Harem Genre

"...Serials about awkward young men very pointedly NOT having sex with a selection of eager women."

Harem is a genre/plot frame that is mostly present in the Japanese media of anime, manga, Light Novels, Visual Novels, and Video Games.

It normally takes place in a High School setting, with one male lead and at least three (often a lot more) girls who are romantically interested in him, or at the very least are bound by circumstances to live with him. Gender Inverted Examples also exist, as do age-adjusted renditions for younger audiences. Usually, each harem member personifies a single classic characterization archetype.

The protagonist either takes it as an Unwanted Harem, reacts as a Harem Seeker, or is Oblivious to Love.

Works where a Harem Genre set-up is put in front of other relationship dynamics, and the plot is written with the intention to keep the "race" for the male protagonist's heart as tied as possible, are known as the Balanced Harem subgenre.

In recent shows, the Harem genre has become somewhat divided into two "routes". The first, the legitimate "Harem Route", has the girls choose to share the lead character, equally or otherwise, rather than risk losing him and their friends completely. The other, more realistic route is called "Shuraba", sometimes translated as "Bloodbath"; here, there can be only one, and all contenders are willing to destroy their enemy to achieve their own happiness.

In other cases, when a work uses this genre together with a more traditional Romantic Comedy Official Couple relationship, that is called the Supporting Harem subgenre.

Many of these works are also shared with the Ecchi genre, as it is harder to find a Harem story that isn't filled with gratuitous Fanservice than one that is.

Contrast Royal Harem, which is about the literal, traditional sort of harem as found in a royal palace.

Harem genre tropes:

Common character types for the Harem members:

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Examples of works in the Harem genre:

