Anpanman Character Reviews:
BAIKINMAN: THE ACTUAL MAIN CHARACTER
That title isn't even a joke. You might be familiar with the "villain" of Anpanman from my past articles and references, but there's far more to him as a character than I've ever gone over before, and that's due in large part to the fact that he literally takes up more of the series than everybody else combined. There are more plotlines written primarily from Baikinman's perspective than from that of any other character, and he is NEVER completely absent from a story, which is something even Anpanman himself cannot boast. Even when a short-lived spinoff focused on an entirely different set of heroes in a different part of the world, Baikinman managed to double-time as their arch rival as well. Were you to go into this series blindly enough, you could never be faulted for assuming that he was the intended title character.
If you've already read the review I did of this guy years back, don't worry: this is going to be easily twice as long.
Baikinman first appeared in the original Anpanman comic strips with an exceptionally adorable prototype design, and the "baikin" in his name is basically the Japanese equivalent of "germ," except for one key difference: here in the west, "germ" is typically understood to mean an invisible protozoan, bacterium or virus that causes disease, but in Japan, the term also extends to all types of mold and mildew.
All of the above seem to fall within Baikinman's domain, even mentioning in his official song that he'll give you a cold, a flu or a toothache, but it's the mold and mildew that seems to be his biggest focus... which is only natural as the arch-nemesis of sentient bread.
With the debut episode of the animated series, it was even established that Baikinman was born for the primary purpose of defeating Anpanman before "covering the world with germs." As the stars of life flew through space to bring Anpanman into the world, a strange egg emerged from a lifeless-looking rock we've since heard referred to as the Baikin Planet, and the same moment the bread man emerged from Jam's oven, a bolt of lightning brought an infant Baikinman out of his egg with innate knowledge of his purpose.
Despite how many books, movies and episodes have been produced, we have never once learned even one more thing about Baikinman's origins. We've seen a few more of his people, which we'll talk about eventually, and a single children's book bizarrely portrayed his homeworld as a smog-covered, volcanic planet with eyes, but of course they didn't offer any further explanation for that. Just a planet with eyes. It's fine. It's fine.
All we can surmise is that invading other planets or at least targeting "ours" seems to be routine for what would probably be called something like the baikinseijin, if the species had ever even been named, but I can't begin to guess why they would actually wait for the birth of Anpanman before sending a conquerer. With the passing of their creator, we now really won't ever know if these and other burning technical questions had "official" answers.
Starkly contrasting Anpanman in almost every way, Baikinman is rude, loud, impulsive, and above all else, catastrophically narcissistic. His egg inexplicably landed on an island already in the shape of his own head, which I guess they're also never going to explain to us, but that apparently wasn't enough for his ego as he he subsequently built himself a fortress also shaped like his own head.
Baikinman models many other weapons, gadgets, tools and furniture after his own face or at least his own color scheme, the little purple dot on his upper chest was eventually confirmed by Yanase to be a "microphone" that makes him even louder, and he exclusively uses "ore-sama" as his personal pronoun. If you're not up to speed on Japanese, "ore" is what someone might use instead of "me" or "I" when they're specifically talking down to someone of inferior status, while "sama" is a term of respect you're only normally supposed to use to address someone else of far superior status, equivalent to "lord" or "master." This makes ore-sama the most cartoonishly pompous thing you could ever possibly utter in Japanese, equivalent to beginning every single statement with "I, Brilliant Overlord To You Ignorant Plebs."
So, that's this guy's basic personality, but how about that physiology?
The brilliant overlord to you ignorant plebs may look like he's wearing some sort of black supervillain suit with purple gloves and shoes, and that was clearly the intention in his earliest comic depictions, but he has since been outright described as going around naked all the time, and his lovely horsefly coloration has been washed right off by soap, water or sanitizing solution. Apparently, he's just bone white beneath a thick coating of mildew, and getting sterilized like that seems downright harrowing for him. His first animated appearance even had him shrink down to fly-size once his moldy coat was gone, and then he was disintegrated by a sunbeam. This was a one-off short that ultimately served as the series pilot, so there's basically just a whole alternate continuity in which Anpanman murdered him on day one.
