Monday, September 19, 2011

Only in Japan: Edible Super Hero- AnPanMan

Image taken from Bandai Website

Amongst Japanese small children AnPanMan is a legendary character. For over the last twenty years he has been the number one character for children under 4 years of age. Maybe it`s the combination of the round head, round cheeks and red nose or the fact that he doesn`t mind if you eat him.

AnPanMan`s head is actually bread filled with sweet azuki bean paste. He was born when a shower of stars went down the chimney of Old Man Jam, the baker.

Whenever AnPanMan`s head is soiled or damaged in some way Old Man Jam can hurriedly bake a new head for him thus reviving him in order to defeat evil or save the day.

About a month ago I actually was able to watch an interview with the creator of this character and story.  He is an amazing man by the name of Takashi Yanase.  He is currently 92 years old but you wouldn`t know it talking to him. In the interview he talked about his life and having to survive as a soldier in the army during WWII and pursuing a career in cartoons and animation afterward. He was acquaintances with the father of Japanese Animation Osamu Tezuka. He admitted that we was not as good as Osamu and joked about how long it took him to draw anything compared to him. He thought of himself as somewhat second rate but enjoyed his work for many years and not only did he create cartoons but he wrote many songs one popular song which is song every year by Japanese school children, てのひらをたいように (Te-nohira wo taiyo ni. english-Hands to the Sun). He poured his heart into his work for many years in the entertainment industry and admits to have made many mistakes along the way, but he now stands as a symbol of strong Japanese spirit.

Many Japanese know this song and it is a very powerful song.

Te-no-hira wo taiyo ni
TRANSLATION by Steve Barrett

We are all living, So we sing
We all live and so we know sadness

I lift my palm to the sun and try and see the mark
I see the red blood that flows through me.

Even worms and water striders
They are all alive and they are my friends.
We are all friends

We are living So we laugh
We all live so we know joy

I lift my palm to the sun and try and see the mark
I see the red blood that flows through me.

Even dragonflies, frogs, and honey bees
They are all alive and they are my friends
We are all friends

He originally created the AnPanMan series in 1968 and it wasn`t until twenty years later in 1988 that Let`s Go AnPanMan (Sore Ike AnPanMan) debuted on television for the first time.

So his first big break as a cartoonist came when he was 70 years old! Now he currently performs for children along with AnPanMan shows and is the chairman of the Japanese Cartoonist Association. Not bad for a guy who just passed 90 a few years age. He joked about his age saying, "I face each day knowing I probably only have a few more left, and before I knew it I was this old!"

A video clip from the interview of Takashi belting out the AnPanMan theme song. He wrote this song along with dozens more.

AnPanMan March
TRANSLATION by Steve Barrett

(The song is meant as a dialogue between AnPanMan and Old Man Jam)

For what purpose was I born, what should I do with my life?
They all say "Nobody knows" and I can`t stand the idea

Living for now keeps the heart burning hot
That`s why you will go with a smile

That`s right! I`m happy! The joy of life
Even if your heart is scarred
Ahh AnPanMan. You who are so kind
Go to protect all our dreams

I hope you enjoyed learning about a unique hero that is on TV everyday here in Japan.  And the man behind him still going strong.

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