A Subtrope of the Harem Anime
genre, a Romantic Comedy
with one male protagonist, and a bunch of girls who are all in love with him, and equally close to him. The plot intentionally tries to balance out the relationship, with equal amounts of screen time, fanservice, and plot relevance for the girls.
In these stories, the bigger emphasis is usually on the "comedy" part of Romantic Comedy
, if there is any relationship building, it will happen with all the girls one after another, or it will be reverted by the end of the episode.
In some cases, if some of the girls are still in different levels of prominence, they are organized in "tiers" of 2-3 main love interests, whose prominance is still balanced compared to each other, and a larger number of "minor" harem characters, who are also balanced out compared to each other.
This plot type is common in Light Novel
series and their adaptations, probably because of the low production costs, and the lack of hostile market competition, that allows writers to lengthen a plot for dozens of volumes.
Compare to Marry Them All
, an Ending Trope
that is using a similar logic. A show can have a Balanced Harem
plot earlier in the story, and still avert Marry Them All
by choosing a girl in the end, or avert Balanced Harem
by having a main heroine in the plot, and still end up with a Marry Them All
Contrast with Supporting Harem
, where one of the girls was always "in the lead".
- As pictured, the Ensemble Cast of Infinite Stratos. This is because protagonist Ichika is so dense. Note that although his main harem consists of the five girls pictured, only three of them are expected to actually have a shot—Laura (far left), Houki (middle), and Charles/Charlotte (far right).
- Season 2 now adds two more girls into the mix with the introduction of the Sarashiki Sisters. Although one of them just forced herself into the harem on a whim.
- Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou even made sure to show the girls for the same amounts of times, in the same situations in the opening and ending credits.
- Mildly subverted later on as the plot decides to railroad Akuto with Junko, not that neither wants.
- Tenchi Muyo!, the quintessential Harem Anime, does this, to the point that you aren't really sure at the end ''who'' Tenchi is supposed to be with and leaves you with the thought that polygamy is more than on the table.
- Subverted by the School Days anime. The protagonist has sex with every single girl from the original game, and even more, but there is no Status Quo Is God to fall back to, so they are pissed.
- MM! has a two-tier format, with an abusive Tsundere and an androphobic girl as actual love interests, and a trio of tag-along girls for gags and Fanservice. However, it's clear Mio is more main than Arashiko, but, well.
- Amagami SS takes this to its logical conclusion, being adapted in an omnibus format, with a Reset Button after each arc allowing each girl to "win", one after another.
- Yosuga no Sora followed the format of Amagami SS, with keeping all the Multiple Endings.
- A Certain Magical Index has no serious romantic plots with either of the main girls, but all the girls get fanservice, and have a crush on the protagonist. A compelling fan theory is that the main character is faking being Oblivious to Love, since he knows the rest of the harem will kill him if he picks one.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei includes a dozen students with feelings for Nozomu, but as the series progressed only three- Komori, Matoi, and Chiri- remained consistantly amorous toward him. The others got days in the limelight, but it never lasted.
- The World God Only Knows: It seemed to start out averting the harem tropes, but thanks to a major arc it became an actual harem with Keima (unwillingly) pursuing 5 girls at the same time, in cooperation with another one of his harem members, all at the urging of yet another one of his harem members (the one who at first it seemed might be the lead harem girl). It all makes sense in story, but at this point it's completely confusing who Keima could possibly end up with. Well... unless you count Yokkyun.
- The thing is Keima is aware that he has a harem and manipulates them by acting like he has feelings for them occasionally so he can move along his plan to catch the bad guys and save the goddesses. The part after Diana asks him to kiss her makes this extremely evident. It's not that he doesn't care about what happens to them, he just doesn't love them...yet.
- Keima eventually chooses Chihiro.
- Kanon could be seen as an example of this - it's not a case of Marry Them All in the end, but it does strive to give all five girls roughly equal time and make them all plausible choices for Yuichi.
