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Panda! Go Panda!

Thursday 28th March 2013

Helen McCarthy embraces panda-monium

Panda! Go Panda!

On 17th December 1972, Hayao Miyazaki's first short feature as screenwriter was released. Riding a wave of panda fever after the introduction of two Chinese pandas in Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, Panda Kopanda (released in English as Panda! Go Panda!) did well enough for distributor Toho put a sequel in Japanese cinemas just four months later.

Panda Kopanda (Panda and Child) and its follow-up Rainy Day Circus were directed by Miyazaki's lifelong friend and colleague Isao Takahata, with Miyazaki also taking a hand on design and key animation. Widely considered a prototype for My Neighbour Totoro, Miyazaki later said it was the first anime he made specifically for children, especially his two little sons, and that he made Totoro because he wanted to repeat the experience. The earliest sketches for Totoro show a girl remarkably like Panda! Go Panda's heroine Mimiko: she later became two sisters. Little sister Mei got her red hair and pigtails, while Satsuki inherited her domestic competence and both had her adventurous, independent persona.

The story is a simple little-girl fantasy of playing house and being mummy, tragically framed by a sense of loss. Mimiko is an orphan who lives with her grandmother. She's left alone when Grandmother has to make a long train trip to Nagasaki, levelled by a nuclear bomb less than thirty years earlier, for Grandfather's memorial service.

Panda! Go Panda!No mention of old sorrow creeps into this candy-coloured world; the death of Mimiko's family is a plot device. She's confident and capable enough to look after herself and lives in a supportive community, but her tiny rural village is devoid of playmates and she gets lonely. The arrival of a cuddly, caring daddy Panda and his cute little cub in need of a mother makes her world perfect, providing companionship, an indulgent yet protective father figure, a baby sibling to cuddle and mother, and the ultimate soft toys.

The first movie focuses on the family feeling that grows between Mimiko and the pandas. Initially attracted by food – the bamboo grove around Mimiko's house - they soon settle into a typical Japanese routine, with Papa coming home each evening to his pipe and slippers while the little mistress of the house rushes about taking care of everyone.

Panda! Go Panda!The second film ventures into fairytale territory, with circus staff looking for a lost baby tiger. Feisty Mimiko is overjoyed when she finds them in the house, thinking they're burglars, but the adventure of scaring them away is only the beginning of an action-packed mystery taking in a huge storm, floods and a runaway train. The story ends happily, with Mimiko at the heart of her self-constructed family, surrounded by friends and enjoying a day at the circus. Family, Miyazaki seems to say, is what you make it, even if all you have to make it from is a small community and a couple of plush toys.

Panda! Go Panda! is available on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment

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One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.


Comicon Pics

Just some of the Comicon cosplays, photographed by Paul Jacques
As promised, here are just a few of the pictures taken by our photographer Paul Jacques at the MCM Comicon this May. Some pretty amazing stuff on offer behind the LINK.

Nura Rise of the Yokai Music: LM.C

Tom Smith on the rise of the UK clan
LM.C are amongst a very elite type of Japanese musician. The clan they belong to is so exclusive that its numbers barely reach into the double digits. And its members are also a diverse bunch, including a guitar legend named Tomoyasu Hotei, a boiler-suited new-wave trio called POLYSICS, to a dark, heavy noise making machine dubbed Dir en grey. There’s even pop goddess Hikaru Utada in there too to balance things out.
Check out the first teaser trailer of the upcoming Godzilla: Resurgence (Shin Godzilla) film.

Creating Nausicaa

The story behind Hayao Miyazaki’s first and greatest heroine
“There has come the advent of the angel of light, the one who will lead you to the pure land. She who loves the forest and talks with the insects… She who calls down the wind, and rides upon it like a bird. And that one shall come to you, garbed in raiment of blue, descending upon a field of gold, to forge anew our ties with the lost land.”
Best girl, a subject even more hotly debated than the age-old sub vs dub argument. Everyone has their own particular favourite, but who is truly the best girl?
Commuters that pass through Shinjuku Station in Tokyo this week are treated to a fantastic wall display of 7,649 Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.

Jimmy Murakami 1933-2014

Andrew Osmond remembers the man who did it all
By way of an obituary, we re-run Andrew Osmond's interview with the late Jimmy Murakami, originally published in March 2012.

Dragon Ball UK DVD Release Details

Clarification of a few details
Since our announcement we have had it confirmed by TOEI Animation (The Licensor) that the masters being used for our release will be those used in Australia by Madman Entertainment. At the time of our announcement this had not been confirmed to us.
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