Friday, January 04, 2008

All Hail Anpanman

is a popular cartoon character in Japan, particularly among the age range that spans from the diaper-wearing to the not-quite-interested-in-the-opposite-sex-yet-but-starting-to-get-curious set. Anpanman is sort of like the Japanese version of Superman... if Superman's head was made out of a bun filled with sweetened beans which was replaceable with a new bun any time it got wet or dirty. He fights against evil (mainly germs) though considering that water and dirt are his version of Kryptonite, I'd think evil could easily get the best of him with a squirt gun or a bucket of mud. Given the Japanese obsession with food, it seems very appropriate that a superhero is made of a traditional foodstuff.

I think his greatest strength lies in his power to act as a corporate shill and convenient icon to place on toys, clothes, and other products in order to get kids to compel their parents to buy them Anpanman-themed goods. In fact, if he used this power wisely, he could wipe out all the germs in the world by asking his legions of little followers to whine until their mommies scrubbed every dirty surface spotlessly clean.

All hail Anpanman and kneel in supplication and he shall reward you with clean domiciles and fresh, tasty, wholesome bean cakes!

On New Year's day, my husband and I stumbled across this idol erected for the tiny worshipers of Anpanman attached to a fire escape. It is conveniently placed at a height at which his followers are forced to look up at him but can easily see him without craning their necks as they kneel before him. Since this Anpanman church was closed due to the national holiday (and I'm certain they didn't want to be disrespectful and draw all the foot traffic away from the nearby Shinto shrine... as it surely would have had folks been allowed to stand at the feet of this brightly-colored Anpanman idol), we didn't witness any followers paying homage to him on the day the picture was taken. However, I'm pretty sure that his followers bow and face his statue several times a day in humble supplication.

(Note: Tongue has been firmly in cheek here.)


mjgolli said...

LOL! Great read...kinda reminds me of the film Dogma, and the "idol" Mooby.

ThePenguin said...

Thank heavens it wasn't that awful omnipresent mouthless cat.

I first encountered Anpanman in Shikoku, where there is an Anpanman train decorated inside and out with Anpanman-related designs. Each car carries a selection of Anpanman literature and it was a pleasant, if slightly surreal journey.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting set of steps...

Nice blog! And once again - Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu Shari-san!


Shari said...

mjgolli: I think I've seen a few fragments of Dogma while channel surfing, but I missed the part with the idol you mention. The only part I remember is Ben Affleck blowing up for being a bad angel...of course, I may have just dreamed it! ;-)

thepenguin: LOL (about Hello Kitty). I think there's a picture of that kind of train on Wikipedia's entry for Anpanman!

Barry: Admit it, when you saw those steps, you had a sudden urge to put down a towel and kneel. ;-) I imagine your kids are the right age to be enjoying Anpanman, aren't they?

By the way, I had an "oh my God" moment when I realized that the shrine in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th pictures in your New Year's post is the one my husband and I had a tour group photo taken in front of about 20 years ago and were told not to put our arms around each other in! I haven't seen that picture for 18 years, but I recognized the shrine immediately!

Thanks to all for commenting (and reading)!

ThePenguin said...

Hah, now you mention it, the picture on WP was taken by my humble self. (Disclaimer: I've long since stopped contributing there). Must dig out the other pictures and put them on my blog.