- SHUFFLE!'s anime doesn't originally seem like it's very balanced with Kaede seeming to have a huge head start, but it actually juggles all the girls fairly evenly apart from Primula, who has her love interest role downplayed. And the eventual "winner" is not Kaede. As for the original Visual Novel, there is no real favored girl at all. In fact, there are multiple sequels. All of them happen to follow different endings such as Tick? Tack! following Nerine and Really? Really! following Kaede.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! started as a standard case of Supporting Harem, but later the story is more or less equally divided between the "lesser" girls as well. It is not totally balanced but a good number of the girls have a good spotlight.
- Umi no Misaki has a male lead who genuinely cares for all the girls in his harem and takes all three of them out on dates, occasionally at the same time.
- Sekirei is very cleverly balanced, cause Minato has specifically stated that he likes all his girls equally, and wants to return ALL their feelings. Initially there was a disproportionate emphasis on Musubi, but over time Musubi lost her camera time edge and was often paired off with Tsukiumi during any scenes showing her, allowing other the other girls their chance to shine. This has helped the balance greatly.
- Asobi ni Iku yo!: Kio has been kissed by all of his harem ladies, and still hasn't managed to budge a little bit as far as who he likes the most.
- Asu no Yoichi!: All of the girls who like Yoichi are in the same level, probably because he is so dense, he doesn't even realize any girls like him.
- In the manga, only one of the girls even realizes that she likes the guy at first, the second is given less screentime after her inital appearance and a few chapters and the others are unsure or unwilling to pursue him and fall into the story quite a bit later. A secondary one-sided relationship is also brought in.
- Deconstructed near the end of Saber Marionette J to X. For the whole season, Otaru deliberately tries to treat the trio of girls equally and not favour any one over the others - even working overtime to afford extra tickets for a vacation, so that he won't have to pick just one of them as a guest. Another guy falls in love with Bloodberry, but is content to let her be with Otaru. He then learns that Otaru actually has this trope and is not happy, accusing Otaru of leading all 3 girls on just to spare his own feelings. Otaru eventually agrees that each girl deserves someone who will treat her as his "number one" instead of as one-third of a whole, and resolves to upset the balance, permitting the marionettes he doesn't choose to live their own lives.
- Hayate the Combat Butler is pretty good at balancing the screentime of the main girls, with three or four getting more attention than the rest.
- To Love-Ru has this as well. Many of the girls do eventually become attracted to Rito, making the Love Triangle between him, Haruna and Lala morph into a Love Dodecahedron and pretty much all of them have balanced screentime. In fact, the sequel To Love-Ru Darkness, is aiming for the Marry Them All (or at least, one of the harem members is actively trying to make it happen) and Lala and Haruna have been Out of Focus, aside from A Day in the Limelight stories.
- Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi keeps the screentime, importance and Fanservice well balanced across the six girls. Not that it matters since fans only care for the main character's younger brother.
- Gender-inverted with Shugo Chara!, with a two-tier format: Tadase and Ikuto being Amu's clear love interests and the other guys just being along for variety and such.
- Mashiro-iroSymphony is a fairly standard example of this, Sakuno and Airi get a little more screentime but not much so it still counts as balanced. And at the end, Miu won.
- Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai is a little weird about this. The screentime is somewhat balanced, but it is done by having the entire cast be together almost all the time. However, closer examination reveals a two-tier format, with Yozora and Sena being the main girls, and making the others a mixed-bag of genre tag-alongs.
- And in the end the winner is actually Sena Maybe. Kodaka says he's going to go give her "an answer" but we never actually find out in either the anime or the novels what he actually says or whether or not he accepts her.
- In book 8, he admits his love for Sena, but - in a bizarre yet passionate scene - begs her to let him not go out with her. This is because if Kodaka were to act on his real affection for Sena, it might destabilize the relationships the Neighbors' Club are slowly forming, and he doesn't want that. The man does desperately want friends, after all, and he realizes - thanks in no small part to Rika - that he's not the only one.
