Panda and the Magic Serpent (1958)

PANDA AND THE MAGIC SERPENT (1958)
(a.k.a. HAKUJA DEN)
Article #1580 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-12-2005
Posting Date: 12-9-2005
Directed by Kazuhiko Okabe, Taiji Yabushita, Robert Tafur
Featuring the voices of Marvin Miller, Mariko Miyagi, Hisaya Morishige

When a young man falls in love with a beautiful maiden who is actually a magic serpent, a wizard, believing she is evil, tries to break up the relationship.

According to IMDB, this is the first color, feature-length anime film, though I would have to say that the character style is certainly a far cry from what we think of as anime today. Watching these types of movies can be an interesting experience; one senses a big cultural difference while at the same time seeing the universalities of certain stories. Though this movie looks nothing like what you’d expect from Disney, the story itself embraces a fairly common theme about the non-smoothness of the true course of love. Some of the plot points are very familiar; when the enchantress decides to give up her powers and her immortality for the sake of the one she leaves, I found myself hearkening back to similar scenes from SUPERMAN II and one of the Steve Reeves Hercules movies. Actually, the bizarre dubbing is the most jarring aspect of the movie; it’s hard to believe that the panda would have such a deep voice, and having a voice translate the Japanese lyrics of some of the songs after they have been sung is rather unusual. My favorite sequence is the battle of the wizards, and my favorite character is the enchantress’ perpetually smiling handmaiden. And then of course, there’s the giant catfish – er – dragonfish – who pops up at the end. Despite the headache-inducing dubbing, I must admit that I liked it; I’m just not sure how much yet.

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