World's End Harem
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 1 of
World’s End Harem ?
Community score: 2.6
How would you rate episode 2 of
World’s End Harem ?
Community score: 2.2
Are you a bad enough dude to repopulate the planet with your freshly thawed and antibody-rich baby batter? This toughest of questions beats at the heart of World’s End Harem, the winter season's sultry slice of softcore sci-fi sleaze. In the not too distant future, blue-haired everyman Reito Mizuhara is cryogenically frozen pending further medical advances, only to wake up 5 years later to a world in which a deadly and highly misandrist virus has all but wiped out the male population. Many struggles and societal upheavals followed, but luckily, a select few surviving men possess immunity to the disease—immunity which they can presumably confer to their offspring. Reito is the second of those chosen studs to be reanimated, and now the fate of the species relies on his ability and willingness to bone down harder than anybody has ever boned down before. A tale as old as time.
It goes without saying that World’s End Harem isn't good. The plot and characters possess the flimsiness of a premise ripped right out of porn, yet the sexual content has been neutered into a softcore series due to the present lack of a market for hentai anime. This means it has to air on TV (and sell Blu-rays) to be profitable, but that means we're getting a heavily (and hilariously) censored version on streaming platforms, further whittling any chance it might have had at titillating its target audience. All anime of this ilk are basically trapped in a weird lewd limbo where they fundamentally undermine their main selling point: their provocativeness. The result is that two full episodes of World’s End Harem have collectively shown less skin than the single most recent episode of My Dress-Up Darling. If you can't find that funny, there is nothing here for you that you can't find done better and filthier on websites you probably already visit regularly.
However, if you can find the humor in its inextricable failure, then World’s End Harem's brand of televised tackiness is not without its own merits and unique charms. I have a much different rubric for something like this than I do for something like Odd Taxi or Sonny Boy (as, I hope, would anybody else watching this of their own volition). It's hard to define, but it pretty much comes down to how much I'm entertained by it. While I can't deny that ironic “so bad it's good” enjoyment is an important facet of this, I do also have a genuine appreciation for anime that grant me the privilege to banish seriousness from my mind, so that I may revel in their dumb splendor. Shows like Big Order and Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid come to my mind as paragons of this flavor of vulgarity. And in that respect, I've honestly had a great time with WEH!
I can't ask much more from a ridiculous porn plot than for it to wear its absurdities on its sleeve, and WEH has done just that so far. Every logical inconsistency raised by Reito has been met with a shrug from the other characters, and that's exactly what the answer should be. This is a story about a handful of dudes fucking mankind out of extinction; the particularities of artificial insemination could not matter less here. If anything, it's disappointing how much screentime WEH has devoted to explaining itself in these introductory episodes. It reeks of a learned insecurity stemming from how much modern mainstream media criticism mires itself in plot and lore. This approach flattens a wide spectrum of storytelling forms into a single boring mold. Proper media literacy requires an acknowledgment of form and context, and yes, that even applies to silly titty anime. In other words, finding logical convolutions or problematic implications in World’s End Harem is just as easy and just as rewarding as finding lint in your belly button. If you want to have fun with this show, I encourage you to free your mind and embrace its unrepentant trashiness.
Personally, I knew WEH had potential for greatness the moment a bear showed up unannounced to attack our hero. That's exactly the kind of off-the-wall plot development I want to see each week. It helps, too, that this comes on the heels of the introduction to my current favorite character, the buxom and booze-swilling hot mess of a nurse named Akane. There are plenty of ways to make an impression, but walking naked into the protagonist's shower, opening a bottle of malt whisky with your teeth, pouring it on his dick, and offering to fellate him clean is exquisitely over-the-top. Sui seems a lot less fun at first, but I applaud the episode for playing with audience expectations before properly introducing her as Reito's bear-kicking bodyguard. Mira's personality isn't as colorful as either of them, but her physical resemblance to Erisa has potential thematic implications. It's perhaps easiest to read the two of them as manifestations of Reito's Madonna-whore complex, where his desire to save himself for Erisa is at odds with Mira's machinations to get him laid the most anybody has ever been laid in human history. I have no delusions that World’s End Harem will explore this reading to any degree of satisfaction, but for me, it makes Mira easy to root for. I have a predilection for “wicked” women in stories, and Mira's just doing what she believes is necessary for the future of the species.
It's also hard to argue with Mira, because Reito is such an unlikable weenie. Plot needs conflict, so WEH makes the protagonist of its harem show actively hostile to its harem premise. It's a familiar iteration on a long history of harem hero ciphers, but that context doesn't make Reito any more tolerable. What is fun, though, is that he's not the only everyman-cum-savior walking around the facility. Kyouji embraces the chad side of the meme template and loves his new gilded and girl-rich lifestyle, happily getting those important impregnations in while he's on the clock. There's a version of this show—one I'd also like to see—that follows him and the routine, almost corporate nature of his “job.” Sure, he's still in the honeymoon phase now, but there's something ironically sterile about the prospect of having to knock up as many women as physically possible, especially with the weight of the human race on your shoulders. Even if I don't expect WEH to walk down that path, I do love our glimpse of the petty workplace rivalry between his handler and Mira. It's like they're comparing sales numbers at the water cooler, but with the quantity of eggs their ward has fertilized.
Finally, I have to praise the modicums of thought that were put into the series' worldbuilding. It makes sensible gestures to the widespread poverty and violence that would arise from half the planet's population disappearing, and it fattens its plot with a conspiracy about the origins of the MK virus, the whereabouts of Erisa, and a cabal of girlboss Illuminati pulling strings behind the scenes. If Reito is determined to not have sex with every woman in existence, then he might as well do something useful and pursue these threads. Of course, the optics of a story about a manmade killer virus could not possibly be worse than they are at this exact point in time, but that's one thing we can't blame the vintage-2016 WEH for. Not when there are so many other things it's culpable for: poor taste, hilariously obtrusive censoring, middling production values, nonsense plot, and paper-thin characters. But if you're reading this, I hope I've somewhat convinced you that these faults can be charming when viewed from a certain angle, and I invite you to join me on this juicy, jizz-addled journey.
World’s End Harem is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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