Is it really that bad? Are anime characters really sexualized as much as we’d like to believe?
Or is this a case of choosing to only see this aspect of anime characters?
I’ll leave the answers to you for the moment.
Before I get into anything like that… Let’s first talk about why anime characters are sexualized at all.
And the reason why this won’t change anytime soon.
Why Anime Characters Are Sexualized:
1. Most anime fans like it… so it’s tolerated
This is Nami from One Piece. One of the most famous anime characters of all time. Just like One Piece itself.
In this scene… Nami is damaged, and the first thing that’s pointed out is her “boobies”, followed by a torn top and a subtle push from her left arm to “keep them at bay”.
Why is this necessary, and why do most anime fans like it?
Well that’s simple: who is anime’s dominant target audience?
Here’s a hint…
That’s right – anime’s audience is MOSTLY male.
So when you see this kind of “sexualization” of female characters, it’s self-fulfilling.
Especially when you realize anime’s “age” range is mostly teenagers and people in their early twenties.
When you look at it from this point of view (based on facts) it’s hard to debate the reason.
Don’t get me wrong – fan-service and sexualization has its place. As does everything.
But the fact is – people enjoy it. So it’s not going anywhere. Though I’m not too fond of it myself.
I’m guessing anime fans in Japan enjoy it more than international audiences do, but I can’t say for sure.
The answer lies within their culture.
2. Fan Service has its own demand in the industry
See these 2 characters? They’re from the anime: Danmachi. A fantasy series with TONS of fan service.
Enough fan service to make you “choke” in disgust, or happiness. Depending on what you like or don’t like.
But here’s the thing:
Danmachi isn’t the only anime with “fan service”
You already knew that, but this image from No Game No Life takes things a step further.
For one – a character in the image (Shiro) is YOUNGER than 16 years of age.
As for the rest… well, regardless of age they’re being sexualized to the extreme. And there’s no argument there.
But… the reason this kind of thing exists is because:
- Fan service has its own demand in the industry.
- People LOVE fan service.
- Not enough people are complaining about it.
- Fan service works, and so anime creators continue to exploit it.
The last point isn’t pleasant, depending on the type of fan service we’re talking about, but it’s the truth.
Fan service plays a big role in why anime characters are sexualized in the industry.
And not enough people complain about it, so…
3. It’s a good tactic to get people’s attention, and Japan knows it
It’s not like “western” media is any better when it comes to “sexualizing characters”. In fact I’d argue it’s even worse, depending on which part of the “spectrum” you’re looking at.
But the truth is: the media all over the world, not just with “anime”, has been doing this forever.
Show a half-naked body of a girl (in particular) and what do you get?
Clicks, views, and then eventually: money. Because most people are lured in by the “sexualization” of the image.
Related: Is Anime A Bad Influence?
4. Japan doesn’t “give a sh**” about what people think
This is something I’ve mentioned before: Japan “mostly” cares about how the anime industry is doing… in their own country.
It’s why so few “dubs” are created overseas.
Or why there’s so few companies across the world in the anime industry.
I suspect the same is true with fan service and sexualization of characters: Japan doesn’t care what “we” think.
Or at least they have no incentive to “care” (until they’re forced to do something about it).
Is it wrong to sexualize anime characters?
If you ask me… no. Everything has its place.
It depends on the anime, what’s happening in the story, and where the focus is.
it’s not wrong when it’s within the right context. Though admittedly – sometimes it’s taken a step too far.
When is it OK to sexualize anime characters?
Continuing from my last point – the anime above is Kill La Kill. The character is Ryuko Matoi.
In this kind of series – it’s understood from the beginning that this is an ECCHI series.
Ecchi is slang for “stripe tease”.
That’s basically what you get out of an Ecchi anime. A “watered” down version of what you’d see if you watched something explicit (I’m sure you know what I’m implying).
So with that said – yes, there is a time and a place for “sexualizing” anime characters.
And that’s regardless of how YOU perceive it. Because remember – that’s the point of “ecchi”.
Man, woman, it doesn’t matter who’s being sexualized. Ecchi is Ecchi and that’s that.
But that leaves the question:
What about other anime genres?
In truth – most anime characters aren’t sexualized to extremes in genres outside of Ecchi.
And before you roll your eyes, yes, it does happen in other genres. Just not as often as Ecchi.
Sometimes you tend to see “exploitation” in these kinds of series. No Game No Life and One Piece are examples I gave earlier in this post.
Fairy Tail is another culprit of this.
As long as the “context” makes sense, it doesn’t matter. And even then, it’s not always a cause for concern (unless the character is underage and it’s done in a vile way).
My problem with fan service and characters being “sexualized” is when it makes no sense to the overall plot, character, story or development.
That’s when I’m forced to facepalm myself, and walk away with disgust and disappointment leaking from my taste buds.
Is anime any worse than other forms of media for its “sexualization”?
Have you seen the way celebrities dress in the USA?
Or the things they “get up to” in general?
Look at this image. It’s Miley Cyrus.
She’s insanely popular.
This is Brittney Spears and Rihanna. I don’t need to say much because you know who they are.
I laugh when I see this bullsh** being labeled as “empowerment”. That’s a fallacy only delusional idiots love to believe.
But that’s a story for another day.
Compare that to anime characters
Is there REALLY that much difference vs other forms of media?
Anime sexualization might be “real”, but it’s overrated compared to media in general
That leads to my next question…
What If the roles were reversed?
Male fan service has happened for YEARS.
Gintama, the “Fate” series, and too many others have done this forever.
The only reason people complain about “sexualization” in the anime industry, which is slang for “women”, is because female characters are targeted.
And while I don’t enjoy seeing characters being exploited (I hate it), it’s because anime’s audience is mostly male.
And unlike me – most fans don’t have an issue with it. Even when it’s out of context.
As for the gender argument – It’s the same issue I have with the concept across most forms of media.
- If the roles were reversed, would we complain about “too much” male sexualization?
I’m not asking this personally, I’m asking this objectively.
If most women were anime fans (70%), and male fans only made up 30%, would women complain about “too much” sexualization among anime characters?
I’m not convinced they would.
This is more about political correctness than it is about addressing a “real” problem.
Let me know what you think.
This is when it’s NOT OK to sexualize anime characters:
- Anime character is underage.
- Anime character is a child.
- It’s used for exploitation and not to “improve” the overall story or series.
- When it’s not used for comedy, but instead: it’s used for the sake of attention.
Outside of that – can we finally put this argument to bed now? It needs to sleep for f*** sake.
Let’s focus on REAL problems of sexualization in the anime industry… Like when “underage” Loli’s get objectified, and used as “sexual” symbols.
THAT is a problem.
But complaining and being politically correct in general… is mostly about bias, SJW nonsense and hidden agendas.
We can do better than that!
If you have any thoughts, share them.
I’m the Founder of Anime Motivation. The #1 website dedicated to making a difference in the anime community.
The 1st anime I watched was Dragon Ball Z. Followed by Claymore, Inuyasha, Attack On Titan, and the rest as they say is “history”.