Fan service is a core part of any anime or manga franchise, and it’s a big part of its success. As most people know, early anime relied heavily on the sexualization of a female character as a secondary plot. Of course, hence the name, a fan service is designed to provide a “service” to fans, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing if it matches the target audience.
Although the target audience of some anime is not as exclusive as others. Classic senen anime had more fan service than shojo anime, and even those that didn’t have a specific gender demographic still relied on a male-oriented fan service. However, it should be noted that as society moves towards a more egalitarian state over time, the images of the fan service become broader in terms of the audience.
1990s – 2000s
In the earlier anime, there were no problems using the fan service beyond its potential. Beloved classics like Golden Boy relied heavily on fan service. In each episode Kintaro is exposed to his “perverted” antics when he finds himself in questionable situations involving a half-naked or seductive woman. Although the purpose of the story was the mischief of a young man, it is still worth mentioning. Golden Boy is not necessarily inherently sexist, as Kintaro’s jokes are the result of being immature and stupid and getting into trouble – not to mention that his character is not meant to be taken seriously.
Rosario + Vampire is another one of them — an anime harem with a guy of “average appearance” who manages to attract the attention of his inhuman classmates. Relying mainly on the male gaze, each female character embodies the trope; Moka as the “Genka Girl”, Kurumu as the “Sexy Lady”, Yukari as the “Innocent Impressionable Protégé”, Mizore as the “Impassive Dandere” and Kokoa as the “Naughty Younger Sister”.
Since each of them are potential suitors, Tsukene, the main character gets his share of time with each girl, usually with partial nudity or misunderstanding. There is an underlining story, but the purpose of the anime adaptation is a fan service.
It can definitely be argued that this is due to the fact that most anime attracted a male audience – although, on the contrary, it can also be said that it attracted a male audience only because of the amount of fan service. The Shoujo anime from the same timeline had almost no fan service aimed at girls, so their demographics are mostly a younger female audience.
Sailor Moon, a story about a strong young woman who overcomes her difficulties with the help of her friends, does not have a large number of fans of her love interest or any other male character. Although it remains likely that the fan service was minimal due to the expectations of Japanese society from women behaving “conservatively”.
2010s – 2020s
As society began to accept a wider range of people, including women, this also explained the greater diversity of fan services. Even a male mangaka will include elements of “serving boys” or “serving men” to serve girls. The creator of the Fairy Tail, Hiro Mashima, created the character of Gray so that he would have a tendency to take off his clothes often.
Even in games like Tales of Xillia 2, there was a final scene in which female characters enjoyed a bath but didn’t let their male counterparts get stuck in the stomach of their monster companion. While the girls are having fun, the boys are stuck and looking for a way out until the stomach acid starts to melt off their towels. It is not difficult to conclude that as a result, the heat of the water causes them to break out in panic. In addition, the framing of the scene also makes it very presentable for a female look.