Harem is one of the genres dominating the anime industry today. Plenty of fans have shown so much love to stories incorporating a simple male character gaining the attention of almost all the female characters around him. However, this type of genre is not purely romance or does not only revolve around males as main characters. It is a genre that has widely grown over the years and is now classified based on the plot of a story.
This genre revolves around the idea of a polygynous relationship. The term harem is derived from the Arabic haram, which means wives and concubines. Moreover, it may also translate to women’s quarters or, in English, the wives of a polygamous man. However, this meaning has gradually evolved through time. Now, it has become a genre no longer limited to men having multiple wives.
What Is Harem in Anime?
While the real meaning of harem is connected to marriage, animes do not often explore nor focus on the idea of having multiple husbands or wives. Instead, in the world of anime, manga, and light novels, it is only a genre that typically plays as a sub-genre. To be more specific, harems are commonly associated with the romance and comedy genres of a particular story.
Furthermore, fantasy, adventure, and supernatural genres also frequently incorporate this genre in their plot. In fact, as the isekai genre continuously grows, so is harem. There are numerous main characters, particularly males, who are getting summoned and reincarnated in another world. In this world, they will gain exceptional skills and form plenty of relationships.
By combining their skills and pleasing personality, these isekai heroes will attract the attention of the female characters, who will fight to become one of their heroines. Moreover, the women or men who like the main characters of the story do not possess similar characteristics, making the story more interesting.
Those who wish to be part of the protagonist’s harem have different personalities and stories. One of the things that makes a series well-written is how character-driven it is, meaning it does not solely focus on the main character. It is not only their looks that sets them apart from the rest of the admirers. They have different ways of gaining the love and attention of the main character. This helps in ranking them based on how influential they have been to the protagonist’s life and on how deep the feelings that the main character harbors for each of his or her admirers.
This means the male or female protagonist‘s relationship with each of his or her harems can vary. The main character can have a lighthearted and purely fun relationship with one and a deeper kind of love for the other. Therefore, the rivalry between the characters involved in the harem is unavoidable.
It should be taken into account that harems are not all as blissful as it seems, even in the anime. Ladies and gentlemen who are part of this genre may develop misunderstandings and jealousy. These kinds of rivalry can appear cute and fun to the fans, making them more fond of the harem genre.
The Different Types of Harem
It is significant to take into account that regardless of how similar these stories may go, harems genres may vary in content. They depend on the theme or other genres included in the story. Some of the animes featuring a type of harem may center on fan service or ecchi themes. At the same time, some of them may highlight the development of the characters through the emotional bond they get to form with one another.
While this genre generally pertains to having a flock of male or female admirers, there is more to it. Harem animes may differ depending on the plot, characters, and the setting where the story takes place. To help you further understand its context and themes, here are the different types of harem frequently featured in the anime:
The Traditional Type
Traditional harem follows the meaning behind the etymology of the word harem. This type involves a male protagonist who has multiple female characters who want to form a romantic relationship with him. The main focus of this type is usually the story of the male main character. However, it may also feature how the relationships formed with the female characters affect his life.
In connection, traditional harem animes became the foundation of all the different types of animes today. If not for the success of this genre, the people behind the masterpieces we have today might not have realized how beneficial the genre is in the plot of their stories. Moreover, this type of harem usually attracts more male audiences compared to female viewers.
This category or type served as the pathway for creators to gain inspiration and write a story that is somehow connected to this theme but is also entirely different in terms of content. Some examples traditional harem are Rent-A-Girlfriend, Nisekoi: False Love, Hayate The Combat Butler!!, and The World God Only Knows. Other popular traditional animes are The Quintessential Quintuplets and Girlfriend, Girlfriend. Among all types, traditional harem anime dominates in terms of number.
The Reverse Harem
The reverse harem is the complete opposite of the traditional one. If the male character is the protagonist of the series, then reverse harems have a female character. Reverse harems frequently feature a girl who is clueless about her suitors’ feelings, making it hard for her to choose who to pick among them.
Aside from male suitors, reverse harems have also widened their scope by including those belonging to the third gender as one of the female protagonist’s admirers. An example of this is the isekai romance anime titled My Next Life as a Villainess.
In addition, reverse harem animes appeals more to the female population. This is because of the handsome men who are linked to the main female characters. Like the traditional harems, there is also a sense of rivalry among these men and rivalry between the female protagonist and those attracted to her admirers. Examples are the classic Ouran High School Host Club and the popular reboot of Fruits Basket. Other adorable reverse animes that men and women can enjoy are Brother’s Conflict, The Wallflower, and Kiss Him, Not Me.
The Fantasy Harem
Fantasy harems or supernatural harem animes have also become one of the types of the genre. Due to the various animes under the isekai, supernatural, and adventure genres, a fantasy harem emerged. This is not that different from traditional and reverse harems, except that this type includes magical powers, a fantasy land, and mythical beings.
Fantasy harems can either be traditional harems or reverse harems, meaning the main character can either be a female or male. The main character of a series featuring this type can have admirers that are technically not humans.
