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Old 2013-01-05, 08:28   Link #201
NK_500
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^If I apply your logic then K-On is a harem anime without the harem. None of the girls have boyfriends because their boyfriends are suppose to be the viewers themselves. I would say K-On is actually a "virtual girlfriend" show for lonely otakus.

Don't take my post seriously because this just a half-baked theory at best.
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Old 2013-01-05, 10:00   Link #202
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Originally Posted by NK_500 View Post
^If I apply your logic then K-On is a harem anime without the harem. None of the girls have boyfriends because their boyfriends are suppose to be the viewers themselves. I would say K-On is actually a "virtual girlfriend" show for lonely otakus.

Don't take my post seriously because this just a half-baked theory at best.
Jokingly, I'd agree. Remember that I was half-serious. ... Actually this logic is also... err, I'd accept it.

Well, if it does make a valid theory though, then I guess I might regret saying it at all.
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Old 2013-01-05, 13:02   Link #203
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Nah.

Such an suggestion is a bit too insulting even in jest.

K-on is supposed to bring back nostalgic feelings towards earlier school days. Or at least an idealized form as in contrast to the drab and boring workplace. It can be an idealization of a childhood one never had. Then again, I was never a somewhat dim high school girl, so I can't relate. But it's not about relating to a character sometimes. It's about creating the atmosphere.

It would seem like to me that the girls in K-on are portrayed as extremely non-threatening. This also helps idealize the environment since this can be a contrast to the typical annoyances and hostilities encountered at the workplace and school. Sort of like Gene Roddenberry's idealization of his Star Trek universe by making humans as enlightened beings that would never have conflict with each other.

There's also that whole celibate celebration thing which may or may not be the case. A good deal of Kyoto Animation's more recent works like to sterilize their characters to be more pure and cute and shit, perhaps making them more childish and away from the serious business of the adult world. Key, often associated with Kyoani also has those tendencies.

Now, do male characters of interest really prove a threat to this? No, not necessarily. But it might be hard to find some that can fit in properly, so maybe it's better to not even bother. Although I will ask. Why do casts need gender equality? There's many anime that have little or no relevant female characters after all. Do those target lonely female fans looking for virtual boyfriends? Maybe, but what's wrong with that in the end? I could generalize western fans as being insecure because they get too confused if a male insert main character doesn't exist. But I won't.

Then again, we must realize this medium is one for escape from reality, and not just to analyze this by random attacks on the fanbase. So I might not like the idea, but it sure works. The market prioritizes the male audience first for obvious reasons, plus the natural bias towards the male audience in pretty much all mediums outside of anime as well since a lot of societies still view women as sources of consumption causes such skewed things to happen. Are otaku inherently more misogynistic and sexist as the rest of the planet? I don't know. I'm not qualified to answer that atm.

In the end, I think that one really needs to take matters in context and not only judge things from one's own expectations. Sure, I think a lot of anime and styles are trash, but as they say, don't throw rocks from a glass house. If we could all stop stereotyping the core Japanese anime fanbase as smelly lowlifes that will never amount to anything and have terrible, deviant tastes then perhaps we could spend more time on a more rational analysis instead of jumping up and down on a soapbox and claiming anime has declined. The soapbox is about to break. I'm not targeting anyone in particular in the thread, but there's definitely this jet stream of ignorance that permeates too many English discussions about animu on the internet. It's one thing to hate a show. It's another to associate it with deviancy and other far flung, more serious issues.
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Old 2013-01-05, 18:40   Link #204
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Kimi to Boku actually applied as "virtual boyfriends" show and it also main selling point for Miracle Train as well. Hetalia also degenerates into that category too by looking its fanbase. Ouran High School Host club may also qualify if Haruhi and Renge aren't there, IMO.

It may sounds like a joke but I actually agree with Master Assassin that the MC in most harem and reverse harem shows are nothing more than a placeholder or a cardboard cutout with a "place your face here" hole. However shows like K-On and Kimi to Boku proves us that viewers don't even need that placeholder in first place. That's why I calling them as "virtual boyfriend/girlfriend" shows.

