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Panda! Go, Panda!/Rainy-Day Circus Anime DVD Review

7 min read

When in doubt, make that panda your papa.

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:
The audio presentation for this release, at least in the Japanese form, is a good upgrade over the previous release as the stereo mix is encoded at 385kbps and there’s a noticeable difference in the overall quality of it. The English mix is in stereo as well as it was before and it’s kept to 192kbps. Not that the show makes any huge strides with less audio compression, but it’s a good mix overall that deals with the forward soundstage as you’d expect for a show of this age with the center channel/full feeling. The music is the brightest spot but the dialogue comes across cleanly as well, especially in the Japanese track. There’s a good, professional feel to it that comes to life well and will make fans of the show happy.

Originally released in two parts in 1972 and 1973, the transfer for this special is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. I don’t have my previous edition to do a direct comparison, but the show has a very good look to it overall with the colors coming across clean, bright and without much in the way of noise. Detail isn’t exactly a huge factor here but the classic hand drawn animation has a certain warmth to it that does shine through here. The show is pretty much free of any serious issues such as cross coloration or aliasing and is, from my memory, probably the cleanest that the show has looked in its North American release.

The release comes in a standard sized black keepcase that has a pretty appealing look to it that should have it on lots of store shelves instead of just specialty markets. With a bright blue and green background that shows off the house Mimiko lives in, the foreground gives us the two Panda’s and they’re adorable. The combination of this with the background works well as it keeps things simple but it has a very appealing and happy look to it. Add in the very cute logo that uses the black and white to it with a bit of flair with the red and it just works very well for what it is. The back cover is a little Discotek traditional with three strips of color dominating it where the top has a quote from us from our previous site (woo!), the middle has the premise of the show while the bottom has production credits and the technical information which is all clearly laid out. There aren’t any show related inserts nor is there a reversible cover. It’s a good looking release overall, especially considering the age of the show and what materials may be available.

The menu design for this release is very, very adorable and left me smiling, though it may not be a menu that I could leave running for an extended time. With an orange background to it, the center has papa panda dancing and six little ones, three to a side, dancing/walking along with him. Set to the music, it’s very fun to watch it at first and it definitely sets the mood, but it can grate after a few minutes. Underneath it we get the navigation menu, which also includes the logo in the middle, and it’s done similar to the front cover text overall which gives it a fun feeling. Everything is quick and easy to navigate and the submenus load quickly, making for an enjoyable experience.

The extras for this release are pretty welcome since some of it comes from after the previous US edition was released. Notably, we get the 13 minute video piece from 2008 at the Ghibli Museum where it shows off the early Panda Go Panda storyboards and the influence of it both on the people who saw it years ago as well as the subsequent generations. It’s definitely a great new piece that’s worth the price of admission alone for the stoyboards and the impact of it all. The big extra that makes it all the more worthwhile is the 40 minute retrospective piece that deals with the films director, Isao Takahata, that goes into a whole lot of aspects of the original work and its impact. It’s a great little one on one piece that really serves the shows well. And, thankfully, we also get the original trailer for the works. These run just over five minutes and are a great look at how they were advertised.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the best releases from back in the dawn of the DVD age was the 2000 release of this show from Pioneer. It had its appeal for anime fans in general because of its origins with Hayao Miyazaki, and you can easily see the Totoro (and Ponyo!) influences in it, but it had a lot more meaning for adults with kids. I only had an infant at that point, but in the years that followed, with this show on the kids shelf, it was and is watched very regularly. It can almost be quoted verbatim in many parts, never mind the catchy music. And as they rewatch it and then see the later Miyazaki films, even as single digit kids, they can see the influences easily. And that’s just fantastic to watch.

While the kids have watched it regularly, I haven’t seen it in several years (though I hear the music often!). So going back into it, and realizing that I first saw it all the way back in the summer of 2000, it was really surprising to realize that it’d been that long. Though it has been awhile, it’s not exactly a show that’s hard to forget. The story revolves around a little girl named Mimiko whose grandmother that she lives with is heading away to deal with a family problem. Mimiko, having no parents, gets to live alone and do things on her own for a bit, though everyone in town is looking out for her while alternately trying to scare her a little about things such as burglars breaking in. What they didn’t prepare her for though is the arrival of a papa panda and a baby panda at her house.

Mimiko, being the cute girl she is, takes them in and treats the papa as her own papa and plays mama to the baby. It all just goes weird from there in an inconsistent way that surprisingly does work as while the pandas can talk, other animals can’t, and the pandas do what they can to help out Mimiko. It does have its unusual moments from a present day perspective, since there’s encouragement of a young child living alone and that she does her best to get papa to smoke his pipe. And, of course, living with oversized animals like this isn’t exactly a good idea either. But it’s just plain fun and even though there’s some drama about things when the adults find out about it, you know it’s going to end well. Including having the panda’s changing from having gotten out of the zoo to now working at the zoo instead.

In Summary:
The stories are cute here as they unfold, with a second one dealing with tigers getting involved, but it’s definitely an acquired taste in a way. I can see this show being a bit hard for non-Miyazaki fans and those without kids, but there’s a certain charm and innocence about this. The stories here are cute and certainly what you’d expect from the early 70’s, but the appeal is definitely seeing how things have been used by Miyazaki in the later years. This is the kind of show that is a wonderful gateway drug for kids to show them something when they’re young and then you can move them onto Ghibli proper. And it’s also a show you can put on when you just want to feel good and enjoy something that’s simple but life affirming in its own way. I can’t say anything bad about this show and it’s one that everyone should have even if only just to share with young relatives in the family.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Panda Go Panda Exhibit, Isao Takahata Interview, Original Trailer Collection

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: April 17th, 2012
MSRP: $19.95
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.