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Have you ever watched a harem anime and thought, “Gosh, I sure wish girls would flock to ME like that!” C’mon, admit it. The fact that most harem leads tend to be loser nerd otaku types further compounds the genre as catering to the fantasies of the viewer.

Or at least, that WOULD be the case, if it wasn’t for the fact that a vast majority of harems are pure trainwrecks.

This post is a collection of thoughts I had with regards to the fact that unless you’re in a shoujo manga or Densha Otoko, chances are good that as an anime character your “romantic” pickings are slim to none for having a sane, stable relationship. It is also a part of the Awesome Blogger Coalition’s Valentines Day collection. Enjoy.


Harem Hell: The unfunny truth of the most common subgenre of Anime Romantic Comedy

Being a harem lead sucks.

No, seriously. Having pretty girls interested in you is fine and all, but unfortunately, Harem is a blunt-stick genre for both romance and comedy, and as far as I can tell the only kind of person that can actually survive having a harem is a pervert masochist. If you’re an ordinary nerd like harem wishes it would portray, you’d be too busy fretting over the fact that yes, you do like all these girls and don’t want to hurt ANY of them.

Why is harem romance such a bad place to be? Well, for starters, every harem trends towards insanity, with a selection of potential mates that draws from a pool of caricatures rather than actual people. It’s the convention of the genre, and of most simply-written stories in general. And because harem trends towards comedy, most if not all of the potentials will be some degree of crazy, since craziness in caricatures is funnier than normality. What’s more, the tropes of harem series have bled over into other genres, making life difficult for male leads everywhere.

Let’s take Clannad as an example. While the series is not as harem as say, Tenchi Muyo, it still has recently fallen into harem tropes, and the end result is something that resembles torture to me. Okazaki, the lead of Clannad, appears to have several options available to him for courtship. In order of introduction, we have Nagisa, Kyou/Ryou, Tomoyo, Kotomi and Fuko. Unfortunately for Okazaki, this means he has to choose from the shy emotional dango-girl, the neo-tsundere that’s more interested in setting you up with her shrinking violet twin sister, the socially awkward badass chick who beats the shit out of you if you annoy her and stalks you if you become her friend, the cloudcuckoolander nutcase with a habit of destroying eardrums with violins, and the batty starfish fetishist ghost girl who looks like she’s ten.

Tomoyo forces you to go to school out of love
Remember, Okazaki. She only forces you to go to school because she loves you.

And that’s a relatively minor harem. Things get worse as you go further up the ladder. Like Seto no Hanayome. When the CHOSEN girl is a yakuza mermaid with a killer (literally) voice and overprotective parents and the rest of the girls include psychotic fake yanderes, crazy policewomen wannabes, the near-invisible class rep, and the chosen girl’s MOM, you’re in trouble. Even Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has a hard time with this. When your harem is the psycho-neo-tsundere who ultimately is the MAIN choice due to the nature of the series regardless of which branch of Haruhiism you believe in, the shrinking violet who has caused more shit to go wrong with the world than the main, the moeblob who is clearly a part of a number of evil plans, the crazy laughing fang girl with a speech impediment, and Itsuki, you may be better off running. But at least in the cases of Nagasumi and Kyon it’s proven that they ARE in fact masochists.

Really, this is all tradition, though. The earliest harem series I remember watching was the Tenchi shows.

Poor, poor Tenchi the psycho alien magnet.

I would go as far as to say that Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei lampoons this trend with the vigor and zeal of Captain Ahab. Each girl in Itoshiki Nozomu’s class is a caricature so far to the extreme that their very name defines their existence. Hell, the class even DOES have a normal girl, who still proves to have some neurosis in that she’s trying to compete with every other girl in the class to be considered not normal.

Really, the only guy with access to lots of girls that I would consider truly lucky is Yuuji from Bamboo Blade, and that’s because the three girls that account for ninety percent of the psychoticness of that set are spoken for. Miya-Miya has Dan-kun, and I think we all agree that he’s the only one who should be allowed to handle her, and Saya and Kirino have each other. That leaves Yuuji with the choice of the adorable to the extreme childhood friend whose only real psychosis is her obsession with sentai and anime, and the flaky space cadet kendo genius meganekko. And really, he can’t go wrong with either.

Even reverse harems such as Haruhi’s in Ouran High School Host Club have this problem. Tamaki the psychotic wannabe father figure, Hikaru and Kaoru the abusive and creepy twins, Kyouya the evil genius, Honey the cake and bunny psycho and Honey’s mount, Mori, all make for their own special kind of crazy.

So, if your life is a harem anime, I advise you this: GET OUT. NOW. BEFORE YOU GO CRAZY. The realm of harem is for masochists only. In fact, it would seem that Harem animes as a whole are not in fact romance stories but rather morality plays on how suffering is wrought by trying to overload oneself with lust.

For those who aren’t masochistic, I would recommend trying to be a major good guy character in a Nobuhiro Watsuki series. The relationships in Rurouni Kenshin and Busou Renkin, especially the ones held by the main characters, have resulted in stable, long-lasting happy relationships. You could also try for other shounen series, but quite frankly, given the fact that no other shounen author even tries to write romance, that option is only for people who would rather stay single for the rest of their lives.