Why do kids like Baikinman?

Baikinman is the main “bad guy” in the incredibly popular children’s cartoon (and merchandiser’s dream) Anpanman. I say “bad guy”, but in fact he’s more pitiable than evil in the series, even when trying to crush people with his spaceship’s many arms. More surprisingly, after Anpanman himself he is the most common character on those merchandising cups, tambourines, boil in the bag curries, etc, more even than Anpanman’s sidekick Melonpannachan.

When I was growing up I can’t remember a single lunch box or pencil case that had Lex Luther or the witch character from Power Rangers on them, and the closest equivalent I can think of is the bad guys from Batman such as Penguin. I guess some of the Mr Men with negative names like Mr Grumpy could be kind of similar too.

I once read a serious academic book on Pokemon (really!) that convincingly argued that the good guy/ bad guy (with their white hat/ black hat) is a specifically Western thing, and that most Japanese kids’ TV programmes have characters who are a bit bad and awkward without properly being a “bad guy”, i.e. have a sophistication on this point that would be remarked on as incredibly mature in the West. From what I’ve seen of Pokemon (as little as I possibly can), that does seem to be the case there too. As far as I’m aware, though, none of those characters are nearly as popular as Pikuchu.

So, what puts Baikinman right up there in the top ten (I guess) most beloved Japanese childen’s characters? This being Japan, it could just be a deliberate marketing policy that consumers couldn’t resist. Alternatively, maybe it could just be because its face has more character and is easier to draw than most of the others. Feel like I’m not really there with an explanation yet though…

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2 Comments

  1. rvcase said,

    February 1, 2014 at 12:07 am

    I am a 37 year old man who watches Anpanman with my little one.

    I love Baikniman!

    He is so funny.

  2. crella said,

    February 3, 2014 at 1:15 am

    I don’t know, either, but my granddaughter imitates his ‘Hahihuhehooooooo!’ all the time in a gravelly voice, it’s pretty funny.


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