As for School Days I can't much about it but I do disagree it is a deconstruction. It just a black comedy show by and for harem haters. Just look how many people actually laughed to see the last 10 minutes of the last episode. For me that was a huge middle finger salute as I seen in from first episode and hoping for better conclusion for the story.
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Old 2013-01-05, 20:59   Link #205
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While the "virtual girl/boyfriends" idea is interesting (if not somewhat disturbing) for a single gender cast I'd contend that for a slice of life show such as K-On it might just be to keep romance completely out of the equation. Personally I like those and would love to see one with a mixed cast (only one I can think of would be minami-ke and that's just barely a mixed cast) but it tends to inevitably involve romance when you have a mixed cast. That and regardless of how much there actually is the fanbase will almost certainly obsess over it anyways.

Depends on the content though, if it's full of ecchi and fanservice and such I would agree with that description. I can certainly see the logic in it. If the focus is on a typically quirky harem and their interactions, with the main character simply being a bland placeholder, then removing said placeholder might not actually change much.
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Old 2013-01-06, 17:23   Link #206
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Why does most harem anime tend to have uninteresting male leads?
Why does most (smutty) shoujo manga tend to have uninteresting female leads?

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Old 2013-01-06, 17:33   Link #207
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Why does most harem anime tend to have uninteresting male leads?
Why does most (smutty) shoujo manga tend to have uninteresting female leads?

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So people could easily relate to the MCs "awesome(?!)" character.
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Old 2013-01-06, 22:06   Link #208
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A few general points:

1) I do think that a lot of "Harem as the Primary Genre" shows are built around the "Placeholder" concept, yes. In other words, the goal is for the male viewer to feel like he can live vicariously through the male lead. To accomplish this, it helps for the male lead to be very normal, personality-wise. Where I think some harem shows go too far with it is in making the male lead thoroughly unexceptional in an across-the-board way. For some, this is actually immersion breaking because it raises the question of "Why is this guy attracting all these girls"? For the immersion to work, you don't want the male viewer to be asking questions like this. But to be fair, maybe this is less an issue if a show is aimed at a teenaged audience rather than an adult male audience.

2) There's a lot of shows with harem as a secondary genre that benefit from having stand-out strong male protagonists, imo. Kyon from Haruhi. Lelouch from Code Geass. I don't think we should underestimate the positive impact that a strong male lead can have for a show with harem elements. To the degree that VN adaptations are successful, I think this is a big reason why - Clannad's Tomoya and Steins;Gate's Okabe are very good characters in their own right.

3) I think that Archon is largely right about what drives interest and popularity when it comes to K-On! and shows like it. It's been my experience that a lot of harem anime lovers don't like all-girls shows, and a lot of all-girls show lovers don't like harem anime. So I'm inclined to think that these two types of shows have significantly different core appeals.
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Old 2013-01-06, 22:44   Link #209
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I honestly don't understand why people keep suggesting that "relating to the protagonist" is terribly relevant for these sorts of shows. In my experience, people who watch these sorts of shows pretty much never relate to the protagonist because they're almost always way more partisan than the indecisive lead is forced by the plot to be. The only reasons I can imagine that people make this sort of statement is either a) because, for some reason I can't understand, they can only watch shows by pretending that they are the protagonist (and so assume every show must be watched that way), or b) because they believe the "harem anime protagonists are losers because the audience are losers" theory that seems to have probably been invented by people who don't like that style of anime and wanted to defend their tastes (more like, put down other fans).

In the end, I can only reiterate what I said before: the personality of the protagonist is the way it is to support the sort of story that is being told. "Adaptable" and "neutral" protagonists are favoured in order to keep the "candidates" as the true stars of the show. "Indecisive" and/or "clumsy" protagonists are favoured in order to keep the indecision and misunderstandings going for as long as possible. And I think these sorts of requirements are what keep the protagonists "uninteresting". I don't think it has anything to do with the need to be able to "relate" to the protagonist, which I think is optional at best for many of these sorts of shows. Rather, it's what keeps the wheels turning, even if spinning in circles.

