Note: This post is safe for work (why are you reading blogs at work?), but does contain very minor spoilers for MGX and more major ones for Sankarea so approach with caution.
Let's start with Sankarea. This series deals with the fanservice in what is honestly a rather jarring way; leaving it out for the majority of the time, then shoving it in on awkward occasion. This was particularly surprising because I (among many others, I'm sure) thought that this was going to be one of the most fetish-rampant series of the season, focusing on a pubescent male and his harem-lead worthy zombie dream girl. However, by focusing on telling its story in a quality way (see: this post), Sankarea manages to pull itself above the reputation usually associated with fanservice shows and manages to engross the audience despite its rather straightforward and small-scale plot. The characters were interesting and likeable, the drama intense enough, the stories important enough (with the exception of that episode about Mero), and the visuals superb. But this post is about the fanservice, right?
See, the fanservice is what makes Sankarea so interesting (or at least, one of the things). The way fanservice is used in this show is very...odd, and while some have cited it as poor or even outright bad, I appreciate the way it makes you think. Throughout the show, Rea and Ranko (or Wanko, if you prefer) are occasionally shown in rather sexual ways. Rea is often shown in a very sexual way, with nudity, costumes, and the occasional bloodfrenzy quasi-rape (Rea being the aggressor) all showing up along the way. And yet, the plot of Sankarea is centered around Rea freeing herself from the oppressive and very very possibly incestuous clutches of her possessive father. Basically, a story about a pitiable girl who is viewed as a sexual object trying to free herself from that situation. Yet as I have explained and many other bloggers have expressed displeasure at, Rea is still sexualized even after escaping her father. Arguably, she is in an even worse position, since she is dead, will rot and "really" die within a comparatively tiny amount of time, and is now in an unfamiliar environment and her safety is at the mercy of a family that doesn't know her secret. Additionally, she is now videotaped (though not nearly as creepily as her father took pictures of her), and is still around a male who is very attracted to her, even unhealthily so.
|It makes you think, doesn't it?|
On what is debatably the opposite side of the spectrum we have Mysterious Girlfriend X (abbreviated to MGX). MGX has no conflict or confusion about its fanservice. Instead, it actually embraces it, making it a major plot device. What I find interesting is that MGX manages to make its fanservice acceptable and unobjectionable despite failing to make it particularly classy or elegant.
|No, see, it's his finger in her mouth. No really, I swear it's less ****ed up than you think. No, I'm telling you...|
So why is it that I still watched this show every week like a thrall even though it made me want to dig a hole in my backyard and hide in it? The answer is romance. See, MGX, for all its drool, blushing, and fetish representing, is the story of two high schoolers in love. Sure, it's a very...unique, very very awkward, and at times frustrated love, but that doesn't change its core nature. How does fanservice fit into all of this? As a lesser part of a greater whole. MGX embraces its various fanservice elements, and it makes them less important than the story. And that solves the greatest problem associated with fanservice; stopping the story for it. For all its drool, MGX is all about being in a relationship. Akira (or Tsubaki, if you prefer) has worries about his relationship, but they aren't "Hey I hope I see her naked." or "Gee, I wish she'd wear a smaller swimsuit." They're more real worries about whether or not he's good enough for their relationship, if things are "normal" and if not being normal is okay, if their relationship will be in danger if it doesn't go to the "next level" (which in MGX's case is tiny things like holding hands), and so forth.
And that's why I found the fanservice in MGX so very acceptable (for lack of a better word). I was worried it was going to get out of hand, but the series manages to incorporate it admirably. That's what is so surprising about this series; fanservice is a big part of it, but it never becomes too big a part.