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The beautiful snake princess Bai-Niang falls in love with the young boy Xu-Xian. His parents make him put the snake back in the fields where he found her, but he never stops missing his pet. Years later, magically transformed into a beautiful girl during a storm, the snake goddess changes a rainbow fish into her handmaid Xiao Chin, sets up house in the town, and seeks Xu-Xian out again. Both grown up, the two fall in love. Local wizard Fa Hai, convinced Bai-Niang is a vampire out to harm Xu-Xian, tries to break up their romance, and banishes Xu to hard labor in a distant city, reasoning that it's the only way to save him. Xu's two clever pets, Panda and Mimi, set out to follow him and become the leaders of the local animal Mafia, using the gang's skills to find him. Determined to save Xu from what he sees as a terrible supernatural evil, Fa whisks him off to his castle by the ocean, and the devoted Panda and Mimi follow him again through a terrible storm. Xiao has to intervene with the gods to save them, while Bai-Niang fights Fa for Xu's freedom. Even after saving Xu from death, she must give up her magical powers and become human before Fa accepts that her love is genuine. The two young lovers can finally marry, Xiao returns to her true form as a pretty fish, and Panda, Mimi and their animal friends all live happily ever after.
Often regarded as the "first" modern anime, this variant on Little Mermaid was originally adapted from Chinese mythology as a story by Shin Uehara. Featuring uncharacteristically "oriental" character designs and serious trials and hardships for the young lovers and their animal friends, it inspired many others to become animators, including the young Hayao Miyazaki, on whom it made a deep impression. It won honors at the Venice Children's Film Festival in 1959 but reaction to its U.S. release in 1961 was disappointing. Mimi, a small "red" panda, is mistakenly referred to as a cat in some sources.