The Unknown Gamer

No Need for 1990s Harem Anime!

Anyone who's been watching anime for a long time knows the drill: A male protagonist who, at first glance, appears to be an average guy (or often less-than-average) is suddenly visited upon by a miraculous series of events that result in him living together with a bunch of cute girls who compete for his affections. This time-tested (and generally over-used) formula is classically known as a harem anime. Popular shows from across the years include Love Hina, To ROVE-Ru, Ai Yori Aoshi, and Rosario + Vampire. Shows where the trope is inverted (female protagonist surrounded by hunky men) is known as a reverse harem and includes titles such as Fushigi Yuugi, Fruits Basket and Ouran High School Host Club. (Anime Fan Protip: Reverse harems actually tend to be better written!)

Of course, in the 1990s the whole formula didn't seem so cliche (at least to me since I was a teenager). Acquiring anime back in the mid-1990s was actually a major pain. What was officially licensed was very expensive ($20 for a single OAV episode on VHS was common), and what wasn't officially licensed was distributed in the forms of fansubs, which were often traded at college anime club meetings.

One of the first titles I had access to was Tenchi Muyou!, which can be considered one of the progenitors of the harem genre. The story, in adherence with the formula above, follows the life of Tenchi as he's visited upon by a bunch of beautiful alien girls who fawn over him. Of course, the show is also heavy with science fiction elements, and compared to many other harem protagonists, the main character turns out to be less of a wimpy loser than he might seem to be at first. Tenchi is a quarter-alien himself, is actually skilled at fighting, and possesses a lightsaber-like weapon. (He'd easily beat a Keiichi Morisato + Keitarou Urashima tag-team with both hands tied behind his back, even if they jumped him in a dark alley.)

Thanks to modern video streaming services, disgruntled Generation-X anime fans can now rewatch the original OAV series in all of its hand-painted, 4:3, SD glory. There's no longer a need to get ripped off by Suncoast in order to relive all the classic moments that we remember fondly from the early days:

  • Watching Tenchi nearly get blown up.
  • Watching Ayeka and Ryoko try to kill each other.
  • Wondering why they romanized Aeka as Ayeka anyway.
  • Realizing that there is a gratuitous amount of nudity and that 1990s anime wasn't nearly as tame as you remember. (My mom seriously let me watch this?)
  • Getting confused because the OAV is in a different continuity from the TV show and movies.
  • Digging the early 1990s synthesized music.

Honestly the show really isn't that good aside from the nostalgia factor. If you're looking for a well written harem-esque show, I recommend watching the anime adaptation of Clannad, or just about any well known reverse-harem released after 2000.

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