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The top 10 worst anime parents of all time

Had there been an award for poor parenting skills, they would have won, every consecutive year, without fail.

Grisha and Dina Yeager in Attack on Titan.
Image via Crunchyroll

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Berserk, Dororo, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Future Diary, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Promised Neverland, My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, and The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura.

In both real life and anime, bad parents are the scourge of society, raising children who grow up to struggle as adults. Whether it’s owing to physical or emotional abuse, abandonment, or neglect, there’s no shortage of ways that such characters can flaunt their messed-up parenting skills.

But such characters are often essential parts of the plotline as they add the necessary turmoil, heartbreak, and hurdles to move the story of the other characters forward. The world of anime is no different. So, how about getting acquainted with the nastiest examples of the worst parents in anime? In case you haven’t read or watched the anime in question, you will know in advance who to hate.

10. Kumiko and Onozaki Kotoura in The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura

In the beginning, Kumiko Kotoura of The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura starts out as a loving and attentive mother to Kotoura-san. But when the little girl’s psychic powers unexpectedly kick in, her mother is unable to deal with the fallout. Although she tries to take Kotoura-san to various specialists, nothing can be done to change the situation. When her daughter reveals her parents’ infidelities, causing Kumiko’s husband, Onozaki Kotoura, to abandon his wife and child, Kumiko descends into a deep depression, spiraling into a life of alcoholism.

Overcome with bitterness and disappointment, she lashes out at Kotoura-san, telling the little girl she should have never been born and leaves her in the care of her grandfather. Although she eventually returns to reconnect with her daughter, her actions during this dark time leave a permanent mark on her daughter’s psyche.

9. Grisha and Dina Yeager in Attack on Titan

Judging by the overjoyed looks on their faces at the birth of their son Zeke, popular anime Attack on Titan‘s couple Grisha and Dina Yeager seem like they will be loving parents who would do anything for their child. But as it turns out, this misguided young couple has the opposite expectation as they were seeking to mold Zeke into a sacrificial savior for themselves and their people.

Although the independence of Eldians from Marleyans is their goal, they plan to achieve this by throwing their son under the bus. As they have already created their son as a tool to take back power for their undercover revolutionary group in a way that will risk his life and definitely shorten it, they have no problem putting him under considerable stress from a very young age, which involves forcing him to study all the time and train to get into the running as a Titan shifter.

When he consistently fails to achieve this goal, Grisha makes no secret of his disappointment, and although Dina’s reaction is less severe, she doesn’t do enough to stop her husband’s outbursts of rage. When Zeke eventually snaps and turns his parents in, it’s not hard to figure out why. Although comparatively speaking, Grisha does a much better job of parenting his other son, Eren (with second wife Carla), he does ultimately inject the boy with Titan serum to carry out his life’s goal.

8. Endeavor in My Hero Academia

While considered to be a hero by the public, My Hero Academia‘s flame-wielding Endeavor, otherwise known as Enji Todoroki, falls decidedly short of this title when it comes to his personal life. A father to several children, he has mated strategically with an ice-quirk wielder in order to create offspring with superior quirks, hoping to have at least one of them fulfill his failed dream of eclipsing All Might.

He’s also an abusive husband and father, forcing his son, Shoto Todoroki, to undergo rigid training because of his impressive fire-and-ice quirk, and sending his wife to a mental asylum after his abuse causes her to snap and pour boiling water on the left side of Shoto’s face (the side that reminds her of her cruel husband). Although he does do a lot to fight outside crime and later starts to treat his family a little better, this doesn’t undo all the damage he’s caused.

7. Isabella in The Promised Neverland

At first sight, The Promised Neverland‘s Isabella seems like the perfect “Mama,” happily providing love and care to orphaned children. But as it turns out, she’s keeping a sinister secret from the kids under her care, knowing full well that most of them will be fed to demons at a certain point, and even serves as the messenger who delivers the “food.” Resigned to the cruel world in which she lives, Isabella is content with giving the children the happiest life she can before they inevitably die and does everything she can to thwart the escape attempts of Emma, Norman, and Ray, even going so far as to break Emma’s leg to set them back. However, once the children do escape, she wishes them the best of luck.

6. Gendo Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion

Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion is a shining example of what not to do as a parent. His verbal abuse toward Shinji, which involves telling his son that he doesn’t want him, is disappointed in him, and has no interest in seeing him, is only eclipsed by his utter apathy after putting the boy in the thick of the fight against the angels. Although he later confesses that his treatment of Shinji stems from self-loathing, this still doesn’t excuse his complete failure as a parent. When his dead wife and Shinji’s mom Yui appears to eat him as Unit-01, it’s difficult to summon any tears, even after his sincere apology to Shinji.

5. Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender

A domineering narcissist and sociopath, Fire Lord Ozai of Avatar: The Last Airbender rewards and punishes his children based on how much of himself he sees in them, whether is a similarity or difference in personality or ability. His son and eldest child, Zuko, has too much empathy for his taste and also bears a closer physical resemblance to his banished, out-of-favor wife Ursa than himself. There’s also the fact that the boy’s fire-bending ability didn’t progress as quickly or as impressively as expected.

Ozai’s daughter Azula, on the other hand, is much more like him in both temperament and looks, and mastered the ability to generate lightning as well as fire from a young age. As a result, the Fire Lord openly prefers Azula to Zuko, withholding affection from the boy and subjecting him to verbal abuse. While we can appreciate the absence of sexism in the Fire Lord’s choice, it’s unfortunate that he has a preference at all.

