The story of Nanakura Rin of the Drama Club, who has indisputable talent as an actress, and her senpai in the same club, Kitahama Eiji. With the power of her acting, Rin teases Eiji with a variety of personas, giving him the harem he's always dreamed of!
Giji Harem started as a web manga published on the author's Twitter account on June 20, 2018. It is also serialized in Gessan since January 12, 2019. The web and magazine serializations have been running concurrently, and they do not share the same content.
(Note: This review is for Yuu Saito's original web manga posted on Twitter. I have not read the serialized version but will amend the review if it ends up being warranted.)
Haven't you ever questioned yourself whether a harem manga could have quality romance and paper-piercing (or screen-piercing) character chemistry? How about... whether a harem relationship could be established between only two people? Enter Pseudo Harem: perhaps the most wholesome and endearing "harem" experience you'll ever witness. Perhaps because it's not actually harem and is low-key brilliant.
The premise is dead-simple: first-year student Rin Nanakura and her upperclassman Eiji Kitahama are members of a high school acting
club. Eiji laments his apparent lack of popularity with girls. Rin, having some budding affection for the unlucky senpai, decides to humor him by acting out the recurring harem stereotypes: the cheeky devil, the cool beauty, the tsundere, the spoiled princess, and so on. Eiji accepts the game enthusiastically, and lighthearted flirting between him and Rin's multiple personas ensues.
Now, you could imagine this would be a one-trick pony—and don't get me wrong, it would still be enjoyable if it were—but the author actually intends on developing his characters. They make palpable—if subtle—progress as a pair, and the fact that both Rin and Eiji become so engrossed in acting out the harem scenario that they tend to lose track of the authentic Rin persona adds a solid layer of complexity to their dynamic and gives them some natural challenges to overcome (though it's hasn't yet been focused on thus far, and the series has maintained its lighthearted tone). What is this sorcery? Solid writing in my short-form, episodic romcom? You bet it is!
It's no secret that stories like this almost entirely rely on the strength of their characters and their interactions—and Pseudo Harem, despite having only two prominent characters, actually manages to stay consistently fresh and entertaining, carefully avoiding some of the most common romcom pitfalls and giving a new take on the old tropes. For instance, Eiji seems utterly oblivious to Rin's feelings at first, as per the expected trope for a male protagonist in his respective setting, but the extent to which he enjoys Rin's company very soon becomes evident—as is the fact that he's basically openly flirting with her, playfully drawing out her emotions instead of unknowingly shooting them down. This is not at all how a clueless person operates, and the subtlety is not lost there. This is exactly how you flirt, gentlemen: by mixing genuine affection with playful uncertainty that sets a girl's heart aflutter. The fact that his behavior stems from his own whimsical personality—rather than cookbook recipes often lampooned in other romcoms—is worth a lot.
Perhaps my favorite aspect is that the pair's interest in acting is meaningfully incorporated into both their personalities and their relationship to the best extent possible: they're both forward and expressive people, they bounce off of each other, joke around and ooze charisma, and so it feels completely natural that Rin would offer to play such a game with Eiji. So while the characters' backgrounds aren't deeply explored and we haven't yet seen a full range of their emotions (so far the content has focused almost exclusively on their fun times together), they have a strong, well-written personality core: their interaction basically writes itself at this point, and their onscreen chemistry makes them a joy to behold. When you enjoy watching a fictional character so much you want to be friends with them in real life, you know it's a good one!
All that said, I admit that over time my standards have dropped uncomfortably low upon witnessing many dozens of romantic comedies and dramas where the guy is always denser than a black hole and the girl is always shy enough to be only a step away from forgetting how to breathe, let alone confessing her love. Relationships like that are hardly fun to watch—and I can only imagine how *painful* they would be for the actual participants—but the most depressing part, to me, is that such obnoxious drivel is actually considered a good watch/read by the mainstream audience now (I mean, look at the ratings of something like Orange or Tsuki ga Kirei...). Almost like people unironically empathize with cardboard excuses for characters, eh?
Now, I'm fully aware that people aren't perfect and that not every pair is comprised of extroverted, highly social, top 1% human genetic material. What I'm disappointed with is that manga and anime is so brimming with examples on what *not* to do and *not* to be in a relationship. The vast majority of "romance" stories found therein would never work out in real life. Two blushing teenagers staring at their feet too afraid of uttering a word is *not* romance at all; it's devoid of everything that makes human interaction *fun*. It's doing a disservice to the more reserved members of the audience by instituting a false notion that not committing oneself to expressing emotion in a relationship is par for the course and is enough to put two people on a crash course with each other's genitals. If someone were to act on such notion it would make the realization all the harsher: an unfun relationship falls apart very quickly—and you're lucky if it's quick enough not to torture you or the other party along the way. Yet at the same time, neither manga nor anime provides remotely enough exposure to healthy relationships and people actually making themselves an enjoyable company for their partner. You know—that old chestnut that enables romance in the first place.
This makes Pseudo Harem all the more a refreshing—if somewhat simple—modern example of *how actual flirting between high school students is supposed to look like*, and makes me all the more thankful for its existence. I think we—as a community with a rather high percentage of members who have not had a lot of successful romantic experience—need more of this: more charismatic, well-written, relatable characters that have the mental and emotional faculties to be enjoyable for each other; examples of characters that even the readers would want to spend more time with. We need to be constantly exposed to the basics of functional romantic communication that carry over into the real world scenarios. Hopefully, Pseudo Harem will continue developing its characters and include more more dramatic situations that could serve to demonstrate how people with genuine affection towards each other solve their relationship hurdles at the early stages. For now, it's a solid, entertaining, and very recommended read for anyone who's into light-hearted comedy, romance, or both.
Pseudo Harem originated as a web manga published on Twitter but was eventually serialized, though the content of the two versions is said to be different; unfortunately, as of writing this review, I don't have the access to the serialized version so I don't know the extent of the differences. The web chapters are short and bound to lighten up your day, so be sure to check them out (an approved English translation by TheElusiveTaco is published regularly at MangaDex). If the magazine version is at least as good then I will wholeheartedly endorse it just as well.
There's no reviews for this great manga yet!! Might as well write one now!
Giji Harem, or the anglicized Psuedo Harem, is a romcom manga by Yuu Saitou. The premise behind it is simple- you have a drama student, Nanakura Rin, with a crush on her senpai, Kitahama Eiji. To gain his attention, she uses her acting skills to act out different personalities to fulfil her crush's dreams of having a harem.
It's a nice, simple romcom story. Nothing special but it's a good idea, playing on Rin's acting prowess to create a harem rather than separate characters.
Also a 7 because while the art
is cute it's nothing spectacular, nothing to really write home about.
Here's where the story is great. Every few chapters, you have a new persona of Rin, be it Cool-chan or Tsundere-chan (no, not Senjougahara). Each persona is nice and mixes trope with comedy perfectly. The main character is a somewhat clueless lead, like so many romances, but it works well as you have a balance of Rin trying to seduce him in a way with her acting.
I personally loved every chapter but chapters have been quite sporadically released (at least where I read oof). They are a tad bit too short for my taste... but each is amazing.
Overall a 8 for this series because while it is amazingly enjoyable, each chapter leaves me wanting a bit more, and the art/comedy isn't revolutionary in any way.