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I do think that a lot of "Harem as the Primary Genre" shows are built around the "Placeholder" concept, yes. In other words, the goal is for the male viewer to feel like he can live vicariously through the male lead.
I think there's a difference between being envious of the sorts of situations that the protagonist gets him or herself into, and "living vicariously through the lead". I don't think that the protagonist is truly supposed to be a representation or placeholder for the audience, except if it's a story where the audience is given choices (as in a visual novel). Otherwise, it's an exercise in frustration because the protagonist will often make decisions (or non-decisions) you don't agree with. So in the end, the audience goes along for the ride, at once envious of the protagonist and also frustrated by him or her for not acting the way they would act. The reward/frustration balance is what prolongs the story. The engagement the audience has is with the "candidates", and the protagonist merely is the available conduit -- not typically someone to aspire to or to "live vicariously through". At the very least I would say they're often a poor unenviable vessel, even if they're a necessary one. I can't typically "relate" to them very much, nor do I necessarily try to.
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Old 2013-01-06, 23:15   Link #210
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I honestly don't understand why people keep suggesting that "relating to the protagonist" is terribly relevant for these sorts of shows.
This suggestion is popular because it plausibly explains why a lot of harem anime have uninteresting male leads (an observation posed in the very title of this thread). If harem anime writers are aiming for their male leads to be as relateable as possible, then it makes sense that sometimes (if not often) this may have the unfortunate effect of making the male lead dull and uninteresting (by aiming for relateable, it's easy to fall into the trap of "too normal").

Fearing that a strong male lead would overshadow the "true stars" makes no sense to me, since there's plenty of popular anime properties with strong male leads surrounded by very popular female characters (Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Steins;Gate, Kanon, Angel Beats!, etc...).

So I don't think that harem anime male leads are intended to be downright dull and boring to help ensure that the female characters remain the stars. No, I think that what happens is that harem anime writers tend to aim for the male lead to be a relateable placeholder character, and sometimes they do a good job of it, while other times they don't do a good job of it. Sometimes they overdo it, and the male lead ends up bland and uninteresting because of it.


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In my experience, people who watch these sorts of shows pretty much never relate to the protagonist because they're almost always way more partisan than the indecisive lead is forced by the plot to be.
This in and of itself isn't a problem. The idea is that the viewer should want to imagine himself in the male lead's shoes, and hence to be able to make the decisions that the male lead inevitably has to make (i.e. to be in a position to act upon that partisanship). A good harem anime should get a lot of passionate shipping discussion going, actually.

It's generally helpful to give the male lead nice moments with each of the major girls, so the various shipping groups each have their own pieces of evidence to support their preferred shipping. The trick is to do this while making the harem lead's indecisiveness seem at least somewhat understandable (this is where jealous outbursts on the parts of one or more of the girls can be helpful, as you can see how it would make the male lead more leery of having to definitively turn down one or more of the girls.)


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"Indecisive" and/or "clumsy" protagonists are favoured in order to keep the indecision and misunderstandings going for as long as possible.
I agree with you here. But "Indecisive" and/or "clumsy" does not need to lead to "uninteresting".


Quote:

I think there's a difference between being envious of the sorts of situations that the protagonist gets him or herself into, and "living vicariously through the lead".
Who wants to feel envious? Is envy a pleasant feeling for most people?

But what can be a pleasant feeling is living vicariously through a character who gets to do fun and exciting things that you would like to do - The entire RPG genre of video gaming is rooted in this very concept, after all.


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I don't think that the protagonist is truly supposed to be a representation or placeholder for the audience, except if it's a story where the audience is given choices (as in a visual novel). Otherwise, it's an exercise in frustration because the protagonist will often make decisions (or non-decisions) you don't agree with. So in the end, the audience goes along for the ride, at once envious of the protagonist and also frustrated by him or her. The reward/frustration balance is what prolongs the story. The engagement the audience has is with the "candidates", and the protagonist merely is the available conduit -- not typically someone to aspire to or to "live vicariously through".
Aspire to, no. But you don't have to aspire to be someone to live vicariously through him or her. Some parents live vicariously through their children (you can see this a lot at sporting competitions for kids and teens that are open to the general public). But those parents obviously don't aspire to be their own children.
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Old 2013-01-07, 00:02   Link #211
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Although I'm typically inclined to agree with Relentless on this, the parents analogy does make perfect sense and serves to help simultaneously enlighten me and also annoy me at the same time.
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Old 2013-01-07, 00:23   Link #212
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Fearing that a strong male lead would overshadow the "true stars" makes no sense to me, since there's plenty of popular anime properties with strong male leads surrounded by very popular female characters (Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Steins;Gate, Kanon, Angel Beats!, etc...).
None of these are "harem anime", though. They are stories with a male lead character and multiple female characters that could arguably be classed as love interests... but the show doesn't revolve the shounen romance fixation of "who's he going to choose?!" and exist to stretch out that decision/realization for the duration of the show. In fact, in all of these stories (at least the anime adaptations), the character is on a pretty straight line towards the ending from the start and any other "romantic interests" presented are basically side-stories. And in those sorts of cases, it's much easier to build strong characterization for the male lead because you're following a fixed development path where the romantic counterpart is going to inevitably form a part.

