Fanservice in anime is fairly common; particularly within the Shounen genre. Some people have concerns about the hyper-sexualization of female bodies that occurs, particularly when considering the traditional interpretation of “Shounen” as an anime genre – something aimed at teenagers and younger boys.
This interpretation is obviously not the case and speaks towards an entirely different conversation regarding heteronormativity in anime. Back to the subject at hand, there are some concerns about a genre and medium that is being created for the consumption of young males containing depictions of women (and sometimes little girls) in a hypersexualized fashion. Now, to the main point...
Unlucky Kitten Kotatsu Tamaki - En En no Shouboutai (Fire Force)
Fans of the series will know Tamaki as the unfortunate girl who often finds herself stripped, touched inappropriately, and otherwise ogled by the “camera” whenever she is shown on screen. In the first season, Tamaki’s naked body was shown in various ways and later became a large drawback for the series. One of the worst moments was when Tamaki’s clothes were burned to a crisp in Shinra’s pivotal, plot-altering battle against the former Lieutenant of Special Fire Force Company 1.
The fanservice was distracting the audience from the actual events of the plot and even took away from the gravity of that moment – a Lieutenant of the Fire Force turned out to harbour a horrific secret that changed what we first knew about the pyromancy featured in the series, as well as the phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion. That moment in the series was marred by the decision to have Shinra involved in yet another strange mix-up with Tamaki, all for the sake of fanservice.
The Canonization of Sister Tamaki
Fast forward to the second season of Fire Force and Tamaki has been shown in this light very minimally – a possible connection lies in her dabbling in Sister training so that she can help put Infernals to rest whenever Iris cannot. The entire second season features a lot less fanservice than the first, which is a welcome difference to the show as it has managed to find its stride as a Shounen anime. Tamaki has been used for the purpose of fanservice noticeably less than in the first season and it has everything to do with her newfound piety.
Tamaki’s decision to take up the same mantle as Sister Iris has rendered her a literal nun, which is relevant because her characterization as the personification of fanservice in the first season is related to her cat-like abilities – her bad luck is related to the black cat superstition, while her revealing costume designs, fanservice and the overall lechery she suffers supposedly play into the “dorobo neko” trope, a colloquialism for a “homewrecker”, “man-stealer”, and similar pejoratives. With that in mind, Tamaki’s season 2 depiction as a capable fighter and Sister, rather than walking ecchi, is an interesting development in the character and certainly a unique case in a medium filled with characters subject to the same thing.
While the discussion around anime’s depictions of certain groups can feel like an attack on the medium, valid criticism is necessary in order for it to evolve. Some fans love ecchi and welcome fanservice, thinking that critiques are unnecessary because “anime is like that”. It is, but it also isn’t, nor does it really have to be. With Fire Force, in particular, fanservice and ecchi have done more harm than good. The series has; however, given us something undoubtedly interesting to continue to pick apart and explore, and have more honest conversations about. What do you think about Tamaki’s fanservice in Fire Force? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think!