Panda Go Panda! (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Christopher Homer
Review Date: Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Release Date: Monday, July 06, 2009

Warning: Watching Panda Go Panda may cause melting due to way too much charm…

What They Say
Cheerful Mimiko has a very strange family for a little girl - a Panda for her Papa, and his son, Panny, calls her Mom! Join this happy family and their many adventures! When Panny follows Mimiko to school, he must pretend to be a teddy bear so Mimiko won't get into trouble, but everyone wants a cute Panda! Despite his efforts to behave, Panny causes trouble in the school kitchen, and now the whole school is after Panny! Then, Panny makes a new friend, Tiny, a baby tiger who's wandered off from the circus. Getting Tiny back to his mom becomes the first adventure, but after a hard rain, the whole town is flooded and Mimiko, Papa Panda and Panny must rescue Tiny and other animals from the trapped circus train!

The Review!
Audio:
For this review, I watched it in the 2.0 standalone Japanese. With both audios in standard stereo format, I was impressed with the remastering of the episodes to a concise and clear format. There were minor niggles regarding timing with the subtitles at times, but it was barely noticeable unless you are really looking. Clear and concise with no distortions, it’s a sound release audio wise. And I dare you to get that theme tune out of your head. Really, try – it’s impossible.

Video:
A remastered version of Panda Go Panda shows very well considering the original release was back in 1972 (yes, I’ve finally reviewed an anime older than I am) – very smooth transition with no problem with playback or bordering. Again, like a few other Manga releases I’ve looked at, there is a slight problem with timing with the subtitles however it’s not as noticeable as in some other releases and it’s still very fluid reminding me of the classic 80s cartoons of the generation. Very nice.

Packaging:
No packaging was supplied for this disc.

Menu:
The menu is very basic with a shot of Mimiko, Papa Pandy, Panny (Pan-chan) and Tiny all smiling on a bright blue background. The menu is easy to navigation between play, menus and extras – nothing fancy regarding background but it’s straight forward and does things as they are without any problems.

Extras:
Two rather nice extras come with the release. First is the original Japanese opening of Panda Go Panda, which is like being in the 70s with the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – it’s very trippy.

The big extras is two nice biographies on the director of Panda Go Panda, Isao Takahata, and the legendary Hayao Miyazaki who worked alongside him. The Takahata biography is the main one as it explains his relationship with Miyazaki, his work as an animator, director and producer, whilst the Miyazaki biography is mostly about his famous works he’s done. It’s a nice little extra to have.

Content:
Panda Go Panda is what many consider to be the precursor to My Neighbour Totoro, back when Studio Ghibli was back in it’s infancy. The immediate look at the Papa Panda’s face reinforces that belief as the animation look is definitely got the look of Totoro. And it’s pleasant that in this day and age, that an anime over 35 years old can easily beat a lot of what’s on today because whilst not realistic in any way, it’s simply fun, sweet and charming, and definitely something both kids and adults can enjoy.

We are introduced to Mimiko, an energetic and somewhat innocent little girl, who is seeing off her grandmother on the train, as she intends to live on her own in the peaceful town she resides in. Whilst you wonder what Japan was thinking showcasing a little girl on her own in the mid 70s, it becomes even more weirder when she returns home after shopping, saying she wants to meet some burglars ‘as she’s never seen one’ when at the door there is a baby panda there. Shy at first, Mimiko immediately befriends it, and doesn’t find it shocking it can talk. Nor the fact that the much larger Papa Panda is outside enjoying the bamboo grove by Mimiko’s house. And it can talk as well. Mimiko is innocent but energetic, welcoming the panda family into the house, Papa Panda becoming Mimiko’s ‘dad’ whilst Baby Panda, known as Pan-chan (or Panny in the dub/subtitles) has a new mother as Mimiko becomes it’s new mom. The first episode then consists of how the new family briefly enjoys life, before it’s revealed that the pandas have escaped the zoo and are being looked for. A lot of fun moments for people to enjoy include how both Panny and Papa showcase their abnormal strength on mean dogs, Baby has to learn how to become a stuffed animal at school, and the finale where Panny falls into a river and about to be sucked into a waterfall where Mimiko, Papa and the whole town try to save it. It ends very sweetly and then amazingly comically as the Pandas stick with Mimiko, as Papa Panda now becomes a worker for the zoo!

The second and final episode is similar, this time a ringmaster and his assistant are looking for a baby tiger which has escaped. Mimiko thinks they are burglars, and Papa Panda welcomes them…much to their horror as they flee. In a Goldilocks moment though, Tiny has eaten Panny’s food and sleeping in Panny’s bed, so the discovery of the baby tiger makes them both panic. Mimiko however of course is more than happy at the energetic tiger, and becomes a brief addition to the family. With the circus in town, Mimiko is very inquisitive as is Panny, so he and Tiny go there which leads to Panny causing all sorts of chaos. After finds momma Tiger, a tense moment of course becomes charming with Mimiko just being sweet and able to befriend all the animals (these ones not speaking compared to the pandas and Tiny) just before a flood hits the town. It causes havoc for the Panda family, and even more so for the circus train, as the humans have fled and the animals are stuck on a train. The superhuman strength of Papa Panda combined with the resourcefulness of Mimiko (and the playing of Panny and Tiny) causes a very fun ending as they have to stop the train from crashing into the town as well as avoid drowning and starving the animals – it’s a literal and classic case of a fairytale ending.

The show is obviously designed for children – Mimiko’s way too innocent with her happy go lucky nature of living her own in safety and wanted to see a burglar, and the unrealistic strength of the papa Panda (stopping a train by himself, lifting giraffes out of trains) may seem a bit silly to any adult. However, the show is so utterly charming that you can’t help but just enjoy it for what it is. All the 3 main characters (4 when Tiny joins) are so fun and you can’t help but smile – it’s clear Papa Panda was an inspiration for Totoro and there are elements of Lupin III here as well, an interesting mixture from Miyazaki and Takahata – a charming score and the ability to deal with problems with a smile and a grin is so different from a lot of today’s works, it’s shows how appreciative you can be of an older show just because it is so simple. And as we all know, pandas are awesome. This show just cements it.

Summary:
Panda Go Panda is not something you should try to think too hard about – it’s unrealistic, simple and not really plotworthy aside from a family of pandas living with a little girl. However, it’s that type of unrealism which makes this two episode OVA so charming. The characters will warm your hearts, you’ll smile at their attempts and successes to deal with their problems, you’ll cheer at the end, and you’ll wonder how you can get the opening theme out of your head now. Just sit back, relax, get your children, cousins, nieces, nephews to join you and just get drawn into the panda-vision. Definitely worth a fun rent at least.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, Clean Original Japanese Opening, Biographies

Review Equipment

Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: NA
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 and Up
Region: 2 - Europe/Japan
Released By: Manga UK
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 70
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Panda! Go Panda!