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Old 2012-10-14, 08:53   Link #1
backbone
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Why does most harem anime tend to have uninteresting male leads?

Truthfully, i'm a big fan of harem anime (particularly Tenchi series, including Isekai no Seikishi). During this time i've been looking for a harem title with "real" protagonist with big balls. Unfortunately, in the end i just got bored since many harem stories that look stupid because of their uninteresting male leads. What i found though, most male leads usually :

- plain, not ugly, just plain looking

- "slice of life" type guy. Leads a normal, boring life with no interesting activities

- non-action guy, he won't put a fight unless it's the very last episode and he's also mediocre at best

- stupid, not the smart type, must rely on his partner or best friend

- unpopular with normal girls, but popular with cutest girls, even though he barely does anything worthy towards them.

- inhumanly dense, even though girls around him clearly show affections toward him.

- getting abused by the tsundere girls all the time while he can't do anything about it.

- boring, dull personality, with no outstanding qualities aside of being a nice guy.

My point is, why those story writers love to use such flawed male leads? Or alternatively, why not just make the MC cooler/funnier/more awesome so that the story became more interesting?
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Old 2012-10-14, 09:01   Link #2
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I think it has to do with the Japanese inferiority mindset. They basically want the viewer to self-insert and think, "hey, I'm cooler than this guy in _____ ways! I could totally be in a situation like this, and I'd actually have sex with these girls!" (note that in 99% of harem animes, that never happens, even off screen)
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Old 2012-10-14, 09:05   Link #3
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I thought it was because the kind of character created is necessary for the story being told. Every element has a reason for being the way it is, and the character traits are necessary for maintaining that balance in keeping the premise going.
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Old 2012-10-14, 09:16   Link #4
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Probably to get empathy from the audience."That guy is a loser just like me, but he's swarmed in girls!
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Old 2012-10-14, 09:44   Link #5
Chaos2Frozen
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It seems like you people don't really give much thought into this, Midonin has the right idea though.


Ever noticed that in shoujo series the exact same thing happens but with reverse gender? Normal protagonists, whether male or female, are used to show how abnormal or special the love interests are, I believe someone once said that the goal is to have the audience fall in love with the love interest just as the protagonist is doing the same... Which I thought was an interesting concept.


There's a need for some contrast because normal + normal = boring, but at the same time special + special = normal because if everybody is special, then nobody is.


Now, why not make a special protagonist with normal love interests? Well yes you can do it and I'm certain there are shows like that, but seriously are you watching the show for the guy or the girls (reverse for shoujo) ? Even then, people are still going to whine that it's wish-fulfillment to be some badass pimp who is a one-man-army that can do everything so you're screwed either way... Might as well go for a 'David vs Goliath' scenario where a normal protagonist wins the heart of a beautiful lover... There's a higher chance for people to root for an underdog, plus it's easier and more interesting to write about uphill battles than curbstomping ones.
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Old 2012-10-14, 09:55   Link #6
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If the lead guy is good and assertive to the women then there's no point in it. It's best for the women to be the one trying to get closer to the lead guy, That's what the harem's lead guy's traits.
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Old 2012-10-14, 11:30   Link #7
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So that the audience can more easily project onto the protagonist.

Same goes with shoujo...
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Old 2012-10-14, 11:32   Link #8
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Hmmm, How about Sword Art Online?
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Old 2012-10-14, 13:37   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midonin View Post
I thought it was because the kind of character created is necessary for the story being told. Every element has a reason for being the way it is, and the character traits are necessary for maintaining that balance in keeping the premise going.
I think this is exactly right. I think it's less about "projection" or "self-insert" as much as it's about what's necessary to make the story work.

