On Nisemonogatari 8 and Fanservice

Before I even start with real life quips, it should be mentioned that I’m not actually watching Nisemonogatari. The episode just caused such a huge explosion in the anisphere that it’s likely that pretty much everyone knows about it. The only bit I’ve actually seen of the show is the infamous scene itself on Youtube.

For those of you who follow me in Twitter (you lonely, lonely 20 or so of you), you know that I recently started marathoning House M.D. I’m enjoying it quite a bit, since it’s been a while since I last watched it. I stopped watching a bit into season three, and unfortunately it seems most people say the show declines starting with the fourth season, but I’m still enjoying it. The finale for season 2 is fantastic. If you’re someone who doesn’t watch TV much and hasn’t seen the show, I recommend buying/acquiring the first season and giving it a watch. Or you might be able to find some episodes on Hulu or some other site. But they’re probably from the more recent seasons, and like I said, people say it declines after the fourth season. I do recommend giving it a shot if you’re interested, though.

Anyways, as for the topic of this post? Well the title is pretty self-explanatory, but I can get into specifics.

As pretty much everyone knows at this point, the eighth episode of Nisemonogatari had a very… interesting scene. Opinion was pretty divided on it, with most people either really liking it, or really hating it; with a few exceptions, naturally. However, I still have no idea what to think of it. The scene has actually caused two of my beliefs to collide against each other. Getting a bit meta here, I’ve mentioned in previous editorials that people should prefer good directing/execution over something just being new, and that scene showed this perfectly. But on the other hand, pretty much the only thing I hate is hypocrisy, and I feel like it’s hypocritical to not only give Nisemonogatari a free pass, but also praise what was pretty much incestual softcore porn, yet shit on other shows with fanservice. And, forgive me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve read about the show, there has also been plenty of normal fanservice throughout the show.

I’ve had a few days to think things over, and I still can’t figure out my thoughts in regards to this conflict. So I figured I’d make use of one of the primary reasons for making this blog in the first place, and write down my thoughts so I can sort them all out. Hopefully I’ll have sorted out an opinion by the end, but right now I have absolutely no idea which side I’m leaning towards. So join me on this stroll to sort my thoughts out, as I ponder about that (in)famous scene, Nisemonogatari itself, and even a bit about fanservice.

Before getting anywhere, I suppose it’d be important to first take a look at fanservice.snap1

So, what is fanservice? The name is pretty self-explanatory, it’s basically giving the fans what they want. Now, seeing as how otaku are mainly male and live alone, fanservice typically takes the form of women being scantily clad, or in baths, or in revealing positions. Maybe a “normal” viewer by our standards would roll their eyes at stuff like this, but considering nearly everyone in Japan that watches anime (that isn’t Naruto or One Piece) is an otaku, fanservice is normal. Perhaps it shows a lack of confidence in the show if they need to rely on catering to fans’ more primal desires, but if they’re giving what the majority of their viewers want, who can really blame them?

Now, that’s just the Japanese audience, which is not what I’m a part of. I’m part of the audience that considers fanservice to be shallow, boring, and most of all, unnecessary. Most of us aren’t as hung up on 2D women as otaku are, so fanservice just makes us roll our eyes.

For now, lets keep these different views in mind, we may need to come back to them later.

Moving onto Nisemonogatari itself, I’ve been confused as to why people who normally complain about fanservice have been willing to let the show slide. While I’ve heard the show has good directing and dialogue, I’ve also heard just how plagued the show has been with fanservice. Pretty much every episode I believe? And sometimes it would even take up nearly half the episode? I don’t get it at all. I mean, if people knocked off points for it doing it while they continued to watch it, I could understand that. Instead, it seems like people are just waving it off as if it’s not actually there, or they don’t care.

I feel like it’s kind of hypocritical to ignore something the show does that people would normally dislike a show for. It makes me think… hang on, where’s that picture that has been circling around that sums up my thoughts towards the show given the treatment it has been getting?snap2

I’m not denying there are good parts to the show, but I just feel like Nisemonogatari is getting a lot of undeserved attention and loving.

And speaking of lovingsnap3

May as well jump into the shark’s mouth at this point.

