How do anime characters learn the skills they need to achieve their goals? Often, up-and-coming protagonists require mentors to help them grow emotionally and unlock new powers. Anime mentors can impart all kinds of knowledge and abilities, ranging from cooking skills to fighting styles. They can be soft and kind, or they can have brutally high expectations; either way, they make their mentees work hard.
There's no telling which anime characters will make good mentors, as even some teachers end up being totally lame advice-givers. Some of these mentors are elderly, while others are closer to their protege's age. Whether they have greater life experience or a wider skill set, the best anime mentors make sure that the people who look up to them are well-equipped to handle whatever the universe might throw at them.
Before he actually becomes a mentor, Piccolo of Dragon Ball Z is a gruff, angry Namekian who most people consider to be evil. By training Gohan — the son of one of his sworn enemies — his personality begins to change, and by the middle of the series he's one of the most supportive cast members on DBZ.
Gohan is the first person not to see Piccolo as an evil monster; the young boy just wants to learn from him and to be his friend. Eventually, their mentor/mentee relationship becomes so powerful that Piccolo actually risks his life to protect Gohan. Before he forged an emotional connection with the boy, this would have been totally out of character for the green warrior.
It's thanks to Izumi Curtis that Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood knows how to utilize alchemy properly. Before her, he was smart enough to learn how to make alchemy happen, but not wise enough to do it without causing serious harm. When he tried to bring back his mother from the dead, he believed he could cheat the laws of nature, and ended up creating a monstrosity that resembled his late parent.
Izumi's training regimen is brutal, but it prepares Edward to use his abilities responsibly. Her strict guidance comes from real knowledge; like Ed, Izumi has also done a lot of damage through alchemy. Though she claims to be a mere housewife, Ed wouldn't have gotten anywhere without her help.
Izuku Midoriya of My Hero Academia has always wanted to be just like All Might, a professional superhero known as the Symbol of Peace. Thanks to a chance encounter, Izuku ends up being mentored by him, and also inherits his incredible power, One For All.
What makes All Might such a great mentor isn't his physical prowess, though that's certainly impressive. All Might takes a kid who has absolutely no abilities whatsoever, and trains him to be able to handle incredible strength. He does get in over his head a few times, but when that happens, he reaches out to others who can help Izuku in ways that he can't.
Genkai of Yu Yu Hakusho is a tough mentor who isn't afraid to call her proteges out on their nonsense. This is a good thing, considering she's in charge of training two delinquent teenagers, Kazuma Kuwabara and Yusuke Urameshi. Despite her rough exterior, she'll go out of her way to help them when it counts.
She intervenes in the Dark Tournament to set a group of mentally enslaved humans free, so that Yusuke doesn't have to bear the guilt of killing them. Even if she puts them through Hell, it's obvious that she cares deeply about anyone who she bothers training.