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4 of My Favorite Single Dads in Manga

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

Parents have had it rough during the pandemic. All parents. I don’t care what the adult to kid ratio is; even if it’s ten adults to one child, being confined with smaller humans is hard. My kids are relatively independent vis a vis remote school and entertaining themselves (most of the time) and they get along pretty well (like, half the time) and respect “I’m trying to get some work done” (maybe a third of the time) and I still spend a fair bit of the time I’ve designated for “outside” staring longingly at their bus stop.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. I think they’re great. I enjoy spending time with them.

They are also messy, dirty, loud, and did I mention loud?

I cannot fathom what it must be like to be a single parent right now, especially if your bubble is small or, as it is in some cases for whatever reason, non-existent.

Single dads, it’s your week to shine. We’ll do moms next week. I will do a search for nonbinary parents but I’m not sure I’ll be able to find enough examples for a piece, and let that be an example of how far manga—and comics in general—still have to go in representing all families, but know that I acknowledge and salute all families and all parents!

Aizawa Shouta

My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

If you know me at all, you knew Aizawa was going to show up here and I make zero apologies. When you first meet him, you’re not going to like him. He’s abrasive, rude, and sometimes downright mean. He threatens to expel kids on the regular. He pushes them until they break and then he pushes them harder and he brooks absolutely no bullshit.

He would also die, and very nearly does more than once, for each and every child in his care.

This Den Father to the Apocalypse cares deeply for all of his students. Students that, in their first year of their training are kidnapped, attacked by villains repeatedly, watch their parents court death on national television, and survive their pro hero siblings suffering life threatening injuries. He knows that the hero life is brutal. He watched one of his best friends die while in the same program his students are in now. And he’ll be damned if the same thing happens to anyone else.

Once they understand that, well, then maybe a hug is in order. Very occasionally.

None of the 20 Class 1-A students are his by blood, but that doesn’t stop him from volunteering to be their dorm dad when UA moves them all on to campus for their own safety. Can you imagine having to supervise that many horny teenage disasters 24/7? And then there’s Eri, the little girl with nowhere to go after she’s saved from Overhaul, so powerful everyone is afraid of her. Except Dadzawa, who offers to open his home and his heart to this tiny unicorn bean.

Maybe he isn’t so mean after all.


My Brother's Husband graphic novel cover

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame

Yaichi is a single, stay-at-home dad living in suburban Tokyo with his daughter, Kana. Their life is, if not common in Japanese society, not particularly remarkable in any way.

Not until Mike shows up.

Mike is Ryōji’s widower. Ryōji was Yaichi’s twin brother and Kana’s uncle. The siblings had been estranged for years, always intending to reconnect but with Ryōji in Canada and Yaichi in Japan, with Yaichi a single father and Ryōji an out gay man, it never quite happened. In coming to Tokyo, Mike is trying to fulfill one of Ryōji’s last wishes: that his husband meet and spend time with the rest of his family.

But homosexuality isn’t widely accepted in Japan, and while Kana takes to her uncle immediately, asking all sorts of questions, learning, making him comfortable, Yaichi finds himself uncomfortable with the other man’s presence and isn’t entirely sure why. Only after watching interactions between Mike and other family member and friends does Yaichi realize that, while he isn’t consciously homophobic, he has internalized society’s homophobia to the extent that it is coloring his perceptions and actions.

So he begins the work of changing not only for himself and for Mike but for Kana, who finally has a loving uncle in her life.

Parents are people and people aren’t perfect. One of the best things we can do for them is let them see our flaws and let them see us working to fix them so they understand we don’t expect them to be perfect and that sometimes the work is hard but we do it anyway. Yaichi let Kana see that, and she’ll always be a better person for it.

Lord Yasha

RG Veda by CLAMP

These two have been through it.

There are a lot of bodies in their wake. They’ve dropped some of those bodies. Many more have been blamed on them. They are haunted, hunted, exhausted.

Many would have abandoned the quest. Ashura isn’t Yasha’s biological child, after all. He didn’t even acquire Ashura particularly willingly; a dying prophet sent him to the creepy tree of suspended animation and told him to yoink a baby out of a time-space bubble like a really shitty Excalibur stand-in.

Despite his power and his destiny, however, despite the fact Yasha has most certainly figured out how this is all going to end, Ashura is a child and Yasha has grown to love him. Somewhere along the line Yasha became Ashura’s father, and parents don’t give up on their kids, not even when things are really, really hard.

Being a parent sucks sometimes. This is a thing no one tells you. This is a thing no one admits when they post their matching-outfit holiday pictures. I will scream it from the tallest building I can find to make up for all the people who’ve told you to enjoy every moment because “they grow up so fast:” there are a lot of shitty moments even fucking Satan wouldn’t enjoy and it is okay to feel that way!

Hang on for the good moments. Yasha gets really good hugs. He gets absolute trust. Ashura blanket burritos like no one I have ever seen. And he loves hard and unconditionally.

And no matter what happens, Yasha knows he’s made someone else’s life better by being his dad.


The Witch and the Beast by Kousuke Satake

Okay, hear me out. Yes, technically, Ashaf and Guideau are partners but

There’s a power dynamic in their relationship that is very dad/daughter in that he is clearly there to keep her from getting herself killed and to remind her how to behave in polite society and she is there to drive him crazy in a way that makes him smile, shake his head, and chuckle, “Oh, Guideau,” not in the way of a professional partner who’s going to get busted along with her for yet more property damage but in the way of a parent who also used to get drunk, smoke weed, and do stupid shit and remembers those days fondly if with only a hint of remorse.

There’s also the fact that Ashaf is very invested in Guideau’s vendetta, invested enough to ignore orders from his bosses when it’s a matter of choosing between his assigned mission and Guideau’s quest to find the witch who cursed her. His first concern is always her safety rather than his mission or, indeed, his own bodily integrity. Which doesn’t mean he’s opposed to her throwing hands; only that he want’s to be sure he’s there to patch her up.

Just like any good dad is there with the Bactine and band-aids when you fall roller-skating. Just with fangs. And cigarettes. And giant lizards.

Such a range of single dads. Bio, non-bio, accidental, magical…The common thread? They all care more about their kids than anything else in their world. And would, in pandemic times, be just as ready to yeet them into the yard. Or a volcano.

I said what I said.