Why Keijo!!!!!!!! Impresses Me

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Keijo!!!!!!!! is an anime about girls in swimsuits fighting using only their breasts and butts. By all rights, it should be one of those T&A anime that no one should take seriously. However, what separates Keijo!!!!!!!! from many other fanservice anime, and why I’ve surprisingly come to enjoy it (well beyond the sex appeal) is that it actually explores its own fictional sport of butt fighting.

When it comes to a lot of “sexy fighting girls” anime, the combat elements usually act as mere pretense. As they kick and punch and hurricanrana their opponents, clothes go flying, buttocks are exposed, and the result is fights that act primarily as a vehicle for titillation. In many cases, the fights themselves only serve the purpose of showcasing the girls’ flexibility. Keijo!!!!!!!!! in contrast takes almost the opposite approach, by having butt fighting as its foundation and trying in earnest to make actual exciting fights out of it.

Even before the actual battles are taken into account, there a number of notable factors that contribute to Keijo!!!!!!!! treating its premise as more than a flimsy throw-away. First, while the subject of feminism in Keijo!!!!!!!! is up for debate, one thing is clear: the body type diversity in the series is well beyond what you normally find in something like Ikkitousen. From this comes an idea stated in the series: girls of all shapes and sizes can succeed in the sport of Keijo. Second, different characters come from different athletic backgrounds. The heroine Nozomi is a former gymnast, while her friend and rival, Sayaka was a judoka. This is then reflected in their fighting styles. Third, the girls have to train to win, and make use of their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

When the fighting occurs, the fanservice almost (but certainly not entirely) takes a backseat to the action. While slower moments in the series are more than willing to revel in the girls’ physical features, at times the actual competition is so swift and the animators so dedicated to showing off the overall setting and choreography that there’s less time given to even ogle the girls. In many cases, similar series are more than willing to just leave a camera in an awkward position for extended periods of time, but Keijo!!!!!!!! will, at least half the time, prioritize the excitement of the sport itself. 

I have not read the manga, where still images of course can linger into eternity, so I don’t know how the balance of action and fanservice is treated there.

Combined with characters that have unique and interesting motivations—as well as the ability to garner genuine interest in how Keijo works as a competitive field—the result, I imagine, is that many people who watched it purely for sexual thrill or for the sake of irony have come to genuinely enjoy it. In this respect, it reminds me of Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, where a love of food and a deft hand when it comes to portraying naked bodies go hand in hand.

It would be ridiculous to pretend that Keijo!!!!!!!! isn’t a fanservice anime. Anyone who does would either have to be in serious denial or woefully ignorant. However, much like one of my favorite series, Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!, the whole thing—the thrill of the story, the passion of the characters, and, yes, the attractiveness of the girls—all comes together to form an actually engaging experience.

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The Many Levels of Fanservice in Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma

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Mito Ikumi, Food Wars! Character

Within the first few minutes of the Food Wars!:  Shokugeki no Soma anime, viewers are made well aware of the extent of its fanservice. If the flavor of peanut butter squid being visually likened to being violated by a large squid wasn’t enough, as the episode progresses characters basically have reactions that are downright orgasmic. It’s the kind of reaction that can really turn people away, but I also am aware of how the seeming need to fully animate a manga can lead to a rather different (and more gratuitous) experience, even when faithfulness to the source material is considered important. This is what I believe happened with another series, Mysterious Girlfriend X, and so when I got the chance to read the manga for Food Wars, I went in curious about two things: the depiction of competition in the Yakitate!! Japan “food battle” sense, and how the fanservice compares to the anime.

Food Wars! portrays both the act of master chefs locked in fierce cooking combat and the sexually charged tasting reactions with equal care and attention to detail. The manga is certainly not a cleaner alternative to the anime, but there are a couple of points I noticed about it. First, the manga’s imagery is a noticeably different experience due to the lack of need to fully animate all of the more gratuitous scenes. Second, Food Wars! actually takes a kind of multi-level approach to its fanservice.

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Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!

I think it’s fair to judge a series by the most extreme examples of fanservice found in it, and so this isn’t really a defense of Food Wars! as sticking it to the prudes or anything. However, when it comes to anime and manga, they tend to maintain to a fairly consistent level of the kind of fanservice they want to use. Love Hina and Chobits go for mildly risque bath scenes, Aim for the Top! goes for the subdued-by-today’s-standards jiggle and “creative” camera angles, and Godannar!! and Ikkitousen are all about in-your-face shots and revealing clothing (or lack thereof). Food Wars!, in contrast to all of those, encompasses virtually the entire spectrum.

