Synopsis: When Mimiko's grandmother goes away on a trip, she is left at home alone to take care of herself. Fortunately, a baby panda named Panny and its papa finds their way to Mimiko's house. Papa Panda tells Mimiko that a child shouldn't be growing up without a parent and somehow, ends up becoming Mimiko's father. In the meantime, since Panny has no mother, Mimiko volunteers to be just that. A strange new family is formed, composed of Papa Panda, Mama / Sister Mimiko, and Baby Panny...! What adventures lie ahead for the trio?
Review: Panda Go Panda is one of anime masters Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away") and Isao Takahata's ("Grave of the Fireflies") initial collaborations, originally released in the early 70's. Miyazaki wrote the story and worked on the animation, while Takahata directed the production. I actually got the Panda Go Panda DVD for my son, who's very much enamored with Miyazaki's "My Neighbor Totoro". As expected, we were both enchanted by Panda Go Panda's disarming simplicity.
Two episodes make up Panda Go Panda. The first one, entitled "Panda Family", shows us how Mimiko and the pandas ended up together. Mimiko gets home from the station after seeing of her grandmother off, only to find a baby panda napping by the window of her house. Papa Panda appears a bit later, and the three happily form a family. But the pandas are actually escapees from the local zoo, and how everything works out in the end is nothing short of whimsical and amusing. In the second episode entitled "The Circus in the Rain", Mimiko, Panny, and Papa Panda get themselves in a tricky situation when a fierce storm strikes while a travelling circus is setting up in town. A really bad flood arises, and the circus people fail to round up the animals in time to move to a safe place. Mimiko, Panny, and Papa Panda go off to save the animals... in their own unique fashion.
While the overall visual style is simple, the effect is very quaint and charming. Traces of Miyazaki's later works can be seen in the character designs. Papa Panda reminded me of Totoro, while some of the human characters looked like they stepped right out of "Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro". The theme song is really catchy as well -- both my little boy and my hubby were singing it in no time. Panda Go Panda is a pleasure to watch whether you choose the English or Japanese track because the English dubbing is exceptionally done. The voices and the acting fit the characters perfectly.
Panda Go Panda is fresh, wholesome, and just plain fun. It's a welcome break from more complicated anime fare, or even the humdrum of everyday life. Truly something anyone of any age can enjoy at face value.
Miscellanies: The DVD includes Panda Kopanda's original, unadulterated opening sequence as an extra... something which I happened to like a lot. Pioneer changed the opening sequence into a lame screencap slideshow for some reason.