Read our post on Who is Domo here: http://animepicks.co.uk/2012/10/who-is-domo/
My first introduction to Kogepan was on a visit to Hong Kong twelve years ago, when I stumbled upon his solemn face in a big Sanrio store. The makers of Hello Kitty couldn’t have come up with a much a more unusual idea for a kids character than a burnt piece of toast, but this spurned red bean filled bun has been a big success for the pre-war company San-X. Having also featured in his own ten part anime series for children, the unfortunate story behind his creation is notably dark.
The story goes that an absent-minded baker was busy putting a tray of buns into the oven when this particular treat slipped down the back. His delicious destiny was irreparably changed, and instead of becoming a perfectly golden bun he was left to smoulder into an inedible crisp. Upon his eventual discovery the character was truly born – disillusioned, unloved and miserable.
In a child-friendly reference to substance misuse Kogepan turns to milk to soothe his unhappiness, nurturing a jealousy of the beautifully baked buns with whom he must coexist. Viewers of all ages found themselves able to associate with this classic tale of hurt and rejection, feeling outcast from those around you and enduring a relentless longing just to fit in.
A number of other characters are introduced from within the panya (Japanese bakery), including ichigopan (strawberry bread) who in contrast has an appealing pink, soft appearance. Kireipan (pretty bread) are a batch of perfect little breads, playing the role of younger, excitable children who often find themselves scorned by the embittered Kogepan. Sadly for him, despite their ability to sometimes momentarily lift him out of his depression, they will always be sold to customers and inevitably he is left whiling away a purposeless life at the back of the shelf.
Bread has a relatively recent history within Japan, only becoming a common addition to the daily diet after the 1960s, with the introduction of bread made from American flour in school lunches. Kogepan isn’t the only bread-based entertainment Japan has to offer – a manga series entitled ‘Yakitate!! Ja-pan’ (translates as Freshly Baked!!) features a boy focused on making a national bread for Japan, who possesses hands with an unnaturally warm temperature that make dough rise extra quickly. Bread remains more of a treat, more often made into wonderful pastries and specialist buns (of which Kogepan would have been) rather than a staple food as it is in the Western world.