At the far end, you have the scenes described above: images that, in and out of context, look like something you’d find in a naughty magazine. However, there are also plenty of food reaction moments that are more about showing off the girls’ (and in some cases even guys’) bodies in the buff, without that added layer of sexual innuendo. There are images of girls spilling out of their outfits, but there are also relatively more conservative examples. So, while you have a character like Mito Ikumi (pictured at the beginning of this post), who wears bikinis and is based around a rather blatant “meat” theme, you also have characters like Tadakoro Megumi and Mizuhara Fuyumi, who are less voluptuous but are still involved in their own fanservice scenes relative to their designs. In those instances, the manga will decide to show for one panel the way that Megumi’s pants hug against her hips, or that Fuyumi has subtle but noticeable curves.

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Tadokoro Megumi

In terms of how men are portrayed (their clothes burst off as they salivate over a five-star meal just as much as the girls do), but I’d actually like an opinion from any readers interested in men as to whether Food Wars! hits any of their buttons in the right way. I get the feeling Takumi Aldini is popular, but I haven’t looked into it extensively.

Given all this talk of gratuitous imagery, I find it all the more interesting that the more I read Food Wars!, the less I think of it as a fanservice series, even though it can be so elaborate and perverted in its character depictions. It certainly is still that sort of manga and anime, but the cooking really takes center stage, and in certain ways the ever-present fanservice is actually subordinate to the food. There’s just something about the intensity and the amount of attention that goes into presenting the culinary masterpieces of the manga’s characters that shines the spotlight on their cooking above all else.

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Genshiken Second Season Episode 12 and the Fanservice You May Not Have Seen

Episode 12 wraps up the school festival. If you want to read my thoughts on the events of the episode, you’ll find them as part of my analyses on Chapters 81 and 83. At this point I’ll have to assume 82 will be covered in Episode 13 or just not at all.

So with all the cosplay this episode, particularly from Ohno, there was a hefty amount of fanservice in the most obvious sense. This was magnified by the fact that they combined two disaparate chapters together to make it an almost “cosplay-themed” episode, but amidst all that more overt fanservice the anime actually added a little something for the Ogiue fans in particular.

This image is actually an anime original, and though it’s just a single frame it communicates a lot of intimacy and perhaps even eroticism between Ogiue and Sasahara. Ogiue never ever, ever has an expression like that, with the wry and suggestive smile as well as the sideways glance towards Sasahara who’s more tacitly responding in kind. The message this image communicates is that Sasahara likes what he sees out of Ogiue, and Ogiue is pleased that he likes that. While you might think that this is me reading too much into it, given their interruption by Sue previously, there’s no doubt in my mind how we’re supposed to interpret it.

However, if you want something that I consider fanservice that probably no one else does, it would be another anime-exclusive moment:

A Go Go Curry parody!

As long-time readers of the blog might know, I am a huge fan of Go Go Curry, and what’s more, the very first Go Go Curry I ever ate at was one in Akihabara. Though there’s no way to tell if the one Madarame is at is the same one that introduced me to the wonders of Kanazawa-style curry, I’d like to pretend that it is.

Really though, Episode 12 of Nidaime actually combined two of my favorite things, Ogiue and Go Go Curry. On some level I have to rank it pretty highly, albeit at a fairly shallow level.

The Mawaru Penguindrum merchandise also helped.

81 Diver is Amazing

Sometimes I can’t believe how much I enjoy the ugly, ugly, ugly art of 81 Diver. Just look at this page for a moment.

I don’t know about you, but when I first saw that kick I simply couldn’t hold my composure. This scene, among many others, actually gets me to burst out laughing.

81 Diver is the work of Shibata Yokusaru, the same man who created Airmaster. It is a manga about Sugata Kentarou, a gambling shougi player, and the woman he loves, “Ukeshi,” an excessively well-endowed maid who is also known as a legendary shougi player renowned for her defensive and reactionary play. I have never played a game of shougi in my life, so much of the terminology goes straight over my head, but the terseness of the dialogue and the sparseness of text in the word bubbles combined with the frenetic line work makes each match extremely tense and exciting, especially given how absurd the characters are.

Let me tell you about what I believe is one of the defining moments in 81 Diver. Sugata is playing a hobo/shougi hermit. Money is on the line. Sugata’s stipulation is that if he wins, he gets the shougi hermit’s money (he’s a hobo but he isn’t poor). The hermit agrees, but in exchange, he demands that his prize be to get a handful of Ukeshi’s breasts. The hero, hearing this stipulation, demands that this be a serious match, but rather than forcing the hobo to change his prize, he takes the reward of touching Ukeshi’s chest as his own incentive, even foregoing the money to do so. As the two of them play an incredibly intense game of shougi full of blood, sweat, and tears, both of them have one thought on their mind: “I’M GONNA GRAB EM!” Spoilers, I guess, but in the end neither gets to grab them. That’s the kind of manga 81 Diver is.

