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Oh lord, I hate it. So often, in harem anime, the main character seems to ooze these pheromones that attract attractive young ladies. I was watching a new one the other day, Yosuga no Sora. As the episode went on, I began raging at my monitor.

“That random maid saw him and thought he was attractive… lucky wretch.”

“He has a shrine maiden childhood friend? … bastard…”

“THE RANDOM GIRL ON A BIKE IS INTERESTED TOO?!”

“NO! YOU CAN NOT HAVE TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS WHO ARE BOTH ATTRACTIVE YOUNG LADIES! I FORBID IT! ESPECIALLY A GLASSES-GIRL!”

“WHAT!!! EVEN THE MAID’S ATTRACTIVE YOUNG MISTRESS?!”

“THE GIRL ON THE BIKE WAS THE CLASS PRESIDENT!? ARE YOU SHITTING ME?!”

Eventually, I had to take a break from the episode. I was just so tired of watching the gray-haired wimp pull in women like some sort of sexual black hole. They even showed us a girl-o-vision shot! Look at this!

This is how they see him!

I understand that there are certain guys that just get the ladies. I get it. He is a nice, friendly, pretty young boy… but, honestly! I’m beginning to hate him as a man! It is yet another time where I sympathize with all the other boys in the classroom. I know I’m not alone. In a lot of harem anime, the other boys unite and attempt to level some sort of punishment upon the main character. They form together into some sort of angry-eyed mob. I UNDERSTAND THE FEELING! Look at this, here is a shot from the scene where he gets introduced to the class.

It is pretty standard stuff… but lets look a little closer. I see at least three unnamed girls who are expressing interest by their body language. The only ray of sunlight was that I noticed one girl who isn’t interested in the least! For that, she has become my favorite character thus-far! Then again, knowing my luck, shes only too shy to look directly at his radiance.

Oh, main character pheromones! Why must you do these things to me?! There are PLENTY of harem anime that have this problem! There is a single nobody who, for some reason, women just can’t stay away from! In Shuffle!, the main character had a childhood friend, a tomboy sempai, the daughter of god, the daughter of the devil and a humanoid construct thingy after him! Why, you might ask? BECAUSE HE WAS THE MAIN CHARACTER!

“But Tom,” you might object, “Shuffle! was based on an erotic game. Of course there are a lot of attractive women who are after the main character for no reason.”

That is no excuse, I say! Nagasarate Airantou was a harem anime based on an erotic game and it had a perfectly legitimate reason! He was a man who washed up on an island of nothing but women! And you know what? Not everyone liked him. There were those who didn’t care. There was one girl who only wanted to turn him into a slave. One girl wanted to do science to him, painful-like! There were even lesbians who just wanted him gone! He wasn’t some sort of pheromone-pot! He was just a guy surrounded by women!

Too often, the harem is constructed as a harem for harem’s sake. The authors don’t consider how each piece fits together. It is just a guy… and then there are girls. We might add more girls with passing episodes… but why do they care about this guy? Often times, he isn’t even that likable of a character… he is some sort of semi-likable pushover non-character. “He is a nice guy, therefore 5 women want him.” Yeah… where was THAT in High School…

There are a couple of harem anime that did it right though… and they are a JOY to watch. Believable human emotion, threads of conflict… great stuff in general. I have three of them that you should check out, if you haven’t seen them already.

Mahou Sensei Negima!

This is some iconic stuff right here. Forget building 3, 5 or 7 likable, fleshed out and human females… Negi has 31. Heck, Negima is almost a lesson in archetypes! We have all walks of life, most of the major moe subgroupings, everything is here. The beautiful part is the overlap, though. They have similar interests! They aren’t all so different that they have nothing in common! They form cliques! They make friendships! In your average harem, you get a red girl, a blue girl and yellow girl, as different as can be! With Negi, not only do you get the full rainbow, the colors blend!

I will warn you though, Negima is a deep hole to jump into. You can’t become a Negima fan with a half-assed attitude… that crap will consume you. When you pause to think that there are 31 girls, each with a first name, last name and seat number… that is a lot of information to begin with. Start adding on backstory, subplots, hobbies… it can break men. Do they all like Negi for his pheromones? In one episode, yes. (Love potion, don’t ask.) Every other episode, no. The little man has to EARN that affection… (Except the class president, shes a pedophile. That was lust at first sight.)

Tenchi Universe

Tenchi Muyo! was a ground-breaker. I remember being ENTHRALLED by it when I first watched it. The characters were lovable, the world was beautiful… but it was a flawed creation. Tenchi Muyo! could only go so far the way it was originally created. Why, you might ask? Romantic tension. In the original, there were two key harem figures, Ryoko and Ayeka. That isn’t to say that they were the only ones interested. They were just the only one we cared about. However, when you tagged on Washu’s desire to have Tenchi’s baby, Sasami’s Tsunami form, Mihoshi’s speech about how being with Tenchi must be her destiny… even the cute mascot character turned furry out of love of Tenchi! Curse you pheromones!

Tenchi Universe fixed all that. When the series restarted, everything came into focus. Now it was a harem, sure, but only Ryoko and Ayeka were actively after him romantically. This gave the other characters the freedom necessary to really develop who they were outside of Tenchi and, at the same time, made Ryoko and Ayeka’s rivalry feel more central to who they were. When you consider that Tenchi Muyo!’s plot lasted for only the first six episodes and the rest was peaceful timekilling… the well-paced plot of Tenchi Universe makes it even better. Tenchi Universe is STILL my favorite anime of all time, but that is beside the point.

