Category Archives: Harem

A several party relationship (often falsely romantic), most commonly with one male pursued by a group of females. However, it can be a single female with several males.

High School of the Dead – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Gakuen Mokushiroku: High School of the Dead

 

Similar: High School DxD

Gantz

School Live!

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Ecchi Harem Supernatural Action Horror

Length: 12 episodes, 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • The otaku.

Negatives:

  • Every other character.
  • Takes itself too seriously.
  • Zombies aren’t a real threat.
  • No effort fan service.
  • Episode 4 recap in a 12-episode series.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I watch a trashy anime expecting silly fan service and dumb action against zombies, but all I get is trash? What is this nonsense? High School of the Dead should have made for a great terrible anime that has you laugh at its ludicrousity. What it presents us instead is trash that takes itself too seriously and fails to understand everything about its genre.

A sudden zombie attack on the high school leaves a group of teenagers and a few staff members as survivors in a society descended into madness. It’s a fight for survival as they flee in search of loved ones.

 

The main group consists of Mr Bland the usual harem protagonist, useless main girl, a kendo girl (obviously), a fat otaku, some screeching wench, and the dumbest nurse alive (perhaps literally, at this point). Of this group, the otaku is the only passable character. He represents a glimpse at what High School of the Dead should have been.

You see, every other character is taken seriously. I don’t mean a joke played with a straight face. Rather, the series expects us to take the kendo girl choosing to fight with a wooden training sword for her life, wearing nothing but an apron and panties, as serious. It demands that we pay attention to teenage whining about which nobody cares (reason enough to take your own life after listening to them). The screeching wench, a totally serious character, has the defining trait of yelling at everyone that she is smarter than the rest. If High School of the Dead understood itself, it would have killed her in the first episode for doing something stupid. And finally, how can anyone take the zombies seriously when they can neither see nor smell people? No one would die to these things. You need skill on the level of Shaun of the Dead to make this work.

 

The otaku stands alone as he has some fun and cracks jokes in this borefest of an anime. He finally has opportunity to put his gun obsession to use when the world goes to hell, relishing in shoving a nail gun up zombie arse. He’s also – seemingly – the one character to acknowledge the ecchi. It isn’t some running joke that everyone is blind to it either. Again, we are meant to take it seriously.

The ecchi and fan service in general is garbage, even by the standards of a fan service anime. (Don’t you have to be a fan for it to be a service, and who would be a fan of High School of the Dead?) The camera does all it can to focus on the flailing boobs and pantie shots. Every movement has to have jiggle that puts Dead or Alive to shame. If there is no jiggle, the world will end. It doesn’t try to do anything clever with the ecchi, surprise you with a sudden angle change, or make a joke of it. I cannot recall an ecchi joke save one – the sniper rifle support. Mr Bland uses a girl’s chest as a rest to steady his rifle in one scene. Naturally, because they take the scene seriously, it loses the humour anyway. It was genuinely funnier when I saw that scene as an out of context gif.

 

I guess there is the recurring joke of the school nurse with boobs so big she uses them as pillows when asleep at her desk, but the joke is just that she’s a bimbo every episode. If I were a fan service otaku, I would feel insulted by the laziness with which High School of the Dead treats the sacred art. This is Boobs the anime and they couldn’t even get that right. Did I mention episode 4 is a recap in this single-cour anime? The lazy is almost impressive.

If you want to see the “raunchy + undead” concept done right, look to the movie Lesbian Vampire Killers, which is not only hilarious but also far less safe for work. It knows how to make humour of fan service.

 

Art – Medium

The entire budget went into the jiggle physics and the action, which has plenty of animation, though is a bit jerky at times – needs more in-between frames.

Sound – Low

The acting and music are so-so. Certainly not the worst things about this anime.

Story – Very Low

A group of slutty high school kids and their bimbo school nurse try to survive the zombie outbreak with their jiggle and panties. High School of the Dead is trash that fails to understand fan service, comedy, and zombies.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. There must better fan service anime out there than High School of the Dead. I do recommend the movie Lesbian Vampire Killers instead, and Shaun of the Dead of course.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Horrendous ActionInduces StupidityRubbish Major CharactersUseless Side Cast

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The World God Only Knows – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai

 

Related: The World God Only Knows II (included in review)

The World God Only Knows III: Goddesses (included in review)

Similar: Date a Live

Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend

No Game No Life

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Comedy Harem Romance

Length: 36 episodes (3 seasons), 3 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Humorous incorporation of gal games into the comedy.
  • His super mode.

