My eternal losing battle with harem anime

It’s time to talk about harem anime. While shounen was most definitely the genre of anime that I grew up with, after finishing marathoning most of the big running shounen anime at the time I started to wander off and enjoy more genres of anime. I started to look at some shoujo stuff, romance and slice of life… but the one genre that I found myself really enjoying — and hating myself a tiny bit for it — was harem anime. 

It all started with a little ol’ series called To Love-Ru, you may have heard of it (HELL YES – Ed.) — it was quite popular back in the day. Whatever images and scenes you can conjure up in your head of just the most generic harem tropes — To Love Ru had them all in spades, from the main character with the almost superhuman ability to literally fall into lewd situations — and who is completely oblivious to the advances of the girls, of course — all the way to gratuitous amounts of fanservice. 

And of course, we can’t have a harem anime without the cast of girls now, can we? Typically we will be introduced to a new contender of our main character’s affection every few episodes, and in almost every series these girls are almost defined by a single major character trope. The tsundere, the girl our main character has secretly had a crush on since they were kids, the old childhood friend that comes out of nowhere — the list goes on. Today I want to talk about some of my feelings when it comes to the types of girls in harem anime and how I am forever on the losing team of this entire genre. 

My Eternal Losing Battle With Harem Anime

The tsundere

So as I was saying, in each and every harem anime or manga the girls are almost always defined by their main trope — and while my experience in the genre is limited, I suspect the same is true for the boys in a reverse-harem situation.

If we were to look at a series like Nisekoi for example, it is very clear that Chitoge is, without, a doubt the resident tsundere girl, whereas her classmate Onodera is the character secretly harbouring feelings, but who just can’t muster up the courage to get them out. 

Tsundere is a fairly popular character archetype, but I’m not the biggest fan. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this character trope, and there are a few cases where I really don’t mind characters being written this way. Heck, Rin Tohsaka from Fate and Hitagi Senjougahara from Monogatari are two characters who are absolutely adored and they’re both considered tsundere characters — Senjougahara could be described as being an entirely unique breed, but still. 

My feelings on the archetype basically come down to a frustration with the way these characters not only can’t communicate their feelings, but the way they treat the object of their affection — like, was it absolutely necessary to round-house kick him because of a gust of wind he had no control of flashed your panties at him? I don’t know, you tsundere-lovers are masochists. But hey, to each their own.

The childhood friend

To go back to my Nisekoi example from earlier, when first introduced to the main characters within the first few episodes I already knew that I was more on the side of Onodera — the childhood friend — than I was Chitoge. While she certainly struggles when it comes to getting her romantic feelings across, she still treats our protagonist as a friend and speaks to him as she usually would.

The main downside of this archetype, however, is that they never, ever win. I know this might feel like a bit of a cop-out thing to say, but I feel like I have seen enough harem series through to the end and I can’t think of a single time in which the childhood friend character ever wins. (Someone needs to play more harem visual novels, I see – Ed.) They are doomed to forever play the supporting role to their arch-nemesis — the fateful encounter with the first girl introduced in the series. 

The losing team

At the beginning of this piece, I mentioned that I am almost always a member of the losing team when it comes to the harem genre. Why, do I hear you ask? Because I am a proud defender of the older woman archetype and that is the faction I fight for — this typically ends up being either the teacher/sensei or older sister type character in most harem anime. 

If it was up to me and my chaotic ways Rito from To Love Ru would have ended up with Tearju Lunatique(although I prefer Mikado Ryouko), Futaro from Quintessential Quintuplets would end up with Ichika, and Hachiman would have ended up with the best girl Shizuka — god bless that being a canon ending in the visual novel.

I know I fight for the losing side, and as long as the vast majority of harem series focus on characters in high school, I fear I will be taking Ls for many more years to come.

Well, it’s not all bad though — at least the lolis aren’t winning.

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Conor Evans
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