We have previously mentioned the anime-centric harem genre, in which the main character is surrounded by characters of the opposite gender. While our pervious mention covered a girl being surrounded by lots of boys (see Ouran High School Host Club, column No. 3), this week we are covering the much more common scenario where a boy is surrounded by girls.
In terms of these kind of shows, they tend to be comedies, sometimes of a bawdy nature. They are a bit like Carry On-esque, but some are so rude it is more like watching Confessions of a Window Cleaner. The 2011 anime Mayo Chiki! is more on the Carry On side and one of the better harem anime, but for some this might still be too much, seeing as how it is set in a school and the central characters are school kids.
The story follows Kinjiro Sakamachi, a 17-year-old high schoolboy who suffers from gynophobia, a fear of women, caused by his younger sister Kureha and their mother who are both keen fighters and used Kinjiro for wrestling practice. At their school, the most popular boy is Subaru Konoe, who works as a butler to the principle’s daughter Kanade Suzutsuki. Subaru is so popular that the school has two rival fan clubs devoted to the young butler. One day however, Kinjiro discovers that Subaru is hiding a secret: Subaru is a girl.
After this discovery, Kanade makes a deal with Kinjiro: she will cure him of his fear of women, if he will keep Subaru’s gender secret, because if it is ever discovered by everyone she is a girl then she will be sacked from her job. Kinjiro agrees to the deal, but soon regrets it after discovering that Kanade is rather sadistic.
As Kinjiro makes progress with the deal, he encounters other girls at the school who become engrossed in the story. These are Masamune Usami, a surly member of one Subaru’s fan clubs, and Nakuru Narumi, a tanned girl with cat-like ears, a glasses fetish and a passion for writing yaoi (see Junjo Romantica, column No. 5).
The best thing about this series is the ensemble cast. A harem anime has to have a good overall cast in order to work and this one does. Kinjiro is a decent foil and other characters are all rather mad and amusing in their own ways.
But the main reason for covering this series is that it gives me to the chance to talk about some tropes that you will see regularly in this kind of anime. For example, whenever a character gets a nosebleed this tends to mean they have had a rather perverted thought. In Mayo Chiki! Kinjiro often gets nosebleeds as a symptom of his gynophobia.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned is something called “fan service”. This is a scene or short moment in an anime or manga which is deliberately designed to please the audience. For most of the time fan service tends to stuff on the saucy side. Usually it is not something too graphic, so it could be just something like a female character being out of their normal clothes and wearing a bikini, a male character going topless, or just a quick glimpse of some cleavage.
Personally speaking, I think fan service is best deployed in very small doses, so it is something special in a series, or like in the case of Mayo Chiki! something that should be used a lot, if it is a bawdy comedy of this kind. It tends not to work when it wavers in the middle, or when becomes too graphic. Fan service should be saucy, not sexy.
Mayo Chiki! seems to get the balance just right. It has good characters; the more racy moments are dealt with well, and in the end it is just a bit of fun.
The entire series is released on DVD by MVM Films.