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In a significant amount of anime, the protagonist (and possibly others) experience one of the following parental situations:

  1. Both parents are dead and are inconsequential to the story.

  2. Both parents are dead, but one was more consequential to the story than the other. Based on my experience, it's usually the father.

  3. Both parents are alive and are relatively normal.

  4. Both parents are alive, but one is more consequential to the story than the other.

  5. One parent is absent from the story, or dead. The other is still alive, and is usually more consequential to the story.

I'm going to name some examples, and assign them a letter according the scenarios I described above.

  • One Piece - 5. Luffy, Usopp, Shirahoshi, and Rebecca's mothers are all either dead, or absent from the story. Their fathers are all alive and very relevant. Ace's situation would fall under 2. His mother was largely normal, while his father is the pirate king and the catalyst for the whole story.

  • Fullmetal Alchemist - 5. Mother is dead, while father remains a somewhat prominent figure in the story.

  • Attack on Titan - 2. Both parents are dead, but the father had a much larger impact on the story.

  • Bleach - 5. Mother is dead, while father remains relevant to the story.

  • Berserk - 5. Mother is dead. His adoptive father is short-lived, but he still had an impact on Guts' life.

  • Cardcaptor Sakura - 5. Mother is dead, while father is alive and kinda relevant to the plot.

  • Fairy Tail - 5. Lucy's mother is dead, but her dad is alive for a good chunk of the story.

  • Medaka Box - 5. Father is alive and influential.

  • Shokugeki no Soma - 5. Mother is absent, but his dad is far more influential to the story thus far.

  • Ouran High School Host Club - 5. Mother is dead.

  • Sweetness and Lightning - 5. Mother is dead, dad is one of the MC's.

  • Garo: Divine Flame - 5. Mother is dead, father is quite relevant to the plot.

  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn! - 4. His mom is pretty normal, while his dad has actual ties to the mafia world, which is relevant to the plot.

  • The Prince of Tennis - 4. Ryoma's dad is a former pro, while his mom is an attorney. Being an attorney is still pretty badass, but his dad is far more consequential in the story, since it is about tennis after all.

  • Boruto: Naruto Next Generations - 4. Boruto's dad is a powerful ninja and the Hokage, while his mom is just a housewife.

  • Naruto - 2. While both parents were strong while alive, his dad, Minato, was the stronger, and had a larger impact on the story, being the Hokage and all.

  • Beelzebub - 3. His parents are background characters, usually for comic relief.

  • My Hero Academia - 5. For the most part, Deku's parents are support characters. However, his mother gives him parental support, while his father is working away from home.

  • The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. - 3. His parents are background characters, usually for comic relief.

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - 5. I know it's not a Japanese anime, but I'm going to include it. Katara and Sokka's mother is dead, but their father is alive and well, and a prominent figure in the Water Tribes.

Kill la Kill is an interesting example. It doesn't fall under any of the scenarios I listed, since the mother is alive, more powerful than the father, and is super relevant to the plot. However, she's the final villain. I guess it'd be nice to have a character like her who isn't a villain, is what I'm saying.

That's definitely not all the examples, but it's just a few. Whenever an anime character has a missing/dead parent, chances are very high that it's the mother. If both parents are alive, it's usually the father who is more relevant to the story. If it's a shounen/seinen series, the father is usually stronger and/or more relevant than the mother.

My question: Why do anime mothers get the short end of the stick? In many stories, the mother is dead (Bleach). If they're not dead, then they're largely irrelevant (Katekyo Hitman Reborn). If it's a shounen series, they're often weaker than the father (Naruto and Boruto). If not, then they're the villain (Kill la Kill).

How come there's not as many series where the mother is the living parent, is relevant to the plot, is not a villain, and is the stronger parent in the case of shounen/seinen? The father tends to get all the spotlight. Personally, I would love to see more badass mothers in anime.


Disclaimer: These are all generalizations. I know that not every anime is like this, but I've observed it in enough series that I thought it was worth asking a question about. I also realize that my observations are biased mostly in shounen anime. I tried throwing in a couple of shoujo, but this largely remains a shounen trope.

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    This trope does not seem to be limited to Anime& manga, but also to occur in disney movies and movies all together. Might be worth while to also post it on Movies & TV (if it within their policy) – Dimitri mx Oct 2 '18 at 9:50
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    My personal thought is that "mother alive=well adjusted and normal child = not interesting". And like Dimitri says, this isn't an anime only trope. – pboss3010 Oct 2 '18 at 12:22
  • pboss3010 That sounds interesting, but why the mother? Couldn't having the father alive also result in a well adjusted and normal child? – DeeeFoo Oct 2 '18 at 17:24
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    Why are you counting my Hero Academia in this list when the mother is of way more consequence than the father (so far)? In fact, there's quite a number of anime where the father is the inconsequential one. Fruits Basket, Kamisama Kiss, Your Lie In April, Erased, Orange, Child's Toy to name a few. I suspect your view has been biased by what genres you watch. – Kai Oct 3 '18 at 16:51
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You know, there's a lot of reasons an anime character could be an orphan or motherless.

A mother symbolizes peace and maternal care.

Everyone knows that if someone's being mean to them, they can cry to Mommy, and she'll set things right. But if there's no mother, there's none of that. A character who has a mother often doesn't have a traumatic experience.

No mother can be a catalyst for great change.

The loss of a mother can change a character to be able to be the character the mangaka/anime director they need to be. Grief changes us all, and the loss of a mother is one of the greatest grief that can be caused.

Mothers will protect their children.

A mother wants to protect her child(ren), and wants to keep them out of harm. But, most of the time, a character needs to put themselves in danger, and with Mommy trying to protect them from a dangerous job, it's not likely to happen. Quick fix? Kill Mommy.

That's just a few of the reasons off the top of my head. Hope this helps!

  • While that does make sense, couldn't you easily replace the mother with the father in those scenarios you listed? Oftentimes though, they (the creators) usually go with the mother. Is there some literary value in using the mother, as opposed to the father? – DeeeFoo Nov 8 '18 at 17:41
  • Well, a mother is usually the nurturing member of a family, and cares more (Not saying there aren't nurturing fathers.) They've fed you when you were young, were with you during school events, etc. Mothers are often the more active party in your life, while the father works to pay the bills (Not saying this is the only formula, but there's a reason for the stereotype. Therefore, since the mother is the more active member of your life, losing her takes away more of a presence than the father. Just my opinion though, take it as you will. – Kale Slade Nov 8 '18 at 19:21

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