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DVD Review

DVD cover

Panda! Go Panda!


Starring (voice): Kazuko Sugiyama, Kazuo Kumakura and Yoshiko Ohta
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: U
Available 06 July 2009

Left home alone by her grandmother, parentless Mimiko befriends a small panda and soon enough both the young panda and his father have moved into Mimiko’s house creating a new family unit. The father takes the role of concerned patriarch, replacing the parents which Mimiko no longer has, whilst Mimiko takes on the role of mother for the young panda. Things go well until the local police arrive to check on Mimiko...

Panda! Go Panda! (1972-1973 - 1 hr, 11 min, 39 sec) is actually a presentation of the two Panda films - Panda! Go Panda! and The Circus in the Rain. This represents Hayao Miyazaki’s first original work for Nippon Animation, predating the extraordinary work he would do for Studio Ghibli with Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Princess Mononoke (1997) and the award winning Spirited Away (2001). Both of the Panda films were directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Pom Poko (1994)).

The story is simple in its construction, as befits two tales aimed at children, but have many of the elements which would appear in his later films; especially the relationship between children and their parents have their genesis here. In many ways Panda can be viewed as the forerunner of My Neighbour Totoro (1988) with Mimiko’s relationship with the father panda.

Panda! Go Panda! sets the scene for us with the Pandas moving in and scenes of delight as Mimiko is able to engage in a normal family life, the light-hearted comedy comes from the reaction of the locals as they try to adjust to this new family unit. The Circus in the Rain continues the story with the family having to cope with burglars who are actually searching for Tiny, a baby tiger who has moved into the house. When they return him to his mother, the group ends up rescuing the circus animals from a flood.

The film looks like it might be a conversion from either a VHS copy or an American print, the picture is very soft and there is evident colour bleed around objects, plus a few spots of dirt, though for two features which are over thirty years old, it still looks pretty good. The disc is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with a 2.0 audio track, Either in English or in Japanese with subtitles. The disc arrives with a few extras, more notable being the original opening sequence. There is also a page each of creator biographies for both Takahata and Mitazaki.

Overall the two stories have a charm which Miyazaki would expand on in his later works. A nice addition for fans and something which the whole family is likely to enjoy.


Charles Packer

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