I’ve disclosed before my crippling addiction to harem shows, admittedly most of them are terrible, but that fact has made it possible for more challenging stuff to be made. In most cases the harem lead is completely useless, it hasn’t always been that way nor is it necessarily a requirement of the genre now either. So to begin this little feature, I’ve gone back 12 years to a time when the harem genre really wasn’t that well defined at all.
The world in Saber Marionette J is one where there are no women (none made it to the planet after an accident in space), and as a result the population has to seek comfort in same-sex relationships or by buying an android designed to replicate women, called a marionette, to fulfill the same sort of role.
Our lead, Otaru, treats marionettes like normal people, instead of objects like most of Japoness society. He gets by working odd jobs in the feudal setup of his country, bothered only by the unrequited advances by the spoiled pretty-boy/eventual neighbor Mitsurugi Hanagata.
Otaru meets the ladies in his harem early in the story. Lime in an abandoned museum, Cherry in a toilet stall at the Imperial Palace, and Bloodberry in a statue on the Palace grounds are supposed to represent parts of a human woman’s personality. That it would ultimately mean a woman with a low-IQ, no aspirations outside of becoming a housewife, and constantly demanding sex is worrying from an outside perspective, but that is for another discussion.
The four of them have several adventures including a trip to Gartland (A country based on Germany and in the series resembles communist East Berlin). All the while, Otaru teaches his three marionettes about life’s lessons in the completely platonic way that is most common in the genre, unlike Hanagata’s dream sequences which were probably ahead of their time. Otaru also shows himself to be a quite capable fighter who is steady under pressure.
Otaru would have to be considered as a transitional character amongst harem leads from the classic male lead who displays few weaknesses, to more modern ones which display few strengths with more adventurous character traits. Characters along his lines are increasingly rare making it incredibly difficult to see any like him.
Overall Character Score: 82/100
Harem Lead Score: 90/100