What does the harem genre say about gender dynamics in Japanese society?

I was just wondering if harem anime was for the male viewers to act out their fantasies of having relationships with different types of girls.

Harem anime and romantic comedy is useful for understanding Japanese popular culture as a whole. Harem anime is a genre of anime where there is one male protagonist and many different female characters vying for the affections of the male protagonists. Through such anime, we are able to see the changing nature of Japanese society and also the changing gender relations between males and females. Harem anime can also be seen as a form of manifestation of the male anxieties in this changing gender dynamics, and the desire for a restoration to the conventional ideals of being feminine.

Stereotyping of females

The females in anime are often sweet and cute. They are also able to cook and can handle the household chores well. They are also devoted to the male characters and are often nurturing, offering comfort to the male if the need arises.

However it is also important to note that not all anime series feature females with such attributes. For example in the anime Princess Mononoke, the female characters in the anime are seen as strong and determined in character, and are not afraid to fight for the things that they hold dear to themselves. In this anime, we see women not as weak and dependent on men for protection, but rather they are strong, entrepreneurial and capable.

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The gender dynamics between male and female are also changing with this increased influence of the west and of feminine ideas. This is evident from the increase in number and importance of females in the Japanese workforce.

Changing status of women

Women are becoming increasingly independent economically due to their increasing influence in Japanese workforce.

Women no longer confined to the private domains of the home.

They are also putting off marriage and childbearing responsibilities and this can be seen as a form of dissatisfaction with the roles assigned to them by society.

A manifestation of the anxieties of the Japanese Male.

Media attention on the changing roles of the women can be quite unsettling for male viewers.

Need for female characters that are sweet, caring, self-sacrificing, devoted and nurturing so as to provide reassurance to the males for their positions in the gender relationship with women.

In harem anime, the girls are also different in character and personality, and this allows men to carry out their fantasies of having a relationship with the different kinds of girls, all of which their attention is focused on the male alone. For example in Love Hina, all the girls at the Hinata Hostel do like Keitaro in some ways, and each of the girls are different in their character and personalities.

From all this, we can say that it is important to consider the changing roles of women in Japan. It is also difficult to define what is the role of women in a society such as Japan “where the men are still dominant… [and] Japanese women are held to be gentle, submissive and beautiful.

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1. Napier, Susan J (2001), Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke : experiencing contemporary Japanese animation, New York : Palgrave

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About the author

Nadia Petrova

I'm running this blog because I love Japanese culture, especially the art of geisha. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of becoming a geisha myself. In my spare time, I enjoy watching good anime and reading some manga.

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