Building an anime harem.
I feel a bit sheepish. While illogicalzen is busy dissecting the roles of female anime characters and debating social inequality, I’m more or less tossing a bone to male chauvinism by presenting this step by step guide to constructing a well-balanced anime harem involving a single male and a boatload of girls. There are a lot of character tropes that are common to anime harems, but some are more potent than others in contributing to the nonsensical comedy that often defines this particular format.
These character types are the most important to an interesting harem. I’d say they’re indispensable.
In a cesspool of raging hormones amid sexual tension, the type A tsundere is one of the most important members of a harem. A tsundere allows other members of the harem to get in good graces with the male, and often provides romantic opportunities through other girls’ pity, empathy or outright frustration at the way the male is being treated. The inevitable 180 turn by the tsundere on this behavior as she realizes the male is slipping away due to her coarse actions helps resolves this situation, bringing the everything full circle. Note that we’re speaking about the ‘new-generation’ definition of Tsundere, as mentioned in Lucky Channel.
The Yamato Nadeshiko is not always seen in anime harems. This is probably because the concept is supposed to represent an ‘ideal female’, which may not transfer well to a group setting. Simply put, there’s no ‘on paper’ reason this girl should really lose to any other harem member; they’re one step shy of Magical Girlfriend status. I like having them in, though — it gives other members something to aspire to, or might even shatter their confidence completely through an inferiority complex. In the former situation, the added competition is a boon as the Yamato Nadeshiko will often help the girl in question with whatever she is trying improve. In the latter, it gives the male an opportunity to reassure the shaky female, unless he’s a Ditherer, is uninterested in the girl, or just plain ignorant.
Every harem needs a Genki Girl. They are usually a never-ending source of comedy, but they also serve to diffuse uncomfortable situations where characters like the Tsundere are scathing and the Yamato Nadeshiko is being a doormat. A single bright smile and loud outburst from the Genki Girl will draw everyone’s attention, and she’s usually not above dragging feuding members together to force reconciliation.
Although the indomitable spirit of the Genki Girl often means that they have less to lose by not being ‘the girl’ for the male, they are still a very important part of a balanced harem.
Not a true ‘requirement’ for a balanced harem, but often adds flavor. It’s possible for an existing Essentials harem member to fill the role of a Suggested member.
It’s nice to have an Ojou character around. They’re typically rich, and money allows for many different settings and situations for the harem to interact. A kind Ojou would be appealing due to formal, polite speech and mannerisms, and would undoubtedly provide for all members in the harem when it comes to funding trips overseas or allowing use of their family’s hot spring. A meaner Ojou would do so, but begrudgingly, at the behest of the male who either wants to level with the girls as equals or just doesn’t understand that the Ojou is trying to use her money and connections to spirit him away (alone) for an undefined period of time.
In a school-based harem, the Ojou is interchangeable with the Student Council President, as they are usually in control of club budgets.
The Childhood Friend is a unique member among the cast. They are privy to certain information that could only be obtained by knowing the male during certain periods of time. In this sense, they share a very unique and powerful relationship with the male. The level of closeness between the Childhood Friend and the male is seen through flashbacks, teasing (playful or otherwise), old nicknames and often a bevy of embarrassing situations that happened between the two. It also puts the Childhood Friend in an interesting predicament; they are usually close enough to the male to be considered a sister, which is a substantial point of contention in a harem setting.
Older Woman / Onee-san:
An Onee-san in a harem is often several years older than the rest of the girls (though let’s remember that beyond the age of 19, anime characters are already considered ancient), and thus has more life experience. In most harem settings, this translates to ‘love experience.’ The Onee-san has already suffered through the senseless waiting that the younger girls are going through and has the option to barrel forward with her experience and overwhelm the male enough to sweep him off of his feet. Since they are older, they usually have access to alcohol, and consume enough of it to present hilarious states of drunkenness that leaves inhibitions towards the male at the door and the rest of the harem on edge.
In a school-based harem, a teacher is the obvious candidate for this position, but sufficiently ‘matured’ upperclassmen are also acceptable.
Whether they’re being torn between each others’ happiness or boiling with passive aggression, Twins are great for harems. They could be completely different or practically clones, but the underlying struggle of choosing between true love and favoring blood ties is a potential catalyst for explosive situations involving the male. This is especially true of Identical Twins, and even moreso if the male mistakes one of the girls for her twin.
If the Twins are on the same wavelength, they share a distinct advantage among other harem members; an alliance. It may not be permanent, but Twins are usually more than willing to band together until the survival-romance is down to two.
In the absence of Twins, an ordinary Sisters relationship can work, but it’s much less entertaining.
Though it’s possible for these types to exist in some harems, they often tip the scales or imbalance the group in a negative manner.
In the worst case, the Yandere initiates a harem blood bath. Even if we manage to avoid that situation, the Yandere is so out of her element in a harem that there’s no real point in having her around. The other harem members will always be there, and even without killing anybody, forcing conflicts with the entire cast (or harming the male) are actions that would pit the entire harem against her. It’s very unlikely that the male would appreciate the gestures, either, and would be highly unlikely to reciprocate the Yandere’s feelings, making her presence in the harem completely moot.