To the one, it seems easy enough: If the series has an ecchi tag associated with it, one is best advised to simply avoid it. In truth, it is not so much a prudish rejection of sexual stimuli in animated motion media, but, rather, a critique disdaining the waste of prudery. The tropes are myriad and obvious, with the result that it really does seem childish to a creepy degree. Say what we will about the (ahem!) “premature nosebleed”, but it does kind of work as a catch-all symbol within the frame.
More problematic, of course, is the blatancy of the stimuli. It is almost hilarious when baseball and anime overlap off-screen, because those who will discuss in earnest the physics of a left-handed pitcher’s throwing motion in relation to the placement of the heart within the human body apparently find no reason to wonder how this or that best fighter in the Universe managed to pull off that maneuver without slicing off one of her myth-cupped breasts.
The nature of ecchi, though, is to not be so explicit as, say, hentai or open pornography. But the artists do seem to revel in what they do present. And it is, of course, one thing to chuckle at the outsized breasts popping into open air, and the goofy sound effect that goes with it, but somebody had to draw that.
Which, in turn, is a phrase you find yourself repeating all across the anime spectrum. But ecchi seems almost like a perpetual loop of childish jokes, like if we had to suffer through a thousand Austin Powers films, and every one of them had a silhouette gag.
But it is everywhere, the notion that someone, somewhere, had to actually draw and color and animate this; in that context the proposition arises, Any excuse . . . . But that is not really it, despite the convenience, such as with Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor; one might suggest, any excuse to feel up a twelve year-old on screen, but that particular scene actually has significant purpose within the narrative structure, and since you’re animating, yes, you do it that way. But it is enough to make you wonder; the swimsuit and locker room scenes with Misaki are there just for the hell of it, or, perhaps, because it is somehow requisite to show a woman putting on her underwear, or offer a swimsuit-adorned mons pubis in any given manga or anime series. And who knows, perhaps those stillframes carry more weight when printed in a book.
Nonetheless, it is a strange, ever-dynamic context. That is to say, there are always reasons to tread near various prohibitionist boundaries, and even the downright forbidden. Consider the Hollywood standard that one does not directly depict a child being killed; pack two hundred of them onto an airplane, and show the airplane crashing, and that’s just fine. Or so it goes. And in a loosely analogous way, it’s kind of like talking about terrorism†; I can see myriad paths to breaking any number of laws, rules, or traditions and getting away with it, and can even imagine the reasons why one would, but it seems simply unwise to go handing out those ideas like suggestions.
Meanwhile, what of the upskirts in FLCL, Kagome’s magic school skirt, all the boobs in Bleach? I mean, at least Revy looks real. Well, almost. Close enough for anime.
But that is the thing; we get that there is all sorts of sexual innuendo in anime, since that seems part of the point of the genre in general. As such, yeah, it really is kind of creepy—and I have no wallpaper to climb and shred—to consider that in addition to writing such bad scripts, they actually labored to animate them, as well. And from this day forward, a particular, distorted, low-pitch boing and warble will bring to mind a pair of grotesquely oversized breasts popping out and jiggling their detailed nipples all over the screen: Somebody had to draw that.
Certainly, there is something childish about the ecchi sensibility, but that doesn’t mean the scripts should be written for children.
And the sad thing is that I will keep trying. That is to say, I haven’t gotten far enough into Sekerei to know what the story is, much less decide whether or not I appreciate it enough to suffer through the dialogue and, actually, sexually destimulating T&A frames. I am at once laughing and writhing too much. This is a genuinely painful viewing experience.
† There are certain things we might observe in history, such as the bungling benchwarmers sent to hit the U.S. in the wake of 9/11, and their reliance on spectacular targets like airlines, that might well suggest our fear of international terrorists is somewhat overstated. To the other, even those whose news consumption comes from the CNN valence can figure out the implications, and it’s not exactly wise to go telling those plotting to harm us what they are doing wrong methodically. And, to be certain, it is not that animators or Hollywood producers are anything akin to terrorists in this context, but, rather, in a similar manner I’m not about to tell someone how to depict a verboten atrocity on the screen unless there is a really, really good reason. A verboten bad joke? Sure, why not? A verboten archetype? There’s always room for
Jell-o subversion. (Okay, there’s always room for Jell-o, too.) But, you know, it’s like if you could plot the perfect theft or murder, would you really go around telling people how to pull it off? There comes a point where one can reasonably say, “Well, sure, we can craft this scene, but why?” And within a certain realm of outcomes, the answer, because we can, is simply insufficient.
Wikipedia. “ecchi”. 7 September, 2014.