Harem anime has continually been one of the most popular genres of anime since Ranma ½ hit the screen in 1989 with its harem-like the premise. In 1992, Tenchi Muyo was one of the first popular anime with a classic harem ending. The past decade was chock-full of these often comical, often ecchi, boy meets girl, meets girl, meets girl, meets girl, meets girl anime and we loved them all. It is unfortunate Honey-chan has limited us to picking just 10 for the decade because this list could easily gain more members than girls in love with Rito Yuki.
10. Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (We Never Learn)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2019- June 2019
Nariyuki Yuiga is an honor student whose family is happy and is barely getting by after the death of their father. He is approached one day by the principal of his school who was dangling a scholarship and recommendation for him to get into a top university on one condition, he becomes the tutor of reputed geniuses who are having trouble in the subjects they want to pursue in college. He readily accepts the job of helping Fumino Furuhashi, a beautiful and brilliant literary genius, study science, and Rizu Ogata, a mathematical prodigy, who wants to understand literature. The trio is eventually joined by Uruka Takemoto, a champion swimmer who is only okay academically and childhood friend of Nariyuki. The quartet grows closer through a series of slice-of-life adventures where not only the heroines of the series but also the hero of our story navigate the web of confusing feelings toward the members of the group.
We added We Never Learn to the list because it may be the best harem anime to come out in 2019. The story covers all the bases for a good harem. You have a high school protagonist with love the furthest thing from his mind. A cast of girls of various styles and personalities such as proper young lady, socially clueless academic, and overly energetic tomboy. We think one of the best things is that each of the characters gets a pretty good arc spread out throughout the whole story. The story mixes in some of the classic ecchi tropes or move just up to the line of the trope but doesn’t abuse the audience by making them gratuitous. You’ll thoroughly enjoy this harem; it’s as if the decade was saving one of the best for last.
9. Watashi ga Motete Dousunda (Kiss Him, Not Me!)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2016- December 2016
The harem genre may be dominated by male-oriented stories, but the storyline isn’t exclusive. In some cases, a female is the center of all the attention. Kae Serinuma is exactly that kind of character. She stands at the center of a harem of seven boys and one girl. You could say she’s happy to be surrounded by so many beautiful boys. The reason is not what you think, unless you think it because she is a rotten-to-the-core fujoshi. Kae Serinuma is in love with Boys Love. She doesn’t realize it but she’s hot. She was overweight and pudgy for most of her life until the death of one of her favorite anime characters dropped her into such a depression she doesn’t eat and doesn’t leave her bed and eventually emerges as a smoking hot babe.
Kiss Him, Not Me is one of the best harem comedies of the decade because of its original approach to the genre. You have a reverse harem with a protagonist that isn’t some meek flower but is a strong girl who doesn’t blush when a guy looks at her. The anime will have you laughing as we get a look into the thoughts of this truly BL crazy girl as the boys in her orbit each reach for her hand. We get a nice mix of boys between those who knew her before her transformation and those who recently noticed her. We honestly don’t know which guy she should choose. You also get a great storyline involving one of her best friends Shima Nishina, a handsome looking girl and artist that is considered the greatest threat to all of her suitors. The story may be only 12 episodes but doesn’t feel like it leaves you hanging at the end either. You should check out this anime for is spin on this genre.
8. High School DxD
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2012- March 2012
Issei Hyoudou is the extreme example of a high school harem protagonist. He begins the story as a classic teenage hornball going on his first date. The date ends in his death at the hands of his date who happened to be a fallen angel. The ill-fated Issei is resurrected shortly thereafter as a devil by a devil princess named Rias Gremory. Issei learns the great secret of his school is that many of the students are natural-born devils or resurrected devils including his benefactor, Rais who is the crimson-haired president of the Occult Club. He is quickly indoctrinated to his new life as a devil while living his life as a high schooler.
High School DxD has been an amazingly successful franchise, resurrecting for two more seasons after this one and multiple OVAs. The extreme ecchi angle of this anime is filled with suggestive and not-so-suggestive scenes. Depending on which version you see, it’s filled with god rays or uncensored goodness. Despite the constant brushes with death in his afterlife, Issei is still a high school boy obsessed with breasts and sex which makes this the perfect anime to indulge your inner, or actual, thirteen-year-old self in. You get loads of shonen battle action with power-ups and overcoming superior power through will and grit as a key part of this anime. We recommend you tune in for the harem, move to the edge of your seat during the battles, and stay for the complex world-building in High School DxD.
