Love triangles are dime a dozen in animes and mangas. Usually playing on the red oni, blue oni trope, we wage bitter fandom wars and call on our personal Jesuses if it meant ensuring our ship sails. But you know what’s hotter than two hot guys jousting over their one true love? THREE OR MORE MEN JOUSTING OVER THEIR ONE TRUE LOVE!
A reverse harem includes three or more characters who potentially show romantic interest in a female protagonist. The sex, gender, or orientation of the harem members is irrelevant as long as they exclusively, or at least primarily, are vying for the affections of the same individual – who may or may not reciprocate towards one, several, or none of these romantic rivals. – http://www.anime-planet.com/manga/tags/reverse-harem
Today, let’s shine the light on some of the swoon-worthiest, snot-inducing, and so-so reverse harems in anime and manga. Note that my list will only cover titles that I’ve read/seen. Also, titles like KoiDano will not be included because there are only two primary men aiming for Naedoko (there’s a third guy, but it’s mostly played out as a joke type of infatuation, so it doesn’t count in my book).
As always, when you read my anime and manga listicles, you know what it entails: SPOILERS ABOUND!
Reimei no Arcana – Touma, Rei
Harem Context: Princess Nakaba of Senan marries Prince Caesar in a marriage for convenience to unify two warring kingdoms. She hates his guts, and he, hers. Her trusted aide, Loki, stays by her side at all time. Back in her homeland, her childhood bully Prince Adel may still be secretly in love with her.
Reasons to Heart: Extremely well-written story that weaves politics, fantasy, time travel, and romance seamlessly. The characters are all likable, and have their own stories that explain their motivations and actions in the storyline. The heroine is strong-willed and plucky, justifying how these three different, gorgeous men end up falling for her.
Who Were You Rooting For? I’m the type of girl who likes devoted types like Loki, but man, I had to go for Caesar here. His hate to respect to love progression reminds me of Li Syaoran from Card Captor Sakura: so adorbs.
Did She Pick One in the End? Yes. It was an expected yet satisfying choice pushed by an unexpected, heartbreaking twist. And I mean, UNEXPECTED. God, someone please make this an anime series with kickass art like Akatsuki no Yona.
Ouran High School Host Club – Hatori, Bisco
Harem Context: Poor, smart, boyish-looking Haruhi is forced by the rich boys of the Ouran High School Host Club to work with them as a host in order to pay for an expensive vase she broke. And by the rules of shoujo tropes, she is adorably oblivious to the growing affections of the boys for her.
Reasons to Heart: Smart, hilarious writing that is not afraid to poke fun of the shoujo manga industry that feeds its mangaka. There’s a reason the title has been adapted into both anime and a live action, as well as why it’s always the first rec for novice otakus.
Who Were You Rooting For? I am terribly biased towards glasses-wearing men because they’re sexy AF. Kyouya-kun FTW! I always feel that he is her only intellectual equivalent and fellow sane, straight man in the crowd. Alas, Kyouya likes the family setup and Tamaki more than a tryst with our heroine. But at least, he technically got her to his bed. :p
(Hikaru’s chapel scene with Haruhi is also a close second for moi.)
Did She Pick One in the End? Yes. It was a sweet, well-deserved ending.
Saiunkoku Monogatari – Yura, Kairi (Art), Yukino, Sai (Story)
Harem Context: Impoverished noble lady Shuurei Hong agrees to join the imperial household for 6 months as the young Emperor’s consort in order to teach him to become a more responsible leader and to do away with the nasty gossips regarding his sexual preference, in exchange for a monetary reward. Emperor Ryuuki falls for her, but supports her anyway so she can achieve her cherished dreams of becoming the first female government official of the country. Meanwhile, Seiran Si is the devoted Hong household retainer who has a secret past. He looks after Shuurei like an elder brother, although there are some moments when you wonder if that’s all there really is to it. Then there’s Sa Sakujun, the villainous and murderous political marriage partner of Shuurei. Despite being older than her by twelve years, she manages to fascinate him enough to make him fall for her for real.
