How to Build a Harem
We started a discussion over on the Ragnarok 10 thread about how his Harem works and this is a place to discuss the general principles of harem dynamics.
So, the harems under discussion include:
Magic Too Far Behind
What else? Oh, Elf Bride, Rokujouma, Lazy Dungeon Master, Mixed Bathing, Outbreak Company, ... and others to be named later.
@someoldguy there's also Bakarina
@raitoiro VERY true!
What do we define as harem tho?
Because If we decide that a story just need multiple character to be in love with the MC then a lot of series can be categorized as Harem even stuff like "Grimgar", "The faraway Paladin" or "Infinite Dendrogram".
But if we limit it to story where the MC is clearly in an open relationship with multiple characters then series like "Infinite Stratos", "I save too many girl" and "Lazy Dungeon master" wouldn't qualify.
Personally I don't count them as harem unless there is a romantic relationship between the partys. If it's just a heap of characters that have the hots for someone but romantic relationships don't progress, it's just a heap of people with feelings that don't lead to anything.
Personally my favourite is Mushoku Tensei. Relationships build with each character and they all have their own reasons for being with each other, rather than "just because they are cute" etc
My thought was to explore the necessary and sufficient components for a stable and functional "Marry them all" end. This means that failed harems are fair game but stories where there is only unrequited yearning will probably not privide much in the way of useful examples.
I must confess to having a long standing interest in the topic. Both Ranma 1/2 and Tenchi Muyo were formative Anime for me. I even started a FanFic for Tenchi Muyo GXP (sadly stalled) explicitly about the trials of getting one of these arrangements to work. I particularly enjoy those stories like Tenchi, Rokujouma Mixed Bathing, etc. that explore the post harem formation dynamic.
I think this post from the parent thread is a good starting place.
I kinda like how Ragnarok is handling the harem structure. There's a reason for it. The protagonist is neither clueless, nor a Casanova. The women have agency and so far all parties have considered, even agonized over the consequences of moving forward. I see genuine concern for other people's feelings, and there is a reasonable/logical reluctance on the protagonist's part (cultural bias, concern for other's feelings etc) into entering the 'harem path'
Smartphone- it's allowed so why not- seems to be the only justification
Realist Hero- It's necessary for political reasons, and conveniently everyone destined to be married loves the protagonist (and he them)
Infinite Stratos comically/tragically/unbelievably dense protagonist is inconsiderate unaware (or prentends to be unaware) of the girls' feelings
@steelblaidd I've got to ask if you think Realist Hero is done right or not.
I think Realist Hero is doing a good job Roukujouma is a master work. Ragnarock is shaping up to do it very well and Smartphone is just S***.
I’m not sure about definition of the *genre * of harem stories/ situations but I have an opinion as to what I find most satisfying.
the members like and respect each other: even if someone starts off as a scumbag, the redemption can be interesting (Oresuki)
Clueless protagonists learn from the experience and grow as human beings
Love isn’t eternally unrequited
Rivalry is ok, winning isn’t everything eventually everyone will work together/be friends (Rokojouma)
And finally there is some kind of resolution: either a couple (or cluster) forms or “marry them all” or something—-I hate the eternal “maybe” will they or won’t they and with whom? so far Ragnarok is handling this well, IS isn’t, and it’s too early to tell for Outbreak Co.
@Jon-Mitchell You neglected to mention Little Apocalypse with an even more densely clueless protagonist that isn't anywhere near as funny as IS's Ichika.
@paul-nebeling Yeah Ichika at least has an excuse. Rekka was strait up told in the first chapter that the fight over his affections caused an interstellar war and he still doesn't get it.
Which brings up one of the necessary conditions. Recognition by all parties of the nature of the relationship, starting with that there is one.
This a first step to the second necessary condition for a believable stable harem. The participants actually work on maintaining their relationship. For a master of this see Kazuki Hayashizaki of Magika no Kenshi to Shoukan Maou who is very adept at adapting his approach to individual need of his Haremetts and works hard at it. As does Issei Hyuodo of Hischool DxD.
As a corollary, and one of the major missing components for Smartphone and IS, is that the members of the harem have relationships with each other independent of their attraction to whomever the central person is. In smartphone they barely have personalities. And in IS, freakin' Laura seams to have the most outside interests (I swear the amount of nonsense that would be saved if they actually talked to EACH OTHER on occasion).
@steelblaidd Then, In my opinion the best harem is Mushoku Tensei since the harem was small and ezch girl had at least 5 volumes to establish their relationship with the MC. There's also some drama with some of the girl having difficulty with the situation.