I know there’s a J-drama based on 81 Diver, but I’ve yet to take a look. I do worry that the basic veneer of attractiveness that all live action Japanese manga and anime adaptations undergo with its actors would take away from the appeal of the manga. Related to that point, I honestly think that if the art were prettier or sexier or even had a more solid grasp of anatomy, then it would fundamentally change 81 Diver for the worse. The premise, a shougi-playing maid with gigantic breasts, could easily become another Ikkitousen or Queen’s Blade where the content of the manga practically bends and warps to the will of the women’s curves. And certainly there are plenty of cleavage shots of Ukeshi and the like, but the artist’s style instead manages to shift emphasis away from her attractiveness despite how much time is spent on describing her as a voluptuous woman. It’s ugly and outrageous, and the result is that when I think of Ukeshi I think of her unbelievable shougi skills first. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s shown to be in most ways Sugata’s superior in their chosen game, which makes their absurd romance all the more fun to read.

The Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Anime Could Be Better

Earlier this year, I started to read the Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai manga.

I became an instant fan.

I really enjoyed the manga because of how it showed the difficulties of making friends when inexperience and considerably flawed personalities are thrown into the mix. It’s a decidedly otaku-oriented series that hits kind of close to home in a pleasant way. So when I heard that it was getting an anime adaptation I was pretty thrilled about it. I had my fingers crossed that it would be the anime of Fall 2011. Now, a few episodes into the TV series, I find it safe to say that I am fairly disappointed with the anime adaptation of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.

On a basic level, the anime and manga are not that different from each other. They have the same premise, a group of people who are very bad at making friends trying to help each other to humorous effect. They have the same characters with the same personalities. They both have fanservice and their fair share of otaku references. But where I find the manga to pass with high marks using this mix of ingredients, the anime by comparison falls short of the manga’s success.

I think the best place for me to begin is the art, because the character designs for the manga and anime are drawn in markedly different styles. Whereas the anime has more of what I’d call a typical light novel/visual novel-esque style to it, the manga’s artwork seems more loose and fun. The manga doesn’t feel the need to stick to its template too closely, and perhaps because it doesn’t have to devote frames of animation to consistency, it makes the comic feel comparatively more energetic. Putting aside more abstract aspects of manga such as page and panel layout, decompression, etc. (things which I think the manga does quite well and do contribute to the quality of the series), even the smiles from the characters in the manga show a lot more emotion behind them. I feel like I can understand the inner workings of the characters and I’m pleased by that. The anime on the other hand, while its designs aren’t abysmal or anything, don’t seem capable of as much expressiveness, and in general the show feels a little stiff and wooden by comparison. I understand that the anime’s designs are closer to the original light novel’s but I still like them less. On that note, I have not read the light novels, so I cannot say if either is a faithful enough adaptation to the original, but the problem isn’t faithfulness so much as it is the particulars of execution.

Another major factor is the fanservice. By that, I don’t mean that the manga is devoid of fanservice which makes it somehow automatically better. In both cases, the girls are still cute, Sena’s chest is equally impressive, and they all have a tendency to wear attractive outfits. There’s nothing particularly objectionable about this. However, the anime has significantly more fanservice, to the point that I find myself saying, “The girls are already cute enough! You don’t have to do anything more with them!” The fujoshi character Rika has scenes showing her fantasizing in both versions, but the anime’s depictions tend more towards a climax in an eroge while the manga emphasizes the extent to which it leaves her flustered. The show also has a tendency to repeatedly linger on the female characters below the belt to a degree which exceeds the yuri mahjong anime Saki. The opening video itself seems particularly dedicated to showing off the girls’ bodies and ignoring the friend-making aspect of the show, and I find myself wishing it had been done differently, perhaps something akin to the Toradora! OP. To put it simply, there’s a difference between the girls wearing a sexy bikini that shows off her figure and a shot that draws specific attention to the underboob.

Now, I understand that the series has something of a harem vibe to it. It’s an unavoidable aspect of it, for better or worse, and it’s not like I have anything against a harem series which is designed to show off its girls. I once compared Infinite Stratos to Kore wa Zombie Desuka? and while I found the latter series better and more engaging overall I thought the girls of Infinite Stratos were more attractive with better designs. That approach is fine, if a little limited in its appeal. With that said, I find the key difference to be that, based on how the two adaptations approach the categories mentioned above, the expressiveness of the characters/aesthetics in general and the approach to showing off the attractiveness of the girls, the manga does a much better job of making me think of the female characters as people first and cute girls second. While I certainly don’t mind that the girls are nice to look at, what made me love the series in the first place was that it encourages a deeper understanding of the characters, particularly their awareness of their own personal flaws. With the manga, I feel that it gives a much stronger sense that these characters really do wish they could make friends in a way that outshines the fanservice, which I think gives it far greater ability to reach otaku and other readers with that bit of warmth. With the anime however, although that aspect is still there, I think it makes it more difficult to see past that simple harem exterior and into the meat of it (no pun intended for Sena fans).

