Today's article is a tribute to Takashi Yanase（やなせたかし）, the creator of one of the most beloved anime/manga characters for children, "Anpanman"（アンパンマン）, who passed away a few days ago at the age of 94. According to Wikipedia, the Second World War often had the young Yanase on the brink of starvation during which he often dreamed of having anpan, a sweet bean paste-filled pastry, which then became the inspiration for his greatest creation.
On TV Japan, there are a number of anime playing daily of which our family faithfully watches "Case Closed" which is known in Japan as "Meitantei Conan"（名探偵コナン....Great Detective Conan）. However, in the world of pint-sized sleuths, doomed teenage witches, battling robots and even girls & tanks, sometimes it's pretty darn nice for me to catch the little kid stuff such as "Anpanman", the world's most edible superhero. I knew a few children of students who were quite taken with him as well.
While the manga series started all the way back in 1973, the anime "Sore Ike Anpanman"（それいけ！アンパンマン....Let's Go! Anpanman） began its run from October 1988 and has continued ever since. And like the series, the opening theme song, "Anpanman no March"(The Anpanman March) by twin-sister act, Dreaming, has been a constant musical greeting for the fans. Released as a single a month after the debut of the TV show, the kid-friendly melody was provided by Takashi Miki（三木たかし） with lyrics by the late Yanase himself. It didn't seem to hit the Oricon charts, but apparently it did make a hit on the Billboard Japan charts, peaking at No. 16. The full version is below.
Unlike the opening theme, there have been a number of ending themes over the years, but the one that I've found to be the catchiest has been "Yuuki Rin Rin"(Courage Ring Ring), which was the first ending song. Not surprisingly, it was put in as the B-side to "Anpanman no March", and was created by the same duo as well as sung by Dreaming. The two sisters of the duo are Chiyo and Kayo Terada（寺田千代・嘉代）.
As you can see from the video above, there are shout outs to the numerous characters in the anime including Anpanman's family of Uncle Jam, Butter-ko and their dog Cheese along with his partners in heroism, the feisty Karepanman（カレーパンマン...Curry Bun Man） and the level-headed Shokupanman（しょくぱんまん...White Bread Man）. In fact, "Sore Ike Anpanman" has the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of characters in a cartoon at 1,768 and counting (as long as there is food of any kind to be found on Earth, there will be new characters).
As for the voice behind Anpanman, I'd been initially surprised that it was none other than Keiko Toda（戸田恵子） all these years, since I had actually seen the actress/singer in a number of J-dramas. She's usually taken on the role as the snarky sidekick to the main character, and the one drama I remember her the most from is "Shomuni"（ショムニ...GA-2）, the popular 1998 comedy about a group of supposedly doomed office ladies exiled to the dreaded General Administration Section No. 2 of a huge company. The video below is a scene from the show.
The Nagoya-born Toda is also a singer who actually debuted in the early 70s as an aidoru under the name of Akemi Ayu（あゆ朱美）. That early part of her career didn't pan out but a few years later, she entered the world of acting. And of course, a little over a decade later, she would get her most famous role as a cute but intrepid little superhero made from a Japanese confection.