Anime Harems – The Genre is stagnant, what do? (Part 10)

I’ve detailed my criticisms of the harem genre to a large extent over the previous parts, however I’ve not ever really said what I’d so about it or how I’d fix it if I was a part of the anime industry and actually had a say in the production of shows. So let’s talk about the big thing I would change, the only real important thing I’d change.

It is the motive behind making a harem anime. A lot of these harems are often made as a quick cash grab and are insanely trashy and clichéd to appeal to the broadest audience possible. What these people don’t realise is that a harem which only appeals to small specific audiences could simply raise to the top due to its nuance and difference and fans of the genre appreciating how new it is.

But there’s a good and bad kind of nuance that can be applied to the harem genre. Something bad for example would be a harem set in the workplace instead of school, just anything that’s closely similar but with one slight difference. The good kinds of nuances comes from actual passion and messages the creators want to communicate, this doesn’t have to appeal to a small audience but most harem directors think that’ll happen by default if they deviate anywhere from the standard formula.

In my opinion popularity doesn’t necessarily mean success in the anime industry, what success means to me is having an anime which stays with people in their hearts and becomes something they think about constantly, having it influence their thoughts and life’s for the better, giving them more than simple enjoyment. This ultimately creates a more passionate fan base prepared to spend more on the show. Currently harems are made for popularity and not my version of success, switch these two around and suddenly the harem genre has a completely new face at the obvious risk of bankruptcy, which nobody wants.

But how much does money play into this? If the anime industry made more money would we suddenly see an influx of passion filled harems replacing all the tired clichéd ones, or would harems vanish entirely or are the current harems we see the passion filled projects I’m talking about and all of us are desensitised to it? The latter is the saddest answer possible.

I don’t believe every show has to be a masterpiece and a display of meaningful artistic messages, what would be great is something that simply feels new and doesn’t make me feel like a scumbag with terrible taste for watching. Something that treats its characters like characters and treats its story like it matters. If that was what harems were I probably wouldn’t have nearly as many problems with it and this whole series might not even exist and by extension this blog. Yeah I started right out of the gate with six parts criticising this genre!

It’s pretty funny when you stop and consider how stupid it is for a harem to even be considered a genre. Anime is the only medium which really has a harem genre and that’s mostly because every other genre realises how stupid the idea of it is for storytelling.

There are 330 harem anime listed on myanimelist. That’s over three times the amount for the thriller genre; something I think is far more interesting. But 234 of these harems have released in the last ten years whereas the remaining 96 released from 1990-2006. Part of the reason for this increase it the fact that more anime is releasing everywhere, not just in this genre but more harems are coming out in recent times regardless and more anime harems are successful enough for second seasons than ever before.

So when so much can be done with a harem and when so many shows aren’t doing this and staying similar and generic, I can only conclude that it’s happening to capitalize on the popularity that other shows have made by re-using the same premises and tropes.  This degeneracy is only inspiring more of it and anime companies should learn that they could just reach a wider, more interested audience if they could simply deviate from the norms. But safe money is often preferred over a chance to make it or break it.

So it’s not really until the genre starts failing, and creators deviate their attention to something unique and inspired, that the genre can really move forward.

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6 thoughts on “Anime Harems – The Genre is stagnant, what do? (Part 10)

  1. I have both unironically and ironically enjoyed harem manga, anime, and literature over the years. However, as more and more stories have cropped up, the more and more I’ve grown detached to the genre as a whole. I think it is largely because of–as you basically stated–the unoriginality of it all, where girls with personalities I’ve enjoyed in the past, such as “defrosting ice queens” like Yukino Yukinoshita and tsunderes like Mikoto Misaka, are refurbished into similar caricatures while the production companies are trying desperately to convince you, “These are different people, really!” It’s not just limited to harems, but harems are where it is the most apparent and egregious, especially with the recent flood of isekai media (that has been popular in webnovel/light novel circles for some years now, or so I hear). It’s like mixing old wine into new wineskins. And really, things are getting worse by the season, particularly as manga and books are getting far more risque than ever before, practically demanding the same cliched, rote characters to take off their clothes and perform wish-fulfilling coitus with our everybody’s favorite black-haired Asian protagonist ™.

    I think the key to the kind of change you’re talking about, if it’ll ever happen at all, are for ambitious authors with unique settings, unique humor, and/or unique tales to just try their hand at the genre and have fun with it, and perhaps more to the point, see how harems can enhance their stories instead of hindering them. Manga like D-Frag and Grand Blue, and shows like Ouran High School Host Club and Is This a Zombie are just more entertaining from embracing their “harem-ness” and running with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I couldnt agree more! And OHSHC as well as is this a zombie are shows I really like, and its strange to consider them as harems since they’re so different from the norm. Thank you for the comment!

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  2. I like what you mention about success. Despite how many harem anime I know I’ve seen, when I tried to think of five of them recently, I actually couldn’t name one off the top of my head. That’s how forgettable they are. I could think of titles for fantasy, sci-fi, giant robot, action, drama, love story, horror, etc. But not one harem title. How successful can that really be called, then? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly, the most passionate shows will get the most money in the long run since their bigger, dedicated fan base are more likely so spend more. Still, creating that thing is still difficult, so I understand why they’re made, it’s pretty sad though. I think the only reason why I can name a lot is because theirs 11 parts in this series!

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  3. Very interesting post. I completely agree with pretty much everything here.

    I must admit I’ve enjoyed harem shows on occasion but they are generally lackluster and I find it difficult to explain what I like about them
    For me the shows I enjoy generally fall into the way overboard kitsch category where I just find them endlessly unintentionally hilarious or in the actual intriguing protagonist category. Personally, I think that if they stop making the main character a bland catch all audience surrogate, it could lead to some much more compelling narratives but it’s also a trickier sell, and a riskier buy for a studio I suppose.

    There’s also the issue that a number of harem shows are adapted from other media (I’m thinking VNs) without the narrative tweaks required to make them truly work in an anime context.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah I agree I know what you mean about enjoying comedies, its great to watch a show that can make you laugh all the time, especially if the comedy feels effortless and natural. And that point about VN’s is correct, adaptation can be pretty difficult and it often doesn’t work out well.

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