Negatives:

  • Disposable girls.
  • Season one is useless when season two repeats the same material.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Keima is the self-proclaimed führer of gal games (objective: romance pretty girls). When someone challenges him to prove his dating greatness, of course he accepts without hesitation. But oh no! The challenger didn’t mean 2D waifus. Keima has to venture into the real world and seduce the three-dimensional variety. Disgusting.

Furthermore, the challenge came from Death, who will kill him should he fail to seduce the girls and capture the evil spirits attached to their lovelorn hearts. A deadly collar links him to his partner in seduction, the demon from hell Elise.

The idea of having a 2D waifu god using the skills he learnt from games to entice 3D girls is hilarious. The World God Only Knows works as a comedy and is one of the few to do so with the harem label attached. This anime doesn’t half-arse it. Keima sticks to his game strategies in real life to a T even when they are spastic. The ingredient to success is the writer’s knowledge of gal games and ability to parody them.

As a side note, I find it hilarious that anime depict gal game otakus as pros since these games are so easy. I played a few for context with a previous anime and realised that once you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. They are all the same and too easy, which makes the gags in this anime even funnier, especially when Keima activates his Hindu god mode with the ability to play a dozen games at once.

Try as it might, The World God Only Knows cannot escape all problems of harem. Each episode or two is about some new girl with a problem, which has attracted a spirit, for him to help by using his gal game shenanigans. Because it introduces a new girl so often, you don’t grow attached to any of them. They are disposable. Allowing characters to grow would probably make them funnier as well. Furthermore, the girls lose all memory of the romance once the spirit detaches – convenient.

There’s more.

The third season has each girl come back possessed by different goddesses and he must romance them, yet again, to awaken each goddess’s power, which also recovers their memories of the first romance. It doesn’t add any depth to their character or the relationships. You may as well jump straight to season three and avoid the repetition or only watch the first season. Going for the full run did nothing but lower my opinion of The World God Only Knows.

The repeated plot splits the quality. The first arc has the introductions and the jokes, but the Goddess arc has the story, so whichever you pick only has half the relevant content, yet watching both puts you through the grinder of repetition. And not to mention, you have a second season in the middle of these two that adds to neither.

Your long-term enjoyment of The World God Only Knows depends on how much you love the core loop of an otaku using gal game tactics to win over girls. An episode or two will be enough to find out.

Art – Medium

The solid art has good visual humour. Death is an adorable chibi grim reaper.

Sound – Medium

Good acting in both Japanese and English. Nothing peculiar to mention.

Story – Medium

The god of gal games must step into the real world to seduce three-dimensional girls and capture the evil spirits attached to them. Despite one season repeating the other and the tedious harem elements, The World God Only Knows have more than enough comedy to entertain for a dozen episodes.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For comedy fans. Don’t let the harem tag stop you from trying The World God Only Knows, as it almost did for me. The comedy is good enough to enjoy beyond the harem, though 36 episodes is a stretch to keep your interest.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Diabolik Lovers – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Diabolik Lovers

 

Similar: Vampire Knight

Amnesia

Dance with Devils

Brothers Conflict

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Supernatural Harem

Length: 24 episodes (12 minutes each, 2 seasons), 1 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Half-length episodes get you out the door sooner.

Negatives:

  • No story.
  • Same thing each episode.
  • No likeable characters.
  • Season 2 is a copy of the first.
  • Not even fun as trash.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Do you remember when Twilight was a big deal? Diabolik Lovers comes from that era of hysterical fangirls and tear-filled trailer reactions, adapted into an otome game (visual novels aimed at girls).

When sweet innocent Yui goes to live in a grand mansion populated by pretty boys, her life takes a turn for the worst. These boys are bloodthirsty vampires and they aren’t afraid to show it. Her daily routine becomes one of abuse and vampire meals. Will she resist or fall for them in the process? (No points for guessing correctly.)

Just like harem anime for boys, otome adaptations are a failure from the get-go because the studio doesn’t commit to a single story path from the game. Even if Diabolik Lovers were a good game, an anime adaptation that tries to incorporate the romance arcs with all the boys will always be a mess. For comparison’s sake I checked out the anime adaptation of Code:Realize, an otome game I completed on the PS Vita. Though there are five romantic options, the game never feels harem-like because no relationship goes beyond friendship until you as the female protagonist choose to pursue it. From that point onwards, there is no “dating” multiple guys aspect. It acts as though you were never interested in the others to begin with. Furthermore, you won’t know most of any given guy’s history unless you choose his path, adding more depth to the story – and replay value. In the anime, however, it tries to put every path into the story rather than committing to one. Needless to say, the Code:Realize anime is subpar (and the detailed art is missing). So when Diabolik Lovers didn’t even have a good game to start with, there was no hope of a good anime. Yet even then, I didn’t expect something as abominable as this.

