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'Anpanman' creator dies at 94

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The end of an era. I think Anpanman (bean bread man) taught Japanese children to be "eggs", individualistic, westernised, justice-loving bread on the outside, interdependent, animistic, relativistic bean-paste underneath.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I wil eat my Anpan in silence today, RIP

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The cape-wearing hero takes on dastardly opponents to save the downtrodden from oppression

The 'dastardly opponent' usually (always?) being Baikinman and his sidekick Dokkinchan, and the 'oppression' being stuff like trying to get a taste of the Anpanman crowd's picnic to which they haven't been invited. Most episodes end up with Anpanman and his mates doing something nasty to Baikinman who, the storyline seems to suggest, deserves all he gets.

Maybe I'm oversensitive, but I think this kind of 'let's get the bad guys' storyline (especially when the bad guys aren't really all that bad, more like socially inept) encourages group bullying. When my granddaughter comes to visit she gets to see CBeebies, not Anpanman.

It's a pity, because the character and his mates are well established, obviously appeal to little kids, and are very popular. I just wish the stories had a better message.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

RIP Yanase-san. Thanks for the memories. BTW, the graphic inexplicably calls him "Takase Yanashi".

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Baai baai kiiiiin!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

cleo

Maybe I'm oversensitive, but...

In this case, yeah, I'd definitely say so.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

When my granddaughter comes to visit she gets to see CBeebies, not Anpanman.

So she's learning racial stereotyping skills instead of bullying skills? :) Just kidding.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2087221/Rastamouse-complained-childrens-TV-sparking-racism-row.html

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Such a sad day. What will become of Anpanman now? Will he get all moldy?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

papasmurf - No Rastamouse, thank you! Can't say I've ever watched a programme all the way through, but a trailer I saw was enough to put me off because of the language. Considering she spends most of her time in a Japanese-language environment, when DG comes to Nana's house the emphasis is on giving her as much close-to-standard English as possible. Her faves so far are Bob the Builder, Cloudbabies and Little Princess (the accent hopefully helps her understand her English relatives), none of which have any aggro. Good clean toddler fun.

And I pressed 'submit' too soon before - I meant to add RIP to Mr. Yanase.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Has anyone read the lyrics of the Anpanman song? Pretty deep stuff.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Every time I think of Anpanman, I remember my two-year old son yelling "Nan da omae wa" at my father as he tried to buckle him into his car seat. Neither of them really knew what it meant, so we left well enough alone.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Interesting analysis, Cleo. I've never watched the show. I did see a bit of documentary about the origins and the original story - the drawings looked very different - and was very impressed with the lesson of selflessness. Anpanman giving his head to the starving man to save him.

I wonder if it changed over time, as Yanase handed it over to whatever licensing company and the writers just started making it goodie vs. baddie and adding new characters to sell more stuff.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

taj, I haven't seen that many. When DG was coming to stay with us for a while, my daughter told me she liked Anpanman so I recorded a few programmes and we watched them together. I didn't see anything about anyone giving their head to a starving man. The ones I saw had Baikinman doing something devious/silly/reprobate (the one that stands out in my mind is trying to gate-crash a picnic he hadn't been invited to - I felt quite sorry for him, being left out!) and Anpanman doing something to punish him. Maybe they aren't all like that, but all the ones I saw (3 or 4?) had the same kind of story and made me not want to watch any more or show them to DG.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

RIP. What a cultural landmark this man created.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This guy personally decorated the walls of the pediatric surgery unit at a major Tokyo teaching hospital with all the characters and we had the dubious pleasure of staying there for 2 weeks when I saw first hand the joy they brought to the kids in there, mine included.

Definitely the end of an era, but the legacy will continue. RIP Yanase Takashi.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Cleo,

I'm with you on your analysis of the average Anpanman storyline. There really does seem to be an awful lot of explicitly endorsed "nakama hazure" in far too many of the storylines. While there are a number of episodes that do convey valuable social interaction messages, it seems that more than a fair share of the stories involve everyone being intolerant asshats towards Baikinman. Dokin-chan gets a bit of it too, but not nearly to the degree Baikinman does.

I've seen enough Anpanman episodes to wonder if Baikinman wouldn't be a better person if the rest of the Anpanman characters weren't such dismissive a-holes towards him. As a result, I've seriously curtailed my daughter's viewing of any Anpanman cartoons. I have to preview them first.

Perhaps the original 70's episodes contained more meaningful messages. I'm not sure. But the series that have been produced during the 90s and aughts aren't particularly conducive to creating a well-rounded child.

As if any cartoon could or should possess such a function...

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

As if any cartoon could or should possess such a function...

