If you’ve been around the block with anime for a while, or really many forms of media that often focus on a young protagonist, you’ll see one theme that commonly pops up. That protagonist’s parents are often never around.
They’re out for their job or on vacation or sent their child to live with a distant relative that isn’t ever at the house. Maybe they’re rich and send them to live on their own for school.
Whatever the reason, it has the same end result. The protagonist is without any mother or father figure in the story. We can only assume they talk, but they aren’t an active part of the Protag’s life. At least not what we see of it.
I’ve always been kind of bothered by this, and after the past few days, it got to me even more. To explain why that is, we’ll get into a little bit of storytime.
So, over the past few days, I watched The Day I Became a God. For those of you who don’t know the significance of this anime, it was made by Jun Maeda, the Key Studios guy responsible for many of your visual novel and anime-related tears. I cried two times watching this for those curious.
It was essentially about this young, odd little girl named Hina Sato, who believed she was some type of god and went around solving problems and predicting the end of the world.
I remember this show was awfully hyped prior to coming out before the ending caused a rift in the community. Regardless of that, I never watched it until now. I could talk about some other topics from this anime, like the ending. Though, I won’t now.
I personally enjoyed it. Although it had its problems, I think the anime was nice overall. But there was one thing that really stood out to me, and I wish more series would do. Parents are a big part of this anime. For pretty much everyone. Not just Yota Narukami, the main character.
Even for many of the side characters. Either their mom, dad, or both are present in one way or another. In fact, they’re as much characters as Yota himself. In fact, I would say they’re probably the most important characters in the story because their actions are the things that ultimately set the plot in motion.
I won’t be talking about anything with big spoilers. I won’t reveal any twists or turns throughout the story, but I will be discussing some of the character’s pasts and how their parents shaped them into the characters we know. So if you want to go into it completely blind, I’d recommend watching it now.
Very early on, we already get to see an example of parents pulling strings. After Yota meets Hina a month before the world ends, he’s originally annoyed with and really wants nothing to do with her. She’s bratty, she’s pushy, and she’s always freaking right. Not the best combination.
She demands to stay at Yota’s place, but he isn’t having any of it. Yet, Yota’s parents, for one reason or another, allow her to stay with them. This alone sets into motion the entire story, but there’s more to it than that.
One common theme you’ll notice with Yota is that he often tells his parents everything. Before he goes somewhere, before he does something, even if it’s just having a normal conversation with them, they are an active part of his life, and because he’s a minor who still lives with them, it makes sense.
Far too many anime disregard the Protag’s parents completely. I get why this is theoretically. Having your main character work around their parents would be a pain. It would be hard to write the characters in as many situations as you would like since their parents would often be against their actions.
Yota’s case is a little different. His parents are far laxer and understand that their son needs to pave his own way in life, so they often allow him to do things others wouldn’t. They have little to say if he decides to run off for two weeks to some remote location without telling them where he’s going.
This presents another problem, which is that the parents are too lax. However, this kind of writing allows for Yota to still have freedom without taking his parents out of the equation.
The end result is the same. Yota still has the freedom to do what the writer wants. The biggest difference is that the support of his parents is there. We can see the bond Yota shares with them. They trust him, and he trusts them. Beyond that, they’re very perceptive and often know how he feels without him telling them directly.
It isn’t all that hard to believe that they would let their trustworthy son go on a journey so he can get some closure after a certain event. The story can stay similar, but rather than not being present, his parents can be a support system for him, much like the rest of his friends.
In the ending of the show, actually, when Yota starts to doubt himself, he looks down at his phone and sees all of his friend’s encouraging words. Guess who’s there? His mother and father, just as they have been the whole time. They are a part of his life throughout the entire show.
But this isn’t the only instance of parents being an important theme. Whole episodes are dedicated to either the parents themselves or the children acting because of their parents.
Episode 3’s plot centers around Hina wanting to help Yota’s younger sister’s senpai save her mother’s failing ramen restaurant from a loan shark. A fairly dangerous one, but I’m not sure any loan shark can be plesant.
Hikari Jinguji, wanting to be a good daughter, puts herself in danger to help pay off the big debt her family accrued, even getting hurt in the process. After these events, Yota disguises himself as his fake uncle, and with Hina’s help, they both save the restaurant and the family, causing them all to become friends. Even the loan shark!
Episode 5 is completely dedicated to Kyoko Izanami’s father, who became a shut-in after his wife’s death years ago. The episode revolves around Hina and Yota helping pull her father out of that depression, bringing him closer with his daughter, but more than that, the two become stronger and move on with their life. Izanami completely changes her personality afterward and becomes more open.
This leads to her being a healthier person in general, but also a kinder one. One willing to open up to those she cares about. Eventually leading her to be more receptive of Yota.
Even getting into some of the characters we see less. The brilliant hacker, Hiroto Suzuki, only shows his skills off working for the mysterious company (I don’t think it even has a name) in the series because of his trauma related to his past.
His parents beat and abused him. They called him useless, and they treated him as less than garbage. This gave him an inferiority complex, which is what drives him to do what he does throughout the series.
