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Seven Orphans That Beat the Odds

by Lynzee Loveridge,

If you're watching at least one show this anime season, it's gotta be The Promised Neverland. Zac and I talked about it over on the podcast yesterday. I wanted to reiterate that Emma's resolve is what sells that show (and its manga) to me again and again. You just can't help but root for the plucky orphan who won't give up on her chosen family and by extension, the world at large. Of almost all the orphans in this week's column, Emma arguably faces the worst odds, but she's in good company. There are a lot of anime and manga heroes that rose above being orphaned to find a happy life for themselves. Below you'll find profiles on 10 characters, the obstacles they faced, and how they overcame (or are overcoming) their circumstances.

Emma (The Promised Neverland)

I already touched on her character a bit in the intro, but Emma is the "never say die" heroine. Born and raised as food for demons, her world is truly terrifying. The adults she looked up to are merely facilitating her destiny to become food and every other sentient being wants to eat her and her family. That's kind of a lot for a fourth grader to reconcile. Despite the absolute worst odds, her immediate goal is to save everyone around her from their fate. Agile, practical, and quick-witted, Emma's steadfast heart might just carve out a future for all of the kids at Grace Field House. Bonus: her hair looks like a quail.

Natsu Dragneel (Fairy Tail)

Natsu's will to live is so strong he already died once. Call it a fluke dragon attack, but his bereft brother Zeref basically turned to the dark side to revive Natsu. Since Natsu gained a new lease on life he's had to relearn even the most basic functions like talking. He managed to endear a powerful dragon named Igneel, a relationship that would bring the most important friends and fellow mages into his life. Together, the embark on fantastical quests as the Fairy Tail guild and Natsu gains further prominence in the world of wizardry.

Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto Shippūden)

Naruto was orphaned on the day of his birth after his parents died protecting him from Tobi and the unleashed Nine-Tails. Life for Naruto continued to be difficult because of his lineage. His father's high position in the village meant that enemies would target him and within him was part of the monster that killed his parents and devastated his village. The people of Konoha weren't particularly subtle about hiding their resentment towards him. Despite all of this, Naruto is rambunctious kid who believes he's going to accomplish great things. With over 235 million copies of his manga in print, I think I believe it, too.

Mikasa Ackerman (Attack on Titan)

To be fair, probably all of the primary characters in Attack on Titan are orphans. In fact, I can't think of a single character that has living parents. I'm going to go with Mikasa for little other reason that I like her more and despite being the stoic one of the bunch, she's probably the most optimistic? Mikasa was orphaned long before joining the Survey Corps. Her parents weren't even killed by Titans but by other crappy humans. An almost divine intervention by Eren and his father are all that kept her from living as a slave in the capital. Since then, Mikasa grew to become a protective element in her friends' lives. She's staunchly loyal to Eren and her physical prowess is intimidating, to say the least. She is one of the driving forces behind the Survey Corps' successful operations.

Rin Okumura (Blue Exorcist)

Rin's dad is Satan, so I don't think anyone expected this familial relationship to end well but kudos to the series for at least confirming that Satan does, in fact, fuck. Rin ends up an orphan because his mother was targeted for sexing up Satan. Newborn Rin and his twin brother are thus raised by a family friend instead (who also dies, again Satan's fault). Such an imbalanced adolescence and screwy back story would lead many a teen to a life of crime and debauchery. Not Rin! The guy might get in a scrap or two with jerks, but he instead dedicates his focus on surpassing his brother to become a powerful exorcist (and defeat his dad)

Shirō Emiya (Fate/stay night)

Shirō's whole life literally burned in a fire. His home, his parents, and almost himself. Fortunately, he crosses paths with Kiritsugu Emiya who saves him (magic!) Kiritsugu passed on his magecraft skills and desire of justice to his adoptive son before passing away himself. Shirō's childhood was full of trauma but he found a way to move past that by honing his sense of righteousness and and finding ways to be useful to everyone around him. When he gets pulled into the Holy Grail War those skills become his saving grace. He becomes a very formidable mage in his own right.

Tohru Honda (Fruits Basket)

When we first meet our heroine, she's living in a tent on the outskirts of the Sohma's property. Her widowed mother had recently passed in a traffic accident and, not wanting to further convenience her extended family, she lies that she's staying with friends. Tohru is an strong empath and is more concerned about others' feelings than her own. She is however, a sunny-side-up type of person. She isn't down in the dumps despite sleeping in the great outdoors every night. Her outlook continues to help her while she lives with the Sohmas and ultimately helps her heal Kyō (and a lot of other members of family).


Lynzee guesses that if she had to adopt any of these kids, it'd probably be Tohru. She seems the least likely to accidentally set something on fire. (Twitter.)

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