One night, a Star of Life falls down the chimney of a bakery nestled deep in the forest, causing the dough in the oven to come to life. The dough becomes Anpanman, a superhero made of anpan (a sweet roll with bean jam filling). Together with his friends, Anpanman fights his rival Baikinman and helps the malnourished.
#01: "Yuuki Rin Rin" by Dreaming (October 1988 ~) #02: "Christmas no Tani" by Dreaming (April 1989 ~ April 1991) #03: "Anpanman Taisou" by CHA-CHA-CHA (December 1991 ~ February 1993) #04: "Anpanman Taisou" by Dreaming (March 1993 ~ March 2010) #05: "Sun Sun Taisou" by Dreaming (October 1994 ~ March 2010) #06: "Niji o Tsukuru Uta" by Rainbow Fukuzawa and Sutatan Tai (May 1997 ~ April 2003) #07: "DoReMiFa Anpanman" by Dreaming (April 2003 ~ March 2010)
Anpanman is a staple name among Japanese pre-schoolers, an all-time classic that has now celebrated 25 years in airing. And just yesterday, its creator, Takashi Yanase, passed away, aged 94. And yet there isn't a single review on this site. It would be understandable that no one thought it necessary to review what is clearly a children's (make that very young children's) programme in a site like this. But, seeing the significance of the occasion, I thought it would be fitting that someone review it.
Now, it is important to understand that reviewing a children-oriented programme is an entirely different task altogether. Their expectations, and the kind of things that they derive enjoyment from, are so far-removed from what we as relatively grown-ups (or for that matter, compared to even the preadolescents who may frequent this site) are naturally attentive to. In other words, it is easy to get so many things wrong while trying to design a programme for children. Try and come up with a self-congratulatingly clever story, only to find that many kids don't care for your love's labours. Try to present instead a sappy and patronising setting, and kids instinctively reject it. And yet, the late Takashi Yanase found just the right chord, just the kind of themes and motifs that children truly respond to, and played that chord for 25 years in ever-new ways, and along the way setting the Guinness World Record for most number of new characters ever introduced in an ongoing children's animated series.
I'm probably starting to sound rather hagiographic here (though I think that was a rather important point to be made there), so let me get to some specifics. Now, some parameters we're all familiar with, and yet others we need to consider from the kids' standpoint. But just so it isn't trying on your patience, let me start with the familiar ones:
Firstly, the artwork.There is something about the simplicity of the design that seems to strike the right note even today. Notice especially those snow-capped peaks in the distance: just notice the fresh, crisp feel it lends to the whole environment - someone's been doing something very, very right there. Remember, this style has been carried over from 1988, when it was fresh and new. And yet, even today in the world of CGI and what have you, there is an undeniably fresh feel about it. Just take a look for yourself if you don't believe me.
The characterisations are pretty simple and well-defined. In the context of a show like this, it means that they are reliable in that warmly familiar manner. And of course, should things ever get boring, there's a new guest star for the day, bringing with them a whole new kind of adventure for our perishable consumable hero and his team. Now this is where the knack for knowing the very-young sensibilities comes in. A characterisation that could seem rather dull and unimaginative to us often has a "hidden" appeal to the young mind, a certain something that most of us can't quite perceive. And conversely, something we might think is awfully clever might prove to be rather dull and uninteresting for the kid. Now this I'm bringing up again in the context of inventing new characters and adventures, and the sheer quantities in which they seem to be "churned out" for this particular series. To the adult, many of these may seem rather formulaic and unoriginal, but there seems to be another "secret ingredient" as it were, one that seems to pass most of our notices, that seems to consistently strike the right chord with the youngest of the viewers. Also keep in mind that, to the five-year-old, everything around him or her is fresh and new.
Now regarding the voice characterisations, I can't much comment on the Japanese version, but the English dub did stay with me for one reason: it seems to have been dabbled with a little, there definitely seem to have been some liberties taken - for one, there's the wise-cracking narrator. His very presence is highly suspect, something that may have been added entirely by a very bored creative team. I suspect it could be for the benefit of hapless babysitters. Nothing too snide there, no nasty undercurrents of any sort, nothing that even the most hard-nosed censor could reasonably object to - but sometimes the narrator's sense of timing and delivery is so uncanny, I suspect it might even force a chuckle out of a surly caretaker - a remarkable feat for a mere "children's programme".
All this is well and good, but to keep at this for twenty-five years becomes a creatively tiresome prospect for even the most seasoned of veterans. And its creator could be called that in the most literal sense. Even so, it is still a remarkable feat that the series has managed to continuously re-invent itself, and stay fresh as ever in 2013 just as it was way back in the 80's. And this, I think, is what makes Anpanman a very special landmark in the anime world. And deserve a review.read more
Soreike! Anpanman (Let's Go! Anpanman) has been airing since 1988, and it's still marching on. It's not hard to see why.
The animation is outstanding; the sheer simplicity of Anpanman's design is just so cute! Everything (and everyone) is smoothly drawn, no rough details, and his world looks amazing.
As far as sound goes, it appears that some sound effects were later used by the 2005 Doraemon series on Terebi Asahi. I'm not marking it down for this, I'm just pointing it out. Voice acting is great; Keiko Toda (Anpanman) does a great job of voicing the character. There's also a lot of variety in their voice actors; from Melonpanna-chan's higher, kawaii-type voice, and Batako-san's positive, yet gentle tone, there's truly something special behind them.
The music is amazing; at the start of the show, I can't help but sing along to the "Anpanman no Machi" every time I hear it. Every other piece of music (from background to ending credits) is well composed and placed, and combined with the sound effects and voice actors, it really stands out from his rivals (be it Shimajiro, Doraemon, Sazae-san or anyone else in the Kodomo anime field).
The characters themselves are amazing; There's always something different about each one of them. They all have their own personalities, and none of them look like they were cloned or copy/pasted in. They are all very easy to relate to.
In my opinion, this is one of the most enjoyable anime series that I have ever seen. I could watch it again and again, and never get tired of it. It's so open and accessible, and when the episode ends, I'm left begging for more.
What a great show. One last thing to say - Bai-baikin!read more
I bet many anime fans think that One Piece has been airing forever. But it isn't anything compared to the classics on this list! Come learn about the 15 longest running anime series in Japan, very few of which have been released overseas!
Like all artforms, anime has been subject to censorship around the globe. The cases in this list, however, went beyond your typical TV edits and resulted in whole episodes or even full series being either banned by governments or withheld from broadcast due to outside pressure.