Analyzing Harem Protagonists and Their Perverted Nature


Harem protagonists-for unknown reasons, they always have a mysterious charm in attracting women, regardless of age, race, and sometimes even species. In any case, I feel all harem protagonists are perverts by nature.

[HorribleSubs] Log Horizon - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.45_[2014.07.09_22.45.52]

“There are two types of men in this world. Open perverts who admit it, and closet perverts who won’t.”
~by Naotsugu (Log Horizon)

Generally, harem protagonists can be divided into two types, the first types who embrace their perverted nature and openly admits it, and closet-type perverts who keep their perverted nature hidden. For the sake of this post, I’ll just follow Naotsugu’s (of Log Horizon) lead and name these two types: “open perverts” and “closet perverts”. Usually, their characterizations very easily give it away as to which classification the protagonist belongs to.


The closet types will always deny it when any kinds of conversations or situations lead to him being “misunderstood” as a pervert, however, during ecchi “accidents”, like, say for example, when the protagonist fell down and ended up stuffing his head inside a heroine’s skirt, or when the protagonist fell down and crashed into a heroine, while his hands very “accidentally” landed on the heroine’s breasts, while innocently asking himself “Hmm.. what is this soft texture? Feels like marshmallow.” Some other typical scenes also involve the protagonist accidentally comes upon the heroine bathing in the bathroom (with the door unlocked most of the time for unknown reason), most protagonists at this point would react just like any other boys undergoing adolescence would react: panicked, blushed, embarrassed. The fact that the protagonist can feel such emotions during these scenarios means he possesses some level of lust hidden behind his “innocent boy” facade. Honestly, unless a protagonist can react just like Accelerator, uncaring and unfazed even when stumbling upon these typical ecchi harem situations, it’s hard not to label them as anything other than a pervert, and that hasn’t even accounted for how the protagonist just seems be able to initiate these ecchi “accidents” at a moment’s notice.


Most harem protagonists however, regardless of their types, usually have one thing in common – they are seemingly kind, or at least, that’s what the narrative is trying to tell us. Additionally, bland, dull, normal or any synonymous terms of the kind can also be used to describe them, both the morals and the normality of the protagonist is probably for self-insertion purposes. The latter, however, is where the characterizations between open perverts and closet perverts protagonists begin to diverge.

[HorribleSubs] Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.18_[2014.07.09_21.40.38]

For open perverts protagonists, the pervert element is also an obvious element tacked onto his character, whereas in the case of closet perverts, the probability of him being a pervert can be a little bit in the gray area, at least on an objective level. This very contrast here, adds a bit more dimension to open perverts protagonists and as a result, it’s actually difficult to label them as “bland” or “normal” – considering some of these protagonist are so open with the fact that they are perverts, they literally shout “I love breasts!” and “I will create a harem!” and the likes. Other than perverts, it’s also easy to identify them as “weird”, which is probably an opinion individuals from both within and outside the anime would share. Such open admittance, and the ability to keep up with such demeanor despite this, give an impression that these types of protagonists seem to be much more decisive than their closet counterparts too.

Closet-type harem protagonists tend to hide what they truly feel, and because of them not admitting their inner persona, they are stuck between admitting or denying their perverted nature, striking at those very contradicting nature of their character. In a way, I think we can conclude that this very contradicting nature also plays a part in their denseness, since “dense”-is also another famous label for these characters. In my personal observations, open-type harem protagonists seem to more easily say what they feel, and with it, the successful confession scenes coming much more earlier as compared to other shows with closet-type harem protagonists, if they appear at all that is for the latter. Overall, open-type harem protagonists is just more amusing to watch in general – the “kind” AND “perverted” protagonists.

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 17 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.15_[2013.12.29_16.10.39]

Actually, I think it’s a safe bet to even assume that despite most harem protagonists are designed for self-insertion, there’s a deeper connotation here relating to the fandom. If we take the character’s perverted nature as a sort of metaphor, symbolizing anime, games and the Japanese visual culture in general, then we can interpret it in an interesting direction. Most harem protagonists can be mostly be divided into open perverts and closet perverts, and taking that possible metaphor into account, it can stand to mean that most harem anime out there portrays the significance of a closet otaku or open otaku. I’m not trying to say that all of you are perverts, mind you, just that the sub-diversion of “open” and “closet” seems to be often times likened with anime and the otaku fandom in general too. There are even some harem anime with actual otaku characters which actually challenged this theme: Nogizaka Haruka from Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, and the infamous Kousaka Kirino from OreImo.


