Conservative trends rule this year as kids are largely sticking with what they know.

It’s time once again, to take a peek at what characters are occupying the minds of youngsters in Japan. We previously covered the recent hard times on which the anime and video game franchise Yo-Kai Watch has fallen. But to give you a hint of just how far they have dropped in popularity, Yo-Kai Watch was the only brand to have surpassed Anpanman in popularity in recent years.

Unless you’re a parent or child in Japan, you might not even be that aware of Anpanman, a show about superheroes with heads made of baked goods, other foods, and inanimate objects like saws and microphones. Nevertheless, he and his vast roster of characters are the quintessential children’s fare here.

Seriously, Mickey Mouse can’t even hold a candle. Entire sections of toys departments are solely devoted to Anpanman‘s enormous array of toys from drum sets to dolls to Play Doh factories, all marked with his rosy-cheeked grin.

▼ Here’s a 27-minute run-down of just some of the Anpanman toys out there

It’s with good reason too, the series has latched onto kids’ psyches through ample use of basic geometric shapes, a rich but easy-to-digest primary color palate, food, and a lot of other good stuff that young kids go for.

The only times in recent years that, Anpanman was not the top dog, according to surveys of kids under 12 by toy giant Bandai, were the years 2015 and 2016, during which Yo-Kai Watch was able to feel that rarefied air.

Now in 2018, not only has Anpanman regained its position, but Yo-Kai Watch has dropped out of the top ten completely. You might think this was due to the recent resurgence of its similarly formatted rival Pokémon, but no. This year is the first in which Pokémon too, has vanished from the ranking.

Other than that, the top ten is mainly populated by long running series such as Pretty Cure, Doraemon, Kamen Rider, and Inai Inai Bah! (“Peek-a-Boo”) which is a sing-along show for pre-schoolers featuring a giant dog named Wan-Wan and a weird puppet alien thing named U-tan.

▼ U-tan ain’t nothing to F with

The only relative newcomer is Sumikkogurashi, a line-up of characters similar to that of Hello Kitty in that there’s no discernible plot as far as I’ve seen. There’s a penguin that likes cucumbers, but that’s about it.

Sumikkogurashi: proving once again that not everything has to have a point

Here’s a comparative chart of the past five years to give you a sense of both lasting and temporal trends in Japan.

▼ Note the Icarus-like rise and fall of Yo-Kai Watch

Another attribute of Anpanman is that it is a very gender-balanced show for the most part as well. Even though it appears as though the main characters are male, the female characters tend to be far more compelling and identifiable. This unisex appeal shows when the 2018 ranking is divided between boys and girls.

So let that be a lesson to any toymaker or children’s show producer from abroad who wants to penetrate the Japanese market. This here’s Anpanman country, so you better make your thing as inclusive, delicious, and universally appealing as possible to keep up with the bread-headed phenom, still going strong after 45 years.

Source: Bandai, Hachima Kiko
Images: SoraNews24