True.....but since time in front of the Box is limited, it's better if what the kiddies do watch has some educational value, and doesn't include lessons in How to Bully That Kid That No One Else is Friends With.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Rest in peace, Yanase-san.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

LFRAgain, cleo

Wow, nothing's good enough for you. If you have issues with Anpanman of all things then I can't wait to hear what's wrong with Doraemon, Chibimaruko-chan, or Sazae-san. Can you guys just go ahead and nitpick at those too and get it over with? Jeez...

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I can't wait to hear what's wrong with Doraemon,

Nothing.... very imaginative, teaches kids some of the consequences of getting what you wish for, and shows how to deal with large, not-very-articulate lumps like Gian.

Chibimaruko-chan,

Nothing.....the way the grandad is a pushover for his grandkids is quite sweet.

or Sazae-san

Nothing.... but the stories aren't really aimed at very small children. Maybe DG will like it when she gets older, but at the moment she's not interested.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I do love Anpanman, just sad he never got around to making a Mexican style tacos man?? But he was all for justice, taking parts of his face off to help others, how can Cleo not let her grandchild not enjoy good wholesome fun?? Do hope she never sees South Park or Family Guy (Non Japanese cartoons and very, extremely American!) and yes, I love them!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

how can Cleo not let her grandchild not enjoy good wholesome fun??

Errrm.... I think there may be too many negatives in there, but to answer the question I think you're trying to ask, I don't see ostracising someone from the group and then punishing them for being upset at being ostracised as 'good wholesome fun'. There are way too many better things to show the child, way more enjoyable things to do together, to waste time on stuff she can well do without.

Do hope she never sees South Park or Family Guy (Non Japanese cartoons and very, extremely American!)

Never seen Family Guy so can't comment, saw a bit of South Park on Youtube once, wasn't overly impressed, certainly didn't think it was aimed at impressionable three-year-olds: and why on earth would I want her to watch stuff that's 'very, extremely American', especially when there's plenty of good wholesome age-appropriate British stuff around?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@David You didn't know about this guy?

http://anpanman.jp/sekai/friends/snr_tacos.html

1 ( +1 / -0 )

cleo

If you've seen more than a few Anpanman episodes you'd know that Baikinman is a perfect villain who came from another planet/world specifically to harass and fight Anpanman and his friends. He's not a Gian-like bully who's not evil but is someone who's just misunderstood or is socially inept and needs to be "killed with kindness". As humorous as he may be through his actions and failings, Baikinman is, by self admission, completely evil. He's not trying to join the proverbial picnic that Anpanman and his friends are enjoying, he's trying to take it for himself by denying the picnic from them and making them suffer as much as possible. Also, an aspect of the show you clearly missed is that Anpanman and his friends always offer to include Baikinman, Dokinchan, etc. in their fun IF they are nice and stop acting evil, which they obviously never do. I think it's toned down and presented in a kid-friendly manner, but Yanase's lesson, and I think it's an important one, is that in the real world there are bad people who will hurt you no matter how kind you may be to them and that there needs to be self sacrificing heros to stop them, protect us from them, and be an example of what's right. May not be a turn-the-other-cheek Christian message but then again, this isn't a Judeo-Christian culture and the priority is on preserving the wa, for a good reason in my opinion.

Cleo you say that you haven't seen 'many' episodes yet you make sweeping generalizations like this:

Most episodes end up with Anpanman and his mates doing something nasty to Baikinman who, the storyline seems to suggest, deserves all he gets.

Not very fair I'd say. Stick to what you know...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I agree totally with LFRAgain about Crayon shin-chan. OK for adults wanting a bit of a smutty giggle perhaps, but not for toddlers.

Baikinman is a perfect villain who came from another planet/world specifically to harass and fight Anpanman and his friends.

So....the message we want to give our kids is...outsiders are villains? outsiders go home? don't try to understand 'the other', just ostracise and hope they either integrate or go away? Really??

an aspect of the show you clearly missed is ....

...probably the same aspect most toddlers will miss as they chortle at the Bad Outsider Guy being given his come-uppance from the Good Hero Guy?

in the real world there are bad people who will hurt you no matter how kind you may be to them and that there needs to be self sacrificing heros to stop them, protect us from them, and be an example of what's right

Wow. Where to even begin.....You seriously want to teach that to a toddler?? What toddlers need is security, socialisation and the knowledge that Mum and Dad (and sensei) have always got their back. They don't need to learn there are bad people in the world or that it's OK to be a 'self-sacrificing hero' or that it's OK to gang up on outsiders. I see that as on a level with promising them the bogey-man will come and get them if they don't behave.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

If Cleo and LFR think Anpanman has a negative influence on kids, well, they are perfectly entitled to that opinion and it's not position to criticise them for it. But out of curiosity, let me just add my two cents and a few questions.

