Ecchi can be both

This post was being written as a primer to both Prison School posts I wanted to write and a panel I want to plan. Sadly it has taken longer than expected. Nevertheless here it is!
I have been watching anime for a long time. This includes many different genres that I have watched for many different reasons. One of the most controversial topics in both anime and entertainment as a whole is the use of fan service. It is no secret that many series and movies exist merely to provide erotic entertainment. In fact the adult entertainment industry does not even need an excuse to service people's most primal desires. Despite the controversy there is nothing inherently wrong with sexual or erotic entertainment. I think the bigger question is can something be both erotic and thought provoking? I have thought a lot about both of these things in recent years. Sometime people watch anime because it is thought provoking, sometime they watch anime because it is erotic, and in some rare cases they want a series for both reasons.
Official art by Ishizaki Toshio
It is no secret that one of my favorite anime series in recent memory is Kill la Kill. This is a fun show to talk about in this topic as there are a lot of divided options based on the fan service alone. Many people claimed they could not watch the show do to its fan service. I for one respectfully disagree. In fact I feel the average panty shot in most anime series contains more fanservice than most of the scenes in Kill la Kill. This is because despite the fact most of the characters fight in next to nothing it is not intended to be erotic.
In Kill la Kill alien fabrics known as life fibers are used to make clothing that enhances a person’s strength. The tradeoff is that these fibers also eat away at the wearer’s life. Do to this most uniforms made with life fibers only have few strands stitched in. There are also uniforms known as the Kamui which are made of 100% life fibers. In order to keep it from taking over the user it is made to cover very little of the user’s skin. This gives the Kamui a “skimpy” look. Later in the show it is revealed that the life fibers are a parasite that plan on taking over the world and were hidden in clothes all over the planet. Rebels fight back dressed in nothing but tactical gear as part of a group known as Nudist Beach. The show is based on several plays on words. As director Hiroyuki Imaishi describes it: “When Japanese pronounce the English words ‘fashion’ and ‘fascism’, it sounds nearly the same.” Much if the plot makes reference to history including Nazi Germany. Do not let the lack of clothes fool you as the show is more about how fashion affects our lives then erotic fan service.

Art by Nigou

Speaking of erotic anime the next show I want to talk about is Queen’s Blade. This show is for the lack of better words literally masturbation fodder. The plot revolves around a tournament of the same name that is held every four years to determine the most beautiful and powerful Queen. This woman will become the reigning Queen of the Continent. This tournament does not even start until the second season leaving most of first season to be character introduction and mindless fan service. This includes the main character urinating herself in fear, being stripped, tied up and forced to walk naked. Her sister also has an incestual attraction to her. Then there is the bunny girl demon that lactates acid (squirts acid out her tits in layman’s terms) and when blocked she swells up and explodes… I cannot make this up… also this all happens in the first episode. Despite trying to fetish itself to death in the first episode a plot does start to form. I was looking forward to a sequel to Rebellion the final season that grew a deep world out of two seasons of softcore porn but it looks like the next product will be a reboot. The only reason this franchise exist is to be erotic and for some that is ok. That said can something be erotic without being reduced to porn?
I can easily write a whole post about this topic but that will have to wait. If you want to read more about the hidden depth behind Kill la Kill you can start by reading Kill la Kill: The Fashion of Fascism on Art-eater. To close out I want to point out the moment being naked is no longer a big deal in Kill la Kill. Satsuki Kiryūin dons her Kamui Junketsu for the first time to fight the main character Ryuko Matoi. Ryuko is still embarrassed in her Kamui Senketsu and tells him, “I’m wearing you right now! You’re drinking my blood and I’m dying of embarrassment! What more do you want from me?!” To that Satsuki replies, “Exhibitionist? Nonsense! This is the form in which a Kamui is able to unleash the most power! [Sic] the fact that you are embarrassed by the values of the masses only proves how small you are! If it means fulfilling my ambitions, I will show neither shame nor hesitation, even if I bare my breasts for all the world to see! My actions are utterly pure!” From this point on the show rarely stops to point out the character’s lack of clothing. Unlike many anime series that go out of their way to look up a girl’s skirt Kill la Kill goes on to have some of the best fight scenes I have seen without drawing attention to their half-naked cast. Despite this I do not consider it to be a show that is both erotic and serious. Even though the show would not be the same without the brief nudity it is on the borderline of being needed. The show could have been done without it (called Gurren Laggan). That being said it would not have been the same. More to the point however is that fact that I just do not find the show erotic. Being naked is not the same as being erotic. Of course I could just be desensitized by other anime I have seen…
Art by Fujima Takuya and Enshuu Ritsu