At least in my books, visual novel anime are not harem anime (unless it was actually a "harem visual novel", which do exist but are rarely adapted for mainstream TV anime).


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If harem anime writers are aiming for their male leads to be as relateable as possible, then it makes sense that sometimes (if not often) this may have the unfortunate effect of making the male lead dull and uninteresting (by aiming for relateable, it's easy to fall into the trap of "too normal"). [...] No, I think that what happens is that harem anime writers tend to aim for the male lead to be a relateable placeholder character, and sometimes they do a good job of it, while other times they don't do a good job of it. Sometimes they overdo it, and the male lead ends up bland and uninteresting because of it.
What you're talking about is the character's neutral/adaptable personality, which I already addressed. The character can't have a personality that is so partisan or biased that it'd preclude the potential romantic development with all the various candidates in the show. In theory, anyway, a character with a neutral/adaptable personality is designed to be at least baseline acceptable to as many people as possible (and hence won't be widely rejected except for being, basically, uninteresting).

But I guess what I am objecting to is less the "boring because he doesn't stand out" male lead (which was perhaps the original topic of the thread), and more the way the thread has morphed into talking about the "indecisive"/"loser" male lead where -- per some -- the audience is supposed to identify with those traits. I don't think those particular traits are intended to be "relate-able", they're intended to serve the plot. This is why I don't think it's at all necessary for the viewer to be able to think "wow, this protagonist is acting exactly the way I would!" to appreciate the show.


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This in and of itself isn't a problem. The idea is that the viewer should want to imagine himself in the male lead's shoes, and hence to be able to make the decisions that the male lead inevitably has to make (i.e. to be in a position to act upon that partisanship).
Again, the distinction I'm making is the difference between being able to place one's self in the protagonist's shoes when in a given situation (to likely make a different decision than the protagonist would make), and being able to imagine that you yourself are the protagonist the whole time. The first gives the audience a sort of agency, while the later assumes that the audience identifies with the protagonist because the protagonist has no agency (and is thus just like the audience member).


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Who wants to feel envious? Is envy a pleasant feeling for most people?

But what can be a pleasant feeling is living vicariously through a character who gets to do fun and exciting things that you would like to do - The entire RPG genre of video gaming is rooted in this very concept, after all.
I think the (true) harem genre is pretty heavily centred in the frustration of lust and envy; the whole work is generally a tease that puts off the "pay-off" until the very end, if it even offers it at all. (And some series even "tease" the fanservice with various sorts of masking to further emphasize the frustration.) It's hard for me to see how this isn't a key aspect of the genre.

But I'm not really sure you can equate a linear, fixed anime with the RPG genre in terms of immersion and being able to "live vicariously through a character". You may be able to appreciate a character and follow the story from their perspective, but it's still basically third-party. You understand what they're thinking and you may cheer for them... but it's not like you're "role-playing" as them. That itself would be frustrating because it's precisely like watching someone else play an RPG. As soon as the character makes a decision you would not, it breaks the fantasy.

As I've been trying to say, I don't see the need to be able to "identify with the protagonist" that deeply to appreciate a story. Or at least I use a very loose definition of "identify", that just means "I need to understand what they're thinking". This is the same reason why, even as a guy, I have no problem identifying with stories that have female protagonists. The protagonist doesn't have to be like me for me to get invested in their story.


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Some parents live vicariously through their children (you can see this a lot at sporting competitions for kids and teens that are open to the general public). But those parents obviously don't aspire to be their own children.
The difference is that parents who live vicariously through their children typically take steps to direct and control their children's paths in order to do what they want them to do. They don't want to be their own children. They want their own children to be like them (to make the decisions they think they should make), and they're actually in a position to influence that. When they become too blind to what their children want, they can become a harmful influence.