“The real world is just a crappy game. The ideal world can only be found within a game – such was my belief. But if an ideal can be found within a crappy game, there may be an ideal route in the real world… for me to discover.”
~Katsuragi Keima from The World God Only Knows S2 (Final Episode)

If we take these thoughts further, even anime like The World God Only Knows seem to base it’s concept around this theme. However, I feel it is actually more of a deconstruction of the theme. Katsuragi Keima, protagonist of said series, is definitely an open otaku through and through. He’s openly admitted about the fact that he’s an otaku, playing gal games even at school, ignoring how everyone at school labelled him as a “weirdo”. This is a clear example of those decisive strength that I had previously mentioned. Interacting with real girls however, he is known to show emotions similar to closet-type harem protagonists. This hinted that despite being a hardcore gamer otaku, he secretly desires affection beneath the cool and intelligent facade he always shows on the foreground. True enough, the hint is proven true by the last episode of season 2, and one can interpret the goddess arc (aka season 3) as a challenge for Keima to truly interact with real girls in a non-game-like situations where there wasn’t a reset of sorts, unlike the previous cases, and one where Keima truly, truly begins his journey of pursuing the “ideal” route in the real world. I think as far as harem protagonists go, Keima’s definitely a likable character, but this particular complexity of his characterization is probably one of the main reason that propels him so.


What do you think of harem protagonists and their perverted nature? I indeed find it interesting how the harem protagonists can be classify into two, and with it, how we treat this hobby as ours in the fandom.

As a side note, while there are harem protagonists like Keima making an exception, I ultimately prefer harem protagonists to be openly perverted. Granted, you lose the ability to relate or self-insert for these types of characters, but then again, I feel it’s incredibly difficult to relate yourself to a protagonist whom beautiful anime girls just seem to flock to him for unknown reason anyway, even for the closet-types. Though, perhaps, Froggy-kun might have another say to that.

This entry was posted by Kai.

22 thoughts on “Analyzing Harem Protagonists and Their Perverted Nature

  1. I’m sure (at least, I think I’m sure) this post is meant in a light hearted fun way to discuss a common anime/manga/game genre. And as such, it was a good post. But, I’m in an odd mood this morning so at the risk of being rude I’m going to get on a soap box for a few minutes.
    alter (something) from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.
    “he was charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice”
    a person whose sexual behavior is regarded as abnormal and unacceptable.

    I think the word “pervert” is entirely mis-used and abused. Humans, like all animals, are hard-wired into wanting to have sex – without it, the species simply wouldn’t continue. Broadly speaking, it’s NORMAL and NATURAL to be interest in having sex.

    Because of their role in the overall activity, broadly speaking men are probably much more ‘preoccupied’ with it than women, as well as tending to react to different ‘signals’, and react more strongly. In fact, generally speaking, if a guy sees a naked woman and DOES NOT react, there is probably something wrong (maybe he is hungry – offer him a sandwich). I’m sure most women are often annoyed at how much men seem to be preoccupied with sex. It may be annoying, but it’s not unnatural. (“A man gets married so he can have sex anytime SHE wants to.”)

    This doesn’t excuse men from being rude to and around women.

    Now, having said all that, I am NOT a fan of harem type stories. Probably because I’m looking for something different. The typical male lead usually annoys me to no end because he tends to be bland at best, often stupid and rude. “Hmm.. what is this soft texture? Feels like marshmallow.” REALLY? That’s what is going through his mind? But just because a guy gets an erection when a girl sits on him does NOT make him a pervert.

    The forced nature of the setup tends to baffle me as well, because unless the male lead has a strong personality I simply can’t ‘suspend my disbelief’. There certainly are exceptions, and some are really good stories. But usually I just can’t get into the story.

    • I am however reminded of an amusing ‘inversion’ of the ‘they fell on each other’ situation. In Shuffle! episode 11 Rin and Mayumi collide in the hallway at school, with the result being the (highly unlikely) position of Mayumi sitting on Rin in a VERY awkward position ( But when Rin’s reaction was to say “get off of me you’re blocking my way” (and a couple other less than flattering things) her pride as a woman is offended and she starts to unzip his pants…in the hallway…

    • “If a guy sees a naked woman and DOES NOT react, there is probably something wrong (maybe he is hungry – offer him a sandwich).”
      …Might’ve wanted to write the word ‘straight’ before ‘guy’. Because, y’know, homosexuality or asexuality aren’t really wrong…

      (….On another note, harem leads disappoint me so much ;.; I keep looking from the perspective of the girls and more often than not I go “why would you even fall in love with that guy!!!” And then I have to consider it’s written by guys but still… I wanna feel some of the attraction, too…. so I don’t have to suspend my belief… It makes it not even fun to ship them with anyone? Which is a shame. I get the focus is supposed to be which girl is your waifu but…)

      • Point taken! It matters not to me at all. It’s just awkward for me to try to remember to write in an ‘inclusive’ matter on this as the English language does not lend itself well to this sort of thing, sort of like not having a good gender neutral pronoun.

