Nisekoi and The Nature of Harem RomComs

Nisekoi anime reviewBefore picking up Nisekoi, I’ve been warned that it’s “the endless shounen battler” of Romantic Comedies, that it’s ongoing, for hundreds of chapters, and rather than ever coming closer to any form of closure, things keep going on and on, with “more of the same” of romantic hijinks, and sweet nothingness.

“Cool!” I said, since I like RomComs, and RomComs are very much about getting the same thing over and over, show after show, and even within a show, all these moments of almost confession, of almost-kissing, just for that moment of sweet release in the end, right? Well, sometimes too much of a good thing, especially when it’s predicated around drawing things out before giving us the release of a couple finally coming together. When your whole work is built around it not happening, well, that sort of takes a lot of the fun out of it.

I find Nisekoi a useful and interesting series to use in order to look at and consider some aspects of Romantic Comedies (RomComs), in general, in anime, and of the “harem” sub-type in particular.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be some spoilers.)

Harem RomComs Don’t Have “Harems”:

Nisekoi anime review -Kirisaki Chitoge and Ichijou Raku thrust together

The real couple

Most so-called “Harem Romances” don’t actually have harems. I’ve discussed this in my Seitokai no Ichizone (School Council Discretion) piece, where I discussed why visual novels are set up the way they do – sequential monogamy, so to speak. You have a “harem” of girls to pick from, but you only get to pick one girl at a time, and you basically need to play the game again if you want to hook up with a different girl, sort of like real life, eh?

Likewise, most “Harem Romances” seem to work under the impression that you have one, or very few males, and many females, each of which caters to a different sort of personality or fetish, and all of which are supposedly potential romantic interests. You can even see that in the first half of Steins;Gate, which weirded me out when I first watched it, as I was expecting a pure sci-fi drama/thriller.

So, “Harem Romances” are about a male surrounded by girls, and supposedly all of them being valid picks, but they’re valid picks for the audience, they often don’t actually make sense within the show. Let’s look at Haganai (Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukanai / I Don’t Have Many Friends) as an example. Supposedly we have 5 applicable girls, once we remove the younger sister and her grade-schooler friend, who actually spend real time with the main character. But looking at it more in-depth, it’s a love-triangle, with only two girls that have a real shot at Kodaka, because they care for him romantically, and he cares for them in such manner.

Everyone else is just a “hanger-on”, such as Rika. They might have feelings, but they’re rejected. They’re just there to keep things interesting. Similarly, in Nisekoi, just look at the premise, “Boy has to fake being in a relationship with a girl he dislikes so their mobster families won’t go to war.” How many girls do we really have here? One. But then we see there’s another girl he likes, and we hear of a childhood promise, so we have two girls. How many more girls are introduced as “potential love interests” within the show’s 20 episodes (we’re ignoring the manga here)? We get to a total of 4 such girls, and then we have Ruri and Onodera’s mother as “Non-issue girls”.

Nisekoi anime review -Tachibana Marika is unworthy of Ichijou Raku

At least she knows it. Poor Raku.

But those non-issue girls are part of what is the “issue”. Ruri isn’t really there to be with Raku. Onodera’s mother? Certainly not. But they’re there as “stereotype-filling entities”, and because in a harem romance any girl is an “option” for merely talking to the male main character, those two are often drawn in as well (and teacher characters in other series, sadly).

But even of the four girls, how many are “real candidates”? Two. Onodera is the girl Raku admits to liking, and whom he makes moves to get closer to, and Chitoge is the girl from the premise, with whom he has to spend time. These are the only two girls who really get any real amount of screen-time, with it being more than one person who is not a main character pining after the other (Tsugumi) or acting and being rejected (Marika).

