Harem manga are a dime a dozen, an endless parade of attractive girls who encourage readers to imagine being with them. Rokudou no Onna-tachi (“Rokudou’s Wicked Women”) is unique in that, while it is very much based in the harem genre, the title’s girls are anything but typical. Instead of falling into various staple tropes, like the “sporty one” or “the childhood friend,” virtually every female character in Rokudo no Onna-tachi is an unruly delinquent, with main heroine Ranna Himawari the most violent of them all. In this harem, panty shots are virtually non-existent, while bare-knuckled brawls are an everyday occurrence.
In my previous review of Rokudou no Onna-tachi, I came away from the early chapters encouraged by what I had seen. However, when it came to the series’ premise, there was an elephant in the room: if Rokudou no Onna-tachi is all about a boy whose newfound magical ability makes all delinquent girls fawn over him and try to cater to his every whim, then is it actually a series about making strong women subservient?
Having read more of the manga now, I am happy to say that the series is not so much about seeing tough girls “put in their place” as it is about him growing into a man he can be proud to look at in the mirror.
Chapter 3 is when whe can really see the kind of manga Rokudo no Onna-tachi aims to be. Titled “Shin no Otokogi,” or “A True Man’s Man.” Himawari up to this point has been shown to be a nigh-unstoppable monster in a brawl. Fearful that Himawari is sending too many victims to the hospital, Rokudou asks her to stop resorting to violence. Consequently, Himawari, eager to answer Rokudou’s request, gets beaten up without putting up a fight. Rokudou ends up feeling so guilty that, when he runs afoul of a guy delinquent, Rokudou willingly lets himself get taken to the cleaners to keep Himawari from being his personal shield.
Although Rokudou is no match for his opponent and ultimately Himawari has to rescue him, Rokudou’s spirit earns the respect of the delinquent who had been pummeling him, and it becomes the start of an awkward yet burgeoning friendship. From then on, Rokudou’s story is as much about becoming stronger from within as it is about dealing with being a chick magnet. Rokudou is never going to be as physically powerful as Himawari or anyone else, guy or girl, but he’s trying to become worthy of the position he finds himself in. He’s like a young prince who inherits the throne much too early yet puts all of his efforts into becoming a good king.
It would be misleading of me to present Rokudou no Onna-tachi as some kind of pivotal feminist work. The reason Rokudou is so uncomfortable with having this harem of delinquents is that they don’t match his idea of what a girl “should be.” He wants sweet, gentle girls like the sort you’d find in a regular harem manga. And while it’s a given that Rokudou’s perspective will change as he and Himawari grow closer, the guy is not exactly fighting actively to shatter gender stereotypes. Even so, Rokudou no Onna-tachi is delightfully hard to predict, and it challenges notions of masculinity and femininity in its own way, as a harem series that focuses on elements beyond the harem: unlikely friendships, self-confidence, and subtly redefining what it means to be a man.