I’m not going to accuse people who really like the show of having poor taste or think they’re simply unenlightened fools. I much prefer the manga and its style, but people may choose the anime’s designs over them for whatever reason. The girls are cute and it’s okay to think that they’re cute, to be attracted to them or even obsessed with them. Perhaps most importantly, while I find the level of fanservice in the manga to be more or less acceptable, I know there are people out there who would find that the cheesecake ruins the character portrayals in the manga. Even so, I just can’t shake the feeling that the anime’s approach to Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai obscures its greatest strengths too much.

A Look at Fanservice Through Redline and Kanokon

The Reverse Thieves recently made a post about the level of acceptance that anime fans have for fanservice (meant here as sexual fanservice and not intricate weapon details, for instance) in their shows, where they discuss how the view towards cheesecake seems to get increasingly polarized the more extreme and perhaps fetishistic broadcast anime becomes. Having just written my own thoughts on a similar subject, I feel like the question of how fanservice is both executed and perceived, and I think the film Redline provides some good insight into the matter, especially when compared to a representative otaku fanservice show such as Kanokon.

Redline is an anime very different from the norm, and especially different from what is popular with the current generation of otaku. Featuring a wild aesthetic somewhat similar to that of Dead Leaves, Gerald and Tim Maughan on Anime World Order referred to it as the anime they’d been waiting for since Akira. What that means is that Redline is a film capable of drawing in both anime fans that had left the scene long ago, as well as attract an audience similar to those people. It has a manic edge that’s got a certain dangerous appeal to it, and that extends to its fanservice as well.

The women in Redline are definitely overtly sexualized. Between two chesty music idols named the “Superboins” and the most important female character Sonoshee getting an extended topless scene, there is no argument that the film wants you to think of those characters as extraordinarily attractive. They are, to a certain extent, designed for fanservice, but compared to the fanservice from a series like Kanokon, it feels very different.

It would be easy to say that there is a “right” kind of fanservice, and to make the argument that “Kanokon’s fanservice is creepy and Redline’s isn’t. That’s not quite right, though. It’s too simple, and based on too many assumptions, like the idea that just because Kanokon is designed to sell through its harem and Redline‘s appeal lies primarily in its visual design that there is something inherently wrong with the former. Personally speaking, I vastly prefer Redline over Kanokon, but I’ll save that for a possible review in the near future. The real difference, I think, lies not in simply how the girls look (lolicon is not even a topic of discussion or possible misunderstanding with Redline), but with how they present to the viewer, particularly male viewers, what kind of qualities a man should have in order to obtain the idealized women in each respective series.

With Kouta, the main in Kanokon, the defining traits of his character and by extension the things that get the women flocking to him are his quietness, his sensitivity, and his decency. In Redline on the other hand, the portrayal of the women emphasizes “he-men, men of action,” as the old Charles Bronson Mandom commercial goes. Protagonist JP sticks up for his beliefs even if it gets him beat down, and the man he idolized in his youth can be seen in a flashback kissing two bikini babes simultaneously. Both are versions of male fantasy, the nice guy who is appreciated by all of the women and the daredevil who sets girls’ hearts aflutter, but they have a decidedly different appeal to them that doesn’t just have to do with how much Kanokon toes the line between fanservice and outright porn. They exist on somewhat opposite ends of a spectrum of male behavior, and the manner in which the women are sexualized, not just visually but also in their actions within the story, runs accordingly. With that in mind, I think it can be easy to see why there would be conflict between the two sides.

This is not an indictment on either type of male character or the series which they come from, especially with JP in Redline who is shown to be sensitive in his own way. Neither portrayal is inherently worse than the other, but problems can arise. Indeed, while both the “nice guy” and the “man of action” can be portrayed well as men of character and strength, they can also be pushed to unpleasant extremes, though the nature of that negativity can itself be different. The nice guy can be so passive as to absolve him of any mistakes he should be responsible for, and the man of action can often times be seen as a man who treats women purely as playthings to be manipulated. It is also not an indictment on the fans who identify with either character type, as the meaning of terms such as “wish fulfillment” and “role model” can get complicated. Is it better for a quiet nerd to prefer the quiet nerd character he is, or the active warrior that might wish he wants to be? I think that question lies at the heart of the difference in how fanservice is executed.

Objectification of the Vaunted…or Something? (NSFW)

When I look at certain cheesecake-oriented American comics such as Lady Death, Vampirella, and Taboo, I find that they bother me in a way that fanservicey manga, anime, etc. do not. It’s something I haven’t entirely figured out why, but there’s an inkling somewhere in my mind that tells me to head a certain direction. This post is the exploration of that feeling.

Before I start though, I’m going to have to point out that the images used in this post may be considered not work-safe. Careful!

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