When it comes to fan service — the sometimes-cheap tricks animators use to get fans to sit up and take note of their work — there are many approaches. Maybe they’ll try to get clever and tap a popular visual meme, like the boom in zettai ryoiki socks or shimapan of a few years ago, or the recent rise of fans of culture who appreciate a good pair of thighs. Fan service doesn’t have to be sexy: there are plenty of instances of “emotional fan service” where viewers get some heart-warming payoff at the end of a long journey, and the reason the tsundere genre works is that the angry verbal abuse (tsun) is always followed by sweetness and love (dere) in the end. But when all is said and done, most fan service boils down to “plot” or “backstory” (aka anime boobs or butts), each offering a different attraction depending on the characters involved. Fan service can have unexpected effects on anime fans…sometimes it even makes us want to drink Budweiser.
This week I watched the excellent Childhood’s End, the three-part Syfy miniseries based on one of my favorite books by Arthur C. Clarke. It’s the story of an alien race called the Overlords who take control of Earth to help our society mature peacefully…but also to guide humanity’s children to the next step of their evolution. It’s common for sci-fi shows to want to include Japanese influences, because things like that are cool, right, right? Unfortunately sometimes they get some details wrong. In the show there’s Japanese character named Rachael Osaka…which is odd right off the bat, since Osaka is extremely rare as a family name. She tells of a pendant she had with the kanji for 心 kokoro on it, which she “lost skinny-dipping in Lake Towada” (Japanese are extremely conservative about nudity in public places and would never swim nude), and she thinks the kanji means “love” (it really means heart, or more specifically, the ethereal and philosophical aspects of one’s heart and soul). Another sci-fi show to borrow Asian influences was Firefly. In one scene, the character Inara gives herself a sponge bath using a lacquered bucket that looks sufficiently Asian for the show’s setting…but it was a sushi-oke, a round, deep tray for serving sushi. Seeing it being used for bathing caused much giggling by my wife and me.
Makoto Shinkai’s masterpiece film Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa) is a masterpiece film, a true achievement in the annals of animation. It’s the story of Taki and Mitsuha, two high school students separated by hundreds of miles and time itself. We’re happy to announce that the film’s limited Blu-ray release will be fully region free and feature subtitles in English, Chinese and Japanese. Preorder the 4K or the 1080p version now!