Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Jun 29th 2004
King of Bandit Jing
Jing and Kir are on the hunt for treasure again! This time, they're looking for the mysterious Sunstone, but to get there, they have to transport two animals to another city. It doesn't seem so hard until they learn that the animals are highly flammable, and in order to get to the other city, they have to drive through a lake of magma. Then they go to the Musical Island of Coco Oco where they learn that some things, no matter how beautiful, just shouldn't be stolen.
In a market filled with hasty action shows and chaotic comedies, King of Bandit Jing already has one thing going for it—perfect pacing. From its ambling storyline to its laid back dialogue, the series radiates with ease and relaxation. It's the kind of show that lets you kick back and bask in the events unfolding before you without being forced to go at a set pace. With that kind of treatment, even a set of standalone episodes about a cocky thief can be kicked up ten notches.
The third disc starts out like all its predecessors. Jing and Kir are on the hunt for treasure, and along the way, they have an adventure. Set on finding something called a Sunstone, Jing volunteers his services to a man who wants someone to transport something to another city. Everyone else has balked at the cargo, but when it's revealed, it turns out to be two adorable creatures called por vora. As it turns out, because of their body composition, they are highly flammable and are used by miners as explosives. Of course, as can be expected with such an episode, there's plenty of time to inject morale messages about how cruel it is to use live animals as explosives. Unlike some other shows though, it doesn't harp on this lesson and allows it to fade away and let the scenes speak for themselves. Given how relatively early in the series this volume is, a story arc has yet to be revealed, so all of the episodes are standalones and run a similar gamut. From hunting down a legendary music instrument to protecting a secret por vora habitat, all of the standalones follow the main characters as they mix in just the right amount of humor and morality into their quests.
To credit the series though, every quest is unique and enjoyable to watch. King of Bandit Jing manages to avoid being thrown into a rut by introducing a new setting every time, complete with a new “treasure” and a token babe for Kir to hit on. It's a joy to see what creative new location the characters will end up at on each trip and it certainly prevents things from getting too dull. For example, the first episode reveals a pit of living magma that possesses shape recognition. In some way that's never explained (because the physics of it are a lost cause), it can morph into things like daggers and snakes. At other times, the audience will see canyon rock formations that are shaped like perfect five-pointed stars. Even cooler is the island that sounds like a perpetual symphony because everything on it can make noises suspiciously akin to orchestral instruments. Clearly, there is no scientific logic behind any of these locales, but if one can blindly embrace these places for what they are, seeing where Jing ends up in each episode is most of the fun.
Luckily, the show isn't all about killer magma and fluffy critters. Even for a thief who boasts, “I could steal the sun if I wanted to,” he needs a trustworthy sidekick and that's where Kir steps in. If it weren't for all the womanizing that Kir put forth, the series wouldn't be half as amusing. Having a horny bird in your party also means that in order to play up its ladies man talents to the max, every episode comes fully equipped with a new female. Needless to say, the show is stocked with a colorful cast of characters and until the sun stops rising, the novelty of seeing a bird hit on a girl will never get old.
Just having a slew of entertaining people each episode doesn't take the whole piece of cake though. Good acting can make all the difference in the world. Thankfully, this stockpile of characters is made even better by hooking them up with talented voice actors. Joey Hood and Ron Berry give their voices to the dynamic duo of Jing and Kir, bringing out their personalities very nicely. Likewise, the other cast members deliver their lines faithfully, injecting in the right amount of emotion when due. The same hold true for the Japanese cast, which is especially nice to listen to. Watching Kir squawking in his perverted old voice is priceless, and makes it kind of regrettable that not everyone can have their own horn-dog bird gun. Combined with a solid translation and dub script by ADV Films, there's practically nothing to complain about on either language track.
Even the music is as diverse as the characters and the locations. Each episode seems to have its own set of background music, so that's the last thing that will get boring. From sleazy jazz beats to shuffling Western ditties, the music spans all genres of generic soundtrack music and allows itself to fit every scene conceivable. Even cooler is that fact that just about every episode has its own vocal music, too. With ballads and beach-bustin' music, to say that the soundtrack is unique is an understatement. At the same time, none of the music is particularly memorable. Viewers can bob their heads along to the beats all throughout the series, but once the TV's turned off, nothing remains. From start to fin, the music is good, but in a conventional kind of way. The only thing stellar about the audios is the opening theme, a catchy J-rock song named “Shout It Loud,” and the ending theme, “Sha LaLa,” a low-hanging ballad with a Maroon 5 feel to it. Other than those two, the rest of the music is a kick above average, but still forgettable.
The same thing can be said about the art. It's nothing to gawk at, but it gets the job done without any scrapes or bruises. Gold stars do have to be given out to the art team though, for giving the scenes some of the best camera flares seen this side of Photoshop 7. While the art may be your standard fare, the backgrounds are incredibly lush. Done in brilliant watercolors (and given that extra boost with all those camera flares), the landscapes are breathtaking and provide the perfect inert background for the animation. Like everything else, the animation is neither stellar nor bad, but just good enough to be enjoyable, and just mediocre enough to forget about.
It's almost a shame that the DVD didn't include any galleries of all the backgrounds that were used in the series. What viewers get instead is a gallery full of production sketches set to a repeating segment of music that becomes almost unbearable by the time the sketches have been examined. Or rather, by the time the sketches have been squinted at and puzzled over. With all the technology available to man, a good scanner is apparently still hard to find, as the production sketches that ended up on the screen were blurry, unfocused, and poorly scaled. It's a good thing that the art isn't drop-dead amazing then, or else it would have been a pity that nothing short of a few blurry lines could be seen on the screen.
From its tranquil pacing to its artistic backdrops, King of Bandit Jing is a pleasing series that can be enjoyed by virtually anyone. It contains the right amount of humour, the right amount of creativity, and really has nothing wrong with it. Alas, when it's all over and done with, it hardly leaves an impact on any mind. Resting right between the realms of “mediocre” and “astounding,” the show is a great way to spend an afternoon, but it's hard to get excited about. Of course, the positive point about that is that once you've forgotten about the DVD, you can always watch it again and it'll be like viewing it for the first time.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Wide array of unique locations that are exciting to see
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