Advisory Parental – The Case for Parents in Anime

It is not uncommon for anime to lack parental figures. Many shows, especially the more popular ones, have mother/father figures who are either deceased, absent, or never mentioned at all. Anime tends to lean on the coming of age story structure, because a great deal of it is aged at children/adolescents/young adults. These groups will gravitate to imaginative spaces where parents are dead, absent, awful, or even outright villains, because that allows for the young heroes to take center stage.

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Thank goodness mom isn’t around to keep me from achieving my goal.

I feel like this is a huge missed opportunity. Sure, not every story needs or benefits from parents for any number of reasons. They may be outside the scope of the work, not particularly interesting, or the author simply does not know how to handle them. This is perfectly fine, but there are real advantages to adding parental figures to a work. Parents are very easy hooks for most viewers, as if they exist on this earth of ours then they have at least some personal dimension with parents whether they are biological, adopted, brought in through marriage, or of a more spiritual variety. Even if someone’s parents are completely absent, that absence plays some part in their story.

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I was both absent and a villain. Behold my incredible parenting abilities.

Parents also tend to be rather complex parts of our lives, as few people have entirely perfect relationships with the people who have raised them. They provide food, shelter, guidance, nurture, stories, and attempt to pass on a series of virtues to us, but can just as often be overbearing, overprotective, naive, or antagonistic to our desires. This kind of multi-layered complexity practically comes prepackaged with the use of parental characters, and authors should certainly not ignore the potential they have for telling stories

To show what I mean, I will pull examples from three (relatively) recent shows that use parents to great effect. To further compound things, all three will be shonen coming of age stories!

Major Hughes – Fullmetal Alchemist

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The Why – In a sense, Major Hughes is almost a bit boring. His entire character is literally Hey Look At Me I Love My Family. While that seems a bit one-dimensional (probably because it is), he definitely earns points for being one of the few characters in all of anime (or fiction, for that matter) who is just an out-and-out adoring father. I wish I could complain with something like, “Ugh, another good father, seen this a thousand times.” But truthfully good dads in anime are pretty similar to their real life counterparts – few and far between.

The Hook – His genuine goodness only magnifies the feels as the series progresses.

Rinko Iori – Gundam Build Fighters

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The Why – A somewhat typical maternal figure, Rinko gets bonus points in a few categories. Firstly, she has an earnest interest in her son Sei’s success, but is not overbearing/too nosy/obnoxious in any way. She clearly cares and encourages him without interfering with his life in any undo manner. Furthermore, she feels like an actual mother rather than a caricature of one – quietly supportive when Sei is around his friends, excitedly cheering for him when watching him compete. On top of that she is a successful businesswoman, has some great (if sparing) dialogue, and the audience can’t help but root for her while she roots for her son.

The Hook – A mother whose role is a bit traditional, but is refreshing in its sincerity.

Joseph Joestar – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

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The Why –  Not only is Joseph one of the better leads in the various arcs of JoJo’s, he really exemplifies the advantages of using these sorts of parental figures in anime. As an audience we see his journeys as a young man, and by Stardust Crusaders (JoJo’s 3rd arc) he is now an older man leading his grandson to save his daughter. The incredible dynamic that his legacy hook adds to the show as a whole gives everything that much more impact. Now the audience can juxtapose Joseph with his daughter and grandson, as well as seeing him continue on to have new adventures of his own. By including him as part of the adventure all of the events that take place have an additional sense of meaning, because this is both a new story for a new hero and the continuing tale of yesterday’s legends.

The Hook – Not your granpappy’s Grandpa character, an elder warrior who provides guidance and punch.


So there you have it folks, three examples of great parental figures that really add to the stories they are in. Do you agree or disagree with our picks for great parental figures in anime? Or can you think of any others we should have included? Tell us in the comments below.

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27 thoughts on “Advisory Parental – The Case for Parents in Anime”

  1. Man, do I wish there were more good parents around, in RL and anime, since it tends to go the extreme of “dead/absent” or “present/total bastard” route way too many times.
    I guess I’d nominate CCS, Sakura’s Dad as a supportive, strong father that even after their mother died, he still raised them with as much love and affection as he could. Can’t remember anymore on the top of my head.
    JoJo’s is an excellent example of the new and old generation coming together beautifully!
    Hughes, oh Hughes ;_;

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have never watched CCS, but glad to hear we have another entry for the “good dads” column.

      Seriously, poor Maes. The first time I watched Brotherhood I stopped because of that and had to wait a few months before retrying the show.

      Like

  2. Great post! Indeed, there’s a definite pattern in anime where the parents are absent or don’t take active roles in the plot. This is a really good discussion topic. I love Hughes from FMA. I cried when he was killed. Keep this up. Take care. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I was heartbroken. I also thought the Fuhrer was kind of a cool villain in the beginning, but when he later made the comment that he couldn’t stand Hughes’ daughter crying at the funeral I glared at the screen and muttered, “You and I are enemies now.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahahaha! I totally understand what you mean. It’s so sad that he had to die, but his dead drove the plot swiftly afterwards. It quickened the pace and made the series more exciting compared to the start.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great thoughts, great picks! I honestly wasn’t expecting to see Rinko Iori here (or in many blog posts at all for that matter) but you’re right; she does present a very positive, realistic idea of parenthood.

    I personally hold up Honoka’s father in Love Live! as a great example of a caring, supportive parent despite the fact that he is barely present in the anime. And there’s a lot to be said for the caring, protective nature of Kohei in Sweetness & Lightning; every time he reacts to his daughter I feel myself welling up a little!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely post and it touches upon something that time and time again proves to my secret weakness. I absolutely adore characters like Wolf Children’s Hana, BokuMachi’s Sachiko, and of course more supporting characters like Hughes and Kiseijuu’s Izumi Nobuko. There’s something about their passion that just instantly humanizes them and so many of these parental figures prove to be such good playgrounds for good character writing and characteristics. I think there could stand to be more parents that don’t fall into the ‘always out of the house’ or ‘secretly the protagonist’s arch-nemesis’ categories but I don’t know if I would change anything. The infrequency of their appearances just makes my encounters with these other wonderfully effective characters all that more special and memorable.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! Parents are important. There are families without parents, sure, but there are guardians. We need to show people that parents can be good people. There are families with love and warmth and care. That’s what we should show people. Not every parent is absent or a druggie or an alcoholic. That’s not true. We need to show TRUTH.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most definitely. It may not be as glamorous as a villain parent or one who is dramatically dead/absent, but it can still make for great storytelling and there are too many good parents out there for anime to have such few representatives for them.

      Like

  6. dont forget clannad part one and two! The bad relationship tomoya has with his dad reflects in part two. negisa’s parents are loving and duitiful. Tomoya starts off as a bad father but his relationship with his daughter evolves. He also gets to interact with his grandmother which leads to him forgiving and loving his dad. Parents are a complex part of Clannad<3

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I completely agree with your choices, especially Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist! A mother and father pair (I know, this never happens in anime!) that I praise for consistently being great parents are Madoka’s guardians from Madoka Magica. They are not given center stage or much dialogue, but when they are, they support their daughter fully and help her navigate through middle school. Madoka’s mom was probably my favorite of the two, since there were many times where she carved out specific time to teach her daughter how to look stunning in front of the boys at school, teach her the lesson that it’s alright to fail when you are young, and show her an example of an intelligent business woman. Overall, the protagonist’s parents in Madoka Magica were top notch!

    Liked by 1 person

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