Fan service is best served subtle.
I know many anime viewers will be dreaded about the idea of fan service. We know the semi porno To-Love Ru that really takes fan service to a whole new level and making it a part of its plot. Or something. Even if it isn’t, it sure feels that way. The ‘trip-over-and-fall-on-girl’ cliché is becoming an inside gag in the industry I suppose.
Hyouka takes its time to build an emotional connection with the viewer through Oreki who, in the early stages of adolescence and growing interest for the opposite sex, gets attracted to Chitanda Eru. Subtly Chitanda’s story unfolds and her character grows and so does Oreki’s interest, who in this case is the ideal window for the average high school male when confronted with an attractive girl.
Kyoto Animation cleverly uses this biological development within males by not only exploring Chitanda’s character, but also her outer beauty. For example her colorful purple eyes, which are emphasized many times through the episodes. With eyes being the window into ones soul and a huge factor for many on the rate of attractiveness, Oreki aka the viewer, becomes sucked into Chitanda’s beauty.
Note that many camera angles are used to emphasize Chitanda’s femininity, building up to obviously the climax that sparked this post. In the frame below, Chitanda leans over the table with her long black hair slowly waving down onto her back. This angle is used multiple times throughout the show.
The buildup is set in the first episodes and work towards the best fanservice moment I’ve encountered in anime to date. Before revealing or implying all kinds of sexual attractive elements of the body that trigger certain sexual responses, KyoAni first builds a character from the ground up creating bigger impact when the moment actually occurs.
The best fan service moment takes places during the hot springs episode. Chitanda and Oreki walk into each other along the way to the hot springs. The trigger for Oreki’s brain is set in motion and while the baths are separate, his imagination goes wild by the thought of Chitanda being near him, undressed.
KyoAni teases with scenes of Chitanda without using the regular shades or light beams that will be filtered out when a Blu-Ray release makes its way into the stores, hoping to drive up sales. The actions and scenes in Hyouka are natural, emphasizing attractive features of the human body. Like in the frame below where Chitanda guides a strand of hair along her neck.
Really clever storytelling on behalf of the studio. Many fanservice moments are so straightforward and detached from reality that the viewer has, in my opinion, become numb for these interactions. The emotional connection is lost, but Hyouka proves that without enforcing what the viewer should feel, it creates a natural instinctive reaction with the male viewer.