        My problem is “perverted” is such a loaded word full of ambiguity because it is such a subjective thing to begin with, and for some reason lately it’s come to take on meanings I think are unfair and misleading at least.

      • There are certainly a few exceptions, but most typical harem, are, sadly, very pandering to the men (although admittedly, there are still a majority of us who don’t really like it as well). I’m not sure how these types of anime would fare on a female audience, but yours seem like it a common opinion as far as female opinions go, lol. And yea, shipping is the least of my idea whenever watching a harem anime, lol. Although this is coming from someone who barely ships.

    • I’m aware that the word “pervert” has a lot more different implications, although in Japanese visual culture like anime (not sure about other non-Japanese media), the meaning of the word seems to be taken in a more “blatant” manner. And yes, this post is meant to be a little fun analysis and such, lol #whysoseriousbro xD

      I think the main point of your argument is that even despite having very clear emotions indicating perverse (I will use this word here instead of pervert to escape it’s “blatant” definition for now) personality, that doesn’t really mean they are pervert. Definitely an interesting thought to take note of, and it actually does seems logical instead of mine here which is quite a huge assumption judging from reactions alone, I admit. Although truth to be told, perhaps I just like diagnosing them as perverts since they are already receiving so much abuse from the heroines, despite that in some cases, it’s not even the protagonist’s fault, lol. In which case, these scenes are also usually regarded as comedy.

      • True, it seems that often in these types of shows that the protagonist will take a beating, literally, from those around him, whether it was his fault or not. (though it’s not always the case, there are plenty of these types of shows where that never happens)

  2. An interesting post, I think I’ve never read something intelligent about the harem genre before.

    In the past I enjoyed harem anime a lot more, but after a few years I just made the experience that this kind of romance leads to nothing, the authors just don’t have the guts to let the protagonist choose a girl in the end.Bakemonogatari is an exception, the harem is not the main point of it, actually. Koyomi has a girlfriend and is just flirting with the other girls ^^ “Well and compared to real harem shows Koyomi is hot, yeah hot and has a personality XD

    The term perverted is thrown around too often I think, well girls in adolescence have the tendency to overreact when their comfort zone is disturbed by a clumsy young boy. A general sexual interest in the opposite gender is pretty normal and also anime girls should have such feelings, girls are not the innocent beings anime wants to make us believe ;D

    Anyway open harem protagonist are less of a pain to watch, Rito’s pantsu and boob grab “accidents” can get really annoying over time. There was a certain episode of TLR Darkness, where Rito was transformed in an open “pervert” pretty hilarious stuff, aside from molesting Kotegawa in a quite humiliating way. I wanted to kill him hahaha.

    • There are exceptions. Koyomi from Monogatari is certainly one of them, and I would also like to point out to Saito from Zero no Tsukaima. Both of them actually chose someone pretty early in the series, and evidently, both of them are the open perverts-type :p I can’t think of any other examples on top of my head, but I’m sure there are a lot more out there.

      Everyone in adolescence tend to overreact :p Yes, it is normal, though it’s still kinda amusing how most typical harem anime really tends to give an impression that having sexual interest towards the other gender is a no-no.

      Yes, and that’s exactly why those “accidents” might even be deliberate, in which case, his character study really deserve a second glance, lol. Was it the part where Kotegawa got into his house because of the rain? Tasteful scene, though I don’t really remember Rito actually transforming into an open-pervert (although the anime’s pretty forgettable in a nutshell), unless it’s one of Kotegawa’s imaginations.

      • Oh yeah, Saito znt was so cute haha. I guess the shows with harem as only sidegenre tend to have cooler,, male main characters, otherwise it would not work. In the real harem shows the character can be plain as a white paper page as long as pretty girls are all crazy about him.

