Anpanman creator Takashi Yanase dies at age 94
Takashi Yanase, renowned manga artist and creator of one of Japan’s most widely beloved children’s characters, Anpanman, passed away in the early morning hours of October 13 at a Tokyo hospital. A spokesman named heart failure as the cause of death.
Anpanman, while not as recognized abroad as other Japanese pop culture exports such as Hello Kitty, has become Japan’s singular most popular children’s character since his creation in 1973. Anpanman’s distinctive round face – which is made of a sweet bread called anpan – graces countless products for both children and adults throughout Japan.
▼ Anpanman adorns an above-ground train in Japan.
The series spans most forms of media, from traditional manga, to the beloved anime, to more modern mediums like video games and arcade games.
Yanase, who served in an artillery unit during the Second Sino-Japanese War, says that the hellish conditions he faced during the war directly inspired his most beloved character. Yanase has said that, while he was never in danger from enemy combatants, he was often on the brink of starvation during the war and would dream about eating anpan. Much later in life, he would parlay those dreams into the creation of the benevolent superhero, Anpanman.
In Japan, the character sets a positive, if somewhat bizarre example for children, offering pieces of his anpan head to those in need.
During his lifetime, Yanase, like many manga artists, was known for his public and private eccentricities. He says he considered Anpanman to be his own child, and never had any actual children during his life. He also told Japanese media that he baked his own bread and ate it for breakfast every morning, and he was known for the distinctive cowboy boots that he would wear for public appearances.
While the Anpanman series – now a behemoth franchise spanning over 1,100 episodes – will no doubt live on, Yanase’s passing will surely be mourned Japan-wide as children young and old give thanks to the creator of their favorite edible superhero.