Just the word “Harem” alone is enough to make people roll their eyes these days. Each passing year, they just seem to keep receiving bad press and it’s not hard to understand why. The way that Web Novel/Light Novel fantasies and isekai have used harem elements in their stories have been one of the main sources as of late because of how they mostly use it in the most cringe-inducing way imaginable. But there has been a stigma attached to it for years because of the tropes in both story and characters are what people would desire. So, what makes a good harem? Gotoubun no Hanayome (The Quintessential Quintuplets) seems to have the recipe: five-times the fun, five-times the cuteness, five-times the charm, five-times the hilarity and five-times the chemistry.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is like any other romantic comedy with harem elements, so the idea of “originality” for the most part goes out the window. The best way to judge is how they used the common tropes and clichés. They can be fun if used correctly and it helps to add layers to the story. The mangaka Negi Haruba shows a good understanding of this and it shows in his writing—they add to the story in a positive way, they are not overly done to the point of being annoying, and repurposing them—which allows to use the connotations and history of the terms or phrase while also seasoning it. Tutoring a set of quintuplets turns out to be five-times the trouble for one reluctant young man, but it's also the start of his own romantic comedy. Fuutarou Uesugi, our main protagonist, comes from a poor family, lacks social skills, like to be left alone, he’s desperate for cash so he can help pay off his family’s debts. So, he can’t say no when a wealthy businessman pays him five times the normal rate. However, Fuutarou ends up with more than he bargained for when it turns out that his clients are the beautiful Nakano quintuplets who are anything but quintessential academically.
In addition, these quintuplets go to the same high-school as him, the girl’s father is paying him to help them pass their grades since they all dislike studying. This situation is awkward and troublesome at first as Fuutarou left a bad impression (unintentionally) on one of the girls, now they all distrust him. The catch here is that if the sisters do not regularly pass their grades, the father will fire him. So, to keep this good paying job, he starts devising plans to earn their trust so he can properly tutor them. Since the girls rather do anything but study, they try to sabotage him which sets up the foundation of where the magic happens. The premise is simple, yet engaging that keeps the story focused on his struggle to get the Nakano sisters to improve academically. I was impressed with the way that this series imparts a strong sense of direction in keeping all of his interactions with each of the sisters in service of this goal. Additionally, the comedy works well around this premise by appropriately providing some quintuplet humor as well as both situational comedy and playing off both Fuutarou’s personality as well as each of the sisters.
Being physically identical, the Nakano sisters all have large blue eyes, light-reddish hair, a cute expressive face, and a shapely figure. The sister’s names represent numbers so from order, Ichika takes on the role as “big sis” and has a playful nature. She is very mature looking, has short spiky hair, wears one earing and likes to tease. She very caring and has a job she likes to keep as a secret. Nino acts like the motherly figure who cooks and cares for her sisters’ medical needs. She is cold-looking, has long reddish-pink hair, wears twin butterfly shaped ribbons and often opposes Fuutarou. Miku is a quiet and reserved girl who has a pessimistic way of thinking and low confidence. Through Fuutarou, she learns to open up more. She’s emotionless looking with medium-length, brownish-red hair and wears wireless headphones around her neck. As for Yotsuba, she has a bubbly personality, very carefree and cheerful looking with short straight hair. She wears green ear-shaped ribbons that expressive. Finally, we have Itsuki, a diligent person who loves food and sometimes can be a bit of a cry baby. To fit her serious personality, she has a serious look, medium-length hair that’s reddish-orange like for color. She wears a pair of star-shaped hairpins and has an expressive ahoge.
The twist that makes The Quintessential Quintuplets marginally more interesting than other harem anime is that it starts with Fuutarou marrying one of the sisters in the distant future, but we don’t know which one. Using that framing device, both the short-term goal of getting the sisters to graduation and the long-term promise of a romantic resolution is always in the stories line of vision. With that plot-driven approach, it allows the story to have a sense of momentum, it’s gradually building to the goal and promise while keeping everything more engaging. Each character has their own individual goals, their own personality, and manage to capture the appeal of your standard MC/waifu archetype without being defined by them. Individually they are strong characters that can stand on their own with their clearly define motivations and values while having a good balance of strengths and flaws. There is also the advantage this show has over other harem is having the girls being sisters. They have better chemistry together than most harems, they have a family bond. Sisterly-love and sibling rivalries mean they are all tightly interwoven with their individual stories, and each one playing the role of advancing the other's relationship with our star pupil.
When it comes to the production side of things, Tezuka Production has done a lot of good with the adaptation but there are some inconsistencies worth mentioning, as they can be the type to be a “hit or miss” for some people. First of all, I love the character designs, the colors used and all the different fashionable clothing for our characters. In certain episodes, you will see them with different outfits, some trendy and some modest. The shot composition and art are a strength with animation being slight fluid at its best. At its worst, the animation becomes stiff and the art goes off-model, even entering “derp face” territory where it looks like the animators ran out of time. All the great and important moments are well polished throughout—as well as the visual gags. There are a few times scattered among each episode where you start to notice the production team cutting corners, but not jarring enough to be of annoyance. The background music is your typical beats from a romantic comedy, upbeat, catchy, relaxing and specific tunes for punchlines.
What seals the deal in making the characters appealing is the seiyuu. They all fit the personalities of characters perfectly and bring depth to the dynamics of characters interactions with each other, taking full advantage of the unique strengths of harem element by being able to use the full range and various styles with their voices. They have a really good script to go off and execute each line that helps bring these characters to life. Fuutarou is played by the harem god himself, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka while the Quintuplets are played by an A-list of stars. Ichika is played by Kana Hanazawa, Nino is played by Ayana Taketatsu, Miku is played by Miku Itou, Yotsuba is played by Ayane Sakura and Itsuki is played by Inori Minase. The performances are excellent, even their collaboration efforts in the anime’s fun and addictive OP, “Gotoubun no Kimochi” where they get to show off their talents for singing.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is a very fun anime with lots of charm, one of my favorite guilty pleasures ever. It’s a five-star harem with an MC who never crosses the line in becoming overly jaded or cynical to the extent that he becomes hard to cheer for, and it’s easy to see in the way that he treats the siblings that he has a heart underlying his awkwardness. The comedy is consistently strong, the narrative manages to carry previous developments forward into a new storyline, and most of the characters' actions are believable in light of their personalities. It has everything for everyone who is fans of romantic comedies and harems. It has all the necessary things that make it a wholesome viewing experience, and I was smiling from ear to ear after each episode. Of course, it also has all the necessary requirements for the good old fashion waifu wars as each girl are great characters individually, and each one potentially is the “best girl” here, so go all out to your heart’s content.