With the English language release of Ponyo imminent, and his recent promotional and speaking visit to the US causing a stir, there’s no denying that there’s a buzz around Hayao Miyazaki at the moment. And it’s a buzz that’s not just getting the attention of anime fans, but also grabbing the interest of the wider mainstream media and audiences – something that is, arguably, long overdue. As such it’s either luck or great timing that Manga Entertainment have just released Panda! Go Panda! on DVD here in the UK, and while it’s been out in the US for several years, this was the first time I’d had a chance to sit down and watch this early chapter in Miyazaki-san’s career.
Some of you may remember that I picked up several special treats on my visit to the Ghibli Museum in November. Chief among them was the Blu-ray of the Kazuo Oga Exhibition: Ghibli No Eshokunin – The One Who Painted Totoro’s Forest. It was something I’d been planning to grab ever since I knew I’d be visiting the museum, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally managed to sit down and watch it. If you’ve ever seen any of the major Ghibli releases, then you’re already familiar with Oga-san’s work and his lovingly hand painted backgrounds that have brought films such as My Neighbour Totoro and Princess Mononoke to life. Quite frankly he is the very best in the business – quite possibly the greatest animation background artist of all time – and this disc, in it’s very elegant and typically Ghibli way, shows you exactly why.