Nisemonogatari Is All Fanservice, All the Time

Back in the day when I served Google ads on my own blog hosted elsewhere I wrote about the nature of pornography and at some point Google flagged me. Probably because there’s bots for those things. But if you read my posts from back then, I don’t do anything that the word implies on my writing here.

The same can be said of Nisioisin’s animated Nonexistent Youths in Nisemonogatari. Actually we should be talking about Bakemonogatari, because that show is also similar in that there’s all this porn. Maybe not all the time like Nise, but Bake has several moments where I have to wring my brow and consider what I was truly watching.

Unlike people who shy away from the source material, Nisioisin’s treatment of his characters is key to understanding what actually is going on in Bake and Nise from the perspective of the anime adaptation. Granted, all I had was a few books translated into English, but Nisio Isin is pretty much writing like the database animal was living on his sleeves. JP mentions that so far the scenarios and set pieces in Nise are all like what you would find in a doujinshi for Nise, and it’s painfully obvious once we reduce the scenes to what they really are. What you all should know is Nisioisin’s works are all like this, or at least every one that I have looked into. I think the naming scheme he has adopted for the whatever-monogatari stories says as much about the interchangable, mash-up set pieces of his works.

By focusing the plot on these well-understood scenarios, it allows the director to do whatever the hell he wants in the mean time. That allows the story to highlight these quirky characters that live like pixel-perfect, graphed conical equations sharply focuses on the stress points that these well-curated tropes–the word trope seems woefully inadequate here–and their intended effects. It is the difference between showing you a picture of a snake and showing you the word “snake” instead, but both the image and the word behave the same. It’s like, who cares about what the snake is actually? You know what it signifies and you know how it is in your mind, you just want to get to the money shot (which in this case, for readers of Nisioisin, the animated versions of their favorite things).

Oh wait, that’s an actual SHAFT trick isn’t it?

[Next up: SHAFT draws a shark and writes SAME a hundred times in a cut in the same episode.]

When Nadeko went full-frontal in Bake I was pretty uncomfortable. I understood all the stuff that was going on (perhaps too well). But when Shinobu enjoyed her bath with Koyomi I was nowhere nearly as queasy. I think I was suppose to react to it not unlike the way he harassed Hachikuchi. Am I suppose to react to it the same way when Kanbaru got naked and wrestled Araragi? Or when Nadeko tried to seduced the same? What does that say about Karen and Tsukihi?

Well, I don’t really think how we reacted to those things are important. It’s more important to note that we reacted to those things, and not to the fact that 4 episodes in we have barely started on the arc’s main story. To me it says nobody really cares exactly what those plot events are like (unless it accumulates into some awesome fight scene that SHAFT couldn’t animate in time), but we want to see Senjougahara tilt her head or Nadeko play Twister. So here we are, full of it in Nise. That is fanservice. And if you watched Nise episodes 1-4, every episode is full of fanservice, from start to finish. It’s by far the most fanservice-y thing on the air right now.

So when we talk about the discomfort some felt when Shinbo revisits one of his favorite subjects–the aged loli vampire–we have to take that into perspective. Is fanservice expected in a fanservice show? Is this fanservice somehow different than other fanservice? By what measuring sticks are you relying to make that distinction? Is that stick one that retracts or extend upon arousal? Do we even want to know? Can we couch our hard-ons with some, well, context? I really don’t want to go and read people’s valid objections and come away with “man these people are prudes and hypocrites.” Because that’s not who you really are.

I suppose there’s always a lack of dutch angle porn on the internet, and SHAFT works hard to remedy this.


22 responses to “Nisemonogatari Is All Fanservice, All the Time

  • Smithy

    Guess that’s a way (or angle?) of looking at it, but if I have to choose between the style of scenes in “Nisemonogatari” as fanservice or the type of scenes in say “High School DxD”, then my choice goes instantly towards “Nisemonogatari” who at least merges fanservice in showing denuded 2D anime girls with -perhaps also a fanservice aspect- more interesting animation. After all, we’ve already been given enough shows with poorly drawn, physically unrealistically animated bare breasts, nipples,…
    At the core, it may be the same, but at least here it’s presented in a appealing and oft witty fashion.

  • 78

    Nise is, shot for shot, possibly the most fanservicey show I can think of. I find it very amusing how some fans try to deny this, because after all, wasn’t Bake the anti-moe?