        Oh the scene you mentioned was actually sweet ^^
        My scene was inside the second OVA episode in the To Love Ru Darkness, actually pretty hiilarious to see Rito turning into a self confident pervert/molester XD

  3. Good post, made me smile XD

    I would stand up to argue against Naotsugu’s rule though. While open and closet perverts certainly exist I don’t think that you can say all guys fall into one of those two categories. There are legitimately some people who would never even begin to consider doing anything perverted. You mention the protagonist backing away red-faced when presented with a…stimulating situation, and say that this proves they’re thinking lustfully. However, I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of people would react that way when presented with something they have grown up -knowing- shouldn’t be shown to other people. Embarrassment, apologeticness (is that even a word?) and guilt would be only natural, especially after seeing the negative effect on the other involved party.

    But that’s just my two cents. What I think really needs to be looked at is the way women in anime react to that kind of situation when it’s obviously not the protagonist’s fault.

    • But if they won’t do anything perverted, how are they even harem characters? (Just like Accelerator, maybe). Maybe closet perverts might be this case, but those “accidents” are really questionable. Just like how I replied to Cratex, yea, I do agree that calling them pervert purely based on such reactions may be a bit hasty, although it just seems amusing to address them as so :p Bear in mind that I’m only regarding these fictional harem characters and is saying nothing of people IRL (maybe I should had made a disclaimer about it or something)

      Yea, it is kinda funny sometimes how the main character just seems to receive all kinds of abuse whether or not it’s their fault. Although if you scrutinize further, it might also be possible that everything is on purpose – the protagonist purposely enacted the “accidents” while looking as if it’s not their fault on the outside, while also completely aware they will be receiving abuse from other characters – JUST AS PLANNED. Though this implies that on top of being a pervert, they are also masochists, although very intelligent perverted masochists.

  4. This is a funny post for me personally and especially when you define closet and open perverts. I don’t think of the main male characters in harem anime as such. I mean, it’s very obvious Araragi is a pervert. Openly perverted, IMO. But most male characters are portrayed as clueless airheads, it’s a bit hard for me to see them in any other way other than being clueless airheads.

    I myself am not a fan of harem series and I avoid them at all cost. However, there are exceptions. Some male leads are easier to watch and the female characters are less annoying.

    Based on the premise of this post though, I’d say I’m more inclined to pick up a harem anime in which the male leads are openly perverted because in most cases, these characters have sense of opinion.

    • Seeing them as clueless airheads sounds good too, although if it were me, clueless airheads pretty much equate to closet perverts. Like you said, open perverts have a sense of opinion, and with it, they just seem less dense somehow when compared to their closet counterparts. And often times, they are just more fun and amusing to watch than the “bland” closet protagonists :p Maybe one reason so is because they are just that passionate, if only, for their perverted quests, lol.

  5. There are 2 types of harem leads I’ve seen from my experience of watching anime: the really perverted yet kind ones and the self-insert, acts like a generic person who is kind. You did explain how the latter hides their inner perversion, but from my experience of watching anime they just act EXACTLY how almost any generic person would do: awkward, in a situation where they’re touching a girl’s body. The protagonists people call “bland” aren’t exactly bland, but they play so straightforwardly and naturally its hard not to label them as a self insert bland protagonist. Sure the perverted leads are usually copy and pastes, but at least they show life and personality.

  6. People say how anime is being sexist towards girls, but is it really any different than the way it portrays guys? Whenever an anime takes place in school, the background guys are always a bunch of horney perverts who are all losers while the girls are all asexual people with common sense. It feels insulting and disturbing. Why manga/anime writers, why is it so difficult for you people to be original with your protagonists? Why is it so hard NOT to copy and paste your leads from other people’s works.

    • Yes, they act exactly how any real life people would react in real life, which is why they are really tailored for self-insert and in some cases (but not always), relation. The open-perverted type here lacks self-insertion, because, well, if you did what they do in real life, you might get sued, or even get behind bars (depending on how strict the law at respective country is, I assume). But indeed like you said, they show life and personality, and possess a more solid dimension to their character.

      Indeed, although that particular issue seem to be more prominent in harem genres themselves. I would like to add that not every anime has the same situation as what you just mentioned :-)

  7. This is a nice post you have here! It’s a pity I was unable to reply to it sooner.

    Oh, I already saw your comments about this being a “for fun” article, but I’d rather be that “ysosrsbro” person who kills the joke.

    Let’s get straight to the point: males, or homo sapiens with an external reproductive system known as “penis” and “testicles” are actually naturally programmed to impregnate as many females as possible in their lifetime. Why? Reproduction. All living organisms really have that one goal in life: reproduce. That’s a law of nature that most of us can’t really deny.