His abuse of Zuko escalates to the point where he challenges his son to an Agni Kai for the trifling fault of speaking out of turn, creates a scar on the boy’s face to “teach him a lesson” after he refuses to fight, and banishes him from the Fire Nation for showing “weakness.” Even after Zuko dethrones and imprisons Ozai, the former Fire Lord continues to emotionally abuse the boy, pointing out his supposedly “weak” personality flaws.

4. Saika and Ushio Gasai in Future Diary

It’s obvious that professional stalker and killer Yuno Gasai from the survival game anime Future Diary must have suffered major childhood damage, and sure enough, we eventually discover that she went through mind-shattering abuse at the hands of her adoptive mother, Saika Gasai. Depressed by the continual absence of workaholic husband Ushio Gasai, who spends little time with his family, Saika takes out her mounting unhappiness on her daughter, Yuno, locking her in a cage and depriving her of food as punishment for the slightest “mistakes.” When Yuno finally snaps under the abuse and neglect, and locks her parents in the same cage — in which they soon die of dehydration — we aren’t surprised.

3. Shou Tucker in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Even on the surface, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhoods sewing-life alchemist Shou Tucker doesn’t seem like the best parent, failing to maintain an orderly home environment for his daughter Nina and neglecting her in favor of his scientific studies. However, things take an even darker turn when terrified of losing his state alchemist certification and thereby descending back into a life of poverty, he decides to turn Nina and her dog into a chimera “capable of human speech.”

Through a horrified Edward’s deduction, we also discover that Shou has done the same to his wife (who he claimed had abandoned him and Nina), which earned him his professional position in the first place. Even under Edward’s wrathful questioning, Shou remains utterly unapologetic about his actions, stating that human experimentation has led to scientific progress over the years and even compares his “creations” to Edward and Alphonse’s failed and disastrous attempt to revive their dead mother. When Scar arrives at his house to end him, it feels like karma, although it’s heartbreaking to see Nina, at least what’s left of her, suffer the same fate.

2. Lord Kagemitsu Daigo in Dororo

To a big-picture thinker, who is only offered a brief glance, anime Dororo‘s Lord Kagemitsu Daigo might seem like more of an antihero than a villain. With a series of natural and social disasters plaguing his people, the samurai lord gives up on receiving Buddha’s help, instead turning to the demon gods for aid by offering up his newborn son’s organs and body parts in exchange for the welfare of his people.

However, the story makes it clear that Daigo does this out of a desire to become a great ruler rather than out of concern for his domain, not to mention that the act makes him a terrible parent! The sociopathic noble’s bad parenthood doesn’t end there, as he later tries to kill Hyakkimaru when he discovers that the boy is still alive and working to regain his body parts by slaying the demons that own them — a process that’s reversing the good luck allotted to his land.

He also influences his younger son and heir Tahomaru to fight his brother and kidnaps Dororo near the story’s end as leverage against Hyakkimaru. To top it off, he’s also responsible for the death of Hyakkimaru’s love interest Mio as well as that of his own wife and another son. Although Daigo appears to care about his second son Tahomaru, he really only values the boy since he will be continuing his legacy.

Every time he encounters Hyakkimaru, the warlord subjects the boy to verbal abuse, referring to him as “it,” “demon child,” and “pile of demon remnants,” blaming his firstborn son for the problems that have resurfaced across the land and stating that he only regrets not finishing the job of finalizing his demise more personally. When he dies from blood loss because of his demon deal gone awry, his only regret is that he now realizes the potential his eldest son actually had, but he doesn’t feel this way out of fatherly love for Hyakkimaru. He only feels regret because he has witnessed the boy’s unique skill, strength, and determination, which makes him realize he would have been a great heir after all. It’s all too clear that he deserves his fate.

1. Gambino in Berserk

In the 1997-98 anime adaptation of Berserk, during a flashback to rugged, battle-hardened hero Guts’ troubled childhood, we meet his adoptive father Gambino, who is the crass, abrasive leader of a renegade band of thugs. Although he isn’t enthusiastic about his bereaved wife Shisu’s spontaneous decision to adopt orphaned baby Guts, he takes it in stride until his lover’s untimely death during a plague a few years later, which members of the band believe was caused by the boy’s “cursed” presence.

This superstitious belief, coupled with his understandable heartache at the loss of his lover, sends the ruffian down a dark path of parental abuse. Although he does teach Guts how to use a sword, this is only so that the boy can prove useful in battle, help in watching Gambino’s back, and collect treasure from convenient corpses. And although he is shown saving his adoptive son’s life in battle once, he’s the one who puts the boy in the thick of the fighting in the first place.

After a canon ball takes off his leg, Gambino’s treachery reaches new levels. Unable to cope with his adoptive son’s steady rise toward strength, while he is forced to hobble around relying on the boy’s help, Gambino descends into alcoholism and indulges in verbal abuse, blaming Guts for everything from Shisu’s death to his missing limb. His wicked acts culminate in selling his adoptive son to a child-molesting rapist (shown only in the manga) and trying to kill him in a drunken fit of rage. When Guts kills Gambino in self-defense, we aren’t sorry to see him go.

About the author

Caitlin Craig

Caitlin Craig has been an avid reader of manga, watcher of anime, and writer of novels for the past decade, with these three obsessions dominating most of her existence. In her spare time, she enjoys correcting other people's grammar, looking for new manga and anime, and going to anime-related events. Since graduating from The University of Georgia with a Bachelor's in English back in ancient times, she has divided her time between writing, editing, and teaching.