Why is this so common? Not a lot of us can relate to it so that’s not the reason it’s common. Is it to show a strong independence, give a character a feeling of solitude or is it something much more? I might have laughed a bit after typing that because it’s certainly not the strong independence in 99% of cases. In actuality it give us a reason to sympathize with the weak willed protagonist because we’d have no reason to otherwise.
Think about it for a minute and give me one case, just one case where the parents being dead helps the plot or character development significantly You can’t can you and that’s because it’s rare. It took me a moment but I came up with one situation where a dead parent drives the plot and isn’t just a convenience to get the male protagonist to live alone. Full Metal Alchemist is the only case where the parent being dead is a critical part of the plot. If you haven’t watched Full Metal Alchemist and have no idea what I mean then shame on you and go watch it.
Now another factor in this concept is not dead parents it’s absence parents. I’m talking about the situation where the parents lives away from the male protagonist. India seems to be a hot destination for absent parents to live and the sole purpose of the absence is work 9/10 times. Shamefully I can only think of one case where the parents live with the children but are never said to be either dead/divorced or living over seas and that is K-ON. I haven’t watched K-ON in a very long time but if memory serves me well nobody had absent or dead parents in that the anime just cleverly avoided the parents because parents rarely help the story. Okay they are a key factor in Clannad but that’s a special case.
So in the absence of adult figures most male characters in the adventure style stories end up seeking adult role models. A father figure to guide them and be strict with them (Roy Mustang in FMA) or a comforting mother figure which gives the male lead a feeling of security in a foreign place. The character may only seek on of these characters or have delusions of what to expect and seek a character who can never live up to these expectations. The seeking of said characters is often subconscious and not the main plot.
Male leads who fall into the harem style anime don’t tend to seek parent type figures but often role models or adult figures tend to surround them anyway as part of the sub cast. Usually a landlord, teacher or employer fills this role. Either that or girls in the harem baby him and look after him like a parent would.
Strangely this doesn’t really apply to female characters. If they need support they tend to drift towards the male protagonist and subsequently love or in the rare cases such as Last Exile where the leads are a duo is a pair then the female tends to just do everything the male protagonist does minus the love interest. Well in some cases anyway.
Why is this trope so common and can anyone actually think of good anime with both parents present?