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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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  • 5
    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
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 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
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 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
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 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
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:51
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    Movies? It's a commonplace trope in all sorts of fairy tales as far back as records of them go. Even if only to leave the child vulnerable to a Wicked Stepmother.
    – Mary
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 15:19

4 Answers 4

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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!

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  • 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
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 17:41
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    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
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 19:21
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Anime are very incestuous. So what you see in one anime that worked well is likely going to get copied down the line in other anime. The whole "I want to get stronger" protagonist that you are used to from Shounen anime traces it's lineage back to Ashita no Joe (1970), for example.

So the reason why there aren't that many anime with mothers in a more prominent role is that no one made a really good one that everyone else felt the need to copy.

It's not like no one ever tried. There is the 2019 anime Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Ni-kai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki desu ka?, after all.

But having parents around can be a bit stifling for teenagers and most anime are about teenagers. Dads are still fine, since most anime are about boys growing up and their dad can be a role model, but it's really best for the parents to just not get involved that much. A character needs some freedom to grow and there's nothing more stifling than having your mom show up when you hang out with friends.

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  • Re anime incestuous: does this relate to imouto's? See my answer
    – BCLC
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 0:39
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I just want to bring up that in the filler in Naruto Shippuden Ep 432, do any of you realize that Naruto seems to have a similar personality to Boruto? Not completely similar, but with his dad being the Hokage, he frets that it's always Hokage this and Hokage that. It seems to me he would develop some similar behavior to Boruto's but different because Minato didn't seem to be just not always at home, but rather just someone respected by many that made them not want to disrespect his son. Though, Naruto actually seems grateful to have parents, Hokage or not, unlike his son Boruto. Perhaps if Naruto sacrificed his life for the village, Boruto might actually not be so rude and irritating.

Personally, I wish this filler was canon because notice how most have something against Boruto because of his rude attitude towards Naruto. That is because we have grown with Naruto, we know what he went through and what he endured. Therefore, those are angry because we think Boruto should treat Naruto better because of all he went through. Though with no series about Minato, if the filler was canon and developed into a series, the majority would most likely side with Naruto and his beliefs because we know nothing much of Minato at all and we didn't experience her hardships through a screen much.

Possibly, the creators thought Naruto's parents' deaths were needed and the Nine-tails to be sealed in him because the moral they wanted to get through is to never give up and always keep trying no matter how much anybody rejects you for who you are. People (in the filler) only respected Naruto because his father was the Hokage.

I really don't like that Kushina and Minato had to die, which is why in my opinion the author should've come up with something that would make things better. Though remember, as brought to attention, the parents are usually killed off for a hardship for the protagonist to have to endure and for them to try to get stronger despite not growing up with parents, or just losing them. A way to make them feel that even though something sad greatly impacted their life, doesn't mean they shouldn't strive to be the best they can be. It gives them great determination which makes the main character who they are.

Now, usually, it's the antagonist that kills off the parent. This fills the protagonist with rage and eagerness to avenge who was most dear to them. Naruto wouldn't have the same anger he did against Tobi then he would at the fact that he is the reason his parents died. It gives the protagonist a reason to work hard and be the best they can be. (of course not all of them). I strongly agree though, for me, it's angering me that the parents have to be killed off because for me seeing Minato and Kushina raise Naruto would make me treasure the show more than anything.

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Guess: Moms die, so imouto's 'step-up' to take their mothers' places.

Check this out for example:

enter image description here

The 1st 2 anime that come to mind for this question are The Quintessential Quintuplets and Kaguya-sama. These are also the same 2 anime that come to mind for Michael's question Why are daughters usually in charge of household chores after their moms have passed away or left the families in anime?

The younger sisters Kei Shirogane and Raiha Uesugi of the male protagonists of their resp series step up by being in charge of the family finances after their moms are gone.

Here's my 3-part conjecture:

  1. Imouto's have been a popular trope in anime for the past decade, I think starting to gain popularity with Oreimo in 2010 or something. (But perhaps even earlier: Death Note, Code Geass, etc.)

  2. The imouto's can have a more important role in caring for the family besides being cared for by the family if exactly 1 of the parents are dead. (I think both parents dead might be the same as no parents dead?)

  3. The importance is greater, maybe much greater, if the parent in question is the mom.

In the 2 shows:

I'll talk about the matriarchs of the 4 main families: Nakano, Uesugi, Shirogane, Shinomiya

  1. TQQ: With the death of the Nakano matriarch, Itsuki often acts as the family's mom. (Don't confuse this role with Ichika's role: the group's oldest sister instead of the group's mom.) Itsuki also does chores like bringing Fuutarou back home after being drugged and handling Fuutarou's pay in S01E04 or other administrative work such as possibly in the 1st episode.

enter image description here

Here's an example also from s2

enter image description here Nino says 'Let her go already. And quit trying to act like her replacement all the time.'

  1. TQQ: With the death of the Uesugi matriarch, Raiha acts as the family's mom eg in cooking and doing other household chores.

enter image description here

This is actually 1 of the striking similarities we see between Raiha and Itsuki in S01E01 and I believe what forms the basis for their friendship for the rest of the series.

  1. Kaguya-sama: With the departure of the Shirogane matriarch, Kei does about average of Itsuki and Raiha probably because Kei's age is about the average of the ages of Itsuki and Raiha: Kei does household chores but also finances and stuff.

  2. Kaguya-sama: As for the death of the Shinomiya matriarch (Actually Kaguya's illegitimate but whatever), well, I think this is mainly my-last-name-comes-from-dad, so it has to be the mom who dies...but I don't think it'd be much different with the genders reversed at least up to s3. In the manga (for what would be upcoming s4 onwards in the anime), it's much more apparent why mom instead of dad is chosen. But it's for very different reasons than the above. But I guess for up to s3 it's so that Ai Hayasaka can have a more important role. Ai and Kaguya are practically sisters aaaaand (manga spoiler)

If Chika Fujiwara marries Ai and if Moeha marries Kei Shirogane, then Ai and Kaguya will be sisters-in-law. This is a very credible ship. Observe that both Kaguya and Moeha think of the Shirogane siblings similarly. enter image description here enter image description here Btw 1 might even argue that the death of Kaguya's mom led to the stepping-up of the imouto Moeha Fujiwara.

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