There’s a mindset that depth and sexualisation are mutually exclusive. The brief nudity in Kill la Kill is part of the reason people have trouble taking it seriously. In the minds of many nudity cannot add to plot. This creates somewhat of a self-filling prophecy where shows that have fanservice do not try to have much plot. Every now and then we do get an anime series that is bold enough to tell a story about sexuality. One of the first ones that comes to my mind is R-15. The series takes place at a school for geniuses. It starts Taketo Akutagawa who has a unique gift. He is a writer but he can only write a certain subject. He can only write erotic novels. Whenever something naughty happens around him he becomes inspired and writes incredible work of erotic fiction. He himself is not a very dirty minded person but his gift is often misunderstood. Most of his fellow students distance themselves from him because they think he’s some type of pervert. He’s a member of the newspaper club which forces him to have to interact with his fellow students. As you can imagine most of these students are female. As some of them learn his true nature they begin to foster feelings for him. Akutagawa is a classic lucky pervert. He happens to be in the right place at the right time. Although a lot of the fanservice in the series does to add depth to the characters and the story most of it does not. The story maybe heartwarming but is not enough to appeal people who do not like fanservice.

Official art

One anime series that aired recently was bold enough to tell a story about sexual relationships. It actually made the relationships between its main characters an important part of the story. The anime is called Masou Gakuen HxH and takes place in a world where humanity is nearly wiped out by invaders from another universe. What is left of humanity is forced to live on artificial island colonies called Mega Floats. These colonies are defended by girls in mechanized armor. Why girls you ask? This is because the technology does not respond well to men. There is one young man who the technology does respond to and he is the son of the woman who discovered it. His name is Kizuna Hida and his mother used him to experiment with the Heart Hybrid Gear when he was a child. When he returns home he discovers his sister Reiri Hida is the Principal and Commander of Ataraxia. Ataraxia is a military academy that battles the invaders using Heart Hybrid Gear technology. Their main fighting force is a group of girls know as Amaterasu. Reiri discovers a way to boost the girl’s power… and it is by building intimate bonds between the members of Amaterasu and Kizuna! All this could be the set up for a hentai series. This series instead focuses on the relationships between the main character and the girls instead of just the physical part. Using Heart Hybrid Gear requires energy and Reiri discovers that if a user’s energy reaches zero while using it they die. She tells this to Kizuna who must keep it a secret. Having erotic experiences with Kizuna restores the members of Amaterasu’s energy. Kizuna also takes the time to get to know each girl before becoming intimate with them. He is just as concerned with their emotional well-being as he is their physical. Every time he gets frisky with one of them there’s more to it than just mindless fanservice. He is actually strengthening his bond with them. This gives even the sexual scenes a sense of depth and purpose. Although these things may be much for the faint at heart they do show relationships with both physical and emotional bonds. This is in contrast to most stories where the two are kept separate. Although things do start to get kinky the main characters never actually have sex with each other. This series is a good example that it is possible to write stories about sexual relationships without them being reduced to porn. A similar series came out the year before known as The Testament of Sister New Devil. It also uses the concept of intimate bonds between lovers as a foundation for increasing power. Both are great for people who are sick of mindless fanservice but like erotic fiction.
I enjoyed all genre of anime. This includes more serious series like Fate Stay Night as well as less serious shows like Rosario Vampire. Frankly I cannot live in a world where I have to choose between Madoka Magica and Space Dandy. That said fan service can get boring. This is why I love shows that can be as sexy as they are smart. Although they may be few and far between anime series like Keijo!!!!!!!! keep me excited for what is coming next.
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