And even if we look at the “real candidates”, this show is not even a love-triangle. Now, I’m going to be frank, my favourite girls in terms of design/personality are Tsugumi and Onodera. But as far as the show is concerned, Chitoge is the only real girl. Chitoge gets about 80% of the Raku-time for herself, and she gets to be actually developed as a person who changes, who makes progress, rather than being a one-note comic relief stereotype. As much as I like Onodera in principle, her scenes and episodes often feel as afterthoughts, just so we wouldn’t forget this is supposed to be a harem show, rather than “Chitoge’s show”.

So, why do we even have all these other girls? Why do we have all this stuff?

Harems Aren’t About Character Indecision, but Author Indecision:

Nisekoi anime review - Ichijou Raku hates his author

Even the main character hates his author

Nisekoi is once again a good way to talk about this issue that’s apparent in all Harem shows to a degree. Nisekoi is supposedly one story, but when you take a closer look, it’s like a Frankenstein’s Monster resulting from mashing together the premises of several different stories.

“Raku and Chitoge are two heirs to mobster families have to fake being in a relationship so their families won’t go to war. Problem is, they met one another earlier in the day and hate one another’s guts! Follow as they have to put up appearances, but slowly grow closer together.” – That’s a show, right there. You can add another girl if you must, but you don’t have to.

“A girl and a boy make a promise to be together when they’re six years old. Ten years pass, and neither remembers the other’s face or name. Join Onodera and Raku who like one another, but wish to remain loyal to their past promises, and then they discover each other had made a similar promise ten years ago…” Another show, right there. And then you can add someone else appearing with a similar promise, but no real reason.

And then we can have ye olde “Childhood friends, but now a new girl appears, who will he pick?” All of these are valid shows, the last one is similar to Haganai as well, and in both cases, the “Childhood Friend” is often given a “twist” where we discover “New girl is also a childhood friend! So now the childhood friend has nothing to make her special!” which of course brings to mind the question of whether or not being a childhood friend is truly enough to build a current relationship on (it’s not, when you hadn’t met in a decade). But that’s another topic, though one that always annoyed me, with how Raku would always try to remain loyal to the girl whose name and face he doesn’t recall, rather than focus on how he feels right now. Dammit.

So, what do we have in Nisekoi? An author that didn’t decide which story he wants to tell, so he’s telling them all at once. Harems are sort of the same situation with regards to girls. Think about the visual novel analogy, or perhaps origin, I’ve mentioned earlier. In a visual novel you’re literally a serial monogamist, but what happens if you want to tell a story but can’t pick which girl you want to focus on? The options are either to have several stories concurrently or one after the other, which takes a lot of time and effort, or create a story that straddles the realms, where all girls exist on the “Maybe”-level.

In other words, harems aren’t merely where the characters can’t decide which girl to go for, but where the author might not, or it wouldn’t have ended with a harem to begin with. Yes, he might want to keep the audience happy, to have a girl for every possible member, but in actually giving them all time to be considered “contenders”, even if only in our imagination, he has to keep presenting the issue as “open”. As I noted above, in most cases it’s obvious that not all girls are true contenders, but it is what it is.

Nisekoi is especially interesting in this regard, because one truly feels as if it’s a mishmash of several rejected premises, or merely the inability to pick one. You know what else behaves in this manner, with an artificial insertion of new plotlines and just jumbling things up as you go along? Soap operas, which brings us to our final header.

Drawing Things Out Loosens Tension:

Nisekoi anime review -Onodera Kosaki confesses to Ichijou Raku

The moment that wasn’t (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

Imagine you have a spring toy. You stretch it, and then it snaps back. You stretch, and it snaps back. Over time, its elasticity drops. More than that, should you stretch it beyond a certain point, it will no longer snap back.

As I said earlier, going into Nisekoi I knew I’m not going to get any resolution, and considering many anime series these days do not conclude the story, I thought I’d be fine. I enjoy the “almost” moments, where someone wishes to confess, but end up stuttering and it not going through. Nisekoi went all-out on this front, including a moment where someone was willing to confess, for a baseball to come in through the window and ruin the moment.

