What is anime fan service?

fan service
/fan ˈsərvis/

“Fan service” is a complimentary service done for the fans, excluding the general public, rewarding those who have been long-time supporters or enthusiasts.  In film/video, fan service is a trivial reference — to the same body of work or a related work — that only a fan would understand. In anime and manga, however, the definition of "fan service" has been misappropriated to mean "gratuitous sexual content".

  • Fan service is not about nudity or partial nudity.
  • Fan service is not about ecchi or hentai.
  • Fan service is not about mature or suggestive themes unless it’s served in a way that only the fans can appreciate.

Fan service is discreet, unobtrusive, inconspicuous, and subtle to everyone who is not a fan. When used properly, fan service does not disrupt the plot of a story nor does it alienate non-fans. If you are not a fan, you will be oblivious to fan service as it occurs.

The best kind of fan service is when very few people get it.
Mike Ryan
senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment

Here are some examples of fan service in anime:

Gintoki pretends to be Goku

Gintoki pretends to be Goku

IGintama - episode 115, Gintoki gives Dragon Ball Z fans some fan service while playing in the woods. He cups his hands together, squats, and shouts “Ka-me-ha-me-ha!”  Watch the entire episode and you’ll find even more fan service.

Sora brings Skyrim to No Game No Life

Sora brings Skyrim to No Game No Life

No Game No Life is an anime about gamers. In episode 6 — post credits — Sora says, “I used to be a gamer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee…” This is a reference to every NPC solider in the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The snapshot above is fan service, but not because of the nude, angelic woman (Flugel).

Lize thinking about eating rations.

Lize thinking about eating rations.

In Is The Order A Rabbit? - episode 3 (approximately @8:15)when Lize imagines eating food rations, a user interface appears around her imitating a menu from the video game series Metal Gear. Fans of the game will make the connection as soon as she opens the menu and begins cycling through her inventory.

Here are some examples of fan service outside of anime:

  • In X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), the Juggernaut says to Kitty Pryde, "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, b----!" During the previous year, a video went viral on YouTube of an X-Men (The Animated Series) voiceover containing the same line. The reference to the video was fan service.
  • In the movie Thor (2011), Thor is given a shirt that has someone else's name tag on it. The name on the tag is clearly visible for about 3 seconds, and it reads "Donald Blake M.D.". Donald Blake is an alias of Thor's dating back to the 1960's.
  • Also in the movie Thor, and the movie X-Men — and almost every other Marvel superhero movie — co-creator Stan Lee makes cameo appearances, providing fan service to longtime readers of comic books and fans of the superhero movie genre.


Consider an Easter Egg hunt. Easter Eggs are meant to be hidden and found. This same concept applies to Easter Eggs in creative works like movies and video games. Producers of creative works often hide additional content within their products, with the intent that consumers  will find that content.

Since fan service is typically trivial material only understood by the fans, it can be hidden from everyone else in plain sight. Fan service does not need to be hidden in an Easter Egg,... but sometimes it is.

Fan Service Easter Eggs in Anime/Manga

An example of fan service that's an Easter Egg in an anime or manga would be the appearances of Pandaman in the series One Piece. To be clear, Pandaman's appearances is a fan service because only diehard fans identify him.  Not only are his appearances random and sporadic, but his visage itself is inconsistent. Pandaman is also an Easter Egg because even when you're looking for him, he's hard to find — much like Waldo of Where's Waldo

Fan service is merely a token of appreciation to those who matter most: the fans. If you have other examples of fan service in anime and manga, comment, share, and let us know what you've found.

We always love hearing from you! XD





You may also like: