I was just browsing my usual haunts today and I came across an article titled "Not all Fanservice is sexual, and not all Sexuality is Fanservice."
I immediately squinted my eyes, pulled out my analyzing glasses, and got reading. If you want to read the whole it's here, but I'll share with you the main points & my thoughts on them below!
There are potential spoilers for the Monogatari series below!
Author's point #1: Fanservice is defined as "aspects that are solely part of the story to please fans, not to progress plot or develop characters in any way, shape or form."
My thoughts: I already disagree. I don't think fan service is ONLY done to please fans. I think fan service can both please fans AND advance plot. What about a show like Yamada's First Time? Fanservice + plot advancement are super common in that show. I already think me and this author are going to disagree.
Author's point #2: When referring to Hitagi, he says that "While it may pander to people dreaming about Senjougahara, it is in no way the purpose [of Ararararagi's viewpoint in Episode 2]."
My thoughts: Again, I disagree. I think it's fanservice, and also character development. After all, isn't ALL QUALITY character development fan service? I would say fan service happens in the Hollywood movie industry when a character develops to have certain desirable (or just interesting) traits. It's the same in anime to me.
Yes, it is fanservice that we are basically seeing some girls in very flattering positions, etc, but it's also serving as a way to explain that Ararararagi is a teenage boy and this is part of his character. It's set up in a way to please the fans, and in a way to show that it's also pleasing characters in the show who may be exploring their sexuality. It's both!
The author also skipped a really important kind of fan service, in my opinion: Fanserivce to fans of the studio making the anime itself! If you've been watching Luluco this season, you'll find things like references to other shows of theirs, gainax poses, collabs. And that's alllll fanservice! Or maybe even Gintama, where fan service is not always sexual, but definitely present.
To be honest I was hoping to write a bit more here, but the author didn't go into that much detail for me to analyze lol XD
Here's my takeaway...
My opinion might differ from many others, but I think using fanservice as a constant vague placeholder & buzzword for any action that is either sexual or predictable is a mistake that anime fans have become trapped in. It annoys me that "fanservice" became a synonym for "nudity and sexual content" in anime community.
Maybe we just need a new word for the creative ways that studios develop plot while still pleasing fans, because the word "fanservice" just means "sexual or predictable or ecchi" to too many people.
Still, to me, fanservice is anything explicitly stuff done because the fans will like it, whether or not it contributes to the show. Anything can be fanservice. And that's okay!!!
Don't let your bias against "fanservice" or certain genres ruin anime for you. Some people refuse any thought of quality in shows like Re:Zero because they've been 'jaded by too many bad harem shows - and who's to say this one will be any better'.