Culture

5 Japanese Anime Heroes Who Are Actually Jerks

Ruining your childhood one character at a time.

By 9 min read

It’s fun to take a critical look at our childhood TV shows. Take Pokémon, for example. On the surface, it’s just a story about a kid who wants to be the very best at animal abuse. But when you start asking questions, things get dark. Somewhere out there in the Pokémon universe, someone is frying up Pikachu burgers and grinding up the horns of Pokémon to make dick pills.

Below is a tongue-in-cheek look at some nostalgic heroes from Japanese anime classics who are actually quite terrible when you think about it. And since we always want to teach you something, we’ll include some Japanese vocabulary so you can talk about your favorite character’s worst qualities.

5. Goku: The absent father

Photo:
Anybody can be a Z fighter, but it takes a real man to be a dad.

Goku is arguably why anime is so popular outside of Japan. Growing up, my friends and I would race home after school to watch Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network’s Toonami.

He is often compared to DC Comics’ Superman. Both are aliens from a doomed planet. Both were raised by kind earthlings and gained superhuman strength and flight. They also have an unwavering sense of honor and right and wrong. Minor differences include Goku’s goofy but lovable personality and Superman being a loving father and husband with a steady job.

According to creator Akira Toriyama, Goku just likes a good fight.

Superman has always been depicted as a family man. It’s hard to picture him without Lois, and being a father is a big part of his character. Despite saving the world countless times, leading the Justice League and making terrible Zack Snyder movies, Superman takes time to be a father and lead a successful career as a mild-mannered reporter at The Daily Planet.

Meanwhile, Goku will let his son get the crap beat out of him while everyone watches so that he can “release his true power.”

Everyone asking Goku what he’s thinking isn’t some kind of trick. He literally tosses the bad guy a magic bean that grants him energy and health so it’s a better fight. Even the other characters think Goku is insane.

Not only is Goku willing to watch his kid be beaten to death for his love of martial arts, but he also disappears for weeks (or longer) to train, leaving his wife, Chichi, on her own. It’s not even for the greater good. According to creator Akira Toriyama, Goku just likes a good fight.

Goku has even chosen to stay dead to train with other dead fighters in a universe where people can be wished back to life. Unfortunately, in doing so, the jerk missed the first seven years of his second son’s life and forced Chichi to live as a widow.

Vocab

Japanese Romaji English
役立たずな父親 yaku tatazuna chichioya Deadbeat dad
注意不足 chuui busoku Careless
自己破壊的 jiko hakai teki Self-destructive
 ひどい夫 hidoi otto Terrible husband

4. Tenchi: The incestuous polygamist

Photo:
When you’re here, you’re family.

Tenchi Muyo! was my first exposure to Japanese culture outside of a Benihana’s hibachi grill. The Toonami promo had everything to enamor a 12-year-old boy: cool shamisen music, cherry blossoms, secluded rural shrines, lightsabers and several beautiful women from space madly in love with the protagonist. There is even a sentient spaceship that turns into a cat-rabbit-thing.

The running-gag of Tenchi Muyo! is that Tenchi can’t choose a single girl because that would mean losing everyone else, and he thinks of them as his family. In fact, some of them are his family. Two of them are his actual aunts. Despite Tenchi’s relatives trying to occasionally romance him, the show was a fun watch and even heartwarming at times.

Then, years after its original air date, the creators released a new season and introduced Noike, Tenchi’s arranged bride-to-be. She’s technically another aunt through adoption, but at least it’s not by blood. Tenchi’s grandmothers also come down from space to prepare for the wedding and inappropriately flirt with him.

Thankfully, the marriage is called off and Tenchi’s creepy family goes back to living in their outer space version of Alabama. Tenchi can continue loving all the girls (including his aunts) platonically and it will never get weirder than that. At least until a decade later when another season was released.

Tenchi marries not only all six women—including his aunts—but also his sentient cat-spaceship, in a single unholy ceremony.

Photo:
Jeeze. Leave some ladies for the rest of us.

Another episode, taking place some years later, reveals he’s already had children with his aunt. As a last affront to God, we see his visibly pregnant spaceship-cat-wife.

Vocab

Japanese Ramaji English
一夫多妻制 ippu tasai sei Polygamist
叔母と結婚する oba to kekkon suru Marries his aunt
遊び人 asobi nin Playboy
仲の良い家族 nakanoyoi kazoku Close family
政略結婚 seiryaku kekkon Political marriage

3. Yusuke Urameshi: The transphobe

Photo:
Can we get this guy on Joe Rogan already?

Yu Yu Hakusho follows a young delinquent named Yusuke Urameshi who dies but gets a second chance at life, fighting demons and saving the world. It’s a straightforward show, but there’s one fight that’s always been controversial.

The setup is this: some villains kidnap an innocent demon-girl and hire evil demons as bodyguards. Yusuke and his friends, Kuwabara and Botan, battle through the bodyguards until they reach a female demon named Miyuki.

Now, Miyuki is wholly down to murder Yusuke and crew, but Kuwabara isn’t willing to hit a woman. Miyuki rightfully mocks Kuwabara’s sexist views of chivalry, so Yusuke, not having such hang-ups, punches her in the boob and kicks her through the wall—much to Kuwabara’s chagrin.

Yusuke would go easier, but says “our missus is really a mister.” He realizes this because he managed to grope her during their fight because he “got curious.” “The family jewels have not been stolen,” he quips. OK. Missing girl. Time is of the essence and all, but whatever.

In the Japanese dub, Miyuki tearfully yells at Yusuke, “in my heart, I am a woman,” and charges him. Yusuke replies by telling her to “make her heart and body a woman’s” and slams her head through another wall. Yikes, fam.

