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And yet, things still seem to have got a bit ecchi.
Fanservice is found in many anime, in many forms. When it appears to be a major focus of the show, then it's safe to assume you're watching Ecchi.
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"Ecchi" (pronounced EH-chee) is used by English-speaking anime fans to refer to soft-core pornographic or sexually suggestive anime and manga, and that's the definition this page uses. It is a "milder" version of the word "hentai". However, this is entirely a western invention, as in Japanese, "ecchi" is a catch-all term for all things sexual, however slight or strong, and not really considered a "milder" term; on the other hand, in Japanese "hentai" need not be sexual at all.

The word "ecchi" arose from how Japanese speakers pronounce the letter "H". Transliterated back into English, we get "ecchi". The letter "H" comes from the word "Hentai", but the term as currently used is not synonymous with Hentai, as mentioned above.

The line between Ecchi and Hentai can be hard to draw at times. However, one good rule of thumb is, if it was aired on Japanese public TV at all, it probably wasn't Hentai. Ecchi usually features Barbie Doll Anatomy, or avoids nudity with lingering Panty Shots. Hentai, on the other hand, will usually show full frontal nudity in some explicit form, and full, intimate sex scenes; in other words, pornography. At its mildest, Ecchi is closer in spirit to shows like Three's Company and Are You Being Served?, full of Double Entendres, big misunderstandings, and sexual farce. At its most explicit, it is still more in the realm of HBO Presents than Vivid Video. Another good way to distinguish the two are if there are any animated sex scenes in which genitalia have to be pixelated. If so, you have left this genre entirely.

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To borrow an old saying, when it comes to sexual content, Ecchi is the sizzle; Hentai is the steak.

Due to its dependency on fanservice and sex-orientated-humor: the focus is generally the females, which leaves the protagonist to be a stale, faceless camera to capture all of the escapades and shenanigans going around him.

Possibly because sex is inherently funny, a large number of Ecchi series are comedies. Many start out as softer versions of actual hentai content (such as video games), while others may revert/graduate back to such if an OVA is released.

Note that display of nipples alone is not sufficient to be considered Ecchi. Shows exist that aren't focused on sexuality, but will show the occasional bare breast. Like Europe, Japan is also a bit more relaxed about displaying breasts on regulated TV than America, but typically does not show such content in most of its shows. In America, display of nipples means you are either watching something on pay TV such as HBO, or something completely off TV altogether.

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Examples

  • Freezing: The anime tears clothing off every female in every episode, often leaving them with only a shaded/whiteout bar for modesty.
  • Gacha Gacha features plenty of boobs, panties and other lighthearted fetish material, there's even some nudity, although only limited to nipples.
  • Gantz loves naked women almost as much as it loves gore.
  • Getsuyoubi no Tawawa is a series of images prominently focused on large boobs, but otherwise a Slice of Life.
  • Highschool of the Dead features Gainaxing on girls being torn apart by zombies, a girl cracking open human skulls with a wooden sword while wearing nothing but an apron and a thong, and one particular gratuitous sequence of bouncing in Bullet Time.
  • High School D×D: If you've gone more than one episode without seeing a nipple or one of the girls in an advanced state of undress (Or nothing at all) then something is amiss.
  • I Dream of Mimi could be considered a borderline case for either Ecchi or Hentai, though it is marketed primarily as the latter. It stands more or less in the same position as Ebichu — there's a lot of risque material such as bare breasts and implied sex, but it's too funny to be a straightforward Hentai.
  • Keijo!!!!!!!!. Girls' competitive sports, except they're using their boobs and butts to compete.
  • Kill la Kill: Nudity is mostly the whole point of the show and there's lots of it with almost all characters.
  • kiss×sis tells the story of two girls' attempts to date, and especially sleep with, their step-brother, while dealing with a horny teacher, a classmate with continence problems, and an Older Than She Looks kouhai who are all aiming for the exact same thing.
  • Koihime†Musou jumps between shameless pantyshotting and contriving to get the girls into as many compromising positions as possible, often lampshading it and complementing it with surprisingly classy dialogue and references.
  • Maicchingu Machiko Sensei is one of the Ur Examples — being a kids show that revolves around new and creative ways for the title Machiko to lose her clothing and/or be sexually molested by her elementary school students.
  • Maken-ki! is a harem series (with a conspiracy plot!) set at a school where the student body is predominantly female; most of whom have D-Cup breasts and above. Art by former hentai/doujinshi artist, Takeda Hiromitsu.
  • Omujo! Omutsu Joshi is a harem series whose fanservice falls into the category of "playing to the fetishes". Specifically, the three main girls are a Themed Harem whose theme is that all three, be it for personal need, personal pleasure, or the personal belief it's what the male lead is into, all wear diapers.
  • Oruchuban Ebichu - While the show featured material that could be considered explicit, the simplistic art style and goofy premise kept it from being taken seriously as Hentai.
  • Queen's Blade has no objection to showing nipples, and the proportions of the female characters cover every trope applicable to breasts.
  • Sekirei is a pretty ecchi manga and anime series... including giant breasts, nearly naked scenes and lots of nosebleeds from the main male character.
  • To Love-Ru. While certainly not the first manga to incorporate loads of fanservice and interesting shots of semi-naked to naked young women, To Love-Ru takes the trope to a whole 'nother level to put it bluntly! The sequel "Darkness" somehow manages to crank things up to where you'd swear at times you were looking at a Hentai work, not a fanservicey rom-com!
  • Uchi no Musume ni Te o Dasu na! ("Don't Meddle with My Daughter!") is a spoof series about the adventures of a mother/daughter duo of superheroines, who are often sexually assaulted by a pervy organization called, "Deepthroat".
  • The Witchblade anime surely delights in showing Masane's... ample assets with VERY LITTLE covering them. However, it's in many ways a subversion — as the actual appearance is quite sexy, what's she doing is absolutely not.
  • Yosuga no Sora - Caught a lot of fans off-guard by showing the sex scenes from the visual novel (which is rare for eroge adaptations), albeit in an R-rated rather then X-rated fashion.

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