Nisekoi is hardly the first anime to do so. In fact, there’s very little that’s at all original about Nisekoi, from its characters, to their interactions, to how the almost-confessions are handled. And yet, I still picked it up, not “in spite of” the above, but “because of”. RomComs to me sort of inhabit this area, where everyone knows from the first minute how they will end, and the road going there is more or less identical between most shows and films (or falls into one of a handful or archetypes), and yet we watch one after the other, for those bittersweet moments, for the “Awww!” at the end.

But that requires there to actually be an ending. That requires there to be change, even if we know things will not get resolved. If one character tells another they like them, and then sort of takes it back, or one character hears another say they like them, even if somehow things get brushed under the rug, the interaction is still changed. Chitoge got to have such moments with Raku towards the end of the anime adaptation, where they had a fight, after which they couldn’t help but admit the other matters to them, and Chitoge even went as far as to admit (but only to herself, of course) that it’s love.

And yet, some moments in the series had me tearing my hair out. Onodera confesses to Raku, on the beach, but turns out he’s asleep. Chitoge is right around the corner, so it’s presented as if she could hear the confession, but in the end it turns out she didn’t hear a word. So we’ve had a confession, and it’s a mini-cliffhanger, but then it’s taken back completely. Had Chitoge heard, it’d have at least shifted dynamics, but nothing came out of it.

But yes, Onodera confessed, but considering ever since the second or so episode we’ve known she liked Raku, both because she says so in her mind, and because she confessed to Ruri, her best friend, it wasn’t a change in the circumstances, it didn’t make me go “Yessss!” In other words, it wasn’t a bitter or sweet moment that I was watching the show for, it became a symbol for how any and all progress isn’t allowed to actually happen, and when something might disrupt the status quo, it’s taken out.

You see, all those “twists” and new characters introduced? They’re not introduced in order to disrupt the status quo, they’re there in order to maintain it. How is that possible? Because it’s important to realize what the actual point in contention is, what’s at stake, and what’s at stake is Raku forming a relationship with any of the girls.

Raku close to confessing to a girl, or realizing he likes her, or she likes him? Quick, introduce a new character, or have him spend time with an older character, or introduce how an old character might be the girl he made the promise with a decade ago! Why? So nothing would change. They keep adding new girls, but those new girls aren’t a method to change the status quo of Raku and his harem, they’re a way to extend it, but so you won’t notice how it’s the exact same thing, replicated with another trope-fulfilling girl.

Soap operas keep the mess up, but they give you endless small resolutions. We watch all those RomComs, which run the same and end the same, but we do so for the final resolution, we do so for the moments things always progress, or take a step back, but at least they change. That seashore confession to Raku by Onodera became a symbol of how much Nisekoi isn’t willing to change things up.

Nisekoi anime review -Kirisaki Chitoge and Ichijou Raku have a future together

If only

At least we’ve got Chitoge. In the final episode or so, she finally admitted to herself that she likes Raku. We knew she liked him from around episode 4-5, and knew she will like him from the very first episode. But even so, her admitting to like him, while a change, and a good “Yes!” moment for us watchers, isn’t actually a change in the world of the series, but merely the promise of one. You end a series with a promise being fulfilled, not made. Then again, series are usually over with a couple admitting to actually liking one another and becoming a couple, which is nothing but a promise at a future, and the series end there so the promise could not be sullied.

But poor Chitoge, your “promise” was the one a series is predicated upon, full of tension, not a place to end a show. But I guess when a show is determined to keep things running as long as possible, which demands a constant infusion of “non-progress”, you take what you can, eh?

I like Nisekoi, I found it an entertaining show for the most part, filled with an endless amount of reaction faces, some over the top “Shaftisms” (Akiyuki Shinbo’s signature touch) which detracted from the show but became a non-issue after episode 5 or so. It was well acted, and I liked most characters aside from Marika. It also had an unfortunate couple of episodes where things were barely animated or drawn, and another where the fanservice levels hit the ridiculousness threshold. Did it give us what it said on the cover? Yes. Did it give me everything that I wanted? No, sadly not.

