Great Anime Series With Little To No Fanservice
If you’re like me, then you are probably sick and tired of getting into a new anime and discovering that it’s chock-full of really uncomfortable, and sometimes repulsive, fanservice. Endless panty-shots, big wobbly boobs and the sexualisation of women and children are a deal breaker for me, and I will stop watching any show that even hints that it's about to take me on an awkward ride. In an attempt to avoid this, I tend to wait until a show is running for a while before picking it up. By then, I can judge from “first look” reviews if it’s worth giving my time to.
I don’t think the number of awesome shows have diminished. It’s always been a case of the good and the bad, where they use sex to compensate for poor writing. You’ll find this in western media as well. One can’t be blamed for wrongly believing that all new anime is full of fanservice. This is mainly due to the fact that some of the crappy anime that have come to the forefront lately are becoming more extreme, to the point of normalising lolicon and shotacon, attraction to underaged siblings and other downright disgusting undertones that would never have been acceptable in the mainstream a decade ago. Not only that — there has definitely been some recent blurring of the lines between ecchi and hentai.
To be honest, the ridiculous moe, fanservice-y anime is just promoted more these days to appeal to a certain demographic. The people working on the public relations side of the anime industry here in the west, are undeniably to blame for this shift. This is evident if you follow certain industry pages on Twitter. However, when you look beyond the surface for the titles that don’t get as much media attention, you will find that there are many awesome shows coming out of Japan each year.
I’ve put together a handy list of anime that aired in the last five years, with the exception of one or two that might be a little older. Each of these, I have watched myself, and can vouch that they contain little to no uncomfortable fanservice. The following anime are not listed in any order of preference. It is intended to help those of you out there who have a harder time finding anime that doesn’t make you hate the medium, or want to barf.
Snow White With The Red Hair
Season 1 (2015), Season 2 (2016)
This is a heartwarming shoujo fairytale about a young herbalist, Shirayuki, who has to deal with problems arising from her unique red hair and class status. A spoiled prince in her home kingdom wants her as his concubine after spotting her gorgeous hair. Knowing that she can’t say no to the prince, she cuts off her ponytail, flees to a neighbouring kingdom and leaves the hair behind for the prince to find as a parting gift. Her life is forever changed after a chance encounter with a young man named Zen.
She’s a powerful, independent female protagonist, who is most definitely not looking for a Prince Charming to come along and save her from her fate. The romance here is handled much differently from the typical western Snow White story, where a meek princess needs a prince to make her happy. Zen is an equally strong character and both he and Shirayuki help each other to grow in various ways.
The romance is warm, fuzzy, cute and you will love it if you enjoy fairytales to begin with. The colour palette is bright and cheerful, the characters are expressive, and the backgrounds are beautiful. In fact, it reminds me much of a Disney animated movie, which makes it feel less like an anime. However, that only adds to the overall charm and appeal of this series.
The fanservice is completely non-existent in this one. Apart from some mild violence later in the series, it is even safe for children to watch, and also a great gateway show for someone who is new to the anime medium.
The Twelve Kingdoms
This is an older show from 2002, Japanese title ‘Juuni Kokuki’, but it’s worth including since it’s not exactly well known. This epic fantasy shoujo, based on a series of light novels of the same name, follows the adventures of Nakajima Youko, a high school student in modern day Japan. One day, a strange man with long blonde hair appears, swearing allegiance to her. Before she has any time to really process what is happening, some demons appear and the man takes her and her friends to another world that resembles ancient Japan. Her appearance changes and for some reason, she can understand the language. Her friends, however, cannot. Their presence in this world is clearly not welcome and all are hunted as fugitives. The adventures follow them on various quests as they simply try to survive in this strange land.
The development of all major characters in this anime is well executed. Youko, our protagonist, starts out as the worst kind of conformist who just goes with the flow, so that everyone will like her. In fact, she’s highly unlikeable throughout the first few episodes. As the story progresses, her experiences change her into a much stronger independent woman, who is full of confidence and might even have what it takes to rule a kingdom.
It’s a fantastic anime with a very intricate plot that even details the politics in various kingdoms, much like the way ‘Spice and Wolf’ teaches economics. It does have one downside. The series was never completed, but it is absolutely still worth watching. I never read them, but light novels do exist beyond the anime. There are 45 episodes in total, but you could stop at episode 39 where almost all of the plotlines up to that point are resolved.
As for fanservice, there is none in this show, whatsoever.
Blast of Tempest
This is an excellent, intelligent anime and draws much inspiration from two Shakespearean plays: ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Hamlet.’ If you know either of these plays, you will notice that they are heavily referenced throughout. Like ‘Snow White With The Red Hair,’ Blast of Tempest is brought to us by Studio Bones.
