Balanced Harem

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A Subtrope of the Harem Anime genre, a Romantic Comedy with one male protagonist, and a bunch of girls who are all in love with him, and equally close to him. The plot intentionally tries to balance out the relationship, with equal amounts of screen time, fanservice, and plot relevance for the girls.

In these stories, the bigger emphasis is usually on the "comedy" part of Romantic Comedy, if there is any relationship building, it will happen with all the girls one after another, or it will be reverted by the end of the episode.

In some cases, if some of the girls are still in different levels of prominence, they are organized in "tiers" of 2-3 main love interests, whose prominence is still balanced compared to each other, and a larger number of "minor" harem characters, who are also balanced out compared to each other.

This plot type is common in Light Novel series and their adaptations, probably because of the low production costs, and the lack of hostile market competition, that allows writers to lengthen a plot for dozens of volumes.

Compare to Marry Them All and Dump Them All, related Ending Tropes that use a similar logic. A show can have a Balanced Harem plot earlier in the story, and still avert Marry Them All or Dump Them All by choosing a girl in the end, or avert Balanced Harem by having a main heroine in the plot, and still end up with Dump Them All or Marry Them All.

Contrast with Supporting Harem, where one of the girls was always "in the lead".

Examples of Balanced Harem include:

Anime and Manga

  • Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou even made sure to show the girls for the same amounts of times, in the same situations in the opening and ending credits.
    • Mildly subverted later on as the plot decides to railroad Akuto with Junko, not that neither wants.
  • As pictured, the Ensemble Cast of Infinite Stratos. This is because protagonist Ichika is so dense. Note that although his harem consists of five girls, only three of them are expected to actually have a shot: Laura (far left), Houki (middle), and Charles/Charlotte (far right).
  • Tenchi Muyo!, the quintessential Harem Anime, does this, to the point that you aren't really sure at the end who Tenchi is supposed to be with and leaves you with the thought that polygamy is more than on the table.
  • Brutally Subverted by the School Days anime. The protagonist has sex with every single girl from the original game, and even more, but there is no Status Quo Is God to fall back to, so they are pissed.
  • Kiss×Sis did this in two tiers; first, the titular twins had balanced chances compared to each other, and in a second tier, a Hot Teacher, her little sister a Token Loli, and a classmate who keeps wetting herself due to amusing coincidences. These three were all played as Running Gags and occasional pandering to the kinks they represent.
  • MM! had a similar two-tier format to Kiss×Sis, with an abusive Tsundere and an androphobic girl as actual love interests, and a trio of tag-along girls for gags and Fan Service. However, it's clear Mio is more main than Arashiko, but, well.
  • Amagami SS takes this to its logical conclusion, being adapted in an omnibus format, with a Reset Button after each arc allowing each girl to "win", one after another.
  • Yosuga no Sora followed the format of Amagami SS, with keeping all the Multiple Endings.
  • A Certain Magical Index has no serious romantic plots with either of the main girls, but all the girls get Fan Service, and have a crush on the protagonist. A compelling fan theory is that the main character is faking being Oblivious to Love, since he knows the rest of the harem will kill him if he picks one.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei includes a dozen students with feelings for Nozomu, but as the series progressed only three- Komori, Matoi, and Chiri- remained consistantly amorous toward him. The others got days in the limelight, but it never lasted.
  • The World God Only Knows: It seemed to start out averting the harem tropes, but recently it's become an actual harem with Keima (unwillingly) pursuing 5 girls at the same time, in cooperation with another one of his harem members, all at the urging of yet another one of his harem members (the one who at first it seemed might be the lead harem girl). It all makes sense in story, but at this point it's completely confusing who Keima could possibly end up with. Well... unless you count Yokkyun.
    • The thing is Keima is aware that he has a harem and manipulates them by acting like he has feelings for them occasionally so he can move along his plan to catch the bad guys and save the goddesses. The part after Diana asks him to kiss her makes this extremely evident. It's not that he doesn't care about what happens to them, he just doesn't love them.
  • Kanon could be seen as an example of this - it's not a case of Tenchi Solution in the end, but it does strive to give all five girls roughly equal time and make them all plausible choices for Yuichi.
  • SHUFFLE! doesn't seem like this at first, what with the whole "childhood friend who lives with him" thing making it seem pretty obvious who the romantic victor is going to be. But that's just what they want you to think... That said, Primula appears less than the others in a weird inversion of Supporting Harem. Not that it's too noticeable, but it's there.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima started as a standard case of Supporting Harem, but recently the story has been more or less equally divided between the "lesser" girls as well. It is not totally balanced but a good number of the girls have a good spotlight.
