I have never been a fan of harem anime, and when I began to watch Otoboku, I thought that it would be my first harem anime, and boy, was I wrong. I read this article at Hontou ni Taihen desu, and I noticed that I have seen almost 1/2 the series that was listed on his chart. I could not help but wonder, just how do you define harem anime?
After reading the Wikipedia article, it would seem that any anime that has a single male lead with 3+ female around him could be considered harem. I think the majority of anime world uses the above definition, but to me, harem is Ichigo 100% and Shuffle, which I have tried to watch but failed. I don’t hate harem, since I actually quite a few shows that are said to be harem. “Pure” harem, on the other hand, is not my cup of tea. Here are my 2 criteria that separate “pure” harem and definition harem:
1. There is no romance/love-interest involved or is not main focus. To me, if the show is not about romance or if the love-interests are not the main focus, it’s really not harem, right? I mean, would you really consider Nadesico, School Rumble, Full Metal Panic, Shakugan no Shana, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, and Vandred a real harem? I think most people would categorize the above as something other than harem, right? Sure, Vandred is probably in the grey area for this, but to me, the mecha is cooler than the almost non-existing love-interest. I would place Ouran High School Host club into this category, but there is a lot of focus on the development of the relationship between the members of the host club. Yet, I could not make myself call Ouran a reverse harem.
2. The main character has someone in mind already and is not wishy-washy: Unlike the “classical” harem series, there are a lot of romance series where the main leads are obviously “together”. The watchers could either root for the main leads or hope that one of the support cast gets together with one of the main. Unfortunately for the support cast, the main leads usually end up happily together. Lamune is a good example, since Tomosaka Kenji and Konoe Nanami is an acknowledged couple. They may deny it, but everyone, including the “harem” girls thinks so. Others that I have watched that fall into this category include Ai Yori Aoshi (manga), Love Hina (manga), Hidori no Hibi (manga), To Heart, Onegai Sensei, Suzuka, and Hana Kimi (manga). Since I haven’t watched the anime version of Love Hina, I can’t say if the anime is harum or not, but Keitaro and Naru became a couple midway through the manga, and all the harem stuff came afterwards (as in all the girls going after Keitaro).
In the end, I guess my definition of harem anime is “multiple girls/guys going after an unclaimed guy/girl but no one is sure who’s going to win,” but that leave a rather large hole in my argument/logic. What about Kanon? By both literal and my definition, Kanon should be a harem anime. The KyoAni version of Kanon is very much a harem anime so far, and the old Toei version certainly would fit into the harem category. Yet, the story is going to develop to the point that calling Kanon a harem anime would be a little too limiting. The same thing could be said for Air, which even though it fits the literal definition of a harem anime, almost no one would call it so. Will Clannad fit into the harem category? Since I haven’t played the game, I can’t say for sure, but if it doesn’t, I think I’ll have to tag “except for anything made by VisualArts” to the end of my definition.
What this all mean is stereotyping doesn’t work, even something as simple as figuring out if an anime is harem or not. I’m sure there are people who think some of the series mentioned above are harem. On the other hand, some would claim that Love Hina (anime) and Tenchi as non-harem, even though a lot of people think of them as part of the definition. On that thought, maybe Otoboku is not a harem anime after all, and I have yet to watch my first true harem anime. ^^;;;
On that note, what does this all say about me? It would seem that I do in fact watch harem anime, but look at them with slight disgust. And according to Tsubaki, I would be the “Harem sucks. They all do. They all suck. It’s so brainless. But I’ll watch it anyway” type. Stereotyping rules. j/k
P.S. For reference, here are a list of anime that are also considered harem, but I didn’t watch/finish: Ranma 1/2, Girls Bravo, Tenchi, DearS, Magikano, Tsukihime, Urusei Yatsura, Fushigi Yuugi, etc.