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Unwanted Harem

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"Well, I'm running down the road trying to loosen my load,
I've got seven women on my mind.
Four that wanna own me, two who wanna stone me,
One says she's a friend of mine."
Eagles, "Take It Easy"

Not to be confused with Harem Genre, a genre of Japanese media that sometimes heavily relies on this trope.

This trope involves a common reaction from the man when a Harem plot begins and women start fighting for his attention. He might either think like a Celibate Hero, that the gratuitous quantity of boobs he is forced to see every day are just a bother (Comically Missing the Point that he is in an enviable situation), or see them as an obstacle between him and the girl he truly likes, or he may just find them annoying for one reason or another.

The more likely reason plot-wise is the fact that the male lead cannot reciprocate all the girls' feelings without seeming to the audience to be cruel, manipulative, and misleading to the girls. So the far easier solution is to make him oblivious to their affection or Cursed with Awesome.


Even if he does like one or more of the girls, the man won't or can't admit it. Besides, until the point comes where one of the girls is in danger, the man would rather have his nice quiet life back. The trope may or may not involve Innocent Cohabitation.

While this is, as might be gathered, usually a male trope, gender-reversed versions have recently begun to appear.

The most common and immediate consequences of said harem is the ever-hilarious (if incredibly painful to watch) Lover Tug-of-War.

When criticism is raised against a harem show it's usually due to an overdose of this trope; unfortunately, when played straight, this trope is almost always overdosed. While it's often criticized as blatant Wish-Fulfillment, most criticism regards the tendency to portray the female cast very negatively, often giving them little personality, or having their characters largely defined by their dependency on the male protagonist and/or irrational tendencies towards violence.


Contrast Harem Seeker, where the "unwanted" part is left out. Also compare Sexy Man, Instant Harem, which may or may not be wanted, but which usually involves more superficial characters.

Resolutions to such a situation are varied.

  1. Someone wins.
  2. Everyone wins.
  3. The Harem loses.
  4. No one wins.



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    Comic Books 
  • Jean Grey was the only girl in the X-Men for years. She's also been the target of villains' affections, as well. Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind) wasn't above committing Mind Rape to get her to fall in love with him.
  • This Legion of Super-Heroes comic panel. Though it's a subversion, as the girls actually trying to make Jimmy Olsen's girlfriend jealous.
  • Subverted in Y: The Last Man where just about every woman Yorick comes across is either trying to kill him or capture him as a bargaining chip.
  • In Star Wars (Marvel 1977), Luke Skywalker is considered immensely attractive to Zeltrons male and female; between their frank sexual curiosity about anything new, his fame, and the way his general goodness and incredible Force-Sensitivity feel to their empathic sixth sense, they tend to chase him. Initially he fears this greatly, but with time and Character Development he mellows and is able to hang around them and tolerate their desire to touch him, but gently rejects their propositions and is able to excuse himself and get time alone when he wants it.
  • In Irredeemable, Bette Noir fails to kill the Plutonian and escapes to live a life of decadence surrounded by a boy harem; that is, until the Plutonian catches up to her and kills the poor man-toys.
  • Angel's Proper Charlies, a strip in the long-running UK comic Jackpot, revolved around a girl named Angel who was pursued by three rather dimwitted boys who were all madly in love with her. Unlike most harem heroes, Angel was a Jerkass who routinely toyed with the boys' love for her for her own ends.
  • Smurfette in The Smurfs has a harem of male Smurf suitors all wanting to be her one true love, but though she is flattered by their affections, she turns them down because (1) she's too young to think about marriage, and (2) she loves all her fellow Smurfs equally.
  • T'Challa the Black Panther has a harem of bodyguards/wives-in-training as per tribal tradition. Though he values their services as bodyguards, he does not see them as his harem and has never slept with any of them. One member of his Rogues Gallery is Malice, a member of his bodyguards who actually wanted to be his wife and didn't want to take "no" for an answer.
  • Peter Parker alias Spider-Man during Brand New Day where every writer (until Slott took over the book) has a favorite girl. Throwing a lot of girls around Peter — Carlie, Lilly, Norah, Michele, Black Cat, Mary Jane, Betty Brant — resulted in this, which led to people complaining that Spider-Man turned into a bad Harem Anime.
  • Ultimate FF: Sue already has a problem with his former boyfriend, Reed Richards, turning into the Big Bad of the Ultimate Marvel universe. And then Namor shows up.
    Sue: Why. Does. Everybody. Think. He's (Namor). My. $%&/()!. Boyfriend.
    Nest Time: Battle for New Atlantis. Also more people who think they are Sue's boyfriend.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Dream of the Rarebit Fiend strip, an old woman becomes magnetically attractive after applying makeup. Her dream ends as she's trying to flee the multitude of men who are attempting to court her.
  • Nero: In "De Ring van de Moefti" Nero is given a ring by a rich sheik for saving his life. As long as Nero carries the ring the sheik's harem will follow and protect him. Throughout the story Nero tries to get rid of his harem, but to no avail. Finally he manages to take the ring off and give to Meneer Pheip. Then Pheip asks the women to take off their veils. It turns out they are all men!

