A very pleasing Panda, and a very splendid Serpent

October 5, 2009

By Avi Green

Panda and the Magic Serpent (Hakujaden, The Tale of the White Serpent)

Director: Kazuhiko Okabe, Taiji Yabushita

Script: Taiji Yabushita
Screenplay: Shin Uehara

Music: Chûji Kishita, Hajime Kabura, Masayoshi Ikeda

Art director: Kazuhiko Okabe, Kiyoshi Hashimoto

Executive producer: Hiroshi Ôkawa

Animation:
Akemi ôta, Akira Sekiai, Chieko Ichihori, Chikao Tera, Daikichirou Kusube, Fumiko Motofuji, Gisaburô Sugii, Gun'yuki Torimaru, Haruko Kasai, Junko Ichimura, Katsuya Oda, Kazuko Nakamura, Kazuo Nozawa, Keiko Ishino, Kenzô Takao, Machiko Dazai, Makoto Nagasawa, Masako Sekiguchi, Masao Yamamuro, Masatake Kita, Michihiko Yoshida, Motoaki Ishii, Nobuyuki Fukushima, Norio Fujita, Reiko Okuyama, Shinpachirô Takamatsu, Shôji Etô, Shûji Konno, Sumiko Naganuma, Susumu Akasaka, Takeshi Fujii, Taku Sugiyama, Tamae Matsuguma, Tatsuo Shimamura, Tetsuta Ikuya, Toyohei Horigawa, Toyohei Horikawa, Yasuo Otsuka, Yasusaburô Watanabe, Yôko Katô, Yoshio Aiso, Yukiko Nakatani, Yurio Sakurai, Yûsaku Sakamoto

Backgrounds: Kazuo Kusano, Koichi Maeba

Cinematography: Takamitsu Tsukahara

Editing: Shinataro Miyamoto

In-Between Animation: Rintaro

Key Animation: Akira Daikubara, Yasuji Mori

Music Composition: Chuji Kinoshita

Photography: Mitsuaki Ishikawa

Planning: Hideyuki Takahashi, Sanae Yamamoto

Recording: Takeshi Mori

Studio: Toei Animation

This must be the first time I’m reviewing an anime production for this humble website of mine, and what better place to start but the first one that made its way to American shores prominently, Panda and the Magic Serpent.

It was first made in 1958, based on an ancient Chinese fairy tale, of a young boy, Xu-Xian, who falls in love with a beautiful girl named Bai-Niang who is actually a magical snake goddess he’d once known in his childhood. She later returns in their adult life during a magical storm, and reenters his life again, as well as those of his two pets, a panda and a raccoon.

So, these two fall in love, but the problem is that a local wizard guru learns about the girl’s being a serpent, and does what he can to oppose their affair, and has the boy banished to another province to keep him away. How will they convince him to reconsider?

The film is most beautifully animated, and the two pets serve for good comedy relief as is surely to be expected in cartoons like this, as they, along with Bai-Niang, set out to find Xu-Xian and reunite the two lovers together, eventually becoming the leaders of an animal gang.

Unlike a lot of anime productions today, this one is notable for its characters being drawn in Asian-Oriental style, rather than the more wide-eyed look that’s become commonplace since the 60s, but did have its origins in animals seen in early anime from years before. That doesn’t mean the more Oriental style has gone away completely, of course, but since that time, it’s still become rare.

This was the first anime filmed in color, and also the first to be imported to the US, and even before that, won honors at the Venice Children’s Film Festival in Italy in 1959. It was also very ahead of its time in the animation technology department, and is much better animated than some of the Disney Corp’s products.

It was great to get to see such a wonderful anime from an early time, an ideal way to get to understand how anime has evolved over the years. This is an amazing masterpiece.

Copyright 2009 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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