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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nintendo Build a Panda Animal Block set (パンダをつくろう アニマルブロック, 1972)

In 1972 the whole of Japan went panda crazy. This was caused by the arrival of two pandas, received by the Ueno zoo in Tokyo from the People's Republic of China.

Not only were these the first pandas on display in post-war Japan, but the fact that China gifted these animals was a milestone step in the restoration of the relationship between the two Asian neighbors, destroyed by the violent and dramatic events of the Second Sino-Japanese War which ended in 1945.

China, the only country in the world where pandas live in the wild, has a long history of offering these as special gift to foreign countries. This is referred to as panda diplomacy. Japan received a first pair already in the 7th century.

With the arrival of a new pair in 1972, pandas became very popular for a while and Nintendo jumped to the occasion and created some panda themed games.

Nintendo Build a Panda Animal Block set (1972)

The two pandas that arrived in October of 1972 were a couple called Lan Lan and Kang Kang. It is the female panda Lan Lan who appears on the front of the Nintendo box.

The videos below give an impression of the media attention that the pandas received. (Note: videos do not have sound).

The public interest was huge. Just watch the lines that formed in front of Ueno zoo.

[Videos uploaded by youtube user 9oo9lejapan]

Nintendo released at a number of panda related items: playing cards, a board game set called Play with Panda Kateiban (パンダとあそぼう家庭盤), an electric clock (パンダ電気時計) and the block construction set shown here.

Nintendo Build a Panda Animal Block set (1972)

The construction set is called Build a Panda (パンダをつくろう) Animal Block (アニマルブロック). The 'Animal Block' part of the logo gives the impression that this panda set is part of a larger series, featuring various different animals. But in fact this is the only animal set Nintendo released.

It is a modest size set that cost ¥500.

The construction set contains Nintendo N&B Blocks. Although these blocks are fully compatible with the sets from the N&B Block series, this is not mentioned on the box or instruction sheet.

Build a Panda Animal Block contains building instructions and a total of 30 black and white colored blocks.

Also included is a sheet of stickers for the pandas' distinctive black patches around the eyes.

With one set two pandas can be built.

The included building instructions

The image below shows the completed panda (パンダ 完成図).

Although not labelled as a N&B Block set, Build a Panda Animal Block is the last of the block construction sets sold by Nintendo.

If you want to learn more about Nintendo's challenge to Lego's territory, check out this previous post about the Nintendo N&B Block series.

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