    Film — Animated 
  • The Emperor's New Groove features a different kind of Unwanted Harem. Kuzco rejects all the women because he thinks nobody is good enough for him.
  • Disney's version of Hercules develops one after he becomes a celebrity. Inverted with Phil who loves to chase scores of nymphs. In his case it's the harem that doesn't want him. Though one nymph really does like him (the problem is that her family doesn't).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • There's Something About Mary subjects the title character to three (four if you count her boyfriend Ted who hires one of her love-/lust-smitten stalkers, and five if you count Brett Favre) amorous suitors.
  • When in Rome has the protagonist relentlessly pursued by several men after activating a magic fountain.
  • In White Sun of the Desert, Sukhov gets stuck with an actual harem, formerly belonging to Abdullah, the leader of Basmachi guerrillas. While the women consider him to be their protector, they do not actually try to jump him (this being a Soviet film and all).
  • The title character in Kull the Conqueror inherits a literal unwanted harem from the previous king. At the end of the movie, Kull officially disbands the harem, proclaiming that "the king commands no one's affection".
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Galahad gets sidetracked to Castle Anthrax, full of women bent on seducing him. He initially refuses their sexual advances, but by the time Lancelot shows up to rescue him from "peril," he doesn't want to leave.
  • In Beauty and the Beast (2017), the Bimbettes serve as this to Gaston - unlike the animated original, where he liked having them buff his ego, he is openly disdainful of them because there's no challenge in courting them.
  • The Cheyenne Social Club: John O'Hanlon inherits the Cheyenne Social Club business from his brother DJ. He is horrified when he shows up in Cheyenne and discovers that the Club is a whorehouse. He's further horrified when the girls of the Club, who were obviously DJ's harem, make it pretty clear without explicitly saying so that they'll be happy to service him when they aren't servicing customers. He gives in at least once with Pauline, though.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari has three wives. Unfortunately for him, they're all from arranged marriages, and he can't stand any of them (he refers to them as "Pestilence, Famine, and Death"). When the Centauri Emperor grants him one favor as a reward for his work, Londo asks for a divorce.
  • Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan has often been pursued and flirted with by several guys. There was one early episode when she went to a small town and most of the guys there were all trying to get her attention at a local bar, until Booth stepped in and grabbed her for a dance. However, she's not a Chaste Hero, as she does date several men, two at the same time at one point.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" features Xander trying to do a love spell on Cordelia, only for the spell to go wrong and every woman in Sunnydale (including Buffy, Buffy's mother, Drusilla and witch Amy) to fall head over heels for him. The only person who seems unaffected is Cordelia (due to the miscasting of the spell), but it transpires that she was already in love with him, she was just pretending not to be.
    • Another Buffy episode, "Him", has Buffy, Willow (who by this time has come out as a lesbian), demon Anya and teenaged Dawn falling for a high school boy, to the point where they are each trying to kill perceived rivals (or in Willow's case, work a spell to turn him into a girl) for his affections. The boys manage to work out that the boy is unwittingly wearing an enchanted letterman jacket which causes women to fall madly in love with the wearer.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor has picked up this reputation, thanks to their penchant for traveling with good-looking young companions. See this picture.
    • Lampshaded in the second "Meanwhile in the TARDIS" scene from 2010. After the Eleventh Doctor rebuffs Amy's attempt at Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex and assures her he's "a Space Gandalf", she gets curious about the companions before her. He immediately loses the ability to look her in the eye and starts hedging about how many of them were girls / young / "hot" (i.e., nearly all of them). Then she tricks him into calling up visual records. "Oooh, Gandalf!"
  • Constable Benton Fraser of Due South tends to instantly inspire crushes in every American woman he comes across. It only really sticks with Ray Vecchio's sister, though she's definitely enough.
  • The one-season Scott Bakula sitcom Eisenhower And Lutz. Bakula played Bud Lutz, a shady lawyer who was juggling two girlfriends, a waitress played by DeLane Matthews and a much more successful lawyer played by Patricia Richardson. In the final episode, an enemy of Bud's vowed to make his life miserable. He did so by sending both women engagement rings in Bud's name!
  • Played straight and parodied on Glee. Played straight with Will in how every time you turn around since the new season starts he seems to have gotten a new love interest. (though it might have come to head with "Bad Reputation". Parodied in "Bad Reputation" as, Rachel attempts to make it look like Finn, Puck and Jessie are her unwanted harem in her music video of 'Run Joey Run' so she'll get a higher ranking on the Glist (a ranking of hotness by member). Of course since this is Rachel, it doesn't go well for her...
  • Bertram Wooster (the Wooster bit of Jeeves and Wooster) has a gang of girls who all feel that they have an open invitation to attach themselves to him whenever their current relationship has gone south. All of the women in question are attractive but they all have issues with their personalities. There's Madeline Bassett (a Love Freak prone to extreme sentimentality), Florence Craye (a pretentious ball buster), and Honoria Glossop (who is probably a closet lesbian who wants to "mould" him). He has also expressed terror at the prospect of marrying Pauline Stocker, Bobby Wickham, and Stiffy Byng, even though none of them really want to. His terror of matrimony also has a lot to do with Bertie's wish to preserve his cosy bachelor establishment with Jeeves.
  • In The Last Man on Earth, Todd gets a bad case of this when Gail falls for him in the wake of her grief over Gordon, Melissa can't let go after he turns down her marriage proposal, and Erica shares a kiss with him when she asks him to serve as the father of her baby.
  • Maria attracts just about every eligible bachelor in María la del barrio, as does Luis Fernando with most of the women.
  • Ned's Unwanted Harem on the live-action but Animesque Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide call themselves "Club Ned" (but are referred to by Ned and his friends as The Huge Crew). They may be a tough, intimidating, leather-and-bandanna-wearing gang, but on the bright side, they don't see any other girls who like Ned as competition, but invite them to join the club!