Now, while there were positive and negative reactions to the scene, for the point of the post, it makes sense to only focus on the positive reception. However, it needs to be acknowledged that there were multiple reasons for someone enjoying the scene, so it’d be best to take a quick look at each one.

1. The fanservice was desired.

Well, going back to the different audience views on fanservice, there are some non-Japanese viewers that like fanservice. Or I guess it’d be better to say, there are some people that wanted Karen fanservice in particular. Not much to say about this, if that’s what you wanted, then you’re a happy camper. I can’t really disagree with someone who got exactly what they were looking for.

2. It was funny.

I’m not quite as lenient with this one, because I’d argue that the point of the scene wasn’t to be funny. Sure, there were some amusing faces, but that was only really near the beginning. Especially if you consider the fact that he was going in for the grope at the end. Yeah… pretty sure the scene wasn’t meant just for laughs. However, I also don’t have much of a problem with people taking humor out of things. If anything, I’d just say that finding the scene funny should be more of “laughing at it” rather than “laughing with it”.

3. The directing was good.

And now here’s the primary argument that most people have. It’s also the one I have. Yeah, I’m not denying at all that it was fantastic directing, my problem lies in whether the good directing makes up for what it was.

So I suppose that’s what it all comes down to: does good directing excuse the fact that you’re watching incestual softcore porn?

I’ve had time to think about it, and I’ve decided that it doesn’t. While a great director or pretty much anyone with talent should be praised, there’s almost nothing more disappointing than misplaced talent. And from someone that isn’t actually watching the show, the vibes I get from reading about it from people who are is that it’s exactly that: misplaced talent. And that’s disregarding the fact that, as mentioned earlier, this audience should be shunning fanservice. The type of wrapping paper doesn’t change the gift that’s inside.

There’s a little test of mine I like to call “The Double-Take Test”. Basically, the more you have to look back over your shoulder to make sure nobody can see what you’re watching, the more likely you are to either drop the show, or consider it a guilty pleasure. And I’m pretty sure that scene gives you a straight five minutes or so of looking around to make sure.

Shinbo is a great director, I’m not denying that, but I just don’t understand why this show gets such special treatment where other shows would be dropped like a rock, or people would be embarrassed to talk about watching it. Seeing as I’m no psychologist, I’m hoping someone will stop by and give me the answer to this, because it seriously is bugging me.

So, before ending this, I guess I should go back to my original conflict that lead to this post. Is it okay for people to like the scene due to good directing and execution, or should it be shunned because it’s incestual softcore porn? And yeah, I think I have my answer. It’s both.

This isn’t a conflict because the good directing should be praised, but since it’s… well, you know… it should be seen as a guilty pleasure. I’m not out for blood; I don’t necessarily want people to drop the show, but the faults shouldn’t be as ignored as they have been. Just stop giving it so much leeway. Didn’t the last episode of Bakemonogatari have girls running around with bandages censoring their privates? How the hell was that explained by fans?

P.S. Also, something that has been bugging me even more than the conflict that inspired this post: why the hell do the sisters have egg(s) in their hair? Seriously, it has been tormenting me ever since I noticed it. Is there even a reason at all?


18 Comments on “On Nisemonogatari 8 and Fanservice”

  1. TWWK says:

    Good points. I’ll add that one major reason for the question you posit a few times – why does this show get a free pass – is because of Bakemonogatari. Nisemonogatari is in there here and now, and, a lot of fans of the original series (like myself) keep waiting, week after week, to see a masterpiece in the mold of the first show. The familiar signs are still here; add to that bits and pieces that might qualify as “great” also show their head every once and a while. So keep waiting, while slowly understanding that this series is very different.

    I loved the Bakemonogatari. I’ve now dropped Nisemonogatari. But it took me a lot of episodes to get there.

    • Riyoga says:

      While I heard Bakemonogatari also had some fanservice (like my last quip about the whole bandage-censor thing), it didn’t seem like it was much, so I can see how Bakemonogatari got so popular if it didn’t have fanservice bogging it down.

      My only problem with that, for the most part, is that it seems like most people are shrugging off the fanservice in Nisemonogatari, rather than acknowledging it’s there and being disappointed. It’s one thing to dislike a scene, but another thing entirely to act like it isn’t even there.

