Anime Harems: What Is Bad Taste? – Part 9

Saying “you have bad taste if…” will always be an opinion and never a fact since taste is subjective and there is no objective view of what taste and enjoyment is better. There is no such thing as objective bad taste, just consensus bad taste, consensus meaning that theirs a prominent opinion of what makes a show enjoyable and good instead of bad.

Since many people enjoy viewing characters with aspects similar to them, I’d wager that its consensus good taste that relatable, humanised characters are an aspect of good taste. Since this is taste I’m talking about, the thing that is so opinionated you can’t really change it, I’ll be moving on from statements like this which people can provide arguments to disagree with.

So technically nothing’s wrong with your taste if you enjoy harems, it’s just against consensus which is arguably correct.

I don’t want to explain my opinions on bad taste in relation to harems because it’s not really important to do so. Those who dislike harems will agree and those who defend them won’t and I can’t justify explaining why constant tropes isn’t really a good thing to like because there are exceptions and at the end of the day, it’s a matter of taste.

At the end of the day there’s no better way of changing people’s mind on harem anime than letting them watch it and realise on their own that so many other things are much better. It’s not necessarily easy to recognise derivativeness until you see how similar each harem is.

Nisekoi was the first harem anime I watched, and I enjoyed it. Then every other one I saw seemed to copy it. It was concerning and annoying that it was all so similar, to the point that I could predict everything that was going to happen. At a point I realised that Nisekoi wasn’t the first one and these things had been going on for many years to the extent that making a joke about overused, old clichés is also old!

Since this is such a strange topic to talk about I’m going to be talking about repetition. Many things are repeated in anime harems. You can arguably say that the harem genre has more repeated scenarios, Stories and character tropes than any other genre of anime. Even if you’re a fan of the genre I’m sure you can attest to being bored of the repetition prevalent in the industry.

Originality isn’t massively important but you could say that enjoying the same kind of story which is only slightly different is bad taste because you only limit yourself to one type of content without exploring other aspects or stories in anime. But this means to have bad taste you must enjoy at least more than one harem which is similar. So there is only one real conclusive conclusion that I feel confident to make: anime harem fans only have bad taste if the stories are repetitive (which I think they are).

Saying that you only watch harems because you know what kind of story you’ll get is simply not good enough. Expand your horizons: It’ll be better for you in the long run and if you’re looking for recommendations I’ve got plenty already on my blog.

So get anime harems out of your system, once you’re bored of them you’ll be able to move onto bigger and better things.

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14 thoughts on “Anime Harems: What Is Bad Taste? – Part 9

  1. I just read through all of your harem blogs. I enjoyed it very much! If you’re writing the next part, I look forward to it.

    Part of the reason I came across your blog was because I was also curious about “the appeal of harem” (which was what I literally Googled). So far your dissertations are mainly focused on the failures of the harem genre and its parasitical (or merely amensalist) influence on the shows it touches. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how the ideas and conventions of harems–not just the character interactions and development–can improve. Unless you believe the very concept of harems within anime and related media is complete hogwash, which is a position I can get behind.

    I myself am considering writing a harem story as a sort of experiment, to see if I can create the best harem possible without straying too, too far from the tropes of the harem genre. Now that I’m saying that out loud, sounds like a real stupid idea.

    Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow thank you very much! I don’t have any harem posts planned for a while but I’m sure another will be out eventually. I do like the idea of talking about how they could improve so that’s definitely a possibility!

      And your book idea isn’t really that stupid, if it’s actually executed correctly. I actually attempted to do what you’re planning myself (and got 5000 words in) and detailed the premise in one of the posts so it’s not that bad I think. I’m sure you can do it well!

      I’d also recommend school days if you haven’t already. It’s a pretty new and interesting take on the harem genre which I think you’ll like if you’ve not already seen it already.

      Thanks for the praise! It’s very appreciated!

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  2. The first Harem Anime I saw is called Tenchi Muyo. Tenchi is peculiar in that after 20 years a followup was created where he actually marries his whole harem after not choosing anyone despite his best girl being the pirate demigod catgirl, and despite him being descended from an openly polygamous space-faring culture.

    Harem anime are often a means to take a dating sim game and turn it into an anime, with scenes of the “route mapping” for each girl turned into episodes. There are reverse harem too, which suffers from the same tropes and weaknesses as harem anime. Fruits Basket and Inuyasha are great examples of Reverse Harem anime. Harem anime can be clever, or they can be dumb and derivative. Love Hina could be called a Harem Anime, based on a popular manga, though the hero is only interested in the most abusive of women, and eventually marries her.

