The king of thieves entertains across thirteen episodes with unusual, delightful and thoroughly engaging fables and tales.
What They Say
Jing, King of the Bandits, is a talendted thief with a heart of gold, and most every town he visits ends up the better for it. Exciting capers and a cast of characters that includes Kir, his wisecracking bird sidekick, and Postino, mysterious motorcycle courier who's a great source of advice.
Bandit King Jing received a solid bilingual presentation with its original release as we get the Japanese language track in stereo at 224kbps and the English language done in a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps. We listened to this show in its original language of Japanese mostly because that’s how it’s always felt right. The series sports a solid stereo mix that does a rather good job at times of creating a sense of depth and directionality, particularly for some of the background characters and noises. Dialogue throughout the show is nice and clear and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions on either language track.
Originally airing in 2002, this thirteen episode series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is presented across three DVDs in a five/four/four format which gives each disc some breathing space and is certainly less discs than the four singles we originally got. Jing's transfer is extremely clean looking. With a vibrant color palette used mixed with some really dark and rough colors, the bright points really stand out strongly here. The backgrounds are also creatively used to provide a sense of depth but thankfully manage to avoid creating any problems with aliasing. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent, leaving this to be a great looking release.
King of Bandit Jing gets a decent release here with a single sized keepcase that has a hinge inside that helps to hold all three DVDs. The front cover is very appealing as it has a central image of Jing in his usual outfit looking serious that’s set against a city. The surrounding characters come from the three part finale that provides some of the better material of the show and it has a certain kind of softness to it that’s very appealing, but also something hard as well with the background image of the queen. The back cover is a bit more traditional with a nice full sized image of Jing against a landscape shot with several small shots from the show around him. The summary is very basic in describing the premise and it does a decent job of listing the number of episodes to be found on here. The remainder is given over to a small production credits section and a solid technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The main menu is a simple static piece that takes the Jing character artwork from the silkscreening on the discs which has some really great painted style images of the cast and uses that as the focal point here. There's little to the disc along this menu outside of individual episode selection and the languages and extras section. Access times are nice and fast and menus load quick. The only downside is that since all the submenus use the same bit of music, if you make selections quickly you hear the same first couple of beats repeatedly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When this series was first released, it was one of a number of shows that ADV Films had acquired that had a small but faithful following. Along with Kino’s Journey, Jing is a series that didn’t make a big name for itself and most of the DVD buying consumers hadn’t heard of it. That worked against it to some extent I’m sure, but for those that took a chance on it, they likely discovered something that was special, fun and unlike a lot of other shows that were being released at the time. After a previous thinpak collection release, ADV Films has draw Jing out once again for play and it’s wonderful to see an old friend resurface.
The focus of the series is Jing, a young looking man with a good natured smile and calm personality. He's the type of person who watches things closely but you wouldn't really figure that out by how he acts. Through the years, he's apparently been labeled the King of Thieves due to his ability to steal anything from anyone without any problem. Along with his traveling companion, a talking bird named Kir who is pretty hard up and trying to pick up as many girls as he can, Jing travels from place to place to engage in his favorite pastime.
The opening episode is a perfect example. In one of the tall walled cities that are scattered across the landscape, we see the "ruler" of it in his high tower, feverishly searching through a telescope about those who are entering into his fair city. He knows that Jing is coming to steal his Double Mermaid, a most valuable treasure, and he intends to foil him. His entire city is filled top to bottom by thieves, but not a one has managed to best him yet. When he actually comes across Jing through the telescope, he writes him off as just a brat traveling through.
Jing's time in the city is well spent. He gets his pocket picked pretty much right off the bat, and while an onlooker laughs at him about it, Jing whips out his sharp blade and slices down an immense statue, causing it to smash the thief properly. It's a beautiful overreaction to a simple event, but it also brings out some of Jing's qualities. His quick actions, his weapons and his insistence that nobody will take one particular emerald gem from his possession.
After dealing with an old woman who seems to know what's going on in this city, Jing heads off to a bar where he starts dealing with a veteran bandit by the name of Vodka. He ends up besting Vodka (quite easily at that) and sort of joins the group while laying out his intent to steal the Double Mermaid. They all get a good laugh, but then all start workings towards the goal after much drinking. The way it plays out, with the gang not listening to Jing's plans and failing horribly, and then watching Jing perform what they thought was the impossible and achieve the goal, is priceless.
One very amusing aspect to Jing is his relationship to Kir. The two appear to be partners of sorts, but it turns out that Kir is also his weapon. Usually started by grasping the birds next, Kir then starts to transform by having his wings jut out and then his body elongate to the length of Jing's arm, which then has numerous legs "sprout" and clamp onto him. Jing is then able to use Kir as a non-talking weapon that shoots powerful green balls of energy.
