The Ishinomori Manga Museum located in Ishinomaki City, Japan, is currently presenting a special exhibit dedicated to one of Hayao Miyazaki’s works. But it’s not The Boy and the Heron, his new release, nor is it one of his other famous movies, like Spirited Away. Instead, it’s an early and much more obscure piece — Panda! Go Panda!, which was directed by both Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and debuted in 1972. That’s more than a decade prior the start of Studio Ghibli.
The exhibit, which will last through February 18, lets people check out actual storyboards used in the project, plus there are recreations of scenes. There are places people can pose, and there’s a limited time special menu, with options including PapaPanda Pasta or Flustered Panny Curry. There’s even the option of going into “the house of Mimiko,” referencing the main character. There is also merchandise, such as bags, T-shirts, keychains and pens, all themed around Panda! Go Panda!
While Panda! Go Panda! might not be Spirited Away, it still has an international fanbase. GKIDS has licensed Panda! Go Panda! and gave this description for its plot:
First known as Panda Kopanda (translation: Panda, Baby Panda), it initially premiered in Japan at the height of the panda craze in September 1972. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Panda! Go Panda! is a charming early-career classic from animation legends Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki before they went on to co-found the legendary Studio Ghibli.
Mimiko is a cheerful, young girl who is left on her own while her grandmother is away. When little Panny Panda and his father Papanda stumble into her home, Mimiko welcomes them in as her new family. Adventures ensue as Mimiko discovers the challenges of taking care of her new cuddly friends.
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.