It normally takes place in a High School setting, with one male lead, and at least three, often a lot more girls, who are romantically interested in him. ( Gender Inverted Examples also exist). Usually, each girl personifies a single classic characterization archetype.
Works where a Harem Genre set-up is put in front of other relationship dynamics, and the plot is written with the intention to keep the "race" for the male protagonist's heart as tied as possible, are known as the Balanced Harem subgenre. If it is reversed it is known as Cast Full of Pretty Boys.
Harem genre tropes
- Accidental Pervert
- Balanced Harem
- Battle Harem
- Belligerent Sexual Tension
- Bromantic Foil
- The Casanova
- Chick Magnet
- Crash Into Hello
- First Girl Wins
- Harem Hero
- Harem Nanny
- Harem Seeker
- Innocent Cohabitation
- Last Girl Wins
- Literally Falling in Love
- Love Dodecahedron
- Lover Tug of War
- Not Blood Siblings
- Not What It Looks Like
- Ordinary High School Student
- Pervert Revenge Mode
- Pretty Freeloaders
- Supporting Harem
- Tenchi Solution
- Themed Harem
- Those Two Guys
- Unwanted Harem
Common character types for the Harem members:
- A-Cup Angst
- Cute Ghost Girl
- The Ditherer - The lead is very often one of these.
- Emotionless Girl
- Genki Girl
- Hot Mom
- Ill Girl
- Magical Girlfriend
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl
- Patient Childhood Love Interest
- Petite Pride
- Psycho Lesbian: As a Foil and rival to the guy with the Harem over one of the Haremettes.
- Tsundere A girl who switches between affection and hostile.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: The traditional Japanese ideal of femininity. It has appeals to different kinds of fans and can provide a contrast to a Tsundere.
Harem genre works
Works where the primary genre is harem.
Anime and Manga
- Tenchi Muyo!. Along with Ranma ½ and Love Hina, below, this is one of the three great Trope Codifiers.
- The main character of Love Hina, Keitaro, is living in an all-girls inn and by the end of the series he had attracted a Tsundere, a Shrinking Violet, a Genki Girl/Wrench Wench/Princess, a Hard-Drinking Party Girl, a Kid Samurai, a Cloudcuckoolander/Unlucky Childhood Friend, his adopted sister, and a Bratty Half-Pint... maybe. In an unusual twist, they suggest a Tenchi Solution but he refuses and marries his Victorious Childhood Friend
- The third show in the triumvirate of Trope Codifiers, and the first one seen by Western audiences, is Ranma ½. In the course of its Martial Arts Sex Farce story line it saddles its main character, teen-aged martial arts master Ranma Saotome, with a four full-time and a good handful of one-shot girls chasing him because of Arranged Marriages and accidental ones, too. To complicate matters, Ranma suffers from a curse that occasionally turns him in to short, busty redheaded girl, leading to more than a couple guys showing interest in her, to his disgust.
- SHUFFLE!! sets up a contest of sorts for the lead's heart. There's remarkably little hostility between the competitors.
- To LOVE-Ru
Works with Harem elements
Works that are not technically harem, but use a number of the tropes, such as Unwanted Harem.
Anime and Manga
- A Certain Magical Index is rapidly turning into this, courtesy of its Oblivious to Love Chick Magnet Nice Guy hero, Kamijou Touma. Despite all the girls falling for him though, its still a story about the clash between magic and science.
- The Suzumiya Haruhi anime/novels. An alien, an ESPer, a time traveller, and an unknowing goddess. Remember, this is a show that sinks its meathooks into any trope it can find and folds and spindles it to shreds...
- Code Geass: It seems like everyone in the series is in love with Lelouch. In the first season, Lelouch/Zero accumulates a rather large group of girls who have feelings for him, including C.C., Kallen, Shirley, Milly, Kaguya, and even his half-sister Euphemia. He just doesn't do anything about it, since for the most part he's too busy trying to overthrow the government to pursue romance. The staff has said that the second season will deal more with his romantic entanglements (and note that all this is ignoring the Brother-Sister Incest and Ho Yay-slash-Foe Yay ships with Nunnally and Suzaku, respectively, and a combination of both those tropes (though a downplayed one that doesn't get as much focus) with Schneizel, who refers to Lelouch as the "one he loved and feared the most").
- The second season seems to poke fun at this; as a result of his Ninja Maid running around in a Lelouch disguise and being generally nicer, Lelouch ends up scheduled to go on dates with no less than 108 girls. And there's Kaguya fantasizing about a Tenchi Solution...
- And yes, the staff sort-of delivered it. Not only Rolo became a second Gay Option (who was all "Bitch, PLEASE!" at Sayoko for the 108 dates), but there is more focus on Lelouch's love life... Specially when it hit Fatal Attractor levels and later Suzaku manages to ensnare the position of The Dragon to Lelouch, with all the Ho Yay squeals it implies. See the entry.
