Sekirei. High School DxD. To Love-ru. Rosario to Vampire. Date a Live. The commonality between all five is that they are harem anime. For each, there is one male protagonist surrounded by multiple beautiful women who love him. All of the women in these five series, to my knowledge, are much stronger than their respective male leads and essentially every male. They are proficient in martial arts or other fighting styles and/or possess supernatural abilities. Yet, somehow, they’re able to maintain quite womanly–model-like–figures. They are examples of the beautiful, fighting girl archetype.
There’s one aspect of harem anime featuring beautiful, fighting girls which I’ve seen in every such series: none of them die permanently. It’s reasonable to presume initially that their seeming invincibility is a result of the difference in strength between them and their opponents. And I believe that typically is true until no later than a series’ final arc. Having a formidable antagonist appear towards a series’ conclusion to counter the protagonist(s) has become expected for any medium. The female characters may be tested, they may lose (for part of the arc), and they may even die. However, death is never permanent. Deus ex machina commonly is the cause of their resurrections and their subsequent grand victories. For its own sake, the plot grants them success, generally as a result of mediocre reasoning, improper timing, etc. upon closer inspection of the story.
My view of this is characters who are a part of a harem, including those of the beautiful fighting girl archetype, never permanently die in series because of the negative emotions it would bring to a mostly male viewership which comes to love the characters. No man wants to see a cute woman he loves die.
The keyword here is “love.” A male’s love for his partner is sacrificial in nature. Think of an alpha male lion defending his territory. It is his responsibility to protect it and the members of his pride, including his partner(s). Humans also exhibit such behavior. For example, imagine there is a sinking ship like the Titanic. Everyone moves to the side adjacent to the lifeboats which have arrived. It is clear to them that multiple trips will need to be made to shore and people will have to be left behind for longer periods than others. The men motion the women and children to be taken first before them. The partnered and even single men alike instantly feel the need to protect the women and children, but of course, this feeling is stronger within those with partners or relatives because of their bonds. Men exhibit this behavior because of the reproductive dynamic. Women’s ability to give birth and the nature of the process of doing so, and thus, making them more vulnerable during that process to threats, has translated to them being the nurturers and men being the protectors. This is why men physically are stronger.
Because this protective feeling can also extend to single men, it explains a concept more broad and more relevant than love: instinct. This is known as the dominance instinct in males. Dominance is thought of as aggression in a negative connotation, plausibly so. However, in its positive connotation, it suggests an ability to protect.
A male without similar power would not be able to protect a character of the beautiful, fighting girl archetype in the normal sense. Such a person with unique, superhuman or supernatural abilities is so self-sufficient that she is able to offer protection to women and men alike. The roles essentially have been reversed: the women exhibit dominance, and the men exhibit hypergamy. She renders any of her male admirers’ desire to protect her redundant, although this is not much of an issue given that this has an instinctual component which, as I established, can be exclusive of love. Protection can be loved-based, instinct-based, or both. Additionally, the men can love her for a variety of reasons. Let’s count the ways: her personality, her voice, her style, her allure.
Nevertheless, the male protagonist ensures the male viewer’s protective instinct has importance to this genre. The male protagonist, more often than otherwise, acts as an insert for the audience. He usually is unable physically to defend anyone around him from threats, although there are exceptions. Instead, he at best becomes their psychological support. They turn to him in such instances where, for example, they have to come to terms with knowing that they have had to isolate themselves from society as much as possible due to their power. The male protagonist may become the first person they have ever been able to become their confidant, their friend, their (unrequited) lover. Or they have become apprehensive about a sudden existential threat unbeknownst to them and possibly even the viewers and discuss this with the male protagonist in order to reassure them and to reinforce that they have at least one dear person to protect.
Here, the dominance instinct essentially is useless in the normal sense of the phrase. The male protagonist is unable to lend his physical strength to the members of his harem in overpowering threats, and analogously, the male audience to their waifus. All of the cross-dimensional husbandos do have the advantage of knowing their waifus are not going to fall permanently at the hands of an antagonist–otherwise, there could be some grave consequences for the content creators involved.
This setup has proven enough to be to the advantage of the studios and the producers because the male protagonist and the male viewers likewise are placed into a state of perpetual borderline helplessness as a result of their natural desire to help women in need. The male protagonist’s inability to fight particularly during moments with major antagonists may further exacerbate this feeling within the viewers, not necessarily as a result of a fear of the females permanently losing their lives but because the male protagonist, the viewers’ representation, simply can do nothing but witness their emotional and physical pain, although it is temporary. This can keep viewers emotionally invested enough in a series even if they know the outcome. Nevertheless, knowing that the outcome is seeing their waifus cute, smiling faces upon a triumphant victory and reveling in that moment with their male representation can be the ultimate reason why they keep watching.