    Anime and Manga 
  • Ai Kora (from the creator of Midori Days) plays with this: Hachibe Maeda, a guy with very particular tastes in women definitely wants the harem so long as they have exactly one of the attributes he's looking for in a girl: Tsubame-sensei, the Harem Nanny, has long, streamlined legs; Sakurako, the Tsundere, has big, blue eyes; Yukari, the Meganekko, has big, perky breasts like a bullet train; and Kirino, the Little Miss Snarker, has a husky voice. Later we meet Ayame, the Ojou, who has Maeda's ideal waist. This is taken to the extreme with Haiji, who has the ideal ass but is a guy. And a bisexual, no less.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi. In a surprising twist, the first girl has already won, long before anyone else gets a shot thanks to a Childhood Marriage Promise which she and Kaoru have kept for nearly two decades. The other haremettes are kept from becoming Pretty Freeloaders with help from Harem Nanny Miyabi, as they're called on to do housework whenever Aoi is unable to perform. Miyabi-san takes her job very seriously.
  • Nadja Applefield (or better said, Nadja Preminger), from Ashita no Nadja is another of the female examples, having one of these (with four pre-teen boys and three guys in their mid-to-late teens) when she's just thirteen.
  • Gender-inverted with Fushigi Yugi and its protagonist Miaka, with the added bonus of some minor overlap with a traditional Royal Harem.
  • Girls Bravo centers around Yukinari, who suffers from an allergic reaction to girls after being bullied by them for years. Enter Miharu: a strange girl from another planet, who falls in love with him at first sight and is the only one who doesn't trigger his allergy. There's two other girls for her to compete with... except not really.
  • Spiritual Successor Brynhildr in the Darkness is a better example than Elfen Lied. Like in Kohta's case, a lot more girls are living in Ryouta's club house, since they are all refugees from Vingulf, a laboratory that creates Magicians. At least three of them have fallen in love with him, with Kuroha turning out to be his Childhood Friend Kuroneko, who was believed to be dead, is the one he truly loves, but several incidents force them to be Star-Crossed Lovers. The only girls who aren't in love with him are Kana and Kotori. Meta-wise, Die for Our Ship is avoided by the fans, since death is very possible in this series, as Kotori dies in the climax of the first part of the series, and Nanami died before even joining the main cast.
  • Gou-dere Bishoujo Nagihara Sora An Affectionate Parody of the genre where a manga character comes to the real world and declares that the protagonist should Take Over the World. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Haruhi Suzumiya anime/novels. An alien, an ESPer, a time traveller, and an unknowing goddess. Remember, this is a show that sinks its meathooks into any trope it can find and folds and spindles it to shreds...
  • Hayate the Combat Butler, a strange combination of the guy being even more clueless than usual and the girls mostly being knowledgeable about and completely alright with competing for his affection between them. Several of them actually work very hard to get one of the other girls to win!
  • Tomoki Sakurai from Heaven's Lost Property has a harem consisting of Ikaros (who still hasn't quite realised it), Nymph, Sohara, Hiyori, and possibly Astraea. However, he's way too busy thinking of perverted schemes and being a pervert to actually notice. Only Hiyori has confessed to him, and he's even stunned upon receiving her confession.
  • High School D×D with the added twist that every girl in the harem is willing to share, but they're competing to see who's first place.
  • According to a non-canon pre-anime Drama CD, this happens in Higurashi: When They Cry. After Keiichi goes even more bishonen than he already is, it's shown that Rena, Mion, Rika and Satoko all like him.
    • There is also a Kira episode that's a better example, with Shion, Rena, and Mion all out for Keiichi.
  • Infinite Stratos somewhat induces this by necessity: There's the eponymous Powered Armor that only girls can use, but for some reason, one guy is able to use it as well. He gets plunked in to a dedicated all-girls school to learn how to use the same.
  • Iono the Fanatics, a Girls Love harem series featuring a horny queen on a quest to make her thousand-strong harem even larger.
  • Isuca: Shinchirou Asano winds up in an Innocent Cohabitation with four girls that he literally owns thanks to I Know Your True Name. Unfortunately for him, one of those four girls is a Shana Clone. Hijinks ensue.
  • Kämpfer: Here the main guy turns into a girl thanks to a magical MacGuffin. Who's probably hotter than the rest of the main girls. Problem is that the girl he loves is 100% lesbian and the Big Bad of the series.
  • Can't forget the lesbian Love Triangle in Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl from which Hazumu has to choose either Yasuna or Tomari. In addition to that loads of other characters be they guys, girls, aliens, or family members all have a thing for Hazumu.
  • La Corda D'Oro which has five boys interested in one girl.
  • Played with in the manga Otomari Honey, where we see the situation from the perspective of one of the haremettes - she goes to the house of a boy she has a crush on to ask if she can live with him to get away from her own home, only to find that he's already got three other girls with the same story living in his room.
  • Ouran High School Host Club has a male harem for a girl. She was popular with the girls at her own school, but for other reasons.