Even if people tell you what you’re going to get, you’ll still hope for more. And that is the promise behind “Harem RomComs”, keeping the impossible dream alive, within your head, even when nothing really supports it, except more non-content, to keep said dream alive.

You can read my episodic notes for the series here.

Question: What do you think of so-called Harem RomComs in general?

23 comments on “Nisekoi and The Nature of Harem RomComs

  1. Matthew says:

    There’s an interesting part of that that no one ever realizes — it’s that Japanese literary aesthetics are different from Western ones. In Europe/America, we value “tension and release” as VERY IMPORTANT. However, in Japan, you have the idea of “Iki”, which in some ways runs contrary to that, and lends itself to the notion of a romance in a perpetual limbo rather than a proper resolution.

    Wikipedia on Iki

    Iki is really freaking complicated, but the important part here is that it’s partially about “potential eroticism”. A married woman doesn’t have “Iki” because her love is fixed and directed already. However, a young woman would definitely embody Iki, because her love is still up for grabs. Long story short, by breaking the Iki, you break the aesthetic appeal of the character. I’m not saying Nisekoi shouldn’t have lead us on a wild goose chase of “potential eroticism”, or a “promise of a promise of romance”, as one writer called it, but I do believe that it’s actually more appealing to have a situation like that rather than a full resolution in Japanese culture.

    Or maybe I’m nuts and I’m looking into this kind of thing too much…

    • Guy says:

      Iki is an expression of simplicity, sophistication…

      Ok, that definition seems relatively useless, and seems to have very little to actually do with what you wish to be talking about, if I’m reading it correctly, so let’s just talk about what you are talking about, and ignore any name or another for it.

      I do note that many a time people try to defend their favourite media by saying, “No, it works, but not based on your cultural values. First, I don’t subscribe to it, and even if it’s true, good for them – I, and most readers here, look at media through our cultural lens, and it’s fine.

      In Europe/America, we value “tension and release” as VERY IMPORTANT.

      In Anime and the media it’s based on as well. That’s why so many RomComs end whenever someone confesses, that’s the release. And when it’s not, it’s indeed due to “cultural norms”, but here I mean the ones where the anime is only an ad for the source material. If people didn’t care for said “release” and resolution, it’d fail as an add, but it works exactly because people want to see how it actually ends. Even in Japan. The whole business model is built about it.

      Your definition of Iki.

      What you’re talking about is “purity”, and the concept of “damaged goods”. It’s not Japanese, it’s Otaku-culture (juvenile men culture, in this instance).

  2. andmeuths says:

    As the manga went on, Nisekoi can’t even decide whether it wants to be a Harem Comedy, straight out Rom-Com, or a Gag Manga Slice of Life. The thing is, Nisekoi has put the Rom-com on stasis for something like 80 chapters or so, instead turning it into a sequence of Slice of life scenes – many very entertaining, but not really contributing much to the plot. It’s only in the last ten to fifteen chapters that we see development in brief burst, but for every few chapters of development, we get another Slice of Life chapter. That’s the biggest complain about the series right now among Manga readers.

    Personally, I think Nisekoi’s genre shift is an interesting phenomena, and it helps that the author does know how to write entertaining Slice of Life.

    • Guy says:

      Many of these things aren’t mutually exclusive, you can have “slice of life comedy” and “gag comedy”, you often do. Romantic comedies often have both of the above. But you’re right, the question is the focus. RomComs are more about driving to a conclusion, while those genres are about not having progress.

      I actually notice quite a lot of RomComs have much of the above, to pad them out, and postpone the end. But yeah, Nisekoi is going much farther with it.

      While I like “slice of life”, much of “Anime-comedy slice of life” to me feels incredibly fake, and I really don’t enjoy most anime-style comedies :-/

      I guess it’s fine, but the concept of “Gradual shift in genres” or “Bait and switch” if we’re less generous is interesting to discuss. One can like the original genre, and the end-genre, and still feel as if they’ve been cheated out of what they’ve come for.