By Hiroto sticking his nose into everything, it sets into motion all of the events towards the end of the anime. He’s ultimately responsible for the ending that we got. All of this was born from the pain his parents inflicted on him physically, but more so than that, mentally. Those are the scars that never truly heal.
Going a step further than that, the entire story we see can be traced back to one instance when Hina was taken in by her grandfather at a young age. This only happened because her father abandoned her.
This shaped Hina’s entire personality. The way she talks, the way she acts. How she interacts with people. This all causes her to act and help Yota’s friends, making all the memories throughout the series happen.
That’s why the ending feels so fitting to me. Because it all comes full circle. Yota becomes a parental figure after all the events of the series, largely influenced by the many character’s parents. Though some argue things went another way. Still, I think my interpretation is a bit more accurate.
For most every character in the series, their parents either impacted their lives in a great way (be that positive or negative) or are currently having an impact on their lives. This is something I love to see.
So many anime focus on young characters, more often than not teenagers. For most of your life, but especially that time of growth, your parents greatly impact you and the person you will eventually become.
I wish more stories would emphasize this theme. It feels like wasted potential. The bond between a parent and child is very special, and I wish it was explored more.
I’m not saying every story needs to have it be the focus, but I do wish more handled things the way Yota’s parents are. They’re just there. That’s it. They aren’t off doing Hina knows what. They’re there, living with, raising, and supporting their son.
They’re important people in his life. They play a big role just by being there for him. I don’t know, the way parents should be rather than ditching them alone in some apartment for years.
This isn’t to say all anime has absent parents the entire time. One series I think handled these themes very well is Toradora! Taiga’s relationship with her parents is well-done, especially for the arc involving her father. But the somewhat awkward relationship between Ryuji and his mother is, I think, the better comparison.
Still, neither of these are the same. Both Ryuji and Taiga have a lot of baggage involving their parents. They aren’t on the best terms. In Yota’s case, there’s none. I’ve seen very few anime series where the main character has regular, supportive, half-decent parents. No past trauma, no baggage, no big issues. Just a normal relationship.
And in the instances where that is the truth, it’s often assumed by the viewer or just not mentioned at all. If the parents don’t bring some type of drama with them, they usually aren’t included. They’re absent because of work or some other excuse. This is ultimately because if they aren’t important to the story, there’s no real reason to include them. I get that.
I also get that it’s easier to write a story about young Protag-Kun going to some generic magic world or fighting demons or something if the parents aren’t there to stop them. They could put a block on the story, and if they don’t, as I said, it looks like lax parenting, which may not be believable.
But it is much more believable to me that some kids parents may have a few lapses in judgment than that they would abandon their child in some faraway city for months on end as they get with like four romantic interests if it’s a harem or nearly die dozens of times if it’s fantasy. It’s a pick your poison situation.
I think it can be difficult to work parents into many stories, and that’s why writers shy away from it unless they’re explicitly important. But even in the stories where the parents would shackle the child, we just never hear about them. It’s always like one line to say that the main character lives alone. That’s it. And everyone just goes, “ok!”
My issue isn’t really the absence of the parents. It’s more that you just never hear about them unless they’re relevant. I get if you want your plot to focus on stuff that the parents would stop.
Just make them busy with work like usual, or have them somewhere else. Suspension of Disbelief is a thing. I do that when I see 17 girls fall for this one moron with two brain cells and when some high schooler wields a sword three times his size to fight monsters despite being a scrawny human. It doesn’t have to make sense.
But how hard would it be for the parents to give Protag a ring-a-ding every now and then and say, “Hello, child I conceived, paid for, cared for, and raised for 16 years before throwing away, how are you?” Maybe take 1 minute out of an episode for the parents to send their child some support.
How about a scene where Protag gets a quick text or something? It wouldn’t be hard to make the parents present in some way without them actually being there. Take The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, for instance. Kyon’s little sister refers to their parents every now and then. You don’t see them, but you know they exist and that the kids weren’t born from thin air.
Isekai Cheat Magician was the first image that showed up when I typed “Generic Isekai,” which is funny because I was going to use this show anyway. My hand was forced, I swear.
What about in most Isekai anime? Why aren’t their parents worried about where their kids went. Why the hell aren’t they worried about their parents. That would be an interesting idea for an Isekai, actually. Focusing on finding someone who went missing in another world, maybe. Though, I do give props to Cheat Magician for the characters actually wanting to go back home.
Many stories, not exclusive to anime, but most all young fiction style stuff is guilty of not even doing this much. And I just think that’s fascinating. Because I believe there are ways to incorporate it, I justs hardly ever see it happen. Yota’s parents wouldn’t work in every narrative, but I do believe you could have normal family relations in many more stories than we see.
I did this post for a few reasons. I just got done watching The Day I Became a God and thought it was a fun ride, and the themes in it sparked my brain, but mostly because I’d love to hear other opinions on this topic. I would be really interested in knowing how you feel about absent parents in these stories and how you think they could be incorporated differently.
Thank you very much for reading
Again, please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear other opinions on this topic.