Anpanman Character Reviews:
We talked about Baikinman being virtually friendless until Dokinchan showed up, but that's not ENTIRELY fair. If your definition of "friend" happens to extend to swarming creatures that can only barely talk, then he technically had hundreds if not thousands of them!
Referred to by one ending credit song as The Creepy Kabirunrun, these goofy little fellas are named for kabiru, which is the act of something growing moldy, and runrun, which is a sound effect for happiness. The English language unfortunately doesn't have an elegant equivalent to that, but I think my spouse was right on the money with their suggestion that, had Anpanman been officially translated for American kids, they might have just called them moldies or fuzzies or even something like fuzzy-wuzzies and been done with it. I guess moldy-woldies might have also worked.
True to their name, these hairy spuds are capable of generating instantaneous mold growth with only a touch, and they couldn't possibly be more delighted to do so. It's pretty terrifying if you happen to be made out of bread, but it's nothing personal; whether ruining stored goods or decomposing someone's face, they do it all with an innocent smile and a cheerful, gibbering chant of kabikabikabi!
The earliest prototypical fuzzy-wuzzies, or at least an equivalent, were illustrated more like simple dandelion-puffs of long hair and instead known as the filth men. That's pretty great, but I can see why they evolved into something a little easier to illustrate in full color, adapting more of a chunky bean-shaped body and only eight knob-tipped feelers by the time they first appeared in a fully colored children's book.
Oddly enough, this first appearance made no mention whatsoever of Baikinman, with the Kabirunrun simply appearing one rainy day out of a garbage can. To this day, the details of their origins and relation to Baikinman have never once been explained any farther, and there's at least one instance we've seen of a Kabirunrun "in the wild" with no apparent alleigance to Baikinman, but we like to think they're probably at least something else that arrived from the Baikin Star. Maybe they're just something that spreads out throughout the galaxy as interplanetary spores.
There is also, if you prefer, something of a fan theory floating around Pixiv in which the Kabirunrun grow from those old, discarded Anpanman heads we never see again.
Wherever they come from, Kabirunrun are surprisingly just intelligent enough to assist Baikinman in the construction of his giant robots, which is especially impressive if this is what his engineering blueprints look like. They're even capable of some very limited speech, though moreso in older episodes and usually only a single word or two at a time, spoken in unison.
In addition to their intelligence, large numbers and moldiness, the Kabirunrun can also fly, and in more than one case, merge together into giant-size Kabirunrun. They really are the perfect little thematic minions to "Germ Man," aren't they?They're not of his species, exactly, but neither is Bowser Koopa's army of Goombas!
Surprisingly, while I always loved the overall idea of the Kabirunrun, I didn't originally find them very cute or visually appealing at all with those doofy facial features. Fortunately, they grew on my pretty fast. Not as fast as they grow on Anpanman's delicate flesh, obviously, and I get the sneaking suspicion that "real" Kabirunrun would look DISTRESSINGLY like human heads, but it's hard not to fall in love with how small, energetic and constantly, constantly happy they seem to be.
Perhaps the very best part of Kabirunrun, though, is that they're not alone!
There are quite a few other creatures similar to the Kabirunrun throughout Anpanman's continuity. Some are employed entirely by other villains, but we'll just be focusing on those that have been seen in association with Baikinman, one of the most famous of which are the Yamirunrun. I was definitely fond of their design right off the bat, their simple eyes in black, fuzzy bodies not entirely unlike the lovable soot balls from Spirited Away.
Their name is a play on "dark" rather than "moldy," but their powers are rather ill-defined. We've seen them smudge Anpanman with what may be their own toxic black mold, we've also seen them turn characters grey, gloomy and sluggish, we've seen them blot out light, and we've seen them used to power weaponry with an ambiguous sort of "dark energy."
The Peroperomen are named after the sound effect for licking, and are also shaped like gooey stars or hands for good measure, possibly allowing them to latch right onto something as they slurp all over it. We don't see these guys creating any kind of mold, but we already know that food people are weakened by anything that spoils their edibility, and not much is worse than food somebody already got their spit all over. INSIDIOUS!
Takorunrun, from tako or octopus, appear in only one episode that we know of, and are pretty self explanatory; they have all the powers of regular Kabirunrun, but with stickier octopus-like tentacles and the ability to breathe underwater.
Betabetamen, or "sticky-sticky men," were first deployed by Baikinman entirely to crash a Christmas party he wasn't invited to, which is why we've only officially ever seen them in cute little Santa hats. He's surprisingly never brought them out since, despite how effective they were at ruining everybody's good time.
I mean they're REALLY sticky. They stick to each other even worse than they stick to everything else, like living wads of bubblegum, and they seem just as happy about it as the Kabirunrun are to spread their mildew. I think these might be my favorite next to the original flavor, and it's really too bad we never see them again. I guess it was just too easy for their stickiness to backfire.
But, speaking of Christmas, are you ready for the WEIRDEST variation on the little moldy buddies? It's kind of a two for one deal, because I'm not just talking about these wonderful mushroom critters here. These are passingly referred to as simply Baikin Mushrooms, and are only ever seen floating in this tank as the source of Baikinman's latest weapon, the "Baikin Mushroom Gas."
...But what does the Baikin Mushroom Gas actually do? I don't think you could ever possibly guess. Not in a million years. It's actually used primarily on the Kabirunrun themselves, and what it does to Kabirunrun is transform them into...
..."Little Dark Santas." Really. Seriously. I get the weird feeling that there might be a kind of racist joke in here somewhere, but Baikin Mushroom Gas mutates Kabirunrun into "Little Dark Santas" whose job is to steal presents rather than give them out. I am as confused as you are. We can find no context that makes any more sense of the Baikin Mushroom/Kabirunrun/Little Dark Santa life cycle, but there you have it.
This still isn't every kind of swarming, nasty critter Baikinman has ever been seen with, but I feel it covers those that might share some kind of taxonomic relationship with the fuzzy wuzzies. We'll get to the others, though, don't worry.