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.

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.

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Incoherent

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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

Happy Lesson TV – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Happy☆Lesson (TV)


Related:
Happy Lesson: Advance (sequel – included in review)

Happy Lesson: The Final (conclusion – included in review)

Happy Lesson OVA (alternative version)

Similar: Love Hina

Please Teacher

Sister Princess


Watched in:
Japanese & English

Genre: Harem Comedy Slice of Life

Length: 13 episodes (TV), 1 OVA, 13 episodes (Advance), 3 episodes (The Final)


Positives:

  • Tries something different for a harem, I suppose.

Negatives:

  • The conflict is weak, the humour flat.
  • No goal.
  • The end undermines the series.
  • Weak acting and atrocious dub.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Chitose lived alone until his five female teachers decided to move in and become his ‘mothers.’ Well, it’s different from the typical five horny teen girls moving in with a guy (or is it?). The conflict is all about each teacher competing to see who is the best mother and most affectionate, without regard for his life or needs. These contests aren’t funny and mighty predictable – no matter the contest, the teachers tackle it in the same way to the same jokes.

Each teacher boils down to a “quirk” – the aggro sports teacher, cosplaying art teacher, dangerous experiments science teacher, kind literature teacher, and the school nurse who’s also a priestess. The characters being one-note isn’t different from other harem.

For a moment, I thought there would be something interesting in Happy Lesson when two realtors discover the promiscuous relationship and blackmail Chitose into selling the house. At least they acknowledge the impropriety, I thought! Alas, the only characters who question the situation are treated as villains or wrong for having qualms about five adults randomly living with a high school kid. This would be fine if it were funny – you can get away with anything as long as it’s funny. It isn’t.

The strangest detail is that Chitose isn’t even alone. He has two sisters! One is little (have to fill the Loli fetish somewhere) and the other is an adult popstar. Why aren’t they together? Sure, they bring up this point, but it becomes nothing more than another contest for the mothers – sisters included this time.

What’s the point of Happy Lesson? Where’s the purpose? Even weak harems have a goal – get the girl, get all the girls, or fix every girls’ problems. Happy Lesson is about the teachers wanting to be his mothers…when they are already his mothers…what? It’s more slice of life with no actual purpose, perhaps? No, they don’t have mild problems to solve either. All conflict is artificial, created by any given character, such as the mothers competing to be best mother by doing their own thing. Their ‘own thing’ is the unique skillset they bring to the family anyway – so why compete? The biggest conflict is the older sister wanting to give up singing, which is so sudden, so poorly conveyed that it lacks realism.

At least it is never about these teachers/mothers trying to bang him.

Wait, scratch that.

At least it is never about these teachers/mothers trying to bang him. One teacher gets sexual with him, competing with a school friend of his (seven women on the harem count, by the way), and unlike Please Teacher, the story does a poor job of it. It’s weird in how sudden, how empty this relationship is. What was the point? In the final scene, all the teachers/mothers want to marry him suddenly. Who wrote this rubbish? Furthermore, the “orgy” ending undermines the family values messages they were trying to convey in earlier seasons.

By the end, I only had one question left: why would all these women be interested in this kid? If my son were so bland, I would hari-kari myself in shame at having birthed such a useless being.

Art – Very Low

All characters suffer from ‘dead eyes’ syndrome – flat, no depth – and have bad designs with little animation. The colouring is bad as well.

Sound – Low

A bad script with weak acting is amazingly outdone by the atrocious dub, where they can’t even pronounce the protagonist’s name. Did they not watch a minute of the Japanese beforehand? Most performances sound like a fan dub, as though friends of the director rather than professionals did the work.

Story – Very Low

A [not] lonely student lives with his five female teachers who act as his mothers. What starts as a harmless, albeit boring, comedy goes full retard in the final season when it does the worst genre of anime proud.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. Even if you stop before the final season, earlier episodes of Happy Lesson have nothing to recommend themselves but repetitive jokes and boredom.

