Probably not the best thing to start a new feature with a duo that is not the main duo of the series they are in, in a shounen that started in 2001. This is probably the series that set me down my path of enjoying manga or anime in general along with Gundam Seed. Now Zatch Bell is essentially about a 100 children being thrown out into the world with little else than a magical book in order to find their partners. These partners will help them both get situated in the world, teach them about life, but also help them fight a battle in order to discover the king of these Mamodo children’s world. The many children with books will all fight to burn each other’s books in order to be the king and control the fate of their world. What does it mean to be strong? What does it mean to be king? That is the interesting thing about this series is how you see the experience change both the human and Mamodo children alike. While there are a lot of partners mentioned, like the righteous Zatch learning about himself and wishing to be a selfless king to other children like Reycom who adopted his partner’s twisted world view of using his powers for greed. In the end, I decided to choose the weird duck child Kanchome and his Italian heartthrob partner Parco Folgore.
Watch out as there is spoilers nearing the end of the manga. I try to do my best in not having spoiled much, but read at your own risk.
Kanchome and Folgore are the comedic relief duo throughout the entire series. The weak links often found in shounen battle series are often relegated to mock/goofy battles without any significance to them. Look at Usopp from One Piece for example, for a long time Usopp was seen as the coward and often the butt of a lot of jokes. His powers were nothing on par with the others of the Straw Hat Crew, often relying on trickery with those egg stars, or other items in order to pull the wool over the opponent’s eyes. Sometimes he just never battled at all or failed. Essentially that is the role relegated to Kanchome and Folgore. Kanchome’s battle strategies for the most part were tricks as well. The first spell he was able to use simply was a shapeshifting spell with no power behind it, often only used as a tool for attempted intimidation or running away.
Kanchome is one of the 100 Mamodo children that were sent to the human world to do battle, unfortunately he was flunk out and a bit of a reject. Loud, abrasive, snide and ultimately an annoyance, Kanchome came off for a long time as envious of Zatch’s new found power. He always remembered that in the Mamodo world, someone was worse than him. Holding onto that hope he fought Zatch in the hopes of proving he is better than someone, unfortunately Zatch gave Kanchome the shock treatment and he and his partner Folgore gave up. He lost battle after battle when the group went into forays, often he was forced to the sidelines while other more powerful Mamodo fight. He was powerless to stop anything, but fortunately for him he had a partner that was invincible! Well invincible is only a word, for the most part Parco Folgore was a weak human who knew his limits and understood Kanchome’s powerless cries. Folgore on the other hand played many strong spy characters and was considered a movie star in Italy, he even had his own theme song.
Iron Man Folgore! Invincible Folgore! Watching it certainly is a treat, but this became more than just a catch phrase. It became more like a mantra, one that saw Folgore stand up time and time again to show Kanchome that perseverance can be one form of strength. So Kanchome persevered, he watched as friends disappeared, and still he saw no growth in himself. He wondered constantly when he will finally get strong and win battles on his own without the help of others. Folgore on the other hand was content with what they had, and often didn’t worry even in the face of battle about his own safety. He would take hits left and right, one’s that normally saw many other characters fall to their knees. He was of course though Kanchome’s idol, and thus always stood back up and continued to fight in whatever way he could (often that meant survival).
Some are probably wondering why I chose these two characters for the spotlight, but there is good reason for that. Kanchome is the series punching bag and due to that has some of the largest character growth, and much of that is thanks to Folgore as both a mentor and father figure. Most of the children often reflect some of the characteristics of their human partners and Kanchome adopts Folgore’s strength and passion. Kanchome after always being protected becomes one of if not the strongest Mamodo of the series and that can be terrifying. Sometimes those who lack power and then suddenly realize their great power can be corrupted absolutely and sadly Kanchome was no exception. Always standing on the sidelines saw Kanchome growing more discontent with his ability to protect, and this manifested itself in how he utilizes his new power against enemies.
Kanchome was no longer the punching bag, he became the very thing he sought to defeat becoming more like the many enemies they fought. His powers of deception became godlike to the point of tricking the enemies’ minds into feeling immense amounts of pain, even to the point of breaking them. He would continue to break them down believing it was their just punishment for hurting his dear friends. He was finally going to become the protector, yet when he looked at the friends he was protecting he was seen as only yet another tyrant to be feared. That realization was not enough and he wanted to push his enemy to the brink of destruction because he had wanted them to feel as helpless as he did all those times. Finally he had achieved the power he sought, only to lose himself within it. Believing that the only way to truly change is to utterly destroy his enemies, Kanchome fought for a twisted version of what was right. He even becomes the embodiment of what he believed to be ultimate power, Zatch’s ultimate spell Baou Zakeruga with its lightning and ferocious visage. He even utilizes lightning as an attack showing how much he believed in Zatch as this icon of power he was always striving towards due to his envy.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
Kanchome is the epitome of this quote and it shows. All of his growth was leading him down the path of eventual destruction, all that pain and helplessness was only building up his greatest downfall. He doesn’t want to go back to his weak self, even to the point of mind controlling his own partner to not stop the spell. Thankfully though he had his hope next to him. Parco Folgore is the one true hero for Kanchome and desperately tries to stop the boy from losing his way. Folgore tells Kanchome that his favourite animal is a hippo, contrasting Kanchome’s favourite animal as the lion. Kanchome believes the lion, king of the jungle, is the coolest thing due to its power. Folgore used to believe in being a lion that was until he found out the truth. Being a lion comes at the cost of being alone, of being feared by all.
“A bird won’t rest on a lion’s fangs”
Folgore had in mind the hippo for the sole reason of how birds would love to land on its teeth because there is no ill will sensed by them. The hippo was strong, but it only used that power for specific reasons. When it protects its own children a hippo can become even stronger than lion, this analogy to me even to this day was a beautiful and inspiring one about how true strength is only used when necessary. Folgore was never a lion around Kanchome, every action he took was that of a hippo doing whatever he could to protect his baby from doubt and harm. That mantra, those goofy grins, his perseverance, living life to the fullest, those were all the things Folgore wanted to impart onto Kanchome. These human partners have become role models that affect one way or another their Mamodo partners. Kanchome had found the partner he needed the most, the one person who would teach him the importance of protecting others and truly what it means to be a benevolent king.
Yes this goofy duo are the punching bag of the series, but this endearing journey they go on to find inner strength was one of the most inspiring stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. This is a story about how actions can help shape the minds of the future. Kanchome could have been lost in that journey if Folgore didn’t persevere, but the hippo never wavers. Kanchome is still a child, one who needs to be taught and let them see what the world has to offer. Even though Folgore himself is an obviously flawed individual, he still makes sure he shines for Kanchome and that still brings a tear to my eye. If the Mamodo chilren stray from the path only the partners can help them see, through actions, what is right. These two are some of, if not my favourite characters in the medium of anime or manga. They resonate with the reader through their analogy and journey they take, they resonated with me and even to this day have impacted what I do. I mean who doesn’t want to be IRON MAN FOLGORE?! INVINCIBLE FOLGORE!!!
Hopefully people enjoy this new feature, but only time will tell. I’ll be spotlighting some of the characters that made an impact on me and potentially delving into theories later on depending on the specific character. These two, while a weird choice to start it off, just feels right to me.
Which do you think is better, a lion or a hippo? What do you think it means to truly be powerful? Leave it down in the comments below and remember to always live life to the fullest.