Yui’s first meeting with the vampires has them taunt and frighten her, acting like stereotypical douchebag vampires, which I took as them playing it up like in the vampire myths before they reveal that they aren’t all like that. But no, they are awful.

The vampires take it in turns, for roughly two episodes each, to torment, assault, and sexually abuse Yui. I understand that the ultimate fantasy for fans is to be dominated and protected by powerful, and preferably rich, older guys. However, none of that matters if the guys are so unlikable, as is the case in Diabolik Lovers.

I’ll tell you of her time with one of them. The vampire breaks her phone when she tries to call her father to leave, but he then tells her to get lost. (Mixed signals there, buddy.) He bites and drinks from her, and later pushes her into the pool, where she begins to drown because she can’t swim. This allows him to jump in and kiss her for air, which she will see as romantic, of course, and fall for him. What a shock. Yui is an empty protagonist with no spine, no motivation, and frankly no use. She irritates me most in this horrid affair. You might imagine that the goal of the plot is to have her make the guys nicer, to bring out their chocolaty centre. You’d be wrong. No one develops an inch by the end.

Each vampire is one cliché after the other. They all have “the one thing” to check every box in the Vampire Otome Character Type Checklist, though with the “absolute douche” trait added. Most of them have nicknames for her. Little bitch, pig, pancake (this one offends her most), and masokitty are just a few of the delightful nicknames that will make you cringe every episode.

The one vampire I expected to be a decent person – you know, for a change of pace – was the refined older brother type, who cares for etiquette and manners. After he invites Yui over for tea, he too abuses her. So, nothing new.

Story is an important element for otome fans. Sure, it is about pretty boys in the end, but a proper story creates a deeper connection within the fan. If fans didn’t care for story, they could turn to another form of entertainment if they just wanted to get to the juicy bits. The second season is a repeat of the first, except it’s with a group of half-vampire boys that kidnap her, take her to their mansion, abuse her, drink from her – you get the picture.

Diabolik Lovers does attempt a story involving the boys’ dead mother and Yui’s identity, but that lasts 10 maybe 20 minutes across both seasons.

A dear reader recommended this anime to me with the knowledge that this is trash, prime trash ripe off the bone from the nearby landfill. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the fun with it that I expected due to the emptiness of the story and characters. Diabolik Lovers doesn’t do anything. It’s too boring to be so bad it’s good, for me.

Art – Low

Diabolik Lovers carries over the tradition from otome games of pretty characters and nice looking stills. However, this is an animation, which it lacks.

Sound – Very Low

They didn’t skimp on hiring high-end actors for this in both Japanese and English – another carry over from the game. Not that this in any way saves the abomination of a script. Contender for worst of all anime.

Story – Very Low

A girl finds herself trapped in a mansion with a family of beautiful vampire boys that want to use and abuse more than her body. There is no story.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Diabolik Lovers isn’t the right sort of trash for me to recommend as a hilariously bad time. Vampire Knight is better for that.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueHollow World BuildingLacks ConflictNo DevelopmentRepetitiveRubbish Major CharactersShallow

Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

 

Related: Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend .flat (sequel – included in review)

Similar: The World God Only Knows

Welcome to the NHK

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Harem Ecchi Comedy Romance

Length: 25 episodes (2 seasons)

 

Positives:

  • Episode 0s.
  • Proper challenges in creative professions.

Negatives:

  • Can’t focus.
  • Too much harem filler.
  • Becomes what it parodies too often.

(Request an anime for review here.)

It’s no secret that trash overwhelmingly populates the harem genre. It’s also common knowledge that harem is mainstream among anime fans, as a harem entry hits the charts each season. Fans also forget them just as quickly when the next season throws a new batch of waifus to pick from.

Harem anime is the easiest genre to make and thus floods the new release list every few months. To stand out from the orgy, studios select series that can bait the reader in, whether through an all-monster-girl cast, picking up girls in a dungeon, or making every girl be the guy’s teachers. A-1 Pictures’ gamble to go meta-harem with Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend paid off, wedging it between the breasts of fellow harems The Testament of Sister New Devil (what is this name?) and Absolute Duo in that season’s top 10. Parodying the genre elevates you above the genre, yes? Well, let’s find out.

