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The 'Red Thread' of harem stories in different cultures

Sl
Updated:

I've always had a soft spot for harem stories, starting when I was a youngling and watching anime, progressing to japanese light novels and eventually chinese web novels, and lastly western written stories.

I find it both interesting and frustrating that the vast majority of harem stories follow, if not stereotypes, then a red thread, but this red thread is different for each of japanese, chinese and western stories.

In the japanese ones we have the usual MC dense as a rock, surrounded by ~4 girls that are trying to get his attention, but the MC seldom actually enters in a relationship with the girls. More often than not he ends up with 'the main girl' and the other girls are there for banter and comedy relief.

In the chinese ones, the women is in great numbers, often 10+, and it's not rare for the harem to be adressed as a single entity i.e 'the women' or 'the wives' and lose alot of individuality. The MC and his love interest/s often get seperated for a long time, some times for hundreds of chapters. It's happened that he leaves a girl behind to go do something, and then when the girl shows up 500 chapters later, I'd have to go back to find out who the hell she is, since she's been all but forgotten. And we can't forget the arranged marriages. It's next to guaranteed that atleast one girl in the harem will either have an arranged marriage planned by her family, or the girls status is too high for the MC, either way it plays out the same with MC having to prove himself and beat the crap out of some arrogant fiancé.

The western ones I've read are fairly diverse, and while the one common thing I've found that sticks out have been 100% true for all the western harems I've read, the sample size for me is way smaller for the western ones compared to the japanese and chinese, and I'm sure there are exceptions to this, just as there are exception within the jp/cn harems.

Anyhow, the thing I've found all the western harems I've read have in common is bisexuality. I can't recall a single western harem I've read which didn't feature bisexual women. Sometimes there's a girl or two within the harem that stays straight, but there's always some bisexual women. What I find interesting with this is that while all the western harems feature bisexuality, I can't recall a single japanese one, and just one chinese one that had bisexuality. I'm sure there exists more that I haven't read, but from my experience this is the most glaring contrast between western and asian harems. Why do you all think this is? Is it because most western harems I've read are from this site and people want to read about hot lesbian sex and threesomes? Maybe, but I'd like to think that isn't the case, since bisexuality is present in stories with minimal and no sex aswell as stories from other sources than SOL. Why do you think the asian ones so seldom have the harem girls be bisexual? At first I thought that maybe it's because they are conservative and not accepting of bisexuality, but I don't think that's the case atleast with Japan since they have a big 'Yaoi' (gay) and 'Yuri' (lesbian) culture, atleast when it comes to manga and light novels.

Do asian men just not like their girls being together? Or do westerners have an unhealthy fixation of girl-on-girl action?

Does anyone know of more things western harem stories have in common? The only other thing I've found that kind of stood out is how the main characters take on different lovers that doesn't end up in the harem. They will be lovers for a little while and then the MC will play matchmaker and set the girl up with someone else, or he will just be happy to see her go and be happy with someone else. I find that in the asian harems, when a girl is into the MC, she stays with the MC and seldom 'moves on' from him. But to be honest, this might be more of a Joe J and John Wales kind of thing than a western thing. I don't mind really mind it, and I've liked most of their stories I've read, but I remember thinking while reading their stories that this is a really different approach from the asian harems!

robberhands

I think, in most western stories involving a female harem, the bisexuality of the women is used as a kind of explanation. Why would a woman be content to live in a harem if she doesn't care for other women? I guess, Chinese and Japanese authors either don't care much for the motivation of the women involved, or they don't view living in a harem as an illogical live-choice.

Replies:   samuelmichaels  Not_a_ID
samuelmichaels

@robberhands

There are exceptions, sure, like Death By Fucking by Andrew Wiggin, but you are right, the majority of harem stories do have bisexual females.

I think, in most western stories involving a female harem, the bisexuality of the women is used as a kind of explanation. Why would a woman be content to live in a harem if she doesn't care for other women?

Well sure. Plus, girl-on-girl sex is really hot!

Geek of Ages

In the harem story I've been writing, that the girls aren't bisexual (and not actually into doing things with the other girls) is a plot point.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
moredrowsy
Updated:

> Do asian men just not like their girls being together?

When you're talking about harem in the anime/manga niche, the target audience is kids. You can't really expect Japanese creators that target kids to show mature content (unless it's hentai), let alone controversial topics like homosexuality. Sure, they have flirting, big boobs, panty shots and etc but that's as far as they can really stretch it most of the time.

>Or do westerners have an unhealthy fixation of girl-on-girl action?

The authors use bisexuality as a way to justify the harem situation.

"Hey, if the guy wants two girls, what's the best way for both of those girls to share the same guy? Make them bisexual, so all parties are happy! Win-win situation..."

>In the chinese ones, the women is in great numbers, often 10+

For the chinese stories, they tend to go for the numbers. Quantity >> quality. It becomes real boring (with little to no character development) and hard to keep up with all those female characters. But honestly, in regards to the stories floating around on the web for free, the Chinese stories are just way too immature and amateurish.

Replies:   samuelmichaels
Not_a_ID

@robberhands

I think, in most western stories involving a female harem, the bisexuality of the women is used as a kind of explanation. Why would a woman be content to live in a harem if she doesn't care for other women? I guess, Chinese and Japanese authors either don't care much for the motivation of the women involved, or they don't view living in a harem as an illogical live-choice.


Well, that and they do have something of a ("recent") history with harems in comparison to the west. So they're probably playing on historical norms for their cultures as well. Which means bi/lesbian action, it it is going on, isn't to be spoken of.

