I notice there’s been a lot of new visitors to the site in the last few days! Welcome, all of you, and I do hope you stick around. To those of you who’ve contacted me to share your stories of being Fans Of A Certain Age, thank you, and to those of you who’ve invited me to read your fanworks and original content, I promise I am looking and reading, and would love to be able to share some links here soon if that’s okay with you.
After writing recently about anime focused on adult characters, I got to thinking about which adults, specifically, have been at the centre of my favourite anime stories. There are some terrific adult characters in shows that are mostly focused on or filled with kids, and I think they deserve a little love for being great role models, for putting up with a lot of drama, or just for proving that life doesn’t end at 20.
Again, these aren’t in any particular order (I’m hopeless at picking favourites!). Only two of the characters on this list are in any way super-powered – all the rest are just regular folk like you and me. No high-flying military leaders or famous artists or idols. Everyday grown-ups doing everyday grown-up things.
Honda (Skull-faced Book-seller Honda-san)
For all that I love large-scale sci-fi shows or creepy horror, sometimes the most entertaining stories come from regular people doing regular jobs, and no one’s a better example of that than Honda.
Proving that you don’t have to be in a top-level career or making a living from your art to enjoy your job, Honda and his colleagues are as dedicated to their bookshop as they can be. I adore the ending sequence showing Honda in his book-filled apartment, falling asleep reading while surrounded by yet more books. Honda shows us that the pains of retail and customer service are universal, and is one of the most relatable skeletons I’ve ever met.
Practically every adult in ‘Osomatsu-san’ is despicable in some way, so Chibita is possibly the most decent guy in this show, while still having his own moments of wacky craziness.
Chibita took his childhood love of oden and built his own business, becoming an independent adult while the Matsuno brothers remain permanently dependent on their parents. So kudos to him for not becoming yet another shitty NEET.
Yuuko’s own tragic backstory is something that doesn’t get uncovered until quite late on in the series, so once you find out she’s living out of reality and on borrowed time, it does put her boozy recklessness and carefree approach to life in perspective.
In the meantime, she serves as a mentor to Watanuki and his link to the spirit world he’s trying to escape, paving his way to take over as the keeper of the wish shop. Her sense of humour and light-hearted approach to things often hide the true extent of her powers, giving her a mystery and sense of danger. Plus she gets to wear some fabulous outfits!
Mumen Rider (One Punch Man)
Remember how I’ve said I’m always drawn to the side-characters? In ‘One Punch Man’, it’s Mumen Rider who is the under-rated best boy of the show. Despite having no powers whatsoever and minimal fighting ability, the Cyclist For Justice will never back down from a fight, making him possibly the noblest hero of them all (or perhaps just the most reckless!). He’s also one of the few people who recognises Saitama as a real hero, and I hope we get to see more of him in future stories.
Koro-sensei (Assassination Classroom)
A tentacle-monster who trains children to be killers might not seem like the most likeable character. But in training his own assassins, Koro-sensei also takes a bunch of under-appreciated kids lacking in confidence, and teaches them about self-worth and just how much they can achieve with the right support. Seeing his class come together to prove to the rest of the school just how capable they actually are is almost worth the tears that come with the show’s inevitable ending.
Kyoko (Fruits Basket)
I wrote a few weeks ago about the lack of adult women in anime, and how the only roles women over 25 tend to get are either mothers or villains. That’s not to say that mums can’t play important roles, though, as evidenced by Tohru’s mother Kyoko in ‘Fruits Basket’.
She’s only present in the show in flashbacks and characters’ memories, but she’s still as vital a character as any other. The manga shows us her own difficult childhood, and how she overcame obstacles to find happiness and make her own family. And someone who raised a girl like Tohru has done a pretty good job as a parent.
Gotou (Samurai Flamenco)
In a world of super-heroes, Gotou is another unfortunate regular guy who gets thrown in at the deep end. With only his police training to give him any standing alongside Samurai Flamenco and the various other rangers, Gotou still holds his own, and although at times it feels like he’s mostly babysitting some of the others, he’s still a key member of Masayoshi’s team. His own personal storyline is also gripping and a teeny bit heartbreaking, and he’ll always be my favourite character from the show.
Another mum on my list, but what a great one. Effectively raising Izuku alone, she still does a great job bringing up a hard-working boy with a strong sense of justice. More importantly, she doesn’t just blindly trust the staff at UA – when Izuku is in danger, she makes her feelings perfectly clear, and it takes a strong person to tell someone like All Might that she doesn’t like the road he’s chosen for her son.
Shuu (Princess Jellyfish)
In a show full of weird eccentrics, Shuu is, once again, the normal guy. Eldest son of a prominent politician, he feels a duty to protect his family’s dignity and integrity, dealing not only with the flamboyant behaviour of his half-brother but also with the threat of a (manufactured) scandal.
His attraction to Tsukimi is tentative and delicate, which makes it all the more enjoyable to watch. I do enjoy watching the ‘only sane man’ trope play out, and when the man is voiced by Suwabe Junichi that’s even better!
Reigen (Mob Psycho 100)
This absolute disaster-man is probably the least respectable adult on my list and the last one anyone should look up to. But that’s part of what makes him so entertaining. A con-man who’s built his life on taking advantage of people’s suspicions, he still somehow manages to do good things for people.and be an inadvertently good mentor to Shigeo. We spend most of season one wondering why he would tell Mob that his powers don’t make him special, until we see how it actually saves Mob from giving in to his powers.
There’s a poignant loneliness to Reigen, a man who, for all his charm and bluster, doesn’t have any real connections with anyone besides Mob. The very epitome of ‘fake it ’till you make it’, he’s a self-made man with his own business, but he’s still alone at the end of the day, disconnected from his family and the few people he knows socially. Which makes it easy to relate to him if you’re also an adult trying to figure out how to actually adult.
- Ukai and Takeda (Haiykuu!!) – I wish we got to see more of these two. The little snippets we get, especially when they go drinking with the other coaches during the training camp – just aren’t enough. When you work with kids it’s easy to feel isolated as the only adult in the room sometimes, so I love that these two have each other. A little more insight into their personal lives, and they might have made the list.
- Katsuki Yuuri (Yuuri On Ice) – in just twelve episodes he dealt with career struggles, severe anxiety, and entering a new relationship, and he was totally believable and relatable every step of the way. Only out of the running due to being a little less ordinary than the others (and also younger than the rest!).
- Riyoji/Ranka (Ouran High School Host Club) – openly bisexual and gender-non-conforming, Riyoji is another parent who raised a pretty good kid. Or at least, is the parent of a pretty good kid who seems like she raised herself (and parented him from time to time).
- The entire adult cast of Golden Kamuy – it really is hard to pick a favourite, because they’re all entertaining, even when they only seem to share one brain cell between the lot of them.
Who would make your top 10? Let me know in the comments!