Fan service in Japanese role-playing games: origin and impact

Fan service in Japanese role-playing games: origin and impact

Fan service in Japanese role-playing games

When we think of Japanese role-playing games, some filth comes to mind, like undressing our opponents, pecking under the skirt or searching for the erogenous zones of our companions. Fan service is not per se the representation of huge breasts of all characters. Basically, the fan service is all content in a work that does not contribute to the plot, but should please the consumer - so much for the Wikipedia definition. The most conspicuous and well-known form of these favors are etchi (or ecchi), ie sexual content that does not contribute to the plot.

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Let's talk about sex

In addition to the big Japanese RPG series such as Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy, Japan is known for its mangas and animes, which are very open about sexuality. The unusually informal confrontation with sex fantasies has always been as well received in the US and Europe as the Japanese video games. Mixing the two export media is not a new idea, but established itself in the 1980s with games such as Enix 'Zarth, a text adventure with pictures of pretty girls over the relevant text passages. Io is much more than just a helpful companion in Code Vein, it always demonstrates the tear resistance of your outerwear. Source: PC Games

The fact that sexual content apart from porn ends up in the media in Japan is based on Japanese history and culture. In contrast to our Christian worldview, sex in Japan was never something demonized, but always positively connoted - both for women and for men. As early as the 17th century, it was common practice to share pictures of sex called shunga between lovers and close friends. But while large breasts are a sex symbol for us, in Japan they were just a normal part of the body that was mainly associated with feeding babies. Nevertheless, today in Code Vein we can see how the boobs of Io keep trying to escape their textile prison. The target group for such exaggerated images, however, are primarily the USA and Europe and not the Japanese themselves.

Made for us

In fact, many Japanese do not consume Japanese role-playing games at all, simply because they have no time for it, or only when traveling by public transport. Most of the games that appear for handhelds such as the Gameboy or the Playstation Vita are developed for a Japanese audience, but nowadays in the land of the rising sun, mobile games are the most popular. The inclusion of the rest of the world market has always been a criterion that developers work with - and they do that with sex. Established series like Fire Emblem are regularly targeted by the Japanese "sex sells" culture. Nowi looks like a young girl in Fire Emblem: Awakening, but that doesn't stop the 1000-year-old ladies from showing as much skin as possible. Source: PC Games

In Fire Emblem: Awakening, for example, we get to know Nowi, who, despite her thousand years, looks like a ten-year-old girl who has lost her wardrobe. Nowi doesn't have large breasts, but she does have a lot of bare skin, which in combination with her childlike appearance would be open to criticism. But here, too, one should include Japanese culture, in which nudity originally did not represent anything sexual, but equality. Hadaka no tsukiai or naked friendship stands for social equality for all people in Japanese public baths. As with sex, it took western influence to see nudity as something shameful. A lot of bare skin in female and male game characters seems very strange to us, but the developers themselves don't find this exposure as negative as we do.

The situation is similar with the flashing of panties in games, because It is only through Western influences that one attaches something erotic to underwear. In fact, there were few underpants in Japan until World War II, and mostly koshimaki - hip wraps under the kimono. It was only with the advent of trousers that women were forced to wear western underwear, and with the economic boom after the war, the rest of the fashion spilled over. Since most women were not used to wearing short skirts and accordingly keeping their knees together when sitting, it was common to see underpants flashing out. For the Japanese, however, this had little to do with eroticism, but with cute clumsiness, which by the way, showing panties still stands for. 2B got a very skimpy outfit in Nier: Automata after Square Enix discovered that the players were fixated on their flashing panties. Source: PC Games

So if we can occasionally look under the skirt in Nier: Automata 2B, we should always remember that the Japanese think of cute rather than sexy. Only a number of fanarts prompted Square Enix to take off 2B almost completely in a DLC and to degrade it to an object of desire.

