Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

Greetings, everyone. I'm here to ask a very important question. Actually, it's more like a series of very important questions. First, are harems worth your time? A lot of people seem to avoid harem novels like the plague, and for good reason. Most of them just suck. 

The MC is usually one of those "I sit by the window in my High School class and watch the sakura leaves dance in the wind while I completely ignore the twelve, candy-haired, tsundere, bricks with tits foaming at the mouth for my reproductive organ, completely unaware that I am secretly a homosexual vegan who's scared of cooties." types. 

As that hyperbolic example implies, the girls are often no better. They continually live in sexual servitude for an MC that seriously might as well just be gay with how much interest he shows in them. There's all of this among other problems with the story, lack of definitive personalities outside of being tropes in a can, and the nonexistent development of the MC's relationship with any of the girls. 

So, what do you think a harem novel should or shouldn't do to actually pique your interest and make you enjoy it? What would be your advice to harem novelists?

I ask because I wrote a harem novel series out of pure frustration with the fact that the genre was squandering its potential. I wanted to make something that scratched that familiar harem itch, while still developing the MC, the girls, threw in some yandere because I'm tired of the endless Tsun-nami, and ensuring that no resolution to a conflict leaves anyone as the same person they were before. You know, as if you're watching the characters grow up and change. 

So, I'd love to hear your gripes with the genre and what you think would work to pull you in!

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

Yandere? Where? Haha

If you want to know what a harem deconstruction is like, watch the anime: School Days
I have a love-hate relationship with that anime, which (I think) made it a good watch.

Now to answer the question.
I honestly enjoy some Harems for the comedy. Even more so if it's over-the-top and silly.
I don't like them for... well you kinda said it already: everyone remains the same person they were before.
I like character development, so if nothing changes by the end I do feel kinda ripped off.

I may as well vaguely share an idea I've been sitting on (if someone uses it, please tell me! I'd like to read it :3
So my harem idea is fantasy-ish. Basically a VERY special(<--a reason for a harem? Whoa~!) kid is growing up surrounded and raised by many people (his supposed future harem). Secretly, all of them wants the special MC for themselves' and are all just waiting till he comes of age first. Lots of conflict later... insert resolution of your own imagination.

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

I like when a "harem" anime ends with an actual decision. I hate ones that drag on forever and ever, because the simple fact is that unless the MC ACTUALLY CONVINCES X NUMBER OF WOMEN TO SHARE HIM, which is just as unlikely as more than three girls liking you anyway, he's going to have to PICK ONE. So I like when they actually come to a conclusion. After events the MC confesses, it turns into an actual relationship, and may the writers of things like SAO, where the MC makes a choice and then the other women continue to openly fawn over the male with no repercussion or anyone finding it creepy, burn. Also, I like when the MC actually has something notable about them that would actually impress someone. Kirito, again going back to that, didn't. He was good at MMOs, but it wasn't like he was a competitive Esports guy, he was just good at grinding, which screams no life.

I think the best thing that comes to my mind is Ah My Goddess. Protagonist got a bunch of women, angels they may have been, interested in him, but he shows nothing but pure devotion to ONE, the others are just trying to steal him from the one he really likes, and how does that end? Man gets an angel wife. Plus, he had a personality. He was a huge gear head, try as he might to be a good person he made slip-ups, abused power and such. It was a very good feeling series to me. Could have been better, not saying it couldn't, but it's pretty much where I set "standard" at. Changing characters and dynamics, MC actually focuses on one girl and the series is about them hooking up with antics involving a group, rather than an MC getting a bunch of sexy girls and being an indecisive idiot, satisfying ending.

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

Duly noted.

So, lingering indecisiveness is a huge pain, especially if the story ends with that indecisiveness unresolved. Because it's never resolved, no one ever really has a chance to develop as characters or actually confront the nature of the relationship. 

What do you guys think of members of the harem being killed off? Or even the MC dying or nearly dying for the sake of his girls? And most importantly, would you rather have a harem with a school setting or a harem where the MC and all of the girls live together?

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

It depends on the impact of the death or near-death experience. How does MC grow from it? How do the harem members grow from it? You know?

Also, a harem situation of wife and concubines, particularly if done to cement political alliances, can be tenable. It just, again, revolves around the characterization and agency of all the characters involved.

