Snacking in Anime
Anime has a wide influence, having garnered fans in countries around the world. Anime first appeared on American shores in the 1960s in the form of Astro Boy. Ozamu Tezuka's manga was adapted into an animated series, which laid the groundwork of anime aesthetics for the upcoming decades. Through the impact of anime and video games, Japanese popular culture has effectively been exported to all corners of the world. One result of such influence is the growing popularity of Japanese snacks. We at Asian Food Grocer wholeheartedly welcome the wider exposure given to Japanese snacks. Many of these snacks have found their way into anime episodes, piquing the interest and curiosity of anime fans. Let us tell you a bit about the snacks you may have spotted.
Pocky is the by far the most iconic and popular snack to come from Japan. Is it any surprise that the cream-coated snack sticks makes it way into many anime series? Characters are seen in many anime series casually noshing on the ubiquitous cream-covered biscuits.
Given its popularity, interesting activities have sprung from the consumption of this snack. Did you know that within each pack of Pocky, there are ample opportunities for romance? Much like the famous Lady and the Tramp scene with the spaghetti, Pocky lends itself to a smooch as well. Nicknamed the "Pocky Kiss," this ritual has been depicted in many an anime scene. Two people start biting at the opposite ends of a Pocky stick until their mouths meet in the middle. Try it out with a friend!
Konpeito sugar candy are a popular treat with an instantly recognizable look. The unique star shape and bright colors lends itself to being represented accurately in an anime, and these candies have been seen in Studio Ghibli movies anime series as well. Most famously, the candies were seen in this Spirited Away scene, in which black soot spirits pick up konpeito off the floor and scurry back into the shadows.
Konpeito does not have a distinctive flavor, as it is simply rock candy made from simple sugars. However, the process to make these candies is a long one. Each candy core tumbles in a large heated tub, slowly takes shape day by day as it crystallizes a layer at a time. It takes anywhere from seven to thirteen days to fully form a konpeito. Think about that the next time you pop one in your mouth and finish it in seconds!
Anpan is a baked sweet roll pastry with red bean paste filling, topped off with roasted sesame seeds. Pan is actually a loanword from Portuguese meaning bread. The bun is a favorite of Gintama's Yamazaki Sagaru. Working as a spy, he eats anpans during long stakeout sessions, having them with milk to give him energy to focus on his mission.
The anpan is even the subject of a anime superhero, appropriately named Anpanman. Having an anpan for a head means Anpanman never has to eat to nourish himself. In fact, he offers his head as food to feed malnourished people in need. If that isn't heroic, I don't know what is.
Melonpan, or Melon Bread, is named as such for the ridges baked into the cookie dough crust on the bread, which resembles the rind of a cantaloupe. This popular Japanese pastry is the favorite of the titular character of the series Shakugan no Shana. Shana starts off everyday with a breakfast of melon pan. She is often seen with a melonpan in hand, with its recognizable criss-crossed pattern on the crust. Melonpan does not actually taste like melon. Instead, the flavor is described as a bit lemony. The sweet yet light taste of melonpan makes it easy to get addicted to. If more Americans get a taste of this delicious bun, there could be a wave people running around craving for melonpan like Shana.
Dorayaki is similar to a pancake, only difference being that it is made from two slices of castella, a type of fluffy cake, sandwiching a layer of sweet red bean paste. So it's quite different, but it has the same flat, browned look. Dorayaki is called as such because it resembles a gong, or dora in Japanese. Dorayaki is a known favorite food of Doraemon. The blue anime icon gorges on the pancakes whenever he gets a chance, and he can be tricked sometimes when he is tempted by the sweet taste of dorayaki. Doraemon is almost as popular as Mickey Mouse in the international scene, but somehow the series has never been licensed for release in the US.
Ramune soda is know for its bottles, which is sealed by a glass marble. Ramune, with its distinctive codd-neck bottle, can be easily spotted in anime. Animators seem to get a kick out of depicting the realistic motion of the marble held within the bottle. Check out this animation from the series Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. Notice the air bubbles, meticulously recreated in anime form.
Rather than "cracking open" a drink, you pop open a Ramune by pushing the marble into the soda with a plastic plunger included with every bottle. The Ramune bottle is as much a symbol of Japanese culture as the Coca-Cola bottle is to American culture. Seeing a bottle evokes in the Japanese memories of childhood and warm summer evenings. Children often try to break Ramune bottles to extract the glass marble within.
Of course, there are many more instances of Japanese snacks being shown in anime episodes. Anime characters are after all living creatures in their own way, and they have to eat. It's understandable that many favorite snacks of the Japanese populous make it into their media. Anime is very much a reflection of the Japan's culture. Just as Mickey Mouse and Elvis caused those overseas to yearn for authentic American culture, so anime has done the same for Japanese culture. It has made Japan's snack items seem that much more delicious.
Has watching anime ever whet your appetite? Let us know what is your favorite anime snack in the poll below! Also, check us out at the upcoming Fanime convention for your chance to taste some of these awesome snacks. We'll see you then!