  3. Frank says:

    I liked your thoughts. It was a very nice read. Yeah… Harem romComs are cool, but yeah… an ending would be nice, otherwise it’s kinda meaningless, Nisekoi would do very well in taking your advice in changing the dynamics of the relationships (a la Chitogue hearing Onodera confess) But I think it’s not Indecision in the part of the creator but rather a lack of creativity in creating new situations for the new dynamic.

    I mean, if we could just dive in our minds and always come up with ideas to keep all the current stories of different girlswith always new and with intresting dynamics, then there would not be a problem. It is just too fucking hard. But I guess I can’t blame the Mangaka.

    i used to write a story weekly for about 7 months (uploading about 2000 words per week), I can confirm how difficult it is to be creative on demand. And many of these mangakas are overworked so I can see why filler is much easier to keep churning out and making ends meet, rather than adding the extra complication of changing the dynamics story to avoid stagnation. (Though Nisekoi has gone too far; the last bit of plot changing action happend in chp. 56…. we are now in chp.136!)

    • Guy says:

      But here’s the question, doesn’t he also have to keep up with new situations in order to not advance, which also demands creativity? Or is throwing any random idea you come across less “creative” than making them somehow actually fit the plot thus far? It’s definitely easier, but it’s still an act of creativity, no?

      • Frank says:

        Well, yeah of course it is creative. You are right. Instead of saying “creative” I should say “creative in a meaningful storytelling way.” (and of course, we would then get into the argument of what is and isn’t a menaingful way to tell a story, but you know what I mean. Having a meaningful conflict, characterization, plot structure, proper forshadowing, etc… the things you review basically) And as an audiance, we appreciate having those elements.

        So yeah… it’s not hard to keep a story going by, as you said, not advancing and cramming random ideas (like adding infinite amounts of love intrests.) But it’s waaaaaay harder to have the creativity to keep a story going “meaningfully”. As subjective as that is.

        Honestly, everyone knows that enjoyment of fiction is subjective from the way that you tell it, but it is a strong opinion of mine that storytellers who put the extra effort have the most popular stories. And of course, that opinion is subjective :) (I’ll put Oregairu, Darker than Black S1 and stories by Gen Urobuchi as an example and Death Note as a counter example, where execution, characters and plot won over good storytelling mechanics.)

        Then agin, with the current advancements in the story, the author of Nisekoi by now HAS decided what kind of story he wants to tell, whether intentionally or not.

        The last chapter ,137, introduced yet ANOTHER girl, who is…. wait for it… (spoilers) Chitogue’s Twin!!! My goodness… he really is creative….

  4. lifesongsoa says:

    I think you make some good points, but I think it’s kind of missing the point to insist that harem stories necessarily have set winners. Part of keeping the illusion alive is letting the audience think all the women involved have a shot and the audience it not entirely unaware of that. Since everyone involved has a shot and that is part of the fantasy keeping that alive becomes an important part of audience expectation. Having a specific ending becomes a betrayal of expectations. It’s not just these stories want to keep going, but that only a small portion of the fan base will be satisfied with a single specific conclusion.

    I think it’s interesting to note the way these kind of things operate in anime, light novels and manga. They function similarly to visual novels except they try to have their cake and eat it too in a way that doesn’t really work if you understand the mechanics behind the magic trick. Essentially if you understand that either no one is going to win or that the winner is obvious for a thematic reason. The thing is though in most harem stories the girls have their own theme with room for their own ending.

    It seems to me the obvious answer is to write an ending for every character. Probably impractical for anime, but it’s not something impossible for a manga or light novel. Hell, that is essentially what Haganai does. Rika is the first winner of the series and the first to truly befriend Kodaka before part one ends. It then resets and switches to Yozora’s “route”. It doesn’t reset in a timeline sense, but in the sense that the story is halted and restarts in a new direction with new themes. It functions in a similar way to how a visual novel would.(visual novels don’t always reset their timeline either though I can only think of one example off the top of my head.)