Perhaps trying to ease it over with a Western audience, Funimation’s English dub has Yusuke proudly announce her gender identity has nothing to do with the beatdown. But he’s already misgendered her, and he’s already groped her. So if Funimation was trying not to make Yusuke a transphobe, that ship sailed.

Afterward, Kuwabara prepares to grope Miyuki’s unconscious body to see for himself before Botan stops him. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.

Vocab

悪い生徒 warui seito Delinquent
トランスフォビア toransufobia Transphobia
女性蔑視 josei besshi Misogyny
変態 hentai Pervert
平等に生き、平等に戦う
byoudou ni iki, byoudou ni tatakau
Equal rights, equal fights

2. Detective Conan: The selfish edgelord

Photo:
“One truth prevails! Want to see a dead body?”

Detective Conan is a popular kid’s show about prodigy detective Shinichi Kudo. After 1014 episodes and 24 films, it’s one of the longest-running anime. In the West, it’s known as Case Closed.

Early on, Shinichi is turned into a child and secretly continues his detective work using the name Conan Edogawa. Only a handful of people are privy to this info, not including his girlfriend, Ran, with whom Shinichi lives—supposedly for everyone’s safety, as anyone who knows the truth will be in harm’s way.

He stumbles into stabbings, hangings, drownings, arsons and every kind of killing imaginable.

It’s a very long and convoluted plot, but I’m of the opinion that Shinichi is the kind of guy that browses videos of car accidents and leaves comments bragging that he’s seen much worse.

Shinichi is a good detective. So good that the police ask him to help with cases. Thus, he’s seen a lot of dead bodies. He reminds you as much during the first episode while on a date with Ran at the amusement park when a guy gets his head ripped off in a brutal act of murder. Did I mention this is a kid’s show?

“Whoa! I can’t wait to post this on Reddit!”

Naturally, Shinichi solves the case. Afterward, despite Ran clearly being upset after seeing a guy’s head popped off like a wine cork, Shinichi tries to carry on with the date because why let a little decapitation spoil a good time? So he smiles and tells Ran to lighten up, after all, he’s seen it all. He’s a real charmer.

Then there’s keeping his secret for “everyone’s safety.” After Shinichi is turned into a child, the violence is only ramped up. He stumbles into stabbings, hangings, drownings, arsons and every kind of killing imaginable.

Unfortunately, as a child, Shinichi is typically accompanied by other actual children, Ayumi, Genta and Mitsuhiko, whenever he discovers a homicide. Once, they walked into a shop to discover a burning corpse. Another time, they find a dead body in the forest and are then hunted by his killer.

Photo:
These kids have seen some stuff.

These kids are traumatized or almost killed or kidnapped every other week when they hang out with Shinichi. Even his girlfriend has to survive the occasional serial killer or bomb threat around him.

Why exactly does Shinichi keep his secret? Surely if he mentioned his predicament, everyone would be better off. At the very least, Ayumi’s, Genta’s and Mitsuhiko’s parents wouldn’t send them off on playdates with death.

Vocab

Japanese Romaji English
中二病 chuunibyou Edgelord
空気読めない kuuki Yomenai Can’t read the room
児童福祉担当官 Jido fukushi tanto-kan Child welfare officer

1. Sesshomaru: The Groomer

Photo:
What a creeper.

Set in the Sengoku period, Inuyasha is an action and romance anime about a girl from modern-day Tokyo, Kagome, and her half-human-dog-demon companion, Inuyasha. Despite Kagome being 15 and Inuyasha being 150, it was always a given that the pair would end up together. Kind of gross, but Inuyasha has the mentality of a teen. But then there’s Inuyasha’s brother, Sesshomaru.

Unlike Inuyasha, Sesshomaru is full-demon. Although not necessarily evil, he’s not above killing humans—or even his brother and Kagome. He teeter-totters on wanting to murder them and helping them out to further his own goals. Enter Rin.

Rin is a seven-year-old girl who meets a wounded Sesshomaru in the forest. She secretly nurses him back to health and is mauled by wolves for her trouble. Feeling pity for the girl, Sesshomaru revives her, and she joins Sesshomaru as his ward.

The human child grows on him, and through her, Sesshomaru learns not to hate humans and becomes more of a hero in the story. Wow. Adorable. Very cute. Nothing creepy about that.

Cut to several years later in the sequel series Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon. This story follows the daughter of Inuyasha and Kagome. Only, she’s not the main character. Instead, the main characters are the half-human-dog-demon twins of Sesshomaru, Towa and Setsuna.

Guess who mom is?

Yes. The centuries-old demon Sesshomaru rescues and raises Rin, a child, only to impregnate her when she’s about 16-years old. Bruh.

Vocab

Japanese Romaji English
親子婚 oyako kon Groomer
100歳の彼氏 100 sai no kareshi 100-year-old boyfriend
不気味 bukimi Creep

Have a different opinion? Know some even worse anime heroes? Let us know in the comments. [Composite image, screenshots and gifs via GaijinPot, Giphy, Dragon Ball Z, Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, Yu Yu Hakusho, Detective Conan, Inuyasha and Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon]

Related

Culture

Playing Doubles: How Naomi Osaka and Japan Are Coming to Terms with Each Other

She's a wildly successful athlete honing her talent and a burgeoning political voice, but is she the people's superstar?

By 6 min read

Learn

Mountain Day in Japan

How have the mountains blessed you?

By 1 min read

Learn

Tweet of the Week #142: Keep Your Pets Safe in Summer

What precautions should pet owners take this summer?

By 2 min read