- Heaven's Lost Property is currently in this position. Tomoki has massive Ship Tease with the core trio: Ikaros, Nymph and Sohara, but he's also got Astraea and Chaos as candidates, and the anime's Gecko Ending went with No Romantic Resolution. Jury is out whether that'll be the final result for the manga.
- Haruhi Suzumiya. Okay, so one of the haremettes is the title character and the driving force behind the plot. However, Mikuru and Yuki also want Kyon and vice versa, and Itsuki invokes Homoerotic Subtext for him (though he claims he's just acting gay for Kyon so that Haruhi doesn't make him gay for Kyon). Adding to this, the Love Dodecahedron will almost certainly never be resolved, because if Kyon actually picks one girl, the world will end.
- High School D×D is an interesting take on this. The main character Issei Hyoudou is a unashamed pervert and a Harem Seeker. Sounds pretty standard so far, right? However, he is also a Bad Ass Chivalrous Pervert who literally goes through hell for the girls. The girls decide fairly early on that they are ALL going to get with him, and instead of fighting over him, they fight over who he pays the most attention to.
- Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru is shaping up to be this. Eita's Childhood Friend, Chiwa, is obviously in love with him but Cannot Spit It Out, and Eita is too oblivious to notice. Masuzu blackmailed him into being her fake boyfriend, and they claim to dislike each other, but there's clearly more to it than that. Himeka thinks she's Eita's girlfriend from an alternate reality, having apparently experienced Love at First Sight, and quickly becomes as close to the male lead as the other two.
- Hachi Ichi's whole premise: Shinichirou's grandfather sticks him in a house with eight girls he's never met before for a year and tells him he has to marry one.
- Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara: Most if not all of the girls (and one guy) usually appear in every chapter and get equal amount of interaction with Souta because they all live under the same roof. They also share equal amounts of fanservice and it's possible for any of them to win Souta over.
- Nisekoi is probably the king of this trope. Each major arch that involves the main plot will always feature all the girls, other major plots will get hit with the reset button or only the girl will have changed any. Between major archs each girl will get their own mini archs that last one or two chapters, the mini archs will last until each major female character has had a turn.
- HBO's drama Big Love, about a Mormon Fundamentalist and his three wives, is arguably a non-anime example of this.
- Sister Wives, a reality show on TLC that is essentially the non-fiction equivalent of Big Love, is another example.
- Kyon Big Damn Hero has two harems that (sort of) Invoke this: one with Kyon and Haruhi, Mikuru, Yuki, Tsuruya and Kanae, another with Keiichi, Mion, Rena, Rika and Satoko.
- The Bachelor, whose entire premise is based on this (one man choosing from twenty-five women).
- Memory Days, an Animesque Dating Sim on deviantArt, has the protagonist, Ai, and three potential love interests (Haru, Daichi, and Kai) that she has equal amounts of cut-scenes, interaction, and chemistry with. The same also goes for the other Dating Sims the creator, Pacthesis, has made (Kingdom Days, Chrono Days, Wonderland Days, Lunar Days, Number Days, etc.), though not always with just three love interests (some even include a Gay Option).
- The Little Busters! visual novel comes across as this in the way it makes all the girls' routes canon, has the ending route more based around friendship than Riki's love for Rin, and has a scene at the very end where Rin asks Riki who he likes, offering up all the girls as potential choices, but having him refuse to answer. Even one of his guy friends is, while not dateable, a totally canon-compatible (and, depending on who you ask, canon-supported) ending possibility. This is in complete contrast to CLANNAD, which couldn't have made it more obvious that Nagisa was the winning girl, and the Little Busters! anime, which removed almost all the romance altogether.
- In Super Robot Wars Judgement, the male protagonist, Touya Shun, has three girls vying for him, who also double as his co-pilots. Players then can choose who gets first place but if players keep rotating on who's the co-pilot of the stage, then the Mid-Season Upgrade of the mech Touya uses won't obtain its final attack. This option also saves The Dragon who decides to join you in the final battle including all of the boss stats that he had in the previous stage.