Panda-Z Vol. #1 (also w/figure) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 14 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 14.98/19.98
  • Running time: 30
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Panda-Z

Panda-Z Vol. #1 (also w/figure)

By Chris Beveridge     August 31, 2005
Release Date: September 13, 2005


Panda-Z Vol. #1 (also w/figure)
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Remember Speed Racer? How ‘bout Hello Kitty and your favorite 80s giant robots? Well, lets throw all these in a pot, stir well, and what do you get? Panda-Z!!

Panda-Z follows the hilarious misadventures of Pan-Taron and his giant robot Panda-Z as they battle the evil skull Panda and his notorious Warunimal forces!


The Review!
A series of five shorts, follow the adventures of Pan-Taran as he flies his giant robot, shows table manners and shows how to cheat at cards.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. At first I was really confused as to why Bandai wasn't dubbing this show since the Japanese track is the only one available and I knew so little about the title that it was just odd. Well, after viewing the show, it certainly makes sense as there isn't any real dialogue. Any spoken lines are done in the old silent film style of title cards on the screen which are soft subtitled. The stereo mix otherwise is pretty decent but it's not a really expressive track and it does feel more like a full mix than anything else.

Video:
Originally released to video in 2004, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original full frame format. With it only being one episode and being very simple but effectively smooth animation, this is a simply gorgeous looking piece for what it is. There's definitely detail to be found in the designs and layouts but the majority of it is bright bold colors and simple expressive character designs. The plus is that with as much of the bitrate thrown at it as possible, there's pretty much no problem with how this looks here. This simply looks fantastic and is kept in its original release format completely.

Packaging:
The cover design for this release is really simple and cute with the grid background while the foreground works with the basic colors of black and white and red, we get a cute image of the giant robot panda and Pan-Taron riding inside of it. This is a cute looking cover and the more I look at it the more I just start chuckling cause it's cute and is well laid out here. The back cover has a similar design and gives you a quick rundown of the premise (as if there really is one) as well as a screenshot for each episode number and title listed here. The discs production information is clearly listed along the bottom though I still pine for a real technical grid.

Menu:
The menu layout uses the same kind of style as the front cover with one side gridded out and the other a black section where the navigation is laid out. The usual selections are here, including a setup section because Bandai rocks and ensures that you can run the show without subtitles if you want, and access times are nice and fast. The menus are fairly basic but they work nicely and are in theme for the show. With the minimal audio on the release, the player preset issue isn't exactly an issue this time around.

Extras:
The extras are minimal but cute with a 3D clip of the show and a textless opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Panda-Z is incredibly easy to describe. Go Nagai was drunk and made a joke or two, possibly even a couple of drawings while in a karaoke bar, and some producer saw it the next morning. Not realizing it was a gag never to be animated, it ended up as an OVA and Nagai saw the potential for mass merchandising and let it roll. Keeping with the minimal effort that Nagai put into the designs, they went so far as to avoid needing voice actors and used the silent film format of title cards after dialogue sections.

Ok, that's all made up but it's my belief on how it must have happened because this is the kind of show where you know somebody had to be daring someone else to make it and someone blinked. The show is comprised of a series of five minute episodes, five of which are on this volume. Each episode is made up thusly; a ninety second opening, three minutes of content and thirty seconds for a closing. In five minutes flat you're done and over with. This works rather well considering the gags that are being told but even with a three minute run time per episode some of it just runs too long. Yes, too long.

The world is made up of Panda's and numerous robots as well as apparently a mad yellow bull that occasionally challenges Pan-Taron to matches with their giant robots. Pan-Taron's giant robot is a cute looking beast that's basically a giant panda with part of its head cut off so Pan-Taron can sit and look all around. The movements and style is all done in the old style of moving robots with big circular areas and life-like movement. But that's only part of the show as they do other things, such as an episode on table manners where Pan-Taron has trouble eating his batteries. This runs for three minutes while signs flash by that eating batteries isn't recommended as well as numerous other warnings.

In Summary:
There's really not a lot to say about the show. It's cute, it has a slightly off sense of humor and it's well animated. This is exactly the kind of show that belongs mixed into an evening of Adult Swim shows that aren't part of the anime section. It's very easy to see the appeal of the show and with an unknown number of episodes being produced in Japan it's equally obvious why they're doing it one block of episodes per volume like they are. The price is at least right so that with discounts you can snag it for under ten bucks and it's the kind of show that you can easily show off to friends who aren't into anime. I certainly got some laughs out of it but like a lot of what's on Adult Swim, I roll my eyes at a lot of it as well.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Bonus 3-D Animation Clip,Textless Opening


Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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