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Harem manga and anime are so popular that they have their own category. It's easy to name a few: Girls Wild, High School DxD, Sekirei, The World God Only Knows.

Why is this such a popular theme in both anime/manga? It is odd because in fantasy literature, American cinema, and Western television, harem is not a common theme and would offend most. How is it that they are so extremely prevalent (and seemingly accepted) in anime/manga?

  • Because it's a widely successful trope that's been around forever. – System Down Jan 24 '15 at 4:24
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    @SystemDown Has it been around forever, though? "Harems" in the modern anime sense are conspicuously absent from all non-anime-related mediums I'm aware of. Of course, today they're common because they've been successful in the past, but I can't say I could explain how harems grew to be successful in the first place. – senshin Jan 24 '15 at 4:35
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    @SystemDown its currently not a widely successful trope in other mediums. There isn't a harem category for television or movies in any Western areas that I have been – stevebot Jan 24 '15 at 4:37
  • I meant around in anime and manga. The first harem manga like Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2 and Tenchi Muyo were super successful. – System Down Jan 24 '15 at 4:42
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    @SystemDown Right, that's certainly the case, but "forever" in the context of anime means a couple decades at most - recent enough that it's definitely worth looking at to see why harems were successful in anime but not anywhere else. (Is it because of some quirk of Japanese culture? Was it a novel invention that just hasn't diffused into other mediums yet? Is there some interplay with the economics of the anime industry? I have no idea, but I bet somebody else does.) – senshin Jan 24 '15 at 5:14
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The target audience of "harem" shows is adolescent males - teenage boys. The main character is usually a male high school or cram school student, who is awkward around girls - someone the target audience can relate to, as they are in the same phase of their lives, struggling with love. (Who hasn't?)

Adolescent males have always been a large part of the audience for anime; shows featuring giant robots appeal to the same group. So it's a trope that appeals to the traditional audience.

I'm not sure why we don't seem to have "harem series" in superhero comics, as it could be successful for the same reason. One reason could be that the iconic superheroes like Superman and Batman are already mature, at an age where they are more confident around females, and also expected to behave more maturely than the protagonists of harem series.

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