Recently, I waxed rhapsodic about my four favorite single dads in manga. Some are biological parents, some adoptive, and some acting fathers but they are all doing the work of parenting in difficult situations just like all of us who opted to reproduce or otherwise acquire smaller humans have found ourselves doing in the trashfire that has been the last 11 months of existence. Kudos to you, ladies, mens, and nonbinary friends. Because this job isn’t hard enough to begin with now we’re all up in each other’s business 24/7.
Listen. I love my kids. I would step in front a bus for them. I would take bullets for them. I almost had a stroke for number one and I threw up multiple times daily even with medication for number two and despite having a medically necessary c-section scheduled for their ass, they decided they needed to be born four days early.
But breathing their air all day, every day for a year? This is not the contract I signed.
And so, it’s time to celebrate single moms in manga. Apologies to nonbinary and agender parents. Comics are still catching up. As I said earlier, I salute you as well.
#1: Midoriya Inko
My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi
We’re told there’s a Mr. Midoriya who’s “working abroad,” but four seasons and 26 volumes in we’ve yet to see him or any evidence of his existence in either present tense stories or Midoriya family flashbacks. Thus, for all intents and purposes, I’m comfortable placing Inko in the single mom category.
Has she always been the perfect parent? No. Are any of us? Also no. When smol Izuku found out he was quirkless, it probably would have been more helpful to have parental reassurance that he had other positive qualities, other skills, would find his bliss somewhere else in the great, wide world of possibilities. Then again, maybe Inko’s tears gave Izuku the permission he needed to mourn the loss of his dream; kids, especially boys, need that permission in a society that conditions them to hold back, squash down, internalize.
And when Izuku does eventually manifest (eat) his quirk, she’s thrilled for him and she’ll encourage him all the way, but she isn’t about to forget her first responsibility: to protect her son by setting limits. She knows how important fitting in, being a hero, has always been and she wants that for him. She wants his joy and his positivity and his drive. But she also wants him to know that now matter how high he climbs, she will always be there to remind him that someone cares. That someone is watching over him. That someone sees and loves not the hero Deku but Izuku Midoriya even if that means taking his dream away.
Or embarrassing her son by yelling at the Number One Hero, his hero, in their living room.
xxxHolic by CLAMP
Yûko may seem a strange choice for an adoptive mother, and she’d probably deny it if you asked her, but she’d do it with a shrug and a knowing smile.
When Watanuki first enters her shop, he seems like any other client. He has a wish and she has a solution provided he’ll pay her price. Watanuki considers but ultimately agrees; he’ll work for Yûko until she decides he’s worked off his debt.
As the tale unfolds, however, we realize the deal between them is unique; no other client’s price is so amorphous, so flexible, so hazy at the edges. Nor does any other client spend so much time in the shop, become so close to all of its inhabitants, so integrated into the strange, found family. Yûko doesn’t take so personal of an interest in anyone else who comes to her, not in their friends, nor their backgrounds.
Is Yûko, with her gorgeous clothes and magical pranks, hard drinking and bizarre demands, dangerous artifacts, and mysterious errands, a traditional mother figure? No. But what’s tradition these days anyway? I have rainbow hair and tattoos and my kids seem to be turning out okay. She looks out for Watanuki. She takes an active interest in his welfare. She teaches him the importance of beauty of being oneself. She shows him that he is worthy of the love others offer.
Yûko is the first person to love Watanuki enough that he becomes able to love himself.
And that’s the most important lesson a person can learn.
Only the very best of mothers can teach it.
#3: Mrs. Kuroki
Toritan: Birds of a Feather by Kotetsuko Yamamoto
This lady does some extremely heavy lifting for someone who doesn’t even have a first name. Bio mom to reserved, inscrutable son; small business owner (cat cafe); and surrogate mom to an adorable, awkward, disaster tenant who happens to be able to talk to birds; Mrs. Kuorki manages to keep every one fed, hydrated, and get them to the right place at the right time.
She trusts her son, Mitsuru, enough to let him have the space he needs to figure himself out, and knows when to check in on Inusaki, who needs more care than he thinks he does, without him realizing she’s checking up on him. She welcomes him into her family, inviting him for dinners and special occasions like Mitsuru’s birthday because she knows he needs a family and likes having him there as much as her son does. She’s accepting of both boys’ quirks, letting them both be who they are rather than pushing them to conform, laughing and joking and generally enjoying their company in whatever form in takes. She accepts that Mitsuru is gay without making it a thing, which isn’t always the case in manga. Or western comics, or life. And I’m pretty sure she knows the boys are crushing on each other before either of them does.
Also she makes an excellent cafe au lait.
Yay for manga moms! Yay for single parents! Yay for all the parents! And hey, if you’re having a bad day just take a breath and remember: they’re still alive. Hand them a manga. Everything will be fine.