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Not many anime have a dedicated episode for going to the cinema, concert, amusement park, circus, football match, camping or any other activities. But, almost all of them spare at least one of their episode for a "trip to the beach" episode. The characters sometimes travel a long distance and/or struggle among hardships for this trip.

  • Is is just for fan service (showing boobs and bikinis)?
  • Is it related to a strong cultural interest?
  • Or, is this because of a psychological project of the Japanese government for encouraging Japanese youth for swimming? (This reminds me of USA TV series: In almost all shows, it is a must that at least one episode must be dedicated to a gay character, one episode for a Jewish character, and all good working computers are Apple (except for the ones which get hacked or broken).)

So, what does make beach so special in anime?

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    I don't know what era of USA TV shows you're referring to, but from my experience the majority do not satisfy those requirements. – numaroth Nov 24 '14 at 20:02
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Is is just for fan service (showing boobs and bikinis)?

Mostly yes. Occasionally there are plot points or setting circumstances that require a scene be on a beach (legitimate reasons that is, like a romantic beach walk with an imprtant conversation, rather than poor excuses for bikini parades)

For example, the Pretty Cure franchise has one Beach Episode per season, but, it's not for fanservice. The girls never wear swimsuits and they don't swim at all. [TvTropes]

Sometimes it is used as a 'breather episode' to let the audience take a break from the intricacies of the plot.

Is it related to a strong cultural interest?

Many Japanese will travel to the beach on a trip during the summer. This is common in many modern cultures. However, the Japanese have their own beach traditions too, like smashing watermelons at the beach, which is not common in the West.

Or, is this because of a psychological project of the Japanese government for encouraging Japanese youth for swimming? (This reminds me of USA TV series: In almost all shows, it is a must that at least one episode must be dedicated to a gay character, one episode for a Jewish character, and all good working computers are Apple (except for the ones which get hacked or broken).)

I think you're over thinking this a little :P If the Japanese government wanted to encourage youth to swim - they wouldn't be targetting the otaku demographic, which are stereotypically stubborn basement dwellers who don't go outside much

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    But the otaku demographic is the one which would benefit the most from an activity which is 1. outdoors, 2. at day, 3. not technology-oriented, 4. trains physical fitness and 5. involves bathing :) – Philipp Nov 23 '14 at 22:42
  • It'd definitely benifit them the most :) , but they're generally disinterested in these things so it may be futile – Toshinou Kyouko Nov 23 '14 at 22:48
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    A good point of evidence of a beach scene(s) which involves plot/character development over fan service is in Ouran High Host Club (though not being a girl maybe the Host Club being topless for most of the episode would be fan service to girls). – Memor-X Nov 24 '14 at 0:09
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Your premise is false. It is not the case that "almost all anime series have a 'going to the beach episode'".

The gist of the argument below is as follows: most non-short TV anime of reasonable length (1 or a few cours) do not have beach episodes. However, very long anime will often have beach episodes simply by virtue of being long. OVAs may also incorporate beach episodes, but not so frequently that it would make sense to say "almost all".

If it seems like every show has a beach episode, that's because you preferentially watch the kinds of shows that tend to include beach episodes, and says more about your tastes than it does about anime.


Let's look at some one-cour shows

For an illustrative example, let's just look at the full-length one-cour anime from Summer 2014 that I watched in their entirety. Those that do contain a "going to the beach episode" have their titles bolded.

  • Free! Eternal Summer. Despite this being an anime about swimming set near a seashore, the longest segment on a beach is few minutes in length, and is not the fan-servicey type of thing you're talking about (other than the show having lots of half-naked men in general).
  • Aldnoah.Zero
  • Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
  • Sabagebu!. I don't remember any beach segments in this one, but I could be wrong.
  • Tokyo ESP. There is a fairly long segment where one character happens to be on a beach, but this still isn't a "beach episode" in the sense you're talking about.
  • Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei. They do talk about going to the beach, but they never actually go there.
  • Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yatte mita
  • Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!
  • Glasslip

So that's 1/9. Certainly not "almost all". But there are systematic biases in the things I included in that sample, so let's examine those.