    Ultimately I think the best(or at least most honest to how this type of fantasy works) endings for this kind of thing either involve multiple endings or no definite ending. Either satisfying everyone or satisfying no one and leaving them to imagine their own ending. I think there is also a relationship between these harem series and Japanese doujin culture that we don’t really get to see much of as western fans. I wish I had a better way to dig into that and see just how deep the mentality of “let the fans write their own endings” really runs. I’m think it’s a real thing, but I’m not sure of the degree of importance it has.

    • Guy says:

      but I think it’s kind of missing the point to insist that harem stories necessarily have set winners.

      I don’t?

      Most so-called “Harem Romances” don’t actually have harems.

      but they’re valid picks for the audience, they often don’t actually make sense within the show.

      Emphasis on “Most” and “Often”. I don’t think it has to be that way, but it usually is.

      Having a specific ending becomes a betrayal of expectations.

      1) It’s a betrayal of hopes. You said expectations, but that’s very much the wrong word, because it moves the onus from the subjective to the objective. People have hopes, they have girls they would like to win, or end up with, not ones that make sense within the series. The series sometimes keeps the illusion alive, but to say it truly fosters an expectation and thus it’s betrayed, when some of these picks make absolutely no sense (Sensei in OreGairu) is taking what you want, and making as if it’s true in the series’ world.

      2) Again, not all girls have an equal shot, I think it’s pretty clear by looking at almost any so-called Harem RomCom. And you sort of do have to have a “Specific ending”. Back to “hopes” though, it does raise the question of whether the authors, not just the characters, are perhaps somewhat immoral for raising false hopes even though they know they won’t meet them, and thus the question is why do they do it? Which this piece somewhat tackles.

      Multiple endings, each girl has their theme.

      That’s an interesting idea, but that brings us to my sub-point 2 in the piece, about “author indecision”. If you have the theme for each girl, you abstain from saying what’s the theme you believe is the “right” one, or the most important one. You also somewhat betray your story, because part of the concept of choice is to say, “X is more important than Y and Z”, but if you have all the stories, you circumvent that.

      You also circumvent the actual themes the story pushed for all along, which do make one more important. Isn’t it even more of a betrayal, if a character goes for X all along, then at the last minute pulls off a half-assed “Just kidding, Y is for me!” just to placate the fans?

      As I said over in the Madoka: Rebellion piece, which is relevant for the doujin angle, fanwork can only safely exist because it knows it’s not the main story.

      • lifesongsoa says:

        I know the difference between hope and expectation. I didn’t use the wrong one. There is a mix of both with fans of the genre, but it’s not a clean cut thing with harem anime. It’s an expectation when it is built up by the story, it doesn’t have to be answered with a “romantic win”, but it is a thing that goes beyond “head cannon” and “fan fiction”. “Indecision” isn’t giving it enough credit. There is a whole medium of fictional work that these stories imitate. Are some of them because the author can’t decide? Maybe, but that seems silly to me when we look at the harem genre as a whole and how the tropes that keep the conflict of it alive actually work. Surely you aren’t the first person to discover this.

        I think there is a degree to which the authors create a dozen women to broaden their audience and the appeal of their story. I can’t find any links at the moment, but I’ve seen interviews where creators have talked about how they do this. Adding another girl is not as simple as not knowing what to do with the story and it’s themes. There are usually a dozen themes built in around a main theme and which one is the primary focus can change at a dime drop. The “main” heroine can also change at a dime drop. Does it always work out that way? No, usually the most popular heroine wins and that is usually the first one introduced or at least the first one introduced with a thematic tie to the story. I can think of a few examples where the main heroine wasn’t winning the audience over and the story took another path. In Sakuraous’s anime the ending becomes ambiguous. In Haganai, Rika wins and the story is reset so it can return to Yozora.(this happened in the LN and anime) In both cases the main heroine was dramatically behind in popularity. Conclusive proof? No, of course not. I just think it’s worth considering and historically I’ve seen that there is a relationship between an unpopular heroine coming out on top and low sales. I’m sure that at least some of the people inside the industry are even more aware of how this works than I am.