I never watch harem anime and think the protagonist is either me or like me. I always consider myself just along for the ride. Even if I can identify with some personality traits and qualities, I have no control. So that's why I don't really understand the idea of "living vicariously though the protagonist" that some people espouse.
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Old 2013-01-07, 00:58   Link #213
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None of these are "harem anime", though.
No, but they show that dull male leads aren't necessary to ensure that important female characters are popular stars of the show. I don't see why that would be less true in harem anime than in any other anime genre. I mean, would Haruhi Suzumiya be even more popular if Kyon was a dull male lead?


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What you're talking about is the character's neutral/adaptable personality, which I already addressed. The character can't have a personality that is so partisan or biased that it'd preclude the potential romantic development with all the various candidates in the show.
If I'm reading you right, you're saying that the character's personality is designed so that he's romantically compatible with all the various candidates in the show. And that this leads to a neutral/adaptable personality, which unfortunately can come across as "uninteresting" in and of itself.

Well, that's certainly an interesting theory. It's fair to say that the more distinctive a personality a male character has, the fewer believable romantic options he has by extension, since not all personality types mix well together of course.

To your credit, this is a plausible explanation you've put forward for why harem anime male leads are the way they are. Maybe it fits a bit better than the placeholder theory.


Quote:

But I guess what I am objecting to is less the "boring because he doesn't stand out" male lead (which was perhaps the original topic of the thread), and more the way the thread has morphed into talking about the "indecisive"/"loser" male lead where -- per some -- the audience is supposed to identify with those traits. I don't think those particular traits are intended to be "relate-able", they're intended to serve the plot.
I agree with you here. The "indecisive" and "loser" elements aren't there to make the harem anime male lead more relateable. If they're there, they're usually there to serve the plot, agreed.

It should be noted that anime in general often likes starting their characters off from "low" or "loser-esque" positions, because then there's great growth potential there that can be useful plot-wise.


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Again, the distinction I'm making is the difference between being able to place one's self in the protagonist's shoes when in a given situation (to likely make a different decision than the protagonist would make), and being able to imagine that you yourself are the protagonist the whole time. The first gives the audience a sort of agency, while the later assumes that the audience identifies with the protagonist because the protagonist has no agency (and is thus just like the audience member).
Yes, I'm with you here. I don't think that the audience is expected to imagine itself as the protagonist the whole time. But I think that part of the idea might be to excite the audience with the idea of being the protagonist during key moments.


A father cheering in the stands feels a special thrill from his son scoring the winning goal in a kids hockey game.

A viewer cheering on the male lead in a harem anime may feel a special thrill from seeing that male lead kiss the chosen girl... which could lead to scoring of a different sort.

Here is where I see some "living vicariously through" possibility. But this is mostly the extent of it.
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Old 2013-01-07, 02:07   Link #214
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I mean, would Haruhi Suzumiya be even more popular if Kyon was a dull male lead?
No, but (and preparing for incoming) I think it's Kyon personality that makes him the right romantic fit for Haruhi. (I say this even though I'm a Mikuru fan, personally -- again, I don't think Kyon is me, though I experience the Haruhi characters through him as an intermediary/gateway.) He has the personality he needs to fit the story. If they were really, really pitching Haruhi as a "harem anime", then I'm not sure he'd have quite the same personality. He's the way he is because it works with what the author is trying to accomplish through him in the story.


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It should be noted that anime in general often likes starting their characters off from "low" or "loser-esque" positions, because then there's great growth potential there that can be useful plot-wise.
True; "zero-to-hero" is a protagonist trait that goes way beyond this particular genre, and I think is another way they try to make protagonists somewhat "likeable" by the audience. If executed well, in conjunction with the romantic plot development, it can make an otherwise somewhat "neutral" protagonist rather likeable. You always want to have something to cheer for, and it's usually more effective it's some sort of inner struggle and not just external roadblocks. As always, it depends on how it's played.


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I don't think that the audience is expected to imagine itself as the protagonist the whole time. But I think that part of the idea might be to excite the audience with the idea of being the protagonist during key moments.
Yeah, exactly. You want the protagonist to be someone you can at least cheer for when they achieve their victories, and to do that they obviously have to be someone "relate-able". (That's actually why you don't have more "douchebag" protagonists; who is going to cheer when they get the girl they're after? Rather, you cheer when they get their comeuppance, and that makes it a whole other type of story.)
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Old 2013-01-10, 06:44   Link #215
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So I keep hearing complaints like, "MC is as dense as a bag of rocks". Seriously, I'm tired of it, whether if that's the case for most or not.