Another episode that is a fantastic little standalone story that's centered around the Technicolor Town of Pompier where Jing and Kir find themselves stealing a young girl that's up for auction and won by the mayor of the town who is also an art lover. The entire town is something right out of a Seuss book with the layout of the town and the tipping of towers, but also in the amazing variety and vibrancy of all the colors, making this one of the most alive looking cities I've seen animated yet.
The story from there moves deeper into the search for the perfect colors as we learn Fino's story after she's rescued along with a bird her mother used to keep. Her father was an artist of world renown who used everything as his canvas, including animals and people. The mayor has long been collecting as much of his artwork as possible while wanting the mysterious unfinished last piece that was supposed to be his best ever. Naturally, Jing's on the lookout for it too and ends up crossing paths with him. This episode is just so visually enticing and stunning at times, especially the blue snow sequences, that it's left quite the impression.
One of the two-part stories in the set starts off with a crowning ceremony of a one year old who gets his first crown to truly become a prince as the king goes through the list of things that must be done for everything to be all nice and official. In an amusing turn, you get Jing and Kir swooping in, performing all of them while trying to escape with a treasure, yet still managing to toss a little octopus toy into the young lads hands. It's the kind of introductory sequence to an episode that plays out just beautifully.
The focus of the two-parter itself is a bit bigger, as we catch up with the two leads resting outside along a tree during a beautiful afternoon. Their rest is interrupted by an attractive young woman named Vermouth who tells them that she knows the secret answer to the question of long life. Kir's naturally suspect (though intrigued by her cuteness) but Jing has heard stories before of the ancient city of Ravaiva, a city where nobody has died in a long time.
This is a natural spot in the show where Postino suddenly arrives out of nowhere and provides a great useful piece of information, smiles and rides on. Depending on which language track you're listening to though, you'll get a different opening impression of Ravaiva. In the sub, we learn that no mail has come or gone from there in a long time. In the dub, we learn that he takes mail there on occasion but never any obituaries. It's when I hit changes like this that I cringe and continue to avoid watching dubs as a regular idea.
One of the fun single episode stories have Jing and Kir visiting an island that's huge on music, a place where there's no beach partying going on as everyone who comes there is looking to buy/acquire a musical instrument of some sort. Jing doesn't tell Kir what he's looking for, so he ends up going his own way and ends up being taken in by a klutzy yet-you-know-she's-really-hot-if-she-tried kind of girl, and the two play at domestics a bit while Jing searches out his mystery. Kir comes across well here as he takes his usual suave ways and tries to help the girl get the boy so everyone can live happily ever after.
The final storyline opens with Jing and Kir arriving on the beach of the seaside city of Zaza, once a hugely popular and lively port of call that has since dropped off considerably. These days, it seems to be much less fun, though the pair has arrived in time for the Masquerade Ball. Tossing on a small cat face mask since it looks like everyone in the town is always wearing a mask, Jing and Kir make their way to the Ball only to find out that it's not quite what it seems. While it was indeed a Masquerade Ball several years ago, the event now is something of a tournament.
The wife of the dead Earl of the city has the contest every year to find a warrior strong enough to survive the combat with other highly skilled warriors so that one would receive the title of Earl and take over the city. The Madame Earl, having lost her husband to war and her only son to an assassination by family members, has only her teenaged daughter left to her. Since the death of her son though, she's become withdrawn, so much so that she has to change what her mask looks like to express her emotions. Her donning of the masks brought the rest of the city into the tradition, something they've done for over eight years now.
Entering himself into the tournament, Jing ends up facing down a variety of overly powerful opponents in cute and comical ways at times but there are also some serious fights. As he continues to work up in the ranks, with his mind set on acquiring the Vintage Smile, a mask of the Madame's that is worth a small fortune, Jing and Kir also hit the city streets to soak up some of the atmosphere. There are naturally run ins with various local thugs and those who have their own eye on the title of Earl that feel they deserve it more, so various smaller plots and conspiracies slowly unfold.
All the while, Jing simply goes on his way to fight whoever he has to deal with and smile as he does it. Elements of the background are teased out as it goes along and some of the family issues between the Madame Earl and her daughter Stir come to light that brings more depth to the storyline as well as making you wonder about relationships. If it wasn't for the fact that it was pretty much necessary for Jing to go through a fair number of fights to help flesh out the opponents, this storyline could have been done much shorter and still had a good impact. But as it is, it's interesting to see how they handled writing a longer and somewhat more involved plot all while keeping it as fresh and fun as the standalone episodes.
As I found when I first watched the series several years ago, although there's a fair bit of formula to the episodes, there's just something that really clicks with this series that lets it work for us much better than similar ones. The addition of some very striking production designs and a kick-ass music score helps it rise up even higher. I'd almost term this one a guilty pleasure if it wasn't for the fact that I don't feel guilty watching it. If you passed up this series, I definitely recommend checking it out if you want something that's got both flash and substance and sets out to have a good time in the end. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
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.