Saekano follows high school otaku Tomoya in his dream to make the most compelling harem visual novel. To this task, he recruits illustrator Eriri, bestselling author Utaha, and boring girl Megumi as model for the main character. However, to tap into the emotions required for a compelling visual novel, he and his ‘super team’ must experience these emotions themselves.

So, the excuse for a harem this time is the creation of the visual novel, where 99% of harem anime come from, which is a better excuse than most. The characters comment on the harem – get down with the meta – in the process of crafting the game characters, writing the story, and designing the illustrations, often to comedic results. Episode 0 is full meta, as it assigns each character a role in the harem anime – think of a harem LARP. This Episode 0 deceptively sets up the idea that Saekano is a meta harem, which is not the case, as it’s more of a workplace anime like Shirobako and New Game before it then becomes an ordinary harem.

Giving the characters jobs that drive their progression is a nice addition. (Ever notice how most harem characters do nothing in life?) Even so, Tomoya isn’t much more interesting than your average harem protagonist. He’s about light novel protagonist level. The greatest missed opportunity lies in Megumi. It would have been much more interesting if she were nothing like the ‘boring girlfriend’ archetype required for the game. Instead, make her the opposite but have to act like the generic harem main girl. What we have is an unironic bland girl with no arc, whose main purpose is to create the clickbait title of the anime.

The third act of season one introduces Tomoya’s cousin, a musician, whom he recruits to compose music for the game. Up to this point, most episodes focused on each character’s role (Saekano still uses the harem structure of ‘let each girl have their turn’). When the cousin enters, it’s her turn to jump Tomoya and there’s nothing meta or ironic about the cousin-cest. The usual accidental flashing, towel drops, no boundaries, and shallow titillation fill the screen time. Saekano becomes the cliché it’s supposedly parodying. Season one is a bore.

Funnily enough, season two opens with new meta about the first season, mocking it as boring and clichéd. “How did such a generic anime get a second season?” And Saekano sees a marked improvement from there. Work takes centre stage with serious conflict. The team struggles with finding the answers to what will make for a compelling game in the face of deadlines. Eriri and Utaha also receive an offer to work on a professional project. This creates Saekano’s best moment, when Tomoya has to face the reality that he isn’t cut out to lead a team of professionals. Eriri and Utaha aren’t amateurs, yet he treats them as such, not demanding of them the same quality as you would of a professional. For the first time in a harem, the protagonist is punished for being too nice. Progress!

You may be asking yourself about what happened to the meta. Saekano’s core failure is a lack of focus. Is it a harem parody? No, it’s a romance. Wait, no, it’s about finding success in life. Saekano needed to choose one and relegate the others to subplots instead of giving each one main plot time in turn (ironically, just as harem does with its girls). A symptom of this failure is no more evident than when Tomoya fades as protagonist in season two. He becomes a supporting character in his own story! (Not a great loss, if I’m honest.)

Saekano is still above most harem, but only average by other standards, which is far better than anyone should expect.

Art – Low

Saekano uses the style of coloured lines instead of black for character outlines – as seen in Bakemonogatari – but at random, giving characters an off-putting neon glow. A-1 Pictures tried copying Shaft without purpose. Bad CG intrudes at odd times, such as when the author is typing. No artistry either. It really wants you to find these girls sexy with how it pans across anywhere but the face.

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine with nothing outstanding. Music is forgettable.

Story – Medium

A visual novel aficionado convinces a bestselling author, a respected illustrator, and a random girl to join his project of creating the best harem visual novel. A lack of focus holds this story back, though still succeeds in parts.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For harem fans only. Saekano’s meta humour and effort at conflict make a more interesting anime than the usual harem. Its faults still confine it to the genre.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Incoherent

Sister Princess – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Sister Princess

 

Related: Sister Princess: Re Pure (sequel)

Similar: Happy Lesson

Please Twins

Love Hina

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Harem Comedy Slice of Life

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The comical dub.

Negatives:

  • Torturous bunch of sisters.
  • Minimal art effort.
  • “Onii-chan” to infinity.
  • The “secret.”

(Request an anime for review here.)

