I’m currently working my way through lots of shows in the new anime season, watching three or four new episodes a day and taking notes about which series are worthy of introducing to everyone here. But one show I immediately fell in love (again) with is BokuBen, aka Bokutachi wa Benkyo ga Dekinai or We Never Learn. It’s great to have this fun harem anime series back for a second season!
It’s the further adventures of Nariyuki Yuiga, a smart high school boy who’s guaranteed a scholarship to university…if he can successfully tutor three girls, genius “literature girl” Fumino Furuhashi, math and science whiz Rizu Ogata, and tanned sports girl Uruka Takemoto. Each girl (plus a teacher named Kirisu-sensei) has strong feelings for Nariyuki, who, true to form for any classic harem anime, is oblivious to his lucky situation.
While harem anime series sometimes get grief from fans as sticking too closely to a tried-and-true formula, I find them enjoyable…unless I don’t. I often reflect on why I really like some of them, can casually enjoy others as a “guilty pleasure,” yet actively hate anime series that manage to insult the intelligence of viewers.
In general, harem anime seem to form several camps with me…
- First is harem series that are well-executed and genuinely worthy of my respect, telling high-quality stories with good animation. The real tension is created about which girl will “win” and innovative situations are created to heighten this tension. My top picks: Saekano, Bokuben, Quintessential Quintuplets, I Have Few Friends.
- Then are harem anime series that I can sit back and enjoy. This might be because I find the characters unique or charming, or maybe because the fanservice is so good, it becomes a work of art unto itself. Some shows I recommend: To Love-Ru, Monster Musume, Kiss x Sis, High School DxD.
- I’m especially happy when the show manages to subvert my expectations, like when Ai Yori Aoshi paused the harem so the two characters destined to be together could have sex, or when Clannad moved from a classic harem anime into one of the most serious stories ever told.
- Sometimes some other innovation is added. In NakaImo, aka My Sister is Among Them, the main character has to be careful which girl he picked in his harem because his blood sister was secretly one of the girls. In Amagami, rather than have the six heroines do battle with only one victor, each girl gets a proper three-episode arc, plus two bonus episodes, which I found to be excellent.
- Some harem shows just turn me off for some reason, perhaps because I can tell that the creators aren’t being serious with viewers, or because the execution is bad, or the main character is so obtuse the show is nearly unwatchable. We’ve all seen harem anime shows like that. Which harem shows have you been turned off by?
What do you like about harem anime series like BokuBen? Let us know on Twitter!
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