  2. Yi says:

    I think people give this show a lot more wiggle room mostly because people loved Bakemonogatari. Plus, the fact its Shaft and Shinbo elevates its status. Whether that’s right is debatable–although I tend to lean toward “context matters”, but I get the feeling that a lot of people think the fanservice is a lot more tolerable because of the reputation this franchise has built via its predecessor and production team.

    • Riyoga says:

      True, and I don’t have any problem with wiggle room due to previously shown greatness. My problem is still when people completely shrug off the fanservice. Seeing as how pretty much every episode has had it, it can’t be continued to be avoided. And episode eight should have either been the nail in the coffin, or a sore thumb that was too much to be ignored.

      I guess it’s my opinion that praising the scene due to good directing was almost like a defense mechanism for people not wanting to admit that, at the least, Nisemonogatari is definitely no Bakemonogatari.

      As I said, it’s not that I want people dropping the show, I just don’t want people continuing to put it on such a high pedestal. Especially when most of these people wouldn’t hesitate to trash-talk any fanservice scene in a different show. From what I’ve seen/heard, there’s nothing different about the reasoning behind the fanservice in Nisemonogatari from any other show. One of those scenes was well-directed, but that was about it.

  3. Have seen Bakemonogatari but have waited to marathon (or drop) Nisemonogatari. Had a strong feeling that Nise would not be as funny or as fresh as Bake but with the already mentioned attached reputation and staff, I was more than willing to give it some slack too.

    Do you have a link for the scene in question?

  4. The issue, as previously brought up, is execution versus taste (or decorum) and people’s preference or acknowledgement towards one or the other.

    As I said, I have not watched any of the show but most likely will at some point in the near future and I’m a person who has a very good immunity against popular opinion or reaction for any given show. So, if I want to watch something when I first initially encounter the series or movie than I will invariably watch the show sometime regardless of what reputation it already has or is getting while airing and being discussed online.

    Anyway, as you hinted upon, I am a viewer who considers everything when watching and judging a show. You can’t just exclude the parts you dislike or hone in on the parts you do enjoy when critiquing a show. So in regards to an execution and intention of a program, one must accept both. Nisemonogatari, as with a large chunk of anime, is targeted towards Japanese otaku, so while there’s plenty of debate to be had on the motivations behind making certain anime with otaku-centric qualities, in my opinion, there’s little to no meaning in dissecting the intention of a scene like the one in Episode 8 because we as non-Japanese viewers weren’t immediately envisioned as the target audience for the show.

    So you, doing what you do best, analyzed the scene strictly from a perspective focused on production and it’s relevance relative to other similar shows.

    “Is it okay for people to like the scene due to good directing and execution, or should it be shunned because it’s incestual softcore porn? And yeah, I think I have my answer. It’s both.”

    That last statement is the conclusion I’ve come upon as well. This is ultimately due to the fact that a show isn’t fashioned with this dissection of production and content in mind. The story is usually already written before the production of a show commences. So whether great direction just happens to combine with a scene of supposedly dubious character, its juxtaposition is merely a byproduct of countless factors (Japanese culture, the original work, the assembled staff, etc.), one that will be supremely easier to just experience than to analyze excessively.

    I know I just analyzed it in a decent amount of depth, but I didn’t pore over the meaning of the scene in any way.

    • Riyoga says:

      Oh definitely. There’s a huge schism between what the western audience wants out of a show versus what the eastern audience wants. I kind of addressed that with my point on fanservice perspective.

      Ultimately, the conflict wasn’t primarily about just the show itself, this post was extremely meta. It was more about me being confused and a bit upset about the reaction the show has been getting so far, as opposed to what I know these people would normally say about a show featuring this stuff. Perhaps a better title would have been, “Nostalgia: A Leisurely Drink, or a Blinding Ale?”

      Hot damn I just made that up on the spot and it sounds amazing and pretentious as hell. I’m good.

      • Your post was very meta hence me writing a longer post. For some reason, I’m better at discussing the abstract more than the specific.

        That was the point, people’s reactions will only be grouped in two camps: for or against. Most viewers can’t or won’t acknowledge the numerous factors I mentioned in the end of my post. It’s not just great directing or incestual softcore, it’s an amalgamation of a gazillion things.