  • In Parallel Trouble Adventure Dual, Kazuki Yotsuga accumulates a harem made up of the Alpha Bitch, an alien Robot Girl, a sleepwalking ditz with a split personality who is also the daughter of the enemy leader (and the analogue of the Libby from a parallel universe), and an ex-Ace robot pilot who is also his homeroom teacher. In a clever subversion, the girls compete by cooking for him, rather than by blowing up things.
  • Ranma ½: Akane is an inverted example while Ranma has two - one as a male and one as a female.
  • Rosario + Vampire. Tsukune falls in love with Moka, who has also a superpowered neutral true side. Other girls fall eventually in love with him, with Yukari routing for a One True Threesome, Ruby having a minor crush in comparison to the other girls, and Kurumu and Mizore also having species problems. Kurumu would literally die if Tsukune rejects her, and Mizore's species in endangered, so she needs to mate with him. Fang-Fang is the Gay Option, who just wants to Tsukune to join his mafia family rather than because of romantical reasons, but Fang-Fang offers him the Marry Them All option, which would make every girl but Moka happy. And Kokoa has no interest in Tsukune at all. To make it more complicated, while Tsukune has only eyes for Moka, there is the Outer Moka-Inner Moka problem, since the girl he first fall in love is Outer Moka, but he has also feelings for Inner Moka, so the best option is that they somehow emerge together. Both Mokas are in love with him, but they also help each other. Even more confusing, it turns out that Outer Moka is a clone of Moka's mother Akasha. However, the personality of the deceased Outer Moka does merge with Inner Moka's.
  • Rune Soldier Louie is mostly an aversion/parody of the harem genre. While Louie does join a travelling party of beautiful women, they think of him as a means to an end, since their group needs a magician. But they do eventually gain a fair amount of respect for him... even though he's inept at magic. And while his friend, Ila, secretly nurses a crush on him, Louie fails to notice it.
  • Saber Marionette J, in which the entire harem is made up of Robot Girls and one guy (on an all-male world, where this would be expected). In its various sequels, the one real girl in the entire world also apparently wants in on the harem.
  • Sakura Wars, naturally, as it's based on a game that is partially a Dating Sim. Therefore we have Sakura, Maria, Kouran, Sumire, Kanna and Orihime, and Leni and Iris are too young but seem to be next in line.
  • School Days is known for being one of the most brutal deconstructions this trope has ever known, especially in the anime and several endings of the visual novel. It seems like your average harem series at first, where the main character has an Ojou (Kotonoha), a Shorttank (Sekai), an Alpha Bitch who doubles as the Patient Childhood Love Interest (Otome), a Girl Next Door with Anime Hair (Hikari), and the Alpha Bitch's Girl Posse (Natsumi, Kumi and Minami) after him. Makoto, however, has become known as one of the biggest jerks of any male lead in the history of Harem stories, starting off more or less okay but soon beginning to screw any girl he can get and, unlike most of the above anime and mangas, we see the realistic consequences of this situation happening. And then go beyond it.
  • Seitokai no Ichizon. The male lead blatantly announces he is aiming for one to his female cast more than once. He's generally a nice and dependable guy and, in a way, it pays off by the end.
  • Sekirei: The main character gets his harem by "Winging" the girls, meaning as he kisses them, they get wings. He's not the only one, and women are not the only ones who can get winged, but he's the main focus.
  • Shitsurakuen gives us an example. Unusual in that the harem and the one seeking it are both female.
  • SHUFFLE! sets up a contest of sorts for the lead's heart. There's remarkably little hostility between the competitors.
  • A particularly interesting (and unusually non-romantic) variation on this trope can be found in the anime Sister Princess, in which a young man discovers that he has a baker's dozen half-sisters he never knew existed. Having grown up alone except for a few servants, he finds their slavish adoration of their "big brother" somewhat overwhelming, but grows to love and treasure them all.
  • Strawberry One Hundred Percent: Manaka has a rather large group of different girls after him in Aya, Satsuki, Tsukasa, Kozue, and Yui.
  • Tenchi Muyo!, something of a Trope Codifier and Ur-Example for what modern audiences would recognize as a modern harem.
  • The World God Only Knows is a rare example of the lead character working for his harem, but he's only doing it because he has an Explosive Leash forcing him to. And technically the harem doesn't really exist since the girls are given Laser-Guided Amnesia after the conquest is over. It gets played more straight later on when some of the girls recover their memories, but it isn't the girls who get to fight over him, it's the goddesses they are hosting.
  • To Love-Ru.
    • The sequel To Love Ru Darkness has the rare Harem Seeker... who isn't the male lead. Momo, one of the girls in Rito's Harem, wants to create the harem for him, with her in it, and pretty much every other female he has ever met.
  • Urusei Yatsura shows how this was already a cliche back in the 1980s — Ataru Moroboshi, who is actively trying to assemble a harem, repulses most girls and has to "settle" for the alien princess Lum, who lives in his closet and thinks they're married.

  • Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note: While downplayed due to this being a series about and primarily aimed at tweens, there's no escaping the fact that it's one girl surrounded by boys that she and everyone around her consider to be cool and good-looking, and she even develops some feelings towards some of them. While not as strong as older Reverse Harem series, it still has the same effect.

    Video Games 
  • Agarest Senki requires you to pick one girl out of three in each generation after you've spent some time with them. The system works similarly to Phantasy Star III's system. Rex, the final hero, however, can end up with one of any girl you've gotten in your party so far of the maximum number of nine in the Golden Ending.
  • Ar tonelico series is a RPG hybrid with Visual Novel element ib the form of Cosmos Sphere, focusing on romance developments between The Hero and two (later three) heroines. Ensemble Darkhorse Cocona not included.
  • Any game created by Bioware has romance side-plots reguarding the player character. Most of the time it's just a love triangle, but the ammount of people your male/female Shepard can become interested by someone in Mass Effect 2 pretty much borderlines a harem.
  • In Bully, the main character amasses himself a nice harem.
  • Riviera: The Promised Land pits you with 4 girls, each with their own ending, and the game provides another special ending that's really hard to get. Since this is a linear RPG, romance paths aren't really obvious.
  • RPG Shooter: Starwish is a hybrid RPG shooter where the harem consists of 5 girls (only 4 are available at a time) and 2 guys, with a special ending if you can get all of the individual endings (and another one - featuring a fifth girl who was not previously in the story except for a few lines at the beginning, which the protagonist assumed was All Just a Dream - if you don't).
  • RPG Maker 2000 game Romancing Walker features a pretty boy hero and his six love interests.
  • In Scarface: The World is Yours Tony Montana can obtain a large collection of trophy girlfriends.
  • Dating Sim Tokimeki Memorial, as it can't fit in Visual Novel catagory because you actually need to build stats and managing dates on multiple girls at times to get one of loads and loads of girls without angering the rest and ruin your game.
  • Hakuoro of Utawarerumono sleeps with six women throughout the game, five of whom love him. Kuuya, empress of the bunnypeople, also seems to love him and offers her best friend as a concubine without knowing quite what that means. Mikoto and possibly Mutsumi in the back story. Yet he's entirely oblivious of how most of them feel until the very end of the game, thinking of them as mostly friends/retainers and of the sex as being rather casual.
    • Considering that he's the king, who also comes from modern society, where sex IS casual, and they live in a world which still has EMPERORS... it makes sense.

    Visual Novels 
Many visual novel plots revolve around this, especially in eroge, but this trope isn't eroge exclusive.

  • The upcoming But I Love You is an Affectionate Parody and Deconstructor Fleet for the genre. The main character, who can be either a boy or a girl, finds hirself stranded in a mysterious town when hir car breaks down. The player encounters a number of girls, from the childish, passionate Ryanne to the shy, dumure Alison, who all try to help them in different ways and can be flirted with. Eventually, though, the girls begin to act clingy, giving off signs of being unhinged, and the player must make a choice: either ignore the warning signs to keep courting the girls or try to escape from the town, which is afflicted with an as-yet unknown curse by a mysterious Big Bad. Among its Multiple Endings the player may either successfully complete a romance with one or more of the ladies, escape or be killed.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry initially seems as though it'll be one of these, what with the main character, Keiichi, being in a Games Club consisting of only four girls and himself (later adding two more girls, Shion Sonozaki and Hanyuu), and the first parts of each arc focuses on their shenanigans. Soon, though, it's revealed that this series is about something else entirely. Not to mention that in the second half of the series the position of main character shifts to Rika instead of Keiichi. It's also worth noting that only Mion and possibly Rena are actually hinted to be in love with Keiichi in the series proper, since Shion is in love with someone else, Satoko and Rika are too young, and Hanyuu is a Physical God who was married and had a daughter when she was still human. In the end, none of the girls end up with Keiichi, since the series is ultimately not about romance but The Power of Friendship.
  • Muv-Luv.
  • Tsukihime. Five girls with their own routes plus one without, having been Demoted to Extra. Most of them are quite violent about it too; Akiha flatly hates Ciel (who hates her back) and Arcueid (who doesn't seem to know what hate is) and those two have a 'weird friendship' that occasionally includes trying to kill each other. Akira is added in the first fandisc, Kagetsu Tohya seems to add Len considering she expresses a preference for having sex with him when making a contract and implies most of his classmates are attracted. Melty Blood adds Sion.
    • Do note that this only applies to the extended Tsukihime-verse in the Nasuverse, where Shiki is actually saddled with all the girls in an Unwanted Harem. In the actual visual novel there is no harem ending (aside of Ciel's good ending, which teases a Threesome Subtext with Arcueid as the third prong).
  • Key/Visual Arts' AIR, Kanon, and CLANNAD feature an ordinary (or not so ordinary) high school student who attracts girls of every moe and general description type into a long-running harem.
    • Little Busters! is interesting in that it's both more and less of a harem than the others - more because all of the routes happen canonically as different timelines, meaning that all of the girls fall for him within the same reality, rather than in alternate universes as with most Key games where often only one or two girls ever like the protagonist at the same time and because the first ending explicitly leaves open the question of who he ends up with, but also less because the anime removes all Riki/girl romance except implications that Kurugaya and Rin might like him, leaving only non-haremette Suginami explicitly, and unrequitedly, in love with him.


Alternative Title(s):

Harem Anime, Reverse Harem, Harem Series, Harem Show, Harem Comedy, Harem Cast