The title of this column has been “A Mom’s Guide to Anime,” but it is not solely focused on moms. It’s for anyone who takes care of children and is looking for a way to connect to them using anime as the medium.
Last month’s guide highlighted the fantastic women in anime who play pivotal roles in children’s lives. So, it is only fitting that I do the same for the male figures putting in that parental work. It’s not just the dads, it's the uncles, brothers, cousins, god-dads, teachers, and more, who day in and day out, shine as positive role models.
As Father’s Day is in June, we spotlight some influential men in anime. These characters are filled with heart, strength, intelligence, and swag that they pass on to the youths in their lives.
Unconditional Love – Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
When it comes to the best anime dads, Maes Hughes is certainly in the running for the best of the best. The friendly and outgoing man is attentive to his subordinates, including Ed and Al. The diligent military man gets all giddy when he brags about his daughter Elicia. The Lieutenant Colonel will show pictures of his precious daughter to anyone around. Though he can be a bit overprotective when it comes to Elicia and boys. My dad tried to set up an arranged marriage with me and a cast member of Pawn Stars by showing him my photos. No wedding but did get a signed bobblehead.
While it would seem his unconditional love is just for his family, that is not true. Hughes gave 110 percent of his heart to Ed, Al, and the other members of the military. He religiously believed that love could heal all wounds and could change the world. That’s why he made the sacrifice he did in the series. When you love unconditionally, you accept people as they are, flaws and all. And, that feeling is transformative in a child’s life.
Pride and Faith – Byakuya Ishigami from Dr. STONE
Byakuya Ishigami is another example of a man with a heart of gold. Byakuya is Senku’s adoptive father, though they look an awful lot alike. The elder Ishigami enjoyed spending time with his son and teaching him about the world through the lens of science. A mission into space forced the father and son pair to say their goodbyes, but they never knew it would be their last. Byakuya and his team worked tirelessly to figure out a way to reverse the effects of the petrification. Ultimately he had to place his faith in Senku to finish his work.
Byakuya’s last moments were filled with pride for his son. Even though he never got to see him complete his mission in his heart he knew he would. Knowing someone is proud of you and believes in you is a strong confidence booster and motivator. Especially when it comes from the prominent male figure in our lives. It’s almost like the passing of the torch. It creates a healthy pattern of acceptance.
Loyalty and Honor – Iruka from Naruto
Iruka Sensei could easily be placed in all these categories. He truly is a positive role model on how to be a decent human being. Iruka did not have to insert himself into little Naruto’s life the way he did. After all, Naruto was a warden of the village and was under the “care” of the Third Hokage. What a splendid job he did. (-.-) The lack of care and attention causes the lonely ninja to act out in destructive ways. Recognizing this, Iruka stepped up to mentor and care for the orphaned ninja. He introduced him to his great love: ramen. He taught him how to be an honorable shinobi and to be a loyal friend. Essentially, everything it takes to be a Hokage, Naruto learned from Iruka.
If Iruka didn’t step into Naruto’s life the way he did, Naruto could have easily become as dangerous as Gaara, Pain, or Madara. When we are kids we just want to be kids, concepts like loyalty and honor, seem so adult, but it’s important to start learning them when you’re young. When you have a positive father figure to show you how to put these characteristics into practice it takes root and becomes part of your character.
Trust and Support – Fujitaka Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
This might be a little bit of a confusing pick — I know a case could be made about Fujitaka Kinomoto being an absent parent. While that may be valid, let me state my position. Sakura is being raised by a single father, not just any single father, a widowed single father. As a single parent myself, it is incredibly difficult to do all the things. Thus, you may have to heavily instill responsibility and trust into your children because the sad reality of single parents is that sometimes our children will have to do some things on their own.
Fujitaka Kinomoto is a hard-working father, who loves his children very much. He is always apologizing for not being there more. The time he does spend with his children is filled with love and laughter. Fujitaka trusts his children to do the right things when he isn’t around and supports the decisions they make when they are unable to run them by him. Having a parent who trusts and supports you helps foster confidence and good self-esteem. Fujitaka isn’t passing off his responsibilities to his children, he’s teaching them how to be assertive and reliable young adults. That sounds like a good dad to me!
Courage – Piccolo from The Dragon Ball Series
A wise man once said, “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.” Am I being too mean to Goku? Maybe. But Piccolo deserves his flowers! Piccolo played a pivotal role in Gohan’s life from the very beginning. A surprising feat considering Goku and Piccolo used to be enemies. While Goku was off doing whatever, Piccolo was around to make sure Gohan and Chi Chi were protected. When Gohan desired to be strong and learn to fight, it was Piccolo who taught him. Some Dragon Ball Z fans believe Gohan’s phenomenal strength is because he learned to fight like a Namekian. When the fate of the world rested on Gohan’s shoulders it was Piccolo who gave him the courage to take on the difficult task.
Having Piccolo in Gohan's life provided him with stability and a strong support system. Piccolo was always open and honest with his pseudo-son but supported any decision the kid made. Even into his adulthood, Piccolo was there for Gohan’s schooling and wedding and acted as a grandfather to Pan. Having a strong male figure backing you up who you know will be there through the good and bad can make you feel not only safe but courageous.
Whether the male role model in your life is your uncle, father, teacher, brother, godparent, or coach, they bestow upon you positive characteristics and the tools for tough life lessons. Remember to cherish the moments you have with them on Father’s Day and every day after. One day it will be our children who will be that person in someone else's life. That is how we create positive generational changes.
Happy Father’s Day to all the men providing courage, pride, loyalty, honor, unconditional love, trust, support, and security. We see the work you do and we honor you.