        That title is good.

        • Riyoga says:

          It’s definitely possible that the scene is a cluster of a gazillion things, but lets face it, your average western viewer isn’t going to be able to see them all, or right from the beginning they’re things that only the eastern audience can truly see.

          Maybe I’m butchering it by simplifying it down to just the directing and it being softcore porn, but since the average western viewer won’t see it as much more than that, then that’s what I’m going to work with.

      • Understandable. If there’s one thing we know based off this, it’s that I’m just as pretentious as you, haha.

  5. […] Riyogas take on Nisemonogatari and Fanservice in General […]

  6. Jellie says:

    I’m female (some biased stereotypes in the paragraph above, anime caters to audiences of different ages and genders. Think Otome for a minute. Which caters to a FEMALE audience showing fan-service of male characters) and there is nothing wrong with fan-service.

    People are forgetting that anime are CARTOONS. And cartoons can be however the developers and artist create them to be as. If an anime is parody and has fan-service in it then it is just as well as a anime that doesn’t have fan-service in it. It doesn’t have to line up with whatever rigid puritan viewpoint where anime is only exclusives of one things, and if it has references to boobs or butts it’s “bad”.

    Give me a break! There’s nothing wrong with sexy elements in a show.

    It’s like complaining about South Park(which really has no depth or any real plot whatsoever). But guess what? South Park is a parody and a CARTOON so it can be that way.

    Secondly, people are forgetting that folks are allowed to watch whatever the heck cartoon they want! If i’m watching Heaven’s Lost Property who the hell cares? I’ll watch Heaven’s Lost Property, enjoy the show, and watch something else such as Cowboy bepop.

    I’m sorry so called recent “anime fans” are putting the very shows and creators inside a box where only certain shows of x-calibrator are “acceptable” and others are not. Anime doesn’t have to be disneyfied to be considered “acceptable”. Some just can’t get over the fact that anime can be mature (and yes, contain MATURE themes such as boobs or butt or bellies) or be just as E-rated as it comes.

    Honestly the type of reactions summed up here would be from rigid white-knight prudes who don’t even watch anime to began with, or know what the heck it is other than “it must be for children!

    • Jellie says:

      I like anime because of the diversity and variety it offers and that’s universal phenomenal that attracts fans from across the world(England, France, Japan, America, Brazil, Russia, ect). I’m a fan of anime because i like anime in general and the artists, not because of where I live. Not everyone has to like fan-service(and who cares if they don’t. 50 Shades of Grey was released with it’s obvious bdsm fan-service and sex scenes and was praised as a “New York Best Time Seller”), but I find this a stupid generalization trend of “fan-service is not wanted because we live in the west”.

      Since when was anime ever about “west v.s. east”. Anime has fans from both east and west regions.

      It’s like taking Twilight fans from Spain and England saying that one is worst than the other, yet their fans of the same book under the same author. People will like what they like regardless of where they live.

      • Riyoga says:

        Perhaps I worded my east and west comments badly. All I meant was that fanservice was viewed differently due to the different cultures. For example, what one culture would consider to be fanservice may not be the same for the other.

    • Riyoga says:

      While I’m assuming you’re agreeing with the post in a somewhat roundabout way (that people shouldn’t be dissing fanservice to begin with), I disagree with some of your points.

      First, I wouldn’t really consider fanservice to be a “mature” element. Honestly, I’d say that it’s actually immature. It degrades what could be legitimate writing to just trying to appease carnal desires. I’d say a show like Kino’s Journey is infinitely more mature than any fanservice or hentai show out there.

      Second, while it’s true people can make whatever kind of shows they want, it doesn’t protect it from criticism. It’s important to be good at the type of show you’re doing. Some universally important elements are things like good characters development, and not having plot holes.

  7. Despair Otoko says:

    I really hated how Nisemonogatari went that route. Pandering (which there was absolutely no need for) completely ruined the show in my opinion and turned it from a show with occasional, believable heart-racing moments that were tasteful into the same tryhard bullshit made to please gross japanese dudes who are never satisfied and made the actual story a side ordeal. Made a great show become basically another fanservice show.

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