    Usually all of the “harem” is largely imaginary, visible only to the viewer, since the guy never chooses anyone. Ranma 1/2 is a harem where the hero is completely oblivious and indifferent to them anyway, because Ranma only cares about learning martial arts, not women. Most harem anime the guy wants any woman but is having a hard time choosing so doesn’t get around to it. Rarely does the hero choose the girl next door, though it does happen in Robotics; Notes and a few other rare series. Most often they don’t choose in order to beg for a movie after the series funding ends, only he doesn’t choose there either. When a harem protagonist chases the same girl all the way through, ignoring the new arrivals, you get shows where the romance never advances past the single kiss stage, resulting in shows like Ah My Goddess. Other times the protagonists do advance seriously, but it ruins the show due to Japanese censorship so you get the characters actually sleeping together, like His and Her Circumstances, or they end up broken like Honey and Clover or Golden Time, which are less conventional stories with more obsessive love than light romance teasing such as you find in Neighbors Club.

    The point I’m making is that there’s a lot more to this genre than you’d expect, and the best aspect is a harem anime depicts to the viewer how each girl would make a great girlfriend or wife, despite them being different from each other, and that’s the bigger point of their genre, and why they are so popular in Japanese TV and to audiences there. Harem shows exist because the remind young people that all sorts of people would suit each other, not just one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the long and thoughtful comment and it’s an interesting point. There is a future post where I will address many aspects of what you’ve said either unrelated or as a comment response if you’re ok with that.

      What you said about “how each girl would make a great girlfriend or wife, despite them being different from each other” is fair enough; the reason why I and so many other people contest this is the fact that the girls in anime harems often don’t feel “different from each other”. The repetitiveness is what kills many people’s enjoyment. That could be “the bigger point of the genre” (sorry for constantly quoting you, I’m not doing it to condescend, just to make sure you know which parts I’m talking about) but I feel like it’s displayed so badly in terribly generic ways that the point is lost. Do you have a myanimelist btw? If so can you link me it? Thanks again for the comment: it was very cool to hear this perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that there’s a terrible amount of repetitive troping in harem animes, and its just as bad as BL and Shounen Jump anime. They repeat the same themes and characters so often it gets really annoying. That’s the biggest weakness of the genre. I suggest you watch Saekano, which is a harem anime which breaks the tropist conventions by making the primary girl… normal instead of anime. She’s got personality, sticks up for herself, makes snarky comments, and mocks the conventions. And she does it without distracting the trope characters she’s mocking. Its a very curious show because it is so different. In its way, its as weird and unconventional as SNAFU or Its Your Fault I’m Not Popular. Both of those are very counterculture for Japan, and their popularity was baffling to the industry which mostly produces slightly different copies of everything which sold well previously. Anime has lost a lot of creative room because the industry is collapsing, much like Japan’s economy since 1989, and they have to make things cheaper and more alike to sell enough time-slots and advertising spots to pay for their shows to make more. Its tragic, but its not as terrible as American TV. Or worse, British.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ll definitely give that a watch. I’ve seen SNAFU and Watamote (it’s my background wallpaper) and enjoyed them. I don’t think harems are always inherently bad; they’re just made terribly. When you can advertise something like Seakano so well I feel like I have to watch it!
          Is it a harem by the way? I don’t want to de-rail this and will probably watch anyway but theirs a lot of examples you’ve brought up that aren’t harems so I’m not too sure. Thanks!

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          • Saekano is a harem. The girls are each interested in the guy. He rejects each of them for the reason that he wants to make a dating sim game with them, but the girls, several of them anyway, are each famous in their particular fields, and only humoring him because they want him to choose them. This is typical for a harem show. The normal girl has been in school with the male protagonist for years, and he’s never noticed her because “she lacks prescence” which becomes a running joke in the show: “Was she sitting there the whole time?” Its cute. I haven’t seen the 2nd season yet, and expect the harem themes will continue there.

            Saekano is itself derivative of a two other shows. The most direct would be Pet Girl of Sakurasou, wherein the protagonist is an untalented guy surrounded by highly talented artists at an art high school which feeds into an industrial and fine arts college. It is not a harem show. The male hero ends up having to admit he has no talent and becomes a talent manager for the artists who are bad at living but great at creativity. They humor him because he’s useful, despite not being on their level. Pet GIrl is a simplified version of Honey and Clover, which is a must-see though the second season is very sad, and the payoff for the silliness of the first. H&C is about the art college and art business, and how those are not the same thing. And how they take such a terrible toll on its participants. This is not a harem show either.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ahha I see. I” add those to the watch list. I didn’t really enjoy Sakarasou and dropped it early but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I just thought it was really melodramatic and I had no interest in the characters or drama what-so-ever. Thank you, your comments are great input and well informed!

              I actually feel bad that you’ve spent so much time on these comments, I really appreciate it but don’t feel like you need to spend this long responding!

              The fact that you call it derivative is kind of worrying though. A show can have similar aspects to a show without being lazy or terrible. So would you describe it as inspired? As in, Seakano tried to get these aspects of the show and make them better / use them differently to try and make the point of their show better? Just wondering because the difference is interesting.
              Thanks again!

