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Doing harems right.


This is my first journey through the “100 Days of Anime” Challenge, an ambitious project that I’ll be taking. For the full list of prompts, click here.

“Name your favorite harem/reverse-harem.”

I’ve watched a lot of anime. 5+ years in the medium has introduced me to so many different styles, stories, tropes, etc. Though I don’t consider myself a veteran, I know what I like and dislike. And though I’ve enjoyed what anime culture has to offer from waifus and best-girls to its nuanced storytelling and animation, I’ve never taken a liking to one thing.


So it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise when I chose an anime that not only pokes fun at those very tropes, but also makes them enjoyable.


Tension is the king of drama. Done well, and it leaves everyone watching at the edge of their seat. Many harems introduce drama to achieve this effect. And I absolutely hate it. The idea that introducing a problem for the sake of having problems is just lazy writing. Sword Art Online’s Lisbeth pulls this off stunningly well, by falling in love with Kirito’s badassery (which is fine alone), realizing he’s already taken, and spending 7 minutes of an episode crying about it (which is not fine). Of course this forces good guy Kirito to talk to her, they become best of friends, and then?

She spends the rest of the show following his group around with no real impact to the story. Why should we care? What’s the point?

Spoiler Alert: There isn’t any.


Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend! was the first show I watched that really nailed what I was looking for in a harem. Cute girls getting together to achieve a goal other than jumping on MC-kun’s “Elucidator.” Contrasting my previous example, Saekano’s Eriri Sawamura takes this dramatic tension and runs off with it, weaving together a complete backstory that grounds the drama into relativity-making it believable. Not only is it believable, but it makes us care. Eriri is the lead artist for the entire show’s premise-making a visual novel. It gives our protagonist, Tomoya, a reason to make up with Eriri beyond “He’s a nice guy,” or because she’s my childhood friend cousin. It matters because it’s imperative to the plot. We want to see the game succeed. It’s a nice inverse to the usual formula.

Tomoya NEEDS her. Not the other way around.


Saekano turns harems from an unnecessary chore, to something that had me arguing over best girl among friends for days. The show sends out a clear message to others of the genre.

Cut the bullshit. Quit being lazy, and start writing characters we can care about.

Hey guys! I had an absolute blast writing up this piece. That being said, I do feel like I went off the original topic of WHY I love Saekano-choosing to tangent off to tropes and harems which could definitely fit in another piece. What do you think? Are you guys enjoying this style, or would you prefer something more direct? (I’ll be testing out different things in the next couple days, so please bear with me. I love you all!)