After watching a shit ton of harem and ecchi animes over the past year and a half, I think I have a good idea on what makes certain shows work, and other shows fail, and it’s quite simple. Harem and Ecchi are at their best when they combine good fanservice, with strong storytelling. You cannot have one without the other and enjoy the level of success and fan reception that several shows have had.
Honestly, it is because we live in the age of the internet, where some of the raunchiest and sexiest porn and adult content is a few google clicks away. If you want your dose of fanservice or just straight up porn, then you are more than sated thanks to the internet. With most ecchi harem comedies often taking a light touch compared to what else there is, there is little need for viewers to stick with a show that just has fanservice and nothing else. Once has an ecchi show has delivered “the goods” or you’ve watched enough shows to get used to said “goods’ appearing in your anime, it doesn’t do much to keep a viewer coming back. What does keep people coming back to those shows however is the characters and stories.
High School DxD may have found initial success with it’s no holds barred embrace of the titty but did that alone carry it to four whole seasons? No, it was the great characters, amazing music, and solid storytelling that led the series to strength after strength. Did How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord become last years unexpected hit simply because of its well done ecchi? Perhaps, but it was also its good characterization, spot on humor, and mirror-shine polish of its isekai story that carried it through. Shows like Shomin Sample, Majikoi, Shimoneta, and Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple all found success BECAUSE they remembered they also had to tell a story and didn’t slack off in that department.
This is why so many other ecchi/harem shows often fail to maintain viewer interest. This year’s Senran Kagura was just BORING when it had to just depend on its weak characters and run of the mill plotline. Another World with my Smartphone didn’t even have any real fanservice to offset its abysmal female cast and Master of Ragnarok sucked even more. And yes it is probably the main reason why just watching a complication of all the fanservice scenes in Shinmai Maou No Testament is better than having to subject yourself to its worthless story and main characters. Shows like these never put the effort into having both story AND fanservice, and they all suffered for it.
I say all of this because a few weeks ago I came across a manga series that reminded me how much ecchi/harem shows can work when you put in enough effort for the story. So after the cut let’s take a shallow dive into Lynn Okamoto’s Parallel Paradise.
(NSFW IMAGES RIGHT UP AHEAD, PLEASE READ WITH DISCRETION)
I don’t know how this series fell into my lap, but I am glad it did. While on the outset, Parallel Paradise might look like it is just a sex filled Isekai romp, there is also enough effort put into the world building and story that kept me coming back for more.
The story starts out rather simple. Youta (seriously that name is like the Chris of Japan) finds himself literally throw into another world that is populated only by women who are around the same age or older than himself. Ruled by the “god of jealousy” each of these women is affected by a curse that will kill them once they hit a certain age unless he ‘mates’ with them. What follows is a story that slowly transforms from a fanservice-filled generic isekai to a harrowing and thrilling adventure with twists and turns I just don’t want to spoil.
Now one of the initial strengths of this series is that the author goes all in on the sex premise. Being a manga, and one that will probably never be animated, Lynn Okamoto has free reign to dive headlong into the concept of mating to keep the girls alive. There are no half measures, cutaways, or blue-balls in this story. The sex is raw, present, full of fluids and doesn’t pull any punches. Whole chapters have been dedicated to the characters just fucking often coming in the middle and end of the story arcs, While never reaching true hentai levels, there is more than enough present to make other similar pieces of work tip their hats in respect.
However, the world of Parallel Paradise is soon revealed to not be that much of a paradise at all, and much of the story soon becomes about Youta and crew trying to stop whatever has doomed all of these girls to death. To the story’s benefit, much time is spent on talking about what has happened, exploring the culture and world the girls have built and what happens when death comes knocking. It is quite clear early on that this isn’t the standard male power fantasy Isekai with actual sex added on, and instead, it is a bitter and dark world where the girls at the whim of forces out of their control.
Furthermore, the fate of Youta and his leaving of his own world for this new one isn’t something that is completely abandoned. Unlike other Isekais where the main character is transported and subsequently forgets everything about his life on earth and said earth is never referenced again. Parallel Paradise brilliantly shows us just how the effect of Youta leaving and what happened to him back home has had both on himself and his old friends. Even more, viewers are treated to a twist involving one of the secondary characters that completely turns the story on its head and seems to foreshadow that this is only going to get darker and more ominous before it reaches its conclusion. Frankly, I was blown out of my seat when I read what happened in those later chapters and couldn’t believe that the story was going in the direction it decided.
Parallel Paradise is not finished yet, but with almost 70 chapters under its belt, it is an example of what I mentioned at the start of this post. If this series had just been about the sex, then it wouldn’t have caught any long term interest. People would have gotten their kicks and left. What kept them (and me) around though is the thrilling story that gets more and more interesting with each passing chapter. The time spent on building that world, having actual characters and that freaking plot twist helps turn what could have been a trashy porn manga into a dark and fresh take on the Isekai genre. While it will never win awards, or probably ever be animated. Parallel Paradise is a good piece of work that shows that Isekai and fanservice don’t have to jog in place. Check it out if you are willing, perhaps you’ll have the same view I did!