As far as school vs a home goes, I'm not sure, personally. Though, the more I think about it, unless they're university students, I'm not a fan, personally, of a school harem, largely because I don't like the idea of sexualization of minors in general

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

I get you, Sunandshadow. Is it just the very nature of harems that bother you, or is it the almost exclusively sexual interactions between the MC and girls he's only recently met?

Do you guys think the girls being ex-girlfriends of the MC is an effective way to avoid this altogether? I feel like there's less room for doubt and questioning if everyone already has a history with each other. Plus, it leaves plenty of room for backstory.

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?


First of all the term harem is used improperly most of the time. Polygamy is a Male with several wives. Usually 3, but 7 or 8 is the upper limit. A true Harem can number in the hundreds. Some famous Kings were even worse. Over 8% of Northern Chinese men are descended from Genghis Khan according to DNA tests. But lets skip those types of harems and focus on the more reasonable ones.

Certain questions and/or elements in the story for it to "work" in my opinion.

  • Is polygamy normal or even required for the culture they are in?

  • In the past war often killed off a large number of men leaving a very unbalanced society. Babies were needed badly, or the Kingdom would be overwhelmed in a short time. A man was expected to have as many wives as he could afford to support.

  • Are they in agreement or does one have to convince the other? (Traditionally, the first wife would chose the rest of the wives in most cultures.)

  • If not, Who's idea was it? His? Hers? ( I personally like the ones where the ladies give him no other choice. "We are a match pair, take it or leave it.")

  • The society going to be okay with it? (I like when ladies that thought they could never find love get a good guy. For example from dishonored family, not considered attractive in that culture, or wrong class/race/religion etc.)

  • It should not be too easy. Relationships are not that easy and multiple relationships are even harder. But don't have the ladies always grouping up on the guy, then he just looks hen-pecked.

Anyway just my quick 2 cents worth

PS. Yes, I also hate the ones where the guy is just like "Hi, My name is xxxx. You are pretty. I think I love you. Want to be together forever and go at it like bunnies?" and all the girls are like "Tee Hee sure!"

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

"Love Hina" and other Harem stories like these give me PTSD. I just can't fathom someone so incredibly stupid and indecisive as to have a bunch of women around him saying "TAKE MY VIRGINITY" and not have the decency of actually choosing one or rejecting the others. I can barely think these MC as men.

Not only that but the women that follow such horrible MC make me think they are just self-hating, weak-willed, pitiful women that have horrible taste in men. Christ, if the man is not giving you attention or is playing hard to get, just fucking leave, if he can't give you a straight answer then his personality is trash, nothing good will come from chasing him.

Not even if the story is meant to be comical or satire I can stand them.

I'm not interested in these sort of harem stories, I'm greatly interested in polygamy stories. Either polygyny or polyandry, exploring relationships like these and their cultural ramifications are much more interesting. Sure, I have quite a lot of fantasies with polygamy but I want more than the cheap thrills most stories offer.

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

Tonbogiri Wrote: I get you, Sunandshadow. Is it just the very nature of harems that bother you, or is it the almost exclusively sexual interactions between the MC and girls he's only recently met?

Do you guys think the girls being ex-girlfriends of the MC is an effective way to avoid this altogether? I feel like there's less room for doubt and questioning if everyone already has a history with each other. Plus, it leaves plenty of room for backstory.

Whoops, sorry, I never saw this question directed to me. *blush*  To answer belatedly, it's not either of those things, it's that I am territorial and don't deal well with an excess of female characters in a story.  It really doesn't matter whether they are in sexual situations or whether they all like the same guy or the same girl or they don't all like the same character.  I would be fine with a reverse harem where all the love interests were male.  I will say, though, that clingy or aggressively flirty female characters annoy me way way more that practical or easy-going female characters.

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

well.... there are some good harem stories.
Let me search for my magnifying glass so that I have a chance to find them...

The harem tag does not automatically throw me off, but in 99.999% of all cases the synopsis does.
Especially if I read about "collecting a harem" because that is almost automatically an indication of an idiotic MC and brainwashed barbies.

So far I've only read one so-called "harem" story that was good, and that was by a professional author and not on RR.
It basically started in the harem with the main male considering it his duty to get the woman pregnant (he wasn't even in love with them) and the woman being kidnapped into it - in fact the main character wants to kill the male for a lot of reasons that go beyond the kidnapping.

If someone is interested, it's from John Ringo's Council Wars Saga and included as the second part in the third book (the first two are free on bean):

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

Tonbogiri Wrote: They continually live in sexual servitude for an MC that seriously might as well just be gay with how much interest he shows in them.

