It’s not often that moms get to do much of anything in anime, especially shonen adventures. Mothers in anime most often either die to serve as character development for the main character, or are simply MIA most of the time for convenience (such as Kirito’s mom from Sword Art Online). Naruto, One Piece, Fairy Tail, Blue Exorcist, Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba, and Tokyo Ghoul are just some notable examples. Inko Midoriya from My Hero Academia is considered an impressive anime mom for simply being alive and worrying over her son’s dangerous life from the sidelines. Fundamentally, this is only slightly more significant than your usual video game mom waiting patiently for her brave adventurer to come home after saving the world or becoming the Pokémon Master.
Speaking of video games, most shonen isekai anime are either heavily inspired by video game worlds or are literally about a character being sucked into a video game… just like one of the newest Isekai anime, Do You Love Your Mom And Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? Don’t let the unwieldy title and fanservice-y character design throw you off — this series has something interesting to say about the role of moms in adventure stories.
More Like This:
- 7 New Anime Series to Check Out This Summer
- How Dungeons and Dragons Brought Me and My Mom Closer Together
- Sub or Dub: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Sent Into Another World With Mom
The premise of Do You Love Your Mom… is classic isekai fare. A teenage boy gets transported into a video game, but there’s a catch — his mom came along too. Oh yeah, and she’s more powerful than him. She’s not going to be idling on the sidelines.
It’s particularly mind-blowing for an isekai to subvert the expectations for the role of mothers because Missing Mom Syndrome is almost a core part of the isekai genre by design. It’s kind of hard to have a mom — or any parent — around when the entire premise of the genre is to have a character unexpectedly sucked into another world, usually all on their lonesome to go on a life-changing adventure. Isekai is about escapism, which includes escaping from family responsibilities, not to mention family itself. The genre fills an understandable and necessary desire, but that also makes this particular subversion within the genre much more impactful.
Right after our main character gets sucked into an alternate world, he delivers an inner monologue. He describes himself as an easily embarrassed and awkward teenager who often takes it out on his mom. Yet apparently going on an adventure and leaving his mom behind is how he’s supposed to solve all of his problems. It will be totally cool to disappear for an adventure for however long until the very end when he even imagines hugging his mom saying, “I’m home!” just like a cliché fantasy ending. Mom serves no purpose other than to wait for him to come home. This monologue is a thinly veiled admission of how a lot of media treats the role of motherhood.
Oh, and all of this isn’t portrayed in a sympathetic light. We have no indication that the protagonist’s mother is anything but kind to him. The kid is bratty and immature, and he only gets worse after learning that his mom, Mamako, is coming on the adventure with him.
In Defence of Escapism
It’s understandable that some anime and video-game media attempt to create a space for kids to take a break from their real-life parents (like our main character had been wishing for). Even in magical girl anime where the mother is often alive and present, she is still often conveniently unaware of what her daughter is up to. This means the magical girl can fight as many monsters as she wants without her mom telling her no.
But what if the mom didn’t say no? Why don’t we let parents help their kids more often?
Do we need to take so much of a break from moms that we overlook so many possible unique character dynamics, stunting our own creativity as well as making Mamako sad?
In any case, Mamako’s son, while not terrible, is indeed portrayed as just bratty enough to elicit the annoyance necessary from viewers to make that point. Among the comments on the first episode on VRV, about the second most common kind of statement seemed to be about how mean the main character is to his mom. Anime fans are outraged at an anime dude treating his mom like crap — that’s a good thing.
“This Is a Fantasy For Young Men!”
To top this all off, later in the first episode the kid gets into an argument directly with his mom that’s direct commentary on the genre. He first crucially words the argument in a way that boils down to him being mad about her having powerful magic, outshining him and her being there… only because she’s his mom. Mamako replies with, “other mothers sometimes get sent inside video games with their sons,” which we as an audience know is not true. The kid knows this too, and he follows that up with threatening to disown her if she doesn’t tell him why she’s there, causing her to cry. At one point during this argument he even straight up says “this is a fantasy for young men, there’s no room for parents here!” The fourth wall ceases to exist and the kid’s point is clear.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way, and the anime ultimately says so when the kid realizes his mistake and apologizes to his mother. The two then agree to go on the adventure together. As ridiculously simple as this writing choice is, it’s almost revolutionary.
How can you say no to this?
To be fair, Do You Love Your Mom… is not the only anime to take a few small steps towards letting moms become more involved in adventures. The Pokémon Sun and Moon series makes an honest effort to bring Ash’s mom Delia back to Alola much more often than you might expect. Lillie and Serena’s mothers in the Pokémon anime were also particularly well developed complete with having interests outside of motherhood. Working mothers were even portrayed in a nuanced and eventually progressive light through Lusamine, Lillie’s mother. While Lusamine realizes she needs to make a stronger effort to make time for family, Lillie also learns that her mother does not hate her just because she spends time working. Lusamine is ultimately allowed to keep her job as a scientist where she plays a significant role in many high-stakes plots in the anime.
Meanwhile in Boruto, Sarada’s mom Sakura has also been grandmothered in from her pre-motherhood role. I’m not caught up with the series, but Sakura fans seem to be enjoying this aspect of the show, frequently citing how they like the fact that she is both a strong ninja and a loving mom. Sakura in Boruto is a single working-mom who works at the same clinic she founded. Yet perhaps it’s time for more active moms to be integrated into action and adventure stories from the beginning, as opposed to only happening as necessary to capitalize off of Boruto’s aging dad.
Moms are people. They can be embarrassing, they can make mistakes, and yet media often seems to forget that they can play a role other than a woman in the refrigerator (dead) or doing nothing but waiting for her kid to come home. It’s time for anime to stop being dismissive of mothers and let them shine more often, two-hit multi-target attacks and all.