Jing and Kir head into the infamous Seventh Heaven prison in order to find the most precious of treasures – dreams.
What They Say
Seventh Heaven is a hellhole of a prison that houses thousands of hardened criminals - plus one Bandit King and his feathered sidekick! Jing and Kir aren't locked up against their will, though; the infamous thieves have plans to relieve the convict conjurer Campari of something both valuable and mystical. But if Jing and Kir aren't careful, they'll find themselves going from behind bars to trapped in a bizarre world of illusion where there's much more than freedom at stake!
The audio mixes provided for this release aren't much of a surprise though there's always hope that the Japanese will get on the ball about making more 5.1 mixes. The original Japanese mix is a good sounding stereo piece encoded at 224 kbps which utilizes the forward soundstage well throughout. Some good placement is to be had during various scenes which helps to heighten the surreal nature. The English 5.1 mix done at 448 kbps ups the ante a bit but adding more bass and directionality to all of it but for the most part it really adds clarity to the forward soundstage portion. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems when listening to the Japanese track in full with dropouts or distortions.
Originally released in 2004, the transfer for this three part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Jing has always been a very visual show but one that hasn't been the smoothest at times simply because it's trying to do a lot. The three episodes for this are fairly dark for the most part but it does have several very lush and vibrant moments. In general this is a decent looking transfer but it's not without its flaws. The two main areas that provide for problems are very different. The first is that during the various pans and zooms that occur throughout there is a lot of line noise going on. The characters tend to be fairly well detailed, such as the guards and others, so that when they're panned over or zoomed out on they shimmer a lot. The other is that the banding that's in the source introduces a fair bit of blocking along the way. The bitrate in these scenes tend to be rather high, there were several spikes into the low nines, so there likely isn't too much that can be done to minimize it. This does detract from the scenes since the motion draws the eye but the impact will certainly vary by setup and tolerance levels.
While I liked how the ADV Films release was done, it was definitely a hard sell visually. But the same is true here as they use the back cover artwork from that release as the front cover here, featuring a shadowed Jing and Kir in their cell with their prison garb on and the ball and chains hanging nearby. FUNimation provides a good logo for it and they make note of it being the complete OVA series as well which is a nice touch, but I wonder if it’s too dark and murky to gain much traction. The back cover is mostly a black and purple affair with a few shots from the show itself and some mild character artwork of Jing and Kir that’s decent as it surrounds the brief summary of the premise. They provide a breakdown of the three episodes and a small production section and technical grid. There is artwork on the reverse side of this clear keepcase which can be flipped over much to my delight. The piece spans both sides as it has Jing and Campari looking through the field to Jing’s childhood which is playing out in the distance. It has a nice set of colors to it and a sense of serenity. The back side of it also lists the episodes to be found on it and there’s text for the spine so you can properly reverse it on a shelf.
The menu layout is straightforward as it uses the really good image from the front cover of Jing and Kir with their ball and chain. The artwork is nicely detailed and has a good sense of color and depth to it. The navigation is done with the episodes to the lower right and easy access to the language setup and extras on the disc. The disc did not read our players' language presets unlike the original ADV Films release which is unusual since it’s basically the same disc. Navigation is quick and easy and everything worked smoothly.
The extras for this release are pretty mild but it isn't a surprise for the most part. The only thing included is a series of images that makes up a production artwork gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on events from the fourth volume of the original manga series, the Seventh Heaven OVA series is easy enough to jump into if you've seen any Jing before. The TV series does only a basic job in introducing you to Jing before throwing him into a number of entertaining capers in a strange world where he's the King of Bandits. Seventh Heaven came out after the TV series ended yet takes place within the framework of the series if you look at how the stories were told in the manga. In the end however, you really don't need to see much of the TV series to get the basics of this show.
Seventh Heaven has Jing in search of another treasure to add to his collection. This time he's allowed himself to be captured and sent to the infamous prison known as Seventh Heaven. Everyone in the wagon is afraid of where they're going but only Jing is whistling a little tune. He's intent on getting in there and finding what he wants in his own curious manner. The prison is one that's run by a rather insane warden who has the standard basic rules there. His guards, all looking like angels wearing hockey masks, are brutal towards any disturbances. Jing is all smiles though even as things seemingly get worse around him. If not for Kir's minor panic attacks they'd be far too cool for what they're doing.
Jing's goal is a curious one as he's after a man named Campari. Campari became famous some time ago for the dream orbs he started creating that would allow people to visualize their truest wishes. Naturally that went sour for him over time as people wanted to take advantage of it and he ended up in prison. There are also some extenuating circumstances with his past that has put him into negative thinking about people in general. What becomes curious is that as Jing begins to investigate him in the prison, he realizes that the prison has taken on a part of the dream orbs and numerous parts of the place become twisted and almost insane. It's easy to see why Campari is able to hide himself well in place sight and that nobody bothers him overall.
The tale with Campari really serves as bookends to this OVA series as it's told in the first and last episode. The middle episode is by far my favorite though because it takes the power of the dream orbs to give us a proper telling of Jing's past. It doesn't go back to his first days but rather when he was ten years old and had a group of hanger-ons who wanted to be his apprentices. Jing hadn't made a big name for himself at this point but was doing well and getting along on his own. This is where Postino gets to make his entrance and it ties some interesting material to Jing's mother that I can't recall if it ever got touched upon in the series proper. Young Jing is much like the older one but with a bit more wild eyed nature to him. Combined with having Kir in an egg walking around and trying to decide if he wanted to be a he or a she is just priceless.
One area that's always appealed about Jing is in how it utilizes its set design. Some of the episodes from the TV series, particularly the one revolving around the painted city, were just striking to look at. This OVA series isn't quite so striking but it has numerous lush moments to it. Flashbacks to Campari's past with the golden wheat fields are just stunning to look at. The interior prison that we see in the dream sequence is fascinating to look at. Even smaller moments such as the barking guard dogs look like they're done in a unique what that has them standing out well. The only area that felt bad was the green hued Kir Royale sequence and it only felt that way because they used it in each of the episodes. It's understandable to re-use the money shot when you have it, but I had hoped for something a bit more original with an OVA level release.
FUNimation’s acquisition of just the OVAs is amusing since it gives the fans a split license again, but with all the work done by ADV Films it doesn’t really matter. This is just a repackaging of what we had before with slightly better packaging. The TV series ran what was probably the right amount of episodes but there is still a desire to see more Jing in my mind. The manga has certainly helped quench that over the years but the animation version is just able to breathe so much more into it through it's almost experimental style at times that it becomes something much more. With this being a self contained story that includes some wonderful background moments on Jing, it isn't going to light the screen on fire. But it does provide a great deal of entertainment and left me with a smile throughout. As a proper send off for the Kir Royale, you couldn't ask for more.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.