Sevens is also a really good example, from what I've heard of Realistic Hero it seems kinda similar. With the MC taking on wifes through political marriage to further is influence. The difference being that in Sevens the girls are far from getting along, and create faction and try to undermine each other to take the place of queen in the coming empire, some of them going as far as trying to kill each other.
@steelblaidd I would say that Issei it's a bit reluctant to show his feelings toward Rias
Smartphone, well, the entire setup of that harem was a bit weird to begin with. Yeah, there's is the whole "Polygamy is acceptable in this world, so it's cool." premise, but on closer examination,
I'm going to expand a little on Outbreak Co.
as of the time of writing this, the JNC translation/prepub of Outbreak is in the first few parts of Volume 12, and we have a harem situation coming to a head
the protagonist (moderately clueless, but becoming more self-aware, and traumatized from a previous love confession gone awry when he was a otaku teen--now he's a otaku adult with some self esteem issues)
Shinichi now knows that several girls harbor feelings for him, and he's infatuated with at least one of them (and is at least friendly with the rest) ---The 'sit' in the current 'sitcom' is preventing the political marriage of one of the haremettes
here's where my frustration lies:
we are about 2/3 thru the series, I'm speculating that the current situation will not result in the protagonist marrying the empress (what would the other 6 volumes be about??)-- the author has skillfully 'reset' the status quo in each volume (pretty much) and that's what drives me nuts -- the status quo is made of iron. The protagonist at this point should be further along in his relationship with one or more of the girls. He is aware of (at least some) of their affections, he could go on a date. He could go on a date with more than one (at once - and they'd be fine with it) He could have a serious conversation with one or more about their feelings, about how he can (or can't, or has difficulty) respond to those feelings - but we don't see that, so that we can maintain the episodic nature of the volumes, and maintain the status quo (where the protagonist is insecure/conflicted/and does not act)
if I read volume 18 and we're still here....I'm gonna loose it
@paul-nebeling Reluctant absolutely yes, in part because of trauma and in part because shes so so way out of what he perceives as his league at the beginning. The point I was making is that his lust never makes him forget their needs and feelings.
This is epitomized by his reaction to Riser Phoenix's treatment of his own harem and
The worst thing about Touya and his harem in Smartphone is that he doesn't appear to put any time into spending time with them. He never thinks to invite them on adventures (which is horribly dismissive of their individual and collective abilities). Nor does he hang with them at home in any meaningful way.
Regarding Shinichi, I agree he better make some progress after this.
I can see why bringing up the subject is really hard for him though. His first confession would have been massively less traumatic if the girl shutting him down for being a 'nastyotaku' had not been a childhood friend. And his parents really should have explained to Mysel and Petralka that the were going to need to be clear and direct in expressing their own feelings cause he wasnt going to take a hint. (Minori could help bridge the communication gap but she doesn't wana')
The epitome of bad harem construction is probably some thing like Skill Taker which basically treats the girls like Pokemon, with a protagonist centered morality that treats the MCs sexual harassment as fine but everyone else's unforgivable.
What really annoys me with Smartphone's approach to harems is that the author actually had an interesting concept behind the harem: each girl is one of the nine types on the Enneagram of Personality. This could actually be a really cool concept which looks at how each of those different personality types approaches romances and how they deal with problems and grow in different ways. The potential as a character and personality study here is huge. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that that's not what Smartphone's author is interested in with his story...
@stardf29 That would have been very interesting to read especially if it was replicated with twists in the gynoids. I am not very familiar with the engram personality theory. I am surprised that there was enough personality in there for you to sort them.
@steelblaidd The author explicitly said he based each of the girls on the Enneagram types in one of the bonus columns in the vol. 10 premium ebook.
Regarding Shinichi, I agree he better make some progress after this.
Oh, absolutely. I got the impression that even Garius wasn't too terribly upset, possibly even pleased, by that little performance. Petralka, on the other hand, was the picture of "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." I can totally see her refusing to proceed with any sort of relationship with the prince just to "protect" Shinichi from being tempted by those large busted women. In short, he just pulled the pin on a grenade and the explosion is going to be hilarious.
@stardf29 I can't say he did a very good job. With 9 different personality types at least one of them ought to be leaning into the physical side of their relationship.
Last part of Ragnarok (Volume 10) has an element that I feel is worth pointing out: consequences. Yuuto has guilt/is conflicted about consummating his relationship with Felicia, even though Mitsuki gave him the final push/ encouragement to proceed. And they have to deal with the aftermath. Yuuto asked for advice from friends he trusts on how to deal with his feelings and eventually all 3 of them seem to get to a happy place. I suspect that next time it’ll go smoother ( in for a penny, in for a pound)