gone out of its way to give all of its characters perfect ten figures.
Of course, the real kicker is the fact that all of the women in these shows wear unrealistically skin-tight outfits which conform to every contour of their body. Thigh gaps are often readily apparent, postures are maintained which cause the girls’ breasts to be pronounced, and the simply phenomenal linework of the character art gives you a vivid mental image of exactly what these girls’ bodies look like just under that thin layer of clothes. The second reason that no one criticizes the fan service in these shows is because the characters are almost never naked or even showing much skin–but that hardly matters in the end, because the characters are practically naked much of the time anyways–there’s just a few ruffles of texture and a difference in color to communicate that these aren’t naked human bodies; and that attention to detail in how the clothes conform to the body is, in many ways, sexier than it would’ve been if they were naked anyways.
Now, granted, the biggest reason that fanservice hasn’t been a part of the conversation surrounding these shows is that the fanservice never intrudes upon the plot. I don’t think most of the people who complain about fanservice have a problem with a series managing, or even flaunting, a sex appeal; what they really have a problem with is when a show treats them like an idiot, or undercuts its story or its tone by forcing fanservice scenes in where they don’t belong.
After all, sex and attractiveness are just facts of life, and we humans are drawn naturally to things that we find attractive. A beautiful person doesn’t have to take off their clothes for us to want to look at them. When a show pushes a girl’s big tits in your face, it can feel like the creators are screaming at you, “this is what you wanted, right?!,” and it just makes the whole transaction feel a bit dirty. If I wanted a show to do me raw like that, I’d just go watch porn.
But it’s amazing what a show can get away with just by keeping its ludicrously, insanely attractive cast dressed–and presenting them as reasonable, functional human characters. I mean, keep in mind that, like most of their contemporaries, the main characters in these shows are both high school girls with ditzy personalities and nothing really important going on in their lives–but since they look and act more human than what we’re used to, the idea that they’re tailor-made to be as attractive and personable as possible hardly registers as a negative. We just want to like these girls–and we do.
Well, if I may, I’d like to be the first to criticize the fanservice in these shows–not for its existence, but for its presentation. Personally, I really hate it when clothes in anime seem to unnaturally contour to a character’s body. It just leaves me wondering if every single character has a really great tailor on-call to touch up everything they wear. I apologize to anyone who wasn’t previously distracted by this and is going to be from now on, but it really drives me crazy; shirts don’t work like this! But that’s not really a big deal; I don’t think these shows are exactly trying to hide their assets in terms of beauty, but the lack of criticism over it really sheds some light for me on the bizarre way that fanservice and sexuality are thought of by anime viewers.
As a mature audience, we like to insist that sex is a normal and healthy part of life and that it’s a good thing if a show can represent it with some nuance–but it’s funny what we think that that entails. I mean, is there really anything mature about clothes that contour to the curves of the bodies of a whole cast full of big-breasted women? At least, anything more mature than normal? Is this a better use of sexuality just because the girls aren’t getting naked?
It makes me think of how any time a character gets naked in a show, it’s a conversation starter over whether or not it was handled tastefully or done well. I have literally seen countless arguments waged over whether or not the Monogatari series uses fanservice in a meaningful way, or if it’s just self-indulgent schlock, and how that argument applies to each different scene in the franchise. In fact, I, uh, made a whole video that had a lot to do with that. I’ve also seen sex comedies completely dismissed for the presence of sex or nudity at all. It feels like a layer of abstraction is needed before people will accept a show like Panty and Stocking or Oruchuban Ebichu–shows that are willing to make sex ugly and uncool, and therefore seem more sophisticated; and even then, people have to argue to justify them. But if you asked me to step up to bat for a show that makes absolutely no excuses for itself and its raunchiness like Seikon no Qwaser, then I promise I’ll show up to the plate with a road sign like Shizuo.
My point, simply, is that I think it’s horribly ironic that when Kanbaru Suruga deliberately poses naked, of her own accord in a show, then there’s going to be a debate over its tastefulness–but when every single shot of a character from behind in Amanchu has their outfit subtly riding up their ass to some degree, no one even mentions it. And don’t act like you motherfuckers didn’t notice–you just thought that, since they were clothed, it was just your little secret observation. I know because the whole time I was watching Flying Witch, all I could think was, “man this show is going to have so much porn. And I’m gonna be on the lookout for it.”
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