Reverse harem anime shows are one of the mainstays of shoujo, an anime genre that’s catered to young girls and/or young women. Like its male-centric counterpart, the harem anime, the primary appeal of a reverse harem anime is the way it lets its female audience imagine themselves as the love interest of several handsome men, all vying for a permanent spot in her heart. As if that wasn’t enough, anime shows like these are set up in a way that the main character is fairly generic, allowing viewers to project themselves onto her and pick their type.
And, man, are there a lot of types to choose from.
There’s the sensitive and elegant man who often has some sort of artistic talent which is often painting or playing the piano. Next up, you have the boyish man who acts like he’s the youngest of the group. His emotional immaturity never means he’s insensitive to the main character, just that he’s naive enough to still need her protection.
We also typically get the good-natured jock who’s airheaded, intimidating, but has a heart of gold. Lastly, there’s the cool and indifferent character who actively antagonizes the main character and pretends he doesn’t care about her. Most of the time, it’s this guy who ends up with the female lead.
With such a rigid formula, it’s hard to find a reverse harem anime that doesn’t feel overdone and stale. But since there are so many new anime subgenres these days, you’re bound to find one that you’ll like on this list.
1. Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge
Let’s start this reverse harem anime list with a classic that you can never go wrong with. Anime fans in the 2000s will definitely remember Yamato Nadeshiko as one of the biggest shoujo anime series of the mid to late 2000s. The anime featured four male love interests, Kyohei, Takenaga, Ranmaru, and Yuki who are tasked with figuring out how to turn Sunako Nakahara into a proper lady.
The whole “proper lady” quest might give the impression that Sunako is a tomboy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth because a tomboy protagonist would have actually gone outdoors to play sports.
Instead, Sunako is a hikikomori, a shut-in with a ton of self-image issues who starts going on a downward spiral after her crush rejected her. Sunako was crushed, partly because being called ugly made her feel like she had let down her aunt, Mine, who is depicted in the show as the epitome of a yamato nadeshiko, the ideal Japanese lady.
Seeing how unhappy her niece is, Mine tries to help Sunako get out of her depressive episode by getting her renters Kyohei, Ranmaru, Takenaga, and Yuki to turn her into a proper lady in exchange for free rent on her mansion. The four men, assuming this would be an easy task, take Mine up on her offer only to find that they have their work cut out for them.
The series is equal parts comedy, slice of life, and reverse harem with a side of touching life lessons about what it means to be a lady.
2. Sheng Shi Zhuang Niang
The seasoned anime fans out there might be scratching their head at the title of this shoujo anime and that’s because Sheng Shi Zhuang Niang isn’t a Japanese animation. I know, it sounds like heresy, but look, it’s an animated series in the same style that uses much of the same conventional anime tropes. How much more anime do you want before we have to trace the genetic ancestry of the animators?
On with the show.
Sheng Shi Zhuang Niang has a relatively fresh premise compared to a lot of reverse harem anime shows. While reverse harem isekai has been a thing since Fushigi Yuugi and game isekai has been around for years, few of them have the unique twist of Sheng Shi Zhuang Niang.
The isekai is in a virtual reality dress-up game where the lead character, Sweet Chestnut, has to out dress other female players for a chance to enter the Imperial Palace where she can have her pick of the seven handsome and single princes of the game’s version of Han dynasty China.
Sweet Chestnut has a bit of a dilemma on her hands, though. She doesn’t really care about the princes, but her skills in the feminine arts of makeup and fashion mean that she’ll eventually end up brushing elbows with them. The Sailor Moon transformation style dress-up sequences easily make Sheng Shi Zhuang Niang an excellent option for shoujo anime fans.
Finding translations for a less well-known anime, and a Chinese one at that, is likely to give you pre-Crunchyroll war flashbacks. Fortunately, all sixteen, fully subtitled episodes can be watched for free on YouTube.
3. Akatsuki No Yona
If you like your reverse harems with a side of action-adventure, Akatsuki no Yona is the show for you.
Akatuski no Yona follows the quest of Princess Yona to regain her rightful spot as heir to her father’s throne following his sudden assassination. The worst part? The assassin is her childhood friend and crush, Soo-Won. Soo-Won doesn’t agree with the king’s pacifistic approach to ruling the Kingdom of Kouka hence he murders the king in order to take his place.
Yona happens to witness the killing and escapes the palace with Hak, her bodyguard. Hak brings her to the Wind Tribe where his grandfather Son Mundok tells them to look for an oracle.
From there, the story plays out less like a political intrigue drama and more like a folkloric adventure as the oracle tells them that Princess Yona must now look for the descendants of the Four Dragon Warriors who helped the first king of Kouka bring peace to the kingdom.