7. Trinity Seven
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2014- December 2014
The world is ending and only the remaining mages tucked away in their academies can reverse the process. A Breakdown Phenomenon dissolves the people of the world into black dust drawn toward the magical phenomenon of a black hole sun sitting in the sky. Arata Kasuga, a mage and demon lord candidate, might be able to restore the world if he manages to survive long enough. The most powerful mages of his generation attend his academy and want to ensure he comes into his true potential without crossing over to the side of evil. The mages are known as the Trinity Seven and because this is a harem anime, they are of course all girls. The mages’ magic each represent one of the deadly sins and teach Arata all he needs to know to get stronger.
Trinity Seven may have the shortest number of total episodes with just 12, 1 OVA and 1 movie - but it is a fun ride. The series has a bit of an ecchi tag but it's far different from the fanservice of High School DxD or To LOVE Ru. We get most of the ecchi through innuendo and flirting. Arata’s character may be horny, but he also owns it. He has confidence and charisma and the girls of the trinity are drawn to him and appreciate his over-the-top flirting. He’s the not the type of character to apologize for seeing a girl naked in the bath, he would simply say thank you and then ask if he could join while flashing a roguish grin. We add Trinity Seven to this list because it packs a lot of story into its limited number of episodes such as backstories for many of the characters, battles, an idea of what is at stake, and some fun fan service. We think you’ll like it most of all because of the charismatic cast that makes us want to be their friends.
6. Grisaia no Kajitsu (The Fruit of Grisaia)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2014- December 2014
A lot of protagonists in anime just want to live an ordinary life and Yuuji Kazami is no exception. He wants to leave his dangerous life as a child soldier/mercenary behind and have a regular high school life, so a regular life is arranged for him at Mihama Academy. He finds out quickly that the sprawling campus with the high walls only has five other students. We find his classmates are exclusively female and each carries her own trauma and complex emotional baggage. Yuuji must use unconventional means to unravel the mysteries of each of these young women in the pursuit of his ordinary life.
Fruits of Grisaia is another unique anime that’s only true commonality with the other anime on this list is the harem element. The feel of this story is different with a heavy psychological element. A sense of seriousness pervades nearly all the episodes as the characters’ deep emotional scars are revealed. Yuuji has his scars too, traumas that pertain to his life before, during, and after his life as a child soldier and assassin. The pace of the first season of Fruits of Grisaia is slow and methodical as it lays the groundwork for a second season that is filled with far more action as they travel outside the school walls. If you are looking for a harem with more mature themes this is the absolute best example of the past decade.
5. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2015- March 2015
Tomoya Aki is an otaku, a high school student, and a successful blogger. Tomoya has also been inspired. On a beautiful spring day as the cherry blossoms fluttered down from the branches a girl’s beret took flight on the wind and landed at his feet. He returned her hat and gained a drive, a drive to create the greatest dating sim in history. Tomoya then draws in talented girl after girl into his circle to produce this original game to sell at Comiket. He finds himself standing at the center of a circle of beautiful, talented women: a successful yet harsh senpai author, an artistic genius childhood friend, a happy-go-lucky musician cousin, and the girl he would make into a heroine to be loved by all.
Why is something so boilerplate in the top five harem anime of the decade? Because the use of that basic template is intentional; Saekano is a satirical deconstruction of the harem anime genre. You won’t find a more well-written anime when it comes to rapid-fire humoristic commentary on the anime industry. The dialogue has a pace and timing that reminds you of successful screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing). You find each of the heroines representing one of the common tropes of the harem genre and at times being acutely aware of their roles. Tomoya often breaks the fourth wall with a comment of exasperation or exposition. You will love this smart, insightful story if you love this genre.
4. Nisekoi (Nisekoi: False Love)
- Episodes: 20
- Aired: January 2014- May 2014
Raku Ichijou is the son and heir of an old yakaza family. Chitoge Kirisaki is the beautiful daughter of a non-Japan-based mafia family that just moved into Ichijou territory. The idea of arranged marriages between rival noble families to quell violence between them is nothing new. We can say the same thing when it comes to stopping a gang war between mafia families. The love affair between the two mafia heirs is the only thing preventing a violent clash between the families. Unfortunately, Raku and Chitoge can’t stand each other and whole romance is a lie. The situation only gets more complicated as Raku is in love with a girl in his class named Onodera, and Marika, the daughter of the police chief, is in love with Raku. We haven’t even mentioned all of the other female characters that seem to fall in love with the kind-natured Raku.
Nisekoi garnered a lot of fans over its two seasons and 34 episodes. The often-zany comedy is filled with loads of slapstick humor. You are treated to some amazing exaggerated facial expressions and reactions that cut to the heart of the character's feelings. We place Nisekoi on the best of the decade list because of its popularity. The anime’s second season finished airing in 2015 and we still get a hand full of Chitoge and Raku cosplayers at anime conventions. Chitoge, the blonde girl with the signature red bow that stands up like a pair of rabbit ears, is often cited as one of the top 10 tsundere characters on multiple lists as well as being a big part of the reason why Nisekoi is on this one.
3. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (Haganai: I don’t have many Friends)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2011- December 2011
You will probably never find a club filled with more social outcasts than the Neighbor’s Club. Kodaka Hasegawa unfortunately finds himself as one of the founders of the Neighbor’s Club, whose mission is to teach its members how to make friends, after being dragged into it by a strange girl with an invisible friend. The two, after bullying an elementary school-aged nun, gain a clubroom and then begin attracting some of the oddest students, like the honor student whose beauty doesn’t exactly match her personality, or the science student who writes eroge about robots doing it, or the boy who is actually a girl but doesn’t realize it. The days in this club are filled with videogames, insults, and a complete inability to get over various social dysfunctions.
The anime isn’t about everyone getting along or working toward a common goal, it’s about people wanting to learn how to make friends and never considering that the people in the club with them are their friends. Kodaka is a pretty good harem protagonist too, in that he’s not oblivious to how the girls in his orbit feel, he just doesn’t want to go there because they’re all nuts. The jealousy and backstabbing between the two main girls is pretty funny to watch. We like this story because of its uniqueness and for some of us we can identify with the socially awkward and sometimes antisocial nature of the members of the Neighbors Club.
2. Date A Live
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2013- June 2013
The world has seen many natural disasters in its history yet nothing, save for the meteor that killed the dinosaurs, came close to matching the “spatial quake” that killed 150 million people. The years passed and the land and the people recovered despite being plagued by small “spatial quakes”. Shidou Itsuka is an average high school boy living in a city built in the unstable zone who discovers the quakes are caused by spirits, young emotionally unstable girls, and the secret to stopping them is to make them fall in love. It soon becomes his mission to find these girls and keep them happy; and if you think that’s easy you’ve got to check out this anime filled with his struggles to date each of them and not get killed in the process.
We have a lot of harem in this anime; Shidou has no fewer than six girls to attend to. He also sits in a different position than most harem protagonists, he is actively trying to get the girls to like him. Date A Live gets the honored spot of number two on this list because of the variety of cute girls (who are not interchangeable), the constant battles that sometimes make us think it’s a battle anime, and the humor. The humor isn’t derived solely from ecchi panty shots, either. The humor comes from Shidou’s ridiculous crack team of dating specialists who offer him advice. They’ve all majorly crashed and burned in their personal romantic lives. You’ll get a little bit of everything in Date A Live which is why it deserves to be recognized as one of the best of the decade.
1. Motto To LOVE-Ru and To LOVE-Ru Darkness
- Episodes: 24 (Combined)
- Aired: October 2010- December 2010 & October 2012- December 2012
Rito Yuuki is the epitome of the classic harem protagonist. He is a plain but kind high school boy who had his life turned upside down when he got engaged to the buxom runaway princess of the galaxy Lala Satalin Deviluke. He not only found himself balancing the affections of the heir to the galactic throne but his continued feelings for his longtime crush Haruna Sairenji. Motto To LOVE-Ru brings the addition of Lala’s younger sisters Nana and Momo into the Yuuki household complicating Rito’s life even further. To LOVE-Ru Darkness introduces us to Yami, aka Golden Darkness, a petite blond-haired assassin who says she wants to kill Rito but strikes up a friendship with Mikan, Rito’s sister, instead. Yami just beats him to a pulp each time he “accidentally” lands face first in her crotch. Rito’s life even gets more complicated with the introduction of Momo’s Harem Plan, in which she includes all the girls around him in a harem since there is no ban on polygamy under galactic law.
We put this harem anime at number one because of its longevity (36+ episodes/OVAs if you count the first season in 2008), the repeated fanservice (the first one in Motto comes 50 seconds after the OP), and it brings the sexy with more than 20 potential members of the harem. Viewers can’t help but smile at the silliness of the characters and the punishing trials of the well-meaning protagonist. You don’t get a lot of great harem anime that have this long of a run and keep the same energy and fun they had from the start. We know if you love harem you’ve watched this series and if you haven’t this should be at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions.
Why do we watch harem? Is it the sexy ani-babes? Is it the humor? Is it most of us are men who want to indulge in the fantasy of being wanted by lots of pretty girls? Why can’t it be all these things? We love these stories because more often than not the main character starts and sometimes stays as a regular guy (or girl) who is loved because he or she is a good person. Yes, we have the exception where the MC is a badass or becomes one because he has a harem to protect, but more often than not they’re just a regular guy. We love these shows because they are fun and project an unfulfillable fantasy. We don’t know what kind of harems lay ahead in the next decade, but we are sure they will be filled with beautiful girls ready to enter our imaginations.