Bath Scenes and Beach Episodes: Two staples of Anime and Manga
May 30, 2011 2 Comments
Something that I have noticed for a while now is the use of bath scenes and entire episodes based at the seaside and the beach in anime and manga. These scenes are so prevalent that they are now obligatory, and indeed I have not seen any anime in the last few years that I can remember at least which did not include one or in fact both.
Recent Series that spring to mind are Infinite Stratos, KissxSis, Shukufu no Campanella, Rotte no Omocha!, Seto no Hanayome, Kenkoo Zenrakei Suieibu Umishou and Seitokai Yakuindomo. Now these scenes and episodes are al part of a certain aspect of anime and manga, that of fan service. They are an opportunity for the animators and creators to draw the characters either naked or in swimsuits, very often bikinis or other risqué swimsuits, to satisfy their consumer base, who are predominantly, although not entirely male.
While fanservice is an integral part of almost all manga and anime even those that are a little more serious, the use of a bath scene and the beach allows for a more intimate look at the female characters, along with the constantly used ‘panty shot’. And more cynically allows the companies to censor certain aspects of the anime in order to release an uncensored Blu-Ray disc later (something I will explore in another post). In particular these scenes allow for the main female protagonists to come together and perhaps advance their relationship with the male protagonist or some other male character in the series.
This is not however the only use for the bath and the beach, we also see these scenes used as plot breaks. Often a bath scene may come after some form of revelation to do with a main character, and an entire episode at the beach is very often in between two major arcs in an animes story progressions.
The bath and beach therefore are used as a way in which the viewers can catch their breaths, can digest what has just transpired either earlier in the episode or the last episode, similarly it allows for a greater impact of the next action, big secret that may be revealed in the coming episodes. Therefore the Beach episode more often than not takes place roughly in the middle of an anime, there are a few exceptions though, Infinite Stratos being one of them. In Infinite Stratos the beach scene is actually used to ramp up the tension and takes place close to the end of the series, therefore the bath scenes are used as tension breaks with a massive dose of fanservice, involving most of the female protagonists at some point or other.
What we see with the bath and beach is the creators playing on the idea of adolescence, the idea that young men will chase young women in order to have sex, therefore there are usually lots of misunderstandings to do with slipping and grabbing either towels, Bikini tops or breasts, these often end in the male protagonist being beaten and kicked. Very often with the beach scenes in the comedic series with a number of phallic items and references, including but not only, bananas, beach balls (not quite phallic, but pretty close), inflatable boats and ice creams, along with the use of sun lotion, water and water melons to provide not so subtle hints about the thoughts and perhaps the actions that many may hope go on.
There are other uses for these scenes, and typically even during the more serious series a bath, shower or even beach scene is used for convenient comic relief. We see this in KissxSis, Seto no Hanayome and Seitokai Yakuindomo, although considering these series are particularly preposterous and built upon slapstick relationships between the main characters, the beach and bath scenes are used to brilliant comic effect. And in the case of Kenkoo Zenrakei Suieibu Umishou since the entire series basically revolves around the beach, the bath and the swimming pool the gags are relatively constant and in fact these particular places do not necessarily play quite the same role as an anime such as Shukufu no Campanella or Infinite Stratos.
So basically while these scenes are very much to do with the fanservice and for a large number of the anime and manga fan base, what we see are these scenes being used for other purpose either deliberately or accidentally. They can provide comic relief, breaks in the action and a chance for the story in a romance or drama to progress.