Harem Anime – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you new to the complex world of anime? You may have come across the term “harem anime”, and be curious about its meaning. Keep reading to discover what harem anime means, and how it originated.

Meaning

Harem anime refers to a genre within anime — Japanese animation — in which the protagonist has three or more love interests. These love interests heavily feature in the anime, and may or may not be in a polyamorous relationship with the protagonist.

Male and female main characters can both have harems in anime, and the harem does not have to be exclusively male or female.

The harem genre can apply to any type of anime, ranging from graphic novels (manga) to animated shows, and from anime video games to hentai (harem anime pornography).

Example Usage

To understand how the term harem anime is used in practice, it can be helpful to see some example sentences:

  • The term harem anime is technically incorrect; real anime fans would call this genre haremumono, as that is what it is called in Japanese.
  • I like harem anime because all those love interests keep the story going and make everything more interesting.
  • When you watch harem anime, you never know whether the main character will choose one or multiple love interests!

Origin

The harem genre of anime, a term that means Japanese-made animation in English, came about during the 1970s. When it first emerged, harem anime was a small sub-genre that did not garner much interest.

As time went on, however, harem anime became increasingly popular. By the 1990s, anime style video games, including dating simulators, in which protagonists were followed around by a group of three or more interested parties, grew to be widespread.

The harem genre is called haremumono, which translates to “harem works“, in the Japanese language. Anime fans may use this term instead of harem anime.

Several different types of harems — groups of devoted love interests — can appear:

  • Animes in which female love interests accompany a straight male protagonist or or a lesbian main character can be called female harems or
  • Male harems are those groups of love interests that accompany a straight female protagonist or a gay male main character. This is also called gyaku haremu.

To make the anime more immersive, allowing the viewer to place themselves into the protagonist’s role, the main characters that feature in harem anime are typically “blank slates”; fairly pleasant characters that do not have strong personalities.

Likewise, the love interests that feature in harem anime are almost always two-dimensional, their main characteristic being their devotion to the protagonist.

A harem anime may have several different endings:

  • The main character may choose one of the love interests.
  • The main character may choose multiple love interests, resulting in a polyamorous relationship.
  • The protagonist may also break up with all of his or her love interests.

Phrases Similar to Harem Anime

Instead of harem anime, you can also say:

  • “Harem”. (This word refers to the part of a house reserved for women in Muslim households and more commonly refers to a man’s many wives in English, but if used in the context of anime discussions, it will be understood.)
  • “Haremumono”. Meaning “harem works” in Japanese, this is the word used for the sub-genre in Japan.

Phrases Opposite to Harem Anime

While there are no directly opposite terms, other genres popular in anime include:

  • Romance, featuring one love interest.
  • Seinen, anime specifically marketed to young men.
  • Isekai, anime in which the protagonist explores a new world.

What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct saying is harem anime, harem, or haremumono, meaning anime defined by a main character that has three or more simultaneous love interests.

Ways People May Say Harem Anime Incorrectly

Some may refer to any anime that features more than one love interest as harem anime. For an anime to be considered harem, there have to be at least three love interests.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Harem Anime

You may use the phrase harem anime to refer to any anime — whether a show, video game, or graphic novel — with a plot that largely centers on the fact that the main character has a significant following of love interests.

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