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Supporting Harem
Fret not, Urd and Skuld - the audience likes you anyway.

A Subtrope of the Harem Genre, a Romantic Comedy with one male protagonist, one female Love Interest, and a bunch of female side characters who also happen to be in love with the protagonist.

In these stories, the bigger emphasis is usually on the "romantic" part of Romantic Comedy, with the relationship building between the main Official Couple, and the side characters are only there for the viewer to like them, and maybe as a Romantic False Lead, to keep some drama between the main characters.

Certain character types like the Hot Teacher or the Ojou are likely to be members of this, as a straight romantic story with them at the center probably wouldn't work at all, or at least it would invite too many unusual plot points.

One of the causes for this set-up might be if it is the adaptation of a Visual Novel, where every girl got the focus of attention in her own route, but only one route got an adaptation.

Contrast with Balanced Harem, where several girls have equal prominence during the story.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • 'The Familiar of Zero'''s "Louise The Zero" is not just the title character, but also connected to the protagonist with a magical contract sealed by a kiss.
    • He confessed his love to her on the second season, and they even got married at the end of F. It doesn't stop three more girls from joining in the third season.
  • CLANNAD made it very obvious in the first scenes who was the main love interest, and the harem concept was entirely dropped during the first season anyways.
  • Rosario + Vampire has Moka as the only girl Tsukune clearly loves. The other girls try but there's nothing they can do. It gets deconstructed. Kurumu and Mizore know they don't have a chance, but they still love him... and it becomes really complicated: Kurumu's nature as a succubus means that unrequited love is literally killing her, while Mizore is a biological Christmas Cake and due to her love for him and no one else, she'll sooner or later end up barren. Until someone suggests he Marry Them All, that is. Other than the Official Couple, everyone thinks it's a great idea.
  • In Ah! My Goddess, there's never any question that Keiichi and Belldandy are the only canon OTP, but that doesn't stop Skuld, Urd, Peorth, and Mara from being Pretty Freeloaders.
  • Keitaro and Naru from Love Hina are a very good example of this. It was obvious by the end of the first manga volume that Naru was Keitaro's "Promise Girl" and not even the "complications" that came with Mutsumi (who also made a promise with Keitaro... and another with Naru...) and Kanako could put a dent in it.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! is a very complex case of this since there is only one pairing that is really presented as it might be serious that is Negi and Nodoka early on which slowly became a Triangle with Yue, others are not that serious at all (besides Ako which is a whole other can of worms. Recently struck down in a good way). The early Magical World arc gave a lot more focus to Chisame than to most of the other girls, though not in a romantic way.
    • Ultimately, most of the harem is unresolved at the end of the manga
  • Urusei Yatsura became this, although it started out as more balanced between Lum and Shinobu, only later Lum become more popular and Shinobou got an alternative Love Interest.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi is clearly this, as the lead girl Aoi has already won within the first few episodes. It's just that she and the male lead Kaoru feel the need to keep their relationship a secret for various and pretty complicated reasons, so the rest of the harem doesn't know this.
  • Ai Kora is this, as it seems clear that Sakurako is in the lead, with Yukari trying to make this a Love Triangle but not quite. Tsubame, Kirino and everyone else is just there to have one of Hachibei's beloved parts.
  • Subverted by Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka, of all things. The entire series makes Yuuhi the main haremette and it's clear she'll win... But at the end, the main choses his sister Minato instead. There were some hints of this, but it mostly came out of nowhere.
  • Similarly subverted in Strawberry One Hundred Percent; while Junpei does initially express feeling in Satsuki, Tsukasa, and Aya, it becomes clear that Aya is his primary love interest. In the end, he chooses Tsukasa instead. Fans weren't happy.
  • Gender-inverted in The Wallflower, where it's blatantly obvious that the only real love interest for Sunako is Kyohei, especially when all the other guys get love interests of their own and begin trying various ways of getting Sunako and Kyohei together.
  • To Love-Ru started out as this, with Lala and Haruna getting all the screen time, with Word of God claiming they were intended to be the main focus of the story. However, as time went on, more girls were introduced and screen time evened out and it became much less clear who Rito would choose (it was a bit Lala-centric at first); in other words, it evolved into a Balanced Harem.
  • Another gender-inversion is Marmalade Boy, where from very early it's clear Yuu will win, no matter how much Ginta and the others try. At least they get their own girlfriends. It's also a straight example from Yuu's point of view. It's that kind of show.
  • Mayo Chiki! has Subaru as the clear lead girl. How clear? Even the other haremettes love her!
  • It's pretty clear from the start of Ranma ½ who is going to be Ranma's love interest. While Shampoo and Ukyo get screen time here and there, Akane is on screen almost as much as Ranma is, and he actually lives in her house. She also gets his attention far more than the other girls. At the end of the series, Ranma inwardly declares his love for Akane and there is a Maybe Ever After ending. Take that as you will, shippers.
  • DearS, especially in the anime, is primarily focused on Takeya and Ren's budding relationship, though he also has Miu and Neneko chasing his affections. The manga, however, is somewhat more balanced. Takeya eventually gets to "make babies" with the entire DearS race.
  • Ouran High School Host Club in which every boy who knows she's a girl (not quite, but close) falls for Haruhi, but it's obvious she's going to end up with Tamaki, the host club president. It's not over done though, and only one or two actively seek to win her over, and even for them it's more of a journey of character than anything. It's Lampshaded by Tamaki in one episode in which he famously (and unwisely) pegs himself and Haruhi as the romantic leads and the rest as the homosexual supporting cast.
  • Kirito's "harem" in Sword Art Online is unquestionably this. Kirito and Asuna actually get married before the end of the first book, so there's really none of the normal Will They or Won't They? or Ship Tease you'd get in a real Harem Series. Most of the girls who fall for him are presented as quiet tragedies, since they never had a shot with him in the first place. Asuna also has a harem of her own, but most of the named members are her husband's friends, so again, there is no Ship Tease.
    • It's spiritual successor Accel World is quite a bit better about this, mainly because Haruyuki has too many self-esteem issues to believe any girl could ever love him. It also doesn't play it up nearly as much as SAO does, and while Haruyuki is often put into a lot of various... situations with many girls, the series never acts like anything will come of it. It seems to be setting him up with Kuroyukihime for the most part but every now and then Chiyuri seems more likely. So less a balanced harem and more a balanced triangle.
  • In My Bride Is a Mermaid, it is very clear that the male lead Nagasumi only has eyes for his fiancée, Sun, despite some other females also harbor interest in him. Sun has her own admirers as well, but is extremely devoted to Nagasumi.
  • El-Hazard: The Magnificent World, in both OVA and anime continuities, gives Makoto a main Love Interest, but the details differ.
    • In the OVA continuity, Makoto chooses Ifurita, but Shayla Shayla and Nanami both make plays for his affection, and Ifurita is Put on a Bus after the first OVA, though we see that Makoto will be reunited with her later. In the third OVA, The Alternative World, Makoto attracts a fourth love interest, Qawool, and the harem antics are played up significantly; while Shayla Shayla, Nanami and Qawool don't actually have a shot at Makoto, that doesn't stop them from trying to Tenchi things up.
    • In the TV series, Makoto's Love Interest is Princess Rune Venus (who isn't in his harem in the OVA), and while Shayla Shayla and Nanami are both hot for him, he's not interested. Ifurita is a much different character in this adaptation (an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain instead of a deadly serious Person of Mass Destruction), and is not a Love Interest.
  • Medaka Box: Both Medaka and Zenkichi get a few admirers of their own; Medaka attracts the attention of Akune, Oudo, Kumagawa, and a few other enemies, as well as Zenkichi himself. Zenkichi gets his own best friend Shiranui as well as Emukae. Despite this, it's fairly clear that the primary relationship is between Medaka and Zenkichi.
  • With Haiyore! Nyarko-san, you know that Nyarko's the one who's going to win in the end — she's the title character, after all. Unfortunately for Mahiro that doesn't spare him the affections of Hasuta and later Cuuko. The "budding romance" part is also given a twist in that Nyarko tends to do things "three steps forward, two steps back", annoying Mahiro by being too goofy and clingy, but pulling him back from the brink at the last moment with honestly heartfelt expressions of love.
    Nyarko: "Cthuko! Except for me, no one is a leading role! All evil gods are supporting roles! You and Hasta are both supporting roles!"
    Cuuko: "I still don't acknowledge myself as a supporting role."

