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Recently, I got raving about my four favorite single dads in manga. Some are birth parents, some adoptive parents, and some acting fathers, but they all do the parenting work in difficult situations, just like all of us who chose to reproduce or otherwise acquire smaller humans have been in the garbage fire that the last was 11 months of existence. Kudos to you, ladies, gentlemen and non-binary friends. Because this job isn’t hard enough, we’re all now in each other’s business around the clock.
Listen. I love my children. I would step in front of a bus for her. I would take bullets for her. I nearly had a stroke for number one and even vomited several times a day with medication for number two. Even though a medically necessary Caesarean section was planned for her ass, they decided that they had to be born four days early.
But breathe air all day, every day for a year? This is not the contract that I signed.
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And so, it’s time to celebrate single mothers in the manga. Apologies to non-binary and agender parents. Comics are still catching up. As I said, I greet you too.
# 1: Midoriya Inko
My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi
We have been told that there is a Midoriya-san who “works overseas” but we have not yet seen him in four seasons and 26 volumes, or evidence of his existence in present tense stories or Midoriya family flashbacks. Therefore, I can easily classify Inko in all respects as a single mother.
Was she always the perfect mother? Are we all Also no. When smol Izuku found out he was quirky, it would probably have been more helpful to have parental assurance that he had other positive qualities and skills and that he would find his bliss elsewhere in the big, wide world of possibility. On the other hand, Inko’s tears may have given Izuku permission to mourn the loss of his dream. Children, especially boys, need this permission in a society that prompts them to hold back, hold down, and internalize.
And if at some point Izuku manifests (eats) his quirk, she will be delighted with him and she will encourage him all the way, but she will not forget her first responsibility: to protect her son by setting boundaries. She knows how important it was to be a hero, and she wants that for him. She wants his joy and his determination and his drive. But she also wants him to know that she is always there to remind him that no matter how high he goes, someone cares. That someone is watching over him. That someone does not see and love the hero Deku, but Izuku Midoriya, even if that means taking away his dream.
Or embarrass their son by yelling at hero number one, his hero, in their living room.
# 2: Yuko
xxxHolic from CLAMP
Yûko seems like an odd choice for an adoptive mom, 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 walks into their shop, he seems like any other customer. He has a wish and she has a solution provided he pays her price. Watanuki ponders, but ultimately agrees; He will work for Yûko until she decides he has reduced his debt.
However, as the story progresses, we find that the deal between them is unique. No other customer is so amorphous, so flexible, so hazy around the edges. Also, no other customer spends so much time in the shop, comes so close to all of his residents and is so integrated into the foreign, found family. Yûko is not so personally interested in others who come to her, neither in her friends nor in her origins.
With her beautiful clothes and magical pranks, her heavy drinking and bizarre demands, dangerous artifacts and mysterious errands, is Yûko a traditional mother figure? No. But what is tradition nowadays anyway? I have rainbow hair and tattoos and my kids seem fine. She’s looking for Watanuki. She is actively interested in his well-being. She teaches him how important it is to be yourself. It shows him that he is worthy of the love others offer.
Yûko is the first person to love Watanuki so much that he can love himself.
And that is the most important lesson a person can learn.
Only the very best mothers can teach it.
# 3: Ms. Kuroki
Toritan: Birds of a Feather by Kotetsuko Yamamoto
This lady does extremely heavy lifting for someone who doesn’t even have a first name. Organic mother to reserved, unfathomable son; Small business owners (cat café); and surrogate mother for an adorable, clumsy tenant who happens to be able to talk to birds; Ms. Kuorki manages to feed everyone, keep them hydrated and get them to the right place at the right time.
She trusts her son Mitsuru enough to give him the space he needs to find himself out and knows when to check in with Inusaki, who needs more care than he thinks, without him noticing that she is him checked. She welcomes him to her family and invites him to dinners and special occasions like Mitsuru’s birthday because she knows he needs a family and loves him there as much as her son. She accepts the quirks of both boys, letting them both be who they are rather than making them conform, laugh and joke, and generally enjoy their company in whatever form. She accepts that Mitsuru is gay without making it a thing, which is not always the case with manga. Or western comics or life. And I’m pretty sure she knows the boys have crushes on each other before either one does.
She also makes an excellent cafe au lait.
Yay for manga mothers! Yay for single parents! Yay for all parents! And hey, when you’re having a bad day, just take a breath and remember: you’re still alive. Give them a manga. Everything will be fine.