  • Jimmy Reed had a song about it. "But I Ain't Got You".
  • The Duane Elms song "Who Do You Love?", where the protagonist feels he must choose just one of them.
    You think it's easy, maybe you would,
    to have more choices than one man should.
    There is such a thing as too much good.
  • The Warren Zevon song "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" is a masterpiece mixture of this and complete obliviousness.
  • The Carl Perkins song "Everybody's Trying to be my Baby"
  • The Eagles song "Take It Easy," as seen in the page quote.
  • The World War I-era popular song "Oh Johnny" tells of a young man who suffers from this plight.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The anime-inspired RPG Big Eyes, Small Mouth has a Defect titled Chick/Dude Magnet (shortened to just "Magnet" in 4th Edition) that makes the character the center of one of these. The game specifically notes that having a bunch of love interests is not a Defect in and of itself; the guys/girls have to actively inconveniece the character with their antics, and the character cannot have the willpower to simply resolve the situation via "extreme measures".

  • Gilbert and Sullivan seem to be fond of this trope: nine of their 14 operas have some version of it.
    • In Iolanthe, the Lord Chancellor, the Earls of Mountararat and Tololler, and the entire Chorus of Peers are all in love with Phyllis, who wants none of them.
    • At the start of Ruddigore, there have been no weddings in the village of Rederring for six months, because practically every bachelor is in love with Rose Maybud, but none of them can pass her standards of ettiquette (except Robin, who is too shy to declare himself).
    • In The Gondoliers, the entire female chorus is in love with the same two brothers, who feel it "indelicate" to show a bias towards any particular girl.
    • In The Grand Duke, Ludwig is all set to marry Lisa, but through various plot contrivances, finds himself forced to marry Julia Jellicoe, the Baroness von Krakenfeldt, and the Princess of Monte Carlo.
    • Played straight and subverted in Patience: At the start of the opera, the whole chorus of Rapturous Maidens are in love with the poet Bunthorne; when a handsomer poet, Grosvenor, appears on the scene, all the women transfer their affection to him. But while Grosvenor genuinely ignores the Maidens as much as he can, Bunthorne only pretends to — he only dons Aesthetic clothing and writes poetry so he can be followed around by an adoring harem.
    • Played with in in H.M.S. Pinafore: Sir Joseph enters "accompanied by the admiring crowd of female relatives who follow him wherever he goes" ("relative" is a euphemism here). Sir Joseph obviously enjoys the attention, but doesn't actually want to marry any of them. On the other hand, Hebe is the only "relative" actively pursuing him.
    • Played with again in Trial by Jury: As soon as the Plaintiff enters the courtroom, the entire jury falls in love with her. She does not want them, but manipulates them as much as she can to win her case.
    • Subverted in a different way in The Pirates of Penzance: Frederic proposes to the entire female chorus, who unanimously turn him down. Averted completely a moment later, when Mabel enters.
    • Similarly Subverted in The Sorcerer: Dr. Daly, under the influence of the love potion, proposes to every maiden he meets, but each one refuses. (This happens offstage, but he sings a song about it.)

