The List
7 Harem Anime Where All the Choices Are Insane

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Harem anime is a well-established romance sub-genre, and while most incarnations these days put our hero into a magical world outside of his own, romance options have spanned trains, transforming soda cans, and potential little sisters. Despite a wacky set-up, usually at least one suitor is normal. Usually. Then there's the cases where every character is one misunderstanding away from taking the protagonist and everyone in a five block radius down with them. What kind of fantasies are these?

Brothers Conflict I'm one of the 198 people (according to Encyclopedia ratings) that watched this show. As far as "bad options" go, it's fairly tame, but that doesn't save it from having a bunch of spoiled brats, jealous bullies, and a squirrel. Yeah, about the squirrel. Bland girl Ema has a pet squirrel that at one point takes her on a date in a boat after transforming into a guy. The show's saving grace is the red-haired businessman that likes cats. Oh, and they're all her step-brothers, she continually reiterates that she just wants a happy family with them, and then continually puts up with their aggressive behavior and even flat-out assault.

Amnesia Our nameless heroine's turn as a caged animal in Tōma's route earned him a place in the Horrible Boyfriends list way back in 2013, but now I finally get the chance to recount why all the other guys are also super awful. Shin is that "rough around the edges" type that makes him prone to overreacting and lashing out, Ikki continues to entertain a fanclub that drowns the main character in one timeline, Kent is too self-absorbed, and Ukyo is a psychopath with dual personalities who burns down a house. The story treats all these people like they can be "fixed," but I don't even understand how this is a viable option.

Diabolik Lovers I've watched all of Diabolik Lovers and its second season for reasons unbeknownst to even myself. Listen, sexy vampire boyfriends are not a new thing. The whole biting imagery as a Victorian substitute for sex means its not going away any time soon either. All the vamp boys of Diabolik Lovers are very bitey and all of their personalities are some variation on dominant sadists, meaning there's not much variety at all. There's domineering sadist, spoiled child-like sadist, punch you in the face sadist, super-jealous sadist, and so on. The sequel expands the cast for even more sadists, in case none of that first crew struck your fancy.

Higurashi: When They Cry Higurashi being a 'harem' is probably arguable, even though many of its scenarios require Keiichi to make the right choices or else everyone dies. If Keiichi doesn't give Mion/Shion the doll he won at the toy store, she kills everyone. If Kenichi isn't absolutely honest with Rena, she totally loses it. Satoko and Rika aren't true romantic options given their age, but that doesn't prevent the anime franchise from playing them up for fanservice. And yes, they're both nuts in their own distinctive (spoiler-filled) ways.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel The girls are boats. I guess this means Kan Colle would technically fall into the same category, but the anime series doesn't really have a male protagonist, since The Admiral doesn't count. Arpeggio of Blue Steel stars Gunzō Chihaya, the head of a fleet of ships ("Blue Steel") that utilize A.I. and have individual avatars. These avatars are youthful and female and if Gunzo isn't, then the audience is definitely supposed to be attracted to them. But they be boats, and it's hard to love a boat computer.

Girls Bravo Yukinari can't get close to a girl because all of the girls he's met were so mean to him that he's become "allergic" to girls. He ends up in a world populated almost entirely by women who also seemingly lived like Puritans until his arrival, so they really want to remedy that now. This doesn't stop at batting eyelashes and purposefully revealed cleavage. Yukinari is forced to fondle a female character at gunpoint, repeatedly almost violated, given a psycho sister, and also gets regularly beat up by his childhood 'friend' Kirie.

Tenchi Muyo! As a long time Ryoko fan, it pains me to say that Tenchi's harem is bad news. As with most romances centering around a barely emotionally involved guy, it falls back on the girls to bring the personality, but rarely is there rhyme or reason for their affections. They do all have one thing in common, and that's being completely selfish. Ryoko is an abrasive, violent alien experiment. Ayeka is shrill to the point of headache. Washu is more likely to experiment on Tenchi than go on a date with him, and Mihoshi is a complete ditz (fan theories aside). Kiyone is the most realistic by comparison, and she lacks the extremes of the other girls, so she might work as a romance partner in that case—but of course, she's one of the only characters who isn't actually into Tenchi.

The new poll: Which anime hot springs episode is your favorite?

The old poll: Would you be interested in 'updated' versions of old List topics?

  1. Yes: Please rewrite some older columns featuring newer anime. 75.7%
  2. Nah. Stick to new stuff. 19.3%

When the time comes, I'll put some old column ideas up to vote and give them some fresh eyes!


When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

discuss this in the forum (35 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

The List homepage / archives