The plot follows Mahiro, a teenager whose sister, Aika, was mysteriously murdered one year before. After finding a wooden talisman in a bottle, he meets a mage who's been marooned on an island by her brother. It turns out the mage's brother sent her there, so that she wouldn't be able to stop him from awakening the powerful Tree of Exodus. Mahiro then strikes a deal with the mage, by promising to get her off the island if she helps him find his sister's murderer. The plot thickens further when it's revealed that Mahiro's best friend, Yoshino, was secretly dating Aika this whole time, so he joins him in his quest to find out what happened to her. This psychological mystery keeps you guessing right until the end with its fair share of plot twists and turns.
The fanservice in Blast of Tempest is minimal. There is a marooned, scantily-clad mage princess on an island, but she’s not overtly sexualised. She’s been on the island for a year, so it makes sense that she uses rags to cover her modesty. From what I can remember, the women do have really short skirts, but it's all done tasetefully enough. Even if the series likes to, rather annoyingly, zoom in on the female character's legs sometimes, it can be overlooked, since it doesn't opt for panty shots and other awkwardness that would otherwise be a complete turn off.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
‘Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress’ is a dark fantasy, steampunk anime that is set during a zombie apocalypse reminiscent of another fanservice-free show, ‘Attack on Titan.’ Some of its similarities with AoT can be blamed on the fact that both series were created by WIT Studio, and that they used some of the same voice actors. To be honest, it’s almost as though the guys at WIT thought over the idea of ‘Attack on Titan’ and were like “couldn’t we improve on this?” They’ve absolutely reused the fundamental concept behind AoT, but they haven’t plagiarized the story in any way. It is something completely different, and is perhaps even an improvement.
A mysterious virus is unleashed during the industrial era that transforms infected humans into zombies (kabane). The only way to kill these creatures is to pierce the heart, which is protected by a layer of iron. In this world, people reside within fortress-like stations. To get from one fortress to the next, they ride heavily-armoured trains the kabane are unable to infiltrate. Enter Ikoma, a young engineer, who is developing a new weapon to aid humanity in the fight against the kabane. He attempts to test his experimental weapon, but becomes infected in the process.
Thankfully, he's able to prevent the infection from reaching his brain, due to a special device he wears on his neck. But because of the incident, he becomes a kabaneri, a hybrid that is neither human nor kabane, although he still has his humanity intact. He is joined by another kabaneri, Mumei, as they attempt to help the remaining humans stay alive in a world crawling with kabane.
The artwork in this show is stunning, from the characters right down to the backgrounds. If we’re to compare it, it blows AoT completely out of the water in terms of its visuals. AoT is just... brown. It’s a shame this only has 12 episodes , as there is still so much more to learn about this world and its characters. Hopefully they’ll bring us a season 2.
By the way, I don’t recall any fanservice in this anime.
You can read my full review on ‘Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress’ here: clicky
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans
Season 1 (2015–2016), Season 2 (2017)
This mech anime brings up some real-world problems, such as slavery, the use of child soldiers, corruption and poverty. Three hundred years after the Calamity War, the people of Mars are living in terrible conditions and depend on Earth’s economy to survive. A young aristocrat, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, is the leader of the Mars independence movement who makes plans to travel to Earth to negotiate for economics on Mars. Several child soldiers are personally chosen by her to escort her on the journey, which is no accident. She wants the people of Earth to see and understand how children are being used on Mars, but at the same time, she also wants to get to know these children on a more personal level. Just as preparations for departure are underway, Gjallarhorn attacks CGS in an attempt to assassinate Kudelia.
The truth is, I haven’t watched any of the other Gundam related series, and you really don’t need to in order to enjoy this one. Iron Blooded Orphans is standalone and has been praised consistently as one of the better series in the Gundam universe. I don’t doubt that, as I’ve really enjoyed this show.
I might as well mention that I haven’t watched the second season yet, but I fully intend to. The first season did not contain any weird fanservice, so I’ll presume it continues like that. There are some ladies with Naze’s group who wear skimpy clothes, but it stops there. Sure, sure, there was some mention of a harem, but it’s not really a harem. That might be considered a spoiler, but whatever, it’s not that important. I want people to enjoy the show without second-guessing that rather silly element in the same way I initially did. Actually, some harem fans were angry when the first season finished. Bwuhahah! I hate harem stuff myself, so I’m going to assume that you’re reading this article because you hate it too.
That’s All For Now
I absolutely intend to write a follow up article in the near future. I have my genre preferences, but hopefully there is at least one show on this list that will pique your interest.
‘Attack on Titan’ — Season 1 (2011), Season 2 (2017) — is far too popular to give a detailed spot on this list, which is why I’ve only given it a mention. Most anime fans have already seen it. Due to the hype back in 2011, some of my own friends who don't usually watch anime, happened to find Attack on Titan. They dressed up as AoT characters that Halloween, which opened the door for me to ask them about their costumes. That just goes to show how big it was at the time. If you haven’t already, you probably should add it to your list. Maybe it doesn’t truly deserve the insane hype it received, but it’s still a pretty good anime.
A big thank you to @Tonto-banchou for his help with proof reading, spotting errors and/or suggesting edits.
Great Anime Series With Little To No Fanservice
Ever feel like you can't watch an anime nowadays without it being filled with uncomfortable fanservice? This might help you find a show that is...
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