The premise might sound familiar to fans of Fushigi Yuugi due to the whole “gathering mystical warriors” plot. But Akatsuki no Yona shines in its own right for one key reason: Yona isn’t anywhere near as clueless as Miaka Yuki and we get to witness her grow into a promising young ruler.
Plus, while the male characters still fit typical reverse harem tropes, they’re fleshed out in a way that you can easily visualize them as good friends with each other, not just the female protagonist.
4. Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is one of those rare reverse harem anime shows that actually have a worthwhile plot. If you watch it without any prior knowledge about the Hakuoki game series, you won’t even realize it’s a reverse harem anime.
Just to give you an idea of what you’ll be walking into when you start watching this show, it’s a mix between Samurai Champloo and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood combined with a male lead that will remind you of Henry Cavill’s Geralt in Netflix’s The Witcher.
In short, it’s the reverse harem anime for people who don’t like the shoujo genre.
The story starts with protagonist Chizuru Yukimura looking for her father, a doctor and scientist who mysteriously went missing. Once she reaches Kyoto, she’s attacked by zombie-like creatures who nearly kill her if not for the timely arrival of the Shinsengumi, a shadowy police force operating under the Japanese shogunate. After discovering that she’s the daughter of the doctor they’ve been looking for, the Shinsengumi let her stay at their headquarters where she does her best to support them.
Though Chizuru does have mysterious powers, it’s never overused to the point that she becomes a Mary Sue and the male characters remain rightfully suspicious of her. The slow-burn romance and thoroughly developed relationships between the characters, not just towards Chizuru, make Hakuoki absolutely heart-wrenching as it begins to narrow its romance into one pairing.
5. Kiss Him, Not Me!
Shows in this genre of anime have a reputation for having forgettable female leads, primarily because the show writers tend to portray them as blank slates that female audiences can easily imagine themselves as. Much like her male counterpart, the female lead of a reverse harem anime is usually a clueless ditz whose only hobbies are eating and sleeping.
Kiss Him, Not Me! could have easily been one of those shows. Its protagonist, Kae Serinuma, is an obese fujoshi, a female otaku who likes male-on-male romance, who often gets bullied by her classmates and even most of her potential love interests.
At the start, the only one who’s nice to Serinuma is Mutsumi, a senior student. But when her favorite manga character dies, Serinuma is so upset she doesn’t eat for days, making her lose weight. When Serinuma comes back, her classmates are shocked by her sudden transformation and start developing crushes on her.
A competition ensues between the guys who all want to get Serinuma for themselves. This frustrates Serinuma because what she really wants is for the boys to end up together.
Serinuma is such a lively and active part of her story that it never feels like the harem is happening around her more than she’s happening to it, if you get what I mean. And while the show is a light-hearted comedy and slice of life, you can’t help but feel worried that Serinuma will end up with a guy who only likes her for her looks.
Oh, and there’s a really cool lesbian who’s part of the reverse harem.
6. The Story of Saiunkoku
The Story of Saiunkoku is a charming historical anime with a plot that fans of Korean historical dramas will love. Shuurei Kou is a highly intelligent young lady with progressive dreams about the kind of nation Saiunkoku could be.
Unfortunately for her, despite being born a noble, she’s a woman from an impoverished branch of the family. Her gender locks her out of the one thing she truly wants: becoming a civil official.
In the meantime, Shuurei puts her intelligence to good use by working as a teacher at a temple school in order to help her father make ends meet. Her reputation as a clever woman with good looks to boot draws the attention of the Emperor’s Grand Advisor who asks her to turn the Emperor into a proper statesman.
At first, Emperor Ryuuki Shi isn’t convinced. He isn’t interested in ruling and doesn’t care about the controversy he causes when he publicly flaunts his love for men. But after realizing that Shuurei genuinely cares about the country, he decides to help her achieve her dream of becoming a civil servant and become a worthy ruler himself.
The political intrigues of the Saiunkoku court put Shuurei in the company of dashing guards, noblemen, and a possibly bisexual Emperor.
7. Hanasakeru Seishounen
Care for a game of high stakes, international The Bachelorette?
Hanasakeru Seishounen is a story about a wealthy heiress named Kajika Louisa Kugami Burnsworth. After an attempt on her life, Kajika’s father sends her to the isolated island of Giviolle where the only people she interacts with are Maria, a native, and Li Ren Fang, a friend who’s sent to visit her twice a year.
Kajika likes her peaceful life on the island where her primary companion is a leopard called Mustafa. But her father knows he can’t keep his daughter hidden away forever. As an emergency countermeasure, Harry Burnsworth calls Kajika back to the mainland with one goal in mind: to find her a husband who’s willing to protect her with his life.
Harry has pre-screened three candidates who Kajika must now discover in the area. Though Harry arranged for all the men to end up near Kajika, they have no idea they’re now embroiled in this dangerous game of love.