The future of Harem Anime
Harem anime is an interesting case study of an anime genre. It’s an example of a genre that had a very specific bubble of popularity. While harems have existed in anime since the early 90’s, the genre didn’t really hit it’s peak until 2000-2012. This was around the time that Love Hina and Fruit Baskets burst into the scene, ushering in an era of multi-person love interests and unnecessary fan service. Harem shows were reliable successes that required a modest effort from the animators or directors. Action harems do exist, but most show in the genre as simple slice of life shows with a comedic twist.
But the bubble did eventually burst, as anime was hit with other new genre: Isekai. And while straight forward harem anime aren’t being produced as much as before, harems have successfully transferred into other genres. Sword Art Online is a Isekai-harem show. No Game, No Life is a Isekai-harem show. They may try to hide behind a too-cool-for-school game setting, but it’s still just an excuse to have a bunch of pretty girls fall in love with one character. In fact, a lot of these shows even address the protagonists lack of agency by him the defacto strongest character in the game. Now girls like him because he’s a “good guy” that’s also good at video games.
To summarize, the harem genre is not as popular as it once was. But the harem plot is not going anywhere. If anything, harems have just evolved from “genre” to “concept.” Shows may not market themselves primarily as harems anymore, but we will still get shows where the male protagonist is surrounded by multiple attractive love interest. A testimate to anime’s views on sexuality and gender dynamics.