  • Marten from Questionable Content, following a series of events between strips 500 and 700, lives with a woman in whom he was once interested, while dating her boss, the owner of a coffee shop with an all-female staff, and spending most of his free time with the obsessive-compulsive neighbor girl, all while working at the Smith College library. Although this doesn't meet the common definition since only two of these women have ever been more than his friends, he once quipped to his mother (before he started dating his roommate's boss) that he wanted to "build a harem of unattainable women," after which his mother takes to calling his female friends his "harem."
  • Lampshaded in Tsunami Channel here
  • Piro from Megatokyo is a geek and harem anime fan, yet he views his own with an increasing level of bemusement and disbelief, completely unable to communicate his feelings (mostly fear and confusion) to any of them.
    • In all fairness, there was only ever a chance of him dating two of the four: One of the others is a robot that Piro clearly doesn't realize has feelings, and the other is underage. Then of the two he might have had a chance with, one was always more interested in his friend, and saw him as pathetic (and not in the good way) from the start.
  • In Too Much Information (2005), Ace (despite his name, more of an Unlucky Everydude) has as his primary contenders a stripper/nurse and his boss's granddaughter, a local police officer, a ghost haunting the house, and her great-granddaughter, and Ship Tease moments with his Butch Lesbian roommate, and the one ex-girlfriend who isn't bisexual.
  • A rather unusual case in Misfile, boy turned girl Ash has Emily, Missi, Cassiel who is only tempting Ash to get at Rumisiel, Colin the counter guy, Vashiel, James but not Rumisiel, who all but a rare few know as Ash's boyfriend, but who knows that Ash is in reality a straight boy.
  • Cassie in The Wotch ends up accidentally building up one of these in her attempts to get Robin to drink a love potion, instead attracting Robin's younger brother Kirk, Xander, and finally a plant. And now it's starting to look like Robin and Cassie might start going out anyway.
  • Keith from TwoKinds gets one of these in the Basitan Island Arc, between Natani, Laura, Maddie and maybe Alaric. Laura and Alaric die, Maddie is revealed to be a teenager and thus too young for Keith, and Natani becomes Keith's official Love Interest.
  • Mye of Charby the Vampirate appears to have admirers wherever she goes, although she describes herself as not all that pretty. Eventually this is revealed to be, unknown to her, the effect of a spell that draws men to her.
  • David from Ow, my sanity has one made entirely of Eldritch Abominations who can take the form of Cute Monster Girls and find that Humanity Is Infectious.
  • Played with in Dubious Company. Elator is repulsed by most of his harem. Mary has personality issues that he finds grating. Marty is not a Gay Option, so much as he has yet to realize that Elator is a dude that looks like a lady. Tria is a matter of blink and you’ll miss her. Raque'Falicoona is a case of Yandere mixed with his fear of Raccoons.
  • Karate Bears love women, but not one woman inparticular.
  • Electric Wonderland had a Valentine's Day Comic in which a random man walks into the protagonists' workplace, and unwittingly becomes an object of attention for Trawn, Shroomy, and Aerynn.
  • Homestuck: It seems that all of Jake English's friends secretly harbor romantic feelings for him. This includes Dirk Strider. He is of course mostly oblivious to this.
