Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
King of Bandit Jing in Seventh Heaven
The law has finally laid its grubby hands on the King of Bandits. Jing, along with talking parrot sidekick Kir, is in the paddy wagon and on his way to the inescapable penitentiary of Seventh Heaven. Jing arrives and immediately catches the beady eye of despotic vampire warden Maraschino. Jing being Jing, he doesn't really mind. And Jing being Jing, he is of course in prison for reasons other than enforced penitence; he's in prison to do some thieving. His target is Campari, a peddler of dreams who has stockpiled an invaluable collection of dreams from around the globe. Campari is in Seventh Heaven, but he's no sheep waiting to be fleeced; he's a wolf hiding armed with a labyrinth of dreams, among which is one that will take Jing back to his youth and to his dangerous association with a tomboy named Cassis. Jing, of course, is no sheep either. Armed with his wits and a guide—in the form of dream-girl Benedictine—he's out to best Campari at his own game…and get his hands on the most valuable dream of them all.
Seventh Heaven could be a monument built to celebrate the winning power of a little imagination. It is one of the most consistently fun series simply to look at, full of odd and amusing images. There's the dodo-powered train, a bisected Ali Baba swordsman, and a fat man who literally has junk for brains, just to name a few. Jing's writers chose well when plotting Seventh Heaven; they use the dreamworld premise to shape this three-episode OAV into a nonstop riot of visual invention. So long as your eyes are open there's not a boring moment to be had. Chanting mannequins rage and vulture-necked dream-thieves flee as Jing dashes from one bizarre set-piece to another—from an M.C. Escher painting given dizzying life, to a forest of living trees, to a mad festival of dream denizens. You'd have to try—hard—not to be dazzled, and even harder not to be swept up in the carnivalesque fun of it all.
Playing Virgil to your Dante through this inferno of visual madness is the calm, cool and eminently likeable Jing. The appeal of the Jing franchise is so heavily visual that it's easy to forget how well-written it is. Not brilliant, but sturdy, and smarter than its style-over-substance approach would lead you to believe. Jing himself, so much more self-possessed and mature than your typical teen lead, is just the beginning. What begins as a been-there prison premise quickly morphs into a reality-warping mind trip which is itself a means for stringing together a tale of a man lost in a kingdom of his own devising and a hefty slice of Jing back-story, all while gleefully indulging a penchant for Tex Avery zaniness. It doesn't always make perfect sense, but since when did dreams have to? And in its tale of Campari, a man who anesthetizes himself with empty illusions in order to leave behind the world that betrayed him, Jing finds a genuine heart; deceptively unassuming and yet always beating beneath the series' candy-coating of careless fun.
It's fitting in a way that the series' soft underbelly is as tied up in the visuals as its candy coating is. Campari's eyes speak silently of his underlying sadness, and the nature and fullness of Benedictine's dream registers poignantly on her face before ever a word is uttered. Likewise Cassis's love of young Jing can be read plainly in her body language as she fiddles with a cork and speaks dreamily of boys, and Jing's understanding of Campari's true nature is communicated as clearly with his grave gaze as if spoken aloud. The boundless energy and wild innovation of the production may be what first impresses, but it's the subtle care given to these quiet moments that ultimately lingers. It's a visual dichotomy that reflects Jing's larger dichotomy. The scene in which Jing shatters (literally) the hectic façade of Campari's dream to expose the tragic golden beauty beneath sums it up best. It's a gorgeous scene and a touching one, and also a very literal depiction of the wild fun underwritten by sad substance that gives the franchise its staying power.
The psychedelic funk of the soundtrack is the perfect complement to rampaging weirdness of Jing's look. It mixes and matches instruments and themes in much the same way that the series mixes and matches visual non-sequiturs: chaotically, and yet with a certain undeniable method to its madness. Strange, yes, but also very good.
Funimation rescued this title when ADV let it go, so this is basically a repackaged version of ADV's earlier release. That means pretty much zilch for extras, and the same dub—good or bad. Mostly good, though. The ripe tone of ADV's dub suits Jing's outrageous world well, giving hammy life to the distinctly cartoony side-characters and preserving well the energetic tone of the original. Changes are made, particularly to Kir's dialogue, but they're hardly the kind to offend even delicate sensibilities. Ron Berry's Kir, on the other hand, will—but no more than Ryusei Nakao's original did. The one noticeable drawback is Joey Hood's Jing, who can't quite summon the unflappable sangfroid of Mitsuki Saiga's original.
Whether you're a new fan looking for some unexpectedly substantial eye candy, a returning Jing-ite, or simply enjoy watching reality get twisted like a pretzel, Seventh Heaven won't disappoint. It's three episodes of grand, lightly sweetened and entirely self-contained fun. And with Funimation's repricing, it's also cheap. Now if only someone would rotisserie Kir, all would be well.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A
Music : A-
+ Wildly inventive, well animated and just plain fun to look at; enough substance to catch you when you come down off the visual sugar high.
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