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              • Saekano took Pet Girl and swapped the genders of the male characters into female, retained the video game plotline, and made them all interested in the male protagonist. Its good, but its obviously derivative. And Pet Girl is based on Honey and Clover, only simplifying the plot and characters, shifting from a college to a High School in order to remove many of the complexities and deaths in H&C. So Saekano has drastic changes and simplification from H&C but its basically a grand-child story of a sometimes funny college tale that became rather tragic drama at its end. H&C, btw, had a fairly famous soundtrack, where every ep had original songs, kinda like Cowboy Bebop.
                I don’t mind sharing my expertise on Anime. I’ve been a serious fan for 30 years, and as a librarian (nearly done with training), we are expected to write good reviews.

                Liked by 1 person

                • 30 YEARS! WOW! How are you able to stay invested and find things you still enjoy for so long? That’s really impressive. Thanks for answering my question so thoroughly, what you have to say is very interesting.

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                  • One stays interested in anime because it has to much to offer, and oddly enough when you reach sufficient age you start enjoying the sexiness of the teachers and just want to pat the teenage girls on the head for their amazingly naive comments, and you find humor in the face-palm worthy male protagonists. Like american cartoons, Anime has layers of humor which requires life experience to recognize.

                    I got started with original giant robot shows like Robotech (the american version) and the bizarre but amazing Nausicaa and stunning Akira, back when it was a new release. I saw Mospeada and most fans of the genre admit the Alpha Fighter in that series was the best battle mecha for effectiveness and survivability and repair.

                    I watched enough anime so that when I finally saw Evangelion and Record of Lodoss War I knew what they were copying, and when I saw the later parodies like Rune Soldier Louie I was able to laugh. Did you know that Lodoss is based on the Japanese translation of the American DND campaign module, and Deedlit is the actual origin of the “sexy elf girl” trope? And that Slayers (Lina Inverse) takes place in the same setting, centuries later. And that Louie is ALSO that setting, thousands of years after Slayers? Same planet, same magic, same DND races, and who knows who the descendants are. Louie has really excellent US english Dub, btw. Worth hearing.

                    Back to giant robots, the voice actors from Japanese and English Evangelion’s Shinji got hired for its parody, called Martian Successor Nadesico, which is a marvelous spoof of giant robot shows, particularly Giant Robo and Voltron, whose remake on Netflix is quite good. Nadesico is one of those anime so good you want to encourage people to see it, but they need enough background in mecha anime to get all the jokes. Nadesico covers a lot of territory. Ignore the movie, which is terrible. The show is long, with many episodes and covers a lot of different anime parodies and a certain amount of death and destruction. The english dub is famously good, and the company lost money making it. And keep in mind that’s Shinji’s voice actor squeaking about being a cook.

                    But in the long term, what I like best in anime is the willingness of the Japanese to make semi-realistic slice-of-life anime about people living in Japan, going through similar bouts of sadness and grief over the crappy economy that we do, only they’ve been doing it 18 years longer and have more practice. We aren’t identical cultures, and we have a lot more racial diversity which is sometimes a strength and sometimes harmful, and the metaphor isn’t exact, but Japan is sort of like seeing the future of America, or Europe if you prefer, thanks to the housing bubble, which burst for them in 1989, and for us in 2007. So Slice of Life shows about poverty, from the very metaphorical Niea_7, where the alter ego space girl becomes a person who acts like a child while the adult roommate struggles to survive and go to college despite it being obvious from evidence that won’t fix the future at all, that’s a show worth seeing. Sakura Project is another example, of young women hired to promote a failing town dying out from the youth leaving for jobs in Tokyo rather than struggle further in their falling apart and aging home town. Real towns in America, and cities too, are like that. Seeing the future, so to speak, through Japanese storytelling 15 years into our future, is a compelling narrative. This keeps driving my interest.

                    Also, there’s cute girls being cute, and in Sakura Project they’re old enough not to feel lecherous.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Wow that makes a hell of a lot of sense. It’s clear that you also have an interested in japan far extending anime, I’ve read a few of your post on the main page and been very impressed by the amount of extra knowledge you can throw in seemingly just from the top of your head. I like that you have a knowledge you’re prepared to share. And you still continue to make me add things to my “to watch” list.

                      I’ve played D&D but didn’t know about any of that. But this makes a lot of sense. Thank you!

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                    • Better add these two as well: Love Chuunibyo and Other Delusions, and its flipside harem anime parody called When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (both on Crunchyroll). The first is about mental health care for a crazy neighbor to prevent tragedy for the older sister who needs to go off to school and needs someone responsible to look after the younger, who has lost her mind in grief when her father dies from Cancer. The story is poignant and comedy, and is a very odd sort of romance tale. The other story is what happens when Chuuni delusion becomes reality in a fantasy tale which is a harem comedy where the harem have useful powers but all he has is the “dark flame master”. If you have watched Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, that hero references both of these characters because its the same studio that animated all of them. Anime is fun for that.

                      Now, you have plenty of quality programming to watch. You can post your own reviews and the bad taste question is muddled enough to make for good context.

                      Liked by 1 person

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