- This was played with in one of the first season's audio dramas where Shirley considers asking him to go to a concert with her and imagines him revealing that he was in love with and getting married to Kallen, Nunnally, Suzaku, Milly, Rivalz, and even Arthur the cat in that order. At the end they all decide to share him and invite Shirley in on the action. Note that Nina was not in the fantasy and it was set only hours before the Table-Kun incident.
- Infinite Stratos: Slight variance on it in that there's some Powered Armor that only girls can use, but for some reason, one guy is able to use it as well, and they promptly put him in the all girls school to learn how to use those things. Naturally, being the only guy in an all girl school...note that it was played up in the anime. In the light novels, its just a few harem elements here and there, but in the anime its a standard harem series with a Powered Armor twist.
- Kämpfer: Here the main guy turns into a girl thanks to a magical MacGuffin. Who's probably hotter than the rest of the main girls. Like Infinite Stratos, above, the anime is a much more traditional harem series than the original novels.
- Hayate the Combat Butler, a strange combination of the guy being even more clueless than usual and the girls mostly being knowledgeable about and completely alright with competing for his affection between them. Several of them actually work very hard to get one of the other girls to win!
- Asobi Ni Iku Yo.
- Riviera: The Promised Land pits you with 4 girls, each with their own ending, and the game provides another special ending that's really hard to get. Since this is a linear RPG, romance paths aren't really obvious.
- RPG Shooter Starwish is a hybrid RPG shooter where the harem consists of 4 girls (not a Four-Girl Ensemble since only 3 are available at a time) and 2 guys, with a special ending if you can get all of the individual endings (and another one - featuring a fifth girl who was not previously in the story except for a few lines at the beginning, which the protagonist assumed was All Just a Dream - if you don't).
- Ar tonelico series is a RPG hybrid with Visual Novel element in the form of Cosmos Sphere, focusing on romance developments between The Hero and two (later three) heroines. Ensemble Darkhorse Cocona not included.
- In Bully, the main character amasses himself a nice harem.
- In Scarface: The World is Yours Tony Montana can obtain a large collection of trophy girlfriends.
- Agarest Senki requires you to pick one girl out of three in each generation after you've spent some time with them. The system works similarly to Phantasy Star III's syetem. Rex, the final hero, however, can end up with one of any girl you've gotten in your party so far of the maximum number of nine in the Golden Ending.
- In the Book of Genesis, Jacob agrees to work for 7 years in order to marry Rachel but on the night they are supposed to consummate the union, Rachel's father Laban sends his older daughter Leah instead. Jacob "knows" Leah and therefore has to work for another 7 years in order to marry Rachel. After Leah knocks out 4 kids, Rachel becomes jealous because she has yet to become pregnant and offers her slave-girl Bilhah to be impregnated instead. She knocks out another 2 kids. Now Leah becomes jealous and offers her slave-girl Zilpah to Jacob as well. She knocks out two more kids. Then Leah's oldest son Reuben gives his mom some flowers, which Rachel sees and demands Leah give some to her as well. So they make a deal where Leah gives Rachel some of the flowers in exchange for a night with Jacob. Leah then has another 3 kids. Finally, after all this, Rachel gets pregnant and has a son.
- The HBO show Big Love (although in this case, the harem is justified as the characters are fundamentalist Mormons).
Works that are harem, but subvert, deconstruct, or otherwise skew the genre away from normal.
Anime and Manga
- Rosario + Vampire starts out a normal Supporting Harem (and in many ways, still is one) with an Unlucky Everydude protagonist stuck in a school for monsters, but slowly adds darker elements, as well as more shounen-action style plots. Now the main character is a Bishonen badass who probably doesn't count as human by most measures.
- Mahou Sensei Negima is...complicated. It was written by the same author as Love Hina, who wanted to do a shounen-action series from the start. His publishers insisted on a standard harem series, which he pretended to do. The main character is a ten-year old male wizard teacher at an all-girls school, and his 31 students aren't interested in him romantically, but rather because they think he's the cutest thing since Hello Kitty. But as the series progresses, he becomes such an uber-badass that they all eventually fall in love with him anyway.
- The World God Only Knows is a reconstruction of the harem genre viewed through the lens of eroges. The protagonist is forced to make girls fall in love with him due to an Explosive Leash, despite the fact that he hates real girls. In the process, the series tears apart all the stock characters, shows how they're not realistic and then puts them back together again with an overall attitude of 'No, it's not realistic at all, but that's okay. Isn't it better like that? Even with those stock characters, can't the story still be meaningful?'
- School Days is known for being one of the most brutal deconstructions this trope has ever known, especially in the anime and several endings of the visual novel. It seems like your average harem series at first, where the main character has an Ojou (Kotonoha), a Shorttank (Sekai), an Alpha Bitch who doubles as the Patient Childhood Love Interest (Otome), a Girl Next Door with Anime Hair (Hikari), and the Alpha Bitch's Girl Posse (Natsumi, Kumi and Minami) after him. Makoto, however, has become known as one of the biggest jerks of any male lead in the history of Harem stories, starting off more or less okay but soon beginning to screw any girl he can get and, unlike most of the above anime and mangas, we see the realistic consequences of this situation happening. And then go beyond it.