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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) and Yasashii Lion (The Kindly Lion). 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). He was also a lyricist and poet writer with some of his poems getting published in a couple Japanese children's books.

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After serving in World War 2, Yanase suffered a severe case of PTSD and became a children's book author and illustrator as his way of coping. He mainly made children's books and stories 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.

During his lifetime, he had a very close relationship with Osamu Tezuka and Sanrio. Such as allowing Mushi Productions (Tezuka's animation studio) to make an animated adaptation of his children's story Yasashii Lion in 1970. He even wrote the lyrics for every song performed in the short. He also directed the 1977 animated adaptation of Bara no Hana to Joe by Sanrio Animation, including illustrating Joe's imagination sequences. As for books, he would publish some of pictures books to "Sanrio Publishing" throughout the 1970s and early 1980s (such as Alice's Cherry and Sanrio Gift Book Takashi Yanase Happiness Poems).

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Yanase passed away in 2014 after a long period of sickness. After news broke of his passing, fans across Japan held public memorials, made tribute artwork, and other tributes to him and his works. 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 work. In 2015 (which was "Year of The Sheep" and the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2), the museum held a special exhibit dedicated to Chirin's Bell featuring artwork, sketches of Chirin, and some animations cells from the 1978 movie which ran from February 11, 2015 till May 11, 2015.

More information on the Anpanman franchise can be seen here.


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Yanase's Children's Books

  • The Kindly Lion (aka The Gentle Lion) (やさしいライオン, Yasashii Lion)
  • Tail Song (しっぽのうた, Shippo no uta)
  • Ichigo Ehon/Sokango's first issue (いちごえほん/そうかんごうの創刊号, `Ichigo e hon/ sōkan go u no sōkan-gō)
  • Ringing Bell (チリンの鈴, Chirin no Suzu, literally "Chirin's Bell"): An English translation can be read here.
  • Little Jumbo (ちいさなジャンボ, Chiisana Jumbo)
  • Goodbye Jumbo (さよならジャンボ, Sayonara Jumbo)
  • The Rose Flower and Joe (バラの花とジョー, Bara no Hana to Joe)
  • White Horse (しろいうま, Shiroi uma)
  • Su Ginoki To No Giku (すぎのきと のぎく)
  • Rāmen tenshi (ラーメンてんし, "Ramen Noodles")
  • Kaze no fue (かぜのふえ, "Cold")
  • Anpanman (アンパンマン)
  • Mighty Cat Masked Niyandar (ニャニがニャンだー ニャンダーかめん, Nyani ga nyandā Nyandā Kamen)
  • Uncle Gambaril (ガンバリル おじさん)
  • St. Bernard and Tabito-Annie and Kora (picture book of Takashi Yanase's love and courage) (セントバーナードとたびびと―アニーとコラ (やなせたかしの愛と勇気の絵本), Sentobānādo to tabi bito ― anī to kora (yanase takashi no ai to yūki no ehon))
  • Kumo no koinu (くものこいぬ)
  • Large Picture Book to Read (読みきかせ大型絵本, Yomi kikase ōgata ehon) (written by Mineko Koyama and illustrated by Yanase)
  • Tenshi no guratan (てんしのぐらたん)
  • Ritoruboo (リトルボオ, Little Boo)
  • Kabako (かばこさん, Kaba ko-san)
  • Sanrio Gift Book Takashi Yanase Happiness Poems (サンリオギフトブック やなせたかし 幸福の詩集, Sanriogifutobukku yanase takashi kōfuku no shishū)
  • Sanrio Gift Book Takashi Yanase Love Poems (サンリオギフトブック やなせたかし 愛の詩集, Sanriogifutobukku yanase takashi ai no shishū)
  • Lonely Anpanman "Alice's Cherry" (寂しきアンパンマン 『アリスのさくらんぼ』, Sabishiki anpan man “Arisu no sakuranbo)
  • Humans are lonely (人間なんてさびしいね, Ningen nante sabishī ne)