If Anpanman is bad, then that means no Tom & Jerry (violent), no Looney Tunes (violent), definitely no SpongeBob (rude, mean to Plankton), no Garfield (bullying Odie and Jon), no Smurfs (picking on Brainy Smurf, Clumsy Smurf), no Thomas the Tank Engine (prejudice against the Diesel trains for simply being "different"), and the list goes on and on. Are you children/grandkids banned from watching these too?

My belief is Baikinman is the perfect villain because, wait for it, he is "Baikin". If they were ostracising Shokupanman because he was white, then that's one thing, but Baikinman is a Germ. Germs make you sick. Germs are bad. I wonder if Baikinman and Anpanman were friends, would you then suggest that it promotes unhygienic behaviour?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

papasmurf -

The only shows you mention that I know anything about are Tom & Jerry and Thomas the Tank Engine, so I can't say anything about the others (not even the Smurfs, sorry...). Tom & Jerry yes is violent but so over the top that not even a toddler can take it seriously. And it isn't totally one-sided; sometimes it's Tom that gets his comeuppance, sometimes it's Jerry. There isn't much language in it, which lowers its value as an English-learning tool. I can't claim to have seen that many Thomas the Tank Engine shows, though in the ones I have seen (and in all the books we have) the message seems to be that sometimes people/engines make mistakes, often out of over-eagerness to do the right thing/be thought well of or out of an inflated sense of their own worth or ability; but with good will and the help of friends, it can all work out right in the end. I haven't seen any stories about the diesels being on the receiving end of any prejudice...not sure that I remember seeing any diesels at all. I'll watch out for them next time DG is round here watching our telly.

Baikinman is a Germ. Germs make you sick. Germs are bad.

And you know that one of the classic forms of bullying in Japanese schools is to single out one kid, call him/her Baikin and then proceed to treat him/her like dirt? I wonder why kids get called Baikin so often? And why it's apparently OK to join in bullying a kid who's been nicknamed Baikin? Because germs are bad?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Papasmurf,

I understand what you're saying, and I think these would be valid points if not for the fact that there are enough episodes throughout the Anpanman series in which Baikinman is so firmly integrated into the group (for example, when there is a villain worse than he is) and largely considered one of the gang, along with Dokin-chin, to dispel any notion that they are strictly a "villains."

And we haven't even touched upon Kokin-chan, who, despite being of alien origin, is perfectly accepted into not only the group as a whole, but also primarily the group that consists of the children characters in the Anpanman universe.

So clearly, any lessons to be learned here about outsiders being readily identifiable as "bad" aren't actually at work. This is getting far more convoluted than it needs to be, but simply put, Baikinman participates in activities with the rest of the Anpanman universe with enough regularity to blur any lines children watching the show might see between what constitutes "good" or "bad" behavior and lead them to believe only that when you step out of line, "Might makes right" or the less damning, but still potentially corrosive "Majority rules. Deal with it." Which makes any talk about the badness of germs entirely moot; In Anpanman's world, it’s apparently okay to be friends with germs sometimes.

In any case, these aren't good messages IMO for kids in a storyline that goes out of its way to present its primary character as a force for doing good or doing the right thing. That lesson seems arbitrary and fluid at best.

Which leads us to cartoons like Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, or even Garfield are structured. There is no good or bad at work in these stories. Nor do the creators make any attempt to paint the characters in such a way. These are not hero stories. They're stories that play off of relationships between natural and cultural archetypes. Cat vs. Mouse, Rabbit vs. Hunter, Coyote vs. Bird.

Even in the case of Garfield, there are never any attempts to cast anyone as a hero or a role model to be emulated, and even Jon, Garfield's owner experiences a dose of humiliation from time to time, not because he had it coming, but rather because the story is a simple essay on the silliness and confusion of everyday life.

Not so with Anpanman. He's portrayed as a hero. And that's where things fall off the rail for me when it comes to Baikinman's role.

Even Thomas the Tank Engine fails to pass your litmus test in that he's simply a train learning to be useful. Ultimately, "Day of the Diesels" is resolved with Thomas realizing that his mistrust and fear of the diesels was misguided. Sure, these types of valuable lessons exist in Anpanman, of course, but they are mixed with lessons that I'd just as soon not see my child learn.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The hello 'kitty' thing, is getting bigger in Europe by the minute - maybe Mr Anpan will come to life again ....in Paris. Bread? Parisiens? French people? ...Cant be so hard to find someone to take over the drawings and the plots?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

cleo and LFR

Thank you both for your thought-provoking responses. I still think it's being a bit over-sensitive, but nevertheless I can't fault your concern about what children are watching, which is more than most parents/guardians ever do.

And by the way, LFR, excellent post, sir. : ) Well argued, I must say.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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