Don't take everything so seriously

Although we now know that erotic things Fighting moans, monster breasts and flashing panties are definitely meant positively, we find it difficult to ignore them in some games. Code of Princess would certainly not be a worse title if the protagonist wore armor that protects more than her nipples and in Demon Gaze 2 we would feel more comfortable if we didn't have to worry about the breasts of our fellow combatants slipping out of their costumes. In Senran Kagura: Estival Versus the series remains true to its line and relies on fan service as its main feature. However, the title cannot be played through without being ashamed of others. Source: PC Games

The fan service of these titles is only topped by self-proclaimed parodies that consist exclusively of Etchi. Games like Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed increase the typical fan service to the extreme, as all fighting leads to the undressing of the opponent and Senran Kagura: Estival Versus even adds a shovel. Gigantic breasts that rock in several directions with every movement and the undressing of the opponent suddenly seems quite harmless when the protagonists pull phallus-shaped scrolls out of their bosom during their Shinobi transformations and generally drool over their horniness on display.

Fans of these series defend their favorite games with statements like "I don't mean that seriously" and promise themselves the charitable sovereignty in all forum discussions. It is easy to forget what a parody is about: to take the genre ad absurdum and not to take it to extremes. Instead of satirical imitation, we get games that leave us ashamed and cast a bad light on video games and their communities in general. A better parody would be if we attracted our opponents with every stroke and they were finally covered up in front of us.

Really wrong

But that would of course be nothing new, after all, Hideo already has Kojima Long thought of such a case. In Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom Pain we get to know Quit, a dreaded woman who is terrified of too much clothing. After all, she has been treated with a parasite that gives her the ability to photosynthesize and would suffocate if her skin was not exposed to the sun and water regularly. A very successful parody if it weren't meant to be taken seriously in the game and if it also affected the male Code Talker, who can also do photosynthesis and still wears high-necked clothing. Thanks to her photosynthesis properties, Quit in Metal Gear Solid V wears as little clothing as possible and thanks to a good script we are allowed to take a close look at her. Source: PC Games

The series shone even earlier with sometimes absurd fan service, which makes us shake our head again and again. In the fourth part of the series we meet the Beauty and the Beast Units - women drawn by war who have been converted into murderous cyborgs. Hideo Kojima's wish to present the women in the cut scenes undressed was only rejected because the youth approval would not have played along. That didn't stop the producer from sending the actresses completely naked into motion capture, so the in-game characters' bodysuits are more like body painting than real clothing.

But above all, fanservice is really stupid then when it destroys the immersion of a game, which is the be-all and end-all in a role-playing game - even if it comes from Japan. The beautiful title Ōkami lets us experience an ancient Japan and plays with the premise that historiography is only the subjective view of historians. In this case, the historian is Issun, a flea-hard being who regularly reduces women to their bodies. But who can blame him when the first woman we meet wears a cleavage at the bottom and her breasts seem to defy all physics? Fan service is quite funny in some cases, but in games like Ōkami it just disturbs the immersion. In addition to her neckline in the front, Sakuya also shows an unusually large neckline in the back. Source: PC Games

Where is all this going?

In addition to the irritating moments that we experience in the game, images of women and men like this also have an influence on the idea of ​​sex in real life - especially in Japan. While the adults spend most of their time playing mobile phone games, the youngsters definitely use Japanese role-playing games, mangas and animes. Women's roles like Lisa from Genshin Impact's librarian tell men that women are insanely sexual, and games like Touken Ranbu convey an unrealistic image of men that no real person can withstand. The fact that around half of Japanese people are single and half of married Japanese do not have sex is perhaps a politically made problem, but around half of women and a quarter of men between the ages of 16 and 24 do not want to know anything about sex in Japan .

In an interview with the BBC, the Japanese Ano Matsui reveals that he is afraid of women, as are many other men, because they have never learned to deal with a rebuff. The quirky fan service image of women has no place for female rejection and conveys a distorted perception. The image of men in the Japanese media is also not ideal and women expect their dream men to court their hearts in a downright violent manner. The desire to get married has not diminished, however, the Japanese simply no longer know how to find a relationship at all. No fan service is perhaps not a solution either, but a step towards education would do the genre better than further exaggerated titles that disguise themselves as parodies.

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