Balanced Harem

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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".


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Daily Life with Monster Girl has a good amount of screentime, Ship Tease and Fanservice among all six girls of Kimihito's harem. Well, with the exception of the seventh girl Lala, who got Demoted to Extra after her introductory arc and since then her presence is almost nonexistent.
  • Demon King Daimao even made sure to show the girls for the same amounts of times, in the same situations in the opening and ending credits.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If Her Flag Breaks: 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. This deserves special mention, being the most loving and supporting harem ever written. The girls will constantly help each other get closer to Souta, then act confused when outsiders suggest this might be detrimental to their own feelings. Akane and Okiku in particular are absolutely delighted whenever a new girl pops up.
  • As pictured, the Multinational Ensemble Battle Harem 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 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.
  • The anime of Kamigami No Asobi takes this approach - Apollon tends to be placed first or last whenever the gods are in a sequence (e.g. he sings first in the ending theme, he is the last god Yui meets, etc.), but her relationship with him isn't that much closer than most of the other gods. Though, Loki and Balder more or less end up with each other, so that might eliminate them.
  • The Kanon anime 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.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: Negi, being ten years old and all, remains very dense as his students keep getting crushes on him. It is not totally balanced, but a good number of the girls have a good spotlight. Ultimately, most of the harem is unresolved at the end of the manga.
  • Mashiro-iro Symphony 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.
  • 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.
  • Oreshura 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.
  • In Saber Marionette J, Otaru loves his three marionettes equally and they are fine with sharing him as long as he loves them all the same. Since they are The Three Faces of Eve, together they make the perfect woman he wants.
    • 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. It doesn't work because all three girls prefer to still be with him anyway.
  • Samurai Harem: 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.
  • 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 for long. Until the ending, that is.
  • 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.
  • 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 the other girls their chance to shine. This has helped the balance greatly.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To Love-Ru: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 for almost the entire series 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, it's just that he has not shown any romantic affection of sorts for them... Until the penultimate chapter where he eventually chooses Chihiro, both because he wants everyone else in the harem to move on and cease pining for his affection, and because the girl he chose was the only person whom he cannot shoehorn into any Dating Sim stereotype.
  • Yosuga no Sora followed the format of Amagami SS, with keeping all the Multiple Endings.

    Fan Fic 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • A Brother's Price: The setting has sororal polygyny, and Jerin's father taught him that it is of vital importance to invoke this trope by spending each night with another wife, and the repeat in the same order, to prevent jealousy.
    Jerin: "And if that wife is sick at the time?"
    Tullen: "Then you sleep alone."

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Bachelor, whose entire premise is based on this (one man choosing from twenty-five women).
  • HBO's drama Big Love, about a Mormon Fundamentalist and his three wives.
  • Sister Wives, a reality show on TLC that is essentially the non-fiction equivalent of Big Love.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.

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