That said, there is plenty of more recent Japanese material which is having fun being ambiguous as to the sexuality of at least some of the women involved. (The female groper/pervert providing slapstick)

Replies:   KimLittle
samuelmichaels

@moredrowsy

For the chinese stories, they tend to go for the numbers. Quantity >> quality. It becomes real boring (with little to no character development) and hard to keep up with all those female characters. But honestly, in regards to the stories floating around on the web for free, the Chinese stories are just way too immature and amateurish.

There are exceptions in Chinese web novels: the MC in Release That Witch barely got past the kissing stage with one woman so far (over 800k words), and while there are hints of attraction to the MC from one or possibly two other women, so far all relationships are clearly monogamous. Even the very concept of polygamy or polyamory seems to not exist.

sejintenej

http://storiesonline.net/s/49428:50713 Prisoner of the Widows by Joe J
relates to wives of an absent Iraqi. I haven't notices any bisexuality in this story which is perhaps another comparatively rare occurrence.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@sejintenej

IIRC, two of the MC's wifes had a previous and significant sexual liaison at college.

sejintenej
Updated:


IIRC, two of the MC's wifes had a previous and significant sexual liaison at college.


Yes, there had been a very short liaison between the doctor and one of the wives when she was a student but that occurred long before the student was "married" to the Jordanian. In fact, though it is implied, did the doctor actually become a wife rather that a partner in the clinic? (I haven't had time to go back and reread that part of the story)

I suspect that PoluPali is thinking about a liaison between the women DURING the harem period

Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

In the harem story I've been writing, that the girls aren't bisexual (and not actually into doing things with the other girls) is a plot point.

A main plot point for me, is that you always have the 'odd man (or girl) out', who doesn't enjoy girl-on-girl, but still wants to be taken seriously. You really don't want every girl being a carbon copy of the others, so a little originality and a slightly different bent is a nice way to breathe a little individuality (and establish a little conflict) between the girls.

But any story where you can't tell one girl from the next, it's time to abandon the story, since the girls have become empty meaningless shell characters. :(

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

a slightly different bent


Is that like a kink?

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

There are things I want to say about this, but they're all spoilers. Instead, I'll just say you'll have to read it whenever I finish it and post it :)

KimLittle
Updated:

@Not_a_ID

Look at the character archetypes in prototypical Japanese harem type manga ('Love Hina' or at a stretch 'Ranma 1/2) or even classic renai games ('To Heart', 'Tokimeki Memorial', 'Air', 'Kanon') - there's usually the following identifiable types amongst them:

- osananajimi (childhood friend type): usually been waiting patiently for the protagonist to realise she's literally the perfect girl for him. She's usually the first character we meet, and all the other character types are introduced as the story starts due to some mechanism of change (moving schools/towns/being sent away to study/etc).

- bokkuko (tomboy type): sporty, usually has short hair, often inolved in some aggressive sport that allows them to inflict discomfort/pain on the protagonist

- imouto (little sister): looks way younger, usually is way younger. The epitome of 'cute'. The protagonist wildly swings between 'must initiate into sexytimes' and 'must protect sweet naive blossom of femininity'.

- oneesan (older sister): sometimes a year or two older, possibly even older than the protagnist. Usually not a direct object of the protagnists desires, but definitely prepared to make dry comments about his obvious ineptitude with the ladies

- ojousama (proper lady/princess): Very upper class, well-raised, well-mannered. Usually comes from money.

@moredrowsy


When you're talking about harem in the anime/manga niche, the target audience is kids. You can't really expect Japanese creators that target kids to show mature content (unless it's hentai), let alone controversial topics like homosexuality. Sure, they have flirting, big boobs, panty shots and etc but that's as far as they can really stretch it most of the time.


I disagree. Most of the best manga authors come from the world of doujinshi (lit. doujin = same person, shi (from zasshi) = magazine,so therefore "self published" or an "indie" in English parlance). They are perfectly happy with putting in all kinds of sexy times BUT for obvious reasons, unless you are published by houses like TENMA and other ero-specific outlets who are not mainstream, you have to tame it down for general consumption.

Even so, they're definitely not for 'kids' (I'm assuming JHS and ES students are 'kids'). High school/university aged (mostly boys) would read stuff like 'Love Hina', 'Mahou Sensei Negima', 'Nisekoi', 'Haganai', etc.

And ultimately, the published 'safe' stuff that gets printed in weeklies, spawns longevity of a franchise through fan-produced doujinshi (or even, although it's done under well-known pesudonyms, original creator-produced doujinshi) where the characters DEFINITELY do get it on:

- The childhood friend convinces the protag that she is the right one for him and they get it on

- The tomboy decides she will prove to him that she is a REAL woman, so they get it on

- The little sister insists that he has to be the one to initiate her, so they get it on

- The older sister decides that he is useless and needs some training and confidence building, so they get it on

- The proper lady breaks free from the shelter of her family's wealth, gives in to her base desires for this strangely attractive commoner, so they get it on

And of course all the variations of...

- All the female characters tie him up and take turns getting it on with him in an effort to force him to choose. In doing so, the childhood friend helps the little sister mount the protagonist whilst the tomboy dykes out with the older sister, and then the reserved proper lady breaks out the strap-on dick (or turns out all those expensive ankle length skirts are concealing her own built in dick).

Sources:

- 20+ years of extensive literature review

- 10+ Comic Market events as an attendee and seller

- 15+ Years of Japanese language experience

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

But any story where you can't tell one girl from the next, it's time to abandon the story, since the girls have become empty meaningless shell characters. :(


I agree - I mark down stories which start by giving the harem members back-stories and personalities then reduces their status to 'interchangeable fuck of the day' every ten chapters or so. Judging by story scores, I'm very much in a minority :(

AJ

Geek of Ages

Per previous commentary, I have finished my harem story.

http://storiesonline.net/s/17323/number-five

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