Baikinman has been non-lethally sanitized once or twice since then, but always manages to get his protective flora back before anything too serious happens. He's also been shown willingly washing his hands and bathing in newer episodes, probably because he was setting a bad example for young audiences, but I'm going to assume he just uses his own special probiotic soap.
Baikinman's most obvious feature is a set of teeth so massive that it doesn't seem like his mouth can even close around them, with exceptions so rare that it was probably just an animator oversight. It's the teeth themselves that "lip synch" to his speech and can even "pucker," as if each one is individually flexible, and it's worth mentioning that at least one group of real animals have teeth that are both independently movable and too large for the mouth to fully close: the abyssal Lophiiformes, or deep sea anglerfish!
Although it ironically didn't show off its teeth, the similarity between an angler and Baikinman was even lampshaded by the series itself on at least one occasion, so in all likelihood, his face in "real world" detail bears at least some resemblance to something like a black sea devil.
Though shown to be capable of denting bone, Baikinman virtually never resorts to biting anybody on purpose, which I believe is another thing we can chalk up to impressionable young audiences. If merchandising is any indication, Japanese kids love Baikinman at least as much if not much more than Anpanman or any other character.
In addition to his teeth, Baikinman has a tongue that can extend to unbelievable lengths, and he used to really enjoy licking people to spread his "germs" to them, but by now I think we can guess why they no longer let him do this. He is, however, still sometimes seen using his tongue to steal food, and that has included food that was part of a sentient being at the time.
Baikinman also has the wings of a fly, which allowed him to hover around almost effortlessly in his earliest appearances, but he's since relied almost exclusively on his trademark Baikin UFO for aerial transportation, and it now seems to take an incredible amount of strain for him to fly of his own volition. No official reason is given for this, but it makes sense that perhaps his ability to fly has atrophied as he came to favor technology, which brings us to another of his most important aspects:
Baikinman's biggest running gimmick as a villain isn't even the affinity for germs and mold he's named after, but his talent for improvisational engineering. You may know that it's a big cliche for funny anime villains to cobble big, goofy robots together on short notice - even Team Rocket used to do it! - but Baikinman is one of the trope's biggest codifiers. Toiling away in the depths of Baikin Castle, he can bash together any imaginable machine in only minutes, from simple rayguns and bombs to giant robots, and man does he love those giant robots.
Baikinman has a number of iconic, reoccuring robots we'll be giving their own review, but he will seldom pass up an excuse to build a new, thematic mecha for a special occasion. Is everybody having fun at the cupcake festival? Yeah? Everybody all about cupcakes today? Baikinman's probably going to build a huge, metal cupcake that breathes fire, or something. Is it Christmas? Maybe he's making a killer cybernetic fir tree that steals presents, or maybe it's gonna be a big present that eats christmas trees, who knows.
Another of Baikinman's greatest skills...sort of...is his mastery of disguise, or at least what passes for a mastery of disguise when you're surrounded by idiots. Successfully fooling people with little more than a mustache and a sweater vest is another thing you've probably taken for granted as a general cliche of kiddie shows - and another thing Pokemon's Jessie and James are famous for - but it's Baikinman who once again pioneered this sacred art form in Japanese television.
Day after day after day, Baikinman will dress up as another mysterious stranger to swindle the same gullible townsfolk or even as some other character to try and ruin their good name, but absolutely no-one ever catches on to the fact that all these people have 500% more teeth than they should, or even just that any given person being a jerk in any way is almost always going to be Baikinman wearing a slightly different hat again.
Sometimes he can even leave his face virtually uncovered, and it's only the exposure of his tail that betrays him. Even Anpanman virtually never suspects that Baikinman is the one messing with him for literally the thousandth time in a row, reacting with shock and surprise every single day of his life when that guy trying to kill him is in fact that guy who's always trying to kill him.
With all these powers and talents at his disposal, the world should practically be Baikinman's oyster. He could go anywhere, do anything, solve any problem, easily become as famous and popular as he could ever dream of...but like so many other villains, his greatest enemy of all is himself.
