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For millions of people, anime actress Hiromi Tsuru was more than a voice, she was “by our side”

While Anpanman was the undisputed hero of his own anime, Hiromi Tsuru’s superbly voiced Dokin-chan was the rest of us.

One of Japan’s most prominent voice actresses, Hiromi Tsuru, passed away while driving on a downtown Tokyo expressway. The cause of death has been indicated as aortic dissection, a weakening of the aorta artery that is manageable but tragically difficult to detect until it is too late.

Many of the headlines refer to Tsuru as the voice of Bulma from the Dragon Ball series, which makes sense as it is easily the most globally recognized anime the she was associated with. However, among Japanese people it is probably her role as Dokin-chan in the long-running series Anpanman that most have a deep connection with.

Since Anpanman is geared towards toddlers, there isn’t as much awareness of it overseas. However, in Japan it is pretty much a rite of passage for all kids, regardless of gender, to go through an Anpanman phase. It would be a toss-up between Anpanman and Mickey Mouse to say which character is more popular among little kids here.

The universe of extended characters in Anpanman is incredibly complex but the episodic nature of the show is quite simple. Every time, the main villain Baikinman (literally “Germ-man”) would attack someone with his array of giant robotic machines. He would then initially get the upper hand on the hero Anpanman by making his head (which is made from sweet-bean-filled bread) wet or otherwise inedible and causing him to lose his strength.

Then, the baker Uncle Jam cooks up a new head and replaces it, thus restoring Anpanman’s power. At this point Anpanman quickly re-enters the fray and defeats Baikinman, often with a single punch – a recurring theme that no doubt inspired the creation of anime/manga One Punch Man, also known affectionately as “Wanpanman.”

This is the formula for nearly every single episode of the over 1,300 Anpanman episodes that span three decades. Yet it was this reliable…

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