Reasons to Heart: Excellent female role models who fight and thrive in the male-dominated upper society of the fictional empire of Saiunkoku. Historical fantasy with plenty enough of political intrigues. Badass, smart, career-driven heroine to inspire all little girls everywhere. Even with the standing marriage offer from the king, this princess never wavers from her dream of serving the country in her own capacity first.
Who Were You Rooting For? The Emperor, for being such a fantastic partner in life for such a driven woman. I did enjoy seeing Sakujun’s one-sided thing for Shuurei, though.
Did She Pick One in the End? Yes. But the mangaka had to be an S and write a novel epilogue that’s equal parts depressing and awe-striking.
Akatsuki no Yona – Kusanagi, Mizuho
Harem Context: Soo-Won usurped the throne by killing the emperor and betraying Princess Yona, who was in love with him. Yet time after time, Soo-Won is shown to still think of the princess, and in the most recent chapters, seem to hint that he might be capable of returning her feelings, too. Yona’s bodyguard and childhood friend, Hak, who vowed to protect her with his life, harbors secret feelings for the oblivious princess. All of her four dragons love her, though Jae-Ha’s feelings seem to border on something beyond reverence for its master.
Reasons to Heart: Another genre-defining series that blended historical romance, politics, and fantasy so well. The character development of the heroine is excellent and believable, considering that she’s a little girl forced to grow up so soon by the circumstances. The doki-doki moments are truly endearing–the kind that makes you re-read/rewind the moment because you want to carve the memory into your brain so you can maybe dream about it later at bedtime. You will want to root for all the male options for Yona, because you can see and feel how much they love her in their own different ways.
Who Were You Rooting For? ALL OF THEM, DAMMIT! I love the lonely “girl that got away” vibe from Soo-Won, the “girl I shouldn’t fall for” feels from Jae-ha, and the “girl I will follow till the end of time” thought from Hak. Oh, and Kija’s Catholic schoolboy crush on Yona is beyond adorable.
Did She Pick One in the End? Not yet, as the series is still ongoing. However, it seems she has started to realize certain, um, things about a certain someone in the series.
Oresama Teacher – Tsubaki, Izumi
Harem Context: Ex-banchou (gang leader) Kurosaki Mafuyu vows to be a girly girl in her new school. Yet her personality manages to attract the oddest but most devoted circle of friends/love prospects that keep her dreams of normalcy from happening. There’s her sexy bastard of a school adviser (the same childhood friend who taught her how to fight), a seatmate who’s in love with her alter-ego #1, and a former banchou who is also her mysterious penpal. Meanwhile, back in her old neighborhood, her once-second-in-command-turned-banchou secretly pines for her.
Reasons to Heart: The series is brought you by the same mangaka that gave us the godsend Gekkai Shoujo Nozomi-kun. That should be enough to tell you what kind of awesome humor and romance we’re having in the series. All the men are kakkoii, and our heroine is truly respected and adored by these boys– even the sensei who often throws her and her friends in crazy situations because he knows she can handle it well.
Who Were You Rooting For? I don’t really mind whoever she ends up with, but I have a soft spot for Kouhei Kenkawa, who’s just really a sweetheart. I love how a supposed feared banchou looks so clueless and helpless when in the company of his former banchou. I mean, just look at how much guts he must have mustered in order to do something as simple as this?
Blushy boys = <3
Did She Pick One in the End? Not yet, as the series is still ongoing. But at this point, she has only shown blushy reactions when it comes to one prospect.
Dokuhime – Mihara, Mitsukazu
Harem Context: Lycoris is a Poison Princess sent to a rival kingdom in order to assassinate a king. Instead, she meets three brothers: Prince Hal leads in his father’s stead, Prince Mao is Hal’s bodyguard and food taster, while Kait is the eccentric, oft-ignored sibling. All three fall for Lyco in various ways for various reasons, but cannot act on it because each carries a predestined burden of either protecting, leading, or bringing destruction to their kingdom.
Reasons to Heart: Gosh, the reason I wrote this blog post is because of this manga title. It’s rare for me to find a reverse harem where you’re kept guessing until the end who the heroine ends up with. Sure, said heroine may feel for Guy A, but how will they end up together if he has these seemingly insurmountable baggages, thanks to his predicted fate? But then again, it’s only Guy B who understands what she’s going through! Wait, wait, here comes our dark horse, Guy C! So, tl;dr: I loved the twists. It may take time to get adjusted with the gothic art style and disjointed narration at the first few chapters, but stick with it! I promise you, it’s all worth it!!!
