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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. ( Gender Inverted Examples also exist). Usually, each girl personifies a single classic characterization archetype.
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.
Harem genre tropes:
- Accidental Pervert
- Balanced Harem
- Battle Harem
- Belligerent Sexual Tension
- Bromantic Foil
- The Casanova
- Chick Magnet
- Crash Into Hello
- First Girl Wins
- Harem Hero
- Harem Nanny
- Harem Seeker
- Innocent Cohabitation
- Last Girl Wins
- Love Dodecahedron
- Lover Tug of War
- Not Blood Siblings
- Not What It Looks Like
- Ordinary High School Student
- Pervert Revenge Mode
- Pretty Freeloaders
- Supporting Harem
- Tenchi Solution
- Themed Harem
- Those Two Guys
- Unwanted Harem
Common character types for the Harem members:
- A-Cup Angst
- Cute Ghost Girl
- The Ditherer - The lead is very often one of these.
- Emotionless Girl
- Genki Girl
- Hot Mom
- Ill Girl
- Magical Girlfriend
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl
- Patient Childhood Love Interest
- Petite Pride
- Psycho Lesbian: As a Foil and rival to the guy with the Harem over one of the Haremettes.
- Tsundere A girl who switches between affection and hostile.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: The traditional Japanese ideal of femininity. It has appeals to different kinds of fans and can provide a contrast to a Tsundere.
Harem genre works:
Anime and Manga
- Tenchi Muyo!!. Along with Love Hina, below, this is the Trope Codifier.
- The main character of Love Hina, Keitaro, is living in an all-girls inn and by the end of the series he had attracted a Tsundere, a Shrinking Violet, a Genki Girl/Wrench Wench/ Princess, a Bottle Fairy, a Kid Samurai, a Cloudcuckoolander/ Unlucky Childhood Friend, his adopted sister, and a Bratty Half-Pint... maybe. In an unusual twist, they suggest a Tenchi Solution but he refuses and marries his Victorious Childhood Friend
- Shuffle! sets up a contest of sorts for the lead's heart. There's remarkably little hostility between the competitors.
- To Love Ru
- 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.
Works with Harem elements
Anime and Manga
- A Certain Magical Index is rapidly turning into this, courtesy of its Oblivious to Love Chick Magnet Nice Guy hero, Kamijou Touma. Despite all the girls falling for him though, its still a story about the clash between magic and science.
- The Suzumiya Haruhi 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...
- Code Geass: It seems like everyone in the series is in love with Lelouch. In the first season, Lelouch/Zero accumulates a rather large group of girls who have feelings for him, including C.C., Kallen, Shirley, Milly, Kaguya, and even his half-sister Euphemia. He just doesn't do anything about it, since for the most part he's too busy trying to overthrow the government to pursue romance. The staff has said that the second season will deal more with his romantic entanglements (and note that all this is ignoring the Brother-Sister Incest and Ho Yay-slash-Foe Yay ships with Nunnally and Suzaku, respectively, and a combination of both those tropes (though a downplayed one that doesn't get as much focus) with Schneizel, who refers to Lelouch as the "one he loved and feared the most").
- The second season seems to poke fun at this; as a result of his Ninja Maid running around in a Lelouch disguise and being generally nicer, Lelouch ends up scheduled to go on dates with no less than 108 girls. And there's Kaguya fantasizing about a Tenchi Solution...
- And yes, the staff sort-of delivered it. Not only Rolo became a second Gay Option (who was all "Bitch, PLEASE!" at Sayoko for the 108 dates), but there is more focus on Lelouch's love life... Specially when it hit Fatal Attractor levels and later Suzaku manages to ensnare the position of The Dragon to Lelouch, with all the Ho Yay squeals it implies. See the entry.
- This was played with in one of the first season's audio dramas where Shirley considers asking him to go to a concert with her and imagines him revealing that he was in love with and getting married to Kallen, Nunnally, Suzaku, Milly, Rivalz, and even Arthur the cat in that order. At the end they all decide to share him and invite Shirley in on the action. Note that Nina was not in the fantasy and it was set only hours before the Table-Kun incident.
- Infinite Stratos: Slight variance on it in that there's some Powered Armor that only girls can use, but for some reason, one guy is able to use it as well, and they promptly put him in the all girls school to learn how to use those things. Naturally, being the only guy in an all girl school...note that it was played up in the anime. In the light novels, its just a few harem elements here and there, but in the anime its a standard harem series with a Powered Armor twist.