And I ask the question, "How easily should a guy know that a girl likes him, and should he always act on it?" It's not like girls (anime or otherwise) are known for actually meaning what they say and do. "Girls' double-speak" is a popular term in seduction seminars for a reason.

I mean, you know, just because a girl rubs it to your face doesn't mean she really likes you. She could be simply trolling you all along, or that she doesn't even know if she likes you or not, you know?

Or it could be that you actually know a girl likes you, but you're not feeling her, so you pretend to be dense (if that's even possible).

And lastly, not all guys are gifted with the ability to detect whether girls like him or not.
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Old 2013-01-10, 08:12   Link #216
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So I keep hearing complaints like, "MC is as dense as a bag of rocks". Seriously, I'm tired of it, whether if that's the case for most or not.
The problem many of these people have isn't really with the protagonist, though they are blaming him. I would guess that the problem is that they are bored/sick/annoyed by the shounen romantic comedy formula itself: that of prolonging the romantic uncertainty as long as possible and only having the main couple "hook up" right at the very end. They're probably annoyed because they can see where the story is heading, and don't want to go through all the motions to get to the end point. But going through the motions (and all the hijinks that ensue) is pretty much the central purpose/intention of a lot of these shows.

If someone's going to watch "harem anime" (in the true sense, not romantic dramas and story-driven visual novel adaptations), it's probably best to just accept that "dense" protagonists are par for the course (as that's part of what makes the plot work).
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Old 2013-01-10, 08:44   Link #217
Kakkou
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NK_500 View Post
Kimi to Boku actually applied as "virtual boyfriends" show and it also main selling point for Miracle Train as well. Hetalia also degenerates into that category too by looking its fanbase. Ouran High School Host club may also qualify if Haruhi and Renge aren't there, IMO.

It may sounds like a joke but I actually agree with Master Assassin that the MC in most harem and reverse harem shows are nothing more than a placeholder or a cardboard cutout with a "place your face here" hole. However shows like K-On and Kimi to Boku proves us that viewers don't even need that placeholder in first place. That's why I calling them as "virtual boyfriend/girlfriend" shows.
Kimi to Boku.? A series that actually gives each leading male a love interest along with development in their relation ship, be it gradual progress or bittersweet ends? Yeah, I'd suggest looking for another example there.
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Old 2013-01-10, 08:47   Link #218
Snuffle
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Join Date: Nov 2007
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Age: 33
Isn't the point of harem type anime is to enjoy the characters joining the harem rather than the person who is creating one?
(Although there are some exceptions for plot reasons like "Hagure Yuusha no Estetica")

However, when the typical harem is reversed (otome type harem), it's obvious that I would be focusing on the most likely sole girl in the show (I don't watch many of these). She needs to be appealing enough for me to catch my interest or else I won't really care about the other characters (or the show) since they, like myself, are male.

If I took this question in the perspective that the person who is the core of the harem should be appealing enough for the opposite gender, then yes, harem anime do tend to have uninteresting male leads. But like I said in my first sentence, I think the objective of the show is to enjoy the other characters involved, not the harem ringleader.
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Old 2013-01-10, 08:50   Link #219
judasmartel
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So the problem arises when people try to relate themselves to the harem ringleader even if he's the least important character in the story?
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Old 2013-01-10, 09:12   Link #220
Snuffle
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Quote:
Originally Posted by judasmartel View Post
So the problem arises when people try to relate themselves to the harem ringleader even if he's the least important character in the story?
Well it's possible, I wouldn't know. Every person enjoys entertainment in their own way, who am I to say how they should watch it. For me, it's mostly irrelevant how interesting the male MC is in a harem show, it's all about what he's providing to the audience. In this case, it's all the eye candy that surrounds him.

According to sales, most people probably don't care about the lead character in harem anime. Take "To Love Ru" for example, do people watch that show for the male MC or the girls around him? I for one don't feel any connection to the male MC there, nor do I think he's interesting. However, I do wish I had his life.

Last edited by Snuffle; 2013-01-10 at 09:23.
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