If you know me, you know I’m willing to review pretty much anything that I watch or read, and that I’m usually up for giving everything, no matter the genre, a try. But there’s one genre that I generally avoid in my searchings for new things to watch and read and for new stuff to review, and that is harem anime.
Now, I am fully aware that I am not the target demographic for harem anime. I am heterosexual female in her mid twenties, so anime that is basically nothing but blatant fanservice centered around girls in their mid-teens who constantly have their panties on display and have breasts that NASA should study due to constantly breaking the laws of gravity doesn’t really appeal to me. And I have done my hardest to give it a chance. I have watched various harem anime over the years, and my stance has just gotten worse.
The thing is I really don’t have a problem with the fanservice. It’s exploitation of hormones for the sake of sales, but I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I don’t enjoy fanservice made for women. It’s not like it’s anything new. Watch any action movie and you’re likely to see an unnecessary sex scene or pointless nudity. Romantic movies also commonly have porn-y shots of shirtless guys. My problem with the genre of harems in particular is the fact that the story, plot and usually character development take a backseat to the fanservice, if there is any story, plot or character development or note in the first place.
Unless you’re making a hentai, I see no reason why fanservice has to be the main focal point of your anime. I mean, is it just for those kids out there who can’t figure out the parental blocks on their computers and need something to get their jollies off somehow? Is it for people who enjoy the mystery over the reveal? Or do people really find the same fanservice slapstick gags funny after seeing them 10,000 times?
That’s really not the only issue I have with it, either. Harem anime are some of the most predictable anime I’ve ever seen, even in story. 99% of the time you not only know who the main guy is going to go with by the time the first act of episode 1 is over with, but you also know pretty much exactly what’s going to happen in the series. It also holds some of the most common tropes in anime such as the hotsprings episode (probably coupled with the girls in the bath together comparing breast sizes), the ‘main love interest is in danger, gotta save her’ episode, the ‘serious misunderstanding’ episode (as opposed to the regular everyday misunderstanding moments, also known as the Three’s Company effect..) etc. And considering that harem anime usually only really focus on the whole ‘who will he really go with’ plot point and you know there’s no chance in hell it will be anyone else but the first girl he sees or the one who is obviously closest to him, it’s basically a moot point.
Harems also paint by numbers a lot in terms of who their token girls will be. Token glasses girl, tough girl, shy girl (who likely has the biggest chest balloons if that honor hasn’t been given to glasses girl), lolicon fodder (Who we swear is totally 16-18! Honest!), stoic one, whore, and of course the main love interest who varies somewhat, but is commonly the most ‘normal’ (and likely has a penchant for physically abusing the main lead through comic punches and slaps)
One could say similar things about other genres, perhaps gaming, fighting and magical girl anime, and I’m not sticking up for the titles in those genres who also just stick to the regular formula and do little to change it, but the fact of the matter is that the harem genre is basically saturated with titles like that whereas the other genres don’t succumb to that quite as much and usually have more going for them in some way. And not in a way that makes it seem like it’s just tacked on to make it different.
To be completely fair, I’m not saying that all harem anime are bad. Some, thankfully, try to break the mold and give us something fresh and interesting. I happen to really enjoy Zero no Tsukaima (though I think the following seasons were lackluster at best), Campione! (Though I do find the fanservice aspects to be the worst parts of that series), Ah! My Goddess! (Though the main couple was basically set in stone from episode 1 with really no other valid candidates), Ai Yori Aoshi (Though that suffers from the same thing as Ah! My Goddess!) Uhh….C3 was pretty decent,…White Album 2 was more of a love triangle….Golden Boy was more ecchi with characters of the day than harem……………………..
….The point is that harem anime can be good and fanservice can be both fitting and funny, but the fact is that so many, so so so many, in the genre just do it poorly—Actually let me rephrase that. They do it so generically to the point where I actually consciously avoid titles in the genre now unless I’ve particularly heard great things about it…or if it’s particularly awful, so I can watch it for fun. 😛