Anime of the Young at Heart: Elderly in anime!

This post actually started quite a while ago and was inspired by a comment from Fred (Au Natural) on my post Still Life Anime: Kokkoku and other comments about the seeming lack of adults and older people in anime. After a few comments on that same topic I read on other blogs, it really got me thinking. Who were the older characters in anime? Could I name a few right off the top of my head? (the first one that came to mind was Yubaba from Spirited Away, but she was a villain) Did they play an important role in the story line or were they just an angry old dude in the background shaking his fist and yelling at the rascally young’ens?

anime old man looking fierce
when this old guy tells you to get off his lawn, he means it!

Were they legitimately elderly, or were they transformed to be older like Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle, or ageless like a vampire? Sadly enough, this was a surprisingly difficult post to put together. The anime blog commenters were right, there isn’t many elderly characters out there compared to the over population of high schoolers in anime. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any elderly in anime nor does it mean that they don’t still play a vital role in their anime worlds! So, though their knees might be creaky and their hair might have grayed with age, these seasoned characters are still pretty darn spicy and ready for whatever this old world throws at them!

anime granny looking calm

This time around I decided to just use trailers of the anime, instead of writing out general summaries, so I could focus more on the individual characters.

Best Anime Grannies!

Tsuritama – Keito (Yuki’s granny)

You could argue that Keito in the anime Tsuritama played the most pivotal role in the whole series. Keito was the one person that gave Yuki a safe haven where he could relax and be himself without having to deal with his crippling social anxiety. It was also Keito that gently pushed Yuki to reach out and try to make friends by inviting the fishy alien Haru to stay in their home. In fact, the emotional climax of the story was because of Keito. There really are very few characters that aren’t main characters that play such an important role in an anime. No matter what their age!

keito looking excited

Spirited Away – Yubaba and Zenniba

In the Ghibli film Spirited Away Yubaba is an old witch that owns a bath house for spirits that’s in the center of an abandoned amusement park that Chihiro and her family wandered into one day. Yubaba doesn’t like trespassers and turned Chihiro’s parents into pigs for the crime of eating at a food stall that was meant for the spirits. There is little doubt that Yubaba is the villain for most of the movie, but she does soften a little in the very end. Yubaba certainly isn’t a nice character, but she is an important driving force in the story that pushes Chihiro to step out of her comfort zone and grow into a better more confident person.

Though Yubaba played a bigger role in the Ghibli film Spirited Away, it was her twin sister Zenniba that was the kind, gentle support that Chihiro needed so she could find a positive solution to the conflict of the story. Zenniba helped Chihiro solve her problems on her own and gave the little girl a safe place to think things through, and maybe a hint or two, allowing Chihiro to find a happy ending for her friends and her family!

yubaba looking fierce

Natusme Yujincho – Reiko Touko

Rieko was a major driving force in the story of the anime series Natsume Yujincho. Though the story begins years after Reiko’s death, her actions are felt in nearly every episode. And I absolutely would have put her in this post, but unfortunately, though she was biologically Natsume’s grandmother, she died young and was never really a “granny”. Reiko might not have really fit in this post, but there certainly was two older people in Natsume’s life that in their own gentle way have been just as life changing as Reiko. It’s Natsume’s older cousins, Touko and Shigeru Fujiwara. They opened their home to Natsume and gave him the understanding and warmth he so desperately needed in his world. Touko specifically sot Natsume out and encouraged him to accept their invitation to live with them and she has taken all of Natsume’s eccentricities in stride. If Touko had never talked to Natsume one night under a streetlamp, if she had never invited him to live in their home, if she had never created a home environment that was filled with warmth for Natsume, than this wonderful anime might have never had the story it did!

natsume with his cousins and nyanko sensei
A gentle and warm granny that’s actually a cousin

Best Anime Grandpas!