(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 PlotEar Grating Voice WorkInduces StupidityRubbish Major CharactersUgly Artistic Design

Love Hina – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Love Hina

 

Related: Love Hina Christmas Movie (included in review)

Love Hina Spring Movie (included in review)

Love Hina Again (sequel – included in review)

Similar: Golden Boy

Ah! My Goddess

Ai Yori Aoshi

Nisekoi

My Bride is a Mermaid

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Harem Ecchi Comedy Romance

Length: 24 episodes, 2 45-minute movies, 4 OVA

 

Positives:

  • Picks a girl at the end, I guess.
  • That’s it.

Negatives:

  • Unfunny and repetitive humour and story.
  • Lifeless characters.
  • Too long.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Imagine you’re new to anime, familiar only with the series that go beyond the genre, and you load up Love Hina. It’s not long before the random violence, [almost] incest, [almost] paedophilia, and nonsense antics between a guy and five girls in a hotel make you question what anime is really about. That was me when Love Hina was first localised.

I genuinely had never heard of harem anime. I thought this was a romance like Ah! My Goddess, which I love. It starts romance-like, as failed student Keitaro moves to his grandmother’s hot spring hotel to refocus on his studies, hoping to qualify for Tokyo University next time. He promised a childhood friend he would meet her there again. However, he finds the hotel has become a girls’ dormitory and the only way he can stay is to become manager. (He never actually does any managing, but that’s by the by in harem anime.) He believes Naru, a girl staying there also studying for Tokyo U, is his childhood friend – though how retarded he is about remembering her makes me question his mental competence.

I soon came to learn that ‘harem’ was a synonym for ‘repetition that goes nowhere.’ Each episode focuses on one girl for some trifling matter (circling back through the harem afterwards). Every conflict is roughly the same: Keitaro acts stupid around the focus girl, he falls on top of/gets naked/says something lewd/etc. with her, Naru walks in, gets angry, “It’s a misunderstanding!”, she punches him, he doesn’t understand why she’s mad, and repeat. It doesn’t try. These misunderstandings are worse than any excuse for conflict found in any Hollywood romcoms, all to delay the “romance,” if you can call it that.

Love Hina tries to capture interest by slotting a new fetish each episode – the older woman, the ditz, the Loli, incest, choking, and so on. It really aims for the full monty. Was Love Hina trying to go for “Love Hina did it first!” no matter what fetish was used in future harem anime?

My biggest issue with Love Hina is how little it tries. Keitaro is a no-personality loser. Why any girl would be interested in him is beyond science and reality. At no point do any of these girls show any explanation for being obsessed with this guy. The girls are similarly useless. Do they teach the protagonist something? Do they create any form of meaningful drama, even on a comedic level, for Keitaro? Are they funny? No to all the above. They could have at least tried to make another girl a possibility for romance.

As such, Love Hina is boring, even with the novelty factor if you’re new to anime. I never finished it all those years ago. And today, watching it to fulfil a reader request (thank you, sincerely, for the request, by the way), it played out as I guessed it would when I stopped back then.

It’s by no means the worst harem – Rosario & Vampire is still the cancer of anime – but it has nothing going for it. There have been enough harem attempts in the medium to expect some quality these days (it’s rare, but exists). One of the early harem anime, Love Hina is exactly what you expect of the genre.

Art – Very Low

Poor animation, low detail, and generic design are just a few of Love Hina’s art problems. It doesn’t have creative visuals to compensate or age as an excuse. Even the movies don’t improve.

Sound – Low

Some strange localisation issues such as converting yen to dollars – did they really imagine the audience that dim? There are some fine actors, but little can be done with a nonsense script.

Story – Low

A failed student becomes manager at a girls-only hot spring dorm. Love Hina is a prototypical harem anime, except the protagonist actually picks a girl in the end.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. If you must watch a harem anime, go for Golden Boy or Ouran High School Host Club instead of Love Hina.

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

 

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Not FunnyRepetitiveRubbish Major CharactersUseless Side Cast

Shuffle! – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shuffle!

