Anpanman Character Reviews:
MELONPANNA AND ROLLPANNA
Apparently not content with three bread-headed sons, Uncle Jam eventually tried his hand at making some daughters, with unfortunately mixed success, the first of these being Melonpanna, Anpanman's first little sister.
"Melonpan" or "melon bread" is so named not for its flavor, but for its appearance, which is supposedly reminiscent of a a melon. I'm not really seeing it, but it can be fairly delicious, consisting of a soft, sweet roll covered by a very thin, very crisp and sugary layer of what is basically cookie. It's a treat beloved by small children, and Melonpanna is characterized as much, much younger than of the breadfolks before her. She is, of course, actually literally younger, but we'll be seeing shortly how inconsistent they are with that.
She's also, I imagine, the most frustrating of them all to draw and animate, since you have to get all those criss-crosses exactly right in relation to her facial features.
Melonpanna's power is a strange one; besides an inexplicable ability to generate actual melon juice, she also wields the melo-melo punch. This is a pun on a Japanese onomatopoeia that can mean either the feeling of being in love or being fall-down drunk, and whomever she punches does indeed become "lovestruck" to the point of incapacitation. Not necessarily lovestruck for Melonpanna or for anybody in particular, mind you, but anyone she punches gets hearts in their eyes and forgets whatever else they were doing as they succumb to a sort of nondescript, blissful euphoria. That might actually be one of the more disturbing abilities a protagonist uses in this show, but it also feels a bit lousy that the first "girl" bread character wound up being the smaller, weaker, pacifistic one.
Fortunately...they do kind of compensate for this.
This is Rollpanna, who may look a lot like an actual human being with a head wrapping, but trust me, she's bread. Specifically, a type of plain, ordinary dinner roll that's usually made of rolled-up dough. I said a moment ago that age is apparently meaningless to bread monster people, and that's because while Rollpanna was created after Melonpanna, she came out of the oven both physically and mentally more like an adult, and has always been referred to by Melonpanna as her "big" sister. This is also where things get a bit weird, even for this cartoon, because Melonpanna's love for her "older sibling" borders more on a smothering obsession, wanting almost nothing more than to be with Rollpanna 24/7 and bitterly jealous of anyone else who comes between them.
Unfortunately for her...things didn't really work out like they were planned.
In our review of Anpanman, we briefly mentioned that the magical "flower of bravery" is the secret to his selflessness. For Rollpanna, it was going to be the flower of "pure heart," which supposedly blooms only once every ten years, and would supposedly make a bread person exceptionally selfless, brave and kind. Melonpanna immediately demanded that this new creation be the big sister she always wanted, and even added a squirt of her own melon juice to the dough for good measure, another reason we're reviewing them together on the same page.
Baikinman, however, catches wind that yet another wretched bread demon is being conjured just to shit all over his life, and does his best to sabotage the new creation with the addition of an evil flower, the baikin plant!
Baikin plants were originally introduced just for this plot line, but we've been fortunate to see them again on a number of occasions. Not only do they poison and corrupt everything around them, but in at least one movie special they can actually attack with their thorny vines...and they LAUGH!! Look at them go! They think it's very, very funny when terrible things happen!
Injected with both a Flower of Purity and a Flower of Edginess, Rollpanna was born with "two hearts," one good and one evil, which take over her personality depending on the situation. The only thing thing that can always bring her back to her "good side" is the love of that weird, clingy little sister of hers, whereas the one thing that most often triggers her villain mode is the presence of Anpanman, whom her darker half is hell-bent on defeating. She even has difficulty resisting direct orders from villains, at least in early episodes. Not wishing to harm anyone innocent, Rollpanna stays as far away as she can from her own family and keeps her evil heart at bay by defending the weak.
As a character, Rollpanna seems to draw the most inspiration from a certain brand of "tomboyish" classical heroine seen in manga and anime like Rose of Versailles, Utena or Ribbon Knight, and going back even farther, the Takarazuka Revue theater troupe, which adapted a variety of stories to musical theater with an all-female cast. Like many of these characters, Rollpanna is written like a dashing, mysterious outcast and, as far as I know, only ever shown romantic interest in other women. An entire film was even devoted to her budding relationship with an interdimensional princess who lived alone in a flying castle, and Rollpanna would have had it MADE if Baikinman and, subsequently, the rest of the bread family hadn't shown up and interfered with everything, including a heavy dose of guilt-tripping from Melonpanna until Rollpanna felt obligated to stay behind in her own world. Wow. What a terrible, awful little sister.
If it sucked that Melonpanna was such a weak female addition to the bread family, then it's definitely refreshing for her older sister to be the most kickass of the bunch by far, not only in the sense that she's a "darker and edgier" character but that she's monstrously powerful even compared to Anpanman himself, wielding a gymastics ribbon like a whip powerful enough to shatter rocks and generate tornadoes. Their encounters even flip everything lame about Melonpanna right on its head, since the "weak" little sister ends up being the only one who can save her all-powerful eldest brothers from Rollpanna's rampages. The result is a pretty interesting subversion of the simple "fly up and punch the bad guy" routine these characters usually fall back on, and just makes an interesting character dynamic all around.
How can Currypanman rightfully even keep calling himself the "spicy" one when his own sister is basically Anpanman's Shadow the Hedgehog?
Even if you don't understand Japanese, give Rollpanna's official character song a listen, which itself shifts back and forth between her two sides. It goes without saying that the "evil" side of her song is sick as hell.