A lot of anime characters’ backstory is often one or more dead parents. Thorfinn’s entire arc in Vinland Saga is defined by pursuing the killer of his dead father. Naruto’s motivation of becoming a Hokage is inspired by the fact that after being orphaned, he became invisible to the society.
When a character loses gentle, kind or in other words, good parents, it triggers a certain kind of character growth. They spend their life trying to recover what was lost or what could have been. But what if the parent was actually bad for their child, dead or alive? Bad parents, especially bad fathers are a recurring motif in shonen stories. A bad father storyline can be an excellent exploration of generational trauma or sometimes plain annoying. Let’s have a look at some of the worst anime fathers who traumatized their children in often irreparable ways.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Things can go wrong even with the purest of intentions. Van Hohenheim is a tragic example of that. Turned into a human Philosopher’s stone, Hohenheim wandered around in despair with his immortality. That was until he met Trisha Elric. Trisha encourages Hohenheim to embrace a regular human life. The two marry and have Edward and Alphonse. However, as Hohenheim sees his children grow up, his immortality becomes a source of anxiety and fear.
Eventually, he leaves his family to go find a way to end his immortality so he could live with Trisha and their children. Actions have consequences. Hohenheim had pretty understandable motivations for leaving. However, his absence led to a cascade of unfortunate events. Trisha died of an illness. Edward in an attempt to revive her through alchemy ended up costing Alphonse his physical body and losing an arm and a leg.
Moreover, Edward was understandably very angry at his father for leaving and refused to accept Hohenheim as his father. When Edward did get around to be accepting of him, Hohenheim sacrificed his life. The effect of losing his father yet again was left unmentioned but it’s safe to assume Edward must have had complicated emotions about the whole thing.
Goku might be the world’s greatest fighter but is nowhere close to being a halfway decent father. Goku essentially forced Gohan into becoming a fighter. Gohan does not share his father’s passion for fighting. However, he ends up fighting for a majority of his life and gets put into life-threatening situations as a child. We see the worst of it during the Cell Saga.
Goku trained Gohan to turn into a Super Saiyan before they went up against the Perfect Cell. When they came face to face with the perfect Cell, Goku abandoned the fight and gave Cell a Senzu bean to heal their fatigue. He then announced Gohan was going to be Cell’s challenger. On one hand, this speaks to a father’s confidence in his son’s capabilities. On the other hand, the son is eleven and doesn’t want to fight at all!
Goku’s bad parenting is often brushed under the rug. At the same time, Chi-Chi trying to compensate for the lack of a two-parents’ household is seen as overbearing and controlling. To his credit, Goku does love Gohan and Goten. It’s just that more often than not, Goku is more of a third child of the house than a parent. On top of everything, Goku is absent for a majority of his children’s, especially Gohan’s, life. Thank God for Piccolo or Gohan would never have known the love and care of a father.
Alright, this one’s a little complicated. On one hand, Ging built an entire in-universe game and sent his son on numerous interesting quests to strengthen him. On the other hand, Ging did not lift so much as an eyebrow upon hearing his son was dying. So it’s not complicated at all. Ging Freecss is a terrible father who left his son at a very young age because he loved his cool job too much.
Gon’s entire life and his journey is defined by Ging. However, when the father and son come face to face, it is hardly a family reunion. By this point, it is hard to believe Gon even sees Ging as his father. To Gon, Ging has simply become an exciting quest to be won and moved on from. However, the full scope of trauma inflicted on the poor, young Gon bya runaway father will probably never be determined. On top of everything, Ging is extremely annoying making it really hard to sympathize with him.
Enji "Endeavor" Todoroki
Narcissistic parents see their children as extensions of themselves. They often force their children to bear the weight of their failed dreams. In the case of Endeavor, he married a particular woman simply to have a set of particular children who will live out his ambitions. However he was cold to the point of being abusive to his family. Shoto, his youngest child showed the most potential. As a result, Enji focused all his effort on the youngest while completely ignoring the rest of his children. He went as far as to prohibiting the other children from even interacting with Shoto.
This all culminated into Enji’s wife having a mental breakdown and pouring boiling water over Shoto. Even then, instead of take a step (or several) back, Enji put her into a mental institution so she wouldn’t interfere with Shoto’s growth.
However, Endeavour’s worst actions took shape in the form of his eldest son Dabi, formerly known as Toya. Toya was so desperate for his father’s opinion that he kept physically burning himself to the point of losing his mind completely and burning himself up in a huge fire.
Endeavor is set out on a redemption arc with his family for now but Dabi is living proof of how some mistakes can never be fixed.
