If you’re not familiar with Anpanman, it’s probably because you didn’t grow up watching Japanese TV. I grew up watching this show for many, many years and didn’t realize how strange it was until I was in my teens and saw some episodes again with my younger brother.


Anpanman is an animated children’s TV series where there are your typical heroes, villains and citizens. The heroes are all made out of food, they fly around in their capes, and they go around saving the citizens of their town. The villains are creatures with negative characteristics in society. For example, the most recurring villain is a germ. His name is literally “germ-man” バイキンマン.  Then, the citizens of the town are all animals.

The hero characters are very popular and common, every-day, Japanese snacks/foods. The main, recurring characters are mostly made of bread: Anpanman, Shokupanmansan, Currypanman, Melonpannachan, Kuremupandachan, and more. The less common superheroes (they’re more like recurring special guest citzens) are all different types of food: Donburiman, Katsudonman, Tendonman, Akachanman, and again, many more. I think this encompases a little slice of Japanese culture since bread stores are very common in Japan, and the other foods are again, very popular and “Japanese” foods.

What’s not interesting about this show is the message that it tries to send to the children. These heroes are kind, caring, and selfless and implore the citizens of the town, and kids watching the show, to do the same. Of course, a typical children show’s message. What’s interesting is how they decided to deliver this message. The superheroes (and other food characters) will tear pieces of their heads off and feed it to the hungry and injured people that they are saving. Every piece they give makes them a little weaker, however, they keep giving so much so that they are sometimes decapitated by the end. Then, there’s Jamuojisan (the baker) who that recreates their head and puts it back on.


Although they are not currently making new episodes because of the death of the author, the series has become, and still is very popular aspect of Japanese childhood. It is like America’s Sesame Street. Everyone has either heard of it or seen it. You can buy these characters (as bread) at certain bread shops and eat them for yourselves. There are countless toys and dolls created in their name and they even have a museum.

What does the high popularity of a show where you eat the main protagonist tell about Japanese culture? Well, Japanese people, as a group I think, are usually less worried about themselves. I was always raised to think about how everybody else around me was doing before thinking about myself. And always being told to consider how my actions affect those around me instead of just myself by my Japanese mom. Having a group of people who are raised with that kind of thought process, it’s not surprising to me that they like a show where the main character is willing to damage and hurts himself just to help those around him. It just enforces what most parents were taught as children and what they want to teach to their children. Even if it’s a little weird.


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