From coming-of-age stories to wild isekai adventures, so many popular anime have young protagonists, often high school students. Elderly characters, when they appear, are often stereotypes, working from the sidelines: they are either the cute grandpa or the wise, strong, and noble fighter. Here at Honey’s Anime, we love unique stories of all kinds with a diversity of characters. While at first glance some of our picks for this top 10 list might show such stereotypical traits, this is just on the surface. They are all well-rounded with memorable personalities!
What if an old man is the next big hero, or an old woman is the world’s best fighter? Let’s dive in!
10. Kenja no Mago (Wise Man's Grandchild)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2019 - June 2019
We all know Merlin as a powerful magician from the legend of King Arthur. In this Isekai anime series, Merlin Walford is the wise man of the title, who takes in a newborn baby that mysteriously appears on his doorstep. The surprising truth is that this baby boy, Shin, is the reincarnation of a salaryman who died in modern Japan. Merlin raises Shin, spoiling him like a doting grandfather. As a result, Shin grows up to become an extremely powerful magic-user, while he still lacks social skills. Even after he leaves home to study at the Magic Academy, Shin lives under Merlin’s shadow. Everyone treats him as a celebrity because of his connection to the legendary Hero and magician Merlin, who has saved the kingdom in the past.
It’s refreshing seeing old characters who have a personal life. Merlin raises Shin along with Melinda, who is a badass old lady in her own right. Her talent lies in creating magical tools and enchantments. It’s heavily hinted that Merlin and Melinda have a romantic past, and they often behave as if they are still not over it. They are both Shin’s loving “grandparents” and leaders in their fields.
9. InuYasha / Hanyou no Yashahime: Sengoku Otogizoushi (Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon)
- Episodes: 167 / 3+
- Aired: October 2000 - September 2004 / October 2020 - Currently airing
Priestess Kaede appears in the classic shounen/fantasy anime Inuyasha and the currently airing Yashahime. She is the youngest sister of Priestess Kikyo, who gave her life to protect their village. From her eye-patch to her grim expression, her whole presence commands respect. She has known loss and struggle fighting against demons, and she still manages to care deeply about her village, fifty years after her sister’s passing.
Kaede deserves a spot in this list because, even though she’s gone through a lot, she never lost her fighting spirit. She recognized Kagome’s connection to Kikyo the moment she met her, and the two of them form a bond. Eventually, Kagome decides to stay in feudal Japan and she trains as a priestess under Kaede. It is Kaede who gives Kagome the Beads of Subjugation to help her control Inuyasha. Even though she gets frustrated with Inuyasha, who doesn’t listen to her warnings, she’s still by his side, ever since he turned into an ally. She’s now ready to teach a new generation in Yashahime!
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: October 2007 - December 2007
Moyashimon starts with a crazy premise: College student Tadayasu Sawaki can see bacteria with his naked eye! They even talk to him in cute high-pitched voices. This anime has an unexpected combination of educational, comedic, and ecchi elements. In a way, it’s a genre of its own.
Moyashimon wouldn’t be the same series without the eccentric professor Itsuki Keizou.
He’s a fermentation expert and teaches at the Agricultural University. Spending too much time in Antarctica and other faraway places has led him to develop questionable culinary choices. In the first episode, he makes quite an appearance, digging out a fermenting seal (!) from the school grounds. The pickled seal delicacy, as he calls it, stinks as bad as you might imagine.
Professor Itsuki Keizou believes in Sawaki’s ability and wants to involve his unique skill in his research.
He lets his students do most of the work for him, while he acts as a trickster, with his own drive and motivations, that evolve throughout the show.
Memorable quote: “You guys, it seems like you cannot distinguish between a fermenting smell and a rotting smell!”
7. Yuu☆Yuu☆Hakusho (Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files)
- Episodes: 112
- Aired: October 1992 - January 1995
When high school delinquent Hirameki Yusuke turns into a Spirit Detective, his reckless nature needs to be tamed by a mentor. This is when he meets Genkai, a tiny old woman with a pink mane who moves at the speed of light.
Genkai is virtually unbeatable and she is looking for a new apprentice to pass down her special martial arts techniques. She is fair because she is ready to reveal her secrets to whoever wins the challenge, even if it is a villain. When Yusuke wins, Genkai is established as one of the main characters. She acts as a mentor to this group of misfits; two delinquents, Yusuke and Kuwabara; and two demons, the elegant Kurama and the mischievous Hiei.
Genkai’s character is based on the trope of the old master who puts the hero through trials to help him evolve. Even so, her personality shines through; her comments are sharp and she’s a tough cookie! Spoiler alert, she’s so strong that she’s even brought back to life!!!
Other elders that deserve honorable mentions in Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghostfiles are no less than the lord of the Underworld himself, Enma, and his son, Koenma, who is over a hundred years old despite his baby looks! Koenma takes on a lot of his busy father’s work and he gives Yusuke a second chance in life and later employs him as a spirit detective.
6. Dragon Ball
- Episodes: 153
- Aired: February 1986 - April 1989
This list wouldn’t be complete without Dragon Ball and Master Roshi! His iconic look, with his shiny bald head, dark sunglasses, a white beard, and Hawaiian shirts in 80s colors, brings back our happy childhood memories.
Master Roshi leads the Kame House and trains Goku through a series of absurd techniques, including having to wear a turtle shell on his back. He can wield an extremely powerful attack, the Kamehameha. Aaaand… he is over three hundred years old, thanks to the paradise herb. His long past and the extent of his powers are revealed throughout the series.
Master Roshi is also a (very) perverted old man who spends his days reading adult magazines. He even gets explosive nosebleeds when he comes across hot young women. His initial request to Goku was to bring him a young woman if he wanted him to become his teacher! There are even several instances where he gets into serious trouble for being a Peeping Tom. This duality is common in anime. He might be a trope, but he did set the rules of how to portray an old martial arts master in anime!