For one, I probably have an inclination not to watch shows that have beach episodes. There were 29 one-cour full-length anime in Summer 2014, and if it were the case that all the other 20 had a beach episode, then the figure would come out to 21/29, which is sort of "almost all" - but a cursory examination of episode synopses for the other shows suggests the following breakdown. I welcome corrections.

  • Definitely a beach episode: Rail Wars; Majimoji Rurumo; Persona 4 The Golden Animation
  • Maybe a beach episode: Bakumatsu Rock; Shounen Hollywood; Barakamon; Jinsei; Momo Kyun Sword; Seireitsukai no Blade Dance
  • No beach episode: Tokyo Ghoul; Sengoku Basara Judge End; Space Dandy 2; DRAMAtical Murder; Ao Haru Ride; Hanayamata; Re:Hamatora; Love Stage; Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus; Nobunaga Concerto

So it looks like we have between 3 and 9 of these with beach episodes; let's assume that all the ones where I was uncertain do indeed have beach episodes, so that we have a total of 10/29. That's certainly not "almost all".

But what about longer shows?

But what about shows that are longer than one cour? What if those shows are more likely to have beach episodes? Well, they probably are. The longer a show gets, the greater the odds that it's going to spend an episode sending its characters to a beach. After all, there's only so many different settings you can use for your episodes. For things that run particularly long, there may even be multiple beach episodes! I would definitely be surprised if a show with more than 100 episodes or so didn't have a beach episode.

But I don't think there's anything special about beach episodes here - any show that runs sufficiently long is also likely to have an episode where the characters partake of some other anime staple like going to the hot springs or playing a game of baseball or participating in a school cultural festival, or whatnot.

And keep in mind, these long-running shows only make up a small fraction of anime (in terms of number of shows, not total amount of footage).

And what of OVAs?

And what about OVAs? What if the reason that the TV series don't have a beach episode is because the beach episode is shunted off to an OVA? This argument also has merit. Let's look at the numbers: which of the OVAs released during Summer 2014 contain at least one episode (20 minutes) worth of beach? For a list of OVAs, I consulted Anichart for Summer 2014, and only included OVAs of at least half-length (10 minutes or more) that were associated with a TV series. Only those that have a beach episode are listed below.

  • Definitely a beach episode: zilch.
  • Maybe a beach episode: Hayate no Gotoku OVAs
  • No beach episode: Tamayura S2 OVA; ImoCho OVA; Girls Und Panzer OVA; Non Non Biyori OVA; Ano Natsu OVA; Kill la Kill OVA; Chuu2 S2 OVA; Suisei no Gargantia OVA; D-Frag OVA

Nope. Beach episodes in OVAs certainly do exist, but they aren't all that common, and I'd be surprised to find any season in which beach-episode OVAs made up the majority.

Notes

It's possible that Summer 2014 is non-representative for some reason, but I can't be arsed to spend time gathering more data from other seasons. I've seen my fair share of anime and am pretty sure the conclusions I draw above are correct.

We have also ignored shows that aren't full-length (such as 4-minute shorts). I don't think this is much of an issue, since that's precisely the kind of show people typically talk about when they talk about anime.

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    I can't be arsed to spend more time gathering more data.... sure? – Vogel612 Nov 25 '14 at 13:44
  • I agree it's a mistake in wording to assert that "almost all anime" have a beach episode, but I think it's clear from the question's main text what the OP wanted--something more along the lines of "Why a beach trip, rather than some other event?"--and this answer doesn't address it. – Torisuda Nov 26 '14 at 22:08
  • @Torisuda Well, my point is that it isn't the case that beach trips are significantly more common than other events. I'm pretty sure I could find similar prevalences for school cultural festivals, or traditional Japanese festivals (the kind with street stalls and stuff), or visits to hot springs, or trips to Kyoto, or baseball games, or concerts, or whatnot. OP's question is "Why does X happen a lot", and the answer is just "X doesn't happen a lot". – senshin Nov 26 '14 at 22:39
  • OTOH, there does seem to be something special about beach trips since they get shoehorned into so many shows where it doesn't even really make sense to have one--see number 39 on this list--and I took the OP to be referring to that phenomenon. But I see your point, and the question was nowhere near as unambiguous or specific as I originally read it to be, so I retract my statement. – Torisuda Dec 3 '14 at 7:32

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