His works provide examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
  • Animated Adaptation: Four of his children's books would be adapted into animation.:
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Some of his children's book would feature sentient or living objects (such as trees, flowers and the sun) as seen in The Kindly Lion, The Rose Flower and Joe, and Su Ginoki To No Giku. His 1983 picture book Kumo no koinu involves a boy befriending a living cloud and is seen riding on it throughout the book.
  • 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.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: In the animated adaptation of Yasashii Lion, Buru-Buru is shown drinking milk from his Muku-Muku. However, the only time she's drawn with teats is during scenes where she's walking with her newly adopted son as a cub. Buru-Buru is also drawn with an anus during a montage of him acting more like a dog instead of a lion.
  • 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.
    • Compared to his other picture books, St. Bernard and Tabito-Annie and Kora has a more realistic art-style.
  • 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) and end up dead by the end.
    • 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 or bittersweet conclusion.
  • Author Avatar: "Yanase Rabbit" is a rabbit version of himself, and would become a recurring character in Anpanman series and spin-off material until his death in 2014.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In Bara no Hana to Joe, Joe ends up blind after getting by a crow and passes out. Near the end of the short, Joe finally confronts the crow and attacks him causing both of them to fall down a cliff straight into a waterfall where the crow drowns. The story ends with Joe reuniting with the rose and both dying. The final scene shows Joe as an angel reuniting with the rose and shares a kiss.
  • Blind People Wear Sunglasses: Near the end of Bara no Hana to Joe, Joe is seen wearing black sunglasses after losing his ability to see, and has to use his sense of smell to know where he's going.
  • 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.
  • Crossover: He once made a crossover illustration of Chirin (without his bell) from Chirin's Bell with the dog characters from his other book Sentobānādo to tabi bito ― anī to kora in 2006.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to The Kindly Lion and The Rose Flower And Joe, Chirin no Suzu is Yanase's darkest and most somber work. The story involves Chirin seeking revenge after the death of his mother (and the entire flock getting eaten) by a wolf and quickly becomes very antagonistic in the process.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • Funny Animal:
    • Cheese the Dog and Rare Cheese from the Anpanman franchise.
    • A 1975 magazine cover promoting his book Tail Song features the story's main protagonist (a dog) depicted fully-clothed and standing on both legs.
  • 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.
  • Go Out with a Smile: In Bara no Hana to Joe, Joe is dying as he's sharing a final conversation with the rose. He's seeing weakly smiling before finally passing away.
  • Iconic Item: As seen in Bara no Hana to Joe, Fancy top hats (usually worn by angels) has become a signature style for Takashi Yanase. To the point that a top hat and an angel would be used in Yanase's logos for some of his books and a Japanese exhibit that highlight his works.
  • 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.
  • Interspecies Romance: Bara no Hana to Joe is focused on Joe (a dog) developing a romantic crush on a pink rose.
  • Minimalist Cast: His children's book are notable for focusing on a very small cast of characters (typically being two or three characters). Here are just a few examples from his more popular works:
    • The only main characters for The Kindly Lion is Buru-Buru the lion and Muku-Muku the dog.
    • The Rose Flower and Jose only features a puppy and a crow (later joined by three crows), 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.
    • The 1975 picture book Shippo no uta only features a brown dog and a human boy, although the 2008 animated adaptation from the Takashi Yanase Fairy Tale OVA series does more characters into the story.
  • Old Dog: Muku-Muku from "The Kindly Lion" adopts Buru-Buru as a young adult and is described as chubby in the book and animated film. Due to the age gap between both species, she becomes an old aged dog by the time Buru-Buru grows up to become an adult lion. She's notably skinnier, slower paced, relaxed, and has wrinkles around her face.
  • Our Angels Are Different: In his books, angels are depicted wearing fancy clothing, wearing top hats that obscure their faces, and their genders being ambiguous. The angels don't interact with the main characters, but they are more involved with the weather and changing of seasons. Their most notable appearance is The Rose Flower And Joe, White Horse, and Su Ginoki To No Giku.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Most of his works are focused on the idealistic side of life (such as the aforementioned Anpanman series). However Su Ginoki To No Giku, Bara no Hana to Joe, and Yasashii Lion mixes in a small dose of cynicism due to those stories carrying a melancholy tone, while Chirin no Suzu is full on cynical after the death of his mother.
  • Sweet Sheep: Chirin starts out as a carefree and cheerful lamb, until his life takes a tragic turn after his mother's murder.
  • Title Drop:
    • The 1977 adaptation of Bara no Hana to Joe has a song played as Joe imagining himself dancing and dating a pink rose which has the short's Japanese title included in the lyrics.
    • In the Japanese version of Chirin no Suzu, the theme song name dropped the film's Japanese title.
  • The Hero Dies:
    • The Kindly Lion ends with the main protagonist (a lion) and his mother (a dog) getting killed by an army.
    • Bara no Hana to Joe ends with an extremely weak and dying Joe finally reuniting with the pink rose and dies with each other. On the positive side, we do see Joe as an angel with the rose in heaven and shares a kiss.
    • Implied to be the case for Chirin in Chirin's Bell.
  • Together in Death: Bara no Hana to Joe ends with Joe and the rose dying seconds apart. On the bright side, they do reunite in heaven.
  • Undying Loyalty: Joe from Bara no Hana to Joe is very loyal to a pink rose due to developing a close relationship with the rose since he was a young puppy. He even develops a romantic relationship with the rose and will go to great lengths to prevent the rose from getting destroyed and harmed. Even when he ends up blind, Joe decides to head straight back to the rose where he eventually dies with.
  • 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.
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