I’m in Seattle for a conference but just had to finagle web access to see what the other otaku are up to.
Steven, Pixy and Don discuss how often anime characters are orphaned. They speculate it may be to save costs for hiring seiyuu, though Pixy suggests it may also be a plot device. I haven’t seen most of the series they mention but the trend is certainly evident even in the small sample of anime that I have seen.
In Sugar: A Little Snow Fairy, not just Saga but also Sugar appear to be fatherless. Also, Studio Ghibli films seem to be particularly taken with orphans – Kiki’s Delivery Service and the ultra-downer Grave of the Fireflies come to mind (and they came close in Totoro!). Of course, all the haibane in Haibane Renmei are orphaned in sense.
I can’t comment on the anime I haven’t seen, but of the ones I have that do follow the trend, it seems that the orphan status is more oriented towards making the characters seem more vulnerable and thus sympathetic. Watching, I tend to give the orphaned characters more benefit of the doubt.
Also, Shamus is watching Someday’s Dreamers (which I finished too, but have yet to post my review. slacker!) and notes that Yume’s rural accent is portrayed in the dub as a deep south dixie drawl. I remember being a bit bemused at this but it grew on me. Also, Runa’s urban accent is portrayed as a New York street accent, which I think is rather appropriate. My own observation of Tokyo certainly brought New York to mind – in terms of attitude and energy.