Yesterday was “Respect for the Elderly Day” in Japan, so I’m giving you a list of my own favorite elderly anime characters! These characters deserve more than a few senior discounts on movie popcorn and a subscription to AARP Magazine. So let’s celebrate their longevity and many contributions to their respective fictional societies:
10. Zoroku from Alice to Zoroku
When the world is crumbling, you might need a Zoroku in your life. This no-nonsense grandpa takes the cake on calling B.S., even by anime standards. This is not your average crotchety old man; whether you are his own grandkid or a strange magical girl with godlike powers–you can and will be grounded for bad behavior. So your powers caused a huge traffic jam, frightening citizens and police out of their mind? Grounded. You’re starving because you ran away from the lab that was experimenting on you? Sit down, shut up, and eat something. From his commanding presence to his sweeter moments, Zoroku is quite the character.
9. Pinako Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist
Pinako Rockbell seems like everything you’d want in a sweet old granny—she makes delicious homemade food, takes care of the orphan neighbor kids, and is devoted to her granddaughter. But as FMA progresses, we discover there is more to Granny Pinako than her kindness. Granny is a brilliant Automail engineer. With her craftsmanship, even the three-legged family dog gets around with no problem. Without her innovation in Automail, Al would not have earned the title “Full Metal” as a state alchemist. And thanks to Granny’s teachings, her granddaughter becomes an even more accomplished engineer. Talk about a lady with a legacy!
8. Gran Torino from My Hero Academia
We’ve only met All Might’s teacher a handful of times in the anime, but his ability to troll the main protagonist is legendary. Under the guise of a senile old timer, Gran Torino is full of surprises despite his advanced age and bent appearance. Let’s take a moment to appreciate Gran Torino’s unassuming nature combined with the power of lightning speed and cold precision. Even All Might, the Symbol of Justice, is terrified of this geezer! Although Gran Torino is certainly not the grandfatherly type, he can be counted on when it really matters.
7. Shiro Nishi from Whisper of the Heart
Shiro Nishi, perhaps a lesser known pick for this list, feels like someone you might actually run into in real life. This old antique shop owner has stories for every item in his care, including the captivating cat statue which the sequel film, “The Cat Returns”, is named after. Over time, Mr. Nishi’s stories inspire the main character of the film to pursue the dream she’s been holding inside for a long time. When she gets discouraged, he is right there to coax her along. Sometimes you need a wise friend like this to let you know that it’s okay to fail as long as you keep going. When you have someone there to point out the small beginnings of talent in you, you can beat back that self-doubting inner voice. Thanks, Mr. Nishi!
6. Joseph Joestar from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
“Oh no!” Coming in at number 6 is the former protagonist of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Although booted to the supporting slot in Stardust Crusaders by his grandson, Joseph retains that over-the-top personality. He’s even taken on an Indiana Jo-nes (see what I did there) look with his gruff American humor and passion for fedoras. In keeping with the tone of JJBA, Joseph embodies the manliness of the Joestar line, and it’s nice to see this continue into his old age. While a still formidable opponent, he has grown more cunning over the years. We also see Joseph in the role as a doting father and loving but firm grandfather. Joseph says it himself in Stardust Crusaders: “I guess I get better with age!”
5. Yubaba from Spirited Away
What, did you think all my favorite characters would be good guys? Yubaba is a slimy, cut-throat businesswoman you love to hate. Working shady deals to trick her employees into slavery, Yubaba is a delicious take on the evil witch stereotype seen in fairy tales. Aside from her firm grip on her bathhouse business, Yubaba has a softer side revealed in the way she coddles that disgusting, gluttonous baby. Further contrasting her sinister character is the presence of her twin sister, the “good witch” type. It makes me wonder how Yubaba might have turned out if she hadn’t nursed that hunger for gold. I wouldn’t cross this old lady if you paid me!
4. Genkai from Yu Yu Hakasho
Speaking of old ladies you don’t want to cross, meet Genkai, the icy mentor in Yu Yu Hakasho. The”ancient master” is a common character archetype for the elderly, but few match the prowess of Genkai. Starting the series, we learn that Genkai could have retained her youthful appearance, but instead chose to pass along her spiritual strength to a worthy candidate. Even wrinkled, Genkai retains much of her strength, and her harsh methods yield a worthy hero in Yusuke. Despite her cold personality, Genkai becomes full of love for her pupil, so much so that she is willing to sacrifice a great deal more for his sake. Genkai, you are unforgettable!
3. Sakae Jinnouchi from Summer Wars
Sometimes a true hero is one whose strength is not physical. With her resolve, Sakae Jinnouchi from Summer Wars is the tie that holds her growing family together. Sakae protects her clan with a keen eye and a fierce passion. She has sound judgement most of the time, and when she doesn’t know the answer, she puts faith in the right people. Those of us lucky enough of have a Sakae in our lives know the value she has as a character.
2. Jiraya from Naruto Shippuden
What can be said about Jiraya that you don’t already know? When the manga was first releasing, every chapter of Naruto Shippuden got better when Jiraya was in it—you’d either end up laughing out loud or be stunned into silence by his raw power. He fits both the pervy grandpa stereotype and the ancient master role. As a character, Jiraya has plenty of vices, but it makes him relatable and, perhaps, more beloved. The best parts about Jiraya are shown off in his relationship with our also pervy, somewhat obnoxious protagonist. The level at which these characters sync up is absurdly humorous. But their connection goes deeper.
Having trained up Minato years ago, Jiraya is Naruto’s closest link to his parents. In that way, Jiraya becomes the grandfather Naruto never had (And don’t forget Granny Tsunade! Chaa!). Every time Naruto uses Sage Mode, I think of Jiraya and smile. The old sage left his mark on Naruto’s heart and the hearts of fans, too!
Honorable Mention: Iroh from Avatar
I was torn on this one. Iroh, while an amazing pick, is not technically from an anime. But with his wise quips involving tea and grand life philosophies, Iroh is certainly one of the best cartoon elderly characters around.
1. Master Roshi from Dragonball, Dragonball Z
In terms of legacy and longevity, none can compare to Master Roshi from the Dragon Ball series! The kanji for his name literally translates to “invincible old master”! The old perv is over 300 years old at the start of the series and shows no signs for slowing down. Master Roshi is the kind of guy who lives without regrets. From the beginning, Master Roshi his cavalier personality is source of comic relief. Roshi’s appetite for adult magazines aside, he is not to be taken lightly on the battlefield. Early on in his training, the old Turtle Hermit created and mastered the Kamehameha technique, which he passes onto Goku once he realizes his potential as a pupil. The rest is anime history.
As a 90s kid, it warms my heart knowing that Master Roshi is still fighting alongside the Z fighters in Dragon Ball Super (seen above). He even kicks butt in an alien tournament! The iconic show would not be Dragon Ball without this lovable old geezer. We know the world is safe thanks to him training Goku and the others to their full potential!
Thanks for reading my anime list! If your favorite old timer didn’t make the cut, I want to hear about it in the comments below! Don’t forget to subscribe below so you don’t regret missing our next anime article: