a.k.a. Scorched Bread
Every day a baker makes his famous bread filled with a sweet, red bean filling. Only twenty are made each day, so the baker takes great care in seeing that each one comes out perfect… until one day when he accidentally burns one. No customer wants to buy Kogepan because he is bitter in both taste and disposition. Kogepan wanders around the bakery, giving the fresh bread a hard time and wondering what life would be like had he not been burned. Maybe one of these days Kogepan will appreciate the hand that he was dealt.
summary by Kain
Highs: Big things come in small packages
Lows: Vignette style not easy to get used to; a bit truncated
Kogepan is a string of short adventures about Kogepan, a curmudgeonly burnt bread that spends most of its time asking “what if?”. Each episode is only four minutes in length, and there is no real story to speak of… but it’s the way that the story is told and the message it conveys that belies its simple nature.
The plot unfolds in a punctuated, narrative style that is akin to haiku; this rhythmic, introspective style reminds me of the Basho proverbs in My Neighbors the Yamadas. Following the daily exploits of a piece of bread won’t appeal to many viewers, especially since the animation has a homely, childlike quality to it. But Kogepan is much deeper than that; it’s an anime about life, about the burnt bread representing an elderly generation out of touch with its youthful cohorts. They are forced to deal with their thrust-upon status as social pariahs, outcasts who have outlived their usefulness. It’s a very real, very somber tale of two generations.
Being only ten episodes of just four minutes each (and this includes the opening and ending animations), Kogepan doesn’t lend itself to anything outside of its message of one generation passing the torch to another… nor does it need to. However, due to its segmented nature, the exploits of Kogepan are extremely episodic and don’t lend themselves well to seamless story flow and cadence.
Despite (or maybe because of) its simple nature, Kogepan has spawned a legion of young, loyal fans in Japan who are quick to purchase the various related merchandise in droves. My impression is that they like it because the characters are cute and the snack itself is quite tasty. To me, the satisfying flavor comes from the story of life it has to tell us… and tell us well it does. Bon Appétit!
Highs: Insightful and quietly mesmerizing
Lows: Feels unfinished; limited appeal
When I think of Kogepan, I am reminded of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou for one reason: both possess a hushed serenity that can be viewed at two levels: the soft action on the surface and the subtle metaphors underneath.
Although the total running time makes it shorter than even Blood: The Last Vampire, Kogepan will keep you thinking for the entire length of each four-minute episode. What if Kogepan had never been burnt? What if he had been sold to a customer? What makes him better than every other bread? Learning about Kogepan’s life is somewhat interesting, but what is far more fascinating are the underlying messages that it gets across in less than three minutes. Although Kogepan and the other burnt breads represent an older age group, their message to the younger breads are that which many people are faced with everyday. Each bread will give you a lot to think about if you look deeper into their simple words, like “A breath in winter is white, yet no matter which bread, all their breaths are white”.
With quite a few characters introduced and many more lessons in life told, the ending leaves you wanting too much more. And while the end may have some feeling that it is incomplete, the style in which the series is done may rub others the wrong way. Everything is drawn in a style that could be called childish but that I prefer to call “simple”. The art has a general lack of detail and a grainy look like crayons were the primary drawing instrument. The music is rather plain. Although many other aspects can undoubtedly get on some people’s nerves, you will experience a variety of emotions you wouldnever imagine a simply-drawn anime could induce.
During one of the episodes, Kogepan says, “Thinking ‘if only’ won’t change anything”, and this struck me as being the most straightforward and powerful message that the anime offers; yet, there are still many more themes to get from Kogepan. Seeing as how it is not very time-consuming and offers quite a few lessons of life, no one should pass up an opportunity to see this charming anime.
Kogepan can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.