    Don’t get me wrong in saying that all guys are “perverts” even women are similar to some extent. However, homo sapiens are at least relatively more intelligent and logical to the point they don’t go having sex with every one on the streets (although this theory HAS been used in various Japanese entertainments =_=)

    In addition to this, women are getting the smaller slice of the cake due to our modern culture naming women who get knocked up by multiple men to be “sluts”, although when it comes to the Law of Nature, they’re the ones who are more capable and a species (or race in our case) more likely to survive. (Seriously. Let’s see if you’re calling people sluts if your race is on the verge of extinction)

    Back on our topic to “Harem” protagonists, note that in my second paragraph that males are naturally programmed to impregnate as many females as possible (I use the term females because in various Japanese subculture, it’s not only the homo sapiens that these men impregnate *hint hint*)

    Therefore, an organism already programmed to “be perverted” is then placed in a situation where the only thing that prevents him to do as he is programmed is a defense mechanism known as “morality”

    And really, harem doesn’t have to be all about the fanservice and the sexual content. If multiple females hold a relatively greater affection for a single male than anyone else, then that’s also a condition we can safely label as “harem”.

    (In a sense, yes, the terms need to be clearly defined if we want to do a full-fledged analysis)

    (For the reference, the word “perverted” is a term used to define “outside of church” I believe in the Catholic religion, defined for people who were “not ordinary”, nothing to do with sexual or biological activity)

    So in conclusion, I say the same thing I say to every other “weeaboos” I meet: Don’t take anime too seriously to the point you’re obsessing over it. Elements such as “Harems” are highly exaggerated in anime and will NEVER happen in real life (yes, I actually used an “absolute” word in this sentence).

    In addition, when it actually comes to receiving romantic affection from multiple females, it’s not all fun and games to the point the girls each understand that they’ll have to share the same guy–Even for me, when I once received affection from two girls at the same time, was greatly troubled (I wasn’t happy they were fighting over me), and needless it is to say, it didn’t end well.

    Just my own thoughts

    • I will try to my best of ability to answer seriously then.

      I think I had already agree to this idea that all humans are programmed to have sex in some form or another, and in the end, it just comes down to the idea of whether or not you think that “instinct” of humans is pervert or not. About that theory you mentioned being used in Japanese entertainment, I’m actually reminded of Shinsekai Yori xD I can’t remember the full detail but I believe it’s something akin to that idea.

      Yea, that’s actually a pretty harsh way to label them, yet I don’t believe I ever see any male equivalent of “sluts” or “whore”.

      “I use the term females because in various Japanese subculture, it’s not only the homo sapiens that these men impregnate *hint hint*”
      Uhh.. yea, I should probably stop imagining what you meant, lol.

      Yea, but I’m not sure if it’s the ones I watched, but most harem anime I tend to be more familiar with are filled brimming with fanservices anyway. Are there even any harem anime without fanservices or sexual content? Oh, now that when you mention it, Shana comes close, though I’m not sure if it technically counts as a harem if there are only 2 girls with affection towards the protagonist.

      I’m well aware that the word “pervert” seems to have a deeper connotation, but as I’m talking about harem anime here, I decided to just use that word regardless since anime (and other Japanese media) seems to take it as a “straightforward” meaning. I think the word equates to something like this -> “To corrupt/to warp from something normal or logical.” Meaning I think it’s just a word used to mean something had deviate itself from the norm. Not sure when the sexual idea is implemented in, but like I said, in some media, and even most people I would assume, seem to have regarded the latter as it’s meaning.

      Not sure if you had seen the post I link at the end there, detailing a real-life harem :p Admittedly, I think it should still be different from how the harem portrayed in anime is, lol. And yea, I can see how difficult such situations could get. I personally had my fair share of similar problems before as well, but perhaps I will share it another time… :p

      • As to your question of what anime series might have a “harem” style setting without the excessive fanservice, Mashiroiro Symphony was definitely one of them.

        Albeit, none of the girls make rash and out-of-the-ordinary moves toward the protagonist, they are all affectionate for him.

        Again, this is a really good topic and I thank you for bringing it up. So far, the progress that I see “weeaboos” coming to be is that they’re admiring these “harem protagonists”, who seems to score bishoujos without doing anything, and the weeaboos themselves trying to act like these protagonists in a sense.

        That kinda leads to the social paradigm-complaint that “nice guys always finish last”…
        Eh, now I’m getting into sociology so I’ll shut up :|

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