Recently, Kyoto Animation announced their upcoming Summer anime project, a little series called Free! about a group of high school boys who compete on a swim team. This was an extension of a Kyoto Animation commercial/animation demo/whatever you’d like to label it, in which a group of hot guys essentially got into their kickin’ swim gear and showed their abs near the pool. The concept was based on that of an honorable mention is KyoAni’s annual writing contest. The CM was an instant sensation with the Tumblr crowd; my Tumblr dashboard lit up with gifsets, fan-art and tributes to the unnamed characters (I even made one of my own for the Anime Detour WTF Contest). Crunchyroll eventually posted a petition asking KyoAni to actually produce a TV series based on the short, and it gained over 10,000 signatures (as of right now, it’s sitting at nearly 20,000, quite a feat if you ask me). It was clear that something about the imagery had set the fandom aflame (and not just in the groin area).
Whether the results of the petition were a factor in KyoAni’s decision or not will probably never be common knowledge (I suspect that this show was in production prior to the first CM), but the fact that it was featured as their upcoming Summer project was both a complete surprise to me, and not really that surprising at all. I think to completely ignore the fandom response would have been impossible; while the reactions I’ve talked about so far here have been limited to the Western parts of the anime fandom, I’m guessing that female fans from Japan probably reacted in a favorable, impassioned way as well. And yet, as an anime fan and as a woman, being an ignored member of the anime fandom is nothing new to me. I’m not even talking about fanservice specifically; entertainment in general so often portrays people like me as objects rather than subjects, side characters seen through the eyes of men, and as audience members not worth targeting.