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Reviews & Articles: Panda Kopanda

Fan Reviews & Articles

  1. Eric J. Henwood-Greer, 20 July 1996.


Panda Kopanda Review
By Eric J. Henwood-Greer
un125 at

Finally, here it is: The Panda Kopanda review! (I watched it about a week ago so some of my thoughts may seem a bit fuzzy, and the usual warnings of my reviews should be taken in affect for this, as it probably will get pretty rambly).

For those who don't know, Panda Kopanda and Panda Kopanda and the Rainy Day Circus, were two 30 minute featurettes, directed by Takahata and written by Miyazaki, that were released theatrically in the early 70's. I have heard some say they came out on TV and not theatrically, but, though the video is pan and scan, in some scenes like the credits it's obvious you're missing some of the picture on either side.

The main interest for this film for Ghibli otakus, and the one that's made it rather infamous among fans who haven't watched it than other obscure Miyazaki/Takahata anime is that it's often called a Totoro prototype. It definitely is, but the two films are so vastly different, and I don't think Panda would appeal to all for the same audience of Totoro.

Both featurettes start with similar credits, and the same song. This is one of the most infectious songs I have ever heard, not so much for its beat, or even memorable melody like many anime songs, but for its simple, child-like tune and easy to remember chorus of "Panda Kopanda Kopanda" (repeat ad infinitum). The opening sequence for both Panda and Totoro (which are basically the same, with individual, brightly colored cards, with the credits and around the credits, cute [often adorable] pictures of the films lead characters in funny poses, etc) strike me as quite similar, and I think it must be because this song in a way reminds me of the comparitively far more complex "Sampo" (the OP for Totoro, of course). And the actual drawings remind me as similar, I guess they're in a similar style to the cutsiefied (almost super-deformed) Mei and the animals in the Totoro OP. Also [the] Panda [theme] starts with a row of bouncily-animated pandas who join together and explode (as it were, though I mean explode abstractly) to reveal the title, much as the Totoro's bounce and turn into the characters for the title of Totoro, and in both OPs near the middle we see the bouncing characters again briefly.

Anyway the basic plot is that Mimiko's grandma is leaving to visit some friends, and must leave little Mimiko by herself (!!). Mimiko is quite small, I guess around Mei's age, and reminds me of Pippi Longstockings, both with her red hair and pig tails (tho they don't stick right out like Pippi's) the fact that she lives alone and her playful attitude when trouble or problems occur. Maybe she was a remnant left from Takahata and Miyazaki's ill-fated Pippi feature?

After finally persuading her Grandma to leave, and seeing her off on the train, Mimiko returns home to find by her house a tiny, baby panda. It turns out he's alive (Kopanda), and they quickly become friends and then big Panda arrives. And he's big! But very friendly, and he becomes as it were Mimiko's surrogate father while her Grandma's away, and Mimiko becomes something of Kopanda's mother, although she truly seems to bw mother for the big Panda as well. Many really CUTE adventures, and little scenes happen between them, then Mimiko's policeman friend sees the panda and is afraid it seems that he's dangerous to Mimiko. But in the end of course it ends happily with a reprise of the song:) The sequel, Panda Kopanda and the Rainy Day Circus is quite similar, with Grandma away (unexplainably) again, but this time with a circus arriving (complete with a cute baby Tiger who becomes fast friends with Kopanda), and a rainy day that rains so much that the rain floods up to Mimiko's house, and with Panda's help she saves the Circus animals who are trapped in the circus train under water.

Both short films are incredible innocent fun to watch! The second being the better of the two overall (in fact I think my memories of the first are clouded and overshadowed by the second). The aniamtion style will tell you from the start that it's quite different from Totoro. Imagine all of Totoro animated in the style that it's opening is done in and you begin to get the picture. No pains are taken to making backgrounds or anything look realistic, and Mimiko almost has an agressive tho compelling cuteness! (Whenever she's really happy she stands on her hands with her legs in the air stretched right out, something Kopanda often tries to do and finally succeeds in doing, and Panda himself tries on numerous occasions to disastrous results. The baby Tiger can do it too but by standing on his tail [CUTE!] ) The story really is quite straightforward and complex, I don't see how any real meanings could be breathed into this, it's just *fun*. I think this may be what Miyazaki had in mind for his original plan of Totoro which would be for preschoolers and be quite short. Because of these reasons I don't think it has the adult appeal Totoro does, tho it doesn't suffer the fate of many things for kids here, in that adults can enjoy it even by themselves and not feel embarassed or insulted by it:) Oh, one more Totoro comparison, Kopanda, Mimiko and even the little Tiger jump and "stick" onto Panda much like the girls do to Totoro.

"Panda Kopanda, Kopanda...."


View the original as posted to the Miyazaki Mailing List
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