The title character of this anime series, Zenmai Zamurai, is a samurai with a wind-up screw on top of his head in place of the traditional topknot. He carries at his waist the Hissho Dango Sword, which has four dango (rice dumplings) skewered on it. Episodes of Zenmai Zamurai last five minutes each, and the series is especially popular among young elementary school students.
The story takes place in the city of Karakuri Oedo (Wind-up Edo), a unique vision of what Tokyo might have been like if the modernization of the Meiji era (1868-1912) had not happened. In this "future city," the traditional lifestyle of old Tokyo continues. (In case you're confused, Tokyo was called Edo up until the beginning of the Meiji era in 1868.) Our hero, Zenmai Zamurai, lives in this amazing city.
The background to the story is this: Zennosuke was a man who loved dumplings so much that he stole one from a shop. The God of Fortune, Daifuku-no-kami, helped Zennosuke and put a wind-up screw on his head. Now known as Zenmai Zamurai, whenever Zennosuke does a good deed, the god twists the wind-up screw, increasing his lifespan.
Daifuku-no-kami tells Zenmai Zamurai that if he does 108 good deeds, he will be allowed to return to his original human form. Zenmai Zamurai then devotes himself to ridding the world of evildoers. The dumplings on his sword are so delicious that when he makes a villain eat one, the villain experiences true happiness, repents his evil ways, and transforms into a good citizen.
The unique storyline and characters are one of the most appealing parts of the show. In the episode Dumpling Diet, we are introduced to an overweight Zenmai Zamurai who has eaten too many dumplings. Giving up the sweets on the recommendation of his ninja disciple Mamemaru, he instead turns to other, equally unhealthy foods, resulting in diet disaster. As always, Zenmai Zamurai looks to Zukin, the frizzy-haired, bandana-wearing heroine of the series, for moral support.
More than a year after it debuted on TV in April 2006, Zenmai Zamurai continues to attract new fans. DVDs and CDs from the series have been big sellers, so there are many ways for kids to join in the fun of this quirky anime.
(Updated in September 2007)