Baikinman has been shown to want friendship, love and praise, but his Prime Directive to fight some bread almost always wins out, and even when things are otherwise going well for him, he seems to have an almost irresistible drive to sabotage it. It's not that he's villainous for the sake of villainy, no, but he doesn't seem comfortable getting something if he didn't have to fight for it or cheat someone in some way, and it's worth mentioning here that there isn't even a system of currency in the Anpanman world.
No, it isn't just bread-people who give away their lifestuff for free: EVERYBODY in this setting ensures that everyone else is fed, clothed, housed, medicated, entertained and maintained on an entirely trust-based system. Everyone is friends with everyone by default. Every monstrosity capable of formulating a sentence is accepted into society unconditionally. If you're hungry, a food monster will feed you before they even ask your name. If you need to get somewhere, a talking train or helicopter CANNOT WAIT to be your ride. You'd think these things practically get off on it, never asking for anything in return but the knowledge that they've helped someone else...and it seems as if Baikinman just cannot freaking stand that.
In short, there could not possibly be less of a need in this setting to ever take anything by force or by treachery, and yet, Baikinman suffers a seemingly irresistible drive to do exactly that. It's seldom even a simple matter of him sincerely needing or wanting what you have; he more specifically wants you to not have it. He CRAVES being responsibile for conflict of any kind. He can't stand the boredom of a day without a fight. If he can't successfully take something, he'll do whatever he can think of to at least ruin it for everybody, and he won't miss an opportunity to do it while you watch, either, quite possibly from the inside of some sort of death trap.
The scope and variety of Baikinman's nefarious deeds are almost uncountable. He's done things as trivial as breaking toys, hoarding snacks and defacing property, but also gone as far as setting homes on fire, walling people up in concrete, enslaving small planets and repeatedly awakening ancient, evil monsters from their eternal slumber. One of his favorite, reoccuring routines is also to feed any newcomer a sob-story about how much that evil Anpanman is always bullying him, which of course they a-l-w-a-y-s fall for, in some cases even when they've already met and befriended Anpanman once before, and, you know, the guy telling them this has a devil tail and six inch fangs.
Like we said...he's surrounded by idiots.
That's not to say Baikinman is strictly a bastard, however. As cruel and petty as he's been known to be, he's still come to the defense of others when nobody else was there to help or there to see him break away from his precious reputation. He's especially shown a protective side of small and defenseless enough children if he finds them all alone and unprotected - a situation he seems to relate to as someone who had to fend for himself since the day he hatched.
There are even times when Baikinman has tried his damnedest to blend in with a crowd and have the same harmless fun as everybody else, but he's assumed to be up to something the moment his identity is found out, and that alone can anger him enough to whip out the rayguns and validate everyone's fear. Takashi Yanase himself once said that Baikinman always holds back a little when he could easily defeat (i.e. kill) someone for good, and in the World of Anpanman art book, he said that "when it comes to Baikinman, the truth is, I think he longs for a peaceful, normal life, but he was born an enemy of justice and there's nothing he can do about that."
Harsh, but at least it's not entirely misery for our pal. Every so often, under special enough circumstances, he does get to chill out and participate in wholesome activities with everybody else. Much more shockingly, there are also a large number of spin-off specials and educational shorts in which Baikinman and Anpanman are portrayed as the closest of possible friends, to such "are they actually just friends" extremes as living their entire daily routine together. Baikinman does nothing more nefarious in these specials than a few minor breaches of everyday etiquette, and displays no ego at all as his own arch-nemesis lectures him (and the audience) about basic table manners or hygiene rituals.
No backstory has ever been given for these specials, and they're likely not intended to share even what little continuity the main series offers, but it's hard not to want to believe that they simply take place at some point in a happier future. We will likely never know what the two of them could have gone through to go from nearly daily attempts at murdering each other to sleeping in the same room, but, good for you, Baikinman.
Incidentally, Yanase himself did make the observation in his biography that bread comes from microorganisms.