 

Similar: Rosario + Vampire

Kanon

Clannad

School Days

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Harem Comedy Fantasy Drama

Length: 24 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Could be worse.

Negatives:

  • Self-insert on A Trekkie’s Tale level.
  • The initial setup and harem mean nothing by the end.
  • Pathetic drama in the second half.
  • Head-to-desk dialogue and relationship dynamics.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Let me see if I understood this. In the first episode, we learn Rin lives with his childhood friend Kaede, who is more his maid and sister than friend, and two new girls join his class, demon princess Nerine and god princess Sia, both wanting to marry him for reasons, followed soon by Loli Primula. And let’s not forget his friend Asa who totally doesn’t want to dunk his meat pickle like the other girls. So how was this greenlit?

Shuffle couldn’t be more of a harem self-insert anime if it tried. This is every harem fan-fic for every universe ever written rolled into one. It has the inexplicable obsession on the dullest guy, a gaggle of girls with the emotional depth of a shot glass, and less effort in its fantasy elements than Timmy’s first drawing. All the supernatural people look like elves, not gods or demons – zero effort.

At first, I didn’t mind Shuffle’s flatness. It was exactly as I expected – a self-insert harem that cycles through each girl, set to weak comedy, mindless and perhaps a tad amusing in parts. But then it tries injecting emotion. Please kill me.

Like the bait and switch masters of garbage Clannad and Kanon, Shuffle starts as pure comedy until halfway, where it drops all for pure drama with a character suddenly terminal. (Someone is always dying in these bait harem, aren’t they?) I didn’t feel for the dying girl, not when wiping out the entire cast would help the plot.

The problem with harems that go emotional is that they’re terrible at emotion, but they’re also terrible in the first place for having no emotion or depth. What to do then? If insistent upon the harem premise, multiple prospective partners is fine, but make each relationship meaningful from the beginning. If two girls are after the same boy, it won’t go smoothly (see: Rumbling Hearts). You want the secret? Make good characters first.

Every character in Shuffle is nice, and considerate, and selfless, and perfect (on a superficial, unrealistic level). No one is interesting. Why is it good sitcoms don’t suffer the harem problem when a character dates multiple people across the story? Well, the characters aren’t flat, for one.

Rin picks a girl rather quickly, which was a surprise. A few tears from another girl later and he changes his mind. Great. Ah, it was the start to the cycle of “romancing” each girl in turn. Even better… The writers try pretending Rin must face consequences in the end for the harem, but it’s so ham-fisted and absurd that I laughed at his misery.

“I want you!”

“Take me!”

“I don’t want you anymore.” Expect that relationship conflict.

Or, “Oh, you’re with that girl now!”

“It’s not like that!”

“It’s okay, you only tried to bang her.”

At one point, these girls help further Rin’s relationship with another girl, but then get mopey that he’s with the other girl. What? On top of all this, it still manages a few filler episodes. Don’t know how they managed, but by Beelzebub, they did it.

Everything said, Shuffle at no point reaches the idiocy of Clannad and it still has many years training behind Rosario + Vampire’s wretchedness. The first half is mindless comedy harem while the second half is feeble drama. It’s more predictable than anything.

Art – Low

Low budget, minimal animation, lazy fantasy design, and generic characters plague Shuffle’s art. The art style also changes for some characters between scenes, as if two different artists worked without cross-referencing.

Sound – Low

The forced dialogue is on the nose, exposition heavy, and awkward. Some enthusiastic voice work brings fun to the acting, but most is still dull. The dub is better because it gets more ridiculous with the bad script (their pronunciation of ‘Yggdrassil’ still has my head scratching, however).

Story – Low

A guy is beset by five girls of species ranging from human to goddess and must pick one to be with while completing high school. Shuffle is as self-insert a harem as harems get. He cycles through the girls’ problems, cycles through a romance with each, and picks one in the end (thankfully).

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Shuffle! is like every other harem out there, yet more self-insert than usual.

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

 

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

Positive: None

Negative:

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueHaremHollow World BuildingMary SueRubbish Major Characters