    Fan Fiction 

     Literature  
  • Twilight: Bella has Eric, Tyler, Mike, and Jacob all in love with her, but her One True Love is Edward. Not even Jacob giving her a Forceful Kiss in a later book could seriously challenge this.
  • A Gender Flipped example from the Mahabharata: Draupadi is married to 5 men at once (the Pandavas brothers), and though she does care for all of them one way or another, Arjuna is her favorite. This is because Arjuna is the incarnation of the god Indra, and Draupadi is the reincarnation of his wife Indrani. This comes back to bite her in the ass later, because she collapses on the mountain climb to Heaven as a result of "playing favorites."
    • In the Javanese version (heavily influenced by the spread of Islam), Draupadi is married only to Yuddhisthra, but collapses on the mountain because she has feelings for Arjuna.

     Video Games  
  • Despite "the ability to pursue multiple love interests" being the main drawing point of nearly all Dating Sims and romance Visual Novels, this trope can still occur in them if the game is clearly biased in favor of a specific love interest.
  • One example of the above is Sweet Pool in which Tetsuo, Makoto, and Zenya are all interested in Youji and have endings with him, but Tetsuo gets the most development and backstory with Youji, four endings with him including the game's True End and all his endings manage to have at least a bittersweet tinge to them, whereas Makoto and Zenya each get only one ending with Youji that can't qualify as anything other than a Guro Horrific Ending by any reasonable standard.

     Western Animation  


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