Here’s the general plot of any harem anime: an attractive male character navigates the affections of three equally cute and attractive female characters wearing tight shirts and short skirts. The male protagonist as he gets to know each girl and eventually fall in love with one of them. After, of course, each one falls in love with him, too.
That is not the case here for Netflix’s Kuromukuro, which employs the initial set-up of the harem anime without following through. Netflix’s new anime series is a mecha anime that follows a samurai pulled from his time and into the future where he helps defend his new home from harm. This would seem to be a show that is totally divorced from the goofy harem anime, but what if it wasn’t? As much as the two genres are different, harem anime could benefit the heavy action of Kuromukuro and others of its kind.
What exactly is a harem anime?
Well, to start, the term “harem” refers to a Middle Eastern word which describes a group of women — wives, concubines, children — in a polygamous household. Usually it meant the section of the house that they stayed in, but other times it meant the group itself.
By knowing this definition, you can kind of guess at what the anime genre is. One man or woman stars in the show and they are surrounded by a group of the opposite sex, all of them (or at least three) potential love interests. Some more well-known examples are Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, and Rosario to Vampire.
Usually, these types of anime are overflowing with perverted fan-service, but that’s not always the case. Fruits Basket and Ouran High School Host Club, for instance, aren’t popping out boobs and panty shots every other frame. Granted, the latter of the two has two playfully incestuous twins in every episode, but looking beyond that we see something that harem anime does very well: fleshing out their characters.
#### Making interesting characters
In harem anime series, there is usually a pretty sizable cast of main characters. There is, of course, the main love interest that all of the opposite sex will pine over. And there is the cast of the opposite sex, which usually ranges between three to five.
Harem anime usually devotes multiple episodes to each of these characters. The genre, usually slice-of-life, is a perfect vehicle for that because there can be plenty of time dedicated to going over backstory, motivations, and personality.
Of course there are exceptions to any generalization, but for action anime, mecha included, there usually isn’t as much time dedicated to as many characters as a harem as deserved. Obviously the main draw and point of the action anime is for the action, so some might not even care, but by giving attention to that many characters, and not just the main ones, always brings new life into a show.
‘Kuromukuro’ could potentially be one of those anime that leans a little too heavily on crafting its action sequences, and its characters and storyline feel less robust because of that focus. However, it’s being produced by the same studio, P.A. Works, which brings to the screen many complex and pleasant slice-of-life/drama shows, like Angel Beats! and True Tears. And Angel Beats! was one of those anime that had a nice balance between all of its genres, including its elements of fantasy and action.
Kuromukuro has a larger cast of mech pilots, about as many as one would see in a harem of that genre, so to give equal treatment to all of the soldiers and students, and for the audience to feel invested in all of those characters Kuromukuro will hopefully balance its action out with a little slice-of-life harem attitude. Grabbing bits of the comedic style of harem anime isn’t always a bad thing either. Most are quite hilarious.