Anime fans do love their special vocabulary. "Anime" sounds more exotic than "Japanese cartoons," just as "manga" seems better than "Japanese comics." And it's much more dignified to say "fan service" instead of "naked cartoon women, giant robots, and other nonsense that panders to people who are way too into this stuff." Technically, the term "fan service" can be applied to any frivolous thing that courts hardcore followers, whether it's a sly in-joke or some cameo by an obscure character. But let's not lie: most of the time, anime fan service refers to animated tits and ass.
But what are the worst kinds of fan service? There's certainly no shortage of anime dedicated to showing boobs and underwear and heaven knows what else, and that pool gets even larger and filthier if you explore the anime-porn market. And we'd just as soon not explore that. We maintain that the most damaging fan service comes from non-pornographic anime that goes above and beyond the usual silliness, whether it's an exceptionally shameless display or a bizarre case of slobbery-nerd-bait dragging down an otherwise straight-faced production. Join us if you like, but you probably won't want to do it at work.
11) Naked Women Symbolizing Naked Women
Case Study: Brain Powered
Sometimes anime delivers ridiculous fan service entirely by accident. Director Yoshiyuki Tomino may be the creator of the frequently bleak Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, but his shows are often hilarious in their attempts to be serious and artistic. For a good example, see the opening credits of Brain Powered.
A little background is in order. Tomino was the biggest name in robot anime during the 1980s and well into the following decade, but Gainax's Neon Genesis Evangelion arrived in 1995 and shook the industry with its bizarre imagery, psychological drama, and harsh dismantling of the entire giant-robot ideal. As the story goes, Tomino didn't like Evangelion one bit, and he resented the way everyone was treating it like the Citizen Kane of big colorful robot crap. So he decided to make an equally experimental series just to show everyone what great mecha anime should be. After all, he was the creator of Gundam! He'd show them, he'd show them all! And what was the first thing Tomino showed viewers of Brain Powered? Behold!
Somewhere behind Tomino's muddled attempt at symbolism, one might see themes of feminine creation and freedom. Yet the only things that really come through are 1) There are naked women all over the place, and 2) Tomino is batshit insane. The rest of the show is just as pants-pissingly botched, as bland characters bicker over utterly boring giant bio-robots. Oh, and human pilots enter these robots through the crotches.
To its credit, Brain Powered puts a lot of female characters into the typically male-dominated tropes of mecha anime (and it has a fantastic soundtrack by Yoko Kanno of Cowboy Bebop fame), but there's no denying that the show is a complete mess. Instead of putting Tomino back atop the heap of robot-anime directors, it proved that he had no idea what he was doing. Today, Evangelion gets big-budget movie remakes, while no one really remembers Brain Powered and its rampant, not-quite-right opening nudity.