5. Howl no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle)
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: November 2004
Howl’s Moving Castle is a Miyazaki classic with breathtaking animation, adventure, and a heartwarming message, based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie Hatter, the protagonist, is a timid young woman who is saved by Howl one day, an event that makes the Witch of Waste really jealous. The Witch of Waste casts a curse on Sophie, who turns old and grey.
Sophie is not allowed to reveal her secret to anyone, and as time passes, she gets older and older. She meets Howl, a magician with an ever-changing castle, and falls in love with him. When she admits her love, we see her briefly turn younger. But when she reverts to self-consciousness, the curse takes hold of her again. Sophie’s transformation poses some interesting questions: is old age a curse? What is beauty? Sophie discovers a sense of self, through trials and tribulations, in a grandma’s body. The takeaway from Sophie’s story is that it’s important to feel young at heart, no matter your age!
4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: April 2009 - July 2010
There is a lot of elder influence all around in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood! Pinako Rockbell, the famous auto-mail mechanic, raises Edward and Alphonse after their father, Van Hohenheim, leaves them and their mother dies. A tiny old woman with a signature pointy bun, PInako knows more than she lets on. Pinako met Van Hohenheim when she was young and she knows he doesn’t age. She’s smart, fiercely protective of the Elric brothers, and encourages her granddaughter Winry to become the best mechanic.
Van Hohenheim is ageless. Hailing from the time of King Xerxes, he used to be a slave who befriended a homunculus, a man-made creature in a flask. It’s this creature that gave him eternal life. A powerful Alchemist, Hohenheim leaves on a quest to discover to prepare for the destruction of the Homunculi. His departure is the beginning of the Elric brothers’ tragic story.
Father created his image from Hohenheim, while he is a homunculus. He is a supervillain and the mastermind behind the creation of the Philosopher's Stone.
There are more elders in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that deserve to be mentioned.There’s King Bradley, leader of the state military and the personification of Wrath. We shouldn’t forget Fu, the self-sacrificing fighter from the Xing Kingdom with a deep sense of honor. Then, there is Doctor Tim Marcoh who shows important character development throughout the show, from participating in war crimes to atoning for his sins. Last but not least, there is Grumman, the Commanding Officer of the East City Headquarters, who plays a big role in Roy Mustang’s plan to overthrow King Bradley.
3. Komatta Jiisan
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2020 - July 2020
Komatta Jiisan is a short and really sweet anime. In one-minute snippets, it introduces us to the world of the old man of the title and his wife. The old man spends peaceful days at home and in each episode, he comes up with a way to trick his wife in the most adorable ways. A heartthrob in the days of his youth, he’s still got it: He usually pretends that he is old and fragile and asks for her help, but when he gets his wife’s attention, his tone of voice changes. This is when he makes his move and his expression turns seductive, in the way of a much younger and attractive man.
Komatta Jiisan deserves a high spot in this Top 10 list because we don’t get anime solely focused on the lives of the elderly, even more so an old couple that is still very much in love! In one episode, for instance, the old man draws the words “suki” (love) on their house windows. In another, he pretends to feel ill and steals a hug from his wife. Poor grandma, she ends up blushing with joy and embarrassment by the old man’s shenanigans!
2. Alice to Zouroku (Alice & Zoroku)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2017 - June 2017
Alice to Zouroku deserves the second spot! It gives us Zouroku Kashimura, a character who reminds us of our real-life grandfathers. With a constant grumpy look on his face, Zouroku actually has a heart of gold. Young Sana escapes a secret laboratory, where she is kept by a team of researchers who want to control her mysterious powers, called Alice’s Dream. While hiding from her captors in a supermarket, eyeing the bento meals, she comes across grandpa Zouroku. First impressions are not the best, because Sana lacks social skills and commands Zouroku to do her bidding. Of course, Zouroku teaches Sana some manners and decides to bring her home. There, together with his granddaughter Sanae they become Sana’s new family. She quickly starts helping him in his florist business and she grows into a great person through his love and guidance.
Sana, also known as the Red Queen, was born out of the Wonderland, a material manifestation of imagination. When she questions her humanity, Zouroku accepts her wholeheartedly.
There are several funny moments: even in the face of danger, Zouroku gives a stern talking to former soldier Miriam C, who has captured both him and Sana. He even gives a talking to Wonderland itself, because he got tired of its tricks!
1. Inuyashiki (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: October 2017 - December 2017
Inuyashiki: Last Hero, by the creator of Gantz, has a unique concept: the elderly character is the hero who evolves, while the young character is the villain. Grandpa turns robot. Grandpa saves the world. This story is much more than that. It’s about finding a place in a world that doesn’t value the elderly.
Inuyashiki is one of the best characters we have ever encountered. Inuyashiki is a familyman close to retirement who is going through a crisis in the first episode of the show, when he gets diagnosed with stomach cancer. However, his family doesn’t give a spare moment to hear the devastating news. Feeling sad and neglected, Inuyashiki takes his only companion, his dog, for a late night walk. There, in a park, he is killed by mistake by an alien spacecraft! When he is revived, he has to come to terms with a big change: he’s now a robot, a war machine!
Inuyashiki is a true hero because he remains deeply human, even after his transformation. In contrast to Hiro, who loses his empathy, he chooses over and over again to save others in need, while remaining invisible. Inuyashiki: Last Hero poses existential questions: what does it mean to be human?
All these anime series feature elderly characters who are special in their own right. They are fighters, sorcerers, florists, even robots! They all have an endless passion for life. We can learn a lot from our elders, in real life and our favorite anime universes!
Do you agree with our top 10? Let us know in the comments below!