CLOSE
Original image
TMS / NTV (Nippon TV)

In This Japanese Children's TV Show, All the Superheroes Are Bread

Original image
TMS / NTV (Nippon TV)

In the 90s, Japanese TV show Super Sentai was adapted for American audiences, becoming Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Twenty-odd years after its US debut, you can still take a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which ranger you are. But Super Sentai wasn’t the only Japanese show on TV at the time that featured a team of crime-fighting superheroes. There were also Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and my personal favorite, Soreike! Anpanman.

In Soreike! Anpanman (which means Let’s Go! Anpanman), all the heroes are made of bread. As in, each one starts as dough and comes to life in the oven. The titular character’s name literally means Red-Bean Bread Man. If you’ve ever eaten his namesake, you know that whatever his morals may be, he certainly tastes good.

Anpanman’s two main partners are Karepanman (Curry-Bread Man) and Shokupanman (White-Bread Man). Karepanman is the grouch, and Shokupanman is the handsome if boring gentleman. We could talk about the typecasting happening here, but in the end, I think we can all agree that a deep-fried curry roll is much tastier than Wonder Bread, so Karepanman wins that round.

Every crime-fighter needs someone on the ground for support. For our bread friends, it’s Jamu Ojisan, or Uncle Jam. Whenever a member of team pastry gets injured, Jamu Ojisan—along with his assistant, Batako-san (Miss Butter), and her dog, Chiizu (Cheese)—is ready to bake a new head. When the fresh-baked head comes out of the oven, the old one pops off, the new eyes open, and our hero is good as new. Wherever memories are stored in this universe, it must not be in the brain. Or the bean-paste glob, as the case may be.

But how are Anpanman and gang getting injured in the first place? Their enemies are bacteria, namely Baikinman (Germ Man) and Dokinchan (whose name doesn’t mean anything in particular). Leading an army of Kabi (Mold), they eat away at our yeasty rangers. Unlike Lord Zedd, et al, of Power Rangers, the bad guys on this show are arguably cuter and more charming than the good ones. Dokinchan has a Helga-for-Arnold-level crush on Shokupanman, for example. If only Shakespeare had realized the untapped potential of the bread-mold metaphor for doomed romance.

If you think this seems like an unusually large cast for a show, you're correct. Soreike! Anpanman, which has been running continuously in Japan since 1988, holds the Guinness World Record for Most Characters in an Animated Series—as of June 2009, the show had featured 1768 characters, good and bad. 

Some argue that Soreike! Anpanman is an example of Shinto influence on Japanese culture because in Shinto philosophy, all things have a sacred essence, even inanimate objects. One of the best examples of Shinto belief in international culture recently is Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which Kondo, a former “shrine maiden,” suggests thanking your belongings each day.

Talking inanimate objects alone aren’t a good enough argument for Shinto influence, since Americans also have characters like Meatwad. But Anpanman’s origin story makes a more convincing case. It starts on a regular night for Jamu Ojisan, who has just put a tray of anpan (the edible and presumably non-living kind) in the oven when a meteor shower strikes across the sky and a group of shooting stars fall into the bakery’s chimney, which leads straight to the oven. Jamu Ojisan and Batakosan clutch each other as lights flash and the bakery shakes. But then the chaos clears, and a baby with an anpan for a head comes floating out of the oven. “The stars brought him to life!” says Jamu Ojisan.

Japanese folklore is full of stories like this, from Kaguyahime (which was made into a Ghibli film in 2013), the baby girl found in a bamboo stalk by an old man, to Momotaro, the baby boy found by an old woman as he floated down the river in a peach. As fluffy a show as Anpanman is, it’s also full of these small moments that capture important intangibles about Japanese culture. And along with Ultraman and Godzilla, it taught my brothers and me our Japanese. We’d watch it on VHS while eating anpan and karepan fresh from the bakery down the street. Is that sick? Probably. But it was also delicious.

Here are the doughy vigilantes themselves in the show’s intro:

Original image
Warner Bros.
arrow
fun
This Harry Potter Candle Melts to Reveal Your Hogwarts House—and Smells Amazing
Original image
Warner Bros.

As it gets darker and colder outside, the thought of lighting a candle in your room and curling up with a good book becomes more appealing. A sorting hat candle from the Muggle Library Candles Etsy store makes the perfect companion to whatever Harry Potter book you happen to be re-reading for the hundredth time this season. According to the Cleveland news outlet WKYC, the candle slowly reveals your Hogwarts house as it burns.

From the outside, the item looks like a normal white candle. But when lit, the outer layer of plain wax melts away, allowing the colorful interior to poke through. The candles come in one of four concealed colors: red for Gryffindor, blue for Ravenclaw, yellow for Hufflepuff, and green for Slytherin. The only way to know which house you’re destined to match with is by purchasing a candle and putting it to use. According to the label, the scent evokes “excitement, fear, and nervousness.” The smell can also be described as lemon with sandalwood, vanilla, and patchouli.

Due to its viral popularity, the Fort Worth, Texas-based Etsy store has put all orders on hold while working to get its current batch of shipments out to customers. You can follow Muggle Library Candles on Instagram for updates on the sorting candle, as well as other Harry Potter-themed candles in their repertoire, like parseltongue and free elf.

[h/t WKYC]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Lists
10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
Original image
iStock

October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

      SECTIONS

      arrow
      LIVE SMARTER
      More from mental floss studios