The Fall 2019 Manga Guide
World's End Harem: Fantasia
What's It About?Arc is a noble, with his every need cared for. He is, however, weak. He loses every bout of sword fighting practice he has and is often look down on and mocked for it. It only gets worse when the love of his life is suddenly forced to depart, for she is to be married to the empires' crown prince. Arc is distraught. Until a dark elf visits him one night, telling him that if he meets certain qualifications, he can become the Macht, and have the whole world at his fingertips. And so begins a journey of power, of conquest, to save his love and to save the world from even darker forces, lurking in the shadows.
World’s End Harem: Fantasia is written by Link, with Art by SAVAN. It is a fantasy spinoff of World’s End Harem, a light novel series, and is published by Seven Seas. It retails for $13.99 physically. The original series is also available from Seven Seas.
Is It Worth Reading?
It may be damning it with faint praise, but I didn't hate World’s End Harem: Fantasia as much as I expected to. In fact, I didn't hate it at all – with some very notable exceptions, it actually reads like a decent fantasy story where a young man and a young woman are separated by their despicable relatives in the name of power. Arc and Aurelia's aborted love story seems to genuinely matter to both characters, even as they're trapped by the machinations of the world they live in, and if it had more of a focus on that, I might be tempted to read a second volume.
But the issues arise when you take that title into consideration, at least if harem isn't your thing. No sooner has Arc lost Aurelia to a probably perverse fiancé than a mysterious, underclothed dark elf shows up, shoves her tongue down his unwilling throat, and tells him that if he follows her three easy steps, he can be incredibly powerful. Needless to say, when he gets this power, called “macht” at the end of the volume, it's largely tied in to the ability to make any woman lust after him. Seeing as his main focus was getting to marry Aurelia, this kind of seems like a bum deal, but the preview for volume two seems to suggest that Arc's going to get over it very quickly. While it's kind of at odds with the romantic set up of the early chapters (although this means discounting the prologue), at least we can't say it isn't as advertised.
Where my actual issues come in are the art and the fact that Arc's consent is never taken into question. The latter is the bigger issue – Arc is very clear for most of his sexual encounters that this is not something he wants. Since consent isn't just a female issue, it can take away from at least some of the presumable prurient enjoyment we're meant to be getting from the story. On the art front, there's definitely something funky about how the women's lower bodies are drawn; I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with her butt in that panel up there. My personal pet peeve also comes into play in that there's no clear time period for the costumes; bras and modern underwear were most definitely not being worn in any sort of medieval era, fantasy or otherwise.
I'm well aware that I'm not the target audience for this work, but I have enjoyed fanservice manga before. This one falls just enough short on enough fronts, however, to make me unlikely to pick up volume two.
World’s End Harem: Fantasia is a fantasy AU based on a light novel series about an otaku schlub who wakes up from cryo-sleep to find that the world has ended due to a plague called the ‘man-killer virus’, and all that's left are women who can't contain their lust for the last man in the world. If that doesn't tell you what we're getting into with this spin-off then the first five pages, featuring a harem of topless women all happy to serve the lecherous whims of our main character, now become lord of this world, will almost certainly cue you in. This is smutty trash with a capital T. That's fine, trash has its place and can be good fun. I just wish, like so much Otaku fanservice stuff, it didn't come packaged with a large dose of grossness.
The fundamental issue is that this is a manga not about sex but about sexual conquest. It's centered around a young, somewhat weak-willed son of a lower-ranking noble family finds out that the girl he loves is to be wedded to the emperor, and he needs magical power in order to take her back and ‘claim her as his own’. Like a lot of stories in this genre, the core is one of impotent, male rage at a world the lead, the author, the audience feels is out of their control. The fanservice is simply another appendage on the body of the core story of male entitlement. There are also the usual hallmarks of that worldview, like a sexual assault in the introduction framed in a disgusting, leer-y manner, a bizarre amount of mean-spirited edginess and perversity, and almost every female character in the story having some degree of attraction to or sexual relationship with the milquetoast lead. It all adds up to smut I can't even enjoy as smut, because the overriding subtext is something I do not find attractive at all. I find it repugnant. I find it repulsive. I see far, far too much of it in my every day, and seeing it so concentrated can be genuinely upsetting.
At the end of the day, World’s End Harem: Fantasia is yet another version of a story I do not like. I wish there was fan-service manga like this I could have fun with. I really, really do, and I'm sure it's out there somewhere in the vast, diverse world of manga and anime. But it's so often this: A story not about the beauty and fun of sexuality, but about power, about anger and feeling like the world and women's bodies are owed to you on a gilded plate. I want no part of that, and I want no part of this manga, either.
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