I often talk about how harem anime follow this formula of cycling through the girls – introducing each, dating each, solving each girl’s problem in turn, and ending on a choice of one or all girls – and how predictable the genre becomes. Sister Princess does things a little different. It doesn’t cycle the girls – it uses all of them at once. All twelve of them.

The horrors I have seen…

When Wataru failed his high school entrance exam because of a computer glitch, I was transported with him to Promised Island where twelve little girls lived, all claiming to be his sisters. The promise was one of cuteness, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I underestimated them. Behind their harmless smiles lurked a darkness the likes of which I had never imagined possible. “Big Brother,” they greeted him – one said “Bro-bro” – I thought nothing of it at the time.

Wataru went about his new life in this mansion filled with his so-called sisters, I tethered to him like a spirit of the damned bound to existence until a purpose actualised. All seemed normal.

Then they learnt of email. Yes, email, an innocent enough invention, yet one that heralded the inception of my slow descent. Upon this discovery, each sister insisted upon sending him daily emails – I should have seen the signs, considering they lived in the same house as Wataru. Oh how blind I was. He read every email, annoyed at first, but willing soon after. I had to watch too, bound to his path, as he opened email after email with words of poisoned sweetness accompanied by photographs of his sisters in provocative poses, poses intended to delight and arouse him. Each email had some form of “Bro-bro,” “Brother Dearest,” “Brother Mine,” and many more littered throughout. If only I had had the means to sever my connection to the corporeal plane. Why did it have to be so many? Why did he have so many sisters? Where did they come from – none look alike, claiming different countries of origin. I doubted their relations.

A brief respite arrived afterwards, allowing me to recover some of my faculties, but I could already feel the darkness caress my mind, its tendrils invading my frontal lobe.

Bro-bro, Brother Dearest, Brother MineBro-bro, Brother Dearest, Brother Mine, repeated in my mind like an infinite echo as one sister played at being the most incompetent British detective I ever saw, while another spoke with the slowness and delay of the mentally handicapped peppered with the French “Mon-frère.” Perhaps her comportment had come from of being the visiting spectre to Promised Island before me.

 

One day, a sister decided to wear a wedding dress and become Wataru’s bride. I tried to warn him. Do not think poorly of me for allowing all this to transpire. I tried. My words were mere whispers on wind. With the advent of one bride, more sisters soon wanted to become brides. Though I knew it would be all sisters, I was not prepared for the onslaught of “Brother Mine,” “Bro-bro,” and “Big Brother.” I changed my language centre in the hope of relief. However, “Brother” and its variants mutated into “Onii-chan,” “Nii-ya,” “Onii-tama,” and other terms I dare not utter here for fear of a recall to the island of madness.

Wataru took their proposals seriously, including the prospect of consummating these marriages in the future. Amongst the maelstrom of Oniis and Bros I had ability enough to know he would have stripped bridal gowns if he were certain this wouldn’t make it to television, or if they were in a video game. The church would have become their marital chamber. Churchgoers would have had to find another location to congregate for Sunday Mass, a purer location.

By now, the darkness had driven its tendrils deep. I was only seven episodes in and saw no end in sight, the darkness blinding in its hold over me. What events transpired after the near bridal orgy, I know not. All I recall are the twelve spawns of hell and their infernal incantation: Onii-tama…Bro-bro…Nii-ya…Brother Dearest…Onii…Bro…

Why were all these girls even here? What was their purpose? What was the purpose for any of this!? The promise amounted to amnesia of the island, which was nothing more than a lie to lure the hapless victim into believing Wataru’s journey had a purpose. He lied – they all lied. There was nothing in the dark. Lay that way only madness.

Do not forget my words, dear reader. Do not go to the Promised Island.

Art – Very Low

Generic character designs interchangeable with the Lolis of other harem. No artistic creativity and little animation.

Sound – Very Low

Pick your poison of bad acting: the intolerable fake-cute Japanese or the dub that takes the piss with a random German, Brit, French retard, and a girl possessed by Gilbert Gottfried [NSFW]. The dub is so comical it’s hilarious. Every time I hear the words Brother or Onii-chan, I must fight the urge to drive an ice pick into the speaker’s brain, or my own – whichever is easier.

Story – Very Low

A student moves to an island to live with his twelve “sisters.” A series of inane events with insufferable Lolis that lead to nowhere sums up Sister Princess.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Unless you love oniiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-chan, Sister Princess isn’t for you. One of the worst anime I have seen.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Awful DialogueEar Grating Voice WorkLacks ConflictRubbish Major Characters