Gendo Ikari lost his wife during childbirth. There is no right way to grieve the loss of a loved one. However, blaming your new-born child for the death of his mother is hardly the way to go. Gendo abandoned his son, Shinji, when he was a toddler. Throughout the series, he was uninterested, distant, and harsh towards Shinji.
Shinji was abandoned by Gendo because of his refusal to raise him and his own selfish goals of "saving mankind." While doing so, his son drives the Eva in an effort to win Gendo's approval.
Some part of Gendo does feel regret about the way he treats his son but he also believes Shinji is better off without him. Perhaps this is pitiable but it’s also a self-centered, self-loathing cop-out.
Grisha Yeager failed not once but twice as a parent, and he did so in two vastly different ways. In Marley, he rashly joined the Eldian restorationists, putting his family in danger. While deeply passionate and dedicated to the cause, Grisha wasn’t the smartest. He also appeared to have a severe lack of self-awareness, failing to understand the repercussions of his acts until it was too late to do anything about it.
Grisha not only completely ignored Zeke but actively incorporated a very young child into his revolution. He ended up causing a rift between himself and his son and it ended with Zeke’s betrayal of his father and the fellow restorationists. Moreover, Zeke ended up with a pretty twisted worldview.
After this turn of events, Grisha grew to be a weak-willed person while still carrying out the Eldian restoration movement. In Paradis, after establishing a second family, Grisha grew very close to Eren. He was more attentive and caring and believed in his son greatly. However, his belief in his son culminated in Grisha letting Eren devour him in order to gain his Titan powers and left the fate of the world in his hands. In the process, he also limited Eren’s life to 8 more years and put him in a very difficult position.
In hindsight, Grisha’s actions were partially motivated by Eren himself. Even so, Grisha falls severely short of being a good father to both of his sons. Arguably though, Zeke got the short end of a very disappointing stick.
If until now we had people failing to be good fathers, Kagemitsu Daigo is an example of a person succeeding at being a horrible father. In order to rule the entire country, Daigo was willing to do anything, including give his own newborn son and future arch-nemesis to demons. He did so with a psychotic glee and showed no remorse for his actions, which led to the result of abandoning Hyakkimaru. Daigo is an overly-ambitious, selfish, sadistic, barbaric, greedy, and power-hungry tyrant.
Even after learning that Hyakkimaru is still alive and the two eventually cross paths, he shows no emotion toward his sacrificed son or remorse for what he did to Hyakkimaru. Instead, he decides to have him killed only to have him cease interfering with his rule. He even refers to him as a "Half-Demon Child."
The fourth Kazekage Rasa is in some ways the Naruto version of Kagemitsu Daigo. In order to save his village from the perceived threat of extinction, he seals a tailed beast Shukaku into his youngest, unborn son, Gaara. Of course the solution to not having enough capable ninjas is sealing a huge sand monster inside your own child and use said child as a weapon. This, very predictably, results in the death of his wife during childbirth. He started teaching Gaara ninjutsu, all the whie ostracizing him from his own siblings.
However, as Gaara grew up with Shukaku’s dangerous abilities manifesting themselves against Gaara’s will, Rasa realized he made a mistake. He’d then go out to issue not one,not two, but six assassination attempts on his own son whom he’d now begun to view as a failed experiment. As Gaara grew up, he gained more control over his actions. However, the actions of his father traumatized him to the point that when we are introduced to the character, he is an outright villain.
Berserk is full of horrible and twisted characters and Gambino still manages to somehow stand out in his horridness. Gambino was Guts’ adoptive father and leader of a mercenary band. Gambino was a short-tempered and careless man with no love for Guts.
He taunted and berated Guts throughout his life and even when he taught Guts swordsmanship, it was probably for the sake of convenience. If all the verbal and physical abuse wasn’t bad enough, Gambino sold a very young Guts to a mercenary named Donovan for a night. Let’s just say absolutely no one felt any negative emotion when Guts finally killed his father and ran.
Shou Tucker is one of the most memorable characters of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for all the wrong reasons. Shou is introduced as a well-meaning, soft-spoken, mild-mannered man. He is known for his knowledge and work in alchemy, chimeras, and biology. However as the story progresses and the pressure on Shou increases to have a breakthrough, we witness a terrible sequence of events unfold.
In a desperate bid for validation in the scientific world, the Sewing Alchemist creates a speaking chimera by merging his own daughter with their family dog. The sweet young girl’s whole life is taken away from her and as we see helpless tears roll down her new altered and incapacitated body, a spine-chilling anger runs through us alongside Edward. Shou Tucker, however, shows zero signs of remorse and claims he did it all for the advancement of science.