I’ve said before in previous posts that even if the characters aren’t great, fleshed out, developed or made to interact well then the situation, plot or ideas of the anime can save the show. Though for harem shows I believe that statement to be completely theoretical because I don’t know any anime that have won me over with story alone.
I think this is partly due to the typical kind of harem story. Most of them take place in a high school scenario with genres of fantasy, Mecca or drama included (There is a very obvious exception to this which I will talk about in a future blog post) and let’s just say that they come with a few more tropes.
First of all is the standard save the girl trope, which I don’t like. Some of the time this trope actually works, for example it works when theirs a really tough villain who can make the stakes incredibly high. However it doesn’t work all of the time. In fact a lot of the time it’s very bad for most harems. But I can still see why it’s used; it can bring a conclusive ending to a show which for people who can’t be creative can be useful. Sure it’s a conclusive ending, but that doesn’t mean a good ending. I find it to be extremely predictable, clichéd and annoying to watch as I’ve seen it done better before and it seems out of place to put one into every harem story as the tone of it so often feels different from anything else we’ve seen in the show.
It’s not just trope endings though, I find that a lot of action harems have a very similar middle and opening as well just because of the type of show that it is. What I mean is that there’s always a part where they deal with minor threats for example fighting mecca’s or grunts. This makes sense to be a thing that characters do in anime. After all, to eventually take down a strong, powerful enemy you’ve got to take down their minion’s right? Well for the one part that’s true however it’s rare for these encounters to mean anything. Most times the fights just provide a distraction without advancing the story, delivering plot, or even making the main villain look better. I hate that feeling: the episode finishes after fighting minions and everything is back to normal. Nothing should ever be back to “normal” in an adventure type show! What I’d really want is to know what the characters need to do next or how they might overcome the next big obstacle because if I don’t know that, I’ll have to watch more set up when/if they do get round to the big bad guy because they didn’t explain it well enough earlier.
Just to clarify this does not mean that the show needs to end in a cliff-hanger to be interesting, quite the opposite. If a show spends all of its time goofing around doing nothing it’s worse to end in a cliff-hanger because it would probably make me angry enough to drop the show. The only reason why suspense endings work in shows is because the part before them was interesting enough to make you want to know what happens next.
I feel less confident talking about this in drama harems because they’re not really orientated around plot and more focussed on character development and situations. But a similar thing applies; if nothing happens or changes then it’s not good or satisfying to watch even if the characters are fun to watch. There is an exception to this which I will write about later however if you want to find out more on the opinions of harems I currently have four more different blog posts about the subject for you to check out.