The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
World's End Harem
How would you rate episode 1 of
World’s End Harem ?
Community score: 2.6
What is this?
In the year 2040, automation has advanced enough that work is now optional for people living in advanced countries. That hasn't prevented fatal diseases like cellular sclerosis, but hope for a cure within a few years is strong enough that victims can be put into cryosleep until AIs have the answer. Such is the case for Reito Mizuhara, a promising young researcher, but the world that he awakens to five years later is very different from the one he left behind. A rampantly infectious disease that's fatal only to men has swept the globe, leaving only men in cryosleep alive. Of those, only the handful of men who have been treated for cellular sclerosis seem immune to the new plague. Because of that, Reito is now invaluable as a breeder, and he's strongly encouraged to start having sex with as many women as possible in order to pass his immunity on to new male babies. However, he's still hung up on Erisa, the long-time friend he confessed to shortly before going into cryosleep.
How was the first episode?
For weeks now, my husband has been forcing me to have this conversation:
“Are you excited for World’s End Harem?”
“But you love Y: The Last Man!”
And it's true, I did read and enjoy Y: The Last Man back in college, even though I haven't revisited it since. And I have to admit, Reito's devotion to finding his mysteriously missing girlfriend, Erisa, is strikingly similar to Yorick's quest to get in touch with Beth. But at the same time, none of Yorick's traveling companions were researchers with comically huge bazoombas trying to force him to fuck and repopulate the world.
By the way, Mira is definitely Erisa, right? There's no way she's not. You don't get two girls in the same anime with identical hair and eye colors like that. Or maybe they're twins. I don't know. But whatever it is, their connection is going to be treated as some shocking twist when it's actually screamingly obvious from the get-go.
World’s End Harem is hilarious in its stupidity, doubly so because of how seriously it takes itself. Reito is written as a serious dramatic hero, coping with waking up to a world he doesn't recognize and grieving the loss of everything he once knew. He is intended to be akin to Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes in his sadness and anger, but the way he flees in horror from poorly-censored genitals at every turn bears more resemblance to Hank Hill when he sees a naked lady other than peggy. The musical score is really what pushes it over the edge into comedy, with boomingly overwrought orchestral pieces as Reito flees down the ruined street, screaming to himself that he's not weird for having a functioning penis, or that he has no interest in all the submissive and breedable women being presented to him.
It probably helps that I have no interest in seeing what lies under those huge censor bars that look like they were laboriously added using the rectangle tool in MS Paint. If you're actually in it to see some bizarrely-proportioned anime ass, this episode will probably be more frustrating to you than anything else because you barely even get a glance of cleavage, such broad swathes of the screen are covered. And if you're in it for the plot – no, I mean the actual plot and not some winky way to refer to fanservice – I'm not sure what to tell you because clearly our tastes are diametrically opposed and I think you might actually be a space alien.
If you were expecting me to rail against World’s End Harem, well, sorry. I actually had fun watching the episode, albeit not in the way that was intended. Writing this review will probably be the highlight of my Friday at the rate it's going. It's not like I'm going to watch more of the show anyway.
Well, I'll say this about World’s End Harem: it isn't afraid to have hot takes on controversial issues ranging from bodily autonomy to sexual purity. Accordingly, how you feel about these issues will greatly impact how you feel about this series. However, even setting all that aside, there's one other major issue that hampers World’s End Harem: it's trying to have its cake and eat it too.
The idea of being the last man on Earth surrounded by women is hardly a new one, and the concept is usually developed in two ways. The first is the grim, gritty, realistic approach—looking at how the world reacts in the face of such a tragedy on a sociopolitical, economic, and religious level. The other is the sexual fantasy path where the only way to save humanity is to make sweet sweet love to as many beautiful women as possible. There's nothing inherently wrong with either one—they simply cater to different audiences. The problem we have here is that World’s End Harem tries to mix the two.
Taking things seriously, it's insane to think that Reito would have any control over his situation—that those in power would respect his personal freedoms over the literal extinction of mankind. Now don't get me wrong: a carrot and stick approach is to be expected, but if he refused to take one for the team, I'm sure that he'd be sedated and strapped to a table for breeding. Likewise, the women would have been chosen based on genetic diversity, rather than his preferences, and would likely be part of a generations-long breeding program to ensure humanity's survival.
But here's the thing: despite its protestations towards realism, World’s End Harem wants to keep things sexy, so it can't go that route. Hell, the anime goes so far as to state that making a baby through any medium other than sex doesn't work for mysterious reasons. While such contrived writing is fine for porn—after all, you're watching it for markedly different reasons—it dramatically undercuts the realism of the work. So in the end, in Harem's efforts to be both at once, we're left with a work that's neither a particularly realistic exploration of the "last male on earth" concept nor a good piece of porn.
“Reito wakes up in 2045 after five years of being cryogenically frozen, only to discover that the MK virus has wiped out all but five of the men on Earth, meaning the surviving women will need Reito's piping hot baby batter to rescue civilization from total collapse.”
There. One sentence. I just described in a single sentence what World’s End Harem takes nearly twenty godforsaken minutes to get across. I knew this show was going to be dumb, sleazy trash from the moment I saw its trailer, and you know what? That's fine. There's a place in the world for dumb trash. Remember Keijo!!!!!!!!? It was hilarious! And even though Interspecies Reviewers was just a bit too sleazy for my taste, I respect that series for being exactly what it wanted to be: A borderline pornographic mélange of D&D infused sex fantasies and stupid jokes.
