This Sunday is Fathers’ Day, and in the great tradition of the schoolyard Badass Boast, I asked a few of my friends to tell me their favorite anime dads. Anime has no shortage of fathers and father figures to draw upon, and their picks run the gamut from the classic to the modern.
But before we get to them, a few clarifications. First, I have a very expansive definition of “dad.” You don’t have to be a literal parent to be one, or a dude. Ladies is dads too. Second, this isn’t a literal contest in the vein of “who would win in a fight, Goku or Superman?” It’s more a sampling of the favorite father figures of a few of my friends. No blood drawn, just an intellectual conversation between anime lovers.
So, without further ado, I present a selection of the Best Anime Dads.
Piccolo (Dragon Ball Super)
Nominated By: me, merritt
My Credentials: Have hosted a podcast about fictional father figures for two years.
Guys, it’s Piccolo. We’re talking about a dude who, when his longtime enemy died fighting an alien invader, agreed to train his son in the fighting arts to prepare for the arrival of even more alien invaders. Goku is basically the worst dad in the Dragon Ball franchise, having no investment in his son’s education and constantly blowing off fathering to go train with some weird gods. But Piccolo? He’s always there for Gohan. And who didn’t shed a tear when he sacrificed himself to save Gohan’s life in the fight against the Saiyans?
Yoshifumi Nitta (Hinamatsuri)
Nominated By: Fujoshi’s Island, Progressive Anime Fan
His Credentials: Consumate anime expert.
“He is an young, insanely rich Yakuza who becomes a “dad” via a little alien girl with super powers (the titular Hina) literally falling out of a portal into his living room one evening. He only hesitates for like a day before he’s completely spoiling her with all his yakuza money, enrolling her into school under his name and sacrificing a lot of his social life to take care of her.”
Iruka Umino (Naruto)
Nominated By: Kris Mukai, Artist and Illustrator
Her Credentials: Anime fan whose work draws on manga styles.
“I haven’t seen or read Naruto in ages but I just remember Naruto was totally alone. People thought he was hopeless and a big nuisance and Iruka was the only one that sat down to eat dinner with him. Something about the two of them eating dinner together really stuck with me, maybe because “sitting down to eat together” was really valued in my family.”
Joichiro Yukihira (Food Wars!)
Nominated By: Eric Thurm, TV Writer and Roommate
His Credentials: Seems to watch a lot of anime, well-versed in TV dads.
“Joichiro Yukihira is in some respects, not the best dad: He abandons his son Soma Yukihira to go cook at restaurants around the world, and ships the boy off to the Totsuki Culinary Institute while forgetting to tell him pretty much anything about the school or the high-stakes culinary world that Joichiro inhabited when he was a kid. (Otherwise, how would Soma have an opportunity to prompt long exposition dumps?) Still, Joichiro is an incredible dad in the “dad jokes” sense of the word. He and Soma share a taste for disgusting culinary experiments, dumb jokes, and the casual and chill pursuit of kindness—exemplified by his commitment to his family’s diner, which he pursues instead of any of the lucrative cooking careers he could have had. (Also, everyone on Food Wars is deeply uncomfortable with Joichiro being hot.) Eventually, Soma is going to win one of his endless cooking competitions against his dad, and while it will feel like the natural endpoint of Food Wars, it’ll also feel like a totally earned, deliciously sweet family moment.”
All Might (My Hero Academia)
Nominated By: Cayla Coats, professional anime lady
Her Credentials: Works in the anime industry, occasionally makes youtube videos about anime
“All Might may not be Deku’s biological father, but, in an inversion of the classic Replacements lyric, he sure is a dad. All Might takes Deku, a kid who has been told his entire life that he could never become a hero, that he lacks something special, and tells him that he has what it takes. He builds Deku’s confidence and self worth from the ground up, which, for my money, is the mark of a rad dad. Oh also he sometimes takes him out of school activities to go eat lunch together—total dad move.”
It seems like there are at least two themes running through these picks: sacrifice and food. Maybe that’s because we associate dads with providing for their families, even at their own expense.
Of course, not everyone’s dad was there for them, and for that reason Fathers’ Day can be kind of a tough holiday. If that’s the case for you, I hope you can take solace with some of the caring, sweet, and protective dads of anime. We may not have all had great experiences with our fathers growing up, but we can all have a good, cathartic cry at that heartwrenching moment when the spawn of a world-dominating demon, realizing he genuinely cares about his ex-enemy’s son, throws himself in the path of a deadly attack to save the boy’s life. What better way to celebrate Fathers’ Day?