They can be those who belong to the beast race, demons, royalties, witches, angels, elves, and mages. An example of this is Rudeus Greyrat from Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation. This is because Rudeus was reincarnated from Earth and gained love interests from girls, which include a noblewoman, a mage, and an elf.
Furthermore, High School DxD also falls under this type of harem because the leading male character, Issei Hyodo, has a bunch of gorgeous admirers. Aside from their beautiful faces and personality, the harem of Issei can be easily distinguished. This is because the girls are either angels, dragons, gods, devils, humans, or valkyries.
The Classic School Harem
This type of harem involves teenagers. In the world of anime, it is very rare to see a school harem anime involving college students. The most common storyline of this type revolves around the life of the characters as high school students. School harem is probably one of the types or categories with the largest anime releases. Like what the name of this type implies, school harem happens only at school or at a university.
The whole idea of having multiple women/male as suitors are mostly treated as an adorable, light-hearted rivalry between the girls or boys who likes the main character. However, rivalry in school harem animes can appear more intense, especially when it comes to reverse harem animes. School harem typically involves a female or male student as the main character. He or she will have fated encounters with his or her classmates, club members, schoolmates, and even teachers, whom the main character will slowly fall in love with.
School harem mostly acts as a sub-genre to romance animes. Aside from being a reverse harem, the ultimate fan-favorite, Ouran High School Host Club, is the perfect example of this type of harem anime. The main character develops relationships and gains the attention of the handsome male characters from one of the most popular clubs in their school. Other types of school harem anime include Rosario + Vampire and The World God Only Knows.
The Ecchi Harem
It is safe to assume that ecchi harem anime is the newest category. This type of anime focuses on the characters and storyline like most. However, it also greatly emphasizes the fan service or any sexual scenes from its characters. Due to high demand from the audience, both harem and ecchi animes have continuously grown throughout the years.
Unlike school harem, this type often acts as one of the subgenres of comedic animes or those made to use purely sexually suggestive scenes as a way to entertain the audience. However, these scenes are not for everyone.
Most ecchi harem animes follow the traditional type, meaning the fan services are often acted out by the female characters who have feelings for the main character. They are usually seen in sexy outfits, and they vary depending on their personalities. In most cases, the fan services do not entirely affect the feelings of the leading character or influence the storyline of the series.
An example of ecchi harem anime is High School DxD which is also listed as a fantasy harem because of the background of the characters. High School DxD has a decent amount of ecchi moments from its female characters, which serves as one of its elements that helps in attracting more viewers. More examples are High School of the Dead and To Love-Ru.
What Is the Purpose of Harem Animes?
The context revolving around the meaning of harem animes has become one of the most entertaining genres. It has gained a solid fanbase that finds the different types of harem engaging. However, it is not a genre suitable for the young audience, and not everyone will like it. There will still be fans who won’t find the beauty and entertainment that comes with harem shows, particularly those who do not agree with the idea of multiple relationships or too much skin being seen.
Despite these reasons, there are still many dedicated fans out there. In the world of anime, the audience’s favorite shows depend on their preferences, particularly the genres, and storytelling. Hence, to better understand its popularity, here are some of the purposes of harem animes.
1. A Way to Escape the Noise of Reality
Yes, harem animes provide entertainment that can soothe the heavy heart of the viewers. Basically, in terms of purpose, harem anime is not so different from the other genres. It is a genre that offers its audience the fun feeling and fantasy that comes with having multiple beautiful men or female admirers.
Also, it offers them a sense of understanding of how it feels like to have a romantic interest in someone who is involved in a harem life. Together with the romance, comedy, and whirlwind adventures that the different types of harem anime give, there is no doubt that fans will forget all of their worries and troubles in life.
2. The Fans’ Desires are Fulfilled
Let’s be real; some fans out there may be wondering how it would feel to be caught up in a life filled with suitors. While this kind of scenario may not happen to everyone, harem animes can make this a dream come true for the fans. Harem animes can help those struggling in love to know what it feels like to be in a romantic relationship, particularly in having more than one person who likes you.
The characters involved in a harem anime also have stories to tell, making them relatable to the viewers. They can either be someone who casually fell in love with the main character, someone who has harbored feelings since they were young, or someone who treats them as their idol. Therefore, their stories can serve as a lens for the viewers as they try to incorporate the decisions made by the characters in real life.
3. Harem Animes Features Entertaining Rivalries and Comedic Situations
In connection to escapism, a harem anime has the power to make the storyline more interesting, even in situations where there is not much to do. Harem scenes can be incorporated into any part of the series and still provide its purpose. Yes, unlike other themes and genres that usually take time, for instance, the romance genre, harem animes can appear anytime, anywhere.
It has the power to make any scene engaging and entertaining. Harem animes are featured to not lose the interest of the viewers, especially in light-hearted moments or even in filler episodes. They allow the viewers to be more invested in the show until it reaches its climax. In conclusion, harem anime is a source of enjoyment for the audience and is one of the genres that makes the audience go beyond their imagination and reality.