The importance of anime mentors and teachers…
Something every hero, athlete, musician, magical girl, and regular student needs is an example to look up to. They need a goal to pursue or a dream to make real. Regardless of our position in this world as we’re growing up, we need someone to show us the way to bring our ideas from fantasy into reality.
Mentors and teachers can come from any (expected or unexpected) sphere of our lives. Sometimes their examples can be what not to do in pursuit of our ambitions. Other times they take the form of instructors that help lay the foundation for the journey into the real world. Alternatively they can be a familial acquaintance with a penchant for dropping advice gleaned from their own experiences. However they enter our story, we should pay attention and put their lessons into practice.
Warning: Minor spoilers may be present. Yet I hope they are minor enough that if you dig the character, then you’ll take a chance on the story.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – Uncle Iroh
“Protection and power are overrated. I think you are very wise to choose happiness and love. There are reasons each of us are born. We have to find those reasons.”
While Uncle Iroh has plenty of interactions with Aang, the hero of Avatar, I think that his journey alongside his nephew, Zuko, that earn him a place as a treasured mentor. Zuko and Iroh begin the story of Avatar as “bad guys”, but it is really hard to call Iroh a bad guy at any point in the story. His peaceful nature and serenity exude from his character from the very beginning. He constantly and consistently provides Zuko with advice; he encourages Zuko to embrace his own destiny. What better advice is there for one who has fallen from their own path? Even when Iroh is imprisoned, he holds fast to the discipline of mind and body.
Fullmetal Alchemist – Izumi Curtis
“One is All, and All is One.”
Sometimes the teacher our heroes want won’t want them in return. In spite of how much Ed and Al wanted an alchemy teacher, Izumi wouldn’t meekly accept them as students. Her first lesson to the boys is a harsh one – survive on a deserted island for a month and provide a meaning for her creed (which I’ve quoted above). This mirrors her own education of wilderness survival while trying to find a master to study beneath. In exchange for their effort, the boys are rewarded with a teacher who never takes it easy on them. At various times, Izumi will read from a cookbook while schooling the boys in martial arts or instead of simply transmuting a broken toy she will fix it as any normal person would. She’s suffered through tragedy and uses her heartbreak to fuel her lessons to Ed and Al, both alchemy training and the lessons of life.
Durarara!! – Kyouhei Kadota
“Listen, don’t get carried away. If you feel guilty for running, then for the rest of your life, you must live with the pain of lying to her. That’s how you can make it up to her. And if you don’t want to lie to her, then don’t run. Face her and say it! I’ll let you run from your past. But don’t run from the present and the future.”
Kadota may be a super tough dude and a double secret (hush hush) shot caller in the Dollars but he’s also a cool older brother mentor type who looks out for his friends. Heck, in the quote above, he gives great life advice to a rival gang’s leader. He gets into a fight with yet another gang leader and punches him thoroughly enough to get across an understanding of mutual respect. The guy can’t go out of his way enough to be a better bro to whoever needs it. It isn’t all about violence and beatdowns for Kadota though. He is the de-facto leader of his little entourage and when someone needs help, he’ll cross gang affiliations to give it to them.
Naruto – Jiraiya
Clip: Viz Media
“When people get hurt, they learn to hate. When people hurt others, they become hated and racked with guilt. But knowing that pain allows people to be kind. Pain allows people to grow… and how you grow is up to you.”
Jiraiya holds a special place for me among mentors and teachers. He is the combination of the previous examples. For Naruto, Jiraiya is the unexpected family providing unconditional love and a teacher he must prove himself to and a mentor that will do whatever it takes to keep him safe. Even if you ignore Naruto, Jiraiya is a sensei worth following over and over again – he trains multiple generations of special shinobi while traveling the world to gain experience while acting as a long distance undercover spy for the Village Hidden in the Leaves. His life experiences are written down in his Tales of a Gutsy Ninja bring inspiration to untold numbers of ninjas – it is his plan to bring the curse of the shinobi world to an end. Even if Jiraiya himself was unable to break the curse, his words encouraged those who would try on his behalf.
I really wanted to include a section on comparing a poor teacher with a good one from the same anime but it looks like I’ve gone on too long as it is. So I’m hoping you’ll come back when I get a chance to explore what effect a bad teacher may have on a hero…or maybe a novice instructor on an athlete that doesn’t know how to proceed in his career. If either of those examples are a good hint, please leave a comment with a guess!
Featured image: kyubee