Who Were You Rooting For? It was a close race between the sadistic Prince Mao and the in-denial Prince Hal, but #TeamHal won me in the end. It was a delicious wait for him to drop his tsundere act towards the heroine.
Did She Pick One in the End? Yes. To say anything more will be too huge a spoiler.
Savage Garden – Lee, Hyeon-Sook
Harem Context: After her friend Jeremy’s death, Gabriel must impersonate him and attend his private, all-boys school. There he meets Euan, the President of the student government and a bisexual playboy; Ray, a smart, aloof young man and younger brother of Euan; and Joshua, a bratty rich kid who liked Ray, but soon started to grow enamored of Jeremy/Gabriel.
Reasons to Heart: It sets a great atmosphere of dangerous, seductive, hush-hush world of the moneyed inside the playground that is the all-boys academy. Nearly everyone in the story is twisted, which makes it feel like watching Cruel Intentions all over again. The shipping moments are sexy as hell, especially since most of them involve the forbidden taste of homosexuality– something that can shatter their social standing if ever this breaks out into the open.
Who Were You Rooting For? Euan. He’s the misunderstood good-guy-all-along type, and he seems genre-savvier than the rest of the cast. I also feel he watches after Gabriel the most.
Did She Pick One in the End? Yes. But it was a shitty way to get to that point. I feel one of the ending twists was unnecessarily cruel and a real downer. But prior to that, Savage Garden was a terrific read. You wouldn’t want to sleep unless you finish the whole damn thing.
Umi no Kishidan – Togawa, Mitomo
Harem Context: Smart, beautiful, and swordsmanship-gifted Lady Knight Aciel is the trailblazing leader of the knights association who wins the hearts of men and women alike, including the dissecting-loving doctor, the lusty and rough playboy, and the feared, wicked pirate that slaughtered hundreds of men in the seas.
Reasons to Heart: It’s rare to see anime and manga women who are a total boss in what they do, and don’t get shit from the rest of the men for excelling. Aciel is not a ceremonial, deus ex machina head, but someone who worked her way to the top properly through her own skills and smarts. But at the same time, she is kind-hearted and noble, and would never leave her men behind. No wonder all these great folks fell for her.
Who Were You Rooting For? I started rooting for the doctor (because I love nice guys, and they rarely get the good end of the stick in animes and mangas), but in the latter part of the story, I changed ships (pun intended) and went for the pirate instead. Hats off to Dragut the pirate for working so hard to earn the affections of his lady love.
Did She Pick One in the End? Though scanlations are still ongoing, I feel Aciel has already made her choice. It’s a choice I definitely understand and agree with, but still… man, I feel bad for the other guy. :/
Scarlet Palace -Yi, Huan
Harem Context: Ninghu is elected by her clan to become a bride/queen prospect for King Xun, but rumors are, King Xun aren’t interested in concubines. She poses as a eunuch servant to get closer to her target, with devoted big brother persona Yuanren looking after her. However, King Xun’s favored adviser, Lingyu, catches wind and makes her his personal servant. And when King Xun finally arrives, their decades of friendship is tested because they both fall in love with the same person.
Reasons to Heart: The art takes some time getting used to, but the plot of court intrigues, power struggle among clans, and the extent of friendship and bonds will pull you right in to the series. Ninghu’s greatest strength is the typical shoujo trait of kindness, so it’s really the interestingly imperfect men who carry the burden of the show’s likability.
Who Were You Rooting For? It would have to be King Xun. Gotta love how desperate he wants to be touched and held and loved as a man, and not as a king. Plus that moment he was so excited to return home because he knows Ninghu’s waiting for him… too heartwarming!
Did She Pick One in the End? Again, scanlations are still ongoing, but the manhua seems to be in its final stretch, so it’s safe to say that the man she picked is The One.
These reverse harem titles are decent reads, but just aren’t fantastic enough to be up there with Ouran et al.
