9 months ago I started a series where I looked in depth at the harem genre. It was the first ever posts that I made and I always felt that the series was incomplete despite the fact that I felt more things needed to be said. These things will be updated as soon as I fully construct the idea in my mind. In the meantime I have to make a slight alteration/response to part two “How anime harems feel earned” since I don’t think I covered the point thoroughly enough.
The main aim was to justify part of the reason why people can enjoy the harem genre and to find out why I used to watch them so relentlessly despite their derivativeness and lack of substance. The post answered this question well (and I recommend you read it so this will make sense) but left somethings out. Also let me say that I’m not criticising people for enjoying the genre and anime’s from the genre, just the genre in itself.
A huge amount of harem anime doesn’t try to feel earned. The majority of the time a harem show will be a financial cash-grab used to easily get money without much effort. This only leads to two kinds of audiences. The people who are new and unfamiliar with the tropes, and the fans who watch because they know exactly what it will be like and enjoy what that might be. The argument of “You know what you’re getting into and know that you’ll like it.” Is something that I can understand the basis of yet disagree with fundamentally Sure you might like it but your missing out on a whole lot if you limit yourself in this way. For the people on the outside looking in on anime harems (which is nearly everyone if you think about it) you can see that it’s fair to say in general that a harem feeling “earned” or “real” is most likely an impossibility.
The reason for this is often a lack of characterisation. When these anime’s are made it’s often for cash and the harem source material is chosen based off of character designs and popularity. They basically evaluate how well it will sell. It should be clear by now (but I should say anyway) that this doesn’t apply to everything but most of these shows have no real passion towards it. And if the source material isn’t particularly great or fleshed out and made for money then aspects such as realism and characters are easily thrown out the window.
So why does a lack of characterisation make harems feel badly made? It’s because the characters can’t be interesting or compelling enough to create a believable harem or at the least, something interesting. I feel that for most people harems can’t feel earned due to a lack of investment in the characters and an actual lack of explanation for the harem starting.
I’m not sure that this idea is something that people think about. A convincing harem makes a story more interesting and compelling because to be done well the characters need to be good. When a harem doesn’t feel earned if feels like a cash-grab instead of interesting, making the average viewer hate them.
The problem with this is people’s standards of explanations. Most harem fans can suspend their disbelief for a childhood friend or arranged marriage when these are, in actual fact excuses or bad characterisation at the least. The moment when these excuses become important is when they play an actual meaning part in the narrative and are explored thoroughly in an interesting, artistic way.
A harem anime that came close to this was the fruits of Grisaia which had a more serious tone and tried to flesh out each of the girls’ narrative interestingly despite clichéd gimmicks like tsunderes and maids. As far as harems go this anime was one of the better ones however the show still suffers from being a harem. The show works by hinting at characters interests in each other and then explores each of their arcs one at a time individually. The harem isn’t really established until more than a few girls’ character arcs have been fleshed out.
The problem with this is what the show could have been and how it was made worse by its requirements to be a harem. The show’s story arcs felt rushed, some so they could just be over with for the harem. The light novel had enough content per character for a 12 episode show and the rushed aspects reduced the quality to make it a far worse show.
Thanks for reading, if you like harem anime’s I actually recommend reading my post called the appeal of harem anime since it will most likely touch on the main thing you like about it. I hope you got something out of this and look forward to the next post whenever it comes out.