  • Umi no Misaki has a male lead who genuinely cares for all the girls in his harem and takes all three of them out on dates, occasionally at the same time.
  • Sekirei is very cleverly balanced, cause Minato has specifically stated that he likes all his girls equally, and wants to return ALL their feelings. The fact that this series will probably end with a Tenchi Solution (if you are one of the few who actually think its not here already) gives this trope a VERY hard push in the right direction. Initially there was a disproportionate emphasis on Musubi, but over time Musubi lost her camera time edge and was often paired off with Tsukiumi during any scenes showing her, allowing other the other girls their chance to shine. This has helped the balance greatly.
  • Asobi ni Iku yo!: Kio has been kissed by all of his harem ladies, and still hasn't managed to budge a little bit as far as who he likes the most.
  • Asu no Yoichi: All of the girls who like Yoichi are in the same level, probably because he is so dense, he doesn't even realize any girls like him.
    • In the manga, only one of the girls even realizes that she likes the guy at first, the second is given less screentime after her inital appearance and a few chapters and the others are unsure or unwilling to persue him and fall into the story quite a bit later. A secondary one-sided relationship is also brought in.
  • Deconstructed near the end of Saber Marionette J to X. For the whole season, Otaru deliberately tries to treat the trio of girls equally and not favour any one over the others - even working overtime to afford extra tickets for a vacation, so that he won't have to pick just one of them as a guest. Another guy falls in love with Bloodberry, but is content to let her be with Otaru. He then learns that Otaru actually has this trope and is not happy, accusing Otaru of leading all 3 girls on just to spare his own feelings. Otaru eventually agrees that each girl deserves someone who will treat her as his "number one" instead of as one-third of a whole, and resolves to upset the balance, permitting the marionettes he doesn't choose to live their own lives.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler is pretty good at balancing the screentime of the main girls, with three or four getting more attention than the rest.
  • To LOVE-Ru has this as well. Many of the girls do eventually become attracted to Rito, making the Love Triangle between him Haruna and Lala morph into a Love Dodecahedron and pretty much all of them have balanced screentime. In fact, the sequel To Love Ru Darkness, is aiming for the Tenchi Solution and Lala and Haruna have been Out of Focus, aside from A Day in the Limelight stories (So, like everyone else then).
  • Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi keeps the screentime, importance and Fan Service well balanced across the six girls. Not that it matters since fans only care for the main character's younger brother.
  • Gender-inverted with Shugo Chara, with a two-tier format: Tadase and Ikuto being Amu's clear love interests and the other guys just being along for variety and such.
  • Mashiro-iro Symphony is a fairly standard example of this, Sakuno and Airi get a little more screentime but not much so it still counts as balanced. And at the end, Miu won.
  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai is a little weird about this. The screentime is somewhat balanced, but it is done by having the entire cast be together almost all the time. However, closer examination reveals a two-tier format, with Yozora and Sena being the main girls, and making the others a mixed-bag of genre tag-alongs.
  • Sora no Otoshimono is currently in this position. Tomoki has massive Ship Tease with the core trio: Ikaros, Nymph and Sohara, but he's also got Astraea and Chaos as candidates, and the anime's Gecko Ending went with No Romantic Resolution. Jury is out whether that'll be the final result for the manga.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya. Okay, so one of the haremettes is the title character and the driving force behind the plot. However, Mikuru and Yuki also want Kyon and vice versa, and Itsuki invokes Homoerotic Subtext for him (though he claims he's just acting gay for Kyon so that Haruhi doesn't make him gay for Kyon). Adding to this, the Love Dodecahedron will almost certainly never be resolved, because if Kyon actually picks one girl, the world will end.
  • High School DxD is an interesting take on this. The main character is a unashamed pervert and a Harem Seeker. Sounds pretty standard so far, right? However, he is also a Badass Chivalrous Pervert who literally goes through hell for the girls. The girls decide fairly early on that they are ALL going to get with him, and instead of fighting over him, they fight over who he pays the most attention to.

Fan Works

  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero has two harems that (sort of) Invoked Trope this: one with Kyon and Haruhi, Mikuru, Yuki, Tsuruya and Kanae, another with Keiichi, Mion, Rena, Rika and Satoko.

Live-Action TV

  • HBO's drama Big Love, about a Mormon Fundamentalist and his three wives, is arguably an example of this.
  • Sister Wives, a reality show on TLC that is essentially the non-fiction equivalent of Big Love, is another example.

Visual Novels

  • SHUFFLE!: In the original visual novel, none of the heroines are particularly prominent. The story also has multiple spinoffs and sequels. However, at least two of the sequels are based on the premise of a different girl winning, while the manga and anime also end with two of the remaining three original girls winning.