This may seem ironic in a way, but a flawed protagonist is necessary to maintain the suspension of disbelief -- not as to why girls are interested in him in the first place (though that is usually addressed to some degree, but doesn't honestly matter too much), but why the "harem" status quo can be maintained for so long. If the guy is good looking and he knows it, and has no hesitation at all about the situation he's in, then he would just be a womanizer, and having a harem lead who actually sleeps around is not (usually) part of the fantasy. So the lead has to have some sort of justifiable inferiority complex (or plain inferiority) or some strong sense of morality that counters the situation he's in. So either a) he can't be particularly smart, or b) he can't be particularly handsome, or c) he has to be dense about the feelings of the women around him, or d) he has to be fixated on "true love" (either as an unreachable person or as a general concept), or... so on. Something so that he isn't taking advantage of the women who love him, or deliberately messing with their feelings.

And the other point that was already alluded to is that the main character has to be adaptable to the situation. This is because the heroines are the real stars of the show (not the protagonist), so the protagonist has to be able to fit into their context when the plot demands it. Harem anime tend to be filled with as diverse a cast as characters as possible (and that's one reason why so many take place in high school -- where else would a diverse group of characters with little else in common commonly congregate?), so that makes the protagonist's "neutrality" a valuable asset in the story. This is why whatever strengths or abilities he has are generally only "useful, general traits" but nothing too highly-specialized. If he's too highly-specialized, then that means that all the rest of the heroines will be more connected to his specialization too, and that may narrow your target audience if they can't identify with whatever it is the cast is interested in.

I think there are some harem anime that have interesting protagonists as far as it goes, but again, the protagonist in these shows is really only the vehicle through which the plot unfolds. You generally want them to stay out of the spotlight more often than not.


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Originally Posted by wontaek View Post
Hmmm, How about Sword Art Online?
Spoiler for SAO Anime (up to ep. 14/15):
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Old 2012-10-14, 16:25   Link #10
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Adding more to the "male lead reflecting the male audience" concept: keep in mind that a number of harem titles are based on "visual novels" in which the player assumes the role of the male lead, with him seeing things from his POV. As such, these characters do tend to lack the personality that is found in the females that are interested in him.
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Old 2012-10-14, 16:37   Link #11
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One of the reasons people often move over to "seinen romance" after a few (dozen) shounen harem series. You get stronger (or at least more varied) male leads and often more complex female characters. There are usually external reasons for delaying coupling up, or the personalities themselves have to adjust to each other.
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Old 2012-10-14, 16:52   Link #12
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Let me add in another little detail- it also has to do with the show you're watching, and namely its timeslot. I've seen a lot of harems that fall under most peoples' radar, due to a lot of the reasons stated in the first post, shows such as: Magikano, Omamori Himari, Freezing (okay, I think this one had a bit more popularity... maybe), etc. and they all had the male protagonist being a guy who did nothing incredible until the last few episodes. Now for the part where I start making assumnptions and could be wrong on any of these aspects: I'm sure they all were in the timeslot of "late night anime" (I could be wrong on this), and half the shows that premier during this timeslot are otaku-pandering, or so I've heard; i.e. this means they're being watched mostly for the assets of the ladies (quick disclaimer- I'm well aware there are other late-night anime shows, but those mainly seem to be on due to blood and gore).

In fact, my personal favorite harems are ones where the guy is able to be just as awesome, if not even more so than the ladies- Daimou is one of my favorites, and just recently I've fallen in love with Hagure Yuusha. I know what the flaw of Daimou is (wants to become a great Priest but is destined to be Demon King), but Hagure Yuusha... well, admittedly I haven't had enough time to get past episode 3, but I think it's because he's been charged with keeping the daughter of the demon king he defeated under his watch
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Old 2012-10-14, 16:55   Link #13
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The MC in harems, be it boy or girl, is that they're basically the POV of the audience.
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Old 2012-10-14, 17:17   Link #14
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The problem isn't with the male characters, but with your flawed definition of "(un)interesting" instead.
Quote:
Originally Posted by backbone View Post
During this time i've been looking for a harem title with "real" protagonist with big balls.
I'm seriously baffled as to how you got the idea that his behaviour would be "real". The male characters in most harems are regular students who live regular lifes, their balls are as big as most peoples were in that age.