- 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. Like Infinite Stratos, above, the anime is a much more traditional harem series than the original novels.
- 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!
- 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 4 girls (not a Four-Girl Ensemble since only 3 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).
- Ar tonelico series is a RPG hybrid with Visual Novel element in the form of Cosmos Sphere, focusing on romance developments between The Hero and two (later three) heroines. Ensemble Darkhorse Cocona not included.
- In Bully, the main character amasses himself a nice harem.
- In Scarface: The World is Yours Tony Montana can obtain a large collection of trophy girlfriends.
- 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 syetem. 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.
- In the Book of Genesis, Jacob agrees to work for 7 years in order to marry Rachel but on the night they are supposed to consummate the union, Rachel's father Laban sends his older daughter Leah instead. Jacob "knows" Leah and therefore has to work for another 7 years in order to marry Rachel. After Leah knocks out 4 kids, Rachel becomes jealous because she has yet to become pregnant and offers her slave-girl Bilhah to be impregnated instead. She knocks out another 2 kids. Now Leah becomes jealous and offers her slave-girl Zilpah to Jacob as well. She knocks out two more kids. Then Leah's oldest son Reuben gives his mom some flowers, which Rachel sees and demands Leah give some to her as well. So they make a deal where Leah gives Rachel some of the flowers in exchange for a night with Jacob. Leah then has another 3 kids. Finally, after all this, Rachel gets pregnant and has a son.
Anime and Manga
- Rosario to Vampire starts out a normal Supporting Harem (and in many ways, still is one) with an Unlucky Everydude protagonist stuck in a school for monsters, but slowly adds darker elements, as well as more shounen-action style plots. Now the main character is a Bishonen badass who probably doesn't count as human by most measures.
- Mahou Sensei Negima is...complicated. It was written by the same author as Love Hina, who wanted to do a shounen-action series from the start. His publishers insisted on a standard harem series, which he pretended to do. The main character is a ten-year old male wizard teacher at an all-girls school, and his 31 students aren't interested in him romantically, but rather because they think he's the cutest thing since Hello Kitty. But as the series progresses, he becomes such an uber-badass that they all eventually fall in love with him anyway.
- The World God Only Knows is hard to sum up, but basically invokes the entire harem genre, specifically through the lens of eroges. The protagonist is forced to make girls fall in love with him due to an Explosive Leash, despite the fact that he hates real girls.
- 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.
- This genre also exists among modern Chinese Live Action TV, but is certainly Deconstructed and Played for Drama--those shows centers on the harem members, backstabbing each other to vye the monarch.
- The webcomic Ow, My Sanity has one made entirely of Eldritch Abominations.
Anime and Manga
- Ranma ½
- Kyo Ani's AIR, Kanon 2006, 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.
- El-Hazard: The Magnificent World
- Sakura Taisen, 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 net in line.
- Puri Puri (not to be confused with Princess Princess)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Girls Bravo.
- Angel Tales features a harem of Magical Girlfriends.
- Similarly, UFO Princess Valkyrie features a harem of magical alien princesses.
- Magikano has a harem of Cute Witches.
- Yumeria has one of superheroines who have to touch the hero in order to power up.
- 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.
- The same thing with Steel Angel Kurumi except for the spoiler detail.
- Mahoromatic, with Mahoro as the obvious winner and catalyst for the harem situation. Other competitors are the Triomatic (Rin, Miyuki, and Chizuko) and the very disturbing Ms. Shikijo.
- Hanaukyo Maid Tai.
- 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 over a decade. 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.
- The Wallflower has a rare male harem surrounding a girl.
- ...as does Ouran High School Host Club. She was popular with the girls at her own school, but for other reasons.
- and La Corda D'oro which has five boys interested in one girl.
- The manga Me and My Brothers, a non-romantic one.
- The 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.
- Midori Days also has harem elements. Seiji has horrible luck with girls until Midori shows up, at which point everyone seems to be after him (in the manga, this includes a guy).
- Elfen Lied uses the window dressing of the genre, with several strange girls inviting themselves to live at an Ordinary High School Student's house and Hilarity Ensuing, but this is essentially a side story. The real story is high drama about the Dark Magical Girl Of Mass Destruction female lead, not a Romantic Comedy about her Unlucky Everydude love interest.
