Panda Z Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: F

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Beez
  • MSRP: £24.99
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Panda-Z

Panda Z Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     January 19, 2007
Release Date: October 02, 2006

Panda Z Vol. #1
© Beez

What They Say
Robonimal World is under attack from the Warunimal Empire. Now, wearing the scarf left to him by his father, Pan-Taron takes flight in Panda-Z, the undefeatable robot built by his grandfather. So no matter how strong the enemy, the forces of good will always prevail!

The Review!

Given that there is no dialogue, I listened to the only audio track available. It's your standard stereo-mix, and actually sounds pretty good given it's just music and sound effects. There were no dropouts or distortions that I noticed, either.

Presented in widescreen, the video looks really good. It's crisp and sharp, showing off a really good transfer on the part of Beez. Colours are well-produced, and I didn't notice any aliasing, cross-colouration or other artefacts during regular playback.

The English subtitles are white, in a clearly readable font, and I didn't notice any glaring errors.

The front cover features a cute image of Pan-Taron, with the logo at the top, and a tagline and the volume number down the left side. It's a cover that really works well for the show, and the back cover is just as good. It has a good description of the show, clearly lists the bonus features, has some nice images of the entire cast, and a technical grid clearly listing the disc's specs.

Also coming with volume 1 is a great little figure of Panda-Z with a mini Pan-Taron inside, and this is clearly the best thing about the release. The box to hold the figure and the disc is a triangular shape and really stands out.

The main menu is quite funky if slightly irritating. It features an image of Panda-Z and the logo to the right side, while the three sub-menu selections adorn the bottom of the screen. Pan-Taron moves from left to right just above them, avoiding a grip that comes down from the top of the screen to "grab" the menu selection (it's like those games you find in arcades where you have to grab some cheap prize). It is a bit annoying though as you have to wait for the grip to be above your menu selection (there are only three positions) before you press enter so it comes down and grabs it. When you make a selection, it transitions to a sub-menu. The episode select menu is static while the bonus menu has some characters puffing in and out of smoke. Despite the way the main menu is set up to be a bit frustrating if you're trying to be quick, I do appreciate the effort that went in to making something that really fit the show.

The main extra here is part one of the interview with the creator, Shuichi Oshida (not the director as the packaging and menu state), which is really quite interesting since he talks for around six minutes about how he created the characters and this world. It does seem kind of strange to hear him talk so seriously about it, but clearly he has a passion for it. There are also five minutes worth of animatics, and a textless opening and ending. The best feature though is hidden (although it's not hard to find), and features a real life Panda-Z figure facing off against different animals.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Robonimation? Abomination more like! Apologies for the obvious joke but honestly, it's hard to think of a more accurate way to start the review, because that's exactly what Panda-Z is to me. This will probably end up being one of my shortest reviews ever, and I honestly worry about how I might approach volume 2. The show is, quite possibly, the single most pointless anime I have ever seen.

Although I don't like to compare other shows when I'm reviewing, an OVA called Cat Soup (or Nekojiru-So in Japan) proved that a somewhat interesting story could be made without using dialogue, just imagery. But for Panda-Z, this is just the first area in which the show falls flat on its face. The show exists as a series of short, sketches which run just under three minutes. There are 15 "episodes" on this disc, which (when you include the openings and endings that are present for each episode) brings the runtime to 75 minutes. Each sketch revolves around a different joke, not that I really found any of them particularly funny.

Also interspersed throughout the sketches are stills with writing on, that express the characters' emotions (when you can't tell from their expressions) and often try to explain the joke. While in this way they try and make up for dialogue, I couldn't help but feel some crazy-sounding Japanese voices (or, equally, English voices) over the text stills would have helped considerably. Alas, silence is what we have.

And if you're wondering why the story hasn't been mentioned yet " you guessed it " there really isn't one, although the back of the box does an interesting job of describing one. Pan-Taron is a brave young panda and boards Panda-Z, which is a giant robot (seen in a number of episodes) designed for combat. He must then fight the evil robonimals from the Warunimal Empire one after the other. Or at least that's what seems to happen in the first episode.

As an example, what we get there is Pan-Taron, aboard Panda-Z, fighting several other giants (the robonimals I would guess) in turn, in various "funny" ways. Then the last robonimal's eye catches fire, and the fireman comes! He waters them down, which obviously stops them functioning ("water is the natural enemy of machines"!) and thus a ceasefire is called. And that's it. They fight again more later, but that is literally what the episodes are like.

We have one where Pan-Taron and his grandfather are eating batteries, and the same jokes are strangely rehashed over and over. Another where everyone runs out in the rain to try and rescue Rabinna, but gets wet. Yet another where everyone is looking at a poster and discussing it. Some episodes even have continuations, like the one where they rescue Rabinna. Unfortunately, whether I just missed some of the jokes because they are parodying things I haven't seen, or I just don't get them, very few actually clicked with me.

In fact the one amusing episode revolved around Denwan, the phone. Everyone is at a picnic and receives a call, until suddenly a robonimal shows up. Pan-Taron needs to call Panda-Z, but how? Well, use Denwan of course. Except Denwan just extends his hand and says you have to pay for calls, because he is a payphone after all. It's kind of funny when the punch line comes, and game me a slight laugh, but compared to everything else, it's an insignificant point.

Sure, the characters look cute and are an obvious merchandise opportunity, just look at the figure included in the first pressings of this volume for proof, but at the end of the disc the whole thing just feels empty. Big kudos to Beez for putting the show on two discs though, since the US release bizarrely spread it over six volumes, so you effectively got about 15 minutes of new content per disc. Still, it can't really make up for the show's severe failings, and after 15 episodes I just can't bring myself to say much good about.

In Summary:
The best thing about this show for me is its presentation " it's another quality package from Beez. Unfortunately, the show itself just did not click for me at all, and it felt like there was no point to it at all. That might be part of the joke, but when you're paying £20 or so for a disc, it's not really a funny one. Given the severe lack of actual show (despite tripling what is on the US release per-disc), at just 45 minutes or so worth, I can't bring myself to recommend this show. In fact, I am dreading watching the second disc.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Subtitles,Interview with the Creator (Part 1),Cinematics,Textless Opening and Ending

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.


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