  • In Rain, it appears that every kid in the school with a compatible sexual orientation gets a crush on the titular character. The attention terrifies her especially since she's transgender.
  • Gary in Ménage à 3 gains one, though as this comic is cheerfully Not Safe for Work, and Gary is desperate and chronically lacking in willpower, he does end up in bed with some of these women, making this something of an aversion of the full trope. (The comic can be seen partly as a good-natured western parody of the Harem Genre.) For those who want details:
    • Early on, after being friend-zoned by Zii and intimidated by DiDi, he seems to want to focus on Yuki, insofar as he has any opinions at all.
    • Yuki returns his interest but has issues.
    • Zii sends Sonya after him.
    • Amber discovers his unique sexual talents, and later decides that he needs rescuing from Yuki (with some reason).
    • Senna wants to Corrupt the Cutie next time she's in town.
    • Kiley deflowers him for stress relief, decides that she likes him, but soon backs off for ethical reasons.
    • Sonya pays him less attention for a while after realizing she loves Zii, but meanwhile DiDi has become interested in him.
    • Amber is induced to back off a bit and then disappears to another title.
    • Yuki hands him off to Sonya while she attempts to address her problems.
    • Sonya drops him due to incompatibility.
    • Zii tries to throw DiDi at him the same night that Sonya tries to do the same with new character Peggy.
    • However, by then, Gary is on another continent. He joins the Mile-High Club with Senna and survives the attempts of deranged dominatrix Tatiana to determine whether he is "the perfect sub".
    • This side-trip continues. Gary spends some teaching Sandra about geek culture, mostly in her own comic; this is mostly platonic, but by the time Gary leaves, Sandra is wondering if he might be interesting.
    • He gets home, goes out to watch a rock gig where he flirts with DiDi and Yuki and admires Zii on stage, and then gets home to find Amber on his doorstep, asking for a bed for the night.His bed.
    • It's complicated. Ye gods, it's complicated.
    • And that's without even mentioning his male admirers.
  • In Girl Genius because Colette is the daughter of the Master of Paris and prime fodder for a marriage for power she has quite an unwanted following.
  • Happens to Song Jae Gu in Girls of the Wild's.
  • Karin-dou 4koma starts with Shizuki already in love with Tamaryu. Ran falls in love with Tamaryu not longer after her introduction and agrees to form a threesome with Shizuki, ignoring Tamaryu's desperate protests. And then Tamaryu accidentally seduces Catherine (dog youkai) into becoming—as Catherine herself puts it—Tamaryu's bitch. No one is happy with that development.
  • In Dangerously Chloe, Teddy accumulates several attractive young women, both nonhuman and human.
  • Cadugan from Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic is a young half-elf who attracts the interest of a slightly deranged dryad, a foxmaiden who shapeshifts into a beautiful elven girl to gain his attention, an Ax-Crazy half-orc girl and an elf bard girl who entices him with a magic song. None of them seem to get that Cadugan is simply not interested in women. Then there was a male barbarian warrior who mistook Cadugan for a pretty girl, but he was an unwanted admirer, too, as at this time Cadugan was in a relationship.
  • In Cupid's Chocolate-ing, Ordinary High-School Student Haoyi Jiang accidentally serves magically enchanted chocolate cake to a club room full of girls, which causes them all to see him as their lover and try to win his heart.