Ouran High School Host Club

Ah, the rare reverse harem. I still say Bisco Hattori is a master of crafting characters. Not only was the elusive reverse harem pulled off masterfully, each of the characters felt human. By the end, three of them are actively romantically pursuing Haruhi, but they grew into it. They didn’t start that way episode one, though they were certainly all introduced at that point. (I suppose it could really be four, if you added on Cassanoda-kun…)

The big thing here is that the characters weren’t immediately and intensely attracted to the main character. Relationships take time. Sure, you can find someone immediately attractive, but truly compelling stuff takes time to develop. That is where Ouran really excels. The characters are built with layers of development and their cores help us understand why their outer shells look the way they do. When you can tell the twins apart by their voices, you’ve started to understand. When you can tell the twins apart before they start talking, then you will know.

So, what do these three have in common that really makes them special? Time for growth. We don’t need all our romantic interests to be romantic interests right off the bat, authors. Let the characters interact. The audience will have fun trying to find the points at which subtle developments can be seen. For years I’ve watched Ryoko’s advances on Tenchi. Sure, she says from the very beginning that they were destined for one another… but if you look closely enough, you can find the episode where she starts to believe it.

 

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17 Comments

  1. FUCK YOU TOM ITS 31 GIRLS!!!! I’LL BITE YOUR DICK OFF!!!!

    • AHHHH! Corrected. And a prime example of the monster that Negima can turn you into. ^_^

        • Hartxenon
        • Posted December 6, 2010 at 7:55 pm
        • Permalink

        Damn straight I was trying to figure out a way to glue teeth to my foot so that I could kick you in the dick and bite it off at the same time…

  2. WHY ISN’T ZERO NO TSUKAIMA OR MABURAHO MENTIONED? AND BAKEMONOGATARI? THOSE ARE SLIGHTLY HAREM ANIMES THAT ALSO DESERVE ATTENTION BESIDES THESE OBVIOUSLY PREFERRED ANIMES WITH A GREATER DEPTH OF REALITY TOWARDS RELATIONSHIPS WIth oh I see what you did thar…

    • Maburaho I will give points for coming up with some sort of non-pheromone reason for interest in its pushover main character. Where it failed, however, was that every episode was the same.

      I’m not really sure where I sit with Bakemonogatari as a harem anime…

      Though you know who I should have mentioned? Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei… then again, tackling that beast might be a bit outside the bounds of what I wanted to talk about this time…

        • Jordan
        • Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:19 am
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        Zero No Tsukaima gets no love? Varying levels of attraction for varying reasons? You didn’t watch it did you…

      • I watched Toradora. That’s pretty much the same thing only with a wooden sword instead of a katana, right?

        • Jordan
        • Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm
        • Permalink

        YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ZERO NO TSUKAIMA IS YOU FUCK.

      • You are correct, sir. I was thinking of Shakugan no Shana. After a while, all the anime you love seem to run together in my mind, Jordan. ^_^

        • Jordan
        • Posted December 10, 2010 at 12:44 am
        • Permalink

        Your slow painful death is all that consumes my thoughts…

  3. Thats cause a lot of the animes Jordan likes are in the same vein. I describe Toradora to people as zero no tsukaima without the magic. Hell even the main voice actresses are the same.

    • Also I have corrupted me and some of the deeper more caring members of the current anime club. To me and them Tsundere is just a fancy japanese term for cookie cutter…. This new batch loves my terrible ideas and complaining i became more powerful.

      • I notice Taiga’s voice actress floating around… she mostly does the same sort of characters… You know who I miss? The badass old man character. We don’t see him enough anymore, he was a rare pokemon that only appeared in certain shonen anime anyway.

        • Jordan
        • Posted December 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm
        • Permalink

        Tsunderes are more than just cookie-cutter characters. Just because you refuse to look beyond what archetype the character may be based off of doesn’t mean they don’t have a deeper meaning. There are real emotional problems for each different Tsundere.

        Louise: Incompetent wizard from a famous noble wizarding family. She can’t do normal magic, often being teased by the rest of her classmates. She desires to be accepted, yet her noble heritage refuses her to beg. She must remain dignified. This conflict of emotion creates her Tsundere actions.

        Taiga: Emotionally distanced from her father due to her abhorrently dissolved relationship between her and her step-mother. She doesn’t know how to fend for herself, she’s immature both physically and emotionally. Not only is she trying to cope with maturing, her relationship with her parents poisoned her ideal of creating a functioning relationship with most other people. Her only friend is another person who hides from mature emotions. This gives her a demeanor that can also present itself as Tsundere.

        What is your justification that these are the same character? They have different reasons to act similarly. They may be similar, but they are very different once one gets to the why of the situation.

  4. I’m not saying they are the same character, just the same sort. Short, pushy and loud. It’s the sort of character that her voice fits and I always recognize her. I’m not saying that there can’t be more to a tsundere, I’m just saying that I’m tired of the character concept, just like I’m tired of all these annoying generic nice-guy main characters that get harems. The archetypes are getting stale again.

    • Ray is implying that they are the same character, where in fact they are not the same character. It would be the same as saying that every Hero archetype character is the same, or that every damaged vixen archetype character is the same. This is not true! They have unique reasons to justify their archetype. It would be saying that all rectangles are the same, where we know this isn’t true, some are square, some are different sizes, they are all rectangles, yes, but they are not the same rectangle.

      It was a reply to Ray’s comment, not to your comment.

      • Ah, understood. Sadly, there is a point in the reply thing where it stops indenting and it becomes hard to see who is replying to who.


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