This, though? This sucks. While World’s End Harem is far from the worst thing I've ever seen, I simply have no patience for these cheap-looking sex comedies that completely fail at being either sexy or funny. The whole episode is as if a legitimate hentai forgot that its job was to get its audience off and decided to spend most its runtime insisting that it be taken seriously. Oh, and the terribly shot and off-putting “sex” scene that we do get is so censored that it basically defeats the purpose of Worlds End Harem's existence
I'm going to give this premiere a bonus half star out of pity, because I laughed pretty hard when the show used overdramatic choral music to punctuate Reito being attacked by one of the sex-starved zombie women that now apparently populate the planet. Every other second of the episode was just a complete waste of time.
Often, whenever I mention I'm put off by a particular bit of fanservice, there would inevitably be a response calling that reaction puritanical or prudish, but that's not at all where I'm coming from. I think human sexuality is a fascinating topic, one that deserves to be explored from all kinds of angles through all types of fiction. There are plenty of sexually explicit, suggestive, or full-on works of erotica that I enjoy. My problem with a lot of fanservice anime is that most of it just...isn't very sexy. It's typically graphic, sure, but often comes from a point of view so thoroughly divorced from anything I find sexy that it trips the line into being funny instead. Either that, or it's so laser-focused on a particular kind of fetish that it becomes alienating if you're not dead-center in its target demographic. All of this is to say the reason I found World’s End Harem less than enjoyable isn't because I'm put off by sex, but because “screw these anonymous strangers for the sake of humanity” is a real mood killer.
It also just takes a really long time to even reach that point. Roughly 70% of this premiere is just extended, clunky exposition establishing the paper-thin sci-fi premise necessary for our milquetoast protagonist to be one of the last five viable males on Earth. The generous read would be that the series is trying to create a sense of mystery and develop a proper story alongside all its excuses for anime boobs, but that reading gets un-generous when you realize the actual plot is filled with enough holes to ruin every condom left in the world. The show is trying so hard to justify why its ridiculous premise could work that it handwaves the idea of artificial insemination altogether, saying it just doesn't work and nobody knows why, so actual intercourse it is the only option left for womankind. That's something you can get away with in a porn doujin as a preamble to a couple dozen pages of illustrated intercourse, but falls apart when you try to have an ongoing story that takes itself seriously. That's not even getting into the millions of other implications that come with half the world's population dying off, which I doubt the show will ever address.
Then, like I said, the premise itself just isn't going to get your motor running unless you have a pretty developed breeding fetish. What little sexual content is in this premiere is displayed, in-universe, with all the sensuality of filling out your taxes. Reito is presented with a digital binder full of anonymous women to pick from like ordering at an M-rated McDonalds, and his handler tries to get him to world in her end til he harems with all the passion of a bank teller correcting an overdraft. Even if the T&A weren't censored with hilarious black pixel smears, there's no sense of intimacy or attraction between anyone here. That'd be a problem even if our lead wasn't totally devoid of personality, but all combined it's about as sexy as smacking two naked Barbie dolls together.
I don't think it's too much to ask that a show built entirely around the concept of sex to be at least a little bit sexy. For all its other faults, last season's Banished From The Heroes' Party managed to have a genuinely romantic sex scene between its leads that actually sold that the people involved were into each other. That's the bare minimum I want to see from stories like this, but World Harem is, ironically, too sterile for its own good.
If there's one thing I can say about World’s End Harem, it is this: damn, that is some ugly censoring. I'm not a fan of censorship in general, but this is particularly egregious – just a scribbled black mess, like someone gave a five-year-old a paintbrush and said, “go for it.” I'll take sparkling mist or glowing bathing suits over this any day.
As for the rest of the episode…well. You have to give it a lot of credit for trying to make its horny and ludicrous premise as plausible as it could. Apparently having what is referred to as “cellular sclerosis,” (which I dearly hope isn't meant to be MS, which is what a Google search of the term brings up) confers immunity to a deadly new virus that has killed off 99.9% of the world's men while our hero Reito was in cold sleep waiting to be cured. Well, he's cured now, immune from the MK (for “man killer”) virus that surfaced while he was asleep, and that means just one thing to the women of the world: he's basically a walking sperm bank. But, you know, not the kind you can get withdrawals from in a container; only direct deposits work with this sperm bank. It's the end of the world, and lucky Reito and four other guys should be feeling fine.
That Reito's aghast at what's happened is probably my favorite part of the episode. (And the source manga, the first volume of which I read for a past Manga Guide.) All of the women are just merrily making assumptions that he'll be thrilled to have his own harem and a position of power as a heterosexual male with a working penis, but Reito sees it as being used as a stud horse. He's got minimal say in that he can choose which woman he wants to sleep with, but that's not enough for him – he really just wants Erisa, the girl he was in love with before his diagnosis. It's probably not going to work out that he gets to wait for her or be exclusive with her (she's currently MIA), but that none of the women are considering that he might have, you know, feelings when he very much does makes him a bit less of a typical harem lead.
A lot of the internal logic of the piece doesn't quite work. If everything is automated, how did the loss of men mean that women were plunged into poverty? Shouldn't the systems keep working with the female engineers and designers at the helm? Why wouldn't artificial insemination work other than to be a plot point? How did only Japan have cold sleep? I doubt the show is interested in answering these questions, and I also doubt that the spicy content is going to work with such ghastly censoring if that's what you're watching for. Unless you really need to hear the voices, I think I'd suggest going for the manga with this one, because then at least you don't have to deal with the black blobs.
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