Takashi Yanase (やなせたかし, Yanase Takashi) was a prolific Japanese children's book author and illustrator. He was best known as the creator of the long running preschool series Anpanman and the children's book "Chirin No Suzu" ("Chirin's Bell"). Some of his works (such as The Kindly Lion and Chirin's Bell) are notable for touching on heavy and depressing subject matter (the latter being his most popular work).
After serving in World War 2, Takashi suffered a severe case of PTSD and became a children's book author and illustrator as his way of coping. He mainly makes children's book heavily focused on animals. His book Chirin No Suzu was loosely based on the his experiences in World War 2 and his most personal work.
Yanase passed away in 2014 after a long period of sickness. After his death, a special museum was opened in Kōchi Prefecture, Japan in his memory called "Kami City Takashi Yanase Memorial Hall & Anpanman Museum" which was dedicated to him and his works. In 2015, the museum held a special exhibit dedicated to Chirin's Bell featuring artwork, some sketches of Chirin, and some animations cells from the 1978 movie which ran from February 11, 2015 till May 11, 2015.◊
Yanase's Children's Books
- The Kindly Lion (aka The Gentle Lion) (やさしいライオン, Yasashii Lion)
- Chirin's Bell (known as Ringing Bell in anglophone regions) (チリンの鈴, Chirin no Suzu): An English translation can be read here.
- Little Jumbo
- The Rose and Joe (バラの花とジョー, Bara no Hana to Joe)
Takashi Yanase's works provide examples of:
- Animated Adaptation: Four of his children's books would be adapted into animation.
- The Kindly Lion received an animated short in 1970 that was 26 minutes long. Osamu Tezuka was executive producer for this adaptation◊ and animated by Mushi Productions.
- Little Jumbo also gained an animated short in 1977 that was 27 minutes long.
- His children's story The Rose and Joe (Bara no Hana to Joe) gained an animated short by Sanrio Animation in 1977, the same year as Little Jumbo.
- Chirin no Suzu was turned into a 46 minute feature film by Sanrio Animation which later gained an English Dub in 1983.
- Adaptation Expansion: The 1978 movie adaptation of Chirin's Bell expanded more on the original story. Such as Chirin and Woe's relationship, a scene where Chirin tries to be helpful with a mother bird and protecting it's eggs. The 1977 Lyrica adaptation expanded more on Chirin's life (such as his birth and more moments with his mother).
- Allegory: While Chirin no Suzu is a cautionary tale about the consequences of revenge. It's actually an allegory for the effects of war (notably World War II) and the negative side effects for victims. Woe/Wor the wolf is a personification of War, and Chirin representing innocent victims and civilians of war (notably orphaned children who lost parents and family members). As a result, the book and film serves as an anti-war work.
- Art Shift: In the beginning of Bara no Hana to Joe, during a musical sequence set inside Joe's imagination. The art style and Joe's character design shifts to Yanase's own illustration style compared to the rest of the short.
- Art-Style Dissonance: Chirin no Suzu and The Kindly Lion both have depressing and melancholy tones despite the water colored art style and cutesy character designs (notably Chirin no Suzu).
- Author Appeal:
- He has a thing for having a titular or main animal protagonist either being orphans (Chirin no Suzu and Yasashii Lion) or homeless (Bara no Hana to Joe).
- Some of his children's books have a central theme about sadness or death.
- Yanase is also fond of making his books start out cute and lighthearted, but have a heartbreaking conclusion.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: Sanrio's now defunct magazine "Lyrica" made a comic adaptation of Chirin no Suzu in June 1977, a year before the movie adaptation was released in theaters.
- Creepy Crows: The main antagonist for the book Bara no Hana to Joe is a crow, who antagonizes the main protagonist and wants to destroy the rose.
- Death By Child Birth: In The Kindly Lion, it's mentioned that Buru-Buru's mother must had died sometime after he was born. Implying that his mother quickly passed away before he got to know her. While she doesn't show up in the animated short, she is depicted in some of Yanase's illustrations alongside his deceased father.
- Disappeared Dad:
- The 1970 adaptation of The Kindly Lion takes place moments after the death of Buru-Buru's mother. However his father is never mentioned but is implied to have also died or killed before his mother passed away. Some illustrations of the original book does depict Buru-Buru's parents, but as angels watching over their son in heaven.◊
- Chirin's father is never seen or mentioned in book and 1978 animated film. He does show up in other adaptations such as the Lyrica comic adaptation from 1977.
- Downer Ending: He seemed to have been a big fan of this trope, mostly in the anime adaptations of his stand-alone works. Chirin No Suzu is the most infamous due to the first two pages (10 minutes in the movie) being lighthearted and cute.
- Fantasy Sequence: In Bara no Hana to Joe, the titular character imagines himself dancing with the pink rose complete with fancy clothing and hat. The sequence is stylized after Yanase's own illustration style, which is also seen on the Japanese cover for the short.
- Gentle Giant: The book The Kindly Lion lives up to it's name with Buru-Buru being the main protagonist. He starts out as a cute lion cub, but grows up to become a sweet-natured and friendly adult lion.
- Interspecies Adoption: His children's story The Kindly Lion involves a female dog named Muku-Muku who becomes a mother to the main protagonist (a lion cub) named Buru-Buru due to the lion's actual mother deceased sometime after birth. Muku-Muku previously lost her own child moments after birth leaving her heart broke.
- Minimalist Cast: His children's book are notable for focusing on a very small cast of characters (typically being two or three characters).
- The only main characters for The Kindly Lion is Buru-Buru the lion and Muku-Muku the dog.
- The Rose and Jose only features a puppy and a crow, while the rose is implied to be partially sentient.
- Chirin no Suzu starts out with three characters (Chirin, Chirin's mother, and Woe/Wor) but is reduced to two after Chirin's mother gets killed.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: Chirin the main protagonist of Chirin no Suzu starts out as a carefree and cheerful lamb, but slowly starts becoming very antagonist as the story progresses.
- Precious Puppy: The main protagonist of The Rose and Joe is a brown puppy who falls in love with a rose.◊
- Savage Wolf: Woe/The Wolf King is extremely creepy and not friendly with Chirin and the other animals at all. In the film adaptation, he becomes Chirin's mentor.
- Sweet Sheep: Chirin starts out as a carefree and cheerful lamb, until his life takes a tragic turn after his mother's murder.
- The Hero Dies: The Kindly Lion ends with the main protagonist (a lion) and his mother (a dog) getting killed by an army.
- Implied to be the case for Chirin in Chirin's Bell.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Chirin's Bell is loosely based on Takashi's experiences in WWII. Woe the Wolf is seen as an allegory for war, Chirin for children and orphans effected by war, and Chirin's Mother for deceased parents and love ones who died during the war.