Maybe you're an extra hardcore kind of guy who would nail his osananajimi on a daily basis while still finding the time to enjoy the rest of his harem, but that's neither "real" nor particularly interesting. There are of course occasional harems like this (kore wa zombie..), but these usually tend to be a lot more comedy-focused.

There are plenty of good reasons as to why most harem leads act similiar, again, they are simply regular japanese students. Maybe you should avoid harems with a school setting instead, but then again, who would want a Harem of old hags?
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Old 2012-10-14, 17:17   Link #15
Chaos2Frozen
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Originally Posted by Magin View Post
Now for the part where I start making assumnptions and could be wrong on any of these aspects: I'm sure they all were in the timeslot of "late night anime" (I could be wrong on this), and half the shows that premier during this timeslot are otaku-pandering, or so I've heard; i.e. this means they're being watched mostly for the assets of the ladies (quick disclaimer- I'm well aware there are other late-night anime shows, but those mainly seem to be on due to blood and gore).

95% of all the shows we talk about ARE late night Animes =_= Not just Harem or violent shows, even SOLs and parody comedies are late night Animes.

The only shows that are during the day are young children stuff, as well as some of the more popular shounen adaptation.
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Old 2012-10-14, 17:25   Link #16
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Perhaps... it's harder to find more "Alpha Male archetypes" in Japan. Funny thing is: the number of characters, who can be described as such have dwindled.

In fact, here's a challenge. Point out some harem male characters more alpha than this dude:
Spoiler:
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Old 2012-10-14, 17:39   Link #17
NinjaRealist
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Originally Posted by Midonin View Post
I thought it was because the kind of character created is necessary for the story being told. Every element has a reason for being the way it is, and the character traits are necessary for maintaining that balance in keeping the premise going.
That's true to an extent, but there are also great harem manga DO have an interesting male lead.

I think the bet example of this is TWGOK.

To me Keima is the perfect example of how a harem lead can be both interesting and still fulfill the role of his character. I fact, it is Keima's odd, some might say unbearable, personality that makes for a lot of the great humor in this anime/manga.

Personally, I would rather have a protagonist like Keima than normal forgettable protagonist X.
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Old 2012-10-14, 17:56   Link #18
Chaos2Frozen
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Originally Posted by NinjaRealist View Post
That's true to an extent, but there are also great harem manga DO have an interesting male lead.

I think the bet example of this is TWGOK.

To me Keima is the perfect example of how a harem lead can be both interesting and still fulfill the role of his character. I fact, it is Keima's odd, some might say unbearable, personality that makes for a lot of the great humor in this anime/manga.

Personally, I would rather have a protagonist like Keima than normal forgettable protagonist X.
Harem Anime, just like any other genre, have their good and bad titles.

[The world God only knows] was able to take an old concept and put a spin to it and it paid off.

But at the same time you do realized that Keima still possesses around half the 'flaws' that the TC have stated right? He would probably still count Keima as uninteresting
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Old 2012-10-14, 19:19   Link #19
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Honestly, I think this is changing, thanks in large part to eroge adaptations.

Eroge adaptations tend to be very harem-esque, and I find that the male leads in them have actually been pretty good, solid, and often entertaining characters.

Steins;Gate's Okabe kind of has a harem. It's easy to forget that due to the sci-fi and drama parts of the show, but the guy really does have several girls crushing on him in various ways. Okabe was the best anime male character of all of 2011, imo.

The Key/KyoAni main male protagonists all have their definite strengths and they even tend to carry the scenes they're in, imo.

Mashiro-iro Symphony's Shingo was the consummate diplomat with real smoothness and finesse, and Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate's Oojima was an awesome politician with a fair number of GAR moments, imo. Hell, Oojima/Shingo would be an US Presidential ticket that I would feel really good about.


If you're tired of classic-style harem anime, then just switch on over to eroge adaptations is what I would strongly encourage.
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Old 2012-10-14, 20:22   Link #20
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^ While it's a plus that eroge adaptations are making ntheir way in, I've heard mostly negative things about eroge-based anime; the one that tends to come to mind is stuff like Princess Lover (although I don't think there was much of a plot in the original game either...)
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