The Difference Between Appropriate Fan Service Vs “Exploitative”

Theo J Ellis
Aug 9, 2019 · 3 min read

When it all comes down to it…

The difference comes down to Intent


This is Food Wars.

It’s classed as a Shounen/Ecchi series. The story itself is focused on food competitions and battles between chefs.

How does “fan service” play a role?

Fan service is used to enhance and even add “humor” to the main themes and episodes.

Like this character who looks aroused, but is really blown away by the taste of the food.

It’s the kind of expression we’d probably make in real life if life were “animated”. And Food Wars “expresses” those emotions we feel when we eat food and can’t get enough of it… As fan service.

In that context it doesn’t feel tacky, trashy, exploitative or unnecessary.

This is why Food Wars has been so successful. There’s nothing like it (it doesn’t discriminate with gender either).


Highschool of the dead.

As the anime implies, Zombies are the main plot. And it’s a VIOLENT anime series.

Ironically it’s also Ecchi. But it’s what you’d call “exploitative”.

This is a screenshot of a character shoving a pole through a Zombies heart. And yet look at the angle of the shot… Is this really necessary, giving the context of the anime?

I can understand having certain designs, but come on.

Even here they managed to throw in some “panty” shots. Sneaky bastards LOL.

Here it is again, with the awkward fan service shots.

And oh, look. The zombies are charging at her and yet the camera conveniently focuses on some more panties!

How in the WORLD did wind lift up her skirt at a TIME like that??


I’d say that’s an example of appropriate fan service vs exploitative.

But the thing is: the context is blurry sometimes. It’s hard to draw the line or even know where the LINE is.

Kill La Kill is known for going to the extremes. But unlike HSOFD, Kill La Kill parodies typical tropes and fan service cliches, makes fun of it, and turns it into an ART FORM.

It makes you giggle more than it makes you cringe. Because of how well-done and ridiculous it is.


When it comes down to it:

  • Appropriate fan service FEELS a certain way.
  • Exploitative fan service is blatant, tacky and so obvious it’s cliche.

And that’s how you can usually notice it.


Theo J Ellis

Written by

I love the process of building and creating things. How about you? — https://theojellis.com

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