is a genre of light novel
, and video games
originating in Japan
in the 1970s but exploding late 1980s and 1990s with dating simulator
games and focused on polygynous
relationships, where a protagonist is surrounded by three or more androphilic/gynephilic
love interests or sexual partners. A story featuring a heterosexual male or lesbian protagonist paired with an all-female/yuri
harem series is informally referred to as a or ; while a heterosexual female or gay male protagonist paired with an all-male/yaoi
harem series is informally referred to as a , , or . Although originating in Japan, the genre later inspired variants in Western media.
[Mel Gough interview: Reverse harem an old fantasy turned on its head, Romantic Novelists Association]
The word derives from harem, which was a term used to refer to the most private rooms of a household in Middle Eastern culture, especially among the upper class where only women and close relatives were permitted inside it.
Because romance is sometimes the main focus of an entire series, a harem structure is ambiguous. The most distinguishable trait is the group of polyamorous females or males who accompany the protagonist and, in some instances, cohabitate with the protagonist. While intimacy is just about customary, it is never necessary. When it is present, it is always a minimum of two supporting characters who express sexual orientation or the romantic orientation interest in the protagonist. This structure made dating games extremely popular to many people without having to cater a game to a single outcome. Dating games often make use of the Dere-dere personality structure to archetype romantic characters.
A reverse harem is the gender-opposite of a "straight"-harem, wherein a harem is directed towards male protagonists with women and/or gay men courting the protagonist. In a reverse harem, it focuses on female protagonists who are being courted by males and/or lesbians, usually seven or more.
Sociosexuality amongst each individual participants range from ''restricted'' to ''unrestricted''. Some characters are portrayed as asexual, prudish or otherwise less willing to engage in casual sex. Some characters prefer romantic friendship, commitment, and emotional closeness before having sex with a romantic partner(s). Some characters are inherently monogamous cuckolds/cuckqueans, and either accept or encourages their partner's infidelity in having other intimates as well. Some characters are portrayed as pansexuals being comfortable engaging in sex as a recreational activity.
Although traditionally the harem is considered to be one of the most gender binary and heterosexual genres of anime and manga, this condition is not mandatory, and work in the genre can contain characters of very different LGBT gender identities and sexuality, or even concentrate fully on characters of the one gender. "Reverse harems" garner popularity, as they sometimes have the harem's genders mixed up without regard for the protagonist's sex or gender.
Thus, harem work in the genres of boys love or girls love is not something impossible, although they are much less common than the classic heterosexual examples.
In addition, recently there has also been a tendency to add futanari, bisexual or androgynous-looking crossdresser characters to the genre, allowing the use of queer content, while technically remaining within the boundaries of heterosexual romance.
The protagonist's characterization is meant to allow the audience to project themselves onto them and can either be diverse or non-existing. Because of different situations and plot devices in the story, the protagonist normally ends up discovering hidden aspects that make females and males within the "harem" ''more attractive'' while highlighting interesting aspects of their personalities, usually because of said protagonist's kindness, courage and the will to protect or support their friends or the world.
These protagonists usually end up with a harem accidentally, because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time due to some unforeseeable circumstance or random chance. Most protagonists don't even want the harems they start, as they mostly only have one main love interest and all other members of their harem simply fall in love with him or her because they deeply admire some part of their personality, and the protagonist can't bring themselves to tell them to leave.
Harem endings typically follow two different routes; American erotica does not follow this pattern.
#The person of desire ends up with one of the characters who fall in love with them.
#The person of desire winds up with none of the characters.
Other series have a route where the story concludes with a multi-marriage ending.
''Urusei Yatsura'' is considered as the origin of female harem manga and anime, especially romantic comedy. Although many later works had multiple female characters, ''Urusei Yatsura'' set the tone of the genre by bringing the format of multiple girls loving or romantically linked to one male character, which is common in gal games, into manga.
*Drummond-Mathews, Angela (2010) "What Boys Will Be: A Study of Shonen Manga" in Johnson-Woods, Toni (e.d.) ''Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives'' Continuum International Publishing Group pp. 69–70.
Category:Anime and manga terminology