Well, some dads are good, and some dads are great. But some are terrible! Simply unacceptable! And some of those guys are in our favorite long-form cartoons. We’re here to tell you which animated patriarchs we hate and why. Six of the worst! Aren’t you excited? Dig right in!
1. Goku from Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT
We’ve been over all of this before…
—Desiree and Claire
2. Shou Tucker from Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Shou Tucker is remembered for basically one thing: the death of and experimentation on his daughter Nina and providing fans everywhere with enough tears to fill a lake. Okay, that’s two things. Originally, Shou appeared to be a boring, but kind man who acted as guardian to Ed and Al while Ed worked to take his state alchemist exam. As a state alchemist himself, Shou provided the boys with a stark insight into being a “dog of the military” with all the pros and cons to go with it. The pros, a beautiful house to which to raise his daughter Nina and their dog, Alexander, in. The cons, the complete dissolution of any sort of morals.
What began as a happy homestay quickly turned into a traumatic nightmare for the Elric brothers. This had been the first real stop on their journey, the first place they felt at home since they burned down their own. Nina was quickly adopted into their lives as a pseudo younger sister while Tucker was considered something of a pseudo uncle (an identity that Hughes would later become for the brothers in the series as well as a foil father figure in the light of Tucker’s betrayal).
Tucker’s betrayal and Nina’s fate stings deep. While the actual storyline is only about five episodes, the care and development was given great weight. We learned to care for Nina as Ed and Al learned to care for Nina. We trusted Tucker as Ed and Al trusted Tucker. And the nature of what he did to Nina is so horrifying we’re as disgusted as Ed is—we ever trusted the man. Worst still was the sheer helplessness both brothers felt.
They weren’t able to save Nina. The heroes of our story weren’t able to save this completely innocent child and in the end she dies for her father’s sins. In the original anime, there’s an attempt to redeem Tucker by turning him into a father who felt remorse for what he did to his daughter. A crazed madman who twisted his own body and lost his mind to grief. I prefer the Brotherhood version where Scar kills him, because he’s not just a bad father—he’s a disgusting human being who experimented on his daughter and wife, all for his own vanity.
3. Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion
It’s bad enough that he’s cold, cruel, and machinistic, but Gendo Ikari has to use his own son in his experiments, no less! Poor, manipulated Shinji, always seeking his father’s approval and connection, and in turn always being measured against performance metrics and always coming up short.
What makes all of this even more horrible is that Shinji is obvious in his desire for a parental connection with his father, who not only refuses to provide one, but uses that desire for his own purposes.
He seemingly dotes on Rei not out of any real love, or goodness of his heart, but because Rei resembles his late wife, Shinji’s mother, Yui (as Rei is her clone). Gendo subjects all the “children” to the horrors of the Eva program without care or thought even though he is their metaphorical “father.” In Gendo’s office underneath his desk is an old symbol for the Christian God; Gendo is literally equating himself with God, or a higher power, and the Eva pilots are his “children” whom he uses and abuses, no more than his own biological son.
Shinji suffers from depression, suicidal thoughts, crippling social and emotional anxiety, and severe abandonment issues all because of Gendo’s continued abuse. When Shinji has a moment, a handful of moments when life might actually be good for him, Gendo ruins them. In one such case, a fellow classmate and close friend of Shinji, Toji, is chosen to be an Eva pilot without Shinji’s knowing. The Eva goes rabid and becomes an Angel with Toji still inside. Shinji refuses to fight, because he doesn’t want to kill Toji. Gendo overrides the Eva programing with Shinji stuck inside as his Eva goes into berserk mode, and doesn’t just destroy Toji’s Eva unit, but maims it. The scene is horrifying, not only because of the graphic imagery, but because of Shinji’s anguished screams as he’s forced to watch his close friend be murdered by his own Eva unit under his father’s orders. Gendo does all this without blinking an eye.
At the end of the series Gendo even expects Rei and Shinji, undoubtedly his two biggest victims, save for Doctor Ristiko, to allow him to reunite with Yui through the soul sharing instrumentality that was Gendo’s endgame all along. Instead, Shinji’s Eva killed him, and rightfully so.