    Oh wait. It wasn’t. At all.

    But people who think they “hate moe” (by which they don’t mean moe but fanservice) liked Bake and therefore concluded ex post facto that Bake could not be moe-inducing. This is the kind of delusional self-convincing that goes on all the time with fans who think far too highly of their own tastes relative to others.

    I really hope Nisemonogatari is making those people uncomfortable as all get-out. Making them strain to justify it, to explain it away, to “prove” that 15 minutes of a loli vampire bathing is not fanservice pandering but a few glimpses of Mina’s nipples in Vampire Bund was vile child pornography.

    Because the real problem isn’t their self-serving definitions of fanservice, but that they’re addressing the wrong questions. It does not matter whether Nise has 1,000,000 times more sexual fanservice than the “anti-moe” camp’s bugaboo, K-ON! (it does, in fact the vast majority of shows do), but how it uses that fanservice. The entire Shinobu scene was a triumph of fanservice in my eyes. It titillated (and how!) and pandered (hard!) while simultaneously reinventing a character and her relationship to the protagonist before our very eyes. The level of intimacy – and just as importantly Koyomi’s comfortable reaction to it – described their interpersonal dynamic in ways words would struggle to achieve. We saw characters as we had never imagined them (if you haven’t read the novels at any rate). Shinbou and his merry friends have concluded that you can have both skillful, witty writing and really hot fanservice at the same time. Good for them!

    The inability to judge fanservice within the context of a show rather than as an independent, immediate disqualifying element, is one of the major failings of mainstream western fandom. An understanding is needed that fanservice isn’t bad – bad fanservice is bad.

  • omo

    @Smitthy
    …and thus you are served.

    @78
    Hahahaha “skillful, witty writing” hahahaha. Joke aside, there is a method to the madness and it is enjoyable, so thus popular. I don’t think the treatment of Shinobu is praiseworthy but you raise the good point that during those fanservice scenes, stuff happens that are beside the fanservice (to the extent that it may also be fanservice of a different sort).

  • Stef

    I recently posted a comment about this bathroom business on Ghostlighting’s blog.

    But if you want le fond de ma pensée, there wasn’t any fanservice, perversion or whatever you call it in that scene. Shinobu reminded me of Tsukuyomi Moon Phase and Spice & Wolf. In one show there’s loli vampire fanservice (but it’s rather playful than pervert about it) and in the other there’s a naked Horo playing verbal games with her companion. What I mean is that nakedness isn’t fanservicy by itself, which is something everyone got confused about. Horo was naked because it was her natural state, much like naked Motoko from GitS was more of a machine that an object of desire, the purpose of the nudity wasn’t to excite viewers but to tell something else.

    However usually the viewers are prepared towards that comprehension, which is something Nisemonogatari reverted in its own way. For three consecutive episodes, the audience was bashed in the head with sexual situations to the point where when arrived Shinobu, the audience wanted to see the scene as fanservice, even though it wasn’t.

    It really is an interesting reversal. I am not claiming the show doesn’t have any sexual elements in it ; But this scene didn’t need to, the people imposed it to themselves.

    More generally speaking, I am beginning to resent the use of the term “fanservice” to describe this show when it’s clear that the sex isn’t merely a device to please the male audience but is the major theme of the show. It makes as much sense now as calling Ai no corrida fanservicy.

  • Revisiting That Vampire Loli In the Crazy Bathroom (Nise 4 Redux) | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

    […] Omo and ghosty are right, Nisemonogatari is porn, but you know my corner of the blogosphere isn’t going to let the discussion end there. Whereas my first post on episode four chronicled the chaotic confusion that came over me when I watched it, today I’ll be examining what it is I really saw, and determining how I want to see it from now on. It will be uber-kimoi—I’m not fucking kidding. […]

  • omo

    @Stef

    I’m not going to mince words, but your definition of fanservice is greatly in need of revision. Furthermore I think it is entirely okay to call something fanservice if it also further some narrative/story aspect of the thing, unless you want to explicitly define fanservice as such to exclude that. Almost any/everything can be multi-faceted and Nisioisin’s writing often make sense only in light of multiple ways of seeing the same thing.