Kokkoku – Grandpa

To say that the grandfather in the anime Kokkoku was half of the hero duo of the anime would be an understatement. This character (referred to only as Grandpa) was the calm when everyone in the room was panicking. He was the holder of the family secrets. He had the most skills in controlling time and space. And to the very end he did what he could to protect his family and lessen the burden on Juri. And when the family decided to stop running and start fighting back against the murderous cult that was after them, Grandpa and Juri made one heck of an unstoppable tag team!

grandpa and juri
I wish there was more grandpa/grand-daughter tag teams in anime!

Welcome to Demon School Iruma kun – Sullivan

To say that Sullivan in the anime Welcome to Demon School Iruma kun is a doting grandpa would be an understatement of a life time! He’s indulgent to Iruma’s wants to the point of just flat out spoiling his adopted little relative. And yet, strangely enough, Sullivan and Iruma are perfect for each other. Sullivan wanted someone that he could shower centuries worth of affection on. Someone that he could be close to that wouldn’t try to take advantage of his position or power. Someone that would just take his generosity at face value without all the suspicion or jealousy of such a powerful demon bestowing so many gifts on one person. By the very nature of who Sullivan is, it would have be almost impossible for him to treat another demon the way he treats Iruma. Likewise, Iruma needed someone that would genuinely care about him the way his parents never did. Someone that just wanted to be kind to him without taking advantage of him and without the threat of his parents getting involved or trying to take whatever was given to Iruma. The fact that Iruma’s legal guardians in the human world were so awful would have made it very difficult for a human to have treated Iruma the way Sullivan does.

iruma, sullivan, and opera eating at a breakfast table
This is the first time I noticed that Opera has 4 ears!

Rust Eater Bisco – Jabi

My first thoughts whenever I think if the character Jabi from the anime Rust Eater Bisco is, “He’s a tough old buzzard!”. This gap toothed mushroom keeper might be weathered with age, but he’s got a spring in his step and is spry enough to keep up with Bisco and two steps ahead of the authorities. The fact that he’s a leader of the mushroom keepers means that he’s no push over and that’s very clear whenever he’s putting Bisco in his place. As Bisco’s mentor and teacher, Jabi has had to put up with plenty of Bisco’s antics, yet this hasn’t tired Jabi down and you can still see clear affection that the older man has for his hot headed apprentice, even though they do love throwing little jabs at each other!

jabi and bisco bow and arrow training
Baby Bisco!!!! Oh, and Jabi too.

8 thoughts on “Anime of the Young at Heart: Elderly in anime!

  1. I like that you started this piece with a pic of Dr Kureha. Between Garp, Rayleigh, Whitebeard… Unlike most shounen, One Piece really is replete with memorable older characters. They may have reached their twilight years, but their names still carry so much authority, and man do they kick ass. Those seniors serve a special role in One Piece’s larger mythology, grounding Luffy’s adventure against the exploits & failures of previous generations, as he boldly carries their torch into the future. Y’know, it often feels like the full weight of history’s behind everything the crew does. Wow, does this shit give me goosebumps.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mind you, I seem to recall that Sullivan would have eaten Iruma if he’d refused to play along as his grandson, and also that he did a number of things which, had any of them gone wrong in the slightest, would have resulted in Iruma’s death. I think I’ll take a hard pass on that one, thank you! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A friend asked me a few years back why it is that anime so heavily focuses on teens doing hugely unlikely things like ruling nations, fomenting rebellions and fighting demons. I answered that, aside from the demographic of the original manga source material, I suspected that there was a cultural reason: that in modern Japan, the period of one’s teens was considered the last and only time one was truly an individual before you got swallowed up by the adult world of the corporation and you were forced to surrender your identity to the demands of Japan’s workplace culture. I don’t know how true that is, but I suspect it has a bit to do with it, since my observation is that adults in anime tend to play only peripheral and/or stock roles.

    That said, now that I am uncomfortably aware of the fact that I am of an age wherein I could be a (younger!) peer of the grandmas and grandpas of anime, I guess I will be hoping for more dynamic and central roles for the grown ups! 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

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