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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2000



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 in many adventures! When Panny follows Mimiko to school, he must pretend to be a teddy bear so Mimiko won't get in 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 and Panny must rescue Tiny and other animals from the trapped circus train!

The Review!
Panda! Go Panda! was originally released as two separate pieces of animation attached to movies in 1971 and 1973 respectively. So not only are they almost 30 years old, but they're aimed at kids. They're basically a two ton brick being thrown into the lake that is anime releases. It's not something that will go over very well with the majority of fandom at large.

Which is both sad and good. Sad in the fact that this very well done and very cute show won't get a wider notice among the more hardcore fan. Good in the fact that the people who will scoop it up are Miyazaki-holics, and many of them are in the same position I am; late twenties, married, kids. This is one of those shows that we remember from our youth in the 70's and it brings back great memories for me.

Thankfully, even though it's a children's show, Pioneer included the Japanese track and properly translated subtitles. The disc contains both English and Japanese language tracks with the English in stereo and the Japanese in its original mono. Both tracks sounded clean and undistorted. The opening song, which is incredible catchy, is still with me hours later. Days later. Someone help me.

The disc is single layered since there's only 70 minutes worth of animation, but the bit rate is consistently high in the 7-8 range with several peaks in the 10 area. Video quality is very high, and even though the show is very old by today's anime standards, it looks stunningly good. I never expected it to look anywhere near this good, especially based on how poorly many older shows have been stored in Japan. While the animation itself isn't the fluid and deep stuff we see today, the colors are solid, the line work is great with minimal line noise, and the overall presentation of it is just top notch.

The cover art used didn't wow me too much, but it's not really aimed at the adult market but as an eye catch for kids. My four month old promptly started gnawing on it. I don't think that really means much though. The back cover gives a good rundown of the show and prominently lists its creative staff to their advantage. Disc information is also well presented and the specs quickly found and accurate to boot.

What came as a complete surprise for this release was the menus. Full animation, parts of the opening song. A quick trip to the extras menu and checking out the DVD credits verifies my suspicion. Nightjar is on the case again. The menus are simply wonderful. The entire design of the menus, though simple with simple animation, really adds a lot to it and begins the addictiveness of the opening song. Selections are made quickly, providing you don't linger to watch the animated bits. Another notch in the quality menus. Pioneer needs to hire these guys full time for all their menus. So does every other company.

The extras on the disc are fairly minimal, but it's nice to see both Miyazaki and Takahata get their due. A nice plus is the inclusion of the original opening sequence, since this one was localized a bit for all the kids who will be watching the dub.

The show itself is a lot of fun, and I found myself smiling through a lot of it and laughing in many places. The story revolves around a little girl named Mimiko. Her grandmother leaves to go to a funeral out of town, leaving Mimiko by herself. Mimiko has no parents, yet is well adjusted and a very pleasant girl. When she returns home after seeing her grandmother off, Mimiko finds a little Panda that she promptly names Panny and then his father. Since she's alone, she invites both to stay and decides for them to become a family.

And yes, the Panda's talk. So do about all of the animals that are encountered in both of these episodes. The character designs are pretty basic and the animation isn't terribly fluid, but it's very well done for its time and holds up very well. The stories are very cute and all the characters are endearing. It's a very solid children's release.

For fans of Miyazaki's work, you'll definitely see the seeds of Totoro in here as well as some other classic bits of Miyazaki magic. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Directors Biography,Creators Biography,Original Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Panda! Go Panda!