        When a dozen girls are built up as romantically involved with a character then we have a dozen stories with romantic investment. It’s not a matter of hoping the right girl will win or that one with the most thematically appropriate nature will come out on top. Even in visual novels there is usually a girl who comes out on top thematically, maybe two or three while the rest are obviously more like side stories. It also all depends on how the story is told. Sometimes it is obvious who the “winner” is because only one of them has a thematic tie to the main theme of the story, but usually at least with more recent harem stuff there is a focus on keeping the audience guessing. The reason giving an answer is a betrayal of expectations is a bit more complicated because of the way harem stories work. If they take the time to actually answer the expectations for the other heroines the element driving the conflict in the story dies before the main heroine gets her ending. It’s a problem without a good solution.

        The above problem is also essentially what happens in a visual novel, but with the added benefit of the time needed to build that conflict back up. Light novels can manage to reset conflict to a degree, but manga and anime simply can’t mange this in a satisfying way. Maybe someone will figure out how to do it eventually, but I’ve yet to see a method that will work for manga or most anime adaptations. The golden standard for harem manga is probably To Love Ru. The way that manga handles things is by “indecisively” dodging the problem and I think that probably has had an influence on the genre at large. Thing is I’m willing to bet the authors are even more aware of all this stuff I’m illustrating than I am. So maybe it is accurate to call it indecision, but it sure seems to me like it’s intentional indecision to fix another problem entirely. Am I confident of that? Not entirely, But that is the best answer I have so far.

  5. revolutionary_girl says:

    Very interesting take. How do you think the harem setup serves as a narrative framework in harem shows where decisions are actually made by both the lead and the director/author? Now that I think about those mostly lean toward drama, whereas the status quo harems tend to comedy.

    • Guy says:

      I think the more the harem has indecision, the more it tends to “slice of life comedy”, because that’s non-progress. Progress means drama, it’s true.

      I think part of the split is dependent on where you have an obvious winner, and the author recognizes that, so you can tell which bits are important, and when the author doesn’t know who the obvious winner is, or there isn’t one, where you either get a whole lot of ambling about, or serial drama, in the “visual novel manner”, where we have drama with one girl, then drama with another that feels sort of “weird” when you remember the previous girl’s… it can work, as a series of mini arcs (Monogatari), but often it just feels weird (OreImo, where “Ayase’s route” felt soooo out of place), or just bad (Seitokai no Ichizon).

      I think if decisions are actually made, you either have a “Non-harem harem”, or it’s used for drama, and then again, it’s mostly not harems, but love triangles. And where it is played for maximum drama (NagiAsu), it’s most often melodrama.

  6. […] mean and endless game of will they or won’t they because even if there’s one ending picked out, you still have to pique viewer interest by hyping up the potential for other ones). With multiple routes and multiple endings, you can stretch and sculpt your story like you simply […]

  7. […] episodes, which is why the other half was essentially filler. It was very much what I spoke of in my Nisekoi piece on the nature of RomComs, but from a show that promised to go […]

  8. Prominis says:

    I may not be intelligent enough to provide a coherent answer or theory as to why this is so (and if I can, it’s most likely been stated before), but I found this to be an interesting watch.

    • Guy says:

      While this is hilarious, and I guess to some also informative (I’ve actually always been interested in how badly sex ed is taught in various places), I’m not sure how it’s all that relevant to the topic at hand, especially since most anime doesn’t really deal with sex.

      But I laughed, so I’ll thank you for that :)

      • Prominis says:

        I think it may have been relevant to one of the comments, of which I forget which one. Something involving purity and otaku culture — though it seems rather apparent that that is also widespread amongst religious conservatives (aka across the Western world).

