Harem anime

From Academic Kids


A harem anime (more generally, harem comedy) is a a term for an anime or manga story wherein one male character is surrounded by — often living with — several female characters. In many cases such series are adapations of dating simulation games or designed to appeal to a similar audience, especially seinen publications. They are usually comedies. In the United States, the term became popular among the Tenchi Muyo!, and was later applied to series such as Love Hina, Sister Princess, Ai Yori Aoshi, and so forth.

The term should be used carefully as it often carries negative connotations, while some series and fans deliberately embrace the idea of the term. For example, despite not fitting the term exactly Negima: Magister Negi Magi (a.k.a. Mahou Sensei Negima) was humorously promoted as harem comedy. Note the term was created by Western fans to what are usually just called lovecomi (love comedies), although the basic implication is apparent to Japanese fans as well.



The prototypical harem anime features a number of characters, usually with a minimum of one boy and three or more girls whose personalities are often stock characters farmed from mo fandom. The term does not necessarily imply sexual connotations. Most of the parties involved tend to have a individual level of emotional attachment to the lead, ranging from romantic interest to casual friend to a sibling figure, especially when the group becomes analogous to a family unit. Many fans of the genre argue the lead male simply exists to give the audience someone to relate to, while the numerous girls are featured allow an audience with diverse tastes to likely find a character they enjoy most. That the female characters usually lack any other close relationships with men is usually attributed to their unusualness or a simple authorical device to control the size of a cast.

According to this opinion, such series are really no different than other bishoujo series that have an all-female cast, particularly because the male characters are rarely featured on the most popular merchandise. Indeed, a few series aimed towards girls contain notably similar elements (albeit with inverted genders when appropriate), including Fruits Basket and most famously Fushigi Yugi. Some bishoujo series with all-female casts also use the harem design in their storylines, with variable amounts of yuri subtext.

Male Characters

Male characters are never as frequently featured on merchandise as their female counterparts, and because of this lower marketability, many writers only use them when is considered to be absolutely necessary.

The Male Lead is usually at least high school age whose family is either very lenient with his situation or not present at all (he has moved out, parents have died, etc.). They are usually broadly-drawn Everyman characters (often complete with generic-sounding names) and although because of this they are often critized for lacking real personalities. Although the personality of a 'delinquent with a heart of gold' has become more prevalent, the typical personality is of a wishy-washy, unpopular guy with good intentions. He is sometimes rendered non-threatening to female characters by being somewhat of a 'loser'. These failings may include social awkwardness (especially around girls), self-esteem problems, lack of motivation, poor school grades, or being irrationally optimistic. These faults are often exaggerated for comedic potential and avoid audience identification too closely to the lead. The lead may also have one or two friends, often from school, who naively envy his situation while ignoring the inconviences it causes him.

Other male characters are optional, such as The Rival, a character who is often the polar opposite: rich, successful, popular with women, but also a lying, arrogant, womanizing lech

Female Characters

This list is intended to give common examples found in harem series. In many stories these traits may be mixed or fused.

The Lead Girl is a prominent female character implied to have the "best chance" of ending up with the lead male, often by sheer virtue of being the first member of the cast the Male Lead meets. A common debate amongst fans is whether the existence of this character negates the concept of a 'harem,' one reason perhaps the resolution in her relationship with the lead is usually delayed extensively. She also tends to be a broadly drawn character (even if she is an idealized magical girlfriend). She may share many of his worries but is usually much better at disguising insecurity, consequently seeming more confident and capable. This sort of cluminess can be a source of embarrassment, resolved with the quick and infamous use of over-the-top slapstick.

The Housewife embodies the typical traits associated with the ideal Japanese woman; they are domestically oriented, with demure tranquil personalities and are treated most respectfully. They often dote and mother other characters. When these characters are identified as Princesses (such as Princess Ayeka) their characterization can take a sarcastic tone, implying a stuck-up, snotty attitude and a scheming nature. They usually do not get along with tomboys.