- Rune Soldier Louie looks like a Harem Anime at a glance -- Louie does get unexpectedly involved with a bunch of beautiful women, after all -- but it never really plays up any of the genre's tropes beyond Louie being stuck between Ila and Melissa (and Melissa doesn't even like him that much); Merill and Jeannie just treat him as a cool brotherly type/drinking partner. In any case, the action and comedy take precedence over the relationships.
- Athrun Zala from the series Gundam Seed Destiny has this. At its height, there are no less than four lovely young ladies vying for his attention in the series. Much wank has followed
- Most of the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga out there are high school romantic comedies with Asuka, Rei, and Kaworu lusting after Shinji.
- So do several fan fics, which may also include Misato in the roster... and/or Ritsuko... and/or Maya... and/or Hikari (and/or one or both of her sisters)... and/or Mana Kirishima (from Girlfriend of Steel)... and/or Mayumi Yamagishi (NGE: 2nd Impression)... and/or one or more fan-made characters... and/or Yui as a Mama Bear Harem Nanny (Not that way, you perverts... Usually). Yeah, turns out being the universe's Butt Monkey in your previous life (assuming the "Third Impact spawning a zillion alternate universes" theory) is a sure way to make such an attractive Chick Magnet out of you that even the guys want. Too bad Shinji is usually a Celibate Hero.
- Not a harem anime but every single guy in Touch wants Minami. They don't stand a chance against the Childhood Friend Love Interest Jerk with a Heart of Gold Tatsuya but they still persist.
- Omamori Himari
- Shin'ichiro of True Tears has three girls pining for him, though unlike most works of this genre, it's never Played for Laughs.
- After the Drama Bomb, Toradora! settles into this genre.
- According to an un-canon pre-anime sketch, this happens in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. After Keiichi goes even more Bishonen than he already is, it's shown that Rena, Mion, Rika and Satoko all like him.
- It's a Drama CD, actually. Someone just drew pictures for it, and again, non-cannon. On the other hand, we have one of the Kira episodes that's a better example, with Shion, Rena, and Mion all out for Keiichi.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prétear is a reverse-harem Magical Girl show where Bishounen knights are the Transformation Trinkets.
- Ichigo One Hundred Percent: Manaka has a rather large group of different girls after him in Aya, Satsuki, Tsukasa, Kozue, and Yui
- Tomoki Sakurai from Sora no Otoshimono 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.
- Da Capo and its sequel.
- Iono the Fanatics, a Girls Love harem series featuring a horny queen on a quest to make her thousand-strong harem even larger.
- Macademi Wasshoi, which features both the Unwanted Harem and a Harem Seeker.
- 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.
- Rappi Rangai.
- Boku wa Kisu de Uso wo Tsuku.
- Umi no Misaki.
- Seitokai no Ichizon.
- Yomeiro Choice, with the added twist of the main character's future daughters (each from a different future depending on which girl he chooses) being part of the cast.
- Fate/stay night. Shirou's harem includes (depending on the route) four girls who live with him (Saber,Rin, Sakura and Ilya), one who might as well (Taiga), and one outsider (Rider - see the sequel Fate/hollow ataraxia), though never all at the same time (Doujin writers like to throw in Ayako, Bazett, and Caren too). Almost all of these girls are magical, though in different ways. Which one Shirou actually ends up with depends on the route you take; the potential winners are Saber, Rin, and Sakura.
- Who lives with him depends on the route. Rin moves in at some point in every route, but never stays past the end of the war, even in her route (although it's likely that she's there a lot following UBW, as his girlfriend, and it's stated in the HF true epilogue that she was a "regular visitor" prior to moving to London). Saber lives with him as long as she is alive throughout all three routes. Ilya moves in after her defeat in Fate and Heaven's Feel, but only stays following the war in Fate, and Sakura moves in (and remains following the war) in Heaven's Feel (but, in the other two routes, she's there for pretty much every meal, at least until the war gets serious). Rider, of course, moves in with Sakura, and remains with Sakura, because her sole interest is in protecting her.
- 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.
- 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. I think.
- RPG Maker 2000's game Romancing Walker is this, featuring a pretty boy hero and his six love interests.
- The HBO show Big Love (although in this case, the harem is justified as the characters are Mormons).