        I don’t live in America, but the ones in the video are pretty harsh statements to make, which probably stem somewhere off of the bible and how people are supposed to have one lifelong partner whom they will love until death, or something like that. Anyhow, that’s one uneducated guess, as I have never read the bible.

        As for another area’s sex ed, as I live in the largest city within the land of maple syrup, it was actually… pretty normal. I remember that they explained the various organs and whatnot, didn’t half-ass things because they were banned from talking about them, etc. They pushed abstinence as the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but concluded that it was the individual’s choice whether or not to commit sexual activities.
        That being said, an education/school board in the area recently introduced a new sex ed curriculum that sparked controversy (mostly with the catholic school boards, I believe).

        • Guy says:

          Is it really about the bible, or is the bible just an excuse for puritanism and conservatism? I’m not an American or a Christian either, but it all feels as an excuse, and people always find an excuse.

        • Prominis says:

          Neither am I. I think it’s not wholly the bible, just that it’s used to further a political/personal agenda.

          The bible is huge and extends over various texts I believe, with conflicting messages. I believe at some point, Jesus says to love everyone (or they might’ve just said your neighbor or something around those lines), but that certainly didn’t stop the slave trade or any of the other atrocities that have been committed due to differing religions.
          The Westboro Baptist Church is an extreme example of this.

          Another wonderful example is shaving. There are multiple places in the bible where they tell you to never shave one’s hair, but I’m pretty sure most religious conservatives shave. Jesus also apparently shaved, according to what I just googled on the topic of shaving.

          There are tons of inconsistencies with the bible, and I guess that’s to be expected with a text that’s millenniums old. What I don’t get is why people still take it literally rather than figuratively, but I’d point that towards their upbringing and surrounding media.

          So basically, I don’t think it’s the bible per se, but rather people using the bible for their own ends as a way of “proving” their point. They point to specific segments of it that further their own interests, and ignore those that don’t.

          That being said, I have the distinct feeling that I’ve gone somewhat off-topic from the ideas of purity and virginity. I believe the bible does however, discourage polygamy, and promotes monogamy. As such, that could be linked to the idea that one shouldn’t commit sexual activities or actions prior to marriage (with the partner whom “til death shall you part”). That’s one possible extrapolation. It could also be argued that things are told that way to reduce teen pregnancy, but for some reason, I find that hard to believe.

  9. […] call Rakudai’s romance “refreshing” if your only exposure to romance is via harems where nobody gets together. Going by those same standards, 50 Shades of Gray is the greatest love story […]

  10. […] such, even if the main character is bound to pick one. And even if we look at such stories and say they are truly love-triangles and not true harems, then we still have multiple romantic partners, to some […]

  11. […] of our desire to see the couple hit it off, but while some romantic sub-genres (see Harem RomComs, as per my write-up on Nisekoi) work more off of wanting the story to take its “natural pathway,” some shows, such as […]

  12. kinjou says:

    The Nisekoi has been finished since a long time and he did end with someone after all, but since I loved the orange haired girl and the first love of him both, I was pretty sad for them. Even thought it was obvious who he was going to end up with (like all the other works like this). Spoilers alert, if you didn’t and not gonna read the manga, the gist of it is like this:

    He did realize he loved both of his first love and main girl with the help of his best friend, and at the end, they found out all of them knew each other when they were kids, and the one he made the promise with was his first love, but he turned her down and went for main girl. It was sad. And orange haired girl was actually in a pretty hard family situation and chronically ill, even thought she didn’t die, it was soo sad too.

    Actually, I think good harems are actually pretty sad stories because they have to end up with someone or it won’t truly be finalized, thus it has to make some of the girls cry. Like a love triangle, just with more person. And what a surprise, I never get myself to like the main girl. They always end up with the girl who made her enterance to mc’s life at the start of the anime.

    Anyway, if this wasn’t the case, there would be less meaning in visual novels existing.

    I will add The World God Only Knows did end with someone too, but it was too crazy it’s nothing like harems. So there are special ceases too.

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