If you're anything like me, the name alone prompted an internal long-suffering "Oh great. =_= Harems in the desert. How "original". This sounds... fun."
But I encourage you to place yourself in an exotic desert mindset. At first glance of this manga, all you might see is plain, tiring, and unoriginal sand, but if you look just a little deeper instead you'll find a vibrant oasis of witty character interaction, spontaneous fun, and depth of thought. While the oasis of the desert might at first seem a lighthearted paradise, shadows do lurk at night.
The mangaka does a good job of creating spontaneous
yet enjoyable subplots, all the while foreshadowing the bigger (yet at this point still relatively undetermined) picture. In somewhat typical shoujo fashion, sometimes the story can lack direction or resolve itself unrealistically, but overall things tend to balance out as decisions made in one arc often carry their consequences into the next. Rated 7/10 for overall enjoyment and plenty of "smile at the screen" moments.
I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the art style of Sabaku no Harem. It's pretty. It's vivid. It's clean. I have difficulty getting past the ridiculously wide eyed, surprised faced, and stick-limbed shoujo girl style. I have even more trouble liking the shoujo guys, where their face literally seems to be two beady little eyes mounted on a piece of pizza (that's their face shape, seriously), all stacked on another larger, piece of pizza. Fortunately, Sabaku no Harem is neither. The style isn't terribly unique, but the art is well drawn, consistent, and conveys the characters nicely.
And now we get to the fun part. Mishe. Mishe isn't your average hapless, helpless shoujo heroine. Mishe is hardworking, resourceful, and intelligent. She's a three dimensional young lady facing unusual and trying circumstances all while trying to find and stay true to herself. It's made very clear early on that it's not easy being female in a historical time where men ruled everything. Want to be strong? Too bad. Want to be self governing? Too bad. Want to be influential? Too bad. Too bad that is, unless you follow the strict set of do's and don't's. Much to our delight, Mishe is not contented to sit back and let life happen. Instead, she games the system, and in the best of ways. I would rate 9/10 because of the gem that is Mishe, but Mr. Prince (Kallum) is just a little too manipulative and forceful at times for my tastes.
I obviously enjoyed this manga a lot. It was refreshing, entertaining, and actually addressed some deeper issues. Characters surprise. They struggle. And most of all, they made me smile :3 .
Overall, I rate this manga an 8 and would recommend it to anyone looking for some interesting character interaction, a lighthearted read interspersed with a little angst, and a strong female protagonist.
Sabaku no Harem is not perfect, but definitely worth a read. Don't judge this book by its cover.
Overall the story is pretty simple with subplots woven in to compliment the bigger picture and introduce characters as well as elaborate on the desert setting to which the story takes place. I found the subplots very short though and wish they had been a little more drawn out. It was definitely a bit rushed and lacking some substance at times.
Art - 8
This is primarily what drew me to pick it up - though I was hesitant of it being another harem anime, the detail of the faces, flowing hair, and elaborate clothing is what made it so enticing. While I wish
there was more body diversity (given the setting), I like how Yumeki (artist) portrays the hierarchy of the characters through their clothing styles and tends to make Mishe (heroine) look a little bit more tom-boyish (in a non-traditional shoujo way). One of the bothersome things to me is the placement of lace on clothing throughout the series as I find lace a more European fabric, as opposed to more traditional Middle-Eastern patterns that probably could have been utilized. There was also not a lot of facial diversity and the mangaka's style of thin, tall characters was prevalent.
Character - 8
The main characters are well-rounded and have very specific personalities and react to the situations in a very believable way. Unfortunately, I found that not as much care was taken into the background characters (among them, the 30 wives) and I felt particularly let down in some instances given the filler characters performances showing flat/no real merit. I also was confused on the names of the characters not flowing (they are a mix of Middle Eastern, English, and Scandanvian/European names). The heroine Mishe does take the cake and tends to shine outside of the traditional helpless shoujo trope - she is shaped by her experiences and learns to transgress her hurtful past, as do other main characters.
Enjoyment - 8
I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it so memorable and shared it with my significant other as soon as I had the chance (he doesn't read anything outside of DBZ, but enjoyed my excitement over this series). If I owned it I probably would give it another good read and would just be comfortable knowing it was in my collection.