Tomboys (also more mild Bokukkos, are often depicted as refreshingly frank and direct compared to the other girls. The are often identifed as roughnecks with a love of parties, sports, drinking, and fun in general. As a result, they can also be viewed as rude, messy, and obnoxious to peace in the household. Her relationship with the lead male is sometimes a simple friendship with the occasional teasing. Tomboys are usually sexually aggressive, if only playfully, towards the lead or even the other girls. Many speak with an Kansai accent (considered rougher by Tokyo standards) or even with masculine pronouns.

Some less easygoing tomboys are Warriors with a strict and well-honed dedication to swordfighting or martial arts, usually to the deteriment of their social lives. They are often overly serious for their age, have problems making friends and identifying with their peers, and have such a lack of experience dealing with boys (who sometimes fear them) they have extreme aversions to guys in general.

The Foreigner is a good-natured caricature of a non-Japanese person (usually Western), sometimes biracial for ease of writing the character as being knowledgable about Japanese customs (sometimes interpreted as xenophobia by western fans). Ensuing culture shock is often source of humor. This character can usually speak a foreign language but it may not be directly depicted, especially if a seiyuu or mangaka is lacking in knowledge. Many Chinese characters often show a skill in an arcane martial art. Foreigners often share the same hedonism as Tomboys. Kaolla Su, from Love Hina, is one example of both.

Little Sisters are the youngest female characters, usually seeing the lead character as a big brother (sometimes making heavy use of the moniker 'oniichan') or a nonthreatening crush object. Interestingly, this character is one of the most variable types. On one extreme, she may be a painfully shy, self-conscious wallflower, while on another she is upbeat and immensely cheerful. These characters are sometimes controversial because of accusations they are design to appeal to lolicon fans; they certainly appear in much doujinshi.

A Nanny is a capable, wise adult character who serves as the final authority figure of the group, usually a landlord or more distant relative (e.g., grandfather Yosho in Tenchi Muyo or Haruka Urashima in Love Hina) Although these characters may step in under extreme circumstances, they are usually laid back and non-critical to the point where they can come across as irresponsible. If the character is not particularly old, they are often female as well.

The typical Genius is extremely skilled in the sciences, and consequently is often depicted as a cute version of a mad scientist, usually with the associated lack of tact and foresight with her creations. Her abilities allow for more fanciful plot devices. This archetype is often associated with Tenchi Muyo's Washuu. In contrast, the Prodigy or Otaku usually shows great knowledge and skill in one particular area but is sorely lacking in most others. They may not be as well respected or intelligent as they think they are.

Examples Often Cited By Fans

  • Ai Yori Aoshi is a recent anime going for a dual concept of both magical girlfriend and pseudo-harem anime. While the two leads are clearly in a relationship early in the story, they do live with a cast of other girls from whom they must keep the relationship a secret.
  • Happy Lesson has few romantic elements at all, and female characters who dote (by their viewpoint) on the lead as mother figures.
  • Love Hina is another famous series which, in younger audiences, supplanted Tenchi Muyo!'s title as the Typical Harem Anime. While not precisely a harem anime, it uses humor and satire to poke fun at harem anime (the lead female is even a parody of the Average Lead Girl in ren'ai games).
  • Tenchi Muyo!, especially the later television series, contains most of the common elements. Although certainly not the first, is considered by many American fans to be the prototypical (or at least most famous) harem anime.
  • Galaxy Fraulein Yuna is a variant on the harem anime archetype; the main character is a schoolgirl, and her extensive list of unusual admirers are also girls.
  • Ichigo 100% is another recent example of the harem anime archetype. While its classification is sometimes questionable due to the male lead's primary fixation on the (apparent) female lead, his wishy-washiness and his apparent reluctance to make a firm commitment (spurred, it seems, by his attempt to avoid hurting any of the girls), combined with his attraction to all the main female characters, makes this a de facto harem anime.

Gender Variants

Series like Fushigi Yuugi could easily be considered a female-oriented harem anime, having a largely unremarkable female lead surrounded by a number of handsome, talented men who are devoted to her. They are also examples in obscure BL titles.


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