Ultimate Venus – Shigematsu, Takako
The shoujo heroine borders on annoying, but luckily, the anime guys are drawn so well, plus there’s a megane character, yay!
A Kiss to the Prince – Kim, Hee Eun
A fairy tale with a bitchy princess– what’s not to like, right? Enjoyable female lead and nice, light-hearted scenes at the start of the story. Had to rank it lower to so-so because its reverse harem angle isn’t just as pronounced as it should be.
Cosplay Deka – Doumoto, Nao
The series seems to be torn between being a feminist and being a typical save-the-damsel jousei. It preaches on women’s freedom to be what they want to be, and then in another page, get manhandled by a seemingly good, respectable supervisor in order to prove a point about men’s superiority of strength to women. That’s the reason I rated this as a so-so, despite the nice execution of its reverse harem.
Kamisama Hajimemashite – Suzuki, Julietta
It reminds me a bit of Inu Yasha: feudal period creatures, falling for a half-man magical being, and elements of time-travel. As it’s obvious who the end-game pairing is, plus the story plays out like a typical adventure-comedy-romance title, I ranked it as a So-So. Also, I’m #TeamKirihito. Fight me!
Kuragehime – Higashimura, Akiko
The So-So rank is not a knock on its story, but the way it executed the reverse harem aspect of the story. It doesn’t take place till well over the 70 chapters, and even then, it’s over and gone so quickly. But to be fair, the series is still ongoing so we may not have seen the last of Guy#3. However, as Shuu has already backed down from trying to win Tsukimi, the end game prospect has become clearer.
Ai wo Choudai! – Ooya, Kazumi
I’m not a big fan of BF-of-the-day format of the title, but the guys are drawn so bishified that I’m ready to forgive its typical heroine. Also, I am rooting for the media exec. Sorry, I have to go against my eyeglasses fetish this time.
1/2 Prince – Choi, Hong Chong (Art), Yu, Wo (Story)
Girl MMORPG player pretends to be a boy online. Women AND a man (who later turns out to be her young prodigy teacher teacher) fall for her, er, him. Also, someone who knows her IRL and has been in love with her for 8 years surfaces in the game. Then around the latter part of the series, a sentient AI big baddie fall for her, too! Not a big fan of how the love story gets resolved, but the story’s engaging enough for readers to follow.
Brothers Conflict – Udajo (Art), Kanase, Atsuko (Story)
Maybe it’s just because I’m not the anime’s target demographic, but my gawd, this shit terrified me! 13 brothers. A bland, cardboard heroine who couldn’t stand up for herself even if she’s most certainly facing harassment from her brothers. All 13 brothers in varying ages deciding to fall in love with that one girl you shouldn’t fall for. Even a squirrel– a friggin’ SQUIRREL– turns into a man in love with the seemingly only XX Chromosome within safe radius of the vicinity. Ugh. After seeing several episodes of this on TV, I thought I couldn’t have enough brain bleach to cleanse the damage this show wrought on me.
Yume Miru Taiyou – Takano, Ichigo
OOOOOH, the female lead makes my head hurt so much! Shallow, fickle-minded, and a veritable doormat, she embodies all the shoujo manga leads that bring bad rep to the genre. I don’t understand what the landlord liked in her (I mean, he should know better, at his age!). I don’t understand the girl’s priorities and life choices. I don’t understand why I bothered finishing this crap. Sunk cost fallacy at work, I guess?
Fushigi Yuugi – Watase, Yuu
This is the fantasy romance adventure niche that Akatsuki no Yona greatly improved on by leaps and bounds. I couldn’t comprehend what all of the men saw in Miaka for them to suddenly fall for her. Take my advice and go for her FY spin-off, Fushigi Yuugi Genbu. The heroine is much more likable, and the romance dynamics are so much more believable.
Diabolik Lovers – no specified author from MAL
This series. THIS SERIES. Kami-sama, I’ve lost count of how many times I yelled at the screen, “What the effin’ F is wrong with you?” or “Why do you let them do that to you?” or “Ugh, say something!!!!!!!!” If I die and will be reborn, I resolve never to touch this series again, even with a ten-foot pole.
Do you have reverse harem suggestions of your own? Let m know in the comments!