One of the most prevalent themes in Japanese mangas, the harem genre commonly depicts the main male protagonist in a situation where he is literally surrounded by dozens of girls, where the appearance of other male characters besides the main protagonist are either nonexistant or relegated to support and background characters. Although the genre tends to be aimed towards male readers (hence a healthy dose of fanservice), there are instances where mangas that are female-oriented commits a vice versa through 'reverse harem' (e.g: Ouran High School Host Club). As for myself, I never really dig harem mangas. They're pretty fukken' predictable and I can already guess how a typical harem manga would go: some dude (usually naive and dumb as piss) goes to someplace else to live there, and as expected, had to live with a dozen girls, all of which had some form of crush on him. Yes, there will be the serious type, the tsundere type, the huge-breasted moe blob type, the older-looking type, maybe a bit of lolis thrown in. Ai Kora (aka Love & Collage) however, did 50% of what I expect and 50% of what I didn't.
Ai Kora is a harem comedy manga by Kazurou Inoue, the same mangaka behind the popular manga and anime series Midori no Hibi. The story revolves around Hachibei Maeda, a 15 year old boy who loves girls not because of romantic interests, but rather for specific parts of their bodies that he finds appealing. Faced with the difficulty of finding the one with the right bodyparts in his current place, Hachibei decides to move to Tokyo trying to seek his 'parts paradise' and at the same time, pursue his high school studies at Sakashitamon Academy. Due to unforseable circumstances, Hachibei had to stay in the girl's dorm, and here is where Hachibei stumbled upon what he had been looking for all the time.
One would easily assume the main male protagonist is yet another weakling wuss of a virgin, yet that assumption is only 5% correct. Contrary to common male lead in harem mangas, Hachibei is perverted from the start (but still a virgin). Though largely calm, he gets wildly excited upon putting his sight on parts he find appealing. While he's not at all a loose cannon, hurting people he considered his 'precious treasure' would trigger his 'inner demons', a berserker state where his strength became inhuman. The early chapters of Ai Kora were pretty dull (save it for a few humorous moments) with a number of drama, but as things progressed to Volume 2, the humor gets even better. By Volume 3 and above, the drama in this manga seems pretty downplayed, and the humor value has definitely risen to a legendary status (breast-shaped pudding = win).
From left to right:
HACHIBEI'S PARTS HAREM
Tsubame is both the landlord of the dorm and a teacher at Sakashitamon Academy. Standing tall at around 190cm, she possessed his ideal leg (resembling Sorceress Sunny-Chan, his favourite childhood cartoon). She often enjoys smoking and drinking. At 25 years of age, her parents often tried to make an arranged marriage but ended up getting sabotaged by Tsubame herself. Later on in Chapter 18, it was revealed that she used to have a boyfriend during her college years, who died in a motorcycle race.
A student at Sakashitamon Academy. She possessed Hachibei's ideal eyes (cat-shaped, sapphire blue eyes). A typical tsundere character, she displayed plenty of dislike towards Hachibei although she does harbor hidden feelings for him. She initially doesn't have many friends and hates men a lot due to events in her past, as explained in Chapter 8. As a result, Sakurako's father became overprotective (Chapter 35) and when Hachibei paid her family a visit, her father viewed him with deep suspicion and made bizarre assumptions.
A student at Sakashitamon Academy. She is two years younger than Hachibei and possessed his ideal breast type (bullet train-shaped). Shy and bashful, she is often made fun of due to her bust size. She's the youngest of three siblings (Chapter 28), a member of the archery club and secretly, a member of a doujin circle (Chapter 27). Compared to the other girls, she has the biggest crush on Hachibei and even had confessed to him (Chapter 36).
A student at Sakashitamon Academy who is known to be rather unfriendly. She has incredible knowledge and strength in martial arts as she is a descendant of an ancient ninja family. Kirino possessed Hachibei's ideal voice. She secretly enjoys singing and wanted to become a singer, although her grandfather disapproves of her ambition and wanted her to carry on the family's tradition (Chapter 30).
HACHIBEI'S EXTENDED PARTS HAREM
A very popular student at Sakashitamon Academy, she's the daughter of the ultra-influencial and nigh infinitely rich Yashihashi Family. Ayame became interested with Hachibei in Chapter 7 after he unintentionally defeated the Kurimuto's gang leader in Chapter 6. When she was rejected by Hachibei, she tried monitoring Hachibei's interest in Chapter 16 and found out about his parts fetish. After a botched attempt and almost getting run over by an incoming truck, Hachibei saved her life and by chance, discovered Ayame's waistline to be his type; delicate as a bizen or arita vase according to Hachibei. Ayame would often perform a belly dance while showing off her waistline to attract Hachibei's attention, much to Tenmaku's chagrin.
Here's where Ai Kora really shines! In a surprising twist not seen in any harem manga before, there's actually a non-crossdressing, non-feminine GUY in his parts harem. First introduced in Chapter 23, Haiji Kikuno is a student who was recently transferred to Sakashitamon Academy. After a chain of events in the same chapter, he admits his bisexuality and also confessed his love for Hachibei. In Chapter 24, things turned into mental anguish for Hachibei when he accidentally touched Haiji's butt and took a liking in it as 'the perfect ass'. Although he seems to be made almost absent from most of the story after the end of Chapter 25, his role does add a minor flair of originality in this manga and one of the best moments of chronic laughter I ever had in a long time.
Hachibei discovered that through making different intepretations of Kirino's everyday speech, it unexpectedly became something erotic in nature.
Shibusawa develops a maid fetish, causing a conflict with his shared interest in specific bodyparts as Hachibei.
A man with a trample fetish competes with Hachibei on who will be stepped on first by Tsubame.
A student named Haiji Kikuno was recently transferred to the school. Much to Hachibei's surprise, he admits his love for Hachibei.
Hachibei was introduced to Yukari's elder sisters. His pleasurable paradise awaits.
Hachibei stumbled upon Shibusawa, who was looking for an attractive ghost. The reverse horror fell upon the female spirit as she was chased down and photographed by the pair.
Using a special X-ray glasses, Hachibei tried to capture Yukari's nipple, braving through many dangerous adversaries.
I won't spoil anymore beyond this chapter. You just have to download it and see it for yourself.
Top image is a recolour from one of the manga chapters by Lennon7935.