Harem anime is a guilty pleasure of mine. Whether I watch it ironically or not is another episode for another day, but in this week’s episode I’ll be taking a dive into the origins of harem anime and a few shows that have altered my understanding of the genre for the better recently.
In this episode, I’ll be taking a closer look at:
- How harem anime started and got to where it is now.
- Which shows are changing the harem game for what seems to be the better?
- Why is the harem genre still thriving?
MUSIC IN THIS PRODUCTION:
ChipScape by chasersgaming
Difference by chasersgaming
Mandatory Overtime by Joth
by Eric Matyas
SOURCES USED IN THIS PRODUCTION:
URUSEI YATSURA (MYANIMELIST)
SAENAI HEROINE NO SODATEKATA (MYANIMELIST)
GOTOUBUN NO HANAYOME (MYANIMELIST)
BOKUTACHI WA BENKYOU GA DEKINAI (MYANIMELIST)
ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION OF THE HAREM GENRE
Harem History: The term ‘harem’ originates from the cultural history of the Middle East; rulers at the time had what was known as a harem, which was a secluded domestic space for women under royal or upper class families.
In relation to anime, harem anime has its roots in the 1980s; it has been claimed that ‘Urusei Yatsura’ was the first harem anime. This introduced multiple love interests, consequently introducing the theme of romantic competition which we now associate so closely with the genre. This anime got the ball rolling for many other harem anime which now mix and match the formula to their own tastes.
I don’t know whether I watch harem anime ironically or not, but there have been a few which have caught my eye recently, mostly in the way that they ‘alter’ the framework to distinguish themselves from their counterparts.
Gotoubun no Hanayome: ‘The Quintessential Quintuplets’ (2019) was probably the show this year that was responsible for getting me into the ‘harem phase’ that I’m in at the moment. The reason why I really did enjoy this one (mostly unironically) was that despite its many, many clichés, it stayed committed to ‘keeping it wholesome’. The QQ doesn’t depend on a single device (fanservice) to keep the audience on board. For me, it was the varying personalities of each Quintuplet and their rather different approaches toward the protagonist, Fuutarou, which kept me coming back each week.
BokuBen: ‘We Never Learn’ (2019) feels like it’s taking a large risk, since it came only a season after The QQ and has an awfully similarly premise. With all this being said, I thought that WNL had a slight edge over The QQ. This may because I has lower expectations for the show or my slight bias to the comedy genre in anime; comedy was most definitely a stronger component in WNL and involved a lot of the characters (even some outside of the harem). The new season of WNL is in play at the moment and I’m very excited to see where it goes from here!
SaeKano: I am slowly beginning to accept that ‘SaeKano: How To Raise a Boring Girlfriend’ has been my favourite harem so far, out of all the ones that I have decided to explore recently. I say this because I think SaeKano does more than what I asked for; this show goes beyond the ‘basic harem script’ (which I was looking for at the time). The show explores the lives of young creatives, balancing school and various projects, all with the intention of making waves in the ‘otaku industry’. With a ton of all-nighters, a large amount of rivalry and many unexpected roadblocks, I fell in love with the show because romance was not the biggest priority of the series. If anything, the romantic parts were interwoven within the narrative. I did not think that that was what I wanted, but SaeKano made it evident that it definitely was. With two entire seasons and a movie scheduled for release this year (2019), this is the harem I was most happy to see evolve.
After diving into the rabbit hole of harem anime this year, I believe that I have been having more fun with anime on the whole through watching these fun, light-hearted shows. Although the output of harem anime per season is quite low (around 1 per season), each one I’ve watched this year as well as the other ones I watched (outside of the seasonal shows), each one seems to bring something new to the table, despite being in a similar framework.