Anime is a bit strange when it comes to parents. Either they are dead, or they play a major part in the story. There seems to be no in-between. You do have Amu Hinamori’s perfectly alive parents in Shugo Chara or Madoka’s delightful family in Madoka Magica, but as a general rule, the protagonist’s parents are usually part of the one of the aforementioned scenarios. Still, although parent characters are rarely developed, the ones that are stand out. So who’s the best? We don’t have to guess who the worst parents are – Eren Jaeger’s dad and Goku can step out for a bit.
Clannad is good one to flag up as it possesses a rare phenomenon: both of Nagisa’s parents are alive and well, in a good relationship, and love their daughter dearly. Akio and Sanae Furukawa are mainly used for comic relief in the first series. However, in Clannad After Story they become central characters when they take in their granddaughter Ushio after Tomoya goes into a deep depression and cannot care for her. Ushio is the spitting image of her dead mother Nagisa, and despite this, Akio and Sanae care for her without showing their grief. This is all due to – of course – the backstory. When Nagisa was a child, she got a fever. Sanae and Akio chose to go to work instead of caring for her and she got dangerously sick, almost dying. After that, these parents dedicated their lives to making sure their daughter was safe and happy- and they continued this on after her death by looking after her daughter. They’re just great.
Okay, so we mentioned before that it’s rather common for the protagonist’s parents to be dead, but it won’t stop us pointing out Kyoko Honda from Fruits Basket. She is dead almost a year before the series even begins but throughout the anime (and massively in the manga) she is quoted and referred to, getting several extended flashbacks. From this we get a pretty good idea of her personality and how much she cared for her daughter Tohru. She’d had a pretty tough life: becoming a girl gang member, getting beaten up and then being kicked out by her family for staining their public image. Despite this, she made a life for herself with Katsuya Honda, an older man she fell in love with. She tried her best to raise Tohru to be a positive-minded person, and it really worked, from the beginning we can see Tohru as a reflection of the good stuff she was taught as a kid. Which is good, because Tohru too ends up going through a hell of a lot.
Coming through to modern times, the latest anime mother everyone’s been raving about would be Sachiko Fujinuma from ERASED. (Warning- we’re heading into spoiler territory.) She’s not all delightful and warm and wifey, but she is totally badass. She tries her best to find out the truth about the missing children and is killed for knowing too much- right at the beginning. This triggers Satoru’s 18 year trip into the past to solve the kidnapping case that his mother was so close to cracking. We didn’t see much of her, but her influence is felt throughout the show.
There are so many parents we could mention, so it’s definitely worth giving a few honourable mentions. Many shounen fans would argue the case for Kushina Uzumaki and Minato Namikaze from Naruto. They did die defending their son and village from a tailed beast and a murderous Tobi, but this scenario is pretty much standard for shounen. Although granted, they do get a very emotional backstory. Speaking of emotional backstories, Haruko Kamio from Air deserves a mention. Air is a part of Key Studio’s holy trinity of ‘feelsy’ anime, and if you want a super emotional parent-child storyline, go for this show.
Parents in anime get far too little attention (apart from hilarious memes about that side-ponytail of death that all anime mums seem to have). Some of them deserve highlighting, and while they might not be the ‘best’ parents in the world, you can’t fault their character development.