  • 78

    @stef
    You’re trying too hard to rationalize the idea that “it isn’t fanservice”. 10+ minutes of close ups of a naked girl lathering herself with soap, stretching, washing off and wagglin’ her butt at us is fanservice. Full stop. If the same thing were done in the latest shounen manga adaptation or slice of life romcom, the Type As and chuunibyous would be flipping out about the depravity of otakudom and the death of anime. I read these comments every single day.

    “What I mean is that nakedness isn’t fanservicy by itself, which is something everyone got confused about.” – Sorry to be blunt but I don’t think it’s “everyone else” who is confused. I think you’ve fallen into the “fanservice is bad, therefore I nothing I like can be fanservice” trap. Fanservice is neither inherently good nor inherently bad.

    Not to mention fanservice is not restricted to sexually charged material. It’s a much broader concept than that. It’s not the rest of the world that’s unnecessarily broadened application of the word; it’s you who has narrowed it far more than ever intended. (Basically the complete opposite of the problem with “moe”.) You’re defining it as “Sexual material that serves no story purpose”, which is one subset of fanservice, but not all of fanservice.

    By the way, sexual material that serves no story purpose very aptly describes most of the fanservice thus far in Nise. Which I don’t mean as a put-down at all. But call a spade a spade, there was precisely zero narrative imperative for Suruga to be naked or Tsukihi to get her tits half out on the couch or Nadeko’s clothes to practically fall off playing Twister. Personally, I love it. I can listen to some of my favorite dialogue writing in anime and get eye candy at the same time. Win-win. But there’s no way I can claim with a straight face it’s not blatant pandering to the fanbase. *And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.*

    @omo
    If you don’t think *monogatari’s writing is skillful or witty, your standards are astronomically higher than I ever ever want mine to become. I’m not sure how I’d be able to enjoy anything.

  • Fencedude

    78’s covered basically everything I’d want to say (and much better than I would probably be able to anyway), but fanservice is very much used as a way of “justifying” a person’s dislike of a show. Witness the time I was told that the almost ridiculously chaste onsen scene in Last Exile Ginyoku no Fam was the most pandering fanservice of the season, the very same week that Suruga was writhing around with her clothes off.

  • jpmeyer

    lololololol being impressed by YA lit lololololol

  • 78

    lololololol being a condescending dick lololololol

  • Stef

    I’m sorry if my point was unclear (I wrote in a state of tiredness and so the content suffered from that)

    I’d like to clarify that I don’t despise fanservice. When Kanbaru was lying down naked, I was the first to appreciate the sight. It was eye candy and it had some interesting dialog. Sure it didn’t advance the plot, but who still has delusions that it’s important? In my life, I’ve been exposed to more “artistic nudity” that most people (this covers internet porn to pretentious paintings in Venetian modern art museums) and I consider I have developed my own view on nude artwork. Some seek to be arousing, shocking, to induce nausea or simply to be cute.

    Nise provided me with an interesting problem, that is to determine the purpose of all the sex. It obviously isn’t just to arouse, there’s just too much of it to be a simple device. Plus the graphic and narrative quality didn’t just call to masturbation. My theory is it isn’t fanservice, it’s about fanservice. Does that make sense? So yes, it porn, I don’t deny it. And it’s fine to me! It’s beautiful, and it makes my brain think of both the anime and the reactions it gets.

    But am I the only one in the “otakudom” who doesn’t get an erection when I see Shinobu? To me (and the several friends to who I showed the infamous sequence (note that they didn’t see the previous episodes)) it was cute. I didn’t see any of the elements generally present in a sexy/arousing sequence. It was a little girl having her hair washed by what could emotionally be her brother, taking a bath and being playful about the situation.

    Please watch it again, try to see it as I do and tell me frankly if it’s anything more that cute.

  • NegativeZero

    And here I always assumed that many of the visual elements in the show were supposed to be a reflection of what was going on in Ararararararagi’s mind and not what was literally happening. Because otherwise his school has a pretty impressive spiral staircase / deathtrap and he routinely gets buried under floods of yaoi. And his bathroom is bigger than most Japanese houses. Though I do think the service is a bit heavy-handed in Nise, or rather I didn’t notice it as much last time (I guess this time it’s what’s going on in Shinbo’s head? One of them, anyway)

    I don’t know about the dialogue being amazing in literary terms, but it’s a hell of a lot better and more interesting than the baseline set by most anime and honestly if the dialogue isn’t the selling point for the show, what is? The fanservice? If so, then why complain?

