Reasons Beach Episodes Are Practical for the Summer

Beach episodes aren’t usually plot relevant, but they sure are fun. Keep reading to discover some hot manga and anime takes!

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I understand why people don’t like beach episodes in anime and manga. There are lots of valid critiques for the trope, many of which I agree with. But despite their flaws, I still believe they hold integral value to their stories. Not only do they provide breathing room in plot heavy sections, But they create unique opportunities for character and relationship development. Also, I just think they’re neat. These are all my opinions, and aren’t representative of Bookstr. That said, if you’re interested, keep reading to understand my perspective!

What Is a Beach Episode?

A beach episode is a section of an anime or manga that breaks away from the main plot, where the characters go on a trip or vacation. The destination is usually a beach, but it can just as easily take place in a pool or lake. The important part is that the protagonists are beating the summer heat by goofing off in swimsuits by the water.

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The primary function of the trope is to provide breathing room, usually right before more intense/plot crucial events. They are also used to develop characters and relationships, or as an excuse for fanservice. While these episodes are known for being light-hearted and fun, people have definitely turned this trope on its head more than once.

Division Within the Community: My Stance

As is true with almost any trope, beach episodes are a divisive topic within the anime and manga communities. As someone indoctrinated into this world at a very young age, I of course have my own opinion on the topic. Personally, I believe that many of the cons of this trope correspond to manga and anime as a whole. If a manga/anime is heavy on fanservice, so will it’s beach episode. But if the book or show includes hardly any to none, it’s beach episode will most likely reflect that. In other words, if there’s a problem with a beach episode, it’s not because it’s a beach episode, but because of the book/show has problems as a whole.

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There’s a collective understanding among the majority of anime and manga fans that we enjoy them despite their flaws. While there’s plenty of wholesome content out there, that much more of it is brimming with controversy. That poses the question: can you enjoy an anime utilizing problematic elements, or like a manga character that objectively isn’t the best person? In my opinion, yes, you can. So long as you’re having thoughtful discussions and using a critical eye, you should be fine to enjoy anime and manga at your discretion.

That’s the lens I see beach episodes through. If you can look past the flaws, and evaluate beach episodes as a literary device, they are both incredibly useful and entertaining.

You need a break from the action

Have you ever watched a show that doesn’t give you a break? Can you recall binging episode after episode, wishing for release from your ever-growing exhaustion? I know this feeling very well, because RWBY puts me through this on a yearly basis. Action-packed, narrative-driven stories with no fluff or padding sound all fine and dandy until you’re given exactly what you ask for. The arcs all blend together, the constant battles stop feeling suspenseful, and you wonder if it’s ever going to end.

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Beach episodes might seem like a surprise disruption from the action, but creators utilize them for a reason. While it’s not the case in every show, they’re commonly placed right before or after a climactic or plot heavy scene. A beach episode before the final battle gives your beloved characters one last chance of happiness. Providing this lull before the storm also highlights the climax, and builds anticipation. On the other hand, a vacation is a great way to reward both characters and readers for making it through a tough fight.

It’s a character and relationship development gold mine

A good story can and should develop characters and relationships through the progression of the plot. But not every step in your story is going to progress the plot in the same way or to the same extent. Some sections of the story will have big reveals, while some leave the readers with more questions than answers. If every chapter progressed the exact same amount as the last, it would feel like a train just chugging along.

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Also, having the main plot take a back seat for a moment isn’t always a bad thing. Side plots exist, and beach episodes are a great place to explore them. The change in environment and the playful mood act as a catalyst for a plethora of interactions that wouldn’t be likely to happen otherwise. Discovering the reasons for tense relationships, spotlighting background characters, and moving romantic subplots forward are just a few out of the many different ways beach episodes are unexpectedly useful.

The Elephant in the Room: Fanservice

I’d be hard pressed to find a manga or anime fan unfamiliar with the term. But just in case, fanservice is content included not for the plot, but to appeal to the audience. It’s commonly used to refer to suggestive content, but it’s not always that way. In the case of beach episodes, the opportunity to portray the cast in swimwear is a prime fanservice opportunity.

What’s the problem with fan service? In and of itself, fan service isn’t necessarily problematic. From how many shirtless men with rock hard abs I’ve seen on book covers, I can tell you it’s a phenomenon that expands to all kinds of literature. But fanservice in anime and manga gets a particularly bad rap, and not without reason.

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The number one problem with fanservice is the potential for suggestive content including minors. This is a valid concern — high school class trips are common beach episode motifs. The thing is, not all beach episodes are heavy on fanservice, and not all fanservice is inherently sexual. Fruits Basket is a great example of this. For what little fan-service it has, its beach episode included, it’s mostly focused on characters appearing charming or cute, rather than provocative.

Some also argue that fan service can be very obvious and distracting. Having the camera centered towards a character’s chest, butt or legs isn’t exactly subtle. If extensive fanservice bothers you, a beach episode would be near impossible to get through. But as a long-standing anime and manga fan, I don’t notice fanservice anymore. And if I do, it makes me laugh about how ridiculously exaggerated it is. Long story short, it’s totally fine if you don’t like fan service, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t enjoy a good beach episode.

Filler isn’t the bad guy You think it is

For anime and manga fans who enjoy getting straight to the plot, these side adventures can become boring, time-consuming, or even worse — filler. But what really is filler? Filler is anything that doesn’t further either a plot line, a character’s development, or any of the important relationships. In other words, if you can take the chapter or episode out and not notice, it’s filler.

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Filler is a common word that gets thrown around for just about any episode that feels dull or boring, beach episodes being an extremely common victim. I honestly can’t say for sure, but I think the reason why is because people watch shows for different reasons. If someone’s only reading a manga for the mystery or the action, they might not care as much about character development or relationships. And that’s okay. It’s not a perspective I understand — as a writer, characterization, progression and budding relationships are what I live for. But I can respect it nonetheless. That said, just because someone doesn’t enjoy an episode, that doesn’t make it filler.

But let’s just say you’re watching a beach episode that‘s all filler. There’s no plot, no subplots, no character or relationship development, only fanservice and fluff as far as the eye can see. Is that bad? I still say no. There are still people who enjoy it, and for people who don’t, I have a secret to share. You can skip it. It’s truly a win-win solution for everyone.

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