A recent article published by PlayStation Lifestyle suggested that Senran Kagura creator Kenichiro Takaki has considered toning down the fanservice elements of his most famous series.
Speaking with the site, Takaki-san reportedly said that he had pondered this possibility “a little bit… the game started out very small and that was the big selling point in order to move units. Now that the franchise has grown and is getting more popular, it might be worth considering having features that differ depending on where it’s being sold. That way it might be able to sell better in certain regions where it would be problematic to have that kind of content.”
He did, however, also note that “there are also reviews that ignore the games due to the sexual content, and write it off from the start, so those aren’t very helpful. If you’re going to write it off due to a main component then that game just isn’t for you, and that review isn’t really useful as feedback.”
I’d like to take this opportunity to address Takaki-san, Marvelous Games and any other content creators who make fanservice part of their work, and reassure them that their work is welcome, enjoyed and appreciated by fans of all descriptions from across the world.
As I’ve discussed in the many words I’ve written about Senran Kagura on this site over the course of the last three years, fanservice is obviously a significant part of the series, but the reason this is so appealing to many fans is not a simple matter of sexual titillation. This is, of course, part of it — it would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise — but I’d argue that for a significant number of Senran Kagura fans, particularly here in the West, it’s not even the primary appeal element of the series.
Speaking from a personal perspective, the thing I’ve always found most refreshing about Senran Kagura in particular is its brazen shamelessness, and I’d like to stress that I’m not using this descriptor as a pejorative; rather, it’s something to be praised. Senran Kagura has a clear idea of its own identity and what its creators want to be, and fanservice is part of that aesthetic. It recognises the fact that you can tell a serious story and have fun with the characters at the same time, and it acknowledges viewpoints other than those of straight, white men — a demographic that has become increasingly demonised by significant portions of the popular media in the last few years.
Perhaps most notable is Senran Kagura’s treatment of female sexuality, the acknowledgement that women can be attracted to one another without shame and the strongly empowered nature of its all-female cast, none of whom need the approval or assistance of men to accomplish their goals. It’s due to these aspects, particularly with regard to the openly homosexual tendencies of characters such as Katsuragi, that the series has attained a significant female fanbase (both straight and gay) alongside what many would regard as its “core” audience of straight men.
Since my own biological and sociological characteristics preclude me from commenting on the series’ appeal to women first-hand, I instead invite you to read this inspiring essay from “Atma Weapon”, a martial arts expert from California who has drawn great strength from the “shameless, happy, fulfilled lesbian” character of Katsuragi during difficult periods in her life.
Speaking as part of that supposed core demographic, however, the reason I’m continually drawn back to the series is not simply the physical attractiveness of the characters. Certainly, that may be something that initially causes people to take an interest in the games, and there’s no shame in that, but the reason so many people stick around — and the reason that the Senran Kagura online community is one of the most honest, pleasant and friendly fanbases on the whole Internet — is the fact that the game positively revels in its own identity, inviting everyone to come on in and enjoy the fun.
Despite having a single-sex cast, Senran Kagura doesn’t exclude anyone, and everyone can find something to like, whether it’s simply finding the characters visually appealing or being able to relate to their struggles depicted over the course of the games’ narratives. More often than not, it’s some combination of these elements. Speak to any Senran Kagura fan about their series “waifu” and you’ll doubtless hear them explain how they find them both physically and emotionally attractive; much like real life, physical attraction can spark that initial interest, but it’s an appealing personality, a relatable story or just a difficult to define sense of “comfort” that keeps people sticking around.
To put all this another way, while there is more to Senran Kagura than just fanservice, that fanservice acts as an important part of the wonderful atmosphere that surrounds the game. Boot up any Senran Kagura game and it demands your attention; “I’m here,” it says. “This is how I am. I’m not going to change. Deal with it.” It’s an inspiring message that encourages people to believe in themselves, to feel pride and not shame in their natural impulses, and to seek out and draw together with people who enjoy the same things.
Toning down Senran Kagura in any way would be an enormous mistake, because it would be counter to that immensely appealing sense of shamelessness — of pride — that the series currently has. Moreover, any attempts to tone it down would be a vain attempt to appeal to a demographic that has shown itself to be dishonest and intolerant towards those who are open and honest about the things they derive joy from.
And besides, in their eyes, the “damage is already done”. To them, Senran Kagura means little more than “boobs”, and sanitising a future installment is unlikely to convince them to check it out. As has been proven by the numerous “unhelpful” reviews that Takaki-san alluded to in his comments to PlayStation Lifestyle, some critics simply aren’t willing to engage with this type of work in good faith, regardless of the true nature of its content.
So I urge you, Takaki-san and your team at Honey Parade, Marvelous Games, and any other producers, developers, publishers and localisers of games featuring fanservice: have no shame in your work. There are people who love you for your honesty, your openness and the fact you embrace their tastes and desires. There are people who find your work important, helpful and inspiring. And there are those who respect your integrity, your vision and your eagerness to create what you want to make.
Please don’t give in to pressure to change. Those who want you to change are not the ones who support you — and changing to appease them is unlikely to garner their support. Those who do support you already love, appreciate and embrace your work, whatever form it takes.
And there’s nothing we’d love more than to continue to be able to enjoy it for many years to come!
UPDATE, 13 July: Takaki-san has taken the time to reassure fans on Twitter. He notes “I’d like to make it clear that it is not my intention to tone down the content in Senran Kagura overseas. If age rating boards require changes to allow a release, we will have to comply. But otherwise, I want everyone to enjoy the same content!”
He also added this rather marvellous image. Thank you for everything you do, and for being who you are, Takaki-san.
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