    Web Original 
  • A Hero's War: Morey is assigned an all-female party of skilled and attractive mages, with the intention that if he falls for any (or all) of them, he'll be more closely tied to Inath and thus his loyalty will be better secured. He recognises that that's what's happening and just finds it exasperating, but that doesn't make him immune to a pretty girl, who genuinely admires him, wanting to spend time with him and hear about his problems.
  • Thunderbird of the Whateley Universe has a harem of five girls (at a minimum), and he's been utterly oblivious that four of them have been pursuing him (in their own quirky ways) for almost a year. Since he's a Superman Expy down to the 'boy scout' behavior and astonishing good looks, it's easy to see why girls want him. Things have come to a head now that Chaka has claimed him as her boyfriend.
    • Chaka herself has a lot of people after her. More than a few are female.
  • The Impossible Man subverts this trope. Michael Garcia either hires a woman or his mother hires one and he accepts their application to work for his store.
  • In this Pokémon the Abridged Series, Gary got his harem by giving up his scholarship to Harvard so they could go receive an education, and they wouldn't stop following him.
  • Happens in Sapphire. Admittedly, it's not actually Alec's harem, but he still refuses to fall for their advances.
  • Anon: Chelsea's supposed to be a textbook nerd, yet somehow has a whole hoard of guys chasing her around. Tucker has it even worse, given that not only does he have a new girl chasing after him almost every season, but one of them even went as far as to stalk and kidnap him and his family... twice.

    Western Animation 
  • A couple of episodes in Adventure Time mention that Finn has one of these.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse attempts one for Ben due to the writers deciding to drop the Ben and Julie relationship which many fans saw as a Romantic Plot Tumor in Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Her one appearance in Ben 10: Omniverse not only broke the relationship up (though this was mostly Ben's fault ironically), but gave Julie a new boyfriend. To compensate, there's now a Running Gag where female guest stars (particularly, those of other alien races) fall in love with Ben; even winding up in an Accidental Marriage with an alien princess who could kick a Sherman tank into the next county.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    • Edd has unintentionally gained the affections of pretty much every girl in the series; Stalker with a Crush Marie Kanker, a Precocious Crush from Sarah, Dude Magnet Nazz, and even Marie's sisters from time to time (May specifically in the Valentine's Day Episode special). It helps that he's one of the nicer characters in the series, as well as cute in a dorky way. Despite this, he almost never pursues any of them, being often too shy to talk to girls.
    • Gender-reversed with Nazz in "Boys Will Be Eds". The entire episode has Ed, Edd, Eddy, Kevin, and Jonny fighting over her, who eventually becomes unable to cope with the pressurenote . At the end she runs away screaming.
  • Camp Lazlo: Samson briefly gains one of these from the Squirrel Scouts after they believe he is the hamster heartthrob featured on the cover of a magazine.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Rick Potion #9", Morty's attempt to use a Love Potion on Jessica backfires, resulting in everyone on the planet that isn't biologically related to him falling in love with him. It gets worse when mantis DNA is added to the mix - the world's population mutates into monstrous mantis-people who want to kill Morty after they mate with him. They're unable to fix it or reverse any of the damage; only causing the entire population to further mutate into disfigured, humanoid monsters that Rick dubs "Cronenbergs." The duo have to leap into another timeline in which they did fix the problem but got killed immediately afterward, enabling them to replace themselves (they even take the time to bury their deceased counterparts) in this alternate universe. They do revisit the one they came from occasionally, but everything has gone to complete hell in a handbasket by the time they come back.
  • Beast Boy, of all people, gets one in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. At first he's happy about it, but changes his mind when it becomes apparent they're all Clingy Jealous Girls.
  • Adrien Agreste has one in Miraculous Ladybug, by virtue of being a popular teen model. It's not really an exaggeration to say every girl in Paris (and possibly some of the boys) is in love with him, but as for named, recurring characters, we've got: protagonist Marinette (and of course, her alter ego Ladybug), Chloe Bourgeois, Lila Rossi, Kagami, and probably Wayem. When Chloe shows a group of girls an autographed poster claiming Adrien loves her and only her, some of them break down in tears.

Alternative Title(s): The Unwanted Harem, Too Many Love Interests, Accidental Harem