  • omo

    I think that is one of the interpretation we need to recognize. It’s probably not the only one, though.

  • Stef

    Do you mean it’s a distorted view of Araragi’s reality or it’s all his imagination?
    Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone could say the show is realistic. There are obviously a lot of symbols and exaggerations in the show. But unless there’s a plot point behind this reasoning, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

  • omo

    Well, it’s a theme.

  • Michael is Low on Hit Points

    Well, I’m a bit late to this one, but here I go (again and again, it seems):

    Ulysses- with its allusions and puns and complex sentence structure and shifting styles and depth & width of subject matter -is *fanservice* to the intellectual; Joyce *panders* to them constantly.

    You take offense to that? Why so? Is “fanservice” and “pander” to you simply the absence of *reason*? What is reason? Isn’t the pleasure of the act reason enough? It is.

    Could then “fanservice” and “pander” simply be the act of art poorly expressed? Joyce is good at what he does, so it isn’t pandering? Is not Shinbo good at what he does? He is.

    But of course the answer is obvious: the subjective ignorance of the crowd has spilled over into- no, it was always an originary part of -pseudointellectual circles. A philosophical profound passage needs no reason; so too, a naked woman needs no reason; they need only be well executed within their own dimensions, like all art need be.

    Let us dispense with this biased vocabulary. I have yet to see anything of worth expressed from the usage of these words: fanservice and pander, both tired, ineffectual, dead subjective.

  • Stef

    You just went to the basis of the problem it seems: fanservice doesn’t designate anything precise, thus is subject to as many definitions as there are people. At the extreme, anything I enjoy is fanservice to me. It isn’t a tool allowing communication, and thus should be expelled of our vocabulary.

    I knew wikipedia didn’t tell me anything about its meaning.

  • Michael is Low on Hit Points

    Hmm… I think that “pander” could still have a use… perhaps outside of criticism (a politician can pander to his base, because he is capable of betraying his actual agenda to get elected; as in, he makes promises he knows he will never keep; a piece of art doesn’t have that possibility, in other words: inserting the will/consciousness that would precipitate the use of the word “pander” is giving art a state of being/presence/self that it doesn’t have…. does that make sense?)

    Basically, “expelled from our vocabulary” sounds a bit too harsh (I certainly don’t want to come off as Orwellian); let us say that, in the biased way that word is used in criticism: that use should be avoided.

  • Animanachronism

    But ‘a piece of art’ (why, oh why, can’t we say a piece of craft?) can have at least as much will/consciousness as a politician: a politician is just a collection of soundbites, newspaper articles and television appearances. The existence or nonexistence of a human being with intentions behind those is irrelevant. I’d wager a lot of us sense a much more tangible sense of personality from the substantial time we spend with our entertainment than we do from the brief moments of unsought contact with party machines that pass for a political process in most developed countries (viz. Pontifus’s recent sketch of a fictional but convincing single will in Cowboy Bebop at Super Fanicom).

  • cyth

    Why would you want to do that? Words like pandering and fanservice stimulate productive discussions among fandoms, such as this one, productive in the sense that they promote understanding of others for those who are willing, unlike words that only cause misunderstanding. Discarding them because they don’t define things well is a disservice to those that pioneered this sort of communication. What you’re basically saying is that such communication shouldn’t exist.

  • omo

    LOL Michael.

    Anyway, as long as our meanings come across (connotation and all) then let’s go with that. I think the analysis of that layer of communication is interesting, but as a matter of discussion (at least on this blog) I want to focus on the material content and not as much as general pet peeves (although I do write about them from time to time).

    #haganai ftw.

    I also want to add that while it may be good to explicitly point out what people really mean by “pandering” or “moe cancer” or “3dpd” and what not, it is more important to see how our discourse is affected by that sort of use of meanings and terms. For example, I think the discussion on moe is simply way too unhelpful by 2012 terms. It surrounds, but does not penetrate. Moe appeal may be fetishistic, but in application it is often not the case. And I think there’s a lack of discussion when it comes to what really is moe coming from a practical point of view (as opposed to, say, the Welcome to the NHK example).

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