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Ecchi (or Etchi, from the Japanese エッチ etchi)comes from the Japanese word meaning "lewd", "sexy", "pervert", or "naughty" when used as an adjective, or it can mean to have sexual intercourse when it is used as a verb or noun. The English use of this word is usually used in manga and anime and it is used when the anime or manga has sexual content, such as skimpy clothing or partial or full nudity, but does not show sexual intercourse.
Ecchi anime usually contains a lot of fan service or nudity, sometimes both. Ecchi anime is also sometimes filled with innuendo and sexual humor. Ecchi anime doesn’t show sex, at least not in a graphical way. Ecchi anime is more similar to an R rated movie with a lot of sexual overtones, such as American Pie.
It would seem that ecchi is similar to hentai, though it doesn’t go as far. There is a possibility that the term itself comes from the word hentai, but the origins are unclear. A literal translation of ecchi means “h”.
A character in anime is often called ecchi, or even hentai, when he is perceived as being a pervert. In an anime like Love Hina it’s usually because of a comedic mistake or blunder.