The prevailing wisdom among critics these days is that fanservice – all fanservice, without exception – is bad. Like the overwhelming majority of ideas held by critics, it is based on a misapprehension: that critics are the intended audience for fanservice. Apparently the name wasn’t a big enough clue for them. And they’re such clever people, too…
Fanservice, in case it was unclear, is for fans (which is why critics don’t like it – it’s not for them). But that’s not the point. The point is that any work in any medium, is for fans. To call single out parts of a work as fanservice is to forget that all works are created to service fans. It is not the reason why creative works exist, but it is something they must do to thrive and survive. In this sense, the entirety of a work is fanservice.
But I’m being pedantic here. Critics use the term fanservice in a particular way: to describe elements of a work that (in their judgement) have no reason to exist other than to please (or service) fans. And there is a valid point there: if a work consists of nothing but such elements, it tends to not be very good, since fanservice often gets in the way of minor details like plot and character logic.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Almost nothing badly done has to be badly done. It merely is, all too frequently. But there are many examples of it being done well. The knee jerk assumption that fanservice must be bad can be as damaging to a work as bad fanservice.
This is particularly the case with finales. It seems to be a very common complaint that finales are often “all fanservice”. Why the Hell should they not be?
How many people are going to watch the final episode of a tv show or read the final volume of a series as the place that they start? No, the people who really care about the finales are the fans, and there’s no earthly reason why they shouldn’t get to say goodbye enjoyably.
In short: critics of the world, try to remember that it’s not all about you.