Note: this is a cross-post from a Facebook post I made.
Seeing that my Facebook timeline is being filled with a lot of One-Punch Man‘s existential crisis, I should probably talk about Soreike! Anpanman (それいけ!アンパンマン), a show I grew up with and what One-Punch Man is clearly based off of. They both fight against aliens with their signature one-punch, and their baldness and fashion style are eerily similar. Plus, anpan (red-bean-paste-filled bread) are delicious, so yeah, let’s talk about my childhood.
Anpanman is a children’s anime. Yeah, I don’t have a particular strong feeling with this one like I would with Doraemon or Crayon Shin-chan. It’s clearly aimed at just above toddler and younger elementary kids. Every episode starts with the titular character, Anpanman and/or his friends flying around town filled with anthromophic animals and…more (noticeably annoying) characters with food as heads. An accident would occur, and the hero/heroine swoops in to the rescue. This ranges from something as dangerous as a bridge breaking apart while a bus full of kindergartners was crossing it to something as petty as a kid who’s hungry. For you see, Anpanman and his friends, Currypanman (curry-bread man), Shokupanman (white-bread man), Melonpanna (melon-bread girl), etc. has superhuman strength and hilariously bad substance-related weakness (typically water). A western audience would immediately figure out what these characters are based off of. That said, they also have one more interesting quirk: their heads, being bread, is both edible and directly related to their strength. This becomes an interesting character study when Anpanman doesn’t hesitate to help that hungry kid by feeding him a piece of his own head, thereby weakening himself. Additionally, it works as a Deux Ex Machina because baker Uncle Jam and Batako-san seems to bake an endless supply of Anpanman’s head replacements (they also have a truck that doubles as a helicopter and submarine, so this isn’t as out-of-ordinary as one would think). They literally unscrew his last head to replace it with a new one. Either that, or shoot the new head from a distance, hence knocking off the old head and screwing on the new. Very metal.
This universe’s equivalent of Lex Luther is an alien named Baikinman (germ man), who also has a bratty but significantly nicer partner-in-crime, Dokinchan (heart-beat girl?). Baikinman is a bit of a mad-scientist, capable of making awesome robots in one night. He’s also childish, spoiled, and selfish, which combined with his mad genius, proves to be a deadly combination. His absolute insistence on destroying manners and consuming as much candy as possible (he also gets cavities a lot. Dude doesn’t learn) is what often causes trouble around town. That, and he hates Anpanman for his one-punch hits (Aaaaaaaan-puuuuunch!).
As with most super heroes, Anpanman is a classical straight-man, and Baikinman is the one-dimensional, psychopathic brat. Instead, it’s the side characters that are the most interesting. For example, Dokinchan, while selfish, immature, and often cooperates with Baikinman on his greedy schemes, gets very annoyed with Baikinman temper tantrums and frequent lies. This, combined with her crush on Shokupanman, often leads her to back stab Baikinman and even show some good will in a couple episodes. Currypanman is like Donald Duck: good at heart, but has poor anger management. He has the ability to spit acidic curry, which makes him comparably more destructive than Anpanman, so any episodes starring him is usually about the struggle of staying happy while dealing with annoyances that comes with fame.
Anyway, for those interested in seeing how Japan interprets super heroes aimed towards kids, Anpanman is actually pretty interesting cultural study. They do have an unusual focus towards proper manners and traditions, as seen by it’s opposite, Baikinman. That said, if you expect fast-paced action, blood, and gore One-Punch Man is known for, you’re going to be disappointed.