Fairy Tail / Kenichi – This One Goes Up To Eleven
Fanservice in manga and anime is like the government in dystopian novels: it’s always there, no matter where you go, but if it does the job it’s supposed to you shouldn’t notice. Of course I’ve seen far too many examples of it being used in both good and bad ways, but there was always one series that went further over the top with it than any I’ve read. That was History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi, which started as a Panty Fighter and spent over 450 chapters pushing it’s own limits. Reading that series has actually produced an interesting effect in that it caused the fanservice in other manga to feel tame and wholesome by comparison. Nami’s outfit in the current One Piece chapters seems much more acceptable when you see Miu’s spandex, which I can only assume is vacuum-sealed. For a while I assumed I would never come across anything worse than that, or at least not willingly.
Recently, something strange has been happening that I never anticipated. Somehow over time, Fairy Tail has accomplished what I considered impossible and made the fanservice in Kenichi feel more acceptable! It managed this by taking a slightly different path from what that series did in terms of extreme content. Since it can’t compete in terms of ridiculous outfits or ways to remove those outfits, Fairy Tail went to the furthest lengths to make every situation it could as absolutely perverse and uncomfortable as possible.
It goes without saying that any situation that is meant to be taken as sexy in any way will feel more inappropriate if it involves kinks the audience doesn’t have. This is why many people dislike Wendy’s treatment more than that of the other girls, because even though she doesn’t have to dress like Lucy, having any part in the fanservice moments at all feels worse with a child. While the lolicon aspects aren’t what bring this series past the breaking point (Kenichi has it beaten there as well), there is a heavy level of increased fetishization in the recent chapters. That fetish, unfortunately, is the rather touchy subject of female abuse being played for titillation. I’m not going to go into a lengthy debate of the subject, since I’m nowhere near qualified, but let me just say how beyond uncomfortable these scenes are.
See, no matter what Kenichi did, I never got the impression that it was trying to hurt anyone when it came to fanservice. I think many of their scenes are examples of a bad attitude around the workplace, but it’s still just a more extreme version of what many other series already do. This chapter of Fairy Tail, by comparison, had Lucy getting tortured for several pages while wearing a skimpy outfit and having the panels angled in the most suggestive way possible. And that’s the second time this has happened to her in this arc. Moments like this are evidence of a very screwed up mind! What makes this even more uncomfortable is that, for some reason, this violence is being centered entirely on Lucy. Okay, there was that one girl who had to strip in shame for her guild, but that wasn’t really violence as much as just really, really uncomfortable. This reinforces the idea that these scenes are about more than just simple fanservice and some dark part of Mashima is being put onto the pages.
Abuse isn’t even the only issue when it comes to the different fetishizing at play. Looking at the two manga side-by-side, I start to wonder if Hiro Mashima actually sees his characters as people, or just as excuses. For example, let’s look at the cover of a recent chapter of Kenichi:
Okay, we have the standard shrink-wrapped outfit on display, but otherwise this isn’t so bad. Fairly typical for their cover pages that feature female characters, I would say. Now here’s a recent cover of Fairy Tail:The catgirl outfits in Negima weren’t even this blatant! If this doesn’t look that bad, the current chapter has the whole cast in swimsuits with the men tucked away in the corner. I spared you the worst pics in this post because I’m not quite so shameless.
After thinking about it some more, I believe that the main difference is that Syun Matsuena will, more often than not, write his scenes with only story and combat in mind, then just add the fanservice in later. This may be why the girls rarely acknowledge how much clothing they lost. Hiro Mashima, on the other hand, writes chapters all at once, and they just end up coming out extremely uncomfortable naturally. I’m trying to imagine what this chapter would be like if you took out the fetishization, and I can’t. You would have to go back and make this not about seven random girls in skimpy swimsuits, and then you have no chapter.
I think what I hate most about this (though that may just be me) is that for a long time, Lucy was my favourite character in the series because she had the most potential for growth. Her teammates don’t really change all that much, but because she started as much closer to a normal human, it was easier for see her get stronger and appreciate that. Unfortunately, that same normalcy may have been what allowed Hiro Mashima to project his own disturbing fantasies onto her. It may be too late to hope she’ll get the chance to redeem herself later, since this was supposed to be the chapter where she got back for what happened against Flare and now she’s stopped being The Atoner and started becoming The Victim. With any luck this will just be some sort of phase and things will stop being so bad soon. After all, how could it possibly get worse from here? Is Lucy gonna get handcuffed, put in bondage gear and strapped to an ancient weapon below the coliseum?
…yeah, that sounds about right.
Posted on July 14, 2012, in Chapter Discussions, Fairy Tail, Historys Strongest Disciple Kenichi, Shonen Action and tagged Fairy Tail, fanservice, Kenichi, Lucy, manga, Miu, shonen. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.