The Case of the Invisible Parent: A Mother’s Day Post

(Note: This is part of the ABC Mother’s Day Extravaganza)

So a while back, CCY did a post about the reasons why parents seem to be missing from anime. Now, I think he laid out a reasonable explanation. Anime (at least the anime most of us watch) is geared at a 15-23 year old demographic. But I also thought the answer might be even simpler than what he laid out.

Those parents simply aren’t important in most of these stories.

I mean if you have six to twelve hours to tell a fairly complex story, adding in the extra complication of parents could derail the story, or just add another subplot that doesn’t get fully developed and ends up hanging around at the end of the tale without a resolution.

Then I started thinking about Beck.

When I initially watched the show, I was struck by the fact that Koyuki’s mother was quite literally invisible. Even though he’s living with her, he hardly seems to talk with her. The few times when we hear from her, it’s her telling him to turn down his music. And the one time that we see her we don’t even see her face.

Now overall, the show has a tendency to avoid face shots of characters, which aren’t important any more. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Dickens conveniently killing off characters who didn’t serve a purpose anymore (as opposed to Red Shirts whose entire purpose is to get killed.) On a completely story telling level, this makes a lot of sense. I mean they WERE just dead weight in the story.

Then I started thinking about a short story I read a long time ago called Obst Vw (it stands for Obstructed View).

It’s been a while since I read the story, but basically it follows two teenagers who are estranged (in the non-legal sense) from their parents. Now most of the tension occurs between the two teens, but there’s this invisible presence in the story of the main character’s father. Even though we barely see him throughout the course of the story.

This got me to wondering; maybe she was important after all. I mean, she’s a definite presence in the story. In fact, it becomes a running theme that we’ll get a Walton’s-like shot out of the outside of the house with Koyuki’s light on, and then her saying to turn down the music. The people, who sneak into the house, don’t just come in the front door, but creep up through his window. And the one time we do see her (still faceless) she’s trying to impart some pretty sage advice.

That’s when I realized, it wasn’t that she wasn’t important. It was just that she wasn’t immediately important.

In fact, it’s trying to get at something that seems to get truer the older I get. That these people, who drift in and out of our lives like ghosts, are important. And although they may seem like part of the faceless masses surrounding us, they still have a presence (whether we see it or not.)

And at the risk of being sappy, isn’t that what Mother’s Day is all about.

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3 Comments

  1. Indeed it seems very rare for anime stories to give an actual focus to parents (assuming they existed in within the show in the first place, it seems impossible to count the cases in anime where the parents are supposedly off ‘working’ or something in some uncharted area without the least bit concern about their teenaged kids back home), but in the one case that I can actually recall where they do get a decently fleshed out part in the story (KareKano), it did turn out to be one of the strongest – if not directly relevant- arcs of the show.

  2. @issa-san – I’m wondering though in the case of those shows if the parents aren’t still present in some way. Like an invisible force that needs to be explained away, or just explained.

  3. For some reason the post reminds me of Oniisama E. The parents do get some screen time there.


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