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.
“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.
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.
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.