4. Sergay Wáng from My-Otome
My-Otome is a magical girl anime with a neat meta gimmick (it’s sort of a retelling of My-Hime, with the “same” characters in a different world build). I enjoyed the heck out of it when I watched it a few years back, but one thing I did not enjoy was Sergay.
Sergay knows his fifteen year old adopted daughter Nina has the hots for him real bad, has since he saved her as a tot. He just pretends he has no idea and shows her affection and favor like “a nice dad”—though she’s never thought of him that way. To Nina, he’s her noble, dashing savior. Sergay’s not over the girl who left him (or maybe was never even with him? It’s been a while. Maybe she was just an older girl he idolized) when he was a teen. So, he sends Nina off to boarding school and visits occasionally. All the better to let the heart grow fonder. To relive his own impotent passion, he spends romantic time alone with his dead muse’s daughter, who is also fifteen, and in Nina’s class (painful jealousy abounds). Lips hover near to lips on a patio in the dark. It’s all very Sound of Music if it were Maria who was fifteen, going on sixteen. This second Sergay-affected girl is series protagonist Arika whose schooling Sergay also secretly funds, by the way, making him her romanticized, mysterious patron. He’s a weak abusive shit, and he appalls me. DIE, SERGAY. And he thinks he’s noble and troubled! I spit. What a goon.
5. Allen Schezar from The Vision of Escaflowne
Oh, those handsome do-gooder knights. Always so dashing, so noble, so valiant, so … irresistible. That’s what series protagonist Hitomi Kanzaki thinks about Knight Allen Schezar, at least, and she’s not the only one. Princess Millerna also has the hots for the blonde, blue-eyed knight—and as she learns, so did her sister! Yes, Allen had an affair with Millerna’s older sister, Marlene, who was betrothed to the Duke of Freid at the time. Marlene described Allen as a “knight of the heavens,” and so courtly love turned into something a bit more, ah, steamy, the result of which was the adorable Prince Chid, who was raised as the son of the Duke of Freid.
Years later, Allen returns to Freid and meets his son for the first time. Marlene, who passed away some years back, apparently spoke very highly of Allen to her son, and Chid has placed Allen on a very high, shining pedestal. When Millerna learns of this and confronts Allen, he admits that he believes Chid to be his child. Duke Freid contests that, declaring that Chid is his child.
The thing is, yes, Chid is born into a difficult situation, and both his mother and Allen covered up the truth to preserve political peace. Maybe their hands were well and truly tied, and Chid seems to have grown up well-loved and happy overall. But here’s the problem: Allen is totally checked out. He shoulders the remnants of his forbidden love and his sadness over Marlene’s death and uses those things like a shield to hide behind. He trespassed once, and look what it got him—his love moved on and his child is being raised by another man. To make up for that, he doubles down on doing “his duty.” Poor sad, noble knight.
Yeah, right. I don’t buy it. Look, falling in love and having an affair—whatever, it was consensual, they were happy, that’s all good. However, not fighting for your son? Abandoning him to be raised by someone else without even batting an eye? Not taking the chance to truly engage with him when you had it and instead hiding behind your sad, sad sorrow? All I can say is: thank goodness Marlene and Duke Freid loved Chid, because Allen sure didn’t care enough to look past his own extra-long nose to find out anything about his son.
6. Manga bonus round: Alexis Hargreaves from Godchild
In any of Kaori Yuki’s work you can pretty much expect three things: terrible parents, incest, and people dying. She’s like the extreme version of Tim Burton and George R.R. Martin, but better.
In Godchild, the story of a young man named Cain Hargreaves, who is the pretty boy Sherlock Holmes of somewhat mythical London, our main character Cain is physically and emotionally tortured by his father for years before Alexis’ supposed “death.” The prequel to Godchild—Count Cain—establishes this history of abuse before Cain’s butler, friend, and maybe love interest Riff comes in and essentially saves him.
The entire story revolves around how Alexis wishes to torture his son in various ways. He even ends up “taking” Riff away from Cain and using the one emotional pillar of love and support Cain has as a means to further emotionally abuse him. All because he was in love with his sister, Cain’s mother. Alexis was pathetic.