I think this is really telling for what kind of wish these kinds of stories are wish fulfillment for.
It's not the desire to get laid. It's the desire to be wanted.
The MC's of these stories are buried under positive attention. The audience is asked to self-insert as this guy and experience the endorphin rush of being continuously praised in direct and indirect ways by proxy.
If the MC ever gets with a girl, the whole thing falls apart, the other girls will have to give up on pursuing him or take on a more antagonistic role.

Tropes are a means on an end, what matters is what you're trying to do.
Do you want to write a wish fulfillment story about being wanted?
Do you want to make fun of the the trope?
Do you want to write a romance story?
Or do you want to write light or hard erotica about a bunch of different girls?

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

It depends if we are talking about the physical part or the sentimental part. Even now in some religions you can have more than one wife, let alone if we look at history. They did it for a lot of reasons, material reasons, money and power ahead of the others. The problem starts appearing when the author starts showing you all those girls going after some guy for no goddamn reason. Ohh and at the same time being aware of each other. 

Now comes the guy. He is the one that's going to cater to the reader and focus of the story. Though Justin Bieber could see himself in those stories, most of us are neither rich or effeminate enough. From there we have two kinds of protagonists usually "the wimp" and "the badass ". 
The "wimp" is usually found in japanese publications and tha "badass" in the chinese and korean ones. 
Authors need to eat and their pool of users wants that, i will leave the reasons as to why to you. You can find more on royal road too, but that is more because of the pollution from the east, and because they are written from teens(we all have gone past that wish fulfilling).
It's just unreal. In a story you can change the setting and provide a reason as to why. But no matter, even if he was the only guy in the world, there is no reason for a score of girls that orbit him to get infatuated with a "normal"guy other than being mentally challenged. Oh and usually the girls are never similar to each other, so they can can cater to different audiences that have different tastes.

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

Been a few years since I've been on this website. Got bored, came to check it out what is currently top rated.
But to the question:

I think this discussion comes down to how 'harem' is defined.

Is a harem:

  • Two or more women/men who like a character but are not aware of each other?

  • Two or more women/men who like a character but are aware of each other?

  • All women/men who like a character need to all require kissing/attention/sex from character they like?

  • Where all women/men approve of all other women/men that also like the character they like?

I tried thinking of more, but got stuck so moving on.

Assuming a person has an idea of what a 'harem' is now, other questions come up about how that idea works out in a story:

  • Are harems considered socially bad, neutral, or good?

  • What problems could happen if not all harem members like each other? Murder? Sabotage? Bribe to leave? Lies?

  • Do some members of a harem use you as a means to an ends? Using sex, gold, sex appeal etc as means to get help with a problem.

  • What rules does society have in regards to how old someone can be? Girl vs woman.

  • Can family/friends use other family/friends who are women/men to make relations as leverage help their standing? Marriage of a farmer woman to the son of a merchant, while the merchant's son also goes to brothels or has another woman on the side.

  • How does the character surrounded by these people feel about the situation? Do they just like attention, but don't really care who it comes from? Afraid of making a choice because the others might leave because of it?

    Harem elements are rarely explored well, which certainly doesn't help people's perception of it.

Re: Harems: Are they even worth your time?

i think Harems are incredible difficult to write "right"

Humans are selfish in nature so naturally if you have a partner you dont want to sharehim with someone else, and if he one day comes up to you with another girl in Hand then the standard response isnt competing for him and trump the other girl to make you appeal more to him its just anger to have him betray you. Jealousy is a think no one ever wirtes about much if its not some 2d Villain that gets some face slapping.

I think the only Harem i liked is from"Mushoku Tensei" and that was only because the father of the MC had one too and he grew up in that environment and learned it works (even if alot of that was shouting at first how the father could betray her trust like that)

Later on he gets together with Girl Number 1 but after a misunderstanding after they had sex they break up and he is hardbroken then meets girl number 2 and gets together with her then he gets called away on a mission and he has a huge trauma wich leads to girl number 3 "take advantage" of his emotional turmoil and sneaks in too and helps him heal. then girl 1 came back and resolves the misunderstanding but then he is kinda invested in more than 1 girl already.

of course there were other meetings with the girls and stuff (he meets all 3 girls throughout different parts of his life in multiple occasions so they arent strangers)

That what makes a good harem story. The Girls also have dreams they work towards and seperate from the MC if they feel he gets in the way of that.