Why am I so obsessed with The Pink Panda? They’re cool, but not extraordinary in any way. A poppy and accessible punk rock band, that didn’t get very famous and only released a few independent records in the mid-2000s.
But something about the total charm of the individual members is irresistible. And at times they surprise with more aggressive-leaning songs like “Waku Waku 7”, outros like “Go!Go!Girl” where F-Chopper Koga’s slap bass, AC/DC sounding lead guitar riffs and a china crash cymbal makes them sound super hard, and songs like “Be Smile” and “Maiagare!” where they combine beautiful melodies with fast-paced punk creating really satisfying hooks. This and stuff like guitarist Rina’s partly shaved glamrock star haircut, the short career combined with the little obscure documentation, and the fact that both bassist Koga and singer Mayu were punk rockers and bikini photoshoot models simultaneously without the band’s image getting affected, may be what gets me hooked.
“Panda” started off their career with a very “kawaii” set of songs, synths, varying genres, and clear themes about pandas, party and love. Mayu Suzuki’s voice is intentionally super-cute and the whole EP is lovely from start to end if you embrace what it is. In “Pxx & Axx from 2006 they’ve ditched the synths and gone more into rock and punk, and their sound became even more pop punk in the three following EP:s they released before disbanding in 2008. They also managed to release a live DVD (“Panda for All, All for Panda”), including the two unreleased songs “Dream Hunter” and “ひとつになろう”, a tight performance, and a Mayu singing with a powerful and passionate voice, almost bordering to annoying, but always in a heartwarming way. It’s hard to miss her presence.
These girls captured both the mid- and late 00s pretty well and had a great ability to look like their time. While their cover arts and their live show DVD are pretty hard to time-decide, they give a nice nostalgic throwback in a lot of their pictures:
The group disbanded in 2008, whereupon bassist F-Chopper Koga went over to start Gacharic Spin (here she writes about the last The Pink Panda show), and the tree remaining members created BLiSTAR. As BLiSTAR they released their first major-signed record, a few music videos and the cover EP “ROCKIN’ COVERS ~Rock & Sexy” (with the weird & sexy design choice album art) before also disbanding in 2011. Since this I haven’t heard anything of Mayu Suzuki. Drummer Nana-A went to create the bass-less two-person rock band “The Leaps”, and guitarist Rina seems to be even more “gone” than Mayu. I really hope they’ve made some cool stuff since, but maybe they just quit music? A forum thread on “JPHIP” that was alive during almost most of their career doesn’t tell much either.
The reason Mayu left BLiSTAR was that she became pregnant. Here‘s her goodbye letter to the fans, and here‘s the goodbye letter from the whole band. Now (2021) she seems to live a wholesome family life in New Zealand (as seen on her Instagram), and Japanese wikipedia confirms that she has suspended her music activities.
Rina, who’s name appears to be “Rina Shouji”, played briefly with the bands Destrose and Arch Roses (together with Nana-A) right after the disbandment of BLiSTAR. Her Twitter was somewhat active until 2016, but she doesn’t seem to have made any music during this time.
Nana-A has, as previously stated, been active in The Leaps, but they haven’t made much noise since 2019. She also had a period after BLiSTAR splitted where she played briefly for a couple of bands (Destrose, Arch Roses, CherryHearts, Aldious, Angelism, to name some of them).