Zenmai Zamurai (ぜんまいざむらい?) was a short subject children's anime created by Momoko Maruyama and Ryōtarō Kuwamoto (m&k). It aired daily in the mornings and afternoons on NHK in Japan. Two short features were shown in the mornings and afternoons both five minutes long. Its exclusion from the 2010-11 NHK programming schedule signifies the end of its run on the station, but will still be shown in reruns on their Hi-Vision BS premium channel.
200 years ago, Zenmai Zamurai (Zennosuke at that time) was a thief by profession (albeit not a very skilled one). While stealing from a house one night, he fell down a well and died. He was then resurrected by Daifukunokami (The god of Bounty:大福の神) and a wind-up key (zenmai:ぜんまい) was placed on his head. If the key winds down, Zennosuke dies. The only way the key can be wound is by Zennosuke doing good deeds and if he does enough of them, he will be released from his servitude to the god. In order to achieve this end, he is given the Dango-ken, which is a sword with Japanese Dumplings skewered onto it. Whenever Zenmai Zamurai sees people doing injustice or generally being out of control, he uses his sword to shoot the dumplings into their mouths. When people eat the dumplings, they suddenly become happy and realize the error of their ways. He helps out the people of his village in many ways, big and small. Whenever he does well, a rainbow comes out of the sky to wind his key. His name and the theme of the show is based on a short Japanese proverb, "Ichinichi Ichizen" (一日一膳), which means "Do a good deed daily".
- Mamemaru (豆丸) - Zenmai's diminutive best friend and ninja in training. He's a nervous boy and wets his pants whenever he gets surprised or panics.
- Zukinchan (ずきんちゃん) - The main female character in the show. She's a good friend of Zenmai and they show a mutual affection towards each other. Her bonnet hides a large, brown afro. Zukinchan also has a pet dog with an afro named Botan (ぼたん).
- Chajiji (茶じじ) - Zukinchan's Grandfather. He's very protective of Zukinchan and has an eye for the younger women of the village. He's content to relax with a cup of tea in his red beret with his cat, Matcha(まっちゃ).
- Dangoyababa (だんごやばば) - The proprietor of the Ippuku Dumpling Shop. She is an older woman that has long lost her looks, but more often than not tries to look and act young and sexy, which is met with disgust by the men of the village.
- Namezaemon (なめざえもん)- He is the constant antagonist in the show. Namezaemon is a rich aristocrat that uses money to get what he wants. He is very arrogant and selfish. He is in love with Zukinchan and will do anything to get Zenmai out of the way.
- Mysterious Cupola Helmeted Man (謎の天蓋男) - He was sent by Daifukunokami to keep an eye on and document Zenmai's exploits in secret. However, in doing this, he often indirectly becomes the victim of some misfortune at the end of the program.
- Pierre (町人ピエール) - A blonde haired English teacher from Portugal. Even though his spoken Japanese has a strange accent, he studies hard and has quickly learned how to read and write in Japanese, as well as how to say some very difficult tongue-twisters. Dangoyababa is in love with him.
Zenmai is a shining example of good in his village, but the wind key in his head is big weakness. If he is struck by lightning, the polarity of goodness inverts and he becomes the evil Akutare Zamurai. Under this persona, he plays pranks on and makes life difficult for everyone. The dumplings on his Dango-ken also change to slimy balls which turn others evil when eaten.