Sometimes it’s hard to find fathers in anime who aren’t total jackwagons. (It can be hard to find non-jackwagon fathers in any sort of show, but we discussed that already.) In some of my favorite anime, the fathers are either absentee fathers (Edward Elric’s father in Fullmetal Alchemist) or died in the protagonist’s youth (Inuyasha’s father in Inuyasha).
One exception, though, is Fujioka Ryouji, the father of protagonist Fujioka Haruhi in the lighthearted gender-bender anime Ouran High School Host Club. In the show, Haruhi is mistaken for a boy early on due to the way she dresses and how soft and low her voice is, and throughout the series remains disguised as a boy while at school. Her father is one of the many treasures of the show.
Fujioka Ryouji works at a cross-dressing bar with the name Ranka, and the fact that Haruhi’s father is most frequently seen in the show dressed as a woman complements the fact that she herself is most frequently seen dressed as a man. She spends quite a lot of time talking to “Mother in heaven,” and after meeting Ryouji/Ranka, we start to see why: he’s terrible with money and also very frivolous, in sharp contrast to Haruhi (and presumably her mother’s) meticulous, serious way.
I love Ryouji for a lot of reasons – he pickes on Haruhi’s love interest incessantly, he’s hilarious, he’s a fascinating example of non-traditional families in anime – but more than anything, he’s one of my favorite anime dads because of his love for his daughter.
Sometimes, this love comes out in strange ways. I mentioned earlier that Haruhi is usually dressed as a man on-screen – that’s because she finds it “easier” to just toss on a shirt and pants rather than bothering with dresses or skirts. Yet Ryouji – himself a feminine dresser – frequently buys Haruhi feminine clothes. In one episode, he even takes her already-packed masculine clothes from her suitcase and replaces it with pretty dresses.
Yet when Ryouji does things like that, it doesn’t come across as a criticism of his daughter’s femininity: Ryouji himself enjoys wearing skirts and dresses, and giving Haruhi those things is a way for him to care for his daughter and show his affection.
In anime, fatherhood is usually very defined, especially in contemporary-style shows: the father works hard, usually at an office, and is rarely seen at home or in any kind of relationship capacity. But Fujioka Ryouji, though seen in very few episodes of the show, is always shown with specific regards to his relationship with Haruhi. She sometimes seems frustrated with or sick of him, but what teenage girl doesn’t get frustrated with or sick of her father?
Loving father-daughter relationships are rare in anime, even in cases where the mother is absent. Ryouji’s love for Haruhi is unconventional, yes – it’s not exactly a common trope in anime to have a father who works at a cross-dressing bar to support his family, or a father who dresses as a woman and encourages his daughter to be “more cute” – but it’s an undeniable sort of love.
And isn’t that what fatherhood should be like?
Feliza Casano is the founder and editor in chief of Girls in Capes and writes for all sections of the web magazine. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.